Archive for July, 2012

On this week’s Hope for the Genre: adventure! Time travel! Suspicious government agents! And that guy who is in that show with Zooey Deschanel

Genre: Science Fiction

Medium: Film

The premise: Safety Not Guaranteed begins with a simple, elegant set-up. Morose, loner, Seattle Magazine intern, Darius (Aubrey Plaza), volunteers for an assignment to research an ad put out in a small, vacation town for–of all things–a time travel partner. Darius goes in, accompanied by Jeff the jaded writer (Jake Johnson) and Arnau, an awkward, virginal college student (Karan Soni). Darius discovers Kenneth (Mark Duplass) who put out the ad and is (supposedly) close to having his time machine assembled. Nutty hijinks ensue as Darius & Co. get close to the bizarre truth, but the film inhabits an interesting intersection between drama, comedy, and lo-fi science fiction adventure.

Why it’s awesome: It is exactly that balance between comedy and drama which makes this movie such a gem. Like Darius, we question the veracity of Kenneth’s claims, are at times deeply suspicious of him, and ultimately find ourselves hoping desperately that it’s all true. Jeff and Arnau become a beautiful counterpoint to Darius and Kenneth’s story–Jeff as he revisits a adolescent fling and Arnau as he steps outside of his carefully circumscribed boundaries and learns to live in the moment. Moreover, the cast is completely brilliant, particularly Plaza and Duplass. Through them, the film leaps from charming conceit to a heartfelt examination of the nature of regret. With laughter and occasional tears, Safety Not Guaranteed brings us to the question: can we truly change our lives, with or without a time machine?

Why it’s hopeful: Science fiction has long been considered the refuge of the clinically detailed and plot-ly engaging but emotionally bereft. Supposedly, this is why fantasy will overtake it and destroy us all. But with films like Safety Not Guaranteed, it’s quite clear that science fiction can explore the arenas of the human heart just as well as it can time travel and conspiracy theories. And all the more fun and rewarding when it does all three at once.

So, what with this being a for-the-funs blog, I imagine the schedule will be fairly loose. I’m busy; you’re busy; we don’t need to meet for coffee every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and every other Sunday. What I will try to guarantee is at least one post a week, preferably two, on a variety of topics. One segment I think will become a regular thing is this: Hope for the Genre. Essentially, we’re talking 250-ish words about a film/novel/album/game/website/art exhibit/zoetrope/puppet show that does something new and interesting with speculative fiction, which as we know, is always in horrible danger of dying out. Recommendations welcome.

Genre: Science Fiction

Medium: Mockumentary

The premise: Ghosts with Shit Jobs is an indie mockumentary (appropriately monikered “lo-fi sci-fi” by its creators) set in Toronto. BoingBoing called it an econopalypse and it is–at least from a Western standpoint. In a Chinese-driven economy, North Americans (we won’t talk about what happened to Europe) become the cheap labor for the Asian empire, doing the jobs no one wants: robot baby doll assembly, digital copyright blurring, face-to-face spamming, and (of course) mutant spider silk collection. Funny, smart, different. The film also earned its touring budget via Kickstarter, which is pretty neat.

Why it’s awesome: What amazed me most about Ghosts with Shit Jobs wasn’t the clever concept or the incredibly low budget ($5000!). It was the characters. A film which relied solely on its tongue-in-cheek role reversal of contemporary Western society would no doubt become stale after the first twenty minutes–in fact, I worried it would. But then the movie delivered deeper insights into its protagonists’ lives. The complicated (yet somehow how workable) relationship of the Babymaker couple, Karen and Gary. The human spam’s blistering (and sometimes violent) defense of her work, funded by–for serious–a Nigerian scam syndicate. The digital janitor’s love of the digital world and earnest desire to do a good job. Not to mention the silk collectors, two young brothers who literally work for clean water. The writing and performances here rarely fell flat and that is what makes this a compelling piece.

Why it’s hopeful: It’s not just that folks can make good, thoughtful, character-driven near-futuristic sci-fi on for crazy little money. It’s also that, via crowd-sourcing/funding systems like Kickstarter, we can all support it. And I think that’s one way speculative fiction is finding its footing in the our digital culture.

Bienvenuto!

Posted: July 17, 2012 in Introductions

Repost of the About section. New content coming soon!

Disclaimer: this is not a zombie blog.

Here’s the thing: I have always, always, always loved zombies. Zombie moviesZombie books. Any zombie memorabilia you can conjure. I dress up as a zombie on a semi-regular basis, not just for Halloween. I love zombie-inspired fitnessZombie PSAs. All of it. And it doesn’t bother me one ounce that other people — a lot of other people — have discovered that they love zombies, too. All the more undead to love, in my view.

But as a consumer of speculative fiction, I know that zombies (like vampires) are on their way out. We’ve had enough of them, for the moment. I don’t think they’ll go away entirely. But they will go underground (harhar) for a spell. As they should. There are reasons our love of different monsters comes in cycles. There are big reasons for that (cultural, social) which hopefully we’ll talk about soon. But for the moment, the reality: people are getting sick of zombies. Fortunately, zombies are only the beginning.

My interest is quality speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror) in this post-post apocalypse. Particularly with an independent or literary bent. We can have fun with the mainstream stuff, sure, and I have no doubt it’ll come up. But I want to discuss the stuff on the fringes. With some grit and some soul. Stories/movies/comics/games that transcend genres and bend the rules (ideally with their minds).

And probably the zombies will return to those fringes from whence they came. Hey, in some cases, they’re already there. And we’ll talk about them, too. Because who can resist, really?