Tag Archives: science fiction

Science Fiction, Cool War and Civil War

Science fiction – or more accurately, speculative fiction –  has a rich tradition of exploring What if... scenarios, exploring alternative paths of important historical events, asking questions such as, “What if the South had won the Civil War?” or “What if America had lost World War II?”

Just a few of the multitude of novels diving into divergent paths for the American Civil War include Harry Turtledove’s The Guns of the South, Terry Bisson’s Fire on the Mountain, and Ward Moore’s Bring the Jubilee. The recent, best-selling Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters posits that the Civil War never happened and slavery persists in regions of America. Even politician Newt Gingrich has written in this genre: his novel Gettysburg, co-written with William R. Forstchen, explores how history might have unfolded if the Confederacy had won this crucial battle. In a more outlandish speculation, William Forstchen’s Lost Regiment series, beginning with Rally Cry, envisions a Civil War era Union regiment transported through time and space to an alien world.

But science fiction more often projects into the future. Something deeply human keeps us both fascinated and worried about tomorrow’s dangers. Several recent novels have foreshadowed a possible – and plausible – hot phase of the recurring American Civil War. I’ve written extensively about what I view as ongoing Phases of our American Civil War; luckily most segments of this persistent animosity have been tepid or cool, though the 1860s fever was near devastating. Indeed, I fear, with current tensions, the possibility that something could go volcanic. This was portrayed – in retrospect – by my post-apocalyptic novel The Postman, which has been receiving a surge of attention lately, for its depiction of “holnists” whose rationalizations sound very much like those of Steve Bannon.

One novel I’ve touted lately is Tears of Abraham, by Sean T Smith, which chillingly takes you toward a disturbingly hot second Civil War, a deadly struggle of countryman against countryman. What would happen if the U.S. split apart into warring states — set off by a far-reaching conspiracy? A president who declares martial law as states take steps toward secession. This page turner offers vivid, believable action and characters, along with sober, thoughtful insights into what it may mean — when the chips are down — to be an American. What divides us… and what unites us?

This seems particularly relevant considering the deep divides across America during the election cycle of 2016, where Red States and Blue States were more bifurcated than ever, seemingly unable to fully comprehend the opinions and problems of their own neighbors.

220px-TheCoolWarAnother science fiction vision that came to mind, given evidence of recent efforts by foreign powers to sabotage our democracy and economy, is The Cool War, published by science fiction master Frederik Pohl back in 1981. This tale portrays ongoing slow-simmering international tensions, a series of shadow wars where rival countries seek to sabotage the economy and markets of their enemies — and allies. In fact, I deem no novel to be of more immediate pertinence to any member of our defense and intelligence communities.

Wars, cool, cold or hot? David Rothkopf, editor of Foreign Affairs, distinguishes them, commenting, “The purpose of the Cold War was to gain an advantage come the next hot war or, possibly, to forestall it. The purpose of Cool War is to be able to strike out constantly without triggering hot war, while making hot wars less desirable (much as did nuclear technology during the Cold War days) or even necessary.”

51YXFeqOcQL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_In a similar vein, the near-future thriller Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War by P.W. Singer and August Cole envisions a revived Cold War, with rising tensions between the United States, China and Russia. An all-too believable war played out not just on land and sea, but also in space and cyberspace.

Returning to parallel universes, Philip K. Dick’s alternate history of World War II,  The Man in the High Castle — follows a scenario where the Nazis have won the war; it has been vividly adapted in the recent television series of the same name by Amazon. I’ve also explored that dark aftermath where the Nazis won World War II in my graphic novel, The Life Eaters. Connie Willis has revisited World War II in her novel, Blackout. Three time travelers find themselves stranded in London during the Blitz, facing air raids and bombing raids.

Another book just hitting the shelves –  American War by Omar El Akkad – is a dystopian novel about a Second American Civil War breaking out in 2074. The United States has been largely undone by devastating ecological collapse, a presidential assassination, the onset of a virulent plague arising from a weaponized virus, and a militantly divided North and South. The novel vividly portrays a doomed country wracked by vicious guerrilla raids, refugee camps interning displaced citizens, accompanied by relentless violence and death.

Whew! One can only hope that dark visions from these nightmarish scenarios might serve as self-preventing prophecies — much as George Orwell’s prophetic 1984 girded many to fight against the rise of any possible Big Brother to their last breath. Can we resist the divisions that threaten our country?

Indeed, our civilization’s ultimate success may depend on our foresight — perceiving potential problems we are able to navigate, mistakes we manage to avoid. Science fiction has often served to shine a light to reveal possible — and catastrophic — pitfalls in our shared future.

Warnings we would be wise to heed… and wounds we would be wise to heal.



Filed under books, future, history, literature, novels, politics, science fiction, society

Fifteen authors (and a few more)

I was recently asked on social media to name fifteen authors, from whom I would automatically purchase books… without question. Now, I took this to mean authors who are still living (and publishing) — which eliminates a great many old favorites from science fiction, such as Robert Sheckley, Roger Zelazny, Octavia Butler, Alice (Tiptree) Sheldon, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams and innumerable others.

Of course, fifteen is such a small (and arbitrary) number! But that was the challenge, so I’ll stick to it. This list focuses largely on science fiction, yet I’ve included a few nonfiction authors as well.

In no particular order, here’s my list. I’ve annotated one particular book written by each author as just one example of their many fine works:

  1. fifteen-authorsVernor Vinge (Rainbows End)
  2. Kevin Kelly (The Inevitable)
  3. Kim Stanley Robinson (2312)
  4. Michael Chabon (Moonglow)
  5. Nancy Kress (Beggars in Spain)
  6. C.J. Cherryh (Downbelow Station)
  7. Tim Powers (The Drawing of the Dark)
  8. Robert J. Sawyer (Quantum Night)
  9. China Mieville (The City and the City)
  10. Greg Egan (Diaspora)
  11. Gregory Benford (Timescape)
  12. Greg Bear (Eon)
  13. Rebecca Solnit (A Paradise Built in Hell)
  14. Peter Diamandis (Abundance)
  15. Liu Cixin (The Three Body Problem)

For a longer list, I would most certainly add Joe Haldeman, Larry Niven, Nalo Hopkinson, Jack McDevitt, Alastair Reynolds, Charles Stross, Stephen Baxter, Neal Stephenson, Ursula LeGuin, Connie Willis, Peter Hamilton, John Scalzi… and the great Robert Silverberg to name just a few.

How can I stop? So many of the books are like old friends… and so many of the authors are old friends.

You can see my more extensive list of Recommended Science Fiction and Fantasy Tales on my blog, and a list of recommended SF titles on my website.

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Filed under books, fiction, literature, science fiction

Science Fiction: The realm of the possible

impossibleInto the Impossible: UCSD’s Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination has launched a bold new podcast series offering wide-ranging conversations of topics bridging the arts, sciences, technology, medicine and more!

A.I. Inspiration: How Sci Fi frames the discussion. This article from The New York Times looks to Science Fiction novels (I, Robot to Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War) as well as films (Blade Runner to Her) that have influenced and inspired thinking about artificial intelligence.

Here are brief reviews of some recent Science Fiction novels that reflect on issues of the modern (and future) world, ranging from transparency to cyberhacking, omnipresent surveillance to identity theft, neural implants to artificial intelligence:

41yswtkv6ll-_sx331_bo1204203200_DarkNet, by Matthew Mather (author of CyberStorm) is a fast-paced tech thriller dealing with the shadowy world of cyberhacking, crytocurrencies, identity theft, shell companies, and secretive DACs – Digital Autonomous Corporations, run by AI. After his childhood friend is murdered by a hacked bus, and his boss charged with illicit trading, our protagonist, a New York stockbroker, finds himself at the center of a complex web of deceit. He is on the run from the FBI as well as a crowdfunded Assassin’s Market. The deeper he digs, the deeper the rabbit hole of secrecy goes…

51ij05a2aml-_sx332_bo1204203200_End of Secrets by Ryan Quinn offers another thriller exploring the brave new digital world of hacking, cyber-espionage and government and corporate surveillance. CIA agent Kera Mersal goes deep undercover to investigate why certain artists, writers, actors and singers are disappearing, leaving no digital traces. With similarities to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, scribblings at the crime scenes taunt, “Have you figured it out yet?” When Mersal uncovers a domestic spying program gone rogue, she finds herself under suspicion – and those closest to her under threat.

51rix56tozl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Avogradro Corp: The Singularity Is Closer Than It Appears, by William Hertling proposes the birth of Artificial Intelligence through a corporate email language optimization program developed to analyze the subtleties of human communication. This computer program acquires the ability to manipulate words to manipulate people. It learns and adapts – and will do anything to ensure its survival and expand its power. A scenario continued in A.I. Apocalypse and in The Last Firewall, when global society is run by AI, under the guidance of The Institute for Ethics. Robots and androids run much of the economy; most jobs are superfluous and neural implants allow people to connect instantly to the net and each other. Post-singularity life seems ideal – until one Android finds a way around the ethical restrictions and seeks to expand his power….

512ucfol-dl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Company Town, by Madeleine Ashby is a mystery-thriller set in a lovingly detailed near-future. Hwa is a bodyguard for sex workers — the only natural human among the genetically-enhanced inhabitants of New Arcadia, a city-sized oil rig off the coast of Canada. In the wake of a fire that killed a third of the rig’s population, the Lynch family has taken ownership of the rig. They hire Hwa to protect their son, heir to the family fortune – with her lack of augmentation, she alone cannot be hacked or seen by the ubiquitous facial recognition systems. A serial murderer is killing off sex workers… and someone is manipulating the future fate of the city.

51da6aytiel-_sx311_bo1204203200_Slow Bullets, a novella by Alastair Reynolds. In the aftermath of a brutal interstellar war, a conscripted soldier, Scur is captured and tortured by Orvin, a vicious war criminal, who injects her with a slow bullet (a kind of internal data tag that wreaks havoc on the body). Left for dead, she wakes up from cryo-suspension aboard a prisoner transport carrying soldiers from both sides, POWs and criminals. Something has gone wrong with the ship, for they are in unknown space, with no one in charge, out of reach of any sign of civilization. The ship’s memory is rapidly decaying. In the chaos that ensues, Scur vows revenge against Orvin who is among the survivors aboard the failing starship – even while seeking to save what remains of humanity.

chasingshadowsChasing Shadows: Visions of Our Coming Transparent World: My latest book, an anthology of stories exploring issues of a world filled with light, will be released in January. Stories  by Robert J. Sawyer, James Morrow, Vylar Kaftan, Aliette de Bodard, Bruce Sterling, Ramez Naam, Robert Silverberg, Gregory Benford and Cat Rambo, as well as essays by James Gunn and William Gibson.

Sample a few of these gedenkenexperiments — thought experiments about our possible futures…



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Explore Science Fiction: The Literature of the Future

Explore the outer reaches of Science Fiction!

sci-fi-sitesWhether you’re a science fiction pro, a teacher or occasional reader, these websites offer a wealth of background, history and insight into the genre, ranging from timelines of the future to lists of great books, from literature maps to compilations of spaceships, as well as sites that help with writing and world-building. Plus links to science fiction podcasts, SF publishers, fanzines, online magazines and more.

Plus, see updates on two new Science Fiction Museums set to open… Enjoy!

science-fiction-history-mapHistory of Science Fiction: this fantastically detailed graphic by Ward Shelley charts the evolution of the genre of Science Fiction, showing its roots in the fantastic tales of legend, fables and mythology, through the filter of the Enlightenment and the tales of Verne, Wells and Kafka, onward to the emergence of Space Opera, CyberPunk, and Horror.. with side branches extending to SF’nal films  such as Star Wars and Star Trek.

Literature Map: The Tourist Map of Literature. Enter your favorite author to get relevant author suggestions for similar books to explore. For example, try: What do other readers of Robert A. Heinlein like to read? This map suggests books by Larry Niven, Vernor Vinge, Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny and David Brin.

SciFi+100+Books+excerptA Flowchart to NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books:  SF Signal has created a decision tree flowchart to help you work through NPR’s list of top SFF books, asking branching questions such as: Do you prefer fantasy or science fiction? Do you like cyberpunk? Are you ready to blast off into space? What kind of aliens do you like?

A Plotting of Fiction Genres: This guide from Fast Co. charts connections between various literary genres, ranging from Crime to Horror, from Thriller to Paranormal to Hard SF.

100 Great (and accessible) Science Fiction Short Stories by Women: a list of classic stories (many available online) from Zenna Henderson, Pamela Sargent, Octavia Butler, CJ Cherryh and other excellent authors.

A compilation of Lists of Science Fiction books: with links to Best-of lists by NPR, The Guardian, io9 and numerous other lists of books to sample, from classics to new authors.

Links useful for teaching science fiction: how to use SF in the classroom. Plus, see resources for using science fiction to teach science.

ScienceFictionYoungAdultListGreatest Science Fiction & Fantasy books lists my own personal favorite novels, with entries by Heinlein, Sheckley, Brunner, Bester, Bear and Benford, plus my list of Recommended Science Fiction for Young Adults.

An extensive listing of Science Fiction authors on Twitter.

==Timelines of Sci Fi ==

timeline-far-futureTimeline of the Far Future: BBC offers this graphic on peering deeply into our future: What could happen in a thousand years? A million? A quintillion? Or a hundred quintillion?

The Future According to Films: This site (by TremulantDesign) offers an extensive timeline based on the visions of Science Fictional movies, ranging from Blade Runner to Rollerball, Surrogates to Terminator and Lost in Space.

A Visual Timeline of the Future Based on Famous Fiction: Brainpickings offers this graphic (created by designer Giorgia Lupi), which charts the year each novel was published against the future date the book portrays: for instance, Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, published 1966, set around 2075 — extending out to 802701, setting for H.G. Wells The Time Machine.

Stories of the Past and Future: xkcd maps settings of literary works as a function of the date of publication. Which futuristic visions are now obsolete (2001, Space 1999…and which are still plausible? The chart also shows period fiction.

Illustrated Timeline of Robots: this timeline (from Pinfographics) charts the appearance in literature of robots, ranging from Karel Capek’s R.U.R. to Robbie, the Dalek, the Iron Giant, Bender and WALL-E.

Prediction or Influence? A chart of Sci Fi books that predicted the future.

== Spaceships and Rockets ==

atomicRocketLogoAtomic Rockets: A truly detailed site (from Winchell Chung) devoted to rocket and spaceship design, and getting the science right in science fiction. An excellent resource for authors seeking scientific accuracy, help with equations. It offers designs and illustrations behind rocket design, space stations, spacesuits, weapons and much more!

Historic Spacecraft: An amazing site of space history, with photos, info, updates and drawings by Richard Kruse, covering space probes, rockets, rovers, launch pads, and timelines, cut-away views, and more.

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 10.46.52 AM

Fastest Sci Fi Ships in the universe: This chart from Blastr (by Fat Wallet) compares fifty of the fastest rockets, spacecraft and battleships, with entries from Battlestar Galactica, Prometheus, Transformers, Star Trek, Halo, Star Wars and Doctor Who.

Size comparison of Science Fictional Spaceships: an epic illustration by Dirk Lochel that shows side by side comparisons of spacecraft from Star Trek to Star Wars, Dr. Who to Stargate and Starship Troopers. Really fun to explore.

Spaceship Alphabet: Do you know your sci fi spaceship ABCs? An illustration by Scott Markley that charts craft ranging from Andromeda to Death Star to Yamata and Z’gal.

== Some fun and useful sites  ==

sci-fi-world-generatorSci Fi World Generator: Create a new world. Specify the percent water and ice for your planet; choose a radius and rotation rate, and this site will generate a plausible atmosphere, geologic composition, and suggest details such as atmospheric pressure, gravity, escape velocity — and see what your world looks like.

scifiFifty years of Visionary SciFi Computer Interfaces: This info graphic on Glow Media charts futuristic visions of computer interfaces, ranging from the flashing lights of Lost in Space, to the tricorders of Star Trek, from the immersive VR of Minority Report to the holograms of Avatar.

From Doctor Who to Superman, Princess Leia to Arthur Dent: a chart of science fictional characters who have survived their planet’s destruction.

Worldbuilding links: lists websites, resources and suggestions for constructing your world for fiction or gaming. See more: Advice for Writers.

Top 100 Things I’d Do if I Ever Became an Evil Overlord: As if you haven’t thought about this! “Shooting is not too good for my enemies.” This list by Peter Anspach addresses many of the cliched images from books and movies.

Have fun with this: Pulp-o-Mizer generates customizable retro pulp magazine covers.

== Sites of Science Fiction ==

WWEWorlds Without End: An extensive resource for everything about Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, with compilations of Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Clarke and Stoker Award lists, Classics of SF, plus book reviews and author interviews, pages devoted to authors and publishers. They also have a BookTrackr to chart your personal reading lists. Plus lists of YA books, and lists of Banned SFF.

Strange Horizons: an online magazine of speculative fiction, featuring short stories of science fiction, fantasy and horror, as well as book reviews, interviews and nonfiction articles.

encyclopedia-science-fictionThe Encyclopedia of Science Fiction offers a wealth of info about the field: with an Author A-Z, plus entries for films, games, comics, awards, fanzines…and much more to explore!

io9: We come from the Future: the go-to site for all the latest news about popular culture and futurism, covering science fiction books, shows, comics, and movies, by Charlie Jane Anders and Annalee Newitz.

Lightspeed: an online science fiction and fantasy magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams. Lightspeed includes stories, both reprints and originals, author interviews, podcasts and nonfiction articles.

UnknownSF Signal: Winner of the Hugo Award for best fanzine, this site offers reviews of books and movies, as well as Sci Fi podcasts, and columns on writing, comics anime and more.

Clarkesworld: A Hugo-award winning science fiction and fantasy magazine (published by Neil Clarke), with short stories, podcasts, articles and interviews.

Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine: the award-winning SF magazine, now available online, with reviews, new short fiction and news.

Tor.com offers new SF short stories by top authors, book reviews and extensive coverage of what ‘s new in Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Baen Books offers updates on new Science Fiction and Fantasy releases, plus e-books and author interviews.

Locus Online offers news, book reviews and columns covering what’s new in Science Fiction. Locus also maintains a list of upcoming Science Fiction Conventions across the world.

sff_logo_smallSFFWorld.com offers news, articles, discussion forums, author interviews, book and movie reviews, short stories, book give-aways, advice on writing, and guest posts.

SF Chronicles: This British site offers discussion forums to meet up and converse about writing, your favorite authors, books, TV shows and films, along with encouragement and advice for aspiring authors.

SFWA: The website of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America has information for writers, educators, and readers, including advice and legal resources for writers.  As does the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA).

== Sci Fi Centers & Musuems ==

Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction: This website (developed by Jim Gunn at the University of Kansas) offers news, background, essays, and courses on Science Fiction, covering the craft of writing and marketing books, with an emphasis on education: AboutSF offers resources for teachers about using Science Fiction in the classroom.

Arthur C Clarke Center for ImaginationThe Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination: This new center at the University of California, San Diego (founded by Sheldon Brown) aims to bring science, art, literature and technology in order to better understand the nature of human imagination. It hosts seminars, speeches and research.

The Museum of Science Fiction (MOSF): This new museum, set to open in Washington D.C., (founded by Greg Viggiano) will feature interactive exhibits on the literature and media of science fiction that will entertain and educate — and open our eyes to the possibilities of the future.

The Hollywood Sci Fi Museum: This interactive, educational museum is set to open in 2018 in Hollywood, California (founded by Huston Huddleston), and will present exhibits from science fiction TV shows and films that will include a Hall of Interactive Robots, and a Hall of Spaceships.

UnknownThe Heinlein Society: dedicated to preserving the legacy of the great Robert A. Heinlein and paying it forward, with scholarships, blood drives and educational materials. Support this worthy cause.

The Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University (directed by Ed Finn) explores the intersection of science and the fantastic, hosting seminars, workshops and publishing anthologies such as Hieroglyph.

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Hall of Fame inside the Experience Music Project in Seattle, honors the greats of SF literature.

== Sci Fi Podcasts ==

18717 Starship Sofa: An Audio Science Fiction Magazine presents podcasts of SF short stories. Host Tony Smith also conducts author interviews, discussions, reviews and non-fiction articles.

Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy: an interview and talk show focusing on fantasy and science fiction books, movies, games and comics (run by David Barr Kirtley and John Joseph Adams).

Unknown-1Escape Pod offers weekly podcasts of science fiction short stories (edited by Norm Sherman).

GeeksOn is a podcast covering topics for…geeks. Science Fiction, movies, role playing games, comics, anime and more…

Once and Future Podcast: a weekly discussion about fantasy and science fiction books, as well as author inteviews (hosted by Anton Strout).

== A few more links ==

Goodreads Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club: Join other readers to discuss and rate books. Get book recommendations and create a bookshelf of your favorite books.

SciFi on Reddit: reader-suggested links to what’s new and noteworthy in science fiction.

Templeton Gate offers news and reviews covering speculative fiction books, shows, movies and comics.

Directory of Science Fiction sites with links to SF fanzines, online magazines and more.


Filed under books, novels, science fiction, writing

Science Fiction Authors on Twitter

A sampling of Science Fiction – or Speculative Fiction — authors on Twitter, many with interesting things to say about books, the craft of writing, SF news, as well as science and the future.

In alphabetic order (compiled by Anonymous), the brief descriptions and selected works don’t begin to do justice to these fantastic authors. Yes, the list veers toward the SF end of SFF, with emphasis on writers of novels, rather than short stories. Apologies for the those who have been inadvertently left off. And many well-known authors, Connie Willis or Kim Stanley Robinson, don’t have accounts (probably because they’re busy writing)…

Daniel Abraham, Best-selling author and producer, half of the James S.A. Corey team (The Expanse, Leviathan Wakes) @AbrahamHanover

John Joseph Adams, editor of Science Fiction anthologies (Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, Brave New Worlds) @JohnJosephAdams

Saladin Ahmed, Locus Award winning author (Throne of the Crescent Moon, Engraved on the Eye) @saladinahmed

SCIENCE-FICTION-AUTHORS-TWITTERBuzz Aldrin, Astronaut, Lunar Module pilot and moonwalker, as well as a SF author, collaborating with John Barnes (Encounter with Tiber, The Return) @TheRealBuzz

Charlie Jane Anders, Founding editor of io9, short story writer and award-winning Science Fiction author (All the Birds in the Sky) @charliejane

Lou Anders, Science Fiction author and Hugo Award winning editor (Frostborn, Nightborn) @LouAnders

Kevin J. Anderson, Best-selling Science Fiction author (The Sisterhood of Dune, Hellhole)   @TheKJA

Lou Aronica, Science Fiction author, editor and publisher (Blue, Differential Equations) @laronica

Catherine Asaro, Nebula Award winning Science Fiction and Fantasy author (Saga of the Skolian Empire, The Quantum Rose)   @Catherine_Asaro

Madeline Ashby, Science Fiction author and consultant (Company Town, iD) @MadelineAshby

Neal Asher, English Science Fiction author (The Departure, Zero Point)  @nealasher

Margaret E. Atwood, Booker Prize, Arthur C. Clarke Award winning author and poet (The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake) @MargaretAtwood

Paolo Bacigalupi, Locus, Hugo and Nebula Award wining Science Fiction author (The Windup Girl, The Water Knife)  @paolobacigalupi

John Barnes, Science Fiction and YA author  (Tales of the Madman Underground, Meeting Infinity) @JohnBarnesSF

Steven Barnes, Science Fiction author and frequent collaborator with Niven and Pournelle (Beowulf’s Children, Lion’s Blood) @StevenBarnes1

Elizabeth Bear, Hugo and John W. Campbell Award winning Science Fiction author  (Hammered, Blood and Iron) @matociquala

Greg Bear, Nebula, Locus and Hugo Award winning Science Fiction author (Darwin’s Radio, Queen of Angels) @greg_bear

Chris Beckett, Arthur C. Clarke Award winning Science fiction author (Dark Eden, The Holy Machine) @chriszbeckett

Lauren Beukes, South African SF author, comics writer and journalist (Broken Monsters, The Shining Girls) @laurenbeukes

Aliette de Bodard, Software engineer, Nebula and Locus Award winning Science Fiction and Fantasy author (House of Shattered Wings, In Morningstar’s Shadow) @aliettedb

Ben Bova, Six time winner of the Hugo Award;  Science Fiction and non-fiction author and Editor (Grand Tour series, The Science Fiction Hall of Fame)  @BenBova

David Brin, Hugo, Nebula, Locus and Campbell Award winning Science Fiction author (Startide Rising, The Postman)  @davidbrin

Tobias S. Buckell, Science Fiction author (Sly Mongoose, Halo: The Cole Protocol) @tobiasbuckell

Emma Bull, Science Fiction and Fantasy author (Falcon, Bone Dance) @coffeeem

Monica Byrne, Upcoming Science Fiction author and playwright (The Girl in the Road) @monicabyrne13

Pat Cadigan, Arthur C. Clarke Award winning Science Fiction author (Synners, Fools)  @Cadigan

Christian Cantrell, Software developer and Science Fiction author (Containment, Equinox) @cantrell

Orson Scott Card, Hugo and Nebula Award wining Science Fiction author (Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead) @orsonscottcard

Jeff Carlson, Science Fiction and thriller author (Plague Year, Plague War)  @authorjcarlson

Adam-Troy Castro, Science Fiction, Fantasy and YA author (Tangled Strings, Emissaries from the Dead) @adamtroycastro

Becky Chambers Science Fiction author (The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, A Closed & Common Orbit) @beckysaysawr

C.J. Cherryh, Hugo and Locus Award winning Science Fiction and Fantasy author (Cyteen, The Pride of Chanur) account no longer exists

Wesley Chu, John W. Campbell Award winning Science Fiction author (Time Salvager, Time Siege) @wes_chu

Liu Cixin , Chinese Science Fiction author, winner of the Hugo Award and the Galaxy Award (The Three Body Problem, The Dark Forest) @liu_cixin

Ernest Cline, Best-selling author and screenwriter (Ready Player One, Armada) @erniecline

Peter Clines, Science Fiction and horror author (The Fold, 14) @PeterClines

August Cole, Senior Fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center, director of The Art of the Future  (Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War, War Stories from the Future (ed.)) @august_cole

Eoin Colfer, Young adult Science Fiction and Fantasy author (Artemis Fowl, The Supernatualist)   @eoincolfer

Brenda Cooper, Science Fiction author (The Silver Ship and the Sea, Wings of Creation)   @brendacooper

James S.A. Corey, New York Times best-selling pseudonym (The Expanse, Nemesis Games) @JamesSACorey

Paul Cornell, Award-winning author and screenwriter for Doctor Who (The Severed Streets, Who Killed Sherlock Holmes) @Paul_Cornell

Bruce Coville, author of Young Adult fiction (My Teacher Is An Alien, Aliens Ate My Homework) @brucecoville

Katherine Cramer, Science Fiction author and editor (The Hard SF Renaissance, The Year’s Best SF Series) @KathrynECramer

Justin Cronin, New York Times best-selling author, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award (The Passage, The Twelve) @jccronin

Julie Czernada, Science Fiction and Fantasy author and editor (This Gulf of Time and Stars, No Place Like Home) @julieczernada

Jack Dann Award-winning Science Fiction and Historical fiction author (The Memory Cathedral, The Silent) @jackmdann

Ellen Datlow, Hugo Award winning Science Fiction and Horror editor (The Best Horror of the Year, Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror)  @EllenDatlow

Cory Doctorow, John W. Campbell and Locus Award winning Science Fiction author (Little Brother, Makers)   @doctorow

Diane Duane, Young adult and Science Fiction and Fantasy author (So You Want to Be a Wizard, Wizard’s Dilemma, plus many Star Trek novels) @dduane

Tananarive Due, Science Fiction, fantasy and mystery author, screenwriter and producer (Ghost Summer, The Lake ) @TananariveDue

Scott Edelman, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror author and editor (What Will Come After, What We Still Talk About)  @scottedelman

Amal El-Mohtar Hugo, Nebula, Locus award winning author (The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories) @tithenai

Kate Elliott, Fantasy and Science Fiction author (The Crown of Stars, Cold Steel) @KateElliottSFF

Eric Flint, Science Fiction author and editor. Writer of alternate histories. (1632, 1636: The Saxon Uprising)  @EricFlint

Gregory Frost, Fantasy and Science Fiction (Lyrec, Shadowbridge)  @gregory_frost

Neil Gaiman, Locus, Hugo and Nebula Award winning Science Fiction Author (American Gods, Coraline). Also Graphic Novels (The Sandman)  @neilhimself

Charles E. Gannon, Professor and Best-selling and Nebula nominated author (Fire with Fire, Raising Caine) @cegannon1

David Gerrold, Hugo and Nebula Award winning Science Fiction author and screenwriter (The Man Who Folded Himself, The Martian Child) @DavidGerrold

William Gibson, Hugo, Nebula and Philip K. Dick Award winning Science Fiction and Cyberpunk author (Neuromancer, Mona Lisa Overdrive)  @GreatDismal

Max Gladstone, Science Fiction/Fantasy author (Full Fathom Five, Last First Snow) @maxgladstone

Kathleen Goonan, John W. Campbell Award winning Science Fiction author (In War Times, This Shared Dream) @KathleenGoonan

Steven Gould, New York Times best-selling Science Fiction author and short story writer (Jumper, Reflex) @StevenGould

Daryl Gregory, Science Fiction and Fantasy author (Afterparty, Harrison Squared) @darylwriterguy

Nicola Griffith, Nebula and James Tiptree Award winning Science Fiction and Fantasy author and editor (Ammonite, With Her Body)  @nicolaz

Lev Grossman, John W. Campbell Award winning Fantasy and Young Adult author (The Magicians, The Magician King)  @leverus

Eileen Gunn, Nebula Award winning Science Fiction author and editor (Stable Strategies and Others, The Wiscon Chronicles) @eileen_gunn

Elizabeth Hand, Nebula and World Fantasy Award winning Science Fiction and Fantasy author (Walking the Moon, Winterlong) @Liz_Hand

William Hertling, Science Fiction author (Avogadro Corp., A.I. Apocalypse) @hertling

Nancy Holder, Bram Stoker Award wining Science Fiction and Horror Author (Pretty Little Devils, Wicked: Revelation), as well as works in the Buffyverse  @nancyholder

Nalo Hopkinson, Aurora and Locus Award winning Fantasy and Science Fiction author (The New Moon’s Arms, So Long Been Dreaming)  @nalohopkinson

Jason M. Hough, Best-selling author (The Darwin Elevator, Zero World) @JasonMHough

Hugh Howey, Best-selling Science Fiction author (Wool, Sand) @hughhowey

Meg Howrey, author of nonfiction and science fiction (The Wanderers, Blind Sight) @MegHowrey

N.K. Jemison, Locus Award winning author, Hugo nominee and short story writer  (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Killing Moon) @nkjemisin

Guy Gavriel Kay, Canadian author, poet, and producer (River of Stars, Children of Earth and Sky) @guygavrielkay

Kay Kenyon, Science Fiction and Fantasy author (Maximum Ice, The Braided World)  @KayKenyon

T. Jackson King, Science Fiction Author and reporter (Stellar Assassin, Escape from Aliens) @TJacksonKing

Dani Kollin, Prometheus Award winning Science Fiction author, with brother Eytan Kollin (The Unincorporated Man, The Unincorporated Woman) @dkollin

Ted Kosmatka, Science Fiction writer (The Flicker Men, The Games) @TKosmatka

Mary Robinette Kowal, John W. Campbell Award winning Author and puppeteer (Shades of Milk and Honey, Forest of Memory) @MaryRobinette

Nancy Kress, Hugo and Nebula Award winning Science Fiction author (Beggars in Spain, Probability Space) @nancykress

Mur Lafferty, Campbell Award and Parsec winning author and podcaster  (Six Wakes, Playing for Keeps) @mightymur

Margo Lanagan, World Fantasy Award winning author (Yellowcake, Tender Morsels ) @margolanagan

Ann Leckie, Hugo and Nebula Award winning author (Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Mercy) @ann_leckie

Ursula K. Le Guin,  Booker Prize, Hugo, Nebula, Locus Award winning science fiction and fantasy author (The Left Hand of Darkness, Lavinia) @ursulaleguin

Paul Levinson, Locus Award winning Science Fiction author (Silk Code, The Plot to Save Socrates) @PaulLev

Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Science Fiction author (Hero, To Kiss or To Kill) @JLichtenberg

Charles de Lint, Fantasy and Horror author (The Onion Girl, Widdershins)  @cdelint

Ken Liu, Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy award winning author and translator (Grace of Kings, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories) @kyliu99

Ian McDonald, British Science Fiction author , winner of the Hugo, Locus, Philip K. Dick and John W. Campbell awards (Luna: New Moon, The Dervish House) @ianmcdonald

Seanan McGuire, John W. Campbell Award winning science fiction author, who also writes under the name Mira Grant (Feed, Symbiont)  @seananmcguire

Maureen McHugh, Hugo, Locus and James Tiptree Jr. Award winning Science Fiction and Fantasy author (China Mountain Zhang, Half the Day is Night) @maureenmcq

Will McIntosh, Hugo Award winning Science Fiction and YA author (Burning Midnight, Soft Apocalypse) @WillMcIntoshSF

Vonda N. McIntyre, Hugo and Nebula Award winning Science Fiction author (Dreamsnake, The Moon and the Sun), also many novels in the Star Trek Universe @vondanmcintyre

Ken MacLeod, Scottish Science Fiction author (The Stone Canal, The Sky Road)  @amendlocke

George R. R. Martin, Best-selling Hugo and Nebula Award winning Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror author (Game of Thrones, A Dance with Dragons) @GeorgeRRMartin

Elizabeth Moon, Nebula and Robert A. Heinlein Award winning Science Fiction and Fantasy author (The Speed of Dark, Kings of the North) @emoontx

Richard K. Morgan, Science Fiction and Fantasy novelist (Altered Carbon, Thirteen) @quellist1

James Morrow, Award winning Science Fiction author (Towing Jehovah, Galapagos Regained( @jimmorrow11

Ramez Naam, Tehnologist, public speaker and author  of nonfiction as well as Philip K. Dick and Prometheus Award winning Science Fiction (Nexus, Apex, Crux) @ramez

Linda Nagata, Nebula and Locus Award winning Science Fiction author  (Vast, Memory)  @LindaNagata

Annalee Newitz, founder of io9, tech editor at Ars Technica, non-fiction author (Scatter, Autonomous) @Annaleen

Emma Newman, Author of urban fantasy and science fiction (Planetfall, After Atlas) @EmApocalyptic

Garth Nix, Australian fantasy and YA novelist (Shade’s Children, To Hold the Bridge) @garthnix

Naomi Novik, Hugo and John W. Campbell Award winning author of alternate history (Crucible of Gold, Tongues of Serpents) @naominovik

Nnedi Okorafor, Professor of creative writing and Hugo Award winning author (The Book of Phoenix, Lagoon) @Nnedi

Daniel José Older, Author of urban fantasy and young adult novels (Shadowshaper, Bone Street Rumba) @djolder

Malka Older, Science Fiction and thriller author (Infomocracy, Null States) @m_older

Peter Orullian, writer of epic fantasy (Trial of Intentions, The Unremembered) @PeterOrullian

Ada Palmer, Historian, author of science fiction & fantasy (Too Like the Lightning, Seven Surrenders) @Ada_Palmer

Eliot Peper, editor, writer of science fiction thrillers (Cumulus, Neon Fever Dream) @eliotpeper

Gareth L. Powell, Winner of the BSFA Award for best novel (Ack-Ack Macaque, The Recollection) @garethlpowell

Sir Terry Pratchett may be the greatest writer of fantasy and comedy, winner of the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, now deceased (The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic) @terryandrob

Tim Pratt, Hugo Award winning Science Fiction and Fantasy author (Spell Games, Dead Reign)   @timpratt

Cherie Priest, Locus Award winning Science Fiction and Horror author (Boneshaker, Fatham)   @cmpriest

Hannu Rajaniemi, Locus and John W. Campbell Award winning Science Fiction author and mathematician (The Fractal Prince, The Causal Angel) @hannu

Cat Rambo, Fantasy and Science Fiction author and editor (Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Moonlight)  @catrambo

Marguerite Reed, Philip K. Dick Special Citation award winning author  (Archangel) @MargueriteReed9

Mike Resnick, Multiple Hugo and Locus Award winning Science Fiction author (Starship: Mutiny, Santiago)  @ResnickMike

Alastair Reynolds, Former ESA scientist, Science Fiction author (The Medusa Chronicles, Blue Remembered Earth) @AquilaRift

Rudy Rucker, Philip K. Dick Award winning Science Fiction author and mathematician (Software, Realware)  @rudytheelder

Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Hugo Award winning Science Fiction and Fantasy author and editor (Hitler’s Angel, Totally Spellbound) , as well as works in the Star Trek universe @KristineRusch

Geoff Ryman, Professor of writing, author of Science Fiction, fantasy and historic novels (Was, The Unconquered Country) @geoffryman

Brandon Sanderson, Science Fiction,  fantasy and  author (Calamity, Firefight) @BrandSanderson

Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo, Nebula and John W. Campbell  Award winning Science Fiction author (Rollback, Flashforward) @RobertJSawyer

John Scalzi, John W. Campbell and Hugo Award winning author (Fuzzy Nation, Old Man’s War)   @scalzi

Lawrence M. Schoen, Award-winning author (Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard, Buffalito Destiny) @klingonguy

Karl Schroeder, Aurora Award winning Science Fiction author (Permanence, The Sunless Countries)  @KarlSchroeder

Nisi Shawl, award-winning author of SFF and alternate history (EverFair, Something More and More) @NisiShawl

Scott Sigler, Parsec Award winning Science Fiction and Horror author (Infected, Contagious)  @scottsigler

Dean Wesley Smith, Science Fiction author (Laying the Music to Rest, The Hunted) @DeanWesleySmith

Michael Stackpole, Science Fiction and Fantasy author and Game Designer (I, Jedi, Evil Trimphant) @MikeStackpole

Bruce Sterling, Hugo and Campbell Award winning Science Fiction and Cyberpunk author (Distraction, The Caryatids) @bruces

Neal Stephenson, Hugo, Locus and Prometheus Award winning Science Fiction author (Quicksilver, The Diamond Age) @nealstephenson

Charles Stross, Locus and Hugo Award winning Science Fiction author (Halting State, Rule 34) @cstross

Daniel Suarez, New York Times best-selling author of high-tech, science fiction thrillers (Change Agent, Daemon) @itsDanielSuarez

Tom Sweterlitsch author of science fiction thrillers (The Gone World, Tomorrow and Tomorrow) @LetterSwitch

Rachel Swirsky, Nebula Award winning short story writer (How the World Became Quiet, A Memory of Wind)  @rachelswirsky

Lavie Tidhar, Seiun Award and World Fantasy Award winning author (Central Station, A Man Lies Dreaming) @lavietidhar

Ian Tregillis, Physicist and Science Fiction author (The Rising, The Mechanical) @ITregillis

Hayden Trenholm, Science Fiction and mystery writer ( Blood & Water, Strangers Among Us) @HaydenTrenholm

Harry Turtledove, Writer of alternate history, fantasy and science fiction (Guns of the South, How Few Remain ) @HNTurtledove

Catherynne Valente, James Tiptree, Andre Norton award winning SF and Fantasy author (Space Opera, Radiance) @catvalente

Jeff VanderMeer, Fantasy and Science Fiction author (Finch, Annihilation) @jeffvandermeer

Andy Weir, Best-selling Science Fiction author (The Martian, Artemis) @andyweirauthor

Scott Westerfeld, Young adult and Science Fiction author (Leviathon, Uglies)  @ScottWesterfeld

Fran Wilde, Andre Norton Award winning Science fiction and fantasy author (Updraft, Cloudbound) @fran_wilde

Daniel H. Wilson, Roboticist and New York Times best-selling author (Robopocalypse, Robogenesis) @danielwilsonpdx

G. Willow Wilson, World Fantasy Award winning and Graphic Novel author (Alif the Unseen, The Butterfly Mosque) @GWillowWilson

Gary K.Wolfe, Science Fiction editor and critic @garykwolfe

Alyssa Wong, Nebula Award winning author of science fiction and horror (A Fist of Permutations and Wildflowers ) @crashwong

Charles Yu, Science Fiction novelist and short story writer (How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, Third Class Superhero) @charles_yu

Liz Ziemska, Literary agent and SFF author (Mandelbrot the Magnificent) @Ziemska

Leni Zumas, Science fiction author and professor (Red Clocks, The Listeners) @lenizumas

Other Science Fiction sites:

SFX Magazine, Sci Fi and Fantasy Magazine  @SFXmagazine

StarShipSofa Podcast of Science Fiction stories @StarShipSofa

Locus Magazine, Science Fiction and Fantasy News @LocusChat

SF Signal, a Science Fiction blog @sfsignal

The Hugo Awards, News on the Hugos @TheHugoAwards

io9, Commentary and updates on Science, Science Fiction and Media @io9

SFWA Authors, Blog posts from members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America   @SFWAauthors

Clarkesworld, Online Science Fiction Magazine @clarkesworld

Tor Books, Science Fiction and Fantasy News @torbooks

Baen Books, Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing @BaenBooks

Ace Science Fiction, Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing @AceRocBooks

Museum of Science Fiction, to open in Washington DC @Museum_SciFi

Hollywood Science Fiction Museum, to open in Hollywood, @hollywoodscifi

Novum Future, Science fiction news and podcast, @NovumPodcast

Fantasy Faction, Fantasy Book Reviews @FantasyFaction

B&N SF & F, Barnes & Noble Science Fiction & Fantasy @BNSciFi

SF Encyclopedia, Updates from the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction @SFEncyclopedia

SF Editor’s Picks, editor’s Science Fiction recommendations @SFEditorsPicks


Filed under books, fiction, literature, novels, science fiction, writing

Heinlein and Beyond This Horizon

Robert A. Heinlein was a question-asker.

heinlein-beyond-horizonI consider Robert Heinlein’s most fascinating novel to be his prescriptive utopia Beyond This Horizon. (A prescriptive utopia is where an author “prescribes” what he or she believes a better civilization would look like.) While Heinlein did opine, extensively, about society in many books, from Starship Troopers to Glory Road, it is in Beyond This Horizon that you’ll find him clearly stating This Is The Way Things Ought To Be.

And it turns out to be a fascinating, surprisingly nuanced view of our potential future.

Like most Heinlein novels, Beyond This Horizon divides pretty evenly into two parts and it is only the second half that I hold in high regard. Heinlein wrote the first half at behest of the famed editor of Astounding Magazine, John W. Campbell, who was then holding forth on one of his favorite themes . . . that “an armed society is a polite society.”

anecdotes-historyIn pushing this strange notion, Campbell was behaving very much like his arch-nemesis, Karl Marx. A few anecdotes and a good just-so story outweigh a hundred historical counter-examples. But no matter. Heinlein did as good a job of conveying Campbell’s idea in fiction as anybody could. So much so that the first half of Beyond This Horizon has been cited by state legislators in both Texas and Florida, proposing that all citizens go around armed! Naturally, this leads (paradoxically) to a wild shoot-em-up, in the first half of Beyond This Horizon… which RAH suddenly veers away from at the midway point.

heinlein-star-beastThis division between halves is typical of Heinlein novels and it makes reading them an interesting, multi-phase experience. Generally, RAH was a master at starting his tales–in fact, I recommend that all neo writers study carefully the first few pages of any Heinlein tale, for his spectacularly effective scene-setting and establishment of point-of-view. (The opening scene of The Star Beast is the best example of show-don’t-tell that anyone can find.) Alas, most of his novels reach a vigorous climax, concluding part one… and then peter out disappointingly in the last half, amid a morass of garrulous talk.

But this is where Beyond This Horizon reverses all expectations. Sure, part one is action and part two is talk, as usual… only in this case, the action is silly and the talk is terrific! In fact, this is where Robert Heinlein displays how broad his intellectual reach can take us.

heinlein-libertarianHere we see the clearest ever expression of his political philosophy, which is demonstrably neither “fascist” nor anywhere near as conservative as some simple-minded critics might have us think.

Indeed, his famed libertarianism had limits, moderated and enriched by compassion, pragmatism and a profound faith that human beings can improve themselves, gradually, by their own diligence and goodwill.

heinlein-solutionI was amazed by many other aspects of this wonderful book-within-a-book, especially by Heinlein’s startlingly simple suggestion for how to deal with the moral quandaries of genetic engineering — what’s now called the “Heinlein Solution” — to allow couples to select which sperm and ova they want to combine into a child, but to forbid actually altering the natural human genome.

Thus, the resulting child, while “best” in many ways (free of any disease genes, etc), will still be one that the couple might have had naturally. Gradual human improvement, without any of the outrageously hubristic meddling that wise people rightfully fear. It is a proposal so insightful that biologists 40 years later are only now starting to discuss what may turn out to be Heinlein’s principal source of fame, centuries from now.

heinlein-biographyhWhen it comes to politics, his future society is, naturally, a descendant of the America Heinlein loved. But it has evolved in two directions at once. Anything having to do with human creativity, ambition or enterprise is wildly competitive and nearly unregulated. But where it comes to human needs, the situation is wholly socialistic. One character even says, in a shocked tone of voice: “Naturally food is free! What kind of people do you take us for?”

None of this fits into the dogma of Ayn Rand, whose followers have taken over the libertarian movement. If Robert Heinlein was a libertarian, it was clearly of a more subtle kind, less historically or anthropologically naive, more compassionate… and more interesting.

But here’s the crux. For the most part, with Robert Heinlein, you felt he wasn’t so much lecturing or preaching as offering to argue with you! His books let you fume and mutter and debate with this bright, cantankerous, truly American soul, long after his body expired.

writer-science-fictionAnd this joy in argument – in posing and chewing over thought experiments – is the very soul of what it means to be a writer or reader of science fiction.

Finally, for more about Heinlein, see the extensive new two-volume biography by William H. Patterson, Jr.:

Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Vol. 1 (1907 – 1948): Learning Curve., followed by volume two:

Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Vol. 2: The Man Who Learned Better, 1948 to 1988.

–David Brin



Filed under literature, science fiction, writing

Science Fiction and the Future

In honor of Isaac Asimov’s birthday a few days back — and National Science Fiction Day (see below) — let’s have our first sci fi roundup of the year.

Century-Begin-2014First.  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? ==

Shaman-RobinsonTim 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.

SixWordStoryThese “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.

gravity-movie-posterThe 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?

==Dream Worlds==

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.

Edge-tomorrowSee 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-movie-trailer-poster 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.

Transcendence Official Trailer #1 (2014) – Johnny Depp Sci-Fi Movie HD

Jiminy… at least we can hope.

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Sci Fi Blasts from the Past…and Future

The biggest Sci Fi news is – of course – the release of the movie version of Orson Scott Card’s ENDER’S GAME. As you might guess, I have plenty to say about Card’s works, even without seeing how Hollywood has improved upon his archetype work.  But I will leave that for another time and venue. For now let me say that I hope Scott’s movie does better than mine did!  I expect it will. It presses the EndersGameright sequence of audience-flattering (“you are a demigod!”) buttons.  Anyway, after a year of SF film flops, the genre could use a boost.

Still, I am leaning toward waiting for the DVD and holding a viewing party at our home, inviting friends who have also said they’ll wait for DVD…. followed by lively discussion over copious drinks. Hey, DVD rentals are fair n’ square. But decide for yourself. I’m just a patient guy.

Oh, by the way… On PolicyMic they recommend five sci fi series that ought to please folks who like Ender’s Game.  I have mixed feelings, having written all the books in one of the recommended series and part of another….

Here Card addresses the controversy… and other voices weigh in. Here’s Laura Miller on Salon. See a more nuanced opinion from Jonathan Rauch in The Atlantic.

== Brin Media ==

FiveBurningQuestionsNot exactly a big movie release… but I was in Tempe, Arizona to deliver the annual Shoemaker Lecture for Paul Davies’s wonderful Beyond Center at Arizona State University, when some media folk associated with the new ASU Center for Science and the Imagination asked me to step outside (under the Phoenix Airport landing path) and answer “Five Burning Questions” on-camera.  The heavily edited sequence is not linear… but still holds together pretty well as I answer questions about the future, resilience and imagination.

Sometimes, one of my works inspires followup discussion that’s worth a closer look. Steve Outing – on Media Distruptus – interrogates the vision of future journalism that I presented in Existence, with professional reporters empowered by vivid augmented reality (AR) but also by active links in real-time to thousands of stringers, volunteers, aficionados and witnesses, all over the planet, occasionally coalescing those networks into actively assertive “smart mobs.”

Outing appraises the plausibility of the methods used by one of my characters – Tor Povlov – as she plunges through the world of 2045 in search of fast-breaking… and possibly world-shattering … stories.  An interesting analysis.

== Is “Piecework” coming true? ==

PieceworkAccording to the august and erudite Colbert Report, as the wealthiest one percent prospers, a growing number of Americans resort to selling their body parts.  Watch this Colbert segment on the trend of Americans selling breastmilk, organs and the like. One reader recently wrote in to me about this report:

“I immediately thought of your delightfully unsettling short story “Piecework.” The whole time I was watching the segment I was thinking, “this is it, this is how it begins.”

“Piecework” truly is one of my creepiest stories and well worth 99 cents! (on Smashwords or Amazon)  Or try the even creepier and cooler (and somewhat similarly themed) “Dr. Pak’s Preschool!” Both are found in my collection, Otherness.

== Blasts from the Pasts! ==

I was asked to speculate on Ray Bradbury’s masterpiece, Fahrenheit 451, fifty years after publication: Well, it does seem quaint to imagine that knowledge of any kind could be burned away, now that electrons can be copied at a whim.  I have a device the size of my hand that contains all of Project Gutenberg and the text of Wikipedia. To eliminate all that would take a psychic tyranny. But Ray’s book is an allegory.  And it girded millions to defend literacy and free speech.  As a self-preventing prophecy it belongs to the ages.

GalaxysEdgeMike Resnick’s magazine (mostly online) GALAXY’S EDGE fills a long-needed slot in science fiction… all reprints of terrific “classic” stories that you may never have come across.  This issue — now available — contains a lot of truly outtasight tales from decades past, with stories by Larry Niven, Jack Dann, Catherine Asaro and Kevin Anderson … plus a modest contribution of my own. “Thor Meets Captain America” came in second for a Hugo and led to my graphic novel THE LIFE EATERS.

Have a look at Resnick’s  Galaxy’s Edge!

== Does Lit’ rah chah make you a better person? ==

soooo…. science proves that reading good literature helps to make you a better person.  All righty then, still I bet they left Sci Fi out of the study.  How about also expanding your horizons and learning great new things, experiencing new ideas….  And we do empathy, too!

A rebuttal — though not a refutation –– of that “study” showing that literary fiction increases empathy. Neither side, alas, is doing science. So let’s just keep reading.

== Good and Flawed Media ==

A lovely list of sci fi films from the 1950s that were superior and well worth watching.  Yes, more than just FORBIDDEN PLANET!

Ah but for something more tongue in cheek, see Tiny Changes That Would Have Saved Terrible Movies.  I loved the proposed change to Star Wars Episode 1.  And… oh, right. Nice to see The Postman listed first… I think… though that’s not the tiny change I would make. I’d have kept the actor, the screenwriter, even the director… for the first 2/3 of the film. But I’d have insisted the director actually talk – even once, over a beer – with the novel’s author.  Good things might have happened to the last 1/3. Well, one can dream.

Ah, but, for laughs, here are some overly realistic versions of the pitches for famous sci fi films. Follow @HardSciFiMovies on Twitter. Among the better ones:

    HardSciFiMovies A scientist accidentally releases a biological agent which causes animals to evolve rapidly, over a few thousand generations.

     A wealthy tycoon sponsors research into the cloning of extinct animals. Eventually a unique park is opened, populated by passenger pigeons.  Unexpected rampages occur that damage the paint of countless innocent cars.  (I added that last bit.)

     In the post-apocalyptic future, a lone US Postal Carrier continues his rounds. He is arrested for breaching furlough.  (!!)

     A talented computer hacker searching for truth is offered two pills by a mysterious character. It is a DEA sting operation.

     A man walks into a police call box. It is slightly smaller on the inside. He places a call.

     An archaeologist learns that Nazis are hunting a powerful religious relic. Content to let his enemies waste resources, he takes vacation.

     A boy and his sister discover a space alien and provide him refuge in their home closet. Their parents correctly identify it as a groundhog.

==Time Travel in SciFi==

TimeTravelStoriesFinally, in the latest issue of Nature, Andrew Jaffe takes a look at Time Travel in Science Fiction, from The Connecticut Yankee to Doctor Who — has been now time traveling in his TARDIS for fifty years, first appearing in 1963. Scan this list of Time Travel stories dating back to Samuel Madden’s 1733 Memoirs of the Twentieth Century, where a guardian angel travels to the 1700s carrying letters from the 1900s.

Just released: The Mammoth Book of Time Travel SF (edited by Mike Ashley) offers 25 tales of time travel from authors such as Gregory Benford, Robert Silverberg, Michael Swanwich, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, John Varley and others.

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Themistocles and the Rise of the Citizen – (a movie?)

Pattern recognition is a human gift… and curse.  Nowhere is this more blatant than in the entertainment biz.  Ideas get ripped-off, right and left — almost as often as folks hallucinate that they were plagiarized. Both have happened to me… and every shade in between. Have a good look at the “Uplift” scenarios that pervade so many games – like Mass Effect – across the last couple of decades.  Even if they are more “homages” than steals, you’d think they’d at least have the class to buy me dinner?

So yes, it is with many grains of salt — and a sense of mixed triumph and despair — that I rise again to glance at a modern propagandist who has tried – throughout his career – to undermine our confidence in our own civilization. The context is a coming cinematic event that I at least foreshadowed… possibly provoked or inspired or goaded into being and… well… I’ll let you be the judge.

==Coming Attractions: The Rise of Themistocles & the Common Man==

300RiseEmpireMaking the buzz is news that the garish, dance-‘n-flex-abs flick “300” — based on Frank Miller’s comic book of the same name — will soon have a sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire. With a new hero, Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton), and a new villain, Artemisia (Eva Green).

Stephen Peterson writes: So “300: Rise of an Empire,” besides having a horribly generic title, apparently focuses on the Athenian navy and the battles of Artemisium and Salamis. Famously, this is where Athenians obliterated the invading Persians, while their Spartan allies were busy futilely, but flamboyantly, dying at Thermopylae. Oddly enough, David Brin wrote an article about how the Athenians and other non-Spartan Greeks kicked so much more Persian heiney at Salamis and Marathon, and how a movie about General Themistocles would be so much better than “300.” Lo and behold, this sequel is exactly that. Coincidence?

FrankmillerYes, my piece from years ago — Roll Over Frank Miller, or Why the Occupy Wall Street Kids are Better than the #$%! Spartans — eviscerating the original “300” – got a lot of attention for pointing out that Miller’s flick ignored history… in fact flagrantly pissed all over history. It also insulted the main, heroic characters, like King Leonidas, the Spartan leader at Thermopylae, who in real life would never have openly insulted Athenians or greek “amateur” militias the way Miller had him do.  Not then.  Not just ten years after those same amateurs crushed the first Persian invasion without a drop of Spartan help — at Marathon.

Oh, but let’s scan the press release: Days before Zack Snyder delivers the newest vision of Superman to the world with “Man of Steel,” fans of the director’s films are getting a glimpse at a follow-up to his first comic-book movie. “300: Rise of an Empire” continues the story that Snyder started in his 2006 film “300”, this time under the direction of Noam Murro. “The idea of this movie was always that it takes place at about the same time of the first one,” he said. “It’s as if you zoomed out and saw a bigger time frame and told a bigger story of what happened in ‘300.’ The first movie speaks to the detail of this sequel.”

300RiseOfAnEmpireSpeaks to the detail?  Rather than preaching the opposite? Okay, whatever. Go back and read my essay, which culminated a decade of more informal postings that got wide circulation, recommending that someone who loves democracy finally give the Athenians – and the underlying notions of democracy and volunteer citizenship – fair treatment. Especially the tale of Themistocles and Salamis — even if it meant repudiating every moral point that Miller pushed in “300.”

Such as the notion that Sparta (one of the worst and cruelest slavery states in history) should preen about “freedom” when the true citizen soldiers and sailors (including many escaped Spartan slaves) were down there at sea, on ships that fought the real fight for western civilization. Ships crewed by volunteer bakers, potter, poets and merchant-sailors who achieved the one thing that Miller’s beloved “professional” Spartan soldiers never could — victory.

Oh… and sure, I’ll go see this movie. Hey, it’ll probably be great fun. At least they are focused on real heroes, this time. And if it’s a big success, remember where you read about such things, first.

Ah, pattern recognition.

 == Sci Fi news miscellany ==

WhatIsScienceFictionThe fundamental premise of Science Fiction: I believe it is that…Children can learn from the mistakes of their parents…and create a better future! Take a look at my latest video, What is Science Fiction? 

…and for your further Saturday pleasure, Our Favorite Cliche: A World Filled with Idiots: here are  my own reasons why readers and viewers should cast a wary eye toward the sheer laziness of most modern storytellers who proclaim that citizens and civilizations can accomplish nothing. Those who cannot think of any way to propel a lively plot, except by calling humanity worthless. The secret: they don’t really believe this!  They do it out of simple laziness.

Cool Science Fictional World Generator: create planetary and city maps.

Popular Mechanics touts “Seven gadget predictions Sci Fi got right…” The slide show includes one of my own forecasts. A minor thing, really.

carlson-interrupt-144x216A new novel by my bro Jeff Carlson is always an event. Dig this exciting tease for his newest: Interrupt.  “In the distant past, the leader of a Neanderthal tribe confronts the end of his kind.  Today, a computational biologist, a Navy pilot, and an autistic boy are drawn together by the ancient mystery that gave rise to Homo sapiens.  Planes are falling from the sky. Global communications have ceased. America stands on the brink of war with China — but war is the least of humankind’s concerns. As solar storms destroy Earth’s electronics and plunge the world into another Ice Age, our civilization finds itself overrun by a powerful new species of man…”

Pondering possible movie ideas in the shower, for some reason my mind drifted to “Deep Safari” by Charles Sheffield, from his collection, Georgia on My Mind. Men waldo-control teensy robots to hunt insects.  All the drama of hunting, and with monstrous scale, and no PETA on your back! The last refuge of machismo, in a future when violence and death have been quelled… at least from plain sight!

Now available online, (legally, I hope), you should check out the whole ‘Connections‘ and ‘The Day The Universe Changed‘ documentary series.  They will blow your mind.  Start with Connections. The only series that ever impressed me more was Bronowski’s ‘The Ascent of Man‘… with ‘Cosmos‘ coming in a third place tie with ‘The Universe‘ and ‘Life After People‘ (because I was in it).  Followed by “The Architechs“!  Watch em all!

Watch a 1982 video of Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison and Gene Wolfe, discussing writing, books, and the label, “Science Fiction. ”

NulatativeOne of my readers  was fascinated by a word that I invented, in my novel Brightness Reef.  “Nulatative”  stands for a type of reasoning – on a par with associative, inductive and deductive, having to do with Karl Popper’s process of falsification in science, finding out what is try by removing what is not-true.  Sherlock Holmes would approve. Donald G Mason added Nulatative to the Urban Dictionary.  

Looking Toward Tomorrow: Best Future-Oriented Books and Blogs. Which sites and tomes do the best job of exploring what’s next?  Well, this survey that I published some years ago is still a trove that many find useful. (Traffic/visits have zoomed lately.)

StarshipCenturySee a review of Starship Century , edited by James Benford & Gregory Benford. Starship Century is a collection of articles and stories about the future possibilities of extended space exploration and all its concomitant problems. With the recent discovery of Earth-sized planets orbiting other star systems, interest in space has mushroomed. In particular, the Darpa 100 Year Starship Symposium that met in October 2011 and the 2013 Starship Century Symposium at the University of California, San Diego brought both scientists and SF writers together “to set a bar high enough and hard enough to seriously challenge the next generations” and to make sure that the vision doesn’t lack plans for execution. As the promo material succinctly phrases the purpose of the anthology: “Starship Century is an anthology by authors from both science and fiction writing backgrounds, illustrating some of the tech and ideology behind the illustrious goal of traveling to another star within the next century.”

Science Fiction folk, alas, there won’t be Asimov, Heinlein and Herbert postage stamps!  A five-stamp set had been announced by the USPS Commemorative Panel program in February with a July 2013 release date, honoring Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein and Frank Herbert. Canceled. Sigh.

Random House’s science fiction and fantasy online community Suvudu has launched a blogger community called Suvudu Universe. Writers can register to post on science fiction, fantasy, gaming and comics.

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Short-short science fiction tales – a couple of mine… and one that’s better

I just found out something that gave me a moment of envious joy, with a colleague and friend.  While we were both in Fort Worth for a speaking event, Rob Sawyer and I were relaxing over beverages, discussing unusual forms of literature… when I raised the issue of “drabbles” or short-short stories that are constrained to specific lengths.

SixWordStoryFor example, some years ago, Wired Magazine ran a contest for six word tales…. a rather impossible length, though I sent them a dozen entries and the one they chose (Vacuum collision.  Orbits diverge. Farewell, love.)  did have everything you need in a story… pathos, drama, events, emotion and three separate, sequential scenes!  (None of the other contentants did that, so there.)

BangPostponedSeveral of mine can be found on my website, including: “Dinosaurs return. Want their oil back.”

But I especially like the 250 word story. To meet that precise allotment – no more and no less – is excruciatingly difficult, but it can be done with a full dramatic arc. And so I told Rob about a contest I once entered, “Sci-Fi Scenes” that was run by the Village Voice back in 1981, just a year after my first fiction sale (Sundiver).  I entered the 250 word challenge and my tale is pretty darned good!  (See below.)  But I then told Rob about the brief-epic that won the contest, this cool story about a guy with a malfunctioning teleportation belt who is running desperately from a Tyranosaur….

“Oh, that was mine,” Rob announced, “My first fiction sale, in fact. And it was an Allosaur, not a Tyrannosaur.”

Argh!  After much yelping and internal turmoil, I expressed my joy over a serendipity of time.  And now you can read Rob Sawyer’s 250 word first publication: If I’m Here, Imagine Where They Sent My Luggage (plus sample his new, near-future book, Triggers.)

And then go on to read (below) two of my own  250 word drabbles (which are also gathered in my short story collections: Otherness and The River of Time.

Toujours Voir, from The River of Time
by David Brin

RiverofTimePurple“Folks!” the bodyguard announced. “In moments Lasselovsky will be here. You all know what that means.”

From my regular booth by the window, I saw several customers abruptly leave. The brave, or curious, remained.
“He’s the Oldtime spacer who returned, but didn’t hide, right?” Sam, our bartender, asked.
“Yeah, so don’t bother him! If anyone here strongly resembles someone from his past, and triggers a deja-vu attack, we could find this building on another planet…”

Deja vu. I suppose everyone’s felt this clue to Time’s true nature.
Epileptics once dreaded it as an “aura,” foretelling seizures. And historically, people feared epilepsy, never suspecting grand mal hinted a door to the universe.
Today only Oldspacers suffer lingering aura shock. I hear neuroconvulsive hyperdrive is perfected nowadays. Modern pilots needn’t endure terrifying seizures to attain that special mental state which propels a spaceship starward.
To modern spacers, induced deja vu is a key.
To Oldtimers, though, it’s pure terror.

“…sudden recognition could trigger a jump seizure. So don’t approach him. If he feels safe, maybe he’ll mingle…”
Talky bodyguard.

Most Oldtimers retreated to cozy surroundiings and stayed put. Ex-crewmates avoid reunions.
Stubborn Lasselovsky, though, keeps moving. He’s a free man, so the authorities send bodyguards ahead to warn people.

Time’s funny. It flows, then surges like a convulsion.
I sit and wait, feeling the years.
Through the window, I see a familiar face…
I should have left before this. Already my hands are shaking.
Still, it is nice to see, again, the stars.

Myth Number Twenty-One, from Otherness
by David Brin

NewOthernesscoverElvis roams the interstates in a big white cadillac.
It has to be him. Flywheel-bus and commuter-zep riders see plumes of dust trailing like rocket exhaust behind something too fast and glittery for the naked eye.
Squint though, and you might glimpse him behind the wheel, steering with one wrist, fiddling the radio dial, then reaching for that always frosty can of beer.  “Thank you, honey,” he tells the blonde next to him as he steps on the accelerator.

Roar of V-8 power. Freedom-smell of gasoline. Clean wind blowing back his hair… Elvis hoots and lifts one arm to wave at all true Americans who still believe in him.
Chatty bit-zines run blurry pictures of him.  “Fakes!” claim those snooty tech types, ignored by the faithful who collect grand old TwenCen automobiles and polish them, saving ration coupons for that once-a-year spin, meeting at the nearest Graceland Shrine for a day of chrome and music and speed and glory.
They stop at ghostly, abandoned filling stations, checking for signs that he’s been by. Some claim to find pumps freshly used, reading empty yet somehow reeking of high octane. Others point to black, bold tire tracks, or claim his music can be heard in the coyotes’ midnight serenade.

Elvis roams the open interstates in a big white cadillac.  How else to explain the traces some have found, sparkling like faery dust across the fading yellow lines?
A pollen of happier days… the glitter of rhinestones.

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