“I suppose earlier generations had to sit through all this huffing and puffing with the invention of television, the phone, cinema, radio, the car, the bicycle, printing, the wheel and so on, but you would think we would learn the way these things work, which is this:
1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;
2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;
3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.
Apply this list to movies, rock music, word processors and mobile phones to work out how old you are.”—
Hey Bob I’m looking at what Jack was talking about and it’s definitely not a particle that’s nearby. It is a bright object and it’s obviously rotating because it’s flashing, it’s way out in the distance, certainly rotating in a very rhythmic fashion because the flashes come around almost on time. As we look back at the earth it’s up at about 11 o’clock, about maybe ten or twelve diame…Earth diameters. I don’t know whether that does you any good, but there’s something out there.
One of the crown jewels of contemporary speculative fiction is Iain M. Banks’ Culture series. The books deal with a utopian civilization called simply “The Culture,” which is composed of “seven or eight humanoid species” along with Artificial Intellegences (AIs). The Culture is more than 9,000 years old, and spans the Milky Way; but it is only one of hundreds of space-faring civilizations in the galaxy.
Despite the Culture’s long history and incredible technology, Banks has said that the stories already written take place from about 1300 AD to 2100 AD — In our past or near future! I love that subtle jab at our own civilization. How primitive and ignorant might we seem, if only we knew what else was out there?
I am ashamed to say that I’ve never finished a Culture novel. I started and abandoned both Consider Phlebas (the first Culture book, though they don’t need to be read in order) and Excession. I will have to remedy that soon! In the meantime, I did pick up Banks’ collection The State of the Art, which features two Culture stories and an essay called “A Few Notes on The Culture.” That essay is a wonderful overview of this beautifully complex fictional civilization.
Here’s a taste:
[V]irtually everyone in the Culture carries the results of genetic manipulation in every cell of their body; it is arguably the most reliable signifier of Culture status.
Thanks to that genetic manipulation, the average Culture human will be born whole and healthy and of significantly (though not immensely) greater intelligence than their basic human genetic inheritance might imply. There are thousands of alterations to that human-basic inheritance […] but the major changes the standard Culture person would expect to be born with would include an optimized immune system and enhanced senses, freedom from inheritable diseases or defects, the ability to control their autonomic processes and nervous system (pain can, in effect, be switched off), and to survive and fully recover from wounds which would either kill or permanently mutilate without such genetic tinkering.
The vast majority of people are also born with greatly altered glands housed within their central nervous systems, usually referred to as “drug glands.” These secrete — on command — mood- and sensory-appreciation-altering compounds into the person’s bloodstream. A similar preponderance of Culture inhabitants have subtly altered reproductive organs — and control over the associated nerves — to enhance sexual pleasure. Ovulation is at will in the female, and a fetus up to a certain stage may be re-absorbed, aborted, or held at a static point in its development; again, as willed. An elaborate thought-code, self-administered in a trance-like state (or simply a consistent desire, even if not conscious) will lead, over the course of about a year, to what amounts to a viral change from one sex into the other. The convention — tradition, even — in the Culture during the time of the stories written so far is that each person should give birth to one child in their lives.
It’s worth noting that Culture people generally live between three and four hundred years, but do die — Although there are exceptions!
Some people choose biological immortality; others have their personality transcribed into AIs and die happy feeling they continue to exist elsewhere; others again go into Storage, to be woken in more (or less) interesting times, or only every decade, or century, or aeon, or over exponentially increasing intervals, or only when it looks like something really different is happening…
I love speculative fiction exactly for this sort of imaginative evaluation of all the various ways human civilization could be improved. Not to put us down; just to put our achievements and failures in the bigger-picture context of what might be possible if we stopped killing each other and started working together.
The Culture stories are largely about problems and paradoxes that confront liberal societies […] Even the Culture has to compromise its ideals where diplomacy and its own security are concerned. (wikipedia).
A lot of games on sale on Steam from today to December 3 (and there will be an other big sale probably around the end of December).
For those who use Steam, what games do you like (among the games you have played at least some time)? The idea is to make a list of various titles, don’t hesitate to name less known games.
Me, I like: Bionic Dues (recent, 2D tactical turn-based game where we choose robotic armors to fight robots), Machinarium (adventure, puzzle),Terraria, Thomas Was Alone (platformer), Psychonauts (2006), Tomb Raider: Legend (2006), and The Bridge (puzzle game). (Note: Because of my system, I play games that don’t require too much graphically. But I don’t ask the question for me specially, you can name any game.)
So, what games do you like ? (not a lot of place to write in the answers, you can simply give the titles).
“Iain Banks, who has died aged 59, was a novelist who achieved popularity and critical success in two separate fields: literary fiction, for which he appeared on the first Granta list of young writers beside the likes of Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie and AN Wilson; and, as Iain M Banks, science fiction, much of it set in an interstellar anarcho-communist utopia called The Culture.”—
An area from West Montreal to Cornwall, Ont., to upstate New York was reportedly rocked by the sound of a massive explosion at around 8 p.m. Tuesday (November 26), but with no immediate evidence of structural damage on the ground, residents began speculating that the boom had come from the cosmos.
“People are reporting a blue flash of light that lasted a couple of seconds and then a loud booming sound. This has the hallmark of a meteor blast,” said Andrew Fazekas, a spokesman with the Montreal Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. “It could be anywhere from the size of a living room sofa to the size of a car.”
Frederik Pohl, the author and editor often credited as changing the face of modern science fiction died today at age 93. One of last survivors of science fiction’s “golden age” of the late 1930s and 1940s, a time when he contributed to and edited pulp fiction magazines, he was also an important figure in the emergence of fandom, founding the “Futurians”.
Pohl, whose first published novel (with Cyril M. Kornbluth) was The Space Merchants in 1953, wrote dozens of books including Man Plus and Gateway, both of which won the Nebula Award. His work inspired the later works of writers like Philip K. Dick, with The Space Merchants in particular serving a social commentary cloaked in a science fiction tale about a dystopian, corporate-controlled future.
He could also pen purest space opera. The World at the End of Time made a protagonist out of an immortal being living in the heart of stars and waging war with its kind across aeons, in the process flinging a human into a distant future not far removed from the heat death of the universe.
As an editor, Pohl helped to discover and promote emerging writers like Samuel R. Delany with Dhalgren and Joanna Russ with The Female Man.
The last twelve months has also seen the deaths of science fiction giants Harry Harrison, Jack Vance, and Iain Banks.
R.I.P. Frederik Pohl (November 26 1919 - September 2 2013)
I was preparing a post about Pohl’s birthday and I discovered he passed away this year (and Iain Banks too!). Now, among the great sci-fi writers born in the 1910’s-1920’s (Vance, Asimov,Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Frank Herbert, Theodore Sturgeon, Philip K. Dick and more) only Brian Aldiss (1925) and Ursula K. Leguin (1929) are still alive (if I didn’t forget someone).
Crossed Genres, an amazing spec fic mag that specifically looks for queer, POC, disabled, non-western and traditionally underrepresented characters and authors in speculative fiction is doing their subscription drive so they can stay open another year. They encourage new writers and underrepresented writers to submit to them.
$15 will get you free spec fic for a year in your inbox. $30 means that you’ll get two paper anthologies as well. A donation of any size will mean that when ridiculous privileged geek bros say “there’s just no market for stories about people who AREN’T white cis male antiheroes” you can go, “yes there is, and they pay pro rate”. Spread the word! Reblog the links! They now offer gift subscriptions if you have a friend you were going to spend $15 on for Winter Holiday — now you don’t even have to pay shipping.
And my selfish disclosure is I have been gnashing my teeth with impatience for their early 2013 themes to open up YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND TIME TRAVEL AND THEN FOOD they’re the perfect place for me to try and start publishing fiction for money. I can’t do that if they close their doors because they don’t have enough subscribers!
My ninth favourite theme song is a version used only once for the Doctor Who pilot in 1963. I like this version better because the echo and thunder clap make the already mysterious and scary theme that much more mysterious and scary.
This version of the theme was remastered from the pilot episode by gwylock1
For a quick overview of 50 years of Doctor Who, you can get a look on my archive for the past twelve days.
I made this long series of posts in part to know a little better the classic Doctors. That was fun to choose these posts and to share them with you, readers.
Where I live, the Day of the Doctor is presented this afternoon (eastern time), on a Canadian channel (ztélé, in French). But I must go somewhere and I will watch it only this evening. I have seen the end of season 7, on this channel, a few days ago. This episode, and the two online mini-episodes, were very good, and I can’t wait for tonight.
Happy 50th anniversary to a great show! And good Day of the Doctor to all Whovians.
“I remember a man stopping me in Oxford Street
once, looking at me with absolute incredulity; he
couldn’t believe it. He said, ‘Tom Baker?’ A man in
his late thirties. I said, ‘Yes’. He said, ‘Tom Baker?’ I
said, ‘Yes!’ And he looked at me and in his brain he
catapulted back in time and he said, ‘You know, when I
was a boy, I was in a home for children; nobody wanted
us, you know? It was terrible. And you made Saturday
night good.’ And I went to say something to him and I
could see him so close to tears that he couldn’t speak.
And he shook his head as if to say, ‘Don’t go on, don’t
remind me’ and he just did [a thumbs up]. Such a
common thing, isn’t it, but suddenly backed up with
an expression on his face through his tears that was
a knighthood. It was a knighthood. Just thumbs up,
meaning it was great, and thanks. It’s incredible, isn’t
it? Just a gesture.”—Tom Baker (via timewandererdavid)