When science had no shame. Part 1: Why are nearly all sci-fi movies anti-science dystopia?

Guest essay by Phil Salmon (“ptolemy2”)

“When science had no shame, Part 1: Why are nearly all sci-fi movies fire-and-brimstone anti-science dystopia?”

(I repeat the title since on the mobile phone WUWT page, titles of articles appear to disappear after the first click – at least on my iPhone.)

This is the first of two articles under the title “When science had no shame”, which looks at how the movie genre of SciFi has transitioned balefully from celebrating science to damning it with fire-and-brimstone dystopia. The second article under the same title will look at the remarkable nineteenth century poem “Passage to India” by American poet Walt Whitman which looks back at an era when science had no shame and it was OK to be excited by humankind’s technological progress and the prize of a connected and united world.

A new Prohibition?

Are we living in a new prohibition era? A generation of straight-laced environmental puritans have been teaching us and our children to be ashamed of science and technology. The internal combustion engine, instead of an empowering transport technology connecting the world, is a guilty emitter of a demonized CO2. We are forbidden to take pride in rockets to space, which instead of being a fulfilment of an age old dream to soar and fly to other worlds, are connected to nuclear warheads and threaten our survival. We flip-flop absurdly between favoring petrol then diesel then petrol again for vehicle fuel as the pantheon of hero pollutants sashay and process in and out of fashion. Even light bulbs have become ensnared in a morass of guilt-laden virtue signaling.

For the self-appointed guardians of our environmental rectitude, technology is the new sex, business is the new gambling and CO2 the new alcohol. All strictly finger-wagging no-no’s. An eco-puritanical army pervading the political, academic and media establishments lash themselves into unceasing moral outrage in order to drive forward an agenda outlawing all three of these new moral evils.


In the above image (right) from the recent WUWT post about the “March for Science”, the 500 women (remember that “every measurement is a model”, and the image above input into an ensemble of multiparametric crowd-counting models gave us 500 – just saying…) marched, apparently, for science. They marched bearing placards purporting to show their respect and devotion to the scientific method. Although these placards broadcast intellectual snobbery and superiority – everyone disagreeing with us is an idiot – it is on one level still refreshing to see what looks like popular support for science and technology.

But how many of these (no doubt mostly well-meaning) ladyfolk realize how profoundly anti-science the AGW movement is, that they are supporting? Marching for science and at the same time for climate change alarmism, is as profound an inconsistency, even impossibility, as the clip_image006 in one of the placards. It really doesn’t add up.

clip_image008While we can have fun with images like the ones above recalling prohibition zeal, it is notable that women often play a special motivating role whatever our society’s morality-de-jour happens to be. Often this is good, of course, when one thinks about the suffragettes campaigning for the female vote and anti-slavery campaigners. However the likes of Carrie A. Nation (image right) who liked to descend on saloons and bars with a hatchet pursuing her agenda of righteous indignation against alcohol, perhaps took moral crusading a little too far. We can only hope that we do not see an equivalent rise of what today would be rightly called terrorist acts, in support of protests against oil and gas pipelines, coal and nuclear power stations and scientists holding views skeptical of climate alarmism.

Prohibition’s history shows that, no matter how persuasive the moral case behind comprehensive censure, if in practice it proves unrealistically disruptive of economy and society, it will soon be discarded. The carbon prohibition is likely to go the same way as the alcohol one.

Why is nearly all Sci-Fi dystopian?

Anyway so much for pre-amble. For me and no doubt many here at WUWT, Sci-Fi is one of my favorite film genres. For that reason I find it deeply annoying that such a large majority of SciFi movies, when special effects veneer is peeled away, are little more than anti-technology Luddite tracts. Can’t we celebrate science anymore? Has SciFi become LuddFi? The blasted dystopian future-scapes that we view with monotonous regularity through theatrical off-stage blown mist, all communicate a not-so-subtle political message: if you don’t pay attention to our endless protest movements that are anti-science, anti-technology, anti-vaccine, anti-energy, anti that atom with the atomic number of the Beast, then look at all the bad stuff that’s heading your way! Only a small minority of SciFi movies rise above the rest and actually fulfil SciFi’s purpose, that is, to inspire us with the possibilities of science and technology – while also addressing its dangers and ambiguities but in a positive and hopeful spirit.

But rather than ranting on with my own prejudices, the purpose here is to set out my own list of forty or so SciFi movies of the last half century. These are somewhat randomly chosen from memory, and I have given my own brief assessment of the movie in terms of its underlying attitude to science, whether positive, negative or ambiguous. To this end I have divided them into three categories: the dystopian, which are anti-science and imply that science is leading us to a bad place; the hopeful, which show positive idealism toward science, and those I would describe as “half-and-half” – dystopian yet ambiguously hopeful in their message about science. Perhaps I am wrong about some of these films – I have not seen all of them. I hope that this provokes a discussion about people’s views on films, ones you love and hate, the important ones I have missed, and on their philosophical messages in relation to science, technology and human curiosity.

Category 1: Dystopia (science is leading us to a bad place).

Soylent Green. Trail-blazing dystopia. This 1973 classic is ahead of its time in positing fantastical CO2 global warming carnage to the environment. For the “science” story behind its blasted future-scape it plays with atmosphere and ocean like a baby playing with bricks. The moral of this story is that CO2 will turn us into cannibals.
James Bond I have entered this as a single SciFi film since all the Bond movies ever made, with the exceptions of “On her majesty’s secret service” (both versions) and “Skyfall”, have one and the same story. MI6 sniffs something suspicious, Bond meets Dr Evil at a high-class social event, Bond finds and then trashes Dr Evil’s temple of doom. The Temple of doom always symbolizes high technology, perverse scientific idealism, clean efficient organization and psychopathic evil. Routine dystopia.
Children of Men Routine dystopia, in an apocalyptic future becoming pregnant makes you an outlaw.
Avatar Routine dystopia; brilliant future technology for space travel and mind transfer end up in the hands of corrupt corporate hacks. The protagonist returns heroically to the stone age. Corporations are bad, military is bad, technology is bad, trees are good. Fantastic effects and some decent acting but Luddite brainwashing nonetheless.
Minority Report Routine dystopia; in this Tom Cruise vehicle paranormal future-seeing technology is exploited by a repressive totalitarian regime, which needless-to-say TC takes on and defeats single-handed.
Ex Machina Nice movie but routine dystopia, a synthetic human kills and escapes. Mobile phone technology attacks. But at least it generates sympathy for the robot, and humans can be bad too.
Mad Max Routine dystopia, a post-nuclear future, the earth turns into a ruined degenerate anarchic wild-west.
Gravity Routine dystopia. Orbiting satellites and space craft destroyed in an urban-legend disintegration cascade, Hollywood racism alive and well in the 21st century as the Russians are the obligatory bad guys again.
Looper Routine dystopia, future society is disintegrated, anarchic and crime dominated, the highest technology – time travel – in the hands of criminals. Cool roles by Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt and a clever time dichotomy, but reinforcing the technology-is-evil message.
Jurassic Park Routine dystopia. Brilliant science rampages out of control immediately with mind-numbing predictability.
Transcendence Routine dystopia and a criminally bad movie – literally. A blonde femme-fatale who murders scientists in protest against artificial consciousness becomes heroine. Advocates murder to stop technology.
Dr Strangelove Routine dystopia, fountain of a generation’s technophobic one-liners.
Hunger Games Routine dystopia with the added gruesome spectacle of gladiatorial fights by children. A post-nuclear dystopia in which a rural underclass is ruled by an urban elite with criminal hairstyles. Only Jennifer Lawrence can save the world.
Alien (all films including Prometheus series) Dystopic with Oedipus complex. Psychopathic aliens with telescopic dentistry turn out to be the creation of an advanced race who also, it turns out, created us in the first place. Confused? I hate the unphysicality of aliens growing from the size of a prawn to the size of a cow with no apparent source of food to sustain such growth. Grrr!
Deja-Vu Routine dystopia, albeit a great movie. Here the sense of technology-shame is tangible. Scientists who develop a method to loop time backwards by 4 days confess their guilty discovery under moral inquisition. Time travel technology saves the day but somehow remains the villain.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Routine dystopia. Zany Jim Carrey dystopia about memory editing technology, the little guy takes on the evil machine.
Surrogates Routine absurd dystopia not even saved by Bruce Willis.
Never let me go Routine dystopia, but artistically melancholic and good quality film-making. In a future society organs harvested from an underclass give the elite eternal life.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Routine post-apocalyptic dystopia but great visual effects and story, newly sentient chimpanzees take on humans for world domination.
Arrival Much heralded big budget SciFi turned out to be another dismal tract. Aliens show up and do nothing, but this is nowhere near the class of District 9. After a protracted quiz show about circular symbols, a bomb appears for no apparent reason. Anti-war cliché, preciously introspective, and pointless.
The Arrival (Not the later “Arrival”); I had to include this as the worst ever sci-fi movie. Routine dystopia, aliens disguised as Mexicans try to heat up the world to their advantage by pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. (Yes, seriously!)
Brazil Routine dystopia. The little guy against a future techno-totalitarian state flees persecution picking up leading lady en-route.
Empyrium Routine dystopia. In yet another AGW-blasted future-scape, a rich elite inhabit an orbiting space station while an underclass inhabit a contaminated earth’s surface. Predictable, as bad cinematically as scientifically.
The 100 OK a Netflix series not a film, but essentially the same story backdrop as Empyrium, with a similar verdict. Routine dystopia. Cinematically better but scientifically even worse; astonishing ignorance and inaccuracy about radioactivity, fallout and biological effects of radiation (“they’ve evolved to filter radiation out of their blood!”) A young cast easy on the eye but a plot of endless formulaic jumping between contrived dichotomies.
Event Horizon Routine dystopia. In a bizarre mix of anti-science sci-fi and medieval religion, a spaceship approaches the event horizon only to pop unexpectedly into hell. Yes hell – complete with punishment for sin, Gothic decor and Sam Niell.
I am Legend I am Will Smith. Routine dystopia. A bio scientist with posh London accent develops a cancer curing virus which turns most of the world’s population into demented killing machines. Another day in the office for Will Smith, saving the planet after technology goes disastrously out of control.
I, Robot I, Will Smith. Routine dystopia. One more Will Smith ego-trip with the most clichéd anti-technology dystopian script imaginable. Robots attack, Will Smith saves the day, the end.
Moon Routine dystopia; a corporation clones astronauts manning a lunar helium mine, until a heroic escape by one to earth leads to every progressive’s dream, the public damnation of the evil corporation in front of Congress. Technology bad, corporations bad, media hacks good.
V for Vendetta Routine dystopia with – like transcendence – the disturbing sub-plot that terrorism is OK if the targets are “right wing”. Euro-leftist wishful thinking of an American collapse is combined with a formulaic virus apocalypse unleashed with wretched predictability by the go-to-movie-Satan USA. (Who did all this bad stuff? OMG what a total surprise it’s a secret branch of the CIA-US military!) The left are trying to get intellectually creative with this near-future right wing dictatorship under “Adam Sutler”, while in the real world the risk of dictatorship from the “progressive” left is demonstrably much greater.

Category 2: Hopeful: SciFi positive about technology

AI (Artificial intelligence) A personal favorite, a powerfully refreshing break from routine sci-fi dystopia and an exception that proves the rule. Human society is failing to adapt to robots and becomes seized with violent anti-technology prejudice in a highly realistic portrayal of threatened human societies. Robots good, humans bad. A poignantly evocative role by the boy robot David and a great ending tinged with beauty and sadness.
Star Trek (all films) Boldly going where no SciFi has gone before or since – wonderfully refreshingly positive and imaginative science-technology idealism, penned by the great Gene Roddenberry.
The Martian An exception and great movie – realistic technology and a rarity for Hollywood, a gripping and highly believable sci-fi adventure. Based on real and good science and technology practically all accessible today.
District 9 Cool movie, visiting high-tech aliens are the victims, humans doing what humans do are the bad guys. The portrayal of the MSM being swept up passively in politically driven prejudice and violent repression is noteworthy. Great twist at the end, hope there’s a sequel.
The Fifth Element This Luc Besson film is a heart-warming extravaganza of exotic techno-futurism wonderfully devoid of political messages except that “love is the fifth element”. Another with Bruce Willis – his films are in all three of our categories.

3 Half and half (dystopia but with some positivity about technology)

2001 a Space Odyssey While human technical progress is apparently celebrated, with a famous musical score and inspiring visual effects, once the plot gets going technology is the villain, as Hal the computer is evil and kills people.
Star Wars Classical cinematic story-telling that is great for all ages, and clever enough for the dystopia to be subversive. On one level it creates an inspiring and attractive galaxy-scape of shiny technology and an interplanetary community. But why does every Empire spaceship look so sleek and cool, while every rebel craft appears to have been make of cereal boxes and toilet rolls? The more technology, the more evil. And the repetitive kill-the-death-star endings are mere James Bond fare.
12 Monkeys Classic Bruce Willis, dystopia but with a twist. Biological warfare nearly annihilates humanity but with time travel there is a chance to save it.
Blade Runner The backdrop is routine dystopia, a technology-blasted futurescape. However the film, increasingly recognized as one of the best SciFi of all time, develops another dimension in which the question emerges “are humans really any better than replicants?” In the end a very cool movie, rich in ambiguity, in which robots are treated sympathetically as they are hunted down by humans including one – Harrison Ford – who it turns out might actually be replicant.
Interstellar Ambiguous. The backdrop is routine dystopia, humans killed the earth by climate change (yawn). However interstellar space-craft technology provides possible salvation. We find out that a black hole is actually a supermassive library.
Terminator Routine dystopia but with a sting in the tail: Computers go self-aware and try to destroy humans but some robots (especially ones looking like Arnold Schwarznegger) change sides to help out their human friends.
Robocop This Paul Verhoeven cyberpunk SciFi is set in a dystopic crime-ridden future, however the protagonist is a prosthetically recreated human – the robocop – who is portrayed sympathetically as the hero lawman who tries to reconnect with a former humanity.
Tomorrowland Mix of routine dystopia with positivity and optimism about technology. An amusing introduction parodying manic dystopia and technology-phobia in teachers and society at large, probably guaranteed this film damning reviews in a climate of anti-technology puritanism. Schrödinger-like, reality flickers between a bright optimistic technological future and a darkly dystopic techno-apocalypse. With two wonderful child-teenager acted roles as well as quirky acting by George Clooney and High Laurie.

Final Score:

Dystopia: 29

Positive: 5

Half-and-half: 8

437 thoughts on “When science had no shame. Part 1: Why are nearly all sci-fi movies anti-science dystopia?

  1. What about the “worst movie ever made”, the 1959 sci-fi-horror mashup, “Plan Nine from Outer Space”, directed by cross-dresser Ed Wood and starring Finnish-Oregonian actress and TV show presenter Vampira?
    Not to mention all the other alien movies of the ’50s, many inspired by or trading upon fear of nuclear war?

      • This film is so bad it is good, car chases at night, that suddenly turn to day and back again. Bela Lugosi sadly passed away during the making of the film he was about 5′ 6″ with dark hair, they replaced him with a 6′ 2″ blond who was someones dentist and hid his face with his cloak. Chevrolet hubcaps were thrown like frisbees and filmed as the flying saucers. I can’t even remember the plot, too busy looking for other goofs.

      • Phil,
        Maybe just as well for Bela, to save the embarrassment.
        The flopping cardboard gravestones were a nice lack of touch, too.
        IIRC the aliens were going to overwhelm living humans with dead ones. In so far as it had a plot.

      • Ptolemy,
        You did well. The problem is that there usually isn’t much actual science in sci-fi movies.
        Most of the classics of the ’50s just have aliens appear in spacecraft or pods (“Body Snatchers”) without much in the way of explanation. Ditto robots, as in “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951), source of the famous phrase, “Klaatu barada nikto”.
        It’s unclear to me if the 1955 “Body Snatchers” meant to attack social conformity or Americans’ souls being stolen by Communists.

      • Chimp
        The problem is that there usually isn’t much actual science in sci-fi movies.
        Yes, and what is frustrating is that even in big-budget scifi movies no-one makes the tiny investment in time and effort to ask any professional scientist for advice and thereby avoid creating the most hideous science bloopers.

      • ptolemy2 May 13, 2017 at 3:03 pm
        IMO, the fiction should be at least plausible, or explained somehow, even if it isn’t currently or won’t ever be possible.
        The author of “The Martian” made the effort to validate his science, but the movie makes some basic bloopers, anyway.

    • What about Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World? It’s here. And Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 where people are addicted to TV? It’s here too, and people are petrified of anything that challenges their safe space, and get upset at the slightest thing. Get real, folks.

      • This is mostly on movies. Brave New World was done as rather bad TV mini-series adaptation.

      • Mars Attacks . . . Ack, ack, we come in peace. Fabulous satire of just about everything but especially of liberals, oh and politicians, and journalists. With some great singing at the end *grin*.

    • Last night, TCM showed the “Black Scorpion” from that era, which as its climactic scene has a giant 30 foot tall scorpion chasing a crowd of shrieking mexicans down a boulevard in Mexico City. Of course it catches a few with its giant claws and eats them, isn’t that what giant scorpions do?
      To update Oscar Wilde, you’ve got to have a heart of stone not to laugh at a show like that!

      • ‘This is mostly on movies.’. Err, well a lot of the movies mentioned are based on books. Anyway, the two are essentially the same! It’s all story telling.

    • Plan 9 From Outer Space which spawned the excellent movie about its creator, “Ed Wood”.

      • Yes, something good came from Plan 9.
        Martin Landau won an Oscar for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi.
        Tim Burtons’ then GF Lisa Marie was also good as Vampira. They broke up during filming of “Planet of the Apes”, in which Burton took up with Helena Bonham Carter, great-granddaughter of randy WWI PM Kip Asquith, via his feminist daughter Violet.

    • Good Heavens, man, you missed THE MATRIX!!! The one we’re living in the middle of right now! Except that WUWT exists for those who dare to (gasp!) reach for The Red Pill with regard to “climate change.” The MSM and other Marxist minions would LIKE us to all exist in the illusion it pitches as “Reality,” believe me! But just like the movie, there will always be those of us who, like Neo, “want to know what The Matrix is” once we’ve peered through the cracks. The ENTIRE movie is an allegory for EXACTLY what’s going on right now.

  2. Great article, but you placement of Tomorrowland is entirely Wrong! Tomorrowland devolves into a massive AGW Morality play. That “Wonderful Technology” is imaginary because if we “destroy the world” with CO2 and Overpopulation, that wonderful future will never come to pass. A time Travel twist that ended up ruining what up to a point was a wonderful blend of adventure and Disney child action protagonists when the “Horrible Moral of AGW” became the sole reason for the entire movie! The future tech was nice and Innovative, but the Morality Play destroyed any Hope for that wonderful potential future.

    • BTW Mr. Moderator – Can’t we have an ability to EDIT a post to correct unanticipated spelling errors or word choices? At least for a minute or 2 like virtually every other Blog Site on the Internet?
      [unfortunately, no wordpress.com doesn’t have this feature, even though I’ve rutinely asked for it, along with hundreds of other commenters -Anthony]

      • Tomorrowland does indeed have ambiguities. However I believe it deserves credit for making itself something of a martyr by parodying eco-dystopian views on, for instance, climate change, especially in the opening sequence. It received a vindictive media lynching in reviews and elsewhere, largely due to its blasphemy of AGW eco-dystopia. Oddly it’s had to change its name in some countries to “A world beyond” or “Project T” due to falling foul of ownership of the name “Tomorrowland” by a music festival. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the film has been victimised in this way.

    • Spelling errors happin. Our spelling erors expose the tedious few who knead to ridicule our posts and can find know other legitimate raisin. Making little forgivable mistakes filters out the silly critiks. All that said, editing post posting would be a pluss.
      [Watt a grape thought! .mod]

      • A fair comment … but “straight-laced” has always been a pet irritant of mine. As you pointed out, only a “tedious few” care nowadays.

    • Did you even watch Tomorrowland?
      1) There was no time travel in it.
      2) There was no reference to over population
      3) The only clip that could have been interpreted as a AGW was during a clip of coming disasters there was scene of a flood.

      • You watched Tomorrowland and you can actually make out what it was supposed to be about?
        I take my hat off to you, Sir!

      • Guess you slept through most of it! Guess you forgot that endless montage of “soon to be OUR future” vignettes that played from time to time, and as for Time Travel, surely you don’t think 50 years have passed since he visited Tomorrowland as a Kid.

      • sz939, there is no time travel in the film, only temporal viewing using the monitor. Frank Walker goes to the worlds fair and from there to “Tomorrowland” in 1964 as a young boy. He lives there and ages to a young man until 1984 when he is deported. We see him being escorted out as a young man in Athena’s replays. He may (probably) or may not have started drinking the daily “shake” to arrest aging before being deported, but after leaving he no longer has access to it and begins to age (presumably) normally from that point on, for 40 years until the time of the film, 2014, when he appears about sixty but his actual age- if he went to the fair at 12- is 72. Governor Nix does not appear to age from 1664 because he always has the “shake” (that now comes in chocolate) to arrest his aging.
        Ps, For anyone that hasn’t seen it, they have JETPACKS! JETPACKS BABY!

    • I have to disagree about Tomorrowland. I was amazed that Disney made a movie (with George Clooney no less!) that basically says that all the people screeching doom and gloom and making stupid decisions in power (like moth-balling the shuttles and destroying the launch facilities without a ready replacement) _are_ the problem, and as soon as they stfu or we ignore them we can move on to the high-tech wonderland that unhindered minds have already built elsewhere- sort of like the way refugees (real ones, like under Castro) have always tried to get to freedom from oppression. Some of the details in the execution of the story are a little bumpy, but I place the movie squarely in the pro-future-technology category. Since seeing the film I have studiously ignored the dystopian stuff, including network news, and I seem to have a much better outlook on life.

      • It amazes me that so many people forget that the fundamental inspiration for “Tomorrowland”, the Disney movie, is that great big feature in Disney’s theme parks called, duh, “Tomorrowland”!
        This was originally based on Walt Disney’s personal belief in a benevelont, technology driven future. It’s changed a bit over the years, but it still focuses on technology as a fun and wonderful thing. From their web page:
        “Tomorrowland was originally designed to portray Disney’s view of the future. The only trouble with futuristic views is that they need frequent updating. In the 90’s, Disney chose a different tactic and renovated Tomorrowland to depict the future as described by sci-fi writers from the 1920’s and 1930’s. With this imaginative decor, Tomorrowland is the “Future That Never Was.”

    • Yep. I was thinking “maybe the distributor changed the title of this movie in my country”.
      That happened with “The Shawshank redemption” since it is so difficult to say.

    • Correct.
      To me it was just a long advert for “no borders” and Hollywood style socialism. Mind you Matt Damon is a big fan of that sort of thing, he says.

    • Gee – Suddenly the “Deniers” are the Mainstream and only the rogue Scientist is the real Truther? Anybody else wonder at this Dichotomy?

    • Yea, ignored scientist; maybe.
      Even better, there’s also always a very good looking, young woman running around in tight clothes (and, generally, high heels). Wyt aren’t we taking about that?.

    • “At the start […] there’s a scientist being ignored”And a consensus causing the disaster.

    • The ignored scientist is there to create dramatic tension by giving an exposition to the audience as to what the characters are going to go up against.
      Not every disaster in real life has a scientist predicting it, and the percentage of imminent disasters predicted in my lifetime by scientists that have actually come about is pretty damn low.
      So basically, yet again movies portray the world unrealistically.

      • “The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, but still, they come.” War of the Worlds.

      • The AGW hysteria largely *derives* from this trope of the “ignored maverick scientist”!
        Mostly its supporters seem unaware, or are able to ignore, the facts that
        a) That works in fiction, not in reality,
        b) The “mavericks” here are the sceptics. (It seems to be really hard for the cool, groovy people who make up “the consensus” to accept that they are not rebels, they are in fact the mainstream…)

    • Nice hand stitched, weathered, real leather, trendy, English school satchel, which probably cost about £300. Along with a nice imitation, dyed, denim army jacket that also probably cost £300.
      How much does it cost to attend a trendy demonstration theses days?

    • Problem with this post is that I bet the government paid “scientist” is actually a government paid bureaucrat who is rent seeking.

    • She forgot to mention that disaster movies are usually contrived, implausible and unbelievable.

    • Deep impact – President Beck … Morgan Freeman
      2012 – President Thomas Wilson … Danny Glover
      The 5th Element – President Lindberg … Tiny Lester
      And a number of disaster movies also have an African American as President so what does that prove?

    • Her placard suggests she may be unable to distinguish between fiction and reality

  3. Marching for science and at the same time for climate change alarmism, is as profound an inconsistency, even impossibility, as the sqrt(-1) in one of the placards.

    Mathematicians don’t consider sqrt(-1) to be an “impossibility”. That’s an antiquated take. There is no solution with the field of real numbers, that is all.

    • sqrt(-1) is the imaginary number and is indicated by i or j. Engineering would pretty much be impossible without it.

      • Yes I was aware that sqrt(-1) does play an important role in maths as “i” – or is it “j”? From my brother who is the only serious mathematician in our family. But in a simple sense it is impossible. I guess you would call it an irrational number, like pi, e, root 2 and all other really important numbers.

        • Correction. i is imaginary, the others are irrational (never ending decimal). i is used in scientific equations to make the physics work

      • I think of it this way:
        You can hold 1 apple in your hand. But sqrt(-1) apples, not so much.

      • Irrational number: “A number that cannot be expressed as a ratio between two integers and is not an imaginary number. If written in decimal notation, an irrational number would have an infinite number of digits to the right of the decimal point, without repetition. Pi and the square root of 2 (√2) are irrational numbers.”

      • >>
        I guess you would call it an irrational number, like pi, e, root 2 and all other really important numbers.
        “i” is an imaginary number. “pi” and “e” are both irrational and transcendental. The square root of two is simply irrational. Irrationals are numbers that can’t be represented by the ratio of two integers. Transcendental numbers cannot be roots of algebraic equations with rational coefficients. Complex numbers contain both real and imaginary parts.
        Hamilton is responsible for our vector math. He developed the mathematics of quaternions–numbers with one real part and three imaginary parts. The vector cross product was developed by him. The use of i, j, and k for unit vectors (instead of x, y, and z) is due to his work. When I did the cross product, the first row of the 3-by-3 matrix contained i, j, and k–also due to Hamilton (I assume people still do that). Imaginary numbers provide direction information.
        Electrical engineers usually use “j” for the square root of -1, because the variable “i” stand for electrical current.
        Complex exponent math is due to Euler. His identity is quite famous: e^(i*pi) + 1 = 0.

      • ptolemy2 “I guess you would call it an irrational number”
        Irrational numbers are ones that cannot be expressed as a ratio. 0.5 can be expressed as ½, the ratio of 1 to 2.
        Positive and negative numbers can designate directions, as on a graph, and so you have to have a way to manipulate them. The i allows this without much pain. i also shows up in complex numbers, which are a real number plus an i number e.g. (5+3i). If you’re familiar with the Mandelbrot set, that colorful bunch of images with paisley seahorses and dragons, they are generated by multiplying complex numbers.

      • Ptolemy,
        While it is possible to work out many problems that deal with relationships between phase changes and some value without imaginary numbers, working it in a solely trigonometry way is messy and very easy to make errors. Using Euler’s relation and imaginary numbers makes it much more straight-forward.
        I remember when I first learned about imaginary numbers, I couldn’t figure out why we bothered with such a theoretical math construct. Then is some of my 300 and 400 level courses, it became abundantly clear what these useful things were for.

      • “The use of i, j, and k for unit vectors (instead of x, y, and z) is due to his work.”
        Those forms are called “indicial” and “intrinsic”, and quite often when required to write software that requires that math you use the indicial.

      • >>
        Those forms are called “indicial” and “intrinsic” . . . .
        Tensor math is not my strong point. I wish I’d taken a class in college–studying them on my own isn’t getting me very far.

      • Thanks for all the cool 😎 math insight!
        Jim – was it not the topological theory of Euler that eventually would inspire Venetsiani to stumble on topological solutions for analysis of the atomic strong force and in so doing, initiate String and supersymmetry theory? I know string theory gets dissed a lot around here but personally I find it inspiring and feel that it must point to something real. Why should essential reality be about just mathematical points – why should it not have artistic topology and musical oscillation?
        Then again Euler made himself blind by staring at the sun and that wasn’t so clever.

      • >>
        May 15, 2017 at 4:46 am
        Correction. i is imaginary, the others are irrational (never ending decimal).
        Second correction. Irrational numbers form never-ending decimals that never repeat. Rationals sometimes form never-ending decimals that repeat. For example. 1/3 = 0.333333 . . . and 1/7 = 0.142857142857 . . . .

    • In engineering, the square root of minus one has real meaning, even if an unreal number.

      • I always thought that i was evidence that there’s something wrong with our basic understanding of the universe. When one is learning algebra, one is taught that the product of any two numbers of the same sign is a positive number. Always. Bet your life on it.
        Then you move a little further down the maths road and the teacher says, “Remember what you were taught about ‘the product of two numbers with the same sign is always positive’? Well, forget that. Here’s a little friend called ‘the square root of -1′, without which many useful things cannot be done.”
        And your head explodes. It’s the perfect definition of cognitive dissonance, forcing one to hold two contradictory concepts as true. You can’t even give i a sign, and I think maths is a little shortsighted in not creating one. Didn’t slow physicists a bit when they had to come up with new terms for the attributes of particles and came up with “color” and “flavor” and “nerdiness”, or whatever.
        I nominate “zir” for this new sign. It expresses understanding beyond the cisbinary rigidity of “positive” and “negative” numbers, and allows unique entities like “i” the freedom to express themselves in their own way. This “the square root of negative one” become “zir 1”. Instead of expressing the square root of negative two as “2i’, it can be “zir 1.41421…”
        Now we just have to work out what the product of a positive or negative times a zir is…

      • >>
        Really? Why wouldn’t -j mean -1(j)? Why wouldn’t 1/j mean 1/j?
        They do, James. They’re just playing games with you. You usually want complex numbers in the standard form x ± y*i (or x ± y*j). Given any number of the form (a ± b*i)/(c ± d*i), you can convert it to the standard form by multiplying both the numerator and denominator by the denominator’s complex conjugate: c ∓ d*i. This will put the term c² ± d² in the denominator and put the complex fraction into standard form (I think I got those pluses and minuses right).
        So multiplying 1/j by its complex conjugate: (0 – j)/(0 – j) will give you -j in the numerator and 1 in the denominator. Or multiplying -j by (0 + j)/(0 + j) will give you 1 in the numerator and j in the denominator. They’re both equal.

    • Do I have to raise the ghost of Charles Dodgson here?
      Of course sqrt(-1) is not real! That’s why they call it an imaginary number. It doesn’t have to be real to be useful.
      (Charlie pretty much nailed this one more than a hundred years ago, in between writing his little fantasies about Alice!)

    • sqrt(-1) is mathematically incorrect. The square root for negative numbers is not defined. If i = sqrt(-1) then -i is also equal to sqrt(-1), because both are solutions to x^2+1 = 0. The correct definition for i is that i^2 = -1. Saying i = sqrt(-1) is sloppy math.

      • >>
        Saying i = sqrt(-1) is sloppy math.
        The nth root has n solutions, so the solutions to sqrt(-1) are i,-i. That is perfectly valid.
        The square root for negative numbers is not defined.
        Well, division by zero is not defined, but you can take the nth root of any negative number. Thanks to Euler, the following identity holds: A*(cos θ ± i*sin θ) = A*e^(±i*θ) You can take the natural logarithm of the term on the right (as long as it’s not zero). This will give you a complex number of the form: ln(A) ± i*θ. The term on the left in Euler’s identity represents any number in the complex plane–including all the negative numbers. Negative numbers have θ = π Divide the logarithm by n, take the antilog, and convert the result back to a number in the complex plane. You can even find all n roots by this method–just keep adding 2*π*i to the original logarithm until the result is no longer unique.

  4. (I repeat the title since on the mobile phone WUWT page, titles of articles appear to disappear after the first click – at least on my iPhone.)
    This applies for Andoids phones too, at least Samsungs and it doesn’t even require ‘a click’. It’s gone from the start. I informed WordPress about this 1.5-2 years ago, but no respond. This is what happen, when programmers cut corners (Skill issues or just sloppy work, not to beta test before launching …)

  5. I guess it is because if everything turns out to be ok, then there is no story to tell.
    What would the hero do if there is no evil?

  6. Most Sci-Fi movies are variations on the Frankenstein story. Scientist makes advancement > advancement creates new level of power > scientist loses control of newfound power > scientific advancement does more harm than good.
    it its based on an age-old fear and understanding that science leads to more power and knowledge, but power and knowledge can be used for good or evil. Besides, a movie where a scientist makes something new and powerful, and only good things happen, doesn’t make for a very exciting movie.

      • Or was it disobedience?
        God didn’t want them to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, so God didn’t want them to have whatever knowledge it imparted, but IMO the sin was disobedience.
        The Bible continues in that vein, with the Hebrews repeatedly suffering calamities for straying from the paths of righteousness, eating strange foods, wearing forbidden clothing and worst of all, worshiping false gods, or having other gods before the jealous chief tribal deity, YHWH.

    • Yes, Hoyt, most of the sci-fi movies being made are just variations of the Frankenstein myth. It is obviously a story that really resonates with audiences, but it is not a story that plays out all that much in reality. Our inventions have never turned on us. Unintended negative consequences of our inventions, like air and water pollution, have always had solutions, generally by even more advanced technologies.
      Even our advanced weaponry has no ill will towards humans.
      We love to fear our creations. Perhaps it diverts us from realising that we are the real monsters.

      • “We love to fear our creations. Perhaps it diverts us from realising that we are the real monsters.”
        Now your talking about “Forbidden Planet”

      • “Now your talking about “Forbidden Planet”
        Forbidden Planet was always one of my favorites.

    • Apollo 13 is an example of a film where scientific achievement is shown in a purely positive light. So in a way is The Aviator, although science history rather than fiction. Also Hughes was opposed by high society socialists and an ambivalent establishment.
      But yes – dystopia is now practically a genre.

    • The Frankenstein story is thanks to climate change, ie the terrible weather of the Little Ice Age during the Dalton Minimum. Byron, Shelley, his future wife Mary and other travelers were stuck in a Rhine Valley village near Frankenstein Castle in 1814. To pass the time, Mary wrote her horror story, based upon a dream.

      • I take it back. Apparently the story about her writing it on Lake Geneva during the Year Without a Summer, 1816, following the 1815 Tambora eruption, is accurate.
        But the party did previously stay near Castle Frankenstein en route to Switzerland.

  7. Sci-fi is my favorite genre, too. However, I get tired of the predictable plots. In addition to being anti-technology, most of them are anti-capitalist. The bad guys are usually big business, or our military, or conservative Western religions. Elysium (not Empyrium) was one of the worst. The business was portrayed badly not only for taking dangerous shortcuts, but for “trying to regain profitability.” Now it’s not only bad to make a profit, you’re bad if you’re not losing money. Dystopia is where we are headed with Liberals in charge.

    • It took me a while to realize why Hollywood typically depicted businsmen as being evil. It’s because Hollywood businessmen actually are evil. … Lots of reasons why I left CA.

      • Funny, the vast majority of Hollywood businessmen are leftists to far leftist in their politics.

      • As are the actors, it wood seem. The irony- if they but realized it- is that so many of them make stories where the lead character is fighting against some form of tyranny, never realising that in real life they are voting for, endorsing and campaigning for tyranny in the form of socialist candidates and policies.

    • “Sci-fi is my favorite genre, too. However, I get tired of the predictable plots.”
      The innovation in science fiction film making is seriously lacking. Notice that all big science fiction movies incorporate elements of the movie “Alien” in their story now.
      I saw a new science fiction movie advertised recently that had aliens in pods jumping out at the humans, just like in “Alien”. Where is your imagination, writers? Monkey see, monkey do? Is it just safer to stick with a “tried and true” formula?
      These science fiction movie writers ought to go back and read all the science fiction short stories of the past from the beginning, and maybe that would give them some ideas and they could make a movie that doesn’t look exactly like Alien.
      There is also a tendency to overdue the computer-aided graphics. 2012 was a good movie with a lot of computer-generated action that just happened to go along with the story, but some of these movies go way overboard, imo.
      I also hate movies that are so dark you can’t see the characters plainly, like you are watching through a mist. I know they do it because it is cheaper and requires less talent to write a blurry scene, but it sure does irritate me to have to strain to try to tell what the characters are doing.
      I also liked the movie “Battleship”. I especially like the part where the old, retired sailors on the U.S. battleship were getting ready to fire their big 16-inch guns at the alien spaceship, and one of the gunners said, “Let’s drop some lead on these blankety-blanks! And they pounded that alien spaceship! That was my favorite part. 🙂

    • To state that these movies are anti-science is a bit naive. They are neither anti or pro anything. What many of these stories are trying to do is warn us about the possible misuse of science or the things that can go wrong because of human greed, stupidity, etc. Jurassic Park isn’t anti science, and much of Crichton’s output in general is simply about how science can go wrong. What’s the problem with that? If you don’t like thought provoking movies, stick to Star Wars, and other movies aimed at kids.

      • One thing to consider is the difference between books and movies. I read Crighton’s Jurassic Park before i saw the movie, and Spielberg dumbed down the plot in the movie. Crighton had the disaster be a result of chaos models with biology, while Spielberg reverted to the movie version of Frankenstein and Man going where he should not go.The movie had great special effects, the first convincing use of CGI that I ever saw.

  8. I was an avid fan of sci fi when I was growing up. From Rick Brant as a kid to Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov and all the other greats as a teen and young adult. Distopia overtook optimism in sci fi starting in the 70s. I was first surprised, then driven away, as “Nebula Award” stopped meaning “thought provoking” and became “anti progress bs”. Now, as with Oscars being an indication that a movie is a moralistic load of crap, sci fi awards are a sure indication that a story is incomprehensible, disappointing, and depressing gibberish with pretensions of grandure.

    • Many of us prefer SF.
      Add John Campbell and E.E. Smith and A.E. van Vogt, Hugo Gernsbacher/Gernsback, Brad Linaweaver, Mark van Name, David Weber and Eric Flint more recently.
      Another really downer dystopian book series and movie “Colossus:The Forbin Project”, by Dennis Feltham Jones.
      Any version of Godzilla, though the quality and mood vary greatly.
      I think a lot of the dystopianism got its start in post-WW2 panic over nuclear weapons and invisible, unscented…radioactivity.

      • You can add some more names to that list,
        Alistair Reynolds
        Neal Asher
        Joshua Dalzelle
        Ian Douglas
        John Scalzi
        Mike Shepherd
        Elizabeth Moon
        Anne McCaffery
        Peter F Hamilton
        Harry Harrison
        Torri L Harris
        James Corey
        Timothy Zahn
        Ron L Hubbard
        and a really early one Edward E Smith (E E Doc Smith) that started me reading Sc Fi
        to name but a few

      • SF became SciFi when they started making movies. The really best SF is when the science is used to study humans (the classic case being Asimov’s robo-psychologist) and it didn’t really matter whether it was utopian or dystopian because it made you think. However, as movies took on the genre and the special effects got so expensive, you had to get bums on seats to pay for it. Disaster movies had already shown the way as being the biggest box office hits and so all of the more recent movies are disaster movies with humans causing the disaster.
        The annoyingly common meme of the cop/soldier/scientist hero having to go outside the law to save the world is getting boring too. The laws are there for a purpose and in 99.99% of cases obeying them works, even if it is frustrating. If you beat a confession out of someone it won’t stand up in court (as is only correct) so please can we stop making heroes out of people who do this?

  9. Silent Running deserves a place on this list. Standard environmental dystopia. Hewie, Dewey, and Loui steal the show.

    • “Silent Running deserves a place on this list”
      Silent Running is another one of my favorites.

  10. Even star trek next gen. Wasn’t there an episode where warp drive was messing up the “space environment “.

    • I remember an episode where a group of terrorists thought the warp drive was somehow destroying reality.

      • you two are correct the episode had the warp drive destroying the fabric of space, and the faster the speed (the greater teh warp) the more damage. the solution was to “look into this and to limit speed”. at least it was only one STTNG episode.

      • That reminds me – there was also the film “Contact” with Jodie Foster. Alien encounter rather than a portrayal of human scientific endeavour; however it showed powerfully the contrasting reactions to the transmitted alien technology. And it’s message was in the end inspiring and positive.

      • Contact might have been inspiring, but it’s hard to ignore the gratuitous swipe at Christianity. It is hard to call it anything but anti-religious bigotry if you’ve paid any attention to Sagan’s other work, such as his Cosmos episode on the Alexandria library fire.

      • The thing that makes sci-fi good is keeping most of the science factual (as far as we know) and only altering the science enough to make the plot work. Irwin Allen’s sci-fi is annoyingly bad, because he can’t get any of the science right.
        With “Contact” you would think that Sagan as science advisor would get most of the science right. The beginning pull-out from the Earth is a great special effect, but poor science. The planets don’t usually line up as indicated. Radio waves travel much, much, much faster than indicated. For example, Saturn’s maximum light distance from the Earth is only 92 minutes. What was happening 92 minutes ago? Sagan demanded that they travel through the Eagle Nebula (“Pillars of Creation”). If you’re backing out through it, you’ll see it from behind–not as you would see it from the Earth.
        Sagan was a SETI advocate. I also think that SETI is a total waste of time, effort, and money. However, these movies are fun to watch, because they tell a story.

      • Mile
        Did you ever read the book “The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russel? In this story Jesuit monks make a spacecraft and travel to a nearby planet (at Proxima Centuri I think) to meet an alien race (two of them). This book explores the interface of religion and science in a sensitive and sympathetic way and is an powerful story – better than Contact I think. There were rumours years ago that Brad Pitt had considered making a film of it but I don’t think that’s going to happen now.

    • At least among Trekkies that is recognized as one of the Worst Episodes Ever Written, and it was never mentioned again in any Trek plot, no matter the series.
      (Remember Sigourney Weaver’s complaint in Galaxy Quest? “THAT EPISODE WAS BADLY WRITTEN!!!”)

  11. Dystopian science fiction is a time-honored tradition. H G Wells, “Time Machine”, Jules Verne “2000 Leagues Under the Sea”, it is a tradition going back to the beginning. Note – real science fiction fans never call it “sci-fi”. Like San Franciscans never call their city “Frisco”.
    Science fiction asks the question “What if?” And often the answer is “Big Oops!”. But I started reading in the 50s and the dark visions of the future were truly dark back then. Almost all stories started with a nuclear holocaust. “Canticle for Lebowitz”, Walter M. Miller, hundreds of others. Because just about everybody was terrified by the very real possibility of a nuclear holocaust.
    Every generation has their boogyman. We sort of stopped being afraid of the Soviet Union when it collapsed. So the scary stories are about free market capitalism, but not so named. Capitalism within a scary costume called climate change.
    The sad truth is, a dramatic story needs a believable villain. A believable criminal or nasty person is good, but for true apocalyptic special effects extravaganzas you need a super-human villain. No need to completely trash New York City or Tokyo to catch the local drug dealer.
    The comics figured this all out long ago, and now the movie industry looks to the comics for inspiration, having exhausted all possible plots concerning Daddy Warbucks and Little Orphan Annie.

  12. Oh Please.
    For the most part our culture tells us that science and technology are great.
    Now, you’re an artist…. Your culture tells you X, You want to say something interesting..
    easy peasy… do the counter culture thing. not X

    • Yes but – the “X” the culture tells us is AGW. How many artists today are climate skeptics? Most seem to be toeing the X line. That’s the point of the article.

  13. The answer is absurdly simple:
    1) Since around 1970, American public schools have been failing their educational obligation (history, civics and science got tossed overboard).
    2) American life is so easy (almost no noticeable externally imposed negative consequences for anything) that there is no “business case” for understanding difficult stuff.
    3) Huge ignorant swaths of the population now actually get their news and science knowledge from comedy shows or the (Gasp!) internet.
    4) People “educated” in this manner are very insecure & highly defensive (reference: flame wars in comment sections of almost all internet articles).
    5) When this ignorant and self-appointed “elite” latches onto something, they do so with evangelical fervor, including verbally & physically attacking anybody claiming to know better.
    Corollary: American education was way ahead of the world after WWII & Americans reaped the bounty of industrial productivity. The combination of lousy education and catch-up by the rest of the world have about eliminated the WWII advantage. Our little snowflakes can rant, rave and stomp their little feet, but most of their education is sheer fantasy, and other nation’s kids are taking their jobs (at least the high-paying ones).

    • Agree.
      It seems possible that the draft deferment for graduate school in the 1960s produced a lot of PHDs who’s primary motive to remain in school was to avoid the draft. Many of them became professors who have
      a different sense of educational obligation than existed in the 40s and 50s. I haven’t spent the effort to document that theory but I have been an interested observer over all those years. I wonder if decisions related to the Vietnam War are still coming back to haunt us.

      • Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. My uncle used to go beyond that and say that grading standards (in graduate programs) went to hell at the same time for the same reason. As a (late 40s) draftee who did his military service before going into academia, he despised that – enough so that he brought it up in conversations with me when I was in high school in the 70s.
        I am a little more moderate – it was certainly a factor, but the massive expansion in University enrollment driven by the baby boom also drove a massive expansion of faculty, and I would think a decline in standards was almost inevitable. That created its own feedback loops later, when those lucky enough to enter the field in a time of easy placement had to deal with watching all but their best students flounder professionally as the number of candidates for each available tenure job exploded. Particularly for the (relative) mediocrities with tenure, the cognitive dissonance created by watching more talented students being blocked over and over again would have been pretty intense. For those that only started down the path to avoid the draft – yikes.

    • I’ve felt that one of the reason’s why so many main line churches went down hill so fast starting in the 70’s was because of the draft deferment given to those in the clergy.
      As a result, a lot of people who had no calling other than a desire to stay out of Vietnam went into the ministry. With no loyalty to the Bible, they had no problem putting their own spin on morality.

    • Things went downhill with the notion that schools had no responsibility to teach discipline. That was the same time that women entered the workforce and drove down wages, such that it then took 2 parents working to support the family.
      As such, with both parents working, and the schools failing to teach discipline, the students grew up without the most basic of skills. Self discipline. And without this basic skill, there is no excellence.

      • Women didn’t drive down the wage.
        After WWII, the US had the only functioning first world economy in the world for about 10 years.
        During this period lots of wealth was brought into the US.
        Business owners had three choices to do with money.
        1) Pass it out to share holders
        2) Use it to modernize
        3) By labor peace
        They chose option 3. As a result there was a post war bulge in wages. When the rest of the world got back on it’s feet by the early 60’s, the surge of money was over. As a result wages came down.
        Wages always approximate marginal utility.
        When wages drop below marginal utility, companies hire more workers because they are making lots of money from each worker.
        When wages rise above marginal utility, companies find reasons to not need so many workers.

      • Well we used to pay the husband a “family wage,” but the feminist movement and demands for “equal pay” pay changed all that. Now many, if not most, couples need two incomes. Many women would prefer to stay home and raise their children, but cannot afford to. Hence the demand for low cost day care.

    • “The Incredibles”. Disney got this one right … the best and the brightest are blamed for world problems and failures. The selfish that yell the loudest are listened to, and others jump on the bandwagon:
      Mom: “Everybody’s special Dash”
      Dash: “That’s just another way of saying no one is”.
      “And when everyone’s super, no one will be.” – Syndrome

      • “Disney got this one right …” . That might be because The Incredibles came from Pixar two years before the Disney merger.
        But I agree, those are my favorite lines from the movie too.

  14. A good essay, I am surprised that “The Day after Tomorrow” didn’t get a mention is that because the essay was about “Science Fiction” as opposed to “Science” Fiction?

    • I liked the Day after Tomorrow despite its fantastical climate story. But I felt this was more disaster flick than SciFi. But I guess that distinction is not really important if it’s the political mood music of films that we are talking about.

      • Umm – what is MST3K?
        Sounds like a virus – hey – we’ve got half a dystopia flick already…
        [Mystery Science Theater 3000. A group of three (?) prisoners is sentenced to watch bad science fiction films for their punishment. Making sarcastic comments in each “film” as if the viewer were in a real theater with the prisoners silhouetted in the row in front. .mod]

  15. Sci-fi and Sci-Fi movies have always been dystopian and/or warned of the dangers of science….
    Can go back to the beginning with H.G. Wells and Mary Shelly.
    It’s just more noticable now, as Sci-Fi has picked up in popularity – there’s a ton more sci-fi on the big screen than there used to be!

  16. notable that women often play a special motivating role

    Absolutely. As car and truck drivers amongst will testify, its usually obvious the gender of other drivers, especially when to going gets a bit tricky.
    Theirs is The Precautionary Principle. (Long time since we heard those words huh?)
    Of course in these modern times when girls are allowed to ‘change their minds’ and there are legions of solicitors & lawyers just waiting for them to do that, they only need whisper the words ‘unreasonable behaviour’ to completely bankrupt and ruin the boys. There’s no defence except to prove yourself ‘unreasonable’ in doing so. Are you still beating your wife etc etc
    And they do, 50%+ of the time and growing with 80%+ of those divorces being started by the girl.
    So the boys have come to be effeminate, to behave like the girls in the hope they’ll get a sh4g now and again and not be ruined by the divorce lawyers.
    For 27 out of 28 days this works reasonably well. But on the very days when The Girl wants a sh4g, the very last thing she wants to be the father of her baby is an effeminate poof.
    Reason 1 why western birth rates are in decline.
    Reason 2 is that, as anyone who has ever seen a lonely hearts ad, is that all the girls want a Good Sense of Humour. GSOH
    To have one of those, The Boy does not need the ability to tell dirty jokes while drunk, he needs a good memory, self confidence and a quick wit. How many comedians will say that their trade is ‘All in the timing’
    So now, when everyone eats too much sugar (processed carbohydrate) and are effectively walking dead zombies, the girls struggle to find a father for their babies who has a GSOH
    And we all think the decline in western births is due to us being sooooooo intelligent, rich and clever.
    No. The girls can’t find any fathers who are not zombified poofters
    And we think we are so clever and can control the weather (now)
    Wrong, the plants control the weather and ultimately will reclaim this planet as their own.
    With glucose (the only significant product of photosynthesis) in their arsenal, they are unstoppable.

  17. The plot of Children of Men (originally a P.D. James novel) is that for some unknown reason, no women can get pregnant for decades. As I recall, no one ever figures out why. So, many people are happy when someone finally does. Others want to control the woman who is and there are spoiled “last generation” children in the mix with their own agenda. This one is not anti-technology or man’s fault necessarily and it falls into the sic-fi tradition of exploring strange alternate futures.

  18. What about the original Ghostbusters? High tech is good, as it is used by a startup business to collect troublesome ghosts. But the EPA (portrayed as wildly incompetent) shows up at the business location, shuts down the storage system because it knows best, and a mess ensues.
    In the end, high tech rifles save the day.

    • Let’s not forget one of the classic Ghostbuster putdowns of all time, when Dan Ackroyd dismissively refers to the EPA meanie as “Dickless”.
      The NYC mayor says, “I’m just trying to get to the truth here”.
      To which Bill Murray deadpans, “He’s right, Mr Mayor. This man has no dick.”

      • The best part is that in later conversations, everyone involved in that movie agrees that BIll Murray was allowed to ad-lib most of his lines, and very rarely stayed on script. “And the dishes are still standing!”, a classic bit towards the beginning that Murray just made up on the spot.

      • “Everything was fine until Dickless here turned off the power”
        “Is that right”
        slight hesitation … “That right your honor, this man has no dick”

      • And the slight ripoff for Gaurdians of the Galaxy:
        “I’m an a hole, but what I am not is a %100 dick… we need your help”.
        “Should we believe him”
        “Well, I don’t think ANYONE is %100 a dick”

  19. Funny to see Crichton’s Jurassic Park on the s-list — he of State of Fear fame. I see Jurassic Park more as a warning not to push science too far and play God, not necessarily an anti-science or anti-tech screed. YMMV

  20. There has always been a dystopian view of the future. The Time Machine is not an optimistic tale and you don’t get much earlier SciFi than HG Wells.
    The change is that the utopian views are no longer being told.
    Or maybe they are and they just don’t look like it to the reader.
    Starhawk’s “The Fifth Sacred Thing” is clearly a Utopian counterpart to Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”. But both look dystopian from an urban, masculine viewpoint.
    Most fiction books are read and bought by women. That has increased recently – books aren’t cool for boys.
    That probably makes a difference.

      • Been true for years.
        The NYTimes estimated out 3 out of every four fiction books was bought by a woman way back in the 90s.
        And as school achievement has become more biased to the distaff side since then I doubt it’s changed.

    • The success of Clancy and others’ technothrillers owed to the fact that they were books that males would buy and read.

    • 3 of 4 “FICTION” books, not sci fi. in general women read more than men, Med read more sci fi tho…
      And the reason there are no “utopian” storied is because they are boring as hell.

      • Point 1 – fair enough. But the larger potential market will attract the publishers.
        Point 2 – Utopian societies can be settings for stories where the Utopia is under threat. They would only be boring if the writer is boring.

    • That’s what I was thinking – the first and still arguably the most influential sci-fi movie ever was Fritz Lang’s Metropolis – well worth seeing the remastered and restored version if you haven’t seen it! The acting is hammy, as was common in the silent movies of the day, but it’s pluses:
      – the wicked Rotwang is the very FIRST portrayal on film of the character of the “Mad Scientist”, using his Knowledge for Evil. All of the “mad scientists” done since then have just been riffs on Rotwang’s character.
      – Wicked Robots, created by Rotwang to work the ruler’s will on the people. Technology as a tool of oppression.
      – The conversion of a Wicked Robot into the False Maria, designed to bring about the destruction of the workers. The very first time, to my knowledge, that anyone suggested the idea of manmade replicants that could take the place of humans and, of course, work unspeakable evil. (And it’s a very sexy replicant, too!)
      – Mankind being run by technology, rather than the other way round.
      It still amazes me that this could have come out in 1927.

      • Metropolis is indeed an amazing film for the period, but it’s pure socialist filmmaking, the pampered, uncaring capitalists, the repressed workers, etc. The acting isn’t hammy, just very demonstrative as is required in silent films where you keep getting interrupted by caption frames.
        If you can find a copy of the Metropolis novel by Fritz Lang’s wife, Thea von Harbou, you’ll find its writing style is even more awesome than the film. My copy is perfectly illustrated by W. Michael Kaluta, some of his finest work.

  21. Good work, except you left out Jurassic Park: The Lost World, where an ecoterrorist character directly causes mass death in the camp of the corporate animal hunters and then survives with the main characters in the end.

  22. You are totally wrong about Bond.
    It is never about ‘evil’ technology itself but about the nut jobs controlling it.
    In fact, Bond is the poster child for science and innovation, Have you never heard of Q and all the gadgets?

    • Perhaps it was wrong to lump all the Bonds together. There was of course Quantum of Solace in which the chief baddie was an allegorically named Dominic Greene who built his empire on an ecological narrative. This negative portrayal of environmentalism guaranteed the film lukewarm reviews, but puts it in a category with Kingsman with its ecomaniac Samuel Jackson, and Crighton’s State of Fear.

      • Quantum of Solace was ruined by the editing. It was too fast and incoherent.
        There was a stunt with a crashing plane that they did for real – no CGI. It was unwatchable because of the edit.
        If it was recut it could be a hit, even today.

    • I’d say James Bond is a superhero-without-powers in the vein of Batman. Like Bats he has lots of cool hi-tech toys, and a rogues’ gallery of over-the-top villains. Very much unlike Bats, he feels no need to disguise himself when going from playboy to world-saver. He’s supposed to be a “secret” agent yet everybody knows who he is.
      Correction: Bond has one power–super sex appeal. All the women want to sleep with him (even those who want to kill him afterwards). Maybe some of the men, too.

  23. What about “Starship Troopers?” The makers of that movie 180ed the theme of Robert Heinlein’s book (he was dead by then) by turning the military into Nazis and eliminating the powersuits that were dropped from orbit. They used some cheesy-looking troop ships instead. The book detailed a philosophically coherent society where service in the military was required to earn citizenship and the right to vote. The science was very interesting, enhancing the abilities of humans. The movie was clearly distopian, probably because its makers did not like the positive image of the military in the book.

    • i got into that upthread, as one of the worst adaptations made. “The Puppet Masters” was even worse as a movie. i don’t think either production was by anyone who appreciated Heinlein.

      • I thought that at first. They changed *everything*!
        Then I reread The Puppet Masters and realised they *had* to change everything just to make it filmable. What they didn’t change was the characters (although Donald Sutherland was an odd casting choice) or the action, or the ideas behind the story.
        There aren’t many Heinlein adaptations out there, but this is one of the better ones.

        • Oh? The Puppet Masters was several things going on at once. A horror story, which the movie botched. A love story between Sam and Mary, which was even worse a botch, a spy story and political novel, which the movie ignored. What made the novel work was the interaction between the plot themes, which the movie was a total failure with.
          It is your judgement as to what is “filmable”.

    • “What about “Starship Troopers?”
      The book was a lot better than the movie.
      The movie was ok but it portrayed the military characters as bloodthirsty, out-of-control killers, itching for a fight with anything and everything, as the Left always portrays the military. It was pure anti-military propaganda from my point of view. That detracted from my enjoyment of the movie.

    • Correct. There must always be a setting where the drama takes place and a villain for the protagonist to overcome. In cheap fiction the setting is as dire and the villain as evil as possible. In good fiction, they are ambiguous.

      • You did leave off one of the best “earnest” SciFi movies, Forbidden Planet! I would say it’s been quite influential, since arguably the entire Star Trek franchise grew out of that movie.
        yeah, things are superficially different, because Roddenberry didn’t have the copyright to FP, but all of Star Trek exists inside the world that FP first created. Not to mention that it is simply a great and fun movie to watch!
        And now that I think about it, it does a nice job of combining both the optimistic and dystopian views of the future. Humanity has interstellar spaceships and a very high level of technology and skill, so technology is treating humans quite well; but they are exploring a planet where an extremely advanced race was wiped out because they let their technology get away from them. Nice way to play both sides of the issue.

      • Generally in a movie–music is for developing mood and sound effects aid the action. When they use the same music for both (as in “Forbidden Planet”), it becomes confusing. Is the music you hear for the audience’s benefit only or do the characters on the screen hear it too?
        “Forbidden Planet” is Robby the Robot’s first appearance in a film. Here Robby is a good robot. He appears in other shows and films and is usually playing the part of an evil robot. The usual movie depiction of a robot is evil–they can’t be controlled–but there are some exceptions.

    • There are a lot of movies where the sci fi portion is incidental to the plot. They just needed something weird to set the stage for the story they wanted to tell.
      Weird Science would also fit into this category.

      • Another good example is “Moon Zero Two” released in 1969. It was billed as the first “space western” and that’s exactly what it is. Starring James Olson and Catherine Schell, the story involves asteroid rustling and lunar claim jumping. About the only western archetypes missing are an indian attack, a cavalry charge and a cattle stampede. It is pure transplanted western fun, but having been made just after and probably inspired by 2001, they made great efforts to get the science right. It’s become something of a cult classic and I recommend it. I found it on youtube, where you can also find the MST3K version, if you’re into that.

  24. A nice detailed analysis of SciFi old and modern but do remember there are exactly 37 ways to skin a cat.

    • Surprisingly you cannot find the reference easily on google. Oh, joy, oh bliss !

  25. There are good science fiction books out there they could build a movie around. One is INHERIT THE STARS by James P. Hogan
    It is a science based mystery about something they found on the moon. Scientists play a big role in the book,with the unusual positive corporations involvement in being part of the science detective venture.
    He wrote a Three book series,but the first book is the best in my opinion.

    • I like all of Hogan’s novels. I do have a problem with Inherit the Stars, however. While the final outcome is fine, there are more logical solutions to what was reached by the protagonist.

      • daved46, the screenplay can smooth over some of it.
        A couple years before he died,I used to have occasional e-mails with him on climate stuff,yes he was a climate realist,who also had a section on his website about global warming. His death was a surprise to me as he never mentioned it.

    • Has there ever been a SF movie as good or better than the book? Blade Runner may be one. I have not read P.K. Dick’s story yet. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

      • To me, “Blade Runner” is one of those rare films that achieves something very rare, in that it transcends its basic storyline and leads you to wonder about deeper questions – what is sentience? Does “being human” mean anything, and if so, what does it mean? Are the androids really “more human than human” as Tyrell Corp says they are? (I think the movie strives to show that they are) And if their “sin” is that they are “more human than human”, by what right do the original humans enslave them and then hunt them down so viciously?
        The androids are of course extremely violent, but then escaped slaves on the run usually are. Especially when they’ve already been sentenced to death.
        I would say that these questions were always the intent of Philip K. Dick, but that the film actually did a better job of raising them than the novel.

      • As a Christian, I do not think anything made by man is other than a machine that can be turned off when appropriate. I will have to read the novel after I finish Fallen Angels (see my comment below) to see what Dick intended. Despite my beliefs, I did like the movie. Thanks for your comment wws.

      • South,
        Who is to say that the God, as imagined differently by various different Christian sects, is beyond imbuing a machine with a soul? If God can put souls in bipedal apes, then why can’t He put souls in machines made by those apes?

  26. As has been mentioned before, this is an OLD topic. The question of whether it is permissible to examine the workings of God’s world in order to learn new things, or whether this is an evil activity encouraged by Satan in order to separate us from true obedience, faith and eternal paradise was examined, amongst others, by that early scientist Roger Bacon in the 1260s.

  27. Two of the worst Sci-fi movies were the film versions of Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” and “The Puppet Masters”, given the source material and the film budgets involved. Neither movie had the least regard for the source material, and Starship Troopers had bugs producing escape velocity bolides from their butts.

    • Tom you gotta have more fun and let the Physics go. Starship troopers was an amusement park ride and a parody. Maybe I liked it because I didn’t read the graphic novels.

    • Yeah and the absurd flight path of the asteroid that can travel from galaxy to another in a short time,smash an area in Venezuela,without destroying the planet.

      • I saw an article that Verhoven, the director and general producer of the movie ,never read the novel, and disliked science fiction in general. Another sillyness was casting someone who looked like a Waffen SS poster for a Fiilipino character.

      • I saw it as entertaining, but full of plot holes and impossible events, like sending those blue bolides from ugly bugs butts quickly, to smash ship in orbit.
        A movie to watch only once and never again.

        • Heinlein’s novel was also very political, and the movie mostly reversed the politics, as well as ignoring all the neat gadgets recycled by later writers, like powered armor suits.

    • You should put the movie in perspective- Look at the director’s previous two films (his first and second) which were Robocop and Showgirls, and bless whatever gods you worship that the first Starship Troopers turned out as well as it did. It may in fact be the high point of the director’s career.

    • In “Starship Troopers” – apart from the comet-farting beetles, the science and effects were not too bad. Aside from the bug war, the society portrayed on earth was a utopia of sorts – but not one following a socialist-liberal narrative. The military were portrayed sympathetically. Many assumed the film was done in irony or parody – the alternative was too bewildering.

      • The movie was pure parody, played straight. The book, a bit, but not so much given the times.

      • US Naval Academy grad Heinlein underwent a political transformation of his own, from Left of New Deal Democrat (supporting Upton Sinclair for CA governor) to libertarian conservative, reflecting his marriages. After marrying Ginny, who held a higher Navy rank than he, in 1948, he turned conservative. Starship Troopers (1959) and Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) preceded his support for Goldwater in 1964.

      • Starship Troopers was the first SF novel I read. I was in the 4th grade.

      • I read Heinlein’s “Space Cadet” as a kid. I still have that original 1954 copy on my book shelf. The sci-fi view of Venus back then was very different than what Venus actually turned out to be. Heinlein’s concept of a future space academy probably came from his Naval Academy experience.
        His “Stranger in a Strange Land” came out in 1961, but it was all the rage in 1972-1973. I remember reading it just after finishing my flight training. It was something to “grok.”

      • I have watched that movie several times, I am a special effects junkie. It still gets me that Doogie Howser wears a black uniform with a high peaked cap that is a dead copy of an SS uniform. And their weaponry seems barely updated from what we can do today; assault rifles quite reminiscent of M-16s, hand grenades and some mounted cannons. The suits in the book had grenade and missile launchers with the ability to launch tactical nukes (not sure how they overcame critical mass to make them that small). No wonder the bugs were overwhelming at times.

  28. At least teens and adults are the ones watching these shows. I remember my kids watching “The Smoggies” back in the late 80’s where “The Suntots join forces to stop evil garbage mongers from polluting the world”. This repugnant anti technological mind set has been indoctrinating our children for generations. Fortunately technology has so many advantages that our children are still getting driver’s licences, want high paying jobs and keep their ears plugged in to iPhones.

    • Right up there with Captain Planet. Villains trying to destroy the environment for no other reason than, they can.

  29. Children of Men- Summary is wrong. Pregnancy is NOT illegal. Dystopian, yes, but with no explanation.
    Interstellar- Sorry, climate change was NOT identified as the culprit. Beautiful to watch, but many blatant, distracting physics errors.
    Dr. Strangelove- Calling it “anti-science” is a stretch. Anti-nuke maybe, but it’s brilliant and hilarious.
    2001 is NOT anti-science. It’s a celebration of space exploration & the human sense of wonder… and so much more. A masterpiece. My #1.
    Blade Runner- another masterpiece. One of my top ten.
    Brazil is much more anti-bureaucracy than anti-science. Loved it.
    I liked Minority Report. Portrayal of technology was fairly positive. Did not like AI.
    Loved Ex Machina. Actual intelligent dialogue for a change.
    Loved The Martian but there are significant errors and plot holes.
    I liked Arrival, too.
    I loved Fury Road because I’m a Mad Max fanatic.
    Star Wars is great but not serious science fiction, nor was it ever meant to be.
    I HATE Prometheus. I loved the original Alien and the sequel, but Prometheus is the easily the worst film of the decade. An spit-in-your-face insult to real, professional scientists and space explorers.
    P.S. You left out Close Encounters.

    • Yes I thought about Close encounters and for instance Independence Day. But I was really aiming at SciFi movies that predicted an anthropogenic future rather than aliens visiting a more or less present day earth.

      • The best thing about Close Encounters is the PEACEFUL scientific/military collaboration to welcome and meet the aliens. When I left the theater I was thinking FINALLY, someone did a movie where everyone didn’t start shooting first.

    • Thanks for your other feedback btw.
      With films like Dr Strangelove it’s not just about what was in the film, but how it has been interpreted and become part of an anti-science narrative.
      Based on your comments I should rewatch some of these films.

      • Dr. Strangelove is called a BLACK comedy for a reason,which are all based on political paranoia,that was started by a psychopath,who mutters about “precious bodily fluids”

      • Ptolemy2: I have to agree with Eustace Cranch above. I do not believe Dr. Strangelove was anti-science, generally speaking. It was anti-Cold War and (specifically) anti-nuclear. One should not necessarily associate being anti-nuclear with being anti-science. BTW, Peter Sellers was terrific in it. Playing multiple roles in a film is probably not easy for an actor to do.
        Second, you left out George Lucas’s “THX-1138” from your list. IIRC, this was Lucas’s first film. It came out back in the early 1970s–years before his Star Wars series. Definitely dystopian in its nature where high technology is used to control society. THX-1138 was, in my opinion, an early taste of Lucas’s considerable skills as a movie director. He appears to have been inspired somewhat by Orwell’s “1984” when making it.

      • Yeah, I think you got some “confirmation bias” going with 2001 a Space Odyssey ;
        “While human technical progress is apparently celebrated, with a famous musical score and inspiring visual effects, once the plot gets going technology is the villain, as Hal the computer is evil and kills people.”
        I didn’t see technology as “the villain”, just Hal . . as in, something went wrong with sometechnology . . and even then it was depicted more as a self preservation programming malfunction, than as an evil robot that wanted to kill people. Kinda sad, really, Shelley’s Frankenstein in space . . ; )

      • In 2010, Hal’s malfunction was explained as a psychosis caused by conflicting priorities that Hal was given.
        The first one was that the mission was about discovery and Hal was supposed to keep the astronauts informed about everything that was happening.
        The second was added at the last minute by mission managers without consulting the programmers, and it was to keep all information about the obelisk from the astronauts.
        Apparently Hal decided that the only way to resolve the conflict between these two objectives was to kill the astronauts.

    • I’m watching Prometheus now in a hotel room in Salzburg (business not pleasure). And boy is it bad! Just as well the speech is in German.

      • The final word on Prometheus, for me, was when I saw someone had gone to the trouble of writing out a different script, and showing that if you mostly kept all the visuals the same, but threw out every piece of the original script and substituted new lines, then you could actually have a pretty good movie.
        And he was right – that’s the only thing that could fix it. Dump every stupid line that every character says, and start from scratch.

      • What got me in Prometheus was the octopus thing locked in the operating room growing from the size of a cat to the size of a cow in a matter of a few days WITH NO FOOD SUPPLY except plastic and steel instruments and maybe some paper tissues and rubber gloves. (OK maybe a computer or two as well.)

    • Unless they were showing a particular brand, I doubt any did.
      Tobacco use was common and pretty much expected back then.

  30. Death Race 2000
    The year is 2000, technology and pollution have caused society to degenerate into a violent blood bath!

    • The ORIGINAL Death Race 2000, not the horrible remake! That has to be one of the best dark-comedy movies ever made, and that’s actually a fairly decent little political satire hidden inside it.
      My brother and I need to be sent to re-education camps to rectify our minds, because we used to quote these lines to each other constantly on the road:
      “To recap those revisions: women are still worth 10 points more than men in all age brackets, but teenagers now rack up 40 points, and toddlers under 12 now rate a big 70 points. The big score: anyone, any sex, over 75 years old has been upped to 100 points.”

  31. A limit to imagination is explored in SciFi generally. I don’t mean this dismissively. It takes imagination further than most genre (the good ones that is). It occurred to me years ago when thinking about, of all things, fashion designer’s (my sister, among other things was one) frustrating limits: a human has only two arms, two legs, a torso and one head. Dresses, long, short, colors, fabrics…well you get the idea.
    I began to think, what about other areas of endeavor? Watching some of the original star wars ithe first time hing I noted was the fashion designer:s dilemma and the result was even worse. They regressed back to medieval costumery and even with swords, suits of armour and riding horses (I suppose you could say ‘iron’ horses, but still.. ). Their dialogues are Shakespearean.
    Hey for science we have 92 plus a few elements but these are all actually made with varying numbers and combinations of only a few particle types, the members of each type indistinguishable from one another. There are only a few kinds of forces holding things together and their energies released in separation or coming together or interacting in electromagnetic or gravitational fields (logic wants us to unite these fields into one) . Resolving the secrets associated with this stuff would seem likely to take forever. Maybe scientists are lagging behind the fashion designer. My sister would have liked this thought.

    • Talking about Star Wars and Shakespeare, the original Star Wars trilogy has now been written as a set of Shakespeare-style plays, by Ian Doescher. I dipped into it in a bookstore and it seems well written. The trilogy Shakespearian titles:
      Verily a New Hope
      The Empire Striketh Back
      The Jedi Doeth Return

  32. I find your criticism if 2001 interesting but unfair, since the so called sequel explains that Hal was that way because of bad people in government. They created a “HOFSTADER-MOEBIUS” loop in the computer with secret programming added,thus trapping it:
    “2010: Odyssey Two
    In the sequel 2010: Odyssey Two, HAL is restarted by his creator, Dr. Chandra, who arrives on the Soviet spaceship Leonov.
    Prior to leaving Earth, Dr. Chandra has also had a discussion with HAL’s twin, the SAL 9000. Like HAL, SAL was created by Dr. Chandra. Whereas HAL was characterized as being “male”, SAL is characterized as being “female” (voiced by Candice Bergen) and is represented by a blue camera eye instead of a red one.
    Dr. Chandra discovers that HAL’s crisis was caused by a programming contradiction: he was constructed for “the accurate processing of information without distortion or concealment”, yet his orders, directly from Dr. Heywood Floyd at the National Council on Astronautics, required him to keep the discovery of the Monolith TMA-1 a secret for reasons of national security. This contradiction created a “Hofstadter-Moebius loop”, reducing HAL to paranoia. Therefore, HAL made the decision to kill the crew, thereby allowing him to obey both his hardwired instructions to report data truthfully and in full, and his orders to keep the monolith a secret. In essence: if the crew were dead, he would no longer have to keep the information secret.”
    In the movie Dr. Heywood said he didn’t know this could happen,as the politicians who ordered him to do it, caused the failure. Hal 9000 computer was innocent.

  33. Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.
    I am glad you put Star Trek in the hopeful category. The original TV series was on balance, the best ST ever written. Timeless stories some of them were. It had a morality that represented the best of humanity, and what democracy represented as seen through the lens of USA/Commonwealth societal values, and transplanted into the 23rd century. Timeless…

  34. I think it’s important to remember two things.
    1) The old Chinese curse, ‘may you live in interesting times’.
    2) the not quite as old, but similar saying, ‘An adventure is somebody else having a bad day’.
    I mean, sure, we could make a movie about a perfect Utopia where everyone live peaceful and easy lives of plenty. But would anyone want to see it.

  35. Not surprising that Hollywood has embraced AGW as an ideology. Considering their surroundings and their peers, it would take someone of great fortitude and independent thought to resist what amounts to peer pressure – but true character, particularly in this demographic, is sadly lacking.
    And it’s not like they have real artists there anymore – there are people with artistic TALENT, but their creativity is pretty much limited to conformist repetition of standardized themes, usually in congruence with some politicized Progressive government-pushed message – which makes them more than just mindless clones, but actual propagandists.
    Which dovetails nicely into the sub-theme, by the way, which is totalitarian government takeover – which ironically, seems to be exactly what they’re pushing – all to ‘save’ us from their own paranoid fantasies. (not to mention the all-important mechanism of absolving themselves). In a way, all these cautionary tales have actually been a primer for modern progressives to act out.

  36. The sad fact is, and is likely to remain so, is that it costs less money to shoot a film in abandoned structure/neighborhoods/facilities than it does to build sets and create special effects, even with cgi. It will always be cheaper to tell a story in blasted rubble than to tell a similar story set in a chrome and glass future with glittering spires and interstellar travel, especially if these must be an integral part of the story. For the same reason, time-travel stories that take place in our present will always be the most prevalant of the genre. The exception to this rule is animation, where anything is possible because the costs to animate with cgi, or just draw a scene, is similar regardless of subject matter. I suggest that cost may be the primary factor in the prevalence of dystopian sf films, and for this reason it might be better to examine and rate animated films, with anime separated into it’s own category.

    • It is cost, but a lot of what is going on is dislike of the genre by the writers and other “creative” staff. Jurassic Park was sort of science fiction as a novel, but the changes made tended to make the movie a remake of Frankenstein as far as philosophy.

  37. Climate change in Interstellar?
    “Ambiguous. The backdrop is routine dystopia, humans killed the earth by climate change (yawn). However interstellar space-craft technology provides possible salvation. We find out that a black hole is actually a supermassive library.”
    I don’t think so,have watched this movie about 8 times now,never any specific climate change claim being stated as the cause, but they talk about BLIGHT a lot.
    It was BLIGHT, used as a plot device to create the reason for leaving to a new planet:
    The Blight

    • Maybe you’re right. But in today’s “climate” , a film portraying climatic doom scarcely needs to state that its anthropogenic – that will be the automatic assumption.

    • Surely the key point about Interstellar is that…
      Having researched climatology to develop the fantastic worlds…
      The Nolan team decided to make the villain a ‘Dr Mann’ who fakes climate data for personal gain.

    • What disturbed me about Interstellar was the easy way they re-wrote history! When the teacher was arguing with Cooper about the moon landings. Disturbing and we see it today.

      • >>
        When the teacher was arguing with Cooper about the moon landings.
        Yeah, that bothered me too. But isn’t it usually we, the “Climate Deniers,” who are tarred with the “fake Moon landing” scenario?
        I also didn’t like the way they handled the time dilation effect on the planet. The whole thing didn’t make sense. Apparently they were near a black hole, but the planet was orbiting a “sun,” so the whole solar system was near the black hole. Yet the time dilation effect only happened on the surface of the planet. I need to re-watch the movie, but it’s obvious the writers didn’t get the physics right.

  38. What about “Forbidden Planet” Which was likely the inspiration for the original Star Trek series

  39. Originally there was an economic reason that green lights dystopian movies versus hopeful successful futures: When your primary locals/sets are static burned out buildings or desert waste land, your production costs are down significantly. When you have to have thousands of extras to make a scene believable, you schedule shooting around the extras to get them in and out as quickly as possible. CG is changing that, but in the early days dystopian movies were significantly less expensive to make. That being said, yes the Frankenstein Complex is alive and well in Hollywood.

  40. A small point; “Arrival” is based on Ted Chiang’s short story “Story of Your Life.” And his story is everything that Science Fiction ought to be. So the problem is clearly Hollywood.

  41. More fantasy than scifi, however, The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a screed against industrial technology.
    The hippie Hobbits idyllic pastoral life is threatened by dark forces based on technology, symbolized as enslaving magic.
    Saruman receives an especially bad rap despite providing industry and employment to countless Orcs who otherwise experienced discrimination by hobbits, humans, elves and dwarfs

    • The movies were pretty. I was seriously into the novels as a young teenager, and the somewhat artificial distinction I would make between SF and fantasy is the author in fantasy depending on a plot element he knows is impossible. Tolkien was anti-technology, but what he really rejected was genetics and evolutionary biology.
      The Elves and Humans were interfertile, but much longer lived and immune to disease. In that sort of Medieval situation, one should end up with almost nothing but a mostly Elf population. Instead, it was the Men , the “Southrons” taking over. A rather racist fantasy in retrospect.

      • “The movies were pretty. I was seriously into the novels as a young teenager, and the somewhat artificial distinction I would make between SF and fantasy is the author in fantasy depending on a plot element he knows is impossible.”
        Not only did the author know the plot element was impossible, so did this reader, and this reader doesn’t care to read about impossible plots, this reader wants to read about possible plots.
        Science fiction magazines died, imo, when they started including fantasy stories, although I suppose they could have been dying before that and the addition of fantasy stories was an attempt to increase readership.
        When I first started reading science fiction magazines, there were no fantasy stories in them, and I read every story with gusto. Then they started including fantasy, and I read some of it but it wasn’t my cup of tea, so instead of reading all the stories in the science fiction magazine, there would be two or three fantasy stories that I would skip, and I’m betting a lot of other people skipped them, too, and it wasn’t too long before the science fiction magazines were no more.
        So many good stories in those magazines. I consider myself lucky to have grown up during that era and having these wonderful stories to inspire me and open my mind to things I had never considered before. Thanks to all those science fiction writers of old. I read you all, and got enormous value from doing so.

    • Hiro, Tom
      I agree with your take on Tolkein. He did reject modernity and looked to a medieval utopia. Despite his meticulous construction, Middle Earth wasn’t really believable and the elves, humans, dwarves and orcs didn’t work as credible societies. The orcs were dangerously close to being a deeply racist characterisation. But the utopia aimed for by CS Lewis went even further back, to Arthurian England, as he openly revealed in “That Hideous Strength”. Sad as it is to say this (for me for I deeply liked the books of both Tolkein and Lewis) they both rejected modern technological society, allegorising it negatively. Both were reactionary escapists taking refuge in nostalgia – although brilliant story-tellers.

    • I think Tolkien is much more complex than that. The Elves and the men of Numenor are steeped in technology. Indeed Elvish military technology is second to none, plus all the rings of power are all Elvish technology that Sauron hi-jacked for his own purposes by creating the One Ring to control them, which from recall he learned how to do when disguised as fair and working with the Elves themselves. He was not able to create this high technology on his own. And there are other subtle themes. For instance the great emphasis on race, language and culture all changing plus branching as the eons pass is an acknowledgement of the power of evolution (a scientific fact). And the inability of the Elves (and Numenor) to hold back time and change indefinitely is a warning that the possession of high technology doesn’t halt evolution or insulate us from its effects in the long term (a truth that more explicitly, science is only just coming to grips with). Also, the Orcs are not a natural race but created (or at least perverted), and as such their characteristics are not about racism but a statement about that creation act and its consequences. Their severe lack of diversity, production line birth (especially Saruman’s Orc-men), plus the very narrow and shallow mono-culture of the ‘baddies’ generally, is a warning that in both biology and culture, narrowness spells great danger and is a very bad way to go, especially if heavily enforced (widespread cloning and heavy propaganda would be real-word equivalents).
      In this context neither side could truly exist in isolation. They are deliberate distillations. I think maybe the Elves and Numenoreans represent the best of science and what it may do for us, and the Orcs and Sauron represent the worst of science and what it may do unintentionally that we really didn’t want, with *both* subject to the overwhelming power of evolution (even the Elves have to bend and change, and ultimately give up, plus the Numenoreans accept death, in the face of infinite time and change that cannot be held off, and the thing that brings down Sauron and his huge mono-culture, is that he didn’t foresee that evolution would eventually throw up the modest Hobbits, who were below his attention as they seemed inconsequential, yet were resistant to the Ring; so no power can overcome evolution). While the Hobbits seem to represent an agricultural idyll, there is again more subtlety; in the above context they are an agent for change and the erosion of dominance (of *both* sides, they spelt the end of the Elves in Middle Earth). Plus they are famously down-to-Earth, an anti-dote to drama and propaganda both. Maybe modern fairy stories like *the certainty* of imminent climate calamity would have little impact on them. Plus they are clearly on a developmental trajectory – they have forsaken armour and fancy princes and feudalism and medieval existence. Instead they have Mayors and good books and good food from what must clearly be modern (18th C at least) farming techniques, from their amazing productivity. They like good food and good books and a pint or three and quiet *suburbia*. Think of all those well-appointed Hobbit holes with silver spoons and best tea services – manufactured goods! They are perhaps the compromise here – not at the extremes of either the best or the worst of science.
      And there is yet more to unravel in Tolkein, a truly deep set of work. The Silmarils are a highly interesting conundrum – something that is amazing yet can only be made once, and not remade ever by any power. There is a message here too I think, maybe it is to do with the applicability or power of certain ideas *in their time*, which as societies evolve may still be regarded as brilliant, and yet at the same time no longer have power as scenarios change. Answers on a post card…

      • You may have missed my earlier comment, but the fantastic element in The Lord of the Rings was biology, not technology per se. The “dark age” theme of losing technical tools is part of the plot, but the notion of the Half-Elven declining in population is relying on early 19th Century notions of genetics, and is much more essential to the created world. If Tolkien did use modern genetics, there would have been almost nothing left but Half-Elven.

      • P.P.S. a characteristic of the One Ring, which is translating the wearer into an alternate reality (the spirit domain, i.e. that of cultural not physical meanings), is common to the ability acquired by the soldier in the above story.

      • Tom:
        Sorry I did miss your comment above. I think this interpretation is too literal. The erosion of the half-elven (and indeed the full elves themselves in the sense of a population staying / breeding in Middle Earth) is likely a metaphor. I think it stands for the fact no technology (of any sort biological or otherwise) can hold off time or hold off evolutionary change, or death, as the Numenoreans once tried to do on their original island home. Any race that tries to preserve itself unchanged in form and by whatever technology no matter how powerful (including genetic skill we don’t yet possess),will eventually fall prey to evolutionary change, or diminish *relative to* the expanding outside bio-world, or both in some measure.
        I’m not sure Tolkein was too concerned about real mechanisms in this metaphor. But at any rate the men of Numenor were not so much dying off as bred out by more vigorous (high fertility) races. Hence some of their characteristics would remain detectable in the wider population for long after (this is explicitly mentioned), in the same way we all have a few Neanderthal genes still in us. This has some interesting parallels with the longer lifespan yet falling birth rates in some Western nations now, and the corresponding growth dependency upon immigration. But I doubt such was a conscious consideration, especially considering the date of writing. Plus I’m not sure your theory holds. The Numenoreans were not immune to disease (and low fertility would make it harder for them to evolve around it), plus even the Elves were not – Tolkien makes the point that no-one is invulnerable – if you create apparent physical immunity the evolutionary vulnerability merely moves to the cultural domain. Another parallel that is now being examined more in the real world. The elves had severe cultural malaise, a complete obsession with past times and past glories – perhaps a metaphor for the culture of empire. If a population doesn’t breed because they don’t culturally care too, they will be overtaken big time (and indeed diminish in real terms because the Elves were constantly involved in wars – and not just against Orcs – but for many millennia between themselves and the dwarves in early Middle Earth and the times of the quarrels over the Silmarils and other feuds). Even the ‘good’ Numenoreans, after the Fall, shared a good dollop of this cultural malaise, this was ultimately the cause of the weakness and suicide of the Steward of Gondor, Faramir and Boromir’s father. Suicide is not good for maintaining a population either 😉

      • Tolkien’s middle earth stories are quests where the hero goes on a mission and has to defeat or overcome numerous challenges. Classic tales of good versus evil. The Hobbits, the least warlike, most gentle race had to overcome their weaknesses and fears to succeed.

        • I think Tolkien was a great storyteller, but he did use a rather racist story line. Of course, I would expect that of a Brit born in the 19th Century. Not being a racist would have been truly remarkable for someone of his backround.

      • Yes Tolkien like anyone is a product of his times, but his work is complex and with many balances and tensions. Sweeping generalizations turn out not always to be well-founded. The work has enormous scope and has folded in both racist and anti-racist elements. An example of the latter is the attempt by the Numenoreans to maintain racial purity, which is unambiguously portrayed as a very negative thing that ends up severely undermining them.The hero of the kingship kin-strife at the peak of this affair is the half-Numenorean Eldacar, while the villain is the pure-blooded Castamir.

    • Tolkien flatly stated the Lord of the Rings series was not a metaphor for anything. Whatever one reads into it is their own interpretation, not his intent.

      • Tolkien denied the LotR story as a whole was allegorical, and some specific allegories such as WWII and Nazism. That doesn’t rule out many metaphorical devices and symbolism and some real-word parallels within (both consciously and unconsciously framed). Tolkien himself says in a letter that the Ring symbolized “the will to mere power”. In other letters he stressed the role of the Valar as representing environmental stewards (a real-world concern he has), and of course various metaphorical devices (especially in the invented creation myth, The Silmarillion) are shared with real creation myths such as light = good / truth, dark = bad / untruth. Christopher Tolkien also relates that his father said the ring represented ‘the ultimate machine’. In a letter to Milton Waldman, Tolkien says: ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like ‘religion’, to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.’ (see wikiquote). But of course there is always much interpretation too of a work so wide in scope, and also no author can know the true origin of all that he / she creates.

      • What Tolkien d@nied in 1961 was that LotR was an anti-communist parable, in which Sauron was Stalin.
        IMO Tollien was not a racialist, as the term was in his day. Quite the opposite. I don’t know that he ever expressed an opinion on non-Europeans, but he was horrified by the treatment of “coloured” people in South Africa, by which I supposed he meant Cape Coloureds (Afrikaans speakers of mixed European, African and Asian ancestry), “Bushmen” and Bantus alike, but presumably not Asians.
        Some have tried to read racialist thought into his early work, which isn’t surprising given the prevalence of such ideology in pre-Great War Britain, and indeed even during the interwar years, as exemplified by N@zi sympathizers such as King Edward VIII.

  42. I saw “Forbidden Planet” in the movie theatre, first run, and I’ve been a sci-fi fan ever since. I suffer, however, from a disability to suspend disbelief, so I sit there nit-picking movies and books. It’s a curse.

    • I do the same thing. But only with movies that are consciously trying to be “accurate”. It’s ironic- the harder they try, the more nit-picky I am.

    • It’s not a curse, we just have very high standards. In addition to the technical nit-picking, I also remember what each overpaid asshole onscreen said during the last election. I really don’t want to enrich most of them, so I just wait for them to get to television. If something really interesting (story-wise) comes out there is always the internet.

    • “Forbidden Planet” was inspired by Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, which in turn was inspired by the 1609 hurricane which stranded colonists headed to Jamestown, Virginia on Bermuda. The shipwrecked passengers included my ancestor John Rolfe, who, with the help of his wife Matoaka “Pocahontas” Powhatan, saved Virginia by inflecting tobacco on the English, much to the disgust of King James I.

      • Most stories are inspired by someone else’s story. Same goes for music. Same goes for science…..nothing new there.

      • That “inspired by Shakespeare’s Tempest” theme keeps popping up. I think it must have been originated by someone only superficially acquainted with both.
        The similarities are that a father and daughter in an isolated place are visited by a ship. That’s it.
        Why they are in this isolated place and the why and who of the ship are completely different.

      • Mike,
        There’s a lot more to it than that. It’s not a controversial connection among Shakespeare scholars, except for Muir (see below).
        The “visitors” are ship-wrecked, as were the well-publicized “Sea Venture” survivors, as the fact of a storm in the play’s title ought to have tipped you off. The subsequent conflict between Sir Thomas Gates and Sir George Somers also is reflected in the play. That the New World was in WS’s mind is suggested by one of the most famous passages from “The Tempest” (Act V, Scene I, ll. 203–206):
        “O wonder!
        How many goodly creatures are there here!
        How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
        That has such people in’t.”
        A recent paper on the topic:
        William Strachey’s “True Reportory” and Shakespeare: A Closer Look at the Evidence
        William Strachey’s “A True Reportory of the Wracke and Redemption of Sir Thomas Gates, Knight”, is an eyewitness account of the real-life shipwreck of “Sea Venture” in 1609 on Bermuda while sailing towards Virginia. It is considered by most critics to be one of Shakespeare’s primary sources because of certain verbal, plot and thematic similarities. Although not published until 1625, Strachey’s report, one of several describing the incident, is dated 15 July 1610, and critics say that Shakespeare must have seen it in manuscript sometime during that year.
        E.K. Chambers (1866-1954) identified the “True Reportory” as Shakespeare’s “main authority” for “The Tempest”, and the modern Arden editors say Shakespeare “surely drew” on Strachey (and Montaigne) for specific passages in the play.
        There has been, however, some skepticism about the alleged influence of Strachey in the play, notably from Kenneth Muir (1907-96). But another “Sea Venture” survivor, Sylvester Jourdain, also published a report likely to have been read by WS. Edmond Malone (1741-1812) argued for the 1610–11 date due to Jourdain’s “A Discovery of The Barmudas”, dated 13 October 1610, and to the Virginia Council of London’s “A True Declaration of the Estate of the Colonie in Virginia”, dated 8 November 1610.
        But then again, it’s possible that your opinion is better informed than that of 250 years worth of majority Shakespeare scholarship. Based upon your comment, however, which overlooks so many similarities, I’m inclined to conclude not.

      • Not to mention Caliban, so close to Carib and cannibal, the word derived from that tribe.
        Granted, Bermuda isn’t in the Caribbean, but natives of the New World were known to be cannibals in 1610 Europe.

      • A number of WS’ plays were written to cash in on current events, such as MacBeth for the accession of James I and VI of Scotland, and Julius Caesar reflecting concern over Elizabeth’s then lack of a designated successor.

      • Chimp, et al.
        Thanks for all the info on The Tempest. Here’s some on Forbidden Planet.
        Morbius was on Altair 4 because he wanted to be there, not because he was unjustly exiled. He was alone with his daughter (who was born on Altair 4, not exiled with him) because a strange presence on the planet frightened the other colonists, who tried to leave on their ship, the Bellerophon. The ship was destroyed, likely unwittingly by Morbius due to his contact with the Krell technology as the colony’s philologist.
        The C-57D rescue ship was not populated by evil-doers who had done Morbius harm, but by a military crew sent to evaluate the colony and rescue anyone who might need it. Morbius was not a magician who lured the ship to land, but instead warned them away from the planet. Nor did Morbius encourage a match between his daughter and one of the C-57D crew.
        All the human motivations in the two stories run opposite to each other. The only “spirit” on the planet is the Krell technology that has latched onto Morbius, and his id, as the only directing force it can find. The technology has the power of creation, witness the tiger (that J.J. Adams vaporizes) and a monkey (not in the movie) that don’t have any internal organs.
        The Tempest/Forbidden Planet linkage is weak, but like so many bad connections these days, very persistent.

      • Mike, regarding the Tempest/Forbidden Planet comparison:
        Morbius isn’t evil, just as Prospero isn’t evil. In the Tempest, the Island has become Prospero’s domain, because of his magic powers. In FP, the planet has become Morbius’ domain, because of his seemingly magic-like control over pieces of the Krell Technology. (Remember Clarke’s dictum – any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic)
        The Tempest has a demon who can be summoned by Prospero, and who works evil that Prospero doesn’t wish – Caliban. FP has a demon who is summoned by Morbius who works evil that Morbius doesn’t wish – the Monster from the ID. Prospero also has good and faithful magical servants, who do wonderful things for him. Morbius has good and faithful technological servants, who do wonderful things for him. (Robbie the Robot)
        At the end of the Tempest, Prospero lays down his magic powers and passes away. (death is not specified, but assumed) At the end of FP, Morbius renounces his control of the Krell Tech and accepts his own death.
        And of course, a father/daughter relationship, with an awakening daughter finding that she is ready to break away from a controlling father, being the central dramatic element to the story.
        It’s not that surprising to see one as inspired by the other.

      • Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
        As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
        Are melted into air, into thin air:
        And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
        The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
        The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
        Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
        And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
        Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
        As dreams are made on; and our little life
        Is rounded with a sleep.

      • Mike McMillan May 12, 2017 at 9:32 pm
        Sorry, but I’m with WWS on this one. That the ultimate messages might differ doesn’t mean that the screenwriters weren’t inspired by (or copied from) The Tempest.
        On science and magic, quoting Arthur C. Clarke’s famous quip.
        Scholarly study:
        The screenwriter’s bio also IMO suggests the connection:
        “Hume was a graduate of Yale University, where he edited campus humor magazine The Yale Record. He was an editor of the collection The Yale Record Book of Verse: 1872-1922 (1922).”
        Of course, the inspiration for the movie is a separate issue from Shakespeare’s inspiration by the actual hurricane and shipwreck, which IMO is strongly supported.

      • Having said that, a lot of what’s written on this site is fiction. And I’m not talking about AGW.

      • AGW is indeed fictitious, since there is no evidence in its favor. While it might still be theoretically possible, the actual climate system is too complex for it to be measurable, if it exist.

    • Since I nit-pick, let me do so on some of the list.
      Avatar – Immediate turn-off when I see some soldiers sneering at a vet in a wheelchair. That would Never happen, only in the mind of a Hollywood lefty who thinks nothing is worth putting your life on the line for, and thinks even less of those who have done so.
      Giovanni Ribisi explaining the anti-grav properties of Upsydaisyum to people who mine it for a living. That’s up there with Bryant explaining to Deckard what Replicants are.
      And then there’s the brilliant tactics used in the “bombing mission.” Fly low, fly slow, so guys on dragons can mess you up.
      Ex Machina – Loved the transparency fx. Sloow film, even for a psychological thriller. The most notable thing is that the good guy (Domhnall Gleeson) and bad guy (Oscar Isaac) swap places for their roles in the Star Wars “The Force Awakens” movie.
      Dr Strangelove – Great film, but a B-52 with only two nukes on board? What a waste of JP-4. And anyone who scribbled “Hi There” on a nuke would be in Ft Leavenworth forever, along with some of his chain of command, and the rest would be out of work.
      The interior of the B-52 wasn’t right, but it was dead perfect in conveying the feel of one. And was that last “We’ll meet again” scene inspirational, or what!?

      • And then there’s the brilliant tactics used in the “bombing mission.” Fly low, fly slow, so guys on dragons can mess you up.

        Cameron forgot his own dictum: “Nuke it from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure.”

      • The paralyzed vet in “Avatar” is a Marine. Even worse. Cameron is universally despised among Marines.
        As for “Strangelove”, on such a long-range mission, with a low attack profile, the B-52 might well have carried only two bombs. The BUFF which crashed on NC in 1961 had two Mark 39 bombs on board.
        You’re right about the interior scenes, which still are great however for using source lighting. The dialogue is also made up. But it’s easy to see why Kubrick couldn’t have found retired USAF personnel to help him achieve verisimilitude.

  43. Just commenting on a picture. The first time I saw that picture – “Lips that touch liquor shall not touch ours,” the first thought that crossed my mind was who would be desperate enough to want to, and went and mixed a stiff drink.

  44. What about The Forbin Project?
    Top dystopia plot development initially masked as technology saves the day. Superb stuff.

    • D.F. Jones wrote three books: “Colossus,” “The Fall of Colossus,” and “Colossus and the Crab.” (I haven’t read the final volume in the trilogy yet.) I guess the movie didn’t do well enough for the usual sequels.

    • I like Stanley Kubrick’s version of that movie much, much better!.
      “We’ll meet again some sunny day!”

      • Best line from “Strangelove,” when the Russian is explaining how they built their Doomsday Device in response to the ones the Americans were secretly building. When the President protests that the US was doing no such thing, the Russian replies, “We read about it in the New York Times.”

      • This is the best line.
        “GENTLEMEN’!…You can’t fight in here, this is the War Room!”.

      • That might be my fav, too, although will admit to being partial to, “A fella could have hisself a good time in Vegas”. But maybe that’s cuz I happen to have known Slim Pickens.
        Slim once went hunting CO. Before leaving the state, he stopped off at a store selling hunting licenses. He asked for a camel license. The clerk told him there weren’t any camels in CO. Slim replied that there weren’t any elk either, but that didn’t stop them from selling licenses to hunt them.

    • Henry Fonda’s resolution of the problem was one of the stupidest ideas ever to come from a Hollywood script writer. He could have chosen the O’bama solution and just surrendered.

      • Lol….. An additional fun fact with Fail Safe is it also involves evil rooskie cyber interference. Just to make it topical and Putin was only an infant when this was made…Wattaguy!
        Only the packaging seems to change.

  45. People who write screenplays are English majors or otherwise think like English majors, and believe in intuitive reasoning (I think it, therefore it is true). Good science, business, engineering, etc. is deductive (based upon observed facts) rather then intuitive.

  46. A couple of candidates
    “Armageddon” where technology and Bruce Willis save the Earth. Definitely a positive.
    John Carpenters “Dark Star” a half and half as a bomb achieves self realisation as being a bomb it has to explode.

    • Armageddon would indeed be another one in the positive-about-technology category. And the meteors could never be portrayed as anthropogenic.

      • Oh the mind boggles as to anthropogenic heavenly bodies. As the asteroid Anastasia and the Kuiper Kristiana ( being a pairing of Danish and Swedish speaking detective rocks) foil the attempt of Carlos the Comet to assassinate the French President. They are gravity assisted by the trans-planet Pluto and the strong feminist Selene ( the Moon) avoiding the inhibiting patriachal dominance of the solar wind.
        Have I ticked enough boxes to be socially acceptable?

      • “And the meteors could never be portrayed as anthropogenic.”
        Don’t bet on that.
        I was reading an astronomy article today about galaxies and you should see the anthropogenic attributes the writer gives to galaxies. You would think galaxies were sentient beings, reading this magazine.
        Treating inanimate objects as if they have human traits and thoughts is a real irritation to me. I don’t know why astronomers do this, but they do, and they should stop doing it, imo. 🙂 You can describe a galaxy without using all the human hyperbole.

      • I’m surprised no one has mentioned Stargate SG-1. One episode was a rip-off of “Armageddon,” and they used the ship’s hyperdrive to jump the asteroid safely “through” the Earth.

    • “London247 May 12, 2017 at 1:59 pm
      John Carpenters “Dark Star” a half and half as a bomb achieves self realisation as being a bomb it has to explode.”
      I believe that scene has a more religious/God connotation. Where the bomb, who speaks with an Irish accent, determines it is a bomb and must explode, but before doing so it says “Let there be light!”

  47. Phil, interesting post, so thanks for that. You might like to check out the Socionomics Institute, particularly the History’s Hidden Engine Documentary under the Basics tab. Your commentary fits their hypothesis quite nicely.

  48. I think the dystopian SF movies says more about what the movie producers think is possible to make. than the general quality of the available SF stories to utilise. The Vast majority of SF books are good and positive. but has until recently been very difficult to visualise. I think AVATAR proved that any story can now be made into a movie. using enough computer power to render images. I would like to see Lazarus Long , Honor Harrington, Dominic Flandry, Miles Vorkosigan and Hari Seldon on the Big screen.

    • “I think AVATAR proved that any story can now be made into a movie. using enough computer power to render images. I would like to see Lazarus Long , Honor Harrington, Dominic Flandry, Miles Vorkosigan and Hari Seldon on the Big screen.”
      Someone who knew what they were doing could make a lot of money making good science fiction movies. There are thousands of good science fiction stories that could be adapted to the screen. But that would take someone who knew what they were doing.

      • “AVATAR” should have been named “Dances with Smurfs”.
        And one of the worst parts is that the entire idea of their ridiculous, defying the laws of physics world is that it was ripped off from one of my old Yes album covers. Yeah, that’s what passes for “deep thought” in the Avatar Universe.

    • The trouble with good Sci-Fi is that it is too much itself. For example, how would you go about casting Miles Vorkosigan? He’s not quite five feet tall and subtly deformed due to his brittle-bone disease, and that’s a huge part of his character. A movie version of him would effectively have to ditch all that as requiring too much make up, special effects, and above all, exposition, and replace it with something else. Immediately you have a totally different story.
      Movies are actually a very clumsy medium. In every case you mention, our memories of the book are going to overshadow the film – or worse, the film is going to contaminate our memories.
      All the same, I’d love to see movie adaptations of Bester’s The Stars My Destination and the Demolished Man! (If we can just keep Vin Diesel from playing Gully Foyle…)

  49. Minority Report is not paranormal technology exploited by totalitarian regime- it is regular US government exploited by high official. Tom Cruise doesn’t really change everything by himself rather he sets politics in motion to overrule science.

  50. V for Vendetta was not a Science Fiction movie. It was set in an alternate history but it can more accurately be called a dystopian political thriller. The USA is mentioned in the movie but had nothing to do with most of the sub plot which involved the British government using a deadly virus against its own citizens to gain control and subvert its people. The USA is held up by the corrupt government as an example of failure but the stories that the British people are told are mostly lies and propaganda. A lot like what North Koreans are told about the USA. Did you even see the movie?

  51. District 9 is strongly anti-tech- aliens come with advanced technology and basically hopeless in every way unable to look after themselves or on Earth-they skip right over the expected normal response to first contact- it would be a media firestorm if public as shown and every media agent in the world would want to “help” the aliens or if private- held by military then they’d at least in a decent government building. They would not be in slum in South Africa rather in a 5 five hotel.

    • The aliens in District 9 were slaves on an automated transport that malfunctioned and landed on earth. They were helpless.

      • District 9 is sci-fi doing what H.G. Wells always wanted it to do – using futuristic story lines to examine real social problems in our world today.
        There’s a reason District 9 is set in South Africa – and its the same reason that the aliens are portrayed as having been deprived of all of their natural leaders, and are now just herded into camps and treated like animals. It’s not very hard to figure out.

    • I think District 9 is really about South Africa and apartheid. Distric 6 was an area of Cape Town occupied by a racially mixed population, mainly ‘Cape Coloureds’, and cleared for new (white) housing.

  52. About this Video
    Climate change is no fiction, but a new anthology, “Cli-Fi: Canadian Tales of Climate Change,” attempts to bring an imaginative response to one of the world’s greatest crises. The Agenda welcomes the book’s editor and several of its authors to talk about their fictional tales, and why writers need to respond to the threat of climate change.
    Climate Change and Global Stability; Cli-Fi


  53. I think Serenity and its preceding Firefly series was excellent and not dystopian. I also think there’s an interesting comparison between its Alliance and the original Star Trek’s Federation. One was good and the other not-so-good for independent thinkers.

  54. Error in your description of V for Vendetta.
    The virus was NOT unleashed by the Americans. It was released by Sutler and his band of cronies, as both a way to take America out of the picture and as a false flag so they could blame the Americans for their own local (British) release of the virus.

  55. Any opinions on The Thing (1982) and The Thing From Another World (1951); both based on a John Campbell story I believe?

      • Yes, and it was written in 1938 and set in Antarctica. The loneliness and isolation of that place at that time must have been tremendous, and Campbell nailed it in his short story. It was almost as if they were on another planet.

  56. Some dystopian sci fi is not anti-tech per se, but is anti-tech when it is in the wrong hands, as judged by the author. This might either be anti-coporation or anti-government. In today’s movies it tends to be anti-capitalist. Star Trek is the best example of pro-tech and pro-government. I suppose Heinlein would be the best example of pro-tech, anti-government, as in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, for example. Green ideology tends to be anti-tech and pro-government, and since this seems to be the dominant ideology of film makers today, that is what we get. I myself love Star Trek more than any other big sci fi franchise, even though I am a libertarian and think most of its portrayals of economics and government are unrealistic, even for a sci fi universe.

    • >>
      I myself love Star Trek more than any other big sci fi franchise, even though I am a libertarian and think most of its portrayals of economics and government are unrealistic, even for a sci fi universe.
      Not to mention the unlikely possibility of various aliens from different planets being able to mate and produce fertile offspring. I do think a NG episode tried to address that problem.

    • Star Trek is supposed to take place in an economy of abundance, brought on by nearly free energy. As opposed to our real world economy of scarcity.
      As such, it’s not valid to compare its “economics” to your economics, since they were intended to literally have no common basis. You’re trying to judge apple quality with a measuring device designed for oranges.
      There are lots of things to criticize in the Star Trek “universe”, but that is probably not one of them.

      • Deep Space Nine took a few shots at how the Federation was seen by other species. This is a good example: Jake Sisko wants to bid on an autographed baseball for his Dad, but how to do so in a moneyless culture? Answer (try to) borrow money from a culture that does!

  57. Babylon 5 showed a (mostly) positive outcome. Not particularly dystopian. It was the best (IMHO) depiction of a very large interstellar war, multiple species, and the aftermath. Cheers –

    • Except that in interstellar war, the opponents are unlikely to be well-matched species. The more technologically advanced species is liable to be as far removed from its opponent as humans are from ants. Not that ants aren’t formidable in their own way. They might have evolved biological or chemical warfare, too.
      But that’s not how interstellar war is portrayed in Babylon 5.

      • Wars between technologically unmatched species aren’t very fun to watch. Nobody pays to watch the Terminex man chase the termites.

  58. Arrival is far more sensible than District 9. Aliens would far more likely to Earth and do nothing because they don’t understand us and we don’t understand them- that theme is brought the plot.

  59. Two more movies would be “The Blob” and the original “Time Machine” movie.
    Both movies were exciting and scary to me. Of course, I was pretty young then, so was easily impressed. 🙂

    • There’s an amazing amount of information packed into those three words:
      “grab the girl and put her in ship,” “find Klatu,” “get Klatu,” “restore Klatu’s life,” and “don’t let anyone see you–except the girl.”
      If the three-word code was prearranged, why didn’t they prearrange the response without needing the girl? Why wasn’t the giant, slow-walking robot not seen? Why didn’t the robot use the much faster and readily available space ship to get Klatu?

      • Well, you gotta remember that Gort was the master of the situation and Klaatu was just along for his humanoid appearance (not really covered in the movie, but Klaatu does explain at the end that the robots have power of life and death over his civilization). “Klaatu barada nikto” might have just meant “Klaatu’s been captured,” and the robot would just deal with it in his own style.

      • Btw, I consider the original “The Day the Earth Stood Still” movie was the best one, although the more modern version wasn’t too bad, either.

      • Remember that Gort is an autonomous AI, usually operating independently. It must therefore be highly intelligent. Given that, if the three words mean identifier(name or rank)- rescue/recover- take no hostile action, then all of Gort’s subsequent actions follow logically. The girl could only have learned the phrases from Klattu, therefore she may have more information or could be an ally, so should be kept safe until time permits a full debriefing, if necessary. Avoiding hostile action basically means avoiding a confrontation, probably by employing stealth, possibly using technology we never saw (get it?) and precluding using the ship which glows in the dark and makes a loud humming noise. After recovering Klattu’s body using the resuscitation procedure would be SOP. In fact Klattu need not have used his name in the message, because who else could have generated the message and needed Gort’s help?

      • I like your comment Jeff (I may steal it for future comments). So let’s take this scenario: peaceful emissary takes irrevocable AI, Gort, on mission to tell Earthlings to watch out. Earthlings shoot peaceful, unarmed emissary after landing and Gort starts his irrevocable action–except Klatu stops him. Then later, Earthlings kill peaceful, unarmed emissary and again Gort starts his irrevocable action–except another Earthling gives him the secret code to stop his irrevocable actions.
        Just how revocable are these irrevocable actions? I know, this is a special mission where the emissary can control the robot. That means there’s a back-door into this irrevocable business–which means an unscrupulous entity could gain access and keep all the Gorts from acting. Klatu’s foolproof system isn’t all that foolproof.

      • We’re dealing with a hypothetical situation but we still have to be careful with our assumptions. If Gort is a true AI with independent discretion to perform it’s mission, can we _assume_ that any of it’s decisions/actions are irrevocable? An intelligent enough system would be able to alter it’s responses to a situation according to changes in the status of variables. Gort may even be self-aware, and familiar with the concept of phenomenology- how we know what we know. It could then assess the reliability of any commands, or more likely requests, it receives and decide whether they are valid. Gort could then decide for itself that a communication is an attempt at “hacking” it’s system and take punitive action. I wouldn’t want to be the one to try it. Remember the robots are usually the ones with ultimate authority.
        . A “first contact” situation is a special case- the contactees do not yet know their new status in the galaxy, ie; have not yet been Mirandised. Until they are, they may not be subject to the jurisdiction of the Gorts. It also seems that, as advanced as the Gorts are, they are still not quite advanced enough (or are to terrifying) to conduct first contact missions on their own. This explains the need for an organic envoy, preferably from the species being contacted- “See? We’re just like you, only smarter and less violent. Now behave, or else.”
        It’s also probably a good idea to try to interpret the film from the view of possible futures they had at the time. Back then they may not have been able to conceive of a Gort made of nanobots or a T-800 or 1000, and a hacker was someone who plays golf.

      • >>
        We’re dealing with a hypothetical situation but we still have to be careful with our assumptions.
        Yes, always.
        You got me thinking, Jeff. I re-watched “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (the 1951 version). I also researched the original short story by Harry Bates (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farewell_to_the_Master). In the Bates story, the POV character wants the robot, Gnut, to “tell its masters that Klaatu’s death was an accident.” Gnut replies, “You misunderstand, I am the master.” The Bates story is about technology getting out of hand. The 1951 story is typical cold-war fare: “Please aliens, save us from ourselves!” And the 2008 reboot is: “Please aliens, save our planet’s environment from us!”
        In the 1951 version, Klaatu’s trip (I’m spelling Klaatu’s name correctly now) took 5 five months, and he traveled 250 million miles. That would be a typical Hohmann transfer orbit from Mars–nothing super fancy.
        The movie doctors say Klaatu’s body indicates an Earth type atmosphere and gravity. So where did Klaatu come from? Earth? Was he an abductee or a descendant from abductees? Did the Martians make him? Is he from Venus?
        Your idea of a “First Contact” scenario is interesting, but I get the impression when Klaatu talks about “we of the other planets” he means only planets in our solar system (at that time, sci-fi authors thought Venus could support life). How many “First Contacts” would they expect?
        Nothing in the movie gives the impression that anyone can override Gort’s power and authority, but Klaatu and Helen Benson are able to override that authority. I think it’s just typical Hollywood goofs and inconsistent plot devices.
        Look at how Stanley Kubrick messed up Arthur C. Clarke’s “2001.” Clarke explained the monoliths better, his “Discovery One” ship went to Saturn–not Jupiter, Dave’s argument with Hal resulted in Hal opening the airlocks (fighting a rapidly depressurizing ship is more plausible than facing a 100% vacuum), and Clarke’s explanation of the space-warp travel made sense–Kubrick’s version was just a long, long, confusing (and silly) light show.

  60. Dystopia? It’s the mindset of people whose lives are narrow, who see nothing coming to them in the future. They’re stuck in place. That’s the point of A Brave New World, Logan’s Run, all the ‘something-something from outer space’ threat movies form the 1950s including The Blog, The Thing, and It Came From Beyond Space (or something like that), and the consistently idiotically bad versions of ‘War of the Worlds’. Orson Welles’ radio theater broadcast of WofW on a Hallowe’en night in 1938 had truly people worried, but the panic was generated by the newspapers of the day.
    The pessimism that oozes out of those silly movies is easily cast aside when you wonder where the characters get their clothes, where the power comes from to run their silly settlements, etc. Reality gets cast aside in the effort to be dismal. I have never understood why no one thought about hacking the mainframe of the Terminators and injecting a self-destruct virus into the mix.
    The dystopic mind of Hollywood the Industry sees no future for any/all humans. They need some serious therapy. The movies they produce in that theme reflect their dismal disfunctionality.
    You made one mistake: in Children of Men, women who got pregnant were NOT outlaws. They were worshiped. Humans were dying off because something caused sterility (loss of the ozone layer? loss of the geomagnetic shield? a blast from a nova not too far away?) Any woman who could get pregnant was a miracle, a small glimmer of hope for a dying world.
    The problem with dystopic stories is that the focus is too narrow. You never see what’s going on elsewhere. The first Mad Max movie takes place in a world that still has trees and green grass. By the most recent movie, it’s become a completely barren desert, with no explanation for the progression into oblivion or what the future may be, if there is a future.
    On the Beach did at least give us a valid reason for its dystopic theme.
    98% of all species that have ever lived on this planet are extinct. Let’s let them go in peace. – George Carlin.
    Just remember: This IS Ceti Alpha VI!!!!!

    • The pessimism that oozes out of those silly movies is easily cast aside when you wonder where the characters get their clothes, where the power comes from to run their silly settlements
      Or who maintains their hairstyles and makeup, no to mention white teeth.

  61. Yes Phil, “on the mobile phone WUWT page, titles of articles appear to disappear after the first click”.
    Similarly names of commenters, printed in blue disappear when clicked mistakingly.
    You can make both readable by clicking any one word of the text as for copy.
    Next click the option ‘copy all’ so every text of the article gets marked and thus readable.

  62. On the WUWT page titles of articles are indeed links to the very same artikle;
    when following the link that same link get coloured white to mark the link ‘followed’;
    and before the white background you can’t read that title anymore.

  63. Fallen Angels by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven is a book that you might enjoy. I have not read it yet, but the basic plot is that environmentalists and anti-technology fanatics trigger an ice age by trying to stop global warming. I expect the science will be pretty accurate and believable. Apparently fans at a SF convention help two astronauts save the day (earth). Plan to start reading it next week.

    • It’s a kick, but Fallen Angels assumes the reader is a SF fan, otherwise the references will be totally obscure.

      • I will put my fandom to the test. As noted elsewhere, I have been reading SF since I was in the 4th grade, about 60 years.

      • And authors who never got any of their works made as movies. It is interesting to speculate on what criteria Hollywood uses to pick which authors’ works to adapt. Philip Dick did not do particularly well on novel sales, but had several works done as movies.

      • Never understood why Niven collaborated with Pournelle; Niven won Hugos and Nebulas long before he joined up with him. I heard a rumor that Niven did it because he couldn’t write about military very convincingly, and that’s pretty much what Pournelle was known for.

    • Fallen Angels by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven
      by Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, and… ??

      • I did not list all of the authors, just the first two to assist readers to find out more about it or locate a copy. I have a used paperback copy. I have long been a fan of Pournelle and Niven. They have collaborated with other authors, too. I think they are working with Barnes on a project now.
        I subscribed to Byte magazine just to read Pournelle’s Chaos Manor column, which is now available online. He is not in good health, but struggles on.

        • The notion behind Fallen Angels was that we were already overdue for a new ice age — it had started with the Maunder Minimum — and global warming (thanks to the wood smoke and coal smoke even before internal combustion) was the only thing holding back the glaciers. (See, e.g. George W. Harper, “A Little More Pollution, Please!” (Analog Oct 1986)) So when the greenhouse gasses were removed, the ice age recommences. Larry had great fun putting ice a mile thick over the home town of Sen. Proxmire, then the leading Luddite in Congress. We were thinking in terms of the failure to find solar neutrinos as a sign that the sun had “gone out.”
          Naturally, the folks in charge groundside blame the ice age on the folks living on the space stations Mir (Peace) and Freedom “stealing nitrogen” from the atmosphere. (Nitrogen is the only essential element you can’t get from moon rocks or asteroids; so they use ram jets to scoop and compress air and take off the N2.) To the scientifically illiterate this sounds plausible.
          BTW, often overlooked, close reading will reveal that there are pro-science counterparts for each of the anti-science factions. E.g., there are environmentalists in the story who are pro-space, pro-technology.
          It was also AFAIK the first novel written coast to coast by computer. With some difficulty setting up the modems, because Larry and Jerry ran DOS boxes in CA while I had a Mac in NJ. We wound up running everything through Jim Baen’s office in NY and he did the translations. We never even met all three at once face to face until after the book was out. (Although I had met with Larry on two occasions to talk plot, and had emailed with Jerry.)

      • theofloinn
        May 13, 2017 at 8:30 pm
        It was also AFAIK the first novel written coast to coast by computer. With some difficulty setting up the modems, because Larry and Jerry ran DOS boxes in CA while I had a Mac in NJ. We wound up running everything through Jim Baen’s office in NY and he did the translations. We never even met all three at once face to face until after the book was out. (Although I had met with Larry on two occasions to talk plot, and had emailed with Jerry.)

        As this directly relates to my field, what specifically was your problem? FTP was a protocol in place at the time, and transcended operating systems. All one needed to do was run an FTP server on any computer, and any computer could read and write files to it.

        • That was years since. I remember a lot of wooling over X-modem and Y-modem, and stuff I sent came over as gibberish. For all I know, that was how Jom Baen resolved the problem.

    • BTW, Heinlein’s brother, Raymond, was a professor of Chemistry at
      Kent State for a number of years.

  64. What of 1973’s “Westworld?” Set in a futuristic resort, one of the robotic staff goes on a rampage and begins trying to kill the guests.

    • You mean you never watched “Diamonds are Forever” ??? You missed Jill St. John’s magnificent cleavage, which deserved it’s own billing as the star of the show!

  65. It is entertainment you know. I don’t think a plodding documentary style discourse on the steady progress of society supported by science would gain much viewership , apart from the Dalek collectors of course.

  66. I’d site the good Spike Jonze movie ‘Her’ as portraying a positive image of the future and technology, and even the technological protagonist (in this case an AI) is painted as something society is struggling to get to grips with rather than something damaging.
    Dystopia is more scary and exciting though, offers up hurdles and challanges which motivate characters and move a story along. I don’t think there’s necessarily a bias towards pessimism, it’s just a format that sells more tickets – just as (in the view of media owners) environmental catastrophism sells more newspapers.

  67. Since the list mentions “Star Trek”, I felt compelled to share this quote from Jeff Patterson regarding the franchise (provided via the Atomic Rockets website):
    “I am once again stunned at the insistence that Star Trek has to be allegorically relevant, but if it must, I’d prefer it take on more scientific/ethical issues, like a justification for banning genetic enhancement. or how a society with FTL, molecular replication, and teleportation has managed to sidestep a technological singularity.
    Star Trek is considered by many to be the public face of SF, it’s flagship.
    I hold by my belief that to retain that title it needs to take it up a level: travel out into some heretofore unexplored quadrant and find that it is heavily populated by Type II Kardashev cultures, Lovecraftian ancients, Kirby-esque star gods, Matrioshka brain AIs trying to tap reality’s source-code, post-singularity societies like Banks Culture, Wright’s Oecumene, or Hamilton’s Edenists, etc.
    In short, Trek needs to catch up with the rest of science fiction”

    • I don’t care, Nichelle Nichols was enough for me, though at the time I didn’t know why!

    • In Trek’s defense, they did have the Organians, Trelane’s parents’ culture (The Squire of Gothos), Q, and others I’m probably forgetting. These were all races/species whose natural abilities were so far above the Federation’s that they appeared omnipotent. As some one else said, it’s not very interesting watching the Terminex man spray the termites, and so we didn’t get much expansion regarding those species, with the exception of Q.

  68. There is a large body of excellent literature in the SF genre, much of it full of accurate science. So why is
    the Hollywood interpretation so almost invariably AWFUL?

    • Perhaps Hollywood itself is really anti-science. 🙂
      Being a tad more serious, we must demand SF of higher quality from Hollywood if we want it.
      Otherwise, to them it is just a business that they will use to cater to the mass populace that swallows anything the MSM tries to pass as real science.

  69. Protest!!!
    Dr Strangelove is so great a movie that it should not be routinely classed as SciFi and put in a box with a heap of mundane movies for comparison, when it is incomparable.
    The script is superb, one of those rare cases that yields a previously-hidden hidden jewel, time and again almost every time you revisit it.
    The acting is patchy, with Peter Sellers being overdone, Slim Pickens and George C Scott brilliant at times. But all memorable.
    The movie is not even selling the same messages as claimed for the others. It is just taking the Mickey out of those who were afraid of technology, on the vehicle of nuclear warfare.
    It is a stand alone epic.

    • One of the best things about Strangelove that modern audiences might miss (that audiences in the early 60’s would have known instantly) is that many of the characters are hilariously done parodies of famous real life people. Strangelove himself, of course is a parody of Werner von Braun, and yes, it was always shameful that we in America took the man responsible for the rocket bombing of London and made him some kind of national hero. (Hence the darkness of the Strangelove character)
      Milquetoast President Merkel was a spoof on Adlai Stevenson, who was *almost* President twice, in the 50’s.
      Gen’t Buck Turgidson was a vicious parody of Gen’l Curtis Le May, of the SAC.
      The Russian Ambassador was a play on Andrei Gromyko, who’d been in charge of the Russian side of negotiations during the Cuban missile crisis.
      Also, I disagree with you about Peter Sellers being overdone – Peter Sellers does 3 different parts so well that on first viewing, you have to be told its Peter Sellers doing all 3 parts. And the appearance of his over-the-top Strangelove, towards the end, is the climax of the entire film, and cements the idea that everything going on here is unbelievably horrible and yet strangely hilarious at the same time.

    • I’ll defer to your knowledge and passion about this film since I haven’t watched it yet. I included it because quotes from and references to it are often used – no doubt misused – to support leftist and anti-military narratives.

    • I agree it’s one of the best movies ever made. It’s not just anti-war, but against just about everything.
      Also has a high ratio of memorable lines.

      • Yeah – I’d have to call it the best piece of pure political satire ever written. EVERYBODY takes a hit in this one! And one odd thing I’ve always felt shows just how good a filmmaker Kubrick was – everybody is trying to take down the rogue B-52 that is going to drop its bombs and trigger the end of the world, and the audience should be, too – but the cockpit and crew scenes inside that B-52 are done so well, so accurately, that by the end we, the audience, are cheering for them to pull through, just like Gen’l Buck Turgidson is.
        And if you haven’t seen it, Ptolemy – there are so many great performances here. Peter Sellers in clearly the best dramatic roll he ever played, even though he infuses it with his own brand of comedy; George C. Scott going totally over the top, chewing up the scenery in every scene he’s in; Slim Pickens as the iconic American cold war cowboy, yee-hawing the world to nuclear destruction; and if you listen carefully you’ll notice a very young and uncredited James Earl Jones in the cockpit of that B-52.
        And that haunting ending makes it the most quintessential cold-war film by far.
        One of those rare movies I feel compelled to rewatch every time its on!

  70. sick and tired of milking the Marvel comics cash cow
    Also Star Wars was based on a (japanese) comic strip
    I like comics strips btw.
    Hollywood is to movie what CocaCola is to drinking..a Coke once in a while is okay but you dont drink coke all day, for breakfast, before sleeping etc. There is wine, water, tea, coffee isnt there..Hollyweird just brings us politicqlly correct agenda driven pseudo scifi..froth , basically.

  71. Okay, I really have to dive into this one…
    First off, Never Let Me Go and Brazil. *Not* Science-Bad. Politics-Bad. Both include strictly 20th-century technology (Brazil even begins with the tagline “Somewhere in the Twentieth Century”!), used for bad ends by a sort of Stalinist super-state.
    Interstellar; climate change, oddly enough, is not mentioned in the movie. I know because I was looking out for it. I got the strong impression that someone wanted to make an anti-warmist mainstream movie, but didn’t quite dare. In fact, we are never told where “the blight” comes from, or even whether or not it is of human origin.
    As for Tomorrowland, i would say that you’ve got the basic premise of the film quite wrong – if I could just work out what that premise was. Pro-science, anti-science? All I can say is that if I’d seen the film that I thought I was going to see, it would have been a sci-fi classic.

  72. The science fiction genre is one of my favorites, too. Some have touched on the plot error of “Children of Men.” Women are not able to bear children, and the world is facing final human extinction for unknown reasons. But then one woman becomes pregnant and various government interests try to grab her and control her, basically turning her into the world’s only science experiment that matters. The cohesion of a totalitarian state in the face of hopelessness and ultimate extinction has made it difficult to control all the levers of power, and she escapes with the help of a group of allies who want her to be free and to have her child in peace and freedom. And the movie ends with a hopeful feel that perhaps something has changed and that human life will go on. She is the new Eve.
    Of course, on a related theme is the resurgent “A Handmaid’s Tale” that’s being talked about by anti-Trump forces. In a post-war apocalyptic America, a new “Christian” theocracy rules over fragmented areas with brutal totalitarianism. The war polluted the world, most women are infertile, and all fertile women become the property of the state, to be loaned out to good party members who want children. They develop a bizarre ritual of copulation between the man and the handmaid, with the wife in the bed in the missionary position, but with the handmaid between her and her husband. This makes her feel like she’s a part of the procreation of “her” child. And of course, the child of this union will belong to the married party members, while the handmaid is then loaned out to the next couple. Hypocrisy is rampant. Story told from the point of view of one such handmaid. I consider this story as mostly an anti-religious screed. It badly misrepresents Christianity and even fanatical fundamentalist Christians, IMO.
    I don’t consider Dr. Strangelove (one of my very favorite movies) to be science fiction. It is a nuclear anxiety movie, along other stories and movies with similar themes, like Fail Safe, On the Beach, etc. With adequate mine shaft space, we will prevail, through the purity and essence of our natural fluids. I tell people that this movie is a movie about men’s sexual anxieties, as much as it is about global thermo-nuclear war.
    Brazil, another personal favorite, captures the awesome totalitarian malaise of large bureaucracies and also of society and popular culture as a form of mass hypnosis (via a plot device wherein the protagonist’s mother continually seeks to find perpetual youth through cosmetic surgery). In the end, though, the bureaucracy wins and the cosmetic surgery fails to live up to its promise. It is very dark. Hopelessness wins.
    Another science fiction movie is Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” which was told in three parts. The story has the obvious dystopian, anti-Socialism, anti-bureaucratic, pro-Freedom political aspects. But it also has Reardon metal, John Galt’s free power, scalable free electricity from static imbalances in the atmosphere. Rand was politically naive, IMO, and in Atlas Shrugged, she opines near the end a belief in the notion that one more Amendment in the Bill of Rights protecting the means of production could have preempted the march of Progressivism. Nothing stops the march of Collectivists except eternal vigilance. Because they think they’re correct, and that “we” CAN build a Utopian society. Of course, it would be nice if they first defined all the aspects of same.
    I’m not a big fan of Gene Roddenberry’s leftist Utopianism. Star Trek politics are so unrealistic. So let me get this straight, the Klingons and the Romulans can have cloaking devices, and they’ve used them to good effect to attack us, but WE CAN’T have cloaking devices? No polity in the universe would ever agree to such madness. And as a quasi-military command, Star Fleet is out of its mind. How many times has Enterprise been commandeered by normal (non-Q) humanoids who were allowed free access to the bridge, to engineering? Star Fleet needs a few good Courts Marshall, and to bust some Captains and executive officers and throw them in prison. Kirk, you let some intergalactic hippies take the Enterprise. Picard, I’m looking at you, too.

    • Thanks for these reviews and comments. A few of the films in the article are ones I have not seen and I relied on plot summaries. Now I’ll go and watch some of them.

      • If you change the religion of the believers in “A Handmaid’s tale” from Christianity to Islam, then it becomes not speculative fiction, but a documentary. Pointing that out is a good way to annoy someone who thinks it is really, really deep.

    • At least in the Star Trek shows (until the horrible Enterprise series), there were often negative consequences to the leftist utopianism. I also learned that computers are evil and will kill us the first chance they get! 🙂

      • I remember a scene in DS9 where Benjamin Sisko (the “Captain” of the series) goes into a big private rant over how politically short-sighted his superiors have been, and places much of the blame on the environment they live in.
        “You know what the problem is? It’s Earth. It’s paradise. They’ve lived in paradise for so long that they can’t envision it ever being lost.” [paraphrased summary]

  73. Thought this was apropos:
    In this opening paragraph of “The Call of Cthulhu,” first published in the pulp fiction magazine Weird Tales in 1928, H.P. Lovecraft set out a view of things that animates pretty well everything he wrote thereafter: The human mind is an accident in the universe, which is indifferent to the welfare of the species. We can have no view of the scheme of things or our place in it, because there may be no such scheme. The final result of scientific inquiry could well be that the universe is a lawless chaos. Sometimes called “weird realism,” it is a disturbing vision with which Lovecraft would struggle throughout his life.

  74. Fandom.
    Good fiction,science fiction included, is a fun house mirror.
    Reality as you know it, tweaked just a fraction leading to conclusions you may have never yet imagined.
    The best Sci-Fi takes me to places I have not forseen.
    The collapse of the depicted society is dramatic effect.A good way of getting ones attention.
    Movies, based on SciFi, however have been mostly boring, in my opinion, as they have been unable to provide the same detail of plot that the book author provides.
    Flash and dash versus substance.
    Not to mention the time factor, the book I can put down,reread at my leisure, a movie , not so much.
    As for the ratio of hope to doom?
    If it bleeds… It leads.

    • No, that was an eerily prescient description of the coming Climate Change fight!
      “It’s a madhouse! A MADHOUSE!!!”

  75. I don’t know if this is considered sci-fi, exactly, but a 1968 movie ‘Panic In the City’ with Howard Duff trying to track down a Soviet spy who has hired a nuclear engineer to build a nuke in his basement in Los Angeles, so as to set it off and destroy the city. While destroying LA would be no loss, the movie is loaded with tension, and well worth your time.
    But real sci-fi is ‘Have Spacesuit – Will Travel’, a YA novel Heinlein wrote and published in 1958. A villain that is nastier than a horde of fire ants, spies, a local cop, a couple of teens who save the world, and also tell the ‘Moderator’ at the end ‘We can build our own sun’. It’s got everything, including Pluto quakes.

    • “But real sci-fi is ‘Have Spacesuit – Will Travel’, a YA novel Heinlein wrote and published in 1958.”
      I loved that story. One of the first science fiction stories I read as a kid.
      The first science fiction story I ever read was “The Wonderful Planet”, about a hidden civilization on the Moon. I was so enthralled with the contents that I couldn’t put it down, and I couldn’t read it fast enough, and when I finished it, I immediately started reading it again from the beginning. I couldn’t get enough! And then I went looking for more books like that, and found them in abundance. Thank you science fiction authors!

      • Back in 1960 I was in 4th grade (10 years old), the town had a great library. I discovered SF. Read most of Heinlein and Vonnegut by hiding the books under the school room desk. The teacher knew what I was doing, but let me get away with it. Still remember Starship Troopers, Cat’s Cradle and the Mother Thing.

      • I’m amazed that you read Vonnegut in 1960. His novels and short stories before Cat’s Cradle fell largely on deaf ears. Or blind eyes.

      • I had a great town library, too, and some very nice, observant librarians. After I started focusing on reading science fiction, I quickly read through all the available books, but I guess the librarians noticed, because after a short drought, all of a sudden, new science fiction books would appear on the shelves and did so on a regular basis after that, and kept me going for a long time.
        I eventually graduated to reading the science fiction magazines and novels that I found at the local drug store/cafeteria, where I was allowed to read the books for free as long as I bought something in the cafeteria. I would eat myself a hamburger, and get lost in a good story.
        I had a lot of help from some very generous people in my efforts to read science fiction. I can’t thank them enough. 🙂

  76. I don’t endorse any list of the best sci-fi movies, but here are a few. Many I don’t even consider sci-fi:
    https://www.timeout.com/london/film/the-100-best-sci-fi-movies#tab_panel_10 (“2001: A Space Odyssey” ranked #1.)
    http://www.popularmechanics.com/culture/movies/g97/the-100-best-sci-fi-movies-of-all-time/? (From this year. Takes a while to load. Also ranks “2001” Numero Uno.)
    http://www.imdb.com/search/title?genres=sci_fi&title_type=feature&num_votes=1000,&sort=user_rating,desc (“Inception” #1, based upon ratings.)
    http://www.ign.com/articles/top-25-sci-fi-movies-of-all-time (“Blade Runner” #1)
    http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/lists/the-top-20-sci-fi-films-of-the-21st-century-20140515/inception-2010-19691231 (Ranks “Children of Men” Number One.)
    Rotten Tomatoes includes fantasy, which IMO is justified because that’s what many so-called sci-fi movies really are. Or Westerns set in space: Ranks “Wizard of Oz” #1.

    • “Blade Runner” reminds me to consider a more recent Ridley Scott sci-fi flick, “The Martian”.
      Don’t like its star, but thought it was pretty good, despite its glaring scientific faults. At least it isn’t neo-dystopian-noir like “BR:.
      The author crowd-sourced his novel for technical detail checks.

      • Most glaring error is the wind storm. Mars’ atmosphere isn’t dense enough to have so much strength.

  77. Has someone mentioned Cocoon. Advanced aliens make old folks young again and grant them eternal life.
    Also the first and second Ghostbusters …. private businessmen abandon academia and end up saving NYC and the world from supernatural evil beings.

    • “aliens make old folks young again and grant them eternal life.”…= The liberal Elite Dream, but ONLY for them !! (Dream or fantasy, your chose)….

  78. Food for thought…
    “If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America; which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.”
    -Steven Hawking

  79. Two films not yet mentioned: A Clockwork Orange, Idiocracy, and (briefly noted) John Carpenter’s The Thing. All superb, all with significant SF elements if not strictly SF, and all dystopian without any anti-technology / anti-science bias.

    • ..I agree…Contacting “Aliens” from other worlds, searching for new resources, may not be in our best interest !

  80. I nominate Waterworld; In the year 2500 the sea level has risen by 7600 meters and the entire earth is covered by water. The opening of the movie implies climate change as a cause by showing a time lapse view of the earth from orbit with the ice caps melting and the sea level rising until no land remains.
    The people live a peaceful but meager life of fishing and trade on small, isolated, artificial islands of ramshackle construction known as ‘atolls’. Dirt, vegetable plants, fresh water, and paper are valuable commodities. It is a disputable myth that people once lived on dry land but some believe that the tattoo on the back of the adopted daughter of a beautiful shopkeeper is a map to ‘dryland’.
    The islanders are harassed by pirates who are known as ‘Smokers’ because, unlike the sailboats used by the islanders, they drive jet skis. [450 year old jet skis apparently run great but do emit a lot of smoke]. The Smokers are cruel scavengers living a life decadence and excess on the hulk of, drumroll please, the Exxon Valdez. They have heard of the girl with the tattoo map and they seek to kidnap her and to use the map to find ‘dryland’.
    A drifter arrives at the atoll to trade and treats the beautiful shopkeeper kindly. Subsequently, the atoll is attacked by the Smokers and the drifter reluctantly helps the beautiful shopkeeper and the girl escape.
    Much action ensues during which the Smokers are defeated. The drifter, the beautiful shopkeeper, the girl, and a few other survivors finally find ‘dryland’. Dryland turns out to be the peak of Mt Everest which has been transformed into a utopian tropical island rising only a few hundred meters above seal level.
    At this point the shopkeeper is in love with the drifter and the other survivors see him as their savior and beseach him to stay on the island. However, it is not to be because, alas, he is a drifter so he must take to the open ocean….
    So many cliches.

    • I liked that demonstration of firepower the Quad-50 machinegun gave in the Water World movie. I have a fondess for Quad-50’s. One of them saved my life one night. In combination with a twin-barreled, 40mm, rapid-fire “Duster”. At one place I was stationed (Phu Bai), I had a Duster on my left about 50 yards away, and a Quad-50 on my right, about 50 yards away. They took care of business one night.
      Google Earth used to have a picture marked of the very Duster I’m referring to on their map of Vietnam, but the last time I looked, I couldn’t find the picture.

  81. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
    The movie’s nod to science is only on backstory, but it’s definitely dystopian.
    “Radio reports explain that a wave of mass murder is sweeping across the eastern United States. Ben finds a television, and they watch an emergency broadcaster (Charles Craig) report that the recently deceased have become reanimated and are consuming the flesh of the living… Experts, scientists, and the United States military fail to discover the cause, though one scientist suspects radioactive contamination from a space probe. It returned from Venus, and was deliberately exploded in the Earth’s atmosphere when the radiation was detected.” (Wikipedia)
    Easily corrected in the end, though, by good old boys with shotguns. Predictive of Trumpsters?…

  82. I will add ‘The Road’, ‘The Book of Eli’, ‘The Postman’, and ‘A Boy and His Dog’ to the list of apocalyptic science fiction movies.
    ‘The Road’ depicts an apocalypse preceded by a blinding light. The cause of the light is undefined and could be interpreted by the viewer to be from a meteor, an atomic blast, or something else, Being a cold war kid, I took it to be nuclear war. The movie centers on the story of a man and his son trying to survive in the desperate wasteland that results from the apocalypse. This is a pretty dark movie.
    ‘The Book of Eli’ depicts the aftermath of an apocalypse that is unknown to the viewer. However, my impression was that nuclear war had occurred (see above). The story centers on a loner who is travelling across post-apocalyptic America on a quest to deliver a book of great importance to the west coast. He stops at a settlement that, unbeknownst to him, is run by an ‘evil’ man, While he is there, he treats a beautiful girl kindly and then is forced to confront the evil overseer. The loner escapes from the settlement and is followed by the girl who was to be given to one of the overseer’s goons. The loner protects the girl while they both head west and the evil doers are subsequently killed. However, the loner is mortally wounded and subsequently dies when they reach his destination. She subsequently leaves the sanctuary they have found to return to the settlement with the loner’s book.
    ‘The Postman’ depicts a post-nuclear apocalypse in America. The survivors live in peaceful settlements having reverted to a preindustrial lifestyle. An organized group of marauders seek to subdue the peaceful settlements and to demand tribute from them. Meanwhile, a drifter who moves from settlement to settlement making his keep as a travelling minstrel comes to town. He catches the attention of a beautiful young woman but then the town is besieged by the Marauders. The drifter and the woman escape, much action ensues, the marauders are defeated, and the movie ends with a kumbaya moment somewhere on the Oregon coast.
    ‘A Boy and His Dog’ takes place in a post nuclear apocalypse. The war took place in 2007 and now, in 2024, the ‘boy’, a man in his 20’s, wanders the wasteland with his telepathic dog looking for food and women. The boy is lured into an underground vault inhabited by a society of people and robots emulating a twisted version of 1950s Kansas. Much action ensues and the boy and his dog gratefully escape to the wasteland.

  83. Nope. you can’t have Star Wars.
    “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….” is a dead give-away. as to why not. And Rebel ships are way cooler looking, Flying into battle in a giant space dildo just seems more of a fun place to party than a giant angular arrow head with a golf ball on it.
    You can have ‘Slipstream’ with Mark Hamill as a replacement though, even if it goes on the turd pile (also starred JP’s Bob Peck and Aliens Bill Paxton). The 70s and 80s were full of crappy dystopian sci-fi movies, probably far too many to list and most only memorable for just how bad they were.. Saying that, there is something enjoyable about watching Jan Michael Vincent avoid giant scorpions on the back of a dirt bike in a good bad way.
    Can’t believe ‘Idiocracy’ didn’t make the list! Also, a h/t to The Matrix, if only for the concept of the red pill,

  84. Luddfi is only part of the problem. Half of these movies have PhD savior-protagonists. — Like the physicist in Thor who goes up to Asgard and talks with the gods about how they are really doing things through quantum mechanics, and explains it to them.
    And of course in Arrival the PhD deciphers the symbols of the elegant encephalopod visitors, but the backward American guy who watches alien-ophobic youtube videos plants a bomb.
    So in the end of Arrival the PhD savior-protagonist realizes that a worldwide change to a new universal language will eliminate our differences and bring peace. If only I could get my $1 back.
    Apparently PhDs are in a new catagory right up there walking with the gods, above even the enhanced humans who merely got in accidents with gamma rays or were bitten with irradiated insect bites.

  85. Just remembered a good movie for time travel fans: Time Crimes. I think this is a good movie because of the reason the main character travels back in time. It is a real paradox. I cannot say more without revealing too much and spoiling it for those who have not seen it.

  86. I would include the long-running BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who in “Category 1: Dystopia”. In the most recent episode “Oxygen”, workers on a mining space-station were being killed-off/zombie-fied by their spacesuits. Of course the not so subtle story-line had the evil capitalist bosses (“the suits”) limiting oxygen because the workers were not sufficiently productive, blah, blah, blah. The Doctor saves the day by convincing The Suits that killing workers is even less profitable, or something like that – ZZZZzzzzz.

  87. The assessment of “Interstellar” is incorrect, as climate change is not mentioned at all; mankind’s downfall is due to a cascading series of crop diseases that kill off farmed crops, resulting in a severe food shortage and an inability to grow crops that are not susceptible to blight.
    Less “global warming,” more “Irish potato famine.”
    How can you get more PRO-science than Cooper’s disgust as the PC rewriting of whether we ever went to the moon (it’s covered as mere anti-Soviet propaganda in the new “updated” government textbooks) and the quote that best reflects society today:
    “We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars; now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.”

  88. Event Horizon can easily be used as an introduction to the War-hammer 40k universe, just the first warp jump forgot to put in geller fields 😉

  89. Kind of surprising no one mentioned “Metropolis” (but I admit I was able only to read the first half of this thread) as being a dystopia, albeit grandiose and with a hopeful ending. Then there is “When Worlds Collide,” which can only be construed as pro-science (without it, we die). “Total Recall” was a social dystopia, rectified by the application of advanced alien technology. “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” was an unabashed romance with technology.
    There is a lot out there. I’ve only mentioned a few items. I disagree with the dystopian take on 2001, because I saw it when it came out: this most gorgeous display of advanced technology is hard to surpass.

  90. Wait, Star Wars in anti-technology? I disagree completely. I’m a huge Star Wars fan. I have watched all 7 movies, watched the Clone Wars and Rebels tv-series, played Star Wars video games and read Star Wars comics. I can say with certainty that Star Wars is not about anti-technology or anything like that. That is not the point or the overall theme. Say what you want about the prequels, but in those movies for example the protagonists repeatedly use advanced technologies to their advantage. The reason why Rebels don’t look so sleek and cool is probably because they are rebels, and don’t really have the resources of the Empire. Rebels don’t try to destroy the Death star because it represents “Evil Technology” but because it is, well, a Death star, intended to destroy planets and enforce the Empire’s will.
    I’m also surprised you put AI – Artificial intelligence to “positive” category. That movie is pretty dystopian. Sure, people in that movie seem to hate robots (though im not sure if they hate all technology in general, or just robots), but doesn’t it also say that rising sea levels are threatening human civilization? It seems to be pretty typical “humans suck, we are all going to die” -movie. It’s not exactly very positive overall.

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