"No less a critic than C. S. Lewis has described the ravenous addiction that these magazines inspired; the same phenomenon has led me to call science fiction the only genuine consciousness-expanding drug." Arthur C. Clarke


R.I.P Ray Bradbury

Beloved science fiction author Ray Bradbury died last night at the age of 91.  Bradbury is most famous for his novel Fahrenheit 451 (1953), one of the seminal works of the science fiction genre.

Photo of Ray Bradbury.

Photo of Ray Bradbury. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The New York Times obituary says that Bradbury sold over 8 million books in 36 languages.  His other well-known works include The Martian Chronicles, Dandelion Wine, and The Illustrated Man.

Awards Bradbury received include the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award, an Emmy, the World Fantasy Award life achievement, is a Science Fiction Writers of America Grand Master, an SF Hall of Fame Living Inductee, received the Prometheus Award, and also received a special citation from The Pulitzer Board as well as a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  In his honor have been named an asteroid, an award for science fiction, a crater on the Moon, and a park in Waukegan, Illinois, his birthplace.

Bradbury published his first story in 1938, started to write full-time in 1942 and, as he said, wrote every day from that day until his death.  He should be an example for all of us young writers to work hard and persevere.

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The new trailers for Ridley Scott‘s PROMETHEUS are incredibly good, and I wanted to share them.  I cannot wait to see this movie when it comes out on the 8th: Here is my preview.

And if you really want to, this is the first PROMETHEUS trailer in slow motion:

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Commercial Space: SpaceX’s DRAGON

The maiden launch of the SpaceX Dragon on the ...

The maiden launch of the SpaceX Dragon on the Falcon 9. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the first time, a privately-owned shuttle has docked at the International Space Station in a test run on May 25, and making a water landing on the 31st.  The Dragon capsule is being developed by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. to carry cargo both to and from the ISS, with funding from NASA.

The capsule was unmanned, carrying cargo from the space station when it landed in the Pacific off the coast of Baja California last Thursday.  Eventually, SpaceX officials say, the capsule will be able to hold up to seven astronauts on their way to the ISS or back home to Earth, but will probably not carry astronauts until 2015.

COTS 1 Dragon recovery

COTS 1 Dragon recovery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is important that the capsule survived in its fall back down and not only up.  The Dragon is alone among automated cargo capsules worldwide that does not burn up in its fall back to the Earth, which is obviously necessary when bringing cargo back, especially astronauts.

This is a very important step in the current effort to replace the newly-retired space shuttle program, which are becoming museum pieces as we speak.

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Top Sci-Fi Films of 2012 #2: THE AVENGERS

I finally saw The Avengers a few days ago, so I figured i would wait to write my preview of the film until after I had actually seen it, killing two birds with one stone, so to speak.  I had meant to see it very soon after it’s release, but with finals and a move it did not happen so quickly.

The Avengers (2012 film)

The Avengers (2012 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Avengers is the culmination film of the Marvel Universe, bringing together superheroes from previous individual films as well as those not seen before.  It essentially follows Nick Fury as he puts together this team, in spite of the government’s reluctance to put these heroes together under their watch, to fight Loki and his supernatural army from taking over the Earth.

It is the sixth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, following Iron Man (2008)The Incredible Hulk (2008)Iron Man 2 (2010)Thor (2011)and Captain America: The First Avenger.

The film is directed by Joss Whedon, who brings his brand of space-opera-type science fiction and humor, very welcome in my opinion in a film such as this.

The team is comprised of Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), along with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).  Loki is played by Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg reprises his role as Phil Coulson, and Cobie Smulders plays another S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.  Stellan Skarsgard and Gweneth Paltrow reprise their roles from previous Marvel Universe movies as well.

What I liked about the plot was that it incorporated parts of the plots of previous films in the story problem.  Loki, the villain of Thor, is the instigator, and the power is supplied by the Tesseract, the cube with infinite power that the Red Skull found and tried to use in Captain America.  With this power, Loki commands an army to take over the Earth, his army arriving through a portal opened to another world by the Tesseract.

Under Whedon’s guidance, this film has taken the Marvel Universe another step forward, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing A-list actors participate in an ensemble film, each taking a back seat at points.  I look forward to many more films by Marvel, as I am sure many of you do.

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Top 10 Science Fiction Films of 2012 #3: SKYFALL

Coming out in the UK on October 26th is Skyfall, the twenty-third James Bond film.  I include it in the science fiction genre because of the technology aspect that has become integrated into the series over the last fifty years.

The film returns stars Daniel Craig and Judi Dench as Bond and M, respectively.  The rest of the cast is dominated by Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva, the primary villain, Ralph Fiennes as a government agent, and Naomie Harris as the primary love interest.  The film is directed by Sam Mendes, director of American BeautyJarhead, and Revolutionary Road.

Skyfall, according to what has been released so far, centers around Bond’s relationship with M after certain facts about her past are revealed.  MI6 is attacked and Bond is challenged with the response.

Having been a lifelong Bond fan, I will definitely go see Skyfall as soon as I can when it comes out in the United States sometime in November.

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Top 10 Sci-Fi Films of 2012 #4: MEN IN BLACK 3

May 25’s Men in Black 3 is a film ten years in the making.  It will be released almost a decade after it’s predecessor in the series and fifteen years after the original Men in Black.  The film returns Barry Sonnenfeld as director, as well as Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

The film will center around the adventures of Agent J (Smith) as he goes back in time to 1969 to stop an alien from killing Agent K (Jones) and changing Earth’s history in the process.  The young K is played by Josh Brolin, while Alice Eve and Emma Thompson play young and old (respectively) versions of Agent O, obviously another agent of the Men in Black.

In the first trailers that have been released so far, it seems as if the Young Agent K’s voice has been edited in with Jones’ voice, but I would not be surprised to hear Josh Brolin replicate it that well.  It will be interesting to hear which is the case, as I would not imagine an A-list actor such as Brolin would particularly enjoy having his voice covered-over.

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Top 10 Sci-Fi Films of 2012 #5: LOOPER

Of all the films on this list, Looper might be the most intriguing.  Due out on September 28, the Rian Johnson-directed film, based on early reports, reflects shades of Blade Runner in it’s science-fiction/film noir style.

LOOPER: "Hunted by your future...Haunted by your past"

Looper stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, and Emily Blunt.  It is set in 2042 in a “gangland” dystopia, where the main character (Gordon-Levitt) works as a “looper,” an assassin who kills and disposes of those sent back in time from the year 2072 by certain gangs.  However, he recognizes one of those sent back for him to kill as himself (Willis) and he lets the future version of himself escape, setting off the gangs who pay him.

The time-travel aspect of Looper is what makes it especially interesting, to me.  One the one hand, he could go ahead and do his job, killing his future self, knowing for the rest of his life exactly how he will die, being sent back in time to be killed by his younger self.  He could regret that for the last thirty years of his life.  On the other hand, if he does not do his job, the gangs which serve as his employers could kill him right then and there.  However, if that happens, he would not live to be sent back in time in thirty years, thus eliminating the issue that killed him in the first place in 2042.  This is the time-travel paradox which, while in reality proves that time travel is not and never will be possible, makes an interesting film premise.

I will definitely be going to see Looper in theatres, but it’s release is quite a ways away.  I am sure I will have more about this one before then, though.

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