Netflix 'Love, Death & Robots'

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by lurok, Mar 20, 2019.

  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    A few more... I gave up on "The Dump" after mere moments, since those moments were aggressively crude and unpleasant, and CBR's review said it was the weakest of the season anyway.

    "Shape-Shifters"... Well, I guess it's okay if you like military fiction or horror, but it was too gory for me, and the photorealistic animation wasn't as good as in "Aquila Rift."

    "Helping Hand" seemed okay at first, but it failed for me in the end because it depended on the myth that things freeze rapidly in space. In fact, vacuum is an insulator, slowing heat loss considerably rather than accelerating it, and even though the character did appear to be in Earth's shadow at the moment in question, it was only for a few minutes, not remotely enough to lose that much heat. Also, the physics of how easily the astronaut changed direction when she threw things didn't seem to obey Newton's Laws. Since the, err, items she threw were a fraction of her total mass, they should've imparted much less acceleration on her than she did on them.

    "Fish Night": I realized I've actually read the Joe R. Lansdale story this is based on, in a collection called The Time Traveller's Almanac. I don't remember what I thought of the story, but the episode didn't amount to much. It had some pretty animation of its fantasy element, but the cel-shaded animation of the human characters just underlined how rare it is for cel-shaded 3D to look any good (The Dragon Prince is the only example I can name, though this wasn't as ugly as Star Wars Resistance, at least). And Kirk Thornton's voice acting as the father was stilted and mediocre, though Yuri Lowenthal did his usual pretty good work as the son.

    "Lucky 13": The animation here was so lifelike I sometimes forgot it wasn't live action, but if that's the aesthetic being aimed for, I have to wonder, why not just do actual live action? Technically remarkable, but artistically I kind of wonder what the point is. As for the story, it was a pretty basic war fable that didn't even really have an SF element beyond the trappings -- you could've hit the same beats in a story set in WWII. Its main plus is that it has the kind of diverse, non-white-centered cast that's been mostly absent in the series so far.

    "Zima Blue": Kind of a weird story but with an oddly touching ending. The highly stylized 2D art style is a bit too Peter Chung/Aeon Flux-like for my tastes, but a nice contrast to the photorealism of so many of the previous shorts. And the short benefits enormously from Kevin Michael Richardson's magnificent voice.
     
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  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Last few:

    "Blindspot": Another mostly 2D short, though with some 3D elements. A pointless and dumb original short about a bunch of foulmouthed robots trying to steal a MacGuffin from an armored convoy. Basically just an excuse for lots of gratuitous violence and cussing in what would otherwise feel like an action sequence from a kids' cartoon.

    "Ice Age": Cute but insubstantial. The only mostly live-action short, with Topher Grace and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as a couple who find a tiny, accelerated civilization in their refrigerator (from a story by Michael Swanwick). Has its moments, but doesn't really go anywhere. (I once wrote a "life evolves in the refrigerator" story, where the truth wasn't revealed until the end, but it didn't really work.)

    "Alternate Histories": Moderately funny adaptation of a silly John Scalzi story about alternate simulated Hitler death scenarios and their long-term consequences. Cute and very cartoonish, but with some R-rated moments and some gags that go a little too far.

    "The Secret War": Why is it that all of the military-fiction shorts are photorealist? I guess military-fiction fans like the gritty, visceral feel and whatnot. But the genre does nothing for me. This time it's WWII Russian soldiers fighting demons in Siberia, and there's not much more to it than that. It doesn't help that the only female presence in the entire thing is a naked, mutilated sacrificial victim.


    So overall, I'd say the best ones are "Good Hunting," the three John Scalzi adaptations, and the two Alastair Reynolds adaptations. That's a third of the season.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2019
  3. Skipper

    Skipper Commodore Commodore

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    Uh, I totally missed the fact that they were father and son...
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2019
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Well, maybe they aren't. The credits just say "Old Man" and "Young Man," so I could be wrong.
     
  5. Q2UnME

    Q2UnME Commodore Commodore

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    I believe they were two traveling salesmen. Older training the new, younger.
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I found the original "Fish Night" online here: http://www.thehorrorzine.com/Fiction/May2011/Lansdale/JoeRLansdale.html

    They're just described as "the old man" and "the young man," and they don't seem to be related The old man does call the young one "son," which I probably took too literally.

    Wow, the story is very different from the animated short, and much better.
    For one thing, it's much more verbose, kind of Bradburyesque in its language, and a longer, less random story -- the old man saw the spectral fish once before 20 years ago and is telling the disbelieving young man about them, setting up the later scene where they appear again. Also, in the original story, it's the old man who swims off with the fishes, which actually has a reason on a character and symbolic level, since he's lamenting the decline of the salesman industry and longs to get back to the dying past.

    The short's version is much shallower and more random -- the younger man is the one to swim off just because he thinks it's cool, and it's not justified by anything on a character level and doesn't mean anything symbolic. It's a bizarre change that strips the story of its entire point. What the hell were they thinking?
     
  7. Hog of the Forsaken

    Hog of the Forsaken Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^Basically, I don't think you and I are in the target audience.
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I wouldn't say that. As with any anthology, some of the installments were much more to my taste than others. The whole idea of an anthology is to offer a range of different stories and styles.

    But in the case of "Fish Night," I don't see how "target audience" explains the complete inversion of the ending and the resultant loss of its character and thematic substance. Unless it's just that they thought a young man would look better naked than an old one.

    The funny thing is, I don't usually like Lansdale's fiction that much. But this one does feel sort of like a Bradbury story with a darker twist, and I can see the symbolism and character substance in the original story that's totally lost in the short.
     
  9. Skipper

    Skipper Commodore Commodore

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    I didn't like it too much. I found it quite pointless.

    By the way, I'd be curious to know what the old man would tell the law enforcement and the young man's relatives and friends...
     
  10. Hog of the Forsaken

    Hog of the Forsaken Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The target audience seems to be mostly boy men that get off on gratuitous porn and ultraviolence, and who don't want to have the bother of thinking too deeply. That any content of quality slipped through seems almost miraculous. The success rate for me was too low. It reminded me of the failure of the M├ętal Hurlant shorts of a few years back.
     
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  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I don't think the sexual content or nudity per se is necessarily gratuitous. I mean, sex is more a part of most people's real lives than deadly violence will ever be (at least, one certainly hopes so), and thus it doesn't seem gratuitous to depict it, just honest. I'd say the problematical ones are the ones that portray nude women as victims, "The Witness" and that sacrifice scene in "The Secret War." But in most of the others, I think the nudity is pretty matter-of-fact, and where there are sex scenes it's generally consensual and relevant to the story. The fox-women in "Good Hunting" are sexually exploited, but the story depicts that in order to condemn it. (Although I feel that in "Beyond the Aquila Rift," it's the male lead who's arguably being sexually victimized, since he's seduced by someone who isn't the person he thinks she is, and that's basically rape by fraud.)

    By contrast, a few of the shorts seem to pile on the graphic gore and constant profanity and bad taste just because they can. That seems more gratuitous to me than most of the skin or sexuality.

    As for thoughtfulness... yeah, a lot of the episodes seem more about the visual or visceral experience, or the comedy of the story, than about deeper themes; I'd say "Good Hunting" is the most conceptually deep and thought-provoking. And if "Fish Night" stripped away the allegorical and character substance of the story, maybe there are others that similarly simplified their source tales.


    You know what? I just requested Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds from the library. It contains both of the Reynolds stories adapted here, the title story and "Zima Blue," and I want to compare the originals to the adaptations. I do have the suspicion that the adaptation may have sacrificed some of the nuance of the situation in favor of a horror-style ending. Unfortunately I could only find the book through interlibrary loan, so it might be a week or two before I get it.

    But I also found that I could check out an e-book of Ken Liu's The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, and I just read "Good Hunting." This time the animated short was mostly quite faithful to the story, a bit streamlined, but in a way that I think works well for distilling the story to its essence. (An early scene showing the British coming in and preparing to build the railroad is omitted; it explains that the railroads are cutting off the lines of qi that sustain magic in the land. A nice detail, but an expendable one.) I think it captures the content and feel of the piece quite well. The story has somewhat less nudity than the short, though, with the sex and body horror happening offscreen and only talked about.
     
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  12. Jedi Marso

    Jedi Marso Commodore Commodore

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    Finished the series today. Lucky 13 was my fav, hands down.
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    By the way, I just read the title story in that Ken Liu anthology, "The Paper Menagerie," and it occurred to me that it could've made a terrific episode of this series, ideally in a stop-motion Laika-esque style, or maybe a CGI approximation thereof. It's a story involving origami animals that come to life, so that would be cool to see animated. Then again, it might not be "adult" enough for this show; it doesn't have sex or violence or profanity and a lot of it takes place in the narrator's childhood. But it deals with themes of racism and mail-order brides and such, things that are probably too mature for something like a Pixar short.
     
  14. eschaton

    eschaton Commodore Commodore

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    Watched the whole series. my thoughts:

    The series is a great demonstration of what's actually possible with modern-day animation and Netflix budgets, as it suggests that basically any science fiction short story you can think of can now be produced. However, the series is also limited due to seeing itself as a reboot of Heavy Metal - the stories almost always feature some mixture of gore, profanity-laced dialogue, and sex. In some cases it works well within the story, but in others it comes across as gratuitous. Rather than seeming adult, it seems like the target audience here is teenage boys.

    Anyway, I'll put a mini-review of each of the shorts:

    Sonnie's Edge: This short is based upon a story by Peter F Hamilton which served as a prequel to his Night's Dawn trilogy, focusing on a near-future world where genetic advancement allows for the implantation of an "affinity gene" linking the minds of humans and servant animals. One use - which this story focuses on - is fighters linking their minds to genetically modified beasts which battle to the death gladiator style for public enjoyment. In particular, this story focuses upon Sonnie, a young woman who is a popular fighter in these arenas, but has been violated in the past. This is the only short based upon a short story I have read before, and it's almost 100% identical (other than the design of her creature). It features a lot of gore, and a little bit of female nudity, but this stuff was already in the story at least. The animation style is best described as "AAA game" - it's not really trying to be completely realistic, which is good, because it never falls into the uncanny valley. In the end, it's just okay - and makes me wish they adapted a different Hamilton short story instead.

    Three Robots: The first of three shorts based upon a John Scalzi short, this focuses upon three robots (duh!) who visit a ruined human city after an apocalypse which wiped out humanity. Like all of the Scalzi shorts, it is light, humorous, and animated in a stylized "Pixar-like" manner. There is no real violence or sexual content in this short, but a lot of risque language, with one of the robots dropping motherfuckers consistently. It's light and amusing.

    The Witness: One of the few shorts not based upon an existing story, this focuses upon a woman in what appears to be Hong Kong who witnesses a murder and then runs for her life. The animation style is the one thing which makes the short interesting - it's stylized without seeming cartoonish. The negative of this short is the woman in question works as a stripper, actually engages in an erotic dance in the middle of the short, and generally runs around Hong Kong almost naked the entire time, which just comes across as exploitation. Unlike some of the other skits, the violence itself is mostly not shown onscreen however. The short is okay.

    Suits: This is the first of the 2D-style, traditionally animated shorts, and has a pretty unique, bright and crisp style which helps set it apart. It focuses upon a group of "hick" farmers (complete with southern accents and pickup trucks) who have to defend their farms against an insectile horde via giant mecha. It's a pretty straight-ahead combat scenario, but with a touch of heart at the end - albeit in a hackneyed cliche manner. The "adult content" is relatively low here and works well - we see some alien bugs and cows die in a gory manner, but thankfully we don't have to witness humans getting torn apart. I like it for what it is, which admittedly isn't much.

    Sucker of Souls: Probably my least favorite of the stories, focusing on an archaeological dig (with some heavy firepower backing it up) which finds a nest of vampires - only they don't actually look like vampires, more like demons from hell. The animation style is 2D - basically reminding me of anime from 30 years ago. There's really nothing to distinguish it from the average shitty cartoon except for a really gory death scene early on in the short, and lots of profanity.

    When the Yogurt Took Over: The second Scalzi short, which is again lightly humorous and animated Pixar style. It's essentially just a narration of how scientists accidentally created a sentient yogurt culture which then went on to be the dominant form of life on Earth. What makes the story is the narration is done by Maurice LaMarche - most well known for doing the voice of The Brain from Animaniacs, along with doing one of the best Orson Welles impressions in showbiz. The story thankfully lacks any sex, gore, or profanity. It's just weird and cute.

    Beyond the Aquila Rift: Based upon an Alistair Reynolds story, this short focuses upon a ship making an interstellar jump whose routing error causes them to end up in an unexpected location. This is the first of several highly realistic animations - to the point that the characters come very, very close to fooling you in a few scenes, but some of the faces (particularly that of the protagonist, for some reason) are still just a bit too far off, making it more uncanny valley than anything. The story itself is a nice hard science-fiction story with a horror twist at the very end.

    Good Hunting: This story is based upon a Ken Liu story, and has a very elegantly produced 2D animation style. The story begins with a father and son who are monster hunters in what appears to be premodern China, hunting a Huli Jing. The story follows the son for decades following however, and it becomes clear that the world within the story is developing upon steampunk lines, with the protagonist eventually becoming a master constructor of automatons. I don't want to give too much of the story away, because it's either the best or the second best of the shorts, and you should see it for yourself. The only issue I have with the short is there's some excessive use of graphic violence and nudity that really weren't required for story purposes.

    The Dump: A "Pixar" style light story, focusing on a man who has lived in a dump for many years, an inspector there to kick him out, and an eldritch beast which has become a pet of sorts for him. I didn't particularly like this short much - I felt like at times it was going out of its way not really to be gory, but just to be gross.

    Shape-Shifters: What if both the U.S. and the Taliban had access to werewolves in the the War in Afghanistan who served openly? This short attempts to explore that question. I'd heard of Military Science Fiction, but Military fantasy? This is another photo-realistic 3D animated short, again with a mixture of completely convincing and uncanny valley shots. There's a lot of graphic violence, but this isn't surprising considering it's about werewolves battling. It's fine for what it is, if you like war stories.

    Helping Hand: A single astronaut, while in a spacewalk, suffers a collision with a piece of orbiting junk and must make quick decisions in order to save her life. The short itself is photo-realistic and done in a much more convincing style than the last few. There are, however, a couple of big fuckups regarding the science of what being stranded in space is like which make it hard for me to enjoy it completely. That said, the story at least treats me like an adult, unlike some of the other shorts, with only appropriate levels of foul language (and a tiny bit of body horror) .

    Fish Night: Two traveling salesmen have their car break down in the middle of the desert in Arizona. Overnight, they end up being "haunted" by the ghosts of numerous extinct ocean animals from various eras. The 2D animation here is absolutely beautiful, and the team did a fair amount of work having biologically accurate models of extinct life. There's not much story here, but you don't need one for 10-minute short.

    Lucky 13: This military sci-fi story focuses upon the bond between a pilot and her dropship, which may or may not be self-aware. The photo-realistic animation is great for the main character, completely making me think it's an actual filmed scene, but oddly in some of the other characters the mouth movements do not match up with the dialogue properly. Regardless, it's a pretty straight-ahead war story with little in the way of twists, and restricts itself to appropriate levels of gore for a story that takes place in a war zone.

    Zima Blue: The second Alistair Reynolds short has a very different animated style, being two dimensional. The entire short only has two characters - a woman going to interview a famous future artist named Zima Blue, and Zima Blue himself. The latter had a very familiar - and wonderful - voice. I looked him up and it's Kevin Michael Richardson - most known to me because he voiced several characters in the Baldur's Gate trilogy (including the narrator and Sarevok), but he's kept quite busy over the decades. Regardless, this is a great story with heart - one of the best of the entire series. It's also notably lacking in any violence, sexual content, or profanity attempting to make it "grown up."

    Blindspot: A 2D-style animated short with a team of four cyborgs attempting a heist. Unlike most of the other shorts, it's not based upon a story by anyone. Aside from a bit of gore (if you can call fluid spurting out of robots gore) and some PG-13 language, this could easily be a kid's cartoon. It's really not that good.

    Ice Age: Based upon a short story by Michael Swanwick, this is the only short where any portion is live action. In it a guy played by Topher Grace and his wife/girlfriend discover an entire tiny civilization which is evolving at an accelerated rate living inside an old fridge in the apartment they just moved into. This story is really just about the cool visuals and the oddly blase way that the couple react to the finding. It's cute and worth watching.

    Alternate Histories: The last of the Scalzi shorts again is humorous and has a stylized, Pixar-like style. It focuses on six, increasingly ridiculous ways that Hitler could have been killed in one particular day well before his rise to power, and how they would have effected history. Though there is some level of cartoon violence and even a sex scene, the purposefully childish animation style means they just come across as ridiculous.

    Secret War: The focus of the final short is a battle between a small platoon of Soviet forces and what appear to be demons from hell in Siberia during WW2. Like some of the earlier stories, this is photo-realistic, which means we're in for a ton of very real looking gore. A lot of work also went into constructing a very foreboding winter landscape however, which meant that there was much more of a genuine sense of tension in this short than some of the others. It's wort seeing, though honestly it was one of the shorts that would have done quite well to be expanded well past its 16 minutes, because the short had many characters which were barely given any characteristics at all in the short time they were onscreen.

    Anyway, on the whole, worth watching (though a few shorts were meh). I hope Netflix does more of these, and expands the type of stories they do so there aren't so many purile/juvenile ones which confuse gore/T&A for being adult.
     
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  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Doesn't Game of Thrones have lots of gore, profanity, and sex? That's considered to be an adult show, isn't it? And there are a number of similarly adult shows on Netflix with graphic content, like Altered Carbon and Marco Polo. So I'm puzzled by this perception.

    Also, I think if they were only pandering to adolescent (and presumably heterosexual) male gaze, there wouldn't be as much male nudity as there is. Although it's true that the male nudity is more often in non-sexual contexts.


    Oh, I didn't realize that. I got the impression from the short that it was more some sort of cyborg interface.


    What's Hamilton's writing like? I've been seeking out the original stories by writers I'm already familiar with -- I mentioned getting the Ken Liu and Alastair Reynolds collections from the library -- but I don't think I've ever read Hamilton. Wikipedia says he largely writes space opera, but what's it like stylistically?


    No, Suits is 3D-animated, but with surface textures that make it look "painted" and a reduced frame rate that mimics 2D or stop-motion animation (something that's common in Japanese 3D animation like Batman Ninja, and is also done in Netflix's The Dragon Prince). I'm not crazy about the reduced frame rate, but it looks great otherwise.


    And a fully frontally nude male vampire.


    There's one brief shot of a topless female protestor, but the character designs are so unrealistic that it can hardly be considered sexy.


    My disappointment is that the depictions of space were not at all realistic, just the usual ultra-cluttered, fanciful space scenes that have become far too common in film and TV. Reynolds is a hard-SF writer and the astronomical formations mentioned in the story are real galactic geography, so it's a shame that the animators went to such care to make the people and equipment look realistic but just went for fantasy with the spacescapes and galaxy maps.


    I think it would be considered military horror rather than fantasy. I guess military fiction and horror are a pretty natural pairing, given that they both deal so heavily with violence, fear, and death. And a lot of '50s horror movies involved the military battling the featured monsters, like Them! or Tarantula or Godzilla.


    I linked to the full original story earlier in the thread, and though it's pretty short, it's a much richer and more coherent story than this version. The animators focused on pretty pictures at the expense of everything else.


    I didn't get any sense of self-awareness beyond 2-3 token shots of the ship's camera "eye" focusing on people, which had no impact on the story. As I said, you could've told this exact same story in a WWII setting, with the vague anthropomorphism of the aircraft being just the characters' superstition. My least favorite kind of science fiction is the kind that doesn't have to be science fiction, that's just an ordinary story with surface trappings of SF.


    Richardson is one of the greatest voice actors of all time, with a magnificent voice that he can do just about anything with -- a truly amazing range. I'm surprised they only used him in one short.


    Turns out that this is another one where the original story is online:

    https://subterraneanpress.com/magaz..._futures_1_alternate_history_search_results_b

    They simplified the title -- the story is called "Missives from Possible Futures #1: Alternate History Search Results." Surprisingly, even though it's a very, very short story, the animated version simplifies the opening text a great deal. It also has two fewer death scenarios and simplifies/alters a number of them. The warring-time-travelers version in the original story is a lot more fun than the adapted version.

    Also, here's Scalzi talking about the show on his blog: https://whatever.scalzi.com/2019/03/18/me-and-love-death-and-robots/


    I found it one of the most boring and shallow shorts, but then, I have zero interest in military fiction.


    I still say there's nothing intrinsically bad about sexual content or nudity; it's just a question of how you approach it. And the advantage of animated nudity is that there are no real people involved who might be uncomfortable or embarrassed with their exposure.

    But it would help a lot if they got more female writers, directors, and artists on board for subsequent seasons. Only "Sucker of Souls" and "Helping Hand" were based on stories by female authors (Kirsten Cross and Claudine Griggs, respectively), but they were both adapted for the screen by Philip Gelatt. The only credited screenwriter who seems to have a female name is Janis Robertson (who adapted the yogurt story). "Aquila Rift" has a director named Dominique Boidin, but apparently that can be a male name in French. I can't find confirmation either way online. Other than that, all the directors were male.
     
  16. eschaton

    eschaton Commodore Commodore

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    Game of Thrones was kinda lambasted in the early seasons for how much gratuitous sex there was - though admittedly it had been normal on HBO shows for some time. One of the few things that has improved about the show is they don't feel the need put pointless sex scenes in to get people interested.

    I haven't watched Marco Polo, but there was indeed a lot of graphic content in Altered Carbon. My understanding is if anything they toned it down from the book however.

    Yeah, the male nudity was almost entirely depicted in a comical/gross fashion. Beyond the Aquila Rift may have been the only short which depicted a male body in a sexualized manner, and it was basically shot "Cinemax" style, making it pretty softcore.

    I've read most of his books, and I have very mixed feelings about him. When he chooses to do far out there sci-fi about alien worlds, he can be quite entertaining. But he seems to have (my my standards) pretty bad politics and a weird sexist streak, repeatedly writing stories which focus on multi-billionaires who have harems. In pretty much all of his longer-form works, there's elements of the stories I like, and other elements I hate. In terms of prose he's a step or two above someone like Kevin J Anderson, but he's clearly not on the literary side of science fiction.

    Well, maybe the sector of space that the ship ended up in (despite being outside the galaxy) just happens to be very cluttered? I agree it seemed odd - particularly once you discovered the setting.

    It's hard to tell the difference these days, because so much "supernatural fiction" uses horror tropes like vampires and werewolves, but doesn't actually focus on instilling fear in the reader. The intent of the story was more along the military fiction lines (showing the brutality of war, and the character arc of a single soldier, along with examining the outsider status of werewolves in the fictional world. Thus I wouldn't really call it horror.

    The "eye" shots were clearly supposed to make us think the ship was always watching. The delayed self-destruct also implied intent - that the ship was self-aware and wanted to ensure his pilot had the best chance for survival.

    That said, if it wasn't for the CGI (which was the most realistic of the series, IMHO) this would be a forgettable short.

    I'm guessing casting decision were left up to the individual directors.

    As I said, the main flaw seemed to be it was too short. Unlike the werewolf short, which basically only had two characters, this short attempted to have four (the father, son, native guide, and big guy), plus background extras. There simply isn't enough time in a short to have a story which focuses on more than one or two characters, which made this short kinda a failure.
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I wouldn't say that. The nudity in "Shape-Shifters" and "Fish Night" was totally matter-of-fact -- it just happened that the men had reason to take off all their clothes, and the camera didn't shy away from it.


    There are a couple of shots of graphic male nudity in "Good Hunting" -- indeed, more explicit than any of the female nudity, since the only depiction of female genitalia in any of the shorts is a couple of brief glimpses of the outer labia. The contexts there are definitely sexual, though as you say, it comes off more as comical or grotesque than erotic.


    Okay, thanks. I have no interest in "literary" fiction, but it doesn't sound like I should rush out to pick up any Hamilton books.


    I don't think it was outside the galaxy, just well beyond known space. The galaxy is really, really huge. The Aquila Rift is only about 1400 light-years away, less than 2 percent of the galaxy's diameter, and it's within the galactic plane.

    And I wan't just talking about the shots out the window, though those certain were fanciful. The holographic star maps they showed also didn't seem that accurate to me, though I couldn't be sure.


    Sure, there are always gradations and overlaps, but my point is that werewolves and demons are traditionally subjects of horror fiction, and it seems to me that military and horror fiction have been known to overlap before. Certainly there are plenty of video games about soldiers fighting zombies or demons or whatever, and there's a video game influence to a number of these combat-driven shorts.


    Yes, of course, but as you say, they were only implications that were left ambiguous. There have been many other war stories along these same lines, in both fiction and real life -- stories about sailors and pilots romanticizing their vessels, insisting that they had a soul and personality and that it was the spirit of the vehicle itself that helped them win or survive against all odds. Or there are "a guy and his car" stories where the car endures impossibly against all odds to hold together and win the race or reach its destination, as if it had a will of its own. Lots of stories romanticize and personify vehicles without AI being involved, so including an AI didn't add anything new to the genre beyond making it slightly more literal.
     
  18. SpocksOddSocks

    SpocksOddSocks Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    That one was my favourite. It helped that we got Exploding Kittens at Christmas.
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Mar 15, 2001
    Okay, the Alastair Reynolds collection containing "Beyond the Aquila Rift" (also the title of the collection) and "Zima Blue" has arrived -- and it's huge, a cinderblock in a dust jacket. There are 18 stories in it all told, though I've only read those two so far.

    As I said before, I wondered if the "Rift" adaptation had changed the ending to go more for horror. Well, yes and no. The story ends on roughly the same plot beat, but the adaptation does definitely play it as a more horrific moment. Also, the plot of the story is considerably simplified. There's a whole backstory about the transportation network being a relic of long-gone aliens. The relationship between Thom and Greta is more complicated and gradual in the story, and there's a reason she waits until they sleep together before telling him the truth. The adaptation spends a lot more time focusing on their lovemaking and extends their near-nudity into the exposition afterward, which the story didn't do.

    I commented on my disappointment that the episode didn't bother to portray galactic geography right, and that's compounded now that I've read the story, because the story talks a lot about galactic geography and how it looks; indeed, to a large extent, the plot is kind of an excuse for Reynolds to geek out about how cool the galaxy is. And that's just one aspect in which the visuals suggested by Reynolds's prose are much, much cooler and more imaginative than the rather run-of-the-mill scenery and hardware designs in the episode. For instance, the story's ships are covered in intricate, movable hex grids that form alien "runes" that the surge network reads as "routing syntax" telling it where to send the ships. The description of the alien tech in the surge point itself sounds a lot prettier than what we got. The secondary characters' surge tanks have personalized paintings on them, which give them more character and actually prove plot-relevant. And several of the Thom-Greta scenes are in a restaurant with an overhead holographic dome showing an enhanced view of the galaxy that sounds so much cooler, as well as so much more realistic, than the cliched jumble of asteroids out a window in the episode. Really, given that the makers of these shorts were presumably looking for stories that offered striking visual possibilities, it's startling that the animators here ignored the imaginative descriptions in the story in favor of far more mundane visuals. Maybe they budgeted so much for the photorealistic character animation that they had to settle for more generic scenery and hardware, but that's just wasting the story's visual potential.


    "Zima Blue" is more faithful to the original story, and even quotes passages of the story's text fairly directly. But it still leaves out a lot that added more depth to the characters. The story has more focus on what was only hinted at briefly in the short, that Zima's art was a search to understand his long-forgotten origins and figure out why that shade of blue was so important to him. And that's prefaced by a conversation between Zima and the reporter (Carrie Clay in the story, Claire in the episode for some reason) about the nature of memory and the value of its fallibility. So it's a more personal and philosophical narrative, but talkier in a way that might not have translated well to the screen. The short also makes an alteration to Zima's final act, but one that works better visually and makes the moment more striking. It's a much more successful adaptation overall, though it could've stood to spend a bit more time with the characters.

    One cool thing about the adaptation is that it changes the long-ago robot inventor from a man to a woman (of color, no less). A nice bit of added inclusion in a series that overall is a bit lacking in diversity.
     
  20. 777

    777 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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