Radio 4 Programme Tonight Wondering What Happened to Star Trek’s Optimistic Vision of the Future

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 09/06/2018 - 6:07pm in

This is one for the Trekkers. On Radio 4 tonight at 8.00 pm, 9th June 2018, Dr. Kevin Fong will be presenting a programme on the Archive hour discussing what happened to the optimistic vision of the future in Star Trek. The blurb for it on page 189 of the Radio Times runs

8.00 Archive on 4: Star Trek – The Undiscovered Future

The first episode of Star Trek aired in 1966. Space medic and broadcaster Kevin Fog asks what happened to the progressive and optimistic vision of the future that the iconic television series promised him.

SF Short Film: Robots of Brixton

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 18/05/2018 - 7:19pm in

This is an interesting piece of what Beyoncé would call ‘Afrofuturism’ from the Dust channel on YouTube. Dust specialise in putting up short SF films, like the one above. This film, directed by Kibwe Tavares, imagines a kind of future Brixton, where all, or nearly all the people living there are robots. The film’s hero, a robot with Afro-Caribbean features, walks through the area, before relaxing with a robot friend, by toking what appears to be the robotic version of a bong.

A riot then breaks out, and robot riot police appear to crush it. This is intercut with scenes from the 1981 riots in Brixton, over which is dubbed a voice talking or reciting a piece about ending oppression. The film ends with shots of bodies on the ground, then and in this robotic present. And the quotation from Marx on a black screen: ‘History repeats itself, first as a tragedy, then as a farce’.

People of all races like and produce SF, and there are a number of very well respected Black SF writers, most notably Samuel R. Delaney, who’s been going since the 1960s and ’70s, and Olivia Butler, the author of Clay’s Ark and the Parable of the Sower. A few years ago a volume of SF by Black authors was published with the title Dark Matter, the title also referring to the all the invisible cosmic stuff that’s adding missing mass to the universe. Also in the 1990s over this side of the pond there appeared a book, written by a Black author, about an all-Black mission to save a space colony by turning them Black. This was to save them from a plague which affected only Whites. I can’t say I was impression by this piece, as it seemed to me to be as imperialistic as the White ideologies of civilising Blacks by giving them European civilisation. This seems to be less controversial, though still dealing with a sensitive subject. It is also part of the character of much SF since it first appeared in the 19th century as ‘the literature of warning’.

Franco-Russian SF Series about Manned Mission to Mars on BBC4 Next Thursday

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/05/2018 - 12:43am in

Next week’s Radio Times also says that a new SF series also begins on BBC4 next Thursday, 17th May. It’s a French-Russian co-production about a manned mission to the Red Planet, and the first two episodes are being shown at 9.00.. It’s called Missions, and the blurb for it in the magazine runs thus

1/10 Ulysses
Sci-Fi drama about the first manned mission to Mars, which faces a ciris just as they’re about to land, threatening to fracture an already mercurial crew.
2/10 Mars
A sub-team seeks salvage to save the stricken craft, but the trio’s discovery of a body means a surprisingly harsh reception on their return. French and Russian with subtitles.

The other piece about it on page 94 by David Crawford also gives the following information on it:

Two tech billionaires are locked in a race to send humans on a mission to Mars. Sound familiar? This French space series may be topical, but its low-budget, character driven treatment harks back to 1970s sci-fi.

The crew of the Ulysses, funded by Swiss billionaire William Meyer, are approaching the Red Planet after ten months in space. They’re a bit of a ragtag bunch for such a long and high-stakes mission, with an accompanying psychologist.

It’s a bit contrived, but when things start to go wrong and there’s an intriguing discovery, the claustrophobic setting and dysfunctional crew ratchet up the tension.

Both France and Russia are space-faring nations with a very long history of brilliant SF, so this could be very good, despite the low budget. Let’s hope so, at any rate.

New Series Next Tuesday on the History of Science Fiction

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/05/2018 - 12:25am in

According to the Radio Times there’s a new series on the history of Science Fiction beginning on BBC 4 next Tuesday, 15th May 2018 at 8.00 pm. Entitled Tomorrow’s Worlds: the Unearthly History of Science Fiction, it’s a four part series, the first of which is on space. The blurb for it says

Historian Dominic Sandbrook begins his exploration of one of the most innovative and imaginative of all genres with the topic that has perhaps intrigued its creative minds most: what lies beyond our planet. Contributors include William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Zoe Saldan and Neil Gaiman. (p.77).

Book Review: Courting Dissolution: Adumbration, Alterity and the Dislocation of Sacrifice from Space to Image by Michael Lent

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 19/04/2018 - 8:39pm in

In Courting Dissolution: Adumbration, Alterity and the Dislocation of Sacrifice from Space to Image, US artist and researcher Michael Lent explores the problem of space and spatiality by focusing on the dissolution of space into materials for consumption and production. Although the communication of its dense ideas occasionally lacks clarity, this book brings together an astute and astonishing array of theoretical sources to make sense of a world increasingly defined by globalisation and capitalist over-production, finds Lilly Markaki.

Courting Dissolution: Adumbration, Alterity and the Dislocation of Sacrifice from Space to Image. Michael Lent. Columbia University Press. 2018.

Find this book: amazon-logo

In Courting Dissolution: Adumbration, Alterity, and the Dislocation of Sacrifice from Space toImage, American artist and researcher Michael Lent takes up the problem of space and spatiality as it emerges in the context of a world defined by globalisation and capitalist over-production.

Building on ideas of disappearance originally ascribed to objects by theorists such as Jean Baudrillard and Paul Virilio, Lent describes the contemporary reality of space as one where, subsumed by a utility-oriented economy and ‘system of difference’ (123), space is caused to disappear into place. Enabling the author to make this distinction is the work of humanist geographer Yi-Fu Tuan, who asserts that ‘what begins as undifferentiated space becomes place as we get to know it better and endow it with value’ (37). Unlike that of space in its pure or original state, the experience of place or the ‘site’ – associated often with built environments – is determined by the presence of signs and conceptions. Space therefore becomes, as Lent later writes, ‘material for consumption and production, a thing disappearing into its utility’ (102).

The phenomenon of disappearance that Lent takes as his subject is, of course, not specific to space. As he acknowledges, Courting Dissolution serves also ‘as a metaphorical excavation of a larger problem by which experience is utilised towards the production of knowledge as a commodity to be exchanged into this same system, whereby all things are endowed with use-value, but ultimately disappear as well’ (10).What is furthermore important to note is that Lent is not interested in exploring the problem of space for the sake of theory alone. As an artist, his investigation is motivated by a desire to position himself and his practice in relation to the dissolution that he contests, and to suggest viable pathways for art more generally. The book is, therefore, one focused on ‘specifically how artists approach the world’ (9).

Image Credit: (Dean Hochman CC BY 2.0)

Throughout, Lent presents the reader with an astonishing range of theoretical sources, drawing on the work of Georges Bataille, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Michel de Certeau and Susan Sontag, among others. Indeed, in its attempt to bring together disparate readings and strategies to achieve a synthetic, manifold understanding of the ideas it engages, Lent’s investigation is praiseworthy. What is more, the author’s selection of passages to represent his sources is, from start to end, truly exceptional.

There is, however, a downside to this, as Lent’s elaboration of his own thinking appears at times to lack the clarity he affords his sources. Jumping back and forth between theories and concepts, he often repeats himself, and in some cases fails to move beyond statements that announce the intentions of his thesis towards a concrete development of his position, leaving the reader wanting more. An exception is his chapter on ‘Courting Dissolution’, from which the book takes its title. Drawing attention to the hidden properties or potentialities of space, Lent provides a clear and engaging discussion of, among other things, In Praise of Shadows by Japanese novelist Jun’ichirō Tanizaki and Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology and concept of the ‘adumbrational’ (72) – an ‘imagined quality’ (74) or ‘foreshadow’, as Lent explains, of ‘what is on the other side before the utility of space’ (79). Examining the book in its entirety, however, my sense is that, although fascinating, its thesis would have been strengthened by a deeper yet more concise analysis of the ideas it presents.

What is more, certain concepts – including ‘radical alterity’ (11) and‘pataphysics’ – are at times introduced either without any attempt at definition, or with context provided a while after their initial appearance, making the book a little uninviting for untrained readers. This is justified to an extent as Lent wishes for the writing to reflect the nature of the ideas discussed in the book. ‘I propose,’ he explains, ‘that the form of argument itself must be presented in an unfolding method and one that is not always explicit. The text flirts with the intangibility and pataphysical nature of these ideas’ (10-11).

Lent’s desire to allow for a certain openness in the text might also be attributed to his intermittent tendency to define things through a negation. An example is the concept of space itself, which he describes on one occasion ‘as a loose collection of the area between specific locations in the most general terms’ (43-44). Space, it appears, is where the site or place is not, but its exact qualities or nature prior to its dissolution are not given – perhaps because they cannot ever be known. ‘The absolute rule of thought’, writes Baudrillard in a passage quoted by Lent, ‘is to return the world as we receive it: unintelligible’ (154).

The role that art plays within an economy of value and meaning that Lent discovers as the context of dissolution is a question pursued and expanded in his chapter ‘Dis/location’. In agreement with Baudrillard’s thesis in The Conspiracy of Art (2005), Lent suggests art today appears to be failing to fulfil its destiny. In its treatment of space specifically, art is indeed ‘conforming or heading into a similar path’ (10) with scientific discourse, and from which it is supposed to be distinct:

I assert that art has the ability to – was supposed to – do more, leading us into the world as explorers rather than actors of an extemporary scientific method (38).

In response to this problem, Lent aims to designate a practice whereby the ‘desire or ability to explore is made distinct from a desire to conquer’ space (46), and which engages in ‘experimentation without utility as an end-goal’ (39). The political orientation of such a practice emerges, naturally, as ‘one of an anti-commodification of art’ (33). ‘Similarly,’ he writes, ‘the politics ascribed are one of anti-capitalisation and anti-colonial in a general sense, which is perhaps an outcome of the desire to conquer, claim, and name’ (33-34).

To provide a model for practice in writing is, however, not an easy task, and at times Lent’sattempts to do so appear limited. He writes:

This research is an examination of the moment of the cusp of disappearance whereby experience merges with an imagining. This is a practice toward the potentialities and possibilities of object and space, of discovery, of what lies on the other side (of what we perceive) (38).

To achieve such a practice – one ‘grounded’, as he asserts, ‘in radical alterity’ (11) – one might employ the tools of fragmentation and mobility. But while examples are provided that can be seen as disclosing a colonising impulse – Robert Smithson is examined as a case in point – there are few instances where a clear picture is painted of what art working in the opposite direction, and which Lent promotes, might look like.

One example that Lent does present is from his own practice, titled ‘OklahomaisOK’, which documents the action of driving across the state in order to experience it as space. ‘As I drove across it, with the sun coming up behind me’, reads part of the text, ‘I saw the point where the Oklahoma sky meets its prairie-tan horizon line. The space between the sun […] and where the sky touched the ground was filled with the kind of air that you’d only find at midnight. But here it was in the day’ (15). In his effort to capture what he describes as ‘the experience of being in transit’ (14), the author reveals a true and poetic sensibility towards aspects of landscape that are often today overlooked or taken for granted by passers-by.

At one point in the book, Lent supposes that his research ‘might hint at something about environmentalism and the failure of science and art to take a preemptive stance on space before its disappearance’ (44). It is in this that the book’s strength lies, I believe, even if the author’s main interest rests elsewhere. In ‘teasing’, as he calls it, the ‘dissolutive event’ (33), and through the many texts and images that he presents, Lent manages to inspire his reader to look around with new eyes, at a time when what is threatening to dissolve appears to be not only space, but the world itself.

Lilly Markaki is a PhD researcher in Media Arts at Royal Holloway, University of London. In 2014, she graduated from the University of Glasgow’s ‘Art; Politics; Transgression: 20th Century Avant-Gardes’ MLitt programme, having previously received a BA in Art History from the same institution. Her research project examines French-American artist Marcel Duchamp in an attempt to renegotiate his position in relation to movements such as Dada and Surrealism and to rethink canonical understandings of the figure, arguing, finally, for an ethical and political dimension in his work.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 


A Fair Go For The West? Capital accumulation, urban planning, and the Greater Sydney Commission

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/03/2018 - 8:00am in


Blog, Space

How can we best account for the recent formation of Sydney’s metropolitan planning authority, the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC)?

This question guided my Honours research last year into the latest evolution of Sydney’s planning regime. My argument situates the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) as a strategic intervention by an urban class alliance with the objective of reproducing an accumulation strategy within Sydney. This urban class alliance is primarily composed from financial, knowledge-intensive, and property fractions of capital. To reproduce their conditions for accumulation, they need the GSC to reregulate urban planning with the objective of bolstering Sydney’s competitive advantage vis-à-vis global circuits of capital. In so doing, a fresh round of neoliberal logic is embedded into the Sydney planning regime. Two crucial features of this logic are the further de-democratisation of urban space and the subsumption of distributional and ecological outcomes into the accumulation process, where these outcomes are met only to the extent that it benefits urban fractions of capital.

I situated my research within the tradition of critical urban theory stemming from the neo-Marxist revival of urban political economy in the 1970s. I grounded my research on the spatial insights into the process of capital accumulation of David Harvey, Henri Lefebvre, and Neil Smith. They maintain that the process of urbanisation must be understood as internally related to the process of capitalism. This insight demands a recognition of the relation between urban politics and the urban economy: evolutions in the form and spaces of urban statehood occur within the conditioning situation of urban capital accumulation which, in turn, is conditioned by global uneven and combined development. To mobilise this account of urban statehood, I relied on the state-theoretical contributions of James O’Connor, Bob Jessop, and Neil Brenner. The state must be understood as constrained by two contradictory imperatives of accumulation and legitimation: these imperatives form the basic terrain of the state, upon which the historical evolution of its institutional geography develops through a contested process of political struggle.

‘The arc of capital’

I tested my theoretical position against the recent formation of the Greater Sydney Commission in the context of Sydney’s economic position relative to the global economy. The urban economy in the 21st Century is characterised by global interurban competition, where cities are understood to compete against each other for highly mobile and transnational flows of capital investment. While territorial competitiveness is arguably an ideological construction, it nonetheless plays a highly disciplining role over urban statehood. Sydney’s accumulation strategy is centred on the ‘Global Economic Corridor’ or what I termed the ‘Arc of Capital’. My research detailed widespread academic agreement, as well as empirical evidence, that shows Sydney’s economy has shifted in the last twenty years towards ‘knowledge-intensive’ sectors: finance, property, and business services sectors and related industries, which form the core of Sydney’s accumulation strategy.

I argued, however, that this accumulation strategy was producing spatial tensions within Sydney: particularly, the all-too-familiar housing crisis and the turmoil of road and public transport. These tensions are driven by the spatial centralisation of capital within a few sectors of the urban economy, located in the ‘Arc of Capital’. Since these problems threaten the competitive advantage of Sydney vis a vis global circuits of capital, there is a general incentive for fractions of capital to form an urban class alliance with the objective of strategically interceding in the regulation and production of urban space. I traced the mobilisation of this class alliance through a media campaign run by The Daily Telegraph, titled “A Fair Go For The West.” This media campaign posed Sydney’s problems against a set of demands on the state, including the formation of a metropolitan planning authority. By legitimating their proposals as means for ‘geographic justice’, but buttressed by a basic faith in market operations and business-as-usual, the range of acceptable policy solutions was constrained within a neoliberal logic.

I then turned my analysis directly to the production of state space through the spatial form of the GSC. I argued that its formation introduced a scalar hierarchy within Sydney’s planning regime, characterised by a de-democratisation of urban space: a classic example of neoliberal regulation. Introducing such a scalar hierarchy diminishes the capacity of local government to resist the reproduction of urban space in the image of capital, which was a long-standing objective of property developers. Moreover, it strategically privileges development that is attuned to the putative interests of Sydney, meaning the interests of its core accumulation strategy. This structural bias to the interests of capital is reinforced by another long-standing objective of the introduction of “impartial experts” in development assessment panels, the GSC itself, and advisory bodies to the GSC. Yet my thesis argued that urban economics and planning is always-already political – that the concept of impartial expertise is a smokescreen concealing an underlying normative stance.

I showed that this underlying normative stance of the GSC is defined through its triad of principles: productivity, liveability, and sustainability. I reframed these principles as a set of accumulation, distributional, and ecological outcomes. The GSC argues that maximising any given principle requires maximising each of the others. However, my argument shows that the GSC operates to make ‘liveability’ and ‘sustainability’ functional for capital accumulation. The GSC conceives of distributional and ecological outcomes in terms of making (some) spaces liveable for (high-skill) workers, on the basis that ‘liveable’ places are required to attract labour (and capital investment), which is necessary to maintain Sydney’s accumulation strategy. This amounts to a policy of gentrification.

My analysis of the GSC, then, paints a dire portrait of future urban development in Sydney. My research allows us to recognise that the GSC is not a ‘Fair Go’ for the West. If anything, it is a ‘Fair Go’ for capital. Yet the possibilities of urban social movements as we have seen spark up across the globe across the last decade remind us that all is not lost, that progressive change is possible, even when the odds appear stacked against us. As Frank Stilwell reminds us: “Progress is possible, albeit not on a terrain of our own choosing.”

The post A Fair Go For The West? Capital accumulation, urban planning, and the Greater Sydney Commission appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

Physics Textbook on Cosmology and Gravitation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/03/2018 - 10:20pm in

M.V. Berry, Principles of Cosmology and Gravitation (Bristol: Institute of Physics Publishing 1989).

Yesterday came the news of the death of the great British physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking at the age of 76. Hawking had suffered for most of his adult life from motor neurone disease, since he was diagnosed with it in his early 20s. He was given only three years to live, but instead managed to live out a very full lifespan working on his theories of the origin of the universe and Black Holes. He was a great ambassador for science. His book, A Brief History of Time, was a bestseller when it appeared in 1980s, although he admitted that it was probably a book few finished. And he showed that it was still possible for a disabled person to do cutting edge research, provided they had the necessary technical and medical support. In his case, it was his wheelchair and the machine that allowed him to speak, first of all by keying in the words, then by twitching just a single muscle. Some of the praise seemed a bit too fulsome to me. Like when they started saying that he was the greatest scientist since Newton and Einstein. I don’t think he was. And Hawking on his own didn’t unlock the secrets of universe or Black Holes, as the Beeb’s presenters also claimed. As for his great sense of humour, well, it existed, as his appearance on shows like The Simpsons demonstrated, but my memory of it is marred by him turning up with the TV critic, Victor Lewis Smith, telling fart jokes and laughing on the 1990s series, Inside Victor Lewis Smith. But it really was inspiring to see how he was a great hero to the ‘A’ level students at a science fair yesterday, and how he had inspired them to become interested in science.

One of the complaints Richard Dawkins has made about popular science programmes is that they’re too ‘dumbed-down’. He points out that they have to have lots of explosions, and they mustn’t include equations, in case that scares people off. There’s a lot with which I don’t agree with Dawkins. I’m not an atheist, and have argued on this blog against him and the other militant atheists. But he is right here. Scientists writing the popular science books have said that they’ve been told by their publishers to leave equations out, because every equation in a book damages sales.

I think this is the wrong attitude to have. It’s why I’ve put up this piece about the above book by M.V. Berry. It’s an undergraduate physics textbook, which does contain the fundamental mathematical equations for this area of physics. Its contents include

1. Introduction

2. Cosmography
2.1 What the universe contains
2.2 The cosmic distance hierarchy and the determination of galactic densities
2.2.1 Parallax
2.2.2 Distance from velocity measurements
2.2.3 Distance from apparent luminosity
2.2.4 Weighing galaxies
2.3 The red shift and the expansion of the universe.

3. Physical base of general relativity
3.1 The need for relativistic ideas and a theory of gravitation.
3.2 Difficulties with Newtonian mechanics: gravity
3.3. Difficulties with Newtonian mechanics: inertial frames and absolute space.
3.4 Inadequacy of special relativity.
3.5 Mach’s principle, and gravitational waves.
3.6 Einstein’s principle of equivalence.

4 Curved spacetime and the physical mathematics of general relativity.
4.1 Particle Paths and the separation between events
4.2 Geodesics
4.3 Curved spaces
4.4 Curvature and gravitation.

5 General relativity near massive objects
5.1 Spacetime near an isolated mass.
5.2 Around the world with clocks.
5.3 Precession of the perihelion of Mercury
5.4 Deflection of light
5.5 Radar echoes from planets
5.6 Black Holes

6 Cosmic Kinematics
6.1 Spacetime for the smoothed-out universe
6.2 Red shifts and horizons
6.3 Apparent luminosity
6.4 Galactic densities and the darkness of the night sky.
6.5 Number counts

7 Cosmic dynamics
7.1 Gravitation and the cosmic fluid
7.2 Histories of model universes
7.3 The steady state theory
7.4 Cosmologies in which the strength of gravity varies

8 In the beginning
8.1 Cosmic black-body radiation.
8.2 Condensation of galaxies
8.3 Ylem.

Appendix A: Labelling astronomical objects
Appendix B: Theorema Egregium
Solutions to odd-numbered problems
Useful numbers.

there’s also a bibliography and index.

I’m not claiming to understand the equations. I struggled at both my ‘O’ level maths and physics, and what I know about science and astronomy I learned mostly through popular science books. But in the mid-1990s I wanted to see at least some of the equations scientists used in their explorations and modelling of the universe. One of the popular science books I was reading said at the time that this book was at the level that people with ‘A’ level maths could understand, and this didn’t seem quite so much a jump from my basic maths skills. So I ordered it. I’m afraid I can’t say that I’ve read it properly, despite the fact that I keep meaning to. Some of the equations are just too much for me, but I can follow the explanations in the text. I’m putting this notice of the book up here, in case there are any budding Stephen or Stephanie Hawkingses out there, who want to go a bit further than the pop-sci explanations, and see for themselves what the maths behind it all is like.

The Beeb also said in their eulogy for the great man, that Hawking hoped that the people reading his A Brief History of Time would come away with one point, even if they hadn’t finished it: that the universe is governed by rational law. Actually, this ideas isn’t unique to Hawking by a very, very long way. It actually comes from the Middle Ages, and is the assumption that makes science possible. Hawking was an agnostic, I believe, and many scientists are atheists. But this assumption that the universe is governed by rational laws ultimately comes from Christian theology. The founds of modern science in the Renaissance pointed to the passages in the Bible, in which God’s Wisdom creates the universes and establishes the boundaries and courses of natural phenomena, like the tides and stars. And the anarchist of science, Feuerabend, pointed out that the assumption that the laws of the universe all form a consistent whole come from Christian doctrine, quoting the 13th century theologian and philosopher, Thomas Aquinas: ‘We must believe that the laws of the universe are one, because God is one.’

Hawking has passed away, but it’s clear that he has inspired many more people to become interested in this rather arcane branch of the sciences. I hope this continues, despite the Tories’ attack on education and science and research for its own sake.

Radio 4 Programme on Douglas Adams, and New Series of Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/02/2018 - 5:35am in

This Saturday, 3rd March 2018, Radio 4 are broadcasting a programme on Douglas Adams and his ideas for the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, based on papers at Cambridge University. The programme’s part of their Archive Hour series, at 8.00 O’clock in the evening. The blurb for it on page 119 of the Radio Times reads

John Lloyd explores a collection of Douglas Adams’ private papers written as the latter’s ideas for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy took shape.

There’s a bit more about the programme on the previous page, 118, which runs

Don’t Panic! It’s the Douglas Adams Papers

As part of the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the first broadcast on Radio 4 of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy a new series begins on Radio 4 on Thursday. It includes unused material held at Cambridge University by author Douglas Adams, and Adams’ papers are the basis of his friend and collaborator John Lloyd’s tribute this evening. The tribute inevitably hinges on Adams’ famous inability to write. He “got stuck”. But the results of his anguish impressed such fans as Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking, both of whom appear. A priceless homage to a comedy genius.

And there’s a two-page feature on him on pages 114 & 115.

The new series of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is on Radio 4 at 6.30, on Thursday 8th March. The new series’ entitled The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Hexagonal Phase, and the listing for it in the Radio Times runs

Simon Jones returns as Arthur Dent in a new sci-fi comedy tale based on Dirk Maggs’ novel And Another Thing, with additional material by creator Douglas Adams. It sees Arthur and the rest in an adventure involving Viking Gods and Irish confidence tricksters-not to mention the first glimpse of the Eccentrica Gallumbits.

I don’t think I’ll be listening to it, as I went off Hitchhiker and Adams way back in the 1990s. I loved the first two books, but their quality steadily went down, and I’ve had no desire to read the Dirk Gently stories or anything else Adams’ wrote. And I also wasn’t impressed by the way Adams got very sniffy in an interview on the radio with Paxman, when Paxo told him he wrote science fiction, ‘but it was good’, and Adams denied that he did. Hitchhiker clearly is SF, but it seems Adams either didn’t respect the genre due to literary snobbishness, or simply didn’t want to be pigeonholed as an SF writer. I can also remember him on another radio programme back in the 1990s telling an audience of schoolchildren that he was a ‘wordsmith’. I’m sure that’s true, in the sense that Adams was genuinely concerned with making sure his work was exactly right, but it still sounds more than a little pretentious and conceited when the uses the term to describe himself.

Woohoo! Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams Is Coming Back!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 25/02/2018 - 2:59am in

More good news for fans of mature SF. The bad news is that the new set of programmes, which continue from last year, is on Channel 4 at 10 O’clock in the evening, bang opposite the X-Files, which is on channel at the same time. Grrr! Better set your videos, peeps.

The new set of programmes begins with ‘The Father Thing’. The blurb for this on page 67 of the Radio Times runs

The sci-fi anthology series inspired by Philip K. Dick’s short stories returns. In this episode, the world is under attack as aliens quietly invade people’s homes young hero Charlie must make difficult decisions to protect his mother on the human race.

Another small article about it on page 65 states

The sci-fi anthology returns with a version of Philip K. Dick’s The Father Thing. That was published in 1954, the same year as the serialisation of the novel that inspired the movie version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers-and it you’ve seen that, or just know the premise of it, you can skip this.

Jack Gore and Greg Kinnear are both excellent as ayoung boy and his dad, shadowed by the threat of marital strife until the kid starts to have more serious concerns.

A possible theme about children fearing the loss of a divorcing parent never coalesces. Instead, as the boy’s mates get involved, we veer into a half-cocked Stranger Things homage. A well-performed, nicle shot dud.

I’ve noticed that one of the perennial themes in Dick’s work is that the hero is always in a rocky marriage, and the wife, or one of the female characters, is always bitch queen from hell, to use the words of Arnie Rimmer. Dick’s was married several times, but he comes across as something of a misgynist.

Despite the Radio Time’s critic’s sniffs, The Father Thing is one of the pieces that’s been republished recently, and I look forward to seeing it. But we’ll decide whether it’s a dud or not, thank you.

Elon Musk’s Launch of Sports Car into Space, and Fear Factory’s Version of ‘Cars’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 10/02/2018 - 11:36pm in

And now for something a bit lighter.

This week, Elon Musk’s Space-X company launched a sports car into space, complete with a dummy pilot. This was supposedly inspired by David Bowie’s Starman, and Iggy Pop’s The Passenger. You probably saw the pictures in the paper.

What it reminded me most strongly of, however, was the video for Fear Factory’s version of the Gary Numan hit, Cars. Fear Factory are an American Heavy Metal/Industrial band, and Numan himself appears in the video as a driver of a car in space.

The video includes scenes of the band driving through a futuristic network of brightly tunnels, while alphanumerics scroll down the screen, which is clearly inspired by The Matrix trilogy. Then Numan himself drives at speed through a city. He’s also driving a car in space and collides with a satellite. This is then followed by the scenes of a crash, and the lead singer walking towards an upturned car from which a woman and the firemen are fleeing. It ends with a shot of the other wrecked car in space floating away.

And in between the lead singer inserts one of the band’s CDs into the car’s player, and there’s a creepy kid in the back, who looks just like he came out of Village of the Damned.

Take a look at the video, and see the similarities between it and Musk’s venture. He really should have had this on his playlist, as well as Bowie and Iggy Pop.