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Reader Request Week 2015 Recap

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 05/17/2015 - 10:55
And now, for your convenience, all this year’s Reader Request pieces in one place. If you missed some and want to catch up, where you go. Reader Request Week 2015 #1: Free Speech Or Not Reader Request Week 2015 #2: Ego Searching Redux Reader Request Week 2015 #3: Raising Strong Women Reader Request Week 2015 … Continue reading Reader Request Week 2015 Recap →

Reader Request Week 2015 #10: Short Bits

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sat, 05/16/2015 - 11:00
And now, quick answers to non-writing-related questions: Anguadelphine: “My question is how do scientists effectively communicate facts to the general public without being discounted by people who don’t have the knowledge or patience to distill scientific evidence (or just don’t want to because of ‘belief’). I would appreciate any thoughts on this because frankly, it baffles … Continue reading Reader Request Week 2015 #10: Short Bits →

Today’s New Books and ARCs, 5/15/15

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 05/15/2015 - 16:39
As we head off into the weekend, please enjoy this fantastic stack of new books and ARCs, all coming to bookstores soon(ish). See anything here that might rock your world? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Wildflowers, by Sascha Long Petyarre

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 05/15/2015 - 15:02
Before I headed off to Australia, a friend of mine who has worked in the fine art industry advised me to keep an eye for aboriginal art on the basis that there is some very excellent work out there. To which my response was, yeah, okay, but that’s not going to happen because it’s not like … Continue reading Wildflowers, by Sascha Long Petyarre →

Reader Request Week 2015 #9: Writing Related Short Bits

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 05/15/2015 - 12:46
And now, quick answers to questions related to writing, publishing, and such-like topics: Standback: “What’s your take on the state of short fiction in the genre? Print magazines, anthologies, e-zines, and anything else? Is the form viable and sustainable? And how much of an audience does it actually have?” I suspect short fiction in the genre … Continue reading Reader Request Week 2015 #9: Writing Related Short Bits →

SF on the big screen...and TV

Contrary Brin - Fri, 05/15/2015 - 11:54
What is Science Fiction? Here’s my take on the Literature of Change – nicely edited into a vividly animated clip-vid by Trekspertise.
So now Yahoo is creating original sic fi content? "Other Space" is a comedy by Paul Feig …. another garbage scow headed into the galaxy? (Does anyone get that reference?) 
Wow, the SyFy Channel has really veered back into realstuff scifi!  Here is the Childhood's End teaser (based on the classic by Arthur C. Clarke) -- to premiere on SyFy in December.  
Another series....based on Philip K. Dick's award-winning novel, and executive produced by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner), The Man in the High Castle explores what it would be like if the Allied Powers had lost WWII, and Japan and Germany ruled the United States.  Watch the first episode -- free on Amazon.  
We've just started watching Person of Interest, a Sci Fi crime series directed by Jonathan Nolan. A mysterious billionaire designs a computer to predict terrorist events; it also generates social security numbers of people who are to be involved in a murder in the next few days... I hear season three gets even more sf'nal.

Today we watched a play downtown: "The Uncanny Valley," a two actor riff on artificial intelligence that was moving and well-written and provocative  and plausible... much more so than "Ex Machina." Keep your eye open for it.

And here's a lovely rumination about the old "X-minus-one" radio show, available in podcast. "At its worst, “X Minus One” is dated drama told well, but its better episodes have matured into half-hour exercises in a peculiar and intoxicating form of temporal eavesdropping. They let us watch, with great ease and clarity, people who are straining much harder to see us. Usually they’re looking just slightly off to the side. Sometimes they’re looking the wrong way entirely. But occasionally, in the show’s most thrillingly prescient moments, it’s as if they were staring straight at us."
== On the Big Screen ==
Watch this gorgeous new short/proof of concept by Irish filmmaker Ruairí Robinson: The Leviathan takes place in the early 22nd century, after humans have colonized multiple worlds, and are now on "the hunt" for a whale-like species that naturally collects the dark matter needed by space drives.  Kewl! How much better is set in the Startide Rising universe, though? And now, spurred by this trailer...Twentieth Century Fox has just optioned The Leviathan, with Neill Blomkamp producing.
Getting back to Alex Garland's Ex Machina...The dialog contained some moments of intellectual heft and there’s genuine acting. Best of all, the film proved that a small team can do inexpensive thought-provoking science fiction. Alas, the macro story arc -- and the bizarrely over-the-top villain were banal caricatures of a yawningly predictable Frankenstein remake, including Mary Shelley’s fundamental lesson: the creator is not punished for hubristically picking up god’s tools, he is punished for being a horrible dad. I am saddened most by works that have so very much going for them, yet fail tragically on maybe just one dismal fundamental. 

Garland's next project is an adaptation of Jeff Vandermeer's novel -- Annihiliation. Way to go, Jeff.

Disney's Tomorrowland stars George Clooney, directed by Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof. This could turn out to be worth watching ... at least it seems vivid.  Even if it also appears to be another damned “chosen one” story. Watch the trailer.
In sharp contrast, we watched “Big Hero Six” at home. Yes… I lag a bit! But it is just intensely good!  With a delight in tech and nerdiness and optimism that we badly need. About characters who aren't "fated" or destined "chosen ones," or mutant demigods... but merely way above average.  Like some kid you might have, some day.  Oh, and hilarious!

== Back in Print ==
Back in print! My first short story collection - The River of Time, winner of the Locus Award for best SF collection, in its year, and containing the Hugo winning tale “The Crystal Spheres” -- has been re-released in both e-book and paperback. And...

Just released: an excellent audio version of The River of Time, beautifully narrated by my friend, actor Stephen Mendel! 
Newly re-issued by IDW, my epic graphic novel – The Life Eaters – with spectacular hand-painted art by the great Scott Hampton. This tale starts off from the premise of “Thor Meets Captain America” (found in The River of Time) -- my runner up for a Hugo in the novella category ... taking you on an adventure that confronts the darkest parts of the human soul, with our dauntless potential for courage and freedom.

Sample the stirring video trailer for The Life Eaters! Movieable?

DC printed very few copies. So this improved re-issue will turn heads! The Life Eaters was nominated for one of the “bande dessinee” prizes in France, where the graphic novel is king.
== Sci Fi: A World of Ideas ==
Uri Aviv runs the Utopia series of science fiction festivals in Israel. (see below)  Here he makes some very interesting connections between SF and the history of the eventful 20th Century

Over the years science fiction has inspired the exploration of space and cyberspace and was first to imagine the robot, cyborg, clone and technological singularity. All of these are "mere byproducts" to the real focus of science fiction -- society -- communities, relationships, individuals -- how we transform, mutate and evolve through science and how we use and abuse technology. Science fiction creators imagine the un-imaginable and explore the impossible, they perform huge scale gedankenexperiments and by doing so they give birth to our future, for giving shape to the impossible today, gives shape to the every-day of tomorrow.”
For more about the the Utopia Festival: ‪

==Other Sci Fi ==
Alas, farewell to good old Terry Pratchett.  He was a delight.  And had fun.  And gave the rest of us so much fun. And stayed vibrant and busy till some character with a scythe and bad diction hauled him off.  To Discworld, I hope!  (See him in one of his more humorous roles - in the photo on this site - creating satires of pompous religious and political leaders who take themselves too seriously....)
Cracked has a pretty good stab at laying down a bill of indictments in "6 Reasons The Jedi Would Be The Villain In Any Sane Movie." Ah, but six becomes FIFTY in my fun take-down of this silly-betrayal of sanity -- STAR WARS ON TRIAL. More detail and more laughs, by far!   Still, Cracked does crib from the best ;-)

Oh and Star Wars on Trial will soon be re-issued, in a new Jedi-Mouse edition!  
Check out Living Tomorrow, a new anthology of science fiction stories exploring futures shaped by environmental and biological science and technology, from ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination.
This lovely manga about two gal-roomies-dealing-with-life is utterly sweet and fun. A mutual fan also alerted me that one of the strips refers to me and my work. As a must-purchase to be weighed against buying food! Well now, there’s a tradeoff I hope none of you ever face! Still, if you ever do, I hope you’ll choose wisely. ;-)  
Okay…. This is fun:  Kung Fury
The great web artist Patrick Farley has created a new video book trailer for Cecil Castellucci's new science fiction novel, Stone in the Sky. Patrick’s art is terrific and you should all be following his work at Electric Sheep Comix.
Stefan Jones reminds us of this cool-minimal but evocative animation: Rendezvous: The Murf.
== A few memorable words ==

"Fascinating is a word I use for the unexpected, in this case I would think interesting would suffice.” — Spock
"That is the exploration that awaits you! Not mapping stars and studying nebula, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence." — Leonard Nimoy. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

Road Work

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 05/14/2015 - 17:11
Here’s a needed bit of infrastructure work coming to pass — these dudes repaving our rural road. Now as far as the eye can see we have nothing but flat black asphalt. It’s lovely. Also, watching the repavement was strangely hypnotic; Krissy and I gawked at it for several minutes. There was something almost Zen … Continue reading Road Work →

Reader Request Week 2015 #8: On Being an Egotistical Jackass

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 05/14/2015 - 12:39
MRAL asks: There are a lot of people who consider you an egotistical jackass. In your opinion, is this accurate? Maybe? Some thoughts on this, in no specific order. * I certainly have an ego, in the common usage of the term, and don’t believe I’ve ever tried to hide that aspect of my personality. I … Continue reading Reader Request Week 2015 #8: On Being an Egotistical Jackass →

Reader Request Week 2015 #7: My Dream Retirement

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 05/14/2015 - 11:00
Tim H asks: What’s your dream retirement scenario? Will you carry on writing as long as you can? I think asking a middle-aged adult what their dream retirement scenario is, is a bit like asking a kid what she wants to be when she grows up: She may have an idea, but that idea is … Continue reading Reader Request Week 2015 #7: My Dream Retirement →

The Big Idea: Karina Sumner-Smith

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 05/14/2015 - 09:23
We all wish for that big break, whatever that “big break” might mean — but will that big break cause more problems than it solves? It’s a question that Karina Sumner-Smith considers in Defiant. Here she is to explain how it manifests in the world she’s created. KARINA SUMNER-SMITH: Imagine you won the lottery. At … Continue reading The Big Idea: Karina Sumner-Smith →

Reader Request Week 2015 #6: Me and Republicans

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 11:05
G.B. Miller asks: From what I’ve read, you seem to be progressive Democrat with a distaste for Republicans. Has there/will there be a time where a Republican, on any level, will do something that might momentarily soften your distaste for the Republican party? Heh. One, I’m not a Democrat. I’ve been registered as an independent … Continue reading Reader Request Week 2015 #6: Me and Republicans →

Reader Request Week 2015 #5: A Boy Named John

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 09:11
Peter asks: Hi there! I’d like to hear your thoughts about the name “John”. It’s one of the most common names in the English-speaking world. It’s also your name. Do you like being named John? If you had to change your name, what would you change it to? “John” is indeed a very common male … Continue reading Reader Request Week 2015 #5: A Boy Named John →

Today’s Deep Deep Cut

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 18:05
Banderas, man. One album and out. But an album I liked quite a lot, and for this song in particular.

Reader Request Week 2015 #4: Bullies and Me

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 16:09
Bettie Pager asks: Generally, bullies bash people to get particular reactions — they want to shut down others’ voices or at least scare them. But, at least from the outside looking in, the only affect the Mewling Manlings/Rabidly Sad Puppies/etc. have on you is an occasional volley of very well-crafted snark. Given that they don’t … Continue reading Reader Request Week 2015 #4: Bullies and Me →

Reader Request Week 2015 #3: Raising Strong Women

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 13:14
This question was asked by JRed and seconded by a number of people in the thread: What advice do you have for raising a strong woman in today’s world*? Our daughter just turned one, and I want her to grow up to know who she is and what she wants, and to not take crap … Continue reading Reader Request Week 2015 #3: Raising Strong Women →

Preparing for the Future

Contrary Brin - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 13:12
Sailing into the future...

How stunningly weird is it, that we’ve been in space for almost 60 years… and our first real-genuine experiment deploying a solar sail is about to be launched (by the Planetary Society), later this month? A human lifespan… to get around to trying something to simple, obvious and inexpensive?   The delay is so strange and unlikely, it almost makes one conjure up sci-fi/thriller/paranoid explanations. 

Support the solar sail on Kickstarter.  Something worthwhile.

Other interesting things, in the offing...

Innovating for the future: an interesting article about the history of and the death… and rebirth(?) of corporate research labs, reports that "innovation may no longer be in corporate-affiliated research parks, but is cropping up in unexpected places... which goes hand in hand with rapid shifts and expansions in the information landscape." 

Ah, but as you'll hear me repeat, those who have sabotaged investment in U.S. research are traitors and enemies of our children.  No less.
Financing the future...will we attack of the algorithms? In a disturbing trend, monetary funds run by robots now account for $400 billion of the worldwide economy.
Mining for the future...Last summer the UN's International Seabed Authority issued the first deep sea exploration permits, allowing companies to start actively looking for places to mine Manganese nodules and other sources of rare earth elements from the ocean floor. As I forecast in EARTH (1989). Might this be a way around the current Chinese near-monopoly on rare earths production?

In the short term. Maybe.  But till we're mining asteroids (including "davidbrin") we won't yet be rich enough.
== Powering the Future ==
Speaking of solar... Bike lanes covered with solar panels follow the median of highways in South Korea: “...for 20 miles between the cities of Daejeon and Sejong, they can be running down the median of a six-lane highway. And what's really special about this one is that it is covered with solar panels, generating electricity and shading the cyclists as they ride,” reports this article in TreeHugger. Sounds nice -- till you factor in noise, danger and exhaust fumes.  Reboot idea source.  Try again.
My own passion is to see solar panels running along the west’s great aqueducts, shading the water and reducing evaporative losses. The energy that’s generated would benefit from a clear right-of-way for cheap power lines.  Add a bike-path? Sure!
Better yet, the aqueducts are (not-quite but sort-of) perfect for Elon Musk’s Hyperloop transport system! The main California Aqueduct runs roughly along the I-5 interstate freeway – with, admittedly, a few more twists. The point is that Elon might be able to flexibly hop from one to the other, with the aqueduct portions being much, much cheaper to acquire and build upon than portions running down an interstate median. Now, to power with that water-and-electricity-saving roof of solar cells.

Been musing this idea more and more…
One of you did some of the math: “Just the California aqueduct is 1129 km long and 10 meters wide.  That figures to a surface area = 1.129E7 m^2.  Now, assuming solar energy 1.2 KW per M^2, with 20% conversion efficiency: then this surface area would generate 0.27E7 KW… or 2.7 GigaWatts. Out of California’s current electrical demand ~50GW, that’d be a whopping 6%. Compare this to existing California solar = 6GW, so a complete solar roof over the CA Aqueduct (and that is only the largest of California’s many water channels) would provide half again the existing solar power base in California alone.”
It's been done in India: a canal in Gujarat topped with solar panels. See the picture to the right.

Hm, well, the numbers can be quibbled in either direction.  But not by enough to refute the notion. Now factor in all benefits:
1) No appreciable environmental tradeoffs. Very little additional land need be set aside for this power plant, unlike the vast solar arrays now being erected in sensitive desert areas.
2) Access is simple and secure. The roads and infrastructure needed for construction are already in place.  Indeed, the accompanying power lines can simply follow existing aqueduct rights-of-way, saving time and expense.
3) Excess power has an immediate use, pumping water over the Tehachapis to holding reservoirs that can then be swiftly tapped for hydro power, when clouds come in.
4) Prevention of evaporative loss from the aqueducts themselves.  This is, of course, the biggest win-win benefit, in times of drought. And this is where a call to the smart mob comes in.  Can anyone find estimates of what this saving would amount to?  
Indeed, one must wonder about unintended consequences, as some evaporation would then condense on the solar roof’s support structures. Anti-corrosion will have to be part of basic planning.  Still, here's the capstone that makes all of this sound plausible --
Elon Musk tweeted, "Have asked SolarCity if we can do something philanthropic with the CA aqueducts to help the water crisis. Investigating…"
== Preparing for worst cast scenarios ==
Battling infectious diseases: There have been missteps. As this article notes, empty Ebola clinics have been reported: “After spending hundreds of millions of dollars and deploying nearly 3,000 troops to create Ebola remedy centers, the United States ended up creating facilities that have largely sat empty: Only 28 Ebola sufferers have been treated at the 11 remedy units built by the United States military…”

Before getting all outraged at this “waste,” perhaps some perspective? All right, the help arrived a bit late and our civil servants learned a lot, so that they’ll do better next time. Which is… um… kinda the point, yes? For all of its tragedy, this Ebola outbreak was on the medium-small scale, compared with the nightmare scenarios we all might face, next year or next decade.

On that broader perspective, this exercise was, in fact, worth every penny! We’ll be quicker off the mark, next time, better skilled and equipped.
 == Educating for the Future ==
Along the same lines as my posting -- How the American Education System Doesn't Fail -- this article - We don't need more STEM majors, We need STEM majors with liberal arts training --  shows both true wisdom and obdurately silliness.  

Yes, we need to double down on America's investment in "breadth" during college.   All around the world, the normative baccalaureate degree is three years, with 17-year olds diving into narrow fields with utter specialization. 

In sharp contrast, the American (and Canadian) Bachelor's Degree takes four years because all STEM majors are required to take a year's worth of humanities/history/Lit etc... and vice versa for humanities majors needing science survey classes. This article's author is only expressing the value system under which she was raised.  One with which I wholly agree! (As a "scientist/novelist" who earns his living across the entire spectrum.) You want MORE breadth?  Fine. I am down with that.
But to not even acknowledge that's already what we do?  Vastly more than any other nation on Earth?  Did you see her mention that? Even remotely?  Nope, just finger-wagging chiding -- the coin of our era -- instead of constructively pondering how to improve the miracle we already have. Pure silliness.
 == Predicting the Future ==
A reminder to you nit-pickers out there that I am willing to live by the principles that I preach! I have talked a lot about how we need “accountability for those who claim to predict. Actually, my fans have noticed the unusual number of "hits" or predictive successes that seem to have been scored in EARTH. These  accurate foretellings... and some that were embarrassingly off-target(!) are now being tracked at this site.
Feel free to suggest ways in which I have been wrong or right!  Not just in that one novel.
Here’s my essay -- Predictions Registries -- on why we should be doing this for everyone!  Especially politicians and cable news pundits and merchants of fear. 
 = And Finally =
What if...Ayn Rand reviewed children's movies? Hilarious!  
I really like the deep and original song by Big Data - “Dangerous.”  Their video is complex, layered and entertaining, demanding full attention: "How could they know, how could they know.. what I been thinking? Like they're right inside my head because they know, Because they know, what I been hiding..."
Then there’s this more shallow and yet deeply disturbing alternate version. Yeouch! 
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

The Big Idea: Sabaa Tahir and Renée Ahdieh

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 09:34
Sabaa Tahir and Renée Ahdieh are authors of young adult fantasy, with books releasing in April and May, respectively. Their novels are both inspired by unique settings, so they decided to interview one another for The Big Idea and share how they approached worldbuilding from different perspectives. SABAA TAHIR & RENÉE AHDIEH: RA: The desert … Continue reading The Big Idea: Sabaa Tahir and Renée Ahdieh →

Lock In a Finalist for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 05/11/2015 - 16:34
In 2006 I won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer; now I’m a finalist for the other John W. Campbell Award — the one they give out for the best science fiction novel of the year. This is exciting because it’s the first time a work of mine has been nominated for … Continue reading Lock In a Finalist for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel →

Reader Request Week 2015 #2: Ego Searching Redux

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 05/11/2015 - 15:20
Susan asks (and I’m including appropriate links): You gave up ego-searching for Lent, and right after lent ended put up a post that you found you hadn’t missed it that much and though you had been doing it out of habit (I’m paraphrasing that post). Is that still true? Have you resumed ego searching or do … Continue reading Reader Request Week 2015 #2: Ego Searching Redux →

Reader Request Week 2015 #1: Free Speech Or Not

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 05/11/2015 - 11:18
It’s time to begin this week’s Reader Request Week! So let’s start with something chunky. Evan H asks: There seems to be increasing polarization between those who view freedom of speech as an absolute, unfettered necessity for free society, and those who argue that since speech can cause harm, and the job of government is … Continue reading Reader Request Week 2015 #1: Free Speech Or Not →
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