As you read this, Cheryl and I will be (approximately) defying fate and wagering on destiny… hopefully on the steps of a Mayan Temple on the day the Mayan calendar either turns over a new leaf or shudders to a halt. In commemoration, here’s a little potpourri of sci fi and future oriented snippets.
On December 6, 2012 I had the honor of speaking at the dedication of Ray Bradbury Square in Ray's beloved Los Angeles, next to his even more beloved LA Public Library. The event also included remarks by two City Councilmen, biographer Sam Weller, one of the Bradbury daughters, Sue Bradbury Nixon, and actor Joe Mantegna, hosted by author Steven Leiva.
For the core gist of what I had to say, read the eulogy I wrote for Ray Bradbury (published in Salon Magazine) on the day that he died.
The latest trend online? Folks editing quick-tight mashups and creating "YouTube Haikus"... moments of distilled poetry. I guess I am flattered that this one (The Definition of Hard Science Fiction).. clipping and condensing one of my TV show riffs to the requisite 14 seconds... appears to be way popular and discussed a lot on Reddit. Oh, sure, good literature must be about character and “human verities” and all that. Hey, I can do “verities.” But let’s not forget, a good story is also about….
In a clever connection, Anna Gregson of Orbit Books riffs off the new James Bond film SKYFALL into a discussion of how many of my novels ponder the delicate task that humanity faces, stepping carefully through the minefield called the future. And yes, I do tend to come up in conversations about James Bond! Am I a bald-headed villain? Or possibly... Q?
See also Anna's ruminations about the prospect of humans altering other creatures, connected to the new Orbit Books special omnibus edition UPLIFT - containing three award winning novels Sundiver, Startide Rising and The Uplift War. And in January watch out for the second uplift omnibus… entitled EXILES.
Oh, and see a new review of EXISTENCE from a different perspective, by a professor who teaches a college course about religion and the future!
And just to show that old masters have plenty of young snap and sens-o-wonder… Larry Niven and Gregory Benford give a talk at Google about their new novel Bowl of Heaven. A way-cool holiday for the physics hard SF junkie!
== Sci fi in the news! ==
Disney buys Lucasfilm for $4Billion. Frankly I am amazed the price was so low. Of course, Episode 7 will follow on from Return of the Jedi, not Revenge of the Sith. I find that "good news" yawnworthy. But perhaps the new episodes will feature underlying themes less undermining of civilization confidence than most of the films (except Ep. IV and V).
On the other hand, while I find the 30 year drift of George Lucas's Star Wars memes toward elitist-romantic anti-enlightenment messages really bothersome… this says a lot about him as a man: George Lucas Will Donate Disney $4 Billion To Education. Okay, that's cool.
And on the gripping hand -- now witness the power of this fully-formed and operational White House petition: Begin construction of a Death Star by 2016. As Paul 451 says: That's no moon.
In this recent interview, I expected to talk "only" about the singularity. But it wandered through a dozen topics and... well... if you can stand the first 10 minutes then you'll love the whole hour! “What’s important is not me. And it’s not you. It is us.”
Warren Ellis's excellent essay about how to view our present as the Future is an excellent piece. Alas, though, I think he misses the obvious.. and especially the political implications... that America's long Culture War is in part driven by a large part of the population refusing to admit that the 21st Century has arrived. Nostalgic grouchiness is rampant, and not only on the right. There are some on the left whose mystical past-obsession almost matches the War on Science that is drum-beat every day on Fox.
When will the future arrive for most folks? I believe it will happen, at last, when one particular technology arrives. Cheap, convenient, utterly safe and well-targeted liposuction that can be done on a quick, outpatient basis. When excess body fat can be trimmed almost like getting a haircut, the effects on civilization will outweigh almost any other technological breakthrough.
All at once, clothing styles will transform. Folks wearing body-hugging spandex will glance at their similarly attired neighbors and murmur: "Okay, okay. I guess the future has arrived."
== What might have been! ==
A full-sized Starship Enterprise in downtown Las Vegas!
A cute and thoughtful sci fi short film PLURALITY, directed by Dennis Liu, turns out not to be about what the narrator's long introduction implies that it's about, at all. Ostensibly about transparency tradeoffs in the near future, it is something else entirely. More like a proposal for a longer film. Overall, pretty promising.
An amazing, extended, well-written and logically chaotic view into the mind of Philip K. Dick, written in 1978.
And now… let’s hope the idiots are wrong and that science, reason, and the Maya prove to be right after all. We are stuck here. So let’s make it great.