What is Scifist?

First of all, for old friends: Yes, this is a reboot of the old scifist.wordpress.com blog. Check the FAQ for a more elaborate answer. 

The purpose of the Scifist blog is to create an extensive history of science fiction films in the form of reviews in chronological order. Science fiction is here understood in its broadest possible pop cultural sense, including genres that may be excluded from the sci-fi canon by other critics, such as space fantasy or futurism. I use Wikipedia’s and IMDb’s lists of science fiction films as a starting point for my reviews.

I try to dig up as much as possible about the background and inspiration of the films, and sometimes use up quite some space for discussing a film’s literary inspiration. Anyone can have an opinion and the web is full of short reviews and synopses, and trying to uncover how, why and under what circumstances a film was made is sort of me creating some form of legitimacy for all the work I do. As a journalist I am also interested in the socio-political context of the films and try to give some sort of an analysis based on the era and country in which they were made, and who the filmmakers are .

Hover over the Films by year button in the top menu to access a drop-down menu of decades (for example 1900-1909). If you click on these links, you will be taken to an overview page where I briefly summarise the decade in question from the point of view of science fiction films and the social, cultural and political background in which they were made. Hovering over these links in the meny will give you another sub-menu with individual years. Clicking on, for example, the year 1931, will give you a list of all films published in 1931 that I have reviewed.

I have tried to create a system of categories based on subgenres – note that these are wholly my own and don’t adhere to any preconceived standards. This is so that, for example, anyone looking for a list of all robot films or time travel films in history can simply find them by clicking on the category in the category ladder on the site’s front page. On the sub-pages the 50 most popular, i.e. most used categories. Categories for individual posts are found at the bottom of the review.

As for tags, they are used to help you find specific films based on people involved in their creation. These include directors, prominent sci-fi actors, crew and authors. I have also included popular book adaptations, films that have been remade several times and in some cases characters of franchises, for example Superman or Star Trek. There is also a text search window in the upper right corner that searches both the full texts and tags.

What do I not review? First of all, films I cannot find on the internet, or don’t see as important enough contributions to the genre to order as DVD’s, are naturally left out. Children’s films and and comedies that don’t really bring anything new to the table or don’t feature science fiction prominently are generally not reviewed here. Number xx in a long line of similar exploitation films might sometimes be left unreviewed. As a general rule I try to review as much as possible.

Films in which a sci-fi element is only used as a minor plot enhancer (subtle sci-fi), or merely as a gizmo MacGuffin, mostly get the pass as well, unless it features some element in a revolutionary way or for the first time in film history. Anime (and animation) is also something that I steer away from – with some very rare exceptions – simply because I don’t know enough about the genre, and leave that to the experts who can analyse them far better than me. I generally do not include series or serials, unless they have had a profound influence on science fiction films, in which case I try to watch the first season or parts of it, depending on the length. In some cases TV-series play a very important part in the furthering of the genre, and would leave gaps if not reviewed, for example The Twilight Zone or Star Trek.

I do try and watch films in languages I do not understand even without dubbing or subtitles, but the reviews might naturally be a bit vague, and if the film include lots of talking heads, I might give it a pass. Excluding early cinema, I do not review short films, and with some exceptions, I don’t watch films that haven’t gotten any sort of theatrical release.

There are some subgenres in which I make individual decisions based on the plot synopsis or my previous knowledge of the film – for example in the case of mad scientist or lost world films. If, for example, a mad scientist plot serves solely as a MacGuffin in an ordinary old dark house film, it will probably get the axe. I may review for example lost world movies even though they would be more closely related to adventure and fantasy than sci-fi if they have been important for the development of the sci-fi genre. But as a rule, if a lost world film doesn’t include some element of time travel or exceptional means of transportation (for example into a hollow Earth or distant planet), films in this genre are mostly left unreviewed. The same goes for Atlantis- or Mu-themed films; discovering an ancient civilisation, for example based on magic, doesn’t cut the muster, unless there is an element of futuristic science to it.

Me, the creator and writer of the blog is Janne Wass, a Finnish journalist and culture geek. I work with political, current affairs and culture journalism as the editor of Ny Tid magazine in my day-time job, and the Scifist blog is a way for me to channel my love for and interest in science fiction into something substantial.

I hope you enjoy the reviews.

Janne