Thursday, 20 March 2008

Clarke RIP

Arthur C. Clarke was one of 20th century literature's three giants of science fiction. (The other two were Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein.) Clarke died, at the grand age of 90, on Wednesday 19th March (though news reached UK while it was still Tuesday) and it's a very saddening thought for genre fans reflecting on how the author of classic novels - like 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Childhood's End, produced such powerfully imaginative books that he was largely responsible for introducing them to SF in the first place, and making his readers life-long fans and followers of the genre's unique sense-of-wonder. (When I was a kid, it was Clarke's Earthlight which got me hooked on reading SF!)

When reading (and reviewing for Starburst #171), Odyssey, Neil McAleer's authorised biography of Clarke, I noted that it presented an essentially positive view of Clarke, without any muck-raking (Clarke's autobiography Astounding Days paints a similarly rosy picture), but that did not - and still doesn't - suggest that any negative comments were due, anyway. And it's worth remembering it was Clarke who attained a "cosmic eloquence" in his SF books and lectures that still remains unequalled in the field and the genre canon. With that in mind, I think that any number of human flaws and character faults should be overlooked. Clarke's single-volume Collected Stories is a treasure house of imaginative SF lore and it's changing focus over decades, and it reveals much about the genre's development as fantastic literature.

I've always found it fascinating to compare the film 2001 with the novel version, one being a genuine work of art by Stanley Kubrick (see here), and the other being a kind of distillation of Clarke's views on some of the big questions (about life-as-we-know-it, the ever-surprising universe, and everything..?), some of which remain unanswered in 21st century. Although it's obviously a great shame that so little of Clarke's boundless optimism has survived the various social changes of the millennium, there can be no doubt that his visionary input into SF is a vital guiding light as we lurch towards whatever future state (or complete mess?) the world gets into next.

Saturday, 8 March 2008


Revelatory sequences concerning the protagonist’s boyhood underscore the incandescent psycho-eroticism of MindFlesh by Robert Pratten (the maker of London Voodoo, interviewed for The ZONE). Any prĂ©cis probably sounds laughable, incomprehensible, or worse… London taxi driver, Chris (Peter Bramhill, ‘bugboy’ in LovecraCked!), inexplicably magicks up his own dream goddess (Carole Derrien), and incurs the wrath of nasty aliens policing dimensional rifts. The demons start killing Chris’ friends. Enthralment. Kinky sex. Body-horror. Explicit pleasure/ pain, and blah. See?

Adapted from William Scheinman’s novel White Light, this is a double-sleaze Hellraiser dish with a side order of Society madness. Cronenberg weirdness? Ah, yes, old Crony might well be proud of his obvious influence here. He might even drool. Not too many horror films are daring enough to prompt fans to wonder, however briefly, about the sanity of the filmmakers. Even fewer new auteurs manage to hit the ground running with only their second feature. Writer-director Pratten allows his imagination free rein here (breaking with good taste like a bulldozer in a china shop), and the mature cast play along, bravely.

If you want to experience a raft of darkly whimsical surprises, acid-head flavoured grotesquery and perversion, in a mere 75 minutes of jaw-dropping fun and crazy sense-twisting games, here’s a 21st century brand of SF atrocity exhibit X that contrasts pretence with honesty, balances delight and disgust, exposes the shadowy aspects of human souls, and opens up the head of its main character with unflinching surgical precision.

Checkout the maker's website at for more info, trailer, and latest updates.