Archive for December, 2014


Was 2014 a good year for filmic sci-fi? Well, it’s become something of a site tradition to have a quick appraisal of the year just gone, and consider the promise of the 12 months to come. So, without further ado, open your eyes and hearts and ponder the following.

First up, Edge of Tomorrow. Despite Tom Cruise’s decidedly hit and miss relationship with the genre, Doug Liman’s military take on Ground Hog Day/Replay/Rogue Moon actually delivers something more thought-provoking than just another time travel shoot-em-up. Meanwhile, Joon-ho Bong’s adaptation of Jaques Lob’s Le Transperceneige was a compelling premise that unified abject weirdness with some great narrative structure. Slightly heavy-handed in places, Snowpiecer nonetheless provided a stimulating ride. At the more subtle, low-key end of the spectrum came Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin. A film which managed to do exactly what it said on the tin for a fraction of the budget of Lucy – Scarlett Johansson’s other, and entirely execrable, sci-fi outing for the year. Ultimately, though, winner in both the ‘I didn’t see that coming’ and ‘best genre film of 2014’ has to go to Guardians of the Galaxy. Space as a hostile and yet entirely survivable environment, as seen through a heroically flawed comic book lens. Some great scripting from James Gunn and Nicole Pearlman, alongside a slew of laugh out loud moments meant that we all wanted to be Groot by the end credits.

So to 2015 and the realisation that, for better or worse, The Hunger Games, dystopias and action still tediously dominate. That said, there are some titles that sit within these parameters and yet still hold the potential to be inspiring. Take the return of the Wakowskis – after their laudable adaptation of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas – and the courtly promise of Jupiter Ascending. Disney’s Tomorrowland also looks interesting, as long as it can avoid a typical descent into schmaltz – at least anything sci-fi with Clooney attached, is usually worth considering.

Next is Tarsem Singh’s Selfless and the fears, as previously talked about here on Drozbot, that the director’s love of the visual over narrative could damage a thoughtful exploration of immortality. High-Rise is another film foreshadowed here on the site, and comes from the combined imaginations of JG Ballard and Ben Wheatly. If there’s anyone that can do justice to the theme of anarchic tribalism among the ultra-rich, it’s the director of A Field in England.

Truth is, all of these will be overshadowed by the end of the year as the promotion machine around Star Wars Episode VII finally cranks into full effect. JJ Abrams, you really are the only hope for those who were originally there in 1977.

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Sci-fi and Suffolk. Aside from the initials, there usually wouldn’t be enough structure in this combination to hang any article off. Usually. For anyone who’s familiar with the area, it’s a flat land with big skies that galvanizes the imagination. Agricultural machinery abounds, but trends towards the utilitarian rather than the Class Etrion 400, but there are the odd places of… oddity, that can inspire speculation. Places like the Orford Ness, and the Ministry of Defence’s disused nuclear research facility, or even the incongruous vista of Sizewell Power Station.

Southwold comes closer to the mark holding not one, but two sciffy claims to fame. Although George Orwell didn’t write 1984 in situ, his early life in the town – plus the fact that his nom de plume comes from the county’s iconic river – should provide at least a footnote in genre history. Perhaps it’s the desolate gorse and marsh land of the area that steers writers’ thoughts to the dystopian as PD James joins Orwell with The Children of Men. While it might not be possible to make such a typically bleak trope within science fiction any sadder, the writer’s death this year definitely triggers a deeper level of sorrow.

So to the contemporary and The Rendlesham UFO Incident (above), directed by Daniel Simpson and set for release in 2015. It’s a found footage affair in the style of The Blair Witch Project or Troll Hunter, which focuses on a trio of young metal detector enthusiasts in search of Saxon gold. Unfortunately, their exploration takes place on MoD land and leads to an unwanted investigation of the original mysterious events of 1980.

To finish on a tenuous, flippant but still relevant note, Neil Innes is also a resident of the county. Member of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and collaborator with Monty Python’s Flying Circus, his comedic words and lyrics do have one stand out piece of sciffy. Silly Suffolk indeed.

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Ruthven Todd

This the season for mawkish click bait. So, rather than prove that resistance is futile when it comes to videos of kittens falling asleep, perhaps a detour into the world of feline Sciffy might provide something more disruptive.

Fantasy and horror have more than their fair share of feline stars; The Cheshire Cat, Aslan, Cat People (1982), Ron Perlman as the “Beast” (1987), Whisper of the Heart (1995), the Rakshasa race of Dungeons and Dragons and its antecedent in Elder Scrolls, the Khajiit… The list of central roles rattles on, even before we get down to the bit parts like Countess Gertrude’s herd of cats in Gormenghast. However, on the ray gun side of the fence, pickings are very much slimmer.

The swarms of cats in M John Harrison’s Nova Swing are analogous to those of Mervyn Peak’s – albeit at a reality ripping, quantum level. And these, in turn, can easily be linked to Schrödinger’s Cat, which has had more than one outing within the genre – most notably at the hands of Robert Anton Wilson. Star Trek has done a lot to redress the pulp balance, from Data’s cat, to the Caitian race – again mirrored in the paper-based RPG Traveller with the Aslans, or even the Dilgar in Babylon 5. More recently though another race, the Catkind, have also appeared in a couple of episodes of Doctor Who.

Despite the supporting cast, top billing remains a far sketchier affair with only Walt Disney’s The Cat from Outer Space (1978) gracing the silver screen, and the feline works of Anne McCaffrey and Andre Norton taking presidence on the page. Perhaps this is an opportune time for someone to pen a space opera with a cat protagonist? Then again, just look at the ickle kitty kins and their oh so funneh snoozing antics.

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