Archive for the ‘Fantasy & Sc-fi’ Category


by Don Franks

Labour, New Zealand’s oldest
political profession
mine shaft
to shagpile
inexorable procession
“Don’t go on strike – just help get us elected!”
or :
“We can’t do anything – the problem’s
worse than we suspected!”
A century, those hollow mantra served
the suited smarmy cynical deceivers well
watching them smirk today, I wish I did believe
there is a hell


One of the predecessors of this blog was the magazine revolution, 26 issues of which were produced from 1997 to 2006. We had quite a range of readers all over the world, one of them being Edinburgh-based award-winning sci-fi novelist Ken MacLeod. As well as being a keen reader of the mag, Ken contributed several articles on sci-fi and contemporary culture. Although the piece below dates back to 1998, it is still relevant today. His perspective on the fantasy genre has certainly been borne out. The piece here is based on a short presentation Ken gave on a panel at the 1998 Edinburgh Book Festival and first appeared in revolution #8, Dec 1998/Feb 1999.

imagesby Ken MacLeod

The producers of culture in society – artists, writers, people who work in the media and so on – are waking up to the realisation, or at least the perception that there is no God, there is no Soviet Union. Whether it was seen as a promise or a threat, while it existed ‘actually existing socialism’ provided a stimulus to development – as something outside of our society which was a competitor to be outdone or an alternative to be emulated.

Now, with that challenge – feeble as it was – defeated, Western cultural establishments have been (more…)

Andy Warren gets negative about a film before he’s seen it and takes a quick look at the history and themes of Hollywood science fiction cinema and their parallels in the real world

Interstellar: yet another misanthropic view of humanity

Interstellar: yet another misanthropic view of humanity

It is perhaps foolish to base too much on a film’s trailers. However, Hollywood generally can’t help but leak the key points. So I think I’ll be fairly safe. Once I’ve watched it I’ll write an update.

“We’ll find a way … we always have,” says Matthew McConaughey’s character, Cooper. “Mankind was born on Earth. It was never meant to die here.”

These quotes sound inspiring out of context – in the moody voice over. The reality is, I expect, rather uninspiring.

Recently released Interstellar (November 2014) will deliver the latest dollop in what I call the “humanity is doomed unless…” genre. The genre that likes to market itself as highbrow science fiction but which in reality manages only “we’re suddenly doomed but that brilliant man will save us – hey what does that lever do?” with as much glossy scientific credibility as the production can afford.

Interspersed with footage reprising the dust bowl depicted in The Grapes of Wrath (Depression-era US Midwest “bread belt”), farmer-but-also-engineer-and-brilliant-pilot McConaughey (the brilliant guy) is torn from his down-to-earth farming life (“good people”) because he is humanity’s only hope – the hope that we can find a new habitable planet elsewhere in the universe.

Judging by the sheer quantity of thrillingly impossible action sequences and dramatic moments in the various trailers I’ve watched, this film will have no choice but to quickly dispatch with its main justification and cut to the core of it’s mission – dressing up a basic dystopian morality message with special effects and bite-sized wisdoms delivered in McConaughey’s otherwise enjoyable slow, thoughtful Texas drawl. Yet another environmental story is dressed up in a relatively new and exciting form – this is the goal of the marketing machine’s influence on script and storyline. The environmental theme by now needs no introduction – the work has been done by dozens of previous Hollywood productions and the earnest bleating of the green movement. If the film has been done well, we might see some truly breathtaking space travel. I genuinely hope so.

About those Dust Storms…

John Steinbeck wrote in his 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath: “And then the dispossessed were drawn west – from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico; from Nevada and Arkansas, families, tribes, dusted out, tractored out. Car-loads, caravans, homeless and hungry; twenty thousand and fifty thousand and a hundred thousand and two hundred thousand. They streamed over the mountains, hungry and restless – restless as ants, scurrying to find work to do – to lift, to push, to pull, to pick, to cut – anything, any burden to bear, for food. The kids are hungry. We got no place to live. Like ants scurrying for work, for food, and most of all for land.”

Steinbeck was describing life for farming families driven from their farms by a period of intense drought which hit them on top of the Depression and a rapaciously brutal banking industry – subsequently bailed out by Franklin Roosevelt and the 1933 Emergency Banking Act – a forerunner of the US Congress appetite for bailing out Wall st on a more regular basis today.

Where Steinbeck based his work on brutal reality, Interstellar draws on the imagined reality that appeals to enviro-zealots and doom mongers. What (more…)

by our Religious Affairs correspondent

Mana Party leader and Te Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira has described Mandela as “one of the icons of our age and “one of the very special people of history” who rose above persecution and forgave his enemies.  “I can think of of only three other people about whom you can say that – that would be Mohamed, Jesus Christ and Buddha.  So he’s up there man, he is seriously up there.”

Yep, and when so many others dropped the ball in front of the goal line.

If only Lenin had got out of his sealed train, popped up on the back of the truck and said: ” guys, listen up a minute, look, I know the Czar’s been a bit of a bastard. Flogging peasants and herding unarmed men across mud to face machine guns, throwing our agitators into blast furnaces, all that drama. It hasn’t all been a fun time.

“But before you get your boots on to storm the winter palace, consider – what would Jesus have done here?

“Yeah yeah, ok, alright, I hear yous, the church has (more…)

Colin CraigMr Craig was asked about the time when Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship which was tossed with waves, for the sea was contrary. When, in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea, saying be of good cheer it is I , be not afraid.

“I don’t have a belief or a non-belief in these things, I just don’t know,” Mr Craig replied.

Asked again, Mr Craig said he had “no idea” whether Jesus walked on water.

John Key being informed of Craig's latest utterings

John Key being informed of Craig’s latest utterings

“That’s what we’re told. I’m sort of inclined to believe it.  But at the end of the day, I haven’t looked into it. And I know there’s some very serious people that question these things.”

He went on: “I’m happy that they can think that. I’m not going to judge any of these things without the facts.”

Made safe for the British establishment

Doctor Who has evolved from a threatening anti-establishment figure, laments Eddie Ford, to a patriotic defender of the status quo; this first appeared in the Weekly Worker, Nov 28, 2013

Unless you were holidaying on the dark side of the moon, you could not have failed to miss the hype surrounding the 50th anniversary edition of Doctor Who, entitled ‘The day of the Doctor’. A national occasion almost as important as a royal wedding. It would almost be unpatriotic not to watch and enjoy the programme.

The special episode was described as a “love letter to fans” by the show’s producer, Marcus Wilson. As for Danny Cohen, the controller of BBC One, he called it an “event drama”. According to the writer of the show, Steven Moffat, he set out to “change the narrative” of Doctor Who and claimed – or boasted – that it is the “most ambitious episode we’ve ever done”.

Prior to its screening, we had (more…)

Same old crap

Same old crap

by Don Franks

As a good christian, David Cunliffe must have thanked God for Labour’s new leader election rules.  Formerly, the party’s caucus of MPs chose their parliamentary leader; this time the decision was shared by party members and affiliated unions.

Rival candidate Grant Robertson narrowly won the caucus vote,  but Cunliffe got 60% of the members votes and 70% of the unions.

That combination of Labour party members and affiliated union votes was sufficient to win Cunliffe the leadership, despite getting only 11 out of 34 caucus votes – rival candidate Shane Jones got 7 and Robertson 16.

It is an uneasy beginning for a party leader. A correspondent to the NZ Herald wrote: “I’m sure Ritchie (sic) McCaw would be an awesome captain if less than a 3rd of his teammates supported his selection…NOT.”

From a marxist point of view, Labour’s caucus disunity is (more…)