When I say “science fiction”, some people may think of socially awkward boys with pale skin, Hollywood blockbusters where characterisation is sacrificed for special effects, or pure escapism that ignores the grim realities of the world we live in.
Personally, I go for the intersection of philosophy, politics and popular culture. Like the dystopian critique of Thatcher’s England in Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta; or the fusion of Plato, Baudrillard and more besides in The Matrix; I also think of two of the most important science fiction writers: Mary Shelley and Ursula Le Guin.
As a creative, I’m always on the look out for artists that inspire me. Maybe it’s a new idea or a technique or something done particularly effectively. Like in bookclub we recently read Oscar Wilde’s A Picture of Dorian Grey, which I’d never read before, and which I loved. It is meticulously crafted and has definitely gone straight back onto the shelf to be reread at some point. On a first reading it made me think more about the structure of what I write; how to use plot and character to move a reader around the ideas that I want to explore.
On the weekend I went and saw a photography exhibition at the Casula Powerhouse – Carol Jerrems – photographic artist. She’s not a photographer I was aware of previously, but her work is quite striking, especially her portraiture. Jerrems died young – she lived from 1950 to 1980 – and produced an impressive body of work. The most famous is called Vale Street.
On Sunday 26 January I attended my first Big Day Out music festival in close to twenty years. The impetus originally had been to see Arcade Fire and Blur, then, with Blur pulling out, to see Arcade Fire and have a good time.
Riddick, in cinemas this week, sees Vin Diesel return to his niche role – antihero with night vision – the role which made him famous in the cult scifi-horror Pitch Black (2000). Director David Twohy also returns, dispensing with the space opera, pseudo religion, subplots and backstory which made the second film in the series, the Chronicles of Riddick (2004), absolute rubbish (at the same time removing the need for Diesel to actually act) and reprises the formula which made Pitch Black a cult classic: bad arse aliens, meet bad arse antihero – fight, preferably in low visibility.
I’ve been out at the Sydney Writers’ Festival for the past couple of days. Among the long queues, the various shades of black, and the obligatory person in each session who ‘asks a question’ by making a long personal statement, I’ve been to some very interesting and inspiring sessions. One of the best so far was called The Brain that Changes Itself: Judge For Yourself, where an American research psychoanalyst named Norman Doidge talked about a book that he’s written about neuroplasticity. What an awesome word. Say it five times fast.