Geek Culture Column: Minister Faust and the New MF Galaxy Podcast
This is the first installment of a new occasional column on SFATW called Geek Culture. What is geek culture? At least two things.
Thing One: No form of expression exists in a vacuum. The speculative fiction covered in SFATW is part of a larger culture, here referred to as geek culture. It includes the usual SFATW topics–science fiction, fantasy, and horror–but also things outside that range that are still likely to be interesting to anyone who geeks out on the regular SFATW fare.
An album of music that sounds like it belongs in a science fiction film? That’s geek culture. A new technology that’s reminiscent of science fiction? That’s geek culture too. So is a work of visual art that propels you into a world of fantasy, or a poem that evokes the same feeling as a horror movie.
Thing Two: Expression that comments on geek culture is also geek culture. A new blog that covers Asian horror movies? A podcast that reviews science fiction and fantasy books? Both are geek culture.
Enough prelude–on to the culture itself!
This month we note the arrival of a new venture from Minister Faust, who’s been a favorite author around here ever since The Coyote Kings: Book One, Space-Age Bachelor Pad, but who’s also worked in Canadian radio and print journalism, and who is a longtime community activist online and in his native Edmonton.
MF Galaxy deals with four main topics: writers on writing, pop culture (including science fiction, gaming, and graphic novels), progressive politics, and afrocentricity. Faust is digging back into his deep archive, as well as conducting many new interviews, to bring listeners some gems.
At this writing the podcast is up to eight episodes. They include an interview with Eden Robinson, the First Nation author of Traplines, Monkey Beach, and Blood Sports (as well as the story Terminal Avenue, which appeared in an anthology of postcolonial science fiction and fantasy called So Long Been Dreaming), who discusses her persistent childhood dream of becoming an astronaut, and an interview with the great Gene Luen Yang, author of the award-winning comic American Born Chinese, who discusses (among other things) how and when to turn the Jack Kirby style of comic book art on its head.
Don’t miss it!
- The MF Galaxy home page is here and if you like it, well then like it over on it’s Facebook page.
- You can find the podcast on lisbyn or iTunes.
- If you enjoy MF Galaxy, be sure to support it on Patreon.
A related treat: Faust has also gone head to head with another SFATW favorite author, Peter Watts, in a literary smackdown hosted by the CBC entitled Peter Watts vs. Minister Faust: Can sci-fi be a happy place?
German Science Fiction: Lecture and Essay by Sonja Fritzsche
The good folks in the English Department at the University of Hamburg in Germany have provided an awesome Virtual Introduction to Science Fiction. You can enjoy the goodies on their page, but from time to time I’ll reproduce some here.
We start–appropriately for a university in Hamburg–with German science fiction.
A video lecture by Sonja Fritzsche is embedded below. The accompanying essay can be found in PDF format in the SFATW Library–just click the tab at the top of the page or click the image of the paper that appears after the video.
If you’re expecting a German version of The Real History of Science Fiction, with talking head interviews and film clips, forget it. As much fun as that is, this ain’t that. On the other hand if you geek out on academic lectures and papers, like I am, with footnotes and the whole shebang, this is definitely for you.
Early German SF on Film: Metropolis (1927)
Since we’re on the topic of German science fiction, let’s take a moment to appreciate two early gems of German SF cinema.
First, the inimitable Metropolis by Fritz Lang, references to which–once you start to look for them–turn out to be almost everywhere.
It would take a while to detail everything that’s important or interesting about Metropolis–you can find plenty of that by trolling papers on Academia.edu–but instead, let’s focus in on one particular element of its legacy that’s often overlooked in scholarly treatments.
Pop music has perhaps been the medium most susceptible to Metropolis‘s spell. Some of the main instances are listed below in chronological order. Videos are embedded (scroll down to below the film) for the individual songs–no videos for the albums.
- 1978: Kraftwerk included a song named after the film on the album The Man-Machine.
- 1984: Giorgo Moroder re-released the film with a new soundtrack featuring his own music, as well as that of Jon Anderson, Adam Ant, Pat Benatar, Cycle V, Loverboy, Freddie Mercury, Billy Squier, and Bonnie Tyler. I know, I know, Loverboy. Still, there it is.
- 1989: Madonna referenced the film in her “Express Yourself” video.
- 1993: The video for Whitney Houston’s song “Queen of the Night”–another unlikely entry–featured clips from the film and Houston appeared wearing a shiny metallic outfit.
- 2007: Janelle Monáe based two entire releases–one EP and one album–on the film: Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase) and The ArchAndroid.
- 2009: Lady Gaga referenced the film in the videos for “Alejandro,” “Born This Way,” and “Applause,” and overtly mimicked the robot from the film in her video for the song “Paparazzi “.
- 2013: The Brazilian metal band Sepultura, who are just down the road from me in Belo Horizonte, have a habit of naming their albums for literary references. There was Dante XXI (2006), whose title referenced Dante’s Inferno, and there was A-Lex (2009), whose title was a reference to A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. Then in 2013 came The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart, whose title is a line of dialogue from Metropolis.
- 2014: St. Vincent’s video “Digital Witness” (with Chino Moya), features the singer standing in for Maria, the poor worker in the film.
The full movie is embedded below. This is a recent, partially restored version (some segments remain lost), accompanied by a new soundtrack by The New Pollutants.
The soundtrack by The New Pollutants is available via Bandcamp here.
And here’s the video playlist referred to earlier:
- Kraftwerk, Metropolis
- Madonna, Express Yourself
- Whitney Houston, “Queen of the Night”
- Lady Gaga, Paparazzi
- St. Vincent
Early German SF on Film: Alraune (1928)
Alraune may not have the profile of Metropolis, but it’s another classic of early German science fiction cinema. The story originated in myth, evolved into a novel in 1911, and then made it to the screen no fewer than five times, although the 1928 version is widely regarded as definitive.
In the novel, a scientist who is interested in the laws of heredity artificially inseminates a prostitute with the semen of a hanged murderer. She conceives a female child, Alraune, whom the professor adopts, but the girl has no concept of love. She becomes sexually obsessive and perverse. Ultimately, she learns the story of her origins and avenges herself against the professor.
Like Metropolis, Alraune has attracted pop culture attention, including a series of erotic comic books with the same title and a heavy metal band that’s adopted the name as their own. The band’s album The Process of Self-Immolation made number 16 on Spin Magazine‘s 20 Best Metal Albums of 2014, so kudos to Alraune. A video for the album’s titular song is embedded below, under the film itself.
In fact, given that Alraune (much in the vein of Frankenstein) takes a strong spine of myth and then dresses it up in lurid pulp elements–a mad scientist, the criminal underworld, perverse eroticism–it’s surprising that it hasn’t inspired more pop culture incarnations.
When a hip, high-profile, twenty-first century version of Alraune pops up, maybe an avant garde opera or a participatory installation in a refurbished factory, remember that you heard it here first.
Jalada 02: Afrofuture(s)
Jalada is a relatively new pan-African writers’ collective. Previous collections they’ve issued include Sext Me and Sketch of a Bald Woman in the Semi-Nude and Other Stories. The new issue is entitled Afrofuture(s).
There’s not a lot that needs to be said about Jalada, except that it will definitely be worth whatever time you take to explore it, so I’ll just say that. Having poked around in several issues, color me impressed.
You can find the Afrofuture(s) issue here.
Writing SF in China, Writing SF in Laos: Cixin Liu and Bryan Thao Worra Talk Turkey
In issue 4, back in November, we covered the hoopla surrounding the new English edition of Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem.
In mid-January the author (and the book’s translator, Ken Liu, who’s an award-winning SF author in his own right) took to i09 to discuss the writing of science fiction in China with i09 staff and its readers, who posted questions.
i09 published an article titled This Is What It’s Like To Write Science Fiction Novels In China, but also posted the full interaction (Author Cixin Liu Is Here to Answer Your Questions).
It’s an interesting read, but it’s made even more interesting by the fact that Bryan Thao Worra, an award-winning Laotian American writer who, among other things, writes science fiction poetry, wrote a companion piece on his blog entitled What it’s like to write science fiction in China and implications for Lao science fiction.
Both are well worth reading.
Our New Video Logo
Say hello to our new video logo, which will open all videos that SFATW creates or presents (at least until the next logo comes along, after which we’ll choose one or the other based on momentary whims).
You can also see it at the opening of the German Science Fiction video, embedded above.
And now, until next month, adeus e boa sorte!