Childhood Science Fiction: Television (Part 1)

I’ve been reading, watching and playing with science fiction media ever since I can remember. In part, that’s from growing up as the manned missions to the moon were happening. I have a distinct memory of my mother getting me up in the middle of the night to watch the Apollo 17 moon landing, models of a Saturn V rocket and lunar lander my father had made, and books and posters of rockets and visions of the future. For me, it was just natural to fall into science fiction.

Most of my pre-teenage years were in the 1970s, a grand time for science fiction television shows, though in New Zealand we often got them a while after the UK and US.


LogansRunLogan’s Run (1977-1978)

I never saw the 1976 Logan’s Run film as a child, but I watched the TV show (and read some of the novels that were produced from the movie). I can’t remember the details of individual episodes, but do remember the ongoing sense of being hunted by the Sandmen that ran from week to week.

Obviously, the show got cancelled before the end of its first season but it was a “must watch” as a child. I seem to remember Logan’s Run toys in the shops, but can’t seem to track any down online now. Continue reading

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Theological Science Fiction – Starting Points (Part 4)

The final part of starting points for reading science fiction with religious themes.


chaplainThe Chaplain’s War – Brad R. Torgersen (2014)

This is effectively military science fiction in a similar vein to Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War (1974), Keith Laumer’s Bolo universe (1976-2010),  Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (1959), and Jack Campbell’s The Lost Fleet (2006-2010) series.

Here the protagonist is not a super soldier, but rather an chaplain’s assistant who has to prevent humanity’s extermination through argument and by possessing religious faith. Continue reading

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Artificial Intelligence: Some links

robot-1964072_960_720Clearing out some links relating to artificial intelligence from my browser bar.

 

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Theological Science Fiction – Starting Points (Part 3)

The third part of the theological science fiction starting point list (Part 1and Part 2).


ContactContact – Carl Sagan (1985)

The American cosmologist, Carl Sagan, penned this novel, originally meant to be a film script, which examines humanities first contact with extraterrestrial intelligence. Sagan described himself as agnostic, with his Gifford Lectures (which focus on natural theology) collected together in the book The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God. One of the key themes running through this book is how, if at all, empirical reality and subjective experience, can be related, something that often forms part of the discussion between science and religion. Continue reading

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Theological Science Fiction – Starting Points (Part 2)

Following on from Theological Science Fiction – Starting Points (Part 1) and Theology and Science Fiction here’s the second part of the starting points for theological science fiction.


The Sparrow (1996) and The Children of God (1998)  – Mary Doria Russell

In the tradition of James’s Blish’s A Case of Conscience, these two novels feature a Jesuit expedition to the first intelligent alien life discovered by humankind. It is an intelligent treatment of not just the interplay of faith and reason, but on a deeper level of theodicy and divine providence. The title of the first book refers to Matt 10:29-31 and God’s omniscience:

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. (NRSV)

Continue reading

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Theological Science Fiction – Starting Points (Part 1)

A few weeks back I did a guest lecture on “Science, Technology and Human Being” in the Laidlaw postgraduate course R202 God’s World: Theology and Science and Theology. I framed my discussion using a trajectory through science fiction starting with Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” through to contemporary narratives, focusing on the hopes and fears expressed about science and technology at different points in that trajectory.

As part of that, I offered the students some starting points for engaging with science fiction writing with overt theological themes and characters. This wasn’t a definitive list, but somewhere they could start if they were unfamiliar with science fiction.

Here’s my first part of my list of starting points. Continue reading

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Theology and Science Fiction

By its very nature science fiction is speculative, providing a safe space to ask critical questions about our current world within imaginative environments used to focus upon those questions. As theologian Stephen May comments,

[s]uch invention can either suggest a universe as strange as possible (with equally strange creatures inhabiting it), or one like ours – except for one vital difference.

Stephen May, Stardust and Ashes: Science Fiction in Christian Perspective
(London: SPCK, 1998): 15.

Continue reading

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Wakanda Forever – The Black Panther Theology Syllabus

Black_Panther_PosterMatthew Brake over at the Popular Culture and Theology blog links through to Kimberly Hampton’s syllabus entitled “Wakanda Forever – The Black Panther Theology Syllabus“.

Using the recent Marvel film “Black Panther” as a conversation start, the syllabus describes itself as:

A beginning, and continually-expanding look at the different streams, both theological and non-theological, that can inform a deeper understanding of the Marvel Comics Universe movie, “Black Panther.”

It’s an intriguing idea, and the material there is definitely thought provoking and worth looking through. Now I’m thinking about what things I might design a syllabus around.

 

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Never Alone

 

never-alone-header

When I was in Denver in August I visited the Denver Art Museum as part of the International Society for Media, Religion and Culture conference that was meeting in Boulder. Part of that involved visiting a number of curated installations, many of which showcased indigenous artists and their work.

IMG_20180810_133020Walking to the Denver Art Museum

Tucked away in one of the galleries was an installation based around the game “Never Alone”. I’d noticed this game before online, but had never seen it played. In the installation there were a cluster of consoles set up for people to play the game, with one wall showing the game play of from one of the consoles at any given time. Players were a mixture of children and adults, and all seemed to connect to with the game and its characters. On one of the walls there was a description of the history of the game as well as some still photographs of it.

What is unique about this game, is that it worked with indigenous people in Alaska to create an engaging game that told their stories, as opposed to simply appropriating them without permission as in the Civilization VI controversy with their inclusion of a Cree Civilization option (see Cree Nation headman unhappy with Civilization 6 portrayal)

IMG_20180810_155140
From the art installation at DAM

You can see the trailer for the game here below:

Yesterday, I got a notification from Steam saying the game was on sale. To be honest, I’d forgotten I was going to buy it, so I immediately jumped over to the Steam store at got the game, the extra DLC and the soundtrack. At less than $NZ5 on sale it’s a steal. See the link below:

Go and check it out. It has me thinking how games like this might be created in the Oceanian context.

You can see a review here:

 

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Mythica – Gauntlet by another name?

I’ve been sick at home for the past few days so have been spending some time movie watching. Not feeling like anything overly heavy, and indeed something that I could pick up the plot of again if I fell asleep, I gave the Mythica series a go seeing as I had the DVDs lying around.

It was cheap and cheerful. Think Dungeons and Dragons or some other ‘sword and sorcery’ form of popular culture. All the standard tropes were there: A rag-tag band of heroes seeking to save the world; an ancient evil to be overcome; standard character class mix (á la DnD Dragonlance series) – a warrior (Caramon?); a half-elf rogue/ranger (Tanis?); a magic user (Raistlin?); and a priestess (Crysania?); characters learning to trust each other and work together; endless journeying across wilderness and in caves and tunnels (Tunnels and Trolls anyone?); lead character (Marek) being tempted by the “Dark Side”; and an ancient mentor (Kevin Sorbo hamming it up) passing on his mantle to his apprentice

There are five films in the series, with the first four having the heroes attempt a quest and each time being thwarted by the villain seeking the ancient evil, and then the last film there’s the final clash between good and evil and everything works out.

The Mythica website bills the movies as “Mythica is the most ambitious indie fantasy project ever undertaken. The series is comprised of five feature films, shot over two years on location in Utah, USA.” A portion of the films’ financing came from Kickstarter too, and the films represented original content created for the ConTV network which serves content to the Comic Con audience.

You can get a feel of the films from the trailer.

It unashamedly feels like the Hercules or Xena TV shows if they had better special effects and longer story arcs. The acting is passable – thought uneven, the effects show their budget, and the villain lacks motivation, but the characters are willing and if you are prepared to take it as ‘cheap and cheerful’ it’s a fairly enjoyable, if somewhat predictable, romp playing to its fanboys and fangirls. You will be yelling a lot at the screen though.

However, my most enduring thought through the films was that it was like a movie version of the mid-80s video game ‘Gauntlet‘ where an elf, warrior, valkyrie and wizard team up in ‘hack and slash’ adventures to raid dungeons, defeat the bad guys, collect treasure and build experience. I half expected a voice to boom out in the movie, “Elf, your life-force is running out,” which would be appropriate as the elf character tends to get pincushioned by arrows and bolts in every movie.

You can find more on Gauntlet here at: https://www.arcade-museum.com/game_detail.php?game_id=7922

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