Tuesday, January 27, 2015

An SF (& bit of F) assortment

Few ideas are as well-represented in SF as space travel. More and more, as we learn how inhospitable Earth's solar-system neighbors are, space-centric storytelling turns to interstellar settings. So: an award specific to interstellar travel seems like it would be a Good Idea. Now, thanks to 100 Year Starship, there is such an award.

"The 100YSS Canopus Award for Interstellar Fiction will be given for the best work of science fiction published between 2011 to 2014 that focuses on the challenges and benefits of interstellar exploration. The award will be given in multiple categories ranging from length, short story to novel, to media, video games to television to film. As well, the inaugural award will be presented in late Spring 2015." Read more about the Canopus Award here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Say, kids, what time is it?

What with winter blahs and post-holiday letdown, what better moment could there be for some diversion? And so, drawing upon classical SF and Nonsense subject areas, herewith an assortment of thought-provoking items (well, they provoked my thoughts):

They're bot-tastic
"Robotic Micro-Scallops Can Swim Through Your Eyeballs." And why would you want that? As a medical-delivery system. Eyeballs are attention-getting, of course, but the larger point is that blood, like eyeball fluid, doesn't act like water. Autonomous tiny bots able to make their way through non-Newtonian fluids like blood and vitreous humor (that's doc-speak for eyeball fluid) to inspect, repair, and/or deliver meds with precision will be a Big Step Forward. (Not to mention a Small Miracle(s), but that's a whole 'nother story ;-)  ....)

Shifting our attention to robots on a larger scale, consider "Flying Selfie Bots: Tag-Along Video Drones Are Here: Sports enthusiasts are clamoring for aerial robots that can record their best moves." Read the details or watch the video and you'll see that "here" is a tad overstated -- but with more than a million in Kickstarter funding, this is a product category we can expect to see before long.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

SF and Nonsense reader survey

People read blogs for many reasons. To keep SF and Nonsense fresh and useful to visitors, I'd like to better understand their -- your -- interests. Please help by taking this brief (three multiple-choice questions) anonymous survey.

And if you'd rather not be surveyed? That's fine! There's plenty of content here (almost 400 posts, as I type) on the blog to divert you.

Ready? Then it's on to the SF and Nonsense survey! I'll be collecting data through Monday, February 16, 2015.

The big picture ;-)

Monday, January 5, 2015

The science behind the fiction

Analog magazine is, using its full title, Analog Science Fiction and Fact. In that fact category, I've written a dozen articles for the magazine. (Should you be counting, #12 is queued up and should run sometime this year.) Most of my articles have been in a series that -- in my mind, anyway -- is called The Science Behind the Fiction.

Breaking light speed, Star Wars (1977)
In other words, the articles cover common genre tropes: assumptions -- like faster-than-light travel -- that underpin lots of science fiction. They look at whether there is (or, at least, could be) a decent scientific rationale for these assumptions. The articles also offer SF examples of tropes and their (often implicit) rationales as found in literary, video, and (less often) gaming contexts.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Brave new world(s)

I'll be ending the year on an introspective note. We'll start with the state of cyber-vandalism (or -terrorism, or -warfare -- people's descriptor of choice seems to vary), which, better late than never, has finally reached mainstream awareness. But there's upbeat material, too: some truly awesome physics/space/astronomy highlights. I'll conclude 2014's posts with a personal item.

The recent Sony hack, attributed by the FBI to the North Koreans, and the associated (temporary) coerced pulling by Sony Pictures of The Interview, are getting all the headlines, but the cyberwarfare peril has been evident for a while. We found out last month that the Stuxnet worm was not one of a kind: "Meet Regin, Super Spyware That's Been Attacking Computers for Years."

Regin has been out in the digital wild since at least 2008, operates much like a back-door Trojan, and has been used against governments, internet providers, telecom companies, researchers, businesses, and private individuals, says Symantec. Regin affects Windows-based computers and operates in five stages, giving the attacker a "powerful framework for mass surveillance" and offers flexibility so attackers can customize the packages embedded within the malware.

While the following is a matter of (informed) opinion rather than quantifiable fact, consider the possibility that "Threat of computer hackers has reportedly superseded terrorism."

U.S. intelligence bluntly said this now trumps terrorism as the biggest threat to the United States.

“We are all very, very vulnerable,” said Phyllis Schneck, department under secretary for cybersecurity.

Schnecks runs the Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber-Fighting Center.

Now for that promised upbeat material ...

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy holidays!

Next week is soon enough for opining :-)

Happy holidays, all.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Holidays have you stressed out?

Some science-and-technology-centric items to make you smile ...

New Age stress relief
Let's begin with the "2014 Holiday Gift Guide: IEEE Spectrum's annual roundup of gifts for techies." It's not intentionally funny, but a few of these items are, IMO, a bit over the top. Thermal smart-phone camera? Smart-phone-controlled personal drone? For the techie who has darn near everything and too much time on his/her hands.

Still stressed? Then check out "10 Science Jokes for Nerds." How many of them did you get?

Monday, December 8, 2014

InterstellarNet redux

Before the big news, some context and introspection ...

Return with me to 1999. Salaried, professional day job or self-employed author? That wasn't a decision to be made lightly! I had long enjoyed writing as a hobby, and had had some success with it, but how would I like writing full-time? Would what I wrote sell? Techie that I am, I needed data. And so, as an experiment, I went on sabbatical. In 2001 I returned to a day job -- at which point I knew I'd rather write. I've been writing full-time since mid-2004.

I spent much of my sabbatical dreaming up the InterstellarNet: its technologies, alien species, constraints, perils, and fun puzzles. (As you might imagine, InterstellarNet is a radio-based community of nearby solar systems.) During that time I finished four InterstellarNet novelettes, selling three to Analog and one to Artemis. One of the stories made it into a Year's Best anthology. I also started an InterstellarNet novella that, finished awhile later, sold to Jim Baen's Universe. The success -- and fun -- of these stories played a large part in my career decision.(*) Years later, it gave me great pleasure to novelize these five stories as InterstellarNet: Origins.

(*) To be complete, I had a second, unrelated impetus: a 2004 book contract. This was my second novel sale, for Moonstruck, and it demonstrated that selling Probe, my debut novel, hadn't been a fluke.
Once I gave up the day job for good, one of the first things to which I turned my attention was a yet more ambitious InterstellarNet project: a novel. It first appeared in Analog as the four-part serial A New Order of Things. Updated and expanded, that novel became the book InterstellarNet: New Order.

All of which is to say, I have a soft spot for the InterstellarNet. A few years ago, InterstellarNet again drew me in. The immediate consequence was "The Matthews Conundrum," an Analog novella that made it to both the Locus and the Tangent Online recommended reading lists for 2012 and was a finalist for best novella in the annual Analog readers poll.

And with all that personal history as prologue ...