Saturday, May 07, 2016

Science Fiction's Best Year

As fans of SF we often forget the past in the rush to seek out the newest thing available.  I'm guilty of that as well.  I love it when a new SF film, TV series, or book comes along that even the critics have a hard time dismissing.  Just thinking over the past few years offerings there has been a new Jurassic Park sequel, the John Carter of Mars movie (although not exactly praised by the critics, but worth noting),  there is a new live action Tarzan film on the horizon, slated for next month I believe or shortly thereafter, a Max Max movie that even was nominated for some Academy Awards, and so on.

I think we all tend to glom to our favorite movies, and generally those tend to be the formative years when we first became aware of the genre, whether it be our teens or sometime around that time frame.  For me it was around that time that I discovered Ray Harryhausen, the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies, those older SF movies, the Disney adaptations of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Castaways, H. G. Wells, The War of the Worlds and so on.  I loved that stuff then and still do.

For those born later, it might be Avatar, the newer Planet of the Apes reboots, District 9, or something else.  We all have our own favorites.  Just today I was switching channels on the TV and ran across a movie I get drawn into from time to time, and even have a copy of on DVD called Enemy Mine.  It has great old school practical effects.
Be that as it may, I ran across this article today concerning what was the best year for science fiction ever.  For the writer of the article he says, 1912.  Although the article may have some truth in it, it seems a bit more slanted towards literature rather than movies or other areas of SF fandom, I think I'll let you read it and decide for yourself.  Adding that it is as arguable as anything else when concerning fandom.  We all have our favorite years as gateway to the medium as state above.  So rather than arguing the point, I think I'll let you read it. 


At 6:54 AM, Blogger Richard Bellush said...

I grew up on “Tom Swift” and the first non-juvenile novel I ever read was Doyle’s “The Lost World.” “War of the Worlds” was the second – this was published 1898, but Wells was productive in 1912, too. I read a lot of Burroughs in my teens. So, yeah `12 was a pretty good year for SF. There are a lot of years with major SF landmarks, though. As you say, each person will have his or her own personal reason to say “____ was the best year,” and movies for most folks outweigh lit: “Star Wars” junkies shout “1977” and Kubrick fans shout “1968.” I waver between 1898 and 1951: the former (Wells) turned alien invasion into its own subgenre on the page and the latter (“The Thing from Another World”) on the screen; neither actually invented it but each made it mainstream.

At 8:45 AM, Blogger El Vox said...

Richard, I've never read any Tom Swift. I've known of the character for a while now, but never ran across a book about him and his exploits, although I know there were many--that is until I bought my Kindle. Perhaps due to the age of the literature or a lack of interest, these older stories are now pretty much giveaway to anyone that cares to access them. I did pick up a few of these Swift novels recently. I forget where, but if you search Project Gutenberg you can find many of the classics that have public domain status. Amazon too, offers many oeuvres from classic authors from some of the old pulp writers like ER Burroughs, RE Howard, HP Lovecraft, Poe, Doyle, etc. for a very cheap one or two dollars for an entire collection of their work.

But yes, I can't take too much of an exception with the year 1912 as the author of the article is clearly writing about literature as an influence. With movies that would be a more difficult task for me. It could be the 50s decade in general or the 60s, a close call. Good call though on citing Wells' story as being influential for the alien invasion genre and by turns making it mainstream. That genre is still being mined today for the big and small screen.

At 8:32 PM, Blogger Roman J. Martel said...

Wow, i can't imagine picking a single year for a genre of entertainment. That would be impossible for me. I'm one of those jokers that can enjoy many different things for several different reasons. So when pressed to pick a "best of" I always struggle.

Love the pic of Phil Tippet with the AT-ATs from Empire. For me Stop Motion was the only way to make those beasts work in that movie. The jerky robotic motion actually helped, and Tippet and his crew were able to give them weight. that is something that even CG artists struggle with. One of the great things about practical effects is that you don't have to worry about the object looking like it doesn't weigh a damn thing. It looks like "Rogue One" is going to feature some AT-AT action, so I'm curious if they will CG those and if they will have the same impact the ones from the classic trilogy does.

At 10:11 AM, Blogger El Vox said...

I'm the same way Roman. I enjoy reading list, but find them limiting. When asked something like what are my Top Ten movies or music or something, I'm just too big a fan to think about that too deeply, but can rattle off something. Or at least I'll respond with a disclaimer: Well, these are my Top Ten ____ for "today", tomorrow, who knows? I just love too much when it comes to movies, music, books, or something concerning the arts, pop culture, and geekdom.

Good insight on practical vs. CGI effects. CG has come a long way since it was first used as effects and they're getting the hang of it better, but sometimes it still looks blurred to me, depending on some scenes and sequences and the action is a bit hard to make out while watching an action scene. For example some of the scenes in the Peter Jackson's version of King Kong are hard to make out. For that reason alone those older SF films and the practical effects in them will always resonate with me. Even if they look a bit cheesy, I like them.


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