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


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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.

Poor Bela – he never got to see the final product!


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.

There must be many real goodies that I missed.


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.

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.

Jay Hope

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.

Tom Halla

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!

Jay Hope

‘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.

UK Sceptic

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.

I was going to make a similar comment until I scrolled down to ‘comments.’ This is a post of the Millennials’ short-list.


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.


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.

Paul Westhaver

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]

Sceptical lefty

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.

Uncle Gus

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.

Jeff Hayes

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!

Jeff Hayes

1664 should of course be 1964- we don’t know gov. Nix’s true age.

Jeff Hayes

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.”


Empyrium = Elysium?


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.

Yes – my mistake.


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.

comment image


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


Those being ignored are the skeptics.

Javert Chip

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?.

Harry Passfield

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


Very true.
Now about that young woman . . .

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.

Uncle Gus

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?

Robert of Ottawa

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

Daryl M

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

Bryan A

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?

They are based on reality?


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

Killer Marmot

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.


As would any physics or mathematics at university level:

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

climate models are full of imaginary numbers.


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

You cannot hold -1 apples in your hand either.

Steve Safigan

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.

Mike McMillan

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.

Lobos Motl has a good article on imaginary numbers :

Owen in GA

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 . . . .

Maybe the sign meant “Science isn’t imaginary.”

Robert of Ottawa

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…


i does have a sign – it points at right angles with reality.

Ray in SC

James, -j = 1/j.

Ray in SC
May 13, 2017 at 2:35 pm
James, -j = 1/j.

Really? Why wouldn’t -j mean -1(j)? Why wouldn’t 1/j mean 1/j?

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.

Uncle Gus

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!)

Art Slartibartfast

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.

(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 …)

Clearing history solves the problem.

Nope! Been there, done that.
At the moment, I also try to fight the obscene will of Google to turn on the GPS all the time. Sometime I get the question if it’s OK, but mostly not …

Works for me.


Surprised you don’t think Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth is sci-fi.

Michael Jankowski

Not sci-fi. Just fi.


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?

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.

It was the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge that got Adam and Eve kicked out of Eden. Knowledge is therefore a bad thing.


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.


Apollo 13 was an excellent movie.


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.


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.

dan no longer in CA

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.

Jeff Hayes

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.

Maybe the sign meant “Science isn’t imaginary.”

My son proudly wears his Weyland-Yutani cap.


“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. 🙂

Jay Hope

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.

Tom Halla

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.

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.

A C Osborn

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?


McCaffery has an odd mix of both fantasy and sci fi.


Can’t leave H. Beam Piper out of that list.

South River Independent

Or two of the most intelligent: Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven.

M Courtney

Eric Frank Russell.
Wasp is a forgotten classic.

Killer Marmot

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.


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.

Mike McMillan

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.

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!!!”)

Bruce Ploetz

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.

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.

Javert Chip

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).


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.

South River Independent

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.


I like Kingsman: The Secret Service. An evil genius tries to save the world from global warming by wiping out the human race. Humans are saved by talented juvenile delinquent.


“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

David S.

“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.

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 consider it a FANTASY since it was so absurd.


I consider it COMEDY. I want to hear Tom Servo and Crow have a crack at it.


Which naturally leads to the question of which category MST3K falls under.

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.


Which naturally leads to the question of which category MST3K falls under.

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]

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!


A lot of them are. Many are just standard story lines set in the far future.

The current sci-fi movie with the largest fan base is human-caused global warming, characterized by routine myopia.

Peta from Cumbria, now Newark

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.

algae control the climate.


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.

chris y

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.


I’ve heard that Robin Williams was the same way.


“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”


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

M Courtney

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.

Leo Smith

Most fiction books are read and bought by women.


M Courtney

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 big money makers were romance novels churned out as boiler plate using standardized templates.


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.

M Courtney

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.

Mike McMillan

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.


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.


..or should we say the PETA terrorist character


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.

M Courtney

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.


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.

Tom Halla

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.

Uncle Gus

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.

Tom Halla

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.

Steven Kopits

The dystopia is a plot device. It motivates the conflict in the movie.

Dale Gulick

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.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7

Where would you put “Men in Black”?

Comedy. I really had in mind the more earnest SciFi movies.


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.

OK I’ll watch Forbidden Planet.

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.

Jeff Hayes

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.

The Reverend Badger

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

The Reverend Badger

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


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.


Two Faces of Tomorrow would be another interesting one.


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.

South River Independent

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.

South River Independent

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.


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?

Dodgy Geezer

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.


You forgot the the best ski-fi movie ever: Forbidden Planet.

Tom Halla

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.

Malcolm Carter

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.

Tom Halla

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.

Tom Halla

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.

Jeff Hayes

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.

Mike McMillan

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.

South River Independent

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.


Well-designed fission weapons can be made quite small.

Malcolm Carter

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.

Eustace Cranch

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.

Eustace Cranch

Good point, understood.

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”

CD in Wisconsin

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.

In 1971 I was living in Asia – and was 6 years old. Still – I’ll look out for THX 1138.


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.

It spawned an entirely new meme: “The Prometheus school of running away from things.”comment image

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.)


How many of these movies got tobacco money to show onscreen use?


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


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.”

Gary Pearse

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


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.

Ron Williams

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…


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.

No Outland! Technology or not, man remains the same.

Joel Snider

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.

Jeff Hayes

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.

Tom Halla

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.


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.

M Courtney

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.

Tom in Denver

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


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.