Pravic

A New Grammar for Science Fiction

Science Fiction is no longer a novelty.

We do not want to read Science Fiction because it is set in the future. Science Fiction must offer some deeper, truer view of ourselves and our place in the cosmos.

 

You Devil, You: Prometheus in Three Assessments (Part One)

We're going to make a fresh start of it here at Pravic. With issue 4 now available, and issue 5 in the works, we'd like to make this whole endeavor a bit broader. As much as we like being the grumpy old folks who run a print mag in the 21st century, our relative absence on the web is starting to seem like a waste. So from here on out, this blog will be revived, rebuilt, resurrected - like a certain fictional monster. And we, your humble editors, will serve our parts as mad scientists.

We would very much like to feature works of non-fiction by other writers as well, so please send us what you have if you'd like to. And remember, we're always accepting fiction submissions.

Here, to kick things off, is the first of three essays on the Ridley Scott film Prometheus.

***


Assessment 1: Oedipus Rex, or The Premodern Prometheus
Nathaniel K. Miller

Ridley Scott's Prometheus is a divisive film to say the least. Lamented as muddled by many, I believe it to be not only an excellent film, but a relatively clear one as well. It's nuanced, and, like the similarly-decried ending of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, it makes enemies of fans by doing philosophy in a framework many moviegoers have decided is the home turf of "hard" SF. But while its messages may require work to uncover, it's the work a good audience should want to do. And its rewards, though bittersweet, are insightful.

In large part, Prometheus is a psychodrama. In some ways it is arguably a single piece of a larger, career-spanning meta-film which is predicated on the same threads of Oedipal and inverse-Oedipal neuroses (compare this to the "meta-novel" which Philip K. Dick, upon whose work Scott's Blade Runner was based, claimed to have written).

The psychological dialectic Scott employs is clear and familiar to most viewers - both from his previous work and in a general sense, as people living in a post-Freudian world (or a post-Sophoclean one, for that matter). Children resent and want to usurp (or murder) their parents; parents fear and want to suppress (or murder) their children.

But there's a deeper schism at work here. David is the well-reared child. He knows his father, understands his "generation-" humans generally - and is disappointed. He's disappointed by how little credit he gets, by how he's written off as "merely" what he is; his unique nature is seen as a novelty, an accomplishment of his creators, or a threat. David, who has an ongoing relationship with his "father" Weyland, is free to seek self-realization - and thus is resentful and bitter when he is unable to access it. Notably, he takes this out on other humans while remaining devoted to Weyland himself - this is not a plotting or character-development mistake, but rather an indication of complexity in David.

This is also a notable, even central difference between his character and that of Roy Batty, to whom he is often compared. They may be alike in construction, but in Prometheus, their roles are inverted, as are the roles of their fathers. This is because their histories are also inverted.




It's also notable that David communes with Weyland in the latter's state of preservation - in some sense, Weyland comes from beyond the grave, instructing his progeny to act on his behalf. In this way, David is Hamlet as well as Frankenstein's monster, making the layering of parent/child issues which Scott plays on in our public awareness that much thicker.



We humans, on the other hand, are the abandoned children. We never knew our parents, so we flail about endlessly searching them out, totally unable to assert ourselves in a mature way. This is the Scylla and Charybdis of Scott's psychology: if we know our parents, we know disappointment because their flaws are evident. If we live in their absence, we are damned to imagine their virtues and motivations, and to lose our freedom, our innocence, and our sanity in that endless, fruitless speculation.

This leads us right to the bitter, cynical core of the film I think most viewers have missed. Just as Dick used androids to show us how conditional our own humanity is, the answer - the big one - is done subtlety through David's humanity as illuminated by Shaw's roboticism. When Shaw is about to put David's head into the bag - an act of extreme suppression, of total imprisonment  - they have this exchange:

David: The answer is irrelevant. Does it matter why they changed their minds?
Shaw: Yes; yes it does.
David: I don't understand.
Shaw: Well, I guess that's because I'm a human being, and you're a robot.

After all she's just seen, her righteous demands for answers from the gods - Shaw still doesn't understand that David is, in the deep sense which is not about genetic overlap but rather about essential realness, human. She remains totally blind to the cycle in which she is enmeshed. David understands how things work, which is why he doesn't understand her motivations. He knows it's irrelevant, and beyond that suicidal. David wants nothing more than to assert himself separately from humans. His curse, of course, is that he is a head in a bag.



The Engineer had no interest in answering Shaw's questions, because it fundamentally failed to recognize her as human - as a viable, worthwhile life form. Her differences signified a total removal, a degradation instead of an inheritance, of the essential nature of the parent. And so, despite her "faith," despite the desperation with which she commits to continuing her journey, she does not even pause to see in her own hypocritical attitude toward David the very answer she seeks.

What humans "did wrong" was what David did wrong - existed, were alien; were a pure, existential threat to a creator who saw them as an abomination, if a sometimes useful one.

The point seems to be that we are doomed by our inquisitiveness, by our need to connect with the past - we can never win so long as we remain engaged in that cycle with our progenitors or our offspring. Perhaps we can escape the cycle if we let go of it entirely, attempt instead to assert ourselves as ourselves - or perhaps our very nature precludes the possibility.

It's in that cyclical nature that Prometheus is truly an Alien film. The resonances are too many to ignore. David, Ash, Bishop; the continual attempts by Weyland to procure (capture) and in theory bend to their own purposes the Xenomorphs (in essence, our children as well as our parents). There are innumerable other echoes here which make for a story which is, in its iterations, essentially cynical. I think once more of the much-despised ending of Battlestar. The endless self-damnation of humanity we see there is not far off spiritually from the one Scott has given us.


A final note on David: I've heard people espouse the belief that David is the “real monster” of Prometheus. To see David – or Roy Batty, or the android characters in Dick’s fiction – as the literal other, as mere warnings about the likelihood that our creations will indeed usurp us, is to miss the point entirely. David is our avatar in the film; if you’re not sure what’s important, where you should look, look to David. If he is the real monster, it’s because he is us, the us we cannot recognize. But there’s the rub: in Scott’s world, we are all simply versions of the same thing, unable to see each other for what we are. And that makes monsters of us all.



Issue 4 Now Available!

Issue 4 is finally here!

As you can see above, we've gone glossy, bound, and otherwise high-quality - a decision as much of necessity as aesthetics. But rest assured, all the underdog hubris that went into the stapled zines is here in full despite the change. We're like Kubrick - better production values just let our crazy vision flourish more fully.

Featuring new fiction by Margaret Rodriguez, Daniel Gonzalez, Joshua Hjalmer Lind, and a Soviet-era Russian SF tale, written by Igor Rosokhovatsky and translated by Nikita Allgire, as well as non-fiction by Suhail Rafidi. Illustrated throughout!

As usual, print copies are $3 bucks and come with a digital copy.

Digital copies are a dollar.

Please allow up to 24 hours for digital delivery; we don't have an automated delivery system yet, so there me a wait while we sleep, work, or summon spirits.

Order by clicking the "Current Issue" button!

Issue 4 Update

After a minor issue (par for the course with a new printer, I suppose), Issue 4 is in our grubby hands at last, and soon it can be in yours! David will be mailing out physical copies to subscribers and contributors this week, and the link for purchasing single issues should be up by Wednesday or so as well. I'll be working on getting digital copies sent out over the next few days.

So stay tuned! If you haven't already, you can still subscribe for this cycle at the link atop the page.

EDIT: Digital copies have now been sent to subscribers and contributors. If you did not receive your copy, please contact us.

Our "Transitional" nameplate



Back to Save the Universe

It's been quite a while, dear readers, but we are not dead and gone yet.

We've been absent, and we hope to remedy that. Bear with us, if you will.

First and most importantly, I'm very happy to announce that issue 4 is finished and at the printer! We're really proud of this one - as we have been of all our past issues - which features stories by Margaret Rodriguez, Daniel Gonzalez, Joshual Hjalmer Lind, and a very interesting translation of a Soviet-era Russian SF tale, written by Igor Rosokhovatsky and translated by Nikita Allgire.

We are also charmed and excited to feature a great non-fiction work by rising SF personage Suhail Rafidi. This issue is another big one, with a number of illustrations and images by yours truly and others.

On top of all that, we're well into issue 5. Our hope is to get it out ahead of schedule for once. So all you loyal readers with subscriptions, fear not - our time-lines may be wonkier than a JJ-180 trip, but we're firmly rooted in the future. Or something.

A few items of news: First, we must say adieu to layout/design person Meri Brin, whose hard work on issues 1-3 helped bring this dream to life. For the foreseeable future, I will be handling design. Having more direct creative control is always appealing, if it's also dangerous and anxiety-inducing, but I think you'll like where we're taking the magazine.

If you caught the phrase "at the printer," it wasn't a mistake - for complicated reasons, we've made the move to a print-on-demand service. Yes, this means a little of the zine feel which has always been important to us will be lost, but rest assured, we'll be making up for it in quality, durability, and overall artifactual awesomeness. But most importantly, it's letting us keep our prices where they are - as low as humanly possible - for the time being. We'll also be offering digital copies in multiple formats, finally - more on that as it comes.

Lastly in the news department, we're very excited to welcome Nikita Allgire on-board as assistant editor. Nikita is a grad student in Comparative Literature - you can learn more about him in issue 4. Needless to say, his contributions even thus far have been extraordinarily appreciated.

In the coming weeks, I'm hoping to re-invigorate this site with more updates, original writing, and opportunities for conversation. Please - chime in, speak up, tell us what's on your mind. Pravic is supposed to be a community. Help us make it one.

-Nathaniel K. Miller




Issue 3 now available!

Well folks, the wait is over, and we think it's really been worth it. Issue three is finished! With stellar stories by Mike Buckley, John Biggs, Carl Fuerst, Ian Kappos and even one from yours truly, issue three is our biggest and most story-packed issue yet. That's five great stories, along with a geektastic conversation about Futurama for three little bucks - or a lonely dollar for the digital edition.

Digital copies are also available now, but delivery won't commence until Thursday or Friday - so feel free to order, but don't worry if nothing shows up in your inbox for a day or two.

Pravic SF Extravaganza This Saturday - Issue Three Release Party!

Issue three is ready to go to the presses and to celebrate we're having our first Pravic live event this Saturday in San Francisco! Here's our press release. Hope to see you there! 

Pravic’s Science Fiction Extravaganza at San Francisco’s Brainwash
Cafe

Pravic Magazine’s editorial team has assembled a glittering array of authors and aficionados to expose the hottest new writing and ideas in the field of science fiction.

May 13, 2013, San Francisco -- What is the role of science fiction in the 21st century, predictor or reflector? The Pravic Magazine Science Fiction Extravaganza presents authors Ben Loory, David Gill, Suhail Rafidi, and Ian Kappos to share their work and address that question. The authors will perform readings, participate in a panel discussion, and get a chance to spend some quality time with local fans. Other events include music by Wizard Master, trivia with prizes, and secret special guests.

In this day of interplanetary travel and cellular technology, what was once considered science fiction is coming to life all around us. Instead of a Golden Age of flying cars and personal jetpacks, we find ourselves amid dark times. Pollution, technologies of distraction, overconsumption, and apathy afflict our now.

Ben Loory’s short fiction collection Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day (Penguin) has been making waves nationwide since its 2011 publication. He has appeared in The New Yorker, as well as several heavyweight literary journals, and has been praised by none other than Ray Bradbury.

David Gill is the scholar who founded and maintains the Total Dick Head website, an authoritative Philip K. Dick resource. Gill organized the 2012 Philip K. Dick Festival. His fiction appeared in Pravic, The Speculative Edge, Theurgy Magazine, and 365 Tomorrows.

Suhail Rafidi’s science fiction novel, TJ & Tosc: A Field Guide For Life After Western Culture (Shelldive), explores the destiny of human values in a technological landscape. Billed as the first organic, free range novel, it is also in development for musical adaptation, slated for release in 2014.

Ian Kappos is an up and coming fantasy and horror writer. He served as editor of the now retired Blue Monday Press. His short story “The Leper Colony,” was published in the Neon literary journal.

From the event website:

“An evening of Science Fiction with readings by Ben Loory, David Gill, Ian Kappos, and Suhail Rafidi. Music by Wizard Master. Trivia with prizes! Panel Discussion: What is the Role of Science Fiction in the 21st century, predictor or reflector?
ALL-AGES, FREE (donations accepted), SECRET SPECIAL GUESTS!”

Pravic Magazine is a new grammar for science fiction, edited by Nathanial K. Miller and David Gill. The publication has been described as “brave, handsome, and intelligent,” by Ursula K. Leguin. Pravic has announced that they will be planning a science fiction

Brainwash Cafe                                    Music starts at 7pm.
1122 Folsom St                                    FREE/ALL-AGES/BEER/FOOD!
San Francisco, California
94103
Brainwash.com

Another Brief Commentary

I love photos taken behind the scenes, especially on the sets of canonical science fiction movies.

These photos Sean Young took on the set of Blade Runner nearly did me in when they hit the Internet a couple years ago.

This image of Princess Leia and C-3PO we ran last week seems particularly evocative, especially with Star Wars Day fresh in our memory.

I grew up with Star Wars. Like so many other adolescents, my unfledged loins were first enlivened by Princess Leia. So this picture is especially funny when read in light of awkward pre-pubescence. What young lad wouldn’t suddenly become as awkwardly prim (and as hard as steel) as the big brass dork when in such close proximity to a bonafide space princess (or the roguish charm of a smuggler who plays by his own rules or even the latex menace of a Sith)?

Of course, we should recognize that this sexualization is problematic for any number of reasons, and I think is probably a strike against the franchise’s greatness - except, remember, Leia will grab a blaster and terminate stormtroopers with extreme prejudice. That this ferocious quality of hers is secondary to her beauty makes it less redeeming. But let’s not dwell on the negative.

There’s something else in these pictures (and the others in this notable set )

You can see that movies work in two directions. The audience is not the only one to be transported by the script. The actors too are carried away in their roles, which are, let’s face it, archetypes. They can’t help but to become these people (or are we just a perpetual audience unable to see artifice for what it is?).

Star Wars works because these archetypes are so recognizable, so universal. We get to know these characters so well that we could write their dialog if we had to. And we can use these archetypes to help us to understand the human experience. We sometimes feel like Han Solo, sometimes like Luke Skywalker, sometimes like R2-D2 and sometimes like C-3PO. We’re doing more than merely relating to these characters - we recognize aspects of ourselves in them. I’m not saying this is anything new: sometimes we feel we lack courage, or a brain, or a heart, or we just want to get back to Kansas. But regardless, these characters do not tell us about far away, fantastic places, but instead provide us a lens with which to perceive ourselves. 

-David Gill - co-editor - Pravic Magazine - 5/6/13

Caption Contest #2 Winners!

It's been a busy week - we've gained quite a few new fans, followers, and subscribers, and we're very glad to have y'all on board. Issue #3 is close to complete, and we couldn't be more excited - aside from four very cool stories and a ParaRiffs feature about Futurama, we have some seriously cool interviews with our authors. We're still working on the details and design, but rest assured it will be a worthy successor to our first two issues.

Last Tuesday, we ran a caption contest for the picture below. We hoped to announce winners within a day, but we wanted to leave room for a few more attempts. Alas, our two respondents will be the winners - not that their captions aren't awesome. But we wouldn't mind a bit more interaction around here....

So, without further ado, the winner of our second caption contest is Suhail Rafidi! His caption follows the image below:

"You're supposed to lead, C..."

Suhail will receive a free digital subscription for the whole dang cycle.

Our runner-up is Ken Romero for his caption:

"Princess Lea, I am fluent in over six million forms of communication...Including the 'language of Love!'"

Ken gets a free digital copy of issue #2. 

Congrats, guys!

Buy Our Current Issue

$3 will get you a real, ink-on-paper copy of Pravic, anywhere in the world, shipping included.

If you like it, let us know by commenting on the blog, and of course, tell your friends, enemies with good taste, the internet, etc. in whatever ways you tend to do such things.

After placing your order, we will deliver a high-res PDF to the e-mail address of your choice. Please provide an address which can handle somewhat large files, such as Gmail, etc. Please allow up to a few hours for delivery, as we're a two-person operation with no fancy automatic file-sending robots or the like.

If you have any questions, e-mail us (pravicmagazine at gmail dot com) and we'll address your concerns as soon as we can.

Props from BoingBoing / Interview Teaser

Today, Pravic was featured on the illustrious Boing Boing

No biggie, just a little write-up.
We're absolutely not delighted, gleeful, or altogether too proud of ourselves.

Carry on.

***

In other news, we've been working hard on issue #3, and today we did our interview with author Mike Buckley. Mike's amazing, chilling story "Who They Were Before the Song Began" will be in issue #3, and we couldn't be more excited to feature it. 

Here's a little preview from the interview to whet your appetites.

"If asked to describe myself I’d say I’m pretty sunny.  But of course I’m wrong.  A friend of mine once pointed out that every time a character in one of my stories falls in love part of their body gets cut off.  Nonsense, I thought, then I went and checked.  She was right, and I was freaked out."


Caption Contest Winners and a Brief Commentary

Yesterday, we posted this pic of William Gibson wearing the new Google glasses and asked you all to post your best captions. We got a bunch of good one, mostly on our Facebook page (actually, on David's page), but we've picked a winner: The serendipitously-named Chris Bradbury's comment takes the cake - after all, that particular program is the REAL end-point to the whole arc of geek acceptance, right?

"Wait, I'm getting something. No, it's just a rerun of Big Bang Theory."

William Gibson, Google Glass

Chris gets a digital subscription for the cycle!

Runner-up prize goes to Pravic pal Forest Hughes, whose "The abyss stares back..." was poignant and sticks. Forest gets a digital copy of issue #2.

Some other notable entries from our Facebook page:

Mike Armstrong says:

"They ARE mine. Why would I share the...woah!"

Wa da Ta says:

"Your issue seems to be a 4th nipple"

Forest Hughes says:

"This isn't my prescription."

Pravic Co-editor David Gill (not eligible) says:

"You see those data towers out there in cyberspace represent your friends' progress playing Farmville."

***

And, because we like to climb the old soapbox around here, a brief commentary:

For those of us on the less optimistic side of the SF fence, there's a bit of the bizarre in this image that probably just isn't there for many of the author's fans. Ever careful to walk the line between cool critic and cool hunter, Gibson pulls readers of many outlooks, partially because he so thoroughly obscures his own - or at least he used to, though the open fetishism for arcane artifacts has become more pronounced in his work and in his public life in recent years. 

One potential problem with this sort of "moral silence" (or post-modernism, if you buy that line) is that everybody grafts on the worldview they want to believe the author has. More credulous cynics may still believe Gibson's vision is dystopian, but the hard-and-fast futurists who comprise a large segment of his readership don't. My bet is, they are experiencing zero cognitive dissonance when they see this picture. 

Sure, mega-corporations rule everything in Gibson's world, but isn't the Sprawl THE romantic vision for these fans? Isn't it freedom? The big, faceless bad guys provide the moral justification for being a loner and a pirate and a vigilante. Without the real chance for effecting large-scale social change for the better, you're free to do what you really want to do - get in adventures, pull hard cash, and still be a real punk - distant-eyed and self-destructive as you please. 

I don't claim to know any more about the inside of Gibson's head than his works arguably point to, but I have a sneaking suspicion that he was never doing anything but plugging that world, even if he wouldn't be interested in, or up to living, the lives of his characters . It's self-serving, not because it's his fantasy, but because it's ours (or so many of ours), and he knows it.

-NKM

Pic of the Week Caption Contest

We've decided to start a new thing. Every week (probably), we'll post a picture and let you folks at it. The best caption wins, and commentary is welcome too. If a discussion around a pic blows up, we might even hijack it for a future "ParaRiffs" or other feature of the magazine.

This week, it's a rather surreal pic of cyberpunk forefather William Gibson trying out Google's new Google Glasses.

When the day wraps up, we'll pick the best caption (from here, the FB page, or Google+) and sign up that lucky luddite for a digital subscription of Pravic.

I'll also post a few comments of my own.

Let 'em rip!

William Gibson, Google Glass

Good News, Everyone!

Well, Issue 2 is officially live and in the world. If you haven't gotten a copy yet, it's nobody's fault but your own.

Here at Pravic HQ, we're moving on, slipping into the future. That means it's time to start the conversation that will become Issue #3's ParaRiffs.

In case you don't know, every issue features a segment called ParaRiffs where we discuss a topic in an open format using brief ruminations and bits of discussion with our friends, peers and the whole danged community. It's a hodge-podge of paragraphs riffing on a - you get it. Right? Right.

That means we want to hear your ideas, theories, stories, etc. Some of them will be included in issue 3. So comment here, or join in on our Facebook page, because this issue, we're digging deep into the science fictional pirate bay of gonzo genre porn that is Futurama!

We think Futurama is just about the best show around - it's legit SF, while also lovingly lampooning nearly every trope, tenet, author and shiny facade in the game. What do you think?


Issue 2 Now Available in Digital Format!

Here it is, folks: your single-issue digital copy option for issue 2. As of now, we're offering a PDF sent to the address of your choice, with more formats to come - as I've said before, please leave some feedback and let us know what formats you use.

In addition, there's a new order form on the subscriptions link at the top of the page - digital subscriptions are now available, and print subscriptions now come with digital issues (those of you who have already subscribed, you'll be upgraded automatically).

More Teasers for Issue 2...

A compendium of compressed content, composed of curious and crafty clips (current, of course).

***


“Dale Crover is a time machine.” (DG)

“Perhaps the problem was the book's outsider attitude.  Gay romances should be okay by now, but maybe not if one of the gays is William Burroughs, and maybe not if the book has more than its share of snickering nihilism, and maybe not if the book's heroes are the alien invaders - instead of being the cops.” (Rudy Rucker in interview)

“Call it hubris. Call it punk-rock. Call it slick marketing. But know that we intend to inhabit this world we're trying to build; expect to see one or the other of our names on a regular basis, both as editors and contributors.” (NKM) 

“The image of the robot in the woods was the first thing that came to me. It was a quiet, serene vision - a machine alone in the woods. I grew up around farms and woodlands, and you could walk along these old trails in the woods and find abandoned tractors, plows, even old cars... It's a jarring contrast that is also at the same time very peaceful. This was how I wanted it to be: we don't have high drama when we throw out an old toaster or an old appliance.” (Cal Godot in interview)

 “...where other Hasidic tales generally feature characters such as tsadikim and their students, and deal with problems such as the proper observation of halakha, Nachman’s tales feature characters such as kings, maids, and beggars, and deal with problems such as lost princesses, the meaning of an interaction between a spider and a fly, and an entire population suffering from madness.” (Ben Nadler)

“Writing allows the writer to beam into the mind of her readers, across time and space, sometimes even from beyond the grave. Writing, with the help of attention, transports ideas. Writing inverts absence and presence.” (DG)

Digital and Hybrid Subscriptions now available!

Alright people, it's live: digital subscriptions are now available. Issues 1-12, as they come, for 10 bucks.

As an added incentive, all print subscriptions will now include a digital subscription. Those of you who already subscribed, you'll be added to the list as well. Issue 1 still needs to be edited for digital format, but that'll be coming everybody's way as soon as it's ready.

For now, digital means a high-quality PDF delivered to the e-mail address of your choosing. Hopefully we can add on other formats in the future - let us know what you'd be interested in!

Everybody loves a hybrid!