Posts Tagged ‘science_fiction’

Enjoying Watching ‘The Expanse’ – Gripping Humanist Sci-Fi

10 April 2018

The Expanse screen capture: Naomi Nagata played by Dominique Tipper

A short post today to say that for the past couple months, I have really enjoyed watching a science fiction TV show called The Expanse.

I first read about the TV show via a social media post by comics artist Gene Ha. My wife and I started watching. It took a couple episodes for me to warm up to it, then I could barely stop watching. There are plenty of cliffhanger endings that beg the viewer to keep watching.

The first season is very good, and the second is much better. I have now watched all of the episodes available (two seasons) twice through. Tomorrow night is the premiere of season 3.

There’s a lot to like in The Expanse: world-building (a seemingly believable future, only two centuries away, with relatively accurate science), inter-planetary class politics, kick-ass strong women, great pacing… but I think it most comes down to an ensemble cast that are people who I have come to care about.

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Ralph 124C 41+ Puts the Science in Science Fiction

1 March 2015
Cover of Ralph 124C 41+

Cover of Ralph 124C 41+ by Hugo Gernsback, illustration by Frank R. Paul

I just finished reading Hugo Gernsback’s early science fiction novel Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660.

As of a couple months ago I hadn’t heard of this book, though it was initially serialized beginning in 1911.

I found out about it by reading the comic book Crossed Plus One Hundred (CPOH) by Alan Moore and Gabriel Andrade. The first issue of Crossed Plus One Hundred is titled “124C41+”. On the first read through, I didn’t even notice the title, located at the bottom of a splash page with a narrator introducing a steam-punk skeleton-piled future world. Ralph 124C 41+ is mentioned a few times in the issue. I later began annotating CPOH, and in the process Googled “124C41+” and that lead me to understanding what the reference was, and, later, heading to the L.A. Public Library to check it out and read it.

Let me say here, that I am going to do a spotty review of Ralph 124C 41+, mostly as it relates to CPOH and Alan Moore. If you’re looking for a good thorough review of Ralph 124C 41+ maybe read SF Site, The Economist, or Twenty First Century Books, or see its instructive page on Wikipedia.

The author Hugo Gernsback (1884-1967) is the eponymous Hugo behind science fiction’s Hugo awards. According to Wikipedia, he was an inventor, a radio and electronics enthusiast. He went on to publish the first science fiction magazine. Reading Ralph 124C 41+, it’s clear that Gernsback is more taken with science than he is with fiction. Gernsback more thoroughly imagines and describes technological advances than he does plot or character. It’s not bad, definitely worth reading, but it’s not great literature.

In fact it seems to me that this is one of the works that gives the science fiction genre its name. It could have been called future fiction, speculative fiction, super fiction, etc. In CPOH, Moore calls it Wishful Fiction. Not all science fictions is about science, the way Ralph is. Sci-fi authors I’ve read, including Octavia Butler, Ursula K. LeGuin, Ray Bradbury, and Robert Heinlein, seem more interested in what sci-fi says about humanity than what it says about science.

There were earlier pieces written in what would become the sci-fi genre (Frankenstein, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea) but it is Gernsback’s science-infatuation that ends up giving us the name of the genre. Gernsback, as an editor/publisher, came up with the name “scientifiction” which later became science fiction.

The title character Ralph is “one of the greatest living scientists” hence of ten great men (yah, no girls allowed in 1911’s 2660) allowed to put a “+” after their names. Ralph “the scientist, man of action” is the star, who can seemingly invent anything at the drop of a hat, and “[b]eing a true scientist, Ralph wanted to make his own dangerous experiments.”  (more…)

Decoding Alan Moore’s Crossed Plus One Hundred 2108-Speak

17 December 2014
Alan Moore portrait in Promethea No. 30 - art by J.H. Williams III

Alan Moore portrait in Promethea No. 30 – art by J.H. Williams III

I am a huge Alan Moore fan. In case readers are unfamiliar with him, Moore is a comic book author who has been basically re-inventing what comics can be.

I wrote about my Moore fandom here in 2011. Basically I think he has one foot in the superhero comics I grew up reading and one foot in a much more sophisticated comic book literature that interests me today. Moore more-or-less got fed up with the comic book industry and pretty much retired from comics around 2006. This left hardcore fans like me to re-read his old stuff… which is rewarding, because, like a lot of great artwork, it holds up well to repeated readings. I often notice subtler details and references that I missed in earlier readings.

This month, Alan Moore’s work returned to the new comic book shelves with the first issue of Crossed Plus One Hundred. Judging just the first of six planned issues, I will say that it looks like CPOH is not Moore’s greatest work. It’s basically a zombie story that takes place in a post-apocalyptic Mad Max future.

So far, what’s most fun about CPOH is Alan Moore’s playful take on what language will sound like in 2108. Moore has played with future speak before. Here’s some dialogue from Moore’s sci-fi The Ballad of Halo Jones which began publication in 1984:

You’ll both wind up crumped in a side-artery! (Page 3, panel 3 from the first Halo Jones episode)

And, from a Spawn/WildC.A.T.S. team-up published in 1996, here’s dialogue from a future version of a character named Zealot who has traveled back to the present day:

Wow! I can’t boot this. We’re really in the Halo Building and it’s all in one piece. It’s wholly ineffable! (Page 21 panel 1 from the collection Wild Worlds)

Back to Crossed Plus One Hundred, Moore posits that human language in 2108 will be about as different from contemporary English as contemporary English is from Shakespeare’s English. Yes, you can still make out what people are saying, but it’s sometimes confusing and disorienting. Some reviewers, including my wife Carrie, found some of the future-speak difficult to understand. Some reviewers praised it. Some of it is kind of impenetrable on first read. Here’s one opaque example:  (Sorry even more confusing out of context)

And you’re rashed at me, so I don’t opsy Jackson. Crunk caspers you, maybe.

Crossed Plus One Hundred No.1 Page x panel x. Written by Alan Moore, drawn by Gabriel Andrade.

Crossed Plus One Hundred No.1 Page 14 panel 4. Written by Alan Moore, drawn by Gabriel Andrade.

I am just going to leave that one for a bit (maybe use my glossary if you want to decipher.)

Here’s another CPOH example — an exchange between two characters named Cautious and Future: (Yes – the younger characters have non-traditional names, reminiscent of the way early American protestants would name their kids Silence and Prudence.)

Cautious: No. The logic’s oh-eight. We lossed all our information. What kind of mother does that?

Future: Cautious, you’re petrol.

What does it all mean? Translation after the jump. (more…)