Adrian's Writing Blog

news, articles and reviews

Two decades of great science-fiction movies

I think it was so much better in the olden days… No! That's not true! I do not want to be an old, boring moaner with rose-tinted spectacles! (At least not all the time) That being said, I do want to say that there really was a brilliant twenty-year period in U.K. and North American science-fiction cinema that started in 1962 and ended in 1982. For various cultural and historical reasons, it just seemed to be a time when film-makers had the freedom, opportunity, motivation and inspiration to create a lot of clever, inventive, disturbing and memorable science-fiction ideas and scenarios. It really was a golden age. I was going to waffle about each film, but that would take a lot of time, so I thought I'd just show the posters in rough date order, one for every year. Here goes:
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Travel to the stars by exploding atomic bombs

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I discovered this fascinating programme on youtube yesterday. It's an old BBC4 documentary about Freeman Dyson and his project to design a spaceship that travels into space, propelled by detonating a series of nuclear explosions.


I found the documentary both engrossing and bizarre. Throughout the program, the people involved in the project were convinced that it was a viable and brilliant way to send humans into space and the other planets in our solar system. They pointed out, sensibly, that rocket motors did not produce enough power to effectively fling humans to the edges of our solar system, or our nearby astral neighbours. Chemical rockets were good enough to go to the moon, but that's about it.

This all made sense, but at no point in the documentary did anyone say 'wait a second, how on Earth are you going to accurately steer this craft as you explode nuclear weapons under its 'spring plate'? Also, how are you going to safely detonate a whole series of nuclear bombs under this 'spring plate' without them frying the crew with radiation or running the risk of one of them blowing up while it's still inside the bomb bay? The practical problems seem endless, and yet they carried on with idealistic zeal. Fascinating stuff.

Science Fiction Future at the BFI in London

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At the end of this month (Sunday May 30th), Simon Ings from the New Scientist magazine is hosting an afternoon of talks and short films on the subject of our ‘science fiction future’ and ‘why stories, games and falsehoods may be our best guide to tomorrow'. This event is part of the 'Sci-Fi-London' festival. The highly successful science fiction writer Alastair Reynolds will be giving the keynote talk and that’ll be followed by short films and panel discussions. The event is taking place on the South Bank in London at the British Film Institute.

The title and strap-line for the event has got me thinking; what is our science-fiction future? More broadly, since a lot of people think science-fiction is about the future, with special emphasis on techie stuff, the question really becomes: What is our future? (note: remember to talk about techie stuff).

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'The Lost Emotion' sci-fi short story

As it's been at least six months since 'The Lost Emotion' won the Arc Science Fiction magazine short story competition and was published in their magazine, I can pop it on my website for people to read. It's now available here.

'18% happier' wins a prize in the 'Arc' magazine short story competition

Good news! My short story ’18% happier’ has won a runners-up prize in the recent ‘Arc’ magazine short story competition. £200 should be wending its way to me soon but more importantly, it’s a great endorsement. For anyone interested in the science fiction genre, Arc magazine is a new digital quarterly magazine created by the people at NewScientist magazine, focussing on science fiction stories and non-fiction articles. You can download a copy of it to your computer/tablet/phone etc through the Zinio service.

Here’s the announcement of the competition results from Simon Ings, the editor:

Today we are delighted to announce the results of the first Arc/Tomorrow Project short story competition. While we are a quarterly we have virtually no room in Arc for writing that comes at us from odd angles. The competition is the one chance we have at the moment of developing new talent. So how did it go? Pretty impressive, I'd say: we received around a hundred proper stories (none of your "flash fiction" here), representing thousands of hours of effort and struggle (and, I hope, at least some fleeting pleasure).

Was choosing the shortlist difficult? No. The first rule of judging and reading fiction (and saying this puts the fear of God into new writers - but it's true) is that you can tell within seconds if a story is alive. It's something to do with the way the prose and the ideas lock together. It's a rhythm, a cadence, something you only pick up by constant practice - and it's unmistakable. If the competition hadn't gone well, we'd have been wading through passable stories for days. As it is, our shortlist is made up entirely of stories that sing.

And while we were reading, half a world away in San Francisco,
the Tomorrow Project was building our new website. Together, Arc and the Tomorrow Project will be generating conversations around our winning fiction, giving writers an exciting, inspirational platform and valuable feedback on their work. All Arc's shortlisted stories are here.

I thought that was a very encouraging comment from Simon. Insightful criticism is probably the most important feedback - so a writer can improve their work - but I never say no to a whopping big compliment.

The story is available to read as a pdf from their website. You can also read it on my webpage.

I’ll let everyone know about any more related news when it comes out.

Enjoy your day!