Archive for December, 2017

Wow, another year whips by and the annual round-up of the best Sci-Fi flicks in 2017 and the obligatory speculative look at 2018, is already upon us.

It’s been another quality year with the likes of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 not falling short after the 2014 tour de force. Also, Okja brought action and humour to the dark world of GM food. Blade Runner 2049 paid credible homage to the original, although couldn’t match the same level of empathy or heart, while the Last Jedi effectively sealed the deal with another cracking installment in the Star Wars saga. Question marks were raised as to the commercial viability of Sci-Fi blockbusters with the box office failures of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and, sadly, the aforementioned Blade Runner sequel. Thankfully, financial downturns haven’t dampened Hollywood’s appetite for escapism with enough genre movies coming in 2018 to allow for another great spread of thought-provoking entertainment – perhaps the top grossing and, er, wonderful Wonder Woman ($821MM) has something to do with this vote of confidence.

We’ve already considered Ready Player One earlier in the year, and so its the adaptation of the first book in Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern trilogy that opens our 2018 list. Annihilation (see above), directed by Alex Garland and staring Natalie Portman focuses on the journey of a biologist into a Stalker-esque forbidden zone in search of her missing husband. We’re also about to see some big directorial names take on the role of financial backer.

First is Peter Jackson who has backed and help to write the screen play for Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines. The Steam Punk saga, which sees Christian Rivers at the directorial helm, focuses on a warped future in which London has become a mobile and predatory city that feeds on lesser settlements. Next up is James Cameron who is finally getting to release his vanity project, Alita: Battle Angel. Robert Rodriguez will direct the mix of live action and CG, and the trailer – alongside Cameron’s passion – has left us hopeful for an accurate adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s original manga. (Let’s just draw a veil over Rupert Sander’s Ghost in the Shell shall we?) Finally, on the cinematic radar at least, there’s also a Neil Armstrong biopic coming starring Ryan Gosling. First Man will look at the life of the astronaut and the incredible mission that led to his monumental first steps on our nearest celestial neighbour.

Take all of the above – plus all the small screen shout outs that we’ll come to in the New Year (Altered Carbon, we’re looking at you) – and it’s another smorgasbord of quality distraction. However, as is our wont here on Drozbot, the future isn’t just about distraction. Hopefully the speculative visions presented here hold the power to inspire and maybe, just maybe, a few of you will leap to that spur and bring about some much needed change in 2018.

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The arrival and passing of A/2017 U1 in the centenary of Arthur C Clark’s birthday is a wonderful piece of celestial serendipity.

Renamed ‘Oumuamua, after the Hawawiian term for ‘scout’ – triggered by the fact that is was first spotted by the Haleakala observatory in Hawaii – the cylindrical lump of interstellar rock entered almost perpendicular to Earth’s orbit. Working the object’s trajectory back along its path, it was then revealed that the traveller was in fact from interstellar origin – as in not something returning from the Oort Cloud at the periphery of our solar system.

The similarities between this unexpected guest and Clarke’s 1973 novel, Rendezvous with Rama, are intriguing. Despite the fact that Oumuamua isn’t artificially constructed, nor is it a vast, rotating habitat, scientists do have a limited window to research the meteorite before it passes beyond useful investigation. So far the object’s colour indicates that it’s been travelling through deep space but, beyond that, there’s no real mystery. Even the latest attempt by the SETI system to ‘hear’ if the object is producing any artificial noises, has underlined the likelihood that it’s just a natural phenomenon, albeit a timely one in relation to Clarke – much like the Blue Moon that coincided with the burial of Neil Armstrong at sea.

Capitalising on Clarke’s centenary, the BBC have already repeated a dramatised version of Rendezvous with Rama on Radio 4 Extra, and discussions around the author’s capacity for prediction, alongside the more negative aspects of his lifestyle, are all back in the limelight a mere nine years after his death.

Perhaps, though, the most striking thing about A/2017 U1 is the fact that its trajectory meant for a relatively late detection. First picked-up on the 19th October 2017, the meteor was already heading back out of the solar system after passing within the orbit of Mercury. Not necessarily a ‘near miss’ for planet Earth, but its sudden arrival once again highlights how limited our odds are for continuation of the species. We really do need to think about moving out and away from this blue dot we call home. A sentiment we’re sure Arthur C would approve of.

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