Monday, 20 January 2014

Adaptation Analysis- Fight Club

Before I get into the analysis proper I guess I should say which you should watch/read first. Honestly I’d say watch the film first. It gets the message across pretty rapidly and is all around a more satisfying if less in depth experience. Then read the book. This is the order I experienced them in and I was immensely pleased with how both turned out. Having seen the film I could appreciate the subtleties of the book a lot more.

(Warning, contains spoilers for Fight Club)

Those of you familiar with my blog (not a lot) you’ll know that last year I read the book Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. I’m also a pretty big fan of the film as well. I consider myself someone who is pretty forgiving when it comes to adaptations, some of my favourite films are adaptations, Hellraiser for instance is an adaptation. The trouble with adaptations is that much of the audience is going to have a differing vision than the one the director has. Television and Film speak in a different language to that of novels and short stories. I usually enjoy an adaptation that can do a few things a little differently to the book because it means I can get a different experience out of both; however it’s difficult to strike a balance between a verbatim script and the Starship Troopers movie. Luckily the director of Fight Club manages to bring new aspects to Chuck Palahniuk’s story.
First thing I want to comment on is the look of the film. It is glorious. Before Edward Norton’s character gets to hang out with Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) everything looks whitewashed and polished the epitome of falsehood. However once Tyler Durden tells Edward Norton his views on consumerism the look of the film starts to switch to something dingier and grittier. On the one hand you could argue that things are getting worse for Edward Norton I mean he’s living in a crappy squat for goodness sake, but on the other that damp shit hole is certainly more interesting to look at than his boring condo.
The film and the book both have to be subtle about the nature of Tyler Durden, the man who teaches our narrator about philosophy and dynamite. They both have to hint at their intertwining lives. In the film he is alluded to as he appears for a couple of frames next to people or walks past Edward. In the book the narrative will break away from what the narrator is doing to focus on a piece of Tyler’s life, such as how Tyler was fired from catering. This is still narrated to us by the narrator character (and good luck trying not to imagine Edward Norton’s voice as you read it). Also the way Tyler and the Narrator meet in the book is more interesting. Tyler in the book is introduced to us as a man on a beach putting logs into the sand so that when the sun is in just the right position they will cast the shadow of a giant hand.
In the book Tyler is rather more malevolent going as far as murder and delighting more when people he dislikes suffer. We don’t nearly see as much of the consequences of Tyler’s anarchy in the film and this makes him an easier character to like, helped along by Brad Pitt’s charismatic portrayal. Tyler’s affable nature in the film makes his turn against the narrator all the more hurtful. Whereas in the book it’s the kind of thing we could expect him to do. It wouldn’t be surprising to a reader of the book that he would turn on his alter ego to try to become the dominant personality because throughout the book he is almost an antagonist, it’s not just in the third act that he starts putting things in the way of the narrator he’s pretty much been doing it for the majority of the story. Also the question of whether or not Tyler or the narrator is the dominant personality is more explored in the book. Who should have control? The snarky narrator who struggles to get what he wants, or Tyler Durden the quick witted anarchist with a very fixed view of life. By the end of the book we are told how the narrator has changed for the better, he sees through the falsities of consumerism but doesn’t have Tyler’s aggressive attitude towards it. That said many of his followers are still eager for Tyler’s return. I do love an ambiguous ending!
The book is obviously more layered than the film, that’s commonplace in almost all adaptations. There are more obvious themes of homoeroticism in the book than in the film. Not that you couldn’t derive that from the film, certainly many people have. But in the book the sexual references are much more noticeable, references to Tyler’s penis, a kiss he places on the narrator’s hand, the fact that he is on a nude beach when he meets Tyler etc.
The film tries to juggle the book’s unusual style of prose by injecting narration from Edward Norton. The thing is on film the book’s style might not have worked, Palahniuk often uses stream of consciousness and haikus in the novel to emphasize the narrator’s emotional state (haikus for when he’s trying to disconnect and stream of consciousness for when he’s on some kind of emotional over load). This would be quite difficult to achieve on film, for instance, how does one film stream of consciousness? Answer is you don’t, at least not quite. Instead we have Edward Norton’s dry monotone delivering quick snappy remarks and witticisms. The whole reason you’ll be hearing Edward Norton’s voice in your head after watching the film is because his narration is just so damn good, made all the better by Palahniuk’s razor sharp wit.
The book doesn’t focus as much on the titular club as the film does. This I felt was to the detriment of the book. I think we could have learned a lot about the healing nature of violence on the neutered American male but for some reason it’s not as focused on as the characters. In the film however we get a lot more of this and it really works. It’s quite satisfying to hear how Edward Norton wants to fight Ghandi or watch him pull out broken teeth. You really get the feeling these men feel better for having beaten seven shades of crap out of each other.
All in all I’d say this is a great adaptation of a classic book. There is a reason it tops some best of film lists. It’s because it is a great film, all the actors are great in their parts. Edward Norton is sympathetic and intelligent, Brad Pitt walks a brilliant line between charisma and narcissism, and Meatloaf (oh yeah, Meatloaf is in this film!) is so much fun to watch as the sappy character of Bob.

Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, Vintage: London, 2006.
Jim Uhls, Fight Club, 20th Century Fox, 15th October 1999.

Friday, 17 January 2014

A Walk in Hell

“How much does this pay?” I asked.
“Depends. If you do the job well we might call you back for more work, that’s where the real rewards are. I trust I don’t need to tell you not to screw up.”
He had dark hair, almost black, but with the streetlight shining down on him there was the faintest glimmer of colour. I could barely make out his eyes, he had his head tilted downwards so the light couldn’t reach them and his heavy brow gave more cover.
“What if I just do this one job for you?”
“Well that’s very rare. Most folks always want more work from us. But if you really don’t want to do us any more favours then we will pay you handsomely for all your good service.”
“So I could do this one little thing for you and just walk away?”
“Sure. But I doubt you will.”
I smiled. The man was willing to offer five hundred dollars for me to go and fetch some weirdo called Chris in an alleyway, and bring him to some shithole club. Didn’t even sound that far, I kept wondering why this guy didn’t just walk there by himself, but when I asked all I got was “Chris is lost, you’re going to help him reach his destination.”
“Alright, so where will I find Chris then?”
He pointed down the dark wet street, keeping his face pointed firmly at the floor.
“Just a couple of blocks down there, there’s a few alleys on the way but you’ll know which one he’s in.”
I looked down the street and shifted uncomfortably. It didn’t exactly look safe but this whole venture was hardly an exercise in ‘being safe’. I set off down the street but before I’d taken two steps I felt something cold and hard grab my arm. I couldn’t move; my entire body felt like it had lost whatever kept it going. My breath vanished from my lungs and what little heat remained in my face dribbled away.
“Hold it.”
With his other hand he shuffled around in his jacket.
“When you see Chris he might be nervous, smile and shake his hand, it’ll settle his nerves. Then give this note to the bouncer at the Highway club. Don’t read it. We’ll know if you’ve read it.”
He passed me a crumpled piece of paper. It was yellowish and soft; it could have been in his pocket for months. I took it out of his freezing hand and carefully put it in my pocket, trying not to rip it.
As he released me blood rushed back around my body and I could move again. I looked him up and down and he raised his head a little, his big brow still tucking away his eyes in a cave of shade.
“Don’t read it. We’ll know.”
With that I hurried off down the street, slapping my shoes against puddles. My fingers fumbled over the fraying paper in my pocket as my head kept saying to me “Don’t read it, don’t read it.”
After a block my feet were numb from the cold. Water had seeped between my toes, easily passing through the soles of my shoes. “I could do with a coffee right about now.” I mumbled to myself. I don’t know why but walking this block felt so tiresome. I tried to draw my coat around myself, clutching tightly at my arms but I couldn’t stop shivering. I tried to take my mind off of the cold. What was written on that note?
I ran my fingertips over the frayed paper; all the while my brain is screaming to me “Don’t read it. Don’t read it.” Curiosity made me grasp at the note as I looked back and ducked behind some stairs. My hand trembled as I held it within my hands, careful not to unfold it just yet. I looked behind me; I could just see the streetlight where I’d spoken to the man who gave it to me. My eyes scanned the area I’d come from, trying to see if he was watching me. But I couldn't see anyone there. He’d gone. I mean it was hardly surprising but something about him not being where I’d left him unsettled me. I recalled his cold death grip on my arm. My forearm, where his hand seized me, tingled with a vicious chill. I glanced at the note quivering in my hand and I tucked it back into pocket. I could almost feel that grip on my shoulder, sending crippling shudders through my body.
It was just another block to go now. I kept my eyes focused on the end of the street and walked quickly, my feet crashing into the sidewalk with rhythmic rapidity. As I drew closer and closer I wondered how the hell I would know which alley Chris was going to be in, there seemed to be so many. But the moment I wondered this, there came this sudden voice in my head. It wasn't in the back of my mind so much; more like it occupied the entirety of my mind for a brief second. It was voice that said in a plain and commanding tone “Chris is in that crooked little alley on the left. He’s tucked behind a green dumpster.”
I followed the thought, my feet ignorant to the cold all the while. Sure enough, in an alleyway on my left, sat in a crumpled heap of clothes next to a rusted green dumpster was a man that this same thought told me was Chris.
“Hey you.” I said loudly.
As he drearily lifted his head I saw a scraggly beard that had soaked up what looked and smelled like puke. He met my gaze and froze for a moment. His eyes widened as they looked into mine, they were pale, perhaps once they were blue but the iris had eroded away and blended with the bloodshot white.
I forced myself to crack a wide smile and reached down to the stinking hobo with an open hand.
“You’re Chris. I've been sent to take you somewhere.”
The smile seemed to work. He reached out a scarred naked arm wrapped in a leather belt. His hand was grubby and disgusting; I shook it and helped him onto his feet.
As we walked down the street Chris didn't say a word. My journey had been lonely up until now. But as we passed more convenience stores some of the customers hurriedly left with their late night groceries. I’d gotten used to people in New York barging past me, knocking my shoulder if I didn’t move quickly enough. But not one person even came within close proximity of me and Chris. Not one person even acknowledged the puke stained bum walking next to me. They all seemed to part before me, but it didn’t look intentional it felt purely coincidental.
  We continued past the convenience stores and laundrettes until we came to where I knew the Highway club to be. The same knowing that led me to Chris guided me to a small stairwell that led down to a heavy door on a condemned building. I banged on the door, my fist rattling the rusty hinges.
It swung open immediately. Stood in the doorway was a tall slender man dressed in a suit with large sun glasses perched on his narrow skeletal face. His slim build and skinny face coupled with the suit and glasses made him look like Roy Orbison’s skeleton. He didn’t say a word, nor did his thin lips crack any kind of expression.
I reached into my pocket, and felt the frayed old note that had troubled me so much. I held it out to the tall skinny bouncer. Without moving the rest of his body his hand snatched the note from my hands. He adjusted his glasses on his rigid cheekbones and glared at the note, and then at Chris.
His near non-existent lips spoke to me in awful tone reminiscent of a gurgling plug.
“Christopher Castiel. We've been wondering when you would get here.” His spider like legs moved his body to the left and his long bony arm held the door open “Come in, both of you. You must be cold.”
Any nerves I would have had about entering this place had left me a while ago. Something very homely and ‘right’ about this place drew me in. There wasn't much inside however. All I could see was a long grey corridor that led down to the left with old splintering doors every six feet.
There came a loud clatter behind me as the suited spider slammed the heavy entrance door.
“Christopher, if you would be so kind as to follow me” said that unerring guttural old voice, like he was on the brink of death. He looked down at me as the two of them started down the long, seemingly unending corridor. “You stay here. You'll receive your payment soon.”
The two of them carried on down the grey concrete corridor, their feet crunching bits of grit beneath their soles. They walked until they reached one of the many doors. The slender suited man placed a scrawny hand upon Christopher’s shoulder, his bony fingers settling uncomfortably on the ragged fraying jacket. With his other hand he opened the door and guided Christopher into the room. I watched and listened but for a while I heard nothing, save for muffled voices trickling down the corridor. After a minute or so there came an orange light from the doorway, it wavered with the darkness and showed the unsettled dust of the corridor. The bright light blazed for a while until the door was abruptly slammed shut. There was nothing. No noise. I was alone without a sound to keep me company until my ears sang with a terrible scream. It was sudden, distressed, desperate, the scream of a man desperate to run away. But as soon as it came it went, cut off midway.
I was alone. For five minutes I stood in the same place. I tried to see how far the corridor went on for but the lamp above me illuminated very little. All the doors were identical, and spaced exactly six feet apart. They were splintered in the same places and their knobs rusted in the same pattern.
I couldn't contain myself. I’d been led somewhere strange, by what I could not say. How did I know to come here? How did I know how to find Chris? And what happened to him? I was sick of being left in the dark. Who the hell were these people? What were behind these doors?
I trembled as I reached out and grabbed the nearest doorknob. It was warm. The rust invitingly grazed my palm. I turned it and pushed the door open. Before me was a dark windowless room, just as grey and dark as the corridor.
“This isn't right…” I muttered; I was right. The room began to change. The blank wall started swirling and blurring with dark shades of crimson and black, transforming into clouds of billowing smoke. I stared; all I could do was stare into the bizarre mist twisting before me. The crimson and black smoke spiralled, spinning slowly into a bright red centre that grew and grew. Soon I saw a huge void of light surrounded by curved clouds of ebony and blood red. Nothing of the room remained, only a vast abyss of terrifying light and coloured smoke. In the brightness there were faces, twisted in anguished moments of torment. They moved around me, like vultures flying around a carcass.
I was paralysed by the madness but somehow managed to illicit a scream. As my piercing yell resounded in the sea of red light and tortured ghostly faces the horror began to fall away from me. The dull grey room began to burn through the light and smoke.
I stood in the empty room, panting, desperate, and relieved. What little breath there was suddenly snatched away and I felt a claw rest upon my shoulder.
“You’ll want your payment I presume?” said the old grating voice.
I turned to face the tall creature and nodded. His hand lifted off me and found a roll of bills in his suit which he presented to me. I meekly took the money.
“Why am I here?” I asked.
Instead of replying he handed me the note. I read the smudged handwriting.
Christopher Castiel will die from choking on his own vomit. A new Reaper will be sent to claim his soul.
“A new what?” I uttered as I read.
“Reaper. You were chosen to claim Christopher’s soul and bring him to us.” He answered.
“So Christopher is…”
“Being seen to. There are others, we always need more reapers.”
I dropped the note. The gangly man stared unwavering.
"Why... why would I want... this?" I asked, out of breath. 
"It's not just money you receive. Certain things in life we can secure for you. Sex, property, and revenge, for instance. Some things will naturally slide in your favour sir. It cannot have escaped your attention sir but death wields a certain power."
"Will I be immune?" I asked "To death I mean."
"No. That we cannot give you. All reapers must be mortal. If not they will lose touch with what they trade in."
I stopped to consider what he said, what I had done, and whether I wanted to continue. Had I committed murder? And if so, why the disconnected feeling? Would the soul of Christopher Castiel have carried on wandering if I hadn't brought it here to be punished? And what exactly did he mean by slide in my favour?
"How long would I have to work for you?" I asked.
The man affixed his glasses, allowing for a glimpse into the fleshy concave sockets where eyes should be.
"As long as you want. As long as it amuses you. As long as you are competent. It takes little talent but a lot of discretion, we will know if you fail or if you reveal anything of what you see here. We always know."
"Will Christoph-"
He interrupted sharply. 
"He is no longer your concern. You have completed that task. Now you must answer us. Will you work for us? Will you deliver the damned?"

I don’t know how many people I've delivered to them. The advice about smiling was useful, puts their mind at ease. I do it for all my clients, they don't run when you smile for them. What he said about reapers needing to be mortal made sense after a while. It puts death into perspective for you. You see, death won't come for you with a big scythe and a flowing cape, nor will he look like a skeleton Death will come for you with a big smile, an open hand, and he will look like everybody else. 

Monday, 13 January 2014

Fire in the Skies

Writer's note- This piece was something I submitted for coursework about half a year ago. It's part of a series of short stories I intend to compile into a larger narrative about a war over alien refugees. That said it all needs some editing and some work on it, (this piece I feel could benefit from being longer) so I would really appreciate any comments offering criticism (yes, even negative criticism). I'll be posting more stories from this project. 

2783 AD
Black Box Recordings of the space vessel Perseus; Flagship of the Unionist space fleet.
Commander Daniel Drayton:  
 “I wish this decision was harder to make. The Perseus is finished. I didn’t want this vessel to die in vain. I don’t feel connected to my actions. The horror I’m inflicting hasn’t registered with me. I am sorry. I truly am. I am the only person who could have agreed to this.”
The Perseus
Drayton stood at the command bridge, breathing in the tension. He knew that this battle would change the war; the first battle to be fought in space. Up until this point there were mostly riots in the dense Ark-Haven cities. Drayton was going to lead this support into Earth’s atmosphere, destroying Separatist defences along the way.
Drayton paced along the bridge and placed his hand on the shoulder of a console operative, bent over a screen.
“What’s your name?”
The young man looked to Drayton his back still hunched.
“Kiel sir.”
“Don’t hunch Kiel. It’ll put your back out. You might need your back, even if your job isn’t very physical.”
“Yes sir, sorry sir” he said, his voice almost cracking.
Drayton smiled for a second.
“Scared lad? You got cause to be I guess. If you bugger up then it won’t be the Separatists that kill you.”
“No sir?”
“No, it’ll be me ‘cos that equipment was bloody expensive!” Drayton’s head reared back with his booming laugh. “Don’t worry lad, we’ll be coming up on Ark-Haven 12 if we make good time they’ll be gunning down anything vicious. We’ve got plenty of advantages.”
“Don’t they know we’re coming?”
“No doubt. But they’re lagging behind; Mercury hasn’t sent help and Ark-Haven 7’s defences are a joke. We’re on the winning side lad.”
Drayton turned and was about to head to his quarters for some rest when Kiel spoke up.
“Yeeeees?” Drayton replied, irritated, but still curious.
“Have you seen them before? The aliens, I mean.”
“The Crogacs? No. This is the first time I’ve left Mars in over ten years, and no Crogacs will be heading there for a while.”
“I’ve seen them, sir.” Kiel’s voice bubbled with enthusiasm.
Drayton was genuinely a little shocked. He wasn’t sure if the boy was trying to impress him.
“Five years ago, sir, doing a tour of duty on the Moon, it was pretty much just menial security guard work. Then I remember seeing Crogacs for the first time. They were enormous.”
“Oh yes?”
“Yes sir. Eight feet tall. But my God, they don’t half stink.”
“HA! Haven’t heard that one before.” A big grin crawled across Drayton’s face.
“Yeah the media doesn’t exactly mention that. Still. It’s worth seeing them. I mean they built something that could travel to different solar systems. That’s got to be worth learning about.”
The grin vanished from Commander Drayton’s face; his voice became harsh.
“So you went to learn from them?”
“Well, yes. I mean, what can’t we learn from them? Of course, I forgot we needed to translate their language first, spent a lot of time with linguists trying to copy their notes so I could read about the Crogac technology. Interesting stuff.”
He stopped abruptly. The Commander frowned and looked off to the side.
“Is that why you’re a Unionist?” he asked.
“Well… yes sir.”
The Commander exhaled; his breath heavy and audible to the entire bridge crew. He turned and left for his quarters.
Drayton’s quarters were minimal. A Mars Colonist emblem was blazoned above his bed, bronze wings holding up a pair of pick axes on a field of red.  It didn’t have any place on a battle cruiser. It was for Martian nickel-iron miners; Drayton didn’t have any use for it. Still better than the Mercury Colonist emblem though, a colony pod on a field of beige, as if they should to be reminded of the need to move around in clunky auto piloted vehicles.
Drayton lay awake. Ten years on Mars. Ten years. He was hoping he wouldn’t have to return to Earth or at least return on his own terms.
Ten Years Ago. Earth, Ark-Haven 14 (Sweden), Federal Alliance Space Port.
Daniel heaved a khaki bag over his shoulder, almost hitting the man walking alongside him.
“You sure you don’t want to take some more things Daniel? I mean, you don’t know how long you’re staying there. I could have your things sent from Margaret’s place.”
Daniel stared on morosely, plodding through the carpet of snow to the Space Port entrance.
“I’m sorry Greg. I have to get away; I can’t cling to my wife forever.”
Greg grabbed Daniel by the shoulder, halting him, then he pushed him back so that he was staring Daniel in the face.
“What about me Daniel? You think I didn’t love Margaret? You think I don’t love you? What are my family supposed to do Daniel? You’re a part of that family. We can help you through this Dan. You don’t have to leave.”
Daniel spoke in a broken wispy tone.
“I can’t keep clinging to her…”
 “Dammit Daniel! You’re running away.” Greg interrupted “I would run away if I could. But I can’t. I have to stay. I can’t run from my sister’s death. You shouldn’t be running. You have to acknowledge her death at some point.”
Daniel gritted his teeth and looked away.
“You’ve already given me this, Greg. I’m going to Mars. I need to get out of here. I need the money as well… I’ll come back.”
Greg tried to meet Daniel’s gaze but he shied away from eye contact.
“We’ll miss you Daniel.”
Daniel lifted his head and faced the entrance again.
“I’ll miss you too. You’ve been a good friend Greg. I’ll try and keep in touch.”
“So long Corporal. Let me know when you get to the first transit station.”
Daniel nodded at Greg.
The Perseus, three weeks later
Daniel’s blaring alarm woke him. His vision blurred as he opened his eyes. His eyelids had gunk forming at the corners that scratched against his skin as he rubbed it out with his fingertips. Fifteen years in the military and he still couldn’t get used to waking up. Margaret was hard to sleep next to, but it was harder not sleeping next her after the accident.  
As he rubbed the sand off of his face he jumped at the sound of the intercom.
“Commander, we are coming up on Earth’s Moon. I awoke you just as you asked, sir.”
“Good. Have you followed Navigator Crain’s directions?”
“Yes sir, the fleet is obscured from Earth’s vision by the moon.”
“And the dummy vessel?”
“Sent according to yours and Navigator Crain’s orders sir.”
“Alright. Let’s fight a war. Commander Drayton out.”
The Separatists knew the fleet was coming; that couldn’t be avoided. After following Navigator Crain’s recommendations for how they could utilise the Earth’s natural satellite to obscure the fleet, Drayton then hoped to send a small dummy vessel with a signal scrambler in the opposite direction they were heading. By the time the Separatists found what’s jamming their signal and where it’s coming from, the Unionist fleet would have them in range and in position to fire. Drayton couldn’t help but feel smug satisfaction, the first sense of achievement he’d had in a while.
After slipping on his stiff uncomfortable uniform Drayton headed back to the bridge. The front viewing panel showed the vast grey image of the moon looming into sight, its surface was scarred and cracked like crumpled paper.
Soon the Crogac moon base came into sight. The specks of light on the looming lunar image for some reaffirmed their purpose. Drayton glanced at Kiel; his face glinted with joy and conviction as the glimmers of alien civilisation danced across his screen. Drayton looked back towards the larger front viewing panel. Kiel turned his head towards Drayton.
“We’re coming up on the Crogac base, sir” he said, his voice enthusiastic.
“So I see” replied Drayton wearily. Kiel’s face drooped and he turned back to the console. Drayton picked up the PA microphone; he drew in a heavy breath and began to speak.
“You have all chosen to fight for different reasons. For some it’s defending the refugee Crogacs. For others it’s the promise of new advances for humanity.”
Daniel moved the microphone away from his mouth and muttered “For some it’s because we don’t know what else to do.” He brought the microphone back to his mouth and finished “Remember these reasons as I give the order to fire.”
As Daniel put down the microphone he focused on the nearest monitor, displaying a simple green and black picture of Earth with the twenty Ark-Havens as red dots. On it he picked out all the ones he’d been to.
He sighed to himself, “Welcome home Dan.” 
“The scrambler is in operation, sir.”
After thirty minutes black space cropped over the moon.
“Prep the missiles.” Drayton said softly, his gaze fixed on the growing emptiness.
In the blackness the tiny blazing fires from the Separatists’ vessel propellants looked like little candles.
“Proceed at a steady pace. Dim the lights.”
The fleet continued, the Perseus’ propellants contended with the moon’s gravity giving off a low lugubrious rumble.
“The Separatists are within firing range sir. Shall I fire?”
“Is the rest of the fleet within range?”
“Yes sir”
Daniel tried his best to look stoic as he watched the Separatist fleet on the viewing panel. The gentle whooshes of the missiles from the Perseus were the only thing to be heard. The flickering candles soon burst into clouds of light.
 Another barrage of missiles from the vessels behind them travelled across the emptiness. More fire. It only kept burning in places where the hulls were penetrated, as the oxygen and anything that would burn was sucked from the ships.
Drayton could only imagine the hell it was for anyone caught on the decks that were damaged. They were either pulled into the vacuum of space, or immolated. Some of them it might be both; ripped from the bosom of the vessel and into the unforgiving blackness, the fires of war searing and melting their flesh; their screams of horror heard by no one, not even themselves.
“The enemy vessels are turning to face us sir.”
“I want another barrage ready before they can repel borders.”
 “Yes sir.”
“Magnify the viewing panel. How much damage have we done?”
The vision of death and war intensified. The image growing larger until the bridge could see the scale of their damage.
“There is some heavy damage sir. Looks like a few missiles breached the hulls. But all their vessels look to still be mobile sir.”
“Not for long” Drayton walked over to the viewing panel. “Take out their weapons” Drayton pointed to the main turrets of a heavy frigate that was slowly coming around. “And have our light destroyers concentrate fire on this battle cruiser’s engines. I want that thing immobilised.”
The light destroyers surged ahead of the fleet, their sleek designs allowing for more manoeuvrability. Their canon fire ricocheted off the protective hull of the Separatist flagship. They continued up and down the huge external engines, their blasts barely scratching the blue paintwork.
“I said concentrate fire.” Drayton shouted at one of the operatives, “Keep canon fire to one location; breech that hull dammit” a quivering operative relayed Drayton’s commands through his headset.
The Perseus hummed again as another stream of missiles arced across the closing empty space. The canons of the Separatist heavy frigate managed to take a couple out but it couldn’t withstand the full barrage and its main turrets were blasted off in silence.
The Separatists mobilised two light destroyers, the speedy machines dodged the elegantly gliding missiles and the canon fire peppering the battle zone. Their canon fire sent a gentle rumble across Perseus.
“Sir, we have two light destroyers opening fire on our missile silos.”
“Stow away the silos, open canon fire on the nearest. Bring the Sky Hammer around to destroy the other.”
The Sky Hammer, almost as agile as its opponents, flew around the Perseus. As it arrived it launched its small missile load. One of the light destroyers disappeared in a flash of flame, its crumbling black wreckage scattered across the Perseus’ hull. The other was not so easily caught. It outmanoeuvred the canon fire from both the Perseus and the Sky-Hammer. The Sky-Hammer unleashed another missile.
“What the-” Drayton yelled but it was too late.
The missile from the Sky-Hammer crashed into the Perseus. The huge ship rocked.
“Damage report, what the hell happened?” Drayton cried out.
“The Sky-Hammer missed. They’ve taken out our starboard missile silo, sir” reported the nearest operative, his face red in the light of his screen. “The destroyer is pulling away sir. It’s attacking the Sky-Hammer.”
“Well, it’s their problem” Drayton snapped. “Bring us around, utilise the portside silos. Have the frigates cover us. What news from our destroyers?”
“Minimal resistance from the enemy flagship sir” reported Kiel.
“They’re holding back” Drayton grimaced “Send a message to Ark-Haven 12 and 14. Tell them I want to know when they can send us support.”
The young man typed busily at the console, as the Commander stormed up and down the bridge barking orders, trying to make the most of their element of surprise. “Bring the Drake around to cover our starboard.”
An operative at the back of the bridge turned to face the Commander.
“Fire one round from the portside silos. Bring us into Earth’s atmosphere.
“Umm, Commander…”
“Have us ready to drop our ground troops. Make sure Ark-Haven 12 is ready to fire.”
“What is it now?” Drayton said wearily.
“The enemy flagship is launching what seem to be… colony pods, sir.” He replied. 
The pods moved slower than the destroyers. They were only marginally less clunky than the frigates.
“Shall I open fire sir?”
“Only with canon fire, save the missiles for the flagship” Drayton said, a hint of curiosity in his voice. “What the hell are they doing?” he pondered aloud.
The pods swerved around the Perseus to the starboard side. The canon fire harmlessly bounced off of the dense lead hulls. The scattered canon fire wasn’t enough of a challenge to the pods that survived the harsh climates of Mercury.
“They’re not changing course sir. They’re coming straight for us!”
No missiles. Canons were useless. As the Perseus broke into Earth’s atmosphere the Mercury colony pods smashed into the hull of the Perseus, each one digging deeper and deeper into the fine craft.  As they collided something ignited within them, spreading scorching hot thermite across the battered hull. Super-hot oxygen from piercing the atmosphere helped the orange tinged white hot chemical reaction. The hull now scarred and useless allowed for blazing hot air to pour into the ship.
“The impact took out the engine!” reported Kiel.
Drayton’s uncomfortable shirt soaked up a river of sweat.
“Are we going to crash?” he asked.
“At the current rate and trajectory, we’ll be crashing in northern part of Judea.” Kiel said, desperately trying not to slur his speech.
“Navigator Crain, in our current state, how far can we change our trajectory?”
Crain peaked her narrow head out from the green glow of the navigation screen. Keeping her thin face focused on the screen below him. She replied without emoting.
“We can change our trajectory by about fifty miles sir.”
“Any chance of landing safely in the sea?” Kiel asked desperately.
“No. We’re heading for land.” Crain said.
Kiel turned away and buried his face in one hand and started chewing strands of skin off the other.
Drayton paused. He’d been looking over Crain’s shoulder at the navigation screen. It was mostly a complex series of lines and coordinates in front of a detailed map. He could still make out where they were and what their likely crash site was. His brow furrowed.
“How close is Ark-Haven 7 to our crash site?”
“Twenty, sir” replied Crain, a hint of worry in her cold voice.
There was a long palpable pause. Some of the bridge exchanged knowing glances. Daniel spoke up.
“Change our course. Head for Ark-Haven 7.”
Kiel turned around, pulling his fingers from his slavering mouth. His eyes stained red.
“The Perseus isn’t going to burn out. If we can hit Ark-Haven 7’s industrial district then we at least damage Separatist supply lines.”
 “But what about the people in the city?” Kiel said, his voice becoming more resolute through the tears.
Drayton said nothing; he gritted his teeth and glared at navigator Crain.
Crain nodded at him and fed the coordinates into her computer. The propellants hummed as they steered the vessel towards its crash site. Crain avoided Kiel’s desperate stare.
“We’ll be landing in approximately five minutes.” Crain said.
Daniel walked away; his fists clenched so hard, his knuckles turned white.
In his room he reached for a recorder, his final words transmitted from the tiny device in his fingers to the vessel’s black box. In his drawers he kept a crumpled printed picture of his time in Ark-Haven 12. He’d taken pictures of Margaret by the huge cable cars.
“Why do I need a print? I’ll have it on my computer” he’d asked her.
Her sweet voice resonated plaintively in his head.
“Your computer crashes all the time Daniel, don’t you want something tangible?”
The atmosphere tore at the ship’s hull. The huge battle cruiser echoed with the booming noise of destruction.
Daniel’s fingers wrapped tightly around the picture of Margaret. Hot tears streamed down his face. He closed his eyes; behind his lids he saw only flashes and blurs of red. He envisioned all the cities he’d been to. They all lacked her.  
From his knees he looked up at the insignia of Mars colonists.
“I’m sorry Margaret. I wish I was better. I wish I wasn’t capable of this.”
The Perseus’ hull was covered in white hot flames, its sleek design penetrating the atmosphere like a sword through flesh. Below, Ark-Haven 7’s citizens tried desperately to evacuate. Unlike the battle, all the screams were heard. 

Friday, 10 January 2014

Separation (Poem)

A large room that lived its summer with music,
its evening with childish games.
The autumn of its time with me
had mountains of food and oceans of wine

to separate a mother and father.
Children perched between it all.
Bùrns wriggle down the mother’s face,
resignation sculpted into the father’s brow.

Is this routine? Something to be fixed?
Another mother has seen it coming, knows why we’re here.
Streets of casserole dishes become
imaginary lines and the new world.

The table gets longer.
Further and further;

wraps around the earth like a ribbon.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Review of The Innocent Mage

Fans of speculative fiction are often plagued by books with a good concept and poor delivery. Whenever I see The Innocent Mage in shops I try to tell my peers what it’s about and they tell me that it actually sounds very interesting. I will concede that the concept is intriguing, one can read apartheid allegories into the setting and the story deals with one character’s coming to accept his place in the world. The ingredients for a good fantasy book are there, but ingredients alone do not make a good meal.
The novel suffers from the writer’s infatuation with the rugged protagonist as he is consistently portrayed as a real man, not like all the other toffs. The majority of the novel is spent with this arrogant character and his ascension to better paid jobs. We are aware of a threat and potential antagonist but until Karen Miller remembers what she was supposed to be writing about we are lumbered with paper thin snobs who simply dislike our protagonist. That’s it. For over two thirds of the novel Karen Miller spins a tale of petty arguments and childish characterisation.
The most conflict that arises in the novel is the execution of a teenage boy and in fairness the emotional gravitas of this event is handled well, however the reason it is handled well is because the focus turns to the protagonist’s friend, the most interesting character in the story. We follow a chosen one, Asher, but the nature of this is not revealed to us until past the half-way point and even then it is handled with a lack of clarity that plagues any bad narrative invoking a prophecy. Up until that point the character with the most development is Asher’s friend and employer the Prince. We know his birth was troubled and a defect he suffers means his painful burden must be passed on to his younger sister. When this is touched upon it is intensely frustrating because of the knowledge that the narrative will drop this decent plot point to talk about the arrogant protagonist and how great he is.
The Innocent Mage could have been so much more. That’s what’s so annoying about it. Karen Miller devised a fascinating concept, great conflict and potentially good character development, but for some reason she decided to drop a bunch of boring awful characters into it, and they ruin everything. 

Karen Miller, The Innocent Mage, ISBN: 0-7322-8079-6

Thursday, 2 January 2014

2013- A book recap

So 2014 has started and I reigned it in in the rich British tradition of drinking too much and finding myself in a McDonalds at 5am. Beautiful. But what of the year that passed? 2013 was the year I started reading a lot more. I have an incredibly slow reading speed and it's something that gives me self confidence problems when it comes to reading. But this was a year when I grew in confidence and read a lot more books.

And being a talentless hack writing about things on the internet I thought why not recap this great feet? Here is the 2013 book review. I recap all the novels I read and give my opinion on them. I won't be discussing non-fiction, short stories, anthologies or comic books since my reading of those was very scattered.

Brave New World (Aldous Huxley). I'll admit to cheating a little bit with this one. I'd already read most of this novel before the end of the year and finishing it didn't take too long. That said I finished it in 2013 so I'm counting it. This book was incredible. I think Huxley can be quite difficult to read at times but he really is one of the most thought provoking writers I've ever read. His dystopian piece about a genetically catered future is quite terrifying at times. That said his style of writing is a little hard to get through at times. Much of the novel is spent with loathsome characters and setting up the premise. However at around the halfway point I believe the novel becomes much much better and escalates from there. The ending is brilliant and tragic, I also believe it resonates strongly today and is an apt critique of today's fickle and celebrity obsessed media culture.

Titus Groan (Mervyn Peake). This was the first novel I started in 2013 and boy was it a way to start. Titus Groan is a divisive book, most people who've read the Gormenghast series didn't really enjoy it and I can honestly understand why, it's long, overly descriptive, and bizarrely characterized. But in honesty that's what I liked about it. The characters are all strange caricatures who mostly despise each other and most rigidly adhere to ritual. It's a lot like Charles Dickens in some respects, despite being a fantasy novel. At times the story of Steerpike (arguably the first book's protagonist) is genuinely intriguing as he devises ways to make his vile schemes work. However one thing I was not expecting was the text to be broken up by a more traditional fantasy tale about a woman and her two rival lovers. This is the story of Keda and it is strange and handled with more seriousness than Steerpike's story. Sometimes the sudden change in tone is so sudden that it takes you out of the text. And in truth the first book in the series can probably be skipped as most of the story is recapped rather quickly in the second book. That said sometimes the prose is genuinely moving and worth reading.

Battle Royal (Koshun Takami). Moving from Titus Groan to Battle Royal may have been a mistake for me. I was eager to start Gormenghast but I didn't want to spend another two months tackling Peake. Battle Royal is divisive for entirely different reasons. It's all about Japanese school children who are taken to an island and made to fight each other to the death. It is an action packed novel and filled with social commentary. But the social commentary is a little too on the nose for my tastes. I did spend much of the novel thinking "I doubt 15 year olds would hold these opinions". The meat of the book can be summarised as having three types of chapters. 1) Social commentary about the Asian government given to us by Shogo and Shuya. 2) Battles involving Shuya. 3) Battles involving mostly extraneous characters. Some of the characters are annoyingly useless and their deaths are often predictable. If a chapter starts with a new character and exposition about what they are like they will almost certainly die in said chapter. It gets a tad formulaic. But that's not to say the novel isn't good. When we're with characters who actually matter to the plot then the novel is gripping. The story of Shinji is the best side plot in the novel and could easily have been its focus. For the most part the action is exciting, which is supposed to make the reader uncomfortable, but sometimes it takes a turn for the visceral and gorey in scenes that can really make you wince.

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (Philip K Dick). 2013 was the year I developed a love for the writing of Philip K Dick. It all started with reading Faith of our Fathers in Dangerous Visions. From then on I was hooked. I rushed down to the library to pick up more, and that's where I found Three Stigmata. I had little idea what I was in for. This was a wonderful piece of science fiction. It's eery and trippy. It tells the tale of a man called Palmer Eldritch who brings a new drug that lets you enter a fantasy world where anything is possible. However we begin to realise that Palmer Eldritch is more in control of this fantasy world than he would let people believe. It's an unbelievably layered and ambiguous story, where you're never sure if the world being presented to you is the real one or a false one cooked up by the titular character. It tackles many subjects, from drugs and drug addiction, to religion, to psychology, all interwoven into one wonderful package. If I had one complaint it's that all the notable female characters have or have had a sexual relationship with the protagonist, and for a novel that isn't about sex I found that a little worrisome. But on the whole I found it to be a tremendously rewarding book.

Fight Club (Chuck Palahnuik). At the recommendation of my friends I started reading Fight Club. Weirdly enough this took me quite a while to finish, considering it's a very short novel. But that said it was definitely  a great book. I'd already seen the film and was expecting much of the same but it's actually rather different. The film is much more linear as the medium usually demands but the book has some strange chapters that aren't in the film. The character of Tyler Durden is also far less of a romantic anarchist. He's presented in a shadowy way, and delights far more in the wanton destruction of all he views as contemptible. The homoerotic undertones are also more obvious as revealed in the prose. We also don't see nearly as much of the titular club as much as we do of Project Mayhem. That's not a condemnation of the text however. The ending is also more ambiguous and we're presented with the possibility that the narrator may go through a very similar trauma again. It's simply written thus allowing the biting satire to really shine. Well worth the read.

 Good Omens (Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett). This novel was pretty much made for me. It was written by two of my favourite living fantasy writers and is incredibly funny. However like with Brave New World I think I'm rather cheating with this one as I haven't actually finished it. I don't really know why but for some reason I just struggled making progress with this book. It's not because it's bad, far from it, it is a hilarious piece of comedy and rather clever as well. I think it was the huge roster of characters that irked me. There are a lot of characters in the book and the focus of the story is sometimes all over the place. Half way through the book I realised that we'd only met a little over a third of the characters presented in the roster at the beginning. Yes, there is a roster because it can be really difficult to keep track of the multitude of people involved in the plot. That said the novel is brilliant and I frequently laughed out loud and the many jokes in it. I will no doubt pick it up again in 2014, enjoy it, and hopefully finish it.

The Forever War (Joe Haldeman). This is story is fantastic beginning to end. There is not a single point I felt like the story slipped up. It's a gripping story about how soldiers at war fail to recognise or feel connected to the home they've been fighting for. It's often thought provoking and incredibly clever in its use of scientific principles. The action is often quite brilliant as well. It's often a tragic story as well, as the protagonist continually finds he has less and less to fight for or care about. The only issue I had was that I was a little uncomfortable with the ease of which some character's sexuality changes (it felt a little indicative of the "Gays can be Cured" idea). But I wouldn't call the novel homophobic. The journey the protagonist goes through in his tenure as a soldier is simultaneously, tragic, horrifying, and joyous. Now, what remains to be seen is whether I look into its sequels.

And so we come to the end of the list. Now, what will I be reading next year? Well I think it's back to the good old castle of Gormenghast first of all. I'm referencing Peake in my independent study so there's more than just my fanboyish enjoyment of the series to reading it. Also I'll be picking Good Omens up again and no doubt chuckling all the while. Philip K Dick is on my bookshelf as well, what remains to be seen is whether I read Doctor Bloodmoney or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. I've also been listening to an audiobook of Robert A Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. So far it's a great book but I'm beginning to wonder if the website it's on has the entire book or not. There are more free audiobooks floating around on the internet that I'll have a look at as well, one of them being The Worm Ouroboros. I've also picked up another book called Necromancer's Gambit by A J Dalton. I started it a while ago and found the premise to be pretty interesting but was found the way exposition was handled to be a little lacklustre.

Here's to reading and to 2014!

Thursday, 26 December 2013

A defence of science fiction.

I have a couple of friends who hate science fiction. They told me they don't like having to know a whole Bible of context before actually getting to the meat of the characters. And that is a perfectly legitimate criticism of the genre. Generally speaking Science Fiction and Fantasy won't have as much character development as other genres. Sometimes it will choose to focus on interesting characters (as evidenced by the television series Firefly) but for the most part they devote more time to develop the concept and universe they function in. I couldn’t tell you much about the main character in The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and yet I am constantly singing its praises (much to the annoyance of all my friends). However some friends have still asked for recommendations from me despite disliking the genre.
In preparation for this essay I Googled why some people would hate Science Fiction (beyond the reasons mentioned). I ended up bumping into a blog post from 2007 that tried to explain the author’s disdain for the genre. It left me feeling frustrated and angry. Mostly because it revelled in the stereotype of sci-fi writers and fans (basement dwellers with questionable hygiene, it was all very original in its social satire). 
But there were a few criticisms that someone unfamiliar with the genre might have. So all the while I’ll be waving the flag of science fiction and making recommendations here and there. That said my recommendations might be limited by what I’ve read or watched myself.

Defining Science Fiction
This is a hard thing to write about. Science fiction covers a vast array of topics and unlike its sibling genre fantasy it sometimes chooses to define its fantastical elements with real world logic rather than an invented logic. From a young age I was told that science fiction is about humanities fears about science. Well that can be true, a classic example of this is Frankenstein, a scientist makes a breakthrough discovery but neglects to take responsibility for it and said discovery runs amok. But one the flip side you have science fiction that doesn’t chastise science. Star Trek for instance is all about a positive view of the future and technology. So now we’re back to square one.
I find a much better definition of the genre is: it’s about how a strange idea would have implications for humanity. Whether or not we see this impact upon all of humanity is irrelevant. It is all about humanity. For instance Frankenstein makes a supposition that has implications for all of humanity, the idea of artificial humans. I find this definition works for every story I’ve read. In order to build up a solid definition of what the genre is it might be a good idea to look at the classics.
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

False predictions
Some people charge science fiction writers with the incredibly difficult task of predicting the future. How well do they fare? Pretty poorly. 1984 did not see the arrival of a totalitarian government in the UK and the space programme was crippled by 2001. How can we possibly take the fiction seriously when the facts have been disproved?
Here’s the thing. Science fiction is fiction. It is a writer telling a story it is not a prophecy. Robert A Heinlein is not Nostradamus. Even if the writer prided themselves on accuracy, like Asimov and Clarke, what their stories posit is mere speculation. In the cases of them you could argue that the only reason their predictions didn’t come true is because science and technology became more capitalist. I won’t say that’s a bad thing. Many incredible advances we use today we made by corporations and made personal products not industrial ones (such as the case with I, Robot).
Put aside the idea that the writer is trying to predict the future, because for the most part, they aren’t. They are trying to tell you a fantastical story in a way they can see as being feasibly possible, and sometimes that requires you put aside your knowledge of how history turned out. When was the last time a romance writer was lampooned for not bringing together couples in the real world?
I don’t think I can make recommendations for this section. Instead I will post a trailer for a series of documentaries I watched called Prophets of Science Fiction.

Too little or too much science?
It’s in the title, but what do people make of it? Well this is something that troubles a lot of readers. Science fiction in film and television frequently waves aside the science in favour of saying “it’s the future; we’ve accomplished this, deal with it”. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing! Sometimes when an author tries their hardest to show off the science in their stories, the fiction suffers. Writers of hard science fiction (Larry Niven, Joe Haldeman, Isaac Asimov) have to make sure they don’t end up writing a text book. It isn’t easy.
Of course the alternative is just to say “screw it, future science is way too complicated to bog down the story”. That’s a fair point. But in the information age it’s easy to check on simple facts.
With this the question is: what do you want as a reader? How much does the scientific plausibility matter to you? I would advise looking up any material you're thinking about reading; has a decent article about this called Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness. If you want someone who knows what their talking about when it comes to science then it’s probably advisable to stay away from Gene Rodenberry’s body of work. If you don’t care to have scientific principle peppered throughout the story then The Forever War is probably not for you.
Harder science recommendations
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
Softer science recommendations
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Phillip K Dick
Dangerous Visions edited by Harlan Ellison
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A Heinlein
The semi-naked damsel
Oh boy. This is usually a fantasy trope but science fiction certainly has its share of scantily clad women. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t exist in some science fiction. There is definitely some male gaze in a lot of Phillip K Dick’s work and I’d argue that it works against it.
Now if you were to look up pulp science fiction covers you’d be well on your way to understanding what tentacle hentai is, and you’d be worse off for it. Seriously, we thought Japan is weird, we were weirder. Thankfully today science fiction magazines have a lot more dignity. The stories handle the topics of sexuality with a lot more tact and maturity rather than just “hur dur boobs”. As with any genre the only stories and novels people remembered were the ones worth remembering as such you’d have a hard time finding the rampantly exploitative in the local library.
But I’m sick and I get a giggle out of crap like this, if you’re prepared to laugh at the old sensibilities they can be amusing. So if you’re demented, sexist (homophobia and racism also feature for bonus points!) or both you can pick these up on kindle. 
I guess I’ve already made my recommendations here. Look up the covers on Google, find one that looks fun and ridiculous and see if the title is available as an e-book. I’ve never read any sci-fi for its portrayal of sex but if I were to choose examples I would say the best I’ve seen yet were: The Forever War by Joe Haldeman (although I think it could have handled homosexuality better) and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (in which sex is always cheap and love is absent).
Really think of what comes to mind with a clichéd science fiction story. The first things that come to mind are probably laser toting rubber forehead aliens, a poor understanding of science often exemplified by technobabble, shiny leotards being the height of fashion, one ancient bit of technology still being lugged around in the space ship. Having carefully selected my science fiction reading I can confirm that so much of this isn’t true.
The Martians in Stranger in a Strange Land look nothing like humans and don’t carry lasers. The fashion in Brave New World is all artifice and superficiality, and it varies from class to class. The scientific understanding in The Forever War is well realised and relevant to the story.
So let’s look at something riddled with rubber forehead aliens, technobabble and leotards. Star Trek and its various incarnations are guilty of these clichés but I can happily watch it because that’s not the focus of the show. I like Star Trek: the Next Generation because each episode focuses on new dilemmas that are often a reflection of some part of human history. It ain’t too shabby. The only reason we notice science fiction clichés more is because most of the clichés have to do with aesthetics. Rubber forehead aliens? Aesthetic. Shiny leotards? Aesthetic. Shiny bleeping computers? Aesthetic. Technobabble? Erm… OK you got me there.
If you actually take a look at the story telling instead of the aesthetics chances are you’re going to find something more unique than your giving credit for. This is why so much of my friends and family don’t understand why I love Babylon 5, it looks cheap, and laser toting aliens are prevalent in it but good Lord the story is brilliant.
And let’s quickly get the whole rubber forehead thing out of the way. Science fiction shows are infamously tight for a budget. A quick way around this is to glue bubble wrap to someone’s face and call them king of the Clantoons or whatever. Some might see it as a copout but you try making a realistic Cthulhu on a shoestring budget. As for lasers, we use them today, in industry (the most common being Carbon Dioxide lasers). The reason they are not weapons is because it’s not practical for them to be weapons. Yet.   

Any of the texts I've put as recommendations would easily count as avoiding the clichés of science fiction. Some other notable examples include We Can Remember it for You Wholesale (The Collected works Volume five) by Philip K Dick, Battle Royale by Koshun Takami, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, and also The Mammoth Book of New SF usually has some good stories.   

And this is where I conclude the ranting.
Chances are some of your favourite films are science fiction anyway. Examples include WALL-E, The Matrix, Jurassic Park, The Hunger Games and Transformers. These aren’t considered science fiction by so many people; they consider them family films and action films. Well if that is the case then I guess Jennifer Lawrence needs to give back her Saturn award, The Matrix should stop appearing on ‘best sci-fi films’ lists, Spielberg should throw out his Hugo award, and the creators of WALL-E need to have a MAJOR clear out of their trophy shelf.

 Going back to the blog of 2007 I found the writer did cite some examples that she enjoyed, such as The Handmaiden’s Tale and Isaac Asimov’s short stories about robots. But there were only two writers she mention not liking and her criticism of them was a sparing one sentence each. Interesting that she came up with equal amounts of examples for both sides. The rest of it was a list of unfair clichéd arguments prevalent whenever I ask someone why they don’t like science fiction. Rather than asking for examples that defy these clichés so many will just write off the entire genre as being riddled with it. It’d be like me writing of period dramas as padded, devoid of relevance, devoid of real conflict and tedious.But I’d be doing the fans and myself a disservice. One bad experience is not a good basis for an opinion of an entire genre.