‘Future Now’: A brilliant portrait of novelist J. G. Ballard, from 1986

Writers need stability to nurture their talent and unfetter their imagination. Too much chaos dilutes the talent and diminishes the productivity. Writers like Norman Mailer squandered too much time and effort on making his life the story - when in fact he should have been writing it. J. G. Ballard was well aware of this, and he had the quiet certainty of a 3-bed, des res, with shaded garden and off-street parking at front. Yet, Ballard’s seeming conformity to a middle class idyll appeared to astound so many critics, commentators, journalists, whatevers, who all failed to appreciate a true writer’s life is one of lonely, unrelenting sedentary toil, working at a desk 9-5, or however long - otherwise the imagination can not fly.

That’s why I have always found suburbs far more interesting places than those anonymous urban centers. Cities are about mass events - demonstrations, revolution, massacre, war, shared public experience. Suburbia is about the repressed forces of individual action. It’s where the murders are planned, the orgies enjoyed, the drugs devoured, the imagination inspired. Suburbia is where dysfunction is normalized.

And J. G. Ballard was very aware of this.

Future Now is a documentary interview with J G Ballard, made in 1986 not long after he had achieved international success with his faux-biographical novel Empire of the Sun. Opening with a brief tour of his Shepperton home, Ballard gives an excellent and incisive interview, which only reminds what we have lost.

Simon Sellars and Dan O’Hara have edited together a brilliant collection of interviews and conversations with J G Ballard 1967-2008, in one volume called Extreme Metaphors, which is a must-have for anyone with an interest in Ballard.

Previously on Dangerous Minds

Postcards from J. G. Ballard

With thanks to Richard!

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For Your Consideration: Mr. Rod Serling

Years ago a friend wrote me a story about how we all started talking but in doing so, stopped listening to each other. It was a short and simple story, adapted I believe from its Aboriginal origins, that also explained how our ears developed their peculiar, conch-like shape.

Like all the best tales, it began: Once upon a time, in a land not-so-very-far-away, we were all connected to each other by a long umbilical loop that went ear-to-ear-to-ear-to-ear. This connection meant we could hear what each of us was thinking, and we could share our secrets, hopes and fears together at once

Then one day and for a whole lot of different reasons, these connections were broken, and the long umbilical loops dropped away, withered back, and creased into the folds of our ears. That’s how our ears got their shape. They are the one reminder of how we were once all connected to each other.

It was the idea of connection - only connect, said playwright Dennis Potter, by way of E. M. Forster, when explaining the function of all good television. A difficult enough thing, but we try. It’s what the best art does - tells a story, says something.

It’s what Rod Serling did. He made TV shows that have lived and grown with generations of viewers. Few can not have been moved to a sense of thrilling by the tinkling opening notes of The Twilight Zone. The music still fills me with that excitement I felt as a child, hopeful for thrills, entertainment and something a little stronger to mull upon, long after the credits rolled.

Serling was exceptional, and his writing brought a whole new approach to telling tales on television that connected the audience one-to-the-other. This documentary on Serling, starts like an episode of The Twilight Zone, and goes on to examine Serling’s life through the many series and dramas he wrote for TV and radio, revealing how much of his subject matter came from his own personal experience, views and politics. As Serling once remarked he was able to discuss controversial issues through science-fiction:

“I found that it was all right to have Martians saying things Democrats and Republicans could never say.”

His work influenced other shows (notably Star Trek), and although there were problems, due to the demands of advertisers, Serling kept faith with TV in the hope it could connect with its audience - educate, entertain and help improve the quality of life, through a shared ideals.

As writer Serling slowly “succumbed” to his art:

‘Writing is a demanding profession and a selfish one. And because it is selfish and demanding, because it is compulsive and exacting, I didn’t embrace it, I succumbed to it. In the beginning, there was a period of about 8 months when nothing happened. My diet consisted chiefly of black coffee and fingernails. I collected forty rejection slips in a row. On a writer’s way up, he meets a lot of people and in some rare cases there’s a person along the way, who happens to be around just when they’re needed. Perhaps just a moment of professional advice, or a boost to the ego when it’s been bent, cracked and pushed into the ground. Blanche Gaines was that person for me. I signed with her agency in 1950. Blanche kept me on a year, before I made my first sale. The sale came with trumpets and cheers. I don’t think that feeling will ever come again. The first sale - that’s the one that comes with magic.’

Like Richard Matheson, Philip K Dick, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Serling is a hero who offered up the possible, for our consideration.


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Nothing matches Blade Runner: Philip K. Dick gets excited about Ridley Scott’s film

Philip K. Dick wrote an excited letter to Jeff Walker, at the Ladd Company, after watching a television preview of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, the film version of his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

October 11, 1981

Mr. Jeff Walker,
The Ladd Company,
4000 Warner Boulevard,
Calif. 91522.

Dear Jeff,

I happened to see the Channel 7 TV program “Hooray For Hollywood” tonight with the segment on BLADE RUNNER. (Well, to be honest, I didn’t happen to see it; someone tipped me off that BLADE RUNNER was going to be a part of the show, and to be sure to watch.) Jeff, after looking—and especially after listening to Harrison Ford discuss the film—I came to the conclusion that this indeed is not science fiction; it is not fantasy; it is exactly what Harrison said: futurism. The impact of BLADE RUNNER is simply going to be overwhelming, both on the public and on creative people—and, I believe, on science fiction as a field. Since I have been writing and selling science fiction works for thirty years, this is a matter of some importance to me. In all candor I must say that our field has gradually and steadily been deteriorating for the last few years. Nothing that we have done, individually or collectively, matches BLADE RUNNER. This is not escapism; it is super realism, so gritty and detailed and authentic and goddam convincing that, well, after the segment I found my normal present-day “reality” pallid by comparison. What I am saying is that all of you collectively may have created a unique new form of graphic, artistic expression, never before seen. And, I think, BLADE RUNNER is going to revolutionize our conceptions of what science fiction is and, more, can be.

Let me sum it up this way. Science fiction has slowly and ineluctably settled into a monotonous death: it has become inbred, derivative, stale. Suddenly you people have come in, some of the greatest talents currently in existence, and now we have a new life, a new start. As for my own role in the BLADE RUNNER project, I can only say that I did not know that a work of mine or a set of ideas of mine could be escalated into such stunning dimensions. My life and creative work are justified and completed by BLADE RUNNER. Thank you..and it is going to be one hell of a commercial success. It will prove invincible.


Philip K. Dick

The tragedy is PKD never saw the finished version of the classic science fiction film, as he died 5 months later, on March 2, 1982, just months before Blade Runner was given its cinematic release.
With thanks to Jai Bia

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‘Unknown’: A very short ‘Star Wars’ fan film
11:18 am


Star Wars
Science Fiction

This is fun. A short film by a Star Wars fan.

With thanks to Mare Meyer

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Hawkwind: Documentary on Space Rock’s Sonic Warriors

They may have looked like the oldest hippies in town, but before Punk, Hawkwind was the unwashed boy band of counter culture. Their music - the hymn book for the disenfranchised, the geeks, the loners, the smart kids at school, who never tried to please teacher. To be a fan was like running away to some intergalactic circus. John Lydon was a fan, and the Sex Pistols regularly performed “Silver Machine” - Hawkwind’s classic Dave Brock / Robert Calvert single, with its defining vocal by Lemmy (Ian Kilmister). Like millions of others, this was the song that first introduced me to Hawkwind, when it was played under a visual cornucopia from a performance at the Dunstable Civic Hall, on Top of the Pops in 1972.

Formed in 1969, Hawkwind were a rather sweaty and masculine mix of Acid Rock (LSD was handed out at gigs) and Space Rock. They appealed to those with an interest in Jerry Cornelius, Ballard, Burroughs, Philip K Dick, Freak Brothers’ comics, black holes, Gramsci, Kropotkin, Stacia and Derek ‘n’ Clive. In sixth form at school, we discussed the merits Quark, Strangeness and Charm against Warrior on the Edge of Time; Hawklords versus Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music or Doremi Fasol Latido. Hawkwind were an albums band, unlike Punk and New Wave which then seemed defined by singles, issued as keenly as revolutionary pamphlets. There was a ritual to playing thirty-three-and-a-third, long-playing discs: opening the sleeve, reading the liner notes or lyrics, cleaning the disc and stylus, listening to all of side 1, then side 2. It was like attending mass and sharing in the holy sacrament.

Hawkwind evolved from its original line-up - Dave Brock (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Nik Turner (saxophone, flute, vocals), Huw Lloyd-Langton (guitar, vocals), John A. Harrison (bass guitar, vocals), Dik Mik (Synthesizer), Terry Ollis (drums), Mick Slattery (guitar), to include amongst others such wayward talents as poet and singer Robert Calvert (who died too soon), Lemmy, and author Michael Moorcock. Being a fan of Hawkwind was like a rites of passage, that opened doors to other equally experimental and original music.

More than forty years on, Hawkwind, under the helm of its only original member Dave Brock, is still touring the world, bringing an incredible back catalogue of music and tuning people in to a world of possibility.

Hawkwind tour the UK in December, details here.


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The Inner Man: A review of the first biography on J G Ballard

I wonder what imagined slight led John Baxter to write such an insidious biography on J G Ballard? Does Baxter, a failed science fiction writer, who started his short-lived career around the same time as Ballard, have some deep-seated grudge against the guru of suburbia that his new biography The Inner Man - The Life of J G Ballard was aimed to settle? From its opening introduction, which begins with Baxter describing Ballard soliciting ‘automobile porn’ from his Danish translator, one wonders what exactly is Baxter’s intention, other than to diminish Ballard’s talent and originality.

If we are to believe Baxter then Ballard was an ad-man who got lucky, a psychopath scarred by childhood experiences as a prisoner of war, his whole life and career merely an exercise in skillful “image management”.

While in person Ballard had “the voice of a born advertiser, paradoxically preaching a jihad against commerce: the contradiction at the heart of Jim’s life”. Even his ambition to become a science-fiction writer could be seen as “an aspect of his psychopathology, for it echoes the hostility of someone trying to hide a physical or psychological dysfunction - epilepsy, dyslexia, illiteracy”.

Baxter continues:

In person, Jim presented a veneer of good-fellowship, slick as Formica and just as impermeable…

...This reflexive affability disguised a troubled personality that sometimes expressed itself in physical violence…

...Jim never denied that his psychology bordered on the psychopathic.

Really? But he never admitted it either. And as for the “physical violence” Baxter supplies no evidence, no eye-witnesseses, other than a now refuted quote from author Michael Moorcock. So what are we to make of Baxter’s book?

There is something interesting going on here, Baxter has created a fictional biography filled with factoids - things that look like facts, sound like facts, but are in truth fictions. It’s the kind of technique mastered by the likes of Adam Curtis or the Daily Mail, where unrelated facts are linked to support strange or spurious arguments.  Sadly, The Inner Man is riddled with such factoids, with Baxter concluding:

Jim’s skill was to speculate and fantasize, evade and lie. ‘Truth’ was not a word he regarded with much respect, least of all in describing and explaining his life. In its stead, he deployed the psychopath’s reverence for the instant present, for frenzy, for the divine, and for those forces, natural and unnatural, that are forever slipping beyond our control.

The whole biography is like an ident-i-kit photograph constructed by a man suffering from the worst affects of a bad acid trip - the image may contain likenesses of eyes, nose and mouth, but the whole is disturbingly inhuman.

There is no warmth to his vision of Ballard, everything is seen as a cynical ploy by a man who is cast as an “intellectual thug”, and whose “paramount skill was his ad man’s ability to remarket himself.” There is no explanation as to how he coped with bringing up 3 children after his wife’s tragic death while on family holiday in Spain. How he buried her in a little Spanish cemetery, then drove home with the children, having to “pull over to weep uncontrollably.”

Not surprisingly, Ballard’s children, and his partner Claire Walsh, did not take part in Baxter’s cut and paste assemblage. Moreover, there are no quotes from any of Ballard’s books, only brief synopses, which only reminded me of Terry Johnson’s portrait of Marilyn Monroe from his play Insignificance, where the glamorous star can recite Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, but hasn’t a clue what it means. Baxter can sub Ballard’s novels, but he has no real understanding of what they are about.

There are also some glaring mistakes - Eduardo Paolozzi was not a “burly Glaswegian” but was born in Leith, Edinburgh. It was Friedrich Nietzsche who said, “When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you,” and not H. G. Wells. If Baxter (and his editors) can’t get the verifiable facts correct, why should we believe him on any of his unsubstantiated assertions?

This is why Baxter’s biography fails.

He also fails to see Ballard and his work within a wider cultural perspective. Before Ballard and his family were imprisoned at the camp in the Lunghua, George Orwell predicted the world that Ballard was to write about and make his home for most of his life, in his 1941 essay “England Your England”:

The place to look for the germs of the future England is in the light-industry areas along the arterial roads. In Slough, Dagenham, Barnet, Letchworth, Hayes - everywhere, indeed, on the outskirts of great towns - the old pattern is gradually changing into something new. In those vast new wildernesses of glass and brick the sharp distinctions of the older kind of town, with its slums and mansions, or of the country, with its manor houses and squalid cottages, no longer exist. There are wide gradations of income but it is the same kind of life that is being lived at different levels, in labor-saving flats or council houses, along the concrete roads and in the naked democracy of the swimming-pools. It is a rather restless, cultureless life, centering round tinned food Picture Post, the radio and the internal combustion engine. It is a civilization in which children grow up with an intimate knowledge of magnetoes and in complete ignorance of the Bible. To that civilization belong the people who are most at home in and most definitely of the modern world, the technicians and higher paid skilled workers, the airmen and their mechanics, the radio experts, film producers, popular journalists and industrial chemists. They are the indeterminate stratum at which the older class distinctions are beginning to break down.

Orwell could have been describing Ballard’s future vision of Shepperton - a world of swimming pools, airmen, film producers, industrial chemists, who live on the arterial roads, on the outskirts of a great town.

J G Ballard deserves a good, solid, informed biography, unfortunately, John Baxter’s The Inner Man - The Life of J G Ballard is not it.

Previously on Dangerous Minds

Postcards from J G Ballard


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Philip K Dick: Interview with Charles Platt, from 1979

An incredible interview between Philip K. Dick and Charles Platt from 1979, where the legendary author discussed his life, his writing and the strange events that inspired his famed Exegesis. At nearly 2 hours long, this interview is essential listening for anyone with an interest in PKD.

With thanks to John Butler

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Postcards from J G Ballard

Going through old correspondence, I came across a collection of cards and letters from a personal hero - J G Ballard.

It’s always amazed me that Ballard took the time to respond to my daft letters full questions and queries he must have answered innumerable times. It said much about Ballard’s great humility and character.

The first, dated April 27 1993, was written on a postcard of Carel Willink De Zeppelin, the blue ink (probably a Pentel pen) has faded somewhat, but still visible are his kind words and enthusiasm for a short story I’d sent him, which he over-praised as “a powerful + original piece of work”, and his explanation of the biographical elements of The Kindness of Women:

‘...which is about my writing as much as my life - my life seen through the spectrum of everything I’ve written.’

During the 10 years of our intermittent correspondence, Ballard was always kind, gracious, encouraging and helpful - an example we all can learn from.


Dear Mr Gallagher,

Many thanks for your letter from LA - I think probably you should make the documentary about the city - I on the whole rather enjoyed the week i spent there some years ago - but then no one mugged me or shot at me on the freeway - part of the problem there have been too many films about LA on TV over the recent years.

Thanks for reading my stuff -

All the best,

J G Ballard

One more from Ballard, after the jump…

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‘Zardoz’ imagined as an 8bit game

I’ve always been a fan of John Boorman’s Zardoz, no matter how camp, cheesy, or even ridiculous it may seem. Therefore, I do wish this brief 8-bit animation by nickcriscuolo was a real game.

Okay, it’s only an opening sequence, but just think of the potential Boorman’s and Bill Stair’s original story offers: as the Exterminator Zed (Sean Connery) crosses from the land of the Brutals (where “the gun is good and the penis is evil”), to a world of the Eternals, Apathetics, Renegades and the lovely Charlotte Rampling, where Zed finds himself the subject of the Eternals’ experiments and games, and uncovers the dark secret at the heart of their Vortex and its Tabernacle. O, yes this could work.

And of course, Connery and Rampling would voice it, and there’d be optional thigh-length boots. How bloody marvelous.

Bonus clip of original ‘Zardoz’ film trailer, after the jump…

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‘The Thing’: A pointless prequel / remake?
03:23 pm


Science Fiction
John Carpenter
Howard Hawks

There seems to be some confusion: This October will see the release of The Thing, which is, apparently, a prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing. If that’s the case, then I’ll save my dollars as I know the ending - everyone is killed except an Alaskan Malamute that escapes (after a disastrous helicopter chase) and infects Kurt Russell’s science station with an alien life form.

If it’s a remake, well - why bother?

John Carpenter’s The Thing was a remake of Howard Hawks’ classic 1951 film The Thing From Another World.

Hawks’s original was an unforgettable classic, an adaption of John Wood Campbell, Jr.‘s fanastic short story, “Who Goes There?” - and is one of the greatest science fiction movies of the 1950s (along with Them!, Inavders from Mars and Invasion of the Body Snatchers).

As for Carpenter’s remake, I thought it one of the best films of 1982 - it reinvented the original, gave it a dark, terrifying twist, and had incredible special effects by Rob Bottin (and Stan Winston).

So now, here’s a new version, which leaves me thinking “O, FFS,” as it again confirms Hollywood’s bankruptcy of ideas , and the unwillingness or inability to invest in new talent, new ideas, and new scripts. But make your own mind up - here’s the trailer and the official synopsis:

Antarctica: an extraordinary continent of awesome beauty.  It is also home to an isolated outpost where a discovery full of scientific possibility becomes a mission of survival when an alien is unearthed by a crew of international scientists.  The shape-shifting creature, accidentally unleashed at this marooned colony, has the ability to turn itself into a perfect replica of any living being.  It can look just like you or me, but inside, it remains inhuman.  In the thriller The Thing, paranoia spreads like an epidemic among a group of researchers as they’re infected, one by one, by a mystery from another planet.
Paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has traveled to the desolate region for the expedition of her lifetime.  Joining a Norwegian scientific team that has stumbled across an extraterrestrial ship buried in the ice, she discovers an organism that seems to have died in the crash eons ago.  But it is about to wake up.

When a simple experiment frees the alien from its frozen prison, Kate must join the crew’s pilot, Carter (Joel Edgerton), to keep it from killing them off one at a time.  And in this vast, intense land, a parasite that can mimic anything it touches will pit human against human as it tries to survive and flourish.



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John Carpenter: The Man and His Movies

This is great wee documentary on one of cinema’s finest directors, John Carpenter: Fear Is Just the Beginning…The Man and His Movies, which examines the great man’s work over 4 decades.

Carpenter is an auteur in the style of Hitchcock, Hawks, Walsh and Fuller, who has managed to maintain his independence and singularity of vision against the fickleness of box office audiences and public taste. He also has a tremendous grasp of film history, which he references in his work: from Donald Pleasance’s doctor in Halloween taking the name of Samuel Loomis from Hitchcock’s Psycho, to re-interpreting Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo via George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead in the classic Assault on Precinct 13.

John Carpenter: Fear Is Just the Beginning…The Man and His Movies interviews the maverick director and has contributions from Jamie Lee Curtis, Kurt Russell, Adrienne Barbeau, Debra Hill, and includes a look at the making of such favorites as Escape From New York, The Thing and The Fog.


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‘Star Trek Phase II’: Fan-made TV

Star Trek: Phase II was originally planned as a follow-up series to Star Trek, but it never came to be. Still good ideas will out, and in 1997 actor, producer and Trekkie, James Cawley concocted a plan to make his own further adventures of Captain James T. Kirk, Mr Spock and Dr “Bones” McCoy and the crew of SS Enterprise.

Roll on a few years to 2003, and Cawley is not only producing these new on-line adventures called Star Trek - New Voyage but is also playing Kirk.

It proved an internet hit, and even enticed guest appearances from original Star Trek actors George Takei, Walter Koenig, and Grace Lee Whitney. In 2008, the series changed its name to Star Trek: Phase II and the adventures continue.

For a fan produced series Star Trek: Phase II is exceedingly good fun. Six episodes have been made, each one better than the last, the most recent, “Enemy Starfleet” is below. Filming begins on a new episode “Mind Sifter” next month, and certainly for the love, dedication and hard work of all involved, Star Trek: Phase II deserves its to succeed.

What next for fan-based TV? The Partridge Family, The Waltons, Dallas? Suggestions please.

Bonus episode of Star Trek: Phase II, after the jump…
With thanks to Tommy Udo

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Douglas Adams’s Doctor Who story to be published

A novelization of the “lost” Doctor Who serial “Shada”, scripted by Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams in 1979, will be published next year, the Guardian reports:

Adams wrote three series of Doctor Who in the late 1970s, when he was in his twenties and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was first airing as a BBC radio comedy. “Shada” was intended as a six-part drama to finish off the 17th season, with Tom Baker in the role of the Doctor.

The story features the Time Lord coming to Earth with assistant Romana (Lalla Ward) to visit Professor Chronotis, who has absconded from Gallifrey, the Doctor’s home planet, and now lives quietly at Cambridge college St Cedd’s. (The Doctor: “When I was on the river I heard the strange babble of inhuman voices, didn’t you, Romana?” Professor Chronotis: “Oh, probably undergraduates talking to each other, I expect.”)

Chronotis has brought with him the most powerful book in the universe, The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey - which, in a typical touch of Adams bathos, turns out to have been borrowed from his study by a student. Evil scientist Skagra, an escapee from prison planet Shada, is on its trail.

Large parts of the story had already been filmed on location in Cambridge before industrial action at the BBC brought production to a halt. The drama was never finished, and in the summer of 1980 “Shada” was abandoned – although various later projects attempted to resurrect it.

Douglas Adams’s Doctor Who series are among the very few which have never been novelised, reportedly because the author wanted to do them himself but was always too busy. Gareth Roberts, a prolific Doctor Who scriptwriter, has now been given the job.

Publisher BBC Books declared the book “a holy grail” for Time Lord fans. Editorial director Albert De Petrillo said: “Douglas Adams’s serials for Doctor Who are considered by many to be some of the best the show has ever produced. Shada is a funny, scary, surprising and utterly terrific story, and we’re thrilled to be publishing the first fully realised version of this Doctor Who adventure as Douglas originally conceived it.”

Ed Victor, the literary agent representing the Douglas Adams estate, said: “The BBC have been asking us for years [to allow a novelisation of Shada] and the estate finally said, ‘Why not?’” Having Roberts novelise the Adams script was “like having a sketch on a canvas by Rubens, and now the studio of Rubens is completing it,” he added. The book will be published in March 2012 as a £16.99 hardback.

Adams died in 2001, and a posthumous collection of his work, including the unfinished novel The Salmon of Doubt, was published the following year. A Hitchhiker’s Guide followup, And Another Thing…., written by Eoin Colfer, was published in 2010, but Victor said there were “no plans at the moment” for more such sequels.

Bonus clip: Andrew Orton’s animation on the Daleks, inspired by Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide.


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Soundtrack to the future: the wonderful world of Solar Bears

John Kowalski and Rian Trench formed Solar Bears in 2009, after they met at college. Their connection was a liking for world cinema, Andrei Tarkovsky, Stanley Kubrick, and science fiction. Their influences came from electronica, Death in Vegas, Primal Scream, and film composers like John Barry, John Carpenter, Ennio Morricone, George Delerue, Vangelis and Gorgio Moroder. All of which filters thru their work and tells you everything you need to know about their sound. Listening to Solar Bears is like listening to a beautiful and compelling soundtrack to a brilliant, cult sci-fi film:

...a mix of programming, acoustic instruments, synths and vintage tape machines. The freeform approach of their writing and recording lends itself to varying tones and colours. Tracks often have differing sound sources from each other creating a unique musical experience.

In September 2010, Solar Bears released their debut album She Was Coloured In. It was impressive stuff, a fabulous mix of sci-fi pop and pulsating soundscapes, which lead Obscure Sound to write:

...the duo are clearly masters of believable soundscapes, and their elaborate songwriting and production really go a long way in separating Solar Bears from the masses of atmospherically-dependent electronic artists.

While the Pitchfork said:

..the very best stuff on She Was Coloured In manages to touch all the bases, using the low-key moments for atmosphere and juicing them up with stylish genre tweaks. “She Was Coloured In” pulses with a progged-out, psychedelic energy, while “Crystalline (Be Again)” is a delicate club jam that oozes late-era New Order. Highlight “Dolls” ambitiously drags bleary, wistful keys and strings through an epically aggressive trip-hop suite, followed by an anthemic final act. In these moments, She Was Coloured In really pops; the mysteries of the universe as imagined in a pulp novel seem to come into focus.

It’s a fine album and Solar Bears are well worth getting to know, so here for your edification and delight are a selection of their tracks, some of which have been married to clips from the films The Planet of the Apes, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain and Fantastic Planet. Enjoy.

Bonus clips form Solar Bears, after the jump…

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Before 2001 - Pavel Klushantsev’s classic science fiction film ‘The Road to the Stars’

Scenes from Road to the Stars and 2001, side-by-side.
Film-maker Alessandro Cima has posted some fascinating clips from Pavel Klushantsev’s classic 1957 Russian science-fiction film The Road to the Stars, over at Candlelight Stories. Forget Kubrick’s 2001 for as Cima explains, Klushantsev’s masterpiece was the first and arguably the better of the two films.

Pavel Klushantsev’s 1957 film, Road to the Stars, features astoundingly realistic special effects that were an inspiration and obvious blueprint for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey ten years later.  The film is an extended form of science education, building upon existing 1950s technology to predict space exploration of the future.  The sequences with astronauts in zero gravity are incredibly realistic.  The second excerpt from the film features the construction of and life aboard a space station in earth orbit that is not only convincing but also beautiful.  There are several scenes with space station dwellers using videophones that anticipate the famous Kubrick videophone scene.

Watching these short clips now, it is no surprise that The Road to the Stars has been described as: of the most amazing special effects accomplishments in film history.

However, Klushantsev faced considerable difficulties in making such an effects-heavy film, at one point being asked by one Communist Party bureaucrat why he didn’t make a film about factory manufacturing or beetroot production, but as Klushantsev explained:

The Road to the Stars proved to me I did the right thing thing, one must envisage the future. People should be able to see life can be changed radically.

Klushantsev started work on the film in 1954, and liaised thru-out with Russia’s leading space program scientists, Mikhail Tikhonravov and Sergey Korolyov, to achieve accuracy with his own designs - from space suits, to cabin temperature and rocket design. Indeed, everything in Klushantsev’s film had to at least have an element of possiblity and it is this factual core that gave Klushantsev’s film a documentary-like feel. The film coincided with the launch of Russia’s robotic spacecraft, Sputnik, and led the previously antagonistic Russian bureaucrats to “foam at the mouth” and demand The Road to the Stars include shots of of the satellite in the film.

Bonus clips, plus short making-of documentary, after the jump…

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