Written by Andrew Thomas
I’m Andrew Thomas, a designer and Community Manager for Shapeways, the world’s largest creative community using 3D printing and marketplace. Given my field, I’m obviously a pretty big sci-fi fan. Here are my seven favorite stories.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers), by Becky Chambers
I’m still reading this Becky Chambers’ novel but it’s already worm(holed) its way into my heart because Wayfarers is everything I want in a space opera novel. There are in-depth discussions of space fuel, political interspecies relations, fourth-dimensional navigation, human-AI love affairs — the list goes on. At its core, Wayfarers (the name of the ship) is about the crew as characters– the secrets they hold and their bond as friends. Chambers gives special attention to the complex identities and emotional relations between her human, alien and machine people in a way that feels distinctly of-the-moment. She’s working on the newest book in the series right now, so my goal is to get quickly caught up in the meantime.
Mad Max: Fury Road
I’ve always loved the Mel Gibson versions, but in a way I’ve never thought of them as more than fun, gritty B-movies. After almost 30 years absence (unless you count Happy Feet), director George Miller returned to create the newest installment, and it absolutely blew my mind. As a story, Fury Road is as straightforward as they come — the whole film is a giant chase scene between Max, some beautiful women and a ton of scary vehicles driven by equally-scary dudes. The plot has an almost parabolic form: they run away only to decide to go right back. Within the intense, pedal-to-the-metal action and minimal dialog, Miller still manages to infuse the characters with personality. Tiny quirks and tender moments made everyone somehow relatable, if not always sympathetic, as the fight rages to preserve, question, or overthrow an apocalyptic patriarchy.
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy is one of my favorite authors, so when he exchanged the Wild West for a post-apocalyptic America, I was hooked from the start. McCarthy’s typically terse, straightforward language weaves a tale about a father and son trying to survive in a dying world, with only brutality left. The story subtly alludes to the consequences of unchecked climate change, and the relationships between the characters are a reference to one of my favorite manga: Lone Wolf and Cub.
I know this pick risks all my credibility but I have to be honest here. The original 1979 Alien by Ridley Scott is a horror work of art, while James Cameron turns its 1986 sequel into sublime action entertainment. This is the film that turned Ripley into the superheroine we know and love.
John Carpenter’s The Thing
Yep, by now you might have noticed the trend that I’m into bleak, 80’s B-movies and none are bleaker than John Carpenter’s version of The Thing. I love everything about this movie: the pre-CGI stop-motion special effects; the minimal, synth score; the ambiguous ending; and Kurt Russell’s perpetual scowl. This is one of the most classic sci-fi horror films out there.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
Philip K Dick is the author every sci-fi fan knows, and everyone’s probably has an opinion on the classic film Blade Runner. Personally, I prefer the book with its weird hypnotic digresses and obsessions over entropy. This is a detective noir in a future where the earth is dying and man fears being indistinguishable from machine. The book explores posthumanism a bit more in depth and has influenced countless other cyberpunk thrillers. Everything Dick wrote is sci-fi canon, but if you can only read one of his novels, go for this.
Guys, there’s 3D printing in the opening sequence! 3D printing!!! Did you see them 3D printing??!! Honestly, the rest of the show is really good, but I just need the opening sequence and soundtrack to be set for life. I’m lucky enough to work every day with state-of-the-art 3D printing equipment and materials at Shapeways, but the 5-axis organic fiber extrusion seen on the show is still a few years off. Short of printing out living, breathing beings, we create objects in a ton of consumer-grade materials like laser sintered nylon, steel, porcelain, acrylic, gold, and porcelain. The coolest part is that there are few limits on the complexity of what you can print. Our marketplace has everything from crazy mathematical objects to personalizable game characters. It’s kind of a perfect fit for people who like sci-fi. And, who knows? Maybe Shapeways can help you print the prototypes that will one day become real Westworld hosts.
If you want more 3D printing you should come check out Shapeways here.