Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Blade Runner revisited

As far as films go, there is a reason why Blade Runner became a cult classic. Based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick, this thoughtful work of speculative fiction translated well into celluloid. Director Ridley Scott who also brought us Gladiator, Thelma and Louise and Alien knows how to bring a great vision to life.

As a fan of this film and much of Scott's work, I look forward to his latest opus. However, I'm wondering about the wisdom of making a sequel to Blade Runner. This subject calls for comments...feel free to weigh in on this one.

To quote Scott at Comic-Con yesterday in Videobusiness.com: "If you have any scripts, you know where to send them," he said. Personally, I'd like to read different story treatments on this one. Where do Deckard and Rachael go after they leave the city? Who is motivated to go after them? There doesn't seem to be a reason to chase after these two...the police chief should only care about his jurisdiction. The magnate Tyrell is dead at the hands of his own creations. A clever writer will need to create a new replicant dynamic to write this story.

There's something pure about a story standing alone and being a snapshot in time culled from frames flipping away in the author's mind. But when you love a story...and many of us love Blade Runner...it is fascinating to see how the story comes back to life. Perhaps it will have a sequel. But if it doesn't, the legend will live on its own.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Car company of the future

There has been plenty of press lately revolving around the groundbreaking car company of the future Tesla Motors. For good reason...they seem to have everything it takes to make a serious go of it and their timing couldn't be better.

Tech genius Elon Musk is behind it. His PayPal and SpaceX forays prove that he gets into successful ventures. We're well on our way to space tourism now and he was a major contributor to proving that it's a viable thing to do. Now, with the death knell of fossil fuel based transportation clearly sounding, we all understand that we need an alternative. Tesla motors is providing that alternative.

Sure, there have been electric cars in the past but two things plagued their chances of success: low performance and cheap gas. Now with cheap gas a permanent thing of the past, this erstwhile impediment is gone -- for good. We're finally forced to face the truth that's been evident for decades...fossil fuel is not renewable.

Performance issues are now also resolved. Check out the stats on their site. It makes every car enthusiast prick their ears when they hear 0 to 60 in 4 seconds. Couple this stat with 135 MPG equivalent and you've got everyone's attention. Just ignore the price...for now.

It's not a viable option today. Your average joe can't roll onto the lot, sign over his Durango and cruise away with a new roadster. Even after they're actively emerging from the mouth of the production line, these first cars will still be too expensive. But trust Mr. Musk and team. They will get reasonable and they will be an alternative for every man and woman purchasing a shining new vehicle.

Tesla Motors has plans with a two year timeline for a sedan in the middle price range. Keep your eyes peeled to this company's site and ears open to news of Tesla Motors. In my book, Darwin's Orphans, the mentor character advises that it takes a renegade magnate to make real change. The old school power brokers are just too encumbered and paranoid. Mr. Musk is proving this yet again with these shiny new cars of the future.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Brain chips with dip

Mmm, tasty...brain chips anyone? This article's got new insights into chips that can be implanted into the brain. It's hopeful science where brain programming can cure various medical problems. Give the article a sober read as it does explore real scientific possibities.

However, my creative side can't evade the wealth of fictional options that these possibilities conjure. Too many rehashings of Robin Cook's Coma with a brainy twist pop into one's head. How many scenario's can you think of? Hmm, doctors abusing the programming capabilities of these well intended chips for evil deeds. The Manchurian Candidate also comes to mind.

It's not that such great medical possibilities should be made light. As I said, give the article sober attention. But, if you are looking for places to start on your next fictional opus, articles like this one really pack a whallop. After all, we are developing these new technologies but, as Crichton points out in Jurassic Park, we really need to think very hard about how we keep new technologies under control.

It's not that we want to squelch scientific creativity...heavens no. After all, you wouldn't be reading this if I didn't find these developments extremely impressive. However, by being the imagination aristocrats, the storywriters among us can point out what could happen...hopefully before something bad does.

So, if this has given you an idea...write it up! We'll all be better for it.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

McCarthy's The Road

Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road has been called "a triumph." I always pause when marketers describe literary works as triumphant. What, after all, are the lonely writers out there battling against. In the case of The Road, the terms actually fits...a rarity.

Down far too low on my list of must-reads, I finally got to take in this beautiful piece of what can only be called literature. It is a wonderful book of what could be called speculative fiction. But great works like this one remind us that shoehorning a book into categories can sidetrack the attention they deserve. It won a Pulitzer Prize for a reason...it's an achievement by a seasoned writer who has put everything together so well that it can truly be called a masterpiece.

There are two things that I'd like to mention about this book: the style choices and the imagery.

As far as style goes, I learned much from reading this book. Selections McCarthy made like eliminating unnecessary apostrophes and many brief sentences contributed so much to the threadbare world vision he creates in the story. Chapters would have added too much order to the book .... there are none. The creation of a world in chaos translated into a book requires clever style and McCarthy pulled no punches.

On the imagery side, its such a poetic book that I had to stop and reflect a number of times. As I read along, I found myself immersed in a story of brutal events and then calmed by the beauty of a thoughtful passage. The book ends with a paragraph that I will reread many times in my life. It is, simply put, one of the most eloquent closings to a book I've ever read.

For all the writers out there: thank you Cormac McCarthy, you've shown us how it's really done.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bova gets due attention

In this NapleNews.com article, Ben Bova writes about his recent John W. Campbell award. He jokingly starts with "Warning: I’m going to blow my own horn a little." As far as I'm concerned...blow away Ben.

Ben is considered a science fiction writer and he does keep religiously and unabashedly dedicated to space tales. However, one of the great anthologies that I consider more speculative fiction than science fiction, Again, Dangerous Visions 2, featured his story Zero Gee. This series of anthologies was edited by Harlan Ellison and he considers Ben a good friend...he even gets a bit misty in his introduction of Bova in the book.

This was 1972 and I didn't first read it until about 1985...I consider this 13 years of missed rereads. Pick up a copy of this book and read the wonderful stories in it. Ellison pulled together some great stories in these anthologies and Ben Bova's is one of the most fun you'll find in A,DV2. Zero Gee is definitely one of the lightest tales in a book so rife with serious yarns. Bova has a gift for dishing out the technology with a bit of levity.

The man writes fun stories. And he didn't actually blow his horn much. He filled half of the article in Naples News talking about Campbell after all. If that's blowing your horn, then Ben, your horn's a harmonica.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

On humanoid robots

Wired magazine recently posted on the robotics world from the viewpoint of the android pursuit. Being typically anthropomorphic, we humans seek like beings in our servile creations. After all, when we see Sir Anthony Hopkins in "Remains of the Day" being such a deft butler, we gravitate toward such paragons in our artificial creations.

It's interesting that Korean robotics professors are in the mix. In TV's M*A*S*H you never really thought about Radar O'Reilly hanging out with mechnical scientists. However, in recent months, a number of my posts on robotics revolved around Korean legislation. For example:

The last one wasn't actually about the Korean laws but it does tie in nicely to the android pursuit subject. Asimo and robots like it are considered -- alongside a bunch of other future-oriented musings.

The main thing that really struck home in the Wired article was the social aspect. I agree with this quote: "Androids also offer something uniquely appealing: companionship, labor and familiarity, but without the human condition's many burdens."

I guess lots of folks just want someone to help them out, be a buddy and never have to deal with their issues...it's that one way street so many people seek in relationships. The android solution is probably seen as a loneliness cure all but, given deeper consideration, it's really just a placebo .