Science Fiction

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Anonymous

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#1
This topic developed a life of its own on another thread, so has been split off as a new thread.

Fortis said:
it may be that most worlds with life:
a) Inhabit the "habitable" region from their central class M star
(Pedantic Eburacum)

I tend to expect multicellular life to develop around stars in classes F, G, and K, but class M red dwarfs have very small comfort zones, so are less likely to develop life
(although they are ok to colonise)

(the sun is class G2v )
 
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Anonymous

Guest
#2
Thanks for spotting the error. I've always been a pedantist ;) myself. (Crossed wires from somewhere deep in my sub-conscious :eek!!!!: )

Speaking of stellar classification, though, where you ever given the mnemonic

Oh
Be
A
Fine
Girl.
Kiss
Me
Right
Now.
Smack.
?
 
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FraterLibre

Guest
#3
LIfe Anywhere

Robert L. Forward's novel, Dragon's Egg, features life on a neutron star, I believe, while Hal Clement's famous novel Neutron Star explores an entire civilization set on one. I believe Larry Niven has also written of life in, on, or around such improbably places.
 
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Anonymous

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#4
Eburacum45 said:
, but class M red dwarfs have very small comfort zones,
Oh oh! I've just realised where I went wrong. Damn you Gene Rodenberry! The small part of my brain used for conscious thought confused Star Trek with real life (i.e. silly muttering of M class Planets/Stars, etc.) :eek:

One to beam up... :cross eye
 
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Anonymous

Guest
#6
Re: LIfe Anywhere

FraterLibre said:
Robert L. Forward's novel, Dragon's Egg, features life on a neutron star, I believe, while Hal Clement's famous novel Neutron Star explores an entire civilization set on one. I believe Larry Niven has also written of life in, on, or around such improbably places.

Forward was responsible for most of Nivens best ideas, or at least it seems that way around. However I am absolutely convinced that the Klingons of the next generation were taken from Nivens portrayal of the Kzinti. (The original klingons were saracens as seen when transported into the 23rd century)
but now I'm looking like a trekker...
 
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Anonymous

Guest
#7
Clive Anderson "did" the moon hoax on news 24 today. I have to say, the motivation for it was certainly there, at home and abroad. But the little thing that caught my eye was the rehearsals.
there WERE staged versions of the landing... on film sets, like capricorn one... and there is a good possibility that some of the photos that we know as being of the moon landing were not the real thing, but pictures that expressed the heroic spirit of the time better than the snaps taken on the lunar surface.
 
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FraterLibre

Guest
#8
Re: Re: LIfe Anywhere

Originally posted by unicycle - Forward was responsible for most of Nivens best ideas, or at least it seems that way around. However I am absolutely convinced that the Klingons of the next generation were taken from Nivens portrayal of the Kzinti. (The original klingons were saracens as seen when transported into the 23rd century)
but now I'm looking like a trekker...


While cross-pollinating of ideas is common in science fiction, I'm not at all sure Forward preceeded Niven and, in any case, the likelihood is that both were using the same basic source material.

Once Poul Anderson and Sir Arthur C. Clarke published stories the same month in different sf magazines with the same basic idea -- solar sails -- the same basic treatment -- a race or sporting event -- and similar titles -- inevitable given the other parallels, perhaps. Yet neither had a clue as to the other's story. It was simply that both had focused on the same research paper in some scientific journal.

As to the Kzin, I believe they came along after the Klingons, but I'm not sure. Having said that, I'd also say that Roddenberry was not above lifting ideas to adapt them to his TV shows. STAR TREK was initially called WAGON TRAIN TO THE STARS, being exactly based on WAGON TRAIN, a western. And Deforrest Kelley was an old cowboy actor, in fact.

Further, the whole idea of the ship and its crew, right down to Scotty the engineer, came from a an old WW II submarine movie. So it's quite feasible Roddenberry used the Kzin models --- although they were feline.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
#9
Well Forward is a bonafide physicist, and Larry Niven is a superb writer. Seems to me they bounced ideas off each other and we got great stories as a result.
Kzin did predate Klingon, but only just...
My point if you can call it that, is that the next generation klingons, twenty years later on were different from the sixties ones, and heavily based on Kzinti, which is not that surprising since Roddenberry knew Niven and both went to the same LA parties.
Mods!!! I'm way off topic and I don't know how I got here! Please move this elsewhere!!!
 
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FraterLibre

Guest
#10
Dade

I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but Forward WAS a bona fide physicist; he died in 2002.

Niven's writing partner is Jerry Pournelle, and from what I know, although they bandy ideas back and forth rather widely, they also keep their current writing projects, and the research they're using, close to the vest. Still, I'm sure discussions among them now and again were certainly the genesis of many similar stories and ideas.

I find Niven the best writer of these three, by the way, and Forward to have been the most scientifically based and accurate. He in fact used his science fiction to teach science and admitted as much often.

We could do with more of this, actually.
 

rynner2

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#11
Bump! This thread has been split off from the Moon Landing Hoax thread!
 
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Anonymous

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#12
Re: Re: Re: LIfe Anywhere

FraterLibre said:
While cross-pollinating of ideas is common in science fiction, I'm not at all sure Forward preceeded Niven and, in any case, the likelihood is that both were using the same basic source material.
As to the Kzin, I believe they came along after the Klingons, but I'm not sure
So it's quite feasible Roddenberry used the Kzin models --- although they were feline.
Larry Niven even used a character/scientist in some of his short stories called Forward,
IIRC.
And the original series Klingons were not influenced by the Kzinti, but I would suggest that Kzinti memes crept into the Star Trek universe in the early seventies, when one (or more) of the characters in the Animated Series actually was a Kzin (!)
by the time of the Second generation the Klingons had taken on aspects of the imaginary Kzinti culture, via the films which made them much more fierce and animalistic.
The main reason for this is the fact that Niven was the best hard sf writer at that time, until Vinge and Banks came along.
 
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Anonymous

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#13
Re: LIfe Anywhere

FraterLibre said:
Robert L. Forward's novel, Dragon's Egg, features life on a neutron star, I believe, while Hal Clement's famous novel Neutron Star explores an entire civilization set on one. I believe Larry Niven has also written of life in, on, or around such improbably places.
Stephen Baxter wrote about a neutron star civilisation in Flux,
and we have one in a little corner of our imaginary galaxy :)
 

Anome

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#14
Re: Re: Re: Re: LIfe Anywhere

Eburacum45 said:
Larry Niven even used a character/scientist in some of his short stories called Forward,
IIRC.
And the original series Klingons were not influenced by the Kzinti, but I would suggest that Kzinti memes crept into the Star Trek universe in the early seventies, when one (or more) of the characters in the Animated Series actually was a Kzin (!)
by the time of the Second generation the Klingons had taken on aspects of the imaginary Kzinti culture, via the films which made them much more fierce and animalistic.
The main reason for this is the fact that Niven was the best hard sf writer at that time, until Vinge and Banks came along.
The Kzinti were introduced into the animated series by Niven himself, who worked as a writer for them for a while.

I believe that the Klingons were always intended to be the way depicted in the movies, and the later series. They were supposed to have a strict code of honour in battle, and favour death over capture, and that sort of thing. (They were even supposed to have a caste system, and use slave races to perform menial tasks on their warships. A lot of that seems to have gone by the wayside since TNG at least.)

And I've never bought Niven as a Hard SF writer. Too much of his technology is either implausible, or improperly thought out (see his descriptions of how gyroscopes work, and the whole Ringworld is Unstable fiasco). I find some of his stories quite enjoyable, anyway. (I also hesitate to call Banks' work Hard SF. At least the Culture stuff. There is a lot of fantasy about the way the technology works. It doesn't stop them being enjoyable and well-written, though.)
 
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FraterLibre

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#15
Hard Vs. Limp, or is it Easy? SF

Yes, I'd concur with anome, Niven's only "hard" sf if you overlook the science, which is of course the whole point of hard sf. His partner Pournelle is the same only worse.

I further agree this doesn't prevent them from being enjoyable as fiction; Niven's a good writer. Like Gibson after him, his ability to write excitingly glossed over the wonky science.

In truth, this fetish for "accurate science" in sf is rather silly, it being fiction, after all, meant to entertain for a bit, divert, provide respite from reality with some harmless escapism. It seems an artifact of Puritan work ethic to insist one's escapist genre fiction also instruct one in the intricacies of science. That a few have done this well doesn't mean all sf ought to be judged by the science content.

In any case, read on, folks. Baxter, who is an engineer, writes old-fashioned big-idea sf with cardboard characters and rather linear plots. Ths is fine. Retrograde sf is very popular, as witness Vinge, who writes space opera of the E.E. "Doc" Smith varitel to grand effect and many Hugos.

In England, and so Europe, science fiction began as a literary treatment and thus remained a valid part of writing. In USA, though, it was considered one step short of pornography. Asimov, in his memoirs, tells how sf was considered mind-rot for idlers and fools. Still, as a genre, (which is about treatment, not content), it was kept alive by what we now call nerds, mostly engineers and science buffs who took a break from Chess Club to scribble cool ideas into semiplots. This is the legacy we face when we write or read sf these days stateside.

As a graduate of a James Gunn hard sf writing workshop, I must say that I much prefer the more literary approach, the more right-brained and metaphorical approach, the more humanistic and impressionistic approach, along the lines of, say, Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, or Theordore Sturgeon. Still, I do enjoy both writing and reading hard sf -- although increasingly I find the editors simply not equipped to grasp the science at all.

This is a loss, and so hard sf should be supported.
 

Anome

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#16
Re: Hard Vs. Limp, or is it Easy? SF

FraterLibre said:
In truth, this fetish for "accurate science" in sf is rather silly, it being fiction, after all, meant to entertain for a bit, divert, provide respite from reality with some harmless escapism. It seems an artifact of Puritan work ethic to insist one's escapist genre fiction also instruct one in the intricacies of science. That a few have done this well doesn't mean all sf ought to be judged by the science content.
I only object to wonky science where the author is trying to convince the reader that they know what they are talking about. The fetish amongst some writers for writing carefully crafted expositions of how a piece of technology or science works, and then stuffing it up at some basic level is distracting, no matter how good the story or the characters might be. Some of them need to be taught "Less is more". Worse still is coming up with some fantasy piece of technology that acts as a device to hang a rather thin plot from.

The best SF, in my opinion, doesn't get bogged down in detailed explanations of how the technology works. And yes, you can write Hard SF like that. Like FraterLibre, though, most of my favourite SF writers don't write Hard SF, even though I like it. The truth is that the better writers out there tend to be more interested in the social or philosophical aspects than the technological. SF is a genre that allows for a more radical exploration of traditional literary themes.
 
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Anonymous

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#17
Niven isn't diamond hard, but he is at least quartz on the Moh's scale- he dreamt up a ringworld as a semi-practical type of dyson sphere, and was about the first writer to use actual local sunlike stars for his ficticious colonies.
A grading for sf by hardness is here
but yes the writing of visionaries like Phillip K Dick is marvellous, and I read it for entirely different reasons to hard science driven stuff.
 
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FraterLibre

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#18
Different Reasons

Yes, I quite agree, one reads different types of sf for different reasons, and in fact, oddly enough, some can even be fairly ill-written and still remain interesting. An example woulld be a hard sf book that, although perhaps not all that well done in the writing department, nevertheless explores and presents fascinating scientific concepts and ideas in a clear way. I believe this to have been the saving grace of much early hard sf, really.

And I think everyone agrees that expository lumps or explanation dumps that stop the story and bore the reader are just sad and ought to be edited out. Unfortunately many editors actually demand such things, and many readers will complain if their sf doesn't have at least some of it.

A truly skillful craftsman can integrate the exposition in such a way that a reader will understand things as he or she needs to, without stopping the flow of the story. Heinlein is widely credited for moving sf away from being disguised lectures. An example often given is his sentence: "The door dilated." This gives one an instant vivid image, puts one definitely into a futuristic frame of mine, and yet doesn't impede the story at all.

Essentially, Heinlein at his best merged good solid mainstream writing with science fiction's penchant for cool ideas. This was later brought to its logical fruition by William Gibson, who writes superb mainstream suspense and social observation and, by using certain types of ideas and images, comes up with science fiction. He has admitted in interviews that he is more interested in fashion than science; this isn't a detriment in his hands.

On the other side of the scale is Asimov, who also wrote well, and who explained science more clearly than anyone when he wrote nonfiction, but whose novels are basically Socratic and Platonic dialogues. They literally used those as models.

What's amazing is, he makes this interesting with a continual flow of compelling ideas and interesting considerations.

Mention was made of the Moh scale so I can't resist pointing suggesting that Pournelle may well be Larry to Larry's Curly. (Apologies to the Howard and Fine families.)
 
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Anonymous

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#19
Re: Hard Vs. Limp, or is it Easy? SF

FraterLibre said:
Yes, I'd concur with anome, Niven's only "hard" sf if you overlook the science, which is of course the whole point of hard sf. His partner Pournelle is the same only worse.

-------------------------------------------------

In any case, read on, folks. Baxter, who is an engineer, writes old-fashioned big-idea sf with cardboard characters and rather linear plots. Ths is fine.
Pournelle is a physicist IIRC, and, again IIRC, has been connected to numerous Federal science advisory think-tank-type bodies, including the one that came up with SDI for Reagan. And I was under the impression Baxter is a mathematician. That's what his PhD is in, anyway.

As for Niven, he freely admits that he fudged a lot of Ringworld's characteristics in the original novel, and attempted to correct those errors in the sequels. As for his other books: Niven produces as much 'hard fantasy' as 'hard SF' (eg. The Magic Goes Away, Flight of the Horse, Rainbow Mars, etc), and numerous books that come inbetween (the Dreampark novels, f'rinstance). Most of his hard SF output was in an earlier stage of his career anyway, and if the science looks shaky now, in all probability it's because our knowledge of the subject he was writing about has improved since the time he wrote it. Let's not forget that Neutron Star, the story that made his name in SF, was written way back in 1965-66.
 
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FraterLibre

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#20
Various Skiffy Things

PKD's Confessions of a Crap Artist is a mainstream novel published only after his death, and yes, one of his best. He was a frustrated "real" writer forced to do serious work in genre form for a pittance, and it's a damned shame he died just on the cusp of fame and what would have been fortune.

And true to PKD's world view, he may even have been offed by the deniable realm's minions.

It's considered an insult to sf writers to call them Sci Fi writers, as Sci Fi refers to grade-D schlock movies and other non-science-content fare. This is such a sticking point for some that, for instance, Harlan Ellison, when he hosted a show on the fledgling Sci-Fi Channel, refused to use that contraction.

Incidentally, "sci fi" was coined, to echo "hi fi", by 4E Ackerman, whose immense collection of science fiction, fantasy, and horror books and movie memorabilia has recently been auctioned to pay for health care. He did survive his heart problems, though, and is home and loves to hear from fen.

Quite right about Pournelle being a political hack. lol (I've worked for him and he's a piker, too.) Whether he's a physicist, or merely holds a degree of some sort, is entirely debatable.

Baxter, on the other hand, is more the real thing, and has a minor degree in maths, but his doctorate is in aerospace engineering research, his book bio claims. (Can we trust those? lol) In either case, left-brain linear type who's also able to conceive the big concepts, rather parallel to Sir Arthur C. Clark.

And yes, Niven's "hard fantasy" is cool, too. He has understood his market from the start and has more than fulfilled expectations.
 
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Anonymous

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#21
Re: Various Skiffy Things

FraterLibre said:
Incidentally, "sci fi" was coined, to echo "hi fi", by 4E Ackerman, whose immense collection of science fiction, fantasy, and horror books and movie memorabilia has recently been auctioned to pay for health care. He did survive his heart problems, though, and is home and loves to hear from fen.
I'm quite sorry to hear that he had to auction off his gear. He's always been such an Ultra-fan when it comes fantasy, horror and 'sci fi.' Glad to hear he's still on the go!

Famous Monsters of Filmland was one of those US imports that made life more interesting way back when I was a kid. :p
 
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FraterLibre

Guest
#22
Fandom's Shame

Yes, as often happens in fandom, what began as a gentle razz was soon blown into a full-scale flame war -- long before the Internet was even dreamed of.

Through fanzines I know many of the folks named in that report, ghost dog, and none hold any read grudge, just as all acknowledge 4E's general coolness. Now, Ted White's another matter, but we don't mention his name even in passing... lol.

I dislike the coy refusal to name names in the article you cited, but then again, it's typial infra dig fannish stuff. This is true to the trufan's nature.

Fen, unite: You have nothing to lose but your propellor beanies.
 
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Anonymous

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#24
Portrait of a crap artist is a great book especially if you want to get a handle on cultists and obsessives-
and Dick was both to an extent.
Soft SF can be entertaining - there has been lots of good stuff in that vein- but the soft stuff has been gradually fading into fantasy for the last twenty years.
:(
I am a great fan of Tolkien and the old school of fantasy writers like Lovecraft and Dunsany but modern stuff is nearly all pants.

The very hard stuff is a little genre on it's own, and does perhaps lack good character writing, but plot and character aren't everything, they are just a convention.
The tyrrany of 'plot and character=novel' is a relatively modern one, in the days before Dickens and Poe stories could be much more flexible - dialogues, fairytales, parables, correspondences...
So much pulp fiction nowadays is obsessed with amateur psychology and relationships; having a worried protagonist running around loose in a story can get in the way, sometimes...
two of my favorite books , Last and First Men and Star Maker (Stapledon) don't have any characters at all, but plenty happens.
all I want to know from hard SF is speculation about what events are really feasible in the future of mankind, and how weird can they be.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
#25
Looney Ranting Luddite Alert!

I get a strange retro feel I when I read SF these days. It's a bit disturbing. A lot of yesterday's hard SF seems strangely out of date as if the future has caught up with us. Alright, we're not folding space and travelling the galaxy, and apart from, bloody mobile phones, computers and flat screen TVs there's not so much really new tech stuff out there. But, the excitement Hard science concepts used to engender are a bit muted for me.

Maybe it's that the dystopian stuff is coming true. There are experts in genetics out there, quoting from the film, GATTACA and shrugging their shoulders as the contemplate a world divided into rich and genetically engineered superhumans and poor natural birth lower orders. So different they'd no longer be able to inter-breed. Not a science fiction plot line, simply a 'balanced' projection into the near future by an expert in the field.

And then there's the thought I had, when I was writing on another thread, about some poor schoolkid sent to juvenile hall for writing something ambiguous and vaguely threatening on a piece of paper. What happens when they start building brain-scanners, small enough, powerful enough and subtle enough to be able to detect abnormal thought patterns in passers by. I suspect they'll set them up at airports first, after a time, when they're cheap enough, they'll be set up around the place like cctv cameras are today.

When you see how far they've come in mapping the patterns of activity in the living brain you realize that such an innovation is no longer just a hard sf concept. It makes the premise of Minority Report look even more like fantasy and is even scarier.

Why has S&S fantasy taken over from SF for most readers? I'd say Reality is far too scary these days. SF has done its best to keep up, leaving a taste of steel in the mouth and smell of ozone in the nostrils. A lot of people are beginning to suspect they're living next door to a Solyent Green factory and they yearn for something more exotic, lush and free. Even if it's the smell of 'Cut Me Own Throat' Dibbler's meat pies.

There, rambling rant over. Carry on chaps. :)
 
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FraterLibre

Guest
#26
Where'd the Future Go?

Some excellent points and questions.

Fantasy is both easier to write, (when mediocrity is the standard), and easier to understand and read, so of course science fiction goes begging.

For me, fantasy and science fiction are distinct, but for many they blur. What is STAR WARS, aside from warmed-over DUNE gone mad? Some suggest the term Science Fantasy; close enough.

I believe many crave escapism, so epic fantasy devolved into a genre. Once epic fantasy had no conventionalities, and was written by visionary individualists such as those named -- Tolkien, Dunsay, and others. Now, to get published, one must meet the genre editor's expectations, and that means not only a laundry list of content, but also a strict set of treatments that are acceptable. Cookie-cutter crap results.

Not sure I agree about plot and character being conventions. Also not sure I agree they're disposable. Some interesting experimental fiction has been published -- from Olaf Stapledon's remarkable Odd John and Last and First Men, as mentioned, to Alfred Bester's Golum 100 -- but these work only as exceptions to the rule. If each book stood on its own terms, and started from ground zero each time, readers wouldn't be brand-loyal or name-loyal, there'd be no such thing as genres to market, and writers would no be able to build a following and a career.

The expected is an important element in all fiction, and the truly alien is simply incomprehensible.

Science fiction isn't comforting, but it can be optimistic and celebratory of admirable human qualities such as intelligence, adaptability, and determination. Ingenuity and self-made luck are appealing aspects in much science fiction.

Dytopia was mentioned. It does seem that writers are producing more cynical and dystopian science fiction these days, but not all. Try the lovely, charming debut novel Alien Taste by Wen Spencer, for instance. An altogether fresh take on many of science fiction's oldest tropes, and one hell of a good story too. Spencer is new and deserving of applause & support.

I suspect part of it is that disaster makes for easier melodrama. As for whiny characters, that's an Old Guard slur against New Wave fiction, and I'll not be drawn into that swamp just now, lol. Suffice it to say that not all of us are stoic square-jawed heroic Buzz Lightyear types.
 
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FraterLibre

Guest
#28
Yes!

I'm rather like Arthur Dent, myself. Well, when I'm not in Palmer Eldritch mode, of course.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
#29
Re: Yes!

FraterLibre said:
I'm rather like Arthur Dent, myself. Well, when I'm not in Palmer Eldritch mode, of course.
Does that mean you're really, Rupert Murdoch, then?

Or, Bill Gates?
 
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Anonymous

Guest
#30
Re: Different Reasons

FraterLibre said:
An example woulld be a hard sf book that, although perhaps not all that well done in the writing department, nevertheless explores and presents fascinating scientific concepts and ideas in a clear way.
Yus!

For years I have been arguing this exact concept. I grew up in a highly critical household and grew quite a cynicism for most entertainment and media informative mediums. I cant stand the News. I think it is awful. I include the like of Newsnight and news 24 which we are supposed to uphold and respect. I despise most forms of television and I will get up and leave if I reckon a film or documentary to be bad.

That said, I occasionaly become more tolerant when I see an interesting scenario played out for our enjoyment.

For example, there is a film out now about a kid who can stop time with his watch. It looks awful and I have heard a few bad reviews of it but........nonetheless, I would like to see that scenario played out, by others, for my enjoyment on the grounds that..........I have only ever had my dreams and imagination to equip me with these concepts. Now there is a movie.

Okay, the movie will not equal the dreams and fantasy in my mind but.......it will illustrate what is going on in someone elses mine when they think of the same fantasy.

P.S I picked this example because the "Freezing Time" fantasy is so common and one that gripped me when I was young.

Has anyone seen it?

P.P.S When I say that I grew up in a critical household, I do not mean that we switched the TV off. Quite the oppisite in fact. I have probably watched and criticised more things than anyone I know. I derive quite a bit of entertainment from watching things in a critical manner. I enjoy mocking those proggies that everyone else holds dear. Perhaps the word despise should not be used to describe my own feelings towards the media but perhaps it should better describe my feelings towards the gullability of the public and the success that shit TV derives from that naivity.

Ho Hum....rant over.........
 
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