What the heck has happened to The Atlantic? All my life it was central HQ of the intelligencia’s relentless campaign to discredit science fiction and future-curious literature. The Atlantic’s editorial staff even commissioned a hit piece, in 1990, hiring one of our own, Thomas Disch, to savage the field, then they cut and hacked his essay to leave out all mention of SF tales he respected. Now? There have been at least three SF friendly articles in the last year and this new one absolutely fizzes with can-do optimism about how Science Fiction can help bring wisdom to the process of creating new technologies.
In “Why Today’s Inventors Need to Read More Science Fiction” – MIT Media Lab researchers Dan Novy and Sophia Brueckner argue that the mind-bending worlds of authors such as Philip K. Dick and Arthur C. Clarke can help us not just come up with ideas for novel gadgets, but envision and anticipate their consequences and ramifications — ideas which Novy and Brueckner use in their course, Science Fiction to Science Fabrication.
Is String Theory right? Is it just fantasy? A nifty Bohemian Gravity parody, by A Capella Science. Delightful evidence that the brightest human beings are win-win polymaths, who are brilliant at a wide range of things. All of the great scientists I’ve known also had artistic avocations that they often performed at a professional level. This young feller, Tim Blais, is clearly part of that tradition, creating singlehandedly a capella mixes that are skilled, hilariously amusing and awesomely cool. I just wish he would give us two seconds of blank screen for applause and cool-down before launching into his self-adverts at the end. Just two seconds of grace-note chill, hm? Make it three. You’ll go far.
Four Reasons Why Remakes of Sci-Fi Movies Are Doomed to Suck… and amen and this proves why cocaine should remain illegal, given what it has done to a generation of Hollywood moguls and directors, going “Ooooh, hows THIS for an original idea! How about we remake….”
== More cool scifi stuff ==
Paul Rubens doing a serious (if short and low budget) science fiction film. The Final Moments of Karl Brant is a 15-minute short film that explores mind uploading. The movie follows a scientist who is researching whole brain emulation technology; he gets murdered immediately after downloading his entire memory onto a hard drive. The film follows two police detectives who revive Karl Brant’s mind upload to find his killer.
The Hidden Message in Pixar’s Films by Kyle Munkittrick excplores in a moving and I think accurate way the “otherness” theme that guides nearly all films by the great animation house. Otherness, indeed.
Okay… gotta watch this totally way-cool fun video plus music in a full-boil love paean to starships. The very heart and soul of science fiction!
100 Wonderful and Terrible Movies That Never Existed. For every movie that makes it to your local cineplex, there are dozens that never come into existence. In another universe, Mel Gibson directed Fahrenheit 451, Terry Gilliam directed Watchmen, and Batman fought Godzilla. The history of movies is crammed full of weird almost-weres and could-have-beens. A terrific list on io9.
Utopia in Exile: Here is the videoed interview with me that Adam Ford did at LosCon39 back when Existence first came out. Not my very best, but still filled with mind-stretching exercises! (Though he lost the first few seconds of footage). It’s gotten way more buzz than I thought it merited. But go figure.== Brinstuff ==
The French site ActuSF has run an interview with me in both French and English.
The Uplift Universe is number three on this list: Twelve Book Series that are the Sci Fi equivalent of Game of Thrones.
A glimpse of my visit with the ALEF science fiction club of Athens, Greece, in August.
Live long in this world, especially as a male, and folks have a range of opinions about you. Karma builds. The more so if you become even a little “famous.” I know I can be overbearing and … opinionated… but I try to make up for that and other faults by almost never engaging in personal gossip, and with good deeds. Okay, Maimonedes said you’re not supposed to brag about the latter. But… well… I’d rather at least some of these things were known. Anyway, this bright young author writes action even better than Zelazny or Moorcock. Take a look at John Koetsier’s action-packed novel, No Other Gods. I was able to help a little. And John, you’re welcome.
== Serious Asides ==
Shall we give up on reason? Will we genetic-cavemen ever become the logical beings we flatter ourselves into believing we are? Or that Science Fiction says we might become? Recent research suggests that we have a long slog ahead of us… and yes, even the smartest best-educated folks allow their pre-set beliefs and passions to interfere with basic mental processes, if their close-held biases might be under threat. Indeed we have all seen this tenacity in online arguments, in which cogent – even devastating and fact-rich — rebuttals don’t sway the other guy even an iota. See: Scientists’ depressing new discovery about the brain.
The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes. Clearly this is what goes on as know-nothings rage against scientists and other professionals.
== SF prescience and fun…. ==
Prescience from the 1960s: Arthur Clarke wrote, “We could be in instant contact with each other, wherever we may be, where we can contact our friends anywhere on earth, even if we don’t know their actual physical location. It will be possible in that age, perhaps only 50 years from now, for a man to conduct his business from Tahiti or Bali just as well as he could from London…”
In 1964, Isaac Asimov on the year 2014 – “Communications will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone. The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books. Synchronous satellites, hovering in space will make it possible for you to direct-dial any spot on earth, including the weather stations in Antarctica.”
and “Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence.”
On the other hand… there were some howlers from Asimov: “The appliances of 2014 will have no electric cords, of course, for they will be powered by long- lived batteries running on radioisotopes.”
And our final category today is “Not yet… but increasingly likely!”
“[V]ehicles with ‘Robot-brains’ … can be set for particular destinations … that will then proceed there without interference by the slow reflexes of a human driver.”
and “Processed yeast and algae products will be available in a variety of flavors.” Coming soon!
==New Collections Released==
“Twelve Tomorrows” is the latest special science fiction issue of the MIT Technology Review, with vivid tales by Greg Egan, Nancy Kress, Allen Steele, Brian Aldiss, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Peter Watts, Nancy Fulda, and myself… along with other fine writers, all aimed at dealing with near-future possible trends or shocks in technology and its impact on human lives. My story, Insistence of Vision, leads off this terrific collectors’ volume. It deals with a near future option offered by “specs” or googlasses, to replace prison as a punishment with something else. Something that is both better and more chilling.
Just out: Shadows of the New Sun: Stories in honor of Gene Wolfe, with contributions from Neil Gaiman, Joe Haldeman, Nancy Kress, Jack Dann, Michael Swanwick, Timothy Zahn, Michael Stackpole, Mike Resnick, and Todd McCaffrey… oh, and me too, with one of my best stories yet! All in the spirit of honoring one of the all-time greats of Science Fiction. See the book review on the Tor site. If you’re not familiar with Gene Wolfe, sample some of his best, with his excellent short story collection: The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories.
== Final SF’nal Miscellany ==
Hugo-nominated author Jim Hines has a new novel Libriomancer in which the urban mage can pull items or characters from any book. Clever idea! Read an interview on Wired about why he decided not to pull a black hole out of EARTH. Interesting fellow!
Here’s a wonderfully funny riff on how dangerous humans might seem to aliens, e.g. REMOVING A LIMB MAY NOT FATALLY INCAPACITATE HUMANS: ALWAYS DESTROY THE HEAD…
WARNING: HUMANS CAN DETECT YOU EVEN AT NIGHT BY TRACKING VIBRATIONS THROUGH THE ATMOSPHERE.
and my own contributions…
HUMANS CAN SEE ALL THE WAY INTO THE “BLUE”!
HUMANS CAN COOPERATE LIKE HIVE BEINGS AND THEN OPERATE SOLO LIKE MANTISES! THEY CAN RUN IN THE NOONDAY SUN AND STAY COOL. THEY CAN PICK UP SMALL OBJECTS AND “THROW” THEM AT AMAZING DISTANCES AND SPEEDS. worst of all, THEY ARE CAPABLE OF EMPATHIZING WITH YOUR OFFSPRING, RAISING THEM AS THEIR OWN AND TURNING THEM AGAINST YOU!
And finally… MechaWhales. Seriously man? MechaWhales? Aw geez… and I don’t get a piece of this? Even an action figure? Mechawhales. Fun. And I’ll hold back till they’re raking it in….