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DannyL
09-06-2012, 03:47 PM
I saw Prometheus last night. Absolute shit, don't waste your time. Me and my film-going accomplice just laughed at it's ludicrous pretensions for the last hour or so. I like SF, more in novels than cinema, but this is one of those films that makes the genre less defensible, and more like the sole province of tasteless idiots. It made me think well, what is it I actually like about SF anyway? One thing is the sense of a slightly tweaked version of the present being presented to you, in such a way that the slight exaggerations make you notice and reflect back on the current day. William Gibson is the master at this, but he's commented recently that he can't really write science fiction anymore, as the world is so unstable and changing so fast. One can't really imagine "the future" as such.

One other aspect of SF I enjoy but seem to encounter rarely is depictions of the alien. Not just as humans with pointy ears, but when the writer goes out on a limb (or tentacle) to construct an encounter with that which is hard to conceptualise and imagine. Part of the thrust of the writing seems to be and exploration of the question - what might it really be like to encounter something truly other?

Some examples - Frank Herbert in the Dune books, especially Emperor Leto's slow metamorphoses into a 3000 year old giant, oracular-prophesying, drug-secreting worm. Herbert's "Whipping Star" also explores the alien through a kinky SM filter.
Stanislaw Lem does it in Solaris - his descriptions of the mutations of Solaris' surface are reaching for sheer incomprehensibility, they're like something from an anatomy textbook, but with a hint of meaning or significance lurking behind them. On one level Solaris is about how unknowable people are, as well, as the protagonist's are haunted by the ghosts of past significant others, but I digress.

China Mieville seems to be reaching for this in Embassytown, but I get the sense that the alien is here a conceptual device designed to push the limits of language and description. A unknowable that one can't imagine, which exposes the limits of prose.

Anybody have any suggestions for anything similar? Alienate me.

Mr. Tea
09-06-2012, 05:11 PM
I saw Prometheus last night. Absolute shit, don't waste your time.

Pissflaps, I had half a mind to see this but you've pretty much put the kibosh on that. It's definitely not worth seeing even as a bit of silly SFX-heavy gross-out horror? Shame.

The Dune series, especially the first book of course, is some of my favourite sci-fi and one of my favourite bits of literature full stop. One of the rare instances where a book that's described as 'mind-blowing' really lives up to that description, I think.

The other obvious choice for an author whose aliens are really alien is HLP. I mean, the Old Ones in At The Mountains Of Madness (think super-tough, ultra-intelligent, trans-galactic cucumbers, if you haven't read it) are weird enough, but The Colour Out Of Space has to take the biscuit. Is it sentient? Is it even organic, in any conventional sense? Does it even consist of matter, as we know it? Where does it come from? Where does eventually go? By what means does it extract nourishment from that poor family it parasitizes? How does is subtly mutate all the plants and animals in the area? Absolutely nothing is given away, which is why it's such an effective story.

As far as cinema goes, I quite like the Predator films (obviously not the stupid x-over ones) - they can't match the Alien films for sheer horror but I enjoy the (a)moral aspect of them. The Predators aren't really 'evil', they're just blood-sport junkies. Or if you prefer, they are evil, but in no more inherently 'alien' a way than humans who shoot grouse or hunt foxes or whatever. Plus the first film is just a perfect chunk of 'roid-fuelled macho ultraviolence that Hollywood did so well in the '80s and hasn't really got quite right since.

I guess E.T., Flight Of The Navigator and Close Encounters are all watchable in a Spielbergian fun-for-all-the-family sort of way - Independence Day and the War Of The Worlds remake can get to fuck, though. Ugh. I should see Solaris at some point, I think.


Anybody have any suggestions for anything similar? Alienate me.

Aww hellz yeah: http://dointhelambethwarp.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/the-stuff/ :cool:

IdleRich
13-06-2012, 05:14 PM
Was gonna say Solaris - the book rather than the film - before you beat me to it. That really does suggest something of the impossibility of understanding an alien. The very terms in which you seek to understand it may well preclude any chance of doing so... perhaps not an original idea but one that is well and creepily described here.
Can't think of much else off the top of my head though to be honest. Not a huuuge one for sci-fi I guess. Not the alien kind of sci-fi at least now I come to think of it.

blacktulip
13-06-2012, 09:03 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-x1YuvUQFJ0

bruno
15-06-2012, 04:34 AM
i find the real-life (providing you accept the idea) abduction-type aliens the more unsettling. it's sci-fi in a creepy and mundane sort of way, with us as objects of study with no say in the matter. plus they're telepathic. if you have to see something i would watch the documentary experiencers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xTQ2-S1n-Q). if you have to see a film, there is communion; and another one i forget the name of where a boy is abducted, operated on and kept in a cocoon, then spit out or something like that.

Mr. Tea
15-06-2012, 10:03 AM
i find the real-life (providing you accept the idea) abduction-type aliens the more unsettling. it's sci-fi in a creepy and mundane sort of way, with us as objects of study with no say in the matter. plus they're telepathic. if you have to see something i would watch the documentary experiencers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xTQ2-S1n-Q). if you have to see a film, there is communion; and another one i forget the name of where a boy is abducted, operated on and kept in a cocoon, then spit out or something like that.

Fire In The Sky/'Cartman Gets An Anal Probe'

bruno
15-06-2012, 06:53 PM
Fire In The Sky/Cartman Gets An Anal Probe
that's the one, thanks. (and i need to see more south park)

Mr. Tea
15-06-2012, 09:14 PM
It's the pilot episode for the whole show, if I remember correctly.

bruno
15-06-2012, 09:51 PM
yeah, the thing is i have cultural gaps the size of a continent, i've only seen one or two episodes and not the very earliest. same thing with the simpsons and so on. i live in a cave.

Mr. Tea
15-06-2012, 10:09 PM
On the plus side, you've hopefully managed to avoid Family Guy.

bruno
15-06-2012, 10:36 PM
i have, thank god. for better or worse i've never owned a television (except for three months - coinciding with the wtc attacks), so i actively look for things rather than take them in passively.

on topic now, i like the idea of infiltration and mimicry: john carpenter's remake of the thing, and the more campy they live come to mind.