Prometheus: crash and burn

Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s latest movie:

  • dodgy science
  • unbelievable, and unbelievably stupid, characters
  • questionable narrative
  • In other words, it’s as unsatisfying as the Creationism it appears to espouse. So bitterly disappointing in so many ways, the nicest thing I can find to say about it is that it looked nice. Ben Peek offers a more detailed analysis.
    Me, I’m off to watch Alien, when Ridley knew how to tell a story with heart, and then Aliens, to be reminded how you can actually give a damn for a multi-character movie.

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    GenreCon for Sydney in November

    From the Queensland Writers Centre bulletin, a great event for genre writers:

    The Australian Writer’s Marketplace is proud to announce GenreCon!

    Rydges Paramatta, November 2-4th 2012

    GenreCon is a three-day convention for Australian fans and professionals working within the fields of romance, mystery, science fiction, crime, fantasy, horror, thrillers, and more. One part party, one part celebration, one part professional development: GenreCon is the place to be if you’re an aspiring or established writer with a penchant for the types of fiction that get relegated to their own corner of the bookstore. Featuring international guests Joe Abercrombie (Writer, The First Law Trilogy, Best Served Cold, The Heroes), Sarah Wendell (co-founder, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books), and Ginger Clark (Literary Agent, Curtis Brown).

    For more information, visit GenreCon.com.au. Early bird rates available to the first 50 registrations.

    The event looks to have a strong industry and networking focus, and the ticketing system includes mention of pitching opportunities.

    Calling out for best of 2011, and launching Anywhere But Earth

    Ticonderoga Publications have opened for submissions to their next year’s best of Australian and New Zealand fantasy and horror. Stories published this year are eligible; deadline to sub is January 20.

    Anywhere But Earth, Coeur de Lion’s science fiction anthology in which I’ve gone all godbothering vampire conquistador, is launching at a spec fic fest in Sydney in November — sad to miss that. The day includes an opportunity to pitch to ‘an industry professional’.

    And there’s more about the e-format for Aurealis at the Aurealis website. Looks as if my Aussie werewolf yarn will be available in the Feb or March issue, which is, I believe, still going to be free to download.

    Oh, oh: Louise Cusack is returning to the world of MS assessments — briefly. Catch her while you can; she gives great feedback.

    Review: Engineering Infinity

    engineeering infinity by jonathan strahan (ed)

    Usually, mention of ‘hard SF’ would make my eyes glaze over. I’m the kind of tech-zombie who is happy to just press the button and have the machine do its thing, without too much thought for the how. It’s only when it doesn’t work that I start to ponder, and even then it’s a case of hard Fs rather than hard SF. So when Engineering Infinity (Solaris) landed in my mailbox and editor Jonathan Strahan started talking about hard SF in his introduction, I started to sweat. But whew – as Strahan says in summarising his anthology, these aren’t necessarily hard SF stories in the classic mould, though they do all have humanity and technology bumping heads and seeing what happens. It’s a superb collection of 14 well-crafted and quite varied yarns. One of the most technical — Peter Watt’s ‘Malak’ — was one of my favourites, along with Greg Benford’s serial killers meet time travel yarn and Charles Stross’s space zombies. Definitely a book to keep an eye out for, regardless of whether you like your SF hard-boiled or runny in in the middle, with that tasty side of humanity. My rather more considered review is up at Asif.

    Anywhere But Earth … T minus X and counting…

    anywhere but earth short story anthology

    Coeur de Lion has released the table of contents for its forthcoming anthology Anywhere But Earth, and wow, I’m very glad indeed to be in this one. Editor Keith Stevenson’s summary of my ‘Messiah on the Rock’: “Arse kicking atheists and messianic alien vampires”. Twenty-seven yarns all set somewhere that isn’t there — this is gonna be fun! This isn’t necessarily the final cover, and the anthology is due out late 2011.

    Chronos Award voting opens

    Victoria’s popular-vote awards for locals, the Chronos Awards, have opened. Details at this LJ site. The awards are to be presented at Continuum 7, in Melbourne at June. Continuum members are eligible to vote, and voting memberships are available for $5 if you aren’t attending the con.

    It’s worth noting that the con is appealing for panellists if you’d like to get involved.

    Monsters – a thoughtful alien ‘invasion’

    If you’re looking for a bug hunt, you should probably head over to the aisle with Alien vs Predators or Aliens or somesuch. Gareth Edwards’ Monsters is not about the critters from outer space, but our reaction to them.

    The scenario is this: a NASA probe carrying alien life from somewhere in our solor system has burnt up in the atmosphere, but consequently, strange creatures have appeared in Central America, to such an extent that much of that region has been declared a quarantine/infected zone. The creatures have a seasonal migration during which things get particularly hairy for those caught in the zone. In this case, there’s a photographer, Kaulder (Scoot McNairy), and Samantha (Whitney Able), the daughter of his media mogul boss. Kaulder, who would rather be chasing fame and fortune with his camera as the creatures hit the road, is instead saddled with babysitting duty — daddy wants his daughter shipped out on the first available ferry to the USA, where her fiance is waiting.

    Naturally, the travel plans are somewhat interrupted, and the two get to reveal certain truths about their personalities and lives.

    There’s no real big picture to the alien encounter, and I don’t want to give away much about the nature of the critters, but this is a very localised story — the opening titles annoy with mention of ‘half the country’ without saying which country (we presume America, the movie is set in Mexico); there’s no mention of how the rest of the world is faring, or even why Sam has to leave by ferry rather than say, by air, or by going to a different country south of the zone. Maybe I was dense and missed the salient details. Certainly, at movie’s end, I wished I’d paid more attention to the opening scenes; now I really want to see those again, just to confirm some things.

    The thing is, this IS a very personal movie. It’s about the two Yanks and the place they’re in, about how the politicians have responded to the arrival of the alien lifeforms — America, for instance, takes its Mexican border fence a massive step further and builds a modern Great Wall — and how this varies to the response of the people still living within the quarantine zone who are dealing with this change in their natural environment while the jets rain down bombs and chemicals and the tanks rumble through the streets.

    Monsters is elegant and understated and beautifully acted, the dialogue so natural in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if some was simply ad libbed. The relationship between Kaulder and Sam unfolds at such an unforced pace, it’s a delight.

    The director knows when to use handheld and when not to and the use of the aliens is wonderfully controlled to deliver moments of tension and of wonder. Not a bad effort for a low-budget flick! (IMDB says the estimated budget was a mere $200,000. Amazing.)

    There are some clever Jurassic Park/War of the Worlds moments to add tension and action, but it’s the very believable portrayal of two ordinary people, and indeed a nation of ignored people, under stress that makes this movie one of the year’s best, and certainly a sterling addition — following on from District 9‘s alien-as-refugee scenario last year — to the canon of alien invasion movies.