Posts Tagged 'JG Ballard'


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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Weirdly, it seems as if one of my pet fascinations and one of my web-based bugbears are set to merge.

On the one hand, impressions around the ‘internet of things’ purport a brave new future where all kinds of domestic appliances take on fresh and useful lives in cyberspace. Fridges which transmit their contents to your mobile while you’re at the shops, watches that record biological feedback for health checks and toothbrushes offering instant discounts on oral hygiene products if teeth are sufficiently scrubbed.

On the other hand, we encounter the ongoing battle for freedom within said web – a fight currently being waged by organisations like Fight for the Future against the cash-driven lobbying of America’s cable companies and their influence on the policies of the Federal Communications Commission.

As ever, science fiction has already navigated the more cautionary scenarios across this emerging landscape. Personally, Joe Chip arguing with the door of his apartment in Philip K Dick’s Ubik – wonderfully illustrated by Matt Taylor above – has always been a touchstone. A potentially dark and (excuse the pun) unhinged future where devices demand payment simply to function. The scene was the well-spring for my own ‘death by furniture’ piece, Delivery, and yet one that simultaneously feels prophetic and no longer that outlandish today.

In other SF quarters, Bruce Sterling has just published his new essay called The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things where he explores digital commerce and governance desperately moving to monetise and control the internet. Meanwhile, Wired has extrapolated the idea of the fully integrated house being attacked by so-called ‘script kiddies’ in a domestic take on the now familiar disrupted denial of service (DDOS).

Finally, for aficionados of dystopia, similar worse case scenarios can be found in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953) – consider Mildred’s obsession with household electronics – and J G Ballard’s Subliminal Man (1961) where shopping frenzies are driven by blip-verts flashed at unsuspecting consumers via road signs.

Still think the internet of things is a cool and radical new horizon for technology? Pause and think again about who will profit from and who will control this new wave of consumerism.

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