CRRRRS 444 Strelnikov's Train

By Roy Mathur, on 2022-06-13, at 23:06:25--23:50:52 BST, for Captain Roy's Rusty Rocket Radio Show, Listen

City

My town is now officially a city, as part of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee.

I spent scant attention to the celebrations, though I do have a vague recollection of the Silver Jubilee. I remember some kind of street party, bunting, and me wearing a silly hat.

Dream

I awoke from a nightmare about a lanky stalker and something I can't remember before the show tonight.

One side-benefit of all this snoozing is I'm getting less puffy and my schnozzle (nose) is shrinking.

Scheduling

The podcast scheduling was up the spout because I was up the spout, but, beginning now, you can look forward to another full week of podcasting.

The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy

I'm still reading, savouring, the book.

Blimey, books used to be short!

The Midnight Club

The Netflix trailer dropped last week and I'm excited for this new Mike Flannagan show. I enjoyed the book by Christopher Pike many years ago.

It is about teens in a hospice, which sounds grim subject matter, but it's done in such a way as to remain both suspenseful and hopeful. The YA novel it is based on is interesting, for a horror/suspense story, as it gets relatively deep into eastern religions, like Hinduism, in a way that isn't shallow or exploitative. I hope this will be carried into the TV adaptation.

I'm also looking forward to Flannagan's The Fall of the House of Usher this year and, if you want to hear what I think of Mike Flannagan's past work, I reviewed Midnight Mass and The Haunting of Bly Manor in 413.

The Sandman

The trailer for the Netflix adaptation of Neil Ghaiman's DC comic book also dropped last week.

I'm not sure this show is really aimed at me for me, as I'm not the biggest fan of the comic and didn't become a fan based on the art either, which attracted a lot of goths. However, I enjoy Ghaiman somewhat as an author of prose, though his shorter work is better and, with it's very British look, locations, and casting, maybe this will turn my head, as I have a deep nostalgia for Hammer and Doctor Who, etc. as listeners will know.

Netflix recently announced August 5 2022 as the release date.

Night Sky

Night Sky is an Amazon Prime science fiction series about an elderly couple in a small rural town with a gateway to another world buried under their shed. That was a crazy enough a concept to immediately grab me.

The primary casting is too on the nose and not very creative. J.K. Simmons played a man uncovering a secret parallel universe in Counterpart and Sissy Spacek played a frail elderly wife in Stephen King's Castle Rock.

However, the acting excellent, not just Simmons and Spacek, but the entire cast. There are also a few excellent Stephen King-level character vignettes I found effective: the evil care home worker, the creepy neighbour, and the racist friend, and the relationship between Spacek's character and the son put me through the emotional wringer.

In summary, the intriguing plot that reminds me vaguely of Stargate, Jumper, Cocoon, and Space Cowboys, is let down by glacial pacing and a narrative padded out to wrest a presumably multi-season series out of the story that should have only lasted one.

The Man Who Fell to Earth

In 443 I said this show is exceedingly bad. I still think it awful. In fact, last time I forgot to mention how this new interpretation of Tevis's largely melancholy prose canon is swapped for light comedy.

And, by the way, the diversity on the show was okay, but representation was terrible. What I mean by that, is that the black family that Faraday falls in with, though two members are scientists (an excellent non-cliched choice), are also really really in tune with and love singing, music, and dancing, which is a cliche. It's that whole natural rhythm bollocks again. That reminds me of a time I met up with a couple on holiday, who befriended me because, it transpires, I was of Indian descent and you know how mystical and spiritual we are; if it's not that, it's the professions or curry. But it doesn't end there, oh no, the character with Tourette's Syndrome is played for laughs. How hilarious is that? Stereotypes? Ugh!

Flip time! However, slightly (and only slightly) countering my total evisceration of this appalling rubbish, I should add that I thought the FX were actually not bad, and it does put non-white characters in the spotlight, which is rare, doesn't happen nearly enough, and is something I always advocate for and demand to see more of, but was so distracted by how bad the show was that I forgot to do my usual right-on bit that always seems to annoy everyone I know. I can't bloody win, can I?

Finally, if anyone has taken offence because they are a stan of anyone I criticised in this show, or of any other celebrity, whose work I take critical pokes at, I absolutely do not care. People need to stop worshipping celebrity, live their own lives, and let critics like me do their jobs. Though it is rare that any SFFH media I actively decide to consume rubs me up the wrong way as much as this has done, when it does I take pride in my podcast's honest reviews.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

Episode six surprises us with a typical old school Star Trek moral dilemma.

However, there's an unpleasant modern twist. Unlike TOS stories, e.g. Star Trek TOG season 3 episode 15 Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, or season one episode twenty-three A Taste of Armageddon, the dire situation is left unresolved and the Federation loses with horrific consequences. It's a bleak, cold, and unsettling ending. Hats off this time to the Kurtzman crew I panned in The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Perhaps I'm misremembering TOS, but I can't remember being left hanging like that in the days of Kirk.

Ms. Marvel

Pakistani America teen geek and Captain Marvel fan from New Jeresy, Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), gains superpowers after inheriting a bracelet from her grandmother.

It's great that we Desi, finally get a mainstream a Desi superhero. There was DC's Kobra (1976)---I have issue 1---but he was a supervillain and I'm not even sure he was Indian. I wasn't even aware that there were that many, if any other, until I read an article from 2020.

The show was not too ethnically stereotyped as I feared it might be, it subtly handled the highschool racial microagressions. It was also fun, very colourful, and Kamala's dad dressed up as Hulk dad was amazing. The slapstick tree branching scene made me giggle.

As well as the diverse cast, the crew was diverse too and headed by British-Pakistani creator Bisha K. Ali, so well done Marvel/Disney. (I'm not even sure who to thank anymore, now that Disney owns everything in the entire universe).

WWDC

Apple's World Wide Developer Conference happened last week.

It was iOS this, new MacBook Air that, and I couldn't care less. I've been in need of a new computer for bloody years and these new laptops' starting price is even way outside of my price range. Screw you, Apple.

Google Engineer Claims AI Sentient

Blake Lemoine, a software engineer at Google was put on leave for breaching company confidentiality, when he shared his concerns both internally and on his Medium blog, that an AI based chatbot generator (LaMDA) he was working as a team member on was sentient.

Google spokesperson, Brian Gabriel, said, "Our team---including ethicists and technologists---has reviewed Blake's concerns per our AI Principles and have informed him that the evidence does not support his claims."

I find it interesting that their enquiry team for an AI project included ethicists. That could be to prevent programming bias or perhaps appalling behaviour from an AI that brings them into disrepute, like Microsoft's Tay, or may simply be to ensure fairness, or for any number of reasons, or none of them at all (Blake Lemoine believes that, "Google has been treating AI ethicists like code debuggers"). But look at the phrasing: "AI Principles". Just suppose it's because Google believe sentience could happen and have decided, if it does, it's going to take more than software engineers to detect it? Very Westworld. I find that a tantalising thought, though I'm wildly speculating, which is my job as an SFFH author, podcaster, and enthusiast.

While I certainly don't discount the possibility of emergent behaviour from an AI, a chat log and an incomprehensible project document is not enough to declare sentience. Philosophically speaking, can we even prove sentience in ourselves, let alone in a computer programme using an informal Turing test, which, in any case, is only a thought experiment? Google's going to have to crack open the vault on what exactly what they are doing in San Francisco for us to come to any conclusion.

Mozilla VPN

See that Mozilla VPN offer in FireFox? Consider that it is really a rebranded version of Proton VPN.

Remember Proton (ProtonMail)? This is the same Swiss-based privacy company that folded like a cheap suit to French police (403).

Remember the BBC Script I Wrote?

My script submission for the BBC's open call in January was, of course, rejected.

I feel like I'm finished submitting more scripts. I'm too old to be wasting so much time, when I should be writing more books. So that is what I'm going to do.

On the subject of writing, I'm also only going to submit simultaneous submissions from now on. Life's too short to sit on one's hands for months, while a literary agency sods about before inevitably telling you they "did not love" your work.

The End of the World

SFFH writers' use their imaginations to become world-builders, though because my mood is so low of late, I have been rather a world-destroyer---fitting for the age of kali yurga---though I fervently hope this is not how the world ends.

Strelnikov's Train is a reference coined by me referencing the 1965? film Doctor Zhivago. That is because every time I am enraged by some privileged millionaire/billionaire, I see Pasha/Strelnikov's (Tom Courtney) steam locomotive train zooming head-on into the camera of my mind's eye through a snowy landscape, followed by Strelnikov's face turning to face me, as he and his mob tool around the countryside sniffing out and murdering counter-revolutionaries. When I think that, I often emit a little choo-choo sound, not from Tourette's, but because it is a contextually appropriate signal and my parents used to play-pretend we were trains when I was a small child, as they could just about remember steam engines in Mauritius from their own childhoods.

While the West's security forces and media continue to obsess over fundamentalist terrorism, gradually, vile outrage after vile outrage, they have finally started to turn their attention to far right extremism (The Purge series: pods 167 and 219, Bushwick: pod 188). But the likeliest doomsday scenario I envision isn't those or zombies or aliens, but stems from wealth inequality.

As a pacifistic person, from the moderate left green-tinged political spectrum, it is worrying that wealth inequality manages to enrage me so often. If it angers me, what is it doing to those stricken down with actual poverty or homelessness? #EatTheRich is an increasingly trending hashtag on Twitter (and a great Motorhead song).

How far do people have to be pushed, while the ultra-rich, with their tax breaks and tax avoidance schemes and stashed freeport art, driving home prices into the stratosphere with portfolio diversification/money laundering schemes (sorry, I should have said alleged), who are too rich to ever spend their money fast enough; thus sucking the filthy lucre out of circulation by hoarding wealth (contradicting that oft said bullshit about how wealthy create wealth), leading to the wholesale deforming of economies, while they, particularly the tech bros, build their wilderness redoubts? Which, by the way, is incredibly stupid, unless you like painting a huge target for the rampaging mob that says, "here I am."

Massive armed revolution is what I fear, but will not become the subject of any fiction I write, more than in short form. You see, I am a perhaps naive utopianist, who wants the future to be better in ways that don't involve the apocalyptic balloon going up first. I want a Star Trek future without the World War III that precedes it.

Housekeeping

Saying my podcast is going to have these exact sections; in this format, and not put this or that in the episode description is tying my own hands behind my back, so forget all I said before.

I will, however, try to remain mostly in the realm of SFFH and closely related topics from now on.