First. My New Years gift to you all is a little scary story What if the 21st Century Actually Begins in 2014? about the real meaning of the “Fourteenth Year.” That each of the last few centuries appeared to have had its “true start” at that point in time. Especially 1814 and 1914… and if this pattern holds, w may be in for a very very interesting stretch of road, ahead. This piece is syndicated on the Bloomberg Network!
Second, I was interviewed by New York’s NPR station WNYC for broadcast in January, about the influence Science Fiction has had on society and creativity. Someone let us know when it plays!
Third, catch this great anthology! Twelve Tomorrows. Inspired by the real-life breakthroughs covered in the pages of MIT Technology Review, renowned writers Brian W. Aldiss, David Brin, Nancy Kress, Allen Steele, and Greg Egan join the hottest emerging authors from around the world to envision the future of the Internet, biotechnology, computing, and more. This collection features 12 all-new stories, an exclusive interview with science fiction legend Neal Stephenson, and a full-color gallery of artwork by Science Fiction Hall of Famer Richard Powers. (Now available on Kindle.)
Fourth… as mentioned above… January 2 is National Science Fiction Day….also Isaac Asimov’s birthday. Spread the word! Agitate! And let’s discuss in October how to make this the huge deal that it ought to be!
Oh here are articles on Isaac Asimov’s 50 year predictions of the world of 2014: Visit to the World’s Fair of 2014, writes Asimov fifty years ago, writing in the New York Times, after having attended the World’s Fair of 1964.
== Has sci fi provided the “great political writer” of our time? ==
Tim Kreider gives a lovely paean to my bro and colleague Kim Stanley Robinson, calling him one of the greatest political and social writers of our era… before going on to give lavish praise in a review of Robinson’s new book: “Shaman: A Novel of the Ice Age.” Kreider at times seems a bit unctuous in his admiration, but makes a credible case for Robinson’s importance.
My politics are just enough separated from Stan’s that I can enjoy occasional, fraternal digs at his utopiansim, which involves a wee bit more deliberate planning than I consider likely or plausible. In my opinion, humans are too ornery and delusional to reach consensus on the logical-seeming redesigns that Robinson demands, and which – by the way – will inevitably contain more unexpected drawbacks than any Grand Designer has ever been willing to admit.
Still, many of the good things that he calls for (and that I desire too!), like a much longer and broader set of Consequence and Inclusion Horizons — will come about. Partly from a mix of utopian finger-waggings by brilliant thinkers… but also via the trick-and-tool that has worked for us, so far… the reciprocal accountability that comes from a truly open, flat and transparent exchange of ideas and criticism, in a society that is always open to pragmatic and far-seeing endeavors..
It is that flatness and openness and transparency — plus the need to perpetually believe we can aspire and become better — where our overlap is complete, and where I am proud that our civilization gives full voice to Kim Stanley Robinson.
== More Cool SF’nal items ==
An interesting run-down by Charlie Jane Anders of iO9 on her personal list of recommended books for 2013.
Lee Barnett (aka ‘budgie’) is embarking on a challenge to write twelve 200 word stories using a title and a word provided by 12 writers. First off is Jamais Cascio, who suggested ‘The Misanthropic Principle’ with ‘shenanigans’, and got a take on the Big Question. Drop in on the Budgie site and follow this cool/fun exercise.
These “drabbles” — or super short fictions with very harsh rules — can be way-fun. One of my best short-shorts is “Toujours Voir” or “Always to see”… an answer to Deja Vu. Though the best one I ever saw was the very first story ever penned by Robert Sawyer. At the same site see my entries in WIRED’s contest for SciFi stories containing just SIX words. The story of mine — Vacuum collision. Orbits diverge. Farewell, love. — is the only one with actual events and a plot, in three scenes!
I only just realized… it is precisely the story arc of — GRAVITY.
The space drama, starring Sandra Bullock, was directed, co-written, co-produced and co-edited by Alfonso Cuarón, who earned from all of us the greatest respect. Still, in Hollywood-law they judge the spectrum of coincidence-homage-‘borrow’ by a standard of percentages, of fractional point-by-point overlap. So, can you see even a single point of my story that does not overlap with GRAVITY?
Indistinguishable from magic: A fun essay by Jason Snell in MacWorld looks at comparing technology forward and back in time… via science fiction!
MyDream is a nascent gaming world and system that purports to offer individual players of group games the ability to craft and set up realms that follow rules and patterns of the player’s choosing. They’ve come a fair distance but are asking for crowdfunding support. Seems worth a look.
In fact, there would seem to be some partial overlaps or potential synergies with the Exorarium Project that I partly developed with Sheldon Brown of the UCSD Arthur Clarke Center for Human Imagination. A cool potential system that would achieve what SPORE promised, but better and with fantastic educational potential, as well.
A lovely little essay about a parent who reads to her daughter and occasionally switches character genders. Cute… and still helpfully necessary.
== Is TED Sci Fi? ==
TEDx San Diego has released the first four videos of a dozen interesting talks from last month, including my colleague Benjamin Bratton’s controversial indictment of TED itself! Watch his tak … or see Ben Bratton’s written essay, We Need to Talk About TED, calling into question the whole TED/Chattauqua approach.
What one piece of science do you wish everyone knew? Make a short film about your favorite bit of scientific knowledge and you could win the GuardianWitness Science award – and an iPad Air. A Guardian contest.
== Movies of 2014 ==
SInce we’re on the topic of movies: I’d love to watch this Russian film, if possible! The Irony of Fate.
See Tom Cruise in the preview of his future sci fi combat/shooter flick Edge of Tomorrow. Apparently they took “All You Need Is Kill” — a Japanese military science fiction light novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka that was up for a Seiun Award… and slapped onto it the title of a story+nonfiction book by Isaac Asimov. (I hope Janet and Robin were paid!)
The plot involves re-living the same failed invasion over and over again… thing “Groundhog D-Day.” And hey, I am happy to see something actually made from an actual book and not a tedious remake! Looks like fun.
But of course, the Big Deals will be twin attempts at serious and non-cliche films either directed or produced by Christopher Nolan. Interstellar bodes to be exactly what we need in the transition year of 2014… a call for us to shrug off the pessimistic funk and get back to being human. Which means bold explorers.
Transcendence deals with the emergence of AI amid a singularity. The first teasers suggested it might be another damned cliche-downer. But I should have had more faith in Nolan’s team and community. This trailer may be a bit of a spoiler. But it suggests we aren’t in for a dumb-ass dystopic yawner, after all. Oh, sure there will be warnings. But as I squint, I foresee tomething that moves through that space and into… well… maybe something truly interesting, like Brainstorm.
Jiminy… at least we can hope.