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Vivid Tomorrows: On Science Fiction And Hollywood by David Brin (book review).

October 29, 2021 | By | Reply More

Looking through Eurospan’s catalogue of American books, I tend to use the search engine to pin-point to ‘Science Fiction’ and seeing one by SF writer David Brin doing non-fiction was a no-brainer to want to have a look at. ‘Vivid Tomorrows: On Science Fiction And Hollywood’ gives him an opportunity to rant over 23 chapters on what he sees is wrong and right about SF films.

As Brin is also of a similar age to me, then I’ve seen many of the books and films he has and in the same time period. He certainly doesn’t like lazy fiction where one character is an idiot to films constantly being remade than growing and you realise he does have a point.

To some extent, the remake is more the fault of the studio who wants to milk a license and a resit supposedly attract a new generation seems to the way to go.

You also get a lot of information about various subjects and Brin is obviously a fan of his own genre and draws up information of various SF books along the way as well.

I should point out that this isn’t a specially written book but an accumulation of articles written since the turn of the century with minor revisions, even if we’re not told whether this is in views or a text polish. As such, you also get a lot of views across the subjects that you might agree or disagree with or, in my case, occasionally correct.

Take for instance, an early trend for the third of film trilogies being bad but didn’t apply to ‘Back To The Future’ is easily explained as parts 2 and 3 were actually made as one film split in two so wasn’t even part of that particular ‘rule’.

That’s not to say Brin’s film observations are off. His observations of the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy is spot on, especially on how useful Yoda really was although he avoided calling him a right muppet. Likewise, Darth Vader being forgiven when he turns from the dark side of the force after death, despite his involvement with genocide and untold number of other murders.

It seems the Force is benevolent as long as you turn away from its bad aspects and do a good deed. Mind you, does killing the Emperor makes up for this, especially as he can come back?

I’m less sure about ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ as we didn’t really see what kind of society it was until ‘2010’ and finding it was even more turbulent than what we have today. Likewise, SF has always had a run of utopic societies where they are seen as snaphots or showing their fallacies and on the road to change but authors rarely show the end result and whether it is actually better.

It should hardly be surprising that Brin has a go at poor plotting in films. I can’t argue with him there, as much of SF is to restore or maintain the status quo or establishment than turn it upside down. I did have a serious think about unlikeable lead characters in our genre. Surely, no one really liked Alex in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ any more than you would like some of the bad guys in a film such as in ‘Casino’ (1995) getting their comeuppance.

Saying that, in one of the latter chapters, Brin does point out that it is important to the reader to have a lead character you support, which is kind of contradictory when you have an unredeemed villain in the lead. Going back to ‘A Clockwork Orange’, without the therapy, Alex wouldn’t have reformed. His two droogs who became police officers were still a nasty pair.

Oh, while you’re reading this book, in case you don’t know, Brin’s references to Alice Sheldon neglects to reference her under her more famous pen-name James Tiptree, Jr..

Brin does have a look at ‘The Postman’ film based off his novel, neither of which I’ve read or seen. I wish he’d said more about how much of his plot was dropped and then parts of it was put back in re-writes although it does appear he was divorced from the film-making. Makes a mental note not to trust agents who sell rights with the first offer, more so as Brin says ‘ex-agent’. Maintain some integrity.

In his final chapter, Brin has a look at the lie detector devices in A.E. Van Vogt’s ‘World Of Null-A’ novel. This is one thing that I wish was explored more. After all, it enforces people to be more honest or find ways to beat it, like giving Gosseyn fake memories. I think this re-enforces Brin’s thoughts that writers need to do more deep thinking with their plots and not just take the first solution they come up with and how decisions made have an effect on society.

There’s a lot here that you’re either going to agree with David Brin on which is the whole point of critical essays. Of all the batch from Eurospan I’ve read in the past couple months, I think this one is probably the one most likely to end up being bought and read.

I wish more books of this nature by SF authors was out there as they know their subject and you also get something about their background.

GF Willmetts

October 2021

(pub: McFarland, 2021. 233 page indexed small enlarged paperback. Price: £27.50 (UK), $32.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-47668338-6)

check out websites: www.mcfarlandpub.com and www.eurospanbookstore.com

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Category: Culture, Movie books

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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