Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Science Fictional News

The Hugo Award nominees for 2020 have been announced. For best novel, the entries include: The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow,  The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley, A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine,  Middlegame by Seanan McGuire, and Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. 
Fun stuff. And meanwhile...

Who said the 21st Century isn't different? During the 20th, about every five years, either Atlantic or Harpers or New Yorker would publish a savage slag hit against science fiction. It was a nasty, New York liter-artsy tradition to sneer, smugly, at SF's "febrile fantasies" and rationalize how lions like Atwood, Vonnegut and LeGuin had no relation to such nonsense. How times have changed...

. . . because now almost annually there are features in the top intelligentsia journals extolling the vivid wonders of sci fi -- as in this week's New Yorker collection of essays "The Allure of Science Fiction," though yes, with a twist that now we are being told by some who formerly spurned us that they will now be our spirit guides into this realm that they always knew and loved so. Yeah, okay. Progress is progress and not always - well - without bittersweet irony.  

== A pause to remind you... ==

... that truly historic matters are afoot. First, an alert: Basic Books offers my nonfiction classic on the information age and freedom and privacy - The Transparent Society - for a limited time at $3.49!

And if anyone knows a Congressional staffer or anyone connected to this year's high-level political struggles, I truly believe they would find fresh tactics of real value in my new book Polemical Judo. I'd wager money on that. Seriously, would it hurt to think - just once - outside the usual box? Outside the regular trap of Sumo-grunting and trench warfare?

== Other (great) creators! ==

Here’s an interesting interview with my colleague and SF hero, Kim Stanley Robinson. We agree about almost everything except vocabulary. Whottaguy. 

Mike Resnick passed away in January. One of the greats of Science Fiction – the most-nominated author of all time -- he explored many bold topics like multi-ethnicity and the price of human arrogance, in new and amazing ways, often challenging stereotypes long before that was fashionable. As Roger Zelazny did for Hindu and Buddhist cultures, Resnick exposed many previously insular western readers to legends and beliefs of a wide variety of African peoples, sometimes stirring controversy but always empathy.  He was also unlimited in his range, serving up irony, tragedy or comedy, almost on-demand. 

Mike even contributed a weird-gonzo chapter to my own new SF comedy novel  “The Ancient Ones”  winning him a place in the dedication! A peerless bon vivant at conventions, he would occasionally mis-speak with the over-eager carelessness that sometimes merits correction in us well-meaning boomer males, a trait that’s far less morally fraught and more readily corrected than (for example) backstabbing gossip. As publisher of many anthologies and ultimately the ongoing magazine Galaxy's Edge, he fostered countless new talents. A true prodigy-polymath and friend, Mike Resnick showed us how to grab and shake tomorrow with gusto.

How better to celebrate the wonderful film Galaxy Quest than with a documentary feature? Never Surrender is an entertaining, heartfelt tribute that comes to us (believe it or not) from the same folks behind the wildly popular online Honest Trailers series.  It was - before covid/covfefe - coming to a theater near you. I have my special enthusiasms for the flick. While the entire cast was wonderful, I especially liked Alan Rickman’s role, but above all Tony Shaloub’s wonderful Tech Sgt. Chen.  

Best news of the week, so far. One of the best science fiction (and mystery) bookstores on the planet - Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego - has found the new owners it needed in order to survive into a new decade. You can help by doing some of your shopping at their online site! Much thanks to Matt Berger and Jenni Marchisotto for stepping up and expressing joy at their venture… and to Terry Gilman and her crew, including founder Maryelizabeth Yturralde for keeping the flag flying for so long, in challenging times. Mysterious Galaxy's new home is: 3555 Rosecrans St. Suite #107 San Diego, CA 92110 Subscribe to the newsletter for events!  

== Miscellaneous sci fi related weirdness! ==

Here's the Abbey Road meme that was used to combat Brexit ("Br-stay-in") ... only now we can adopt it to promote sci fi, I think? ;-) "We are Brin???"

Sci fi legend John Varley weighs in – scarily and vividly – about the morons who follow velvet ropes shuffling along in a crowd to the top of Mt. Everest.  He makes great points and is largely correct. On the other hand, what small patch of Earth funnels so much disposable wealth directly from rich idiots to developing nations?

Wanna be creeped out? I’ve recommended before the novel Invasive Species by Joseph Wallace, which gets deserved attention from Hollywood. Murder Hornets, eat your hearts out!  (And stay away from my bees!)

An excellent profile of my colleague Ken Liu, who has been foremost in translating and discovering and bringing western awareness to the wave of fantastic Chinese science fiction authors who a boldly taking the genre in new directions.

One of the most creative and unconventional writers I know is Matt Pallamary who routinely bridges sci fi and Castaneda like adventures in Amazonian or Native American mysticism. See his latest novel – Death: A Love Story.

Ombak is a biannual weird fiction journal, aiming to supply the greatest, strangest fiction Southeast Asia can provide to the rest of the world. The first issue had writers from Singapore, India, Philippines, and Vietnam. The second (launching soon) will have writers from Singapore, Malaysia, India, and the Philippines

Israeli-American science fiction author Ilana Masad reviews Robert Harris’s new post-apocalyptic novel The Second Sleep, set in an England that may be across between A Canticle for Liebowitz, Pavane and  Riddley Walker.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA, Inc.) is pleased to announce that Lois McMaster Bujold has been named the 36th Damon Knight Grand Master for her contributions to the literature of Science Fiction and Fantasy. And yes, very well-deserved.

...and finally...

I have a billion Zimbabwean dollar banknote. But will someone collect a few trillion and quadrillion notes for me?


scidata said...

Very good news about Mysterious Galaxy. I've written here before about Asimov's dad's soda shop in Brooklyn and the Bakka comic/book store in Toronto (Robert J. Sawyer and Cory Doctorow were once staffers there). Now that Radio Shack (Asimov's day job and Steve Wozniak's hangout) is long gone, such shrines to blossoming SF and AI thinkers from that time are precious.

BTW Bakka-Phoenix has the only complete and reliable stock of Brin I've found up here. Don't know why. Even books from our own Margaret Atwood is sometimes hard to find. Lots of goofy dragon books though. Too bad none of them are by Le Guin.

Alfred Differ said...

(carry over from last thread)


As if the government is trying to punish you for having the nerve to die

I've been waiting for these advocates to come up with a name for the required IRA distribution a beneficiary has to take on their inherited IRA accounts. Haven't seen it yet. Basically, if a parent's IRA gets re-assigned to a person too young to take money out, the money could sit there many more years out of reach of the taxing agencies. So… they make you take money out as if you were the deceased owner (assuming they were old enough) drawing on it as retirement money. You can't just keep it compounding for your own retirement.

I get why they do this, but it seems like a practice ripe for attack-by-renaming-it. It would reach a much larger voter base too since many more of us have parents with IRA's than with huge wealth to be put out of reach in a trust fund.

only ours sounds stupid

I don't think that has much to do with 'Democrat' being a noun. Listen to HOW they say 'democrat'. The annoyance is usually delivered in tone-of-voice language. Body language too.

It seemed to me that would be a very heavy lift.

I expected some delay for my son since 'theory of mind' is well known to take a few years for a child to acquire. Autistic boys have a heck of a time learning by imitation because it can be quite painful to look at people long enough to get the information they need to decipher internal mental states. Absent that stream of data helping to build mental models of others, how was he supposed to learn the difference between 'What I want' and 'What you want'?

He's 21 now and still struggles with this abstraction. For some people he can partially do it. For strangers… not really. Fortunately, he DOES make progress, so we just keep at it. At this point I don't care how long it takes as long as we aren't hopelessly stuck. 8)

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

"only ours sounds stupid"

I don't think that has much to do with 'Democrat' being a noun. Listen to HOW they say 'democrat'. The annoyance is usually delivered in tone-of-voice language. Body language too.

I still think the noun/adjective thing has something to do with it, but maybe at a more subtle level than I was making it sound.

I was trying to think of other examples, and as it turns out, many party names are both nouns and adjectives: Republican Party, Libertarian Party, Communist Party. The one I can think of that works is Green Party. "Green" is clearly a descriptive term that modifies "Party". So are those others I mentioned if you think about it.

By using the noun "Democrat" instead of the adjective "Democratic", they make so that the party name is not a modifier of "Party" the way "Democratic Party" is. "Democratic Party" suggests a party with a certain set of principles. I think the subconscious notices that "Democrat Party" doesn't work syntactically, and has to strain to make sense of the term. I think my ear hears it as something like "The party of (very specific, stereotypical) Democrats." The party of Bill Clinton. The Party of Nancy Pelosi. That sort of thing. And yes, I agree that the disdain in the voice helps that along--"The party of Democrats. You know, those Democrats."

It wouldn't quite work the same way if they said "Democratic Party" in the same tone of voice.

Alfred Differ said...


It wouldn't quite work the same way if they said "Democratic Party" in the same tone of voice.

That's probably just a weakness on our part. We rely too much on last syllables for connotations and rhyme.
Maybe if we took a rap approach we could turn this thing against them and amuse a few people at the same time. 8)


Dragons, Vampires, & Gods. Oh My!

That's how I feel in most bookstores when I walk through the science fiction aisle.

[The older generation authors are still there in most places, but I have copies of those books. Next!]

A German Nurse said...

From the last blog post:

@Alfred Differ: Yes, I agree with you; we all play with words one way or another. I am a trained addiction counselor, and using the right words, the right questions in the right manner is mandatory to a successful counseling process.

Communication in itself is a tool. It has no inherent moral value to be able to communicate "well". The deciding factors are the inner stance and the context. Nazis old and new are/were adept at twisting language in their own way. Two short examples:

Up until age 11 or 12, I always believed the term "Sonderbehandlung" (Special Treatment) meant a benefit, possibly unduely gained, a special privilege. It was a shock for me when my German and History teacher explained the meaning the Nazis attributed to it. I hear it still sometimes used this way.

A few months ago, an AfD party leader suggested to "sweat out" dissenting party members from the party, and other political opponents from the country. "Sweating Out" in German is "Ausschwitzen".

@Tim Wolters: Thank you. I almost forgot about the series. Didn't know that the Klink actor was the other Klemperers cousin. When I read some about it yesterday, I learned that the German version of it was altered greatly (Klink speaks Saxonian, a dialect that has a certain comic ring to other German-speaking ears, and Schulz speaks Bavarian).

There were many historical and geographical discrepancies, though. What they somewhat correctly displayed was the rivalry between the regular army and the Nazi Party organs (though they mixed up the SS and the Gestapo, who where themselves set up as rivals by the regime) and the rivalry between the "Frontschweine" (a term used in both world wars, for frontline soldiers, literally "front pigs") and the "Etappensäue" (loosely translated as "rear sows") who feuded with each other. There was an illegal poem circulating through the ranks of the former, about the latter, my grand uncle once read it to me. I sometimes read it again when I have to vent anger about healthcare officials and administrative staffers.

Klink is clearly a rear sow, and I could imagine that he survived and avoided actual warfare by cunning, the right connections, or dumb luck.

A German Nurse said...

@Alfred Differ: Dragons, Vampires, & Gods. Oh My!

Yes, same here. I could imagine that it is somehow related to our times, and perhaps in a few years Sci Fi gains traction again.

I still have a lot of older autors to read. Nearly done with Gibson (is Cyberpunk still SciFi anymore?), Dick and Aasimov, and I started with Dumarest this year. I also will resume Bovas Tour of the Planets, start with Heinlein ... and think, I will order Earth from our host. :-)

Tony Fisk said...

Walking the dog past our local 'open online' bookshop this morning, my eyes fell upon a newly published novel from a certain well known YA SF series. Daughter/assassin's birthday is in a week, so I went home and ordered it online for them to deliver to me. Life in lockdown vs dystopic futures. Supporting local booksellers, for the win.

Also got "The Secret Commonwealth" Pullman's latest Dust novel. Thought "La Belle Sauvage" a ripping yarn, but rushed at the end, and no idea what the villain was about. Hope it's not the same deal as thinking "Force Awakens" was *just* good enough to see what happens next, and meeting #TheLastStraw.

Tacitus said...

I'll second the rec for the Galaxy Quest documentary. There are so many meta levels of art imitating life imitating (art/life)! GQ (not the magazine) is one of my top ten fave movies and likely to retain the status forever.

When lauding and hopefully supporting classic sci fi bookstores don't forget Uncle Hugo's in Minneapolis. Said to be the nations oldest indi sci fi book store (1974), it has on it's sign a giant carrot with a ray gun. If this makes you recall a certain so bad its good ep of Lost in Space, well, then you have come to the right blog.

Don't have any higher denomination Z-notes but I did on one occasion get some millions to pay my kid's their allowance. I have a slight sarcastic streak that I can usually suppress. And in any case a defining family trait is frugality so it was taken in the proper sense.


Larry Hart said...

President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to hold up federal funds for two election battleground states that are trying to make it easier and safer to vote during the coronavirus pandemic.

As far as I know, neither Michigan nor Nevada are violating any actual laws or executive orders by opening up vote-by-mail. Trump's threat to withhold federal funds is therefore not a remedy for lawlessness, but a fit of pique over states not bending to the dictator's whims.

So I ask this snarkily, but also kidding on the square. By the same logic, are we the citizens justified in withholding taxes from the federal government for dereliction of duty? I don't mean "Can we refuse to pay>", which would result in prosecution. I mean are we legally justified in refusing to pay?

When in the course of human events...

DP said...

Biggest SF question of the year:

Will Villeneuve finally get "Dune" right?

Lynch's version did not follow the book and tried to cram too much into one movie. Those who read the book were upset that so much was left out. Those who had not read the book could not understand what was going on. The result was a mess (though a visually interesting mess with first class costumes and sets and the best CGI available in 84).

The SyFy channel's mini-series - both Dune and Dune Messiah/Children of of Dune - followed the book and had first rate acting (especially Alice Krige as Jessica in the second mini-series) but really cheesy production values, cheap sets, etc.

Bonus Question - Will we be able to see it properly on the big screen in December or will a second coronavirus wave cause another lock down?

DP said...

When will we be able to see the BBC mini-series of HG Wells "War of the Worlds" (properly set in Victorian Britain) in the US?

P.S. And why the heck can't we in America ever see the first 2 seasons of the "Great British Bake Off" (called the "Great British Baking Show" in the US because Pillsbury owns the copyright in the US to the phrase "bake off")!?!? My wife and I love that show and I almost purchased the DVD box set from Amazon.UK until I realized that European DVDs won't play on American DVRs.

David Brin said...

Dumarest? Hogan’s Heroes? Wow such stuff. “I see NOTHING!”

Tim, Uncle Hugo’s is great. Say hi for me!

I am much more forgiving of Lynch’s DUNE. I thought it was very on target and evocative.
But then, I am forgiving of STARSHIP TROOPERS as I found the director's ARGUMENT with Heinlein fascinating. It posits a future in which we've done exactly what America always does... expanded our includion horizons so who's "in" gets wider and wider... while being SOBs to whoever is still outside.

Larry Hart said...

A German Nurse:

There was an illegal poem circulating through the ranks of the former, about the latter, my grand uncle once read it to me.

I don't know why exactly, but that had me flashing on an old skit from "Monty Python's Flying Circus" in which the Allies stumbled upon a joke that was so funny that anyone who heard it died laughing. They translated the joke into German, and had English soldiers read the joke aloud (without understanding it) as they marched through a forest, while Nazi soldiers fell out of trees and such.

I suspected at the time that the "joke" they read sounded like complete nonsense. The first part was of the form "Why is a something like a something?" and the response began with "Ja!" I knew very little German at the time I was watching, but even so, I was suspicious that the words being read would actually translate to anything comprehensible. Much later on, I read that it was indeed just nonsense. Funny skit, though.

Larry Hart said...

A German Nurse:

"Dragons, Vampires, & Gods. Oh My!"

Yes, same here. I could imagine that it is somehow related to our times, and perhaps in a few years Sci Fi gains traction again.

The sci-fi sections seem to be all about popular movies and tv series these days. For awhile, it might as well have been re-labeled the "Star Wars" section. Dragons, of course are popular because of Game of Thrones. To me, GoT is a story of palace intrigue and such, with a touch of fantasy woven in to give the thing flavor. But I gather that to most viewers, the dragons and the white walkers were the whole point.

Larry Hart said...

Tim Wolter:

I don't have any higher denomination Z-notes but I did on one occasion get some millions to pay my kid's their allowance.

A few years before the Euro, my sister-in-law traveled in Europe and came home with some Italian Lira, which were at the time about 10,000:1 to the US dollar. My wife and I went with her to an Italian restaurant here in town which just happened to (as a kind of joke) list the prices in lira as well as in dollars. Sister-in-law tried to see if she could actually pay in lira. I don't think she actually did, but the restaurant staff thought it was hilarious.

A German Nurse said...

"Dumarest? Hogan’s Heroes? Wow such stuff. “I see NOTHING!”"

I came into Sci Fi through gaming. Dumarest, as well as Dune and Aasimov, were cited as inspirational sources for the Traveller RPG, so I give it a try. Based in the idea of anti-aging drugs, I currently ponder the question how those would affect cultures using them, and how to portray them in gaming.

Larry Hart said...

The ironic thing about the Republicans' sudden discovery of "fraud" with absentee ballots is that for decades, a major push of the Republican Party has been photo ID for in-person voting—with nary a problem about absentee ballots. Most likely, the previous lack of interest in blocking absentee voting is that it was used largely by business executives who were traveling on Election Day, by the military, and by seniors, all groups that skew Republican. Now that many groups that don't skew Republican might get absentee ballots, suddenly "fraud" is a big problem.

This is written sarcastically, as if the disingenousness of calling "fraud" based solely upon whether the fraud helps or hurts your own side is self-evident. And yet, to Republicans (including their grass-roots supporters), the argument above is perfectly reasonable without irony. They have bought into the view that says Republicans are the legitimate rulers, so skewing who gets to vote in favor of Republicans is just the way things are supposed to be, while anything that might give an edge to Democrats is fraud. They're not even ashamed of this "reasoning". It's as true as an assertion that the sky is blue or that water is wet.

Alfred Differ said...

I'm not convinced anyone will ever get Dune right.
So much of it is cerebral. The characters think more than they say.
Lynch's attempted solution for that didn't work for me.

Maybe I'm too used to narration being done by an independent agent that I glitch on it when it is in first person voice. Books can do it, but when movies try I think the character is a little nuts and talking to themselves.

Maybe it's just that the voice inside my head when I do that doesn't work that way. I'll self-narrate, but only when rehearsing intended (or recently finished) conversations. Other internal dialog is rarely lexical for me.

Alfred Differ said...

A German Nurse,


How appropriate. I'm a Libertarian who notices when some within my party prefer purity to winning. We might get some of what we want... but no... we must remain pure to our ideals. They say it like we'd lose our 'Sacred Purpose'. Proper nouns in need of capitalization in sentences. Ugh.

The pop culture joke I like to use when describing this attitude comes from 'Scott Pilgrim vs The World'.
They'd lose their Vegan Powers. 8)


I'll be learning how to pronounce "Etappensäue".
I love it already.

Tacitus said...

German Nurse

I've never tried to manage a Saxony accent. But I have found that the further south in Germany/Austria I traveled the harder it was for me to understand them. I suspect you would - despite your very excellent English in written form - have similar issues in some rural areas of the US.

German military idiom is another interesting side trip. (You find more than a few on Contrary Brin and as an "alter Kampfer" I get a bit of leeway). The terms you mention are vaguely familiar to me. The US corollary for a soldier safely in the rear areas was/is REMF. It is an acronym and rude enough I shan't spell it out. German slang tends to use fewer acronyms although I'm told that early in the war the designation for the High Command (OKW) was said to mean "Ober Kein Widerstand"...No resistance at the top!

The history of European conflict of the 20th century is fascinating and well worth much heroism, so much folly. It is necessary to constantly remind yourself of the specific evils (Nazism and other rank ideologies) and the generic tragedy of war. I had ample reminders of those two years ago to this day...

I had a chance to work a salvage archaeology dig on the Ypres battlefield. We ended up recovering 122 soldiers. From various nations on both sides but the largest group Bavarians from late 1914. The Kindermort. For our less historically inclined readers this was the foolhardy attempt to prevent a stalemate by throwing in entire regiments of barely trained soldiers, many of them patriotic university students. They died by the thousands.

If this kind of project is of interest, you might find browsing my real time reports of worthwhile:

T. Wolter

ps The 25 May report contains the Greatest Work Photo Ever Taken!

Tacitus said...

While on the Sci Fi topic thread...

Some of you may remember the Mr. Plinkett Star Wars reviews from a few years back. This is a project of Red Letter Media, some genius level guys in Milwaukee who have more fun than should be allowed both making and reviewing movies.

As serious Trek fans of course the recent Picard series was on their radar.

You may like Picard or not. Plinkett does NOT.

Dropping a full Plinkett level review on this withered remnant of Trek is significant overkill. Not enough to give me sympathy for the joyless, talentless hacks responsible for Picard but enough to make me nostalgic for the days when an optimistic Trek was still current or at least fresh in our memory.

Anyway, there's not much left standing after this many Plink-o-tons go off. Its a shorter time commit than the series proper and likely more fun.

Side comment. I bet half the commenters here could come up with show pitches that would bring back the old spirit of Trek and/or take it in new though provoking directions. If you have something that does not include Dark and Gritty or 90 pound Lt. Mary Sue....bring it on.

T. Wolter

Keith Halperin said...

@ Matthew:
I see you're in NM, which is where I grew up. Where are you located?

@ Dr. Brin: Re: Bookstores-
What's a "bookstore"?
Is it one of those things they used to have in Twen Cen, like "newspapers" and "privacy"?

@ Various: RE:"Hogan's Heroes-
My father-in-law Sam (OBM), who spent all of WWII in a Japanese POW camp (captured at the beginning on Wake Island), supposedly LOVED "Hogan's Heroes"- said it was very similar (except without the starvation, extreme cruelty, etc.).

David Brin said...

Yipe Keith. Hypocritically the Japanese treated the Wake defenders, who put up a stout Bushido-like defese, with utter cruelty, while the Marines on Guam who surrendered quickly, were treated kindly.

Somebody use sophisticated search to find a two page parody of Dune in which Jessica and Duncan Idaho are lounging by the pool and one of them asks: “What time is it?” The subsequent Herbert satire of the two of them pondering what kind of malevolent trap the other is setting is hilarious!

Setting all the pages of involute-complex internal worry-monologues about whether the other one could be trusted, the story consisted of:

"What time is it?"
"It's almost eleven."

Tacitus said...


The guys from Wake Island were, in general, held in better camps than the poor POWs from the Phillipines and such. Not great mind you, but an upper level of hell.

The entire Hogan's Heroes premise, while played for very broad comedy, had a solid basis in fact. There was a large scale program to smuggle things into the Stalags, much of it in Red Cross parcels. The Germans had a museum of such items at Colditz Castle. When they tried to smuggle similar things - radio parts particularly - to German POWs held in the US the items were simply intercepted, and shown to the Germans. Then they were given access to shortwave radios and permission to listen to whatever they wanted! A masterful propaganda coup.

Hogan's Heroes sort of evolved from the movie Stalag 17, based on the stage play of the same name. The original play was written by two ex POWs from Stalag 17b in Krems Austria. John Banner had a role in the movie that was essentially the same as what he played in H.H.!

Historic trivia for the day now complete.


Tacitus said...


Regards Wake Island POWs you are both correct and incorrect. Most of the military survivors were sent to Zentsuji, something of a "show camp" in Japan. You are correct that some soldiers were executed. But the Wake Island massacre was much later and was of civilians retained on Wake then killed when the Japanese thought the Americans were invading two years later.


Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Maybe I'm too used to narration being done by an independent agent that I glitch on it when it is in first person voice. Books can do it, but when movies try I think the character is a little nuts and talking to themselves.

In high school, I used to hate first-person narrative. It struck me as unnatural. Like "Who are you kidding? I know that's not you speaking."

I got used to it in books. The first person narrative is like someone actually telling a story about themselves. But you're right, in a movie, it's weird, because you don't need someone telling you what is happening on the screen right before your eyes. I keep wanting the narrator to get out of the way so I can see what's going on.

Ironically, comics have long made good use of a balance of narration and dialogue, but in recent times, narration has gone out of vogue precisely because comics are trying to be like movies, and movies don't generally use narration.

Larry Hart said...

I said:

I don't know why exactly, but that had me flashing on an old skit from "Monty Python's Flying Circus" in which the Allies stumbled upon a joke that was so funny that anyone who heard it died laughing. They translated the joke into German, and had English soldiers read the joke aloud (without understanding it) as they marched through a forest, while Nazi soldiers fell out of trees and such.

I should have also mentioned the part where the Nazis are trying to develop their own weaponized joke to retaliate with. So they show Hitler speaking (in German) before a large rally with English subtitles indicating that he's saying "My dog has no nose." An enthusiastic Hitler Youth shouts (also subtitled) "How does he smell?" To which der Fuhrer delivers the punch line, "Awful!"

Anonymous said...

@Dr, Brin, Tim W:
Thank you- I didn't know this. Sam Kerr was a *civilian contractor on Wake, so he went to the worse camp you mentioned. When it was over, the Japanese just let him out and he wandered back through Japan to get home, including through a post-a-bombed Hiroshima. Surprising to me (but showing the great spirit of the man)- he didn't hate the Japanese...


*and IMSM, because he was a civilian at the time of his capture, though previously in the Navy, it was hard for him to collect his benefits...

matthew said...

Keith - I was in New Mexico for 17 years (early teens through 30s)- Logan, Carlsbad, Socorro, and Albuquerque, where I got to live through real-life Breaking Bad, working in the music industry just as the online recipe for crystal meth was published by, I think, the Village Voice. 1/4 of the people I worked for / with were dead in 6 months, mostly from gun violence. It was a chilling time. So many murders and ODs. I often wondered at the editors that decided the public needed to know how to make meth in the kitchen.

I'm back in my native Oregon now, but I learned a lot from NM. Most importantly, my love for green chile.

duncan cairncross said...

One important comment

Dr Brin in some of his posts appears to be buying into the conspiracy theories about the Virus

He should be very careful - to me this is a repeat of the Cheney misinformation to justify the Iraq war

ALL of the actual scientists questioned call the virus a naturally evolved "thing"

As a well respected figure Brin should NOT be helping the Trump misinformation campaign

Andy said...

It was just announced that the US will be pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty. Dr Brin, you've mentioned this a couple times in your blog, but could you explain in more detail why Eisenhower favored this and how we get more out of it than does Russia? You mentioned the KJB can already track goings-on here, therefore they don't need the treaty very much. Can't our CIA track goings-on there equally as well? Or is it more difficult because they are a less open society?

David Brin said...

And Duncan you should be careful with your accusations. I said that lacking proof one can only list possibilities in a rank ordering of what you see - based on limited evidence - as odds tou'd be willing to bet on.

It is NOT true that ALL scientists say that unequivocally. They say they see none of the coding effects that typically appear when gene splicing has occurred in a lab. That is a pretty strong statement and I'll tentatively take their word for it ...though I suspect the stregth of those statements is partly because they deem it counter productive to even mention the ways it COULD be done.

For example, by acceleration of the 'natural' process. Get hundreds of diseased bats & pangolins etc into an enclosed space with a hundred monkeys and stir. Natural zoonoses crossover can be rushed that way and there'd be no trace of "lab meddling." If it crosses, send dozens of moneys as 'pets" to an isolated prison population... the yhave those in China, you know?

I said clearly that I'd need 10 to one odds to bet on that scenario. So is that me 'promoting' it? Bull. That's 90% belief it wasn't engineered... despit the suite of nasty characteristics that render my paranoid side deeply suspicious.

What I'd take even odd on is that it escaped from the Wuhan institute. Employeers have been caught before selling lab animals to wet markets.


David Brin said...

Andy I posted on FB this about Open skies.

"No Trump actions do not benefit Putin. It's most-glaring in arms control. The Intermediate range treaty absolutely favored us. We could deploy our air and sea nukes all we wanted but it limited Russian ground based missiles threatening Europe. And so, betraying our allies, DT obediently withdrew amid yowls and lies and Vlad's gleeful giggles. Now he's after the Open Skies treaty that Eisenhower yearned for, letting both sides see what the other has... which Russia could always do anyway! (Their spies travel freely, already, we're a free country. Especially now that Trump's sabotaged counter-intel.)

Let's be clear. We armtwisted Open Skies from Yeltsin, back when we had the upper hand. and Putin railed against it for decades. Now (surprise?) it's going away, now that the KGB has its puppet hands up every Republican politician.

After demolishing our sciences and alliances and waging war on all fact-professions and civil servants and riling 1/3 of America against "deep state conspirators" - half a million heroes who defeated Hitler, Stalin, Mao, bin Laden and won the War on Terror - and filling our judge slots with suborned, blackmailed or corrupt shills - Trump's job is almost done.

Now to get us all sick.

Well, at least we can defeat global warming now! We were already pulling megawatts from the spinning in the graves of William F. Buckley, Adam Smith, Barry Goldwater... and now Ike.

ke kept asking for Open Skies because he knew many wars start because of bad intel about the other side's tools or intent. The Kremlin always refused because they figured they could keep us blind while they would just subscribe to Aviation Week and take pics from airliners. They were deeply stupid. But Putin wants those wretched days back, knowing our intel services will inflate estimates and thus make him look formidable.

Ike had one dream for the space program... the spy satellites that arrived just in time to save the world.

yana said...

Interesting times, and don't consider that a curse at all. It's a rare chance. I used to say Fight Space! because a big impact was the only threat which could unite us as a species. Now there's this.

For a moment, at least one single sparkling moment, our heroes are the people with the most compassion, the highest empathy. Eclipsed for this precious span of days are those with the biggest gun/penis/boobs, those with the most shocking caws, the ones with record hit touchdown baskets.

Already predicted that 60+ countries will have new national health care in 2021, and they'll accidentally create a linked substrate for international science of all kinds to advance. But what if the inevitable political churn elevates 25 medical doctors to various presidencies 2020-2022? That'd be 1/8 of nations.

Geopolitics becomes a much different thing. First, predatory oligarchs will descend in a mob, both locals and external nation-state mafia, hoping to use inexperience to pry apart, annex, or economically enslave new regimes. Sure whatever, that's been happening for centuries. What is different this time, it could mean a critical mass of leaders who made a career of succor, acceding all at the same time and with a strong common interest. When they have each other as a backstop, it's easier to ignore America and China and Russia.

Who knew? All this time the preppy survivalists have feared World Government by the enemy du jour: communists, illuminati, fascists, satanists, trilaterals, guys with blue helmets riding black helicopters. After all that, could the New World Order turn out to be a cabal of folks steeped in compassion?

Andy said...

Thanks for the reply Dr Brin.

"Ike had one dream for the space program... the spy satellites that arrived just in time to save the world."

That leads to my follow-up question... don't our spy satellites make all of this rather moot? Do we really need the Open Skies treaty anymore to keep accurate tabs on Russian troop movements and abilities?

A German Nurse said...

@Yana: I experienced the medical sector to be a remnant of more autocratic times. Hospitals are still silverback country. And Joseph Mengele, Che Guevara and Radovan Karajic were physicians, after all.

What could help is a strong public social and healthcare safety net.

@Andy: I think, it is not only about the actual intelligence. It might also be a small, trust-building security measure between nations, so that nuclear armageddon might be avoided better.

David Brin said...

Andy, the narrowed the table of our methods for peace, the more likely someone figures they can knowck out the legs and bring it down. And heavy instruments on a plane can detect things (e.g. bio, radiation etc.) that satellites can't.

Alfred Differ said...

I get that Trump helps Putin with these actions, but I'll admit to not shedding any tears over the demise of Open Skies. With Starship from SpaceX on the horizon, I'm not concerned about the cost of lofting heavy things into orbit. Just buy a ride.

If Putin wants the treaty brought down... then so be it.
Life is going to get more expensive for him.
That is the traditional downfall of a Russian empire.
Let him be remembered for it.

Keith Halperin said...

Respect! I grew up 235 mi. away from Duke City in Portales, home of the legendary Jack Williamson, who taught me in a SF class at ENMU where I wrote two *amateurish stories.

Stay Well,
Fellow Former Enchanted Lander (or Land Enchanter)

*One he said would have been a classic, if written some decades previously...

Andy said...

Russia has vowed to maintain the Open Skies treaty that allows nations to make observation flights over each other’s territory in a riposte to Donald Trump’s decision to exit the multilateral accord.

Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, warned on Friday that the US withdrawal would undermine global security and mean there was also little hope a separate nuclear arms control agreement — the last remaining defence pact between the two countries — would survive.

“We will work in favour of preserving the [Open Skies] treaty; it is important and valuable,” Mr Ryabkov told an online discussion forum, adding that he was eager to meet the US president’s top arms control official.

Could it be that Russia's spy satellites aren't in the same league as those of the US, and thus they value the information gleaned from Open Skies more highly?

Or, is this a move to create plausible deniability, a "please don't throw me in the briar patch" type thing?

"Observing countries give very short notice of their specific flight plan. Each party’s cameras must be verifiably limited to a resolution well below state-of-the-art technology, even for 1992. The cameras just need to be good enough to distinguish a tank from a truck. The treaty explicitly permits a range of imagery, including optical and video cameras, as well as infrared and synthetic aperture radars, while barring collection of any other electromagnetic signals. All imagery collected from overflights is then made available to any state-party."

I wonder how the hell all that is supposed to be enforceable.

This is why U.S. allies are voting for the Open Skies Treaty with their wallets, investing large sums in new Open Skies planes and digital sensors. They reject suggestions of nefarious activities connected to overflights; no treaty party has ever tried to employ prohibited technology during a flight. They know that the incredibly intrusive pre-flight inspection process, in which an aircraft is all but taken apart, should remove concerns that any observing party is somehow capturing unauthorized information. They appreciate that the treaty even lets a nervous observed country insist that its own Open Skies plane be used for an observation flight.

Ahhh. Guess I should have kept reading.

As for U.S. flights over Russia, satellite imagery can surpass the limited resolution of cameras aboard Open Skies flights, but planes enjoy much more flexibility in choosing flight paths. The three to four days’ warning that observed countries get before a satellite overpass gives them ample time to move military assets. Treaty flights provide only 24 hours’ notice, increasing the odds that overflights capture an accurate assessment. Planes can also double back to provide a more comprehensive set of images than fixed-orbit satellites can.

I thought our modern satellites can basically scan area at any time. Don't we have geosynchronous ones over Russia for that purpose? Perhaps not. And also, given the short notice window, do inspectors really have adequate time to "all but take apart" the aircraft as quoted earlier?

At any rate, methinks this could be an issue that finally peels off a decent chunk of the military-type RASRs, especially when it is pointed out that Republicans Eisenhower and Bush Sr were the ones responsible for this treaty.

Darrell E said...

I am cautiously optimistic about Denis Villeneuve's Dune. He has already shown me that he can take a good story and do a very good job converting it into a movie, develop characters very well, and integrate FX effects with the rest of the movie. I think he (and the rest of the crew of course) could achieve that rarest of science fiction movies, one that does everything well. Good story, good characters, intelligent writing and dialogue and stunning visuals. Then again, it could suck too. Or anything in between.

I think Lynch's Dune is laughably bad. I mean Mystery Science Theater 3000 bad. Rifftrax even. It wasn't entirely awful, but nearly so. I mean, weirding modules? Really? Please stop! Is this supposed to be a cheesy Flash Gordon TV serial vibe? Okay, then maybe it worked. Though the 1980 Flash Gordon movie was far better than Lynch's Dune.

I've got to admit though that the brief image of Alia ecstatically wielding her crysnkife, set against a raging storm in the midst of battle, in preparation for dispatching enemy wounded like the good Freeman child she really wasn't, was pretty cool. Almost the only thing that was. Well, the navigator in the tank was pretty cool too. But the navigator blowing light out of its mouth, or was it his ass,(?) as a means of "folding space?" Ahhhh ahahahhhhahhah! yer killin me.

Darrell E said...

Jack Williamson? Loved his Legion of Space stories when I was young. Giles Habibula is one of my favorite characters ever.

Jim Lund said...

> For example, by acceleration of the 'natural' process. Get hundreds of diseased bats &
> pangolins etc into an enclosed space with a hundred monkeys and stir. Natural zoonoses
> crossover can be rushed that way and there'd be no trace of "lab meddling." If it crosses,

A premise so ridiculous it could only work by accident. I can imagine the funding proposal, but only as farce.

"Last year we proposed a small tissue culture lab with benches for four staff and two small rooms to house a hundred cages of mice and rats. This year we are proposing an experiment involving thousands of bats, dozens of pangolins (wild-caught), and dozens of monkeys. We hope that waves of disease run through the captive animals, leading to cross-species transmission and eventually to primate to primate transmission. While our research plan puts these animals in close contact and under constant viral infection, and this will speed up viral evolution and increase cross-species infection opportunities, viral evolution is essentially a random process, and results can not be guarantied by the first grant review period."

"We will need a large animal room, several smaller facilities with 'feeder' stock to replace the large die off we anticipate, and clean colonies and test rooms to assess new isolates. A closed mid-size school would suffice. It will need to be refit with decontamination space, industrial-size autoclaves, a crematorium or lime pit, and will require a dozen animal caretakers. We expect to source the tons of fresh fruit required each week from local markets, but may need to establish insect colonies in house to feed the pangolins."

"In addition, we will need an additional research lab to sample, sequence, and test new viral isolates on an ongoing basis. While the results of such an experiment are unpredictable, and die-offs within the bat and pangolin populations may slow the research, we hope a long term commitment to fund this dangerous and pointless research will be given your best consideration."

"A facility this large, funded at any reasonable level, will undoubtedly see bats escape back into the wild. After all, escaped mice are common in the best run animal facilities. But this presents a minimal risk the community as bats can fly many miles a day, and are unlikely to remain in the immediate neighborhood. If bats in the wild die off, that's no big loss in any event."

There's a reason that the long term evolution experiments that have been done are on bacteria, yeast, and fruit flies. And there's that one fox breeding experiment in Russia...

A German Nurse said...

I am looking forward to the new version of Dune. I doubt Lynch ist really to blame, as he had his budget and shooting time severely limited by the studio.

On Open Skys and Trumps Russia-friendly policy:

We have 40.000 US soldiers and intelligence officers in our country.
We have Richard "The Viceroy" Grenell as an ambassador who loudly spoke of supporting the far right, and working with Bannon to create a network of nationalist and extremist parties.

There are two possible scenarios that worry me. First, Putin invades the Baltic states; and Trump chooses to do nothing.

Second, Grenell (now as acting head of Intelligence) directs the agencies to undermine European democracies, and perhaps the troops on our soil are ordered to support putschists one day.

The Corona crisis has diminished my worries somewhat. But I believe a majority of soldiers will follow the presidents orders, even if forced to betray supposedly allied nations.

Unfounded speculation, but perhaps this is one of the reasons why the Deutsche Bank hasn't disclosed what they know.

David Brin said...

AGN: of your two scenarios, (1) putin would not demolish the GOP with that invasion before the election, but just AFTER the election as part of Trump's final spite spasm? Sure. Maybe.

(2) But Grenell will be recognized by the "deep state" intel community as what he is. In the short term, he will be cauterized and any effort to warp the intel folks toward such evil will be dutifully recorded and presented as evidence at his trial.

(2) "But I believe a majority of soldiers will follow the presidents orders, even if forced to betray supposedly allied nations."

You seriously do not know the US armed forces at all.

A German Nurse said...

Dr. Brin:
You are right. I am not familiar with the US Armed forces. But I am familiar with soldiers, and the last time In checked, they were not considered to be selective about following orders.

Second, there might once have been effective barriers against illegal behaviors. The fate of the Vindham brothers and the Inspectors General shows that there are widening cracks in the safety systems, and I don't count on the Senate to stop him.

I sincerely ask you: which controls remain to deter illegal activities?

Third, people are people. While I will concede that there could be a sizeable number of bureaucrats, IC members, and soldiers of high rank with flawless integrity and high moral standards, the majority are people who just want to get along. Many have families or college debts to pay or are easily intimidated by toxic supervisors.

Fourth, the Armed Forces (Like law enforcement agencies) usually attract a larger number of people from a specific political spectrum, and institutions become blind to certain transgressions.

Finally, countless actions of dubious legality have (with consent of our federal government) taken place on or have been coordinated in our soil - abductions, extralegal killings, mass surveillance. Oh, and Abu Ghoraib and the Bagdad Helicopter Hunting Party. Trump pardoning war criminals. And so on.

I admit that the Putsch scenario is unlikely, though there have been precedents (Ajax, Chile). Sharing intel with fringe groups or equipping them with weapons might be easier, as as well as promoting general unrest.

That all said, I am a supporter of NATO and would oppose any "political neutrality" that would in fact empower Putin and China.

Just sceptical and worrying.

David Brin said...

AGN: while your impressions are supported by both history and logic, they are nevertheless largely wrong about the US militray, especially the officer corps, which has been successively changed, modernized and pushed toward maturity since the reforms of George Marshall, in the 1930s. Especially since Vietnam, all Academies have courses on how to distinguish legal from illegal orders and Abu Graib cause a redoubling of those classes.

Is that enough? Of course not. Especially since the enlisted ranks (much less so the officers) hail largely from rural or southern or plains states. But education is pushed at every level and you do not rise above captain without the equivalent of a masters degree... then another one... or a doctorate... to get flag rank.

It's not your fault that you don't know how deeply-religious is the commitment of most senior officers to obedience to constitutional civilian rule. They speak of it often and I know officers who have never voted, thinking it a symbolic act of commitment to an apolitical life.

But I can tell you that a majority of those officers are now fretting deeply over the matters we discuss here. So far, they have managed to neutralize the worst Trump endeavors at intimidation and illegality, sometimes bravely on our behalf. Can they keep it up, across a 2nd term? I doubt it very much. They have kept a line of civilization for us. We must rescue them, in the fall.

Alfred Differ said...

A German Nurse,

We have Richard "The Viceroy" Grenell as an ambassador who loudly spoke of supporting the far right, and working with Bannon to create a network of nationalist and extremist parties.

That and a number of other things will require us to apologize to all of you after the next inauguration. I suspect we will, but we have to beat our klepto-tyrant first.


As for our military and intelligence forces, I agree with our host. What many fail to understand about us is how deeply faithful we are to our brand of barbarism. Real barbarians don't kill indiscriminately and they certainly don't take orders from from fools. I mean this very seriously. We are barbarians so sure of our ideals that we are willing to kill for them. Or be killed. Hopefully it doesn't come to any of that, but if it does, don't expect any pundits to predict us correctly unless they understand the depths of our commitment to 'being the barbarian.'

We are SO sure of ourselves in what we believe that the entire world could tell us we are wrong and we'd scoff at them. We have. We will again. The problem is that WHAT we believe is splintered, so we can't agree with our neighbors and we scoff at them too. Often. This attitude could easily cause us to collapse into violence toward each other, except we scoff at leaders who suggest that too. Fortunately. Only a True Barbarian believes so strongly that they do NOT have to smack doubters to make them believe. Heresy doesn't matter. Big whoop.

I've met a number of naval officers and high ranked enlisted sailors. None of them fail to believe they serve the nation. None of them fail to understand that every one of them can fail to do it well. That makes them skeptical of each other too. Scoffing openly doesn't happen, but they think about it when someone screws up. They have many reasons to do so… and many ways to respond to stupid orders.

My father spent his first career in the USAF. Worked his way up to E8 which is the last enlisted rank before the top. Used his vet benefits to go to college starting when I was about 10 or so. We were still fighting in Vietnam, so he wasn't required to wear his uniform while attending classes. He was told not to antagonize the other students, but didn't have to be told. I was young enough to think a college degree meant he intended to become an officer. "Not so" he told me. Turns out the O6's tended to listen to and trust the E7-9's far more than the youngest officers like O1-2's. The officers out-ranked my father, but didn't have his gray hair. Many were still wet behind the ears. The Service was run sensibly no matter the chain of command. That was the lesson he taught me that day… and every day after his retirement when he came back as a federal contractor.

The official chain of command IS followed, but it is also NOT followed. They all know their jobs, so when others screw them up, they adjust as necessary. Well… the ones who intend to make a career of it do. The lower enlisted folks? Maybe not so much. However, the folks who tell them what to do tend to be in long enough to plan careers. Screwing up ends careers even if it is someone else's screw up. Every naval captain knows this and I've seen it first hand. They believe in themselves and their ideals. Barbarians to the core.

Alfred Differ said...


I mean this in the most complementary sense…

Most Americans posting here are good examples of our brand of Barbarian.

Matthew certainly is.
Larry too.
and Tim. Definitely Tim.
and our host. Most definitely.

Not everyone posting here is, but it's way more than half. Way more.
That's a big part of what keeps my interest. 8)

David Brin said...

I squint and can see your meaning, Alfred, tho also clearly the terminology is meant to jar us into stepping back for word-perspective. I can see it. Rascal.

Lorraine said...

Just saw a commercial on TV. At 21 seconds in the ad copy is "until dogs can speak for themselves.." Nice to see some optimism. It's uplifting.

Tacitus said...

Thanks Alfred!

For a Sci Fi thread there has been relatively little on topic. I had hopes that some of you would take up my challenge to "write a better proposal for a Star Trek Series". My only parameters were try not to go fully Dark! and Gritty!, which is the antithesis of Star Trek. Oh, and lets ease up on the Mary Sue-ism. Maybe the appeal of 90 pound females leveling foes three times their mass with high kicks (in high heels) will fade now that the Asian markets where I suspect this sort of thing is hot stuff may become less important.

So, here's my pitch. If I win by default, I shall exhalt in my glorious victory, barbarically drinking mead from a aurochs horn atop my throne of skulls....

Trek needs an antagonist. If the Federation is what we should become then our foes are what we have risen above or just plain been lucky enough to dodge.

The Borg were quite good, but have been neutered by over use. Romulans, Klingons, Ferengi..heck they'd all be fun to have a drink with and essentially just reflect various aspects of ourselves.

We need to borrow the Berserkers from Fred Saberhagen. Heck, David probably knows whoever is managing his estate. The concept in fact was already borrowed way back in TOS when that big gizmo that looked - hmm...a lot like an aurochs horn - destroyed planets. Well, what if just before it was destroyed it sent off an undetectable beacon or a thousand cloaked mini-von Neumanns and the Berserker fleet has been building in stealth ever since.

You could still have enough 'splosions to keep the hoi polloi stimulated....but if you've read the series, and I assume most have, that was a big canvas on which to write more thoughtful stuff. I'm thinking Captain Johann Karlson and the crew of the USS Saber will have prominent and tasty roles to play.

I could run off a half dozen good eps in the next hour. But so could you.

I'm not greedy. If our genial host or anyone else wants to swipe this concept, pitch it and get famous, great. Send a little script doctoring work my way once in a while. I have only one request and I fear that it is non negotiable. In anything derived from this little von Neumann of an idea I want an anonymous credit. Way down in the bottom in small print. Maybe below Make Up assistant and Grip please credit me as follows: "Gripping Hand - Alien Smithee"

T. Wolter

Acacia H. said...

As was stated in the webcomic Schlock Mercenary, Lieutenants tend to follow a Sergeant in motion.


Larry Hart said...

Another one for the predictions registry...

According to Comparisun, a company which allows small- to medium-sized firms to compare different business products, the world's first trillionaire will likely be Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

David Brin said...

Tim, one of the more famous Original Series episodes was about a berserker. But yes, after Voyager and DS9, the Federation is the core of a galactic civilization and so a new foe should be GALLACTICUS!

Seriously, see my latest book THE ANCIENT ONES for fresh trek ideas.

scidata said...

I see the antagonist in BNW terms. Utopia vs humanity. Vulcans are scarier than Romulans. Like when Kirk exclaims in ST5, "I don't want you to take my pain away - I need my pain."

Possible breadcrumbs were set down by Le Guin's Urras ("The Dispossessed") and our host's various anti-human cults ("Foundation's Triumph"). In TOS, I thought Landrew's world came close.

Larry Hart said...

Tim Wolter:

The Borg were quite good, but have been neutered by over use.

The only way the climax to "The Best of Both Worlds"--the very first TNG end-of-season cliffhanger--makes sense is if that cube that gets blown up at the end contains the entirety of the Borg. If, after essentially using up all of Starfleet to keep that cube from reaching Earth, there are many other cubes out there, any one of which could reach Earth if it wanted to, then the episode was pointless. Or at the very least a Pyrrhic victory.

Which is to say, I was disappointed the first time the Borg were brought back after that episode. And the "Borg Queen"? Gag me.

David Brin said...

It's PRESCRIPTIVE utopias that are scariest. Even my "The 4th Vocation of George Gustaf" -- in which citizens are required to seek eccentric avocations and hobbies - and the more eccentric or original the better - has the rambunctious individualism we cherish... but has a chilling aspect in the prescriptive word "required."

TheMadLibrarian said...

I have a feeling many of the contributors here already have eccentric hobbies. Collecting meteorites? Exploring alternative building methods at home? Native American pottery? LARPing? Check :D

Larry Hart said...

There was that episode toward the first season of TNG in which scorpion-creatures were controlling the minds of Starfleet officers. And at the end, one of them beamed a message out into space, presumably to their home planet? Nothing ever came of that. Are those particular life forms still out there?


I see the antagonist in BNW terms. Utopia vs humanity.

I'd call BNW a dystopia rather than utopia. The human race was stuck on a treadmill on which survival depended upon dedicating the entirety of our lives to the tending and maintenance of machines. There was enough pleasantness to prevent mass unrest, but hardly the sort of life I think of as Utopian. In fact, to me, Utopia would involve freedom from drudgery so that one could more fully be human. The opposite thing from the dichotomy that you suggest.

I'm bouncing around topics here, but to me, the obvious antagonist in an updated Star Trek would be a Trump-like civilization which blatantly ignores reality and insists on asserting their own alternative facts to justify any action on their part. "The Prime Directive says I can do whatever I want." That kind of thing.

A German Nurse said...

Tim Wolter:

My pitch for a Star Trek series would center around a free trader/privateer vessel operating on the fringes of the Federation. The Captain would be a former Star Fleet officer discharged after being court-martialed, and they would have diverse opponents and encounters with nausicaan space pirates, overzealous or corrupt Star Fleet officers, ancient alien ruins and colonies inhabited by people who turned away from the Federation.

(Ideally, someone comes up with a TV Show based on the Traveller universe, mixing up Firefly & Game of Thrones.)

Keith Halperin said...

@Everybody: Re: Star Trek-
ST has "gone downright Marvel on you ass" i.e., they seem to be creating as many new shows as possible (like the Marvel Shared Universe).

What I know of ST:
Live Action:
1) Discovery- Aired, renewed.
2) Picard- Aired, renewed.
3) Strange New Worlds- Planned (as previously mentioned), episodic, optimistic (like TOS)
4) "Crouching Trekker, Hidden Dragon"- (What I'm calling the Michelle Yeoh Section 31 series)- Planned, I HOPE it's "Torchwood" dark- a guy who watched TW said:
"If this gets any darker, we won't be able to see it..."

5) Lower Decks- for adults
6) Some other youth-oriented one on Nickelodeon

I just wish CBS "In Excess" let SF writers do some of the teleplays, as NBC/Desilu did with Ellison, Sturgeon, and


Re: The Doomsday Machine by Norman Spinrad (

My younger sister and I thought it looked like one of the horn-shaped corn snacks called "bugles":
(There are reported claims that if you leave bugles sitting out for a couple of days they go stale and get as hard as neutronium, but I've not tested that...)

Stay Nerdy, My Friends

Keith Halperin said...

@ Dr. Brin: Re: Prescriptive Utopias-
ISTM that "requiring" something is rather crude (if currently necessary in most cases).
With what we already know (and will continue to learn) about human behavior through behavioral economics, cognitive neuroscience, etc. we'll be able to influence large numbers of people, both individually and in the aggregate, not perfectly or consistently, but enough to "do things". You don't have to prevent people from doing something if they believe that doing it is meaningless or if it never occurred to them to do at all...
I may have mentioned this before, but the first large-scale, successful use of (a very crude version of) psycho-history wasn't in 0 FE, but in 2016 CE...

I recall reading (in SF) through the years of special schools and training to develop mental powers and abilities. Imagine if there were a group "out there" that looked for promising individuals with certain mental traits, to be carefully trained to enhance and develop them to their fullest. However, this wouldn't be to train *Bene Gesserit, *Mentats, or **Mnemonics, but to train ***"Dexters" and ****"Villanelles"- a "School for Psychopaths," with special emphasis on leadership training...BTW, this group plays the "long game" and they have a plan....

Happy Trails,

* Dune
** Sucker Bait
*** Dexter
**** Killing Eve/Codename Villanelle

David Brin said...


TML: I have long spoken of the rising “Age of Amateurs” as decisive rebuttal to the “we’re soft and decadent and lazy” incantation of (mostly) far right romantic gloom merchants.

LH” good point about those nasty TNG aliens!

AGN: Your “free trader freighter” concept is EXACTLY what I wanted Paramount to do with Kirk after he returns with the whales in ST4. (I deem ST3 to be like all third movies in the 80s-90s… an utter betrayal and travesty.)

No, Kirk returns saving Earth, so he’s lauded… and cashiered from the service for mutiny and he and Scotty etc buy a freighter and…

But now... alas... I must say...



Der Oger said...

Re: Utopias and Star Trek: What I liked about Star Trek: The First Contact was the Scene when Picard freaked out, and Lily compared him to Ahab. That showed me that people still were people, and even with all their sophistication, had basic human desires and motivations.

David Brin said...

You are welcome here Der Oger. But when I say "onward" the conversation moves to the next posting. Continue there!


Jon S. said...

With all due respect, Doctor, we can't move "onward" until there's an onward to move to. :)