That was a good post.
More and more, I find myself exploring 1960s and 1970s films, the 70s in particular were a golden age of sorts.
Portrayal of dystopian future societies was a recurring theme in films such as Soylent Green, Zardoz and Logan's Run, with a lot of these films it takes a particular mindset to appreciate them.
I'm particularly interested in the zeitgeist that inspired them, growing concern over environmental issues plus the ongoing cold war, made the very Earth rejecting us a tangible possibility. The taste for dystopia perhaps reflects growing acceptance that we are not chosen by a god and our tenure as masters of the Earth isn't a certainty.
Extend into the 80s and the political slant becomes more pronounced reflecting fears of a drift towards the right in politics, Escape From New York and the Running Man show an Orwellian future where democracy gives way to totalitarian regimes or revisits the idea of corporations dwarfing the power of Government, visited in the 70s via Rollerball, then in the 80s in films like the Running Man, Alien, Blade Runner and Robo Cop.
It's an unending source of frustration to me that I'm too close to step back and see what is rattling our cages here in the present day. I find it hard to appreciate much of anything released nowadays, the love for special effects and slick, choreographed fights make anything of substance harder to see, if it's there at all.
The problem is – as I see it – that there are few really good contemporary sci-fi writers left these days. You have some who are writing the same books they were writing years ago (Peter Hamilton, for example) which are fine but hardly reflect the angsts of our modern society, and then you have everyone else… who are all writing zombie and vampire shit because it sells.
However there are some great foreign sci-fi books knocking around; All You Need Is Kill is one example but Mardock Scramble is just about the best sci-fi book I’ve ever read (which is being somewhat clumsily translated into a pretty good series of anime films), next to Yukikaze (which is brilliant; the second one loses a little magic and mystery but the setting is fantastic and the themes are very contemporary).
The problem is… none of those books would make good western films. I think you need a certain mindset and understanding to read a Japanese sci-fi book, something which would be stripped away by strapping Tom Cruise into the lead role (probably… sigh). It’s likely also true of other countries books (Metro 2033 is another fine example, as is Roadside Picnic [which Stalker is based on] – piss poor translations don’t help much either).
In summary… as I’ve forgotten my point… I think most of our modern writers want to be penning the next Twilight or penning kiddy shit like Doctor Who rather than exploring modern angst through the medium of thoughtful sci-fi.