Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Day

I used last years SF&F writers day to talk a bit about Arthur C. Clarke who’s unbroken believe that humanity will someday manage to evolve into an intelligent species worthy of calling itself human was a huge inspiration to me as a kid.
Clarke showed a strong believe in his writing that knowledge gained through technical advance is the way to salvation for our race.
Let me point out the writings of another brilliant mind in the field of Sci-Fi, contrasting Clarke's view:

Algis Budrys

Budrys wrote among others the novel from which the movie Who? was adapted. And as for Budrys typical the movie questions if technological advancement really is to be seen as an aid to our development, or if it not rather will ultimately lead to a dehumanisation.
It’s the story of American scientist Lucas Martino who after a car accident beyond the Iron Curtain is only saved through advanced medical technology that replaces half of his body, including his face, with mechanical parts (hence the alternative English title The Man with the Steel Mask). Because of his involvement with an important secret project he’s probed by the CIA after his return to learn if he’s been turned by the soviets or if he’s even at all who he claims to be. While the espionage part of the story is well executed and lending the movie the necessary suspense over its length, it’s the human drama of Martino that’s of real importance, his gradual loss of any sense of self.

The labelling of this powerful Sci-Fi classic as Robo Man with a cover showing The Man in the Iron Mask holding us at gunpoint is an unspeakable atrocity to the movies spirit, who ever came up with that is hopefully ashamed of himself.

Cube owes largely to Budrys writing.
Even if his story isn’t credited, the movie does remind one of his most prominent novel: Rogue Moon.
Rogue Moon tells the story of a life weary stuntman that gets hired to help in the exploration of an artefact found on Moon. All that scientists working on it have been able to find out about to that point, is that its build like a maze on the inside and that it kills people. Using a machine that can create a mind linked double of a human body they send in explorers without risking their live, at least in theory, but the few that tried couldn’t cope with experiencing the death of their double and went insane, which is why they want to try with someone reputed to be possessed with a death wish.
While the scientists involved with the project believe that something will happen once they manage to get a man through this maze, Budrys protagonist stays sceptical, telling them that the artefact might be meaningless, that they might just be like bugs caught at the bottom of a thrown away bottle, going round and round believing to be tested by a higher intelligence. In the end the artefact found in Rogue Moon becomes secondary to the story, it serves only as a warning about a dangerously blind believe in advanced technology.
And as such the tagline for Cube could just as well stand for Budrys's novel:

Don't look for a reason, look for a way out!

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