Links (2018-06-20)

Site News

Triggered by an SF news item below, I’ve updated the “List of Webzines.” The newer “List of Professional SF/F/H Magazines” is actually more relevant to what this site currently covers and includes not just the webzines but all the SFWA-qualifying markets (and links to the reviews of them) but the webzine page is still much more popular so I’ll try to maintain both.

(I’m also editing this post later in the day to reflect that the “Third Discussion” of the Cherryh novel was posted today (see the “Science Fiction” section below) and to add a humor item.)

Humor

History

Politics

Science

General

Centauri Dreams

After playing catch-up, here’s a Top 10 list (plus guest post) from the last 50 or so posts over the last couple of months or so. (I’m telling you, Centauri Dreams is one of the best sites on the web.)

  • Holographic Sails for Project Starshot? — Homage to Bob Forward. This guest post by Greg Matloff conveys interesting ideas about holographic starships.
  • More News from the ‘Planet of Doubt’. Nice SF references and a neat look at our outer worlds.
  • Gaia: Data Release 2 Announced. Now that’s a catalog. 1.7 billion stars.
  • Getting Water into the Inner Solar System. “I brought you into this world and I can take you out of it.” Kind of ironic that the things that may have made life on Earth possible also cause occasional mass extinctions.
  • Is Asteroid 2015 BZ509 from another Stellar System? This follows up on the story about the retrograde asteroid and references the excellent Billings piece I mentioned in “Links (2018-05-23) -> Science/Technology -> ExoSci -> item 2.”
  • TESS: The View into the Galactic Plane. And here’s Centauri Dreams‘ take on  “ExoTech -> item 2” of that same “Links” post.
  • Star Formation at ‘Cosmic Dawn’. This is different from the “unchanged galaxy” link in the previous section. That’s looking at a nearby galaxy a mere 225 million light years away that has aged gracefully. This looks at galaxies over 13 billion light years away, and the implications for the possible starting point for life, given that heavier elements are already found in those that far back.
  • Galactic Habitability and Sgr A*. Speaking of life implications, our galaxy’s central black hole may have sterilized swathes of the galaxy over 30,000 light years out. Among a great many other things, this makes me think how piddly the imaginations of our supervillains are. When’s the last time some Imperial flunky of a Sith lord had a weapon that could sterilize a radius of 30,000 light years’ worth of star systems? “I feel a GRR-RRR-EAAT disturbance in the force, as though millions of octillions of voices cried out and were suddenly silenced.” The picture of Centaurus A in that article defies words. Now that’s a beam weapon. But enough silliness – in all seriousness, the implications are extremely significant and, again, the more we learn, the more unlikely and old the Earth seems so why couldn’t we be the first and/or only? Though we’ve still got uncountable stars and years to have produced at least more than one.
  • Dawn at Ceres: Imagery from a Changing Orbit. This is another take on “Links (2018-06-04) -> Science/Technology -> Space/Physics -> item 3.” (See this post’s Science -> General -> item 5 for an update.)
  • Protoplanets: The Next Detection Frontier. Our fascinating glimpses into the processes of formation.
  • Enter the ‘Clarke Exobelt’. More “detection frontiers.” Aliens with our tech couldn’t detect our belt of artificial satellites but, by straight extrapolation, such a belt could be detectable by 2200. Perhaps other such belts are already detectable? (I actually find this very limited and it would require a literally astronomical coincidence, which is noted in the article, but it’s a neat idea and, hey, Clarke.)

Aside to science fiction writers: less about contemporary anthropocentric issues on this particular momentary speck of dust and more about the above, please. Less anger and more awe. I get more thrills and mind expansion from Centauri Dreams than any current SF zine. It’s a big universe out there. Let’s go outside and play.

Science Fiction

General

Birthdays

I’m going to try something a little different with this. I searched the ISFDB for birthdays since I’d last done a links post and, while this is obviously a very select list and I may miss some people I’d mean to include, I thought I’d try to list the folks who’ve given me something and who I wanted to express my appreciation to on their happy day (whether they’re still with us or not).

  • 1915-06-06 Tom Godwin
  • 1910-06-08 John W. Campbell, Jr.
  • 1911-06-09 J. Francis McComas
  • 1925-06-09 Keith Laumer
  • 1943-06-09 Joe Haldeman
  • 1908-06-14 Stephen Tall
  • 1896-06-16 Murray Leinster
  • 1920-06-16 T. E. Dikty
  • 1972-06-16 Andy Weir

Godwin‘s most famous for “The Cold Equations.” Campbell is, of course, the editing giant and it speaks to the magnitude of his editing legend that it has dwarfed his writing when he was previously a giant author, in the top handful from the 30s. McComas co-edited one of the more famous SF anthologies and helped start one of the more famous SF magazines (Adventures in Time and Space and F&SF). Laumer wrote a lot of great stuff and was probably most famous for the Bolo and Retief series. Haldeman, of course, wrote the superb The Forever War and many other excellent novels but his increasingly superb short fiction collections often get overlooked. I only know Stephen Tall, aka Compton Crook, as the namesake of The Compton Crook Award and the author of The Stardust Voyages, the latter from a citation by Victoria Silverwolf when I was looking for particular “space exploration” stories. Leinster was the original “dean of science fiction” and wrote countless stories in various genres, many all-time classics of SF such as “First Contact,” the Med series and the stories that went into the Colonial Survey (aka Planet Explorer) fixup, including the Hugo-winning “Exploration Team.” Dikty co-edited (later solely edited) the first science fiction “year’s best” anthology series. I still haven’t read the book I bought but Andy Weir gave us The Martian which I have seen and immensely enjoyed as a movie. Happy birthday, all!

Tunes

Special request: please give these two songs of less than ten minutes a try. Obviously, I’d like to share any tunes I post but these more than most. Continue reading

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Links (2018-06-04)

Site Note

As I mentioned in the May summation, I’ve added The Year’s Best Military & Adventure SF, Volume 4 to “Expanded Collated Contents of the Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, Links).”

Humor

History

Science/Technology

Computers/Robots

Biology/Chemistry

Space/Physics

Science Fiction

Special Link

  • Black Gate » Announcing the Black Gate Book Club: Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh. With all my other reading, I probably won’t be able to participate but encourage others to do so if they can. It’s an interesting idea with an excellent start (Cherryh is awesome and Downbelow is great but it took two tries for me to realize that and it isn’t the easiest thing to get into for many people). I will follow the comments, at least. (It doesn’t seem to have happened this Monday but maybe it will tomorrow or next Monday.)

General

  • We Lost Control a Long Time Ago – From Earth to the Stars. Sue Burke, who published a good story in the May/June Asimov’s, contributes a good piece to the Asimov’s blog. I don’t like the idea that SF is condemned to be a Cassandra or that humanity is necessarily destined to be “out of control” (though we certainly are at the moment) but this was an interesting, powerful, and not utterly bleak piece.
  • Black Gate » A Classic Without the Quotation Marks: Rogue Moon. Be warned that, without maybe being terminally spoilery, it gives away a little too much for my comfort but I can’t resist linking to anything promoting Budrys and/or Rogue Moon. It also gets in a little about Who? and his reviewing and so forth.
  • Black Gate » With a (Black) Gat: Some Har[d]boiled Anthologies. Some of this is in Mount TBR (which dwarfs Everest) . And, okay, it’s not SF but I’m an SF fan and it interested me and you’re presumably an SF fan and perhaps it will interest you.
  • Becoming an Expert in a Micro-Expertise – Auxiliary Memory. James Wallace Harris is going for his Ph.D. in Literature, Science Fiction, Magazines, 1926-76. It’s also about Zen and the art of knowledge bonsai. A beautifully crafted small, calm tree of knowledge beats a million-miles-an-hour mess of mere information. And I certainly treasure his field, too.
  • Blog 11 | Jack McDevitt | Science Fiction. Jack McDevitt with some wise words on what fiction should do and what style really ought to be.

Birthday Reviews

Visual Media

  • “Solo: A Star Wars Story” falls short with $83.3M at box office | | The News Headline. (I actually got this from the CBS website but their video “autoplay” infuriates me (I disable javascript to prevent it, but it’s a pain) and I don’t want to inflict it on others, so I found another link.) I don’t understand why this movie made even a penny. No Harrison Ford? No Han Solo. (I haven’t seen the Star Trek reboots, either.) And, while I did pay to see Rogue One and did enjoy it, I’m sick of prequels in principle. One thing many don’t seem to be considering, though, is that some of this movie’s problem may have nothing to do with the movie itself or an abstract “fatigue” but could instead derive from the specific problems of The Last Jedi: people were turned off by it, so this one suffers.
  • What Makes a Great Parody? – SuperversiveSF. I came across this link at madab.info (thanks to whoever put Featured Futures on there, by the way) and, as someone who loves Airplane, This Is Spinal Tap, Princess Bride, GalaxyQuest, etc. (and, in books, Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers), all of which seem like the second or third of the article’s three types to me, I thought this was an interesting article. Also, I don’t know anime from Adam but, while I didn’t think it was as good as the author did, I watched and enjoyed SAO Abridged. Not knowing the original, I can’t say, but that doesn’t seem to me so much a “parody” as simply a “reboot” unless you’re taking “parody” to mean literally “to sing beside” as opposed to “to make fun of.”
  • Phineas & Ferb Star Wars: A Reminder that Disney Isn’t Star Wars’ Problem, it’s Kathleen Kennedy, Rian Johnson, and JJ Abrams | Cirsova. To wrap back around to Star Wars, the previous link led to this one. I was unhappy with The Last Jedi for different reasons than this author (and still think Disney is part of the problem) but I’ll grant that this animated pseudo-Star Wars special does sound structurally better and the video clips (especially the second) were amusing.

Tunes

Continue reading

Gardner Dozois (1947-2018)

Gardner Dozois (1947-2018) – Locus Online. It felt like the blood drained from my head when I read this.

I don’t want to get into it too much, but, leaving aside Gernsback’s creation, I would rank Dozois a close second only to Campbell in terms of his impact on the field through his writing, his editing of Asimov’s (though Shawna McCarthy’s tremendous editorial reign should never be overlooked), his editing of forty years of year’s bests (between Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year and The Year’s Best Science Fiction), and numerous other anthologies. He’s been a constant literary companion to me, as well as someone I greatly enjoyed interacting with on the old Asimov’s posting board. As fellow alumnus Alex the Great and Terrible said, ” I never actually met the man; but I still feel like I’ve lost a personal friend.”

My condolences to his friends, family, and our field.

Edit (2018-05-28): Added File 770 link.
Edit (2018-05-29): Added second Locus link.

Links (2018-05-23)

Welcome to the Bloom County edition of the “Links” post. 😉 Blog note: I’ve updated “Expanded Collated Contents of the Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, Links),” adding The Year’s Best Weird Fiction: Volume Five. Now on with the usual sorts of links.

Humor

News/Politics

History

Science/Technology

Earth Tech

Earth Sci

Exo Tech

Exo Sci

Earth Tech, Part II: Robots, Mark II

These aren’t quite ready for prime time as I don’t often think of “robot” together with “manually reset each time”/”line of sight power supply”/”towed” by “fishing rod” but the tropism and “amphibian” (air/sea) approaches of the first and third are probably good ways to go and the second is as neat as it is potentially horribly dangerous. The fourth and fifth are just incredible and, while much of this may have applications beyond robotics, those two almost certainly would. This seems like it ought to be interesting to almost everybody but if any SF writers are reading this, these need to be turned into stories soon!

Science Fiction

  • Editorial | Asimov’s Science Fiction. This wonderful guest editorial is from a teacher who created a class on the life and works of Isaac Asimov with applications to current conditions.
  • Black Gate » Birthday Reviews: Jack Williamson’s “The Cold Green Eye”. One of the most amazing and astounding careers in SF.
  • Amazing Stories Returns to Print – Locus Online. Speaking of, Amazing is the zine that will not die (for long – it’s actually probably died more than any other zine.)
  • The Reference Library | Analog Science Fiction. Dave Truesdale mentioned this because of the Mildred Clingerman review (which is interesting in its own right) but I’m linking to it here because the introductory portion of this book review column contains some historical info on small presses (which connects to contemporary conditions) which many people may not be aware of these days but might enjoy reading about. (Two clarifications: the reference to DAW and 1964 is, of course, a typo for 1984 and, in the review section, on the Lerner non-fiction book (which I reviewed favorably for Tangent), the review doesn’t make clear that some of the essays have been updated, so the book provides content the original articles don’t.)
  • Black Gate » Here They Are — The Brand New 1957 Titles from Gnome Press. Speaking of small presses, check this out. The write-up is mostly about the Conan books and the price but, much like old SFBC ads, just look at the selection! Some guys named Anderson, Blish, Dickson, Leiber, Leinster, and Merril (and occasional Kuttner-collaborator Barnes). Not a title there I wouldn’t read (and I have read the Blish, Leiber, Leinster, and other Merrils including Best of the Best which selects from those two annuals and the rest of her first five.)
  • Black Gate » Vintage Treasures: Four for Tomorrow by Roger Zelazny. This post has got the SF covered from A-Z. Two of this collection’s four stories were immediately recollected in Doors of His Face and I have no idea why the other two were never recollected but this is still worth getting just for those.

Tunes

Samples from my library sale CDs: Continue reading

Book Haul!

Awhile ago, I went to the library book sale. This year’s selection of speculative fiction was not as good as last year’s and, again, I ended up getting proportionally more fantasy and horror than I’d ideally aim for (though it is hard to find science fiction I do want and don’t have—in several cases, in both SF/F/H and other categories, I got replacement copies rather than outright new books). The lack of SF did allow me to devote a little more time to looking through some other subjects. On a general note, there was a good crowd which put a few drops into the county’s bucket.

As I did last year, I’m posting some pics. Click to embiggen (and if your browser auto-resizes and you want to see it full-size you may need to click again or do something else). Continue reading

Short Story Month

For Featured Futures, obviously, every month is Short Story Month. Still, Charles May reminded me that this month is even more a Short Story Month than the others while taking  a look at a story for the occasion. As he says in “Wil Weitzel’s ‘Lion’–O. Henry Prize Stories—Short Story Month,” it’s “a celebration that has never really caught on with writers or readers, but one to which I feel bound to contribute.” That seems like a fair assessment and I feel much the same.

I found some history in “Making the Case for National Short Story Month” and, from one of the horse’s mouths, “The Origins of Short Story Month: a guest post by Dan Wickett.”

For some current approaches, a literary magazine offers “14 Writers You Love & Their Favorite Short Stories,” with links to those which are available online. I was pleased to see one short story writer I love and am extra-pleased that hers is one you can go read right this very minute to celebrate Short Story Month!

Speech Sounds” by Octavia E. Butler.

(You can also read “Bloodchild,” the title novelette of a collection of wall-to-wall excellence.)

Links (2018-04-27)

This one piled up fast so I’m not waiting for May. Writers, please note the last item before the musical break.

General

When an English Lit Major Tried to School Isaac Asimov | RealClearScience. Some site reprinted this but then did something that annoyed me (probably spewed out one of those pseudo-popups), so I’ve repressed which it was. This, in turn, points to a reprint of one of Asimov’s great essays: “The Relativity of Wrong.” (To be fair, sometimes science does grab the extremely wrong end of the sphere, so to speak, but his main point is almost completely correct. This is applicable to everything.

Humor

Didn’t see anything freshly funny on the net for awhile, so reached into the memory banks and pulled out a couple of my favorite examples of the best strip ever: Calvin and Hobbes.

However, xkcd eventually came through with this:

History

Politics

  • News: 2.7 billion tweets confirm: echo chambers in Twitter are very real – Aalto University. “Bipartisan users, who try to bridge the echo chambers, pay a price for their work: they become less central in their network, lose connections to their communities and receive less [sic] endorsements from others.” I don’t use Twitter but it’s wider than that and I am not even infinitesimally surprised.
  • The Second Amendment comes first in teaching constitutional law. There’s an old joke that has something to do with telling Democrats from Republicans based on whether they support the First or the Second Amendment. I support both but it’s becoming increasingly common to support neither. This article is not overtly pro or con but merely argues that it’s a pedagogically rich subject.
  • Rapid rise in mass school shootings in the United States, study shows: Researchers call for action to address worrying increase in the number of mass school shootings in past two decades — ScienceDaily. This confirms some idle research I made after the last big one: it’s not just my impression, but a fact that mass shootings used to be rare. We’ve had guns in this country for as long as this has been a country so I don’t know where they get the “easier to get” argument. Many kids owned guns distinct from their parents’ guns from early childhood. While not necessarily against logical restrictions and training requirements, I also don’t understand how raising the age limit is a solution when half of the most recent major school shootings and most other shootings were perpetrated by people outside the range of 18-21. I do accept the mental illness element, though. Weapons have not become significantly more common or dangerous since 1980 or 2000 but this country and others have clearly gone insane. One of the most effective steps to take would probably be for the media (which has changed radically in that time) to stop making the perpetrators famous. Passing laws restricting gun ownership, when murder is already illegal and a much bigger law to break, is useless at best. Not having schools be like miniature training grounds for fascism and not having the media promote the shooters and their acts would probably not be useless. The more we’ve militarized schools and dehumanized the students (and people in general) and popularized these acts, the more they’ve occurred. This insanity is not restricted to the US and going after guns is mistaking a correlate for a cause. It’s no solution, as this event today in China demonstrates: 7 students killed in stabbing rampage at middle school in China – CBS News. Should we raise the age of legal knife ownership to 29 so this person who was seeking to commit murder would have been deterred from breaking the knife-owning law? Or should we say he’s part of a mass psychosis and figure out how to deal with that? The thing that most bothers me about this issue is not the guns, as such, but the illogical, emotional response to an illogical, emotional problem.
  • What Greek tragedy illuminates about James Comey. I think current American politics would be more fittingly illuminated by Aristophanes but I love Greek tragedy and have to share any article that works it in like this.

Science

Science/Fiction

One question that occurs to me about this: had there been a previous civilization 55 million years ago (as in the story), would we have found as much oil as we have? A lot of oil in the Middle East and the US is older than that and would likely have been used by a predecessor.

Anyway – from the article (first the author, then the reporter):

“It might be the detectable period of a civilization is much shorter than its actual longevity, because you can’t last a long time doing the kinds of stuff that we’ve been doing,” Schmidt explained. “You either stop, because you’ve messed it all up, or you learn not to do it. Either way, the burst of activity, wastefulness, and massive footprints is actually a very short amount of time.”

Or you get off the planet. If not, it is indeed a very short amount of time and you spend the rest of it living in miserable conditions like the Middle Ages, awaiting the GRB or asteroid or plague to deliver the merciful killing blow.

The same logic holds for any previous civilizations that may have flourished on Earth, only to either collapse in ruin or scale down on activities that threaten their lifespan. There are definitely some not-so-subtle lessons that humans can take from this forked path which is, after all, an industrial version of the age-old evolutionary mantra–adapt or die.

The logic of the article accepts the premise that species survival is a good. Therefore those two options are not good. There must be a third. While galaxies are very hard to destroy, stars are very short lived and twitchy (lasting only billions of years and prone to temperature variations, flares, novas, etc.), and planets are ludicrously unstable, not to mention the species on them. Whether GRBs, asteroids, plagues, wars, or whatever else, something will wipe out most every planet-bound species in short order. If you want the species to survive, it must spread to other planets, other stars, ideally widely separated stars. To do that, you have to utilize the planet smartly to extract its energy to get you where you need to go.

The idea of living sustainably on a single planet is like the idea of living sustainably on a desert island periodically wracked by hurricanes. The human species can survive much better and longer on the whole earth than a single person who carefully tends a single coconut tree on an island before both are washed away by a storm. Similarly, the human species could survive much better on multiple habitats than on this island earth in a desert of vacuum. We have a narrow launch window before our resources are exhausted and conserving them will only slightly delay our inevitable extinction. I’m pro-environment but also pro-technology. We shouldn’t waste resources but if we don’t use our energy wisely, it’ll be “adapt and die.”

(Science) Fiction

Tunes

Nothing to do with them literally but, since I’ve got links about dinosaurs and rats, here are a couple of tunes. Somebody needs to re-up the first one in HD stat. I couldn’t find any other version on the web.

Continue reading