Archive for the Science fiction Category

Just finished When We Wake

Posted in Books, Science fiction, Young adult with tags on February 5, 2013 by Cara Marie

I hadn’t thought Karen Healey’s latest was out till later this month, but I found it in Whitcoulls yesterday and pounced. I couldn’t read it last night on account of book club but I read it this evening. And I aren’t I glad now I flaked on going to the movies? Because it is extremely good.

As I finished it, my flatmate asked me if it was sad. ‘It’s a book about a girl who’s died and is brought back to life after a hundred years,’ I said. ‘What do you think?’ That scenario gives you the grief of someone who’s lost their whole world, their whole family, and thus also encompasses the grief of a parent who’s lost their child. You really cannot get a lot sadder.

Although possibly it was a little disingeneous of me to give that answer, because I was at the end, and at that point my tears were more just an expression of a lot of emotion than of any particular sadness. It’s not an especially sad book … except for the premise.

More than sadness, I am struck by the sincere sense of outrage, and of a desire for change. It is a book that wears its heart on its sleeve, you know? And that is not a bad thing.

Anyway, this isn’t a proper review, this is just me saying I really liked this book. (Also, that even though it is going to have a sequel, it is completely satisfying on its own, thank god.) Although I might have some thoughts later about how it does/does not fit into the dystopia model of YA fiction. (I don’t think it’s a dystopia – the world Tegan wakes up isn’t really any better or worse than our own. But the shape of the story is not dissimilar.)

Last night’s movies

Posted in Action/adventure, Middle fiction, Movies, Science fiction with tags on January 26, 2013 by Cara Marie

Notes from last night’s movie night, which turned out to be ‘surprisingly competent movie’ themed, but only because we switched Mortal Kombat off after ten minutes. Spoilers ahead.

Alien Western

Also known as High Plains Invaders. Not to be confused with Cowboys and Aliens.

This might be a Western in its setting, but it’s more like a horror movie in its structure. Also it doesn’t have enough epic landscapes and, despite nearly all of the characters dying, it isn’t depressing enough to be a Western.

It delivers more on the aliens. Sometimes they even afford the CGI to have multiple aliens in shot at once! The aliens have come to earth to steal our uranium. Not to use it as a fuel source – they’re just addicted to it.

The best line in this movie comes after the scientist has declared uranium more valuable than diamonds, thus ensuring the shifty characters try to run off with it. He then says in exasperation that there isn’t yet an established market for uranium.

Alien Western is more competent a film than I expected, but it’s still a made-for-TV movie and it doesn’t have anything special to recommend it. I guess unless you really like James Marsters. I have never seen Buffy, so I’m Marsters-ambivalent.

Cutthroat Island

This, apparently, was the movie that killed pirate movies (at least till Captain Jack Sparrow came along). It cost a lot to make, and made hardly any of it back.

The beautiful thing about the movie is that you can see exactly where all the money went. It went into crafting a lot of very detailed sets (including full-scale, working ships) … and then blowing them up.

Okay, they only blow up one of the ships. And it’s a thing of beauty – all the splintered wood raining down, the black billowing smoke. It’s always really satisfying to watch an action movie with real explosions. CGI just isn’t the same.

Other satisfying things include watching Geena Davis kick people in the head. She seems like she’s really enjoying it, too. She gets to rescue her love interest, Shaw, a lot (after she buys him), and the movie doesn’t seem too concerned about whether or not that ’emasculates’ him. I guess because he’s positioned more as a charming thief than any kind of action hero. I also like that Morgan got to be sexy in a way that didn’t require her being prettied up.

L made an interesting comment which was that he felt like for the first two-thirds of the film, the POV would keep slipping whenever Shaw, the love interest, was on-screen. And he’d end up being the identification character in those scenes. But, in the last third, Morgan (Geena Davis’s character) was consistently the one we were meant to identify with. And he wondered if that was intentional or not.

I didn’t especially notice, but I’m probably inclined to latch strongly to my action heroines’ perspectives. You have to be pretty egregious to break that.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

This movie is about how boys have to learn courage and girls have to learn to appreciate boys.

It’s also about how if you beat something up and then treat it kindly, it will follow you forever.

Okay, the ‘it’, in this case, is an ant. And it doesn’t matter that they start by beating it up, because the experience teaches the snotty kid to have empathy for other creatures, and he’s totally sad when the ant sacrifices itself to save them.

I feel like I am being mean but if I’m forced to watch family movies what do you expect? At least it features real teenagers. I think they still existed in the eighties.

Adventures in old Bioware games

Posted in Games, Science fiction with tags , , on January 6, 2013 by Cara Marie

After being coopted into a Star Wars marathon for new year’s, I’ve started playing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. This is an older Bioware game (2003), which I had yet to get round to.

It’s interesting to see how things have evolved since KOTOR was released. For one thing, its D&D origins are much more transparent. I can play Dragon Age and not think about the numbers behind the scenes. I play KOTOR and I can see that, oh, this weapon is a 1d6, and it crits on 2×20. Or this is a cross-class skill, so it costs more than the others.

It’s only in the last year that I’ve played D&D. I wonder how much sense things like the crit number would have made to me before then?

The other thing that makes me aware of the game’s age is how frustratingly far apart the auto-saves are. I expect my games to save after a boss battle or similar sort of achievement! Especially if it’s going to lead almost immediately to something else I might die in. Because chances are I will.

But some things haven’t changed: the first companion you get is still voiced by Raphael Sbarge. He voiced Kaiden, who was my Shepard’s love interest in Mass Effect. And Carth in KOTOR sounds pretty much the same. Which means I keep calling him ‘Kaiden’ when I talk to my computer screen. And I put up with a lot more of his, ‘look, you can’t trust anyone’ angst than I otherwise might!

On the other hand, there’s another companion who has the same voice actor as Commander Shepard, and they sound completely different! I don’t think I would have realised if I hadn’t already known. (When I say the same VA as Shepard, I mean Jennifer Hale. The voice of the one true Shepard. Not that dude they have on the cover.)

Part of it is that Bastila, your KOTOR companion, has a British accent, and Shepard does not. But even aside from that, their voices are distinctive. Bastila has a softer, breathier voice. Shepard’s is stronger, more authoritative – maybe that second part is more how the dialogue is expressed, I don’t know. But I could never get the two of them confused.

Storywise, I’m enjoying the game thus far – certainly more than I enjoy the actual Star Wars movies /bad sci-fi nerd. My favourite companion at this point is Mission, who’s a teenage girl, with a convincingly teenaged view of things. She and Carth have some pretty entertaining conversations. I like it when my companions argue with one another, but I like it best when they end up getting along.

End-of-year book meme

Posted in Books, Crime, Fantasy, Science fiction, Young adult with tags , , , , , , on January 3, 2013 by Cara Marie

How many books read in 2012?

76 books. This includes novellas, so they were not all very long books. It doesn’t include comic books.

Fiction/non-fiction ratio?

I read eight non-fiction books … that’s one for every 8.5 fiction books.

In other genre distinctions, 60% of the books I read were sci-fi/fantasy (not including JD Robb, as they’re primarily crime and the SF element is usually just the setting). I read four adult fiction books that weren’t SFF or crime stories! Which is … the same number I read every year.

Male/female authors?

I read 18 books by male authors (including half-marks for cowritten books or anthologies) and 58 by female authors.

I always find it weird when people challenge themselves to read more books by female authors, because my bias is so far the other way! Clearly it is my inner misandry showing through.

Favourite book read?

Michelle Sagara wins this year, because I would be hard-pressed to choose between her YA standalone novel, Silence, and the eighth book in ‘The Chronicles of Elantra’, Cast in Peril.

Silence is a book that, when described, sounds like your typical paranormal YA, complete with antagonistic love interest. But it’s not typical at all.

I really loved that the teenaged characters in it were so sensible and kind to one another. That no-one made stupid decisions to generate tension. There’s a lot of YA that goes the other way, and it always annoys me, because that’s not what my experience of being a teenager was like. I don’t mean to say that there’s no conflict between the characters – but it’s not showy, and it rings true.

This isn’t a complete summary of why I liked the book; just one of the things that made it for me.

Cast in Peril I wrote about at the time, in contrast to one of the books covered in the next question. I went through a period of avoiding series fiction; this book serves as an example of how well fantasy series can work. How you can really dig into the world-building, and discover new things. How a book can be the opposite of standalone and still be completely satisfying.

The part of me that still wants to avoid series fiction is freaking out a little – how on earth did I end up reading an 8+ book series? There weren’t that many when I started!

Cast in Peril was also the book that made me realise me and this e-books thing was going to work out, and that I didn’t need everything I loved in hardcopy.

Least favourite?

Not sure whether to go with Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unspoken (as discussed in ‘Where (not) to end a book‘) or Tanith Lee’s Piratica III: The Family Sea. The former I probably enjoyed more for the first two-thirds, so it was a greater disappointment when I turned out to hate it. But I might say Piratica III anyway – I think I’m quite glad I didn’t read it when it first came out, when I was more invested in the characters, because I would have been hugely disappointed. (skip) I think I can see what Tanith Lee was trying to do, having Art’s marriage fail, and her ending up alone and free. But I didn’t feel that freedom in the end – it just felt bleak to me.

Oldest book read?

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Also the first book I read last year. I was quite bewildered afterwards – not about the stories, but about the Sherlock interpretation of Holmes being kind of an asshole. (I’ve never actually watched Sherlock; this is just the impression I’ve received.) Book!Holmes is not an asshole at all! He might not be that interested in people, but he’s still considerate to them.

Also, I was proud of myself because there were a couple of mysteries I figured out before they were revealed. I like to pretend that’s an achievement.

Newest?

The Silvered, by Tanya Huff. Came out in November and I read it in December. I wrote a not-very-deep review at the time.

Longest book title?

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, by Nancy Kress. Long title, short book. This is such a pointless question I feel like I have to talk about the book, now. The three parts of the title refer to the three POVs the book switches between. ‘The fall’ refers to an apocalypse. I enjoyed this quite a bit at the start, but I think overall the pay-off wasn’t there. It had the sort of conclusion that could work for me in a short story, but doesn’t work for me in a longer work.

Shortest title?

Silence or Mastiff. I’ve talked about Silence already, so … Mastiff was the third and final book in Tamora Pierce’s Provost’s Dog series. It was also the least memorable of the three. Enough so that I don’t know if I really have anything to say about it. The first book was my favourite, because it was the one that was most a ‘school story’, with a supporting cast I really enjoyed. And that doesn’t really get carried through into the later books. Which make sense re: the ‘school story’ aspect, but I miss Rosto and Kora and Aniki. (You will note I remember their names, but not the names of the supporting cast in Mastiff.)

I guess Pierce was more interested in the crime novel aspect for this series, but that’s not what I read her for, and it was at the expense of the elements I really love.

How many re-reads?

Only three, which seems low. But then, I guess this is the first year I’ve had a full-time job the whole time, so I’m more inclined to read new things.

Most books read by one author this year?

I read ten JD Robb books – I guess I used these as my comfort fiction, rather than re-reading things. Her ‘In Death’ books are basically a procedural in book form. Except the main couple got together in the first couple of books so there’s no ridiculous ‘will they, won’t they?’ (This shouldn’t necessarily be a procedural trope, but it seems to be.) Also, they’re set in the future! My favourite mysteries are probably the ones that have the most to do with technology – although I think Witness in Death has been my favourite overall, and that one does not, so.

They’re standalone books, and I’ve read them completely out of order. They do benefit from being read chronologically, because of the way the characters and relationships develop over the long-term. On the other hand, there’s more than forty of them. So I think picking the ones with the most interesting-sounding mysteries is probably the best route to reading them.

Any in translation?

Banana Yoshimoto’s The Lake was the only translated book I read this year.

And how many of this year’s books were from the library?

About six. For which I accrued some ridiculous fines, so I’m avoiding the library at the moment.

Reboot and folklore

Posted in Fantasy, Movies, Science fiction, TV with tags , , , on November 3, 2012 by Cara Marie

So L and I were discussing Reboot and he drew a comparison between Simba in The Lion King and Enzo. Both are caught in the conflict between two father figures, one good, one bad. The bad one seeks to displace the good one, and encourages the son to act out their youthful rebelliousness … in the hope that things will end badly.

And things do go badly, for a while. The bad father displaces the good father. The son is cast out into the wilderness. When eventually the son returns, the bad father is deposed (with more or less effort).

Except after Enzo comes back and Megabyte is defeated, he’s still messed up. There’s no ‘circle of life’ to reassure him; there is no re-emplacement of the status quo. He is literally scarred by his experiences.

(On the other hand, it could have been worse: he could have been Hamlet.)

I’m trying to think of fairy tales that follow this same pattern, but I’m not coming up with any – at least, not with men. The stories aren’t dissimilar to those where the good mother is replaced by the wicked stepmother (or the mother herself turns bad). We don’t see the early part of the story: the stepmother tends to want the daughter out quick-smart. But we do see the exile, once our heroine grows old enough to threaten the stepmother.

But, when the heroine takes her rightful place, it is not as her mother’s successor. Her stepmother’s wickedness may be revealed, but it is not her place the heroine takes. Our heroine becomes a queen in another realm. (Some versions of this kind of story forget about the stepmother in the second half, and the heroine’s mother-in-law becomes the villainess: in this case, the heroine is displacing her.)

Which I guess says something about gender roles in patrilineal societies where daughters marry out.

That’s something interesting about Snow White and the Huntsman, actually: Snow White is the heir who must reclaim her kingdom to set things right, rather than the cast-out princess who will reclaim her status in another realm. Snow White and the Huntsman may not have been the most coherent of movies, but it was certainly refreshing.

I don’t have any real conclusion to this, so I will just leave you with the observation that in Reboot Megabyte doesn’t marry Dot after getting rid of Bob. He waits until Bob is back in Mainframe. Then he uses Dot’s uncertainties about the way Bob has changed in his exile, and disguises himself as original!Bob … with the result that Dot almost marries him instead.

… that will never not be funny to me.

Alien 3, or, a case study in alienating the viewer

Posted in Horror, Movies, Science fiction with tags , on October 20, 2012 by Cara Marie

Alien 3 is possibly my least favourite movie ever. It does this not just by being bad, but by trampling on everything that had gone before it.

It does this during the opening credits, when it kills off two characters whom we’ve become invested in. Just throws them out. They could have left Dwayne and Newt out of the film without killing them off. They could have included them, and used them to torture us through the course of the movie. Instead, they threw them out.

When the opening credits are so staggering, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the film.

Alien 3 is set on an all-male prison planet. This both conveniently gets rid of the need to have more than one female character and makes any women watching the movie super-uncomfortable while they wait for someone to try and rape Ripley! The movie even kindly highlights the threat:

We’re 25 prisoners in this facility. All double-Y chromos. All thieves, rapists, murderers, child-molesters. All scum. Just because they have taken on religion doesn’t make them any less dangerous. I try not to offend their convictions. I don’t want to upset the order. I don’t want ripples in the water. And I don’t want a woman walking around, giving them ideas…

While I didn’t expect any rape attempt to succeed, I was still waiting for it. It was a relief when it came, because then it was out the way.

One of the prisoners in particular was our point-of-view character for the beginning of the film. Clemens was the most sympathetic of the prisoners, the most intellectual, whose crime was one of incompetence rather than malice. He admires Ripley from the start.

Ripley straight away wants to sleep with him. A man who she doesn’t know, whom she has no especial chemistry with … and to be quite honest, who is no Michael Biehn. This made no sense to me … until I realised that I wasn’t meant to be placing myself in Ripley’s shoes. I was meant to be empathising with Clemens’s perspective. Because, I, the audience, am presumed heterosexual male, and of course I want to imagine Ripley would want to immediately jump my bones.

I’ve never been thrown out so strongly by the male gaze in a film. Ripley was so thoroughly the subject and not the object in Aliens that the difference was disconcerting as well as offensive.

Thankfully, Clemens doesn’t survive very long. After he dies; after three men have tried to rape Ripley and failed; after that the film picks up, gains some narrative drive … and still fails to be truly engaging.

I have friends who disagree, but for me the film has no redeeming features. It’s like they thought too many women liked the first two movies, so they had to alienate them as much as possible. If nothing else, they were effective in that.

Bloodtide and the Volsunga Saga

Posted in Books, Fantasy, Horror, Science fiction, Young adult with tags on October 7, 2012 by Cara Marie

I first read Melvin Burgess’ Bloodtide as a teenager, and it’s been a few years since my last reread. Bloodtide is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel. The post-apocalyptic part is the London that’s been cut off from the rest of the world after the gangs got too big. (Maybe not a proper apocalypse, but it it’s treated as one). The sci-fi part is the genetically engineered ‘half men’, who the humans think are monsters … but they’re no more monstrous than any of the human characters.

And then there’s the gods.

Bloodtide is a retelling of a small part of the Volsunga Saga, the family history before the better known tale of Sigurd and Brunhilde. (Burgess treated that in a sequel some years later.) The Volsons are one of two big-shot families in the city. The youngest Volson children are twins, Siggy (Sigmund) and Signy, and the story starts with Signy being married off, to create an alliance. Hopefully to create peace.

But Odin shows up the night of her wedding. And as always when Odin gets involved with humans, things get fucked.

Because it’s retelling a legend, because it’s a story of revenge that doesn’t get enacted for many years, the novel is weirdly paced. It’s disturbing event after disturbing event, some of which drives the story, some of which just seems random if you don’t know it’s there because it was there in the saga.

I’ve read the saga, or this part of it, since I read Bloodtide last, and it’s funny the way they combined in my head. The way Signy’s fate in the saga supplanted her fate in the novel in my memory. I was struck, rereading this, just how screwed over Signy is by the story she lives in – and also by the way Burgess draws attention to how screwed over Signy is.

The first time Odin shows up, he leaves a knife, embedded in glass like Excalibur in the stone; and none can remove the knife except the youngest Volson, Siggy. This pisses Signy’s new husband off no end (and he never ceases in coveting the knife). So we have this scene:

In a little fit of resentment, Signy made a movement towards the knife, then stopped herself. It wasn’t just that she wanted it for Conor. The fact was, she was scared she might have been able to remove it herself. Of them all, only she had not been given the chance to take the knife from the lift shaft. The boys were all put first. Maybe the knife could have been hers instead of Siggy’s. Odin had touched Siggy, but he had embraced her. Everyone seemed to have forgotten that.

Of course, no-one touched by Odin has a good life. And Signy’s is bitterest of all.

It’s a strange book. And it’s a strange choice of story, to retell as a YA novel. More because of that bitterness than because of all the violence and other disturbing themes. And it’s odd that I like it, because usually I hate stories where all the characters are awful people. Maybe because it’s obvious here how events have shaped that in them. But certainly Bloodtide transfixed me as a teenager. And I wasn’t disappointed rereading it as an adult.

Event Horizon: might have been better if it had been worse

Posted in Horror, Movies, Science fiction with tags on August 26, 2012 by Cara Marie

Event Horizon is a bad movie that could have been a good movie. The idea is basically, seven years ago this ship vanished out past Neptune. Now it’s reappeared, and a team’s been sent to investigate. Where has the ship been? What happened to all the crew?

It’s a horror movie, so the answer is HORRIBLE AWFUL (SPOILERY) THINGS. I do really like the concept of the movie, but the tone of the whole thing is somehow off. When the team get on the Event Horizon, they start hallucinating – but there’s no subtlety to the hallucinations, not even to begin with, so they fail to actually creep you out. The ‘something’s wrong here’ was too obvious.

The film also couldn’t seem to decide just how seriously to take itself – there were several moments that were presumably meant to be comic (or, I don’t know, charming character moments) but just fell flat. It was as if they’d been dropped in from another movie.

The one area the film actually did well in was the sets. In conjunction with horrible CGI, it’s true, but the sets and design were awesome. A little worrying, as in who the hell thought it was good to make the ship’s doors teethed, but cool to look at. There were awesome images in the film, it just didn’t pull them together.

I do wonder if it works better for people who are more susceptible to horror movies? I like horror, but movies don’t scare me easy. (Except The Descent. Because spelunking is terrifying.) Which I guess means I can direct more of my attention to being critical. (Or, after the movie, letting L be critical and nodding along with him. He blames a lot of its failings on the editing. That and Sam Neill seeming too much like someone’s dad to be creepy.)

So that was that bad movie. We had intended to watch other unclassy flicks like Muay Thai Giant, but were foiled by region-coding. ‘Hi, I know you bought this blu-ray completely legitimately! I’m not going to let you watch it anyway!’ Here’s an idea, movie industry, if you don’t want people to pirate things, maybe let them play the things they’ve paid for?

So we had to watch a respectable movie instead (Green Zone). Which also had problems with subtlety, but was decently made. (Plus, Matt Damon.)

Comics by women: some recs for a friend

Posted in Comics, Fantasy, Manga, Science fiction, Young adult with tags , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2012 by Cara Marie

These are some recs for my friend Sarah, who has gone back to Sweden. I’d lent her some comics while she was home, and the night before she left, she commented on how all these Vertigo comics were written and drawn by men, and edited by women.

And that it was all very well that they had good female characters, but she’d like to see more women written by women.

Flatmate and I kind of laughed (it’s like self-defence).

But here are some comics recs for Sarah. I have no idea how easy they would be to get hold of in Sweden, of course!

Ōoku, by Yoshinaga Fumi

Alt-universe historical Japan: a plague has decimated the male population. Full of interesting what-if, the way things change, the way they don’t. Most of it is told from the point of view of men in the shogun’s harem, but it is a very expansive narrative – covering a huge period of time, and a variety of stories.

My favourite arc is in volumes 2 and 3. I have so much love for Iemitsu, the first female shogun. How her cruelty hides her hurt, how that hurt has shaped her, how it shapes the world. And how the male protagonist’s perspective on her changes, once he sees through her games.

It’s like ‘The Queen and the Soldier’ except (somewhat) less heartbreaking.

It’s an interesting comic intellectually, there’s a lot to chew on, but it’s also very emotionally gripping. And gorgeously drawn.

There’s a fabulous series of thinky posts on the first few volumes at The Lobster Dance – very spoilery, of course! But well worth reading.

Mystic, by G. Willow Wilson

Secondary-world fantasy, two best friends who dream of becoming magic users are torn apart when one of them is inadvertantly picked as a royal apprentice, and the other is not.

I’ve reviewed the first issue before, with pictures etc, and I found the whole thing to be very satisfying – except that I wanted more!

It’s very much a comic pre-teen Tamora Pierce fan me would have loved … and I haven’t changed that much.

Eternal Sabbath, by Soryo Fuyumi

A woman who feels disjarred from normal human relationships, who is a brilliant scientist but who is awful at social cues, gets involved with a man who can pass perfectly well in human society … but is really something else.

It’s a sci-fi thriller choc-ful of ethical dilemmas, and some of the most sparse and striking artwork I have seen. But also I can just relate a lot to Mine – knowing you’re not getting things right, but not being able to do differently; dissecting emotion, using it, and feeling like a cheat.

I could also hope to be as brave and forthright as she is.

Ceres: Celestial Legend, by Watase Yuu

I started reading this back when manga was still released issue by issue. Sarah read it then too, but I don’t think she ever got to finish it – I didn’t get all the trades for years, long after they stopped releasing the single issues.

Ceres is the story of Aya, a teenage girl who discovers the true legacy of her family: that they are descended from ‘celestial maidens’ (like selkies), and that some girls in the family are able to manifest as their foremother, Ceres.

Naturally, this means they have to die. Aya included.

The series is like, a billion doomed love stories, and the happiness you grab while you can, and not hiding from your feelings. About sacrifice, for the people who are your friends and your found family, and about the will to survive.

It has a lot about gender, not all of which I agree with, but it always feels very honest.

Also it’s just plain addictive shoujo manga, and the kind of comfort reading where you don’t mind you’ll be bawling by the end of it.

Exploratory missions

Posted in Movies, Science fiction with tags , , on June 25, 2012 by Cara Marie

In the introductory scene where Shaw and Holloway explain their hokey search for Bald Xenu Jesus to the rest of the crew, we learn that several of the crewmembers literally do not know why they are there.

As an expository device, that scene was incredibly clumsy. In a more general sense it was even worse because it immediately made me start wondering about a) who the hell signs up for a two-year research mission on another planet without knowing what they’ll be working on or why, and b) who picked out the crew in the first place.

Costume Design and the Crew of Prometheus

I enjoy the posts on Hello, Tailor a lot, but point (a) here threw me a little. Because I would certainly consider it. I mean, presumably in 2091 GOING TO SPACE is less of a big deal, but surely it’s still enticing? ‘Mission on another planet’ is enough of a draw that the specifics don’t seem that important.

I know I’ve spent enough time thinking about when humanity finally gets its act together and sends some people to Mars … that’s a four-year, one-way journey. And yet it’s one of the things that kind of makes me sorry I didn’t continue on in geology. Because a geologist would be a reasonable choice to send to Mars. An editor doesn’t have much chance.

Maybe in the future everyone is blasé about going to other planets? But I feel, surely, there are people for whom the thrill of exploration would be enough. It doesn’t matter whether Weyland’s funding it because he’s thinking of terraforming it, or because there’s exciting new plant life that could give us new medicines, or because there’s some reason to think there might be sentient alient life, or just, hey, new planet, might have some interesting rocks!

I mean, back in the day, the Endeavour was sent on a secret mission to discover a hypothetical continent. The official reason was to go to Tahiti to observe the transit of Venus, but ‘As soon as that part of the work was completed, so Cook’s secret instructions directed him, he was to put to sea in search of the great southern continent.’ (The Discovery of New Zealand, J.C. Beaglehole.) That’s not just secret from the crew, or the public – that’s sealed instructions that Cook wasn’t to open till after the transit.

And that ended up being a three-year voyage. No cryo-sleep in the eighteen century either!

There’s a lot of things to complain about in Prometheus, but I don’t think them keeping the purpose of the mission secret is one of them. ‘Commercial sensitivity’ is probably all the excuse they need.