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Re: [mythsoc] RotK Theory

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  • dianejoy@earthlink.net
    ... From: David S. Bratman dbratman@stanford.edu Date: Thu, 15 May 2003 10:02:20 -0700 To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Subject: Re: [mythsoc] RotK Theory ...
    Message 1 of 63 , May 16, 2003
      Original Message:
      From: David S. Bratman dbratman@...
      Date: Thu, 15 May 2003 10:02:20 -0700
      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [mythsoc] RotK Theory

      >Don't remember the last one. "Dark Star" was a comedy, right? Or am I
      >remembering wrong? "2001" was indeed a great SF film, though the
      >hallucinogenic interlude at the end feels dated for me, now---not the
      >events that happen, but all the colors and "psychedelic" FX. I suppose
      >that can't be helped.

      << What's so amazing today about "2001" is how _little_ it has dated. OK,
      the psychedelic "look at the colors, man" scene flunks out, but the rest of
      the movie is amazing: the sfx are as good as anything done today, and the
      cool approach Kubrick brings to his storytelling is even more utterly
      refreshing, in today's action-flick environment, than it was then.>>

      I agree; the set furniture (on the Moonbase) looks modern even now and
      those stark colors are visually striking. An example of the way Kubrick
      brings in personal relationships and small moments---one reason I enjoy the
      film so much. The collegial atmosphere between the Russian and American
      scientists is brilliantly rendered, and the awkward silence punctuating
      that dialogue is riveting; says all that needs to be said. Amother small
      moment: the floating pen; the way the stewardess (which she is, though
      it's a space-going vessel) matter-of-factly tucks it in. These are not the
      only moments---only a few among a long string which makes this film both
      SFnal and fine storytelling on realistic grounds.

      << "Dark Star" was an early 1970s comedy about four guys who'd been living
      a spaceship together for 20 years. The sfx were terrible, but unlike
      "2001" this film wasn't about that. What I liked about it was its
      ruthlessly funny evocation of what life in space would really be like. One
      of the Gemini astronauts described his spacecraft as "an orbiting men's
      room": "Dark Star" captures that, and the tensions of communal living. And
      oh, that pet alien. >>

      I really should see that one again; I remember liking it very much when I
      saw it long ago, but details have grown fuzzy. I did remember the
      essentials, though! Reassurring to know my memory's working!

      << "The Man in the White Suit" was an Ealing comedy of the early 1950s,
      starring Alec Guinness as a mild-mannered scientist who invents an
      indestructable fabric. The film is not about the science, it's about the
      social changes and distresses caused by the invention. That's what real SF
      is about: the social effect of technological change. This film is
      outstanding because it's one of the few SF films ever made that could have
      been published as a cutting-edge story in one of the top SF magazines of
      the time.>>

      I know I haven't seen that one. Must look it up.

      << Most SF films are about 40 years behind the times in subject and
      fictional technique. "Star Wars", for instance, as a story would have been
      laughably retro any time after about 1935. "Star Trek" the original series
      was considered very up-to-date because its stories were only about 15 years
      behind the times in those terms. >>

      You're right; that's because Hollywood in general plays it safe,
      especially now, when film budgets are so huge. They have to make back so
      much money on the first weekend or the suits aren't happy. I expect that
      trend will continue. ---djb

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    • David S. Bratman
      ... Yes. ... Bad can still be enjoyable. I know people who enjoy this stuff, but mostly because they read it in impressionable youth. That doesn t make it
      Message 63 of 63 , May 18, 2003
        At 07:09 PM 5/16/2003 , Ernest wrote:

        >It hardly matters anyway, because the plot of _Forbidden Planet_,
        >although obviously derivative from _The Tempest_, is not the same as that
        >of _The Tempest_ except in its broadest outlines.


        >Yes, E. E. Smith's prose was preciously purple, but is it really _bad_?
        >I think it's quite enjoyable, in truth.

        Bad can still be enjoyable. I know people who enjoy this stuff, but mostly
        because they read it in impressionable youth. That doesn't make it any
        less bad.

        >I honestly prefer Doc Smith's heavily stylized but exciting pulp style
        >to the styles that are in vogue today. I think I might have actually
        >finished (say) _Moving Mars_ if Doc Smith had written it.

        That might be in large part because it would be shorter and punchier if Doc
        Smith wrote it. Not for the quality of the prose. SF prose today may well
        be, as you say, largely mediocre: but mediocre is still much better than bad.

        >If you want bad writing, try rereading _Foundation_ or its successors
        >again. Oy! Asimov at his best was top-notch--I'll put "The Dead Past"
        >on the list of best short stories I've read, SF or no--but he was rarely
        >at his best.

        I've re-read the Foundation books, and I've re-read SF from the 30s. The
        Foundation books' prose, while still pulpish, is a significant advance over
        the typical 30s product. I agree that it's hardly worth holding up to
        praise, either, and Asimov himself in later life would not have done so.

        How to identify Asimov's better fictional prose: 1) he wrote it after 1950
        [that eliminates the original Foundation books, which despite their
        copyright dates were written & published in the 1940s]; 2) he did not write
        it at the behest of his publishers [that eliminates the dreadful late
        novels, which were all written because the publishers wanted new novels
        from him, as well as various lame series fiction]. His best fiction was
        some (not all) of his 1950s novels, and much of his stand-alone short
        fiction from circa 1950 onwards.

        The Niven piece on teleportion is "The Theory and Practice of
        Teleportation", in his 1971 paperback collection _All the Myriad Ways_, but
        probably not elsewhere. The ideas he discusses in this essay he put to use
        in a story a couple years later titled "Flash Crowd" (in his 1973 pb
        collection _The Flight of the Horse_, and probably elsewhere). This story
        is now considered somewhat prescient, as "flash crowd" is now an
        established term for crowds of people who form on extremely short notice,
        through word of mouth (spread not by teleporter but cell phone) where
        something interesting is happening.

        - David Bratman
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