I’m going to be giving a reading this Thursday in the BSFA Vector’s Solidarity Salon! I’m on at 8:45, following Chinelo Onwualu at 8:15. The Facebook event page is here, and I’ll provide a link to the video after the event.
I’ll be reading “The Little Car Dreams of Gasoline,” which is my first published self-driving car story, and is a stand-alone prequel to my novel Driving Ambition.
With my guidebook to “The Robots of Death” recently out, and everyone playing the Penguin Classics Cover Generator game, I couldn’t resist this mashup:
My book gets the nod from We Are Cult! Pull quote:
“Though very few points in the series’ history are as highly regarded as The Robots of Death, Fiona Moore’s newly released Black Archive volume about the story – the 43rd in the series – nonetheless offers a fresh and compelling analysis.”
Read it here.
What the title says. Order it here.
From Sci-Fi Bulletin:
“Fiona Moore loves The Robots of Death as much as we do, unravelling the various threads that combine to create a pretty much perfect story. And as much as you might think you know there’s nothing new to say here, you might just be surprised. 9/10”
Check it out for yourself here, of course (ebook now available, print available from Monday).
It’s not quite out yet, but my monograph on Doctor Who: The Robots of Death for The Black Archive is now available for pre-order (and will be out on 4 May). It features chapters on Expressionist design; the literary roots of the story in Asimov, Herbert, Simak and others; themes of class and power in the SF writing of Chris Boucher; the history of colour-blind casting in British television; and the Voc robots’ afterlives in comics, audio plays and theatre. In short, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll love it! Click the link to get your copy.
So, by way of ending The Colour Out Of Space Opera, I’d like to offer a few general thoughts and takeaways from this, and a few directions you can pursue yourself if you’re interested in learning, or researching, more on this subject.
- Everything uses symbolism to make its point, and, because we’re in “Western” society (in this case, blatant ethnocentric shorthand for the UK and USA), we tend to get a lot of symbols in our popular culture that fit our own particular set of nature/culture oppositions. There’s a reason why I’ve steered clear of talking about Japanese space opera; it might be an interesting thing for someone with more knowledge of their particular culture to explore colour symbolism in that context.
- The way space opera uses symbols, particularly colour symbols, is linked to the job space opera has to do: to introduce casual viewers quickly to casts and scenarios in a way that doesn’t alienate regulars, to provide new and interesting alien planets on a weekly basis in a way that keeps costs down but doesn’t get the viewer saying “Vasquez Rocks again?” (by the way, shout out to Star Trek: Picard for using the actual Vasquez Rocks as a location).
- Nature/culture: is a big trope that designers and directors exploit big-time, for its emotional significance in “Western” (op cit) culture, but it changes over time. In the sixty years that we’ve been covering here, we’ve gone from culture-good, to nature-good, and now we seem to be going back into culture-good (albeit with some interesting fusion symbolism in The Mandalorian, but it seems to be the only one so far). Arguably in 1990s space operas like Farscape and LEXX you had a period of we-can’t-tell-what’s-nature-and-what’s-culture, which is probably not too surprising, given that it was a decade when people were having to rethink a lot of pre-existing social categories (and, come to think of it, that might make a good bonus episode/coda to this series; comment if you’d like me to write one).
- Finally, historical-futurism goes back longer than most people realise, and the reason it works is for the same reason that the colour symbolism works: because we have sets of associations piled up in our cultural knowledge that mean we go to certain places when we see certain things. But they work best when you’re evoking a time period sideways, as it were: making us think of Westerns not through Western-style visuals, but through other symbols that evoke the same sort of ideas.
So, I’m going to leave you here with those four takeaways. Obviously one could go on much further, and I might do more pieces later on exploring in depth what particular series do with particular sets of symbols. I should also probably mention here that I have a book coming out in Obverse Book’s Black Archive series of Doctor Who monographs: it’s #43: The Robots of Death, and the reason I mention it here is because there’s a whole chapter on Expressionist design, historical-futurism, and how Doctor Who producer Philip Hinchcliffe made use of it throughout his tenure on the show. So if you like what you read, there’s more!
In the meantime: go out on your own, play with these tools, look at what the designers of your own favourite space operas are doing with colour and visual trope, and have fun with it.
Just to let you know that we’re now in the last 5 days of the story bundle. It won’t be around forever, so if you want to buy my novel Driving Ambition plus a ton of other great books for the price of a trade paperback, go here while you still can.