Tag: science fiction

With Further Ado #130: Unidentified Flying Obsession

With Further Ado #130: Unidentified Flying Obsession

One of my friends, prolific author Jim Beard, has been documenting (via social media) his episode-by-episode viewing of the old Gerry Anderson show, UFO.  When I was a kid, it was a favorite. They re-ran this British series on Saturdays in syndication, and my brother and I loved it.  UFO detailed the efforts the efforts of a secret organization called S.H.A.D.O. and their clandestine efforts to save the world from an ever-imminent alien invasion.

There’s so much to like about this 70s show!

  • There were cool vehicles (submarines, jets, tanks and even spaceships) they’d employ every episode (who cared if it was always the same stock footage shots).
  • It was set in the “future” – in the 1980s! And the future never looked better with the cool cars, slick hairstyles, and engaging “at work” attire. (The women’s work attire is a bit prurient, to be fair.)  And they even got some of it right.  Various episodes explored  the reliance on computers, wireless communications,  the frustrations of bureaucracy and fingerprint/voiceprint databases.
  • The brilliant theme song by Barry Gray was like no other. It’s an engaging, swinging call to arms, heralding the idea that “now we’re going to get down to business!”

Let the Music Be Your Guide

The theme song always stuck with me.  A few years ago, when I was working for the Reed Elsevier division that would become ReedPop (the group that manages New York Comic Con, Emerald City Comic-Con, PAX and more), I was attending a business meeting in Berlin.  I don’t speak German, but prior to the trip I had been diligently listening to language tapes. The idea was  to try and absorb some of the simple phrases that would facilitate rudimentary communication.

One night, walking back to my hotel, I heard a familiar song. It was a funky variant of the UFO Theme song! Like Ulysses being lured by a siren call, I followed the music to an urban park where an outside bar had created a “pop-up shop”, complete with a DJ. Our mutual appreciation of, and passion for, the UFO theme song allowed me to communicate with, and be accepted by, the locals.  I guess I didn’t need those language tapes after all. Continue reading “With Further Ado #130: Unidentified Flying Obsession”

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind  #086: Speculative Reality

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind #086: Speculative Reality

“If I could dig down deep in my heart / Feelings would flood on the page / Would it satisfy ya, would it slide on by ya / Would ya think the boy’s insane? He’s insane / I said I know it’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it” – It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll, written by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, 1974.

Back in the hallowed days of nascent hippiedom, our popular culture evolved as young people began to develop a more political worldview. For better and for worse, these sentiments touched upon all aspects of the arts, and the world of science fiction was just sitting there in the center of the target. A lot of great stuff came out of that, material that continues impacting upon society to this day.

People began deploying the term “speculative fiction” to differentiate the contemporary stuff from the traditional space opera, although that epithet was used in similar vein by Robert Heinlein back in 1947. Be that as it may, the concepts associated with speculative fiction go back to the roots of storytelling and was well-deployed by writers such as Euripides and Shakespeare. Out of this movement came many of the 1960s generation of S-F A-listers: Judith Merril, Harlan Ellison, Michael Moorcock, Ursula K. LeGuin, Norman Spinrad, and many, many others.

Of course, such labels never truly work. Using music as my reference point, can you cleanly define the differences between the various forms of American roots music — blues, country, folk, bluegrass, jazz, rock and roll? Really? Then where does Ray Charles fall into that mix? Similarly, there are many labels on the foreheads of the sundry strands of science fiction: fantasy, horror, apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, horror, blah blah blah. I know. It’s only rock and roll to me.

These days, the term “speculative fiction” has become a warning. Here’s what we know for certain about COVID-19:

1) As of April 29th, it has affected over three and one-quarter million people worldwide — that we know about. If we actually tested people in the United States, that number would be much higher. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind #086: Speculative Reality”