Author Archives: Phoenixx Neil

How Science Fiction Writers Use Architecture To Visualize Their World


Phoenixx Neil

How Science Fiction Writers Use architecture To Visualize Their World


In the world of science fiction novels, authors sometimes need other means to paint the picture for their readers. One of the subtler tools that an author can use is architecture. Architecture’s role in science fiction is that it can depict multiple things: technological advancement, the author’s setting/world, or even challenge the idea of what “home” is. In a multitude of films, illustrations and other media, the architecture may often be overlooked by viewers/readers and it is one important component to a story. Urban landscapes, cityscapes, colonies, and resettlements are just a few of the major categories where architecture peeks into some significance in science fiction works. So, the question that this research project poses to answer is: how do science fiction authors use architecture to help visualize their world? Not only do the authors use similes and metaphors to help paint a picture, key descriptors and other key words help a reader figure out what the author is talking about. The readers need to be able to make comparisons to make the story more believable. The articles and reports related to this topic have been very helpful to support this research project. A report on Architecture in science fiction film, has an agenda of over 150 science fiction films that tackle different tropes on science fiction. This report really served as a good place to find connections between architecture as well as what type of architecture was used in the making of films. This give another perspective on this project because now there is the perspective of “what architects can learn from science fiction films”. Reports such as those have helped to explore the representation of architecture in film as well as in illustrations or renderings of a world/setting. Although there is a vast majority of science fiction related texts, games, films, pictures and things of the like, the main focus of this project is to further extrapolate on specifically text and the film industry. The keywords for this research project are: Architecture, Visualization, Metaphors, Similes, Descriptors, Progression, Speculation, Realism

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Uses of Architecture for Imagery in Science Fiction

In many science fiction media, the use of imagery helps the viewers/readers visualize the world in which the author is trying to convey. I believe that there are novels written by some science fiction authors that borrowed heavy influences of the surrounding architecture based on the time period which they lived in. For instance, borrowing heavily from destroyed buildings post-world war can influence writers to have their readers imagine similar types of destruction. Conversely, Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927) borrows influence from newly aspirated design in architecture such as art-deco which emerged from art-nouveau during the roaring twenties, and the Bauhaus movement in Germany (1919-1930) during the making of the film.

Art Deco in Metropolis

Metropolis (Fritz Lang 1927)












Bauhaus Metropolis

Bauhaus – Metropolis (Fritz Lang 1927)

Some of these picture examples show how much influence the architecture of that era helped with imagery in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. These images help the viewers to understand the extent of industrialization in Metropolis which I consider to be a Utopia within a Dystopia. On one side of Metropolis, there is a utopia above ground where all the high class people live, and underground, what the workers would call a dystopia. Metropolis is one of the most significant science fiction movies ever made, and it tackles a few tropes about sectarianism, and utopianism as well as human artificial intelligence.

Another good example of the use of imagery with architecture is in Le Voyage Dans La Lune (Georges Melies, 1902) where we see what Georges’ imagination made up when thinking of the landscape on the moon, and what secrets it may hold. The harsh landscape, giant alien looking plants and large caves containing things that we would normally find on earth goes to show some of the limitations in our imagination.

Trip to the Moon

Le Voyage Dans La Lune (Georges Melies 1902)


There are many more types of science fiction subgenres that again, use architecture to help the readers/viewers understand the author’s vision. The idea of space exploration and colonization has led us to some great imagery. The imagery associated with technological advancements that are vastly superior to our current technology—so much so that it looks unfathomable.

eagle magazine

Eagle Magazine July 1950


This example of a 1950’s comic shows a great example of what the author had in mind about space colonization/civilization on other planets (in this case, Venus)

Ghost in the shell city scape

Ghost in the Shell (Masamune, Shirow 2017)


The common association with technological advancements is the urbanization of cities into what we would again consider to be a metropolis. The above example is a good depiction of what a futuristic city scape is like, massive holograms, tall glass buildings, apartment complexes all converge to give a sense of being urban, yet full of advanced technology.


Works Cited:

Căplescu, Oana Andreea. “Architecture In Science Fiction Movies.” 2 February 2015. 6 December 2018.

Ghost in the Shell. By Masamune Shirow. Dir. Rupert Sanders. Prods. Avi Arad, Steven Paul and Michael Costigan. Paramount Pictures, 2017.

Jackson, Gordon and Charlie Jane Anders. Great Science Fiction Creators Who Have Studied Architechture. 30 September 2011. Web Article.

Jacob, Sam. Architecture, Philip K Dick and Science-fiction Film. 4 August 2011. Web Article.

McCrary, Montez. The Architecture of “Metropolis (1927)”. 31 May 2012. Web Article.

Metropolis. By Thea von Harbou and Fritz Lang. Dir. Fritz Lang. Prod. Erich Pommer. Ufa, 1927.

Varah, Chad and Frank Hampson. “Eagle.” Hampson, Frank. Eagle. United Kingdom: Hulton Press; IPC Magazines, 1950.

Voyage Dans La Lune. By Georges Méliès. Dir. Georges Méliès. Prod. Georges Méliès. 1902.



West World – Mass Manipulation

The television series “Westworld” is a series adaptation of the original 1973 film “Westworld” by Michael Crichton. I watched the first episode of the first season “The Original” which delves into some interesting concepts about creation and artificial intelligent human-like androids. The premise (not without some research) of Westworld is that the area in which Westworld is in, is a theme park where people pay money to experience a simulation of a time in the past. In this case, old western civilization. The humans are addressed as the “guests” and the androids are called the “hosts”. The arising problem within Westworld we see in the first episode is that there are some androids who have glitches in their programming which actually cause them to kill the guests.This is obviously not intentional and at a certain point in the episode we see what happens to the androids that have issues with its programming. (Westworld)

The first thing to note about the Westworld series is the opening sequence. In the opening sequence we see there are robotic arms creating the muscle fibers of a human and even animals. This to me, seems to be an homage to technological advancements in Westworld, and in the importance and sheer dependence on it.

At the three minute mark, the dialogue exchanged by Dolores and another character is something we see at the very beginning of the episode and reiterated at the end of the episode which only tells me that there is significance in the meaning of them. “Some people choose to see the ugliness in this world. The disarray. I choose to see the beauty” (00:03:09) Additionally there is a fly that we see land on Dolores as she sits in a complex looking completely devoid of life. (00:02:30) This is another small event that happens in both the beginning and ending of the episode. I think that this seems to signify that it (she) is like an inanimate object for the fly to land on, and we also see at different scenes of the show that flies land on the androids. This would also indicate that they their skin seems to have the qualities of rotted/decaying flesh that flies are commonly attracted to.

“Do you ever feel inconsistencies in your world? Or repetitions?” -Man “All lives have routine. Mine’s no different. Still, I never cease to wonder the thought, that any day, the whole course of my life could change with one chance encounter” -Dolores (00:06:39) This dialogue is interesting in context of the episode and what Westworld is. Knowing that Dolores is an android herself, she doesn’t seem to notice that her “one chance encounter” isn’t the man she thinks it is (Teddy), but in reality it is meeting her makers/programmers. They are the ones who change her encounters. “What if told you that you were wrong? That there are no chance encounters? That you, and everyone you know where built to the gratify the desires of the people who pay to visit your world? The people you call the newcomers?” (00:10:39) This is also an interesting bit of dialogue because the person telling Dolores this information is something that she doesn’t know, that it is something that most of the androids in Westworld aren’t supposed to know. After all, the androids can somewhat think for themselves can’t they? At this scene, (00:10:39) we first meet the man dressed in black. He plays a pivotal role in the reality of the amusement park and establishes a distinction between the real people there and the androids. Teddy does not realize that they were programmed not to harm any of the humans at the park, and even though the man tells Teddy the truth about it, he disregards what he says entirely because he is in a state of disbelief when he shoots at him– and sees that he is unharmed. “Seems you’re not the man you thought you were” (Man dressed in black to Teddy 00:13:13). It is unclear so early in the season as to why he has been around for a long time, the man dressed in black states he’d been coming there for 30 years and Dolores can’t remember any of it.

In another scene, we see one of the androids with two humans discussing some newly found gestures that the park co-founder Ford had added to a new version of their programming (the androids). “He calls them reveries” (00:16:34) This is another important aspect of the episode because the two humans say that it helps with the realism of the android, however, we see later on that these “reveries” caused the androids to malfunction or begin to have some sort of free thought (Dolores’s father). A reverie means to day dream or the condition of being lost in thought. (Reverie)

Moving forward, we see at another scene where one of the hosts is having an issue with its programming as some other hosts have as well. He immediately stops and powers down which goes to show in a small feature, just how much power the authority figures have over these androids. (00:39:29)

An interesting scene I thought was very similar to another adaptation film is a scene where we see a human-like figure emerge out of a white substance which drips off and immediately reveals what looks to be a nearly completed android (00:41:20). This is similar in some ways to a 1995 adaptation film of a manga called “Ghost in the Shell” by Masamune Shirow. The premise of the movie was that a law enforcement officer who is completely an android herself was looking for a hacker who could hack into people’s cybernetic prosthetics and make them do things they wouldn’t normally do. All this via internet. The protagonist in this movie is unaware of her past and she believes that she is just a ghost in a shell. When the newest iteration of her body was being created, it was created in a similar fashion to this scene in Westworld. (Ghost in the Shell)

This episode has been very interesting and I’d like to continue watching the rest of the two seasons. There are lots of comparisons and connections to make throughout the episode as to what each event means and even the dialogue. The days in the show seem to just repeat themselves with minor adjustments made to the hosts. This is very similar in fashion to the 1998 film “The Truman Show” directed by Peter Weir. (The Truman Show)



The Handmaid’s Tale – A Startling Look Into Birth Control

In the HULU series “The Handmaid’s Tale”, which is based on Margaret Atwood’s speculative fiction novel “The Handmaid’s Tale”, we take a look at the first episode “Offred” in season 1 (The Handmaid’s Tale). At the very beginning where we see Offred sitting in her room at her master’s house, a very important narration is told to the viewers: “A chair, a table, a lamp. There’s a window with white curtains and the glass is shatterproof. But it isn’t running away they’re afraid of. A handmaid wouldn’t get that far. It’s those other escapes. The ones you can open yourself given a cutting edge. Or a twisted sheet and a chandelier.” (04:05) This to me is a bit of a play on words about the idea that the only real escape is by suicide, or at least there have been many successive attempts at suicide because running away would also mean death. The premise of “The Handmaid’s Tale” which is set in a dystopian future where a new government in America has began to take action against a dangerously depleting birthrate caused by the long term effects of pollution on earth. Thus “Gilead” was born with the government’s watch to regulate birth of children. Of course, their methods and choices are absolutely horrendous and sickening because of the twisted use of the bible (more on this) as a reason to justify the acts done in the story.

The first thing that was notable is the use of symbolism with the clothing. Offred is wearing a bonnet and a long dress, so as to cover her hair and her entire body. This is the first time we see a biblical reference as to why the handmaids all wear one, but also has double duty in giving a viewer an idea that the “society” (Gilead) wants uniformity. The relevant bible verse says it like this: “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.” 1 Cor. 11:15 (KJV) This was something that Gilead had been trying to achieve with their handmaidens. “Holiness” or one could say “sterility” and free from sin. With this, I needed to know what exactly is the meaning of a handmaiden or what its origins are. The word handmaid translates from the Hebrew language meaning “Female Slave” or “Someone whose essential function is to serve and assist” (First definition, Second Definition). In a biblical sense, which is what this story is mostly based on, a handmaid was first really showcased when polygamy wasn’t an abstract idea. We see that the solution that Gilead has come up with was to bring back polygamy and have the handmaidens as surrogate mothers to combat the childbirth crisis. According to an ABC News interview with the costume designer for the show, another thing to note was the use of colors throughout the show, where all handmaids wear red and white and the handmaid’s masters wear monotone colors, such as the waterford’s color schemes. This seems to signify status in the world of Gilead. (Article)

In another scene right at the beginning there are a few phrases that recur throughout the series which are “Blessed be the fruit”, “May the Lord open” (11:50) which I believe are direct references to the fruit being children and “may the Lord open” just means that they pray that God stays accepting. Another phrase mentioned throughout the series is “Under His eye” which I also assume means under the eye of God or that could mean that under the eye of the government. Although not really stated in the first episode, there are government workers throughout the complex that the handmaids call “eyes”.

To expand a little more on what exactly “Gilead” is, I looked up what the definition of Gilead is, and it is also a biblical reference. Gilead meaning “heap or mass of testimony” which is a sensible name for what is trying to be achieved there: birth of healthy babies. (Gilead) A very big and over-encompassing rhetoric in Gilead is the use of the old testament of the bible, which had a lot of abstract ideas and things that were okay in the society of those times but are questioned in modern society about its morality. Obversely, the old testament was rendered obsolete by Christ Jesus.

One final point to make about the show in its first episode is the role of women in the show, which Gilead sticks to the old idea that women are the mothers, caretakers, and the child bearers which are in some ways an instinctive attribute for women, however, the society before the new change in government, was a modern day society. June (Offred’s real name) had a job and a life of her own before the changes. We see again that with Ms. Waterford, she is a stay at home wife, and has her handmaids do most of her work for her except for her own hobby of gardening and crotchet.



Class Notes 10/23/18

“The Last Question” – Isaac Asimov

Analysis of the literal “Last Question”

  • History repeats itself (idea of reincarnation)
  • Biblical reference
  • Big bang theory – theory of life
  • New beginnings/Creation (Solution to energy crisis)
  • Prideful (the machine)
  • Left for the reader to interpret
  • Machine only designed to serve man (in its first iteration)
  • Multivac eventually learned to grow/expand its data or knowledge on its own
  • Sustainability

Eponymous– The main idea of the story is also the name of the story

Onomatopoeia– The formation of a word that is the sound that it describes, i.e. Sizzle

Vignettes– A brief description

Refrain– A repeated answer

Entropy– Conversion of energy to break down state

Iteration– Version of something

Functional Relationships:

  1. Parasitic Relationship
  2. Transactional Relationship
  3. Reciprocal Relationship

Sci-Fi Archive Revisited

I had the chance once more to go and explore the shelves of the science fiction archive in the city tech library. I looked through a multitude of books look for a specific author: Harlan Ellison. I recently started reading a book of his called “I Have No Mouth And I Want To Scream” and his stories have intrigued me since then. Luckily, I managed to find another work by Harlan called “Harlan Ellison’s Hornbook” which included a number of his other works. I skimmed through the book and checked the table of contents and picked a short story that seemed interesting to me. I managed to actually get caught up in reading one story of his. The story seemed to be more of a rant than a story, but interesting nonetheless. About how television has become the preoccupation of everyone and how toxic it can be

The Empty Automated House

“August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains” (1950) by Ray Bradbury is a short story that tells a post apocalyptic future somewhere in Allendale, California where humanity ceases to exist. “The sun came out from behind the rain. The house stood alone in a city of rubble and ashes. This was the one house left standing. At night the ruined city gave off a radioactive glow which could be seen for miles” (Bradbury, 1, 8). The city seems to have been destroyed by radioactive bombs which now leaves California devoid of life except for the house itself.

The house is completely automated and does all manner of house work on its own. The story tell the reader of the multiple chores that the house can do on its own. Things like; cooking breakfast, cleaning the table, washing the dishes, and discarding scraps by means of little cleaning mice. The entire house seems to be an almost sentient being that can think on its own– or at least is programmed to almost be that way.

The story seems to give off a melancholy kind of vibe because of the latent emptiness of the house as all humanity has now been exterminated. Leaving behind the house and a dog who is on its last whim from starvation and most likely radiation poisoning. The description of the contents of the house– the painting and pictures of the family that lived there are only distant memories of what looked like “the American dream” type of life, one with a husband and wife, two children and their dog living in harmony, now all taken by either the explosions or radiation. “Here as in a photograph, a woman bent to pick flowers. Still farther over, their images burned on wood in one titanic instant, a small boy, hands flung into the air; higher up, the image of a thrown ball, and opposite him a girl, hands raised to catch the ball which never came down” (Bradbury 1, 9).

As the story goes on to describe the automation at hand, a tree branch suddenly collapses and breaks a bottle of flammable cleaning solvent over the stove and immediately sets the house ablaze, and in an attempt to put the fire out on its own, the house completely uses whatever water reserves were left in the house, after all the water was being used for baths that no one ever showed up for. “The quenching rain ceased. The reserve water supply which had filled baths and washed dishes for many quiet days were gone” (Bradbury 3, 4). As the house frantically tried to quench the fire, it spread too fast leaving nothing but destruction in its wake just as the outside world had become. The only surviving piece of automation left still working was the voice-clock repeating the time of a new day.

This story was very intriguing because it made me think about how the future was for the people who lived in that house before Armageddon. Everything in the house was automated and their daily lives seemed to be the same everyday, like clock work. The same breakfast every morning, same times for the children and work/play schedule, consistency must have been a very important factor in the family’s lives, and even laziness because practically no one had to lift a finger for the majority of tasks the house was able to do on its own.

Introduction to Citytech’s New Sci-Fi Archive

Walking into the room where the archive stands I immediately noticed the vast collection of unhindered volumes and prints of various science fiction novels, and magazines – some of which are even encased in plastic as to preserve the condition of the books that are in further danger of deteriorating. The experience was actually quite nice to explore the some hundreds of books and taking a trip back into the past. Vishal and I each chose an issue from “IF Worlds of Science Fiction” magazine, mine being the oldest issue I could find in the collection. May 1953. I looked for a more recent book published just so I could compare the physical quality of both books, and the way the pages felt as well as even the smell of the pages differed very noticeably. The issue that I chose had what looked like a showcase short story called “Jupiter Five” by Arthur C. Clarke. It is interesting to see the detail that was included by the illustrator to really give the readers a sense of a pivotal moment in the story and to help the author get his point across much more clearly. The collection is very expansive and I think it is a great addition to the library at citytech, and I do expect to see tons of people who are looking to retrieve these stories for reading or research to be very pleased with the selection. 

Metropolis – A look Into A Destructive Future

In the movie Metropolis (Fritz Lang. 1927), we see a dystopian future which takes place in the year 2026. The society is very similar to how we have our current modern day society with our separation of social classes, that being the working class and the high class people. Fritz depicts his idea of the future as one where the middle classes workers must work 10-hour shifts in very bad working conditions in order to keep the metropolis’s boilers from overheating and causing the destruction of the lower classes’ homes. There is a strong sense of physical and psychical oppression that the working class has been subjected to. Physically, there is a gate that literally separates the city of workers underground from the metropolis above ground where the upperclassmen live (2:02:00-2:05:00). Psychologically, we see that during the beginning of the movie the workers are like slaves and walk as if they are imprisoned there. Shift changes are like clockwork and happen without a hitch. As well as that, we also come across a certain phrase multiple times in the movie: “The mediator between brain and hands must be the heart!” (0:03:02) as the epigram of the movie. There was a time in the movie where we see a shift of workers leave to go into the catacombs under the factory where they worked to hear of a lady who spoke to them about freeing their mind from this slavery. (Prior to, the workers who would pass out/faint from being overworked were never cared for by any of the other workers). Maria– one of the protagonists in the story tells the workers that she is looking for a mediator. Not knowing that Josephat (the main character) is the one destined for her. At the same time, Josephat’s father is eavesdropping on the meeting with his inventor who plans on creating a “machine-man”. This is where we first see what the director has depicted as an artificial intelligent robot. This is very similar to a modern day movie “Ex Machina (Alex Garland. 2014)” which follows the premise that an artificially intelligent robot has rebelled against humans and has used manipulation to do it. This situation also happens in Metropolis as well, when the inventor’s robot manipulates the workers in order to destroy the subsystem that powers the city above. In the end of the movie we see that the mediator (Josephat) joins his father’s hands and one of the workers to signify that he accepts that they are just more than workers, but people, people who have emotions and limits (2:25:00-End).

Class Notes 9/20 – The Machine Stops Class Discussion (Continued)


– If you are missing any assignments please speak to professor Belli during her office hours

– If you haven’t done so already, go back into your reading responses and categorize them with their respected topic (Check off both reading response and your topic)

Thursday 9/27 Prof. Belli will only be available for 30 minutes prior to class ending during her office hours

– Grading for your posts will work as follows: You will receive your grade via a private comment from prof. Belli and any other comments she sends you will be either private or public depending on the content. Be aware of replying to any of the comments she may post to you, as your comment must either be public or private depending on the content

By the weekend: If you haven’t voted on any people’s choice comments, prof. Belli is willing to give you credit for commenting and voting on your choice.

The Machine Stops Class Discussion (Cont’d)

The machine stops (literal meaning): Breaking down, Neglect of maintenance (physical upkeep), Inheritance (incomplete), Kuno’s influence

If you read a little before and a little after an interesting quote you can gain more context about it

Antecedent – comes before

There were two great developments in the story: Abolishment of respirators and Reestablishment of religion

The machine is referred to as a monster

Progress in the story was purposed for progress of the machine

Kuno could see the big picture and realize that the machine would never last, and its life cycle was nearing its end

Imperfect music used in the story meaning Vashti talking about the interruptions of her music

Impious – Disrespectful

Vashti is blind to the machine and laughs about Kuno telling of the machine’s imminent failure



Class discussion on “The Star”

People’s Choice Votes on “The Star”

Continued discussion on “The Star” and “Metropolis”