Did you step out to view Mars during "opposition"? When it's both closest to Earth and fully illuminated at midnight? To prepare... listen to a free audio version of my story "Mars Opposition!" (found in Insistence of Vision.) A creepy tale of the weirdest invasion-of-Earth, ever! With perhaps a powerful message for our time. Then go out tonight and stare up in restored wonder.
Wasn't that conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter amazing?
And yes, this bog posting is a chance - (Post Inauguration!) - to catch up on news I've stored up for better days. And so, taking a brief break to look up from our current crises at vistas of science fiction! Though while we're on science fiction, I'll repeat one politically pertinent link to a passage by Robert Heinlein, who spent most of his life active as a Roosevelt Democrat. The highlighted paragraphs here will knock your socks off with his concern and prescience. Use them and certain solipsists we know will stammer into silence.
== News and more from the future! ==
In case you missed these: the Hugo Award winners for 2020, including A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine for Best Novel, and This Is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone for Best Novella, Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemison for Best Novelette, LaGuardia by Nnedi Okorafor for Best Graphic Story ... and many other fine choices representing the best of science fiction and fantasy for the year.
TIME Magazine recently listed “Eight books that eerily predicted the future.” And Mental Floss lists nine. Can you guess what book is the only one on both lists? Yes, it's EARTH, though each list chose it for different reasons! But I’m glad to be listed with some awesome peers in the craft of peering ahead.
One of the oldest notions in fantasy is a hero’s confrontation with the supernatural. Humans are forever pondering some way to change the hand they’re dealt. From Gilgamesh and Odysseus to Faust and Daniel Webster, fascinating characters have tried arguing with fate or divine will… or the Devil. And hence, in the genre of “debating the devil.” My just-released play “The Escape: A Confrontation in Four Scenes” takes a hyper-modernist and rather science-fictional take on that theme, ready to share some fun with you, along with fresh takes on Genesis and Babel, destiny and randomness, reshuffling the deck and challenging the Grand Order of Things.
(Groups volunteering to do Zoom table readings are welcome!)
You owe Kevin Costner an apology for The Postman! Choice! But then... what am I, chopped liver?
Hey, Stephen, I thought you were a sci-fi nerd! Particularly relevant today... as we see would-be Holnist coup-attempts against America. It started last year with our oldest institution, the USPS.
Coincidentally, I've just re-released a new and revised version of The Postman - in ebook and POD formats, with a fantastic new cover by Patrick Farley. (Actually your choice of TWO different spectacular covers!) And for teachers or book clubs... a discussion guide is available on my website.
== Assertively looking ahead! ==
The Lifeboat Foundation has teamed its recipient of the Guardian Award for engagement in efforts to reduce humanity's Existential Risk -- or danger of self-inflicted extinction. "The 2020 Guardian Award has been given to David Brin in recognition of his long-term interest in existential risks. Um, well, gosh. Thanks. Though if there was ever a 'generous' activity that came tinged with self-interest....
Staying pertinent.... How can we aggressively change memes so our citizens think more long term? I'm sure some of you are aware of Stewart Brand's Long Now Foundation, building the Clock of the Long Now. One cute aspect, they put a zero in front of all dates! So this year is ... 02021 ... (Kinda cool looking? Though it made 02020 creepy.) If we all did that, it might help spread a sense that we are ancestors with obligation to a palpable, if yet-unborn, future.
Of course the notion of time as a river with many currents and eddies is an ancient one. It inspired my own artistic extrapolation in my very first nominated short story "The River of Time," here in the eponymous collection.
In their latest near-future Washington thriller - Burn-In: A Novel of the Real Robotic Revolution - P.W. Singer and August Cole – authors of the novel most-read by military officers everywhere: Ghost Fleet) – return with a fast-paced adventure exploring a near-future when robotics and AI both empower creative citizenship and amplify the destructive ability of terrorists.
In Existence I have scenes about how the most advanced AIs and robots may need to have childhoods. After all, that is how we humans did it, with extended neoteny. Now go enjoy a sweet story about fostering a robot child, by Tobian Bucknell.
== Sci Fi on TV ==
It won't be easy. It will take a lot of imagination and smarts to make Asimov’s Foundation into a TV series folks can follow. I wish them luck.
Making Gaal Dornick female was a very very easy move. They'll need added sub plots to provide any action. Bear in mind that Benford's book and Bear's take place before the first novel - Foundation - and my own novel (Foundation's Triumph), which ties up all of Isaac's loose ends, takes place just after the exile to Terminus. Hari's last and greatest adventure.
Immodestly, I assert I am likely a top expert on that universe and the show runners might want to chat?
Alas, this slur-attack on Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Series is an unsapient grunt, though typical of today’s much-declined National Review, which has William F. Buckley spinning so fast that Connecticut draws half of its power from his grave, fueled by the sustainable, never ending resource of idiocy.
Still it reminds me of my own essay about Foundation, Robots and the argument that Isaac had with himself, decade after decade, first with the statistical "gas law" approach of psychohistory, then the human oligarchy of the 2nd Foundation, then the governance-by-sterile-eunuch robots model - which made the Galactic Empire not "roman" but more "Chinese"! And finally Gaia-Galaxia. … And why things could not stop there. They just had to come full circle.
== Other sci fi miscellany! ==
You can watch the first episode of Marc Zicree's Space Command - featuring such wonderful actors as Nichelle Nichols, Robert Picardo, and Bill Mumy.
Tom Cruise is reportedly trying to film an action movie in space. Deadline reports that Cruise has partnered with SpaceX to make it happen. If it comes to fruition, the untitled project would be the first narrative feature film to be filmed in space.”
A U.S. Naval Academy instructor and part-time sci fi author appraises the most recent space battle that concluded season one of PICARD. Fun to see how future oriented the officer corps has become. (After all, I've repeatedly been welcomed to give talks and courses at the US Naval Postgraduate School.)
Wow, shades of my “North American Church of Gaia ! (From EARTH.) A proposed non-religious systems of faith and rituals for lovers of the world.