What should spaceships look like?

Good question isn’t it?

I once had an exchange over the latest Star Trek film and at one point my other correspondent said, “And another thing, I hate the way the Romulan ship looks like a big jumble of knives.”  I paraphrase but his problem was that the Romulan ship didn’t look like a “proper” spaceship.  Certainly not for the Trek universe.  I pointed out that we’re talking about a fanciful fantasy set in space… why shouldn’t the Romulan ship look like whatever it wants?

This week the BBC news service wonders the same thing, What Should Spaceships Look Like?

And today I thought I would watch 2001: A Space Odyssey again.  Kubrick‘s attention to detail in the ship designs he chose is impressive, I know that he hired staff from NASA to help.  There’s an obvious American feel to the space sections.  The machines all look as you would expect an American ship designer to turn out – almost rigidly functional – and there’s no mistaking that this is what spaceships should look like.  It’s almost a cliché.

You can even see a similar design ethos in the early Star Wars films:  clunky, rigid, spacey craft that nevertheless zip around at fantastic speeds.  It’s popularly known that they are a direct riposte to the sleek futurism of the Star Trek universe.

So what should a spaceship look like?

Well anything you like really.  It’s not like there are aerodynamic limitations in space.  There might be limitations based on whatever method of propulsion (rocket ships… need rockets and exhausts, but I think one of the most imaginative that I’ve ever seen is in the film The Fountain (of which I seem to be the only fan).  I’ve attached a pic to show it in its detail – but I think it clearly resembles the amniotic sac surrounding the Star Child at the end of 2001.. and bringing us back to the 60s once again.  Is there no escaping Stanley Kubrick?

The bubble looks a bit the amniotic sac of the Star Child at the end of 2001.

I’m guessing it’s time for bed.

Charlie Brooker has written a scathing review of the recent Norwegian bombings.

Charlie makes a great case for raising the journalist threat level to CRASS.

2 Comments on Writing

Checking through my blog subscriptions I came across two unread posts by Damien G Walter (sometime contributor to the Guardian).

Oh please GOD no STOP writing! (so much)

I’ve been wrestling with a bit of guilt recently.  I’ve been busy you see, far far too busy to sit down and write.  When I’ve not been busy I’ve felt that sort of ennui that just sucks the life out of anything creative that I attempt to do.  Wherever I look there are writers who talk about work in the same way I think about the day job – and I don’t mean the good day job either.  I mean the world of Dilbert or the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.  It’s all work, no play and little reward.   It’s the hand cranked world of the industrial revolution’s mills.  It’s a crazy crazy world that smells of excel spreadsheets and looking at the receipts.

And if this sounds like me raging at my own laziness you might be right.

But isn’t it dispiriting to think about a creative pursuit in terms of factory output?

And here’s a link to his second post:  Flash fiction is not the future.

What is Flash Fiction?  Flash fiction is really short fiction of about 50-1000 words.  Ish.  Something you can bang out in a couple of days and read over a cup of coffee on the way to work.

In summary Damien hopes that flash fiction is not the way of the future – that there’s a reason that people read novels.

I get where Damien is going with this one.  At lest year’s Edinburgh Book Festival I had to sit through a reading by one of the world’s foremost “short fiction” writers.  When they said short they meant flash fiction and they meant stuff that was more akin to [prose] poetry than anything that I recognised as a short story.  There were lots of people in comfortable jumpers sitting around nodding their heads and all the time I was thinking “What is it that I am missing?”

And the problem was the story experience.  It’s a bit like meeting a beautiful girl.  You start off thinking “lovely lovely” and then she ignores you for the smelly guy at the end of the bar and you think “is it me?”

And maybe it is, was and always will be me – but I put it to the world that sometimes it just can’t.

Scotland’s Amazing Comic Book Heroes

It seems that there’s some benefits to house sitting.

  • Nice food left in the fridge.
  • Quality plonk given as thanks.
  • 50″ plasma screen telly…

But really the best bit was stumbling across a short documentary about the influence of Scotland on modern comics.

Artworks Scotland:  Scotland’s Amazing Comic Book Heroes

This is an iplayer link so the program will not be available for long.

It was great.  I was a big fan of 2000Ad when I was a kid (stil am really) and  I’d never connected the dots between Oor Wullie and Judge Dredd.



The Weird Weird Weird world.

I’ve just read this amusing post by Charles Stross.  In summary a student has asked what his credentials are for writing about space science.  Stross correctly points out that he’s a SF author and that’s about that.  What’s weird is the student’s expectation that Stross should be qualified and be able to demonstrate those qualities. Here’s a quote of the most headscratching paragraph:

Your time is clearly very valuable, as you would rather argue with me over this than simply take a minute or two to state your credentials. Furthermore, I have no need to know the extent of your writings, I simply need to know if you are indeed certified to be considered a credible source on the topic. For instance, if your credible knowledge is on the topic of slaads and borrowing from George R. R. Martin, you are not considered a credible source on space colonization. So let me just ask you this, why should I believe your article has any rational basis, when for all I know now is your true expertise lies in the githyanki.

Mr Stross, I don’t know if you will ever read this post, but if you do, you have my sympathies.

I would be more surprised except this is the age of the Internet – or so everyone keeps telling me.  We’ve managed to create the biggest information repository ever seen and what do we fill it with?  Cats, Sex and a sense of entitlement.  Information has become so ubiquitous that people expect it to be there as reliably as the sun rises in the morning.  They expect,  if they want to know something, that the information should always be there.  And if it’s not, well this is the Age of the Internet… it should.  I see it all the time.

I moderate a couple of online forums and we frequently see students asking questions about some paper they need answers on.  Rather than do the research, students frequently turn up and ask some questions which amount to “I have a paper to write and I need you to supply the answers”.  And so I understand Charles Stross’s grumpiness.  If I were him then perhaps I would be even more direct but I suspect he has more patience.

The best description of the weird wide world in which we live is in this post by Neil Gaiman – taking fans apart for their… pushiness.  Enjoy!

Back there again…

I’ve been a fan of Tolkien for as long as I can remember.  I was quite sad when the Lord of the Rings came to an end back in the early 2000s and I’ve been eagerly waiting for news of the upcoming production.  Today I watched the first two production videos.

Here they are:



Ah, very good.

I’ve read that some people are disappointed that Del Toro isn’t doing the Hobbit films.  I’m not.  Despite Del Toro’s talent I wasn’t convinced that he was going to do The Hobbit properly.

I’m quite happy that Peter Jackson is back on the case.  I know the poor guy never wanted to make another Tolkein film but, realistically, who else was going to do it?

Let’s hope he does as good a job as he did with the Lord of the Rings!

How metric ruined rock music!

A while ago I had a play with customising the look and feel of Firefox.  I was so chuffed with my efforts that I even posted up some instructions.  Well, there is a downside to playing around with the dark arts of the web.  Around then I realised I couldn’t get my copy of Firefox to display certain aspects of the web the way I wanted them.  There was no localisation available so I installed a Greasemonkey script to Britify  settings.  Nothing looked that different and I forgot about it.  Sometime later I was looking for some information on a rock band….

And this had been happening for a while.  I dimly remembered hearing Trent Reznor had fallen out with his record company … well I thought it had something to do with that… and yet I couldn’t find ANYTHING about that anywhere.  It was driving me nuts.  Today I had a confused exchange with a friend where it finally dawned on my that my little script was turning any mention of imperial units metric.  I blame the French!

What is the moral of this story?

If you make a mistake, be up front about it –  no matter how foolish you look.  And keep a sense of humour about you.  You made a mistake, you made yourself look a tit, you may as well ‘fess up and deal with it.