A Stalker, A Roadside Picnic & Second Life

One of the great attractions of the internet, is the ability to sometimes find things that you thought were lost forever. I read “A Roadside Picinic” by the Soviet era Science Fiction writers & brothers Arkady & Boris Strugatsky as a yellow jacket Gollanz edition borrowed from the local library – their science fiction range always had simple yellow backgrounds with pure typographical designs – a clever design trick as it made them easy to find on the shelves.

It tells a tale of a strange land where an alien spacecraft has visited and then departed, without taking any notice at all of the human race. 

Plot Summary from Wikipedia  – “Aliens have visited the Earth, and departed, leaving behind a number of artifacts of their incomprehensibly advanced technology. The places where such artifacts were left behind are areas of great danger, known as “Zones.” The Zones are laid out in a pattern which suggests that they resulted from the impact of an influence from space which struck repeatedly from the same direction, striking different places as the Earth rotated on its axis. A frontier culture arises along the margins of these Zones, peopled by “stalkers” who risk their lives in illegal expeditions to recover these artifacts, which do not obey known physical laws. The one most sought after, the “golden sphere”, is rumored to have the power to fulfill the deepest human wishes.”

The name of the novel derives from a metaphor proposed by the character Dr. Valentine Pilman, who compares the visit to a roadside picnic……
“Picture a forest, a country road, a meadow. A car drives off the country road into the meadow, a group of young people get out of the car carrying bottles, baskets of food, transistor radios, and cameras. They light fires, pitch tents, turn on the music. In the morning they leave. The animals, birds, and insects that watched in horror through the long night creep out from their hiding places. And what do they see? Gas and oil spilled on the grass. Old spark plugs and old filters strewn around. Rags, burnt-out bulbs, and a monkey wrench left behind. Oil slicks on the pond. And of course, the usual mess — apple cores, candy wrappers, charred remains of the campfire, cans, bottles, somebody’s handkerchief, somebody’s penknife, torn newspapers, coins, faded flowers picked in another meadow.”

And what has this to do with Second Life? If the idea of the search for valuable and bizarre leftovers from an alien visitation, in a post apocolyptic landscape, where the ultimate prize is a chance to achieve your heart’s desire doesn’t sound like a fine idea for a Second Life sim or two, then I don’t know what does.

Andrei Tarkovsky made a haunting film loosely based on the book, called “Stalker” and Ukrainian Game developer GSC Game World created the video game “S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl” which has some very loose associations with the book.

And now the story is that “A Roadside Picnic” is about to made into another film, starring John Travolta.and directed by David Jacobson.

Something is definitely in the air with this idea, and someone should definitely build this sim (am I thinking film tie-in sponsorship?) even if it isn’t me.

If this has whetted your appetite, then due to the wonders  of the internet, the book can be found online for your reading pleasure….
Download Roadside Picnic in pdf format from the Cryptomaoist Editions of the Center for Computational Aesthetics (English)
Download Roadside Picnic in one zip file from the official Strugatskys’ page (Russian).
Read the book online at RussianScienceFiction.com (English)


~ by slconceptual on October 20, 2007.

7 Responses to “A Stalker, A Roadside Picnic & Second Life”

  1. You can now watch Tarkovsky’s movie of the book online courtesy of Google video….

  2. […] November 12th, 2007 in Second Life Tags: concepts, ideas, Second Life Over at SL Conceptual a lovely musing on turning a Soviet-era story into an SL […]

  3. This is a nightmare come true; one of the greatest ever science fiction novels and one the greatest sci-fi movies of all time is going to have their memories desecrated by the soulless Hollow-wood movie machine. Last year it was the farcical “I am Legend”, this year the man who managed to screw-up Battlefield Earth sticks his festering finger into the Zone. The last time I felt this was when I heard that Stallone was going to mumble his way through Fudge Dredd.
    Stop Press: it gets worse the game free lag fest of superficial capitalism or Second Life, as its acolytes call it, is trying to get in on the action…haven’t they heard of GSC Game World’s Stalker Shadow of Chernobyl? How can their cardboard game engine hope to describe the subtleties of the zone? It might be fun watching them try; like that pile of crap that was their “I am Legend” New York map tribute or “stutter island” as my wife called it. Go on then Second Life, go on Travolta, go and show us how far you cal fall below the standard set by the Stugatskys, Tarkovsky and GSC, you turds.

  4. I’m with you Paul.The book was brilliant and so was the original film.I also loved the game.The idea that hollywood is sticking their greasy fingers in to it is hideous ! …. Makes it even worse if Johnny Revolting is going to be in it.

  5. I won’t knock the new film before it’s been released and I’ve had a chance to see it. Travolta has made some bad films, but he’s also made some good ones too. So fingers crossed on this one.

  6. You can buy the DVD from Amazon complete with extras…

    Stalker: A Film by Andrei Tarkovsky

  7. Well, on the bright side Travolta did do well in Fenomenon – so we might hope to see him doing well as Red or another main characte Hollow-Wood might see suitable for this…

    Depicting the atmosphere of the book however… doubt it. Even (soviet mind-set, like the authors) Tarkovsky had to make a huge step aside, GUIDED by Strugatskys still, to film the Picnic…

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