Months from the release of Dune 2021, the 1984 version gets a 4K release

The controversial yet memorable 1984 film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal 1965 science fiction novel Dune will be released in 4K and HDR for the first time on August 31, thanks to a new 4K UltraHD Blu-ray set from distributor Arrow Films.

According to Arrow Films, the upcoming release was mastered from the original camera negative in 4K and Dolby Vision HDR, though playback in the HDR-10 format is also supported. The set offers two audio options: uncompressed stereo and DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound.

There’s one thing genre cinephiles might be hoping for that they won’t get here, though: commentary from filmmaker David Lynch, who directed the film and became famous for later works like Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet. Those familiar with the film’s history won’t be surprised by that omission though; Lynch disowned Dune when it was released, saying that it did not represent his creative vision due to interference from the studio.

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#4k, #blu-ray, #david-lynch, #dolby-dts, #dune, #film, #gaming-culture, #hdr, #movie, #movies, #science-fiction, #tech, #ultrahd

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Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary and the soft, squishy science of language

Artist's impression of either understanding being achieved or intergalactic war being incited, I'm not sure which.

Enlarge / Artist’s impression of either understanding being achieved or intergalactic war being incited, I’m not sure which. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

Andy Weir’s latest, Project Hail Mary, is a good book that you’ll almost certainly enjoy if you enjoyed Weir’s freshman novel The Martian. It’s another tale of solving problems with science, as a lone human named Ryland Grace and a lone alien named Rocky must save our stellar neighborhood from a star-eating parasite called “Astrophage.” PHM is a buddy movie in space in a way that The Martian didn’t get to be, and the interaction between Grace and Rocky is the biggest reason to read the book. The pair makes a hell of a problem-solving team, jazz hands and fist bumps and all.

<em>Project Hail Mary</em> product image

Project Hail Mary

(Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.)

But the relative ease with which Grace and Rocky understand each other got me thinking about the real-world issues that might arise when two beings from vastly different evolutionary backgrounds try to communicate. PHM‘s otherwise solid commitment to science leans a bit here on what we might call the “anthropic principle of science fiction,” after the more well-known general anthropic principle. To wit: Rocky and Grace can communicate well with each other because it serves the story, and if they couldn’t, the book would be shorter and less interesting.

I get it—that’s how storytelling works. I don’t want to sound like a bitter basement-dwelling critic throwing shade at a bestselling science fiction author. But PHM is like The Martian in that it’s about solving problems realistically. From my nerd basement throne, it feels like the softer sciences of linguistics and anthropology (or perhaps xenolinguistics and xenoanthropology) don’t get the same stage time as their more STEM-y counterparts like physics and relativity.

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#andy-weir, #book, #book-review, #feature, #features, #gaming-culture, #linguistics, #novel, #problem-solving, #project-hail-mary, #science, #science-fiction

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Our Aliens, Ourselves

How would contact with U.F.O.s and other civilizations change ours?

#earth, #extraterrestrial-life, #planets, #reid-harry, #science-fiction, #space-and-astronomy, #unidentified-flying-objects-ufo, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces

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Paramount+ hits 36 million subscribers, will stream sci-fi movie Infinite

Two cool bros chat in a hangar in front of private jet.

Enlarge / Actor Mark Wahlberg confers with director Antoine Fuqua on the set of Infinite. (credit: Mark Wahlberg)

On the heels of revealing that it has reached just shy of 36 million subscribers, streaming service Paramount+ has announced that it will stream at least one original movie each week, including the long-delayed Mark Wahlberg and Chiwetel Ejiofor sci-fi film Infinite.

In March, the streaming service CBS All Access was rebranded as Paramount+, and it got a huge injection of new content directly resulting from the merger between parent company CBS and Viacom. ViacomCBS, the resulting new conglomerate, owns a vast swath of Hollywood brands and studios, including CBS, Showtime, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, Paramount Pictures, and others. The desire to show all of that content under one streaming platform’s roof was reportedly a key driver of the merger.

Given that CBS All Access was one of traditional Hollywood’s first forays into a streaming service to compete with previous platforms from tech companies like Netflix and Amazon, the service represented a big shift. Since then, we’ve been wondering whether the rebranding has propped up the streaming service, which before the merger was best known for its various Star Trek reboot series.

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#cbs-all-access, #gaming-culture, #infinite, #paramount, #paramount-pictures-mark-wahlberg, #sci-fi, #science-fiction, #streaming, #tech, #tv, #viacomcbs

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Smithsonian Will Display Star Wars X-Wing Fighter

Starting late next year, an X-wing from “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” will go on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington.

#industrial-light-and-magic, #lucasfilm-ltd, #museums, #national-air-and-space-museum, #restoration-and-renovation, #science-fiction, #space-and-astronomy, #star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-movie

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Project Hail Mary, like The Martian, is all about solving problems with science

Cover art from <em>Project Hail Mary</em>.

Enlarge / Cover art from Project Hail Mary. (credit: Ballantine Books)

Project Hail Mary, the latest from science fiction author Andy Weir, is a lot like Weir’s first novel, The Martian. It’s a rapid-fire romp through insurmountable problem after insurmountable problem, focusing on a protagonist who quips his way through each issue with snappy first-person narration and a never-ending supply of Science™.

Saying more about the book while avoiding spoilers is very difficult. As with The Martian, the book opens on a lone human in dire straits—our narrator awakens with total memory loss and has no idea who he is, where he is, or what he’s supposed to be doing. The process by which he pieces together his identity and mission takes up the first chunk of the book, and none of that stuff can really be discussed without spoiling things.

Spoiler-free thoughts: Should you buy it?

The quick version is that if you enjoyed The Martian’s style of storytelling, you’ll probably enjoy Project Hail Mary. The two books are cut from the same cloth—a scientist finds himself alone and has to science the you-know-what out of the situation. If that conceit works for you, the book will work for you. (And, as with The Martian, there’s already a movie deal in the works, with a screenplay by Drew Goddard.)

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#andy-weir, #book, #book-review, #gaming-culture, #project-hail-mary, #review, #science, #science-fiction, #the-martian

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Andy Weir’s New Space Odyssey

A new novel from “The Martian” author is slightly more out there, but it still has plenty of particle physics.

#books-and-literature, #content-type-personal-profile, #neutrinos, #project-hail-mary-a-novel-book, #science-and-technology, #science-fiction, #space-and-astronomy, #stars-and-galaxies, #the-martian-book, #weir-andy-1972, #writing-and-writers

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Five Science Fiction Movies to Stream Now

Explore future worlds or get lost in a time loop with these options.

#archive-movie, #bernal-daniel-film-director, #el-ascensor-movie, #jo-sung-hee-1979, #movies, #odonnell-liam, #rothery-gavin, #science-fiction, #skylines-movie, #space-sweepers-movie, #the-map-of-tiny-perfect-things-movie, #time-to-hunt-movie, #yoon-sung-hyun

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Voyages of Hope and Anguish: New Science Fiction and Fantasy

“The Memory Theater,” “On Fragile Waves” and “Victories Greater Than Death” take readers tumbling through realms and ever stranger stories.

#anders-charlie-jane, #books-and-literature, #on-fragile-waves-book, #science-fiction, #the-memory-theater-book, #tidbeck-karin, #victories-greater-than-death-book, #yu-e-lily

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Why Sci-Fi Legend Ted Chiang Fears Capitalism, Not A.I.

The award-winning author and Ezra Klein discuss A.I. suffering, free will, Superman’s failures and more.

#artificial-intelligence, #chiang-ted-author, #science-fiction

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Creator or Creature? A Nightmare Wakes dramatizes the birth of Frankenstein

Alix Wilton Regan stars as Mary Shelley in the throes of creating her timeless literary masterpiece in A Nightmare Wakes.

It’s one of the most famous origin stories in literary history. One summer night in 1816 in Geneva, Lord Byron hosted a gathering of his fellow Romantics, including Percy Shelley and his lover (soon-to-be wife), Mary Godwin. The incessant rain confined the party indoors for days at a time, and one night, over dinner at the Villa Diodati, Byron propose that everyone write a ghost story to amuse themselves. The result was Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein, the classic Gothic horror tale of a mad scientist who creates a monster—arguably the first science fiction novel.

That fateful summer is the subject of A Nightmare Wakes, the first feature film from writer/director Nora Unkel. It’s been portrayed before, most recently in a 2020 episode of Doctor Who, but Unkel’s film delves particularly into Mary Shelley’s inner state of mind and the process of creation, as the world of her imagination begins to bleed into her reality. Per the official premise: “While composing her famous novel, Frankenstein, Mary Shelley (Alix Wilton Regan) descends into an opium-fueled fever dream while carrying on a torrid love affair with Percy Shelley (Giullian Yao Gioiello). As she writes, the characters of her novel come to life and begin to plague her relationship with Percy. Before long, she must choose between true love and her literary masterpiece.”

(Mild spoilers below)

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#film, #frankenstein, #gaming-culture, #horror, #independent-films, #literary-history, #mary-shelley, #science-fiction

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James Gunn, Prizewinning Science Fiction Author, Dies at 97

In short stories like “The Immortals” and novels like “The Listeners,” Mr. Gunn helped prepare readers for the future.

#books-and-literature, #deaths-obituaries, #gunn-james-1923-2020, #isaac-asimov-the-foundations-of-science-fiction-book, #science-fiction, #the-immortals-book, #the-listeners-book, #writing-and-writers

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Apple TV+ acquires a “sci-fi courtroom drama” about a murderous robot doll

Astronauts stand in a row on the lunar surface.

Enlarge / A shot from For All Mankind‘s second season. (credit: Apple+)

More science fiction is headed to Apple TV+, according to a new video and report. Apple has published a “first look featurette” video and related augmented reality app for its alternate-history space-program drama For All Mankind‘s second season, and the report claims that a drama about a robot accused of murder will soon begin production.

The latter will be a feature film called Dolly and is based on a short story written by Elizabeth Bear. According to Deadline, Apple acquired the film “following a competitive bidding war” involving four bidders, including multiple studios and another streaming company.

The film is described as a science fiction take on a courtroom drama, with the premise that a robotic doll murders its owner but “shocks the world by claiming she is not guilty and asking for a lawyer.”

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#apple, #apple-tv, #dolly, #for-all-mankind, #foundation, #gaming-culture, #sci-fi, #science-fiction, #streaming, #tech

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A couple clings to shared past amid a memory-wiping pandemic in Little Fish

Olivia Cooke and Jack O’Connell star as a young couple struggling to stay together as a memory-wiping virus spreads unchecked in Little Fish.

A young couple fights to hold its relationship together in the midst of pandemic, where a memory loss virus is robbing everyone of their memories in Little Fish, a new science fiction romantic drama from IFC Films. Directed by Chad Hartigan, this thoughtful, genuinely moving film explores themes of memory, self, and the power of shared experiences to forge strong bonds between us, all through the lens of an otherwise average, ordinary Everycouple.

(Some spoilers below.)

The film is loosely based on a short story by Aja Gabel, about a young couple dealing with the man losing his memories in a fictional pandemic, although screenwriter Mattson Tomlin (Project Power) substantially rewrote and fleshed out this core idea. This was well before the current pandemic, but even in the Before Times of 2018, Hartigan was struck by the concept of the world metaphorically crumbling around two people who clung to optimism for the future—and each other. “We never could have imagined or predicted that this would be the case,” Hartigan told Ars. “It always felt to me like an emotional story with a science fiction backdrop.”

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#entertainment, #film, #gaming-culture, #ifc-films, #little-fish, #science-fiction

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Beyond ‘Black Panther’: Afrofuturism Is Booming in Comics

A bumper crop of graphic novels and comic books melds African culture and science fiction, with influences as wide-ranging as space travel, Caribbean folklore and Janelle Monáe.

#africa, #after-the-rain-book, #black-panther-book, #black-people, #book-trade-and-publishing, #books-and-literature, #cartoons-and-cartoonists, #comic-books-and-strips, #fielder-tim-illustrator, #graphic-novels, #infinitum-time-travel-noir-book, #jennings-john-author, #movies, #myths-and-mythical-creatures, #okorafor-nnedi, #science-fiction, #womack-ytasha-l, #writing-and-writers

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“Warp speed,” “Prime Directive” predate Star Trek, per new reference tool

Screenshot from a Star Trek film.

Enlarge / The term “warp drive” actually predates its first use in the long-running Star Trek franchise by 14 years. (credit: Paramount Pictures)

There’s no denying the profound influence that the Star Trek franchise has had on our shared popular culture. But it turns out that some of the best-known terms associated with the series—transporter, warp speed, and the famous Prime Directive—actually predate Star Trek: The Original Series by a decade or more. According to Jesse Sheidlower, a lexicographer and editor of the newly launched online Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction (HDSF), the first mention of those terms appeared in 1956, 1952, and 1940, respectively.

The origins of this new online resource date back to 2001, when Sheidlower was working for the venerable Oxford English Dictionary (OED). “OED has always been a crowdsourced entity,” Sheidlower told Ars. “In fact, it was probably the first crowdsourced thing.” Back in the late 19th century, OED editors typically placed notices in newspapers and magazines asking people to read various materials and contribute to their coverage of the English language.

While at OED, Sheidlower noted that science fiction was an area that was not very well served by scholarship, partly because science fiction hasn’t had much serious literary cache historically. That meant that the most significant (and rare) pulp magazines weren’t available in the usual archives, like the Library of Congress or the New York Public Library. So he set up a Science Fiction Citations Project (SFCP) and called on the science fiction community (fans and writers alike) to submit examples of the specialized terminology they found, all curated by moderators.

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#dictionary, #gaming-culture, #lexicography, #reference-tools, #science, #science-fiction

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Tracking the Vocabulary of Sci-Fi, from Aerocar to Zero-Gravity

The new online Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction probes the speculative corners of the lexicographic universe.

#content-type-personal-profile, #dictionaries, #english-language, #historical-dictionary-of-science-fiction-book, #oxford-english-dictionary-book, #science-fiction, #sheidlower-jesse

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Mira Furlan, Actress on ‘Lost’ and ‘Babylon 5,’ Dies at 65

The Croatian-born actress played Ambassador Delenn on the science fiction TV series “Babylon 5” throughout its five seasons and in two movies.

#actors-and-actresses, #deaths-obituaries, #furlan-mira, #lost-tv-program, #science-fiction, #television

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The Essential Octavia Butler

She created vivid new worlds to reveal truths about our own. Here’s where to start with her books.

#books-and-literature, #butler-octavia-e, #fledgling-book, #kindred-book, #science-fiction

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Owen Wilson must choose between real and fantasy worlds in Bliss trailer

Owen Wilson and Salma Hayek star in the forthcoming science fiction film Bliss.

Owen Wilson (Shanghai Noon, Zoolander) plays a man who finds himself flitting between two worlds, one of which is supposedly a simulation, in Bliss, a new science fiction film coming to Amazon Prime next month that co-stars Salma Hayek (Desperado, Frida). Sure, the basic concept sounds a bit like a ripoff of The Matrix with a dash of Solaris, but Mike Cahill is the director, which bodes well for Bliss being a fresher take on a familiar premise.

Cahill, you see, also directed the 2011 indie sci-fi film, Another Earth—his first feature—which received a standing ovation at its premiere and won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. It was also among the top 10 indie films of the year selected by the National Board of Review Awards. Cahill’s 2014 followup feature, I Origins, also snagged the Sloan Prize; Cahill is the only director to have twice won the award. In short, he’s got some serious indie sci-fi film street cred.

Whoa.

The plot of Another Earth centered on the discovery of a mirror Earth planet, where everyone has a doppelgänger. Clearly, Cahill is interested in exploring themes of duality, because he’s returned to that rich vein for Bliss (not to be confused with the 2019 Fantastic Fest selection of the same name.) Per the official premise: “An unfulfilled man (Wilson) and a mysterious woman (Hayek) believe they are living in a simulated reality, but when their newfound ‘Bliss’ world begins to bleed into the ‘ugly’ world, they must decide what’s real and where they truly belong.”

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#amazon-prime, #bliss, #entertainment, #film, #gaming-culture, #mike-cahill, #owen-wilson, #science-fiction

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How Lin Qi’s Poisoning Death Shocked China

The “billionaire millennial” Lin Qi was working with Netflix and the “Game of Thrones” creators to bring a Chinese best seller to the screen. The police have a suspect, and fans have questions.

#books-and-literature, #china, #game-of-thrones-tv-program, #high-net-worth-individuals, #lin-qi, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #netflix-inc, #science-fiction, #television, #the-three-body-problem-book

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Poignant The Midnight Sky wrestles with whether mankind is worth saving

“I hate being cold more than anything in the world,” actor/director George Clooney confesses in a featurette (embedded below) on the making of his new post-apocalyptic science fiction film, The Midnight Sky.  But in order to play a terminally ill astronomer in the Arctic after a cataclysmic event kills most of the people on Earth, Clooney had to endure weeks of shooting in frigid conditions in Iceland. The film is adapted from the critically acclaimed 2016 debut novel, Good Morning, Midnight, by Lily Brooks-Dalton, which has been compared to Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven.

(Some mild spoilers below, but no major reveals.)

In the novel, a brilliant astronomer named Augustine is posted to the Arctic, scanning the night sky for clues about the birth of the universe. Then a mysterious global apocalypse occurs, prompting all his fellow scientists to evacuate. But Augustine remains behind, dedicated to continuing his research, even as the airwaves go silent. Meanwhile, a team of astronauts aboard the spaceship Aether is set to return to Earth after a mission to Jupiter. On board is Sully, who sacrificed her marriage and left her daughter behind in order to become one of the first humans to travel so far in our Solar System. The astronauts are unaware of the catastrophe that has befallen Earth, and it falls to Augustine to warn them not to return.

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#entertainment, #film, #gaming-culture, #george-clooney, #netflix, #science-fiction, #the-midnight-sky

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LX 2048 explores what it means to be human in an increasingly virtual world

James D’Arcy stars as a terminally ill man who gets the chance to “upgrade” his life in Guy Moshe’s sci-fi film LX 2048.

A fatally ill man tries to secure the future of his family in a near-future world where the toxicity of the sun forces people to stay inside during the daytime in LX 2048, starring James D’Arcy (Agent Carter, Homeland). It’s a flawed yet thought-provoking surreal science fiction film, chock-full of big ideas on our relationship to technology and what it means to be human, and anchored by D’Arcy’s fantastic performance.

(Some spoilers below.)

D’Arcy plays Adam Bird, a married father of three on the brink of divorce from his wife, Reena (Anna Brewster). The year is 2048, and people are largely living indoors during the day because the sunlight is powerful enough to scald human skin instantly. Everyone spends most of their time in a virtual world known as The Realm. (The fact that Reena caught Adam virtually cavorting with his AI lover is just one of their many marital issues.) Everyone also takes regular doses of LithiumX to ward off depression. Adam, however, clings to his old habits, driving a convertible to the office in a hazmat suit, and refusing to take the drug.

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#entertainment, #film, #gaming-culture, #guy-moshe, #lx-2048, #science-fiction, #streaming, #streaming-movies

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Greenland is as much a love story as an epic spectacle of impending disaster

Gerard Butler stars as a structural engineer in Atlanta who must get his family to safety in the face of a looming extinction event in Greenland.

The Earth is facing an extinction-level event from an interstellar comet as a man and his family race against time to find safe haven in Greenland, a new disaster thriller starring Gerard Butler (300, Angel Has Fallen) and directed by Ric Roman Waugh (Snitch, Angel Has Fallen).

(Some spoilers below, but no major reveals.)

Per the official premise:

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#entertainment, #film, #gaming-culture, #gerard-butler, #greenland, #ric-roman-waugh, #science-fiction, #stx-entertainment

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What makes The Expanse so great: Good science, balancing epic with personal

<em>The Expanse</em> returns to Amazon Prime for another epic season.

Enlarge / The Expanse returns to Amazon Prime for another epic season. (credit: Amazon Prime)

Amazon Prime’s epic science fiction series The Expanse is back for its fifth season. In her review last week, Ars’ Tech Policy Reporter Kate Cox called it “the best [season] since its first, a long-awaited high-stakes payoff to several seasons’ worth of setup,” adding, “if you drifted away from the show during earlier seasons, like something accidentally dropped in microgravity, this new season makes it worth finding a way to come back.”

(Some spoilers below, but no major reveals.)

As we’ve noted previously, The Expanse is based on a series of novels by James S.A. Corey (the pen name for writing team Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), exploring interplanetary tensions that are breaking out all over a Solar System long since colonized by humans—mostly between Earthers, Martians, and “Belters.” Part mystery, part political thriller, part classic space opera, The Expanse has earned almost nothing but praise from critics and its devoted fans alike, not just for its gripping storytelling but also its excellent use of accurate physics.

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#amazon-prime, #entertainment, #gaming-culture, #science-fiction, #science-fiction-television, #streaming-television, #the-expanse

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Ben Bova, Science Fiction Editor and Author, Is Dead at 88

As editor of the magazines Analog and Omni, he was a champion of a new generation of authors, including George R.R. Martin.

#analog-science-fiction-and-fact-magazine, #books-and-literature, #bova-ben, #deaths-obituaries, #magazines, #martin-george-r-r, #omni-magazine, #science-fiction, #writing-and-writers

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Review: Synchronic is a time-bending slow burn of a sci-fi thriller

Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan star as New Orleans paramedics who encounter a series of bizarre, gruesome accidents in the sci-fi thriller Synchronic.

Chances are you missed Synchronic, the latest sci-fi film written and directed by indie filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, when it was released in limited theaters and drive-ins last month. Not only were many theaters still shut down because of the pandemic, the filmmakers themselves made the unusual move of warning potential viewers (via Instagram) of the health risks associated with indoor movie theaters. (“We personally wouldn’t go to an indoor theater, so we can’t encourage you to,” they wrote.)

It was admirably responsible of them, but it did severely limit the audience, especially since the film’s distributor inexplicably opted not to release it simultaneously on VOD—now a common practice in these pandemic times. And that’s a shame, because Synchronic is a smart, inventive, thought-provoking film, featuring standout performances from co-stars Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan.

(Mostly mild spoilers below, with a couple of significant plot twists below the gallery. We’ll give you a heads up when we get there.)

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#anthony-mackie, #entertainment, #film-review, #gaming-culture, #jamie-dornan, #science-fiction, #synchronic, #time-travel, #well-go-usa

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Daisy Ridley, Tom Holland are hunted on distant planet in Chaos Walking trailer

Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley star in Chaos Walking, a film adaptation of the award-wining trilogy by Patrick Ness.

A young man and woman on a distant planet called the New World find themselves on the run from a town of religious fanatics in Chaos Walking, a forthcoming film directed by Doug Limon and based on the award-winning sci-fi trilogy of the same name by Patrick Ness. And the film boasts two megastars: Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey in the most recent Star Wars trilogy, and Tom Holland, the latest incarnation of Spider-Man in the MCEU.

The series consists of three novels—The Knife of Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men—as well as three short stories set in the same fictional universe, intended as companion pieces to the novels. The series takes place on a planet called New World, where we meet Todd, a boy living in a religiously devoted settlement known as Prentisstown, led by the megalomaniac mayor, David Prentiss. There are no women left, and all the men are afflicted by something called the “Noise,” which makes their thoughts audible, driving many of them mad. The same is true for Todd’s little dog, Manchee. This is purportedly the result of biological warfare on the part of a native intelligent species known as Spackle, who resented the arrival of the colonizers. The germ killed all the women and left the men with the Noise.

One day, Todd discovers a patch of silence (a “hole in the Noise”) in a nearby swamp, and when he tells his adoptive parents about it, they insist he has to flee Prentisstown. Back in the swamp, Todd comes face to face with Viola, a young girl who has crash-landed on New World in a small scouting craft, ahead of an incoming ship of new planetary settlers. They are relentlessly pursued by the Mayor, his son Davy, and an evil preacher named Aaron as they seek refuge with other, more peaceful settlements—including a town called Haven that is rumored to have a cure for the Noise—in hopes of finding a way to warn the incoming ship of the potential violence they face.

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#chaos-walking, #daisy-ridley, #doug-liman, #entertainment, #film, #film-trailers, #gaming-culture, #lionsgate, #patrick-ness, #science-fiction

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Bruce Willis returns to space to kick some alien derriere in Breach trailer

Bruce Willis battles an alien life form aboard an interstellar ark  en route to a New Earth in Breach.

An interstellar ark transporting the last humans on Earth to a new home inadvertently brings along a shape-shifting alien stowaway in Breach, a new sci-fi action film starring Bruce Willis and directed by John Suits. The trailer just dropped, and the film looks like a fairly generic mix of elements from Alien, The X-Files, and Event Horizon. But anything that lets Willis “yippee-ki-yay” his gun-toting way to saving humanity from aliens in space is okay by me.

Suits is best known for 2016’s Pandemic, essentially a zombie horror thriller shot entirely from a first person point of view, like a video game. He also directed the recently released short Diehard is Back, a fun Willis-starring commercial for Diehard batteries that pays tongue-in-cheek homage to the franchise, including a few cameos that should delight fans. (“From fighting his way to Advance Auto Parts to racing against the clock to install his new DieHard Battery—McClane will stop at nothing, to start his car again.”) So I’m hopeful that Suits can bring a fitting mix of suspense, action, and humor to Breach, and just let Willis be Willis.

Originally titled Anti-Life, the film’s premise is that a devastating plague has wiped out much of Earth’s population, and the survivors are being evacuated via an interstellar ark to “New Earth.” Willis plays Clay Young, described as a hardened mechanic who is part of the crew selected to stay awake and maintain the ark for the six-month journey. But then he discovers a shapeshifting alien (or “a malevolent cosmic terror,” per the early press materials) has also stowed away on the ark, and it seems to be intent on killing everyone on board.

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#breach, #bruce-willis, #entertainment, #film, #film-trailers, #gaming-culture, #saban-films, #science-fiction, #trailers

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On ‘Sway,’ Kara Swisher Talks With Author Jeff VanderMeer

So why is Jeff VanderMeer so hopeful? The author of “Annihilation” on seeing our world as strange, wonderful—and worth saving.

#annihilation-book, #borne-book, #florida, #global-warming, #science-fiction, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government, #vandermeer-jeff, #writing-and-writers

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Ron Cobb, a Pioneer in Science Fiction Design, Dies at 83

An artist and movie production designer, he helped shape the aesthetics of science fiction with his work on movies including “Star Wars,” “Alien” and “Back to the Future.”

#alien-movie, #back-to-the-future-movie, #cobb-ron-1937-2020, #deaths-obituaries, #design, #movies, #science-fiction, #star-wars-movie

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The Best Places to Stream for the Best Screams

A survey of the horror offerings on the top streaming platforms.

#1922-movie, #a-quiet-place-movie, #american-horror-story-tv-program, #eraserhead-movie, #eyes-without-a-face-movie, #geralds-game-movie, #godzilla-movie, #hereditary-movie, #hostel-movie, #la-llorona-movie, #midsommar-movie, #movies, #nos4a2-tv-program, #revenge-movie, #science-fiction, #the-housemaid-movie, #the-platform-movie

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‘We’ve Already Survived an Apocalypse’: Indigenous Writers Are Changing Sci-Fi

Long underrepresented in genre fiction, Native American and First Nations authors are reshaping its otherworldly (but still often Eurocentric) worlds.

#apache-indians, #books-and-literature, #dimaline-cherie, #elatsoe-book, #empire-of-wild-a-novel-book, #indigenous-people, #jones-stephen-graham, #little-badger-darcie, #native-americans, #navajo-indians, #roanhorse-rebecca, #science-fiction, #the-only-good-indians-book, #trail-of-lightning-book, #writing-and-writers

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Watch the trailer for Netflix’s new family space drama about a mission to Mars

As deep space missions and Mars colonies continue to shift from science fiction to potential near future reality, it’s not surprising to see Hollywood think about different types of stories to tell about space exploration. Away, a new series from Netflix premiering on September 4, looks like that kind of story.

The show stars Oscar-winner Hilary Swank, and is created by the people behind Parenthood and Friday Night Lights. It’s a show about an astronaut mission to Mars – but it’s clearly also about the family drama and tensions that arise, both for those in space on a multi-year long-duration mission, and for the families they left back home on Earth.

The show also looks to feature The Good Wife’s Josh Charles in a key supporting role, which is awesome because he’s fantastic. Given the level of talent, the pedigree of the show runners and the space setting, this looks like a fantastic recipe for a great new show. The first season will be available to stream on September 4 on Netflix.

#aerospace, #astronaut, #netflix, #oscar, #outer-space, #science-fiction, #space, #spaceflight, #tc

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The Star of This $70 Million Sci-Fi Film Is a Robot

Meet Erica, an android believed to be Hollywood’s first fully autonomous artificially intelligent actor. Can she overcome the uncanny valley?

#artificial-intelligence, #b-movie, #ishiguro-hiroshi, #japan, #movies, #osaka-university, #robots-and-robotics, #science-fiction

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Naomi Alderman Was Writing a Pandemic Novel Before the Pandemic Hit

The author of “The Power” went back and forth on whether she could keep writing fiction that suddenly seemed too close to reality.

#alderman-naomi, #books-and-literature, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #london-england, #science-fiction, #the-power-book, #writing-and-writers

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At the end of time and space are phat beats: Blood Machines movie review

Screenshot from the movie Blood Machines.

Enlarge / The future of AI is a mannequin’s nightmare. (credit: Seth Ickerman + Carpenter Brut)

Two spacemen in the distant future get more than they bargained for while chasing a rogue AI to a far-off planet in Blood Machines, which debuts today on the Shudder streaming service.

The movie is a collaboration between synthwave musician Carpenter Brut and French directors Raphaël Hernandez and Savitri Joly-Gonfard (who work together under the pseudonym “Seth Ickerman”). Carpenter Brut and Seth Ickerman had joined forces before on the music video for Brut’s 2016 song “Turbo Killer,” which can be best described as two competing ritual sacrifices involving bad men and captive hotties. In the video, one ritual ritualizes in a delightfully artificial graveyard while the other does its thing aboard—get ready—a spaceship shaped like an inverted crucifix.

Cool. Car chases ensue, synthesizers blare, and everything is awash in the kind of threatening neon that befits an ’80s homage.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#blood-machines, #carpenter-brut, #gaming-culture, #movies, #science-fiction, #seth-ickerman, #streaming-movies, #synthwave, #turbo-killer, #uncategorized

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With ‘Upload,’ Greg Daniels Takes a Leap Into the Great Unknown

Recognized for the hit network sitcoms “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” Daniels is breaking his own conventions with a satirical sci-fi show on Amazon.

#amazon-com-inc, #daniels-greg-1963, #science-fiction, #television, #upload-tv-program

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Review: Gritty techno-thriller Code 8 is a surprise breakout hit on Netflix

Robbie Amell and Stephen Amell star in Code 8, a Canadian sci-fi film currently making waves on Netflix.

One of the surprise breakout hits on Netflix during the coronavirus shutdown is Code 8, a Canadian science-fiction film funded entirely through a crowdfunding campaign. It’s set in an alternate timeline in the 1990s, where people with superhuman powers face severe discrimination and economic hardship. But this isn’t a cheap rip-off of the X-Men franchise. Code 8 is a smart, gritty, techno-noir thriller that is equal parts X-Men, District 9, and classic heist movies (Ben Affleck’s The Town is probably closest in tone and themes).

(Some spoilers below, but no major reveals.)

Directed by Jeff Chan, Code 8 began life as a short teaser film of the same name, produced by cousins Robbie Amell (star of the forthcoming Upload) and Stephen Amell (Arrow) in 2016. They launched an Indiegogo fundraiser that year to make a feature-length version and soon raised $2.4 million. By December of last year, when the film was officially released, they had raised $3.4 million altogether, with the extra funds going to cover promotional and distribution costs, as well as perks for the more than 30,000 individual contributors (many of whom are named in the very long credits sequence). The film grossed only $150,000 in theaters but has found a second life on Netflix, where it currently ranks in the Top Ten in terms of viewership.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#code-8, #entertainment, #film, #film-review, #gaming-culture, #netflix, #reviews, #science-fiction

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If we could see alternate realities, would we want to take a look?

Well, here we are. After many weeks (and a somewhat inconsistent publishing schedule), we have arrived at the final story of Ted Chiang’s Exhalation collection, number nine of nine. It has been a fun journey reading each of these speculative science fiction stories, and I do think they have much to tell TechCrunch readers. Even if you missed some of the discussions, these stories are timeless: What’s Expected of Us was first published in 2005. So jump in now, or jump in later — they will be waiting for you when you are ready.

Today, we have a fantastic work on the meaning of the choices in our lives and what happens when we have more information about ourselves in alternative timelines. It’s a story that combines quantum entanglement with freedom of the will, connecting technology to the very core of what makes us human. We will talk about Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom, and then some concluding thoughts on the whole *Exhalation *collection for those who have walked with us every step of the way.

Some further quick notes:

  • Want to join the conversation? Feel free to email me your thoughts at bookclub@techcrunch.com (we got a real email address!) or join some of the discussions on Reddit or Twitter (hashtag TCBookClub)
  • Follow these informal book club articles here: https://techcrunch.com/book-review/. That page also has a built-in RSS feed for posts exclusively in the Book Review category, which is very low volume.
  • Feel free to add your comments in our TechCrunch comments section below this post.

Reading Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom

This short story is a beautiful fusion of speculative science fiction and philosophy, punctuated with several plot turnabouts and rivulets of thrill.

The story centers around an invention called the prism, which is a quantum communications device. When triggered, a prism will cause a binary divergence in future timelines. In one timeline, the prism lights up its LED red, while in the other timeline it lights up blue. What’s critical is that the prisms in the now diverging timelines are connected together, and the device has a “pad” that allows for limited communications between the two timelines before the pad expires its capacity.

With the right prism, people can talk to themselves in other timelines to explore what might have happened if different decisions were made. For instance, someone could accept a marriage proposal if the prism’s LED turned red or reject it if the prism turned blue. Through the device, users can observe how their lives might have been lived — entailing all kinds of psychological consequences in the process.

It’s not surprising then that the plot partly revolves around a support group for people obsessed with prisms. One person, Jorge, struggles with the fact that he committed a violent act in this timeline, but then determines that he didn’t in any of the other timelines he was able to connect to. What does this say about his character? Does the fact he almost always doesn’t commit the violence show that he has a strong and stable character, who occasionally makes mistakes? Or does the evidence prove that there is a monster waiting beneath the surface, always just waiting for the right moment to strike?

Throughout the story, there is a latent question about how we use role models in our decisions. In our world, we can model ourselves off of celebrities or famous people, mentors and coaches, or even historical figures we’ve read about in biographies. Yet the prisms shrink this intrinsic distance — we can model ourselves after literally ourselves.

That opens up avenues for envy and jealousy. When our role models find success, we have the emotional distance to observe and reflect, and perhaps change our own actions in response. But when those models are ourselves, suddenly we can’t help but think that there must be something wrong with us if our counterparts in other timelines are doing well and we are not.

So we dwell on our choices, particularly on the major prophetic decisions that we feel our whole lives revolve around. Much like the prisms and the quantum split that happens inside the device, we ourselves have moments of binary decision-making. If we are angry, do we slash the tires of the car of the person who put us in that position? Do we pull the trigger on a gun?

In one case, Dana, a therapist and a facilitator of the prism support group, harmed her best friend Vinessa in high school during a field trip. When a teacher enters their hotel room on an inspection and sees rows of pills, Dana blames Vinessa, sending her life in a different direction:

It was as if, before that night, Vinessa had been balanced on a knife’s edge; she could have become either what society considered a good girl or a bad girl. Dana’s lie had pushed her off the edge, onto the side of being bad, and with that label the course of Vinessa’s life had taken a different direction.

Yet, Chiang is deeply skeptical of these binaries. We start to see glimmers of this as he explains the quantum dynamics behind the prisms, arguing that even a single atomic difference in different timelines can lead to massive changes in weather patterns and ultimately the macro events that build each of those worlds. This butterfly effect means that our decisions have far more chaotic consequences than we can anticipate. As the author explains, “Many worried that their choices were rendered meaningless because every action they took was counterbalanced by a branch in which they had made the opposite choice.”

Yet, much like the last story we read, this story doesn’t jump to nihilism. Quite the opposite, it argues that our decisions are really reflections of our character, and therefore our character constrains the probabilities of our actions in future timelines. Nat, our main narrator, asks during a support group session:

“But when I have a choice to do the right thing or the wrong thing, am I always choosing to do both in different branches? Why should I bother being nice to other people, if every time I’m also being a dick to them?”

The facilitator Dana responds with:

“But if you act compassionately in this branch, that’s still meaningful, because it has an effect on the branches that will split off in the future. The more often you make compassionate choices, the less likely it is that you’ll make selfish choices in the future, even in the branches where you’re having a bad day.”

While all future possibilities are always present, our innate character determines the gravity wells that most timelines fall into. Vinessa is angry at Dana for her lie, but as we later learn, she would have been angry in pretty much every scenario that Dana might have selected. No matter how she handled the situation, Vinessa would have gone through her downward spiral, leading to the story’s core message: “If the same thing happens in branches where you acted differently, they you aren’t the cause.”

We can’t control the past, and we certainly can’t control alternative timelines. But we can control our actions today, and those actions are going to accumulate to affect every single diverging timeline in the future. Yes, sometimes our other selves might have gotten luckier, or may have faced an unexpected tragedy. Yes, if we knew this we might experience envy, jealousy or horror. But ultimately, all the possibilities in the world are ultimately circumscribed by ourselves. We can only ever really do what we choose to do.

Some concluding thoughts on Exhalation

We’ve come to the end of Exhalation, and in light of the book’s symbol, we can take a breath now to take a look at all that Chiang has put together with these various stories.

To me, the most prominent message that resonates throughout the book is that contingency has no control over our own actions. In many of the stories in this set, Chiang places a new technological object, whether it’s a time-travel gate, digients and virtual worlds, or the prisms in this last story, and shows how humans react to their fresh capabilities.

One would think that these technologies would immediately change who we are or how we react. After all, if we can time travel, communicate through timelines, or completely change our perspective in virtual worlds, shouldn’t that radically change our identities? Wouldn’t we be entirely different people?

And yet, Chiang makes his point stridently clear: no. The characters inside each of us are hardly fixed of course, but they absolutely affect how we use — for good and evil — these new technologies. Humans are going to do what they are going to do, and they are going to do it with whatever tools they have available to them. That’s not to say that technologies shouldn’t be held accountable for the actions they afford their users. But ultimately, it’s a reminder that we each have control over our own actions, and we have the right to judge others for the actions they take when confronted with new options.

We are ultimately all connected, and that means that our actions don’t just affect ourselves, but all people everywhere through the air, through quantum mechanics, and through the physical laws of our world. Trust yourself, but also understand how we can control our actions for a better world. If that isn’t a message for startups and technology in 2020, I don’t know what is.

#book-review, #science-fiction, #ted-chiang

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Why you can’t overlook the small details in the pursuit of innovation

This week, we read a very short story, The Great Silence, as we start to head toward the end of Ted Chiang’s Exhalation collection. This story asks questions about how we connect with nature, and also how to think about innovation and where new ideas come from.

We will finish the remaining two stories in the collection in the coming week, and then it will be time (sadly!) to change books. I’ll announce the next book in the book club hopefully shortly.

Some further quick notes:

  • Want to join the conversation? Feel free to email me your thoughts at bookclub@techcrunch.com (we got a real email address!) or join some of the discussions on Reddit or Twitter (hashtag TCBookClub)
  • Follow these informal book club articles here: https://techcrunch.com/book-review/. That page also has a built-in RSS feed for posts exclusively in the Book Review category, which is very low volume.
  • Feel free to add your comments in our TechCrunch comments section below this post.

Reading The Great Silence

This is a quite short story with a simple message. The narrator is a parrot discussing humanity’s quest to seek out artificial life elsewhere in the universe. The parrot, observing these actions, reflects on why humanity spends so much time looking for intelligence elsewhere, when it itself is intelligent, and located right next to us. The devastating line Chiang delivers comes toward the end:

But parrots are more similar to humans than any extraterrestrial species ever will be, and humans can observe us up close; they can look us in the eye. How do they expect to recognize an alien intelligence if all they can do is eavesdrop from a hundred light-years away?

The author offers us some obvious points to think about around environmental destruction and species extinction, and those are obvious enough that I think any reader can sort of surmise how the story connects to those issues.

So I want to instead connect this discussion to a theme dear to the heart of TechCrunch readers, and that is the quest for science and innovation.

To me, Chiang isn’t just criticizing our disdain for the animal species around us, but is also critiquing an innovation community that constantly strives for the big and “shiny” discoveries when so many smaller and local discoveries have yet to be made.

We invest billions of dollars into satellites and telescopes and radar arrays hoping to capture some fleeting glimpse into an alien world somewhere in the galaxy. And yet, there are deeply alien worlds all around us. It’s not just parrots — Earth is filled with species that are incredibly different from us in physiology, behavior, and group dynamics. What if the species most alien to our own in the whole galaxy is located right under our noses?

Of course, there would be huge headlines in finding even a single-celled organism on another planet (assuming there was even some way to detect such life in the first place). But that is precisely the type of narrow-minded, novelty-seeking behavior that Chiang is pointing out here.

Nonetheless, innovation can be a weird beast. It isn’t hard to look around the Valley these days and be dismayed at just how adrift a huge part of the industry is. We are creating more “smart” products than ever, yet huge social challenges and scientific frontiers remain completely unfunded. It’s easier to raise funding to start up an upgraded handbag company with a new brand and marketing strategy than it is to build an engineering team to push quantum computing forward.

There are certainly many valid arguments for moving our money to more “worthwhile” pursuits. Yet, fresh ideas that change industries can sometimes come from the oddest places, with even frivolous products occasionally creating fundamental advances in technology. Facebook as a social network might be a time sink for its users, but its huge scale also triggered all kinds of new data center infrastructure technologies that have been widely adopted by the rest of the tech industry. Solving a frivolous problem became the means to solving a problem of more depth.

In the end, you need to seek answers. Don’t overlook the obvious around us or get inured to the quotidian challenges that may just be the fount of innovation. Maybe figuring out the communication of parrots does nothing for us. Or maybe, exploring that area will open up whole new ideas for how to communicate and understand the neural patterns of speech. We can’t know until we tread along the path.

Now, to take one aside before we close out: Exhalation is a collection of previously-published short stories, but Chiang manages to work in his arch-symbol of breath and air into this piece in a fairly tight way:

It’s no coincidence that “aspiration” means both hope and the act of breathing.

When we speak, we use the breath in our lungs to give our thoughts a physical form. The sounds we make are simultaneously our intentions and our life force.

It’s a symbol we saw most substantively in Exhalation (the short story itself, not this whole collection) which we talked about a few posts ago. It’s a gorgeous little motif, and Chiang nicely embeds it to create an empathetic connection between humans and animals.

Some question about Omphalos

For the next and penultimate short story Omphalos, here are some questions to think about as you read the story.

  • What is the meaning of belief? How does belief influence both our views on our place in the world and our approaches to science and the scientific method?
  • Does existence and existentialism flow from external symbols or internal rationales?
  • How do religion and science mix? How did Chiang frame this narrative to make this question easier to contend with?
  • The story focuses on the dynamics of archaeology and astronomy — why these two disciplines and not some other field of science?
  • What’s the ultimate message of the story? Or is there more than one that can be read into the text?

#book-review, #books, #science-fiction, #ted-chiang

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