Only Human

The future of Robotics, the uBot, was revealed last night at the Only Human showing at RUMPUS in Bowden. The South Australian Young Artists (SAYArts) delivered a thrilling and relatable story that pays homage to the tropes of the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

Only Human is an ode to Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. The show demonstrates that science goes too far, having the uBot learning quickly and despising humans due to their apparent inferiority to robots and A.I. The uBot, part of the next generation of robotics and A.I. technology, breaks the Three Laws of Robotics as set down by Isaac Asimov back in 1942.

Some of the main tropes from the Golden Age of Science Fiction are explored in Only Human with great detail. Issues with racism, accelerated advancement of technology, and human greed are discussed with subtlety. This subtleness is what I found one of the most enjoyable about the show. The creators have introduced these classic sci-fi themes to a wider audience in this show. One example is how someone thinks crocs are bad because others on the internet say they are, this shows how we mould our thoughts around what others say without experiencing them ourselves.

The cast of this show is made up entirely of young artists who did a fantastic job within this performance, carrying a high level of professionalism and enthusiasm bringing their characters to life. The human and the robot character who later fall in love were two notable actors who did a great job. I related to their character on a personal side as the character reminded me a lot of myself, through their love to overexplain everything and awkwardness with human interaction.

Another moment of the performance that is memorable is the dance in the last third of the show. They all dance along to Flight of the Conchords’ ‘Robots’, fitting the robotic theme of the show, this choice allows the performers to take advantage of this catchy, funny song.

Only Human is a well-written performance that is funny, thought provoking and filled with references galore. It explores the idea of science and technology going too far with an effective narrative that is deep but subtle. It is a show you must see if you are into any of the above-mentioned themes of science fiction. Even if you aren’t, this is still an enjoyable show in an equally enjoyable venue.

4 / 5 stars


Words by Cameron Lowe

Only Human is showing until March 1

Tickets to the final two performances are now sold out

For more information please click here

Playing God

Playing God
Morton Benning
Stone Table Books, 2017


With a wry humour reminiscent of Terry Pratchett, Morton Benning treats the reader to a quest fit for any lover of role-playing fantasy games. Playing God explores the fallacy of making yourself a god – something ‘God Avatar’ Jeff created the entire digital world of Utopia to do. When the A.I. of Jeff’s game world malfunctions and turns on him, he finds himself trapped in Utopia. His quest to get back to the real world forces him into a party of rag-tag travellers including a cleric-in-training, an elf, a loveable little cat-creature, fairies of an aquatic variety and a surly goblin. Through a series of misadventures, Jeff is forced to unlearn his selfish ways and see the importance of helping others and working as part of a team.

This is a book that will certainly appeal to a teenage audience. It is easy to read and the story feels a lot like a madcap Dungeons & Dragons campaign. That being said, while the plot is plentiful in encounters with monsters and the odd flesh-eating tree, it doesn’t delve much into character. Jeff is easily the most developed character, but at times when he isn’t present the story feels a little more stagnant with other key characters such as Keenley, Turnshoe, and Miyako coming off as a touch shallow. This is a little disappointing given that Keenley is, arguably, the main character – not Jeff.

There is also a bit of ensemble-cast-syndrome going on as sometimes it feels a little like there are too many people in the party, to the point where none of them truly get to shine – something not uncommon in D&D style fantasies in which a big party is common.. The pacing can also be slow in parts, particularly when the characters are travelling, but this is made up for by the action-packed sequences peppered in-between.

The concept behind Playing God is a compelling one. What is it like to be one of the NPCs inhabiting a game world? It’s the kind of angle rarely examined – the exceptions being the likes of Viva La Dirt League’s Epic NPC Man series on YouTube. With a similar turn towards humour, Benning takes the NPC experience a step forward by looking at how the characters in Utopia react to their creator, Jeff, whose decidedly 21st century quips and analogies leave Keenley and co baffled.

Overall, this is a playful and enjoyable debut.

Playing God is available to purchase through Stone Table Books.

3/5 stars


Words by Lisandra Linde

In Conversation: Matt J. Pike

When Adelaide indie author Matt J. Pike started his writing career, the publishing landscape was nothing like it is now. Indie publishing was still new and risky while traditional publishing was still more appealing, being less risky. The multi-award-winning author attempted to make his start with traditional publishing, but after many rejections for Kings of the World and having a major publisher drop Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor, he turned to indie publishing – he hasn’t looked back since.

Of his books and series, Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor has been by far his most popular. Told in a first-person perspective point, Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor follows Jack Baldwin, a teenager living in Adelaide who survives a meteor colliding with the Earth. The series has been a success in both ebook and print and has won three bronze medals in teenage and young adult categories on Amazon in the UK and US. Kings of the World (Starship Dorsano Chronicles) and Scared to Beath (Zombie RiZing), the first in their series, have won the Global Ebook Awards in Teen and Juvenile Literature in 2013 and 2015.

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Pike’s various sci-fi worlds aren’t just created for pleasure, he’s hoping to find a cure for his daughter. Pike’s youngest daughter has Rett Syndrome, a neurological disorder which can hinder someone’s ability to do everyday tasks, such as walking and talking. It’s a childhood disorder, affecting more girls than boys (about 1 in 9000). All earnings from his books are donated to helping to find a cure. For those who are interested in finding out more about Rett Syndrome, visit his page here or AussieRett here.

Writing and publishing indie fiction, according to Pike, is both fun and challenging, with creative and marketing control being one of these. “I think having creative control, as well as marketing control is a pretty powerful combination,” says Matt, “as is having the worldwide rights to my work. Sure, it means a lot more things to do (like, lots), but I like all those challenges.  You have to be dedicated, but it’s rewarding.”

As for the future, Matt has plenty of stories coming up for avid readers and fans. He will be releasing the final entry in his Apocalypse series, entries 7-9 in the Zombie RiZing series. A “very inappropriately funny sci-fi action novel” he is co-authoring with fellow Adelaide indie author Russell Emmerson is also currently in the works. He also plans to start work on a side series to Apocalypse soon.

For those interested in Matt J. Pike and his works, check out the link to his website here. He will be doing the convention circuit at numerous Adelaide events, including AvCon in July and Supanova in November. He will also be at the upcoming Sydney and Brisbane Supanovas.


 

Words by Cameron Lowe

Spotlight: Melonhead Games

Three years ago, game developers Patrick Webb and Sam Frost were classmates in TAFE SA. They had just finished a student project for AVCon and were exhausted but eager begin another project. This was the beginning of Melonhead Games, an Adelaide-based independent game developer. Now, three years later, they are in the process of creating Rooftop Renegade in their office at Gameplus, a sharespace for game developers on Pirie Street.

Melonhead Games’ name originates from “quit your daydreaming melonhead”, a quote by Abraham Simpson from The Simpsons. Once a team of nine, it currently has four members: Webb (Designer and Producer), Frost (Character and Technical Artist), George Martin (Blueprint Scripter), and Alex Ferrabetta (Environmental and Graphic Artist). Their game, Rooftop Renegade, is a fast-paced side-scrolling action platformer. Developed in Unreal Engine 4, it is heavily inspired from game series like Trials and Sonic the Hedgehog, while its Pixar meet Stars Wars aesthetics are drawn from Ferrabetta’s love of sci-fi.

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The team at Melonhead Games. Alex Ferrabetta, Sam Frost, George Martin, and Patrick Webb.

Since beginning development, Melonhead Games have done a number of public playtests of Rooftop Renegade at AVCon in the past. Their most recent being during April at Greenlight Comics. Webb has said the feedback from the public has been generally very positive and has inspired them to create new features for Rooftop Renegade, allowing the player experience to improve with each playtest they do.

“Being your own boss” is what Webb considers both a benefit and a challenge being an independent game developer. “It’s a great feeling to have the exact job you’ve always wanted, but there is a ton of responsibility attached with no safety net, and it’s very easy to ignore your own deadlines. Like any start-up, it’s a tough ride but incredibly rewarding.”

Melonhead Games are hoping to release Rooftop Renegade on both PC and console. While they don’t have a set release date as of writing this, they have a number of playtests coming up. Adelaide gamers can check them out at a second playtest at Greenlight Comics on June 8 and AVCon in July. For fans outside of Adelaide, they are hoping to make PAX AUS in Melbourne later in 2019.


Words by Cameron Lowe

Adelaide Comic and Toy Fair 2019

The Adelaide Comic and Toy Fair is one of the major events for pop culture memorabilia, toys and comics in Adelaide. Now in its sixth year, the event opened at the Marden Sports Complex (MARS) in Marden on April 14. After enjoying my first visit in 2018, I decided to once again go along again and like last year, this didn’t disappoint.

The first thing that caught my attention as soon as I entered the MARS Complex was the sheer size of this event. It was far bigger than the one I attended in 2018, which was held in the German Club on Flinders Street. It took up almost the entirety of the complex and had numerous stalls all filled with toys, comics and pop culture goodness. Visitors could buy Star Wars figurines, VCRs of classic movies like Alien and the latest comics from Greenlight Comics.

Like many of these events, there are always at least two standout items on sale. This year there was a sealed box of a Sega 32X, an add-on for the Sega Mega Drive. Sold by King Kaiju Collections, one would be paying of upwards of $1,000 to own this strange but unique history of Sega. The other item was a tea pot shaped as the genie from Aladdin (1992) one would pay about $49.95 for.

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Representing local creators at this year’s event included Dark Oz, Matt J. Pike and Dr. Mike 2000. Alongside his usual items of horror and sci-fi comics, Dark Oz owner Darren Koziol was selling Laserdiscs. One standout of this collection was a copy of Titanic. Pike was selling his books which include the Apocalypse series, which is a post-apocalyptic series set in Adelaide. Dr. Mike 2000 sold his Universe Gun comic series, a collection of twelve volumes which is basically Yellow Submarine meets sci-fi.

A number of different pop culture clubs and societies were present at the event too. One of these included Starship Mawson, a local sci-fi and fantasy society. In attendance of this stall included the society’s founder, pop culture historian and avid Tintin fan Stuart A. Blair. Fresh of the heels of the Franco-Belgian Comics exhibition at Supanova, Blair once again had a small display of Tintin memorabilia for attendees to enjoy.

If there are any criticisms for the Comic and Toy Fair this year it would be the venue itself. While the MARS Complex was massive, there was little to no air conditioning or fans available on the day. It was a warm day and inside was stuffy and hot, distracting from the enjoyment. The complex too is in an inconvenient location for those who don’t drive, which would have held some people back from attending.

The 2019 Adelaide and Comic Toy Fair is by far bigger and better than last year’s event. It’s still one of the prime events for pop culture, comic and collectible lovers around Adelaide. Entry this year was $4, more than last year, but still worth it considering the treasures waiting to be discovered.


Words by Cameron Lowe

Galactic Trek: The Search for Zork

The cast of Giant Nerd Australia’s improv comedy Galactic Trek, returned to Fringe this year at the Rob Roy Hotel, this time with their show The Search for Zork. This show had the crew of the USS ImproCity visit a planet full of the undead, which they must try to stop from spreading across the galaxy. For an hour, they presented a story that was both fun and evoked a feeling of Star Trek: The Original Series.

A highlight of Galactic Trek is how it pays homage to low budget sci-fi films and TV shows. This was clear in their descriptions and sound effects. The doors would almost never open on time, the transporter sound would take some time to appear and the bridge is described as being held together by tape. For Star Trek fans, there were references galore, the Kirk vs. Spock battle music being a notable one. Being a fan of sci-fi myself, I found all these little references well done. Even with few props, the actors were able to convey everything effectively.

Another highlight was the characters. Captain Bill Jamieson, one of the main characters, had a very Captain Kirk essence to him, in both appearance and acting. The character of Zork had a very ’80s sci-fi appearance, particularly with his green head and horns. The standout character though was a red shirt called Jones Jonesy. Jonesy is how I imagine Blackadder’s Baldric would be if he were in outer space.

The show wasn’t without its shortcomings. While it did have a lot of funny moments, a lot of these were based on sci-fi references. This did not affect me as I already knew the jokes, but not everyone would understand them. For a show about searching for Zork, there was little actual searching for him. The actual search for Zork was minor to the plot, which made me wonder why they would call it the search for Zork. It should also be noted that Zork’s actor’s pants ripped during the performance, which was by no means the actor’s fault but did detract from the experience slightly.

Galactic Trek: The Search for Zork is a whole lot of improv sci-fi fun. It had many great references and a very Original Series plot. While there were a few shortcomings, it was still a fun time. Fans of sci-fi would really enjoy this show and its unique spin on Star Trek.

3.5/5


Words by Cameron Lowe

You can catch Galactic Trek: The Search for Zork at Rob Roy Hotel until the 10th of March. For ticketing and more click here.

Worldline Corporations

I take a seat at Worldline Corporations in Bas3ment Studios at City Cross. I am advised that I will be tested for my eligibility to work with the time travelling firm. I am assigned an era, a job, and told what to expect.

In contrast to other Fringe shows I have been to this year, Worldline Corporations is the strangest one yet. It takes you on a time travelling journey but is completely digital. There is no one performing here, it’s all what you see on the screen.

This show delves into your subconsciousness and fears, focusing on loss of reality and fear of the unknown. Conveyed words onscreen, the simulation causes you to question your choice in travelling through time.

I discovered at the end of the show that this was all part of the experience. I don’t wish to spoil the show, but the finale is definitely a conversation starter. I will say that, if I wanted to, I qualify to join Worldline Corporations.

The aesthetics of this show had a very eighties look and feel to them. Everything from the computer on screen to the voices used had me seeing this performance as being inspired by eighties computer tech and time travel. Even though it appeared dated by today’s standards, I really enjoyed this as it complemented the story and gave it a unique style.

The show runs for about 20 minutes, the shortest show I’ve seen this year. Sometimes length isn’t the most important factor in a show but this one is well worth the experience.

Worldwide Corporations was an enjoyable and thought-provoking experience. I found its storytelling methods futuristic and innovative, all the while striking at my subconscious mind. While their run has finished, this is a unique and well-designed experience. Check out their website below for information about future shows.

https://www.worldlinecorp.com/

 


Words by Cameron Lowe

Four Stars.

Getting Lost in the Art of Edvard Munch in Tokyo

I stand in the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, my pupils dilating as I catch sight of Edvard Munch’s The Scream. I have seen this painting so many times through pop culture, but nothing has prepared me for seeing it in real life. It’s really here, right in front of me. Well, at least one version of it (1910 tempera and oil version). I become lost in its world, feeling the terrors the person in the painting is feeling.

The Scream was one of the many paintings exhibited at the Munch: A Retrospective exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. The exhibition celebrates the life of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944). Being in Tokyo at the time of this exhibition, I made sure I explored the show. Little did I know I would find myself lost in the world of his art while there. I found myself on a journey through loneliness, love, fear and trauma.

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With language barriers, I was left to interpret Munch’s works in my own way. As with many things I have previously experienced, my interpretations relate back to pop culture. The Kiss (1897) was one example of this. The way the couple were morphing together, it was much like the one R.J. McReady and Dr. Blair found at the Norwegian base in John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). I later found out this painting was in fact depicting how two people unify in love.

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Excluding The Scream, the paintings that made the most impact on me were Two Human Beings, The Lonely Ones (1933-35), and The Sun (1916). My interpretation of Two Human Beings, The Lonely Ones was how lost these two people were in a strange new world. I thought of them being the only two humans on an alien planet or the last two on Earth. The Sun stood like a shining beacon at the dawn of a new world, one unfamiliar to the one we live in. These two paintings combined together drew me into a world where the everyday as we know it is gone. I began connecting them to Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, a book I’d recently read. I imagined these two people staring out over a world with a bright beacon rising over the horizon and children dancing through the forests that cover the ruins of once great cities.

This exhibition had me one more surprise for me, in the form of Pokémon. Made specifically for this event, there were folders, postcards and even TCG cards where The Scream was redone using Pokémon as souvenirs from the exhibition. These stood out to me as much as the visuals of the paintings themselves. Unlike most of Munch’s artworks, these were familiar to me. The way they were made though, not only was adorable but uncanny. These souvenirs were unique to the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum.

Stepping back into the world, which was still unfamiliar to me, I smile. The exhibition was worth the 1600 yen (AUD$18) entry fee. Munch’s paintings spoke to both my creative side and allowed me to understand him better as an artist, despite the language barriers. I feel this was aided more due to experiencing it in Japanese rather than its original Norwegian. It became one of the highlights of my journey and I recommend to anyone who is going to Japan to check out a major exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum.


Words by Cameron Lowe

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2
Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

‘The Day I Stopped Looking at the Stars’- By Cameron Lowe

The day I stopped looking at the stars was the day I stopped imagining. I used to spend many nights watching Alpha Centauri sparkle, spy onto the surface of Venus through my telescope, and imagine UFOs flying through the cosmos. Most of all, I would wonder what planets were circling around those distant stars. Were they ones full of life like our own planet? Were they barren wastelands like Mars? Gas giants like Saturn? This mystery fuelled my imagination. I found myself telling stories of new worlds and alien life to everyone I knew.

So why did I stop looking at the stars and imagining extraterrestrial worlds? One simple word: reality. Becoming a teenager, they started telling me to stop living in a fantasy land and start living in reality. Their vision of reality was simple: study hard, get a job, buy a house, get married, have children. To me, their version of reality was a living nightmare. It was primarily based on luck and left little time for imagination. I ignored their lectures and continued to go out and look at the stars, allowing their red, yellow, and blue surfaces to inspire and comfort me.

One day, they told me I was no longer allowed to look at the stars. They deadlocked the doors, gave away my telescope, and kept me from going out. They said it was time for me to grow up and face reality. I put up a fight to keep my imagination, but they fought harder to destroy it. They drained my imagination of its many weird and wonderful worlds through lectures of how important a good job was and keeping the door locked.

The last few strands of my imagination were torn up the day they got me a job at a local shop. The wage was bad and couldn’t even cover my weekly expenses, but they said it was a start and would one day get me a house. I did all I could to get out of there. I applied for countless better paying jobs, but got none of them. That local shop closed down not long after my fortieth unsuccessful job application, leaving me jobless. Their version of reality had backfired, leaving me worse off than I had been when my imagination ran wild.

I went out to look at the stars again. Tears formed in my eyes as I looked up at Venus. Seeing it again brought me back to, a time before reality had set in. I remembered all the nights I spent with my telescope, exploring the surface of other planets, looking for UFOs, wondering what else could be out there. Looking at the stars again, all those dreams and possibilities of life beyond our own planet returned. As they did, my imagination reignited. Stories of first encounters and journeys to the stars ran rampant in my mind.

The day I stopped looking at the stars was the day I stopped imagining. Now, looking at them again, my imagination has returned. Now I write down what other these alien worlds look like, weaving them into stories that make them real. They continue to try and crush my imagination but now use them as motivation to keep me going. For as long as I continue to look at the stars I will continue to imagine, something reality doesn’t offer.


Words by Cameron Lowe.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

MOD

Where Art Meets Science and Technology

Have you ever wanted to visit an art gallery that shows the relationship between art, science, and technology? Well, fear no more for MOD is the place for you. Opened in 2018, MOD is an art gallery where you can view art based on subjects like augmented reality, astronomy, and robotics. Being a bit of a science nerd (astronomy in particular), I have been eager to visit MOD. Upon visiting it, I was enthralled and absorbed into its world of interactive wonders.

The first exhibit I visited was Prosthetic Reality (an Augmented Reality exhibition) in the Lecture Gallery on the ground floor. As you can see in the image below, it appears to a casual observer just an exhibit of pop art. However, if you have the EyeJack app (available on both iOS and Android devices) you can download the exhibition and it will be transformed. Using the AR feature, the artworks come to life with colour, animation, and sound. For example, one of these artworks tells a story of a Japanese town destroyed by a disaster. Its main picture is of the town before the disaster, but through EyeJack, it plays Japanese style music and shows it destroyed through animation. I discovered more of these set up across the museum, which was a surprising addition. It gave me motive to explore the entire gallery to find them all.

 

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Another exhibit within the MOD I found interesting looked into genetically modified babies. Displayed in the Gould Interactive Gallery, this demonstrated what we may have to do to survive on Earth if we keep going the way we are. All these babies are displayed in wheel-around newborn beds from hospitals. One baby that really stood out to me had a head with strange gill-like curves on its sides. To me, it appeared as if a Ferengi and a Klingon from the Star Trek universe had a child. There was explanation on a nearby wall, this modification would be necessary to survive higher temperatures on Earth. It is a frightening possibility and seeing it in model form really got my creative mind running.

 

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There was a small part of artificial intelligence and robotics near the genetic modification exhibit. You could stand in the middle of a room and an AI would supposedly learn and copy your movement. I tried this out, but could not comprehend how it worked, which was unfortunate. The idea behind it is really cool and I do recommend you to give it a go. Perhaps you will figure out how it works. Also, part of that exhibit was a model of a robotic head. Upon first glance, it looks exactly like a human head (with extremely realistic skin), but its eyes move and it speaks. It was like stepping into Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Seeing it alongside the movement exhibit made me realise it was part of the human-like features which AI and robots of the future may soon have.

Perhaps my favourite exhibit in the whole of MOD was the Our Sky exhibit in the Universal Gallery. A Science on a Sphere (currently the only one in Australia) sits in the middle of the room with screens on all the walls. With a computer board, you can cycle through the planets and moons in our Solar System which appear on the Science On a Sphere. As you can see below, Jupiter appears on it, but I could easily change it to Mars or Enceladus (a moon of Saturn). With the screens on the walls, you could surf the Solar System and check out the many different astronomical signs. Perhaps what really made this exhibit fantastic is the inclusion of science and astronomy from the First Australians. This is shown through video and sound, which play above the gallery. This addition gives a fresh, more Australian perspective on astronomy and science and has me eager to learn more about First Australian astronomy.

 

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MOD is a fantastic place to check out the relationship between art, science, and technology. If you are a sci-fi fan or into science and technology I highly recommend you visit this place. You can find it on the western side of the Morphett Street bridge on North Terrace (north side) on UniSA’s City West campus. Entry is free and it is open six days a week (closed Mondays). More information can be found here.

 


Words and photography by Cameron Lowe.