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  • seandodson 12:10 pm on June 3, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 1984, , , , , , , science fiction   

    Nineteen Eighty-Four: sixty years on 

    orwellGeorge Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four may or may not be the most important novel of the 20th, as claimed on the front page of the Times earlier this week, although it is a very important one. The novel celebrates the 60th anniversary of its first publication on June 08. Naturally all the papers have been full of it. Here’s a rundown of the best bits:

    The Torygraph offers a handy A-Z of Orwell, which includes the delightful vignette about the Queen Mother sending a Royal Messenger to Secker & Warburg to buy a copy of Animal Farm. They’d sold out. So off he goes in his bowler hat to the Freedom Bookshop, the anarchist bookshop in Whitechapel.

    It also backs up this coverage with this splendid collection of Orwell quotations and points towards clips from this excellent BBC documentary on his life and words, now available on YouTube.

    Over at the New Statesman, which once spiked Orwell’s eyewitness account of the Spanish Civil War, Keith Gesson praises Orwell’s “eternal vigilance”, while DJ Taylor claims that his novels of the 1930s were even more frightening.

    Robert Harris in the Times offers this more general piece which suggests, erroneously in my opinion, that 1984 would have lost some of its “unassailable posthumous integrity” if Orwell hadn’t have suffered an early death. Really?

    The LA Times takes the tourist route: you too can go on a Orwell holiday.

    While I might go and see Orwell: A Celebration at the Trafalgar Studios in Whitehall.

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    • Andrew Darling 1:28 pm on June 3, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Liked your collection of pieces on Orwell Sean. Thanks.

      One thing I was thinking about is that if Orwell were alive today, he’d probably be rather annoyed that we seem to have treated 1984 as an instruction book rather than a warning to avoid the Big Brother state, no?

    • marcys 1:52 pm on June 3, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      My mother had only two books in her possession (after a lifetime of books, books, books) when she died four years ago: One was a Dorothy Parker collection. The other was a first edition of 1984. Now mine.

  • seandodson 11:03 am on April 21, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , dystopia, , , , jg ballard future, jg ballard oscars, jg ballard quotes, , science fiction   

    JG Ballard: his life in quotes 

    JG Ballard, who died on Sunday, will be remembered mostly for his fiction As noted in today’s Guardian he left a legacy right across the spectum of the arts, but he also left behind some of the most apt aphorisms and witty one-liners of the last century. Here is a sample of the most memorable:

    On the legacy of science fiction:

    “Everything is becoming science fiction. From the margins of an almost invisible literature has sprung the intact reality of the 20th century.”

    On fear of the future:

    “I would sum up my fear about the future in one word: boring. And that’s my one fear: that everything has happened; nothing exciting or new or interesting is ever going to happen again… the future is just going to be a vast, conforming suburb of the soul.”

    On the internet:

    “Twenty years ago no one could have imagined the effects the Internet would have: entire relationships flourish, friendships prosper…there’s a vast new intimacy and accidental poetry, not to mention the weirdest porn. The entire human experience seems to unveil itself like the surface of a new planet.”

    On rockets:

    “Rockets “belong to the age of the 19th century, along with the huge steam engines. It’s brute-force ballistic technology that has nothing to do with what people recognise as the characteristic technology of this century: microprocessors, microwave data links – everything that goes in the world at the speed of an electron.”

    On space travel:

    “The suspicion dawned that Outer Space might be – dare one say it – boring. Having expended all these billions of dollars on getting to the Moon, we found on our arrival that there wasn’t very much to do there.”

    On the American dream:

    “The American Dream has run out of gas. The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It’s over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now: the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, Vietnam.”

    On the American people:

    “Americans are highly moralistic, and any kind of moral ambiguity irritates them. As a result they completely fail to understand themselves, which is one of their strengths.”

    On American politics:

    “The president of the United States bears about as much relationship to the real business of running America as does Colonel Sanders to the business of frying chicken.”

    On his night at the Oscars:

    “A wonderful night for any novelist, and a reminder of the limits of the printed word. Sitting with the sober British contingent, surrounded by everyone from Dolly Parton to Sean Connery, I thought Spielberg’s film would be drowned by the shimmer of mink and the diamond glitter. But once the curtains parted the audience was gripped. Chevy Chase, sitting next to me, seemed to think he was watching a newsreel, crying: `Oh, oh . . . !’ and leaping out of his seat as if ready to rush the screen in defense of young [Christian] Bale.”

    On the 20th century:

    “The marriage of reason and nightmare which has dominated the 20th century has given birth to an ever more ambiguous world. Across the communications landscape move the specters of sinister technologies and the dreams that money can buy.”

    On novel writing:

    “Any fool can write a novel but it takes real genius to sell it. “

    On life:

    “If you can smell garlic, everything is all right.”

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    • lee 7:30 pm on April 21, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I saw Empire of the sun years ago,but never read the book.now i will,is dystopia painful? i hope he didnt suffer.

  • seandodson 12:42 am on April 20, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , obituary JG Ballard, science fiction, writers   

    In remembrance of the great JG Ballard 

    jgballardJust want to pay my tributes to the great JG Ballard, who has died of prostate cancer. For me he was one of the most truly original thinkers around and one of our most gifted writers.

    Some of the early coverage: The Times got hold of Iain Sinclair last night, which was the most appropriate thing to do, as well as pointing out that, if nothing else, he added at least one word to the English language.

    Salon.com has put up a guide to his greatest work. The Guardian has put up an extract from Empire of the Sun, which seems a safe choice. Maybe they’ll put up the Atrocity Exhibition later. They’ll be much more up tomorrow morning, I’ll add to this list then.

    AP have put out a story headlined “Empire of the Sun author dies” which is not on quite the same freeway as the Sun’s similarly reductive response to the death of Orson Wells (headline: Sherry Man Dies). Ballard was so much more than that. So much more of him to miss. His contribution to literature was just so immense, but I can’t yet fathom it.

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    • krv 8:15 am on April 20, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Here here. It’s been coming for a while I suppose, but I’ve been dreading it.

      There’s something about the way he wrote, though, that makes this unlike other public deaths. The surrender to time in Crystal World, or the endless sun segues of Myths of The Near Future, or the neo-primitivism of High Rise… it’s almost like the Ballard you got to know from his books will arrive at death and find it just another set of chaotic conditions to adjust to.

      R.I.P., then. Looking forward to the retrospectives.

    • Tim Chapman 3:03 pm on April 21, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      A credit for the photo there would be nice, Sean. It is copyright protected, and flagged as such on Flickr.

  • seandodson 12:30 pm on January 30, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , cloud atlas the movie, , , ealing comedy, , , science fiction, , Tom Tykwer, v for vendetta,   

    Cloud Atlas: David Mitchell novel to be adapted by Hollywood 

    cloud_atlas1First Showing is reporting that David Mitchell’s masterful Cloud Atlas will be adapted for the big screen. The film of the book (that should have won the 2004 Booker Prize) will be produced by the Wachowski Brothers and directed by Tom Tykwer, who previously directed  Run Lola Run.

    My first thought is that Cloud Atlas is pretty un-film-able. The book is a literary jigsaw puzzle: something both entertaining and difficult at the same time. It takes a long time to ponder, without ever being too heavy. So much of that will surely be lost in translation.

    What will remain, I think, will be highly entertaining,. Like Danny Boyle’s re-making of Trainspotting, it will romp along nicely enough; hopping through different adventures and riffing along different genres. Think of Timothy Cavendish’s misadventures, for instance,  and how they would make for a tight little Ealing-style comedy.

    But it will be a fluffier Cloud Atlas on offer. Of course it will. The Brothers Wachowski can only carry it up to a point. Their V for Vendetta simplified much of Alan Moore’s political message after all and it made for a frustrating adaptation, despite excellent performances from Geoffery Rush and Natalie Portman (the latter an evens-bet for Luisa Rey in Cloud Atlas). The brothers also famously failed to give the Matrix Trilogy much sense in the end. Could they do better with Cloud Altas with just two hours to play with?  I wonder.

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    • ggw_bach 1:34 pm on January 30, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      book adaptations always make the best movies. Strong characters, well threaded plots. Gives the groundwork for the visual and acting experience.

    • PJ Alesci 2:49 pm on February 22, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      It screams to be a five or six-part cable mini-series

    • Jamie 4:44 pm on February 24, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Possibly my favourite book of the last few years. Difficult to see how they could produce a “faithful” adaptation within the one film without excising key elements. Suppose they could really push the boat out and film a trilogy, but seems unlikely in current climate.

    • scrapper 7:28 pm on March 3, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Seems that what is happening with “Life of Pi” being in development hell could easily happen with this book. I personally hope they do not adapt this into a watered down Hollywood spitshined oscar flagpole like “Benjamin Button.” By the way Geoffrey Rush wasn’t in “V for Vendetta”

  • seandodson 7:00 pm on January 11, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , science fiction   

    Kurt Vonnegut in his own words 

    Vonnegut’s headstone

    Originally uploaded by Dave Makes

    AV Club has pulled together “15” things Kurt Vonnegut said”. My favourite – aside from the epitath of his headstone (right):

    “I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled ‘science fiction’ ever since, and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal.”

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  • seandodson 10:39 am on December 13, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ebook, , , , science fiction,   

    The Agrippa Files : William Gibson’s poem reflects on the fleeting nature of memory 

    In 1992, William Gibson wrote a 300-line poem and published it on a magnetic disk which was programmed to erase itself upon exposure to air.

    Collaborating with the Dennis Ashbaugh and award-winning journalist Kevin Begos, Jr they put it in a handmade book and filled it with disappearing ink.

    It was “performed” at the Americas Society in New York and transmitted across “the wilds of the internet” later that year, but has since been lost to time.

    Now the Universities of Maryland and Santa Barbara have recovered the original file from one of the discs and published it as the Agrippa Files.

    A deep and complex website, the Agrippa Files contains “emulations” of the poem, a facsimile of the book and exhaustive documentation

    (via Me-Fi)

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  • seandodson 10:30 pm on November 17, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , margaret atwood, new scientist, , science fiction, , , the death of science fiction,   

    Has science made science fiction obsolete? 

    I enjoyed New Scientist’s discussion on the “death” of science fiction. It argues that “science – and its handmaiden, technology – are changing so fast that it is impossible for science fiction to keep up.”

    In a nice, well-rounded series of articles, including a great inverview with William Gibson (above), it argues that, while the genre’s golden age of prediction might be getting slightly rusty, it’s role of satirical mirror to society’s anxieties is less tarnished.

    “As well as a mere storytelling device, science fiction often articulates our present-day concerns and anxieties – paradoxically, it is often about the here and now rather than the future.”

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  • seandodson 12:18 pm on July 31, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , computer games, , , , neuromancer, new rave, science fiction, sf, , tr2n, trailer, tron, tron 2,   

    TR2N (Tron 2) might be doomed to failure, but we still want the test footage 

    Disney’s Tron is like the Dorian Gray of science fiction: it just never seems to get any older. It’s beautiful, neon-lit vector graphics have left a long legacy on contemporary design (Motorola’s RAZR / the architecture of Liverpool Steet’s Broadgate / even the fashion for Nu-Rave). It also imagined what virtual reality might look like, a full two years before William Gibson’s Neuromancer

    Next year sees the release of Tron 2, with Jeff Bridges reprising his lead role. Last week test footage of the sequel was screened at Comic Con in San Diego and leaked onto the web by someone in the audience. It’s amazing how, even though the footage is both blurred and unsteady (its apparently taken on a mobile phone) I feel compelled to watch it.

    As William Wiles has pointed out in Icon Magazine, the sequel’s failure is probably inevitable. As hew says, “no remake could match the enormous and lasting importance and influence of the original.

    “Tron was a technological milestone and a cultural breakthrough that cannot be replicated.”

    • Rob 6:38 pm on January 16, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I can’t see how the sequel could surpass the original, but I’m sure it will still be entertaining (assuming they don’t ramp up the content to a PG-13 rating.)

    • 94qozo 8:44 am on May 17, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Hello, Very nice site. Universe help us, dont worry man.

    • MM 11:54 pm on June 20, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I think that even if the film doesn’t end up with the same fate as countless other bad sequels, The music (scored by Daft Punk) should make it almost as (if not better than) Wendy Carlos’s great score of the original…
      I’m exited for the full length trailer, rumored to come out at either ComicCon ’09 or Disney’s new D23 expo…..

    • ennY 10:23 am on June 23, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Fail? No way! TR2N will rule!

  • seandodson 9:14 am on July 14, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , science fiction,   

    Kurt Vonnegut: How to Write with Style 

    The late, great Kurt Vonnegut’s short essay on how to write with style. Priceless advice (via). Here’s the summary:

    1. Find a subject you care about
    2. Do not ramble, though
    3. Keep it simple
    4. Have guts to cut
    5. Sound like yourself
    6. Say what you mean
    7. Pity the readers

    • One Penny Profiles 9:39 am on July 14, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Ahhhh… refreshing to hear. We all need to be reminded of this stuff now and again.

    • One Penny Profiles 9:40 am on July 14, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Ahhhh… refreshing to hear. We all need to be reminded of this stuff now and again.


  • seandodson 1:22 pm on June 17, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Belarus, , Burma, , , , , , Libya, North Korea, , reporters without borders, , science fiction, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam   

    Islands in the net: Reporters Without Borders identifies the internet’s black holes 

    The Internets Black Holes

    Originally uploaded by oneighturbo

    I’ve just come across this campaign poster by Reporters Without Borders outlining 15 “black holes” in the world wide web. Where the circulation of a free press is restricted. The 15 countries are Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

    The poster reminds me a lot of Bruce Sterling’s surprisingly prophetic novel Islands in the Net, which I’ve been meaning to reread for a while. Written in 1988, but set in 2023 it fortells of a time when most of us live in a kind of world state woven together by a vast communications web. That idea is touched on here, that the internet exists as a truly transnational state and deny access to it is to deny a basic human right.

    • Bjöggi 10:18 pm on June 18, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      That is so (for a lack of words to describe my feelings) horrible.

  • seandodson 8:43 pm on May 13, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , deepak nayar, , filmaka, , Nuru Rimington-Mkali, peckham, philip k dick, science fiction, short film,   

    Why a science fiction short threatens to take online film out into theatres 

    My recent post on the Guardian Film Blog tells the story of Nuru Rimington-Mkali (above left), a young 21-year-old filmmaker from Peckham in South London. His film And I Refuse to Forget has just won the grand prize in the inaugural Filmaka Competition which is co-founded by Deepak Nayar (the producer of Bend it Like Beckham). The prize will fund Rimington-Mkali’s first full-length film to the tune of $5 and will be produced by Nayar

    The young filmmaker, who used to be a technician at Southwark City Learning Centre and be an usher in his local cinema, won the approval of a judging panel containing the likes of Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, John Madden, Colin Firth and Paul Schrader. Neil LaBute, one of America’s most excellent storytellers, said the film was a “wonderfully impressive paranoid thriller told with great economy and vivid imagery.” Indeed it is. And I Refuse to Forget is a short burst of science fiction, reminiscent of Willam Gibson and Philip K Dick. It’s also, despite its three minutes, a tender love story. Which is probably why it won.

  • seandodson 1:53 pm on March 11, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , death star, , OMA, , science fiction, , ,   

    Is Rem Koolhaas planning to build a replica of the Death Star off the coast of Dubai? 


    Is it just me, or is Rem Koolhaas, of the Office of Metorpolitan Architecture, planning to build a  a gargantuan 44-story replica of the Death Star as a centre-piece for his planned city in Dubai? According to the New York Times, the enormous sphere will be part of Koolhaas’s masterplan for his concept of ‘the generic city’, “a sprawling metropolis of repetitive buildings centered on an airport and inhabited by a tribe of global nomads with few local loyalties.”

    The building will act as a cornerpiece for a 1.5-billion-square-foot  global city – as dense as Manhattan – built on an artificial island just off Dubai.  The sphere itself, with a telltale circular recess,  is is conceived as a self-contained three-dimensional urban neighborhood. According to the NY Times: “Various public institutions are encased within smaller spheres suspended inside the space that are connected by escalators enclosed in long tubes. These smaller spheres are embedded in layers of residential housing, like embryos floating in a womb.”

  • seandodson 12:20 pm on March 7, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: canary wharf, , , Felini, , gated community, , , Ronald Regan, science fiction, web2.0,   

    JG Ballard: The Oracle of Shepperton 

    JG Ballard

    Originally uploaded by jadc01

    He has been credited with foreseeing the Regan administration, the arrival of gated communities, the architecture of Canary Wharf and widespread ecological disaster, but has the most prescient science fiction writer of the last three decades, also anticipated something else? Did JG Ballard also anticipate YouTube?

    As far back as 1984, the Oracle of Shepperton was quoted in an interview as saying, “I’d like to organize a Festival of Home Movies! It could be wonderful — thousands of the things… You might find an odd genius, a Fellini or Godard of the home movie, living in some suburb. I’m sure it’s coming…” Indeed it was. In 1984 Ballard’s obsession with home movies might have seemed a little perverse and yet today watching them on YouTube is as routine as switching on the telly.

    Ballard foresaw his festival as, “using modern electronics, home movie cameras and the like” and now a group of his devotees have instigated The 1st Ballardian Festival of home movies, a kind of belated realisation of the legendary author’s vision using nothing more than a video-enabled mobile phone. You can watch the entire collection at Ballardotube (“the net’s only dedicated Ballard channel”).Ballard has always revelled in the mundane underside of contemporary culture, once remarking that the Los Angeles Yellow Pages was “richer in human incident than all the novels of Balzac”.

    The festival organisers admit that they have yet to find the Fellini of the very small screen, but its early days for the nascent festival. “Next year, who knows?”, reads a statement on the festival website. “Perhaps we’ll get entrants to simulate the filmed ratissages in Super-Cannes, or Bobby Crawford’s home porno movies in Cocaine Nights.”

    *Please feel free to comment on a subsequent version of this article, over at the Guardian Arts Blog

    • seandodson 12:24 pm on March 7, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Ballard might be the most precient author of th 21st century, but not everything he foresees is yet to make as much impact as YouTube, which shows at least 100m videos a day. His excellent collection of stories Vermillion Sands features singing plants, mood-sensitive houses and automated poetry machines, all of which seem less plausible. Although with his record, would you rule anything out?.

  • seandodson 2:09 pm on February 24, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Akira, , , , , , hollywood, , , science fiction   

    Live action Akira to be relocated outside post-Apocalyptic Tokyo 

    Akira piece

    Originally uploaded by Fake51

    Variety is reporting that Warner Bros is reported to be developing two live action adaptations of Akira, a masterpiece of manga written and drawn by the legendary Katsuhiro Otomo. The remake will be produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and set outside Japan, instead being set in a New Manhattan, a city rebuilt by Japanese money after being destroyed 31 years ago. Typical Hollywood, re-setting Akira outside Japan is like relocating Quadrophenia outside Brighton. In my opinion it  just doesn’t make sense. 

    Even so, the live-action Akira will be set outside Japan, former ad-director Ruairi Robinson should ensure the film has a strong visual style and the budget will sufficiently blockbuster.

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