back to article Are meta, self-referential or recursive science-fiction films doomed?

The hype machine has been tuned to 11 for Steven Spielberg's metafest Ready Player One, which opened in time for Easter. Ernest Cline's novel shot to the top of bestseller lists in 2011 so inevitably there would be options on a movie. The only surprise is it took seven years. The book follows a kid – Wade Owen Watts – growing …

  1. K Silver badge

    There's another series, that rides on the back on Seveneves, the Field Trilogy by Simon Winstanley, which I'd love to see made into a film. The way its written is frustratingly clever..

    1. psychonaut

      With you on winstanley. Waiting for the new one.

  2. Dr Scrum Master

    Wade Owen Watts

    I thought only the Chinese and American women were habitually known by a triple of names.

    1. Ralph the Wonder Llama

      Re: Wade Owen Watts

      I think perhaps the initials are relevant here. Maybe.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wade Owen Watts

      In some European names it is a middle one for disambiguation with other members of their lineage. In others it is non-hyphenated family names from some point in their genealogical tree.

      Johann Sebastian Bach. Frank Lloyd Wright.

      There was a time in the 20th century when people were often referred to informally by their initials - like "C.J".

      The most confusing to an outsider can be the English public school suffix to indicate age ranking of overlapping pupils from the same family eg "major", "minor".

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Wade Owen Watts

        Using just initials has been a way for writers to avoid their sex getting in the way of their work, for example the crime writer P.D James.

        If you read P.G Wodehouse, where a slushy romantic novelists called Rosie M Banks is central to a few plots, you'll know why Iain (M.) Banks dropped his middle initial initially. He was keen to keep the M out of respect for a relative (IIRC) and writing in a 'genre' (sci-fi) gave him the opportunity to reinstate it. The use of the M or otherwise was consistent, except for his book Transitions where the M was used in some territories but not others. The treatment if the M was a bit meta, given that the book itself was essentially his contempory 20th/21st century fiction with a dose of sci-fi.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wade Owen Watts

          " Iain (M.) Banks dropped his middle initial initially. "

          IIRC Robert X. Cringely - author of "Accidental Empires" about Silicon valley - added the middle initial X just to make his name look more distinctive.

          1. fishman

            Re: Wade Owen Watts

            Cringely's name is the pen name of Mark Stephens.

    3. Anonymous Blowhard

      Re: Wade Owen Watts

      "I thought only the Chinese and American women were habitually known by a triple of names."

      I thought it was mainly assassins of US Presidents...

  3. israel_hands

    What fuck is this "meta" shit? Do you just mean a film adaption? Is that not just called an adaptation?

    The entire article just seems to mention the fact that sometimes books are made into films, some of those are sci-fi books/films and some of the are good while others are shit.

    Not exactly keen insight.

    Oh and I really hope they don't bother turning SevenEves into a film. That was the most interminable piece of shit I've had the misfortune to try and read. A pity as Stephenson used to be quite good before he disappeared up his own arse.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      He was great up until the first book of the Baroque Cycle which was utter bilge and I haven’t bothered with him since. Still love Cryptonomicon, Diamond Age and Snow Crash.

      1. Clockworkseer

        I always liked his work, but I can see the logic behind my exes criticism when I tried to introduce her to Snow Crash (which between babylonian mythology and poltiical sarcasm should have been right up her street) that he's a little too much in love with the sound of his own vocabulary.

        The whole meta situation gets even more confusing when you ask the question of whether the material you are referencing exists in-universe. Characters in sci-fi movies directly referncing things like Star Trek and Star Wars as media that exist/existed.

        1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

          Sheldon Cooper wearing The Flash t-shirts, and Cisco Ramon wearing Bazinga t-shirts.

        2. Daniel 18

          Language in SF

          Snow Crash was brilliant, and I loved the expressive language.

          Though his style was different, Zelazny was another author who could make the language sing.

      2. Philip Stott

        The Baroque Cycle is a work of genius.

        I admit that two thirds of the way in to the first book I started skipping ahead as it just seemed to be a bunch of disconnected events, however I persevered, and I’m very glad I did.

        Starting with the second book and continuing to the end of the third, Stephenson brings all those seemingly endless threads together in a way that almost had me giddy with his attention to detail. So much so, that I reread the first book completely to ensure I didn’t miss any of it.

        I’ve met several people who share your opinion, and I’ve persuaded a few of them to give it another go, all of whom have thanked me after doing so. I hope you will give it another go too.

    2. Milton Silver badge

      "meta"

      israel_hands: 'What fuck is this "meta" shit? Do you just mean a film adaption? Is that not just called an adaptation?'

      No, the author doesn't; no, it isn't; and yes, you could simply have looked up a word you don't understand before suggesting that others are talking shit. They weren't.

      Wikipedia starts by explaining: "Meta (from the Greek preposition and prefix meta- (μετά-) meaning "after", or "beyond") is a prefix used in English to indicate a concept which is an abstraction behind another concept, used to complete or add to the latter." —and I'm sure you can take it from there.

      That said, you're not entirely wrong about Seveneves

      'Oh and I really hope they don't bother turning SevenEves into a film. That was the most interminable piece of shit I've had the misfortune to try and read. A pity as Stephenson used to be quite good before he disappeared up his own arse'

      —yeah, it is nearly as bad as Anathem for the self-indulgence of a writer who's had enough success to publish whatever he likes. Stephenson is one of those rare writers who can be entertainingly verbose, but Anathem was a deeply unedifying and ultimately boring spectacle of intellectual wanking.

      Seveneves was apparently the first novel in history hidden under an endless lecture about orbital mechanics and genetics, and worse, Stephenson's writing betrayed inauthentic characters and shoddy contrivance. Whereas Anathem was unsalvageable, Seveneves might have been rescued with ruthless editing ... as for the idea that either one of them should be filmed: for heaven's sake, put down the camera and run—don't walk, run—for the chopper.

      Stephenson's latest effort, The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O, might have done well to attract the phrase "welcome return to form" from a kind reviewer, except it was only about 25% of a "welcome return". The concept and basic plot are bursting with potential for a writer with Stephenson's intelligence, who could have turned out one of his signature meaty 1,000-plus-page monsters of wit, insight, humour, commentary, smarts, reflection, wry observation and all the good stuff that we've seen from Diamond Age through Cryptonomicon to Reamde ... instead he outsourced a sizeable chunk of the prose to someone called Nicole Galland, and it is almost embarassingly weak. The whole thing is just one big, fat, tragically missed opportunity: "Hey, I got this idea—here's a napkin with some notes—I can't be arsed to write it ... hey you, over there! Why don't you have a go."

      I mean: damn.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: "meta"

        Meta in this context is taken to mean referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self-referential.

        It can be subtle. Duncan Jones' film Moon plays on the viewers potential mistrust of the moon base's AI - informed by the knowledge that the viewer has seen HAL in 2001. As Christopher Nolan said of Interstellar "it's impossible to make a movie on these themes without having a conservation with 2001"

        Cronenburgh's version of The Naked Lunch is meta - it's not a direct adaptation, but partly tells the story of the book's writing.

        Strangely enough, one of the few brilliant bits of Scott's Prometheus (amongst much frustrating stupidity) is when Micheal Fassbinder's android David watching David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia. It's meta (Ridley Scott nodding to an undisputed masterpiece of cinematography, itself an adaptation of a very self aware and deliberately idiosyncratic book that was rewritten many times), but carries hints at the plot ahead (an android watching a cinematic depiction of a man who in his own words felt angst over 'serving two masters'.)

        The other brilliant part of Prometheus is of course Idris Elba playing a concertina. The rest was a mess.

        1. Daniel 18

          Re: "meta"

          Personally, I thought the best part of Prometheus was the mapping drones... that made perfect sense rather than old tropes of trudging through mysterious tunnels getting lost.

          The rest was unremarkable.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "meta"

        "[...] Seveneves might have been rescued with ruthless editing [...]"

        Publishers used to employ editors to help authors tighten up their offerings.

        The biography of William Golding by John Carey explains that, after 21 rejections, his first novel "Lord of the Flies" was gradually whittled down on the advice of his Faber editor Charles Monteith. What apparently started off as a heavily religious work - was transformed into an analogy of the nature of human society.

      3. israel_hands

        Re: "meta"

        you could simply have looked up a word you don't understand before suggesting that others are talking shit. They weren't.

        I understand what the word means. It's the context I was questioning. Particularly when talking about fiction "meta" is typically used to describe specific plot elements that reference other works, over (or under) shadow the overall themes or otherwise play around with the "reality" of the fiction. Not simply referring to an adaptation, for which we already have a perfectly useful word. As an example of what I'm talking about, Ready Player One has some fairly "meta" elements, in that it's about a computer game that's about a computer game. And lots of stuff about Rush, obviously. By contrast, Lynch's adaptation of Dune is just an adaptation with lots of the plot cut out for time/convenience, etc.

        As to Stephenson, it's not the size of his books I don't like, it's how shit some of them are. I'm sat in my living room with 4 bookshelves holding about 500 books total, another 10 or so plastic crates of books currently stored in the loft. This includes a LOT of sci-fi including pretty much everything the likes of Peter F Hamilton and Alistair Reynolds have put out. So it's not as though I'm scared of reading massive tomes, or dealing with hard-SF (Peter Watts' Blindsight is so hard he provides a bibliography and footnotes at the end explaining the science and is one of the most interesting books I've ever read).

        I loved Snow Crash and, to a lesser extent, Diamond Age. Zodiac and Interface were both great and Cryptonomicon was brilliant in a good many places. The Baroque Cycle annoyed me about halfway through the first book and I didn't bother reading anything else of his until I picked up SevenEves on a whim and sincerely fucking wished I hadn't. Terribly written, massively expositional in an incredibly boring manner. I didn't get more than 2 or 3 chapters in before I was burned out on watching him describe the entire history of a plant pot and then history of everyone who had ever interacted with it or so much as fucking glanced at it. Which is a pity because from the cover blurb I really, really wanted to see what happened when they got back to Earth and found how it had been changed.

        Part of my problem with Stephenson is that I read an article he wrote in which he railed against the "Cult of Brevity" which basically consisted of him slagging off people who writer shorter novels. It just came off as him being a giant cock-womble because he writes huge novels. Characterising other writers as members of a cult just because their books come in at least than 1200 pages is monumental arrogance and ignorance on his part. Borges could, in 6 pages, extrapolate a more interesting idea than Stephenson's ever managed. There's nothing wrong with long or short works, there's nothing inherently right with them either. They all depend on the story itself and the teller of said story. To accuse someone of failing simply because they write novels under or over a certain length is a ridiculous position for a writer to take.

        Also, he was behind the Kickstarter for Klang which is is one of the most monumentally stupid ideas I've ever seen. For him to claim to understand swordplay and then suggest that waving a plastic controller in the air (with nothing stopping you moving your "blade" even though in the game it's been blocked by your opponent) is more realistic than just mashing buttons shows a massive failure of logic and/or imagination. Oh, and you were supposed to fight at 2/3rd speed in order for the game to remain synched to your movement.

        1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

          Re: "meta"

          Meta Smeta

          As long as Joe 'Attack the Block' Cornish and Amazon don't fubar the TV adaptation of Snow Crash I'll be a happy bunny.

    3. phuzz Silver badge
      Boffin

      I enjoyed Seveneves, but I've played enough Kerbal Space Program that I could gloss over most of the orbital mechanics because they it was pretty intuitive. Personally I like Stephenson's verbosity, but I can see why others wouldn't. Perhaps you'd enjoy some of his earlier stuff like Zodiac?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Small correction. Children of Dune.

    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0287839/

    I also enjoyed the 1984 version of Dune after I read the book before that I didn't have a clue what the heck was going on.

  5. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    Dune (1984)

    Lynch passed on the opportunity to direct Return of the Jedi so he could make Dune. Somewhere, there's a parallel universe where Lynch directed RotJ. I think it's a better universe.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Dune (1984)

      Let's just say it's the same parallel universe as the one in which Jodorowsky made Dune. Although in this universe it's unlikely that Ridley Scott would have had Dan O'Bannon and H.R. Giger available (amongst others) to make Alien.

      Hmmm, what we're doing Mr Sane is meta alternative history!

      1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        Re: Dune (1984)

        He's getting on, but Alejandro Jodorowsky is still alive so there's still a chance!

  6. tiggity Silver badge

    Films - meh

    I thought the Dune film was OK when I saw it, given what it had to squeeze into a small amount of time (though I had the advantage of having previously read the books)

    As a fair chunk of SF audiences mainly seem to like "space opera" type of films (hence the success of Star Wars, which (IMHO) is the film equivalent of pulp SF) then I hold out little hope of a SF film being made that allows for the philosophical questions found in the best SF literature. (Though plenty of scope for mass audience appeal films of lightweight "fun" SF such as stainless steel rat etc)

    There is far more scope for someone risking a series based on decent SF, as the best works typically need plenty off time to tell the story well

    .. happily plenty of decent written SF out there to keep me interested so I'm not bothered how bad Hollywood SF "visions" are.

    1. defiler Silver badge

      Re: Films - meh

      I thought the Dune film was OK when I saw it, given what it had to squeeze into a small amount of time (though I had the advantage of having previously read the books)

      That's the thing, though. The movies acts as a great illustration to the book, but without having read the book it's very confusing. I remember it came on telly a day or two after I finished the book, and suddenly everything slotted into place. And you could see which bits had been shuffled around just to shift the narrative along quickly.

      The SciFi Channel did a mini-series some time ago, but the cardboard they used for the sets was too wobbly even for Doctor Who. I seem to recall the acting was stiffer and more wooden than the sets.

      1. tony72

        Re: Films - meh

        That's the thing, though. The movies acts as a great illustration to the book, but without having read the book it's very confusing. I remember it came on telly a day or two after I finished the book, and suddenly everything slotted into place. And you could see which bits had been shuffled around just to shift the narrative along quickly.

        Dune is a truly epic tale, and IMHO much too big to fit in a single movie, or even a mini-series. I would love to see it given a full Game of Thrones level TV series treatment, then you might get something worthy of the books. Not likely to happen, but a man can dream.

        I read The Expanse in parallel with watching the TV series, and doing that it was really obvious how much you lose even with many hours of serialisation, although I still found the series pretty enjoyable (there was that aspect of it providing a visualisation of key parts of the story). But trying to squeeze an epic tale like Dune down into a single two hour movie, to my mind it just can't work.

      2. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Films - meh

        thought the Dune film was OK when I saw it, given what it had to squeeze into a small amount of time (though I had the advantage of having previously read the books)

        That's the thing, though. The movies acts as a great illustration to the book, but without having read the book it's very confusing.

        That's the way we felt about the Harry Potter films - well, from the second one onwards anyway. The first book was (apparently) very heavily edited, and as a result more of it ended up in the film. The children read the books before the films (in the case of two of them, because they read the books before the films had come out) and agree that they understood a lot more of what is going on as a result. I think the same is true of many film adaptations of books.

        Not read any recent Neal Stephenson, though I did like Zodiac, Snow Crash etc.

        M.

      3. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: Films - meh

        Sci-Fi channel mini-series

        It was mostly ok (IMO) - apart from what they did to Gurney Halleck - totally gutted the character and replaced it with some one dimensional 'faithful man at arms'

        The whining Paul in the opening scene was a poor intro as well.

        The only cardboard was the soggy leftovers once the writers had gutted most of the uniqueness of some chracters and left cut-outs in place - the filming was mostly green-screen jobs

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Films - meh

      Some sci-fi short stories are compact enough to transfer to the small screen without losing the essence of their plot. UK TV had at least one series that did that quite successfully. The plots I remember are: misuse of a time-travelling surgical knife; robots on a space station getting "god" and evicting their human overseers.

      1. LenG

        Re: Films - meh

        I think you are referring to Out of the Unknown on BBC2 which ran for 4 seasons, the first two in black & white. The first three seasons features a lot of adaptations of works by major sci-fi authors. The fourth moved away from sci-fi into psychological horror, partly because the producers were having difficulties finding suitable material to adapt and partially because they didn't have the budget to compete with new shows like Star Trek. Unfortunately many of the episodes (including some of the best) have been lost in the mists of time. Those that survive are available on DVD.

        I think your "time travelling surgical knife" was probably Little Black Bag by C.M. Kornbluth, one of the stars of season 3. It is a "partial" survivor.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Films - meh

        "robots on a space station getting "god" and evicting their human overseers."

        That was an Asimov "Powell and Donovan" robot story. Reason?

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Films - meh

      For me, it was the other way round, I watched Dune, found it fascinating and then read the books. After that, I couldn't watch the film again.

      I also tried watching the mini-series, but I just couldn't get into it.

      My problem is, I sit there and just keep going, "but they didn't say that," "he didn't do that, the other one did..." I can't help picking at the plot holes introduced by shortening the runtime and putting words in other characters mouths etc. And the vocal weapons? WTF? Voice is a much subtler, much more interesting concept than the silly sonic guns that the film came up with.

      Still it wasn't as bad as the Harry Potter films, I still haven't been able to sit through a single one.

      1. Alistair Silver badge

        Re: Films - meh

        Still it wasn't as bad as the Harry Potter films, I still haven't been able to sit through a single one.

        You and me both. But then, I attempted to *read* one of the Harry Potter books. I pretty much figure my 12 year old could come up with a better plot.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Films - meh

          "I pretty much figure my 12 year old could come up with a better plot."

          Well, your 12 year old was the upper limit of the target audience, certainly for the first book.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Films - meh

            Well, your 12 year old was the upper limit of the target audience, certainly for the first [hharry Potter] book.

            That's a weak excuse. There's a great deal of good children's and young-adult fantasy which remains entertaining and interesting for older readers.

            I don't begrudge Rowling any of her success. The books aren't pernicious, just lousy. Rowling gave people something they wanted, and she got lots of folks reading for pleasure who otherwise might not have.

            But, man, those books are bad - at least the first, second, and fourth, which were the only ones I managed to read (and I read a lot of children's fantasy). Simplistic characters, uninspired prose, and plots that depend on the unimaginative use of magical devices which if employed properly or consistently would have overwhelming consequences. The whole Harry Potter world is inherently broken.

            (Some months back I read Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl and was amused to note that the protagonist's fanfic, for a fictional HP-style series, was considerably better written than the actual Potter books.)

            I hope at least some of the hordes of HP fans eventually go on to better children's / YA fantasy. Like, say, Turnbull's The Frightened Forest. Or McKillip's Riddle Master trilogy. Or Hopkinson's Brown Girl in the Ring. Le Guin's Earthsea books. Mieville's Un Lun Dun. Okorafor's Binti. Moriarti's Colors of Madeleine series. Bacigaluipi's Shipbreaker. Gaiman's Stardust, Neverwhere, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. (Those are published as adult novels but are perfectly accessible for children.) Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which deserves to be read on the strength of its title alone. Pratchet's YA books, particularly the Tiffany Aching ones. There are so very many examples of terrific fantasy novels for children.

      2. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

        Re: Films - meh

        I did it the other way round (book then film) and thought the film was a travesty of the book, especially some of the effects. The sandworms and ornithopters were especially crap. But Herbert was an very inconsistent writer. I tried to read the second Dune novel but slung it on discovering that the Face Dancers were such a powerful group that they could not have existed without being a visible part of society in Dune. I read quite a few of his other books and disliked a lot, quite apart from Dune II onwards. Eyes of Heisenberg, Santaroga Barrier and Hellstrom's Hive were also crap, but Dragon In The Sea and Destination: Void wer very good.

        "Dragon In The Sea" is the only one of his books I've kept. Its also the one I really wish somebody would film. It would make a superb low budget, claustrophobic whodunnit along similar lines to some of Hitchcock's best.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Films - meh

          Santaroga Barrier and Hellstrom's Hive were also crap, but Dragon In The Sea and Destination: Void wer very good.

          Tastes differ, of course, but I found Destination: Void (and its sequel The Jesus Incident) no more than moderately interesting, while I quite liked the Cold War paranoia of The Santaroga Barrier.

    4. Daniel 18

      Re: Films - meh

      Star Wars may have started looking like science fiction, but it clearly descended into unconstrained fantasy as it went from film to film.

      In contrast 'Alien' started with a few reasonable SF premises, and remained rigorously consistent and logical.

      That may be why Star Wars makes more money while Alien is much better as science fiction.

      1. The First Dave

        Re: Films - meh

        Alien was logical throughout??? Even when they made a clone that somehow was already impregnated with an Alien?

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: Films - meh

          There were only 3 Alien films.

          First is best

          1. Davidmb

            Two films

            There have only ever been two Alien films. Agree that the first is the best, although they're almost different genres and both very good.

    5. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Films - meh

      "how bad Hollywood SF "visions" are"

      Four words: Ghost in The Shell

      I'm trying to think of a rebake, rehash, or reboot that wasn't watered down shit aimed at cashing in on playing to people with the attention span of a gnat. Screw the story, we have the best explosions! Screw the story, our characters are entirely CGI! And so on.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Films Ghost in the Shell

        Nothing wrong with my 2 series of Stand Alone Complex.

  7. ssharwood

    Seveneves bad, Anathem good

    Seveneves is a weird, weird, weird choice for a movie. It just sprawls so much and - spoiler alert - has a big, big pivot.

    Anathem might be filmable. I hope it is. Probably Stephenson's best work. And I say that as a drooling Stephenson fanboi.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Seveneves bad, Anathem good

      I don't recall there's being anything new in Anathem. (That's one for those of you who've read it.)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Seveneves bad, Anathem good

        I found Anathem to be very laboured and very very dull. Any Philosophy in it was what I have seen from enthusiastic 13 year olds who have read a single Platonic dialogue and fallen in love with the form.

    2. Alistair Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Seveneves bad, Anathem good

      Anathem might be filmable. I hope it is.

      Certainly *I* hope someone decides to give it a shot. I found Anathem to be a wonderful read. It had a couple of "Dancing Wu Li Masters" moments in it.

  8. Grikath Silver badge

    "At its release reviewer Roger Ebert suggested Starship Troopers was "pitched at 11-year-old science-fiction fans" "

    Which shows what a reviewer knows, as a bit of research ( 10 seconds on wikipedia) would have shown Starship Troopers was *written* targeted at the juvenile market. As-is, the book still sits firmly in the Teen category.

    1. Daniel 18

      Pretty much the only thing the movie 'Starship Troopers' had in common with the book is some names - the title, a few characters, and the 'bad guys'.

      The movie was illogical junk.

      The book was rather interesting, and made a good case for a society based on responsibility and duty - rather like the Roman republic. In that sense, Starship Troopers (the book) is a rewrite of history in future terms.

      If you really want to see a good commentary, somewhat sarcastic and satirical, of the movie, find the review by James MacDonald.

  9. Chris Miller

    If Verhoeven wanted a satirical take on Starship Troopers, he should just have made Bill, the Galalctic Hero, which is much, much funnier.

    1. frank ly Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      All the Bill stories are hilarious and very well written :)

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Does humour on the page always translate to humour on screen?

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        All the Bill stories are hilarious and very well written

        I tried reading those books after reading the (early) SSR books (and the Deathworld books) and have up after about two chapters.

        Which nicely proves that humour is very much in the eye of the beholder..

        (Preferrably not the central eye - that would be the anti-humour eye..)

        1. Chris Miller

          Your really need to read BtGH immediately after (or in parallel with) Starship Troopers to get the full effect.

          1. frank ly Silver badge

            Wait ....., sorry ..... I was vaguely remembering the Stainless Steel Rat series. Oh god, I'm getting old.

            BtGH was good and funny too.

            1. tony72

              Wait ....., sorry ..... I was vaguely remembering the Stainless Steel Rat series. Oh god, I'm getting old.

              I never read Bill the Galactic Hero, but the Stainless Steel Rat books were great! Now where can I get a porcuswine burger around here?

      3. Daniel 18

        BtGH was tolerable, if you wanted the literary equivalent of not so great cotton candy.

        Mostly it was forgettable.

        If you want good satirical SF, check out Frezza's "Maclendon's Syndrome".

        For excellent military SF a bit off the beaten track, try his "A Small Colonial War".

  10. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    To understand recursion

    You must first understand recursion

    --Stephen Hawking (supposedly, I've seen others cited)

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: To understand recursion

      Tautology club is tautology club

      - XKCD

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: To understand recursion

        Recursion is always worth googling.

      2. D@v3

        Re: To understand recursion

        https://xkcd.com/917/

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: To understand recursion

      It's just Russian dolls, I don't like them though because they are always so full of themselves.

  11. Geekpride

    Ready Player One

    I went to see this last night and I'm not quite sure how to sum it up. One the one hand, the plot and characterisation are pretty terrible, nowhere near as good as the book, but on the other hand I did come out with a big smile on my face. How can you not enjoy the Iron Giant and a Gundam fighting Mechagodzilla?

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: Ready Player One

      I enjoyed it immensely, but possibly because I've yet to read the book.

      LOVED seeing Spartan IIs charging in.

    2. WonkoTheSane
      Boffin

      Re: Ready Player One

      I suspect that when this is released to own, many people will go through it frame-by-frame, to see just how many pop culture references Spielberg managed to squeeze in.

      1. D@v3

        Re: Ready Player One

        From what i hear, there are a lot that he had to drop, to stop it from looking too much like, self gratification.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ready Player One

        Most of the themes on human nature were done in dramas by the Ancient Greeks - and some of their portrayals of their gods can look like modern sci-fi themes.

        An iconic film is one that portrays something that has only recently been part of a collective environment or culture.

        "Apocalypse Now" (1979) may have had resonances with the Vietnam War - but Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" (1899) had already explored that plot.

        "Brief Encounter" (1945) was not possible without the commonplace railway buffet - and a social environment that acknowledged but condemned extramarital affairs.

        George Lucas's "American Graffiti" (1973) highlighted the post-war demarcation of "teenager".

        It sounds like "Ready Player One" is also of its time - unless it has a legacy of "Rollerball" (1975), "Tron" (1982), or "Jumanji" (1995). Do the references reinforce that legacy?

      3. GIRZiM

        Pop Culture References

        > I suspect that when this is released to own, many people will go through it frame-by-frame, to see just how many pop culture references Spielberg managed to squeeze in.

        More significantly, will I be able to buy the merchandise you see in the OASIS DLC store and will OASIS bring out an album called 'Ready Player One' that I can't avoid hearing everywhere I go for at least a year afterwards, no matter how successfully I avoid Manchester?

        1. WonkoTheSane

          Re: Pop Culture References

          @GIRZiM

          You shouldn't need to avoid Manchester. Most of it was filmed in Birmingham (Jewellry Quarter & under Spaghetti Junction).

          1. GIRZiM

            (@WonkoTheSane) Re: Pop Culture References

            I have to say that of the UK towns/cities I've been to, after London, Birmingham appealed more than any other - like Amsterdam, it felt like London crammed into a smaller area. I did kinda like Newcastle too though and it's a close call between the two. And I should really have a proper look at Glasgow and Edinburgh sometime - only ever spent time working on stuff there, so: in, do the job, out; no sightseeing or anything. Oh, and Leeds as well, probably - I've heard good things about it.

            But it was less to do with the movie than with the fact that I'm not really an OASIS fan and, as they're originally a Manchester band (I believe)... ; ) I don't actually have anything against them as such it's just that there's only so many times you ca hear the same track in every shop you set foot in, blaring from every car window that passes by, before you start looking for some authority figure you can collar and say "I'll talk! I'll TALK! I'll tell you ANYTHING! Just make it STOP!" ; )

    3. ilovesaabaeros

      Re: Ready Player One

      I felt the same. I related very closely to the book having played many of the games and seen the movies as someone born in the 70s. The film has very few of those references in it and the whole storyline is only the same insofar as they are looking for something to prevent the bad guys getting it - the journey on how they get there is so different from the book.

      I think taken on its own merit, it's a fairly fun film with good special effects and had I not read the book, I would have really liked it. As it was, I enjoyed it, but am now listening to the audiobook version again!

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Ready Player One

        I am really struggling to get excited about this film, even though i liked 80s video games (at the time) and have watched King of Kong and Chasing Ghosts more than once.

        "Pixels" was ok though, surprisingly.

        1. John 104

          Re: Ready Player One

          Ugh. I have been trying to read the book for a few months now. It is horribly written with such a cliche' plot, the only saving grace is the references to 80s culture. I grew up in the 70s and 80s, so I get pretty much all of it. But that can only carry a story so far. If the book is better than the movie, I don't think it will sit too well with me. But maybe visuals will help.

          Starship Troopers.

          Great book and I loved the movie when it came out. I was in the minority, but I guess people eventually come around. And if you loved the book and haven't read John Steakelys Armor, you owe it to yourself to do so. When asked if he would consider a sequel by JS, Heinlein told him he should write it. So he did.

          Dune

          The Lynch version was dark, moody, and poorly paced. The SciFi channel remake of the late 90s or early 2000s (don't remember exactly) was much more enjoyable (miniseries).

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Ready Player One

            I'm glad I'm not the only one who found "Ready Player One" to be a pretty bad book. I have no interest in the movie as a result.

        2. Alistair Silver badge
          Windows

          Re: Ready Player One

          "Pixels" was ok though, surprisingly.

          I think because it treated all those irrelevant and distracting games irreverently and made very light of something that had been more about entertainment and wasting time than about hormones, dominance and taking charge of "the wold".

          1. juice Bronze badge

            Re: Ready Player One

            > "Pixels" was ok though, surprisingly.

            Pixels was surprisingly enjoyable, though it would have been better if they'd cut out all the scenes involving Adam Sandler ;)

    4. Bob Ajob

      Re: Ready Player One

      Same here, read the book and really enjoyed it so I had reservations that even Spielberg could do it justice. The plot changes for the challenges were annoying but I guess that Hollywood needs it's big action sequences. On the whole still really enjoyed it, so did my young nephew who raved about it all the way home, he is now reading the book.

    5. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Ready Player One

      There is no Iron Giant in the book.

      Also where was the car race?

  12. juice Bronze badge

    The thing is..

    I am the target audience for RP1. I was born in the late 70s and spent my formative years immersed in video games, comics and sci-fi books from the local library, before magically transforming into an adult and spending a measurable percentage of my wages on more video games, comics, books and pop-culture memorabilia.

    And for better or worse, I already knew pretty much every piece of pop-culture trivia in RP1 - I've even managed to get an article published in Retrogamer, as well as running a vanity video-game review site for a few years.

    However, I absolutely hated the book. It's clunky and blatant wish-fulfillment by a middle-aged man who a) wishes the rest of the world thought his OCD hobbies were important and b) wants an attractive teenage girl to fall in love with him.

    I'm sure Earnest is a nice person, but I do think he was just in the right place at the right time; it's perhaps telling that Armada (the successor to RP1) has received much more of a critical mauling, even by people who loved his first book.

    Admittedly, I'll still watch the film, because it's got the Iron Giant in, and you can never have too much of that ;)

    Beyond that...

    "The cult classic movie Fanboys": I've never seen it, and only had a vague memory about it's existence, despite the fact that I have many friends who are obsessed with Star Wars and discuss it frequently when down the local cantina. Looking at the Wikipedia article, it absolutely pancaked at the box office and has been heavily savaged on Rottten Tomatoes. So I'm not sure it really counts as a cult classic ;)

    "Wachowskis, who polarised opinion with their fragmented, bloated cinematic adaptation of David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas,"

    To be fair, it was always going to be tricky following up on the Matrix. It's a shame they never got around to making any sequels ;)

    Though if they had, I'm guessing they would have been just as fragmented and bloated...

    "Starship Troopers. Critics slammed it on release, but this film is now considered, in retrospect, a satirical and comedic sci-fi masterpiece."

    No, it's still shite. I absolutely love Robocop, but ST just felt clumsy by comparison. This may be because the script for ST was pretty much finished before they slapped the name on it (http://starshiptroopers.wikia.com/wiki/Starship_Troopers_(film)#Comparison_with_the_original_novel) and the director didn't read the book. What a great combination...

    "Verhoeven [...] amplified the disturbing propaganda and brutal militarism of Heinlein's novel, resulting in a self-aware satire where shallow characters still uncomfortably defy cinematic convention"

    He amplified things from a book he hadn't read? That's a good trick - especially since I'm struggling to think of examples of "brutal militarism" in the book. There's some instances of military discipline - the hanging of a rapist and a whipping for disobeying orders, but they're not excessive within the context.

    (As regards "disturbing propaganda": the entire book is fairly right wing and revolves around the idea that society would work better if everyone had to do military service. But even then, Heinlein provided reasoned arguments and debates within the book; it's nowhere near something as polemic as Ayn Rands writings, for example.)

    Still, the thing which annoys me most about the ST film is that it butchered the key concepts in the book. Both technologically - Heinlein was talking about orbital insertions of soldiers in mecha-suits, a concept gleefully picked up by Games Workshop a few decades later for Wh40k - and philosphically; whatever other faults the society in the novel has, it pretty much epitomises the "no man left behind" creed exposed by the US Marines and other military groups.

    Anyhow. Rant over ;)

    "Dune's sequels are equally dense, but have never been tackled – maybe their time is now"

    The SyFy tv series attempted to cram all three of the original books into two miniseries, though as other people have noted, the results can politely be described as varied. And I'm not sure the later books would work well at all - at that point, Frank's writing was getting further out there.

    "There is hope and the future of the meta sci-fi movie seems hopeful with Neal Stephenson's Seveneves"

    I've not read Stephenson for a while; after bouncing off the Baroque cycle, it felt like his writing had become too self indulgent. Still, the Wikipedia summary for Seveneves looks reasonably interesting, so I may dip in again.

    TBH, it'd be more interesting to see Charles Stross's Accelerando (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accelerando) being made. Admittedlly, it'd be nigh-on impossible to fit in even a fraction of the high-speed BOFH and IT in-jokes, but it's a scarily plausible view of the next X thousand years of human civilisation, and Manfred's family provides continuity across the entire arc. Plus, there's a cat. Well, a robot cat. Well, a weakly godlike AI in a robotic cat's body...

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: The thing is..

      > Looking at the Wikipedia article, it absolutely pancaked at the box office and has been heavily savaged on Rottten Tomatoes. So I'm not sure it really counts as a cult classic ;)

      That almost sounds like a textbook definition of 'cult classic!'

      I've seen it, it was alright, I'm wouldn't go out of my way to watch it again.

      1. juice Bronze badge

        Re: The thing is..

        > That almost sounds like a textbook definition of 'cult classic!'

        Ish. Except...

        > I've seen it, it was alright, I'm wouldn't go out of my way to watch it again.

        For the above!

        The general definition of a cult movie is something that didn't do particularly well at release, but which has developed a devoted fanbase over time who love it despite it's flaws, and enjoy rewatching it.

        E.g. Rocky Horror, The Room, Withnail and I, Tron, Bladerunner, Evil Dead, Clerks, Blues Brothers, Monty Python (Holy Grail/Life of Brian), Big Lewbowski.

        If you watch something once, and have no desire to either re-view or discuss it, then it's not a cult movie, it's just crap ;)

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: The thing is..

          Wether or not Fanboys is crap has no effect on the definition of cult movie , so Dave is correct to say "That almost sounds like a textbook definition of 'cult classic!' ",

          The "that" he was referring to was: " it absolutely pancaked at the box office and has been heavily savaged on Rottten Tomatoes"

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: The thing is..

            Cheers Jeltz, that exactly what I referring to! My view of the film was a mere afterthought.

          2. juice Bronze badge

            Re: The thing is..

            > Wether or not Fanboys is crap has no effect on the definition of cult movie , so Dave is correct to say "That almost sounds like a textbook definition of 'cult classic!' ",

            True - I should have maybe clarified that the /audience/ Rotten Tomato reviews generally damn it with faint praise, but I'd already typed more paragraphs than can perhaps be justified in a lunch break, and I'm sure someone would point out that negative audience reviews are also common for cult movies ;)

            Either way, perhaps the greatest criteria for a cult movie is that people care for it, and in Fanboys case, that doesn't seem to be the case: people watch it, comment that "it's alright if you're a Star Wars fan" and move on.

            Anyhow, that's enough elitist ranting for one day!

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: The thing is..

      it'd be more interesting to see Charles Stross's Accelerando

      Or, preferrably, his Laundry series. Although, that too has the attraction of many, many sysadmin jokes..

  13. Mage Silver badge

    Wade is only content when plugged into the OASIS

    Tad Williams: Otherland

    Otherland is a science fiction tetralogy written by Tad Williams and published between 1996 and 2001.

    Very much VR and dystopian and kids escaping from poverty situation etc. Ready Player One sounds like a poor copy.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Wade is only content when plugged into the OASIS

      It would be impossible for anything published in 1996 on themes of VR and escaping dystopian reality to not itself borrow from prior work.

      Red Dwarf 'Better Than Life' (1988) is an immediate example.

      Really though, VR in Ready Player One is merely a vehicle for including 80's pop culture references, as is the fashion at the moment. If Stranger Things is successful for being a homage to Spielberg and Stephen King, then why not let Spielberg play the same game?

      Spielberg has form on these themes: he wrote the 1986 episode of Amazing Stories in which a boy is told by a spirit not to ever through away his beloved comic book collection, no matter difficulties it might cause him as an adult.

      https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0511094/

    2. soulrideruk Bronze badge

      Re: Wade is only content when plugged into the OASIS

      OMG, you mean he finished it!!

      I had consigned the Otherland series to the pile known as abandoned by author. Seems I just missed the last two books.

  14. Mage Silver badge

    Don't judge a book by its Film

    I think the best TV & Cinema are not adaptations of books, but written for the screen.

    What works best for vision and hearing often doesn't work at all in words, and vice versa.

    I no longer want to see any of my favourite books adapted as TV/Cinema or plays.

    Look what they did to Earthsea!

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Don't judge a book by its Film

      Look what they did to Earthsea!

      They have done Earthsea? Thankfully, I've managed to miss that..

      (By far the most approachable of UKLG's books while still containing lots of hidden depths.)

  15. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Avalon (2001) is a live action film from Mamoru Oshii (director of Ghost in the Shell) on the theme of immersive VR. It's in English, despite being a Japanese-Polish co-production. I liked it, though it might be to everyone's taste.

    Thematic SPOILER ALERT: Lay off your video games for a bit and go out side in the daylight and smell the roses and hear an orchestra.

    1. Geekpride

      I saw that years ago and you've reminded me just how much I liked it. I'll have to look it up and watch it again.

  16. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Red Dwarf V

    The crew awake to be told by a Black Country Timothy Spall that their lives have just been an immersive video game - and that they got a very low score.

    "I can't believe you missed the planet of the nymphomaniacs! You twonk!"

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Red Dwarf V

      That was a pretty imaginative episode!

      Although it does smell a bit of PKD's "remember it wholesale" aka total recall.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Red Dwarf V

        I think PKD's influence - and not just We Can Remember - can loom over anything involving VR or video games... I'm thinking of Cronenburgh's Existenz amongst others.

  17. Roj Blake Silver badge

    Dune

    Am I the only person alive who actually likes the film version of Dune?

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: Dune

      No. You're not the only one

      There's some wonderful imagery in it. (Though that said, I find Metropolis has lovely imagery but is rather long and not that exciting.) Given the size of the novel, and the depth of the content (discourses into lifecycle of the sandworms, scheming to produce the Kiswach Haderach etc) it was never going to transfer into a condensed film format but the film gives a sense of the depth of the milleau and gives you the opportunity to remember the general flavour of the book without having to dedicate the hours needed to read it through again.

    2. treloar09
      Pint

      Re: Dune

      "We have just folded space from Ix."

      "Oh?"

      1. graeme leggett

        Re: Dune

        Many machines on Ix.

    3. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Dune

      I'm surprised that there's even one person who likes that movie!

    4. Pedigree-Pete
      Thumb Up

      Re: Dune

      No Roj. Me and 7 others (to date). Dune just needed to be WAY longer or a Trilogy. PP

  18. treloar09
    Headmaster

    Director / Executive Producer

    Spielberg was executive producer on Back to the Future but it was Robert Zemeckis "at the helm".

  19. fandom Silver badge

    "written at the height of the Cold War by a veteran with a fascism fetish."

    Funny thing to say about an anarchist, not that being an anarchist makes a lot of sense.

    But, of course, I know that among political fans the most common definition of fascist is:

    fascist: adj. someone who dares to disagree with me.

    And it certainly takes a huge political fan to pretend to like such a boring movie.

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: "written at the height of the Cold War by a veteran with a fascism fetish."

      But it's got Denise Richards. And Doogie Howser.

      And Michael Ironside.

    2. juice Bronze badge

      Re: "written at the height of the Cold War by a veteran with a fascism fetish."

      I was going to write a long rant about this... but it turned out long and ranty.

      Suffice to say that Heinlein wasn't a front line war veteran; he was a naval officer between 1929 and 1934 on ships which look to have mostly performed exercises and maneuvers. And at the time he wrote Starship Troopers, the USSR had just annexed Hungary (and in the process killing 30,000 civilians and carrying out executions after secret trials) and made the first of several attempts to oust the Allies from Berlin.

      As for Heinlein being a fascist: he described himself as a libertarian, and it's certainly something that comes through in his later books - Stranger in a Strange Land in particular. Though it's worth noting that he did become increasingly right-wing (and generally wierder) as he got older [*].

      Still, you'd have to do at least 5 minutes research on Wikipedia to find out the above - and you might even have to read some of his books!

      [*] A quick dig turned up this article, which revealed some details not mentioned in most of Heinlein's biographies - he was blacklisted by the navy in WW2 for being too left-wing(!), he was in several poly relationships (including with L Ron Hubbard!), and while he was actively anti-racist, he does seem to have become obsessed with overpopulation in Asia... https://newrepublic.com/article/118048/william-pattersons-robert-heinlein-biography-hagiography

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "written at the height of the Cold War by a veteran with a fascism fetish."

        "[...] he described himself as a libertarian, [...]"

        It always surprised me that some people in the 1980/90s seemed to regard him as misogynist. Several of his novels had strong women characters - notably "The Glory Road".

        IIRC "Stranger in a Strange Land" was a reworking of the story of Jesus Christ. Its main character's liberal attitudes to sex*** were guaranteed to upset the US religious right.

        ***I would have to reread it to be sure that women's equality and eco-friendly attitudes were definitely espoused too.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "written at the height of the Cold War by a veteran with a fascism fetish."

        "[...] while he was actively anti-racist [...]"

        Very clearly in Farnham's Freehold (1964).

      3. SysKoll

        Re: "written at the height of the Cold War by a veteran with a fascism fetish."

        I am not surprised about the "too left wing" part. Heinlein's very first book was "For us, the living", a hymn to a glorious collectivist future mixed with that free love, "share your girlfriend" doctrine that Huxley was warning us against in his dystopia "Brave new world".

        Heinlein remained pro-Marxist until he made a trip to Russia and came back livid, profoundly disturbed by what he saw.

    3. SysKoll

      Re: "written at the height of the Cold War by a veteran with a fascism fetish."

      No kidding. "a fetish for fascism"? Seriously? Lucy Orr, you are embarrassingly ignorant. Read an author before blurting such asinine comments, please.

  20. Mike Ozanne

    " A perfect example being Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers. It's near the top of my personal and somewhat controversial cult sci-fi hit list. Critics slammed it on release, but this film is now considered, in retrospect, a satirical and comedic sci-fi masterpiece."

    Dear Lord if you don't recognise that as a steaming pile of dingoes kidneys and a huge wasted opportunity, then there's pretty much no hope for you...

  21. tekHedd

    Based on Robert Heinlein's Hugo-winning 1959 novel,

    And by "based on", we mean "having the same title as"...

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Annihiliation?

    'Annihilation' is something I have been carefully avoiding as something that should not be encouraged, and which will cost me hours I will never get to enjoy.

    Quite a few reviewers have said that it shares the qualities of films like Arrival, Interstellar, and 2001- meant in a positive way.

    Arrival was illogical unrealistic nonsense, stirred out of order.

    Interstellar was inconsistent, illogical, and pretty much crap.

    2001 started out well, but devolved into a muddle.

    At this point I expect that Annihilation is pseudo-SF written for people who don't like or want real science fiction, but something less logical and more pretentious and 'arty', uncontaminated by that 'science-like' stuff.

    1. Killing Time

      Re: Annihiliation?

      I haven't seen the film but at least they can't ruin a good book, because it isn't.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Starship Troopers - in transition?

    It is interesting that a lot of SF readers and critics considered Starship Troopers Heinlein's last great book, and others that it was his first great book.

    1. Mike Ozanne

      Re: Starship Troopers - in transition?

      "It is interesting that a lot of SF readers and critics considered Starship Troopers Heinlein's last great book, and others that it was his first great book."

      Cinematically it presented a number of fantastic opportunities, assault drops from orbit, marauder suits FFS... even Ed Wood Jr could have knocked this out of the park and made an *awesome* action film. Instead we got some tits, firearms worse than today's models and Dougie Howser in a Gestapo uniform.... I'm surprised the studio heads didn't have *WANKER* branded into the foreheads of all involved.

  24. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    I wonder how long

    It will be before.... if ever we see an adaptation of Warren Ellis's 'Transmetroplitan'. A disturbingly believable work of fiction that like 1984 is becoming less and less a work of fiction every day.

    On that note. Can reality become meta representations of sci-fi? Or just selffulfilling?

    1. GIRZiM

      Re: I wonder how long

      Patrick Stewart has long expressed an interest in doing this but, so far, at least, Ellis has refused.

      I'm sure Stewart's love for it would mean he would, by his own lights at least, do it justice in completely the opposite way to how Lori Petty did not do Tank Girl justice (i.e. just like bricks don't hang in the sky). But I have to say that I'm glad it hasn't come to fruition myself - I could be wrong and he could, like Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, completely blow my mind with surprise, but I just don't see his acting style as suiting the role of Jerusalem.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cloud Atlas

    This is very much a plot driven and misanthropic novel. The Wachowskis aren’t good with plot, and they haven’t reached the levels of grumpiness to make this film.

  26. JohnFen Silver badge

    An even better question

    ...what even qualifies as "science fiction" anymore? At least half of the movies the OP lists aren't, in my eyes, science fiction at all. But then, I don't think Star Wars is science fiction -- it's space fantasy.

    1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: An even better question

      OF COURSE the original Star Wars was space fantasy, or as we used to say, Space Opera. Very carefully written too, with no cliche left unturned - everything from the lone space-travelling youth from a backwoods farm planet who makes good, through fights in a space bar while the band plays on, to spaceships that go WOOOSH past you in space (where nobody can hear you scream) and space fighters dogfighting like WW1 aces. You had to have read lots of pulp SF to fully appreciate the original film. It was a truly wonderful piss-take of the whole guns 'n BEMs 'n galactic empires 'n fearless spacemen genre. Unfortunately, the usual Hollywood drones got loose on the sequels and degraded them into the usual hohum product.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: An even better question

        Ah, "space opera" -- there's a term we should bring back!

        I'm glad you referenced "Alien" -- that's one that I consider proper science fiction, bordering on "hard" SF.

        1. GIRZiM

          Re: An even better question

          > that's one that I consider proper science fiction

          I can't get over how, to this day, when I see the crew interact with 'Mother', with all the flashing bulbs and green teletext, somehow I get more of an impression of it being a 'proper' or 'real', hi-tech 'supercomputer' than I do from any of the Star Trek or later style interfaces - it's weird.

      2. GIRZiM

        No Cliche left unturned

        > Very carefully written too, with no cliche left unturned [...] a truly wonderful piss-take of the whole guns 'n BEMs 'n galactic empires 'n fearless spacemen genre.

        Even if the game itself doesn't appeal, I think you might at least appreciate the concept of https://dinostorm.com/en - it doesn't get much cornier than that, does it? :-D

      3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

        Re: An even better question

        "Unfortunately, the usual Hollywood drones got loose on the sequels and degraded them into the usual hohum product."

        It's just that the usual Hollywood drones had the most influence on the first, 1977 movie. Over time and further movies, George Lucas steadily expanded his influence from 'being allowed to do it by the studio' to 'total control over the franchise'.

        And we all know the results of this.

    2. Killing Time

      Re: An even better question

      '...what even qualifies as "science fiction" anymore? '

      Isn't "space fantasy" just a subset of "science fiction"? It's a pretty broad genre.

      It appears to me it's the demarcation between Si-Fi and Fantasy that is pretty blurred. Julian May's phenomenal 'Saga of the Exiles' series used to sit in the Fantasy section as I recall yet it is Si-Fi to me. Patrick Tilley's "Amtrack Wars " series is Si-Fi but it has mystical fantasy elements and Sheri S Tepper's "The True Game" is Fantasy but is fundamentally based on the science of genetics.

      And, if it wasn't likely they would end up ruined, all perfect candidates for a wider audience by film or TV series.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    By far, the BEST sci-fi novels Ive ever read and wound definitely love to see them turned into movies, The Owner Saga

    1. jheden

      The Owner trilogy was awesome.

  28. Denarius Silver badge

    StarShip Troopers fascist loving ?

    Over 52 meanings of word fascist are known, according to my trivia ready reference book. Using this term is imprecise. Normally I hear it used to mean a personal dislike of a concept or person. ie ad hominem attack. Perhaps Joe Haldemans Forever War may appeal as a new film source.

  29. jonathan keith

    Annihilation

    I found it supremely dull. My overwhelming impression was that Alex Garland had become overexcited after seeing Stalker and Solaris for the first time.

  30. MJI Silver badge

    Well

    I actually enjoyed Starship Troopers (Film).

    First seems like a giant piss take, then you realise it is quite subversive.

    As to Ready Player One. Book is quite good, I liked it, the the trailers to the film look nothing like I imagined from the book.

    But then I am not a huge Spielberg fan, he can be good, but he can also get mawkish.

    Best SciFi film I have seen in the last few years was The Martian. Just how much has it cost to rescue Matt Damon in all the films he has been rescued in?

    1. Pedigree-Pete
      Pint

      Re: The Martian..

      MJI. I'd cite that as my favorite SF film of recent years. By chance I read the book about 1 year before the film. Book read > 10 times. Film watched 8-10 times. Have an upvote and one of these ('coz Friday). PP

  31. elgarak1

    "Starship Troopers" (movie) was not based on "Starship Troopers" (novel). It started out as a completely independent project (before Verhoeven was hired as director), until someone pointed out the obvious similarities to the book. Only then did they acquire the rights, and named the movie after the novel, mostly to avoid plagiarism charges.

    That said, I find the vehemence of fans of the book to slam the movie disturbing. The book is not very good. It IS boring, I don't think it works, I don't know what Heinlein's point of it was, and has (for a German like me) a creepy fascist undertone, which prevents me to recommend it as YA lit. It's no wonder that Verhoeven pushed the movie to be a satire. And it works.

    1. juice Bronze badge

      Boring?

      The book opens with a set of soldiers in mecha suits being launched from a spaceship inside giant pods (which then shed layers of ablative metallic heat shields, partly to confuse ground-based radar), before then merrily leaping over buildings, lobbing mini-nukes and talking grenades at things and generally having a good time until the retrieval signal comes.

      It's not the dullest introduction to a book I've ever read ;) As previously mentioned, Games Workshop thought that the concept was so good that they outright stole it for WH40K. Along with the Navigators from Dune and large chunks of Judge Dredd and Nemesis the Warlock from 2000AD, but I digress...

      To be fair, I first read ST as a teenager in the late 80s, long before Japanese anime popularised the concept of robotic armour, and I was young enough for much of the political elements to zoom over my head. However, even as an embittered and jaundiced adult, and with a (hopefully) better understanding of politics, I still think it's a good book.

      And as to why people like me slam the film? A film based on an unrelated script, filmed by a director who hadn't read the book and who was more interested in ramming home an anti-military message?

      It's crude, clumsy and deliberately ignores most of the key elements of the book. I really can't see any good reasons to like it!

      And that's despite the fact that I absolutely love Robocop ;)

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019