Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ring(s) around the genre

Not every item to follow is SF news, but all are recent and (IMO) interesting looks at matters of interest to genre fans. For today's purposes, I'm going with the broadest meaning of SF, speculative fiction rather than my usual focus on science fiction.

Let's begin with a BBC essay, "Can science fiction ever get the science right?" It wraps up by quoting science-fiction author Neal Asher:

"In the end," Asher concludes, "science fiction is not there to make accurate predictions about the future, it is there to entertain and stimulate the imagination. There is absolutely no doubt that many of the imaginations it stimulates belong to scientists. To some extent it drives and directs science."

Not disagreeing with Asher, I'd add that (some) SF also sets out to illuminate implications of  possible futures. That's a good and worthwhile function, too.

Want to broaden your reading? io9 offers us a list of "11 Most Prolific Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors of All Time.

Next up, a Star Wars tidbit ... on DC's National Cathedral, high up, among the grotesques, you can find... Darth Vader.

Alas, if you should visit, Darth is very difficult to spot with the naked eye. Bring binocs.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

And in the larger scheme of things ...

Given what passes these days for American government -- kicking the budgetary can down the road (again) for just a few months -- maybe you'll enjoy the distraction of news items in which actual change can be discerned.

Hysteria, anyone?
Time after time, GMO (genetically modified organisms) have passed safety trials. Europeans, nonetheless, have strenuously opposed foods derived from GMO, to the point where they've forced many African nations -- in dire need of higher-yield crops -- to abstain lest they never again sell agricultural goods in European markets. American consumers are just slightly less hysterical about GMO products. So, it's refreshing to read (from EurActiv.com) that "Chief EU scientist backs damning report urging GMO ‘rethink.’"

The report from EASAC, published in June, warns of the “grave scientific, economic and social consequences of current European Union policy towards GM crops”, saying European countries should “rethink” their widespread rejection of the technology.

(EASAC is the European Academies Science Advisory Council.)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Scattered furloughs, with a chance of default / look away

The news across the nation is about the (psycho)drama playing out in Washington -- but here in the DC area, that's about all we hear. (Not quite true. We also hear about whether to change the name of the local NFL franchise, the Redskins.)

While Congress has us all on a suicide watch (or vice versa), here are some SF- and science-related items that may have been pushed off your screen or front page ...

Free-floating planets aren't new to SF, but now one's been spotted. See (from the Sydney Morning Herald), "Lonely planet in star turn all of its own, say astronomers."

The gaseous exoplanet, dubbed PSO J318.5-22, is 80 light years from Earth and has a mass only six times that of Jupiter. Having formed 12 million years ago, the planet is considered newborn.

To which I say, welcome to the neighborhood.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Columbus discovered a new world (here's your chance to top him)

By discovering new worlds of the imagination, of course. You won't even need the support of a deep-pocketed Spanish queen.

(If you hadn't guessed, this is a commercial announcement. But you'll want to read on ....)

Replica of the Nina
In recognition of the upcoming Columbus Day holiday (or my pending appearance October 12th at DC area con Capclave, or just because), FoxAcre Press is running a special through October 17. During the promotion, each of my FoxAcre SF novels and my FoxAcre collection -- in ebook formats only --  is reduced to $2.99.

What titles? Both InterstellarNet-series novels, InterstellarNet: Origins and InterstellarNet: New Order. First-contact novel Moonstruck. Technothriller Probe. Mixed fact and fiction collection Frontiers of Space, Time, and Thought.

As for my freestanding time-travel novella, A Time Foreclosed, it's only $0.99.

Which ebook formats? Kindle, Nook, and iTunes. Check their respective storefronts. (And if a price reduction hasn't yet rippled through for a particular title or format ... check back. The change should be in the works.)

Care to learn more about any of these books (or any other Lerner title)? Over in the right-hand column, click the book-cover thumbnail. Or jump straight to the list of all Edward M. Lerner titles at Amazon.

If you've ever wondered about my writing, now is the time to indulge your curiosity.

As for Capclave, it's among my favorite cons. This year's GOH is George R. R. Martin, of Game of Thrones fame.)

Capclave: where reading isn't extinct

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Getting physical

Fans of science and hard SF -- and such are a fair chunk of folks visiting here at SF and Nonsense -- care about progress in the hard sciences. Hard, in both cases, if in separate ways, meaning rigorous. Not squishy subjectivity or recourse to wishful thinking about how the universe ought to work. Not science (or, worse, "science") merely as colorful backdrop to the story.

For such visitors especially, on we go to some intriguing news from two of the hardest among hard sciences: physics and astronomy ...

Ever wonder if we're alone? Whether (as yet hypothetical) life out there might be anything like terrestrial life? Then the prevalence of worlds amenable to Life As We Know It will be a factor of interest to you. You'll want to read (from Space.com) precisely how, " 'Habitable Zone' for Alien Planets, and Possibly Life, Redefined."

The new definition isn't radically different from the old one. For example, in our own solar system, the boundaries of the habitable zone have shifted from between 0.95 astronomical units (AU, or the distance between Earth and the sun) and 1.67 AU, to the new range of 0.99 AU to 1.7 AU.

So did we just make it, we Earthlings? Maybe. More likely, the models still need work, not least because:

The scientists cautioned that the habitable zone definition still does not take into account feedback effects from clouds, which will also affect a planet's habitability.