Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012's Science Fiction in Review.


Science Fiction in 2012.

Science fiction has not had a great year in television and movies. No Inception or Moon was released this year. No Torchwood made it on to the small screen and Doctor Who mainly sucked again. But the lack of quality on the big and small screen was more than made up for by what I was reading. I read some great science fiction this year.

On the Idiot Box.

Even though I have access to the sci-fi channel on Foxtel, I was thinking there was very little new science fiction on the small screen this year. That was until I thought about it, it was more a matter of their being anything to rival Torchwood or The X-Files.

This year I watched:

·         Alcatraz
·         Terra Nova
·         Doctor Who
·         Warehouse 13
·         Alphas
·         Fringe
·         Revolution
·         Falling Skies
·         Caprica
·         And a DVD of The Event.

Of those shows I was impressed by Caprica, Fringe and, surprisingly, Alphas.

Fringe episodes were consistently strong as they developed a story revolving around a parallel Earth and the attempts to destroy both Earths. The Fringe department is a near future version of the FBI. A couple of Aussies occupy two out of the three lead roles. 

Alphas has grown on me. It had a strange feel about it when I started watching it, sort of, this is slightly off skew. It is about a team of investigators with special, but not super, powers. One can see and hear electronic signals, another has heightened senses, another can use her telekinesis type skills to push people into doing what she wants. But all the characters are troubled by their powers, they find it hard to fit in. And they are lead by a stuttering psychologist who has no powers. The story lines became stronger and the characters developed to be more than one dimensional x-men.

Caprica should have been supported by science fiction fans who like themes to be explored and strong complex plots. But it wasn’t, and was cancelled long before it could grow into one of the science fiction greats. Caprica was basically a prequel to Battlestar Galactica. It slowly explained how the cylons came into being and got religion. Caprica was my favourite small screen show of the year.


I did not see a lot of science fiction films this year. They ones I saw included:

·         John Carter
·         The Dark Knight Rises
·         Melancholia
·         Prometheus
·         Never Let It Go
·         Looper
·         Total Recall

Melancholia was a surprise, a completely different end of the world movie set on a large estate in England at a wedding reception. The bride lacks enthusiasm for the wedding reception as she knows that the approaching planet will not miss the Earth like scientists say it will. The film has no riots, no guns, no religion, no panic, no violence.

I enjoyed Looper, a time travel-film where a man has to kill his future self or be killed himself. The film made me think, ie why was he killing all those kids? But yay for thinking during a film.

Prometheus was easily the best film I saw this year. It left me with lots of questions and things to speculate on. But I recently watched it a second time and found it was nowhere near as puzzling as when I first saw it. The only question I still have is why did the alien kill himself at the start? Wasn’t there an easier way to blend his DNA into the planet’s environment? Was he on Earth?

When I saw Prometheus the first time I had such high expectations, with it being a prequel to Alien and the greatest series of science fiction movies ever made. I was expecting more horror too. And I think Charlize Theron was a bit of a distraction because I expected her to have a greater role in what went on, instead she was just a peripheral character.

I found it interesting that the parasitical aliens - who Ripley in the earlier movies was so keen to stop getting to earth and destroying it - had in fact saved humanity by infecting the engineer aliens who were intent on depopulating the Earth.


I did not read a lot of books this year, but what I read was, for the most part, very good. These are the science fiction books I read:

·         Machine Man - Max Barry
·         The Courier’s New Bicycle - Kim Westwood
·         The Pursuit of Miracles – George Turner
·         The Dervish House – Ian McDonald
·         Things we Didn’t See Coming – Steve Amsterdam
·         The Passage – Justin Cronin
·         Hydrogen Steel – KA Bedford
·         How to Live Safely In a Science Fictional Universe – Charles Yu
·         11-22-63 – Stephen King
·         Light, Touch Paper, Stand Clear – Edited by Edwina Harvey
·         The Waterboys – Peter Docker.

Seven of the eleven science fiction books I read were written by Australians. Only one was an ebook. The standouts were The Pursuit of Miracles, Things we Didn’t See Coming and The Passage.

The Pursuit of Miracles is a collection of eight short stories by Australia’s best ever science fiction writer George Turner. Three of the short stories were later turned into novels.

Things we Didn’t See Coming is also a set of short stories, but they are all about the same character and in chronological order. Each story has an ending or a situation that I didn’t see coming. The environment is in turmoil throughout the stories as the main character tries to better his life in a hostile future Australia.

The Passage is about an America devastated by monstrous genetically engineered vampires. It is a compelling read as the story is told from multiple viewpoints with flashbacks within flashbacks. Will the surviving pockets of humanity be overrun by the estimated 63 million vampires in the US? I will have to wait until I read its sequel The Twelve to find out. 

The Passage was my favourite novel of 2012. I loved the many complex characters and the suspense.   


Carol Ryles said...

I enjoyed Caprica as well. Pity it didn't last.

Graham Clements said...

Hi Carol

At the end of the last episode of Caprica they had a five minute summary of what would have happened if the series had continued, and that looked fascinating.

Anthony J. Langford said...

TV companies used to let series develop a bit more before cancelling - the high cost of production on shows like Caprica have an impact - a shame though.

Haven't seen alot of those shows or read any of those books. I dont tend to read sci-fi-not sure why.

I thought Melancholia was quite good too and yet to see Looper. I was very disappointed by Promethus. A couple of dumb moments took me out completely, on top of the muddle. The script should have been revised more carefully before shooting. Starting watching Total Recall - some similar issues. I think they rush into production and/or spend too much emphasis on making everything look perfect, with over the top action scenes where no one gets hurt, without using their brains to think about the plausibility of these events and plot holes. Hopefully 2013 will bring us something more interesting. It was a disappointing year.

Graham Clements said...

Hi Anthony,

I thought Total Recall was an unnecessary remake. The first one explored ideas, the second was just an action movie.

I reckon you would really enjoy the complexity of The Dervish House, and the Australian subtlety of Things We Didn't See Coming.

Anthony J. Langford said...

Havent watched end of Total Recall - seemed pointless.

Ok cheers, maybe I'll give them a go. Always happy to support Australian authors.


Anthony J. Langford said...

I think I mentioned that I ordered Things We Didn't See Coming.Thanks for making me spend money. haha

Alas I didnt get any books for Christmas. Currently reading Chris' book.

Graham Clements said...

Anthony, no books for Christmas, I would send a complaint letter to Santa.