The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

March 20, 2017
by Dan
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Will You Help Us Destroy the Evil Galactic Empire?

Tom Gauld for The Guardian. (I’m working on my sardonically witty literary novel as we speak.)

February 10, 2017
by Dan
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The Martian Invasion of 1894

Tom Gauld for The Guardian. 

October 17, 2016
by Dan
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The Fantastic Ursula K. Le Guin

Julie Phillips long profile of author Ursula K. Le Guin for The New Yorker is wonderful: Starting in the nineteen-eighties, [Le Guin] published some of her most accomplished work—fiction that was realist, magic realist, postmodernist, and sui generis. She wrote the Borgesian feminist parable “She … Continue reading

October 3, 2016
by Dan
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Stanislaw Lem Penguin Modern Classics

A new Penguin Modern Classic edition of Mortal Engines by Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem is available in the UK this week. Art directed by Jim Stoddart, this is the third of Lem’s books in the Penguin Modern Classics … Continue reading

May 20, 2016
by Dan
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A Dirge for a New World

Andrew F. Sullivan, author of ultra-violent urban noir WASTE, reviews Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of High-Rise by J.G. Ballard for TIFF.Net: Wheatley and Ballard point to a pattern—a dissolution of social order that cannot be prevented by technology or progress. Even … Continue reading

April 25, 2016
by Dan
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Penguin Galaxy Series design by Alex Trochut

Following on from their horror classics series selected by Guillermo Del Toro, Penguin US is publishing six hardcover science fiction and fantasy classics this fall with introductions from Neil Gaiman, and (more importantly!) brilliant typographic covers by Brooklyn-based Spanish designer Alex … Continue reading

February 19, 2016
by Dan
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J.G. Ballard Series by Stanley Donwood

Some how I missed these when they were first published in 2014, but British publisher Fourth Estate has reissued 21 books by J.G. Ballard with covers designed Stanley Donwood. Donwood, who is perhaps best known for his artwork for Radiohead, talked about … Continue reading

October 4, 2015
by Dan
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The Inner-Space of J. G. Ballard’s High-Rise

With the release of the Ben Wheatley movie adaptation starring Tom Hiddleston imminent, Chris Hall looks at High-Rise and the ‘inner-space’ of J. G. Ballard’s science fiction for The Guardian: High-Rise is the final part of a quartet of novels … Continue reading

June 29, 2015
by Dan
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The Scientist’s Dilemma

In his latest cartoon for New Scientist magazine, Tom Gauld illustrates the temptations of science fiction: In related news, Drawn & Quarterly are going to publish Tom’s new book Mooncop next year. It looks amazing:

May 25, 2015
by Dan
2 Comments

The Story of ILM

Somewhat related to that Keith Phipps essay Why Star Wars? (mentioned here a couple of days ago), Wired has an oral history of Industrial Light & Magic, the special effects shop founded by George Lucas to work on the movie: … Continue reading

May 24, 2015
by Dan
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Why Star Wars?

In the most recent installment of the Laser Age, the Dissolve’s fascinating history of science fiction films from the 1960s to the 1980s, Keith Phipps turns his attention to Superman, Star Trek, and Flash Gordon — three movies released in the immediate wake of Star Wars. It’s a great read if you are … Continue reading

January 22, 2015
by Dan
2 Comments

We Were Not Made For This World

Directed by Colin West McDonald, We Were Not Made For This World is a short science fiction film based on the comic strip of the same name by cartoonist Paul Hornschemeier about a robot searching for his creator: ‘We Were Not … Continue reading

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