Re: RARA-AVIS: Hardboiled SF

Juri Nummelin (
Tue, 24 Aug 1999 13:57:29 +0300 (EET DST)

On Tue, 24 Aug 1999, Etienne Borgers wrote:

> - HB in SF novels can be rather easily found, as some
> SF was dedicated to action/adventure kind of stories,
> mixing also crimes etc, and a lot of writers were
> doing genre-crossing back in the 50's and 60's

Could we think of Doc Savage and the like as hardboiled SF/fantasy?
> - I personally pretend it's more difficult to
> designate Noir in SF *novels*, because speculative
> and pessimistic SF was often more "existentialist"
> than Noir only. (On the contrary of some SF films
> where references to film Noir are obvious)
> I also consider 'I am a Legend' by the great Matheson
> not only a masterpiece of American SF, but definitely
> a novel of Noir inspiration. But Matheson was
> crossing genres, as you know.

In the great anthology "American Pulp" (edited by Gorman, Greenberg and Pronzini) there is a great noir masterpiece by Matheson, "The Frigid Flame". I haven't read anything so poetic in this genre (Ray Bradbury aside, but Matheson didn't have his artfulness, which is boring at times).

> The film based on it: Omega Man, is totally
> different, kept only some Noir traits.
> But still OK (but not great) ...if you ignore the
> novel.

Filmographies claim that George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" was loosely based on "I Am Legend". I haven't read the book or seen "Omega Man", do they really relate?

> There are other examples of SF being "films Noir",
> but not that many, as SF lost his grip as a cinema
> genre at the end of the 70's and during the 80's, and
> Star War did only some good to a short revival of
> space opera kind of movies.

In the fifties there were a couple of film noirs that told about the nuclear disasters: "Kiss Me Deadly", "The City of Fear" and "Panic in the Streets". Could they be classified as SF? What about "The Forbidden Planet"? And there is a great noir element in Jack Arnold's films, such as
"It Came from Outer Space".

> The Terminator (part 1),

There is the famous scene in the bar that Schwarzenegger destroys: he is seen in the foreground and the neon lights go blinking: "TECH NOIR".

As for "Dark City", the beginning and the atmosphere are great, but the ending is weak hullabaloo and at times preposterous. I don't think it as film noir, it resembles more the German expressionistic movies from the twenties. And so does Tim Burton's "Batman Returns".

> On the literary side, I think it's rather limited,
> when compared to the number of SF novels that were
> produced.

In my youth I used to play with a thought that I'd write a series of a PI in outer space, in some long-forgotten part on the universe (the name of my PI was ridiculous: Anton Krupa), where there was nothing else to do than kill each other or stuff like that. I never got aroung to it, but this should be easy thing to do. There would a greater variety of jobs for a PI in space.


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