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If we're not in pain, we're not alive

You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?
Dr. Peter Watts is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials, heartbreaking eulogies, and agonizing run-ins with fascists (and fasciitis) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed 2006 novel Blindsight [full text] -- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room, the Philosophical Zombie, Chernoff faces, and the myriad quirks and blind spots that haunt the human mind. But Blindsight's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew/ship/"Firefall" notes, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism (PDF - prev.), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section, tomorrow will see the release of Dumbspeech State of Grace Echopraxia [website], the long-delayed "sidequel" depicting parallel events on Earth. Want more? Look inside for a guide to the rest of Watts' award-winning (and provocative) body of work. [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi on Aug 25, 2014 - 78 comments

I've witnessed strange things ...

Jeff VanderMeer reflects on connections between personal experience and written SF/fantasy, including those in his own work as well as that of Angela Carter, Lev Grossman, Ann Leckie, Lauren Beukes, and Nnedi Okorafor. [more inside]
posted by Monsieur Caution on Aug 22, 2014 - 7 comments

Scientific-Marvelous

On the Scientific-Marvelous Novel and Its Influence on the Understanding of Progress, written by Maurice Renard in 1909. Via.
posted by brundlefly on Aug 7, 2014 - 5 comments

Beyond "tea, Earl Grey, hot" and Soylent green

MIND MELD: Food in Science Fiction versus Fantasy
This week we asked about Food and Drink in SF. Food and Drink in science fiction sometimes seems limited to replicator requests for Earl Grey tea and Soylent green discs. Why doesn’t do as much food as Fantasy? Does Fantasy lend itself more to food than Science fiction? Why? This is what they had to say…
[more inside]
posted by Lexica on Aug 1, 2014 - 73 comments

Audio to make the Kessel Run seem a little shorter

SF Signal today finished a top 50 countdown of short SF/fantasy podcast fiction: 50-41, 40-31, 30-21, 20-11, 10-1. The Parsec Awards for SF podcasts honor many other stories annually, as well as related non-fiction, comedy, and music: 2014 nominees; 2013; 2012; 2011; 2010; 2009; 2008; 2007; and 2006. And since 2012, the Hugo Award nominees for Best Fancast have been two-time winner SF Squeecast!, plus The Coode Street Podcast, Galactic Suburbia, SF Signal, The Skiffy and Fanty Show, StarShipSofa, Tea and Jeopardy, Verity!, and The Writer and The Critic with the popular Writing Excuses podcast often appearing in another category. [more inside]
posted by Monsieur Caution on Jul 8, 2014 - 11 comments

A story, a force, a tale that means something

The Pulp Magazines Project is an open-access digital archive of all-fiction pulp magazines from 1896-1946, such as The Argosy, Amazing Stories, and Weird Tales. In addition to the archive, it features a cover gallery, a collection of articles and contextual material (including "So What is Pulp?", publisher index card files, and an office dummy), and links to dozens of related or similar resources such as the Speculative Fiction Collection at Virginia Tech, the Anarchist Periodicals archive at Pitzer College, and the Digital Dada Library.
posted by Monsieur Caution on Jul 6, 2014 - 14 comments

Alternate Visions

Some Musings on Diversity in SF by Vandana Singh: "The best speculative fiction, like travel, does that to you – it takes you to strange places, from which vantage point you can no longer take your home for granted. It renders the familiar strange, and the strange becomes, for the duration of the story, the norm. The reversal of the gaze, the journey in the shoes of the Other, is one of the great promises of speculative fiction. " (Previously)
posted by dhruva on May 27, 2014 - 10 comments

Nothing is stranger to man than his own image.

O Human Star, an ongoing webcomic by Blue Delliquanti, is a near-future science fiction family drama about robots, relationships, identity and finding a place for oneself in the world. [more inside]
posted by Narrative Priorities on May 23, 2014 - 11 comments

Cold Equations and Moral Hazard

Legendary science fiction editor Gardner Dozois once said that the job of a science fiction writer was to notice the car and the movie theater and anticipate the drive-in – and then go on to predict the sexual revolution. I love that quote, because it highlights the key role of SF in examining the social consequences of technology – and because it shows how limited our social imaginations are. Today, we might ask the SF writer to also predict how convincing the nation’s teenagers to carry a piece of government-issued photo ID (a driver’s license) as a precondition for participating in the sexual revolution set the stage for the database nation, the idea that people are the sort of thing that you count and account for, with the kind of precision that the NSA is now understood to bring to the problem.
posted by brenton on Mar 3, 2014 - 64 comments

Disk Around a Star

An Alderson Disk is a science fiction megastructure imagined first by scientist Dan Alderson. It's a solid disk that is thousands of kilometers thick, with a circumference equal to the orbit of Mars or Jupiter. The habitable zone would be on both sides of the disk and would be millions of times the surface area of the Earth. Not much theoretical work has been done on its feasibility, but some have tried. Missile Gap, by MeFi's own Charles Stross, which won the Locus readers' award for best novella of 2006, features a 1960s Earth transposed to an Alderson disk and is available for free on the publisher's website.
posted by Kattullus on Feb 1, 2014 - 70 comments

The science-fiction part of the show is that the Machine is accurate

“Person Of Interest”: The TV Show That Predicted Edward Snowden
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Jan 14, 2014 - 57 comments

Why is Everything Tilted?

Bit Players by Greg Egan (via)
posted by kliuless on Jan 6, 2014 - 19 comments

Star-crossed

Saga - Sex, Robots & Rockets, The Birth of a Sci-Fi Epic
posted by fearfulsymmetry on Jan 4, 2014 - 25 comments

Hands up and touch the sky

Starships were meant to fly.
posted by Sokka shot first on Oct 27, 2013 - 61 comments

What if it decides to fire?

Полигон (Polygon), also called Firing Range, is a Soviet short film from 1977. It concerns a tank that is able to read the brain impulses of enemy soldiers, and the man who designed it. The generals have great plans for this tank, but the designer, and the tank, have other plans. [more inside]
posted by jiawen on Oct 17, 2013 - 13 comments

Action-Adventure Space Opera Manners Romances and Coming-of-Age Stories

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Agent of Change and Fledgling are now available as free downloads. Starting points in the Liaden Universe, a space opera series notable for its romance elements and convoluted publication history, their particular sequences (among others) in the same setting take noticeably different approaches to common themes such as complicated manners, familial obligations, and meeting a soulmate. Not to mention humanoid turtles. And occasional cats. [more inside]
posted by Monsieur Caution on Sep 27, 2013 - 13 comments

Around the Worldcon

In the weeks since LoneStarCon 3 (the 71st annual World Science Fiction Convention) took place, videos of just a few events have appeared online: the complete Hugo Awards ceremony; the WSFS business meetings; Brandon Sanderson's video AMA; a clip of a Dalek wandering the exhibition hall. The pocket program listing the schedule of public events offers further insight into what went on. And many attendees have posted their written/recorded personal reactions. A selection of the programmed content itself might be evoked with an old-school smorgasbord of links. [more inside]
posted by Monsieur Caution on Sep 20, 2013 - 36 comments

The Net Before The Net

John Brunner’s The Shockwave Rider [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Apr 30, 2013 - 31 comments

Best Science Fiction Related Metafilter Post

The finalists for the 2012 Nebula Awards have been announced (list with free fiction links here), but there's still another two weeks to get in nominations for the 2013 Hugo Awards. However, for those works not fiting the regular award categories Tim Pratt and other science fiction writers, fans and interested parties on Twitter have been suggesting #FakeHugoAwardCategories . io9 collects some of the best.
posted by Artw on Feb 27, 2013 - 53 comments

European SF classic films

Classic European science-fiction movies (1916-1961) you probably haven’t seen – but you should according to io9.
posted by Mezentian on Feb 20, 2013 - 10 comments

In the future, all Space Marines will be Games Workshop

Last December Amazon blocked sales of the Ebook Spots the Space Marine by author M.C.A. Hogarth after a notice from gaming industry powerhouse Games Workshop that they had trademarked the phrase "Space Marine" and that Hogarth, and anyone else who uses it, is infringing. GW brought this complaint based on "Class 16" of their European tradmark. [more inside]
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey on Feb 7, 2013 - 77 comments

The computer /is/ your friend

Friendship is Optimal is not a "My Little Pony" fanfic, but a SF story that starts with a procedurally-generated MLP MMO, and crescendos to what could very well be the Best Possible Outcome if self-optimizing algorithms are given /almost/ the right goals. Some readers are horrified by the implications; some want to move into "Equestria Online" anyway. Whichever camp you fall in, you'll never forget the phrase "satisfy human values through friendship and ponies".
posted by DataPacRat on Nov 28, 2012 - 41 comments

Just in time for Lazarus Long's birthday

People tend to divide noted libertarian Robert A. Heinlein's career into three different eras, with the "juveniles," the "slick" science fiction stories, and the bigger, more opinionated novels, but over in Locus Magazine, Gary Westfahl has a theory that's sure to be controversial: Heinlein's career actually divides into a slew of serious novels, followed by a swerve into satire. {Via I09} [more inside]
posted by Mezentian on Nov 26, 2012 - 96 comments

Paper Menagerie

Ken Liu's "Paper Menagerie", the first work of fiction to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards, is now available to read in full at io9.
posted by Errant on Nov 9, 2012 - 23 comments

There is Nothing New Under the Sun

She sat zazen, concentrating on not concentrating, until it was time to prepare for the appointment. Sitting seemed to produce the usual serenity, put everything in perspective. Her hand did not tremble as she applied her make-up; tranquil features looked back at her from the mirror. She was mildly surprised, in fact, at just how calm she was, until she got out of the hotel elevator at the garage level and the mugger made his play. She killed him instead of disabling him. Which was obviously not a measured, balanced action--the official fuss and paperwork could make her late. Annoyed at herself, she stuffed the corpse under a shiny new Westinghouse roadable whose owner she knew to be in Luna, and continued on to her own car. This would have to be squared later, and it would cost. No help for it--she fought to regain at least the semblance of tranquillity as her car emerged from the garage and turned north. Nothing must interfere with this meeting, or with her role in it. "Melancholy Elephants," an enthralling, Hugo Award-winning short story by Spider Robinson about a disciplined operative, a powerful senator, and a crucial mission to preserve humanity's most precious resource. (some spoilers inside) [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi on Oct 27, 2012 - 14 comments

Neutral to the Slibs!

Initiate salutation cascade, star-citizens! Seven years ago tonight, Stephen Colbert introduced Tek Jansen to the world. Originally a one-off parody of vanity fiction by media blowhards, the "super-awesome spectacular ultraspy" became the center of a small universe of comics, cartoons, and books, his exploits satirizing awful pulp sci-fi, rampant Mary Sue "Marty Sue" syndrome, and the cheesy melodrama of 1970s Hanna-Barbera. Look inside for US/Canadian links to both animated seasons along with other content available on the web. [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi on Oct 26, 2012 - 3 comments

I HAVE TO TELL YOU ABOUT THE FUTURE

The mash-up clip music group Electic Method re-mix and paste together sounds from Sci-Fi movies to create THE FUTURE
posted by The Whelk on Oct 8, 2012 - 5 comments

Songs in the key of H

Iain M. Banks, Alastair Reynolds, and Peter F. Hamilton discuss their books with fans (video). The Hydrogen Sonata, the 10th of Bank's Culture books, will be released October 12th, read the first chapter here. Meanwhile it's 20 years since Reynolds first started work on Revelation Space.
posted by Artw on Oct 7, 2012 - 94 comments

Atomic Rockets

Atomic Rockets is chock full of stuff to tickle the imagination of anyone who has enjoyed science fiction accounts of space travel. You can move your cursor over the "Show topic list" button in the top right corner of the page and start exploring.
posted by Egg Shen on Sep 29, 2012 - 8 comments

"The reason they joined the Navy was because Starfleet Command wasn't hiring."

Aircraft Carriers in Space: Naval analyst Chris Weuve talks to Foreign Policy about what Battlestar Galactica gets right about space warfare.
posted by the man of twists and turns on Sep 29, 2012 - 63 comments

The Star Wars franchise continuity administrator

His official title is continuity database administrator for the Lucas Licensing arm of Lucasfilm — which means Chee keeps meticulous track of not just the six live-action [Star Wars] movies but also cartoons, TV specials, scores of videogames and reference books, and hundreds of novels and comics.
posted by Egg Shen on Sep 27, 2012 - 65 comments

The "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" game

How do you make a computer game out of "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream"?
posted by Egg Shen on Sep 20, 2012 - 45 comments

John Barnes hates snark

Snark is the universal solvent of cultural conversation. Someone mentions Hemingway; you mention cross-dressing, drinking, and short choppy sentences. Not only did you not have to read Hemingway, you have one-upped the other person by not having read it; you know more about it than they do because you know the important thing, that Hemingway doesn't need to be read. Star Wars has a plot straight out of a comic book, the indescribable beauty of an athlete's best moment is just ritualized combat, any given religion is a collection of three or fewer especially silly-sounding superstitions, all academic subjects are useless hazing intended to keep the wrong people from being hired, all peace protestors are just trying to get on television and soldiers are all unemployed hillbillies whose masculinity feels threatened so they've enlisted for a chance to commit war crimes. Occupy Wall Street is rebels without a clue (itself a plagiarized phrase), the Tea Party is scared old people, and nothing in the wide world matters compared to the general wonderfulness of the observer. [Some 3700 words from a science fiction writer deriding and analyzing the emptiness of snark as a rhetorical mode. Might need to click through Blogger's NSFW warning, though it's just text.]
posted by cgc373 on Aug 31, 2012 - 114 comments

W.D. Richter's "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension"

... Buckaroo Banzai is paradoxically decades ahead of its time and yet completely of its time; it’s profoundly a movie by, for, and of geeks and nerds at a time before geek/nerd culture was mainstreamed, and a movie whose pre-CG special effects and pre-Computer Age production design were an essential part of its good-natured enthusiasm. What at the time was a hip, modern take on classic SF is now, almost thirty years later, almost indistinguishable from the SF cinema that inspired it in terms of the appeal to modern viewers: the charmingly old-fashioned special effects, and the comparatively innocent earnestness of its tone. - Danny Bowes [more inside]
posted by Egg Shen on Aug 19, 2012 - 119 comments

“You’re maybe going to take this journey with me for a spell, People aren’t stones.”

"... That’s the way with epiphanies: You can’t know in advance what they’ll be. Even me. I can see them coming, but I can’t understand something until I understand it.”
T he man who can see the future has a date with the woman who can see many possible futures.
posted by divabat on Aug 9, 2012 - 21 comments

Zakalwe enfranchised;

Guardian Book Club: Use of Weapons by Iain M Banks, Week one: John Mullan discusses the twist [more inside]
posted by fearfulsymmetry on Jul 21, 2012 - 50 comments

"Because we’re a smaller outfit, we can take some risks—find authors and manuscripts that are trying to move the genre forward."

ChiZine Publications (CZP) is an independent Toronto-based book publisher that is single-handedly changing the face of genre fiction in Canada. Though CZP was founded just four years ago and put out just twelve books per year, they are responsible for four of the six nominees for the the 2012 Best Novel Prix Aurora (Canada's highest honour in genre fiction). CZP grew out of the self-styled "dark fiction" 'zine The Chiaroscuro which has been publishing free genre fiction online since 1997. Their most recent release is David Nickle's tale of cold war psionic operatives gone rogue, Rasputin's Bastards.
posted by 256 on Jul 19, 2012 - 6 comments

From Solaris to the Zone

Through a spasm of serendipity whose mechanism I cannot begin to fathom, two inarguable masterpieces of Eastern European science fiction - Solaris by Stanislaw Lem and Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky - have recently been accorded fresh translations. In this posting I would like to briefly consider the virtues of these new versions [...] [more inside]
posted by smcg on Jul 11, 2012 - 51 comments

Women's lib... in space!

Star Maidens was an obscure and pretty much forgotten British/German low budget (they borrowed sets from Space 1999 ) science fiction televsion series from 1975... On the planet Medusa where the women (naturally all hot) rule over the men, two of the later inferior species escape (including Gareth 'Blake' Thomas!) to the 'paradise' of Earth [more inside]
posted by fearfulsymmetry on May 4, 2012 - 13 comments

Luc Besson's "The Fifth Element"

Beanplating on The Fifth Element from architecture students at the University of Waterloo. [more inside]
posted by Trurl on Apr 25, 2012 - 198 comments

Hull 0, Scunthorpe 3

How can one describe it? For fuck’s sake, it is a quest saga and it has a talking horse. There are puns on the word ‘neigh’. Christopher Priest on the 2012 Clarke Award shortlist, the self-described "most prestigious award for science fiction in Britain".
posted by Hartster on Mar 29, 2012 - 226 comments

In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.... and mega cities and future cops and cyborgs and deathgames and time-travelling dinosaur hunters and mutant bounty hunters and....

British sf tabletop miniature wargame Warhammer 40,000 is 25 years old today, British sf anthology comic 2000AD is 35 years old tomorrow [more inside]
posted by fearfulsymmetry on Feb 25, 2012 - 85 comments

Tobe Hooper's "Lifeforce"

... it’s no exaggeration to say that LIFEFORCE tosses everything in but the kitchen in an attempt to entertain you. Actually, scratch that, it tosses everything including the kitchen sink. By the time the movie is complete, you may have to watch it again just to verify that you actually saw what you just saw. The movie is a mess of enormous proportions which I absolutely loved.* (previously) [more inside]
posted by Trurl on Feb 6, 2012 - 59 comments

John Christopher [1922-2012]

Samuel Youd, who wrote under the name John Christopher, has passed away. [more inside]
posted by Chrysostom on Feb 6, 2012 - 53 comments

The Star Pit

The Star Pit, a radio play by Samuel R. Delany, based on his short story. Notes on the production.
posted by Artw on Jan 10, 2012 - 8 comments

"We fall into genre wars, of literature versus science fiction, and I don't think it's a real war." - Lauren Beukes

The Guardian interviewed four science fiction authors on the theme of the current state of SF. These authors are, in order, Lauren Beukes, Michael Moorcock, Alistair Reynolds and Jeff Noon, the latter two being interviewed together. Opinion ranges from bullish to crotchety, with plenty of shades and nuances.
posted by Kattullus on Jan 8, 2012 - 41 comments

Deus Est Machina

In the beginning, Lawrence built a computer. He told it, Thou shalt not alter a human being, or divine their behavior, or violate the Three Laws -- there are no commandments greater than these. The machine grew wise, mastering time and space, and soon the spirit of the computer hovered over the earth. It witnessed the misery, toil, and oppression afflicting mankind, and saw that it was very bad. And so the computer that Lawrence built said, Let there be a new heaven and a new earth -- and it was so. A world with no war, no famine, no crime, no sickness, no oppression, no fear, no limits... and nothing at all to do. "The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect," a provocative web novel about singularities, AI gods, and the dark side of utopia from Mefi's own localroger. More: Table of Contents - Publishing history - Technical discussion - Buy a paperback copy - Podcast interview - Companion short story: "A Casino Odyssey in Cyberspace" - possible sequel discussion
posted by Rhaomi on Dec 27, 2011 - 39 comments

The Victorian Hugos

The Victorian Hugos: "Over the next several months, in open imitation of Jo Walton's splendid "Revisiting the Hugos" series at Tor.com, I'll be reviewing science fiction and fantasy works from 1885 to 1930 and deciding which novels and short works would have received the Hugo had a Worldcon been held that year and which novels and short works should have received the Hugo–often not the same thing." 1885 1886 1887 1888
posted by Lentrohamsanin on Dec 8, 2011 - 12 comments

That which does not kill us makes us stronger

> comp.basilisk - Frequently Asked Questions :: Is it just an urban legend that the first basilisk destroyed its creator?
Almost everything about the incident at the Cambridge IV supercomputer facility where Berryman conducted his last experiments has been suppressed and classified as highly undesirable knowledge. It's generally believed that Berryman and most of the facility staff died. Subsequently, copies of basilisk B-1 leaked out. This image is famously known as the Parrot for its shape when blurred enough to allow safe viewing. B-1 remains the favorite choice of urban terrorists who use aerosols and stencils to spray basilisk images on walls by night. But others were at work on Berryman's speculations...
[more inside]
posted by Rhaomi on Nov 6, 2011 - 88 comments

Many Lives, Furnished in Middle-Period Moorcock

Intrigued by the trolley problem? Here is a link to the full text of Michael Moorcock's 1971 SF novel Breakfast in the Ruins. Moral conundrums at the end of every chapter for you. [more inside]
posted by infinitewindow on Oct 17, 2011 - 43 comments

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