The lovely L. had asked me to pull together a post about Carl V.’s (“Stainless Steel Droppings” ) The 2012 SciFi Experience and our experience of it.
If memory serves L. brought The SciFi Experience to my attention last year. She was trying to engage in the Experience without having a long [reading] history with science fiction. Most of L.’s exposure was to Philip K. Dick just a few year’s previous and was thinking that for the SFE she would expand out from this foundation.
I was pleased that my wife was looking at SciFi as a genre, as it was an area that I already had logged many hours in. The discussions last year were ones of definition and interest. We talked about what was science fiction, what made one thing it and another not. There were discussions about why science fiction so often got a juvenile rap or tended to be considered less “literary”. And we read (and watched) some great material last year. Overall, when the SFE came up again this year I was ready to engage.
My mistake at this point was to pick up 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. For the intent of reading a work of science fiction, this did in fact fulfill the Experience, but it also ate two months of my life. I finished the tome with only a couple days to spare in February, limiting my reading to a single (though wonderful) work. The sidetrack that 1Q84 took me on also distracted me from the film side of things. Aside from a couple random films that N. picked out we were not doing well with our SciFi Experience as the end of February approached. To remedy this and to get us focused I tried to pull together a list of seminal science fiction films to fill the last eleven days of the month. Our limiting factors were an interest in not just watching the same films we had watched last year and the intention to include the 11-year old in our screenings. Suddenly we needed to remove such things as Alien and The Terminator/T2.
If you pull such heavy hitters out of the available options, what do you include? To answer this I spent an amount of time on the interwebs looking at “Greatest SciFi Films” lists and trying to create a listology of my own exploring the topic followed by time cross-referencing CommonSense Media and the like. I also decided to reach out to our social circles (where the geek-quotient runs high) asking what they would include.
The list of possibles included everything from Dark City (1998, dir. Alex Proyas) to Metropolis (1927, dir. Fritz Lang) to Blade Runner (1982, dir. Ridley Scott) to Star Trek to Star Wars. No one mentioned Enemy Mine (1985, dir. Wolfgang Petersen), though I would be a bad son if it had not crossed my mind. What came out of the list was telling about my friends and family, but not necessarily enlightening. In the end I took a queue from my own interests and my daughter’s recent interest in Past/Present/Future, looking especially at dystopian narratives, time stories, and style. Films on the list moved away from Genre-defining towards stylistic and pulp explorations.
In the final days of February in a fit of watching (paired with dinner or popcorn on the couch) we managed The Matrix Trilogy (1999-2003, dir. Andy & Lana Wachowski), Never Let Me Go (2010, dir. Mark Romanek), Gattaca (1997, dir. Andrew Niccol), 12 Monkeys (1995, dir. Terry Gilliam), Sunshine (2007, dir. Danny Boyle) [Sean only], Aeon Flux (2005, dir. Karen Kusama), I, Robot (2004, dir. Alex Proyas), and Rise of the Planet of the Apes(2011, dir. Rupert Wyatt) [Sean & L only]. As I mentioned these were less about genre-defining and more about personal taste or visual interest. The strength of the films chosen was that each is trying to pedal more than just pretty pictures. So each night we were able to watch and then discuss the baggage the movie brought with it into the living room.
The movies returned to the conversation that L. and I had begun in 2011 of what made science fiction. Certainly Aeon Flux borders on fantasy and Never Let Me Go hardly feels like a science fiction story at all. Gattaca is blatant in its genes. 12 Monkeys and The Matrix Trilogy both play with the Past/Present/Future exploring what is real and what is not. And then I, Robot, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Sunshine are all very open in their science fiction heritage. During our binge we did not however really engage in aliens, space-horror or space-opera. I can’t really say why more than either the violence would have been over the top, or we had already seen the movies that would have fit the bill. There was a lack of a cohesive theme to this years mad-dash through the halls of science fiction.
N. and I have spent hours watching Farscape (1999, tv series)and then with L. even more hours with Doctor Who (2005, tv series), covering aliens and space-opera. N. watched the Star Wars trilogies a few years ago (which in itself has fascinating to watch her watch) and she is a fan of the new Star Trek (2009, dir. J.J. Abrams) reboot, meaning that we have covered much of the “classics”. I am wondering if the titles picked should have been more of a specific theme or collective story. Perhaps next year will be “All dystopia all the time” or “The fathers of our affliction”.