The Monday Meme: What is this?

ZOOLANDERFrom: Doctor Who – Flatline

 

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Doctor Who: Mummy on the Orient Express (2014)

Doctor Who Episode 8

Hello. I’m so pleased to finally see you. I’m the Doctor and I will be your victim this evening. Are you my mummy?”

One might get the impression that all I do each and every day is sit around watching British science fiction, but let’s get real here – I waste time with a lot of other stuff too! Pro Wrestling! TV! And Anime! All kidding aside, I wanted to start this review out talking about my love for space trains, you heard me right – trains all flying around in space for some reason or another. I chalk this all up to my love for the visionary Japanese manga creator Leiji Matsumoto and his epic series of space opera works including one called Galaxy Express 999. Originally written in the late 70’s, Three-Nine introduced me to a fantastical world where space travel was made more comfortable by echoing the past and looking back at the golden age of travel. Of course Mr. Matsumoto’s works also contemplated what is really meant to be human, and what it means to be loved in a universe where people seem to be abandoning such concepts. It was a little more than just the concept of the space trains I went for. I’m not going to lie though, I cheered on the inside when I saw the trailer for this episode.

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I’m not writing here about Galaxy Express 999 specifically, but I wanted to briefly point out a few thematic similarities between it and a few episodes of Doctor Who, chiefly Voyage of the Damned and Mummy on the Orient Express. If you like these episodes, you might seek the show out on Hulu. My love for the similar material has made me love these episodes quite a bit, despite the fact that I know for sure VotD was pretty unpopular with most fans. That’s how I am though, if I feel inspired by certain things in an episode, I love them no matter what, case and point was my adoration for Rings of Akhaten. I think it all goes back to that feeling of comfort in keeping things simple. Perhaps, that’s a world I’d love to live in: just as modern but somehow not as plastic and disposable….comfortable. Many folks may be scared of the dreaded mechanization and inhumanity of our present technological progress, dressing it up like older more simpler times may be the way to go. That’s at least what Leiji Matsumoto saw, and coincidentally what it seems a few Doctor Who episodes echo.

It has been a few weeks since the complete meltdown by Clara directed towards The Doctor. She has come to realize that she doesn’t actually hate him, and that she wants to travel one last time with him – “The Last Hurrah!” if you will. They arrive sometime in the future aboard a space train that has been modeled after the legendary Orient Express, with many of its passengers in period outfits. The Doctor quips that “There were many trains to take the name Orient Express, but only one in space.” It seems that they have arrived right after a mysterious death, perhaps even murder, in which an older lady claimed she was being attacked by “a mummy”, as in Egyptian dead person style mummy. After The Doctor does some research, he discovers that there seems to be a pattern with these mummy attacks – everyone claims to be chased by a mummy, and they die exactly 66 seconds later after a flash of light. This also seems to correlate to a myth that another passenger, Prof. Moorhouse, reiterates about the legend of a supernatural being called the Foretold.

Doctor Who Episode 8

Suspicious of the ships computer system, Gus (voiced by John Sessions) and the fact that multiple people on the train seem to know a bit too much about the Foretold, The Doctor puts together that the train ride must not be a coincidence and that they have been brought there deliberately to solve the mystery. Suddenly everyone realizes that they have been duped by someone who is allowing Gus to force all of the various scientists, doctors, and engineers aboard to figure it out or die trying. Much to her fury, The Doctor even confesses to Clara that the mysterious figure that brought him to the Orient Express “even phoned the TARDIS once”. Astute fans might recall a line from The Big Bang, in which The Eleventh Doctor, answering the TARDIS phone, replies “an Egyptian goddess loose on the Orient Express, in space? A bunch more people die, and eventually The Doctor figures it all out.

I noticed last week that The Doctor seemed to be outright channeling Tom Baker a few times, and it seems like this has been kept going for this episode. The most blatant use of this is the discovery that The Doctor now keeps Jelly Babies, the candy that The Fourth Doctor always carried around, in a silver cigarette case.

Doctor Who Episode 8

It is later explained that our nefarious mummy is actually an ancient warrior that has somehow been kept alive long past it’s own expiration. This is due to a faulty life support system that basically doomed the poor soul to warp around absorbing life force to keep fighting the long forgotten war that it was still fighting. In some ways, this almost makes The Foretold a creature not unlike a rogue cyberman – desperately trying to do what it can to survive in an almost mindless manner. The Foretold was pretty scary for a mummy considering we’ve all been around various mummy stories for upwards of 80-100 years. Usually these mindless beasts are nothing more than cursed specters that attack anyone in sight but are easy to foil. The Foretold, however, can teleport, change it’s dimensional phase to only appear to certain people, and ruthlessly kill just about anyone in under a minute. A far cry from the one Abbott and Costello fought. On a side note: I am glad that, upon the realization that The Foretold was actually a soldier, The Doctor didn’t slip into another anti-military rant as those are starting to get a bit forced.

Thankfully this episode doesn’t end with a gigantic fight between Clara and The Doctor, as she finally seems to be certain that he is a good man – manipulative perhaps, but good at his core. She did promise her now boyfriend Danny Pink that she was done with her travels, so I can see some more Doctor vs Danny drama coming up. Since we’re past the halfway point, and it’s rumored that Jenna Coleman isn’t going to be on the show much after the Christmas special, I want to see a few episodes where there isn’t tons of tension between the characters. I always hated most of the Peter Davison era because characters like Tegan and Adric were constantly at his throat, and I really do not want a return to that tone.

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What can I say? Show me a space train, and I’ll enjoy the hell out of it. Yeah, the mummy was a bit silly in space, and we didn’t find out who the real villain was (hopefully it’s shown later) but it was a solid episode nonetheless. I really enjoyed the atmosphere, the majority of the side-characters, and even that cool version of Queen’s Don’t stop me Now sung by pop singer Foxes. This was another almost legitimately scary episode, and the body count may prove that this was potentially a bit much for some kids. I’m glad the show is getting creepier, as the horror episodes are some of my favorites.

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Doctor Who: Kill The Moon (2014)

Doctor Who (series 8) ep 7

Oh, well you’re just going to have to shoot us, then. Shoot the little girl first. Yes, she doesn’t wanna stand there watch us getting shot, does she? She’d be terrified. Girl first, then her teacher, and then me. You’ll have to spend a lot of time shooting me because I will keep on regenerating. In fact, I’m not entirely sure if I won’t keep on regenerating forever.”

My apologies for being so behind on these reviews! My plan was to watch and review each of these on Sunday, but boy did that get away from me. Nonetheless, let’s get down to business. Season eight of Doctor Who continues to be pretty awesome, and while there have been a few merely average episodes this season, I’d say it has been the most consistent season since Matt Smith’s season five. So far, my favorite story has been Listen, which was a total surprise to me because I didn’t expect to enjoy it much. So, why am I mentioning this during my review of Kill The Moon? It’s because I didn’t think I’d enjoy Kill The Moon prior to the moment I started actually watching it. I thought something like: “Not only does it have a silly title, but what could the premise possibly be?” and “that child actor is in this…uh oh!” I should do this prior to everything I watch, because BOY was a mistaken.

Doctor Who (series 8) ep 7

Our episode begins with Clara speaking on behalf of Courtney Woods, the girl from the previous episode – The Caretaker, attempting to rejoin The Doctor within the Tardis, or to at least clean up the horrible mess she made when she was last there. The Doctor decides to take them up on the offer and go on a “field trip of sorts”. This trip lands them on a one-way suicide mission to The Moon via a re-purposed space shuttle filled to the brim with nuclear warheads. It seems that in 2049 tides got out of hand killing much of the Earth’s population. Not sure what was really going on, the earth somehow decided that it was a great idea to nuke the moon for a chance at survival. It is discovered that the moon is actually a huge egg that is about to hatch, and the moral implications of killing a huge “space baby” for no reason other than fear upsets Clara quite a bit. The Doctor is willing to let this transpire, but he wants no involvement in the decision – leaving it up to Clara, Courtney and The captain of the mission to figure out the fate of the moon – and possibly humanity.

The “monster of the week” for this episode is actually pretty horrifying and should play on anyone with any sort of arachnophobia. There are some truly unsettling things on the moon like the deaths of multiple supporting characters and web-covered corpses strewn about for quick jumps. I’d imagine that this is an episode that would freak little kids out pretty bad, because I recall being horrified by the titular hand in The Hand of Fear, and that was a cheap special effect in comparison to these guys. Not only are the “Spider-germs” pretty menacing in appearance, but their brutality is so inhumane that it’s unsettling. It was sort of silly that they were fought off using Windex and flashlights (it’s revealed that they are evolved bacteria essentially), but I guess other films have done stuff like that to critical success, so I’ll try not to be too cynical.

Doctor Who (series 8) ep 7

Thankfully my fears about Ellis George reprising her role as Courtney Woods were not realized. I’m not going to say that she blew me away with her acting ability, or that she was the highlight of the episode, but she at least kept from annoying me. Sometimes it’s the small things that count! Child actors usually get placed in shows like this as the “moody genius kid” or “sassy street-wise kid” and become almost insufferable ten minutes into their first appearance. Courtney is no Wesley Crusher or Adric thankfully, as she doesn’t simply exist to be sassy and spout one-liners or try to make other characters look dumb.

We once again are faced with the question as to whether The Doctor is a good man or not, and this seems like the ultimate iteration of this ongoing theme. Channeling his inner Seventh Doctor, The Doctor seemingly ends up abandoning everyone in order to force them to choose whether or not to blow up the moon. This is sort of similar to that time Sylvester McCoy‘ Doc treated Ace like garbage to get her to loose faith in him in order to defeat the monster in The Curse of Fenric. Peter Capaldi is once again very awesome, and usually straddles the line between being hilarious and terrifying at the drop of a hat.

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Clara once again yells at the Doctor in this story, and while I like the character development I hope this begins to be the end of this theme. The Doctor is a jerk, yes, but we have seen him warming in the last few episodes to a degree that I just want them to be friends now.

I did get sort of irritated when I ventured online to gauge what the general fan consensus to this episode was like. Most seemed to enjoy it, but a loud minority seemed determined to hate it because of the scientific implausibility of the the whole thing. Sure, it’s weird that the moon was revealed to be a giant space egg, but it’s not like Doctor Who is particularly “hard” on the scale of what sort of science fiction it is, it’s always been more of a space opera. But there I was, knee-deep in annoying comments saying “the classic series was ONLY grounded in science!!”. This is laughable, because I can immediately think of TONS of older episodes with laughable science. Hell, my favorite Hartnell episode, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, centers on the premise that the Daleks have somehow made it to Earth because Earth is the only planet with a magnetic core. What followed was a plan that involved hollowing the earth out and flying it around like a spaceship. So any notion that, prior to 2005, Doctor Who was in a similar vein to something like Gravity is, quite frankly, laughable.

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This episode is pretty notable for how amazing it looks, considering I’ve seen big budget films that do a worse job of conveying the lunar surface than this. The episode was under the helm of two newcomers to the show, as it was written by Peter Harness and directed by Paul Wilmshurst. They are both formerly BAFTA nominated industry veterans, so it seems like a great choice to bring them both on board. Many lunar shots were filmed around a volcanic area in Lanzarote, Spain, which seems like a great stand-in for the actual lunar surface. It’s at least a far cry from the “rock quarry” planets we get used to in many science fiction TV shows.

The story is also pretty intelligently written, seeing that it seems to be a commentary on our penchant to kill anything we don’t like, issues with funding for space travel, and to a lesser degree – abortion. These are all pretty mature themes for a show like this, and I felt that it was handled in such a way that adults can see these sorts of things, and kids will just enjoy the monsters. In the episode, The Doctor reveals that because of the brief re-interest in what happened with the Moon, humanity would be rekindled to travel to the stars, helping them to spread across the universe, and then assures Lundvik that she will now have a real space program to lead. With constant set-backs to manned space travel as of late, I can see Lundvik’s space travels in a very similar vein to how it is now – we don’t travel out of wonder or discovery, but because of the opposite. It’s a pretty epic ending to a Doctor Who episode, and makes me wish a similar thing would happen in real life – minus the apocalyptic tsunamis of course.

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As you can see, I really enjoyed Kill the Moon. I think it’s another one of those episodes, like Listen, that seemed like it was going to be a totally different thing than what it ended up being, and it’s this playfulness with the format of the show that has made me love season 8. In fact, the few times I thought an episode was sort of lame, was when they followed older conventions to a fault. I loved all of the throwbacks to Tom Baker, especially small partial quotes that he was notable for like “Earth isn’t my home” and his use of a Yo-yo as a scientific experiment. The next episode looks amazing,so I’lll end my review here, and hopefully I’ll get caught up before this run of episodes stops!

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Here’s Your Saturday Links! 10-25-14

CHANNEL-4-HUMANS

Why AMC’s ‘Humans’ Is A Safer Bet On British Sci-Fi Than ‘The Prisoner’ Was

“Next year, AMC will air Humans, a sci-fi series whose casting (including William Hurt and Katherine Parkinson) was announced yesterday. Humans (which is to be made by UK producers, and is a co-production with the UK public service broadcaster Channel 4) has the ingredients to be another big hit – even if AMC’s history with transatlantic productions isn’t quite so stellar.”

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William Hurt to star in AMC and Channel 4 sci-fi series Humans

“The show chronicles a family and the dangerous consequences of owning a refurbished robotic servant.”

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Colin Morgan joins cast of new US sci-fi drama

” Merlin star Morgan will play Leo, a young man on the run, while Utopia’s Neil Maskell, Will Tudor (Game Of Thrones), Emily Berrington (24: Live Another Day) and Rebecca Front (The Thick of It) will all feature in the show.An adaptation of the Swedish TV series Real Humans, Humans will start shooting later this year and is due to be transmitted in 2015.”

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Sci-fi book is mission accomplished for author Jonathan

“A LYMPHOMA sufferer has written a science fiction novel as a means of helping him cope with the disease. Jonathan Taylor, 41, from Darlington completed his sci-fi novel, The Forgotten Mission: The Return while undergoing chemotherapy. Written over an 18 month period the 130,000-word book has received five star reviews on Amazon and reached the top 70 in the sci-fi charts.”

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Why watching Lynda Bellingham’s Doctor Who appearance is the only thing Whovians should do this evening

“While the late Lynda Bellingham is so often mentioned in the same breath as Loose Women and those brilliant Oxo TV adverts, Doctor Who fans will always remember her performance in the Trial of a Time Lord. She played an Inquisitor, a sort of Gallifreyan Judge Judy who summoned the Doctor to a spaceship and judged him on his time travelling antics – which were largely meddling in the affairs of aliens, and, er, genocide.”

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Doctor Who (series 8) Ep6

DOCTOR WHO GAME WILL TEACH KIDS HOW TO CODE

“Children will be learning these increasingly important new skills while being actively entertained,” said Jo Pearce, from BBC Wales’ Interactive. “The idea behind it is simply to use one of our biggest, most popular brands to inspire children to find out more about programming.”

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The Monday Meme: Go Home Doctor…

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DRUNK-DOCTOR

 

From: Time of the Doctor

 

Doctor Who: The Caretaker (2014)

Doctor Who (series 8) Ep6

The Russell T. Davies era of Doctor Who was largely characterized by merging the sci-fi tropes of the classic show with a more modern soap opera veneer that seemingly originated from a handful of Joss Whedon-penned shows i.e. Buffy. What this usually meant is that most episodes veered into the realm of the common soap opera more times than not, and anything other than the tension between the characters played “second fiddle” when it was all over. Gareth Roberts seems to be harkening back to these times with his new episode, The Caretaker, a fact that is no surprise since he worked with Davies for years on both Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures. So let’s take a trip back in time for a retro episode of “new-Who” if there ever could be such a thing!

The Caretaker is more of a character piece that follows The Doctor’s apparent intrusion into the personal life of his companion, Clara. At first the viewer is almost led to believe that he is doing this simply to spy on her love life, but thankfully it seems that he does actually have business there. It seems that there has been alien activity near the school, and it’s nothing small – our villain is a monster dubbed a Skovox Blitzer and The Doctor states that it’s powerful enough to destroy the entire planet. Using Coal Hill as as staging post, he has taken on the guise of a part-time caretaker (for us US fans, that’s basically a janitor / maintenance man), once again dusting of his alias “John Smith”.

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The first half of this episode really reminded me of the season two episode School Reunion for a few reasons other than simply the setting. This was why I compared this to a Davies-era episode in the grand scheme of things. This changes pretty abruptly, however, as we start to see the real purpose for this episode – The Doctor being a jerk to Danny Pink. With his sudden hatred of soldiers, it was no wonder that The Doctor wasn’t going to get along with Danny, and this almost seems worse than the abrasive Ninth Doc/Mickey relationship.

Not only is The Doctor under the assumption that Danny is in some way unable to think for himself (he can only take orders you know) he seems to see him as a buffoon despite his actual intelligence. Take, for instance, the many times where Danny is referred to as “coach” despite every correction that he is in fact a math teacher. It’s like The Doctor has a multitude of awful prejudices against soldiers and he’s jealously applying them to Danny because he’s jealous of Danny keeping Clara away from himself 24/7. Then again, It’s funny that The Doctor was perfectly happy to have been under the impression that Clara’s new main squeeze was a bow-tied Shakespeare teacher, so it really is just the soldier thing putting him off.

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These interactions between the two were hard to watch, mainly because it’s hard to see the main character of a show come across so abrasive and borderline unlikable. It’s especially off-putting because The Doctor has never been like this – considering he was pretty close to people like Yates, Benton, The Brigadier, and even The Brig’s daughter. Now it’s as if he’s been hanging out with flower children and conspiracy nuts for the past hundred years. Thankfully Danny isn’t “the new Mickey” and dished it right back at his attacker, accusing him of being a typical elitist military officer, something that seems to infuriate The Doctor.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the villain this week since it was basically just a plot device to allow for Danny and The Doctor to engage in verbal fisticuffs. The Skovox Blitzer itself looked cool in the trailers until one realizes that it’s a puppet on crab legs. after the awesomeness of The Teller last episode, I was hoping for more to be honest. This episode did thankfully have the return of everyone’s favorite evil Mary Poppins with Missy, now sporting a companion of sorts named Seb. They have taken the whole Heaven/Promised Land thing to the next level having a waiting room that could be seen as a modern interpretation of “The pearly Gates” of Biblical lore. I seriously cannot wait until we find out what her actual plan is pretty soon.

Doctor Who (series 8) Ep6

There was a surprise in that we got another new companion this week, and no it wasn’t Danny (grr!). It was that “class clown” disruptive girl we keep seeing peppered into each episode being a jerk to Clara. Courtney stumbles on The Doctor messing with his Tardis, and basically ends up conning her way into traveling with him. This of course causes her to puke and whine about the whole ordeal. Now, I’m not a fan at all of child actors in Doctor Who, and Courtney is no different. If she becomes a “main character” of some sort she better grow as a character and not just be there to make wise cracks because that will get OLD very quickly.

In conclusion, this was probably the weakest episode so far in a VERY good season. Gareth Roberts is pretty hit or miss for me – when he’s good, he’s really good like in his books or The Lodger, but when he’s bad he’s pretty atrocious like Planet of the Dead. This is somewhere in the middle of those examples, which is disappointing. I still love Capaldi as The Doctor, Clara is being better than ever, and Courtney was passable so it wasn’t all bad. I say this because I sometimes come across as hating an episode when I only found it average. Now if Danny ever gets to travel in The Tardis, I’ll be a very happy man!

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Here’s your Weekly Links 10-14-14

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Will sci-fi Under the Skin be the British film to beat at the BAFTAs?

“Very loosely inspired by Michel Faber‘s book of the same name, the film stars Scarlett Johansson as an unnamed alien in human form, prowling the streets of Glasgow in a van searching for hitchhikers. What she does with these unfortunate souls – lured in on the promise of casual sex – almost defies description, as indeed does the film as a whole.”

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Matt Smith Funny Derp tired

Daisy Lowe and former Doctor Who star Matt Smith victims of nude photo leak

” Former Doctor Who star Matt Smith and his ex-girlfriend Daisy Lowe appear to have become the latest victims of hackers who have leaked naked photographs of the pair online. They join a long list of stars including Avril Lavigne, Cat Deeley and Rihanna whose pictures were said to have been posted online. ”

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Don’t blink, Doctor Who and a bevvy of baddies just landed in Minecraft

” The Doctor Who skin pack for Minecraft on Xbox 360 hit today bringing with it not just the twelfth Doctor and traveling companion Clara but a slew of creepy enemies like the Daleks, Silence and … Weeping Angels. While there’s no date mentioned, the video seems to indicate that the Doctor Who Skins Volume 1 pack is also coming to Xbox One. ”

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Without sci-fi, there would be no cinema

“Do you know what’s hateful? The snobbery that film fans have to contend with. There’s the ‘it’s only a movie’ snobbery, by which cinema is suitable only for wastrels and dogs. And there’s the ‘if it ain’t Danish and silent, then it ain’t no good’ snobbery. Proponents of both should spend less time blowing conjecture through their Sobranie smoke, and more time watching the Hollywood films of John Ford, Nicholas Ray and William A. Wellman.”

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The Monday Meme: Columbus Day

COLUMBUS

As many of you know, today was Columbus Day – a holiday set aside to honor the legend of Christopher Columbus – the man that “discovered America.” I say “LEGEND” as many have wised up to the way the Victorians romanticized the man, his actual motives, his actual deeds, and more importantly, the fact he is honored for things he never did. I frequently get angry people taking jabs at me because I refuse to honor the man, as there were many other European explorers that didn’t say things like: ” I could conquer the whole of them with fifty men, and govern them as I pleased.” We need to actually have a discussion about what Columbus Day actually means, because I don’t really see anything other than an excuse to have a day off from work.

I understand the importance of setting aside a day for Italian Americans to be proud of themselves and their heritage, but perhaps we should find another role model.

Here’s Your Saturday Links: 10-04-14



BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 15:  ABC's 'Selfie' a...

‘Doctor Who’ star plays social media addict in ‘Selfie’

“ABC’s new comedy “Selfie,” premiering Tuesday at 8 p.m., stars Karen Gillan as the social-media-obsessed Eliza Dooley, who has 263,000 online followers — but no real friends. Though Gillan is popular on Twitter (564,000 followers, a popularity built from her two seasons on “Doctor Who”), it’s the only social media site the 26-year-old Scottish actress is on — unlike her “instafamous” character.”

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matt-damon-elysium

Can Science Fiction Drive Social Change?

“A lot has been said in the past regarding the benefits of science fiction for society. Various reports and research suggest that sci-fi has the power to inspire both scientists, technologists and a general readership to innovate, change their behavior and drive a keener interest in the future.”

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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 18:  Olivia Thirlby a...

OLIVIA THIRLBY THANKS FANS CAMPAIGNING FOR DREDD SEQUEL

“It means everything,” said Thirlby, who played Judge Anderson in the movie. “Thank you so much for the petition that you made to try to get us a sequel. To everyone who’s signed it, thank you so much. If you haven’t signed it yet, please go do it, because we really want to bring you a Dredd 2.”

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Don’t Diss Dystopias

“Sci-fi writer Neal Stephenson is worried about America. “We have lost our ability to get things done,” he wrote in 2011, in a piece for the World Policy Institute. “We’re suffering from a kind of ‘innovation starvation.’ ” And part of the problem, he wrote, is science fiction. Where science fiction authors once dreamt of epic steps forward for humanity, now, “the techno-optimism of the Golden Age of SF has given way to fiction written in a generally darker, more skeptical and ambiguous tone.””

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Using Science Fiction to Create a Better Tomorrow: A Future Tense Event Recap

“The event was delightfully nerdy, optimistic and creative yet pragmatic, featuring speakers from universities, NASA, DARPA, the SyFy Channel, the Washington Post, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and even Futurama, plus sci-fi writers Cramer, Stephenson, Ted Chiang, Elizabeth Bear, Karl Schroeder, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Madeline Ashby, Lee Konstantinou, and Vandana Singh. The discussion ranged from the ethics of robot babysitters and space travel to the difference between “democratic science via grassroots” and “government-directed global cooperation.” The ideas debated largely fell into four categories: the role money plays in innovation, the policy challenges of new technologies, the ways people are affected by and can affect advances, and the challenges and triumphs of imagination.”

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