Quietly Sprinting…Posted: June 23, 2010
In a fit of nostalgia I decided to watch of the old SF classic Silent Running. If you haven’t seen it’s a tale of a man, a sort-of space botanist, who is in charge of some space born biodomes which contain the last natural plant life of Earth. One day he and the crew receive the order to jettison (and destroy) their cargo. He rebels and attempts to save them.
That’s the essential story. Not much happens other than he anthropomorphises two robotic drones in his need for company. There’s also some interesting shots of Saturn (leftover from 2001 A Space Odyssey!).
In many ways this film reminded me of Moon by Duncan Jones. In fact Jones is on record saying that he was very much inspired by it; right down to the central themes of paranoia, loss and alienation. Also the film seems to lack a lot of tension and Dern’s acting is somewhat patchy and yet, despite this, I found myself thoroughly enjoying it; right down to being moved by the end (which I will not spoil).
It got me thinking. Good SF is not about “SF” – not rockets and rayguns – it’s about something else. There’s some enjoyment to be had out of pulpy novels and TV shows featuring chiselled jaws (and jawettes these days), one dimensional aliens and plots revolving around giant explosions but mostly because it’s ok to sometimes switch your brain off. However truly satisfying SF is very rich and it’s about something else. Frequently complex themes are explored in a mature, thought-provoking way painted onto the backdrop some otherworldly setting. In film we might say 2001, Solaris (especially the original) and maybe Bladerunner are good examples of SF being used to talk about what it means to be human. It seems rather odd to me that a genre that contains so much well-written philosophical discussion on the nature of things is shunned by the literary establishment as well as most general readers. This despite the fact that we live in the SF age…
I think this is a subject that I will have to return to at some point.