Thursday, September 29, 2005

A Curious Combination

It seems NASA and Google are going to be teaming up at a new facility in California. How cool would it be to work for Google as a contractor for NASA?

I wonder what sort of things they'll come up with. . .

Sunday, September 25, 2005


With an excellent premise, solid acting, and intriguing storyline it’s no surprise independent filmmaker Shane Carruth’s debut film, Primer, won accolades at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. Without wanting to give away the entire storyline, I’ll simply say this film puts an entirely new face on one of Sci-Fi’s most overused plot devices. It’s a good representation of much of what I love about independent films, and definitely worth seeing – but it's far from perfect.

Purportedly filmed for the cost of a used automobile, its low-budget forced its focus onto its dialogue and its storyline. Both were excellent – yet lacking. As I’m sure was the director’s intent, the dialogue was performed without any theatrical affectations, which effectively casts the characters as being more or less ordinary people who are living out their ‘real’ lives. While this effect was well done, it was probably overdone. The movie itself sets a somber tone, and since much of the dialogue was so dry, I found myself occasionally wishing for a break in the mood. A few more moments of levity might have been appropriate – especially in endearing us to the main characters, who I felt we never got to know well enough.

Also, Carruth never condescends to his audience with contrived explanations of the pseudo-scientific plotline. Instead the audience is left to figure things out as events unfold. Again this is a plus, but the storyline does get extraordinarily complex (to quote a friend, “recursion can be a bitch”), so much so that I couldn’t help but wonder if some key scenes had ended up on the cutting room floor. It was strange because at the end of the movie I thought to myself, ‘Wow. I think I liked it. . . but I’m not sure I really get it.’

In researching this film I later learned virtually nothing was edited out. The low budget meant only the minimums of scene footage could be shot. Of the 80 minutes of recorded scene footage, the edited film is a full 78 minutes long. Carruth had been forced to reduce his creation to its bare essentials from the get go. Once I understood this, it became easier to forgive the film its faults.

And after rewatching Primer, I found I was finally able to follow most of the finer points of the plotline too. While there are still a few elements I puzzle over, I’ve come to understand these last few ambiguities as intentional. As always, we know the story from the character's perspectives, and there are things they cannot know for certain themselves. I’ve created a few pet theories as to what actually happened, but there simply isn’t enough information in the film for me to know if I’m right or not.

I imagine anyone who actually reads this review is likely feel more confused than informed at this point. Get used to it. If you can stomach a short movie without glamour, bar-brawls, car chases, and steamy sex scenes - a movie that’s likely to confuse and frustrate you -- but at least make you think -- then do yourself a favor and check out Primer. And, as always, feel free to e-mail me or leave comments with your own questions or interpretations. Ultimately that’s the point of any good Science-Fiction, and what makes good SF worthwhile.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Test Driving Blog Search (and other random thoughts)

The beta for Google's new search engine for blogs is finally here, and I recently decided to test it out. The following is a sample of sites I discovered after searching under the topic of - you guessed it : Science Fiction . . .
Too Little Too Late?
Solar Flare reports George Lucas is looking for script writers to come work at Skywalker Ranch and help write for a new Star Wars TV show. Good idea George.

Blog Base
There's a site called Science Fiction Blog which gets a mention for concept alone. The latest post asks for feedback - so I sent some in. I'm hoping that by participating in these sites we can make them better.

Through the Hatch
Something called The Writing Show had this article about a curious web project - aptly named Escape Pod. It's a regular podcast devoted to Science Fiction short stories and worth checking out if you're into that sort of thing. (I'm thinking maybe I'll rig it so I can play MP3's in my car and listen to podcasts on my drive into work.)

Broken Promises
And I know I said I'd never do this again, but I couldn't resist this little exercise. (Hal Clemet and then William Gibson in case you're wondering.)

Also, since ~()--()~ is looking for further research/ideas concering a very cool story concept about returning to the Moon I figure I should at least link this article about NASA's plan revisit our closest neighbor.

It makes me wonder. Sooner or later there really will be an inevitable transition for space related exploration activites. Right now everything is still dominated by government agencies such as NASA, but eventually it'll be corporate entites and private companies that are most willing to take the big risks and boldly venture forth. Right now companies involved in the space trade are good bedfellows with the government(for obvious reasons), but will it always be so?

And one final silly little CS thought for the day:

Why is it that whenever I use blogger's spellchecker it never recognizes words like: Google, blog, MP3 or podcast?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Simon's Saga

For those of you who took the bait and have been traveling throughout the Local Galactic Neighborhood with the intrepid Simon of Space you're probably feeling a lot like me: Ever anxious to catch the next bizarre and fascinating episode, but already feeling slightly nostalgic - knowing that the story is somehow drawing to a close. It's been an enjoyable ride. I like reading everyone's comments - especially in retrospect - and seeing other's predictions of what would happen next. Despite always trying to guess what will happen, there's always a new planet to visit with another completely unpredictable landscape that changes everything. Thankfully there's still a few loose ends that need tying up - and hopefully a few more planets to boot.

What I love most about Hemming as a pulp SF writer is how fearless he is. Although I'm sure he had something of an outline when he started it all, you can still tell he's writing on the fly. If he gets a new crazy idea, he just writes it into the story - improvising as he goes. It's a little rough in places, but I like that you can taste the uncooked/rawness of the story. Ironically, where it lacks for polishing is often where his unbridled creative energies shine most. I imagine once he's done he'll probably go back to edit/refine what's he's written into a more publishable form, and I admit I'm curious as to what sort of changes that'd bring. I'm also curious as to what impact everyone's comments and feedback has had on the story development too (e.g. did he switch certain outcomes once he realized they were, perhaps, too predictable?) But that would be harder to gauge.

At any rate, the whole concept is a grand experiment, and I'm grateful I've been able to witness events as they unfurled. In following Simon from his undignified birth, it's been gratifying to see how both Simon, and the blognovel readership itself, have grown and developed. For those of us who've come to know Simon, we can always hope for a sequel - or a least more original SF from MFDH. And for those of you who haven't yet read Simon of Space - You don't know what you're missing . . .