Future Politics (PDF link)
is a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign class by Jake Bowers on the political theory of science fiction and a great recommended reading and discussion list for the rest of us. How can imagining the future help us understand the present? How does considering the future help us think critically about politics today?...The future hopes and imaginings of past political thinkers do not include either enough detail or enough information about our rapidly changing technological, social, political, and economic landscape to provide us with enough practice to confidently confront the future as citizens as it happens to us. Science fiction allows us a much more detailed view of life in alternative futures, and the writers that we choose to read here tend to think seriously and logically about how current cutting edge technology might have social and political ramifications — however, science fiction authors are also mostly working on a narrative and thus may skim over core concepts that ought to organize our thinking about politics and society. Thus, we read both together in order to practice a kind of theoretically informed futurism (which is not the same as prediction or forecasting, but is more like the practice of confronting the unexpected).
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 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.
's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew
, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism
), 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]
During the 1950's, Wernher von Braun
served as technical adviser for three space-related television films produced by Disney: Man in Space
, Man and the Moon
and Mars and Beyond
. [more inside]
The Thoreau Poison
- Caleb Crain of The New Yorker
takes a closer look at the ideas explored in
Our Science Fiction Movies Hate Science Fiction.
An intelligent discourse from The Awl
about the state of modern science fiction movies. [more inside]
An Aura of Familiarity: Visions from the Coming Age of Networked Matter.
The Institute for the Future
commissioned six science fiction writers to create short stories for their Age of Networked Matter
research project. "We asked our collaborators to envision a world where humans have unprecedented control of matter at all scales, and to share with us a glimpse of daily life in that world. It was a process meant to make the future tangible."
Three of the stories have appeared so far. [more inside]
The very first major science fiction series for adults on radio was Mutual Broadcasting System's 2000 Plus
(1950-1952). An anthology program, 2000 Plus
used all new material rather than adapting published stories. Just one month after its premiere, NBC Radio began airing Dimension X
(1950-1951), which dramatized the written work of such young writers as Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Kurt Vonnegut. In 1955, NBC relaunched Dimension X
as X Minus One
(1955-1958), drawing from stories that had been published in the two most popular science fiction magazines at the time: Astounding
. 17 of 30 episodes
of 2000 Plus
, all 50 episodes
of Dimension X
, and all 125 episodes
of X Minus One
are available for free download as individual mp3s from the Internet Archive. [more inside]
Is Science Fiction promoting pseuodoscience?
Is it not really better than fantasy?
Is it exhausted and dying, per Paul Kincaid (part 1
, part 2
), a sort of genre-writing version of completing a list of The Nine Billion Names of God
? Does physics-bothering
unrepentant space case
Alistair Reynolds have a compass pointing the way forwards
OMNI Magazine delighted, informed, and even confused geeks of many flavours, and is now available to be downloaded
from the Internet Archive. [previously]
In 1994, theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre proposed a scheme for virtual faster than light travel using a real-world analog to the familiar science fiction trope known as "Warp Drive."
The basic premise exploited certain space-time warping effects predicted by General Relativity to fold space-time
, theoretically allowing a specially designed space craft to reach distant destinations effectively at FTL speeds without actually having to accelerate to light speed or beyond at all. There was, however, at least one major problem with the proposal: The math suggested it would require as much energy as the mass of the planet Jupiter to power the thing. But according to newer calculations based on a modified version of Alcubierre's original proposal
, warp speed travel may now theoretically be within reach
(warning: eyeball-gouging Space.com link), requiring drastically less energy than originally thought. Of course, not everyone's convinced
there's anything to see here. And even so, prohibitive energy input requirements may not be
the only serious challenge
facing the development of real-world warp drive technology, so don't go packing your bags for that long overdue vacation to Risa just yet.
“[...] it took more than a dozen calls to work out the details of her zombie contagion. “After about the 17th time,” says McGuire, “I called and said, ‘If I did this, this, this, this, this, this and this, could I raise the dead?’ And got, ‘Don’t … don’t do that.’ And at that point, I knew I had a viable virus
Daily Science Fiction:
Original Science Fiction and Fantasy every weekday. Welcome to Daily Science Fiction, an online magazine of science fiction short stories. We publish "science fiction" in the broad sense of the word: This includes sci-fi, fantasy, slipstream—whatever you'd likely find in the science fiction section of your local bookstore. Our stories are mostly short short fiction each Monday through Thursday, hopefully the right length to read on a coffee break, over lunch, or as a bedtime tale. Friday's weekend stories are longer.
Day at Night
was an interview series on the public television station of the City University of New York that aired from 1973-4. CUNY TV is in the process of digitizing and uploading the 130 episodes that were produced, with 46 done so far. The episodes are just under half an hour in length. Among the people interviewed by host James Day are author Ray Bradbury
, actress Myrna Loy
, medical researcher Jonas Salk
, singer Cab Calloway
, writer Christopher Isherwood
, nuclear scientist Edward Teller
, comedian Victor Borge
, tennis player Billie Jean King
, linguist and activist Noam Chomsky
, composer Aaron Copland
, actor Vincent Price
and boxer Muhammad Ali
On November 22, 2011, TEDxBrussels held an all day event whose theme was: "A Day in the Deep Future
." Speakers were asked to try and contemplate what life will be like for mankind in 50 years
. [more inside]
> 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]
Scientist and Science Fiction author Joan Slonczewski
, author of A Door Into The Ocean
, guest blogs
about science fictional and microbiology on Charles Stross's site: Salt Beings
, Microbes grow the starship
, Synthetic Babies
Stanislaw Lem on Philip K. Dick: A Visionary Among the Charlatans.
(Science Fiction Studies # 5 = Volume 2, Part 1 = March 1975; Translated from the Polish by Robert Abernathy)
has always been a haven for geek humor
, but last week's episode "The Prisoner of Benda"
pushed things to the next level. First hinted at in an American Physical Society interview
with showrunner David X. Cohen (previously
), staff writer and mathematics Ph.D. Ken Keeler
devised a novel mathematical proof
based on group theory
to resolve the logic puzzle spawned by the episode's brain-swapping (but no backsies!) conceit. Curious how it works? Read the proof (in the show
or in plain text
), then see it in action using this handy chart
. Too much math for a lazy Sunday? Then entertain your brain
with lengthy clips
from the episode
-- including two of the funniest moments in the series
in the span of two minutes.
Welcome to District 9.
Director Neill Blomkamp turns his sci-fi short "Alive in Joburg"
into a full-length feature film
- examining xenophobia
in an allegory of Apartheid
, set in a slum recalling District 6
of Cape Town
in South Africa.
Where forward thinking terrestrials exchange ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction today. A growing number of universities, architecture and design schools are conducting projects
on this site. Hundreds of art treasures, educational videos and narratives are found in their galleries
. Every SpaceCollective member is provided with a personal time capsule
, preserving their contributions for the edification of each other as well as future times and beings.
Sci Fi has a new name. Now it's SyFy
. The Sci Fi Channel is distancing itself from its geek demographic by rebranding its network. The former SyFy Portal website (a nerd news outlet) has been rebranded "Airlock Alpha"
after selling the name to an "undisclosed recipient".
"He's always thinking about lots of things — he's a pollinator, he brings ideas to the table"
You probably know Neal Stephenson
for his work as an author
(generally in or adjacent to the Science Fiction genre), but he's also an inventor at Washington based "Idea Factory" Intellectual Ventures
, a place with modern goals like stomping out malaria and preventing hurricanes. This is after his old job as part-time rocket scientist
Remember that X-files episode
? The one with the robot cockroaches from outer space
? Well, scientists
in Belgium have created
robots that act like cockroaches, and are accepted by the real cockroaches
because they smell sexy to them. Better yet, the scientists were able to use the robots to change
how the cockroaches behaved. [more inside]
Ruining science fiction: Not only are the science fiction cliches humorously skewered in the Tough Guide to the Known Galaxy
, but the science itself is wrong. For example, despite the best efforts of SF writers
, interstellar trade will never work
, unless wine costs $11 billion a bottle
. Slower-than-light travel is much harder than you think
, and warp drives are far away
. Space battles, if they happen, won't have fighters and dramatic dogfights, but instead involve vast distances and maneuvers lasting years
. And you can ruin a whole lot more science fiction with real science (and wonderful examples) at Atomic Rocket
. Don't follow the links if you want to read Heinlein or watch Battlestar Galactica with a light heart.
Where did you want to live when you grew up? If you're like me, you read Clarke's SF classic
, Rendezvous with Rama
(soon to be
a major motion picture
?). Donald E. Davis took what we dreamed about and illustrated it, for NASA. His depictions
of O'Neill Cylinders
, Stanford Tori
, and Bernal Spheres
are in the public domain
(and make excellent desktop wallpaper).
Where Science Meets Fiction
"Explore the wide variety of inventions and ideas of science fiction writers - over 975 are available on Technovelgy (that's tek-novel-gee!)." Science fiction inventions become reality. Sort of.
We believe that we invent symbols. The truth is that they invent us; we are their creatures, shaped by their hard, defining edges. When soldiers take their oath they are given a coin, an asimi stamped with the profile of the Autarch. Their acceptance of that coin is their acceptance of the special duties and burdens of military life--they are soldiers from that moment, though they may know nothing of the management of arms. I did not know that then, but it is a profound mistake to believe that we must know of such things to be influenced by them, and in fact to believe so is to believe in the most debased and superstitious kind of magic. The would-be sorcerer alone has faith in the efficacy of pure knowledge; rational people know that things act of themselves or not at all.Gene Wolfe
- Now step within Father Inire's mirrors....
Just how plausable is time travel?
Could you go back in time and kill your own grandfather?
. Would you want to? Time travel is a popular subject for films
, but do the writers work out exactly what is happening?
Current opinion seems to be that time travel is only possible to the future, and is only one way, by travelling at near light speed
. However despite this, time machines seem to already be on sale
Alternate universes may exist besides our own in some ghostly manner. Various science-fiction series explore parallel universes
, but what do serious physicists think? Hugh Everett III's doctoral thesis outlines a controversial theory in which the universe at every instant branches into countless parallel worlds
. Physicist Andrei Linde's theory of self-reproducing universes
implies that new universes are being created all the time through a budding process. Stephen Hawking's quantum cosmology
also suggests the possibility of other universes connected by wormholes. Some scientists feel that the famous photon double slit experiments
proves the existence of parallel universes in which a photon from one universe interacts with a photon from another. Black hole theory suggests that black holes may be portals to parallel universes
Science-fiction stories about parallel universes always delight the mind. Two of my favorite SF novels on parallel universes are Heinlein's Job
and Number of the Beast
. Several others intrigue me, such as The Neoreality Series
, and Parallelities
. Science books on the subject include a famous book
by David Deutsch.
Do you have any favorite books on parallel universes or parallel realities, fiction or nonfiction?
What do you think? No doubt, scientists and science-fiction authors
will continue to explore the concept in the decades to come.
A Few Words About Jack Vance. Gersen entered a hall with a floor of immaculate white glass tiles. On one hand was the display wall, characteristic of middle-class European homes; here hung a panel intricately inlaid with wood, bone and shell: Lenka workmanship from Nowhere, one of the Concourse planets; a set of perfume points from Pamfile; a rectangle of polished and perforated obsidian; and one of the so-called "supplication slabs"* from Lupus 23II.
* The nonhuman natives of Peninsula 4A, Lupus 23II, devote the greater part of their lives to the working of these slabs, which apparently have a religious significance. Twice each year, at the solstices, two hundred and twenty-four microscopically exact slabs are placed aboard a ceremonial barge, which is then allowed to drift out upon the ocean. The Lupus Salvage Company maintains a ship just over the horizon from peninsula 4A. As soon as the raft has drifted out of sight of land, it is recovered, the slabs are removed, exported and sold as objets d'art.
(Not for season ticket holders to The Short Attention Span Theater