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Science Fiction

Do you remember Sony's first cassette-based Walkman that was remarkably playing stereo audio magnetic tapes back in 80s? Yes, everybody had it at the time hanged on the belt with pair of shiny wires playing music directly to both ears in awesome stereo. Comparing to 21st century, who doesn't like the iPod, right? Well, not me. I never liked it and I always thought everybody was staring at me the moment I stepped out the house. Even today I am not using any mp3 players or iPods or smartphones for listening music on the go. I simply want to think while walking, it relaxes me and it's a great brain exercise.

But let me get back to the Walkman of the 80s. I had couple of those as well, but on occasions when I carried one from home to school I wasn't listening the pop music. I had that one audio cassette with complete audio track from the movie "Star Wars" and I am not talking about sound track accompanies the movies - it was the audio of the complete film, without acting and dialogues. I recognized all the scenes by the music on the tape and since I needed about 40 minutes walking from home to school I was able to visualize the whole movie by one school day counting both directions. I guess that was the time when my nerdiness begun and I am sure even Sheldon Cooper would be impressed with me listening the movie on the street. To be perfectly honest, listening the movie background audio is not that bad, actually, it's like a story told by orchestra and even if I didn't watch the movie before it would be equally amazing experience. Listening the movie with dialogues and acting would not be so fun though.

This was a nice memory from my high school days but my first encounter with Science Fiction dated couple of years earlier. I was still a young boy in final grade of elementary school when I discovered a "Science Fiction" section within a small library of our local community center. Actually it was just one tiny corner of the middle book cabinet, second shelf from the floor filled with Jules Verne and Arthur C. Clark books and novels. I only needed one winter to read them all and I instantly became a truly Science Fiction fan. I still am. However, I am not one of those geeks who lives for the genre, but in regards of books, among good bestsellers, thrillers, adventures, dramas and comedies, Science Fiction and mysteries are always on the top of my list for vacations. I have to admit that in recent years I fail to find time for books anymore. There are couple of reasons but among others, lack of free time and living fast is a real blockage nowadays for me. I really need to change that.

One of major media format Science Fiction occupied from its beginnings is of course comic book. This is the media where this genre probably wins all others. While I wasn't spared by its influence either, this was only connected to one popular Serbian magazine I was regular reader in my school days. They printed a comic in the middle of magazine and this part is what I read first. Among others it was about "Flash Gordon", "Phantom", "Pete's Pocket Army", "Planet of Apes", "Blade Runner" and other super heroes and their adventures. Apart of Science Fiction I remember great crime stories like "Rip Kirby", "Modesty Blaise", "Mandrake" and others. Interesting fact I already mentioned in one earlier post was that I enjoyed reading comics on the cherry tree in our front yard, in a way it was my own club house for selected people only.

But only after SPFX or mechanical/optical special effects technology matured enough and provided movie industry a giant producing leap in quality comparing to early SF movies, the real magic started to spread worldwide. Actually this can be divided into two categories, before and after CGI (computer generated imagery) inherited old FX game show. Maybe the best example within the same franchise is first three filmed episodes of "Star Wars" (or episodes 4, 5 and 6) created with good old FX with elementary computer graphics of the time and episodes 1, 2 and 3 filmed heavily with CGI technology. Nevertheless, I already described how influential was "Star Wars" when first appeared in movie theaters, but for my taste equally good was "Space Odyssey", "Planet of Apes", "Flash Gordon", "Superman", "E.T.", "Star Trek", "Tron", "Terminator", "Back to the Future", "Blade Runner", "Total Recall", "12 Monkeys" and more. It's hard to distinguish the time line when CGI took over but it probably was in late 90s with movies started with "Independence Day", "Men in Black", The Matrix", "The Thirteenth Floor", "Gattaca", "Jurassic Park", "The Butterfly Effect", "The Day After Tomorrow", "I, Robot", "Spider-Man", "War of the Worlds", "Déjà Vu", "The Day the Earth Stood Still", "Knowing", "Inception" and others I simply can't recall now or too lazy to google them out. These years we are witnessing maturing of the CGI itself along with super fast computers and graphics processors. The basic method of combing real acting with computer generated scenery was so cold Chroma Key technology of mixing two different videos into one, one particularly with real actors performing in front of greenish background and embedding computer graphics or animations instead of green later in post production. Recently, the first movie created without Chroma Key technology was James Cameron's Avatar where multiple tiny cameras and motion sensors are mounted on the actor's suite and creation of animated scenes were done in real time by copying facial expression directly into graphics engine. I already have seen couple of more movies filmed with similar technology and it seems that we should not be afraid for SF genre for the future.

The same story followed Science Fiction TV Shows. It all started in the same time with movie production and some was unforgettable. Back then in 70s, 80s and early 90s it was all about original "Star Trek" series which was state of the art show of the time. I was hooked instantly and watched everything broadcasting on the only one TV network of the time. Other shows included original "Battlestar Galactica", "Blake's 7", "Planet of Apes" and later "The X Files". SF wasn't popular enough in order national broadcaster to include more shows so I wasn't able to watch more, but watching SF TV Shows nowadays is pretty much regular entertainment for me. This is just a short list popping out of my mind now: "Caprica", "Star Gate Franchise", "FlashForward", "The Event", "Defying Gravity", "Jericho", "Fringe", "Terra Nova", etc. Cable operators here in Serbia are also limiting the list as well as the HD technology is still in initial stage here, but it is going in right direction and both quality and quantity of good shows is increasing. The only limitation for the future will be amount of free time to select them all within my weekly time reserved for TV which is not too much according to my long ago established standards.

Maybe from the titles above you would conclude my likes among all SF production and in short I am "Jules Verne" type of SF fans. I only enjoy when script contains real background in science, something driven with "plausible" scientific speculations, like space inter-stellar travel, augmentation of humans, futuristic technologies, mind controls, time travel, simulations of various kind, robotics, anything that can be analyzed later with title i.e. "Science of Superman flight" or "Science of warp drives" or "Science of Matrix word". That said you can imagine that I simply can't watch or read pure fantasy story-lines like "The Lord of the Rings" or SF horrors like "Alien" or "Predator" or anything involving vampires, ghosts, werewolves or something similar. However, there is one small sub-genre within SF and it mainly involves SF movies without special effects of any kind. In the past I ran into two amazingly great ones: "The Man from Earth" and "Primer". This kind of movie genre requires a bit of pre-knowledge of the topic and intelligent mind in order to follow the script in pure theatrical fashion. They leave you with lots of thoughts after watching.

Well, that's it regarding SF and me. Sometimes when I am asked why I like SF so much my answer is that I enjoy going outside of real life for a moment and see the hint of the future.

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