R.I.P.: Brian Aldiss

I recommend Trillion Year Spree to anybody who might remotely be interested.

Due no doubt to some failure of my literary imagination, I have a hard time with a lot of his other works. (Thought Non-Stop was boring as hell, tried to get started with the Helliconia Triology several times without success.) But I do want to hail two short stories — “Let’s Be Frank” (very original idea) and “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” (you can read the whole thing from a link in the obit), very different from the film “A.I.,” more of a mere inspiration, both works engrossing in their own way.

Game of Throwns Away

I can’t deny it … “Game of Thrones” has entered a wrap-it-up-quick-and-dirty phase since expanding beyond the end of the book sources. The quest to nab a wight was fun enough to watch, but was a grindingly obvious plot-pusher from the start. The revelation that wights collapse when their maker is killed an apt surprise — but then doing in the Night King becomes such an obvious game-ender that it’s obnoxious it doesn’t happen. My favorite zinger — the undead bear. A truly cool monster and a nice foreshadow that animals get to walk the night, too.

R.I.P. The Original Soul of Godzilla

Hauro deserves a deep bow from this lifelong moster-movie fan.

BUT

 

According to us hardcores, there are three levels of Old Tech Monsters:

Worst: Lizards and frogs with shit glued onto them.

Meh: Guys in suits, no matter how nifty the suit (James Arness, as “The Thing From Another World” was the best, except I keeping seeing it wearing a cowboy hat since I found out who it was.)

Best: “Dynamation” and its relatives — this required serious art and craft and the payoff could be superb. If you haven’t seen “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad,” what are you waiting for?

Superb Piece on Myths About AI and Chess

I’m thrilled by this review (and the existence of its subject) for a number of reasons.

First off, I referred to this very topic in a (dare I say) prophetic post early in this blog.

Second it busts forever more the bogus reputation of chess as a game that favors brilliant minds. I grew up soaked in this hooey, which I noticed was most loudly pronounced by chess nurds (which I forgave because almost all of them were stomped like insects in other aspects of their social and intellectual lives). But I also suffered from it because I was lousy at chess (“not really so smart, huh?”). By struggling unsuccessfully to get better, I did come to appreciate that the game had its appeal and virtues, but I’ve never heard them articulated as well as Master Kasparov does here.

Finally I get the thrill of a chill by confirmation, once again, that too many people prefer zippy bullshit to the truth.

Excellent “Borne” Review

The connection to Melville is spot on target.  Mord and even Borne him/her/itself are clear descendants of Moby Dick even if in no way derivative. Much more accurate than the Lovecraft comparisons. After all, Melville was somebody who had dribbled the salt from his body into the salt of the ocean and knew nature. Lovecraft was more like a strange kid who secreted himself in the basement and yelled for you to come down and kill a spider for him. Also — gives climate catastrophe the key role in the story it deserves. Bizarrely all but passed over in some other reviews I’ve read.

Remember Biosphere 2?

I knew I’d seen Steve Bannon somewhere long ago.  I paid an intense but brief session of attention to the Biosphere 2 calamities more than 20 years back because it seemed like some muddled sci-fi story come to life. Biosphere 2 did not have clear, compelling explanations of its mission, and it seemed as much con job as science. Had no clue how common its tone and temperament would become in American culture and politics.

Where All the “Aliens” Come From

Just as quick reminder — all “Alien” themed movies and whatnot, whether they like/admit it or not, derive from two 1939 stories by A. E. Van Vogt — “The Black Destroyer” (giant catlike monster plays dumb and harmless, is taken aboard spaceship, proceeds to start dining) and “Discord in Scarlet” (bizarre, shape-shifting organism plants carnivorous eggs inside space travelers). These were also Van Vogt’s first published stories and they are written with feverish intensity. The humans are no more than stick figures, but the aliens are unforgettable. Both included in the recommended book, Voyage of the Space Beagle.

(Of course it has to be admitted that the year before the Van Vogt stories, John W.Campbell published his masterpiece, “Who Goes There?” — which puts a carnivorous, shape-shifting alien into an isolated polar encampment.)