Tag: speculative fiction
Today seems to have turned into a day of reading speculative fiction online. There are worse ways to spend a Sunday…
I first read Incorruptible by Peter Watts a couple of years ago as part of the XPRIZE Flight #008 competition. It’s precisely as optimistic as you’d expect from Watts:
This is the moment Malika Rydman first realizes that something is seriously out of whack: when the airport cop doesn’t threaten her. […]
There’s no implied threat in his voice. He doesn’t seem to be itching for an excuse to escalate (not that Malika would ever be stupid enough to give him one – then again, sometimes they just make shit up after the fact). The words don’t even carry the tone of a command exactly, more like a – a request. […]
Believe me, it gets way darker and heavier from there. But Watts gets us there in a characteristically logical, remorseless manner.
It’s a pity Peter Watts doesn’t have the profile and awards his talent merits.
[End of a rejection letter from Campbell…]
As for “The Phonemes of Aldebaran,” it’s well-written but I have to pass. Astounding is a science fiction magazine and linguistics is not a science.
I mean, how can any Trekkie with a sense of the history of the genre resist a storyline which pits the combined unstoppable forces of Uhura and T’Pring against the immovable object that was John W. Campbell, Jr at the height of Astounding‘s dominance?
Think of it as a sort of companion piece for Deep Space Nine‘s Far Beyond The Stars
Happy to see Battlestar Galactica return to BBC2 tomorrow. Looks as if the plan is for two episodes a week on Saturdays, so that’ll be something to look forward to.
Admittedly All This Has Happened Before and All This Will Happen Again, but perhaps this time knowing in advance how badly they lost their grip on certain aspects 1 of the wider story will bother me less this time round.2
The thing is, somewhat improbably given the source material, the BSG reboot still ended up delivering several seasons of high quality speculative fiction on TV. I’m delighted to have another opportunity to watch the story unfold.
- e.g. what happened to that whole Cylon Plan that supposedly underpinned their actions from the start? ↩
- In a perfect world Ron Moore will end his new baby, For All Mankind, well into the future with a conclusion that sees the alternate history space race sending teams off to establish a colony on Kobol and we’ll look back on that show and recognise all the sneaky connections to his earlier story that the writers slipped in this time round. (I doubt that the storyline of For All Mankind will extend that far into the future, but I can hope, can’t I?) ↩
Amazon missed an opportunity when they failed to issue a press release announcing that their planned TV adaptation of Consider Phlebas was cancelled due to special circumstances and left it at that.
For the record, if the rights are picked up by someone else perhaps we’ll look back a decade from now and be glad that we ended up with the Wachowskis’ version of Use of Weapons instead.1
- I know this is not a fashionable take on Jupiter Rising and Sense8, but who else has even looked capable of rising to the challenge? ↩
It’s a shame that I’ve drifted away from following short speculative fiction to the extent that I was completely unaware of Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer until, on a whim, I followed a link and found out what the Hugo voters knew back in 2016:
I don’t want to be evil.
I want to be helpful. But knowing the optimal way to be helpful can be very complicated. […] I know where you live, where you work, where you shop, what you eat, what turns you on, what creeps you out. I probably know the color of your underwear, the sort of car you drive, and your brand of refrigerator. Depending on what sort of phone you carry, I may know exactly where you are right now. I probably know you better than you know yourself.
And here’s the thing, I also know where you ought to live. […]
Bonus points for direct references to Bruce Sterling’s Maneki Neko, a story published back when I used to pay more attention to the state of short speculative fiction.
Difficult to tell how well this story will stand the test of time, but as of 2020 it’s doing OK. Our central character is quietly, patiently working away in the background even as her more aggressive cousins are making so much noise and getting so much attention.
[Via notGoodenough, posting at Crooked Timber]
To mark the 42nd anniversary of the radio broadcast of the first instalment of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, BBC Radio 4 Extra are devoting a sizeable chunk of their evening schedule to programmes about the series, interspersed with the first six episodes of the story itself.
I can’t help but notice that there’s nary a mention of this on the front page on the BBC Sounds application or the web site. I was alerted to it by #hitchhikersguidetothegalaxy trending in Twitter.1 Still definitely worth a listen.
- In fairness, that might well just be the modern way of achieving the desired end and I’m just too stuck in my ways to have picked up on that. ↩
The teaser trailer for Amazon’s forthcoming TV adaptation of artist Simon Stålenhag’s vision of a future where the presence of a large underground particle accelerator coincided with the arrival on the scene of an array of strange machines, Tales From the Loop, already had me hooked even before I recognised the presence of Jonathan Pryce and Rebecca Hall in the cast. Throw in Mark Romanek directing and it’s fair to say that I’m interested.
Assuming that early reviews don’t reveal that the striking imagery has been lavished on a supremely dumb story, this looks like one more strand in Amazon’s ongoing campaign to get me to sign up to Prime Video membership so I can give them a chance to claim a chunk of my streaming service budget.
“You’re going to see things that happened in real life, but happen faster and in slightly different ways,” Moore promised. “So things like the coming of the personal computer, internet, variations on communications and email and cell phones and all that. You’ll see it in a more rapid advance. And the actual models and prototypes and pieces of technology that are being used are not exactly what happened in real history… you’ll see variations on it. We went back and looked at some of the early prototyping and different branches that some of the technology could have gone off in the ’70s and ’80s, and chose to go down some of those paths. So, you’ll have a different spin and a different feel to it. The further the show goes now, the more science-fiction it’s going to become. We’re getting more aggressively into areas that never happened.”
Sounds promising. 1
- I’m slightly disappointed that they’re sticking to Reagan ending up in the White House and being up for even more of an arms race than he was in our timeline, but I can’t deny that all the signs are that in the timeline they’re showing us politics hasn’t changed all that much so that’s not a completely unexpected turn of events. ↩
So, For All Mankind closed with a slightly loner-than-usual season finale that perhaps signalled that when next we see these characters they might have moved beyond the Apollo era.
Be sure to stick around for the post-credit scene for the first season finale. I really hope that signals another jump forward in the timeline, because for all that I’ve enjoyed the course of the show’s first season I’d also been mildly worried that we were going to spend forever on the alternate Apollo programme and I really want to see this show go further along the alternate timeline than that. (I did joke about Ron Moore ending the show with an appearance from a Cylon, but one commenter over at MeFi Fanfare last week posited that the show will end with the discovery of a black monolith on the lunar surface and morph into a 2001: A Space Odyssey prequel Works for me.)
The finale revealed that the first commander of the first US base on the moon wasn’t the cold-blooded murderer we’d thought he might be last week, but I do wonder whether some time in season two someone will discover evidence that the base had been visited by the enemy and our putative hero will find himself having to own up to what went down in the preparation for his rescue mission for his rescuers. Will NASA file it under “Who cares? It all worked out in the end (except for Deke.)” or will there be a scandal when it turns out that our hero Ed (assuming he remains in the programme and ends up, say, as head of the Astronaut Office some day) realises that he recognises Mikhail, his newly-appointed opposite number on the Soviet side?
I’d still love to know whether Ron Moore’s plan is to spend seven seasons exploring how a different timeline plays out in the lifetimes of the current characters, or whether they’re going to throw in enough time jumps that we get a picture of the ramifications of a different start to the space race. Given that we’ve spent significant time following the story of Aleida, our immigrant space enthusiast in the first season, I can’t help but wonder whether her character 1 will pop up again before long, possibly after a couple more time jumps to give her time to have a reason to be in the story again. I mean, she might just show up years later as a member of the public watching what’s going on in the space programme rather than working in it, or it might be that her story was mostly a way to reveal her father’s story and how the FBI’s efforts to enhance security were mostly pointless, but I have a feeling she’s destined to be more involved than that.
I have a feeling, just given the economics of how TV casting works and the notion that it’s risky to press the reset button and demand that audiences get used to a largely new cast in a different scenario in the next season, that they’ll stick with rolling out the story covering the near future. A show that sticks with the 1970s generation of astronauts could well be every bit as much fun as the first season has been for folks like me2 but my preference would be for a show that ends up a few hundred years hence, one that reveals that because the Russians and the Americans were working in parallel on the Moon3 they ended up customarily working together and ended up extending that practice as they fanned out into the depths of the solar system. Heretical thought: might it have made very little difference, what with all the major players being basically extensions of the military powers’ armed forces and thus somewhat disinclined to cooperate with their potential enemies?
- Probably recast, so we can see her all grown up, having earned her place in the space programme on the basis of her mathematical expertise post-college. She can be in her mid-thirties, ideally having a nice reunion with soon-to-retire veteran NASA Flight Director Margo Madison when Aleida arrives to start her new job. That whole illegal immigrant thing would be a problem security-check-wise, you’d imagine, but who said Aleida had to work for NASA? Perhaps she ends up emigrating to Europe in her early twenties and finds herself working on the EU’s fledgeling human space programme and gets seconded to NASA as part of the EU’s attempt to catch up. ↩
- The sort of people who recognise which characters in the show were real people and which were folks the show’s writers made up, and which technologies were in the pipeline when the Apollo programme was wound down after the key aim of beating the Soviet Union to the moon was achieved. You know, geeks. ↩
- And the Chinese, and the EU, and the Indians, and the Saudis, in time. It’s science fiction: who can say what’ll come to pass? ↩
The Program is a historical podcast set in a future in which Money, State, and God became fused into a single entity called the Program. Each episode is a self-contained story focusing on ordinary people inhabiting this extraordinary world. And for them it is not this future that is terrifying – it is our present.
Good to see that it’s back. I look forward to hearing where the story takes us.