Research. Planning. Pacing up and down. Making cups of coffee. There are lots of processes involved in writing a book besides the obvious bit of sitting stock-still in a chair and typing. One of the trickier aspects, I’d argue, is self-promotion: how many tweets is too many tweets? How many times should I mention the book I need to sell on Facebook without annoying my great aunt Agnes in Australia? Can I afford to have the book’s title emblazoned on the side of a jumbo jet? (The short answer: probably not.)
All of which leads me to the point of this post: I want to tell you about the book I’ve written, but without actually writing the words “please buy my book – you’ll really like it, honest.” It’s also an introduction to a series of short posts, both about the book itself and the process of writing it. If you’ve been thinking about writing a non-fiction book yourself, but haven’t been sure how to go about it, then maybe you’ll find some useful pointers in there.
So first of all, what is The Geek’s Guide To SF Cinema? I’m glad you asked…
The Geek’s Guide To SF Cinema
Weighing in at a healthy 272 pages, The Geek’s Guide To SF Cinema explores how the sci-fi genre has helped push filmmaking technology, as well as reflect our hopes and fears. Each of its 30 chapters takes in a key movie from over a century of cinema history, beginning with Georges Méliès’ seminal A Trip To The Moon, and takes an in-depth look at how they were made and the impact they left behind.
A further subchapter then branches out further still, highlighting less familiar films with similar themes and ideas: the chapter on Alien also takes in the best and worst of space horror, from Planet Of The Vampires to the tawdry Inseminoid; from Galaxy Of Terror to the grisly Event Horizon.
The result is, I hope a book that is entertaining yet also invested with plenty of depth; that lays out the case for sci-fi as a vital part of our culture, but does so in a way that even those with a casual interest in the subject can enjoy. It takes in numerous interviews, both past and present, from genre experts, filmmakers and actors, as well as research from dozens of books and yellowing old magazines.
As much as anything else, The Geek’s Guide To SF Cinema is a celebration of some of the most important movies ever made. In writing it, I had in mind the sensation I felt when I was about ten years old and encountering some of these classics for the first time. I still recall the first time I saw Silent Running, when I fell in love with its characters and reeled at its sense of isolation. Invasion Of The Body Snatchers terrified me. Star Wars left me exhilarated.
Those emotions, it seems, are infectious: great genre films create a ripple effect, where the images and ideas of one movie inspire the makers of another, from the early 20th century to the first decades of the 21st.
The Geek’s Guide To SF Cinema is an attempt to describe that ripple effect: more than a century of changing technology, social upheaval and filmmaking ingenuity. Alongside the 30 familiar titles covered within – among them Planet Of The Apes, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner – there are dozens more that might have passed you by, from cold war-era Soviet movies about space exploration to low-budget Mad Max clones.
It’s an exciting, fascinating and sometimes strange journey, taking in obsessive and eccentric filmmakers, pioneering artists and opportunistic producers; classic moments of high-art and cynical slabs of B-movie schlock.
I do hope you enjoy reading The Geek’s Guide To SF Cinema as much as I enjoyed writing it.
The Geek’s Guide To SF Cinema: 30 Key Films That Revolutionised The Genre is out on the 15th February, published by Robinson. It’s available in the UK from Amazon and The Book Depository, in Australia from Dymocks and Amazon and in New Zealand from Mighty Ape.