The Thing from Another World (Nyby 1951) haikus



These airforce men are
Such manly men’s men. That’s why
It’s called a cockpit.

When flyboys hit on
You, here is a tip: disarm
them through alcohol.

Drink him under the
Table, girl. Octopus hands
Flailing. Evaded.

Reproduction. Better than
Fucking a flyboy.

By computation.
That’s how we computed it.
By computation.

SOP. Beat ’em
Or thermite bomb ’em. They go
Up pretty easy.

Electric blanket
Blamed. Quartermaster facing

Chiefs of Staff issue
New regulations about:
Blankets, electric.

Seventeen people.
Academy ratio.
Medium shot. Awe.

No. It is not so
Much a super-carrot as
An above par-snip.

There’s only one way
To let a girl know you’re keen.
Flaming kerosene.

Show her how hot you
Are in bed. Torch the mattress
She’s hiding behind.

Carrington. New York
Jewish Commie Queer. And worse.
An intellectual.

Trumped by homophonic
Play on Ark and arc.

From outer space it
Came. To steal arctic footwear.
Keep watching the skis!


Margrét Helgadóttir’s The Stars Seem So Far Away (2015)

image7It starts off as little more than a vignette. Nora on the high seas turns stone killer when she needs to in order to survive.

Then it becomes a cycle of short stories. The world has warmed up. The ice has mostly gone. Humans and other animals (and plants) have died off in massive numbers. Cities built to house the enormous refugee populations in the former arctic regions now stand empty, more or less. Plague has taken its toll. Food is hard to come by, and so is trust.

Simik, leading a mission to destroy an old mine, is guided by the ghost of an arctic fox, though he cannot let his men know he is following a creature that probably does not actually exist.

Orphaned Aida in a nearly deserted city cares for the dying man who looked after her.

Orphaned Bjørg, with the aid of genetically engineered polar bears, protects the seed vault concealed on a remote island; things change when Simik shows up.

Zaki – Aida’s brother who deserted his family without explanation – runs into a not-exactly-Ballardian former astronaut turned hermit.

And then, as these characters converge, it becomes more clearly a novel.

All of the characters are haunted by loss, as is the post-climate change, post-mass-extinction, post-plague world through which they move. Both land and sea are more or less empty, desolate. The last genetically engineered killer whale is just a dissolving mass of corruption in a filthy tank.

If the world-building does not entirely make sense, there is already more than enough deadeningly literal, rigorously extrapolated climate-change fiction out there. Helgadóttir seems much more interested in grieving for the world that, frankly, we have already lost; and in trying to re-enchant what remains so that it will be cherished and sustained.

This is why slightly unusual the structure works so well. The characters – and the novel – move from profound disconnection to reconnection. To friendship and community and to hope.

And to a rather YA-ish conclusion in which the stars suddenly do not any longer seem quite so very far away for the youthful cast (although for a curmudgeon like me, the mild sense of dissatisfaction with this was redeemed by the final lines, which sweetly award the final moment of hopeful connection to the oldsters).


Thanks to Margrét for sending me a copy after I wrote about the African Monsters collection she co-edited.

Tomorrowland (Brad Bird 2015)

mv5bmtq0mdc5mjaynf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmzu5mzk1nje-_v1_uy1200_cr9406301200_al_and so anyway it turns out that the best thing about Tomorrowland (2015) is not the way it squeezes in an extra two or three acts in between the second and third act, nor is it the way the mathematics of it all make no sense if you have even the vaguest sense of how old George Clooney is, or the way in which he doubles down on his inability to spend time with women his own age – underscored a couple of years earlier by the extremes to which he went to get away from Sandra Bullock in Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón 2013) –  by sharing some only slightly creepy emotional scenes with the one-fifth-his-age love of his life, but the way in which they left in the naff Indiana Jones jokes from the draft of the script before they decided Harrison Ford was too old for the maths of the film to make sense or to be having big emotional scenes about thwarted love with girls one-seventh his age cos that would be, y’know, slightly creepy…

Andy Weir’s The Martian

themartian_zpsc1c61b75and so anyway it turns out that reading The Martian – Andy Weir’s nostalgic utopia about a world in which when things are broken you can just pop the hood, roll up your sleeves and fix them – is a lot like reading someone else’s to-do lists, with none of the how will I ever get all of this done? thrills and suspense of your own to-do lists and without any of the satisfaction of being able to cross things off…

Not so much science fiction as checklist fiction.

Things I have learned from the movies: The Gift (Edgerton 2015)

The_Gift_2015_Film_Poster1That any two guys, no matter how big the differences between them – say, decades ago, back in high school, one of them lied about the other being gay, which resulted in endless bullying and the poor kid nearly being killed by his own father – can learn to get along. Even if the former victim must drug, rape and impregnate the wife of his former tormentor to make him confront the truth about the past and the flaws within himself.[1]

A heart-warming tale of two men learning to forgive each other and move on with their lives.

[1] But did he actually rape and impregnate her? Whooo-oooo, you’ll never actually know for sure. Which I guess makes it okay. Sort of. As long as, either way, the wife is always merely the mere terrain on which the two guys work out their conflict. Anything more would be political correctness gone mad!

Things I have learned from the movies: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (Lawrence 2015)

Mockingjay_Part_2_PosterWhen you have led a successful revolution and deposed a tyrant, you should not unnecessarily reveal that you intend merely to replace the tyrant and keep his system of state terror in place, nor, when subsequently presiding over the public execution of the former tyrant, should you elect to do so from a platform that, however elevated, is nonetheless in front of the firing squad, even if the firing squad is just a girl with a bow and arrow…

(Also, if you want to get the girl you can probably get away with using a second bomb to target rescue workers  as they go to the aid of those injured by the first bomb. But you need to make sure her kid sister is not one of the rescue workers, you lunkhead. That’s Friendzone 101, Gale, Friendzone 101.)

Things I have learned from the movies: The Machine (James 2013)

machinethat it is not in any way at all gratuitous when, from Metropolis (1927) onwards, robots in films are given the appearance of sexy ladies, but actually serves a genuinely vital purpose – as the sinister head (Denis Lawson) of a shadowy organisation notes, when one of his genius scientists (Toby Stephens) gives their robot the external appearance of the recently deceased sexy lady genius scientist (Caity Lotz), ‘glad that we give her tits … we could have had some confused lady-boy robot on our hands’.

So glad that’s finally sorted out.