"If you understood everything I said, you'd be me" - Miles Davis
"There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge." - Bertrand Russell
"Take away the right to say fuck and you take away the right to say fuck the government." - Lenny Bruce
"Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true!" - Homer Simpson

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Bruce Sterling on Cities, an Interview

"The obviously dangerous aspect of modern cities is urban organized crime, narcoterror, low-intensity warfare, war in urban terrain, favela shoot-'em-ups, whatever faddish name the trouble has this year. Baghdad, Mogadishu, Grozny.

But I'd also like to point out that large financial centers in certain cities around the planet are certainly going to kill millions of us by destroying our social safety networks in the name of their imaginary financial efficiency. You're a thousand times more likely to die because of what some urban banker did in 2008 than from what some Afghan-based terrorist did in 2001. *Financiers live in small, panicky urban cloisters, severely detached from the rest of mankind. They are living today in rich-guy ghetto cults. They are truly dangerous to our well-being, and they are getting worse and more extremist, not better and more reasonable. You're not gonna realize this havoc till you see your elderly Mom coughing in an emergency ward, but she's going there for a reason."

Bruce Sterling Interview: Cities

Strossian Cold War-Lovecraft Riffing

I guess it goes without saying, but I just love this kind of stuff:

"Inspired by Charles Stross' A Colder War and Atrocity Archives stories, noder The Custodian has written a series of fictional, Lovecraftian intelligence briefings entitled "The Benthic Wars": SPECWEAPS, DEEP BLACK, PRIOR TENANT, BENTHIC OUTREACH, PORTAL/ALEPH, VIOLET CAIN, SAKNUSSEM THUNDER and INDRA NEPTUNE."

And you should also get a copy of Tim Power's Declare.


Reading SF

"Having a world unfold in one’s head is the fundamental SF experience. It’s a lot of what I read for. Delany has a long passage about how your brain expands while reading the sentence “The red sun is high, the blue low”—how it fills in doubled purple shadows on the planet of a binary star. I think it goes beyond that, beyond the physical into the delight of reading about people who come from other societies and have different expectations.

Because SF can’t take the world for granted, it’s had to develop techniques for doing it. There’s the simple infodump, which Neal Stephenson has raised to an artform in its own right. There are lots of forms of what I call incluing, scattering pieces of information seamlessly through the text to add up to a big picture. The reader has to remember them and connect them together. This is one of the things some people complain about as “too much hard work” and which I think is a high form of fun. SF is like a mystery where the world and the history of the world is what’s mysterious, and putting that all together in your mind is as interesting as the characters and the plot, if not more interesting. We talk about worldbuilding as something the writer does, but it’s also something the reader does, building the world from the clues. When you read that the clocks were striking thirteen, you think at first that something is terribly wrong before you work out that this is a world with twenty-four hour time—and something terribly wrong. Orwell economically sends a double signal with that."

SF reading protocols - Jo Walton
Via Making Light

New Alexander Jablokov - Hot Damn
After more than a decade, one of my favorite authors is coming out with a new book January 2010:

"Bernal Haydon-Rumi is the executive assistant to a wealthy socialite, Muriel, who funds eccentric projects such as resettling mammoths on the Great Plains and needs Bernal's management skills to respond to the resulting burnings in effigy by the local citizens. On the way back to Boston from South Dakota, Bernal stops by Muriel's house to spend the night and catch her up on the results of numerous potlucks and football games.

By the next morning, Bernal's been knocked out, Muriel has stolen a car and disappeared, and the local artificial intelligence project she's been funding, a self-guiding probe to explore the surfaces of terrestrial planets, has proved to be way stranger than it seemed on the surface.

Before he can figure out what's going on, Bernal has to deal with an anti-AI activist toting a handmade electronic arsenal, a local serial killer with a penchant for bowling bags, a street-level drug dealer with marketing problems, a cryonic therapist who claims to have figured out a way to strengthen the human personality, Freon-smuggling junk dealers-and someone who wants Bernal dead.

In part an homage to 80s movies like Repo Man and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension, Brain Thief is a fun, literate speculative fiction adventure set somewhere between the Berkshires and Boston, and includes, at no extra charge, a 30-foot fiberglass cowgirl."


Jablokov has 2 earlier books, Carve the Sky and Nimbus, that I cannot recommend highly enough.

Brain Thief

Hot Diggity
Land of the Dead, by Thomas Harlan will finally see print in August 2009:

"It's a small change in our history: Imagine that the Japanese made contact with the Aztec Empire. Instead of small-pox and Christianity, they brought an Imperial alliance, samurai ethics, and technology. By the time of these books, the Emperor in Mexico City rules not just the entire planet Earth, but a growing interplanetary Empire. But the Galaxy is not a hospitable place, and there are other powers, both new and very, very old, who would stop the spread of the power in Anuhuac.

A weapon of the Old Ones, from the time of the First Sun, has been found in a region of space. It must be investigated, then tamed or destroyed to keep it from the hands of opposing powers. Gretchen Anderssen, freelance archaeologist and specialist in First Sun artifacts, has been hired by her old mentor Green Hummingbird, agent of the Mirror Service, to join him in the study. They will be joined by old friends, and some old enemies as well."

Tor Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0-7653-1204-4
ISBN-10: 0-7653-1204-2
$28.95 Canadian

51/2" x 81/4" / 384 pages

Zen/Aztec mysticism in the service of covert black ops, kick-ass space battles, sensawunda alien tech, gunfights, twisted yet fully realized and plausible alternative history...I'm as giddy as a schoolgirl.
'Land of the Dead' publication date

Entertain Your Computer

Computer Entertainment Thirty-Five Years From Today

A solo spoken word performance
by Bruce Sterling

An excerpt:

""Computer entertainment...."

Okay. That brings me to the other part. The entertainment. Entertainment is fun. Am I correct? I've gotta be. If it's no fun, obviously it's not entertainment. It's one of those phony game educational applications that kids have to be tortured to use. You definitely want the users to have fun. That's the definition of your industry. That's what it is all about.

Except for three kinds of people. They're not fun people. They're not even users. They're abusers, you might say, because they don't obey your rules.

First, gold farmers. Rip-off artists. The excluded. The black market. The pirates. Those are all the same guys. Same crowd. Invisible to you. They don't want you to see them. And you don't want to see them, either. Because they're ugly, threatening parasites. But always there, always, from the very first days. They're not accidents. They're something important that you did not let yourselves recognize.

Second, griefers. Griefers have a game. They have entertainment. But it's not your game. It's their game, which is hate. Hatred and pain and sorrow and treachery and vandalism. Emotional involvement. The thrill of raw conflict. Grief. There are swarms of ‘em. Armies. They never travel alone.

Third---and these are the weird ones---the convergence culture people. They will play your game all right, but they play it while using six or seven other kinds of media. They don't make any distinction between the media they use. They use the networks as a meta-medium. They don't play the roles in your role-playing games.

People play roles in Dungeons and Dragons because that is a paper game, it's like little theater for the home. People play roles. You don't see D&D people passing each other text messages and looking for cheats on wikis. Convergence people are metamedia people who are looking for meta-fun. Not your fun. Their meta- fun. Why are they important? Because they are you. You're outside the game because you developed it, and they want to be in the same space that you are in. They're super-knowledgeable game fanatics. They're the people from whom you recruit your own talent.

They're not fun, these three kinds of people. Gold farmers are into greed, not fun. Griefers are into anti-fun. And metamedia are into meta-fun. They all exist outside your definitional box.

And that's why they ambush you and they beat on you. They're not exactly your enemies, but they're deeply alien to your chosen paradigm. So they have a kind of control over your destiny that you do not allow yourselves to have.

The only way to get ahead of them is to redefine yourselves as something that is not "computer entertainment." Because their fun isn't fun and their computers aren't computers. They are cultural. They are more cultural than you. You're an industry. They're a culture. That's why they kick your ass.

So---you know---how do we control these ugly parasites? How do we exterminate these weeds growing in our money crops? How do we repress them and make them go away for good? The answer is: you don't. They beat you like the schoolyard bullies beat the kids who are good at math. You don't get your revenge until you grow up, and you understand them much, much better than they will ever understand you. Living well, that's the best revenge. "

Via Beyond The Beyond

Two Books
I can heartily recommend 2 new books:

The Gone-Away World, By Nick Harkaway

" With the right wind behind it, The Gone-Away World could easily become a modern classic. Its scope and ambition are extraordinary, its execution is often breathtaking, and its style is by turns hilarious, outrageous, devastating, hip and profound.

It is not a book that springs out of nowhere. Its bleakly humorous futuristic vision is not dissimilar to that of Kurt Vonnegut, while its visceral, scattershot energy brings to mind landmark American books like The World According to Garp and Catch-22. But there is also something very English about Harkaway's writing, specifically his acute sense of the ridiculous, and the ghosts of Douglas Adams and P G Wodehouse haunt some of the finest passages here."

Plus it's got pirates, ninjas, kung-fu, ninjas vs kung-fu, mad scientists creating apocalyptic WMDs, and mimes.

Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory

"Pandemonium may be Daryl Gregory's first novel, but it's not the work of a novice. He is already a stand-out short story writer--his 2006 story "Second Person, Present Tense" won the Asimov's reader poll that year and was shortlisted for the Sturgeon and Locus awards. Since then "Unpossible," "Dead Horse Point," and "Damascus" have graced the pages of several "Year's Best" anthologies. His writing is conceptually brilliant and very personal--qualities that also inform this novel.

It takes place in the current day, but in a skewed world. In the world of the story, people may find themselves randomly possessed by "demons." While under "possession," they act out the traits of whichever demon has control: the Painter finds ways to create the same artwork over and over, the Hellion possesses young children and acts like a Denis the Menace on steroids, Kamikaze hijacks planes and crashes them, Smokestack Johnny commandeers railroad trains. Most people are never possessed, and some only once, while others appear to be magnets, attracting the "demons" over and over.

So why the quote marks around "demon" and "possession?" Because in this analog of our world, not everyone believes in other-worldly entities. Scientists seek secular explanations: environmental and genetic factors, neurological disorders, what have you. The narrator though, Del, he knows better. Possessed by the Hellion as a young child, he never really got over it. An adult now, he's never totally gotten his act together. He stumbled through high school, majored in graphic design in college, landed a series of minimal-paying jobs. Compared to his brother--who went to college, got a computer degree, got a real job, moved up the ladder, got married, and is living the good life--compared to that Del knows that he's a loser. Now things are getting even worse. Not stable at the best of times, he feels like there's something in his head, something trying to get out. It even takes control while he's asleep--he chains himself to his bed at night. Under these circumstances he loses even his crappy job and is running out of money and sanity. He heads back home, to Chicago. He knows his mother will help him, and his brother too. He underwent therapy after his initial possession, but suspects that it won't help much this time. First he pins his hopes on a neurological researcher who may have found the brain area affected during possessions; next he looks to a Catholic priest/former possession victim who has had some luck "exorcising" the demons. Finally he starts tracking down a possible origin of the demons themselves. Through it all Del throws himself on the mercy of his loved ones and acquaintances alike, traumatizing many of them even as they're trying to help him."

This may sound like a gloomy downer of a book, but it's very smart and funny. It's not a long book, and once finished it occured to me that in a more perfect world the Sci-Fi channel would be making movies out of material like this instead of grinding out a seemingly endless series of made-for-television crap about giant snakes and handily stoppable natural disasters.

On the opposite tack, I've started 2 of James Rollin's thrillers, and found both of them basically unreadable. For one, he doesn't pull off the "suspension of disbelief" needed in a book about ancient secret religious orders trying to take over the world using Judas's foreskin as part of a dark energy laser (alright, I made that last part up, but doesn't it sound good? All it lacks is some credible sounding mumbo jumbo) .

David Gerrold's website reports that he's going to turn the 5th Chtorr book, "A Method for Madness", in to his publisher in Octorber 2008.

I just hope the next 2 books don't take this long.

Via pianodwarf
Now I can only dream of some action on Thomas Harlan's "Land of the Dead"

Trust Me
Matter, the new book from Iain M. Banks, is due out in the U.S. on February 28th (according to Amazon). Get up to speed with this guide to Bank's Science Fiction novels (the Culture ones at least) and then go buy it when it's released.

Your Engineering-Fu is Weak

4. Giant Mecha robots are our only defense against the Daikaiju threat.

"What else are we going to build to protect us from giant monsters? As the recent Daikaiju documentary Cloverfield demonstrates, conventional military weaponry is not sufficient to defend our citizens against the menace of giant monsters that rise up from the sea. As to the cost? $725 million is a small price to pay to prevent some damage to New York City. I say some damage of course, because it is inevitable that in fending off the beast, the giant mecha robots will do considerable damage itself. But sometimes you have to burn the village to save it."

Why Giant Mecha Robots Are Totally Awesome
Via SF Signal

"I Can Kill Catering With a Thought"

YouTube: Death Star Canteen
Via SF Signal

" Someone has a website going where every single thing mentioned in Spook Country has a blog entry and usually an illustration so, every reference, someone has taken it, researched it and written a sort of little Wikipedia entry for it and all in the format of a website that pretends to be from a magazine called Node, which is an imaginary magazine, within Spook Country , and which turns out to be imaginary in the context of the narrative."
Node's annotations in order

Via The Website at the End of the Universe


William Gibson spent an hour discussing his latest novel, "Spook Country", and other topics on KUOW, one of Seattle's NPR stations.

Envisioning the Future with William Gibson (KUOW Program Archive w/ streaming audio links)

Science Fiction
Good News

M.A. Foster's long-out-of-print "Ler" trilogy is being reprinted in a single volume as The Book of the Ler. I can't say enough good things about these books. I own at least 3 complete sets of the "Ler" and "Morphodite" trilogies, just so I can give them away to people. what are they about? A Genetically engineered human daughter species, The further speciation of that offshoot, Oracular systems, Emergent behavior in complex systems, Massive conspiracies, Secret Societies, Space Pirates, Wild-Ass aliens, Unstoppable Assassins. Just go hunt down his books. You'll thank me later.
According the only post on Thomas Harlan's Amazon Blog he might finally finish "Land of Dead", the sequel to "Wasteland of Flint" and "House of Reeds".
"In the Time of the Sixth Sun....

By the 25th Century the mighty Mxica Empire, allied with the Japanese Nisei has conquered the homeworld, Anhuac. All the other nations, including the Danish Empire and the Empire of Swedish-Russia have been defeated and exiled to the Rim after centuries of warfare in the Inner Worlds of the Core.

But the universe is a dangerous place, filled with hidden powers and the relics of ancient civilizations... "
Thomas Harlan on Wikipedia
Sixth Sun Concordance

Bruce Sterling Story
"That creepy "differential permissioning" sure saves a lot of trouble for grown-ups. Increasing chunks of the world are just... magically off limits. It's a weird new regime where every mall and every school and every bus and train and jet is tagged and tracked and ambient and pervasive and ubiquitous and geolocative... Jesus, I love those words... Where was I?

Right. We teenagers have to live in "controlled spaces". Radio-frequency ID tags, real-time locative systems, global positioning systems, smart doorways, security videocams. They "protect" us kids, from imaginary satanic drug dealer terrorist mafia predators. We're "secured". We're juvenile delinquents with always-on cellphone nannies in our pockets. There's no way to turn them off. The internet was designed without an off-switch."
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by Google
Via del.icio.us

Another Book I Have To Buy
UFog's good buddy The BigMoboDaddy has kindly informed us that the ever marvelous Tim Powers has a new book: Three Days to Never. Hot Diggity!

update: Link fixed.

Not In Kansas Anymore
The Guardian has an overview of some of the ideas in Vernor Vinge's excellent new novel, Rainbows End.
"The scenario he describes is the background he researched for Rainbows End. Set in 2025, the characters are surrounded by logical extensions of today's developing technology. Wearable computing is commonplace. Tagging and ubiquitous networked sensors mean you can look at the landscape with your choice of overlay and detail. People send each other silent messages and Google for information within conversations with participants who may be physically present or might be remote projections. One character's projection is hijacked and becomes the front for three people. The owner of another remote intelligence is unknown. Several continents' top intelligence operatives try to solve a smart biological attack that infects a test population with the willingness to obey orders."
Big Brother takes a controlling interest in chips
Via Boing Boing

Living in Science Fiction
I'm reading the advance uncorrected proof of Karl Schroeder's new book, and like everything else by Schroeder I've read, it's excellent. Sun of Suns is set in a balloon 3000 kilometers in diameter that's in orbit around Virgo. The level of technology has been engineered/enforced to about the level of the American Civil War, and of course there is no gravity. It's like a pirate story in a ocean of air.

Karl Schroeder's Official Site

From his "concept blog" Age of Embodiment:
"There is, however, one grain of truth to the idea of the singularity, and that is because we are already starting to create machines that nobody understands, using genetic algorithms. Someone could study eg. the strange electrical circuits that have been evolved in some experiments, and figure out how they work, but if we started to apply genetic algorithms to the design of many or most devices, we would rapidly reach a point where nobody had the time and resources to figure out how the majority of new devices work. It would happen this way: you have a certain set of resources and want to build an X using those resources. Traditional designs won't work. You employ a genetic algorithm and evolve a design that does work with maximum efficiency given your resources. Build X and repeat for any Y. (A good example is the evolved antenna used by NASA one of its newest satellites.) It's by no means clear that we can design analysis software to keep up with such creativity, or that we could keep up with the reports it produced if a large number of manufactured items were being evolved in this way.

This is the technological maximum: an actual, rather than mythological, form of Vinge's technological singularity. This is not an incomprehensible future, rather a world in which perfectly prosaic devices exist, but where any particular device's design is not necessarily understood by any human being. Any one of these devices could be said to exemplify Clarke's Law. And we are indeed about ten years away from this point in our design and manufacturing capabilities."

The Big MoboDaddy's heads-up on the New collection of short stories by Bruce Sterling led to a
forthcoming anthology/overview of the Space Opera which led to
Scott Westerfeld's site and a Westerfeld interview
(I highly recommend his "Succession" series: "The Risen Empire" and "The Killing of Worlds") which led to
the New Weird literary movement which led to
Valerio Evangelisti, at which point I had to pause in order to blog.

Dark And Stormy

The best in bad SF writing:
"`Gosseyn's intestinal fortitude strove to climb into his throat, and settled into position again only reluctantly ...' -- A.E.van Vogt, The World of Null-A

`He put the stomach back and began to feel around for the small intestine ... That's when something bit him.' -- Simon Ian Childer, Worm

`I had to fight with myself every time circumstances forced me to put it down.' -- P. Straub of R. Campbell's Incarnate

`Speak! You've got a civil tongue in your head! I know you have, because I sewed it there myself.' -- Kenneth Langtry, screenplay for I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957)

`... a small piece of an asteroid that had been floating around in the Big Empty for a length of time that had more zeroes in it than even Carl Sagan could imagine.' -- Simon Hawke, The Reluctant Sorcerer

`The sea was lit by a diffused golden haze that lent it a queer other-worldly aspect but which was very pleasant to the blackened, sun-seared eyes of those who had been so close to the fires of the Solar star.' -- Karl Mannheim, When the Earth Died

`The green fur made it look like a Terran gorilla more than anything.' -- Michael Kring, The Space Mavericks

`Most of the buildings around us were like towering boxes, almost phallic in their heights.' -- Michael Kring, ibid

`The flight of F-104's moved up to the apron. Nasty silver birds with wings like sawn-off shotguns.' -- Peter Heath, The Mind Brothers"
Thog's Masterclass
Via MonkeyFilter

About Time
I had this idea too.
"This is a technical companion to Charlie Stross's latest novel, Accelerando. Stross's book can be quite dense in unusual technical terms and concepts, which can sometimes be quite confusing to readers unfamiliar with them. The purpose of this companion is to help alleviate any confusions the reader may have, as well as to introduce new confusions by giving the reader an idea of the current state and expected future of the technologies described in the novel. Wherever possible, brief information on relevant research papers is provided.

The novel is available as a free download from the official site, and will also be available for purchase in bookstores on July 1, 2005."
Technical Companion to "Accelerando"
Via Accelerando!

Technorati Tags:science+fiction, accelerando, charles+stross, singularity

My Brain Hurts
"An elephantine semantic network sits down on his spectacles as soon as he asks for the site, crushing his surroundings into blocky pixilated monochrome that jerks as he looks around. "This is going to take some time," he warns his hosts as a goodly chunk of his metacortex tries to handshake with his brain over a wireless network connection that was really only designed for web browsing. The download consists of the part of his consciousness that isn't security-critical ? public access actors and vague opinionated rants ? but it clears down a huge memory castle, sketching in the outline of a map of miracles and wonders onto the whitewashed walls of the room."
I downloaded Charles Stross's Accelerando the other day. Someday somebody ought to make an annotated edition. I keep googling things like "the blind knapsack problem" and qualia.

I Gotta Go See a Man About a Book
John Varley has a new book out! "Ophiuchi Hotline" and the "Titan" trilogy are 2 of my most re-read books. What a pleasant surprise-I had no idea it was even coming. This could tide me over until "Redemption Ark" shows up in a month.

Words fail me
By way of my friend John M.-a very sexy Thanksgiving.

Come on Already
It's out in paper and hardback in England, so when the heck is Alastair Reynold's "Redemption Ark" coming out here? I've re-read "Revelation Space" twice now and I think I'm ready.

Future California Noir
For some reason the Brits seem to be having a bumper crop of fine SF lately. And you can get it from Amazon.UK in 3 or 4 days. This still boggles my mind. I highly recommend "Altered Carbon".