Watch the Winners of the 48 Hour Science Fiction Film Challenge: The 2018 Edition

Writes Metafilter: "Every year, as part of their science fiction film festival, Sci-Fi London organise a challenge in which entrants are given a title, line of dialogue and description of a prop, and then have 48 hours to turn in a completed 5 minute film or piece of flash fiction. The winning films and flash fiction stories from the SciFi London 48 Hour Challenge are now available to watch and read." The first place film winner you can view above. Find other winning entries via the links below:

THE FILM CHALLENGE:

THE FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE:

Enjoy.

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Watch the New Trailer for Worlds of Ursula K Le Guin, the First Feature Film on the Pioneering Sci-Fi Author

On June 10th, at the Sheffield Doc/Fest in England, director Arwen Curry will premiere Worlds of Ursula K Le Guin, the first feature film about the groundbreaking science fiction writer. The film's website notes that "Curry filmed with Le Guin for 10 years to produce the film, which unfolds an intimate journey of self-discovery as Le Guin comes into her own as a major feminist author, opening new doors for the imagination and inspiring generations of women and other marginalized writers along the way." Starring Le Guin herself, who sadly passed away earlier this year, Worlds of Ursula K Le Guin features appearances by Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell, Neil Gaiman, Samuel R. Delany, and Michael Chabon. You can watch the brand new trailer for the film above.

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The Art of Sci-Fi Book Covers: From the Fantastical 1920s to the Psychedelic 1960s & Beyond

If you've never seen Gentlemen Broncos, the little-seen third feature by the Napoleon Dynamite-making husband-and-wife team Jared and Jerusha Hess, I highly recommend it. You must, though, enjoy the peculiar Hess sense of humor, a blend of the almost objectively detached and the heartily sophomoric fixed upon the preoccupations of deeply unfashionable sections of working-class America. In Gentlemen Broncos it makes itself felt immediately, even before the film's story of a young aspiring science fiction writer in small-town Utah begins, with a tour de force opening credits sequence made up of homages to the pulpiest sci-fi book covers of, if not recent decades, then at least semi-recent decades.

The style of these cover images, though risible, no doubt look rich with associations to anyone who's spent even small part of their lives reading mass-market sci-fi novels. To see more than a few higher examples, watch "The Art of Sci-Fi Book Covers," the Nerdwriter video essay above that digs into the history of that enormously inventive yet seldom seriously considered artistic subfield.




Its begins with the world's first science-fiction magazine Amazing Stories (an online archive of which we've previously featured here on Open Culture) and its pieces of fantastical, eye-catching cover art by Austria-Hungary-born illustrator Frank R. Paul. In the mid-1920s, says the Nerdwriter, "these covers were probably among the strangest art that the average American ever got to see."

It would get stranger. The Nerdwriter follows the development of sci-fi cover art from the heyday of the Paul-illustrated Amazing Stories to the introduction of mass-market paperback books in the late 1930s to Penguin's experimentation with existing works of modern art in the 1960s to the commissioning of new, even more bizarre and evocative works by all manner of publishers (some of them sci-fi specialists) thereafter. "You can walk into any used book store anywhere and get five of these old pulp books for a dollar each," the Nerdwriter reminds us. "And then the art is with you; it's in your home. As you read the stories, it's on your bedside table. It's art you hold with your hands. It's not precious: it's bent, folded, and creased. And above all, it's weird."

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Stream 47 Hours of Classic Sci-Fi Novels & Stories: Asimov, Wells, Orwell, Verne, Lovecraft & More

The pronouncements of French theorist Jean Baudrillard could sound a bit silly in the early 1990s, when the internet was still in its infancy, a slow, clunky technology whose promises far exceeded what it could deliver. We hoped for the cyberpunk spaces of William Gibson, and got the beep-boop tedium of dial-up. Even so, in his 1991 essay “Simulacra and Science Fiction,” Baudrillard contended that the real and the imaginary were no longer distinguishable, and that the collapse of the distance between them meant that “there is no more fiction.” Or, conversely, he suggested, that there is no more reality.

What seemed a far-fetched claim about the totality of “cybernetics and hyperreality” in the age of AOL and Netscape now sounds far more plausible. After all, it will soon be possible, if it is not so already, to convincingly simulate events that never occurred, and to make millions of people believe they had, not only through fake tweets, "fake news," and age-old propaganda, but through sophisticated manipulation of video and audio, through augmented reality and the onset of “reality apathy,” a psychological fatigue that overwhelms our abilities to distinguish true and false when everything appears as a cartoonish parody of itself.




Technologist Aviv Ovadya has tried since 2016 to warn anyone who would listen that such a collapse of reality was fast upon us—an “Infocalypse,” he calls it. If this is so, according to Baudrillard, “both traditional SF and theory are destined to the same fate: flux and imprecision are putting an end to them as specific genres.” In an apocalyptic prediction, he declaimed, “fiction will never again be a mirror held to the future, but rather a desperate rehallucinating of the past.” The “collective marketplace” of globalization and the Borgesian condition in which “the map covers all the territory” have left “no room any more for the imaginary.” Companies set up shop expressly to simulate and falsify reality. Pained irony, pastiche, and cheap nostalgia are all that remain.

It’s a bleak scenario, but perhaps he was right after all, though it may not yet be time to despair—to give up on reality or the role of imagination. After all, sci-fi writers like Gibson, Philip K. Dick, and J.G. Ballard grasped long before most of us the condition Baudrillard described. The subject proved for them and many other late-20th century sci-fi authors a rich vein for fiction. And perhaps, rather than a great disruption—to use the language of a start-up culture intent on breaking things—there remains some continuity with the naïve confidence of past paradigms, just as Newtonian physics still holds true, only in a far more limited way than once believed.

Isaac Asimov’s short essay “The Relativity of Wrong” is instructive on this last point. Maybe the theory of “hyperreality” is right, in some fashion, but also incomplete: a future remains for the most visionary creative minds to discover, as it did for Asimov’s “psychohistorian” Hari Seldon in The Foundation Trilogy. You can hear a BBC dramatization of that groundbreaking fifties masterwork in the 47-hour science fiction playlist above, along with readings of classic stories—like Orson Welles’ infamous radio broadcast of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds (and an audiobook of the same read by English actor Maxwell Caulfield). From Jules Verne to H.P. Lovecraft to George Orwell; from the mid-fifties time travel fiction of Andre Norton to the 21st-century time-travel fiction of Ruth Boswell….

We’ve even got a late entry from theatrical prog rock mastermind Rick Wakeman, who followed up his musical adaptation of Journey to the Centre of the Earth with a sequel he penned himself, recorded in 1974, and released in 1999, called Return to the Centre of the Earth, with narration by Patrick Stewart and guest appearances by Ozzy Osbourne, Bonnie Tyler, and the Moody Blues’ Justin Hayward. Does revisiting sci-fi, “weird fiction,” and operatic concept albums of the past constitute a “desperate rehallucinating” of a bygone “lost object,” as Baudrillard believed? Or does it provide the raw material for today’s psychohistorians? I suppose it remains to be seen; the future—and the future of science fiction—may be wide open.

The 47-hour science fiction playlist above will be added to our collection of 900 Free Audio Books.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Enter the Pulp Magazine Archive, Featuring Over 11,000 Digitized Issues of Classic Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Detective Fiction

Pulp Fiction will likely hold up generations from now, but the resonance of its title may already be lost to history. Pulp magazines, or “the pulps,” as they were called, once held special significance for lovers of adventure stories, detective and science fiction, and horror and fantasy. Acquiring the name from the cheap paper on which they were printed, pulp magazines might be said, in large part, to have shaped the pop culture of our contemporary world, publishing respected authors like H.G. Wells and Jules Verne and many an unknown newcomer, some of whom became household names (in certain houses), like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Philip K. Dick.

Beginning in the late 19th century, the pulps opened up the publishing space that became flooded with comic books and popular novels like those of Stephen King and Michael Crichton in the latter half of the twentieth century.




They varied widely in quality and subject matter but all share certain preoccupations. Sexual taboos are explored in their naked essence or through various genre devices. Monsters, aliens, and other features of the “weird” predominate, as do the forerunners of DC and Marvel’s superhero empires in characters like the Shadow and the Phantom Detective.

Unlike higher-rent “slicks” or “glossies,” pulp magazines had license to go places respectable publications feared to tread. Genre fiction now spawns multimillion dollar franchises, one after another, purged of much of the pulps’ salacious content. But paging through the thousands of back issues available at the Pulp Magazine Archive will give you a sense of just how outré such magazines once were—a quality that survived in the underground comics and zines of the 60s and beyond and in genre tabloids like Scream Queens

The enormous archive contains over 11,000 digitized issues of such titles as If, True Detective Mysteries, Witchcraft and Sorcery, Weird Tales, Uncensored Detective, Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang, and Adventure ("America's most exciting fiction for men!"). It also features early celebrity rags like Movie Pictorial and Hush Hush, and retrospectives like Dirty Pictures, a 1990s comic reprinting the often quite misogynist pulp art of the 30s.

There's great science fiction, no small amount of creepy teen boy wish-fulfillment, and lots of lurid, noir appeals to fantasies of sex and violence. Swords and sorcery, guns and trussed-up pin-ups, and plenty of creature features. The pulps were once mass culture’s id, we might say, and they have now become its ego.

Enter the Pulp Magazine Archive here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

A Digital Archive of Heavy Metal, the Influential “Adult Fantasy Magazine” That Featured the Art of Moebius, H.R. Giger & More

In making a time capsule of the late 20th century, one would be remiss if they did not include at least an issue or two of Heavy Metal magazine. Yes, it specialized in unapologetically turning women in metal bras into sex objects. The gleeful amount of T&A on its covers, surrounded by spaceships, swords, and sorcery, mark it as a relic of its era that appealed to a specific demographic. But Heavy Metal was much more than sexy sci-fi mascots drawn in lurid pulpy styles. Along with its share of erotica, the “adult illustrated fantasy magazine” provided a vivid showcase for some of the most interesting artists and storytellers working in the mainstream and in various subgenres of fantasy and sci-fi. (It continues to do so.)

Debuting in 1977, the year of the first Star Wars film, Heavy Metal was not named after the brand of guitar rock pioneered by Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, though there’s an obvious influence, but after a French magazine that started two years earlier called Métal hurlant, or literally “Howling Metal.” (We've featured it here on OC before.) When publisher Leonard Mogel decided to adapt the original for an American readership, he changed the name, but kept the content, republishing work by Jean Giraud—the artist better known as Moebius—and many other accomplished European illustrators.

Founded and staffed by the creators of National Lampoon, the magazine later featured original work from artists like H.R. Giger, interviews with Dennis Hopper, John Waters, Francis Ford Coppola, John Carpenter, Roger Corman, and even Federico Fellini; and with musicians like the Eurythmics and Debbie Harry. It ran popular serialized stories, showcased graphic literary adaptations (of Paradise Lost, for example), and published authors like Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, and other heavies. Rock, comics, film, and fiction all got their due in between the magazine’s extravagant pinup covers, many of which inspired the art painted on the side of many a carpeted van in the 70s.

You can see a sizable collection of scanned Heavy Metal magazines, from the first, 1977 issue to the mid-90s, at the Internet Archive. Part of Archive.org’s extensive “Magazine Rack,” a digital library of thousands of scanned periodicals, the Heavy Metal collection was launched in 2012 by archivist Jason Scott. Though it doesn’t contain the magazine’s complete run by any means, it offers a broad enough sampling of all of its major themes and tendencies.

Heavy Metal’s interests are very focused, one might say, but the few things the magazine does, and has done since 1977, it has done exceptionally well. Enter the archive here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

HBO Drops a Teaser Trailer for Fahrenheit 451, Its New Adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Classic Dystopian Novel

From HBO comes the latest teaser trailer for a new adaptation of Ray Bradbury's 1953 dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451. Scheduled to debut in May 2018, the new film will feature Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon.

Ostensibly Fahrenheit 451 is a story about government censorship. And some have considered it a response to McCarthyism. But, when asked what the story is really about, Ray Bradbury said this: It's about people "being turned into morons by TV."  As a medium, television "gives you the dates of Napoleon, but not who he was,” spreading "factoids" instead of knowledge. “They stuff you with so much useless information, you feel full.” Just something to keep in mind before and after the new HBO film hits your TV sets this spring.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

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