Page last updated at 12:04 GMT, Friday, 9 October 2009 13:04 UK

This week: Cult fiction

Kirsty Wark will be joined in the twilight zone by US film director and comic book writer Kevin Smith, comedian and self confessed geek Natalie Haynes, and author Jeanette Winterson.

Is cult now mainstream?

A scene from District 9
District 9 presents a bleak view of the world

Fantasy and sci-fi series are dominating US TV, with networks scrambling for the next Lost, Heroes or vampire series, while Star Trek and superheroes ride high at the box office.

The trend looks set to continue with the film slate for the coming year including Iron Man 2, The Wolfman, The Road, 2012, Avatar and Tron: Legacy, to name just a few.

But what is behind the current demand for traditionally niche fare? Are we looking for escapism, or a dark mirror of our times? And what happens to the genre when it moves into the mainstream?

We look at the latest hit from American television, Flash Forward, as it starts on British TV and the surprise success of the autumn in cinemas, District 9.

Flash Forward is on Channel Five on Mondays at 9pm. District 9, certificate 15, is in cinemas now.

Have the geeks inherited the earth?
Kick Ass
A film adaptation of Kick-Ass produced by Brad Pitt is currently being shot in the UK and Canada

Once upon a time, the easiest way to paint a character as a loser was to give them a love of comics or sci-fi and a pair of black rimmed specs.

Comic book writer Mark Millar tells us why he thinks the nerd is no longer a figure of fun and explains their rise to power.

Is he right? Does the recent wave of Judd Apatow films, where the geek gets the girl, mean a new tolerance for the traditional whipping boys?

Has the female relationship with science fiction and fantasy changed?

We will be discussing Millar's latest comic, Kick-Ass, in which - despite Millar's protestations that the worm has turned - the hero is a downtrodden, comic book loving teen who takes on the role of a superhero despite lacking any superpowers... to gruesome results.

Kick-Ass is published serially by Marvel Comics and the collected edition will be published by Titan early next year.

Is science fiction writing still in the ghetto?
And Another Thing cover
The author of the Artemis Fowl novels steps into Douglas Adams' shoes

This year's Man Booker prize prompted an outcry from science fiction writers who feel that the genre was overlooked.

Booker judge John Mullan added fuel to the fire, telling the Guardian that sci-fi writing is now a 'self-enclosed world'. Is he right?

And Another Thing... is Eoin Colfer's continuation of Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers Guide series. But does the work offer anything for readers who didn't join the club first time round?

And, at a time when climate change promises the apocalyptic outcomes beloved of the genre, is there enough actual science in science fiction or is most of it lazy fantasy?

And Another Thing... by Eoin Colfer is published by Penguin.




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