Now there’s a proposition for you. What does a 19th century English novelist have to do with late 20th century Science Fiction? He made it possible, that’s what. Inspired by the recent PBS airing of “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”, I’ve been thinking a lot about how some of the classic works of literature have influenced Science Fiction. Specifically, in Hardy’s case, some of his works prompted some of the most successful anti-censorship activity in history.For those of you who’ve never read “Tess”, you should take a look. The story of a young woman coerced by her poor family into seeking out wealthy relatives, Tess is one of the most tragic characters in all of literature. Raped by her cousin, she is denied love, abused, downtrodden and finally ends as a murderess (You go, girl!). Needless to say, 19th century England was scandalized.”So what in the heck does that have to do with Science Fiction?”, you may be asking yourself. I admit it isn’t a direct connection, but Sci-Fi & Fantasy is all about exploring. Exploring your thoughts, beliefs, wishes and dreams and pretending that the normal boundaries don’t apply. That kind of thinking has allowed us to advance our “hard” sciences, expand the limits of medical possibility, and put a man on the moon. Science fiction is pure unbounded imagination, and in great measure, it owes its freedom to those who have gone before. So, if Thomas Hardy hadn’t refused to cut the objectionable bits out of “Tess”, then we may have never had television’s first inter-racial kiss (Capt. Kirk & Lt. Uhura), and Heinlein certainly wouldn’t have been able to publish “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” (lots of kinky stuff there). So, I say we all owe a great debt to Mr. Hardy for refusing to bow his head in the face of harsh criticism, and you’d do well to pick up a copy of damn near anything that he ever wrote.
Normally, I’m not a big fan of sci-fi movies. There is very little originality in Hollywood, and they normally just take an existing story, rework it to add some more special effects, and generally tear the hell out of the plot, character development, etc… For a perfect example, see I, Robot with Will Smith. I robot is one of the great all time Asimov books, as it explores man’s relationship with the machines that he has created, but Holywood destroyed it. Anyway, I am actually excited to hear about a new movie in the works.That’s right, Disney/Pixar is slated to release a trilogy of movies based on the John Carter of Mars stories. (Download the first few over at my Free Ebooks page, or buy it for your Kindle here: A Princess of Mars) I haven’t heard anything about who might be playing John Carter, but I have heard that Andrew Stanton is set to direct. He’s the guy who gave us Finding Nemo. In any case, I love the nature of John Carter versus the storytelling skills of Burroughs. John Carter is a true swashbuckling hero who never fails to win through adversity to rescue his beloved Dejah Thoris. It’s pure escapism, and I don’t think Hollywood can screw that up too much. Plus I’ll be interested to see what they do with the Green Martians.