Tuesday, September 24, 2013

An eclectic survey of SF

Scientists, engineers, and astronauts have often commented about science fiction attracting them to their careers (on a personal note, SF attracted me into physics Way Back When).

In that vein, it's interesting to read (from The Atlantic), "Why Today's Inventors Need to Read More Science Fiction." Dan Novy and Sophia Brueckner, the two interviewees, are both affiliated with that premier idea factory, the MIT Media Lab. Far from SF's influence being a throwaway line, Novy and Breukner have developed a college course dedicated to the proposition. Check out the syllabus for MIT offering Science Fiction to Science Fabrication -or- Pulp to Prototype.

Meanwhile, io9 offers an insightful essay, "How to measure the power of a science fiction story." Hint: it's not success at predicting the future. A prime example is George Orwell's 1984. It's a great novel, the mark of its influence encapsulated in the ubiquity and widespread understanding of the simple phrase "Big Brother." Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The end of an era

You've likely read of the recent passing of SF author Frederik Pohl (1919-2013). As one example tribute, from USA Today, see, "Science fiction writer Frederik Pohl dies." He died during (but not in attendance of) this year's Worldcon.

Pohl was, without doubt, one of the giants of the genre. He wrote dozens of novels. His 1977 novel, Gateway -- winner of Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards -- was a masterpiece, absolutely brilliant. And beyond being an author, Pohl was an influential genre editor, agent, and fan. He will be sorely missed.

Damien Walters of the (UK) Guardian notes that Pohl was the last of the Golden Age masters. See Walters's thoughtful piece, "Science-fiction's Golden Age writers left a fantastic legacy."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


They say fact is stranger than fiction. (They also say don't go on Wolverton Mountain if you're looking for a wife. But I digress.)

So what's new, strange, and relates (somehow) to science, technology, or SF? I'm glad you asked.

Making an ash of oneself
Let's begin, from ABC News, with "Doctors Investigate Indian Baby for Spontaneous Combustion." That's spontaneous human combustion -- shades of Bleak House. Or if you prefer, what the dickens?

I've been fascinated with the potential for human-computer interfaces back to my 2002 novella "Presence of Mind," which grew into the 2008 novel Fools' Experiments (a technothriller that takes place about now). How's this, from USA Today, for a bit of amazing neuroscience tech? "Researcher remotely controls colleague's body with brain."

As in: "Brain researchers say that for the first time one person has remotely triggered another person's movement, a flicking finger, through a signal sent to him by thought ... In effect, Rao's thought was transferred across the campus, via the Internet, to trigger the motion in Stocco, who described it as feeling like an involuntary twitch, according to the announcement."

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

CONsensus ...

That a good time was had by all.

I'm rested up (just a bit) from last weekend's Worldcon, aka LoneStarCon 3 in sunny(!) San Antonio. (Up to 103 degrees. Yikes. But no matter the heat, the shaded, miles-long river walk was ever delightful.)

What did I do at the con? You name it! Attended a plethora of sessions. Hung out with fans and author colleagues, with editors and my agent. Cruised the dealers room and admired the art exhibit.

The programming committee gave me a nice variety of activities:

  • Colossus, Skynet, or the Culture? A panel on our coming AI overlords.
  • The Rapture of the Geeks. If, when, and how we'll upload our minds to the cloud.
  • Care and Feeding of Your Aliens and Magical Beings. Who does convincing critters and how to roll your own.
  • John W. Campbell Created it All. The contributions of, and myths about, one of the great editors.
But wait! There was more!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Con lag

As for my customary Tuesday posting ...

Yippee ki-yay.
I lost an hour coming home from the Worldcon just concluded, but it would be grossly unfair to blame my posting lapse on jet lag. Still, I am most definitely in no condition to post. Con lag, let's call it.

Some day Real Soon Now ...

(And indeed, it happened. See CONsensus ... posted 9/4/2013.)