Monday, August 13, 2012

Sci-News, Sci-Fi News... and Brin-news!

I will be in Pasadena again this Thursday for a fun event before a live audience -- broadcast over NPR by KPCC FM:  NEXT: Our Inevitable Future | Science and Technology as Global Game Changers.

"Science and technology are converging to change the global game; and nowhere is that change more clear than in the words of scientist and futurist David Brin, one of our best science fiction writers, and the work of Paul Rosenbloom, a lead researcher on artificial intelligence. From Isaac Asimov to Brin's new novel, "Existence," science fiction has often looked at whether AI will outpace the human brain and lead us into a brave new world, or has it already? In this premiere edition of our series, “NEXT: People | Science | Tomorrow,“ Brin and Rosenbloom join host Mat Kaplan in the Crawford Family Forum to talk about our cyber future. Will humanity survive and even thrive when the Singularity arrives?"

Or else watch an interview with Terry Tazoli on Tacoma's PBS station, in an episode of "Well Read" about books and writing and such. The YouTube version is available worldwide!

== Special Editions of novels you'll want! ==

Have a look at the terrific new covers that Orbit is giving nine of my books... including EARTH and THE POSTMAN...plus two new omnibus volumes.  The collection UPLIFT will combine within one cover the entire original trilogy consistingof SUNDIVER, STARTIDE RISING and THE UPLIFT WAR ...

...while the new omnibus entitled EXILES will gather into a single volume BRIGHTNESS REEF, INFINITY'S SHORE and HEAVEN'S REACH, constituting what they always were... one terrific (though large) freestanding novel. filled with ideas and adventure.

All these re-issues (have a look at the cool covers) will accompany the imminent release of Orbit's new printing of EXISTENCE.

Like your version of a novel on audio?  The new edition of Existence by Audible uses three narrators to excellent effect, making this complex and tightly interleaved tale come alive with real drama.  Let me know what (some of you) think of it!

== Other News -- and Interviews ==

On Haystack Broadcasting's show Cover to Cover: Book Beat, Rodger Nichols speaks with Author David Brin about his new book, Existence.  See also the podcast of my interview with GeekWired on WIRED Online: Why David Brin Hates Yoda, and Loves Radical Transparency. (This is the one where I infamously challenge Yoda-lovers to name ONE time when the horrid little toad ever was helpful to anyone or did or said one thing that was un-ambiguously "wise.")


Then there's a separate, more sober interview with Frank Catalano for Geekwire.  Here's a tantalyzing excerpt. "It may surprise you that I, the Hard-SF Guy, believe there’s magic. But let’s define it as the use of incantations to create vivid subjective realities in other people’s heads. That’s what most magic has always been. The shaman might not really be able to make it rain. But if his shtick was good, he would get fed! By that light, we authors, especially in science fiction, are the greatest and most consistent magicians. We concoct long incantations — chains of spaces and black squiggles (a million of them in Existence) — and skilled recipients of the spell (well-educated readers) proceed to scan those squiggles with their eyes, decrypting them swiftly into clever dialogue, deep emotions and insight, or star-spanning explosions. This partnership of spell-weaver and incantation-user is stunning, and remains far more effective for the full-rich texture of invented worlds than any competing medium." 

See the stunning artwork by Manny Lorenzo based on my Earthclan omnibus of the Uplift Series -- both striking and inspiring. Have a look at the original. 

== Heart of the Comet ... and Glory Season ==

You've heard that Gregory Benford and I updated and re-released Heart of the Comet -- named one of the great Hard SF novels of the 1980s. But have you seen the remarkably beautiful  preview -trailer?

And while we're at it... take a look at the preview-trailer for Glory Season!

Here's your chance for a virtual visit to the world's largest, publicly-accessible science fiction and fantasy collection, the Eaton Collection at UC Riverside. The new YouTube series "It Came from Riverside,"  explores some of the treasures inside this virtual temple of science fiction, and explores the growing acceptance of SF as a field of academic study. Well... it gets you started down that road.  Consider seeing the collection in person as part of the Eaton Conference on SF at literature, April 11-14 2013 at UC Riverside.

=== More Science and Fiction Connections! ===

Universal Kilns, anyone? Imagine a futuristic simulation system that can morph nearly any object imagined into another object with different size, shape, color and function.  The building units that make this amazing system possible include tiny micro robots called claytronic atoms, or 'catoms', which interact with each other. They behave like atoms in the sense that they become the basic building blocks of the objects they are programmed to form.

Okay... this sounded familiar... and not just because of the "claytronics" in my novel Kiln People.  Between the lines I realized... then saw in the article... that this is a new term for "programmable matter"... the innovation of my friend and engineer-Scifi author Wil McCarthy.  Ah but the overlaps get better.

"However, the biggest advantage in claytronics may lie in communications. People on both ends of a phone call could be copied; and these copies would mimic the exact looks and movements of the person being replicated. At each end of the line, a real person is interacting with a replica. Think Skype; but instead of viewing each other on a screen, you can touch, kiss, or hug, as if you are physically together. When can we expect these futuristic systems to begin enriching our lives?

Wil McCarthy believes that with Moore's Law accelerating progress, these claytronic wonders could be intriguing us by decade's end."  Hmph and they call ME a sci fi writer?  ;-)

=== Personhood Rights for Animals? ===

As an author who has portrayed (very positively) the descendants of animals joining our civilization as equal citizens, you might expect me to be fully behind the nascent Animal Rights Movement.  But life is filled with ironies and complications and - as I portray in Existence, the path to full citizenship for neo-dolphins and neo-chimps and others may not pass through the Nonhuman Rights Project elucidated in a recent legal argument by Steven M. Wise. Indeed, while I agree with many of the things that he says, I find his overall plan to be rather shortsighted and too focused on the near term.  An example of how the left can take our worthy modern inclusionary trends and push them too simplistically, too fetishistically. (While the right considers inclusionary progress to be suspect or delusional; both extremes are foolish.)

People who believe they are taking a larger perspective and Big Picture sometimes fool themselves.  All too often... they aren't.

== And finally...

Yes, I've been talking about sci fi a fair amount.  Maybe to recharge my batteries for a month or two in which that dread term ... politics... will feature more prominently here, for a while.  Sigh and alack!  But it's important.

As demonstrated by the recent Mars landing, America still matters.  It will be better for the world and all its people if we can put an end to the insane Third Phase of the American Civil War.  And it won't be decided by normal politics, folks.  Not by the usual squeaker-slim majority.

It will have to be a rout.

61 comments:

sparecake.com said...

I don't have it, but abebooks seems to have the book you're looking for in the $5-6 range, shipped. They're usually pretty good!

http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sts=t&tn=and+then+the+town+took+off

herewiss13 said...

Is there any information out there on exactly how you updated the text? Is it just minor tweaks or is the novel fundamentally changed (or somewhere in between)?

David Brin said...

Biggest change in Heart of the Comet was my 2012 introduction. But we both sifted through it, as well, tweaking and updating. Mostly minor stuff.

adastra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patricia Mathews said...

The Orbit books say ANZ/UK. Are they also available in the States?

Patricia Mathews said...

You said "It may surprise you that I, the Hard-SF Guy, believe there’s magic. But let’s define it as the use of incantations to create vivid subjective realities in other people’s heads. That’s what most magic has always been."

I'm not surprised in the least. Dion Fortune, who was a top of the line occultist in her day, defined magic as "the art and science of changing consciousness in accordance with will." This is the definition I use because it explains the shaman's actual victories - healing, putting people at ease with their environment (or why Navajo veterans have an Enemy Way ceremony done for them when they come home) and good luck in risky or chancy enterprises like hunting and athletics.

The faith healer does the same thing.

David Brin said...

The one proved efficacy of prayer is the tapping of personal inner strength. Which says absolutely nothing about the existence of God, but suggests that religion in some form will be with us for a very long time.

Robert said...

Off of science fiction for a moment, but I thought Dr. Brin might enjoy this article about a mutual fund owner who believes on the principles of Adam Smith and is calling for taxes against rapid trade and for increased regulation of the industry. It's a fascinating article, and definitely one that should be read.

Rob H.

Carl M. said...

But Yoda could be a minor energy source.

Carl M. said...

Oops. Forgot the link: http://what-if.xkcd.com/3/

Tony Fisk said...

Came across an interesting initiative (courtesy of New Scientist) that segues into the Age of Amateurs very neatly, if it gets going.

Marblar seeks to highlight cool but unused discoveries that are lying fallow in some scientific departments, and seeing if people can spot an application somewhere else.

----

On Star Wars Trials. Having tried to spring Darth Vader from the Pen., I'm less interested doing the same for Yoda.

I haven't read the trials, but wonder if motive was discussed? Was the possibility raised that Darth Sidious' master was a certain Darth OvenMitt?

Fit it would, and Sith Lords always get an augmented hand/mitt! (even the Master got a Dalek plunger in 'Curse of Fatal Death'!)

sociotard said...

Again, Yoda did pull Luke's X-wing out of the swamp, which was awful helpful of him.

Anyway, I wondered if you would clarify this point from the last thread.

"I am a member of a civilization -- the only one EVER -- that does stuff like this!
. . .
could you find for me where I said the words "west" or "western" in this missive or any recent one?


The only one. One. Singular. Either
A) you were including China in with the same civilization the US is part of or
B) you were ignoring the fact that China and India have rapidly expanding space programs.

If you were not refering to the Neo West in that first line, please tell us to what you were referring.

David Brin said...

President Barack Obama placed a congratulatory telephone call to the NASA team behind the Mars "Curiosity" rover, joking he might go for a Mohawk to emulate flight director Bobak Ferdowsi, and quipping that he needed to be told "right away" if the probe finds any little green men.

"If, in fact, you do make contact with Martians, please let me know right away," he said in the call. "I've got a lot of other things on my plate, but I suspect that that will go to the top of the list. Even if they're just microbes, it will be pretty exciting."

On a more serious note, Obama congratulated the team on Curiosity's successful landing on the Red Planet a week ago and praised the technical skill required as "mind-boggling."
"What you've accomplished embodies the American spirit, and your passion and your commitment is making a difference," he said."
"'Curiosity' is going to be telling us things that we did not know before and laying the groundwork for an even more audacious undertaking in the future, and that's a human mission to the Red Planet," Obama said.

And he pledged his "personal commitment to protect" government investments in science and technology.

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/obama-praises-curiosity-team-says-mohawk-guy-inspired-213915456.html

David Brin said...

Yoda pulled out the x wing in order to snub and lord it over Luke. And to ensure he'd not be stuck with the brat.

Ian Gould said...

And if he HADN'T pulled it out, Luke would have stuck around until his training was complete as Yoda wished.

David Brin said...

As he CLAIMED he wished. Remember what an incredible liar Yoda was. In fact, I cannot think of a single thing he EVER says that is unambiguously verified by things we actually see happen. e.g. "Go you might, but all will be ruined!"

... except when Luke goes he does great good, rescues friends and becomes much much stronger.

$%$# little green lying toad.

Rob said...

Yup. It's that "difference between knowing the path and walking it" stuff so common in facile gnomic philosophy, the kind people think religious teachers give, because they think Jesus taught in riddles, rather than metaphors.

It's not a surprise that you find it distasteful, David: Yoda is a Pious Liar. He tells you things so that you'll do what he thinks is right, whether or not the facts support them. The riddles distract from the loose playing with fact.

But it takes things a little too far, y'know, because Star Wars is incoherent anyway. There's no such thing as that many idiotic imperial troops.

Tony Fisk said...

Anybody wonder if Yoda was 'standing' on the X-wing that Luke was trying to pull out?

Hmm! What about telling Obi-Wan about Qui Gon Jong's shade wafting around Tatooine? (although, since Qui-Gon died on Naboo, I'm not sure why he ended up there: prospecting for Chlorchondria particles?)

I suppose that got a potential rival shuffled off to an obscure backwater.

Robert said...

Quick question, seeing it's been a decade or more since I last watched Star Wars and I refuse to buy it on DVD until Lucas puts out the Original Uncut Undoctored version of Star Wars... was Luke all set to leave before he failed to pull the X-Wing out of the muck? Or did it start to sink while he was practicing the Force and holding R2 up, Luke got all whiny, was "unable" to pull it out, and Yoda lifted it out to prove to Luke that the Force was greater than he was imagining?

If it's the latter, then Yoda pulled it out to teach Luke a lesson, not to let Luke escape the cesspool of a planet they were on. (And what the hell was up with that planet anyway? A single biome world? You DON'T have one big swamp for an entire planetary mass. Now, having Yoda hiding IN the swamp makes more sense... but that's a different situation entirely.

Rob H.

The Physicist said...

If you are updating books, do you have any plans to revisit "The Transparent Society"? This would probably be more of a re-write than a simple update, though, since many of the legal and technical points are out of date (a danger of the non-fictional political essay genre). Maybe an official '2nd edition'? Update your views for a pots-9/11 post-2008-stoc-crash world?

greg byshenk said...

David, following up on some of the 'budget' stuff, two recent notes:


"Ryan’s revised plan, passed by the House in 2011, wouldn’t reach balance until the 2030s while adding $14 trillion in debt. It adds $6 trillion in debt over the next decade alone — yet Republicans had the chutzpah to say they wouldn’t raise the debt limit!"
Matt Miller, "Understanding the Ryan Plan"

"Ryan's fairy tale budget plan" -- this from noted lefty David Stockman.

David Brin said...

Tony: “Anybody wonder if Yoda was 'standing' on the X-wing that Luke was trying to pull out?”

Har! !!!!!! Makes sense!

Note, the Emperor is probably a cousin of Amidalah… the aristocratic families of Naboo are probably related by marriage. And we haven’t a clue where Anekin’s mother came from, but it might’ve been, since Tatooine is along the path from Naboo, or she got knocked up by Palpatine during a slumming visit. In any event, it appears that the entire galaxy was shredded by a tiff within one family of F43!ing mutants.

Robert the bigger issue is why Yoda was hiding for 20 years instead of teaching some new Jedi in secret. A liar and a coward.

Reply to The Physicist: Basic Books did ask me to update The Transparent Society . But I keep getting mail commenting on how surprisingly well it holds up… and right now novels take priority.

The Physicist said...

Not saying it doesn't hold up. I was just reading the part where you posit what might happen if the world trade center was attacked, and wondering how that would have read if it had been written a few years later.

Robert said...

Or there is an alternative possibility: Yoda realized that the Jedi Order was corrupt, allowed Vader to rise to power (and was careful to guard his back), and let his brethren be slaughtered deliberately to eliminate any sources of knowledge concerning what Jedi should be like. He then convinced Kenobi that it was the Order itself that brought about its downfall and suggested rather than training Luke and indoctrinating him, they let Luke grow up and make his own decisions. They then taught him the barest minimum of what he needed to know to survive and flourish... and died.

No doubt Yoda left his home several times to track down hiding Jedi and left trails to them so that Vader would go off in a huff once more, slaughter yet another Jedi, and then go home all happy and content. In short... Yoda used Vader (and Sideous) to bring about the destruction of a scientific-religious order that was outdated and corrupt, and died of old age having manipulated everything (including Kenobi).

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

Yoda used Vader (and Sideous) to bring about the destruction of a scientific-religious order that was outdated and corrupt, and died of old age having manipulated everything (including Kenobi).


So he's the Vito Corleone of the Galaxy? Or would Michael Corleone be more appropriate?

Rob said...

Yeah... no. Yoda isn't that clever.

David Brin said...

Rob H. Kinda convoluted, since in order to do that he wrecked the whole Republic and billions died on Alderan etc. Further, Mac Windoo spoke repeatedly for responsible Jedi behavior.

FOr such a scenario to be credible, we'd have to be shown actual cases of do-gooder jedi squelching freedom and hope in countless ways and systematically. Some of the novelizers imply this a tad. But the movies show nothing like it.

Jonathan S. said...

Robert, there's a two-disc DVD of Ep IV out. On the "Bonus Disc", there is a complete copy of the original, unaltered theatrical release of Star Wars - no "Episode IV", no subtitle, Han shoots Greedo because waiting would be suicidally stupid, etc. (And as he leaves, Ford plays it as if Han was a little stunned by his own actions, not like the smug killer Lucas seemed to have originally envisioned if Lucas' own excuses for the alteration are to be believed.) It even has the bad matte-work around the attacking TIE fighters.

swequit 616: Satan giving notice to his employers at Marvel.

Ian Gould said...

"Robert the bigger issue is why Yoda was hiding for 20 years instead of teaching some new Jedi in secret."

For me the real question (bearing mind I was almost asleep for the latter part of Chapter 3) is why after Yoda on his own is just barely defeated by Sideous, doesn't he get Obi-Wan and go back kick Sideous arse with Obi-Wan's help?

Ian Gould said...

And. of course when I say Sidious I mean Palpatine.


I did say I was half-asleep at the time.

Matt G. said...


Carl M. said...

But Yoda could be a minor energy source

That was hilarious! Be sure to look up the page discussing a mole of moles.

adastra said...

I'm delighted to hear of the forthcoming omnibus editions of the uplift novels. I love omnibus editions, and I've been looking forward to re-reading the uplift novels for a while now.

Will they be available in ebook format? It's virtually the only format I buy books in these days--although I occasionally spring for hardcover books if they are printed on acid-free paper.

Tony Fisk said...

I wonder if there are any Yoda iPod skins out there? ... Why yes! Yes, there are!

(Worth making a few just to get a rise from George's lawyers!)

Anyway, back to motive: Do Yoda's actions make more sense if he's a Sith lord?

Let's see what we can do with the Plot of the Gaps... Yoda infiltrates the Jedi as a setup piece for Palpatine (maybe he realises that small and green doesn't make the imperial cut!? Besides, it's more fun being behind the throne; just ask Darth Rummy!)

True! Keeping your enemies (like Mace Windu) closer than your 'friends' takes a lot of effort, but hey! That's what all that training was about!

Possibly he and Palpatine fall out (as all good Sith master/apprentice arrangements do) Palpatine starts building his own power base (Maul, and the Clone army). After Maul attacks Qui-Gon and Obi Wan, Yoda, possibly as a cover for himself, decides to start outing Palpatine by pointing Mace at the Sith records.

The Joker is, of course, that bloody kid from Tattoine that Qui Gon drags home with him!

Refusing Anakin training might have been a circuit breaker to prevent a new and very powerful piece being placed on the board. Ultimately, it meant that his training fell to a rather junior Obi Wan (with an increasing interest by Palpatine) Yoda may have underestimated a poorly trained Anakin, or come to view him as a means of playing the Jedi and Palpatine off against each other.

Maybe Yoda intended to invoke order 66 himself, after Windu had knocked off Palpatine. Things went awry when Anakin (or, as I contend, Anakin's clone) turned the tables for Palpatine, and Palpatine was forced into action.

... or is this all too convoluted? Maybe all it takes is to add one line of dialogue in SWIII just before the final fight:
Palpatine: "So we meet again, Darth Kermit! But, this time, *I* am the master!" ... *ZAP!!*

David Brin said...


Ian said: "For me the real question (bearing mind I was almost asleep for the latter part of Chapter 3) is why after Yoda on his own is just barely defeated by Sideous, doesn't he get Obi-Wan and go back kick Sideous arse with Obi-Wan's help?"

Happens again and again. I liked Mace Windoo, who was wise every time Yoda over-ruled him about TELLING the Republic stuff. He was the only Jedi to refuse Yoda's order to charge into a suicide trap, instead he did his JOB as a secret agent and almost captured Sideous. If ONE more Jedi had helped him....

But it is hopeless guys. My son and I watched RED TAILS tonight and it was worse than we imagined possible.

I had hoped for Lucas redux/renewed. I honestly wanted that! But the dialogue was insipid, repetitive, predictable and puerile. I recall the TV miniseries "Tuskeegee Airmen" that ran some years ago and on 3% of the budget it had drama and intensity and laughs and coolness.

Red Tails... did you know that 50 caliber bullets hitting a German destroyer will cause the iron deck and wall plates to EXPLODE? AT least there was air for the fighters to bank through.

"Do Yoda's actions make more sense if he's a Sith lord?"

Well... the Sith make about as much sense as anything in Lucas's univers. Always a master and one apprentice... Huh? How do you conquer shit with THAT? But then, Darth Maul attacks on Tatooine without the slightest plan or reason! Dig it... he seems to be trying to STOP the Queen from going to the capital...

... when her presence there is CRITICAL to Palpatine's plan! Is there a moment of logic ANYWHERE in the series?

Yes... there was in Empire.

But Tony, you have swallowed the koolaid re the Clone Army. Dig it, the tall dudes on Kamino are SMART! When they say "Jedi Council funds paid for the army" why would they lie or be stupid?

Dig it... WHO COLLECTS THE CLONE ARMY???? And he collects it RIGHT after ordering the Jedi into a suicide attack? Who the F needs Palpatine?
Darth Kermit!!!

Robert said...

Sorry. Going to drag in another political commentary link: from what I can tell, it's a libertarian's perspective on Paul Ryan which basically states Ryan ain't a fiscal conservative.

Anyway, enjoy!

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

What Kool-aid would that be? It was blatantly obvious that the clone army was not to be trusted, and had been commissioned by Sideous, either acting on orders from Kermit, or by his own initiative, and embezzlement techniques.(I can only assume that long years of the Boba Ditts' unswerving obedience, combined with a 'Yoda knows best' mentality, had lulled the rest of the Jedi into a torpor)

Maybe Yoda's 'sags' each time a Jedi died wasn't him reacting to the disturbance in the Force, but him concentrating on setting them up for the kill*. (until the 'Hey, not *me* you idiots!!' moment. That distraction may have been why Obi Wan survived)

*Did he react to Mace's death in the same way?

Tony Fisk said...

PS All this speculation is just me trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. I'm quite aware that 'Darth Kermit' and 'Clone Vader' are totally at odds with what Lucas intended.

Tim H. said...

"Darth Kermit", amusing, but Frank Oz did that voice, so it's gotta' be "Darth Piggy". "Red Tails" to me was typical Hollywood, think John Wayne's "Flying Tigers" with updated special effects, at least the P-40 was accurately portrayed as effective below 15,000'. Despite my agreement with most of the Star Wars criticism, if an episode 7 was made, I would buy a ticket.

Robert said...

Only if Timothy Zahn was doing the writing. =^-^=

Tony Fisk said...

Vale Harry Harrison

Ian Gould said...

Harry Harrison has died.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

But then, Darth Maul attacks on Tatooine without the slightest plan or reason! Dig it... he seems to be trying to STOP the Queen from going to the capital...

... when her presence there is CRITICAL to Palpatine's plan!


Darth Maul was, to me, the epitome of a then-new kind of marketing blitz. Fans had already been beseiged by images of Darth Maul in advertisements, trailers, McDonalds tie-ins, etc, so that you just knew he was an amazing, bad-ass character.

So what he actually did in the movie itself was almost irrelevant. The audience is so full of expectations about Maul's awesomeness that afterwards, you are supposed to "remember" having seen what you expected, rather than what you actually did see on screen (which was almost nothing).

Robert said...

The plan likely was for the Queen to narrowly escape while the noble Jedi died protecting her. Undoubtedly if Maul had killed Kenobi and Qui-Gon, either in the initial confrontation, or later on Naboo, he'd then have faded into the background and let things fall where they would. He wasn't there for the Trade Federation. He was there to impart an extra sense of fear on the Queen so she'd take that extra foolish step and start dismantling what semblance of Democracy that the Republic had.

Mind you, it was still a puerile movie (though if Jar Jar and the Trade Federation had spoken with subtitles only then the movie would have improved significantly, though still significantly below even the worse of the original Trilogy movies). Darths and Droids took a far more interesting and amusing look at it and created a story that made a bit more sense (with Little Orphan Annie being behind the destruction of the Jedi and manipulating Palpatine).

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Johnathan S:

Han shoots Greedo because waiting would be suicidally stupid, etc. (And as he leaves, Ford plays it as if Han was a little stunned by his own actions, not like the smug killer Lucas seemed to have originally envisioned if Lucas' own excuses for the alteration are to be believed.)


Of all the alterations to the first movie that I dislike, that's the one that seems (to me) to be the least defensible.

The original scene in which Han shoots first (but just barely so) is a character-establishing vignette. "Han knows when to act, and he doesn't waste time worrying about sympathy with the guy trying to kill him." That sort of thing. Lucas's later excuses weren't that the scene was filmed badly, but that he changed his mind about Han's character and went about retconning it in the films.

The idea that Han, being a "good guy", can't engage in self-defense unless the kill-shot is already on its way is ludicrous. Lucas is defacing his own film UNNECESSARILY in order to portray Han as a hero.

And if Han's character needed retconning, what about Indiana Jones? Did that guy twirling the sword shoot first too?

Tony Fisk said...

Meanwhile, in the UK, Ecuador's president promised not to embarrass the UK government over the Assange affair until after the Olympics. It would appear that the UK government is about to embarrass itself, by breaking in to the embassy and taking Assange by force.

Tony Fisk said...

Assange update: no move on embassy yet, but there was one of those farcical scenes earlier where two vanloads of British Bobbies were poised to enter, while a pizza delivery man actually did so..

Live feed from the street is being DDosd, This is a smart swarm/counter-swarm situation straight out of Existence. All we need are the zeppelins... (diplomacy department will probably be providing a few lead ones later)

Tim H. said...

40% through Existence, only noticed one minor nit, in the introduction to part three it's History of the world, part I. Smoother reading than Earth, Dr. Brin's art improves over the years.

Paul451 said...

Re: The Jedi being a cyclic phenomenon.

I was thinking of the "Guild" in Vernon Vinge's The Witling. Unusually gifted children are removed to the care of powerful elders, lest they terrorise their home villages. You can imagine something similar with especially gifted potential Jedi who discover their power on their own (or by rediscovering old texts.) Too easy for them to dominate their local region, and use that to found an empire. Hence Jedi Wizard School to the rescue! But if/when the educators become factionalised, then it becomes a race between factions to recruit more potential Jedi, recruiting earlier and earlier, before rivals can get hold of them, until you're kidnapping every toddlers with the slightest twinge of potential.

In Vinge's world, the entire citizenry had the gift ('cept Witlings), so the peasants had power in numbers, the oligarchs had power in military, the Guild had power itself. Any two could overcome the third. It prevented a single despot from creating an empire. But in Lucas' universe, the basic citizens seem to lack the Force, so there'll always be a trend towards imbalance.

Ian said...

@Tim H, yeah, I raced through Existence in far less time than I took to read Earth.

David Brin said...

Tim... hope you liked it...

LarryHart said...

Tim H:

40% through Existence, only noticed one minor nit, in the introduction to part three it's History of the world, part I.


I noticed that as well. I intended to mention it here, but not sure if I actually did so.


Smoother reading than Earth,...


Hmmmmm, not sure I agree with this.

In many ways, it did remind me of "Earth", especially the way it started off with several seemingly-disconnected characters and stories. But once Earth "got to the point" as it were--once the Beta singularity was discovered--the book had a plot with a beginning, middle, and end. "Existence", on the other hand, seemed to intentionally leave many plot threads unresolved, or at least ambigouous as to whether they are resolved.

To me personally, "Earth" was a more satisfying read. That's a matter of personal preference, so no criticism of the author intended. After all, I'm comparing one Brin book to another Brin book.

Tony Fisk said...

I'm thinking the extraordinary hissy fit that came out of the UK foreign office yesterday sounds remarkably like Senator Strong's outburst in 'Existence', and will likely lead to a similar degree of fallout. Haven't got to the resolution of that thread yet, but I have my suspicions.

sociotard said...

Cute music video.

I'm Nasa and I know it

LarryHart said...

This letter to the editor in yesterday's Chicago Tribune illustrates what seems to me to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of society:


one goes according to President Barack Obama's beliefs, Olympian Michael Phelps should have to give up some of his 22 medals because, after all, at some point, a person has enough medals. And, since he didn't earn them on his own because other people helped him (he did, after all, use the roads that others built so he get to practice, etc.), he should give some of his medals to someone who did nothing to earn them.


In a self-contained sporting event with clearly defined rules and prizes, sure there are winners and losers, and the winners owe the losers nothing.

The metaphor is flawed, though, when applied to society as a whole, both in the assumption that life itself is a game with "winning" as the goal, and that the means of survival are the legitimate property of the "winners" with poverty and depredation and death for the "losers".

LarryHart said...

Sorry, there was a missing word "If" at the beginning of that quote:


If one goes according to President Barack Obama's beliefs, Olympian Michael Phelps should have to give up some of his 22 medals because, after all, at some point, a person has enough medals. And, since he didn't earn them on his own because other people helped him (he did, after all, use the roads that others built so he get to practice, etc.), he should give some of his medals to someone who did nothing to earn them.

Tim H. said...

Question, might "The Shanghai Universe of Disney and the Monkey King" be a tip o' the hat to Somtow Sucharitkul?

David Brin said...

LarryHart, that op-ed was typical batshit lying distracto-idiocy. All the right has anymore is allegories, metaphors, assertions, and more assertions and more assertions.

In fact, they are the ones who have most horribly harmed the things they claim to love

Pax Americana... which I do not worship but deem absolutely necessary for one more generation, has been devastated by the american right

the US military... ditto...

Capitalism and free competitive enterprise..

startup business, self-reliance, fiscal responsibility, skepticism toward foreign quagmires, waste-notwant-not, saving for the future...
need I go on?

David Brin said...

Tim I know Somtow but I suppose I was more inspired by Shanghai Disneyland, my brief visit to Pudong... and maybe some of the stuff yelled by the Boing Boing crowd

LarryHart said...


LarryHart, that op-ed was typical batshit lying distracto-idiocy.


In all fairness, it was not an op-ed, but a letter to the editor. The Chicago Tribune was far-right in the 1930s, but is actually more of a bastion of actual journalism these days.

beoShaffer said...

Science fiction writer and humorist Brockway just wrote an interesting article on the future of science fiction. The call for more optimism is what made me specifically link it to this blog.
http://www.cracked.com/blog/4-things-science-fiction-needs-to-bring-back/

David Brin said...

onward