Detail of a promotional poster for the Nigerian cyberpunk movie 'Kajola' (Akinmolayan 2010)
Finally Africa! In 2005 I learned that cyberpunk literature offers a platform for the issues of Latin America (Toledano Redondo 2005), and five years later the existence of a literary steampunk scene in Brazil (Lori-Ribeiro & Silva 2010) came to my knowledge. What’s apt for the Latin American World seems to be apt for Africa, too. Jonathan Dotse, an IT student and science-fiction writer living in Accra, Ghana, runs the blog AfroCyberPunk, which

is here to explore the possibilities of African science fiction and to expose it’s immense creative potential to the world. For too long, science fiction has failed to make a presence in African literature, confining African creativity to the present and past.
    Science fiction has had significant impact on the technological development of the industrialized societies, and there is no reason why it cannot do the same for Africa. Wherever in the world you find yourself, my intention is to get you thinking about the direction in which Africa is heading and use this as a lens to alter your perspective of the continent today.

Jonathan is currently working on his ‘debut novel, a cyberpunk mystery/thriller set in the sprawling metropolis of Accra in the middle of the 21st century.’ Here are the closing paragraphs of his recent article Developing world: Beyond the frontiers of science fiction published at IEET:

Since I began writing my novel more than two years ago, the story has undergone a transformation which parallels the same trend that I see beginning in science fiction; a bold move out of largely familiar territory towards the developing worlds on the frontiers of the contemporary imagination. This article from The Independent sums up my sentiments quite succinctly, citing Nnedi Okorafor, Ian MacDonald, Lauren Beukes, Paolo Bacigalupi, and Alastair Reynolds as writers whose award-winning works herald a changing trend in the settings of contemporary science fiction novels, while District 9 and Kajola represent noteworthy attempts by African movie-makers to break into the science fiction genre. Through the course of this decade, we can expect to witness the emergence of a new brand of science fiction; one which makes the developing world central—rather than peripheral—to its narrative.
    It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the future will not be a monopoly of the current superpowers, but lies in the hands of tech-savvy youth from around the world, trying desperately to survive at all costs in an increasingly asymmetrical world. Youths from Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa represent the single largest subgroup of the human population, and with the aid of advanced technology they will go on to shape the geopolitical destiny of our civilization. Science fiction has a lot of catching up to do in order to chronicle this new frontier in which the developing world plays a defining role; a frontier that has been neglected by mainstream science fiction for just about long enough. I’m proud to count myself among the new wave of writers exploring the immense potential of developing world science fiction, and I now look to the future with a renewed sense of anticipation, because the future I’ve waited for all my life is finally coming home.

LODI-RIBEIRO, GERSON AND LUIS FILIPE SILVA (eds.). 2010. Vaporpunk: Relatos ‘steampunk’ publicado so as ordens de suas majestades. ?: Editora Draco.
TOLEDANO REDONDO, JUAN CARLOS. 2005. From socialist realism to anarchist-capitalism: Cuban cyberpunk. Science Fiction Studies 32(3): 442-466.
AfroCyberPunk via entry at kueperpunk—tnx!

human or mutant?

William Stryker was a U.S. soldier, after learning his child was a mutant he murdered his family and became a religious extremist and founder of the Purifiers, whose sole mission was to exterminate all mutants.
Radiolab carries a wonderful podcast on mutant rights:

Reporter Ike Sriskandarajah tells Jad and Robert a story about two international trade lawyers, Sherry Singer and Indie Singh, who noticed something interesting while looking at a book of tariff classifications. “Dolls,” which represent human beings, are taxed at almost twice the rate of “toys,” which represent something not human—such as robots, monsters, or demons. As soon as they read that, Sherry and Indie saw dollar signs. It just so happened that one of their clients, Marvel Comics, was importing its action figures as dolls. And one set of action figures really piqued Sherry and Indie’s interest: The X-MEN, normal humans who, at around puberty, start to change in ways that give them strange powers. […] That argument eventually became a court case that went on for years.

Here’s the 32-page opinion of the court, and, taking the Marvel universe into account, here is Tony ‘G-Man’ Guerrero’s résumé:

Mutants may have extraordinary abilities but it’s essential that they are able to retain their rights. At the same time, they should also be held to the same laws and standards. We’re reminded of the quote, “If You Cut Me, Do I Not Bleed?” It might be in Marvel’s best interest to have mutants designated as non-human but for the survival of mutants in the Marvel Universe, they need to be considered humans. They’re just humans that can do some pretty cool things.

via entry at boingboing

astronaut mike mullane

Detail of the cover of 'Riding Rockets' (Mullane 2006)
He promised it in a comment here, and made it true: The podcast JetHead live with astronaut Mike Mullane is online. Mike Mullane is a former NASA astronaut and author of the book Riding rockets: The outrageous tales of a space shuttle astronaut (2006). The tagline of JetHead’s interview with Mullane reads: ‘What’s it like to ride over 4 million pounds of explosive thrust into earth orbit? Three times?’ This gives an overall impression, but there’s more in the book and the podcast, e.g. Mullane’s evolution from a ‘male sexist pig’ [his own words] towards a human being ;-) Much more than just worthwhile—both, the book and the podcast interview. Additionally here’s Chris ‘JetHead’ Manno’s review of ‘Riding rockets.’

MULLANE, RICHARD MICHAEL ‘MIKE’. 2006. Riding rockets: The outrageous tales of a space shuttle astronaut. New York: Scribner.

where is it?

zeph’s pop culture quiz #16
Where is it?
In which city is the street in the picture? All right, I confess, the screencap is not from a recent movie, but it has a direct connection to a very recent one. And for those faithful readers—if any of them are left, that is—of ye ole xirdalium: I’ve been there once … long, long time ago.
    Just leave a comment with your educated guess—you can ask for additional hints, too. [Leaving a comment is easy; just click the ‘Leave a comment’ at the end of the post and fill in the form. If it’s the first time you post a comment, it will be held for moderation. But I am constantly checking, and once I’ve approved a comment, your next ones won’t be held, but published immediately by the system.]


motion pictures update

The motion pictures section in the cyberpunk menu has been substantially updated. I skimmed through all kinds of listings, online and print, of early science fiction movies and added the appropriate ones to my list—now it begins with the year 1907! The filmographical data now is complete for all entries until 1991, and for the 2010s. As soon as possible I’ll add the data for all the 1990s and 2000s rudimentary entries. But still I am not through with all the compilations I have my hands on. So the number of entries still will rise.


world builder

If I do remember correctly, it was KerLeone who years ago pointed me to Bruce Branit‘s magnificent short film ‘World Builder.’ This year Bruce was so kind to allow me to screen his film without any fee whatsoever and even let me have a true high definition version—tnx a lot! And, I can tell you, it was very well received! In addition I thought it to be a nice follow-up to glasshouse.

BRANIT, BRUCE. 2007. World builder [short film]. Kansas City: BranitFX.

radium age sf

The covers of three radium age sf novels republished by HiLoBooks
While reading Brian Aldiss‘Billion Year Spree: The True History of Science Fiction’ (1973) [a revised and expanded edition was published as ‘Trillion Year Spree’ (Aldiss & Wingrove 1986)] Joshua Glenn thought that Aldiss unfairly neglected the period from 1904 to 1933:

I’ve concluded that it’s an era of which science fiction historians and fans ought to be proud, not ashamed! I’ve dubbed this unfairly overlooked era science fiction’s “Radium Age” because the phenomenon of radioactivity—the 1903 discovery that matter is neither solid nor still and is, at least in part, a state of energy, constantly in movement — is a fitting metaphor for the first decades of the 20th century, during which old scientific, religious, political, and social certainties were shattered. I’m on a crusade to redeem this era’s reputation; […] Join the crusade!

Well, I already did join and am proud that on my barely started listing of cyberpunkish literature since the beginning there are three radium age titles: ‘The Iron Heel’ and ‘The Scarlet Plague’ by Jack London (1907 and 1910) and E. M. Forster’s The Machine Stops (1909). ‘The Scarlet Plague’ [which I haven’t read yet] is a favourite of Joshua’s, but he seems to have missed ‘The Iron Heel’ [with which I am halfway through]—highly recommended!
    In order to convert all of you into radium-age believers I urge you to read Joshua Glenn’s great essays. In his crusade Joshua goes well beyond just writing about the radium age:

I’ve enlisted two visionary bookfuturists (my HiLobrow colleague Matthew Battles, and publisher Richard Nash) and we’ve started HiLoBooks. This year, we’re serializing (at HiLobrow) and then publishing in paperback form six classics Radium Age science fiction titles. The first three—Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague, Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail, and Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt—are coming out this spring; they are available for pre-ordering now. Join the crusade!

ALDISS, BRIAN WILSON. 1973. Billion year spree: The true history of science fiction. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
ALDISS, BRIAN WILSON AND DAVID WINGROVE. 1986. Trillion year spree: The history of science fiction. New York: Atheneum.
FORSTER, EDWARD MORGAN. 1909. The machine stops. The Oxford and Cambridge Review 8.
KIPLING, JOSEPH RUDYARD. 1909. With the night mail: A story of 2000 A.D. New York: Doubleday, Page & Company.
LONDON, JOHN GRIFFITH ‘JACK’ (aka JOHN GRIFFITH CHANEY). 1907. The iron heel. New York: Macmillan.
LONDON, JOHN GRIFFITH ‘JACK’ (aka JOHN GRIFFITH CHANEY). 1910. The scarlet plague. New York: Macmillan.
via entry at boingboing

jet age machinery

With all the hype around information technology in all its guises as our times’ core technology, about virtual worlds and social media, Tim Heffernan’s The machines that made the Jet Age (a follow-up to his Iron Giant in the Atlantic) comes handy as a healthy reality check. Heffernan explains and stresses the role of gigantic forging presses as the machines that made the jet age possible. ‘This is the story of the birth of the Jet Age—but it’s anchored firmly to the ground:’
The magnificent machine pictured above is a closed-die forging press, one of the biggest in the world.
Isn’t it a wonderful irony [pun not intended] that in order to make machines as light as possible you do need incredibly heavy machines. I think that steampunk and related æsthetics serve as reminders to the reality of heavy machinery and hardware in general.


plug & pray

Detail of the promotional poster for the documentary 'Plug & Pray' (Schanze 2010)

Computer experts around the world, like Raymond Kurzweil and Hiroshi Ishiguro, strive towards the development of intelligent robots. Will man and machine merge as a single unity? Rejecting evolution’s biological shackles dangles the promise of eternal life for those bold enough to seize it. But Joseph Weizenbaum, a pioneer of the computer age, counter attacks against society’s limitless faith in the redemptive powers of technology. Filmed in the U.S.A., Japan, Germany, Italy.

Since antiquity, humankind has dreamed of creating intelligent machines. The invention of the computer and the breathtaking pace of technological progress appear to be bringing the realisation of this dream within our grasp. Scientists and engineers across the world, like Raymond Kurzweil and Hiroshi Ishiguro, are working on the development of intelligent robots, which are poised to become an integral part of all areas of human life. Robots are to do the housework, look after the children, care for the elderly… Yet, the ultimate vision goes even further, envisioning a merger of man and machine that will throw off the biological shackles of evolution and finally make eternal life a reality. The film delves into a world in which computer technology, robotics, biology, neuroscience, and developmental psychology merge. We visit the world’s leading experts in their laboratories in Japan, the USA, Italy and Germany. One of their very own, a pioneer of computer development and artificial intelligence, former MIT professor Joseph Weizenbaum, has become one of the harshest critics of those visions of technological omnipotence. He sees the widespread belief that nature can be entirely grasped by means of science and thus is computable as a disastrous aberration of human thinking. Weizenbaum, who created ELIZA, the world’s first speech recognition programme and mother of all chatbots, witnessed how, within only a few decades, computers have been entrusted with all kinds of tasks, even decision-making. Wary of unstinting devotion to progress, he keeps asking: Do we need all this? And what will it mean to be human in a world run by machines?

SCHANZE, JENS. 2010. Plug & pray [documentary film]. München, Berlin: Mascha Film, Farbfilm.