Archive by category | Science fiction

Blade Runner 2049: a dystopian masterwork

Blade Runner 2049: a dystopian masterwork

If director Denis Villeneuve was daunted by creating a sequel to the 1982 cult noir Blade Runner, it doesn’t show. The themes running through his Blade Runner 2049 feel more poignant than ever, the Los Angeles rain falls even harder, and it packs as much of a cinematic punch.  Read more

Change Agent: CRISPR-flavoured fiction

Change Agent: CRISPR-flavoured fiction

It’s 2045, and the genetic editing system CRISPR has become a mainstay of society, producing everything from housecat-sized tigers to geopolitical intrigues. The United Nations has approved a sensible list of gene edits that can be legally used to eliminate specific genetic diseases from human embryos. This international concord works as well as one could expect from a sluggish bureaucracy trying to rein in a lucrative new enterprise. Before the treaty’s ink is dry, underground labs in Asia are offering “vanity edits” to parents willing to pay for smarter, healthier children. A single CRISPR snip to a gene that reduces the risk of heart disease might be routine and relatively cheap; altering the many genes that contribute to a complex feature like intelligence will cost much more.  Read more

Science fiction: journey to the East

Cixin Liu

Last week’s Chinese Sci-Fi event at the London Literature festival was irresistible: I love science fiction and have a keen interest in the Far East. The star here was Cixin Liu, whose 2008 Hugo-awarded novel The Three-Body Problem is a huge best-seller in China and, since its English translation (Head of Zeus, 2015), beyond. (See Nature’s interview with its translator, sci-fi writer Ken Liu, here.) Liu’s fellow panellist was Xiaolu Guo, the award-winning, genre-defying Chinese novelist and filmmaker now living in Britain, whose works include the 2014 I Am China and 2012 UFO In Her Eyes.  Read more

The rise and fall of the UFO

The rise and fall of the UFO

It seems amazing that anyone ever believed in them. In the mid-twentieth-century heyday of unidentified flying objects (UFOs), grainy pictures of flying saucers hovering in the sky were a staple even in  respectable magazines such as Time and Life. Volumes were written earnestly detailing the visits of aliens. This novel form of cold war paranoia seemed to seep into the collective psyche on both sides of the Atlantic.  Read more

Star Trek puts its stamp on the future

Star Trek puts its stamp on the future

As Star Trek boldly sails into its second half-century, you might wonder what other impacts on science and culture this astonishing franchise could have. ‘Live long and prosper’, for instance — could the show hold clues to hyper-longevity? (Certainly ‘Bones’ McCoy managed to survive an incurable terminal illness, xenopolycythemia, during heated skirmishes on the asteroid-ship Yonada in an early series). Might the weird paradoxes the series harnessed to explain time travel ever transpire?  Read more

Lust and the Turing test

Lust and the Turing test

By and large, we watch movies to be entertained, not to be provoked into deep thought. Occasionally, a film does both. This year’s Ex Machina is one such gem. It prompted me to reflect upon the evolution of the idea of machine sentience over the past three decades of science fiction on film.  Read more