June 2013 ISSUE

Beyond the Tracks: The Locomotive in Science Fiction Literature

The capsule of metal begins to hum. Forces accumulate. Seated inside, the passengers feel the propulsion system lurch to life. Their bones thrum in synchronous frequency. Thus harmonized, man and machine move as one. The vehicle is launched along a predestined trajectory, arcing outward, soon to bisect a barren frontier. It accelerates hesitantly at first, [...]

May 2013 ISSUE

When the Alien Is Us: Science Fictional Documentaries

Directors Werner Herzog and Errol Morris are well known for their renegotiations of what’s called cinéma vérité—the notion that truth can be found through footage in the absence of a blatantly intervening narrator or narrative. When these documentarians sat down in 2008 with Believer Magazine, Herzog observed that Morris’s recently released Standard Operating Procedure had [...]

April 2013 ISSUE

Gathered in Translation

Since speculative fiction is about imagined worlds, one might theorize that it poses fewer problems for translators than genres of literature more tethered to the specific cultures and languages of the real world.
In a sense, the theory is right. When the global language of science is English, it is indeed easy to translate to [...]

March 2013 ISSUE

Videodrome at Thirty

“A lot of people have thought of this film as very prophetic. I myself have never been interested in being a prophet of any kind. [ . . . ] But when your antennae are out there waving in the breeze and you allow them to develop because you think of yourself as an artist, you will undoubtedly pick [...]

February 2013 ISSUE

The Great Leap Sideways: SF and Social Media

Science Fiction isn’t always about the big things.
Nor does it get it right all the time.
Consider the first SF visions of the internet: for William Gibson and the other pioneer Cyberpunks, the online world was home to a chosen few—the corporate elite on one hand, the radical fringe of cowboys and hackers on the other.
But [...]

January 2013 ISSUE

The Wine-Dark Sea: Color and Perception in the Ancient World

“And jealous now of me, you gods, because I befriend a man, one I saved as he straddled the keel alone, when Zeus had blasted and shattered his swift ship with a bright lightning bolt, out on the wine-dark sea.”—Homer, The Odyssey, Book V

Perception is a funny beast. Homer’s “wine-dark sea” has puzzled scholars for [...]

December 2012 ISSUE

The Corpse of the Future: Jane C. Loudon's The Mummy! and Victorian Science Fiction

When we think of mummies, we don’t recall the desiccated corpses that rest behind museum glass, but the dehydrated reanimated corpse of lovelorn Imhotep played by Boris Karloff in the Universal Pictures flick The Mummy (1932), or the more recent reincarnation in the 1999 remake of the same name starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, and [...]

November 2012 ISSUE

Foundation and Reality: Asimov’s Psychohistory and Its Real-World Parallels

“Psychohistory dealt not with man, but with man-masses. It was the science of mobs; mobs in their billions. It could forecast reactions to stimuli with something of the accuracy that a lesser science could bring to the forecast of a rebound of a billiard ball. The reaction of one man could be forecast by no [...]

October 2012 ISSUE

The Future, One Thing at a Time

It’s conventional wisdom in science fiction that the future doesn’t come one thing at a time. This idea, which is sometimes called Campbell’s Rule (or Campbell’s Exception), is explained in these terms in the book On Writing Science Fiction by George Scithers et. al: "You can never do merely one thing. Our world a century [...]

September 2012 ISSUE

Between a UFO and a Hard Place: The Real-Life Science Heroics of Dr. Omond Solandt

Type the name "Omond Solandt" in a search engine these days, and you will likely find these top four entries. First, a very thin Wikipedia article. Second, an entry for the scholarship named in Solandt’s honour. And third, you will find a detailed article I wrote about Dr. Solandt and his career. If these were [...]