Who Goes Festive

Slumped over your keyboard in a reverie of mince pie and mulled wine?  Well, wake up!  The world’s about to change (according to Torchwood anyhow) and here’s a pocket history of how to deal with the future flux.

Resident Whologist Peter Grehan takes us on a magical mystery tour of Science Fiction’s Greatest Hits:

Greatest Films

2001 A Space Odyssey (1968)

If I’m honest it was only after I’d read the novel that the film made any sense to me, but I adored (and still do) the combination of visual images, vacuum silence and music. Add to this that the music was then used to accompany the BBC coverage of the Apollo Moon landings and I have a strong emotional link to this film. 

War of The Worlds (1953) 

I was only able to see the trailers for this George Pal film in the cinema, though that must have been several years after it was produced. They were enough to scare me into having nightmares. It was the images of seeing American troops easily defeated (not long after the Second World War) that seemed the most unsettling. No doubt the original novel had a similar effect in relation to the British Empire when it came out. When I finally saw the film it didn’t disappoint.

Aliens (1986) 

I like this film because it’s a war film I can enjoy with a relatively clear conscious.

The Birds (1963) 

Illogical, but very effective film that sees nature turning against man. It’s more effective for not attempting any scientific explanation for the unnatural behaviour of the birds. From the perspective of ordinary men and women this would be very much how a natural disaster would seem, since it would be unlikely that they’d have a scientist in residence at the time to theories as to possible causes.

Blade Runner (1982) 

The visual impressions, music and underlying theme of despair and hope are what make this film for me. Also the arbitrary way we define people as others, rather than seeing what makes them the same as us is really well illustrated in this film.

Doctor Who and The Daleks (1965) 

This is the film version, with Peter Cushing as the Doctor, made specifically for children. As a result it looses much of the depth and character of the original TV series. However, I enjoyed it at the time (though not nearly as much as the TV series) and it has, I think, one of the best alien world and city sets I’ve seen, in a British film at least.

Forbidden Planet (1956) 

I enjoyed this as a Space yarn when I was boy, and I enjoyed some of the subtler ideas as an adult, particularly the “monsters from the Id!” Something of a masterpiece I think.

The Thing From Another World (1951) 

Easier to stomach than the later Carpenter remake, it has the formulaic elements of some of my favourite Doctor Who stories.  Small band of humans isolated in a hostile environment and threatened by some alien menace.

The Terminator (1984) 

I was expecting a bit of low budget junk when I saw this for the first time, but was delighted by the story, standard of production and the design of the robot terminator. Left me wanting to see more, and hey, guess what!

Them! (1954) 

A giant bug monster movie that set the standard and was never equalled. 

Greatest Books

Captain Condor and The War in Space

Writer: Frank S Pepper   Artist: Keith Watson (Published in The Lion weekly comic between 1961 and 1962)

I was on a camping holiday with my parents in West Wales and they bought me some comics to read (since I was missing my telly I presume). One of them was The Lion. It was running The War in Space story, which got me hooked, not only on The Lion, but also on Science Fiction. It was a sort of rerun of World War Two themes set in space, a lot of defeats followed by resistance fighting and finally an equivalent to the D Day landings. I remember the bird like (perhaps that should be dinosaur like) alien Orcs and in particular the images of space fleets fighting in the style of an 18th/19th Century navel battle. Lining up and blasting the crap out of each other. It was an image that finally reached the cinema screen in Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of The Sith.

The Daleks (1964)David Whitaker

(novelisation based on BBC Doctor Who story broadcast in 1963)

Found this in the school library and started reading because I was a fan of the TV series. It got me into reading science fiction novels because it demonstrated to me that there could be a completely different dimension to the same story in book form.

A Wreath of Stars (1976)Bob Shaw

A very convincing story of an alternate world existing tactically just out of reach of our own yet physically within it. Gives a strong sense of coexisting in the same time-space yet being universes apart.

The Ragged Astronauts (1986) – Bob Shaw

A modern science fiction story that takes us back to the proto-science fiction idea of travelling to another world in a hot air balloon, by using the construct of having a binary planet system that shares an atmosphere. Really original way of revitalising an obsolete proto-sf idea.

The War Of The Worlds (1898)H G Wells

Having seen the George Pal film advertised I wanted to read the original. Again, having been brought up on a diet of ‘kicking alien arse’ (even if it was a bit touch and go at times) it was unsettling for a youngster who went to a convent school to read that perhaps the universe wasn’t necessarily designed for us.

The Day of The Triffids (1951)John Wyndham

John Wyndham was one of the first sf authors I began to read when I started reading the more grown up sf. Reading it I could feel the protagonists sense of freedom and loss at the end of modern society. The Triffids were just the icing on the cake.

Earth Abides (1949)George R Stewart

Similar to the above, but somehow more true and it succeeded making me bridge the perspective gap in my head between modern technological man and natural tribal man. The sort of book that a non-sf fan would enjoy.

Ender’s Game (1985)Orson Scott Card

Having enjoyed the fact that I had a childhood (which I haven’t entirely given up) I was fascinated by a book that has a protagonist who is robbed of his for the good of humanity as a whole. 

Canticle for Leibowitz (1960)
Walter M Miller 

Being brought up a Catholic, and an interest in history, I found this a particularly interesting book on several levels.

Foundation Trilogy (1951 – 1953)Isaac Asimov  

Bit of a cheat this as it includes Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation, but it’s a single novel in my mind. Loved the future history aspect of this story. It felt like I was reading a historical novel. 



2 comments


    Mark

    December 18, 2006

    Ender’s Game is so good. This should be set text for anyone interested in SF.

    In fact, the whole Ender series is good; just avoid the Shadow series (which follow Bean – a minor character in the Ender Series), it works great for one book, then loses the point.

    Sue A.

    December 18, 2006

    Ah..fooled me with a second list to make me want even more things. At least with Peter’s films I already have all of them unlike Naomi’s. Yes Ender’s Game, I only read it about two years ago. Isn’t it great to find a book that good that you haven’t read yet. Now I have to find a Bob Shaw on Amazon as I haven’t read these either, great stuff.
    No one has mentioned Dune in their book list, but then these are personal lists which is what makes them so interesting !
    Thnaks again…

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