Links (2018-08-15)

Science Fiction

Birthdays

Linked names above go to bios. Linked names below go to free works online.

What a difference a week makes. From almost no birthdays, to almost a dozen. And still of high quality, as Forward wrote a masterpiece with Dragon’s Egg and a near-one with Flight of the Dragonfly. If you’re a Clement fan, you have to read them. Amazing to think that those two Gregs share the same birthday. Bear could do almost nothing wrong from about 1983-93 and, in the late 80s, Egan really came on the scene as the best SF writer of his era. Diaspora should have been as big as Neuromancer and his other novels and, especially, the collections can’t be missed, either. On a different note, I’ve said before I need to read more Lovecraft but it seems necessary to mention him even if I haven’t yet.

Gernsback basically made SF a thing, with April 1926 being perhaps the most important nominal date in SF. Boucher (like Gernsback, only more so) wrote fiction but is also more famous as an editor and helped bring F&SF into existence and also edited the excellent two volume set of A Treasury of Science Fiction. And Clarke brings us Clarkesworld these days.

Speaking of Gernsback, Wesso did a lot of the famous artwork for Amazing and others, while van Dongen did a lot for Astounding and more (such as a cover for the aforementioned Clement’s The Best of Hal Clement).

Finally, Roddenberry is, of course, synonymous with Star Trek. While Cameron is involved with many things I don’t care about or for, he’s connected with three of my favorite movies (Terminator, T2, Aliens) so that’s pretty good.

Happy birthday, all!

Science

Parker Solar Probe

This sub-section is a follow-up to “Links (2018-08-01)” (Science #7). If all goes reasonably well, I expect there will be at least one big popular science book about this. History! Speed! Danger! Discovery! It’s got it all.

Other

History

Sports

Humor

Music

SouthEastern USA Special done right.

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Links (2018-08-08)

Humor

Sports

  • 2018 NFL Preseason: Ray Lewis’ Ravens outlast Brian Urlacher’s Bears in Hall of Fame Game – CBSSports.com. The NFL has annoyed me six ways from Sunday, so I basically only watch football on Saturday now but that hasn’t cranked up yet while the NFL preseason has and I couldn’t wait. For the duration of a game, all is right with the world – or at least less wrong. (For some of my non-US readers, “six ways from Sunday” is an idiom meaning “every which way” and American professional football (not world football or what we call “soccer”) has Sunday as its big day while college football is played primarily on Saturday.)

History

Tech

  • Mapping Brazil’s political polarization online. First the bad news. Everyone needs to get off social media (FB/T) now. This examines Brazil and also takes a look at  Argentina and the United States. It doesn’t claim that it’s not just a natural development but I think FB/T is causing a lot of this. People need to stop talking to people who can’t punch them in the face when merited and need to talk to their neighbors and coworkers and the like instead. Just try to get along with different people. Experience different perspectives.
  • The oldest active Linux distro, Slackware turns 25 | Opensource.com. Now the good news. Happy birthday, Slackware! I was so into Linux and Slackware when I started that I even became a sort of open source developer in the tiniest way after a few years though I mostly just Slack on cruise control these days. So I missed the actual event but it’s not too late to celebrate.

NASA

Science

  • Earth at risk of heading towards ‘hothouse Earth’ state — ScienceDaily. Now they’re getting it. I’m honestly worried about cascading failure though I do wonder if some people just subconsciously give up when confronted with a problem of this magnitude rather than rallying and responding. Hopefully the general impetus of the human race moves positively, anyway.
  • Siberian Worms Frozen In Permafrost For Up To 42,000 Years Defrosted Back To Life | Tech Times. Hailing from “icehouse earth,” these critters are… durable. Despite their simplicity, hopefully we’ll learn some tricks for our own cryo with its medical and space exploration applications. I got this from Edward M. Lerner’s “SF and Nonsense: Curioser and curioser” which has several neat items.
  • Toward An Archaeology of Exo-Civilizations. Centauri Dreams takes a look at a book and how modern astronomy is filling in the elements of the Drake equation which argues for the existence of lots of alien civilizations at least somewhen. I think this is using the simplest form of the equation and there are additional factors which reduce the inflated numbers by orders of magnitude but I’d still never argue religiously for either 1 or >1. I just particularly liked the discussion of the Great Oxidation Event and also the note that our species only has a limited amount of fuel to build a civilization that can get us off this rock.

Science Fiction

Birthdays

Linked names above go to bios. Linked names below go to free works online.

Not very many names this week but what they lack in quantity, they make up for in quality. Few can match the explosion of stories (and a novel) which marked the start of Varley‘s career. Persistence of Vision, The Barbie Murders (aka Picnic on Nearside), and Blue Champagne (or their later near equivalents, The John Varley Reader and Goodbye, Robinson Crusoe) are indispensable, and The Ophiuchi Hotline pretty much is as well. Those stories are How It’s Done. Stylish without being mannered, glittering with ideas, accessible yet strange, with an exuberance and speed that runs roughshod over their darkness. As far as Keyes, I link to that SFE entry but “Flowers for Algernon” is a novelette, not a novel. Yeah, it was expanded and, yeah, if it was the only thing there was, it’d be indispensable but the story is the perfect version and one of the greatest stories of all time.

Music

Instead, “Elderly Men Escape Nursing Home To Attend World’s Biggest Heavy Metal Festival – Blabbermouth.net.” Awesome. I want to be just like them if my time comes.

(Well, this sucks. After I’d added the above to this post, I came across “German Police Clarify Report About Elderly Men Who Supposedly Escaped Nursing Home To Attend Heavy Metal Festival – Blabbermouth.net”. But, as one of the commenters said, “I choose to ignore this clarification.”)

Now for the last “Links” follow-up to a Tunesday post. This time I’m posting a couple of interesting tracks from albums which didn’t make the “Tunesday: Favorite Albums of 2017 (Mohs Scale 8-9)” list. The second is more just because it’s neat to see the tight playing though I tend to prefer more flex in my tunes.

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Links (2018-08-01)

Site News

Apologies again for July being a little out of whack. There was an issue with the Asimov’s issue which resulted in a multi-task pileup with Asimov’s and Analog dropping back to the end of the month. But everything I regularly review for this site for July got done in July. Similarly, August may be somewhat discombobulated but everything should get done by the usual mid-month, just perhaps out of order or with weird pacing, because I may be doing a couple of reviews for Tangent up front (including an anthology and, oddly enough, the July/August Black Static).

Humor

History

Science

Science Fiction

Birthdays

Linked names above go to bios. Linked names below go to free works online.

Joseph Greene wrote the little-known Dig Allen series of juvenile space adventures. I happen to have read one but don’t recall if it was any good or not, though it’s stuck in my head for years and that’s something. (There’s much more to the story of this book and listing Greene in this section but it’s too much to get into. Suffice to say, I’m delighted to have stumbled across him and his works again.) Holdstock wrote the superb Mythago Wood. Lavondyss was still interesting but less good and I didn’t keep up with the series after the third one. Simak wrote the superb Way Station and other good novels and a plethora of stories ranging up to greatness as well. A deserving Grand Master.

I’m listing Janet Asimov (like Stanley last week) for her Isaac-connection (she was his second wife) though she was also an author in her own right.

Shelley‘s one of those “outside the envelope” guys that the ISFDB is full of but he is or is close to my favorite English poet. Another person in the ISFDB on slender grounds is Neil Armstrong but, hey, it’s Armstrong!

Everyone except Janet is dead, so I’ll have to shout an extra-loud “Happy Birthday!”

Music

As with the other 2017 album posts, here’s tune from an album that missed the “Tunesday: Favorite Albums of 2017 (Mohs Scale 6-7)” but sure wouldn’t have if it had been consistently at this level.

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SF Miscellany: Magazines/Books, WorldCon Kerfuffle, Grand Masters

Over the past month or so, I was struck by the discrepancy between magazine and book content, aspects of book marketing, the latest in the interminable line of WorldCon fights, and the deaths of great and honored SF luminaries which prompted thoughts on who remains to be honored. I thought these might become detailed and considered posts but, as usual, I just went with a hodge-podge. I am sure about the last section, though.

Where the Readers Aren’t

With “How Do You Buy Your Science Fiction in 2018?Auxiliary Memory brought us another fascinating post, this time about the science fiction market. I was also most struck by slide 35, though for my own reasons.

Slide35-1024x768

(Before I even start, I have to note that there are several problems with the slide. First, I have no idea how temporal/qualitative descriptions like “Classics,” subject genres like “Military,” source categories like “TV… Adaptations,” structural categories like “Anthologies,” and formal genres like “Short Stories” are treated as equivalent. Second, I have no idea why “Anthologies” and “Short Stories” appear twice, the second time combined with each other. I also have no idea what the difference between “Alternate History” and “Alternative History” could be. So the slide has to be taken with a grain of salt but I still think it demonstrates some general truth.)

Here’s the question prompted by the slide which should occur to all SF magazine editors and lovers of short fiction: if LGBT, Alternate History, Steampunk, “Metaphysical & Visionary” and Time Travel sell so little and Military, Adventure, Space Opera, First Contact, Genetic Engineering, Galactic Empire, Hard Science Fiction, Colonization, and Space Exploration sell more, why does the vast majority of magazine (especially webzine) science fiction I read deal with the former categories (or similar) more than the latter and might this be a contributing factor in the increasing irrelevance of short fiction? (The sole reach for a wide readership I see in magazine SF is the negative and probably incidental one of Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian.)

There are probably many answers of various kinds but one that occurs to me is that, in these days of low overhead and a market of dozens and dozens of magazines, all that’s needed is a fanatically loyal niche readership, much like a cable TV show vs. the shared culture of the pre-cable era. But if people want short SF to compete in the general marketplace and get it something like the honor it had and deserves (which is admittedly tough for several reasons), it might be better to go where the general SF reader’s hearts and minds are.

Variety Is the Spice

If all is not ideal in short fiction, there are issues at book length, too. As always, I was struck by the nature of the books listed in Locus’ “New Books” posts. Saying that I’m looking for a non-YA SF singleton doesn’t sound too restrictive. According to the last two posts from the 17th and 24th (which are very typical in these matters) this is what I have to choose from:

  • Satirical fantasy novel…series
  • Steampunk fantasy novel…third in a series
  • Epic fantasy novel, second in a series
  • Fantasy novel, first in a series
  • Fantasy novel, first in a series
  • Fantasy novel, second in a series
  • Fantasy novel, second in a series
  • Fantasy novel, third in a trilogy
  • Alternate history fantasy novel
  • Contemporary fantasy novel
  • Horror novel, first in a series
  • [YA] SF novel… first in a series
  • [YA] Short SF novel
  • [YA] SF novel
  • Young adult SF novel
  • Young adult SF novel
  • Young adult sf novel
  • Humorous space opera novel, third in a series
  • Military SF novel, third in a series
  • SF novel, second in a series
  • SF thriller
  • Collection of [a series of] 18 stories…about a giant mountain man in the Old West
  • Collection of [a series of] five stories about a post-apocalypse ex-government assassin turned bounty-hunter
  • Collection of 16 stories

If I get a little more restrictive and say I’m not interested in a “thriller” or the Old West or a post-apocalypse, I’m down to one book. If I want it to be a novel and/or in mass-market paperback, the counter hits zero. And so it goes…

WorldCondemnation

I’m not involved in fandom in any way except, y’know, being a fanatic about SF and reading and writing about it constantly. I’m sympathetic to some of the Sad Puppies’ desires for more “fun” in SF and a broader reach for it. I’m not sympathetic to some of their non-literary excesses, though (nor those of their opponents). Either way, it turns out the Sad Puppies were right about one thing, at least. Now that they’re not there to kick around any more, the Worldcon folks have turned on each other (as they used to do before the Puppies). Currently, a lot of people are complaining about the vast evil right-wing straight white male conspiracy which is keeping them from their entitlement of being on important panels and I was reminded of a video of a panel I’d seen while mourning Gardner Dozois. So I thought I’d point out how people like Dozois, George R. R. Martin, and Howard Waldrop were treated. I hope the video goes straight to 19:41 or so but, if not, you can fast forward there. The relevant segment ends at 24:55 or so. (Note that, at one place, Martin says “1985” and “1986” when he meant “1975” and “1976.”)

Grrr. Since it turns out the site owner has inexplicably disabled playback on other sites, you can either click the youtube button on the “unembed” above or this link.

Help Me, SFWA Prez, You’re My Only Hope

From one award to another.

As the last section relates to Gardner Dozois’ recent death, so this one was specifically triggered by Ellison’s (and there were a couple of Ellison anecdotes in the clip above). I got to wondering which of my favorite authors from earlier decades were still alive. I have several (overflowing) cases of SF books which contain an “era” per case. People who started in the 30s and 40s are in one case. They are all dead now. People who started in the 50s and 60s (with maybe three who started in the 40s but really started in the 50s) are in the next case. With Harlan Ellison’s death, they are now all dead except the Grand Masters Larry Niven and Robert Silverberg, the Author Emeritus Katherine MacLean, and… Ben Bova (b.1932), Carol Emshwiller (b.1921), and Norman Spinrad (b.1940). This leads me to again make a plea I’ve made several times before in various ways.

Please, SFWA prez’s, make Ben Bova and Norman Spinrad (two peas in a pod, there) Grand Masters next year and the next! Please, SF fans, pester the SFWA board to make this happen! (Carol Emshwiller may win a Nobel for Literature someday but doesn’t seem to have made quite the impact on the field that might be expected. If anyone wanted to give her a Grand Master, I’d be delighted. Surprised, but delighted.)

As a life-achievement award given to authors who must be living, seniority should be and usually is a major factor. The last time someone older than Emshwiller was given the award was Phil Farmer (b.1918) in 2001. For Bova, it was Wolfe (b.1931) in 2013. For Spinrad, it was just this year but Delany, Cherryh, Haldeman, and Willis are all younger and have already received it. Time’s a-wastin’!

Links (2018-07-25)

Humor

  • AIX SMIT Running Man – YouTube. This is both tech and humor. You only need to jump to 1:50 (if the link doesn’t take you there) and watch through 2:25 but this animation is classic. It’s better than the bouncing penguin I have on my GKrellM.
  • The Art of Darkness » Seen Online. An especially good one with a couple of literary bits (the cellar and the letter) being among my favorites.

History

Big Pharma Is Watching You

  • Health Insurers Are Vacuuming Up Details About You —… — ProPublica. This is directly about the health insurance industry rather than the drug manufacturers, but the point is that this is a long-winded article that boils down to: every detail we put out into the infosphere, no matter how seemingly unrelated and innocuous, and every detail health insurers can find, by any means, is being used to create general and faulty statistical analyses as well as specific dossiers on individuals which is resulting in or will result in negative influences on public policy and on your lives and deaths, exacerbating stereotypes and harming those who most need good treatment. The EU has laws (how effective?) which attempt to mitigate this; the US does not. (I got this from a SciAm reprint but the above link goes to the original.)
  • Walmart patents audio surveillance technology to record customers and employees – CBS News. And Walmart is listening to you. They claim they want audio to see how quickly things are being scanned (like the scanner doesn’t tell them that) or how many bags are being used (like inventory software doesn’t tell them that) or how quickly the lines are moving (like the already existent and no less problematic video doesn’t tell them that and more). (I neglected to post this in the last “Links” post but it fits well here.)

Science

Science Fiction

  • THE SKINNER: The Battle of Forever – A E Van Vogt. Regardless of book publication date, I’ve read almost everything van Vogt wrote before 1963 and almost nothing after but Neal Asher’s encouraging me to open that second temporal front. (On the other hand, I have a very different take from Asher’s on Simak’s atypically thrilling and delightful Cosmic Engineers, which evoked a rarely felt sense of wonder I wouldn’t trade for any amount of supposed sophistication.)
  • Tyrannosaurus Ranch: Sharks, Ranked*. This isn’t science fiction but it’s not science, either. Apologies if any of the recent (or past) victims of shark attacks or those associated with them don’t appreciate this but it’s entertaining in the abstract.
  • Does That Sound Familiar? | Learn Fun Facts. LFF gets science fictional as it discusses Murray Leinster’s internet prescience. (For “logic” read “computer.”)

Birthdays

Links above go to SFE or Wikipedia biographies. Links below go to free fiction online.

Huxley, of course, brought us a Brave New World. Not everything Lingen writes does it for me, but she’s written several good things. Ditto Zinos-Amaro. Bronte wrote the powerful Wuthering Heights. (I’ve never seen any of the adaptations but I wouldn’t be surprised if none of them got it right.) Bretnor brought us many a Feghoot.

Stanley Asimov was Isaac’s brother and is in the ISFDB because he edited a collection of the Good Doctor’s letters. Klein brought us many author biographies in the pages of Analog. Wright brought us many Weird Tales.  And Adams brings us “Nightspeed” every month.

On Kubrick and Hyams, you learn something new everyday (perhaps not for the first time). I had no recollection that a major creator of 2001 and a major creator of 2010 shared the same birthday. 2001 is probably a bit overrated but superb and 2010 is a lot underrated and is also superb in its way. Nolan has been part of the creation of many films such as Memento, Insomnia, Inception, and Interstellar. (And he knows how to title a flick. But, speaking of 2001, Interstellar‘s greatest flaw is that it was a little too inspired by 2001 at the end. Still neat, though.)

Happy birthday, all!

Music

As with “Mohs Scale 2-3,” here’s a track from an album that was in the running for an appearance in “Tunesday: Favorite Albums of 2017 (Mohs Scale 4-5).” (doo-doo-doo-doom city) Continue reading

Links (2018-07-18)

Humor

Politics

I tend to avoid politics on this blog, only making exceptions for things which ought to be non-partisan like taking a stand against gerrymandering no matter who’s doing it. Well, here’s another thing that ought to be completely non-partisan for any American. This is a Republican representative from Texas, Will Hurd, on the US, NATO, and the Russian government. It’s been months or years since I’ve heard a politician of any party speak for six minutes and been able to agree with it all.

History

Science

Science Fiction

Birthdays

  • 1921-07-18 John Glenn
  • 1943-07-18 Charles G. Waugh
  • 1948-07-21 G. B. Trudeau
  • 1936-07-22 Tom Robbins
  • 1923-07-23 C. M. Kornbluth
  • 1947-07-23 Gardner Dozois
  • 1895-07-24 Robert Graves

I’ve recently mentioned Dozois in the other context. Still, it’s another opportunity to express appreciation. And, of course, C. M. Kornbluth wrote many superb stories, co-wrote an all-time classic in The Space Merchants and much more. Waugh helped Asimov and Greenberg and others produce many anthologies.

Otherwise, this is another “outside the envelope” week. Glenn is in the ISFDB for a single essay but, hey, it’s Glenn! On a very different note, Trudeau is in for a single cartoon in someone else’s book but memory says he’s another top cartoonist. (Incidentally, the top cartoonist is in the ISFDB with a couple of random items but without his birthdate of July 5, 1958, so a belated happy birthday to Calvin and Hobbes‘ Bill Watterson.) Graves could certainly interest writers of any kind as well as  fantasists and history buffs with The Reader Over Your Shoulder writing guide (recently purchased and started, but currently distracted from by several other books and this blog), The White Goddess myth/poetry book, “Claudius” semi-historical novels, and much more. Finally, Robbins isn’t a “genre” guy except that he writes stuff that’s very much science fictional/fantastic. Either way, I’ve read Still Life with Woodpecker more than once and most of his other books including Jitterbug Perfume and Another Roadside Attraction.

Happy birthday and thanks for all the fics!

Music

Ty Segall’s second self-titled album was in the running for an appearance in Tunesday: Favorite Albums of 2017 (Mohs Scale 2-3). Here’s the last full track. Continue reading

Links (2018-07-11)

Site News

History

Science

Science Fiction

General

Birthdays

Doing something different with the birthdays. Rather than discuss the birthdays of the past week, I’ll be doing a heads-up on those of the coming week. So this week is a double shot of both.

  • 1907-07-07 Robert A. Heinlein
  • 1913-07-11 Cordwainer Smith
  • 1923-07-12 James E. Gunn
  • 1779-07-15 Clement C. Moore
  • 1944-07-17 Thomas A. Easton
  • 1971-07-17 Cory Doctorow

What can you say about the giant that is Heinlein? Cordwainer Smith, on the other hand, has given his name to a “Rediscovery” award. If you don’t know him, discover him for yourself! Start with The Best of Cordwainer Smith or some other comprehensive collection of his weird and wild stories. I’m regrettably unfamiliar with Gunn directly, but I know he’s contributed much as an author, editor, critic, scholar, and more. (I have many books from several of those categories I need to read Real Soon Now.) And, yes, that is that Clement C. Moore: Twas the night before, etc. Easton reviewed for Analog for many years and, for instance, has just recently co-edited a pretty good anthology. And I don’t know that I’d love everything Doctorow‘s done but I loved “The Man Who Sold the Moon.” Okay, so it’s not the most original title but it’s good.

Music

First up is a video. Second is an audio file. I couldn’t find it on utoob (gasp) so I had to find it at archive.org and figure out how to embed it. Continue reading