Archive | July, 2005

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War Games

When Computers Were Mysterious.

John Badham’s 1983 film War Games shows how an intelligent, reclusive student uses his skills to rebel in a fun kind of way. He gets his thrills from doing something which only a select few can do. It was made and is set in a time when the iron curtain was still present (and posed a real threat), when computers were still mysterious and not to mention it is set in a pre-Windows era (who reading this thinks Windows has been around forever?).

It tells the story of David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) who has the means and the knowledge to allow him to hack into remote computers using an analogue modem and some hot kit (for 1983). He innocently changes his grades as they aren’t as good as his parents wished. It is my view that his low grades were not because he was crap at the subjects, but because he was sidetracked away from his subjects because of his interests. He simply concentrated on the things that interested him.

As well as changing his grades, he uses a sequential phone dialler to dial into remote systems to locate a games publisher. By accident he happens to dial into NORAD. That’s where the adventure (and the War Games) really starts.

One of the things that stand out is the following quote which you can’t help sniggering at:

Mr. Liggett: Alright, Lightman. Maybe you can tell us who first suggested the idea of reproduction without sex.
David Lightman: Um, your wife?

This was a landmark performance for Matthew Broderick and fired him into fame as a top notch actor. With Ally Sheedy by his side, it was hard to fail. They play off each other well, each complimenting the other. Both of them interested in the neat computer he has.

But it’s John Wood who plays Dr. Stephen Falken who caught my eye. He is such a formidable actor, you can see the passion on his face, the wonder in his voice when he talks about the dinosaurs. Even when he’s simply playing Tic Tac Toe with Joshua, the passion is evident like a tidal wave on the screen.

Overall, it’s a feel good SF movie which enthralled the movie watching public at the time. It was a very nieve time in terms of computers, and this movie showed part fact and part fiction; but it is still as relevent today as it was then.

By the way, I’ve noticed in some places War Games is classed as a thriller. To me it is SF through and through, simply for the reason that when it was originally released, we never really knew if what was portrayed in the movie was quite fact or fiction…

Overall: Scifi UK Review Wargames four out of five

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Interzone Magazine

Interzone Issue 193 BI Monthly SF Scifi Magazine UKA SF Periodical Full Of Suprises Sprung By New Authors.

I will start this review of Interzone with some blurb off the TTA Press website.

Founded in 1982, Interzone has maintained its position as one of the world’s leading professional Science Fiction and Fantasy magazines, nominated for a Hugo many years running and winning in 1995, a reputation that the new team will be making every effort to enhance and improve.

TTA Press took over from the previous publishers from issue 194 (September/October 2004).

Prior to that, it was published by David Pringle and his gang. It was a stylish, 68 page, (monthly/bi monthly depending on the schedule) containg around 6 or 7 short stories. It included both well known authors and up and coming authors. The kind of stories were what I would term proper SF. They made you think. They were impressive, and most of all they were enjoyable.

Because the lineup changed issue by issue, it was almost like a lottery as to what kind of story you would next read (but the reader always won). Interzone has published new stories by authors such as Brian Aldiss, Sarah Ash, J.G. Ballard, Iain M. Banks, Stephen Baxter, Michael Blumlein, Molly Brown, John Brunner, Christopher Burns, Richard Calder, Jonathan Carroll, Thomas M. Disch, Paul Di Filippo, Greg Egan, William Gibson, Nicola Griffith, John Courtenay Grimwood, M. John Harrison, Robert Holdstock, Gwyneth Jones, Graham Joyce, Garry Kilworth, Jonathan Lethem, Paul J. McAuley, Ian R. MacLeod, Michael Moorcock, Kim Newman, Rachel Pollack, Christopher Priest, Alastair Reynolds, Nicholas Royle, Geoff Ryman, Brian Stableford, Charles Stross, Ian Watson and a great many talented newer authors. The list contains some of my favourite SF writers, namely Christoper Priest and Jonathan Carroll. The point being is that the list is impressive.

As well as the fiction, there were articles of non-fiction which included book reviews, interviews and movie reviews. They were intelligently written and almost as interesting as the fiction.

So, in issue 193 they announced that there was a change of management, and that there was an ‘incoming publisher’. We held our collective breath…

I must admit, that when they announced a change of publisher I wondered exactly how Interzone itself would be affected. I have seen all too many times, an entity is taken over and all of a sudden it becomes unrecognisable for what it was. The new owners have big ideas, which can invariably have a negative impact on how it appears from then on.

It appeared to me as if it was the backbone of British SF and it seemed to be the general consensus from other critics.

Along came issue 194.
Interzone Issue 194 BI Monthly SF Scifi Magazine UK
My first impressions were from the way the presentation had changed. I held in my hand a glossy Manga style magazine. The main obvious changes were to the logo and the fonts had changed to be more ‘trendy’. I could see immediately that they were trying to push the magazine from it’s ‘fanzine’ look, to a more commercially viable look.

Opening issue 194 showed that they had re arranged the content presentation as well as the content. The look was definately crisper, easier to read, and somehow just looked better. The artwork seemed to revolve around the content of the page it was on. For example there were drawings which fitted in with the page of the story it was on.

Upon comparing the non-fiction areas, I could see that there were still the main areas as there were before, gossip, movie and novel reviews. But in addition there was a new computer game page. Hmm I thought. This instinctively struck me as a bad move. If I wanted to read about computer games, I’d buy a computer game magazine. But after reading the column, and subsequent columns, it shows that in fact, it fits in well. The column is written with SF in mind. Even though I wouldn’t personally buy a game from the sole writings in the column, it makes interesting reading.

The fiction itself was pretty much the same as before, which I breathed a sigh of relief to. But being wary, I wanted to read each subsequent issue to see if there would be a gradual change.

The format lasted from 194 to 198. I think during this time, the publisher were ‘testing the water’, trying various tweeks to the format (as it is in fact only the format and presentation which has changed), and getting feedback from readers.

And along came 199. And it blew me away.
Interzone Issue 193 BI Monthly SF Scifi Magazine UK
Again, the changes were primarily presentation, but it makes it so much more of a proper magazine. The artwork is still just as excellent. The fiction and non fiction sections are just as good. But now the changes to the look and feel of the magazine seems to have thrust it into a format which could be displayed in a high street newsagents.

The feedback from their readers seems to have payed off. It has a masthead and more of an identifiable front cover. It has been toned down slightly, the logo is no longer in such a ‘futuristic’ font.

I noticed also they’ve put a few choice keywords on the front - Aliens! Murder! Celebrities! Dragons! Sex! Food! I’m not sure what the mentality is behind this choice of words, but I have a feeling that the publisher are aiming for a larger market, something that will sit on a newsagents shelf and be catching to the eye. The picture of the cyberamazon girl with big tits and a laser kind of implies that too.

Looking back, Interzones pre 194 were pretty stagnant. I would envisage this is because it was a case of ‘why fix what isn’t broken’. The format worked. But now, post 193, Interzone is going through many changes to simply bring it upto date.

And it is certainly working. I will continue to subscribe. You can subscribe to Interzone here too. You won’t be disappointed.
Interzone Issue 199 BI Monthly SF Scifi Magazine UK
So, it’s been revamped and revamped again, and the publishers are improving it all the time. It is very much the better for it. It should be available at WH Smiths (at Waterloo for tired commuters wanting to escape the reality of being stuck on a packed, sweaty train).

A last thought: A few Interzone Anthologies have been released over the years containing key stories through the lifetime of the magazine. It was, infact, how I first got to hear about the publication. I would hate to think that these compilations won’t be carried on. Let’s hope the new publisher have the time/energy/money to bring out the first 21st Century Interzone Compilation.

Issue 200 is reviewed here and it’s funkier than ever.

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SciFi Posters / T-Shirts Shop

SciFi Movie Posters & SciFi Movie TShirts Are All Part Of The Scene.

You can’t be a SF Junkie without wearing the apparel to show it off. So if you fancy something different, there are links in some of the posts which point to relevent SciFi Posters or T-Shirts available.

Also, on the left you’ll see a generic link which allows you to search for exactly poster or t-shirt you want. The tshirt link below takes you to the SF Junkie Shopperama Boutique, full of customised products for the SF Junkie (or want to be SF Junkie). Including cute Teddys Bears, sexy underwear for that special person in your life (!), bibs for your baby, postcards, mousemats and much more.

Below you can find immediate shop access to posters and t-shirts. (If you’re not into Star Wars, then you can click next to go through the pages).

So, if you’re into SciFi bigtime, as well as reading and watching it, why not wear it, hang it, send it or give it away as a present.

Click Here To Buy The Time Traveller Tshirt SciFi SFClick Here To Science Fiction Gifts Tshirts Teddy Bears SciFi SF
SF Junkie Shopperama Boutique

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I, Robot

Isaac Asimov’s 21st Century Remake Of His Classic Book.

The CGI isn’t too bad, making the robots come alive. I particularly liked the ‘emotions’ the robots showed simply through their face movements.

Will Smith performs well, even if it’s not his typical role. He brings his trademark humour to the part which would otherwise be dull.

Well worth watching, but in the interest of SF and Isaac Asimov, I’d recommend reading the books first. It gives you a good insight into the original story from which you can glean more information on the actual movie. Having said that, the film does meander away from the book.


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The Hulk

I Must Stop Impulse Buying DVDs,

because this pretencious, effects where they shouldn’t be, black hole of a contrived and unimaginative story is total and utter shite. Apologies for the forefrontness, but this movie makes me mad, so very mad (and green).

The story is loose, always building up to something, but never quite getting there. The effects are OK, but c’mon people, CGI is just getting so boring. It’s everywhere, and it’s so in your face obvious it becomes insulting. The Hulk looks like putty. With facial movements that look artificial, robotic, with really no emotion whatsoever. Point and click acting just doesn’t work (the technology isn’t quite here yet). His rage face is almost comical, and his hair is just wrong.

After all is said and done, rewinding in my mind back through the movie, I can only think of one redeeming feature that stopped me turning it off; and that was… no, I lied. Nothing comes to mind.

Only watch it if you are a fan of the comic books (and can manage to steal the disc off a friend).

I also need to point out that it is really the story and effects I don’t like. There is nothing wrong with the acting, but I feel it’s overshadowed by the poorness of the film. Eric Bana (Bruce Banner) plays a good leading role. As does Jennifer Connelly as Bruce’s ex-girlfriend. They do, infact make a good pair on screen, though it is a shame that it happened to be this CGI flop.


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