They say that the artists reflect an era better than the historians. At least they should say that, because I just said it. So there. Anyway, even if it doesn’t hold true I was musing recently about the state of Sci-Fi, a genre that I enjoy.
Take a look at some books from the 1950s and sci-fi was full of rocketships, aliens, science and mostly things that wouldn’t really work (robots that iron your clothes, anyone?). Some things were guessed at correctly, such as satellites and mobile phones. Others were complete junk and most likely will be forever – such as pills that turn into food, warping through space, and peaceful societies.
But what fascinates me the most is how the general tone of sci-fi movies has turned from the (sometimes) hopeful futures and admiration of science into horror, alien infestations, and general unease about the advances of science. Now, I’m no lover of scientism and think that “-isms, -anities, and -ologies” get worshiped too much rather than the actual and individual (oh Plato, put your shadows back in the cave) but the whole swing from “science will save us” through to “science infested my bowl of cereal with these GMO parasites” thing is silly. I’ve been browsing some online services such as Wuaki, blinkbox and Netflix trying to find some sci-fi that tells a good story rather than relying on the whiz-bang effects. Things like Cloud Atlas at least tried to do something different, although I thought the book was more explicit what was happening so ‘got it’ quicker. But why so much darned horror sci-fi?
Well done to those directors who have taken some PK Dick themes and turned them into good scripts though. The madness of We Can Remember It For You Wholesale would never go well in a movie, so the various efforts by Arnie and co and later directors doing the whole Total Recall movies was great – so what if it wasn’t like the book! I guess that I like the non-messianic movies best, those that either bring an everyman into a momentous event and get them through without invoking hidden powers or other nonsense, or those that take something classic such as The Tempest and re-dress it with sci-fi bling. I’m off to watch a Russian movie from one of the Strugatsky brother’s books and hoping someone does another good Roadside Picnic one day. Stalker isn’t bad, just a bit old.