TO THE STAR

Ac­claimed SF nov­el­ist Alas­tair Reynolds on the prom­ise of In­ter­stel­lar

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Interstellar -

As fine a film as Ri­d­ley Scott’s Alien re­mains, it had a per­ni­cious ef­fect on one par­tic­u­lar strand of SF. The space­ship film used to be a ve­hi­cle for the ex­plo­ration of an almost lim­it­less set of ideas, rang­ing from evo­lu­tion, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, con­tact with the alien, to the ques­tion of the ul­ti­mate lim­its of hu­man po­ten­tial. Even the comedic Dark

Star em­bed­ded deep think­ing about the fal­si­fi­a­bil­ity of ex­pe­ri­enced sen­sa­tions – heady stuff in­deed. After Alien, though, hor­ror be­came the dom­i­nant mode of the space­ship story. Rather than a ve­hi­cle for tak­ing us to dif­fer­ent places, the space­ship had be­come the equiv­a­lent of the haunted house. It was a trope that would res­onate through the SF cin­ema of the next 30 years, reach­ing a par­tic­u­larly dis­ap­point­ing nadir in Scott’s own Prometheus.

Dare we hope for some­thing bet­ter from Christo­pher Nolan? The in­di­ca­tions are promis­ing. What­ever you make of Nolan’s films, they are put to­gether with in­tel­li­gence and an avoid­ance of the crassly ob­vi­ous. On the ba­sis of the trailer, In­ter­stel­lar looks like a se­ri­ous, sub­stan­tial SF movie – and for once the point of the space­ship seems to be ex­plo­ration. The sci­en­tific cre­den­tials look good, as well. The “in­ter­stel­lar” part of the travel seems to be fa­cil­i­tated by an ar­ti­fi­cially gen­er­ated worm­hole, an idea that sounds sci­ence fic­tional but which has se­ri­ous the­o­ret­i­cal cre­den­tials. In­deed, the film’s sci­ence has been shaped by the in­put of leg­endary as­tro­physi­cist Kip Thorne. Weirdly enough, this won’t be the first Matthew McConaughey film to be un­der­pinned by the worm­hole physics of Thorne, for that was also true of Con­tact.

So – let’s be op­ti­mistic, and hope that In­ter­stel­lar is both as good as it looks, and that it ush­ers in a new wave of in­tel­li­gent space­ship films. I can’t wait to see it.

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