Saturday, June 28, 2014

Rebooting Books.

Free Ceramic Boot Vase Royalty Free Stock Photography - 3217067
So many movies are scheduled to be remade or rebooted. In the past few weeks I’ve read or heard that Stargate, Predator, Highlander, Gremlins, IT, Jumanji, Star Wars, Logan’s Run, Poltergeist, Videodrome, Starship Troopers, and even Police Academy - please don’t, have some mercy – are going to be remade or rebooted.

With all these reboots and remakes, I got to thinking about the books I would like to see rewritten or rebooted. The first one that came to mind is 1984, and not just to update the title. Imagine including all of the current and near future technology in a rebooted 2048. Winston Smith would find it much harder to hide from today’s surveillance technology, but much easier to edit the truth. And instead of discovering a book in the attic above the shop, Smith could find a USB flash drive once owned by Julian Assange.    

Going on similar lines, the next book I thought is long overdue for a rewrite is The Bible. Imagine rewriting The Bible so it took into account all we now know about the world and universe. It could be made to be a lot more factual. It could start with a big bang. The ark could come to rest on Mt Everest and have dinosaurs onboard. And God could tell one of his disciples that the earth is really a lot older than some fools believe. The text could also stress really bad outcomes for paedophiles.

Then we have Shakespeare. I’ve only read Macbeth, which I gather is one of the less boring books for an, at the time, 14 year-old to read. I found if pretty difficult to read, with the plot being a bit Game of Thronesish. Perhaps I missed its point all together, but I reckon it would be so much easier to understand his books and get their meanings if they were rewritten in modern English. Perhaps George R. R. Martin could try to rewrite them and include more sex and violence. A rewriting of Shakespeare could help alleviate the disdain for books that many high school students develop after being forced to read his antiquated novels.

Many foreign movies are remade into American versions. I did not mind the American adaptions of Vanilla Sky or the 1998 version of Godzilla. For the same reasons I think Harry Potter might get a whole new audience if it was rewritten and set in the US. It could be called Chuck Pothead, and filled with sassy teenagers who use magical Apple products, like the iwand.

I often wondered how the world might change if women were in charge. Apart from less beer being drunk and no Police Academy movies, the world might be a more peaceful place, or we could all die horrible deaths. A perfect way to explore what would happen if women were in charge would be to rewrite Lord of the….you thought I was gonna write Lord of the Rings didn’t you? Well no, I reckon someone should rewrite William Golding’s classic Lord of the Flies, with an all-female school class being stranded on desert island. Instead of Jack we could have Jill. Instead of Ralph we could have Arya. Who would they vote off the island first? Would Arya take revenge on all the girls who had been mean to her? And the rewrite could fix up the big plot hole in the original, by coming up with some other way to create fire than using spectacles.

Apart from fixing up plot holes, rewrites could also fix woeful endings. And one of the worst novel endings I have read was in Stephen Baxter’s novel The Ark. [Spoiler Alert]. In that novel a specially trained group of young adults are launched into space from an earth that is slowly drowning in floodwaters. They spend years in space, only for a group of them to decide they want to return to earth. Morons. So they cut the ship into two and the morons return to earth. This is where the rewrite should really cut in, by having them return to a totally devastated Earth that imploded from the weight of surface water. That would teach the morons. Meanwhile the rest of the crew could actually make it to a hospitable planet.

Finally, I think the most over-rated novel in the history of the universe not only could but should be rewritten. Those who frequent this blog would correctly guess that novel to be The Great Gatsby. I think that meaningless assemblage of words would greatly benefit by being set during a zombie apocalypse. With Daisy having recently been infected, Jay Gatsby would be the only surviving human. Then we really could feel sorry for a bloke surrounded by zombie hangers-on.

Unlike many Hollywood film-makers who seem incapable of coming up with any original ideas, I could come up with many more books that not only could but should be rebooted. How about you?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

While writing my last post, a review of the excellent movie Edge of Tomorrow, I had cause to reflect on science-fiction movies starring Tom Cruise.  He has some impressive credits: Vanilla Sky, Minority Report, War of the Worlds, Oblivion and Edge of Tomorrow. I have enjoyed them all. 

I then contemplated whether any other actors have appeared in so many great science-fiction movies. Charlton Heston immediately came to mind with Soylent Green, Planet of the Apes and The Omega Man. As I am a fan of John Carpenter movies, I then thought of Kirk Russell who stared in The Thing, Escape From New York and Escape From LA. He also appeared in the big screen version of Stargate and had a small role in Vanilla Sky.

But had any of those actors made it into a science-fiction hall of fame? There is a Science Fictionand Fantasy Hall of Fame located at the EMP museum in Seattle, a museum dedicated to contemporary popular culture.

Hall of Fame Members

  • Brian W. Aldiss
  • Poul Anderson
  • Isaac Asimov
  • Betty Ballantine
  • Ian Ballantine
  • Alfred Bester
  • James Blish
  • Chesley Bonestell
  • David Bowie
  • Leigh Brackett
  • Ray Bradbury
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Octavia E. Butler
  • James Cameron
  • John W. Campbell, Jr.
  • Sir Arthur C. Clarke
  • Hal Clement
  • Samuel R. Delany
  • Vincent Di Fate
  • Philip K. Dick
  • Gordon R. Dickson
  • Gardner Dozois
  • Harlan Ellison
  • Ed Emshwiller
  • Edward L. Ferman
  • Virgil Finlay
  • Frank Frazetta
  • Frank Kelly Freas
  • Hugo Gernsback
  • William Gibson
  • Jean 'Moebius' Giraud
  • Joe Haldeman
  • Harry Harrison
  • Ray Harryhausen
  • Robert A. Heinlein
  • Frank Herbert
  • Damon Knight
  • Stanley Kubrick
  • H.R. Giger
  • Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Fritz Leiber

  • George Lucas
  • Richard Matheson
  • Anne McCaffrey
  • Judith Merril
  • Abraham Merritt
  • Hayao Miyzaki
  • Michael Moorcock
  • C.L. Moore
  • Andre Norton
  • Frank R. Paul
  • Frederik Pohl
  • Richard M. Powers
  • Gene Roddenberry
  • Joanna Russ
  • Eric Frank Russell
  • Ridley Scott
  • Rod Serling
  • Mary W. Shelley
  • Robert Silverberg
  • E.E. Smith

  • Steven Spielberg
  • Olaf Stapleton
  • Theodore Sturgeon
  • James Tiptree, Jr.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Douglas Trumbull
  • Wilson Tucker
  • A. E. van Vogt
  • Jack Vance
  • Jules Verne
  • H.G. Wells
  • Michael Whelan
  • Kate Wilhelm
  • Jack Williamson
  • Connie Willis
  • Gene Wolfe
  • Donald Allen Wollheim
  • Roger Zelazny

Tom Cruise, Charlton Heston, Kirk Russell and John Carpenter haven’t been admitted yet. Unless I am mistaken, no Australians have entered either. 

Nobody in this hall of fame has me questioning its validity. The vast majority of hall of famers are authors and male.  

Who Else is Missing?
After a bit of thought, I could not come up with any other science-fiction authors who should absolutely be in the hall of fame. I think Margaret Atwood is close, perhaps when I finish reading Madd Addam she might have me pushing for her admittance. I think the only Australian science-fiction author who comes close to getting in is George Turner. Greg Egan has the talent and critical acclaim to get there one day.

I could think of a few television/film makers who should be in the hall of fame. JJ Abrams should be there for Lost, Fringe, Revolution, the movies Super 8 and Cloverfield, and the reboot of Star Trek. We do have to forgive him for writing Armageddon and being executive producer for the television series Alcatraz.

Joss Whedon should definitely be in the hall of fame for Firefly, Dollhouse and Agents of Shield on the small screen, and the movies Serenity, Avengers and Cabin in the Woods.

Russell T. Davies should be in just for rebooting Doctor Who. If that is not enough, he also created the spinoffs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Who do you think is missing from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Review of Edge of Tomorrow.

Edge of Tomorrow is a gripping, fast-paced, action science-fiction movie. It has time-travel, aliens and Tom Cruise being killed over and over again. What more could you want? It’s not exactly original, with a premise very similar to Source Code, except aliens replace the terrorists. For those who missed Source Code, think Groundhog Day, only in Edge of Tomorrow the conceited main character has to die to reset the day, and the stakes are slightly more than bedding Andie MacDowell. Cruise has to save the world, once more.

Cruise plays a different kind of hero here. He is not the Joe Everyman of War of the Worlds, or the inquisitive technician of Oblivion. In Edge of Tomorrow he is a media spin doctor for the army, Major Bill Cage. He is a man who knows how to spew out propaganda for the war effort, but has no intentions of going anywhere near the war front.  

The aliens are called Mimics. Their navigation system must have malfunctioned because they did invade Los Angeles, but Europe instead. Perhaps one of their many reptilian tentacles hit the wrong button on the navigation console while watching Independence Day. Most of Europe is occupied by the Mimics and if something isn’t done to stop their advance, they will soon threaten Los Angeles.    

The Americans, with the aid of one Aussie, plan to stop them. They decide to launch a massive D-day type invasion to re-take Europe. Cage is ordered to go in with the troops to report on the invasion. He refuses, so he is demoted and sent to the disembarking point for the invasion force, an airfield. There he is placed in a squad of other malcontents. The next morning he is quickly fitted out in a battle exoskeleton suit and marched onto a paratrooper plane. He is dropped into the front line and dies quickly.

Then the fun part of the story begins. When he dies he immediately travels back in time to the day before the invasion. He runs into a true war hero, Rita Vrataski, played by Emily Blunt. For such a petite actress, she is surprisingly convincing as a battle hardened warrior (the exoskeleton suit helps).  Together she and Cage set about trying to win the invasion, resulting in Cage dying and resetting over and over.

Aussie Noah Taylor makes an appearance as scientist who is slumming as a battle suit mechanic. He helps provide some of the technical information needed to explain the time loops. He also has some ideas on how to defeat the aliens.

The movie has some very nice twists as the story moves along at a great pace. No time is wasted in this movie. And it concludes with a realistic, logical ending. Well at least if you pay attention it does. Oh, and the special effects are excellent, unlike Avatar, the aliens look real and different. And I watched the 2D version. 

Edge of Tomorrow is based on the Japanese graphic novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. The movie was written by a commitee of Christopher McQuarrie and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth. It is directed by Doug Liman who, among other films, directed the okay science-fiction film Jumper.

If you enjoy Star Trek you will enjoy Edge of Tomorrow. Come to think of it, I am sure one of the Star Trek series had an episode with a time-travel looping story similar to Edge of Tomorrow. If you hate Tom Cruise, just get over it: you are missing some great science-fiction movies. So go and see Edge of Tomorrow and have a great science-fiction time.