Posts Tagged 'Blade Runner'

Debbie Harry

Debbie Harry’s been stalking me of late. Maybe it’s the result of listening to more BBC Radio 6 Music. Maybe not. Either way, the tracks of Blondie have been creating an aural backdrop to my recent life. No surprise then that this has led to a bit of site related research, and yet another network of uncovered skiffy connections.

The song ‘Rapture’ is the closest pass to the genre during her time with Blondie – its proto rap about an all-consuming man from Mars being an obvious example. Beyond that though, there are enough additional crossovers to pinpoint her sci-fi identification throughout the 1980s.

Film wise there’s the inevitable inclusion of Nicki Brand from David Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983) and Harry’s portrayal of an overstimulated radio DJ who becomes a disciple of the ‘new flesh’. Before this however, there’s a stranger unification that occurred at the start of her solo career and the 1981 album Kookoo. Teaming up with Swiss artist H.R. Giger she created a series of avant garde videos which wouldn’t look out of place to contemporary Bjork or Fever Ray fans. Speaking on BBC’s Newsnight that same year – and sporting a haircut that seems to prefigure Gigi Edgley’s in Farscape – she explains her desire to establish herself as an artist rather than a pop star. There is, however, another link that she didn’t discuss openly until last year when she admitted that she turned down the role of Pris in Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner.

She’s always had that nerdcore level of respect – posing for Andy Warhol to generate a live digital portrait of her on an Amiga 1000 in 1985 being just one case in point. But creating sci-fi rap before Dr Octagon, appearing in a meta video nasty, turning down an iconic femme fatal… And she’s still rocking it and holding up her geek credentials at last year’s SXSW. If there was ever a queen of sci-fi pop, it has to be Ms Harry.

Or maybe I’m being dated and myopic. Drop me a line in comments if you can come up with a better contender.

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Spider Tank

If you like your skiffy, then the current omnipresence of Destiny is a head turner. It’s a slice of visual opulence that’s been triggering my SF trope synapses consistently as it starts out on its journey among the planets.

While there has been some criticism around the game’s narrative, there’s no doubting that the bigger picture is one that, at worst, is of note and, at best, is something that sci-fi and games fans will be sifting through for years to come. Yes, there are the obvious comparisons to the Halo series and, yes, there are plenty of borrowings from Bio Ware’s Mass Effect. But, if you’ve lived in the visual medium of the genre, you can hardly turn a corner without seeing a derelict office block, or computer interface that feels it’s already registered somewhere in your brain.

‘The future is old’, for an opening and sweeping instance – seen so many times in the early pulps, driven by 1950s fears of nuclear apocalypse and realised wonderfully in the design credo of Syd Mead on Blade Runner. Or, while we’re looking at the broad strokes, how about the imagery of Romantic landscape artist Casper David Friedrich and his signature characters typically viewed from behind while contemplating their individual universes.

Sentient machines also abound in Destiny, from the sarcastic resignation of your companion ‘ghost’ – read Banksian knife missile – to the servile cleaning staff of the Tower player hub. (Actually, on this… The Humans and Awoken – read space elves – had better watch themselves. Playing as a member of the resident machine race, the Exo, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about my siblings having all the menial tasks thrust upon them.)

Not convinced? Let’s throw in the obligatory big dumb object in the guise of The Traveller, the threat from an outer dark force – see Babylon 5’s Shadow race among numerous others – plus a sprinkling of speeder bikes, skeletons in spacesuits, multi-limbed aliens and…

Whether you fall into the pro or anti narrative camps may well colour your desire to get involved in the game, and that’s fair enough. But any sci-fi spod worth their salt should at least experience the rich mental tapestry of Destiny in some form.

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I should apologies. Straight back to the robo-apocalypse, but needs must when so many news stories shove a metallic digit in that general direction. The issue – as with last month’s post – remains whether the increasing robotisation of life will be beneficial or detrimental to humanity.

Perhaps the answer is as simple as that framed by Deckard in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. “[They] are like any other machine – they’re either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a benefit, it’s not my problem.” Despite his certainty, Deckard’s position within the film is a compromised one from the start. Similar, in some ways, to the practical and moral dimensions of raining remote death from the skies via military drone. At least, in the real world, this issue has recently ended up on a UN agenda for debate. However, Philip K Dick’s story generates an addition layer. Yes, we’ve been using machines to kill each other for centuries, but what if the machines we employ reach sentience and turn upon their supposed masters.

Scientists over at MIT have considered this very question and have now come up with an argument against the use of Isaac Azimov’s four laws of robotics. They also extrapolate the topic to a point where bio-mechanical advancements lead to a merging of man and machine. Hence the key factor always being that human, rather than machine, law will ultimately prevail. Similar theoretical conclusions have been reached at the National University of Ireland where Phil Maguire writes about computers naturally losing data in their decision making processes – resulting in an inability to ever generate emotional responses. Which means my opening apologies will, potentially, only ever be for a non-machine based readership. Seems that Optimus Prime riding a dino bot into battle to defend humanity (Azimov’s zeroth law), will only ever be a fiction.

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