Social Commentary in science fiction: How it changed after 9/11

I’m not here to offer platitudes, express outrage or appeal to jingoism and xenophobia. I think there has been enough of that in the last ten years and there is nothing I can say about the event that hasn’t already been said. What I do want to do is discuss how the world’s worst terrorist attack changed science fiction and the portrayal of government, religion and society.

Continue reading “Social Commentary in science fiction: How it changed after 9/11”

Steampunk: Quirky, Funky, Sexy

I must admit that I’ve recently developed a bit of a fascination for the sub-genre and its something I’ve approached through the artwork. On my woefully underused tumblr page I have posted several steampunk’d science fiction icons (a dalek, optimus prime, predator, R2D2 and C3P0) and a computer just for the amusement. However I do find the original artwork highly appealing if only for the imagination behind it. The fashion is pretty funky (and a little bit sexy) too.Continue reading “Steampunk: Quirky, Funky, Sexy”

Examples of Social Commentary in Horror

Having already established that science fiction often contains elements of social commentary, I wish to explore whether the same is true of horror. I had this idea about a week ago and in preparation felt I ought to write a few book reviews of my favourite horror novels. To be perfectly honest I can’t think of a great many horror novels or films that really attempt to explore the same sort of issues that hard science fiction or social science fiction attempt. Those that do tend to be the exception rather than the rule. The primary aim of horror is, after all, to terrify. Science fiction has no such primary goal.Continue reading “Examples of Social Commentary in Horror”

Book Review: The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

If somebody would have asked me which contemporary horror writer I would choose to write a dark fantasy largely aimed at children, I must admit that Clive Barker would not be top of the list. Most of his work is sexual often with themes of homosexuality and usually BDSM. Not that I have a problem with this but for those reasons Clive Barker would never jump out at me as being the ideal writer for a children’s dark fantasy. Therefore I was surprised when I opened The Thief of Always and not only enjoy it, but to afterwards consider it my favourite Barker novel.

Harvey is ten years old and bored with school so when a mysterious man ‘Rictus’ offers him the chance to go to the Holiday House where he can celebrate Christmas every night and just generally play and have fun for as long as he wants, Harvey jumps at the chance. The fantasy world is as amazing as he imagined and when he phones his mother to let her know that he is alright she oddly advises him to ‘stay as long as he likes’. He makes friends with two other children and as the (short) book progresses, they start to realise that not is all as it seems. When the truth comes out, it is more horrifying than they could ever have imagined.

The world Barker has created is bizarre and fantastical; there is enough content and underlying theme to engage both children and adults. In some ways it feels very much long a modern horror, in other ways it feels rather like a homage to the likes of the brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson etc.

Danny Boyle’s Sunshine: “Every time I shut my eyes… it’s always the same.”

This past Sunday I watched Danny Boyle’s Sunshine for about the tenth time.Continue reading “Danny Boyle’s Sunshine: “Every time I shut my eyes… it’s always the same.””

Examples of Social Commentary in Science Fiction

So I can’t really get the events of Frankenstein out of my head and it is still giving me much to ponder, not in and of itself, but how science fiction is such a major and important conduit for social commentary. If I had studied sociology instead of archaeology at university, I would like to have written a dissertation on how science fiction is the most effective medium for raising awareness of, or commentating on, social issues.Continue reading “Examples of Social Commentary in Science Fiction”

Book Review: Web by John Wyndham

‘Web’ is a surprisingly pleasing addition to the career of John Wyndham. Published ten years after his death, it follows similar themes to several of his better known works.

After an episode of PTSD, our protagonist purchases an island in the south Pacific in order to create a utopia and get away from the strains of the western world. This is a very short book (140 pages) and a good 40+ at the beginning is taken up with a short history of the island, the first arrivals in the early 19th century, its annexation into the British Empire then onward to both world wars and its change of ownership during that time all the while the locals amuse themselves with the rare arrivals of the white man.

But it is in the aftermath of WWII that the story really begins to take shape. This was a period of testing nuclear weapons and an attempt is made to move the locals from the island and to another where they wouldn’t be in the path of the fallout.

Years later our group arrives on their utopia to discover that something isn’t quite right. There are spiders all over the island and they are evolving. Far from being a utopia, the humans become trapped by the freak of evolution.

The metaphor of humans no longer being the pinnacle of evolution is one used several times by Wyndham and it doesn’t feel tired or overused here, it is just presented in a different way in light of the era in which Wyndham was living in which he wrote it. It comes to a sudden end but felt that it could have should have been longer. The ending itself is not typical of Wyndham.


Book Review: The Maya by Michael D. Coe

The Maya

I always like to have a factual book on the go at the same time as a fiction and though books like this are generally often more work than pleasure, I must say that this was a pleasurable read as an introduction to a subject I previously knew very little about.

Quite possibly the most comprehensive book written on The Maya to date. It reads well both for a general audience and for scholarly readers. I bought this on recommendation of one of my University lecturers in preparation for my honeymoon to Mexico because I had not studied Meso-America either as part of my academic studies nor for pleasure.

Coe has constructed a volume rich in illustration, description, plenty of maps, explanations that are easy on the eye and covering the sum total of Maya history from the earliest settlers to the European conquest. He uses a backdrop that we from a European heritage would understand by putting it in context of world events. It also looks at modern ideals of the Maya and how their culture permeates today.

This is a superb introduction for any student of Maya history and Archaeology written by one of its foremost scholars