Arlock writes (personal). An outlet for Glossolalia

Posts tagged “Sci-Fi

Rogue One

I haven’t done this in a while, so let’s talk Star Wars. I’m not going to go into too much detail, but there may be spoilers here.

Rogue One. Yes, it has flaws. No, I don’t care. I’m seeing a lot of hate online, but to my mind, everything that is being touted as a flaw actually strengthens the movie. The film was technically excellent, brilliant visuals, solid acting, great direction and sound, but mediocre meta-plot (let’s chase the info around), and a few largely pointless characters. In fact, I’d say this movie was solid overall. Yes, it could have been more, specifically underutilizing the threat of Vader, but it also could have been so much worse. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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So quick summary. This is, for my money, the best movie set in the Star Wars universe. However, this is NOT the best Star Wars movie. I say that because Rogue One does not follow the same beats as a traditional Star Wars movie. This isn’t a lonely boy-child rises to be the chosen one in a black and white universe where no one has even heard of moral ambiguity. This was a team effort, not Jedi saves/destroys the day yet again. We deviate from the Action/Adventure Space Fantasy for prepubescent teens and get a more grown-up movie without going all grim-dark.

For me, the modelling, set re-creation, and general feel of the move to reflect New Hope was a winner, but this was then built on by adding action & combat sequences that were actually really well done.

So to address the criticisms

Characters being too ‘special’.
There seems to be a lot of angst that these characters aren’t ‘everyman’ characters rising to overcome their humble backgrounds to become true heroes. Bollocks. Screw the hero’s journey, it’s been done to death in the main storylines.

In this instance, all the characters (even Bodhi in many ways) are outstanding individuals. They have to be if they have even the slightest chance of succeeding against an opponent with overwhelming superiority in manpower and resources. Jyn at 16 was an exceptional soldier in the most extreme faction of the rebellion (before succumbing to abandonment issues). Chirrut was an elite defender of the old Jedi temple only a few steps down from a Jedi himself (before the temple got trashed). Baze is packing a Mandalorian weapon and skill set. Even Cassius is one of the rebellions best operatives. These guys are all flawed, but they are badass and know what they’re doing. They have to be because they’re going up against an entrenched enemy stronghold and insurmountable odds.

This movie had characters, rather than caricatures. Star Wars has always required a suspension of disbelief, I mean who seriously doesn’t think Obi-Wan wouldn’t have spaced Luke the first chance he got after seeing he had all of Anakin’s worst traits? In this iteration, the characters were so much more believable and that allowed me to invest more heavily in the story.

As an added bonus, in this movie the Stormtroopers haven’t been told to deliberately miss, so they are a viable foe.

The Empire
The Empire in this one is real, it’s in your face and active in every aspect of the world. This is an entrenched power, confident in its superiority. The rebel faction is at best an irritation, a gnat that is too agile for the behemoth to swat. That, right there, is the empires only weakness. It is too big, too powerful, too entrenched. With that size comes all the baggage of command structures, bureaucracy, petty power struggles, and an inability to react quickly to threats such as surprise rebel fleet attacks, or a surgical insertion of elite saboteurs. You know, those guerrilla tactics effective against a superior but inflexible opponent. Make no mistake, the Empire at no point appears threatened by these Rebels, and that is how it should be… right up to the moment their Achilles Heel is struck in episode IV.

The shout-outs…

oh, so many shout outs.

  • Tarkin was being very Tarkinish
  • Goldenrod and the blue beeper make an appearance… fanservice… Meh. (but I kind of cheered at the time).
  • Senator Organa makes an appearance… kind of nice (I kind of grinned at the time)
  • … and mentioned a female Jedi who he’d been hiding (yep… definite Clone-Wars grin at that one).
  • Vader was in a bacta tank (cheers),
  • … then made a ‘choke on it’ quip (groaned, but remembering the whiney arsed Hayden Christensen portrayal of Anakin, reluctantly accepted it),
  • Vader did some Sith stuff (totally just fan service… yet WOW… totally worth it!)

Villians

Yeah, we could talk about Vader, Krennic and (maybe even Galen Erso, or General Draven) here but the true villain is the in-fighting that palgues Empire and the paralytic indecision on the Rebel; side. Krennic knows there has been a leak and is too busy trying to save his arse to simply quarantine the files or let anyone up the chain know that there could be an issue. Everyone else is going ‘we had a leak, your security sucks’ while Krennic knows full well the source was his chief engineer, a guy who just happens to have nothing left to lose. He’s the ONLY one who understands the seriousness of the issue, and he dies with his secrets. On the other side, Rogue One isn’t just fighting the Empire. It is also fighting the lack of support and entrenched leadership by committee, and that’s an enemy we can all relate to.

The Robot wasn’t funny

WTF? Seriously, what part of Star Wars has ever been funny? C3PO whinged, Jar-Jar annoyed, and even BB-whatever was merely cute. Star wars never did funny outside a bit of teenage pandering slapstick. That may be why I found the occasional dialogue induced chortle in this movie so refreshing. K-2SO wasn’t an amusing sidekick, it was a character that happened to be a robot.

This movie doesn’t need to exist

Okay, that’s true. But I’m very glad that it does. It’s just a shame that we aren’t likely to see these particular actors return to the Universe again.

This movie should have been the Saving Private Ryan of Star Wars

Yes, that would have been cool, but in case you missed the memo, Disney now owns Star Wars. So that was never going to happen.

Oh and Rogue One Easter Eggs That Slipped Right By You…

… I wonder if there is going to be a whole new generation of baby girls named Jyn now?

 


Radiation Proof DNA

c0089248-water_bear_sem-splI just love it when an article comes along that is just perfect for one of the stories you’re working on. I was looking for a biological mechanism to provide radiation resistance for a population. Just in time along comes

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2106468-worlds-hardiest-animal-has-evolved-radiation-shield-for-its-dna

… once again, water bears are the solution to my problems.


Science Fiction: Hope vs Despair [Re-Blogged]

utopiadystopia

Why dystopia? Because it’s a cop-out.

It’s far harder to predict the changes and tribulations of an advanced society. So why not just assume we broke all our toys and reverted to barbarianism? After all, these stories sell.

Why not? Because we’re selling despair. Because we’re telling a whole new generation that they won’t succeed, so don’t try. Because there is a lot more challenge in predicting the changes in culture (and to a lesser extent technology), and therefore a lot more potential for good storytelling.

I’m not saying Dystopia bad; therefore Utopia good. I’m just wondering what happened to the golden age of sci-fi where anything was possible and the sky was the limit? Surely it’s better to look forward to a better world than to assume we’re going to screw it up and revert to banging each other over the head with crude weapons. And yes Zombie Genre I’m looking at you too!

David Brin puts it nicely over at his blog Contrary Brin. Go have a look.

Why all the re-blogs? Well, partly because I’m lazy, and partly because there is so much good material out there that it doesn’t need another voice adding to the echo chamber. Instead, I think it serves everyone better to just promote the work of those who have already spoken up.

Source: CONTRARY BRIN: Science Fiction: Hope vs Despair


Lobsters – Flash Fiction

If it is one thing I’ve learnt from the movies, it is that when aliens invade they are either humanoid with superior tech or bug-like and easily squashed. I don’t recall seeing many movies about bugs with superior technology. Just another way that Hollywood softened us up and served us on a plate to our conquerors.   

They were lobsters. We went to war against lobsters. Blue and green, crustacean from another world. Of course, they weren’t crustacean, or even from another world really. They came from here, just next door across a rift in time and reality.

It was bad enough that we were fighting for our lives against alien beings that weren’t even vaguely alien in origin. In all fairness, they had been on this world, well on a version of this world, for longer than we had. At some point something had changed, the chance evolution that had led to the dinosaurs and then to humanity, had never happened.

They had become the apex creatures of their earth, developing for millennia. They had developed tools before the evolution of the feather, and by the time we were working out the combustion engine, they had mastered dimensional travel. Then they decided they wanted our world before we ruined it completely.     


Batman vs Superman

bvsI’ve decided I’m not going to bother watching the latest Zack Snyder slug-fest. Sorry DC, think I’ll wait for Suicide Squad. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of both Sucker Punch and Watchmen so I’m not just anti-Synder, but the first Man of Steel was such a joyless timesink that I don’t see the point in revisiting it. Also, I don’t know how anyone could meet, much less surpass, the first two pitch-perfect Nolan Batman movies.

Apparently, that makes me part of the problem; because I’m told that critics being critical of a movie is now problematic. But when they are critics that I generally agree with, and the flaws they’re pointing out are the very things that are usually deal-breakers for me. Well, why would I pay money to go see a movie I’m not going to particularly enjoy, and in doing so support the production of sub-par movies?

I’ll wait for it on Nexflix methinks.

 


Colony Creature [Reblogged]

Mind TransferAn awesome little piece that really drives home the alienness of ‘the other’

http://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=5875

from The 21-Second God,
by Keith Honeyborne

This may not be the most biologically accurate piece, but I think it’s important to recognize that the experience of being a non-human organism is probably fundamentally different from that of a human.

 


Transporters / Teleportation

An old discussion, but described particularly well.

Personally I love the idea of little Wesly getting disintegrated on a regular basis.


How Coffee Works

Sleep is a lie, there is only insomnia.
Through coffee, I gain consciousness.
Through consciousness, I gain awareness.
Through awareness, I gain inspiration.
Through inspiration, my writer’s block is broken.
The Caffeine shall free me.

CoffeeGuide


Video

Time Trap (10 min)

Awesome little short film.


Video

Merry XMas

Happy Holidays, whatever your religious affiliation or lack thereof. Have some lovely portal-themed Christmas music. Ahh, the symphonic perfection of chain-guns…

And sympathies to those where who still have to work.


STAR WARS (prequel trilogy) recap

Prequel

The Phantom Menace: Monk-Diplomats go to resolve a trade dispute, and end up triggering a full-blown war. Picking up the most irritating character ever to appear in Hollywood, they rescue a princess from capitalism, are happily complicit in slavery, take a woman’s child away from her, and prove that democracy doesn’t work. Along the way, they use laser swords to break hundreds of easily replaceable robot killers rather than jam the signal directing them. Then in a fit of rage, the Jedi kill the only person who may understand what is going on. They do NOT solve the trade dispute.

Attack of the Clones: While most of the movie is spent talking about a bad thing that may happen, the worst thing to happen is a love story apparently scripted by an autistic 9-year-old who has heard that girls and boys like each other when they grow up. Introducing an army cloned from the nastiest bounty hunter in the known universe, who are used to blow up hundreds of easily replaceable robots. Also, a pointless bad guy who is easily repelled by a bouncing muppet. The “too old to be trained” padawan spends most of his time stalking a woman 20 years his senior.

The Force Awakens: The all-powerful, all-knowing, Monk-Diplomats are nearly all killed by their bodyguards. (With the exception of the little green one, because he is too short to shoot in the head). The man who has orchestrated the deaths of millions makes that final irrevocable step into evil by using his hands as a Taser (the lesson here is that murder, corruption, betrayal, and being a political conservative are bad, but using electricity is the True Evil). Then the surviving Monk-Diplomat fights the traitorous apprentice he apparently didn’t train all that well and leaves him on fire on the side of a volcano. Mercifully he only has his limbs burnt off and gains PTSD and pain-fueled madness. Obi apparently then goes off into the desert to plot an intricate revenge where he gets his former pupils son to finish the murder he couldn’t go through with himself.


STAR WARS (original trilogy) recap


Original

Star Wars: An anti-social religious fanatic tries to talk a naive farm boy into patricide. On the way, they do untold damage to the military-industrial complex by destroying the universes most advanced space station but ultimately accomplish little.

Empire Strikes Back: When an assassin turns out to be his son, a government official manages to disarm the boy. Simultaneously capturing a group of mass-murdering insurgents.

Return of the Jedi: The young farm boy has come to understand his attraction for his sister, and now mind-rapes people. The solitary hope for an almost extinct religion puts himself and his sister at risk to rescue a smuggler from a crime-lord and then teams up with cannibalistic teddy bears to destroy (for a second time) the universe’s most advanced space station.

Update: Colbert also explains it quite well.


There are no new stories…

Twins

…son of a smurf. Just stumbled across this short story over at Daily Science Fiction

http://dsf.webfactional.com/science-fiction/aliens/tom-jolly/cradle_science_fiction

Cute huh? Kind of reminds me of

Due to our increasing technology and ecological footprint humanity decided in 2062 to pull back from the regions where primates live and instead focused on orbital and off-planet habitats. A few researchers remained in contact to chart the progress of our distant cousins, even as humanities earthbound population dwindled.

By the time the apes had reached the Iron Age equivalent in development, all they had left of us were half-forgotten myths. Legends told of tall, hairless, visitors who walked among them and shared the secrets of fire and agriculture. Godlike beings who sometimes inspired great building projects, but never stuck around for long.

By the time they themselves reached for the stars, we had moved onwards. Yet they still found traces of the races that came before.Those who had taken their first steps into the dark, and had left behind the cradle that we had called earth. That and the great machine left to welcome each successive race as it progressed from planetside evolution to spreading out amongst the stars.

… and the cycle began anew. 

From HERE I wonder if he read the same article? I guess “Great minds think alike” and all that.

 


Ceres’ Bright Spots Seen in Striking New Detail

Source: News | Ceres’ Bright Spots Seen in Striking New Detail

Naturally I will assume that this is where the surface has eroded to expose the ceiling of a subterranean city of space-smurfs until proven otherwise.


Fermi Paradox

Marvin by nadagast

Most of us have heard of the Fermi Paradox, allegedly uttered by Enrico Fermi during a lunch discussion with some of his colleagues at the Los Alamos National Laboratory back in 1950. It’s a question that haunts every Sci-Fi reader and writer. The question basically boils down to “With the size of the universe, why have we not encountered alien life” or as Sagan croons…

It could be that there is no paradox because We are alone.

Rarity of Elements:

It has been suggested that life can only begin when the universe contains a certain abundance of complex molecules and systems. Maybe we have only recently [relatively speaking] reached that point. It may be that we are alone because we are the first to reach this point, or maybe one of the first groups and dispersion across the universe is only just beginning.

Rarity of Worlds:

We know there are a lot of suns, but many are too hot, too cold, or too unstable. Likewise we are finding more and more worlds, but between acid atmospheres, diamond rain, and no atmosphere, maybe there just aren’t that many that are sheltered enough to allow the formation of the complex chains that we think are necessary for life. Good sun, good planet, and in the goldilocks zone, even given the sheer number of planets out there, maybe these are rarer than we think.

Venus

Rarity of Security:

Say that life begins, that’s nice. Amino acid chains or their equivalent in the primordial soup from which life springs. Nice, but not enough, more importantly that life needs a protected environment in which to develop. Earth had the lightning storms and thick atmosphere, the water medium and a moon to wash minerals into the oceans and stir the mix. Even so life here hasn’t been that safe, with 5 (that we know of) Extinction Level Events washing the planet clean. Sure we have a gas giant to catch the projectiles the universe spits at us, but even so life has risen and then been extinguished here numerous times. Maybe it’s a fluke we’ve gotten this far, certainly if we want to continue our species indefinitely we can’t remain on this rock forever, its only matter of time before something makes it inhospitable for us. Maybe life elsewhere never gets that chance.

What is reality?

Maybe there is nothing ‘out there’ because the folks who coded the simulation that we are inhabiting didn’t bother to code it. Procedurally generating  few trillions of worlds, that’s easy. Playstation games can do that right now! On the other hand, complex life forms are just hard to make realistic, much less the whole backstory you’d have to generate. Space exploration sucks when you’re an artificial intelligence within a procedurally generated universe is yourself.

It could be that We are not alone.

Rarity of Intelligence:

We mammals have been on this world for about 70 million years, a fair time you might say, but our technological progress was incredibly slow until the development of the printing press in the 1400’s and the industrial revolution in 1800’s. So really we have had 200 years to observe the wider universe, learn about it in any detail, and it wasn’t until the space race began in the 1950’s that we even began to dream of stepping off our little rock. Before us sea creatures ruled our world until something (maybe an ice-age) happened 443 million years ago, the Devonian came to an end 359 million years ago, and in the process pretty much emptied the oceans of anything bigger than bacteria. The Permian extinction happened 248 million years ago, and we owe our existence to the 4% of surviving species that would one day lead to us. Then 65 million years ago the universe dropped a rock on the dinosaurs and cleared the biosphere enough to give us mammals room to rise.

In all that time, given much of the same resources and opportunities none of those epochs developed advanced tool-using civilisations (as far as we’re aware). Maybe intelligence isn’t the evolutionary advantage we like to think it is, certainly we seem to be the first species on our world to develop the technological tools to end our own existence. It may be that life is common, but self-awareness is the anomaly.

Rarity of Materials:

Recent technological advance has been largely powered by the energy-rich and easily accessible fossil fuels. We have powered our advanced with the fossilized remains of the generations of life that came before us. Yes, we know these are bad for us in the long run, but could we have had our sudden technological leap forward without access to them? Many people think not. In a twisted way, coal really is good for humanity. Surface deposits of metals and minerals also helped, so our planet’s geology also helped. These are all advantages that may not have been available on other worlds and may have stunted their development.

Rarity of  Interest:

Maybe there is life out there. Maybe it’s safe on a little planet with an unthreatening sky, nd  young sun that will last out the species lifetime. It could be that they in a symbiotic relationship with their world, rather than an exploitive one. With no need for more territory, more materials, why would they want to leave? Maybe they have a thick atmosphere and have never seen the stars, and never ask the necessary series of questions that lead to the desire to explore out there. Maybe the idea of leaving their world is somehow abhorrent (don’t laugh there are people that die never having travelled more than 50 miles from their place of birth). Maybe their Heaven is down, and their Hell is up and they don’t want to risk demon attacks. Maybe they’ve developed their own versions of the Mass Effect games, linked to fully interactive VR, and are simply too busy with their home entertainment systems to care about the wider universe?

Rarity of Opportunity:

A civilisation rises, it flourishes and it dies. Perhaps the universe is littered with the corpses of dead civilizations, dead worlds, abandoned moons. We’ll stumble across their radio transmissions one day in the future, detect their nuclear detonations and stumble across their broken probes in the vast void between stars. Maybe they have yet to rise and will instead stumble across our remains one day and wonder why we hung metal art in orbit over our world,  search our soil for the faint traces we may have left behind so long ago. The universe is big, and time is broad, so the chances of two civilisations rising at approximately the same time, and close enough to reach each other seems pretty low.

It’s a what now?

Alien life, how about maybe it’s so alien that we may not even recognise it or be looking in the right places. There are massive seas of water, giant gas clouds, and even oceans of rum, all floating out in the void well away from any planets, could life arise there? Could life be silicon-based, or so long lived that we wouldn’t be aware of its aeon spanning reactions. Maybe gas based creatures swim through the atmosphere of Jupiter at pressures where even our best technology can’t penetrate, or being of pure magnetic energy are observing us from the surface of the suns. Too often we say alien, and think humans with bits of plasticine on their faces (yes I blame Trek), but alien might be so alien that it’s unrecognisable to us.

The Oops Factor

In 1966, Sagan and Shklovskii speculated that technological civilizations will either “destroy themselves within a century of developing interstellar communicative capability or master their self-destructive tendencies and survive for billion-year timescales”. If that seems a bit pessimistic, look at how humanity is going. We discovered nuclear fission, which almost ended us. Other advanced are equally placed to better our existence or end it. Nanotechnology, Artificial Intelligence, genetic manipulation, are all double edged swords. There is even some concern that technology like the internet that allows instant gratification and communication may lead to lower birthrates and civilisation decline. “Go on a date? Why? I’ve got all I need right here in my comfy little pod.” Even space flight itself could be devastating if the energy requirement calculations for near-light speed travel are correct. Not much point spreading out if your engine backblast is going to melt your homeworld or blast apart your destination.

Spaceship_Meme

There are other options of course.

Maybe there is life out there but we’re too violent, or too primitive to contact. They’ll be back to check in on us in a few thousand years, see if we’ve grown up without destroying ourselves.  Maybe we don’t know what to listen to and our neighbours have been trying to get our attention for ages.  Or maybe the Von Neumann machine intelligence simply has no interest in us, after all we’re still made of meat and unable to take the steps necessary to transcend the flesh. Last but not least, what if we are seen as the invaders, an infection in their personal universe and they’re on their way to wipe out our blasphemous existence. In 1981, cosmologist Edward Harrison argued that “such behavior would be an act of prudence: an intelligent species that has overcome its own self-destructive tendencies might view any other species bent on galactic expansion as a threat.” Not all species play well with others, even on this world.

 

Related Links

Von Neumann probes Seven ways to control the Galaxy with self-replicating probes

What even IS life How Earth’s ‘Extremophiles’ Could Aid Alien Life Search

Planetary Weather Cloudy with a chance of ACID RAIN: Extraterrestrial weather forecasts reveal why we shouldn’t complain about showers on Earth

Where Are They?: Why I hope the search for extraterrestrial life finds nothing.

The Fermi Paradox — Where Are All The Aliens

 

Now I hit publish and notice all the typos and grammatical errors.


Image

Evolution

evolution

“Evolution. It is the process that took us from single-celled organisms to being the dominant menu option for our alien invaders.”


Your cyberpunk games are dangerous

cover

Your cyberpunk games are dangerous – Boing Boing.

In the beginning was paranoia… and it was not good. As technology progresses we increasingly find that those who police it have little understanding of what they are looking at.


Ceres’ Mystery Spots

Let me be the first to welcome our shiny alien overlords.

Okay, I’m going to call it. Alien Artefact. This is the year and the month that we find proof of life outside humanity in the form of ancient ruins of some sort of outpost or craft.

Disclaimer: I don’t actually believe this, but just on the off chance this is the case I get bragging rights. Kind of like all those end of world predictions that everyone gets wrong, but in this instance I’d be stoked to be right.

Ceres’ Mystery Spots Are Even Stranger Than We Thought | IFLScience.


Jupiter Ascending

Watched Jupiter Ascending… just a hairs breath away from awesome. (cutting a bit out of many of the action sequences might go a long way to tipping it into the awesome category). Turn it into a TV show, focus on the politics/manoeuvring and I’m there with bells on.

jupiter

 

Loved the world building, just need a bit more character building. Also the ship designs, separate sections held together by forcefields was simply gorgeous.

jupiter-ascending

Inspiration 4/5
Spectacle 5/5
Coherency 2/5

Verdict: Visually spectacular and an interesting universe. Wouldn’t mind visiting it myself.


First Contact

ArmyAnt

I have a concern, a worry, a niggling question I can’t answer.

If we do ever contact an intergalactic species, how are we going to pass their Turing test? How do we display that we are sentient, aware in our own right, rather than just biochemical machines programmed to replicate? There isn’t a single human act I can think of that isn’t replicated by creatures we wouldn’t consider intelligent. Maybe that’s why we’ve been left alone, maybe we’re the galactic equivalent of Army Ants.

“Now that’s a particularly nasty species down there, better not land, it might get up in the landing gear.”

I’m tempted to say that music might save us. But if whatever we meet doesn’t use air vibrations as a means of communication, we are so screwed.

Comments more than welcome…

Now there’s a short story, the first meeting with an alien race, and the Muzak being piped in before the conference as a trance like-effect on the delegation. They become addicted, and humans become the aural-drug pushers to the galaxy. Chill to Bach, trip on AC/DC, overdose to Dub-Step.

Speaking of short stories, never forget They’re Made of Meat, by Terry Bisson.


Image

View from Orbit

You’ve got to wonder what an alien species would think of us…

Thanks

Personally I think that if there is life out there, the fact they haven’t visited lately is the surest sign that they’re intelligent.


Gay Genes and Genetic Modification

So there’s the hypothetical question for today.

baby-geneticsYour in-utero bay has all the genes that suggest they are going to be gay. (see article). You have access to the funds and technology to make genetic changes. Question: Do you ‘fix’ (yes I know fix is a loaded word) this. Do parents have the right to determine the sexuality, or even the sex, of their children? The child will naturally develop along pre-determined genetic dispositions, whether they are the original set or the modified set. So the child growing up is unlikely to ever regret being ‘forced’ into that role, societal pressures aside.

More importantly, if this sort of modification becomes cheap and easy is it likely to be adopted by Society. Would well-meaning parents effectively eliminate naturally occurring minority sexual orientations, or would the practice become socially abhorrent and be restricted to black-market clinics.

The question is especially interesting to me because I’m working on a SF world setting where genetic manipulation and organic technology has basically replaced a lot of solid-state technology.

Comments more than welcome…


10 books/series that stuck with me

I have the meme, slightly less devastating than Ebola, but likely to cause almost as many people to flee in terror. evil-book

Technically I’m supposed to identify my top 10 books… problem is I couldn’t narrow it down to my top 100. What I can do is write down the first ten that spring to mind, and explain why. Of course, if I did this again in a month, we’d probably have a completely different list. There’s the rub…

  1. A Rustle in the Grass – Robin Hawdon
  2. Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson
  3. Lord of the Rings – like you don’t know who wrote this
  4. The Wars of Light and Shadow series – Janny Wurts
  5. Dresden Files – Jim Butcher
  6. Wizards First Rule – Terry Goodkind
  7. Malazan Books of the Fallen – Steven Erikson
  8. American Gods – Neil Gaiman
  9. Mindstar Rising – Peter F. Hamilton
  10. The Broken Empire series – Mark Lawrence

#1 As a child this book both traumatised me and opened my eyes to a new way of seeing the world. I would recommend it to anyone of any age. It is both epically awesome and terribly intimate.

#2 Snow Crash, cyberpunk in its earlier forms. So much of this book deals with far deeper concepts than simple technology development. Amazing how a book published in ’92 can be simultaneously dated, prescient, and timeless.

#3 Lord of the Rings. I first read this when I found it in my primary school library when I was 10 or 12. The starting point of modern fantasy, with all its inherent problems of sexism, racism, and yet makes the real world all the duller when you are forced to return to it. I re-read this every few years, but I confess I no longer read the hobbit chapters. I’m in this for the world, not the characters.

#4 Fantasy got complicated here, there was no good/bad line, and antagonist had motivation and justifications. The writing was dense, the politics Machiavellian, and the magic was awesome. Even the SF elements that crept in couldn’t derail this story for me. It also hammered home the fact that perception is often far more important than reality.

#5 Dresden Files. My guilty pleasure, these are the penny dreadful’s of modern fantasy offerings. Easy to read, a great way to pass the time and a bit of humour thrown in. These are books you walk away from thinking ‘what a rush’ without needing to sit down on the couch for the rest of the day to process some deeper meaning. The Dresden Files do what so many other books, even the good ones, don’t. They entertain.

#6 I enjoyed this on my first read, it was light, fluffy and didn’t fill you up between meals. There were moments when I wanted to reach into the novel and slap some sense into the characters, and that’s really what stuck with me all these years. When a book makes you mutter ‘you dumb mother %#@%er’ every few pages it leaves a mark… possibly a bruise. Then I read it again and realised this book wasn’t just frustrating, it was bad, very, very bad. A plot with no originality and no surprises, a cast of characters so 2 dimensional they’d cut you if you shook hands with them. Bad dialogue, worse pacing, and the ultimate magic was the power of being stupid. I still re-read Goodkind books occasionally, simply to harvest the elemental rage they generate.

PS I’m a huge fan of the TV show, Tabrett Bethell absolutely rocks.

#7 Now this is a world and mythology to lose yourself in. To be honest I a little astonished it got published given the style, but man I’m glad it did.

#8 I admit to my heresy, I’m not overly a Neil Gaiman fan. This book, however… downright awesome.

#9 Another heresy, I like his earlier work more than his later works.

#10 Lots of writers have done the anti-hero and done it well, Moorcock gave us Elric of Melniboné, even Pratchett gave us Havelock Vetinari, Patrician of Ankh-Morpork. Lawrence gives us a character that is no way likeable, but is very understandable. You want him to win even more than you want him to get a comeuppance. Consider the anti-hero nailed.

 

 

 


While They Sleep

Writing Exercise: Describe a place. Use no characters or dialogue.

Dark corridors stretch as far as the eye can see. At least they would, had anyone been present to see. The dull red glow of emergency lighting provided the only illumination and would reveal nothing to an observer beyond miles of untreated metal panels and non-slip flooring. The air itself is stale and lifeless, carrying only suspended dust particles and the scent of exposed steel. Here and there an exposed wire pokes out from the unsealed intersection of ceiling and wall, breaking the monotony.

There are few sounds out here, so far from the unceasing engines. Sometimes those exposed wires will spark, disturbing the silence and adding a faint scent of ozone to the already metallic air. Then the accompanying puff of smoke will drift through the red lighting, like a ghost trying to escape this sterile limbo and out into the dark void of space beyond. Rarer still is the occasional echoing clang of an external impact, an ancient traveller shattering itself against the reinforced walls.

There is a strange grandeur to this spartan desolation, not only in the sheer scale of this facility but in its very nature. It staggers the mind to think that flesh and blood creatures, took the metals of their world and hurled them into space to form a new artificial home. Creatures that would never survive the harsh coldness of space had stolen the bones and breadth of the world that birthed them and had created something wholly new, wholly unnatural. Yet this Frankenstein’s monster of science and desperation may well be all that stands between us and extinction.