Saturday, December 25, 2021

Science fiction visions, starting with flying cars, plus Sherlock and comedies and more.

May this day be joyous for those who celebrate it as special... and for those who don't. And may the year ahead be our best-yet, though the worst of all that follow.

And now, on to ruminations!

 It has been said that: "A top task of the SF author is not to predict the car, but the traffic jam."

 Let's update that. What are the consequences of flying cars? And I have long predicted that 2022 or 2023 would be the year they arrive, at least in part.

As a sci fi writer, I peer ahead to note that these luxury flyers that will be largely used (at least at first) by the rich to avoid the frustrating congestion of our streets.

So, will one outcome be better traffic down here, when the rich people leave the roads? Or will the flight of wealthy folks to the sky be just like when, after 9/11, the wealthy abandoned First Class on airline flights in favor of corporate/private jets and charters, resulting is a massive deterioration of life for the rest of us air travelers. Because till then, the rich and influential still had to use the same airports and planes, and their complaints were heeded. So what happens when they abandon our streets and highways, leaving us to fester while they demand more tax cuts?

So, will we get angry, seeing these demigods zipping above us? Will this be another tech advance that swiftly percolates down to the rest of us, as I portray in my short story “Transition Generation”? Or might flying cars carrying sky lords be the final insult leading to revolution? 

There, that's my cynical worst take. And it leads to a top demand when the revolution comes (that they seem determined to drive us to.) We will take torches to the charter areas of the airports and - at point of our pitchforks - scream at the brats "Get back into First Class, where you belong!"

(Eat yer heart out, Robspierre & Lenin!)

Another question. Might flying cars, be used for terrorism? 

Sure, (1) they are tiny. (2) AI controlled. That’s problematic, and in Existence I posed swarm terror attacks using drones and flying cars. Still, rule-systems can be adjusted, and (3) there will be banned areas with plenty of laser defenses. But yes. Tradeoffs and dangers.

One prototype under development: the flying AirCar, invented in Slovakia, which can transform into a sports car in minutes. This video presents other experimental flying cars including the Aero Mobil, the Klein Vision Air Car, the AirBus PopUp, the Terrafugia and the PAL-V. Some modern updates to those envisioned in Sci Fi movies such as The Fifth Element, Blade Runner, Total Recall, The Jetsons, Back to the Future... and so many others.

By coincidence, I just read (and blurbed) the latest book by J Storrs Hall - Where Is My Flying Car?  The book ought to have gone into all that.

Oh, want irony? For 50 years Los Angeles required all tall buildings to have flat roofs for heliports than then were seldom used. Now, after the law was rescinded, may come the golden era of rooftop taxi service. Again, for elites.

Followup: Sorry, I thought it was obvious that (a) initial uses will be between licensed landing pads and (b) automatic control will be almost absolutely required. And yes, within those limits I reiterat: I expect it in the next two years.  At which point the whine will shift from "Where's the flying car?" to "Where's my flying car?"

== Recommended... ==

One of the greatest directors of all time, whose work I laud in VIVID TOMORROWS: Science Fiction and Hollywood, is Nicholas Meyer, who saved Star Trek, among many things. He also is a noted innovator in the wide and popular Sherlock Holmes canon, having initiated the latest era of fun creativity with The Seven Percent Solution. Now comes his latest The Return of the Pharaoh: From the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D. Such brain food.

On a lighter note... Marie Vibbert's lively and rollicking Galactic Hell Cats is way fun, as is the trailer

Which reminds me of a micro-rant I have been meaning to issue: Mars Attacks is best watched with the music on... but with the insipid/unfunny dialogue turned off. Better, switch to a version that's dubbed in a language you don't know - no subtitles! All the unintentionally stupid things vanish and the intentionally stupid ones amplify! You'll imagine hilarious lines! Trust me on this. Try it.

 And for more sci fi hilarity, try my own comedy: The Ancient Ones.

One of you reminded me that I have TWO works of comedic SF. Now, there are many styles and varieties of humor! In my recent novel The Ancient Ones, I tried for the level of pun-laced satire and irony-amid-plausibility Terry Pratchett achieved with such grace and that I could only aspire-to... with - sure - a few moments of pure lampoon... while mixing genres... Star Trek Pastiche with vampire-zombie-werewolves! You can sample the first 3 chapters free at my site and decide if Brin is merely crazy or Crazy!

But there's another attempt at comedic SF that you can also try for free. Gorilla My Dreams - a broad, lampoony and immature take on my own Uplift Universe, plus several guest cosmoses. Something for the weekend. Don't drink beverages while reading too close to the screen... 

Though indeed, many have enjoyed the lighter side of Kiln People and The Practice Effect.

== And furthermore ==

Tales from the Bridge: All Things Sci-Fi hosted A Conversation with David Brin.

Beyond Dune and Foundation: a list of Golden Age SF classics that should be adapted to the screen, including Mockingbird, The Dispossessed, and The Demolished Man.

While we started with flying cars, science fiction has also offered more dire visions of possible future: a list of 20 greatest apocalyptic novels includes classics such as Earth AbidesParable of the SowerOn the BeachA Canticle for LeibowitzAlas, Babylon, as well as The Postman


scidata said...

THE DISPOSSESSED - one of the best books I've read in the past decade (admittedly not a long list). I read anything that even tangentially relates to her 'Ansible', whether fiction or tech. Anthropology is a mind-bending world to grow up in.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the previous comments:

Only then he dives into distracto idiotic nonsense about how the boomer saps - many of them brain poisoned from lead - are the 'oligarchy" instead of the loopy suckers for Foxite propaganda. Alas.

The fact that the Baby Boom generation went from the embodiment of youth and tolerance to money-obsessed and safety-obsessed geriatrics. terrified that their own children might enjoy some of the freedom from conformity they engaged in and metaphorically shouting "Get off my lawn!" is hardly a new observation. I probably count as among the very youngest to be called Baby Boomers, and I myself noticed the sad irony of this trend many years ago.

(The fact that we are no longer "Baby Boomers", but simply "Boomers" is indicative of...something, anyway)

Some of us resist the trend, though. Too young to have ever been a hippie, I've remained a "Do your own thing, man" liberal rather than a "Nanny State" liberal, and despite having passed 60 a while ago, would never vote Republican if my life depended on it.

I can, however, laugh at the line from Alan Sherman's parody song to the tune of Hava Nageila:

Harvey and Sheila, Harvey and Shelia
Harvey and Sheila moved to west L.A.
Harvey and Sheila, Harvey and Sheila,
Harvey and Sheila flew T.W.A.

They bought a house one day, financed by F.H.A.
It had a swimming pool full of H2O.
Traded their used M.G. for a new XKE.
Switched to the GOP. That's the way things go!

Larry Hart said...

Following up on the "Boomer" comment I just left...

I don't simply bemoan the fact that I and my generation are older in the 2020s than we were in the 1960s. It's the fact that when the term "Baby Boom" was coined, youth and youthful rebellion were the defining characteristics of our generation. Even with the inevitable march of time, I don't quite understand how we went from that to being the iconic embodiment of crotchety old folks. From fans of JFK to conservative authoritarian bullies.

The Alan Sherman song from that era which I excerpted was making fun of the baby boom's parents' generation. In that, I'm reminded that some things apparently never change. Dave Sim's comic and personal rants insisted over and over that western society lost its way in the 1970s when feminism took over, supplanting masculine monotheism. Yet, C.S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength (third in the Out of the Silent Planet trilogy) was published in 1946, and makes very much the same complaint about the youngsters of that day with their gender equality and sex before marriage and secularism, as judged by the "Mother Dimble" character who embodies every good connotation of "old-fashioned". I also remember reading Ibsen's A Doll's House in high school back in the 70s and being absolutely blown away that such ideas had already been in the air in the 1890s.

I've understood for some time that my daughter's generation will make a much better world than we did if we leave them anything useful to work with. And while I'm not anxious to go gently into that good night, I do get that that will probably have to happen first. No pun intended, but I can live with that.

David Brin said...

Yes, LH. But still, a majority of boomers opposed Trump. That cult only works by cheating.

duncan cairncross said...

Re the Boomers

We simply did NOT have much power back in the 70's - we were from 6 years old to 24 years old in 1970
While we talked about the youth culture the actual power and control was in our mentors hands - they were the "post war" - and they were feeling their power - a bit too young to fight in WW2 - but by 1970 they were the 25 to 42 years olds - and while they were not the "face" of the "youthful revolution" they were its engine

We did not start to actually have any power at all until the 2010's when we were 46 to 65 years old

Robert said...

What are the consequences of flying cars?

Will these cars have openable windows? If so, then I wonder if you'll see the need for steel umbrellas along the flight corridors, as idiots throw stuff out the window. There was an old SF story I ready decades ago, written before WWI or possible before 1900, which has people using iron umbrellas because of the risk of getting hit with something dropped from the flying cabs. (It was one of those 'contemporary goes on a trip to the future' stories, can't remember much more than that.)

Another consequence is that law enforcement for flying cars will be federal, not municipal/state, under the authority of the FAA. Municipalities and states are already precluded from enacting laws/bylaws that affect drones in the air, although some try to and drone pilots sometimes need deep pockets to challenge illegal laws.

It might spell the end of general aviation. At the moment VFR works because there aren't that many airplanes, but add flying cars to the mix and as density goes up so does risk of collision. At which point does class G airspace effectively disappear?

If there is a collision between one of these autopiloted flying cars and something else, who is legally responsibly? Has this question been resolved for self-driving ground cars yet? If there must be a pilot in command (ie. able to take control) then it is likely them, but would they really be able to react to a situation they've just been dropped in? Especially if the machine usually flies itself? By definition something the AI can't cope with is unexpected, so it's asking a lot for a human to suddenly assess the situation and make the right decision. (This problem exists for all autopilot vehicles with a human supervisory driver.)

David Brin said...

Robertthe rich are more likely to spit or piss than throw junk that could get them prosecuted. But I expect the flying limos... then taxis... to be restricted to certain altitudes and (in cities) specific flight paths.

General viation VFR will be transformed by both lidar and compulsory transponders. Which will work fine tim they are terrorist hacked. As in EXISTENCE.

Paradoctor said...

For short trips, I'd rather drive on the ground under my own control than fly in the air under central control.

Larry Hart said...


If there is a collision between one of these autopiloted flying cars and something else, who is legally responsibly? Has this question been resolved for self-driving ground cars yet?

I haven't studied it extensively, but from what I've read so far, no one is responsible and the collision is treated as an act of God.

Robert said...

Robertthe rich are more likely to spit or piss than throw junk that could get them prosecuted.

Well, spit could get them prosecuted, if the spat-on preserve it and the DNA sample it contains…

Specific flight paths was something I came up with as part of the background for a Traveller (SF RPG) setting. Nothing vital was below the flight streams, so any malfunctions would just result in a natural park being hit. I also had the same thing but smaller for local travel. So highways and roads, but as clear spaces below vehicles rather than surfaces for vehicles to travel on. (Also meant I could repurpose city maps for my setting.)

Being SF, I was able to assume an excellent flight control system. :-)

scidata said...

I'm aware that OGH knew Ursula K Le Guin, but I want to give her a smidge more praise myself. Near the end of CONTACT, the alien says of humanity: "An interesting mix. You're capable of such beautiful dreams, and such horrible nightmares." Much sci-fi explores this duality in stark terms. For example there's the TOS episode "The Enemy Within" where Kirk gets split into jekyll/hyde, neither of which is the true Kirk. Others make the duality yin/yang, civilized/barbaric, rational/emotional, refined/rustic, etc. THE DISPOSSESSED explores this duality as cultured/anarchist, but in a soft, subtle, poignant, and inside-out way. It's a classic noble savage tale, steeped in enlightened anthropology. Le Guin also manages to avoid going full-on dragony, which is probably what enabled this book to win the Hugo and Nebula. I'm not a Le Guin scholar, but IIRC, I don't think that physics-heavy, hard SF was her comfort zone, so kudos for a really nice job.

duncan cairncross said...

Flying cars

It takes a LOT more energy to fly then to drive along a road - as in about 20 times as much
This would end up in the relative costs

Bob Shaw did a series of stories with anti-grav belts - one of the consequences was the elimination of commercial flight - the only planes left flying had to be armored to survive hitting a frozen dead corpse

Roberts "specific flight paths" - above the city was a swirling pattern of flyer lights as they obeyed the flight paths
But people would shut off their lights and take short cuts

Vertigo was the novel - and he wrote at least one short story on the subject

David Brin said...

See my short story "TRansition Generation" set in a future when everyone in town can fly like superman. It kinda hurts and there are traffic jams and the protagonist keeps bitching... while soaring like f----g superman.


Best of David Brin stories... my best stuff!

duncan cairncross said...

Best of David Brin

Not available as a Kindle!!

David Brin said...

Duncan this doesn't work?

duncan cairncross said...

If I follow that link I get

The Kindle title is not currently available for purchase

I wonder if its because I'm in NZ - I have hit that before - as I cast my mind back that was with some of your other books

David Brin said...

Duncan I show the Kindle as available for order here. Sorry!

Hey any of you guys!why don't you check to see if you can order the kindle of Best of David Brin stories... my best stuff!

In fact, tell me if the hardcover ships, also!!! ;-)

Duncan email me and I'll send you a PDF

Unknown said...

The 7% Solution was the novel where (IIRC) it is posited that Prof. Moriarty was not the Napoleon of Crime, but rather the Martinet of Holmes' drug-addled university memories. Makes sense to me.

De Camp noted that anthropologists tended to write their own rules of living because they applied their own training to their own culture. I wonder if he was, at least in part, writing about Leguin...who wrote, I think, as if she were on the outside, looking in, except for a tiny little fantasy set in an apartment in Paris.

Robert, some of my Traveller cities had 500MW plasma gun enforcement for air/rafts that disconnected the municipal traffic control (usually after one or two warnings). Vaporized metal doesn't cause much of a debris field.


Don Gisselbeck said...

As a bicycle repairman, here's the obligatory Monty Python reference;

scidata said...

Surprising that RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA has taken so long to make as a movie. Updated Krell tech from FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) would have been adequate, quite appropriate actually. James Cameron (TERMINATOR, AVATAR) and David Goyer (FOUNDATION) were teaming up to make FANTASTIC VOYAGE eight years ago. Modern Hollywood is a complex, iffy engine. Fear of making mistakes seems to be the guiding rule.

Smurphs said...

RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA has always been my favorite Clarke book, I just re-read it with my son this past summer. And that is high praise from me, as Asimov, Brin and Clarke are my personal ABC's ;) I haven't been able to see Foundation yet, but my brother -in-law, just got Apple TV, so I hope to watch it soon.

I am curious how RAMA will be translated to the screen. Given the attitude of the artifact toward Humanity, I think major changes will be made. I'd watch an adaptation faithful to the book, as I think most everyone here would, but for audiences conditioned to Marvel superhero movies, I don't think a faithful adaptation would sell.

Then again, Ridley Scott managed to turn THE MARTIAN into an excellent movie, so it can be done.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Dr. Brin said ...

It kinda hurts and there are traffic jams and the protagonist keeps bitching... while soaring like f----g superman.

I was just having a conversation about this in regards to modern air travel with one of my coworkers (we were both sitting in layover on The Big Island waiting on the same flight to Oahu, on our way back from visiting our respective home towns for christmas).

I spent much of both flights across the Pacific and the US just staring out the window, marveling at the fact that I was sitting in a chair, in a mechanical bird, 50,000 feet up in the sky.

My coworker complained that we had taken this grand miracle of science and engineering, and made it one of the worst things in the world.

My opinion was that it wasn't so terrible. I've been on multi-day cross country trips, and multi-month ocean voyages. Spending most of a day sitting in the sky or standing in a couple, remarkably efficient lines during the holiday travel rush, or sitting in a terminal for a couple hours with my pocket internet machine hardly seemed like an inconvenience.

Unknown said...

The SF movie we really need is *The Stars My Destination*. (Speaking of transportation revolutions...) If done wrong, it would be unbearable, worse than the Rock Hudson *Martian Chronicles*. But if done *right* would be the ultimate SF film, as it is the ultimate SF novel. Just exploding with energy, with the absolute transcendent ending of transcendent endings. I've always regretted that Sean Connery never played Gully Foyle--he would have been perfect. Is there anyone with the force to play him today? No one comes to mind...:-/

David Brin said...

Have your friend read this, Ilithi!

And that was luxury travel compared to "Oregon Trail" wagon trains. Which beat neolithic migrations, hands down. Better yet, get him to read my story!! ;-)

Unknown I think Keanu Reeves could do Gully Foyle. Ron Perlman! Andf very differently... Pete Davidson!

Larry Hart said...

Ilithi Dragon:

I spent much of both flights across the Pacific and the US just staring out the window, marveling at the fact that I was sitting in a chair, in a mechanical bird, 50,000 feet up in the sky.

I had a similar experience on one of my first long, solo driving trips from Illinois to Virginia. I thought that if I just considered what my body was doing without regard to the mechanical contraption it was encased in, I was flying like Superman.

My coworker complained that we had taken this grand miracle of science and engineering, and made it one of the worst things in the world.

Heh. That's exactly what I thought about computers the first time I was out of college and using them purely as business machines. What a waste!

scidata said...

A corollary to Vonnegut's "You are what you pretend to be" is: "pretense sticks".
Conspiracy bells aren't easy to un-ring. [munches a Cheeto]
Looking forward to AppleTV's production of the Scottish play - Denzel is good at karma.

Don Gisselbeck said...

Then there's riding a penny farthing around the world. My favorite vignette, dangling from a railway trestle with one hand, bicycle in the other while a train went over.

duncan cairncross said...

Happy New Year Everybody!!

Larry Hart said...

For some of you, it's 2022 already, so I'd say "Greetings from the past", except that Dr Brin hasn't moderated new posts for a few days now, so maybe it will also be 2022 here by the time you see this.

Seriously, I hope there's nothing more than that he's spending time with friends and family.

I strain to imagine a "Happy" 2022, except that I also strain to imagine one any worse than the past two years. How's that for lopsided optimism?

David Brin said...

Haven't SEEN any new ones for a few days! Happy New Year all!

Alfred Differ said...

I've been traveling or with family for days. Snuck back home between west coast storms.

So... this is just part of my usual lull. Sometimes I'm in a mood to write several multi-kilobyte responses.* Sometimes not. 8)

Happy New Year everyone!
May it be relatively virus free for you.

* I've been filling index cards with dialog snippets for more stories instead. More blah-blah-de-blah spilling in that direction right now.

Mike H said...

Here is to more Light and less Darkness for next year..

Larry Hart said...

My 20-yr-old and her 19-yr-old cousin are reliving their past by playing Poke Park on the wii.

I'm having nostalgia flashbacks.

Happy New Year, everyone. May we be rescued by the unexpected.

Der Oger said...

Happy New Year, everyone!

Tony Fisk said...

Happy new year to you all. If we can deploy Webb (sunshield now fully extended and ready for tensioning) we can't be completely useless.

Dennis M Davidson said...

Happy New Year 2022!

To our generous and productive host Dr. Brin,
the lively and spirited CB Community of Commenters,
and fellow readers:

Thank-you for making CB a place of thought and ideas.
2022 beckons!

TheMadLibrarian said...

Happy New Year to everyone!

David Brin said...


And onward