The Rough Guide to Dystopia

Posted: 7 June 2014

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“We shall shortly be landing in Dystopia. Please fasten your seatbelts and put your seats back in the upright position, thank you”  

One of the most enduring subgenres of modern SF is Dystopia. The definition refers to a bleak future while the name itself is derived from a classical past, i.e. Ancient Greece. “Topos” is place, while “dis” is bad – thus, we are alluding to a “bad place” (as opposed to a “utopia” which is a good place).  One of the solutions to avoid an impending dystopia – as divulged in countless SF tales – is an evacuation from Earth to colonise a planet compatible with ours.

Among the leading proponents of this view include: The Space Merchants (1953) by Frederik Pohl and Foundation (1951) and End of Eternity (1955), both by Isaac Asimov. On the big screen, this idea was last used in Oblivion.

The main problem with dystopian movies now concerns not only their monotonous rate of production, but their contents have lost their shock value; with mass unemployment, debt, climate change and a whole host of other assorted crises, Dystopia is a fast encroaching reality.

The Dystopia is already upon us
The Dystopia is already upon us

“Few writers can take much satisfaction in unrelenting pessimism, and only the most embittered have been content to paint the future utterly black… but many people have tried to map escape-routes from Dystopia” – Brian Stableford.  

One cannot help but be reminded of the scene in Blade Runner (1982) where skyships blurt out: “the chance to start again” with “opportunity and adventure.” That sounds even more tempting now; stop the world, this bunny wants to escape to those “Off-World Colonies”Eerily enough, we’re only five years shy of the date in which Syd Mead’s rain-soaked neon-lit futurescape is brilliantly realised; and we can see with the utmost dread that this Dystopia (once as far-off as it was doom-laden) looks too darned accurate.

Another way to avoid a dystopian outcome would be to forsake modern technology and all the addictive urges which it creates. You’re telling me! Having to deal with superslow and unreliable software has undoubtedly been the bane of my work, as of late, and the reason why this particular Post was not published last Friday. Grrrr…   

Yet during the post-war regeneration, the acceleration of technology was greeted by social analysts as one of the factors in attaining a better life. This might be the case for the majority of the now-gen who seemingly cannot exist without a smartphone, but for this older hack, the urge to lob this laptop outta the window appeals… 

Donald Sutherland: "I have huge admiration for President Snow" Do you embrace the dystopian vision as well, Mr S?
Donald Sutherland: “I have huge admiration for President Snow” Do you embrace the dystopian vision as well, Mr S?

“… If you take from it what I hope you will take from it, it will make you think a little more pungently about the political environment you live in and not be complacent” – Donald Sutherland (on The Hunger Games).  

A Post on this particular subject would not be complete without mentioning the phenomenal success of The Hunger Games. As Followers of this Blog will know, (part of) this movie was viewed only during a long-distance flight and it did not make for pleasant viewing. Once past the utterly absurd and pessimistic premise, the turgid script and the lame lead actors detracted my attention; left glum and disenchanted, the Off button has rarely felt so good. All circus, and no bread.

At first glance, it seems perplexing as to how and why so many teens embrace this stuff. Actually, the concept of brutal factionalised worlds governed by authoritarian entities is basically high school, opined one critic. The mash of Dystopia and oppressed younglings has been a literary combination, long before it became a twinkle in Suzanne Collins’ eye.

Donald Sutherland, the veteran star who played President Coriolanus Snow, described in one article as “a tyrant’s tyrant, with basilisk malevolence,”  viewed The Hunger Games as essentially politically allegorical, offering a “coded commentary” on inequality, power and hope.

In conclusion, despite the fast and frenetic rate of technological development, instead of creating a greater, more fulfilling, society, we suddenly find ourselves nestled in the glum dystopia of our own misguided making.   

That’s enough depressing futures for now – a preferable alternative would be to spend the rest of the evening on Youtube watching cute bunnies falling over.

Goodnight, sleep tight.

For now, "but they'll be back and in greater numbers..."
For now, “but they’ll be back and in greater numbers…”
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The Cosmic Latte: How The Night Sky Inspires And Boggles

Posted: 21 March 2014

Wherever you are in the world, the night sky always amazes
Wherever you are in the world, the night sky always amazes

“…Every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.  

Many moons ago, when standing in front of big brilliant bonfires on chilly Autumn nights, Bradscribe would crane his beady little eyes to scour the wondrous aerial canopy of stars. Through college, university, a mundane office job and now freelance writing and multifarious online shenanigans, the stars have never failed to bewitch me.

At this stage of my life, settled in the humid climate of Southeast Asia, the comfortingly cool nocturnal breeze offers a welcome respite. Working into the night (and usually right through until dawn) there is alway the chance of stepping out into the quiet night and gazing skywards to the myriad of shiny dots sprawled across the dark blanket of night.   

Everyone should stop to savour the sheer silence, serenity and solitude of the night sky.

Starlight – in technical terms – is electromagnetic radiation. Interestingly enough, while researching my piles files of astronomical literature, someone somewhere has determined that the average colour of starlight resembles “a shade of yellowish white,” amusingly branded as: “Cosmic Latte” (…!)

Admittedly, on one or two occasions, characters in my fiction have sought solace in the night sky as they try to unravel the problems in their lives… which this writer afflicted on them, of course! By gad, what a bounder this lil bunny is! 

The night time is the right time
The night time is the right time

“I often think that the night is more alive and more richly coloured than the day” – Vincent Van Gogh.

During the good or bad times, productive or slow sessions, or just lying on the beach pondering where the next stage of my life should lead, the night sky – modern light pollution permitting – has always made for a marvellous spectacle. So it comes as absolutely no surprise that people from ancient cultures around the world held the night sky in high esteem; it influenced their knowledge of agricultural, astronomical and astrological matters.

Let’s not forget the aid of celestial navigation to ancient seafarers, with 58 stars selected and named in antiquity by the Ancient Greeks, Romans, Babylonians and Arabs. The most notable of these is Polaris, the “North Star,” due to its proximity to the north celestial pole.

Despite the persistence of stargazing since time immemorial, this year sees only the 200th anniversary of the establishment of study into starlight spectroscopy: the examination of the stellar spectra.

Some gaze skywards to catch the arrival of an extraterrestrial kind; but then again, this bunny’s lived long enough to realise that – considering all the despicable and negative commonalities unfortunately prevalent throughout human nature – if aliens are intelligent and able to travel here, they would be imbued with the good sense to stay away from the likes of us!

The constellation of Orion in the southwest sky
The constellation of Orion in the southwest sky

“Humans are natural-born scientists. When we’re born, we want to know why the stars shine…” – Michio Kaku.  

The most beguiling feature of the night sky has to be the constellation of Orion. It is certainly the most recognisable, and one of the most awe-inspiring celestial wonders. Named after the hunter of Greek mythology, it is visible predominantly during winter in the southwest sky.

The Orion Nebula is a star formation 1,500 light years from Earth. The three stars of Alnilam, Mintaka and Alnitak, constitute the feature known as Orion’s Belt; the Ancient Egyptians deemed it necessary to align the three pyramids at Giza with Orion’s Belt. The Great Pyramid even has air shafts pointing to Orion. Trying to explain the need to recreate this on Earth has fuelled many theories and discussions, but the real answer still eludes us. 

In the scheme of things, the chance to spot a shooting star is always nice; astoundingly, around 15,000 tonnes of these meteoroids enter Earth’s atmosphere each year.

For thousands of years, people have gazed skywards; it’s gratifying to realise that one is a participant in such an exalted pastime. It is hoped that long after this lil bunny has shuffled off this mortal plane, countless more curious souls will eagerly revel in the wonders of the night sky.

 

Brad In The Blogosphere

Brad In The Blogosphere: A successful foray into the exciting medium of blogging.  

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An empty desk would just suggest an empty mind

“You fail only if you stop writing” Ray Bradbury.

‘Twas inevitable. With the sheer number of papers piling up in my office, the need to experiment with the tantalising array of online media now available has become imperative!

And so, sustained by kebabs and coffee, this writer has plunged in; this is the first post of my WordPress Blog. The title: ‘Bradscribe’ may admittedly sound more obscure than enticing, but this writer did not want to spend (waste?) too much time trying to concoct a clever or cool overall name for these posts! “Scribe” is a title primarily associated with ancient writers, when to produce the written word was regarded by the unitiated as a work of magic – a skill practiced only by an elite few (and ancient things are what drives this writer).

Technology permitting, these forays into the Blogosphere should be posted on a regular basis. Rather than leave my notes – on science (both fact & fiction), but mostly on archaeology & ancient history – to gather dust or get chewed by the cat, they will go through the process of being converted into blogs.

A warm and friendly paperweight, who just happens to love me too
A warm and friendly paperweight, who just happens to love me too

“Tell me & I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me & I learn… By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” Benjamin Franklin.

Preparation for these posts will involve frantic scribbling & typing mostly through the night; ever since University, the dark hours became my favoured – and most productive – time for writing.

So what does this writer have to offer? For one thing, not content with churning out the “same old stuff,” my works of non-fiction have – and will – explore the lesser-known episodes in Asian history, and my historical fiction now incorporates names and incidents accrued through my extensive research.

Bearing in mind the fact that tens of thousands of new blogs are posted on a daily basis, vying to be distinctive, and striving to have something important or relevant to say, this series will proceed (and hopefully progress) by providing updates on my own unique writing projects (both fiction & non-fiction) and feature intriguing perspectives on other issues relevant to writing and publishing.

A soft, sandy beach is all this writer needs to work contentedly
A soft, sandy beach is all this writer needs to work happily

“For me, life is writing. I can do it anywhere. It doesn’t matter where I am. I listen. I write. I live” Maynard James Keenan.

On a different note, you might like to know that…

In a unique position – a writer based on the Gulf of Thailand – various interesting possibilities arise.

These observations will appear in a separate series: “huahinhiker,” lovingly illustrated with photos of the town which has served as my base for five years now.

In the coming weeks…

Here is a list of some forthcoming Bradscribe topics:

  • OMG: LOL & Behold – Trying to cope with some of the stranger changes in the language during the Internet Age.
  • The Midnight Special – Always been a “night owl” rather than an “early bird”; explaining how some of ny best work has been produced at a cooler, quieter (and darker) time.
  • The Weekend Fretaway – How this freelance worker operates outside the usual 9-5 routine, with Saturdays & Sundays having no difference from week days.
  • Inspirational Time – How an early morning – or early evening – stroll does wonders for the creative process.

In the coming days…

… the next blog: “Science Friction,” will concentrate on the ways in which modern CGI has almost eradicated the thrills and wonder which traditional sci-fi so masterfully engineered… and enriched my infant imagination. 

So, finally, may I ask: “Who are you?” It would be great to find out who will be reading these posts; and it will be interesting to see your Comments!

See you earlier,

Brad.