Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Flu diversions

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  • 3410,

    Keanu Reeves as Gort, surely.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I read a great critique of Plan 9 from Outer Space that suggested the awfulness of the movie was just a ploy to sneak its subversive message past the censors.

    Nope -- Ed Wood, Jr. was just not so much a talent-free zone as a smoking irradiated wasteland where not even the cockroaches would survive. You can appreciate the man's work as disaster-pieces of straight-faced camp surrealism. But it's worth remembering that Plan 9 was released less than a year before Hitchcock (and a major studio) managed to get a giant dump on Mom-and-Apple Pie virtue past the MPAA and into the arms of an eager audience. It's called Psycho.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    Poneke's a bit partial to the purple prose, isn't he?

    He's a trained journalist, freed from the shackles of a sub-editing!

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Obvious statement follows: The very best sci-fi has a resonance with the culture at the time.

    Indeed. Actually that goes for all fiction. I find it interesting that sci-fi always has themes taken from fantasy genres (and vice versa). But readers of sci-fi seem divided into those who also like fantasy, and those who don't. Being in the 'also likes fantasy' camp, I can't understand the other camp at all. I find both genres equally unbelievable, both are just commentaries on our current mindset, and fun stories to boot. OK, sometimes you learn some things from sci-fi set not too far into the future that you didn't already know about science. More often you learn bullshit science that is known to be totally wrong even now. Either way, the stories are always the same, formed along the lines of tales that humans have always liked, which delve right back into our ancient mythology. Science just replaces magic.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    The pod people aren't a clearly visible "other" at all

    Oh, but that's all part of the same anxiety Craig! You won't even *know* the commie agents until they take you over and brainwash you! But of course the film also plays into that grey flannel suit anxiety too - you're all the same, you're part of a machine, you're not an individual any more... which is also a fear of collectivism, in a way. It all comes back to the dirty, dirty commies. :)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Chapman,

    Nope -- Ed Wood, Jr. was just not so much a talent-free zone as a smoking irradiated wasteland where not even the cockroaches would survive. You can appreciate the man's work as disaster-pieces of straight-faced camp surrealism.

    True enough, and the critique of Plan 9 was written tongue in cheek.

    Though after the reviewer (Danny Peary) was ridiculed for his idea, he watched Glen and Glenda and claimed to be convinced that Ed Wood was a subversive mastermind.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2008 • 135 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Shut up and drink your fluoridated water - which will turn you into a Commie. Damn!

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Hosking,

    Science just replaces magic.

    Or religion.

    But that's a whole other kettle of fish. And loaves.

    South Roseneath • Since Nov 2006 • 830 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Hosking,

    Science just replaces magic.

    Or religion.

    But that's a whole other kettle of fish. And loaves.

    South Roseneath • Since Nov 2006 • 830 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Graham,

    From a strictly weighing the facts point of view, I think humans wiping out ourselves is more likely. That wouldn't always be the case, but if it happens now it would most likely to be us doing it. Viruses, plagues, asteroids etc. work on their own timescale. Human development is the thing that is most changing now.

    There is the possibility of a collaboration (bird-flu + modern transport) but it would have to get a strong foothold before the actions of people dropped to those of earlier times, not to mention there are still too many have-nots in the world who lack the day-to-day changes that the modern world has brought.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 118 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    I realised in the library the other day (while borrowing Perdido Street Station - talk about putting the dys in dystopia) how much I prefer crossover SF/F to hard examples of either fantasy or science fiction.

    I think the thing with hard-science SF is that the authors (and fans) can get so caught up in the freaky science of the whole thing that they forget about telling a decent story. Things like characters and so on. Sword and sorcery perhaps also gets caught up in the tropes of the genre. The crossover territory is where authors go that don't quite care so much about the rules and just want to tell a good story.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    From the sci-fi sublime to the ridiculous: I finally managed to watch I, Robot through to the end last night (the last couple of times it was on the box I actually fell asleep about half an hour in).

    It's pretty tragic stuff, packed to the gunwales with product placement and already looking a bit dated just four years on, and perhaps no more so than in Will Smith's hovering Audi supercar - a kind of fictional prototype for the R8 supercar which came out a year or so ago. Cue lots of lingering shots of the white plasticky body, glowing wheel hubs and the four Audi rings. As a sleek, vacuous Will Smith vehicle it's actually quite a neat metaphor for the entire movie.

    (Who wrote the rule that every postmillenial sci-fi tortured detective must own a supercar to crash as a plot point later on? Or is this just a standard movie detective trope that chimes neatly with the interests of carmakers?)

    That said to my amazement I actually enjoyed watching the film, mostly because my eyes absorbed the visuals whilst I chucked Asimov's Three Laws around in my head and tried to envisage building a movie around them that would actually be good.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1611 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    But readers of sci-fi seem divided into those who also like fantasy, and those who don't. Being in the 'also likes fantasy' camp, I can't understand the other camp at all. I find both genres equally unbelievable, both are just commentaries on our current mindset, and fun stories to boot.

    I've found it a matter of whether there's a consistent system or not. Magic or science, doesn't matter. I really dislike spec-fic where the speculative elements are clearly being, as we officially call it at Bardic Web, 'pulled out of your arse'. As opposed to writers who have clearly sat down first, worked out their mythos, and know what it can and can't do.

    The down side of that is Catherine Asaro's long physics dissertations. Just get back to the soft porn, woman.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Public Servant on a tea-break.,

    <And a question for the group: Don't you think it's a wee bit arrogant to assume that the human race couldn't be wiped out by a virus without our help? The Bubonic Plague took a good hack at Europe in the middle of the 12th century; and the so-called Spanish Flu did even better 560 years later. And that was in the age of sail and steam, when it took weeks to travel from Auckland to London -- not hours.>

    Hi Craig: as you have possed a question for the group.

    Europe’s population decline from the Black Death took over a century, with incidents of the plague re-occurring every 20 odd years. Essentially, it re-emerged when a new generation, who had not previously suffered the scourge, and was vulnerable, had emerged. This triggered a slow impact on society. As up until this point Europe had been over-populated, there were people to lose.

    So, in spite of everything society adapted and continued. Governments continued to wage war (like, the Hundred Years war) in their normal inefficient manner. The church still claimed spiritual superiority, money still circulated.

    What the Black Death did was add to the background uncertainty of Europe during a notably crazy period, giving it a helping hand. Relative social power of different groups changed not just because of the plague, peasant rebellions broke out because of multiple social causes, and weird world hating Christian cults gained currency, however they only questioned the Church's authority, they did not overturn it. All this was played out over a period of decades. Whether the people of the time blamed this slow upheaval on the plague more than say, the fact that there were two or three popes trying to lead Christendom at the same time for much of the period, is up for debate.

    So, if a writer wants to describe a society collapsing utterly from one viral outbreak, it better be tougher than the plague, the world decimated in one hit, not over multiple hits. Such a disease needs very high levels of transfer, very good number of possible vectors. So inevitably, as such a disease is presently unknown; the writers turn to saying it came from a lab. And are quite reasonable to do so.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2008 • 67 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Ashby,

    If a parent feels something is harmful or just unpleasant they should
    make representations against it.

    Proof that Jesus was a virologist, the meek shall inherit the earth. The injunction about eating pork for the children of the book wasn't because of Trichosomiasis from the meat, it was to lessen the chances of bird flu using pigs as an intermediate incubator for human 'flu.

    Dundee, Scotland • Since May 2007 • 425 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    In the evening, we watched the 90-minute premiere of the BBC's remake (contains spoilers) of the 1975 series Survivors, which screened in Britain on Sunday night.

    damn, I haven't even seen the original yet. But there are Friends In The UK for that as well.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1717 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Ackroyd,

    Danielle:

    If it wasn't 'OMG Teh Commies Will Brainwash You' (Invasion of the Body Snatchers)

    Don Siegel reportedly said of the film's title that it was probably "... the idea of some studio pod." This is the "enemy-within, capitalist-consumerism-is-turning-us-all-into-passive-automatons" reading.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 159 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Ackroyd,

    Er, which is what Craig said.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 159 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    And a question for the group: Don't you think it's a wee bit arrogant to assume that the human race couldn't be wiped out by a virus without our help?

    Yes, but a good dollop of hubris adds flavour to any script.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I've found it a matter of whether there's a consistent system or not. Magic or science, doesn't matter. I really dislike spec-fic where the speculative elements are clearly being, as we officially call it at Bardic Web, 'pulled out of your arse'. As opposed to writers who have clearly sat down first, worked out their mythos, and know what it can and can't do.

    Indeed - and one lovely example is Joe Aherne's __Ultraviolet__ -- which is a rather nifty police procedural/paranoid thriller, where vampires (or Code Fives as they're called) are these coldly elegant technocrats. Because in a world of nuclear winters and global warming, AIDS and Mad Cow Disease, it's time for their food supply's free range days to come to an end.

    For the strap line "what if vampires really existed", Aherne made the wise call that he sad to strip out the supernatural and camp elements (and thankfully, there's no emo anguish to be seen).

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    B Jones, I agree the crossover is rich, but there are really good examples of both pure fantasy and sci-fi. But an awful lot of writers do both.

    Re: I, Robot. The book was soooo much better. But it would never, never ever work as a film. It could maybe work as a TV series, in the style of a CSI show.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Re: I, Robot. The book was soooo much better. But it would never, never ever work as a film. It could maybe work as a TV series, in the style of a CSI show.

    The screenplay Harlan Ellison wrote in the 1970's (and which Asimov liked a lot) is in print -- and hangs versions of several of the stories from the book on a Citizen Kane-like frame of a journalist trying to uncover the true nature of legendary recluse Susan Calvin. I'm not so sure it would have worked, but at least it would have been one hell of a noble failure if it had ever been made.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    It's all to do with the difference between acute and chronic stress and how your immune system reacts to them. When we encounter an acute stress, like say moving house, then our immune systems ramp up in response, so we fight bugs better (it's also why being fit is good for your health). However if the stress continues for too long (or you over train) then the immune system can't sustain the effort and actually declines.

    Care to clarify this in biological terms? Are we talking about more leukocytes being produced in response to stress? How does the bone marrow perform this?

    Got a reference?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    No idea what the C stands for, but the LH likely stands for Lower Hutt, and it'll be about some grand scheme to bring trolley buses to the benighted northern lowlands.

    The LHC is the Lower Hutt Collider. It's a particularly badly designed road junction, which, coupled with the driving abilities of bogans, leads to much work for the panelbeaters of Petone and Seaview.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    And there's an interesting story from NPR here, on I, Robot's transition from print to screen -- unhappy fans, but Asimov's wife and daughter were more enthusiastic (with some very sensible qualifications). Much as I appreciate Asimov, the guy did not write cinematically or (to be honest) with any feel for dialogue or characterisation.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

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