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SF&F encyclopedia (X-X)

The study of lifeforms that may exist elsewhere than on Earth is called
xenobiology or exobiology. It is one of the few legitimate sciences to
have, as yet, no direct experimental application other than the tests
carried out on the surface of Mars to see if the soil showed any of the
biological activity that might be associated with the presence of
microscopic lifeforms. (It seemed for a time as if some of the results of
this experiment might be positive; it is now thought they were caused by
nonbiological factors.) Numerous essays on exobiological themes have
appeared in scientific journals, on subjects ranging from SETI ("Search
for Extraterrestrial Intelligence"), through speculations about
non-carbon-based lifeforms to the thoughts of Freeman DYSON and others
about the relation of COSMOLOGY to biology. Popular introductions to
speculative biology of this sort include Life in Darwin's Universe:
Evolution and the Cosmos (1981) by Gene Bylinski and Darwin's Universe:
Origins and Crises in the History of Life (1983) by C.R. Pellegrino and J.
A. Stoff. Two pioneering works, both more theoretical and the latter a
little more technical, are Intelligent Life in the Universe (1966) by I.S.
Shklovskii and Carl SAGAN (based on Vselennaia, Zhizn, Razum [1963] by
Shklovskii alone; trans Paula Fern, rev and exp so greatly by Sagan as to
become a co-authorship) and Interstellar Communication: Scientific
Perspectives (1974) ed Cyril Ponnamperuma and A.G.W. Cameron. A good
overview is given by The Search for Life in the Universe (1978) by Donald
Goldsmith and Tobias Owen. The subject is, of course, central to sf about
ALIENS and LIFE ON OTHER WORLDS; a survey of it written very much from an
sf writer's viewpoint is Extraterrestrial Encounter: A Personal
Perspective (1979) by Chris BOYCE. There is an exobiology lab at the
University of Hawaii. [PN]

US FANZINE (1960-63), ed from New York by Richard and Pat LUPOFF. Large
and attractively produced, with illustrations by Roy G. KRENKEL, Eddie
JONES and others, X was particularly well known for its articles on
COMICS, notably the series All in Color for a Dime by Richard Lupoff, Ted
WHITE and others. Together with new pieces by Harlan ELLISON and Ron
GOULART, these articles were published by ACE BOOKS as All in Color for a
Dime (anth 1970), ed Dick Lupoff and Don Thompson. X also contained
material on sf and FANDOM, contributors including James BLISH, Lin CARTER,
Avram DAVIDSON, Wilson TUCKER and Walt Willis. X won the 1963 HUGO for
Best Fanzine. [PR/RH]

US tv series (1993- ). Ten Thirteen Productions in association with 20th
Century Television. Series created by Chris Carter who is also executive
producer; co-executive prods R.W. Goodwin, Glen Morgan and James Wong;
supervising prod Howard Gordon; prods Joseph Patrick Finn, Paul Brown,
David Nutter; co-prod Paul Rabwin; music Mark Snow. Directors include
Carter, Goodwin, Nutter, Michael Lange, Robert Mandel, Rob Bowman, Harry
Longstreet, Daniel Sackheim. Writers include Carter, Brown, Gordon,
Morgan, Wong, Darin Morgan, Chris Ruppenthal. Starring David Duchovny as
FBI agent Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson as FBI agent Dana Scully. Two
seasons to date, the first of 24 one-hour episodes Sep 1993-May 1994, the
second season, began Sep 1994, current, 21 one-hour episodes to the end of
March 1995. Colour.This, which may come to be seen as one of the key sf tv
series of the mid 1990s, has been neither a failure nor a great success in
the ratings, but has rapidly garnered a very committed cult following.
Very much the brainchild of creator/executive producer/director/writer
Chris Carter, it is a comparatively low-budget series administered by him
from Los Angeles and ostensibly set in the USA but actually shot in
Canada, in and around Vancouver. A small, secret department of the FBI is
dedicated to investigating cases that appear to have an element of the
paranormal about them, and the files dealing with these cases are called
the X-files. There are only two investigators in the department, male
agent Fox Mulder (Duchovny), who is emotional, open-minded, ready to
believe in all sorts of strange phenomena, and his female colleague agent
Dana Scully (Anderson), who is cool, medically trained, logical,
sceptical. The premise is not especially original; the series is a little
like PROJECT UFO (1978-79), and more closely resembles the earlier
KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER (1974-75), which Carter was devoted to as a
child. The X-Files, however, is both more sophisticated and darker than
either of these.The phenomena investigated cover the full gamut of tabloid
weirdness in the area of "the unexplained", ranging from abductions of
humans by aliens in UFOs-a recurrent theme-through tales of telepathy,
projection of nightmares, vampires, werewolves, alien life-forms found
frozen in the arctic, unusual longevity, shape-shifting, monsters,
DNA-spliced hybrids, and so on almost indefinitely. In most cases a
sufficient veneer of rationalisation exists (events pass too quickly for
most viewers to subject these rationalisations to real scrutiny) for the
series to qualify as definitely sf rather than fantasy. But this is sf
slewed towards the GOTHIC, the menacing, towards HORROR. The programme
owes a debt to Twin Peaks, a cult tv success of the early 1990s and not
itself sf. More direct, famous sources, such as the film THE THING (1951),
are plundered regularly and remorselessly, but with sufficiently clever a
blend of homage and variation-on-a-theme to avoid the accusation of
plagiarism. Many of the strange events in the series result, it seems,
from secret, cynical government experiment, and it is here that its
characteristic tone- PARANOIA-evolves. A running theme is the existence of
high-level conspiracies, possibly centred in the Pentagon, which
constantly threaten the professional integrity not to say the lives of
Mulder and Scully. The FBI-itself infiltrated-seems helpless in the face
of greater powers. The second season, in fact, is a continuous story
involving Scully's apparent abduction into a UFO, connections between this
and government conspiracies and the temporary forced closure of the
X-files department.What makes the series work so well is its willingness
to penetrate a very long way indeed into the over-the-top and the bizarre
(almost to the verge of black farce) combined with an (apparently)
completely serious tone. The relationship between Mulder and Scully, no
ordinary love relationship, is subtle, developing and absorbingly
displayed: the performances are very good. The whole series, indeed, is
presented with passion and intensity, which makes for unusual tv

US COMIC-book series, created by Jack KIRBY and Stan LEE for MARVEL
COMICS in 1963. It had a 66-issue run, and then ran reprints until #94
(1975), when new stories resumed featuring the new team of X-Men that had
been introduced in Giant-Size X-Men #1 a few months earlier. Kirby drew
the first 11 issues and Lee wrote the first 19. Many highly regarded
artists have worked on the series over the years, notably Neal ADAMS, John
Byrne, Dave Cockrum, Jim Lee, James STERANKO and Barry Windsor-Smith;
while later writers have been Roy Thomas (#20-#43, #55-#64 and #66),
Arnold Drake (#44-#54), Denny O'Neil (#65), Len Wein (#94-#95 and Giant
Size #1) and Chris CLAREMONT (#96-#279). Claremont has now left the
series, after a dispute; his 16-year unbroken writing run is a record for
a Marvel title.X-Men, now retitled The Uncanny X-Men, differs from
apparently similar costumed- SUPERHERO comics in that the X-Men, "feared
and hated by the world they have sworn to protect", are all MUTANTS.
Ignorance and fear of mutants was the subtext to the 1st run, and in the
2nd series much emphasized by Claremont, who saw the comic as showing
"racism and prejudice . . . and what it's like to be a victim of it". He
most successfully realized this theme in God Loves, Man Kills (1982), an
X-Men GRAPHIC NOVEL in which a fundamentalist televangelist launches a
crusade against mutants. X-Men was the best-selling US comic for most of
the 1980s, its success spawning numerous miniseries and the ongoing The
New Mutants (1983-91), X-Factor (1986-current), Excalibur (1988-current),
Wolverine (1988-current), Marvel Comics Presents (1988-current) - an
anthology title with Wolverine the main story - X-Force (1991-current) and
a second X-Men (1991-current). Nearly all the traditional sf themes, from
GENETIC ENGINEERING to TIME TRAVEL, have been used in X-Men. [RH]

(vt The Man with the X-Ray Eyes) Film (1963). Alta Vista/AIP. Dir Roger
CORMAN, starring Ray Milland, Diana Van Der Vlis, John Hoyt, Don Rickles.
Screenplay Robert Dillon, Ray Russell, based on a story by Russell. 88
mins cut to 80 mins. Colour.A surgeon, Dr Xavier, uses an experimental
drug to develop X-ray vision and thus perform operations more skilfully,
but the process affects his mind. He accidentally kills a colleague and
hides in a carnival sideshow where he is exploited as a faith healer. His
X-ray vision becomes a metaphor for insight into all the ugliness and
sadness of life. A series of events bring appalling visions which alienate
him progressively from ordinary, unseeing humanity. Finally he encounters
an evangelist holding a religious meeting in the desert; when the man
cries "If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out!", Xavier does just that.
Though close to being a Poverty Row product (the special effects are not
quite up to showing Dr Xavier's ability to "see through the centre of the
Universe") this bleak film is sometimes considered Corman's masterpiece.
[PN/JB]See also: CINEMA.

Film (1956). Hammer/Warner Bros. Dir Leslie Norman (replacing Joseph
Walton), starring Dean Jagger, Edward Chapman, William Lucas, Leo McKern,
Anthony Newley. Screenplay Jimmy Sangster. 86 mins, cut to 78 mins in the
USA. B/w.In this Hammer sf/ HORROR film made soon after the success of
their The QUATERMASS XPERIMENT (1955) - the"X" in both cases being
intended to signal unimaginable horrors, as in X-rated (adults only)
movies - a radioactive blob, a sort of primal, semi-fluid, living creature
brought to the surface by tidal pressures in Earth's core, emerges near a
village in Scotland and heads for the nearest source of radioactivity,
melting people who get in its way. It is a tense, low-budget thriller,
with both Jagger and McKern good, one as a scientist, the other as an
investigator from the Atomic Energy Commission. The anxious atmosphere is
amplified by moody photography, with many sequences shot at night. Routine
in concept, the film is well above average in execution. [PN/JB]

Film (1982). Ashley Productions/Amalgamated Film Enterprises. Dir Harry
Bromley Davenport, starring Bernice Stegers, Philip Sayer, Danny Brainin,
Simon Nash, Maryam D'Abo. Screenplay Iain Cassie, Robert Smith, based on a
screenplay by Michel Parry, Davenport. 86 mins. Colour.UK sf/ HORROR
exploitation movie in which a man is kidnapped by a UFO. 3 years later the
UFO returns, an ALIEN gets out and rapes a nearby woman, who that same
night gives birth (disgustingly) to a fully grown man, the same man who
was kidnapped in the first place. He goes home, infects his son with alien
spores; the son uses new telekinetic powers to murder a neighbour with his
animated toy clown, and then wraps the au pair girl in a cocoon, where she
metamorphoses and produces eggs; meanwhile the husband, making love to his
wife, starts visibly to decay. Generally and probably justly panned by the
critics, this post- CRONENBERG movie still has something to offer for
connoisseurs of bargain-basement Surrealism, some of the wholly arbitrary
sequences being carried off quite startlingly. In a spirit of total
randomness the director shot 2 endings. The film release has father and
son leaving in the UFO, while wife discovers multiple clones of son all
saying "Mummy!" The videotape version has wife being murdered by a thing
from an egg the au pair laid. [PN]


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