Thursday, November 14, 2019

Science fictional futures: news & updates

First... one of the best surviving science fiction and mystery bookstores left in the west is San Diego's Mysterious Galaxy. It looks like they may have to close without a new owner or investor. If you have any leads, refer them here... or to me.

I've been busy, all right. In addition to my e-book on political tactics you never see in the news*... we're almost ready to announce something that many of you have written to ask for over the years --both an e-book and POD paperback of The Ancient Ones, my sci fi comedy novel...

...and our own e-book re-issue of Sundiver! Stay tuned.

And yes, many of you have written in or commented on the huge new popular online game Death Stranding, and yes, well, some things are obvious. "If you’ve ever read David Brin’s novel, or seen the 1997 Kevin Costner film, The Postman, this shares a similar premise. The only difference of course would be the supernatural elements,"notes Adam Beck in Hardcore Gamer.

A new anthology Future Tense Fiction: Stories of Tomorrow includes 14 speculative stories from such accomplished authors as Paolo Bacigalupi, Emily St. John Mandel, Annalee Newitz, Carmen Maria Machado, and others. By turns funny, alarming, and inspiring, Future Tense Fiction: Stories of Tomorrow is a thought-provoking excursion into the futures we would and would not want to live in. 

== Science fiction and the news ==

Congratulations to this year’s winners of Hugo Awards:

The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal — Best Novel (And I recommend highly.)
Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells — Best Novella
“A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” by Alix E. Harrow — Best Short Story
“If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,” by Zen Cho — Best Novelette
Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers — Best Series

And in this world...

Los Angeles recently ended its insistence that all tall buildings have heliports. Ironic! Because uber and other are designing networks of hover cabs to ferry users between rooftops.

Forget flying cars. How about wooden ones? New “Metallic Wood” could lead to Super-Light CarsIt’s as tough as titanium, but light enough to float in water.

In The Uplift War, there’s a riot scene (that readers call a laugh riot!) in a chimp bar called the Ape’s Grape, wherein the tables are made of straw and the beer bottles out of paper, only partly for reasons of cost/ecology… mostly to limit damage, because a nice riot is one of the objectives, every evening! Now Carlsberg brewery is developing paper beer bottles. Eco driven for now. But expect the fun-to-damage ratio of bar fights to improve mightily!  

Another prediction happening: in Earth (1989), I portrayed Sea State using power-generating kites. Now Google’s “X” team at Makani has moved closer the day when a kite massing far, far less might generate as much power as a massive windmill tower.   One use here is offshore platforms, potentially floating ones, or getting small island nations off diesel generators.  Later, much more.

One more for the prediction registry? It Slices, It Dices, It Binds, And Stops Bugs: Dental Floss Is Your Secret Multitool.” Yeah. In The Practice Effect, my hero uses dental floss to tear down a wall and escape from prison.

My Hugo nominated story “The Giving Plague” is reprinted in an anthology (along with many originals) of science fiction about health care!  Some stories in VITAL explore advances in treatment for serious and emergency conditions; imagine a healthcare system that is simpler to navigate and cares for the whole person, or envision a world where the average life expectancy is 200 years.

A fun story by my colleague Ted Chiang has a title “The Great Silence,” that I coined in my 1983 general review article on SETI, before the mystery of the missing aliens was even called the “Fermi Paradox.”  The subtitle: “A parrot has a question for humans,” pretty much cues you in to the well-written little tale. And the narrator has more to say than the poor parrot quantum-messengers in my novel Existence. The plaint of a soon-to-be extinct sapient bird and species isn’t rancorous, though moving.

Along similar lines see “What the Dead Man Said,” a new short story about climate change, migration, and family secrets, by Chinelo Onwualu.

And from the sublime to the deliberately ridiculous…  ‘Alcohol in Space: Past, Present and Future’ is now available — including a story (*hic!*) - of mine own. Collected by Chris Carberry, with a forward by Andy Weir.

A new film “Our Digital Selves: My Avatar is me!” tells the story of 13 ability-diverse global citizens as they explore their identity through artistic expression and making a home for themselves in the VR Metaverse.

A simple proposal that could change a generation. These new e-sports leagues are just now setting up their rules. So why not require that the players POWER their own devices with exercise? As long as it's a level playing field, so to speak, with allowances for age and handicaps, it would add another dimension! It could be part of game play. Above all it would set an example that these new e-sports don't have to be slovenly and destructive of physical health. It might inspire a whole generation to at least move a bit in both the real and virtual worlds.

Chinese Director Says He’s ‘Truly Sorry’ for Sci-Fi Flop. Teng Huatao, the director of “Shanghai Fortress,” on Saturday expressed his “extreme sadness” over myriad memes joking that the movie had “closed the door” on expectations for Chinese sci-fi. While such films have performed poorly in recent years, the runaway success of February blockbuster “The Wandering Earth” had ushered in a surge of excitement and optimism about the genre’s future — that is, until now.

More soon!

* And yes, my new e-book POLEMICAL JUDO sets our current crisis in many perspectives you’ve never seen, offer ing100+ tactics to counter the would-be destroyers of our Great Experiment. Free sample chapters! And the paperback is now available for Print-on-Demand.

Maybe someone will pick up some of these tactics and win some victories for us.


gregory byshenk said...

From the previous:

jim said...

You guys are upset with Trumps actions on globalization and Pax Americana (the American empire) and I think that is about the only area in which he is doing some good. Globalization has been bad for the majority of Americans (top 10% really benefited bottom 80% lost out). And the American empire is costing more than we can afford, ending it and bringing the troops home is going to be difficult and messy but it is the better than having it pried from our hands.

Regardless of one thinks of 'Pax Americana', it is hard to argue that Trump has done anything good - one way or the other.

First, it is (at least arguably, if not plainly) not true that "Globalization has been bad for the majority of Americans". Globalization is an (almost) unmitigated good for the world, and for the US. The US (as a whole) is better off for the effects of Globalization. The fact that the wealthy are becoming wealthier and the poor poorer is not the result of Globalization, but of accidentally (in the sense opposite to 'essentially') coincidental tax (and other economic and legal) policy choices. (It is not 'globalization' that cut tax rates, for example.)

Second, while Trump has made noises about pulling back from the "American empire", he has taken (or even supported) few, if any actions to do so. Indeed, rather than pulling back, he has browbeaten other states to both contribute more to defense - while also insisting that they toe the US line on policy.

In the case of Iran, just as an example: yes, Trump has not openly waged war. But his administration has continued to support proxies who do so, and in pulling out of the Nuclear accord has increased tension and instability, which makes conflict (hot or cold, intentional or accidental) more likely. Also, relating to the preceding paragraph, his administration has insisted that the rest of the world assist in enforcing US sanctions - with which they do not agree.

In short: one does not end an empire by becoming more demanding and belligerent.

Larry Hart said...

The New York Times tells us the obvious...


There was a time in my life when I believed — and thought that most other Americans believed — that the truth was all that mattered. That honesty and bravery were the hallmarks of good character and honorable leadership.

Somehow, somewhere, that got lost, particularly by Republicans in this country. Blind devotion to Trump blinded them to the truth.


Larry Hart said...

There is nothing Democrats can do to make their Republican colleagues side with upstanding patriots like Taylor and Kent — who embody the virtues conservatives once venerated — over their dear leader and the mad rantings of his worshipers. All they can do is make plain the choice America faces between hewing to ideals that everyone in public life once at least pretended to revere, or consenting to their defilement. Either Americans will reclaim their birthright and become a liberal democracy again, or not. It’s up to all of us to decide how much we care about being entertained in the process.

Larry Hart said...

...Today’s Republican Party isn’t just a party that has embraced crazy conspiracy theories about global warming (and everything else where the facts are inconvenient.) It has also become the party of pollution.

Why? Follow the money. There’s huge variation among industries in how much environmental damage they do per dollar of production. And the super-polluting industries have basically put all their chips on the Republicans. In 2016, for example, coal mining gave 97 percent of its political contributions to Republican candidates and causes. And polluters are getting what they paid for.

This, by the way, is one reason I and others find it so mind-boggling when people like Joe Biden say that everything will be fine once Trump is gone. If Trump doesn’t succeed in destroying our democracy (a big if), his most damaging legacy will be the vast environmental destruction he leaves behind. And Trump’s pro-pollution stance isn’t an aberration. In this, he is very much a man of his party.

scidata said...

Re: SD's Mysterious Galaxy

These are treasures. Toronto has had an independent SF bookstore for many decades (I used to visit the original way back). It's called Bakka (from the Fremen legend).

It's a hard lift to preserve them. I once tried to marshall investors to buy Asimov's candy shop in Brooklyn, which was a plumbing supply outlet at that time. No interest.

Larry Hart said...


...Asimov's candy shop in Brooklyn, which was a plumbing supply outlet at that time.


scidata said...

Larry Hart Huh?

At the time I wanted to buy it. Not at the time when young Isaac was sipping sodas and dreaming of robots.

Larry Hart said...


Oh, I see. "Asimov's candy shop" wasn't an actual place name.

scidata said...

Larry Hart: Asimov's candy shop

I don't know what the name was. Isaac's dad owned the shop. His growing up in a candy store, surrounded by SF mags, gave us much of the 20th c. Enlightenment. That doesn't get washed away by a grifter from nearby.

Larry Hart said...

Never heard this story before...


Hitler had plans for Herschel [the boy who shot a German diplomat, the cassus belli for Krystalnacht] that went well beyond being the pretext for the pogrom. He wanted to make Herschel a significant actor in not one but two momentous events. The second event, though monstrous, is much less well known because it never took place, and it never took place because of the strange, brilliant heroism of Herschel Greenspoon.

When France fell in 1940, the dictator sent an elite squad of the Gestapo to find Herschel Grynszpan, arrest him, and bring him to Berlin alive.

Why alive? Because Hitler had decided to turn the boy into the defendant in a major media show trial in Berlin, “proving” that the Second World War had been started by the “World Jewish Conspiracy,” using the “evil” Herschel as their trigger. Herschel would stand in the dock while a roster of the most notable anti-Semites in Europe mounted the witness stand, swearing to the solemn historical truth of this preposterous lie, pointing to the young man’s role in it. Enormous amounts of Nazi money, time, and energy went into planning this charade. Hitler was kept constantly informed. The star witness was to be no less than former French foreign minister Georges Bonnet, a covert Nazi fellow-traveler and major player in Munich, who promised the Nazis to tell the world that, yes, indeed, France went to war in 1939 only because of relentless, irresistible, warmongering pressure from “the Jews.”

But Hitler’s anti-Semitic spectacle had an even darker purpose. He wanted to make the extravaganza into worldwide news to be used as cover for the coming Holocaust. The trial was initially timed to coincide with the Wannsee Conference, when the mass murder of the Jews became settled Nazi policy. But it never took place.

It never took place because Herschel Grynszpan kept it from taking place. As a prisoner of the Nazis, Herschel had quickly grasped that he was being primed for more anti-Semitic propaganda. To prevent that disgrace, he concocted an extraordinarily ingenious lie. He claimed that he had not really killed the German diplomat for any political reason at all. His “protest” had merely been his cover for a deeper secret: the unspeakable truth that he’d killed the diplomat in the midst of a homosexual lover’s quarrel.

Nazi homosexuality? A decadent affair with a teenager?! This inspired falsehood was certain to turn into the trial’s most scandalous news story. It made an enraged Goebbels advise Hitler to postpone the whole thing. It stayed postponed forever.


Larry Hart said...


Speaking of the whistleblower, Republicans continued their quixotic quest to round up that anonymous and protected-under-federal-law person. They griped about the lack of a whistleblower to demonize while sitting in front of two actual witnesses (Kent and Taylor) who were blowing the whistle on virtually everything the whistleblower had claimed. If an anonymous tipster tells you your dog ate your hamburger and then your dog tells you he ate your hamburger, the identity of the tipster becomes quite irrelevant. (Though you might still wonder when your dog started talking.)

Lastly, they complained witnesses were not giving a “firsthand account” of alleged misdeeds. Yet those same Republicans support Trump’s refusal to allow people who do have firsthand knowledge — like chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Council legal adviser John Eisenberg — to comply with House subpoenas.

It’s almost as if, and you’ll pardon this giant leap of logic, Republicans don’t really have a defense of the president’s actions.

Unknown said...

SF stuff -
A recent article in Slate noted that some of John Ford's novels will be coming back into print. This is a good thing, and if you've never read any of his work, you'll have the opportunity to correct your life.


Unknown said...

Unindicted Co-Conspirator 1 (understood to be the current president) obviously has a world view that is transactional and zero-sum. Such people think EVERYONE thinks that way. I recently came across a bit of Vietnam War history in which LBJ boasted that he was going to offer North Vietnam a billion-dollar dam (1960's billion, not your wimpy 2010 billion) if they agreed to stop fighting. "They won't be able to refuse this," he chortled. (Movie narrator: "They refused.")
At least LBJ had a positive-sum outlook.


Jon S. said...

Any chance that Ford reissue will include his classic Paranoia adventure set, The Yellow-Clearance Black Box Blues? Never got a chance to play it, but it was hilarious just to read.

jim said...

Paranoia was a very difficult game to play, all of my group died quickly and it was so frustrating.

Then we read the dungeon masters guide, that has to be the funniest rule book ever written.

Jon S. said...

Well, your group's supposed to die quickly. That's why everyone has six clones. Unless you got one of those Level 7 adventures (in the system that rates adventures by the number of times each character is expected to die)...

Alfred Differ said...


referencing the Chicago Tribune...
If an anonymous tipster tells you your dog ate your hamburger and then your dog tells you he ate your hamburger, the identity of the tipster becomes quite irrelevant.

Almost. There is one point where it isn't irrelevant, but you have to think from the perspective of the cheaters. The WB helped them get CAUGHT, so knowing who the WB is helps them improve how they hide what they do for next time.

Sorta the point of the WB laws, hmm? The rest of us don't want them learning much from their mistakes except that we CAN catch them. 8)

matthew said...

Thank bog for the American Foreign Service! Dedicated to preserving the great parts of our nation. The last week has been *amazing*, watching serious professionals get to work. Stirs my patriotism.

David Brin said...

One of my opportunities not followed was to become of foreign service officer. I used to take the exam pretty often, for fun. And yes, I did that and was offered slots on the top (political) track. But never accepted, stayed in grad school. (I also very nearly became a sub-nuke officer, in the 70s.) I have huge respect for those women and men who endure long postings in often dangerous locales applying skill and empathy and endless study to keeping diplomacy mostly way ahead of the historical alternative... war.

Alfred Differ said...

These witnesses HAVE been good to watch. Anyone paying close attention will note they express the 'national interests' in a way that a King cannot absent a Hobbes-style horror culture. They may be lead by a President, but the 'policy' they implement is far larger than a President.

Nation as Organism... but not a simplistic one described by Hobbes.

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. From the Twitter account "Navy Chief of Information".

As the Commander in Chief, the President has the authority to restore Special Warfare Operator First Class Gallagher to the pay grade of E-7. We acknowledge his order and are implementing it.

Note they aren't calling the pardoned individual 'Chief'. Pay grade yes. Rank not mentioned.
This is a Navy insult.

john fremont said...

@Alfred Differ
That is some shade thrown very tactfully.As it was explained to me as a young leatherneck by some older sergeants, if you wanna go further in the service , learn that tact is not a four letter word

Alfred Differ said...

Yup. It appears most of the comments are using the term 'shade' now. Makes me wonder how long that post will be up. 8)

I'm finding it hard to believe our active duty folks will be a problem next election cycle the rest of us catch the fever and go temporarily insane.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

referencing the Chicago Tribune...
"If an anonymous tipster tells you your dog ate your hamburger and then your dog tells you he ate your hamburger, the identity of the tipster becomes quite irrelevant."

Almost. There is one point where it isn't irrelevant, but you have to think from the perspective of the cheaters. The WB helped them get CAUGHT, so knowing who the WB is helps them improve how they hide what they do for next time.

Sure, but we're not really arguing. By "irrelevant", I don't think Hupke meant "So it doesn't matter whether or not the whistleblower's identity is revealed". He meant "So the Republicans have no business pretending that the WB's identity is germane to the case."

Rex Hupke's columns are primarily comedic, not political, although these days he ends up in a Bill Maher-like role quite a bit. His use of the "dog ate your hamburger" gag was understandable in that context, but the fact that it required a punchline might have diluted the point, which is that when an anonymous tip points the cops in the right direction to investigate and catch a criminal, the investigation and subsequent verdict are not tainted by the fact that the original tip was not proof in and of itself.

The Graphic Novel From Hell extrapolated a story based upon one theory of Jack The Ripper's identity. In the novel, the Ripper is royal surgeon William Gull (that's not a spoiler--the story is not written as a whodunnit). In the book, a political enemy of Gull's within the court pretends to be psychic and leads the police to Gull's door, claiming that he's the killer, even though the guy (whose name I forget) has no actual reason to think so. When the police arrive, though, Gull confesses proudly, much in the way that Trump touts his "perfect call". In fact, a major theme of the novel is the concept "I made it all up and it came true anyway".

Point being--just because the reason for suspecting someone turns out to be completely bogus doesn't invalidate the investigation should it turn out that your suspect really is the criminal.

Larry Hart said...

Bill Maher:

He [George W Bush] stood with Obama when Obama took is job, and said, "We want you to succeed". If you can't see the difference between that and Trump, then Democrats are doomed"

scidata said...

At the JSC, NASA just now opened a lunar sample returned by Apollo 17.
"We deliberately left several lunar samples from the Apollo missions sealed and untouched, so they could be analyzed in future decades with more advanced technology."

This is what long-term thinking looks like. Asimov would be tickled.

Jon S. said...

Oh, that tweet from the Navy CoI works on more than one level, too. Even as an old airman, I caught the phrasing: "...the President has the authority... We acknowledge this order and are implementing it." That's not exactly an enthusiastic, "Yes, sir!", now is it? (More like, "Okay, we demanded the order in writing, and got it. Now we have to do it, because it's not technically illegal.")

Oh, and as of 8:45am Pacific on November 16, the tweet is still up. :)

David Brin said...

"We deliberately left several lunar samples from the Apollo missions sealed and untouched, so they could be analyzed in future decades with more advanced technology."

Best example, The Antekythera Device dredged from an anient shipwreck. If they had picked at it with dental tools, it would have been wrecked. Later x-ray tomography let us recreate it exactly, down to Greek lettering and labels scratched lightly on the brass.

Congress must pass many laws limiting presidential authority, e.g. over promotions etc. I list many of them in POLEMICAL JUDO. And the courts will strike down many. And dems will be seen trying to limit their own power.

TCB said...

There's a Youtube channel called, who must be some sort of master machinist, and has several videos of making his own copy of the Antikythera Mechanism (a few others have been made for museums, but this guy made his own!)

Clickspring makes many of the necessary tools, such as showing how ancient files were made and hardened; an interesting comment in one of the videos is that the tools that made the Mechanism possible are even more important than the Mechanism, and they still underlie all our technology today.

TCB said...

EDIT: I screwed up the URL! Clickspring's Antikythera Mechanism on Youtube

scidata said...

Re: Antikythera astonomical computer

I've shown people models of this device and historical info using a tablet for years. Many reject it immediately as a hoax. Some even get prickly. Evidence that their sacred books may be deeply flawed is not entertained for even a microsecond.
"Euphoric, narcotic, pleasantly hallucinant." - Brave New World

john fremont said...

@scidata @Larry Hart

It may not be a place name, but Asimov's Candy Shop would be an cool name for a prog rock band or an album.
The warmup act for reunited Rush or King Crimson

Alfred Differ said...

Sure, but we're not really arguing.

We do that a lot. More like riffing.

locumranch said...

Your fellows seem to watching a different of Impeachment hearing then are the rest of us because all we see here in Middle America are a series of disgruntled federal employees, bureaucratic servants & diplomatic sinecures HATING on Apple Pie, Representative Democracy & a legally-elected US Executive Officer whose main crime appears to be a refusal to obey the commands & whims of his unelected employee underlings.

Could this leftist mindset be the result of a viral 'Giving Plague' that has left the typical progressive voter incapable of either empiric observation or rational thought?

As in the case of 'The Practice Effect' -- which I seem to remember very differently than our host does -- wherein the protagonist of record (with the assistance of a minor character) frees himself from a wooden stockade, not with dental floss, but a ZIPPER which has been magically augmented into a diamond-studded wire saw under the supernatural gaze of a dragon-parrot creature.

'The Practice Effect' was a finely-crafted tale and, as fantasies go, I enjoyed it immensely. It wasn't 'Science Fiction' though, imho, unless one is willing to attribute such parrot-magic to Quantum Tunneling, Black Matter or some other pseudo-scientific falderal.


David Brin said...

Any two minutes of the testimony -- and any three pages of the Mueller Report -- offered more impeachable crimes that 25 years of billion dollar Clinton Investigations ever came up with. Juries have convicted more Trumpists than the sum total of all Democratic administrations going back to Kennedy.

More "great guys" have later "betrayed" Trump that all administrations since FDR combined. Our alliances and sciences in tatters... and imbeciles say "you must be watching something different than I see.

I am not in a Nuremberg rally. Neither are the 60% of Americans... rapidly rising... who will save this nation from the New Brown Shirts.

scidata said...

Dr. Brin: Neither are the 60% of Americans...

Nor the overwhelming majority in the Rational West.

locumranch said...

David says that "I am not in a Nuremberg rally. Neither are the 60% of Americans... rapidly rising... who will save this nation from the New Brown Shirts".

This mindset of his -- one shared by a growing number of progressives -- is the source of his dichotomous delusion that everyone who is not his commendable progressive ally is therefore his deplorable Nazi enemy, even though nothing could be further from a multi-sided & multi-dimensional truth.

Dig this & dig this well:

There are more than TWO sides to every question -- including a 3rd, 4th & Nth side -- not just a good progressive side versus the evil Nazi horde.


David Brin said...

Har! One-dimensional Mr. zero (or negative) sum lectures us abou "more than two sides" after his cult has polarized us to the edge of civil war, EXPLICITLY banning even discussion of the possibility of negotiating with their political enemies. Even Barry Goldwater was appalled, denouncing the new, mad right's demonization of all opposition. And yes, literal demonization.

You... started... all of this. It is entirely consistent with confederate psychosis in every other phase of the civil war. Now that you see us getting truly riled up, after three decades putting out our hands to negotiate based on facts... NOW you cry "can't we all be reasonable?

We won't be fooled again! No, no!

But congrats. By being brief, you got me to actually read it all.

David Brin said...