First a series of important announcements for the month of May:
I’ll be on the show “STAR TREK: SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE” on Wednesday at 10pm PT on the History Channel. A fun romp through the range of speculative sci & tech that help propel the fabulous Trek franchise to realms of vast imagining and hopeful possibility.
Then — May 21 and 22 — the “Starship Century Symposium” at the new Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UCSD will be devoted to an ongoing exploration of the development of a real starship in the next 100 years. You can watch live streaming of the event – speakers include Freeman Dyson, Paul Davies, Robert Zubrin, Neal Stephenson, Joe Haldeman, Larry Niven, Gregory Benford and David Brin.
And rounding out a busy month: Where are we heading next in space? Register to attend the Global Collaboration in 21st century Space Conference — or International Space Development Conference — May 23 to 27 in San Diego. Speakers include: Buzz Aldrin, Mae Jemison, Robert Zubrin, Vernor Vinge, David Brin, Chris Lewicki, Natasha Vita-More…. Just after UCSD’s Starship Century Symposium earlier in the week.
== Existence is on the ballot ==
Existence is on the short list for the John W. Campbell Award for best science fiction novel of 2012. Have a look at the competition!
It was – in fact – an exceptionally fine year, with excellent works by Iain Banks, Kim Stanley Robinson, Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross, M. John Harrison, Ken MacLeod, China Miéville, Hannu Rajaniemi, G. Willow Wilson, Terry Bisson, Alastair Reynolds, Adam Roberts and John Varley. Wow. The field is alive… alive!
== Is there hope for the future? ==
I’ve reported before about the group in Oxford studying Existential Risk of human extinction… cheery blokes. Here is another interesting article about them. Of course the Lifeboat Foundation (I am a fellow) discusses many of the same things… a myriad potential threats to our… existence. Alas, for too many citizens and authors, doom scenarios are not interesting topics for exploration and prevention, but rather opportunities for endless, voluptuous relish and hand-rubbing over our inevitable human failure.
There is push back! Neal Stephenson has joined Kim Stanley Robinson, Greg Bear, Vernor Vinge, Catherine Asaro and me — along with several others — in urging the renewal of a science fiction that talks about hope. (While of course(!) delivering great action, peril and adventure.) Read about Neal’s positive-thinking and uplifting Project Hieroglyph …
…and my own reasons why readers and viewers should turn away the sheer laziness of those who cannot think of any way to propel a lively plot, except by calling humanity and civilization worthless.
Some people are active trying to chart a path forward. The best thought experiments are (of course) in top science fiction! But occasional nonfiction has a stab at it. Arising out of our discussions at the Lifeboat Foundation, there is a new book about the future that may be worth discussion. The Human Race to the Future: What Could Happen – and What to Do, by Daniel Berleant. Who doesn’t wonder about the future… what things will be like some day, how long it might take, and what we can do about it? I’d welcome comments and reviews from some of you, and do comment also on Amazon.
== Our SFnal World! ==
Our sci fi future may be visible in Korea, where all of the Miss Korea finalists appear to be converging on the same face… almost literally.
Dark Eden, the story of an alien planet where the incestuous offspring of two stranded astronauts struggle to survive, has won the UK’s top science fiction prize, the Arthur C Clarke award. Author Chris Beckett, a part-time lecturer in social work, beat some of science fiction’s best-known writers, including Kim Stanley Robinson and Ken MacLeod, to take the prize.
Why would aliens come all this way just to invade earth? Charlie Jane Anders explores some of the parameters on ion (io9).
Cracked.com links you to “5 Badass New (mini) Sci-Fi Movies You Can Watch on Your Lunch Break.” The tech is moving along and there are fine artistic sensibilities in this vividly visual small flicks. Alas, there are so many stories that could be told with these methods. Cool and ORIGINAL short stories instead of old, old, old tropes, but these fellows apparently consider that to be their very last priority. Still. They are visually stunning and worth a watch.
While we’re exploring sci-fi ish shorts… This is an amazing music video! A live-action film of a first person shooter game. Nicole says: “Actually, this is just a regular day in Bad-Ass Russia!”
As if the homogenization of Hollywood scripts hasn’t already gone too far, now there are services that computer-scan scripts to make them conform to what has statistically made money from audiences in the past. Well, it is a useful service, one supposes. Moreover, there’s my charismatic and talented niece, right there in the cover photo.
== Brin in media ==
Two panels from the latest LosCon that I participated in have been uploaded. One with David Gerrold and others, on “A Quiet Place to Write,” plus one with Vernor Vinge, Phil Osborn and Mitch Wagner on “The Technological Singularity.”
Tam Hunt did a well-organized and cogently-done interview with me in The Santa Barbara Independent.
== More Space and Sci Fi -related news ==
Europa Report. A sci fi film for grownups? Is this for real?
Old Spock vs new Spock in a cute commercial.
Amazing elevators from around the world.
A terrific (if incomplete) flowchart of time travel in movies.
== A sub-continent awakens to SF ==
India will be important to the world and Science Fiction will be important to any forward looking civilization, especially in fast-rising India. Here are some links provided by the fine SF writer Professor Vandana Singh that may enlighten folks about that rise… And news of a new Indian SF magazine, recently launched.
== More serious ==
Proposed legislation for compulsory science fiction in West Virginia schools?
Republican state delegate Ray Canterbury says this move would inspire pupils to use practical knowledge and imagination in the real world. An article in the Guardian probed this possible education reform, spiced with commentary by legendary sci fi author and educator James Gunn… and by yours truly. A fascinating move that could help reverse our current slide toward timid thinking.
“As long ago as Future Shock, author and visionary Alvin Toffler called for exposing young people to science fiction as ‘a sovereign prophylactic’ against ‘the premature arrival of the future’. Today in an even more rapidly changing world, it is even more important for Toffler’s purpose but also for “making the kinds of informed decisions about present issues that will lead to better futures,” said Gunn, who is founder of the Centre for the Study of Science Fiction at Kansas University.
Contrast this with recent proposals and measures in the outrageously and dogmatically anti-science House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology. This truly is a war — though not between all democrats and all republicans (note that W. VA delegate Canterbury is Republican). Rather, it is a battle for survival between future-oriented and curiosity-drive progress…and a bitter habit of hateful nostalgia. A vile habit that certainly does fester on the far leftQ Almost as destructively as it spews damage from Fox-central.
Heck, while we’re being serious, here are some unique takes on the philosophical aspects of my novel Existence, from the Center for Human Consciousness.
Oh but let’s end with a swing toward joy. Jerry Goldsmith’s Sci Fi and Horror Music. Need I say more?