Speculative Fiction: It’s Really All About Relationships

Lately I’ve been pulled into some speculative fiction of the film variety. It seems I can’t go too long without a fix of science fiction from the psychological, non-alien end of the spectrum. 

First up was Jac Schaeffer’s TiMER. What if we’re destined to be with someone? We just have to get an implant and see how long it’s going to be. But, what if our timer doesn’t count down? Is it time to take matters into our own hands? Oh, and it’s funny, too.


This might fall more in the paranormal camp, but I really liked Joss Whedon’s In Your Eyes.  
Someone else can feel your deepest hurts, both physical and emotional. But if you tap into it, they can also see it.


Hey, but what if extreme opposites changed the brain chemistry that pushed them apart? Could they be together? Then the government spoils things and assumes the technology is for ill. That’s Darren Paul Fisher’s Frequencies (OXV, The Manual).


What all three of these movies have at their core is a relationship. I can imagine one or more of these writers saying, “What I was trying to do most of all is write a story about a guy and a girl.” Sort of like what Joe Weisberg said about his fabulous series The Americans  being about a marriage more than espionage.  

On the literary front these reminded me of Ninni Holmqvist’s book The Unit.  Single people – especially those with jobs that don’t contribute to society – are encouraged to leave their lives and join The Unit. It’s a model community with a great lifestyle that also processes you through organ donation to benefit those outside that society values more. Dorrit goes in willingly, but of course it doesn’t stay that way forever because of relationships.

And, of course, relationships are at the heart of motivation and motivation is the heart of story. 

Happily Enrolled in George Clooney University

In the interest of continuing education I'm enrolled in the Enlightenment through Film Certificate Program at George Clooney University. Not only do you get George, but some of the other profs are pretty awesome too. I'm a little behind on the coursework, but wanted to share some favorite classes with my take on course materials. 

Adjunct Faculty:

Matt Damon - Howard Zinn Chair of Social Justice in International Affairs

Ben Affleck - Henry Fonda Chair of American History

Steven Soderbergh - John Cassavetes Chair of Philosophy 

Richard Linklater - Philip K. Dick Chair of Psychology in Time

Stephen Gaghan - Christiane Amanpour Chair of Journalism


Course Sampling:

ART HIST - Monument's Men - (taught by George, co-taught by Matt Damon) An Ocean's Eleven romp through the art policies of the Nazis. This course offers an introduction to the importance of cultural preservation. Prerequisites: None. Textbook: Saving Italy by Robert M. Edsel. Learn More: The Rape of Europa Film and Book. For the Middle Grade to Young Adult student: Heist Society by Ally Carter

HIST Good Night and Good Luck - In this course you'll explore the history of government agencies suppressing free speech in the name of anti-communism and role of journalism in exposing government tactics through the work of Edward R. Murrow. Prerequisite: For McCarthyism in Hollywood - The Way We Were. Textbook: Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism by Bob Edwards. Were McCarthy's tactics all that different from the Stasi in The Lives of Others? See  more fearless journalism in Absence of Malice, All the President's Men, The China Syndrome and Veronica Guerin.

HIST - Syriana (taught by Stephen Gaghan, co-taught by George and Matt Damon). Oil and World Politics. How the fight for control over one of modern history's most important resources affects the global pulse. Textbook: See No Evil by Robert Baer Learn More: The Oil Trusts and Anglo-American Relations. Co-written by an MI5 spy 90 years ago. For Discussion in Current Events: Khodorkovsky

HIST - Argo - (taught by Ben Affleck) - A highly dramatized version of the Canadian Caper, the escape of six American embassy workers posing as Canadian film makers during the Iran Hostage Crisis. Textbook: Taken Hostage: The Iran Hostage Crisis and America's First Encounter with Radical Islam by David Farber For Discussion: What can be learned from early 20th century Pan-Islamic radicalism and its source in controlling powers? See Russian Roulette: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin's Plot for Global Revolution by Giles Milton and The Russian Connection of the Indian Muhajirin: 1920-1924 and Pan-Islam in British India by M. Naeem Qureshi Also For Discussion: How closely should film stick to facts in movies based on true stories? See OSCARS: Filmmakers Walk A Fine Line When Dramatizing Real-Life Events

HIST - Leatherheads - Learn how football uses and is effected by the media and current events, circa 1925. Prerequisites: None Textbook: Sports Governance, Development and Corporate Responsibility For Discussion in Current Events: Anna Isaacson - Today's woman in the make or break hot seat of the NFL. and NFL announces four women will help shape league policy.

PHIL - Solaris (taught by Steven Soderbergh) What is life in the mind, in the body? Life on earth and in the universe? Prerequisites: None Textbook: Solaris by Stanislaw Lem Learn More: Summa technologiae by Stanislaw Lem. For discussion: What memory do you save when the body is gone? After Life.

PSYCH - A Scanner Darkly - (taught by Richard Linklater, co-taught by Soderbergh with George as producer) Linklater's deep dive into the well of Philip K. Dick. In this course you'll explore the sacrifices a government and individuals will make to fight the war on drugs. Textbook: A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick Prerequisite: Minority Report Learn More: The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings by Philip K. Dick (Author) Lawrence Sutin (Editor) For Discussion: Gaghan's Traffic, of course

Strange Fruit on The Hanging Tree

I saw Mockingjay Part 1 over the holidays and it spurred me on to finish reading the awesome Hunger Games series by Suszanne Collins. In an interview Collins said her goal is to write a war story for every age group, so I can't wait for the adult offering.

In the meantime, I noticed set dressing, casting and costumes for the film enforced the slave and racial themes expressed in the book. In particular I was struck by Collins' song The Hanging Tree as performed by Jennifer Lawrence.

Oh, how it reminds me of Billie Holliday's rendition of Strange Fruit.


Things only make sense to me in layers. History in time, richness of place, the polyphony and dissonance of sound, the beauty of sight, and all connected by story.

On a recent trip to St. Simons Island I noticed the Spanish moss turns almost silver in winter. The mighty ancient oaks, almond sand and gentle December days were the perfect antidote to holiday madness.