Crit Mass Mar 7th: Adam on Stereotypes

Adam Jenkins is speaking this wednesday for Critical Mass.

“Using fan fiction to evaluate character preferences”

Stardew Valley is on of the most popular videos games in the fantasy romance/farming simulator category – a particularly small category of games, but strangely one that has considerable popularity. As part of its popularity it has spawned a great deal of fan fiction as people explore the romance options beyond what is outlined in the game. Social media is increasingly being used to evaluate the potential success (or otherwise) of genre fiction, and here is an opportunity to explore whether or not fan fiction can be similarly employed.
7pm Wednesday, March 7th at Kappys at 22 Compton St, near the market.
Doors open at 6:45

Bill McKibben on SF

Bill McKibben ( founder of has long advocated for more people to use the power of art to tackle climate change. He recently appeared on the podcast Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy.

“I wrote a piece maybe 15 years ago arguing that there had been very limited artistic response to climate change, which was odd given the scale and magnitude,” he says. “And I’m very glad to see that changing on every front.”

One group of artists who has tackled climate change is science fiction writers, with authors like Kim Stanley Robinson, Paolo Bacigalupi, and Tobias Buckell comprising the so-called “cli-fi” movement. In particular McKibben praises Kim Stanley Robinson’s recent novel New York 2140, which depicts a future in which rising seas have transformed New York into a city of canals. “For my money the best science fiction—and in many ways the best fiction—of the last year was New York 2140,” he says. “It’s a wonderful and oddly cheerful book, I must say. I really, really enjoyed it.”

McKibbben also praises science fiction writers for addressing the dangers of emerging technologies like genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and AI.

“I’ve thought for the last 20 years that science fiction was really the only realm where people were dealing intelligently with some of these questions,” he says. “They were the only people who were having to perform the thought experiment of putting the potential power of these technologies up against the scale of human beings—of their characters—and just figuring out that human beings quickly got overwhelmed by technology at this scale.”

Listen to the complete interview with Bill McKibben in Episode 293 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Crit Mass Feb 7th: Defining Science Fiction

“These difficulties of defining SF are, in part, a function of the sheer number of SF texts that need to be brought beneath the bar of any notional inclusive definition. Where SF once upon a time constituted a small body of texts, nearly all of them novels and short stories, which most fans could be expected to have read, nowadays SF texts are impossibly legion. Scott McCracken points out that ‘Science Fiction is enormously popular. It accounts for one in ten books sold in Britain, and in the United States the number is as high as one in four’ (McCracken 1998: 102). John Clute has pointed out that the number of texts classified as SF has ballooned since the early years of the twentieth century. According to Clute, even at the height of the ‘Golden Age’ the number of separate novels published as science fiction was a few hundred a year. Nowadays, taking together science fiction and fantasy, thousands of novels are published annually. Now ‘what was once a field [has] become the Mississippi Delta’. In Clute’s opinion, if Golden Age SF could be perceived as ‘a family of books which created (and inhabited) a knowable stage (or matrix[…]”

— Adam Roberts. “Science Fiction: Second Edition.”

We’re having a look at Adam Roberts’ critical work, Science Fiction (2nd edn, 2005) at the February critical mass meeting, 7pm at Kappy’s. Roman will take us on a quick tour through key ideas in the work, starting from some well-known definitions, looking at SF and gender, SF and race, different histories of SF and revealing a surprising connection between SF and poetry!


Ursula K Le Guin, by Margaret Atwood

In all her work, Le Guin was always asking the same urgent question: what sort of world do you want to live in? Her own choice would have been gender equal, racially equal, economically fair and self-governing, but that was not on offer. It would also have contained mutually enjoyable sex and good food: there was a better chance of that.
— Margaret Atwood, writing in the guardian

New to LeGuin? Have a look the guardian’s list of her essential novels


We lost Ursula k LeGuin

I asked Ursula what she wanted to see happen to her books after she died. I’ll never forget what she said. I’ll share it with you now, as a reminder of how we are supposed to grieve her, even if we can’t read through the tears:

“I want them to be available, I want cheap paper editions of them, I want them to be continuously downloaded in forty different languages, I want them to be read, I want them to be argued about, I want people to cry over them, I want unreadable dissertations written about them, I want people to get angry with them, I want people to love them.”

— Claire L. Evans, journalist and  cofounder of Motherboard’s science fiction imprint, Terraform.
Full article on Motherboard


lao tzu: tao te ching

LeGuin was a Taoist, and released her new translation of Lao Tzu’s tao te ching in the 1990s. Her recording was released in 2009, and can be heard on Youtube:


Ursula K LeGuin lives on in her work

“On every act the balance of the whole depends. The winds and seas, the powers of water and earth and light, all that these do, and all that the beasts and green things do, is well done, and rightly done. All these act within the Equilibrium. From the hurricane and the great whale’s sounding to the fall of a dry leaf and the gnat’s flight, all they do is done within the balance of the whole. But we, in so far as we have power over the world and over one another, we must learn to do what the leaf and the whale and the wind do of their own nature. We must learn to keep the balance. Having intelligence, we must not act in ignorance. Having choice, we must not act without responsibility.”
The Farthest Shore, Ursula K LeGuin

Ursula K Le Guin died on Tuesday, Jan 23rd. This small, fierce and sharply intelligent poet, writer, critic and philosopher will be missed. I had the great pleasure of seeing her at Aussiecon back in 1975.


Tarkovsky Season

Adelaide’s Cinémathèque has some goodies in store this season, including three awesome Andrei Tarkovsky films in March , and a slew of SF & F films April/May.

SacrificeThe Sacrifice

Wednesday March 14 | 7:00pm 4K restoration
1986 / 149mins / Sweden/UK/Fra

Winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes, his third as an ex-patriate and his last film, it is known as Tarkovsy’s homage to Ingmar Bergman, seen here in its 2017 beautiful 4K restoration. A middle aged ex actor, despairing and bitter at a changing world, tries to bargain with God when faced with an impending nuclear war. Shot by Ingmar Bergman’s longtime cinematographer Sven Nykvist, The Sacrifice contains some of the most powerful images in Tarkovsky’s monumental oeuvre. Perhaps its most transcendent moment is the penultimate scene, an epic, six-minute-long take that stands as one of the wonders of cinema. A powerful statement of humility in the face of the unknown, The Sacrifice is an exquisite parting word from one of the greatest  artists of the 20th century.


Monday March 19 | 7:00pm
1980  / 162mins / Russia

The visual aesthetics, philosophical and psychological approach of this most highly lauded film influenced an entire generation of filmmakers working in the genre of dystopic sci-fi. An expedition is led by Stalker into the Zone to find the room where you can fulfil your innermost desires.  It remains a dense, complex, often-contradictory and endlessly pliable allegory about human consciousness, the necessity for faith in an increasingly secular, rational world and the ugly, unpleasant dreams and desires that reside in the hearts of men. Screenplay written by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, loosely based on their novel Roadside Picnic (1972)

The starkness of its conception did not prevent the production traumas during its creation. Plans to shoot in Tajikistan had to be abandoned because of an earthquake. Having relocated to an abandoned hydroelectric power station in Estonia, Tarkovsky was dissatisfied with the cinematography and decided to shoot a pared-down version of the script all over again – in the same place. The price paid for this pursuit of an ideal is incalculable. Sound recordist Vladimir Sharun believes the deaths from cancer of Tarkovsky (in 1986), his wife Larissa and Anatoly Solonitsyn (who plays the Writer) were all due to contamination from a chemical plant upstream from the set.
* This is the film screening in the cinema in Atomic Blonde — in cyrillic,  “Сталкер”

MirrorThe Mirror

Wednesday March 21 | 7:00pm
1975 / 107mins / Russia

Ranked by Sight and Sound as the 12th greatest film ever made, this highly evocative, non-linear and loosely autobiographical film is said to capture the organic unfolding of memory, in this case the key events in the life of a dying poet.

The events are both highly personal such as a painful divorce as well as historical in regard to the great upheavals of 20th century Russia.  The life is represented in such a way as to attempt the erosion or even abolition of the distinction between past and present. Tarkovsky worked on the script for over a decade and the film itself is the result of almost 40 major re-edits. The influence of Fellini and Ingmar Bergman can be seen in this film.

A 4 session pass to Cinémathèque is $40/$30; you’ll probably want to see Hard to Be A God on 23 April or one of the four other sf films in the After Year Zero sessions


Istanbul through a wormhole

The surreal, digitally altered photographs of Aydın Büyüktaş defy time and space, presenting his home city of Istanbul as though viewed through a wormhole.

His images are the culmination of his reading during his childhood and adolescence in Ankara – science fiction by writers such as Isaac Asimov and HG Wells, as well as scientific and technical journals. “These books made me question the issues of wormholes, blackholes, parallel universes, gravitation and bending of space and time,” he said by email from Istanbul.
— Elle Hunt, writing on Cities in the guardian


Reconstructed & restored!


There’s a bargain hidden away in a corner of jb hifi: the blueray of the Reconstructed & Restored Metropolis from Fitz Lang is now available!

The post xmas sale means you can get a copy for $8!

This is the version which includes the missing 23 minutes from the Argentinian print, plus a new recording of the original score.