Sigourney Weaver Stars in a New Experimental Sci-Fi Film: Watch “Rakka” Free Online

South African–Canadian film director Neill Blomkamp recently launched Oats Studios, a new film project devoted to creating experimental short films. And now comes their very first production, a short film called "Rakka." Starring Sigourney Weaver, "Rakka" takes us inside the aftermath of an alien invasion sometime in the year 2020. The Verge rightly notes that "Rakka" isn’t "a conventional short film. Instead, it’s a series of scenes depicting various points of view. Some scenes show what the aliens are doing to humanity; others track a resistance movement led by Weaver, and an escaped prisoner named Amir." The new short runs 21 minutes and is streaming free on YouTube. " Watch it above, and to learn about the making of "Rakka" and Oats Studios, read this interview over at Cartoon Brew.

"Rakka" will be added to our collection: 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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Blade Runner 2049’s New Making-Of Featurette Gives You a Sneak Peek Inside the Long-Awaited Sequel

All of us who excitedly write about Blade Runner 2049, the upcoming sequel to Blade Runner, have at some point described the film as "long-awaited." Since the original came out in 1982, that makes a certain literal sense, but the wait hasn't stretched to 35 years without cause. As Blade Runner rose higher and higher in stature, following it up properly grew into a more and more daunting challenge. But now, as Blade Runner 2049 approaches its October release, the prospect that this most respected of all science-fiction movies will have its continuation feels more real than ever — and it will feel even more real than that after you watch the short making-of featurette above.

Philip K. Dick, the prolific author of Blade Runner's source material, a novel called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, recognized immediately how important the film would become. But its director Ridley Scott admits that he "could never have imagined how iconic it would still be" today.


Though he didn't return to direct Blade Runner 2049, ceding the chair to Sicario and Arrival director Denis Villeneuve and taking on the role of producer instead, he does make quite a few appearances in this featurette as a kind of presiding spirit. "Blade Runner revolutionized the way we view science fiction," says Villeneuve. "I've never felt that much pressure on my shoulders — thinking that Ridley Scott will see this movie."

But more than anything the cast and filmmakers have to say, Blade Runner fans will savor the video's glimpses of the new picture's aesthetic, clearly both modeled after and deliberately made different from that of the original. As the title makes obvious, the story takes place thirty years after Blade Runner's 2019, and just as things have changed in our world, so they've changed in its world — not least in the form of a Korean influence that has its found its way in with the Japanese and Chinese ones that so characterized Blade Runner's future Los Angeles. "Defining this was like walking on a knife's edge," says production designer Dennis Gassner, "riding the line between the original film and what we're doing now."

If you'd like to compare the build-up to Blade Runner 2049 with the build-up to Blade Runner, have a look at its own thirteen-minute promotional featurette above. Made well before the time of the modern internet, let alone modern internet videos, this 16-millimeter film production, which featured Scott, "visual futurist" Syd Mead, and special effects artist Douglas Trumbull, circulated by making the screening rounds sci-fi, fantasy, and even horror conventions all across America. Few movies, let alone sequels, have built up as much anticipation as Blade Runner 2049 has, and even fewer have such a legacy to live up to. At least the filmmakers can rest assured that, if the critics don't happen to like it, well, they didn't like the first one either.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Sci-Fi Radio: Hear Radio Dramas of Sci-Fi Stories by Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. LeGuin & More (1989)

Image by Mr.Hasgaha, via Flickr Commons

If you dig through our archives, you can find no shortage of finely-produced radio dramatizations of your favorite science fiction stories. During the 1950s, NBC's Dimension X adapted stories by the likes of Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and even Kurt Vonnegut. Later in the '50s, X Minus One continued that tradition, dramatizing stories by Robert A. Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, Poul Anderson and others. By the 1970s, Mind Webs got into the act and produced 188 adaptations--classics by Ursula K. LeGuin, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke. And the BBC did up Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy.

Those productions will keep you busy for a good while. But if you're wondering what the 1980s delivered, then tune into Sci-Fi Radio, a series of 26 half-hour shows which aired on NPR Playhouse, starting in 1989. Some of the adapted stories include: "Sales Pitch" and "Imposter" by Philip K. Dick, "Diary of the Rose" and "Field of Vision" by Ursula K. LeGuin, "Wall of Darkness" by Arthur C. Clarke, and "Frost and Fire" by Ray Bradbury.

You can stream all episodes below, or over at Archive.orgSci-Fi Radio will be added to our collection, 900 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free. Hope you enjoy.

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How Russian Artists Imagined in 1914 What Moscow Would Look Like in 2259

In the days of popular retrofuturism—say, the first half of the twentieth century—people tended to imagine the world of tomorrow looking very much like the world of today, only with a lot more flying cars, monorails, and videophones. This is true whether those doing the imagining were titans of industry, marketing mavens, idealistic Soviets, or subjects of the Tsar, though we might think that people living under an ancient monarchical system might not expect much change. In some ways we might be right, but as we can see in the 1914 postcards here—printed as Russia entered World War I—the country did anticipate a modern, technological future, though one that still closely resembled its present.

Perhaps few but the most far-sighted of Russians predicted what the ailing empire would endure in the years to come—the disaster of the Great War, and the waves of Revolution and Civil War. Certainly, whoever painted these images foresaw no such catastrophic upheaval.


Although purporting to show us a view of Moscow in the 23rd century, they show the city very happily “still under monarchical rule,” writes A Journey Through Russian Culture, going about its daily life just as it did over three hundred years earlier, “with the addition of everything from subways to airborne public transportation, things probably seen as standard methods of transport for the future.”

Of course, there would be hot-rodded sleds on St. Petersburg Highway with headlights, fancy windshields, and what look like Christmas elves perched in them. Lubyanska Square, further up, would still host military parades of men on horseback, as children whizzed by on motorbikes and subway trains rumbled underneath. The Central Railway Station, above, might seem entirely unchanged, until one looks up, and sees elevated trams streaming out of the terminal like spider’s silk. Red Square, however, just below, would apparently host drag races, while people in trams and giant dirigibles looked on from above.

The images have a children’s book quality about them and the festive air of holiday cards. (If you read Russian, you can learn more about them here and here.) They were apparently rediscovered only recently when a chocolate company called Eyinem reprinted them on their packaging. Like so much retrofuturism, these seem—in their bustling, yet safe, cheerful orderliness—tailor-made for nostalgic trips through Petrovsky Park, rather than imaginative leaps into the great unknown. For that, we must turn to Russian Futurism, which, both before and after World War and the Revolution, imagined, helped bring about, but didn't quite survive the massive technological and political disruption of the next two decades.

See more of these Tsarist-futurist postcards at the site Meet the Slavs.

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

Omni, the Iconic Sci-Fi Magazine, Now Digitized in High-Resolution and Available Online

There was a time, not so long ago, when not only could a blockbuster Hollywood comedy make a reference to a science magazine, but everyone in the audience would get that reference. It happened in Ghostbusters, right after the titular boys in gray hit it big with their first high-profile busting of a ghost. In true 1980s style, a success montage followed, in the middle of which appeared the cover of Omni magazine's October 1984 issue which, according to the Ghostbusters Wiki, "featured a Proton Pack and Particle Thrower. The tagline read, 'Quantum Leaps: Ghostbusters' Tools of the Trade.'"

The movie made up that cover, but it didn't make up the publication. In reality, the cover of Omni's October 1984 issue, a special anniversary edition which appears at the top of the magazine's Wikipedia page today, promised predictions of "Love, Work & Play in the 21st Century" from the likes of beloved sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury, social psychologist Stanley Milgram, physicist Gerard O'Neill, trend-watcher John Naisbitt — and, of course, Ronald Reagan. Now you can find that issue of Omni, as well as every other from its 1978-to-1995 run, digitized in high-resolution and made available on Amazon.


"Omni was a magazine about the future," writes Motherboard's Claire Evans, telling the story of "the best science magazine that ever was." In its heyday, it blew minds by regularly featuring extensive Q&As with some of the top scientists of the 20th century–E.O. Wilson, Francis Crick, Jonas Salk–tales of the paranormal, and some of the most important science fiction to ever see magazine publication" by William Gibson, Orson Scott Card, Harlan Ellison, George R. R. Martin — and even the likes of Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, and William S. Burroughs. "By coupling science fiction and cutting-edge science news, the magazine created an atmosphere of possibility, where even the most outrageous ideas seemed to have basis in fact."

Originally founded by Kathy Keeton (formerly, according to Evans, "a South African ballerina who went from being one of the highest-paid strippers in Europe") and Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione, Omni not only had an impact in unexpected areas (the eccentric musical performer Klaus Nomi, himself a cultural innovator, took his name in part from the magazine's) but took steps into the digital realm long before other print publications dared. It first established its online presence on Compuserve in 1986; seven years later, it opened up its archives, along with forums and new content, on America Online, a first for any major magazine. Now Amazon users can purchase Omni's digital back issues for $2.99 each, or read them for free if they have Kindle Unlimited accounts. (You can sign up for a 30-day free trial for Kindle Unlimited and start binge-reading Omni here.)

Jerrick Media, owners of the Omni brand, have also begun to make available on Vimeo on Demand episodes of Omni: The New Frontier, the 1980s syndicated television series hosted by Peter Ustinov. And without paying a dime, you can still browse the fascinating Omni material archived at Omni Magazine Online, an easy way to get a hit of the past's idea of the future — and one presenting, in the words of 1990s editor-in-chief Keith Farrell, "a fascination with science and speculation, literature and art, philosophy and quirkiness, serious speculation and gonzo speculation, the health of the planet and its cultures, our relationship to the universe and its (possible) cultures, and a sense that whatever else, tomorrow would be different from today."

via The Verge

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

 

240 Hours of Relaxing, Sleep-Inducing Sounds from Sci-Fi Video Games: From Blade Runner to Star Wars

Need to put a little geek in your sleep? We've got just what you need...

Back in 2009, the musician dubbed Cheesy Nirvosa" began experimenting with ambient music, before launching a YouTube channel where he "composes longform space and scifi ambience," much of it designed to help you relax, or ideally fall asleep. He calls the videos "ambient geek sleep aids."

You can sample his work with the playlist above. Called "Video Game Relaxation Sounds," the playlist features "long relaxing soundscapes from video games." Sci-fi video games, to be precise. The playlist gives you access to 21 soundscapes, running more than 240 hours in total. Lull yourself to sleep, for example, with ambient sounds from the 1997 Blade Runner video game, a "sidequel" to the Ridley Scott film. Or de-stress with this ambient noise produced by the A/SF-01 B-Wing Starfighter. It's taken from this 2001 Star Wars game created by LucasArts.

Stream the playlist above. And hope you enjoy dreaming of electric sheep.

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Edward Gorey Illustrates H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds in His Inimitable Gothic Style (1960)

The story of malicious space aliens invading Earth has a resonance that knows no national boundaries. In fact, many modern versions make explicit the moral that only fighting off an existential threat from another planet could unify the inherently fractious human species. H.G. Wells' 1898 novel The War of the Worlds, in many ways the archetypal telling of the space-invaders tale, certainly proved compelling on both sides of the pond: though set in Wells' homeland of England, it made a lasting impact on American culture when Orson Welles produced a thoroughly localized version for radio, his infamous War of the Worlds Halloween 1938 broadcast. (Listen to it here.)

And so who better to illustrate a mid-2oth-century edition of the novel than Edward Gorey? He was born in and spent nearly all his life in America, but developed an artistic sensibility that struck its many appreciators as uncannily mid-Atlantic. His work continues to draw descriptions like "Victorian" and "gothic," surely underscored by his association with the British literature-adapting television show Mystery!, for whose title sequences he drew characters and settings, and the young-adult gothic mystery novels of Anglophile author John Bellairs. The Gorey-illustrated War of the Worlds came out in 1960 from Looking Glass Library, featuring his drawings not just at the top of each chapter but on its wraparound cover as well. Though out of print, you can find old copies for sale online.

Gorey had begun his career in the early 1950s at the art department of publisher Doubleday Anchor, creating book covers and occasionally interior illustrations. In addition to Bellairs' novels, he would also go on to put his artistic stamp on such literary classics as Bram Stoker's Dracula and T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, bringing to each his signature combination of whimsy and dread in just the right proportions. Given the inherent ominousness and threat of The War of the Worlds, Gorey's dark side comes to the fore as the story's long-legged terrors arrive and wreak havoc on Earth, only to fall victim to common disease.

Gorey's War of the Worlds illustrations also seem to draw some inspiration from the very first ones that accompanied the novel upon its initial publication as a Pearson's Magazine serial in 1897. You can compare and contrast them by browsing the high-resolution scans of the out-of-print 1960 Looking Glass Library War of the Worlds at this online exhibition at Loyola University Chicago Digital Special Collections, in partnership with the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust.

Though conceptually similar to the illustrations in Pearson's, drawn by an artist (usually of children's books) named Warwick Goble, they don't get into quite as much detail — but then, they don't have to. To evoke a complex mixture of fascinated anticipation and creeping fear, Gorey never needed more than an old house, a huddle of silhouettes, or a pair of eyes glowing in the darkness.

via Heavy Metal

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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