Posts Tagged ‘Isaac Asimov’

Contemplating the silver-screen impact of various science fiction masters, part 2

September 17, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 17, 2016

Yesterday, I took a quick survey of the number of feature films based on the work of several different science fiction grand masters, taking into account some of their TV adaptations as well. Now, I conclude that all of the stuff I wrote about adds up to…

Well, not very much, I guess.

The truth is that numerous factors make it difficult to adapt many of these novels and stories properly. For one thing, to be blunt, some of the science fiction grand masters’ writing just isn’t very good. Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, to single out two, were not exactly known for their lively characterizations.

Moreover, much of the grand masters’ work offers little in the way of cultural and sexual diversity. This is especially true of the oldest stories by the oldest writers. (A notable exception is Ursula K. Le Guin’s many explorations into radically different future societies.)

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Contemplating the silver-screen impact of various science fiction masters, part 1

September 16, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 16, 2016

In 1975, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America presented its first ever Grand Master Award to the prolific Robert Heinlein, who ultimately authored 32 novels and 16 anthologies. The writer, who died in 1988, is probably best known for his novels Stranger in a Strange LandThe Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and Starship TroopersLocus, a trade magazine for the science fiction, fantasy and horror publishing industry, named Heinlein its all-time best author in 1977, 1987, 1988, 1998 and 1999.

Stranger in a Strange Land, which was published in 1961, was a precursor to the sexual revolution and helped define the free-love hippie aesthetic; it also introduced the word grok (to understand profoundly and intuitively) into the language. Just two years ago, Heinlein was the subject of a 624-page authorized biography.

Heinlein was one of the indisputable legends of 20th-century science fiction, but he’s had surprisingly little influence on the world of movies. In the 35 years preceding his death, only a single Hollywood production was openly based on his work — 1953’s Project Moon Base. (That said, The Brain Eaters, released in 1958, was an uncredited adaptation of Heinlein’s novel The Puppet Masters; the author sued the producers and settled out of court, according to the invaluable Internet Movie Database.)

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Why, robot, why? A technophobic Will Smith investigates mechanical murder in 2004’s frustrating ‘I, Robot’

February 4, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Feb. 4, 2015

When the science fiction action film I, Robot was released in 2004, it received reviews that I remember as being tepid at best. So it was mainly by happenstance that I picked up the movie — it was part of a combo DVD with Independence Day, the 1996 action vehicle that helped vault Will Smith into stardom.

I, Robot is based on characters and situations created by Isaac Asimov (1920–1992), the phenomenally prolific science fiction author and science essayist. Asimov may be best known for creating the three laws of robotics, which I, Robot presents in title cards at the very beginning of the movie:

Law I: A robot may not harm a human or, by inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

Law II: A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the first law.

Law III: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second law.

Many of Asimov’s tales are puzzles or mysteries, wherein one or more of the supposedly inviolable laws of robotics has apparently been breached. Ultimately, however, the author, through his agent (in a few prominent tales, that would be 35th-century Earth detective Elijah Baley), reveals that the laws remain intact. For instance, in one case, as I recall, a robot’s arm was detached and used by someone to beat a victim to death.

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