Lost in Space

Science fiction fantasies, and how they impact our lives and influence our media.

Lost in Space

"Science fiction has a robot fetish: robots that make your breakfast, robots that make war and yes, robots that make love. But while ASIMO may be able to do your taxes and pour a mean Tom Collins, it has the romantic appeal of a vending machine. And not those sexy vending machines in airports that sell overpriced iPods."

Joe Blancato and Jordan Deam draw a line between now and then, stopping along the way for lasers.

Lost in Space

"In the preface to William Gibson's Burning Chrome, Bruce Sterling said science fiction writers are like court jesters, able to speak truths without offense. 'We are Wise Fools who can leap, caper, utter prophecies, and scratch ourselves in public. We can play with Big Ideas because the garish motley of our pulp origins makes us seem harmless.'

"Science fiction is able to make indictments against us palatable. We can choose either to accept them as truths or dismiss them as empty fiction. Star Trek, we know, wasn't saying that hundreds of years in the future we'll see racism as a social flaw. It was saying that it should be recognized as such back then in the '60s. Every comment on the Prime Directive, every mention of how the people of Earth solved their society's problems, were not speculation on what the future might bring but arguments that something was wrong in the present."

Lost in Space

"NASA sprang into action, showing young people science could be fun, using space as the carrot, communist invasion as the stick. As a result, millions of American children got their first taste of space - real space. Careers were launched and dreams brought into being, built on the foundation of science taught in classrooms, but for me these classes had the opposite effect. Real space wasn't spacey enough for me. As an ex-girlfriend would later put it, I was more in love with the idea than the reality."

Lost in Space

"To its credit, Valve's writing staff appears to be fully aware of the humor inherent in Gordon's highly low-tech exploits. In HL2, for example, Barney jokes about Gordon's education while the player performs the difficult task of flipping a switch. But beneath this running gag, the Half-Life series (and its crazy little sister, Portal) betrays a kind of warm ambivalence toward scientific pursuits."

Thomas Wilburn dissects the science reds of Half-Life and Portal.

Lost in Space

"Suhr theorizes that the genre started to fade from the marketplace at a point in time when gameplay shifted toward simpler controls and away from realistic schemes, which included those of airplane simulators. Many of the classic space sims can be tricky to figure out how to pilot well.

"'Most space sims are more complex [to play] than games like Doom 3,' says Suhr. 'I do think they are harder to access. Some people prefer it that way, but it really is an obstacle for a lot of people.'"

Howard Wen tracks the demise of the space sim.