If you haven’t yet seen this wonderful and visionary short science-fiction film, please set aside 6 minutes to enjoy it. Ambition is a collaborative project of ESA and Platige Image. Directed by Tomek Baginski and starring Aiden Gillen (The Dark Knight Rises, Game of Thrones, Shanghai Nights) and Aisling Franciosi (The Fall, Jimmy’s Hall, Quirke), it was shot on location in Iceland, and screened on 24 October during the British Film Institute’s celebration of Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder, at the Southbank, London.
In six short minutes we glimpse a future with tremendous and elegant technology in which the spirit of humanity remains strong. ESA’s ostensible motive in producing the film is to promote its wonderful Rosetta project–the amazing success of which has now been widely acknowledged worldwide. But the film is not a mere promo piece. It is visionary and inspiring in its own right, with director Tomek Baginski pulling off a beautifully timed and moving story featuring great performances by Aiden Gillen and Aisling Franciosi as a master and apprentice, respectively, in this mysterious and optimistic flash of a possible future.
Yes, this short film is, on one level, a blatant plug for the Rosetta mission. But it is so well done, and such a welcome contrast to the bloated and physics-ignoring blockbusters that call themselves science fictions these day, that the relatively underplayed promotional intention of the film is more than wholly forgivable. Never mind that the Rosetta mission is, indeed, the monumental event this film suggests.
IMDb describes the story line like this:
The story of one of the most important space exploration endeavours of this decade. Just as Gillen’s enigmatic Master encourages Franciosi’s Apprentice to seek out the key to life amidst a rugged alien landscape, ESA has been on a decade-long ambitious journey of its own, to unlock the mysteries of a comet and the origins of our Solar System with its Rosetta spacecraft, hundreds of millions of kilometres from Earth. Ambition complements the ongoing communication about Rosetta and adds a “human dimension” to the scientific and technological achievements of the mission, which include curiosity, drive and ambition.
Tomek Bagiński is a Polish illustrator, animator and director. His first film Rain won local awards. Between 1999 and 2002 he worked his short film debut, The Cathedral, which was nominated for an Oscar for the best animated short film. He is also the author of all covers of Jacek Dukaj books, including the novel entitled Ice. Apart from his own projects, Bagiński works as a director on commercials and stage shows. He has published in many trade magazines, from United States to China and Japan. His directing film credits include the Ambition (2014), Animated History of Poland (2010), Beig (2009), Making of Fallen Art (2005), The Cathedral (2002) and others. His writing credits include Ambition, The Kinematograph (2009), Fallent Art (2004), and The Cathedral.
I have always loved science-fiction short stories, novelettes, and novellas. They are shorter than novels, so they take less time to read. But good ones do not short shrift the story along with the word count. To the contrary, well drafted shorter works are tight and pack awallop. Science fiction is particularly well-suited to these shorter forms because, more than any others, it is the genre of ideas. A great idea in science fiction may or may not support an entire novel. But presented in a form of the proper length, inspiration and awe await the reader.
Like many, I’m busy. So I try to find ways to guide my selection of shorter works to read. One way I do that is to consider the nominees for the two most well-known awards in science fiction–the Nebula and the Hugo. I compare the lists of finalists and, typically, first look to the stories that have been nominated for both awards. It’s a good sign when the science-fiction writing community (for the Nebula) and the science-fiction writers/readers/fans community (for the Hugo) both find particular works worthy of consideration for their highest honor. I usually also read the stories that appear on only one list or the other. But for starters, there is (usually) always the cross overs.
There are no cross overs this year in the categories of novella, novellette, or short story. In fact, there is not even any cross over in the sources of the stories. (There is a current raging voting controversy. This piece is not about that.)
If I’m reading their lists right, the Nebula award nominees for shorter works come from Apex, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld, Daily Science fiction, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Granta, Lightspeed, NobleFusion, Qualia Nous, Subterranean Summer, Tachyon, Tor.com, and Upgraded, with the following number of nominees from each publisher:
While the Hugo award nominees are from Analog, Broad Reach, Castalia House, Galaxy’s Edge, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, and Sci Phi Journal in the following numbers:
With a total of 35 stories nominated overall in these categories across both award final lists, that’s a lot of reading. If you’re like me, you’d like a little more information to help decide where to start. Given that Castalia House is the runaway nominee source for the Hugos, and Fantasy & Science Fiction is one of the leading sources for the Nebulas, here is a description of each of those publishers from their websites:
Castalia House is a Finland-based publisher that has a great appreciation for the golden age of science fiction and fantasy literature. The books that we publish honor the traditions and intellectual authenticity exemplified by writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Robert E. Howard, G.K. Chesterton, and Hermann Hesse. We are consciously providing an alternative to readers who increasingly feel alienated from the nihilistic, dogmatic science fiction and fantasy being published today. We seek nothing less than a Campbellian revolution in genre literature. (Link: http://www.castaliahouse.com/)
Fantasy & Science Fiction
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, founded in 1949, is the award-winning SF magazine which is the original publisher of SF classics like Stephen King’s Dark Tower,Daniel Keyes’s Flowers for Algernon, and Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz.Each double-sized bimonthly issue offers:
compelling short fiction by writers such as David Gerrold., Ursula K. Le Guin, Terry Bisson and many others; the science fiction field’s most respected and outspoken opinions on Books, Films and Science; humor from our cartoonists and writers. (Link: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/)
I couldn’t find a specific self description at Tor.com (there probably is one; I just didn’t find it). But suffice it to say it is a top-tier publisher of novellas, novelettes and short stories, among other things. (Link: http://www.tor.com/)
Happy sorting and choosing. If you have any tips, or if you’ve read one or more of the nominated stories and have an opinion about it, please share.