Tag Archives: sci-fi

Web Shows Trek Past Sci-Fi’s Color Line

By Guest Contributor Aymar Jean Christian, cross-posted from Televisual

From Blacula to Sleep Dealer, filmmakers of color have always been interested in science fiction and fantasy. But these days in Hollywood, sci-fi/fantasy films demand big budgets, and it seems like only Will Smith and Denzel Washington are powerful enough to greenlight a genre film starring an actor of color. The rare project that pushes boundaries can often go unnoticed: stellar alien invasion flick Attack the Block won over critics but couldn’t find an audience here in the States (please see it!).

Of course, on the web, things are different. While most web series are comedies and soaps, a number of creators are bucking conventional wisdom and creating stories for the black, latino and Asian sci-fi fans.

Last month, Al Thompson’s Odessa won big at the New York Television Festival — a development deal with SyFy — and released a well-financed drama, Osiris. Odessa follows the story of a father and daughter with super powers running from the bad guys whose experiments created their abilities; Osiris follows a man who is immortal.

While those two series are among the more sophisticated series to hit the web, I’ve been noticing a string of shows over the past two years looking to break the sci-fi color line. As costs for simple special effects go down, independents can afford to simulate space ships, alien worlds and laser beams. And creators are using low-cost production to diversify the space in numerous ways, adding female leads and blending genres (horror, comedy, thriller, surrealism).

There’s an artistic tradition here. From Samuel Delany to Octavia Butler, sci-fi has long attracted society’s outsiders, who use the imaginative potential of fantasy to create utopian or dystopian worlds and interrogate contemporary culture and politics.

And the audiences are there, enough so that most high profile sci-fi TV shows and films take pains to include at least one character of color. Star Trek (TV and movies) is the classic example, and continues today with shows from Alphas and Falling Skies to Battlestar Galactica and now even Game of Thrones (look out for season two!).

Below I’ve listed what shows I could find in alphabetical order. Please let me know if I’m missing an important or great series out there!

Continue reading

Streets Afire: The Racialicious Review of Attack The Block

By Guest Contributor Emma Felber

Telling the story of the night aliens came to the hood, Attack the Block juxtaposes homicidal extraterrestrials with gangs of disaffected black and mixed-race teenagers in housing estates in the same way its’ sibling-in-production Shaun of the Dead, pitted zombies against twentysomething white everydudes.

Like Simon Pegg’s Shaun, who seemed to be sleepwalking through life until waking up to find everyone trying to eat his brain, these kids from the block are living a story of alienation and violence when they’re plunged head first into serious bloodshed – with serious aliens. But when it becomes clear there’s a battle to be fought, they’re first out to defend their homes. After all, with fireworks, samurai swords, machetes, baseball bats and daring on hand, they’re equipped for it – and practised. “Walking around expecting to get jumped at any moment?” one quips. “Feels like a normal day in the endz to me, blud.”

SPOILERS AHEAD

Continue reading

Race + Sci-Fi: ‘Blackstar Warrior’ and the ‘real’ life story of Lando Calrissian

By Arturo R. García

I don’t know about you, but I could get used to seeing Han Solo as an incompetent sidekick.

In the mock (slightly NSFW – skimpy clothing) trailer for “Blackstar Warrior,” we see a “lost” story from the Star Wars universe, where Lando Calrissian gets to shine in a blaxploi-riffic shoot ‘em up, even facing down Darth Vader himself.

Lando is one of those characters who became popular despite a relative lack of screen time in George Lucas’ original trilogy; a quick Wiki check shows he’s been remembered well-enough in pop-culture to become a popular point of reference. But a look at the series’ “expanded universe” -  the various books based on the films – shows Calrissian as a much bigger player in a galaxy far, far away. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Continue reading

A Game Of Inches: The Racialicious Roundtable For Flashforward 1.17

Hosted by Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

1x171

So, judging by last week’s responses, the future isn’t bright for this show, is it? Or was it something we said? Gang, what do you think?

jen*: That, or everyone was just thinking, “mmm. Cho.”
Diana: I was disappointed, but maybe this week will be better.
Mahsino: yeaaah. maybe it’s a proportional reflection of the decline in ratings?
Andrea: Mmmmmm. Cho.

In some ways, it’s a pity, as this episode was an example of the writers giving us more of what we’ve been after – a clear-cut story focused on action and possible consequences.
jen*: Um, Yeah! Is it really too much to ask to get this on the regular? Are shows just focused on the season open and then a 4-ep build to the finale? Cuz if that’s the case, I can skip the midseason and take up a craft.
Diana: Jen, it’s not too much to ask. But if you do start crafting, may I suggest knitting. You can throw one of the needles at the tv if you need to and not miss a stitch.
jen*: You know, I always did wanna learn how to knit…
Mahsino: I make and elaborately decorate cupcakes, but I hear knitting is nice too. But yeah, I haven’t even been as into an episode as this one. Continue reading

Dear Joss Whedon: We Found You A Wasp

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García
dichenwasp

As of press time, the majority of the geek world was bracing for a big fat win, in the form of confirmation that Buffy mastermind Joss Whedon would be directing Marvel’s Avengers film adaptation – the culmination of the company’s attempt to create a shared film universe. Both Deadline and Variety have said, basically, that it’s all over but the champagne at this point.

Samuel L. Jackson’s presence as Nick Fury is all but a lock in this film, since he’s been the guy pulling these disparate heroes – Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and perhaps The Hulk & The Black Widow – together. But given Whedon’s predilection for casting familiar faces, there’s potentially a great opportunity here to cast Dollhouse vet Dichen Lachman as Janet Van Dyne, aka The Wasp, long established in canon as one of the team’s founding members, and had one of the longest relationships in both Marvel Universes with Henry Pym.

I say “both” because in the (alternate) Marvel Ultimate U., Janet is of (vague) Asian descent, and a holder of two doctorates. And the Jackson version of Fury’s character also originated in the Ultimate ‘verse. Though Whedon’s issues with representing Asian culture are well-documented, Lachman’s ability to steal the show on Dollhouse and the relatively neutral nature of the Avengers setting – it’s a military-industrial complex, sure, but at least the decor isn’t refried Geisha – would seem to insulate the character against at least some questionable characterization. Here’s to hoping. And to starting an anti-cancellation petition, just in case.

image courtesy of Rich Lovatt

**********
lizten1

One more fandom note: I won’t put up any Doctor Who spoilers, since the show will barely start airing in the U.S. this coming weekend, but I will recommend you check out next week’s episode, “The Beast Below,” featuring Sophie Okonedo as Liz Ten. I mean, come on, she rocks a cloak and twin hand-cannons. And she instantly joins the ranks of Characters Who Need Their Own Series Right Now.

image courtesy of Bleeding Cool

Guillermo del Toro Looks Toward The Future

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

deltoro1

Guillermo del Toro entered the geek radar with Blade II in 2002. Seven years later, the Guadalajara native has seen his stock rise even while he’s stuck to the realm of the fantastic, thanks to the success of the Hellboy series and Pan’s Labyrinth. This month, in an interview in Wired magazine, Del Toro hit back at those who would dismiss him as a filmmaker catering to a geekier crowd:

People think because you love genre you don’t know anything else. It’s condescending. If the emotion is provoked and the goals are achieved, what does it matter? Is Thomas Pynchon a more worthy read than Stephen King? It depends on the afternoon. And I love Kurt Vonnegut. He threads the profane and irreverent with the profound and soul-searing.

deltoro2Even while praising him, though, Wired’s Scott Brown seems to ignore del Toro’s statement; Brown refers to him as a “schlock-meister” twice in the article, and uses the term “pasty indoor kid” to contrast del Toro with friends and fellow directors Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Thankfully, though he’s determined to hang an asterisk onto del Toro’s success, even Brown concludes, “Suddenly, we’re looking down the barrel of the Del Toro Decade,” citing a list of projects that includes:

* A vampire-oriented novel, The Strain, written with Chuck Hogan and which presumably doesn’t include shiny skin
* The film adaptation for The Hobbit, a two-film project he was selected for by Lord Of The Rings mastermind Peter Jackson
* A new movie version of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five

During the interview, del Toro also says the day is coming for a new, pan-media form of story telling, encompassing film, television, print, video and even video games:

We are used to thinking of stories in a linear way—act one, act two, act three. We’re still on the Aristotelian model. What the digital approach allows you to do is take a tangential and nonlinear model and use it to expand the world. For example: If you’re following Leo Bloom from Ulysses on a certain day and he crosses a street, you can abandon him and follow someone else.

Video games seem to figure heavily in del Toro’s vision of this “single platform” future: he says “the Citizen Kane of games” will come about during the next ten years.

“We’re using [non-linear storytelling technology] just to shoot people and run over old ladies,” del Toro says. “We could be doing so much more.”

‘Blade Runner’ and race

by guest contributor Manish, originally published at Ultrabrown

In Blade Runner: The Final Cut, the 25th anniversary edition of that seminal film, little-known indie director Ridley Scott (A Good Year, Black Rain) uses yellow panic to convey a dystopian future. Impenetrable Chinese and kanji ideographs and Arabic vocals from the Brian Eno track ‘Quran’ signify a future where Earth is crumbling, most have moved off-world, and the seedy neighborhoods left behind are non-European. In Blade Runner, white flight means leaving for the sub-orbs.

In one scene, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) chases a replicant down a crowded street, pushing his way through a group of Hare Krishnas. The world may be run by spinners, androids, implants and megacorps, but like cockroaches, Krishnas and Chinese noodles survive. Make way, make way; Deckard locates and blasts Joanna Cassidy, in a scene reshot with the aging actress specifically for the final cut.

Deckard later tracks down a clue, decorative scales from an artificial snake. The music switches to tabla and desi vocals as he shakes down the Muslim proprietor. Paul Oakenfold sampled other parts of the soundtrack in ‘Goa Mix’ (’94). Artless though it is, Blade Runner’s multiculti melange is even today far ahead of ultrawhite sci-fi/fantasy films like E.T. (which crushed Blade Runner on their head-to-head opening weekend), Star Wars, and the modern-day Lord of the Rings. The only sci-fi films I’ve seen recently which were as multiculti were Serenity and Sunshine.

* * * * *

Blade Runner has held up remarkably well over time. It’s still gripping and panoramic and ambitious in a way not often attempted in sci-fi these days. Its atmospherics were remarkable. It was the Half-Life 2 of its time in terms of immersive, spooky audio and visuals; today, PC games are the new Blade Runner. The film’s models look great, non-CGI-fakey. With physical models, getting the lighting and physics right is pretty much automatic.

Later movies freely pinched from key scenes in Blade Runner. Silas in The Da Vinci Code was ripped from Rutger Hauer’s white-haired Jesus figure, complete with crucifixion reference. Daryl Hannah’s leotarded replicant crushes Ford’s neck between her thighs. The scene was gleefully echoed by Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp in Goldeneye.

The ghostly, omnipresent advertising blimp showed up later as the floating zeppelin in Æon Flux. Hide-and-seek with living toys and assassins with calling cards have become fright flick staples. ‘Time to die,’ uttered twice in different contexts, is now a survival horror catchphrase. Blade Runner’s even got its very own ‘Han shot first‘ fanböi squabble, the unicorn scene. Continue reading