August 28, 2008

I'll Be in My Bunk...(*)

Check out these great advance promo pics for the new season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles:


I know I'm married and twice her age13 years older than she is, but I think I'm in love with Summer Glau:

(More below the fold).

Lena Headey (Sarah Connor) is quite easy on the eyes, too, and doesn't make me feel like quite so much a dirty old man:


Here's a piccie of all the major characters:


I liked the show last season, despite a slight tapering in quality toward the end. I might blog some more about it after the new season premieres on September 8.

(*)Wrong franchise, I know.

Via Agent Bedhead.

Posted by JohnL at 09:14 AM | Comments (0) |
March 23, 2008

Professional SF Babe Blogging

There is nothing quite like being humbled by a master.

I used to have this regular feature around here, an SF Babe poll every Tuesday. I was actually pretty proud of it, and thought I did a pretty good job making it entertaining and easy on the eyes.

Well, I've been kind of meaning to revive it, just to find something to engage me on this blog. But I doubt that will ever happen, since published writer E.E. Knight has created the most perfect SF Babe poll you will ever witness, in honor of the great Shat's birthday.

Feast your eyes, for this is as good as it gets. That will be a very tough act to follow...

Posted by JohnL at 04:07 PM | Comments (2) |
January 07, 2008

The 3 Laws of Robotics, Revised

Warren Ellis has a humorous revision and restatement of the famous three laws of robotics.

Via Gravity Lens.

Posted by JohnL at 09:44 AM | Comments (0) |
August 01, 2007

Heinlein Quote of the Month (August 2007)

"Having your back scratched is not the only reason to be married, but it is a good one, especially for those spots that are so hard to reach by yourself."

Maureen Johnson in To Sail Beyond the Sunset.

Posted by JohnL at 08:53 AM | Comments (0) |
June 01, 2007

Heinlein Quote of the Month (June 2007)

"At least once every human should have to run for his life, to teach him that milk does not come from supermarkets, that safety does not come from policemen, that 'news' is not something that happens to other people."

- Jake in The Number of the Beast.

Posted by JohnL at 08:15 PM | Comments (0) |
May 01, 2007

Heinlein Quote of the Month (May 2007)

"Am not going to argue whether a machine can 'really' be alive, 'really' be self-aware. Is a virus self-aware? Nyet. How about oyster? I doubt it. A cat? Almost certainly. A human? Don't know about you, tovarishch, but I am."

- Manny Garcia O'Kelly in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.

Posted by JohnL at 12:06 AM | Comments (0) |
April 04, 2007

Heinlein Quote of the Month (April 2007)

"Never appeal to a man's 'better nature.' He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage."

- Lazarus Long in Time Enough for Love.

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March 01, 2007

Heinlein Quote of the Month (March 2007)

"The ways of God and government and girls are all mysterious, and it is not given to mortal man to understand them."

- Lazarus Long in Time Enough for Love.

Posted by JohnL at 12:48 PM | Comments (77) | | TrackBack
February 01, 2007

Heinlein Quote of the Month (February 2007)

"May you live as long as you wish and love as long as you live."

- Minerva in Time Enough for Love.

Happy Valentine's Day this month!

Posted by JohnL at 08:59 PM | Comments (2) | | TrackBack
January 30, 2007

SF Book Meme

Found at Jenna Thomas-McKie's blog.

This is a list of the 50 most significant science fiction/fantasy novels, 1953-2002, according to the Science Fiction Book Club.

Bold the ones you've read, strike-out the ones you hated, italicize those you started but never finished and put an asterisk beside the ones you loved.

I won't tag anyone, but if you play this meme, drop me a note or leave a comment (trackbacks are not currently working).

Posted by JohnL at 09:22 PM | Comments (12) | | TrackBack
January 03, 2007

Heinlein Quote of the Month (January 2007)

"Age does not bring wisdom, Ben, but it does give perspective... and the saddest sight of all is to see, far behind you, temptations you've resisted."

- Jubal Harshaw in Stranger in a Strange Land.

Posted by JohnL at 11:16 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
December 04, 2006

Heinlein Quote of the Month (December 2006)

"[T]he cheapest cardboard Christmas Creche can be sufficient symbol to evoke emotions in the human heart so strong that many have died for them and many more live for them. So the craftmanship and artistic judgment with which such a symbol is wrought are largely irrelevant."

- Jubal Harshaw in Stranger in a Strange Land.

Posted by JohnL at 06:33 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
November 01, 2006

Heinlein Quote of the Month (November 2006)

"Everything in excess! To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites. Moderation is for monks."

- Lazarus Long in Time Enough For Love.

Posted by JohnL at 07:38 AM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
October 11, 2006

Critique of Star Wars

Without getting into too much background, John Scalzi recently offered his views on the value (or lack thereof) of the Star Wars movies as entertainment. SFSignal has much more here.

What I want to highlight is this excellent comment by Avdi (in Scalzi's post), who elegantly summarizes my own feelings about the effect of the prequel trilogy on the original trilogy:

What baffles me is that I, II, and III seem almost expressly designed to destroy any mythic sensibility that IV, V, and VI might have created. Everything in them conspires to scale down the "epic" feel of the originals. Characters and locales from the sequels are improbably reused (pre-used?) so much that the Star Wars universe starts to feel cramped in comparison to the diverse galaxy that we caught a glimpse of in the the original trilogy. It goes from a million worlds to a few dozen, populated with the same rotating cast. Anakin Skywalker goes from the legendary star pilot of Obiwan's remembrances, to a whiny kid piloting the interstellar equivalent of a Honda civic with a really big spoiler on the back. The Clone Wars turn out not to be some cataclysmic confrontation with a galactic menace, but petty insurrection headed by villains so laughable (Dooku and the unbelievably pathetic Gen. Grievous) that the whole thing is hard to take seriously. The Jedi Council, "Guradians of Peace for a Thousand Generations", turns out to be a tiny cult of halfwit ditherers. And perhaps worst of all, Yoda, that venerable font of inscrutable wisdom, discards all semblance of dignity to become a yelping inneffectual hop-frog.

I couldn't agree more. The more that George Lucas explained, the less I loved the grand and mysterious Star Wars universe I once dreamed of exploring as a 10-year-old boy.

Posted by JohnL at 09:23 PM | Comments (2) | | TrackBack
October 01, 2006

Heinlein Quote of the Month (October 2006)

"Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy."

- Lazarus Long in Time Enough For Love.

Posted by JohnL at 10:27 PM | Comments (1169) | | TrackBack
September 01, 2006

Heinlein Quote of the Month (September 2006)

"Kissing girls is a goodness. It beats the hell out of card games."

- Mike in Stranger in a Strange Land.

Posted by JohnL at 10:26 PM | Comments (1143) | | TrackBack
August 15, 2006

Halo Lego Videos

I love the "narrowcasting" enabled by the ubiquity of television channels and the internet. But d-i-y videos can be a hit-or-miss proposition. So I'll do a little filtering for y'all. A "value add," if you will.


A nicely done reenactment of the Halo 2 trailer using stop-motion Lego animation:


A mixture of live action and crude stop motion to tell an original story set in the Halo universe:

If I had a few more hours a day to goof off, I could see the fun in putting something like these together. And now there's a global audience ready to consume whatever is posted for their viewing pleasure. Maybe someday...

Posted by JohnL at 07:54 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
August 14, 2006

Legacy of Heorot For the Xbox?

Saw this at Jerry Pournelle's place a couple weeks ago: apparently Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle recently had lunch with some folks from Bungie.

If you're not a gamer AND a science fiction geek, you're probably wondering about the significance of this. Well, Larry Niven is the SF author who dreamed up and described a "ringworld" in his suitably-named, bestselling, and [Hugo and Nebula] award-winning novel. And Bungie is the software company that developed one of the greatest first-person-shooters of all time, Halo, which takes place on the surface of a ringworld.

What I wouldn't have given to be a fly on the wall at that lunch. Geek heaven.

The really cool scoop? Pournelle relates that he and Niven were talking about stories of theirs that could be adapted by Bungie for new games, especially The Legacy of Heorot. Back in college, a buddy of mine who was into film (he makes videos for a living now) thought that Heorot was a natural for adaptation to the big screen. I strongly agree. But if it can't be a movie, I would love to see it come to life in a video game medium. The rich interactivity of a well-designed game brings many more hours of entertainment to me than all but a very few movies and TV shows.

Pournelle touched on this interactivity in Halo with Bungie:

One interesting item: I wondered why, when the Skipper gave the Master Chief his pistol, he said it was unloaded.

They pointed out that I didn't know gamers. Give the gamer a loaded pistol and he'll shoot the commander. Give the commander bodyguards, and the gamers will start with the bodyguards. It gets more and more complex; easier to simply make the hero leave the room and close the door behind him before he can find any ammunition. Interesting. But I still don't find it very realistic that the commander would carry an unloaded pistol. Ah well.

The funny thing is, at that scene in Halo, if you go back and kill the skipper, the Marines will storm the bridge, lock you in and attack you until you die. The Marines become invincible. It's kind of fun in a twisted way to see how long you can last.

In any case, I hope this project is made. I'm holding off on the purchase of an Xbox 360 until Halo 3 ships, but if this came out before then, I would upgrade in an instant.

Posted by JohnL at 09:52 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
August 10, 2006

Star Trek Motivational Posters


Many more available here.

(via GeekPress)

Posted by JohnL at 08:59 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
August 09, 2006

More Meme Therapy

Be sure to check out Meme Therapy's great-looking new site.

While you're there, check out your humble author's continued ruminations in another recent Brain Parade that tackles this question: Science Fiction often presents a coded commentary on the present. What current work of science fiction do you think delivers the most relevant/poignant message with respect to our present geopolitical situation?

Check it out and let me know what you think. Let Jose at Meme Therapy know, too.

Update: Kudos to Rosie for her excellent design work.

Posted by JohnL at 10:29 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
August 07, 2006

Brain Therapy

The most excellent Canada-based science fiction blog Meme Therapy has moved to a new address. Update your links.

If you've never checked it out, this site showcases contributions from all kinds of folks, including many greater and lesser luminaries of science fiction. One regular feature is the "Brain Parade": a collection of blurbs on a number of subjects related to SF in one way or another. Your humble author even made a minor contribution to a recent Brain Parade: When Science Fiction Attacks.

Posted by JohnL at 10:35 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
August 01, 2006

Heinlein Quote of the Month (August 2006)

"Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms such as you have named [i.e., violence, muggings, sniping, arson, bombing, terrorism, riots]... but a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot."

- Boss in Friday.

Posted by JohnL at 08:37 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
July 01, 2006

Heinlein Quote of the Month (July 2006)

As to liberty, the heroes who signed the great document pledged themselves to buy liberty with their lives. Liberty is never unalienable; it must be redeemed regularly with the blood of patriots or it always vanishes. Of all the so-called natural human rights that have ever been invented, liberty is least likely to be cheap and is never free of cost.

- Colonel Dubois in Starship Troopers.

Posted by JohnL at 10:27 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
June 14, 2006

Robert Sawyer Interviewed

I first discovered Robert Sawyer in the pages of Analog magazine 12 years ago. Regular readers may recall that I wrote about his novel Calculating God a little over a year ago. Now, thanks to SFSignal, I was able to find this recent interview with him. I found this exchange quite challenging:

MemeTherapy: It was once said that Science Fiction is the only pill for Future Shock. Do you think the predictions of Future Shock that were made back in the 70s have now or ever will materialize?

Sawyer: ... We talk about starships, but no human has left Earth orbit for thirty-four years now; we talk about AI, but Deep Blue is not one whit more self aware or intelligent in the sense that you and I mean "intelligent" when we use that word in daily conversation, than Eniac, the very first digital computer. Does reading science fiction inoculate us against future shock, or does it distract us with what are essentially fantasy visions? It's a good question; I don't have a solid answer, but I tend to think the value of SF is much more in its sociological thought experiments than it is as any sort of predictive science.

I'm not sure if I totally agree with his point about SF not inoculating us against future shock. But I'm not ready to argue the point, either, yet. Maybe later.

Go read the whole thing. Sawyer is one of the better recent SF authors out there.

Posted by JohnL at 10:05 PM | Comments (3) | | TrackBack
June 03, 2006

Heinlein Quote of the Month (June 2006)

In a society in which it is a mortal offense to be different from your neighbors your only escape is never to let them find out.

- Maureen Johnson in To Sail Beyond the Sunset.

Posted by JohnL at 07:28 PM | Comments (3) | | TrackBack
May 08, 2006

They Are Made Out of Meat

Check out the winner of the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame's Short Film Festival, They Are Made Out of Meat, based on a short story by Terry Bisson.

The guy in the fez was Francis Dolarhyde in the excellent 1986 film, Manhunter.

Posted by JohnL at 08:48 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
May 01, 2006

Heinlein Quote of the Month (May 2006)

I'm sure I've featured this quote before, but its meaning will become abundantly clear later this month when I divulge what's been taking so much of my time recently. Sorry to be cryptic, but all will be clear sometime around May 20. And I apologize for the length of this one, but it's hard to cut it down (although only the bolded portion will go on the sidebar).

It takes place after the Loonies win their independence from Earth and start "governing" themselves:

Hadn't realized "Free Luna" was going to have taxes. Hadn't had any before and got along. You paid for what you got. Tanstaafl. How else?

Another time some pompous choom proposed that bad breath and body odors be made an elimination offense. Could almost sympathize, having been stuck on occasion in a capsule with such stinks. But doesn't happen often and tends to be self-correcting; chronic offenders, or unfortunates who can't correct, aren't likely to reproduce, seeing how choosy women are.

One female (most were men, but women made up for it in silliness) had a long list she wanted made permanent laws--about private matters. No more plural marriage of any sort. No divorces. No "fornication"--had to look that one up. No drinks stronger than 4% beer. Church services only on Saturdays and all else to stop that day. (Air and temperature and pressure engineering, lady? Phones and capsules?) A long list of drugs to be prohibited and a shorter list dispensed only by licensed physicians. (What is a "licensed physician"? Healer I go to has a sign reading "practical doctor"--makes book on side, which is why I go to him. Look, lady, aren't any medical schools in Luna!) (Then, I mean.) She even wanted to make gambling illegal. If a Loonie couldn't roll double or nothing, he would go to a shop that would, even if dice were loaded.

Thing that got me was not her list of things she hated, since she was obviously crazy as a Cyborg, but fact that always somebody agreed with her prohibitions. Must be a yearning deep in human heart to stop other people from doing as they please. Rules, laws--always for other fellow. A murky part of us, something we had before we came down out of trees, and failed to shuck when we stood up. Because not one of those people said: "Please pass this so that I won't be able to do something I know I should stop." Nyet, tovarishchee, was always something they hated to see neighbors doing. Stop them "for their own good"--not because speaker claimed to be harmed by it.

- Manny in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

Posted by JohnL at 08:53 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
April 18, 2006

Heinlein Biography

Check out this detailed biographical sketch of Robert Heinlein, whose centennial will take place on the somewhat magical date of 07/07/07.

I like this introductory paragraph:

Heinlein is a principal builder of my own mind and spirit. Like many another, I think of him as my "intellectual father." The complexities of his actual life, the weaving together of his interests and activities, frame for me a context to his written words, distinct from the words themselves. Those words stand on their own, to be sure, but I view Heinlein's life as an "and I really meant it," worth studying for his example of a self continuously under construction. I corresponded briefly with him on two occasions and met him only once, in 1976, but he is a living influence on my daily life. For me, this sketch is a form of grokking together. I hope this biographical sketch will supply the needs of other of Heinlein's "children."

Heinlein is a unifying theme for this blog, and was my first libertarian influence, preceding Ayn Rand and exceeding her in importance to my way of thinking and living.

Early on in the study of literature, my teachers drilled into me that the "voice" of the protagonist should not be confused with the author's own voice. That's not the case with RAH, and you can hear quite a bit of his own voice speaking through his characters. Reading this biography, you can also see that in many ways he lived the life of those characters.

Hat tip: SFSignal.

Posted by JohnL at 08:43 PM | Comments (2) | | TrackBack
April 01, 2006

Heinlein Quote of the Month (April 2006)

This one seems relevant, given last week's news on the study examining the efficacy of intercessory prayer:

The most preposterous notion that H. Sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history.

Lazarus Long in Time Enough For Love.

Posted by JohnL at 11:02 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
March 01, 2006

Heinlein Quote of the Month (March 2006)

The Richard Cohen kerfuffle last month brought this one to mind:

Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe and not make messes in the house.

- Lazarus Long in Time Enough for Love

Posted by JohnL at 08:34 PM | Comments (2) | | TrackBack
February 01, 2006

Heinlein Quote of the Month (February 2006)

All I will add to the discussion of the State Of The Union:

Oh, 'tanstaafl.' Means 'There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.'

- Mannie in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

Posted by JohnL at 07:55 AM | Comments (2) | | TrackBack
January 13, 2006

Heinlein Quote of the Month (January 2006)

Belated ---

Government! Three-fourths parasitic and the rest stupid fumbling -- oh, Harshaw conceded that man, a social animal, could not avoid government, any more than an individual could escape bondage to his bowels. But simply because an evil was inescapable was no reason to term it "good." He wished that government would wander off and get lost!

- From Stranger in a Strange Land.

Posted by JohnL at 04:08 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
December 01, 2005

Heinlein Quote of the Month (December 2005)

The way to live a long time--oh, a thousand years or more--is something between the way a child does it and the way a mature man does it. Give the future enough thought to be ready for it--but don't worry about it. Live each day as if you were to die next sunrise. Then face each sunrise as a fresh creation and live for it, joyously. And never think about the past. No regrets, ever.

- Lazarus Long in Time Enough for Love.

Posted by JohnL at 08:03 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
November 02, 2005

NaNoWriMo 2

Ouch. Only 354 words tonight. I'll need to do some major typing in the next couple of days to get back on pace. Chapter One (started yesterday) continues below the fold:

As Jake moved around the end of the D axis and examined the E axis, he noted some buildup along the panels, the likely result of the dust devils that frequented this valley.

“Dad, if you’ve got some spare spiders, send them down the F arm, too. Or retask the C-axis spiders to tackle this as soon as they’re done over there,” said Jake over his helmet comm.

“OK, son. Thanks,” replied Paul.

Each spider measured about 10 centimeters in diameter. The robots skittered on six legs (shouldn’t they be called beetles? thought Jake) across the solar panels. Each spider used what was essentially a fine whisk broom to sweep the rusty dust accumulation from the panels.

Jake thought hopefully that the cleaning would account for the missing amps his dad had mentioned earlier in the day. However, based on his experience with these panels, Jake strongly suspected that the power draw came from the heater end, not from obscured solar panels. That likely meant a trip into town to get some parts. And a trip into town would be a great break from the daily routine.

Jake trudged along the final kilometer of the F axis back towards the main airlock. As he went, he continued to scrutinize the solar panels that gave the farm electricity and heated the abundant groundwater locked beneath the surface of the valley.

With so much area absorbing and reflecting the sun, Prometheus station also radiated some heat back into the surrounding valley. Similar installations all across the face of Mars were doing their small part to create global warming on the red planet, hoping eventually to make it minimally Earthlike.

The grand entrance to the family homestead was just a little ways ahead now.

Jake looked forward to his seventh birthday next month. On Earth, he would have just turned 13, and instead of walking around in a softsuit in sub-freezing temperatures, he would likely be riding his bike in a green neighborhood. It was hard not to think about Earth. Most of the programming that played on his phone and the family vid-wall came from Earth.

Posted by JohnL at 10:55 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
November 01, 2005

Heinlein Quote of the Month (November 2005)

Early rising is a vice ... it'll stunt your growth and shorten your days.

- Lazarus Long in Time Enough for Love.

I just wish the rest of the world agreed.

Posted by JohnL at 08:20 AM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
October 25, 2005

Essential SF Movie Canon Meme

This meme started out at Jaquandor's, and is based on SF author John Scalzi's list of the 50 science fiction movies he considers to be the most significant in film history.

I've bolded the ones I've seen, italicized the ones I would like to see (or see again, where applicable), and placed a "Q" by the ones that are in my Netflix queue.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension! (Q) (I need to see this again, as I was in a Shiner Bock-influenced state of mind the first time I saw it in college)
Akira (I plan to see this someday, just to try and figure out what so many people I respect see in anime. My exposure to anime is limited to Speed Racer, Star Blazers, Pokemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh, so maybe I need to see the really good stuff to grok this bizarre sub-genre of SF).
Alien (A classic. I own it on DVD and enjoy watching it every now and then).
Aliens (The rare example of the sequel that is as good as its predecessor - the extended DVD cut is interesting, though not as tightly wound as the original theatrical cut).

Back to the Future
Blade Runner
Bride of Frankenstein (Q)
Brother From Another Planet

A Clockwork Orange
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The Damned
Destination Moon (Q)

The Day The Earth Stood Still
Escape From New York
ET: The Extraterrestrial
Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers (serial)

The Fly (1985 version)
Forbidden Planet (Q)
Ghost in the Shell (Q)
The Incredibles

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 version)
Jurassic Park
Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior
The Matrix

On the Beach
Planet of the Apes (1968 version)
Solaris (1972 version)

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (Q)
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
The Stepford Wives (I've seen both. The original outshines the remake).

Terminator 2: Judgement Day
The Thing From Another World
Things to Come
12 Monkeys

28 Days Later
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
2001: A Space Odyssey
La Voyage Dans la Lune
War of the Worlds (1953 version)

Man, 64%. That's not even a passing grade. I need to add some more of these to my queue.

Posted by JohnL at 08:59 PM | Comments (8) | | TrackBack
October 12, 2005

Halo Movie Green-Lighted

I love the video game Halo. I still spend a couple of hours a week playing different levels at the Legendary difficulty for fun. (Truth and Reconciliation is my favorite level right now).

Halo 2 wasn't bad either. It was great for multiplayer head-to-head, though the campaign game didn't do much for me (I think they overdid the "story" at the expense of the gameplay. And don't get me started about being forced to play as a Covenant Elite).

And, in a sure indication of terminal geek-hood, I actually bought and read the three novelizations of the game. The two books by Eric Nylund were actually quite entertaining (especially since I had negative expectations for them). The Dietz book - a play-by-play retelling of the game's plot - wasn't so good.

Well, now it looks like they are going to make a movie based on Halo (to coincide with the launch of Halo 3). More interestingly, Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings fame, or infamy) will direct the venture use his Weta production facilities in Wellington, New Zealand where the film will also be shot. Alex Garland (not Eric Nylund) did the script, though I hope that they referred to some of the novels for backstory and plots.

I am looking forward to this. It's long past time for a movie based on a videogame to be successfully done.

(Hat tip: SFSignal).

Posted by JohnL at 11:12 PM | Comments (5) | | TrackBack
October 03, 2005

Heinlein Quote of the Month (October 2005)

In sober truth no person can ever be truly responsible for another human being. Each of us faces up to the universe alone, and the universe is what it is and doesn't soften the rules for any of us -- and eventually, in the long run, the universe always wins and takes all. But that doesn't make it any easier when we
try to be responsible for another -- as you have, as I have -- and then look back and see how we could have done it better.

- Uncle Tom in Podkayne of Mars.

Posted by JohnL at 09:35 AM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
September 21, 2005


I just finished watching the original pilot episode of Firefly (entitled "Serenity") on the first DVD (via Netflix).

How gratifying to see a Science Fiction series about which all the superlatives are true.

Much more later...

Posted by JohnL at 11:57 PM | Comments (8) | | TrackBack
September 15, 2005

Wintermute Playlist

Thought I'd put this up while we're on the subject of Neuromancer.

William Gibson's coinage of the word "cyberspace" and his ultra-hip future-pop-culture style led to the description of a lot of fiction in the 80s and 90s as "cyberpunk." There was even a temporary streak of some musical acts that were described as cyberpunk. Most of it noise, which didn't tolerate multiple listenings.

I recently put together a play list of some familiar and not-so-familiar songs, which created a Neuromancer-y vibe for me. I dubbed this playlist "Wintermute" in iTunes. None of these are cyberpunk, though I might call a couple "cybergoth." I think the CD makes for a good walking soundtrack (playing time: almost exactly 1:15).

Presentation Format: Song - Artist - Album (Notes)

There are probably hundreds of other combinations of songs that would evoke the cool, grungy, electronic, trippy world of Neuromancer, so let me know what your playlist would be...

Posted by JohnL at 11:32 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

Cyberspace - The Reality

Life imitates art. Or, art anticipates life. Or something like that.

First, a picture:


Next, a [lengthy] quote from the 1984 book, Neuromancer by William Gibson:

"The matrix has its roots in primitive arcade games," said the voice-over, "in early graphics programs and military experimentation with cranial jacks." On the Sony, a two-dimensional space war faded behind a forest of mathematically generated ferns, demonstrating the special possibilities of logarithmic spirals; cold blue military footage burned through, lab animals wired into test systems, helmets feeding into fire control circuits of tanks and war planes. "Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts . . . A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding . . . ."


And in the bloodlit dark behind his eyes, silver phosphenes boiling in from the edge of space, hypnagogic images jerking past like film compiled from random frames. Symbols, figures, faces, a blurred, fragmented mandala of visual information.

Please, he prayed, now--

A gray disk, the color of Chiba sky.


Disk beginning to rotate, faster, becoming a sphere of paler gray. Expanding--

And flowed, flowered for him, fluid neon origami trick, the unfolding of his distanceless home, his country, transparent 3D chessboard extending to infinity. Inner eye opening to the stepped scarlet pyramid of the Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority burning beyond the green cubes of Mitsubishi Bank of America, and high and very far away he saw the spiral arms of military systems, forever beyond his reach.

Finally, the explanation. (Via BoingBoing).

Posted by JohnL at 10:08 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
September 02, 2005

Heinlein Quote of the Month (September 2005)

When a place gets crowded enough to require ID's, social collapse is not far away. It is time to go elsewhere. The best thing about space travel is that it made it possible to go elsewhere.

- Lazarus Long in Time Enough for Love.

Posted by JohnL at 08:44 AM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
August 11, 2005

Star Trek Business Cards

Awesome collection of business cards for characters from the original series of Star Trek.

(Via BoingBoing).

A sample below the fold:


Posted by JohnL at 11:29 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
August 10, 2005

Shat on Stormtroopers


(From the latest edition of Movie Monkey, via Owlish).

Posted by JohnL at 09:22 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
August 08, 2005

Cheesy Movie Posters

Another reason to love the Internet: a gallery of movie posters and video art for each of the movies lampooned by the brilliant MST3K series and movie.

Via SFSignal.

Posted by JohnL at 11:17 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
August 01, 2005

Heinlein Quote of the Month (August 2005)

It may be that an intelligent race has to expand right up to its disaster point to achieve what is needed to break out of its planet and reach for the stars. It may always - or almost always - be a photo finish, with the outcome uncertain to the last moment. Just as it is with us. It may take endless wars and unbearable population pressure to force-feed a technology to the point where it can cope with space. In the universe, space travel may be the normal birth pangs of an otherwise dying race. A test. Some races pass, some fail.

- Jacob Salomon in I Will Fear No Evil.

Posted by JohnL at 11:29 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
July 01, 2005

Heinlein Quote of the Month (July 2005)

Of all the so-called natural human rights that have ever been invented, liberty is least likely to be cheap and is never free of cost.

- Mr. Dubois in Starship Troopers.

Posted by JohnL at 12:27 AM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
June 16, 2005

Shat Seven

John at SFSignal points to this hilarious Shatner self-parody of the movie Se7en.

The last part is hilarious. Go watch (you need Quicktime to view it).

Posted by JohnL at 12:45 AM | Comments (0) |
May 23, 2005

Revenge of the Sith

I saw Star Wars: The Revenge of the Sith tonight with my second son. He's eight years old, and wore his Darth Vader mask/voice changer to the theater. There's a clue to how to enjoy this movie. Check your cynical, thirty-forty-something a$$ at the door.

We had a great time. After one viewing of ROTS, here's how I would order the Star Wars movies, in order of preference:

1. Star Wars
2. The Empire Strikes Back
3. Revenge of the Sith (Wookies instead of Ewoks, thank the Maker!)
4. Return of the Jedi (die Ewoks, die!)
[tie] 6. Attack of the Clones (spaceships with laser cannon all over the place, but no initial air support for the Jedi assault on the droids in the arena?)
[tie] 6. The Phantom Menace (die Jar Jar, die!)

I'm working on a more descriptive review, together with some "final thoughts" on the whole series of movies, and will post that at GNXP Science Fiction when ready, hopefully later this week.

In the meantime, go see the movie, and don't take any politics into the theater with you; they're just not there. Instead, take an eight-year old and have fun watching the cool spaceships and lightsaber battles. Start your birthday and Christmas lists with all the LEGO sets you want to get. Lighten up...

P.S. The movie previews have me looking forward to the summer lineup: Serenity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Batman Begins all look promising. And The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe looks like a sure hit next Christmas.

Update: Owlish reminds me in comments of The Fantastic Four, which also looks to be quite entertaining (they showed the trailer, I just didn't retain it).

Update 2: Despite my general dislike of Tom Cruise, I have to say that the trailer convinced me to see Spielberg's version of War of the Worlds, too.

Posted by JohnL at 11:51 PM | Comments (6) |
May 16, 2005

Random Star Wars Pictures

A couple of Stormtrooper pics that have grabbed my fancy recently:

Happy Trooper (via Wizbang):


Female Trooper (via Michele Catalano):


I just got an idea for a theme costume for my wife and me next Halloween...

Posted by JohnL at 11:00 PM | Comments (3) |
May 04, 2005

Random Star Wars Links, Part 1

Only two-and-a-half weeks to go before Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith hits theaters. So let's jump on the Sandcrawler bandwagon and build some hype:

Do you have questions? Read the script to find the answers. It actually reads like a well-paced movie with some fantastic action scenes and only a small amount of franchise-appropriate cheesy dialogue.

Challenge yourself with some obsessive fan trivia, while perusing a serious SF analysis of the screwed up values reflected in the Campbellian (non-Enlightenment) universe of Star Wars.

Of course, you have your outfit picked out for opening night, don't you? (Just make sure it's bathroom-capable!)

The Dark Side's not your style? Then try this, Rebel scum.

More links to follow as we draw closer to opening day...

Posted by JohnL at 08:52 PM | Comments (3) |
April 18, 2005

Calculating God

The purest essence of science fiction is a good "what if?" Really good SF does its best to make both the question and answer consistent with real (or extrapolated) science.

What if aliens landed on Earth? And what if, instead of saying "take me to your leader," they said: "Excuse me. I would like to see a paleontologist." And what if, like many scientists, that paleontologist was a devout atheist? And what if the aliens believed that a god created the universe?

That is the setup for the extremely entertaining and thought-provoking Calculating God, by Canadian Robert Sawyer. And, by the "what if" standard, this book makes for some excellent SF reading.

Thomas Jericho, the paleontologist who makes first contact with the spider-like Hollus from Beta Hydri, is an atheist. Hollus explains that he came to Earth with his colleagues (some of whom are aliens from Delta Pavonis II) to investigate mass extinctions as turning points in the evolution of life. During their initial interchange, Hollus reveals that Earth, Beta Hydri, and Delta Pavonis II all experienced mass extinctions at the same points in their histories, even though the three planets were all of very different ages. When Jericho states that he can't think of any reason why evolutionary history should be so similar on multiple worlds, Hollus drops the bomb that sets the story in motion:

"One reason is obvious," said Hollus. . . . "It could be that way because God wished it to be so."

Awkward silence ensues. Jericho is completely taken aback. But over many subsequent conversations, Hollus lays out his case for a creator (essentially, the weak anthropic principle). And Sawyer is kind enough to have his narrator, Jericho, mention the various sources for further study on the anthropic principle. But don't think that god of the aliens resembles the God of most mainstream religions, i.e., some personal wish-granter like a Santa Claus writ large in the sky with the impressive beard and golden throne. Instead, this is God-as-author-of-the-Universe, the Deist god:

"A caring God," repeated Hollus. "I have also heard the phrases 'a loving God,' and 'a compassionate God.'" His eyestalks locked on me. "I think you humans apply too many adjectives to the creator."

"But you're the ones who believe that God has a purpose for us," I said.

"I believe the creator may have a specific reason for wanting a universe that has life in it, and, indeed, as you say, for wanting multiple sentiences to emerge simultaneously. But it seems clear beyond dispute that the creator takes no interest in specific individuals."

"And that's the generally held opinion amongst members of your race?" I asked.


Interesting stuff. Overall, the story's thought-provoking premise and rapid pace during the latter last third overcome the few glaring weaknesses:

1. First, the author is bit too enamored with Canada's socialized medical system, and makes that position all too clear.

2. Second, the only representatives of young earth creationism are a couple of murderous yokels from Arkansas (named - I kid you not - Cooter and J.D.). This makes them mere stereotypes, rather than the more common (and realistic) YECs that I encounter on a daily basis. It would have been better intellectually to set up a reasoned dispute between the aliens and a Baptist like Billy Graham rather than the violent confrontation portrayed in the book. (Of course, the violent confrontation made for a more entertaining read).

3. Finally, Sawyer reaches for a grand ending on a scale similar to 2001: A Space Odyssey or Carl Sagan's Contact, and fails to achieve the same level of grandeur. I just couldn't suspend my disbelief in the last chapter to accept the encounter with the Divine as presented.

In all, I would highly recommend this book. Sawyer has a way of tackling controversial issues in an entertaining manner. His earlier Terminal Experiment was a thought experiment posing the question "What if we found hard evidence for a human soul?" and attempting to answer it. And it looks like his next book, Mindscan, examines just what it is that makes us human.

(Cross-posted to GNXP Science Fiction)

Posted by JohnL at 11:11 PM | Comments (0) |
April 04, 2005

Teach Your Children Well

Email received from my wife Friday afternoon, reproduced in its entirety here (names abbreviated to protect the innocent):

Subject: Star Wars

D. [8 y.o. son] spent 30 minutes in his room with E. [5 y.o. daughter], teaching her about Star Wars with his ships and your action figures. Now they are watching Return of the Jedi, D.'s choice since E. would like the Teddy Bears.


I know I've done my job well to pass the SF torch to another generation.

Posted by JohnL at 06:18 PM | Comments (3) |
March 29, 2005

SF Initiation

John at SFSignal asks which book got you into science fiction.

I answer the question for me over at GNXP Science Fiction.

Posted by JohnL at 11:19 PM | Comments (0) |
March 21, 2005

John Scalzi Wants Your SF Cliches

John Scalzi wants to read your fiction and non-fiction stories on the theme of SF Cliches. More details here.

(And my first entry at GNXP Science Fiction on this topic here).

Posted by JohnL at 11:33 PM | Comments (0) |
March 14, 2005

Doctor Who Number 9

I haven't had a chance to see the new Doctor Who, but Eric Akawie has. Go read his review of the first episode.

N.B. Of course I have previously mentioned the new Doctor's lovely companion, Rose Tyler.

Posted by JohnL at 10:43 PM | Comments (0) |
March 09, 2005

SF Babes Weekly Poll (Fox's Foxes, Part I - RETRY)

Go figure. Leave town for several days and not only does your direct link to the main page crap out, but drops all of your polls for no apparent reason. So, we will now retry the same poll from last week, unaltered, and pretend that nothing happened:

This week's poll pits the leading ladies from three of Fox's SF series against one another. Next week, certain supporting actresses from these same series will face off. The week after that, we will have a championship, featuring the two winners, together with the winner of the already-conducted Firefly poll. On with the show...

One of my favorite female characters in all of science fiction is Dana Scully (portrayed by Gillian Anderson) of the X-Files. I am not normally partial to redheads, but I make an exception for this character. Tough, sceptical, and rational, she tries to reconcile her reason with the faith of her childhood and the bizarre phenomena she encounters. Scully is truly one of SF's super-heroines. And a babe, to boot:

I was a new dad and new lawyer when Space: Above and Beyond first aired, so I only managed to see a couple of episodes. I'll have to give it another try someday. The lovely Kristen Cloke portrayed Captain Shane Vansen:

And finally, yet another series that I must catch up on now that the DVDs are out, is the James Cameron-created Dark Angel. The beautiful Jessica Alba portrays the genetically-enhanced Max Guevera in this dystopian SF drama:

Results (posted 15 March 2005):

Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) 39% (28 of 71 votes)
Captain Shane Vansen (Kristen Cloke) 14% (10 of 71 votes)
Max Guevera (Jessica Alba) 46% (33 of 71 votes) WINNER!

Posted by JohnL at 09:02 PM | Comments (3) |
February 22, 2005

SF Babes (Battlestar Babes II)

My regular readers will remember that one of the first SF Babe polls was based on the original Battlestar Galactica. Sheba won, as you can verify in the Gallery.

I still haven't seen the "re-imagined" Battlestar Galactica, but I can tell from the various trailers and onsite reviews that this newer, grittier Battlestar can be just as easy on the eyes as the original one.

Instead of cigar-chomping Dirk Benedict playing Starbuck, cigar-chomping Katee Sackhoff pilots her Viper against the dreaded Cylons:

And Starbuck's not the only one who got a sex change for the new series. Boomer (originally portrayed by Herb Jefferson Jr.) is now played by the beautiful Grace Park:

Cast your votes here [link disabled - ed.].

(You may also want to cast a vote in Annika's android poll. I don't know how long she'll keep it up on her front page, but it coordinates nicely with last week's SF Babe poll).

Results (Posted 1 March 2005):

Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff): 26% (15 of 58 votes)
Boomer (Grace Park): 74% (43 of 58 votes) WINNER!

Posted by JohnL at 09:20 PM | Comments (7) |
February 16, 2005

Great Star Trek Site

Today Jen Lars posted her interview of Brad Torgerson, proprietor of the blog Pool of Thought.

Brad also maintains this very neat Star Trek site, based upon the 1980s Star Trek Starship Tactical Combat Simulator RPG. Cool and very geeky stuff.

Posted by JohnL at 10:44 PM | Comments (0) |
February 15, 2005

SF Babes - I For One Welcome Our New Cyborg Overlordsladies

This week's poll features the lovely ladies who have portrayed some of SciFi's most seductively deadly robots:

Trish Helfer portrays the Cylon bombshell Number 6 in the new Battlestar Galactica miniseries and series (pic found here):

Kristanna Loken played the lethal Terminator model T-X in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines:

Finally, Jeri Ryan portrayed the recovering Borg 7 of 9 in Star Trek - Voyager:

Vote often and check the Gallery for previous winners.

Update: The Country Pundit and Maximum Leader know of what they speak. Rob the Llamabutcher, on the other hand, got some silicone in his eyes and is not a reliable witness.

Results (Posted 22 February 2005):

Trish Helfer (Number 6) 54% (51 of 95 votes) -- WINNER
Kristanna Loken (Terminator T-X) 13% (12 of 95 votes)
Jeri Ryan (7 of 9) 34% (32 of 95 votes)

Posted by JohnL at 08:56 PM | Comments (9) |
February 11, 2005

Sci Fi Hunks

For those of you who would like to vote for SF-based beefcake rather than (or in addition to) cheesecake, Sadie has the opportunity for you.

I don't know if she plans to make it a regular feature or not, but go check out her poll. She's got some cool candidates in the running.

I don't size guys up by their looks, but can recognize what I would call "charisma" -- some indefinable projection of confidence and competence. Using those criteria, the Terminator character Reese, portrayed by Michael Biehn, would get my vote. My wife, on the other hand, is casting her vote for Keanu Reeves as Neo in The Matrix.

Posted by JohnL at 09:12 PM | Comments (3) |
February 09, 2005

Starsky Treksky

Via the Pirate King, I learned about a Soviet-era Star Trek knock off named Cosmos Patrol.

Update: Thanks to an alert reader, I find that I've been hoaxed! There was no such TV program. More here. No wonder I had trouble finding any images to post from the show!

Posted by JohnL at 10:21 PM | Comments (2) |
February 08, 2005

Weekly SF Babe Poll (The Sky Is Falling!)

"Hot Fudge Sundae falls on a Tuesdae this week."

That's right folks. Rogue comets + wayward asteroids = this week's poll of cheesy SF cheesecake goodness.

First, the original 1970s disaster movie incarnation Meteor with the beautiful Natalie Wood portraying Russian translator Tatiana Nikolaevna Donskaya:

Next up, the disappointingly shallow Deep Impact with the quirky and cute Tea Leoni playing jerk reporter Jenny Lerner:

The truly rotten Armageddon had me rooting for the asteroid to obliterate everything. About the only redeeming feature of this movie was Liv Tyler's visage in her portrayal of Grace Stamper:

Last up is Asteroid, a made-for-TV also-ran, which I didn't manage to watch. The lovely Annabella Sciorra makes an appearance here as Dr. Lily McKee:

Disclaimer: Unlike previous polls, I couldn't find enough good pics of all contestants in character. So some of the pictures are merely contemporaneous with the movies, and not from the movies themselves. False, but accurate. (Good enough for CBS!)

Results (Posted 15 February 2005):

Natalie Wood in Meteor 13% (9 of 69 votes)
Tea Leoni in Deep Impact 35% (24 of 69 votes) -- WINNER!
Liv Tyler in Armageddon 30% (21 of 69 votes)
Annabella Sciorra in Asteroid 22% (15 of 69 votes)

Posted by JohnL at 08:37 PM | Comments (6) |
January 31, 2005

Appropriate Heinlein Quote

I found a perfect Heinlein quote for the coming month, to mark the momentous Iraqi elections yesterday:

Democracy is a poor system; the only thing that can be said for it is that it's eight times as good as any other method. Its worst fault is that its leaders reflect their constituents--a low level, but what can you expect?

From Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.

Posted by JohnL at 10:29 PM | Comments (0) |
January 09, 2005

Heinlein on Legal Advice

I'm reading Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert Heinlein. This little exchange between a ship's commanding officer (Brisby) and his paymaster/legal officer ("Pay") reminded me of some clients I've had:

Brisby scowled. "Pay, you aren't working for me to tell me I can't do things."

"Yes, sir."

"You're here to tell me how I can do what I'm going to do anyhow. So start digging through your books and find out how. Legally. And free."

"Aye aye, sir."

I'm sure most of my lawyer readers can relate.

Posted by JohnL at 10:18 PM | Comments (1) |
January 04, 2005

Meat Puppetry

For those of you who don't follow Neal Stephenson or SF, The Baroque Cycle is an ambitious trilogy of 900-plus page novels, all set during the height of the Enlightenment in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. I have just finished reading Quicksilver, the first volume, which Stephenson painstakingly wrote in longhand on cotton parchment with a fountain pen (to get into the historical mindframe).

There are no significant spoilers here, but if you haven't read any of it yet and are sensitive to learning any details ahead of time, don't read any further. The rest of this is below the fold:

Stephenson's tremendous amount of research is reflected in his obsessive attention to detail and frequent excursions from the main storyline to share some explanation of the workings of the Royal Society, the Amsterdam and London Stock Exchanges, the etymology of the word "bank" as it pertains to a place that deals in money, etc. For readers unfamiliar with Stephenson's style, these discursions will make you love him or hate him. I liked them in Cryptonomicon, and they continued to delight me here.

Throughout the first book, Stephenson acquaints us with some of the original and early members of the Royal Society and walks us through details of some of their experiments. On the 139th page of the paperback version of Quicksilver, we learn of an experiment conducted by John Wilkins and Robert Hooke to learn how the human mouth forms phonemes:

...Charles Comstock was rousted from bed and ordered to dissect the corpse, as a lesson in anatomy (and as a way of getting rid of it). Meanwhile, Hooke and Wilkins connected the head's windpipe to a large set of fireplace-bellows, so that they could blow air through his voice-box. Daniel was detailed to saw off the top of the skull and get rid of the brains so that he could reach in through the back and get hold of the soft palate, tongue, and other meaty bits responsible for making sounds. With Daniel thus acting as a sort of meat puppeteer, and Hooke manipulating the lips and nostrils, and Wilkins plying the bellows, they were able to make the head speak...."

Though I wasn't much of a fan of theirs, the old eighties alterna-punk band "The Meat Puppets" came immediately to mind as I read that, and I wondered whether this was a hidden tribute to them. After exhaustive Googling, I couldn't find a plausible direct link between Stephenson and that band, but I did learn of the etymology of the phrase "meat puppet," which seems to have been invented by William Gibson in his groundbreaking Neuromancer (in reference to Molly's original profession as a sense-blocked prostitute).

Now, Neuromancer came out about the same time as The Meat Puppets debuted in 1980 -- could there be a link? Hmmm.

In any case, based on interviews, Stephenson is clearly aware of Gibson, and I can't help thinking this may have been a deeply embedded tribute by him to the father of cyberpunk. Although this book will provide many rewarding nuggets like this for obsessive geeks to research, it should also appeal even to those with just a casual interest in history, as it makes this exciting time of intellectual ferment come to life.

Highly recommended.

Posted by JohnL at 09:33 PM | Comments (2) |
December 21, 2004

Spaceship Schematics

It's been a while since I've stolen a link from Gravity Lens.

Check out this very cool collection of starship schematics.

Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5, and even Star Blazers (i.e., Space Battleship Yamato) are all featured here.

Star Blazers was one of my favorite cartoons back in sixth grade, and I don't think I ever caught every episode. Fortunately, it looks like all three seasons are now available on DVD. Check out the Yamato webring, too.

Posted by JohnL at 02:31 PM | Comments (0) |
November 30, 2004

Quotable Heinlein

Looking for the Heinlein Quote of the Month for December, I ran across this great site. Hit refresh to cycle through the 375 quotations assembled there.

I love the Internet.

Posted by JohnL at 10:20 PM | Comments (0) |

SF Babes Poll (Vulcan Edition)

Between guest-blogging and Thanksgiving last week, I completely failed to tally the votes from our last poll, update the Gallery, and set a new poll up Thursday. I was getting tired of that time-slot anyway, so we'll start running this little feature every Tuesday, beginning tonight.

This week we have a trio of Vulcan lovelies from the Star Trek universe:

T'Pring, portrayed by Arlene Martel in the original series episode Amok Time.

Lieutenant Saavik, portrayed by a young Kirstie Alley in the best Star Trek movie of all time, The Wrath of Khan.

T'Pol, portrayed by Jolene Blalock in the current series Enterprise.

Results (Posted 7 December 2004):

Poll Results 12-7-2004.jpg

Posted by JohnL at 09:03 PM | Comments (11) |
November 23, 2004

Gene Expression SF

Gene Expression, a facinating site covering topics related to human biodiversity and genetics (one of my daily reads), has created a spin-off site covering science fiction. Check it out.

Posted by JohnL at 10:12 PM | Comments (0) |

Grokking Heinlein's Magic

Robert Heinlein is, obviously, one of the unifying themes of my blog. I first became acquainted with what I would eventually come to understand as "libertarianism" through his juvenile fiction such as Between Planets, Space Cadet, and Tunnel in the Sky. Later works such as Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Friday, and Job: A Comedy of Justice all greatly informed my views on government, religion, and society.

I recently finished reading The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein. Until I ran across a review of a short story from this collection at New Troy a few months ago, I never even knew Heinlein wrote fantasies. But then these really aren't "fantasies" in the traditional elf, swords, and sorcery sense.

I ran across a real gem in this collection, entitled "Magic, Inc." I would love to see this story included in high school government class curricula since it shows the monopolization of a profession (magicians) by a large magic corporation's pushing through legislation to license the professionals. (I won't tell how the story ends).

It's well worth your time just to read the twelve-page sequence covering the protagonists' journey to the capitol to try to kill or water down the enabling legislation that would lead to licensing and professional standards for magicians. Every detail, from the underhanded inclusion of magical regulations in the agenda of the legislature's special session, to the bloviating legislators referring to Mosaic, Roman, and common law, to the defeat snatched from the jaws of victory when the original legislation is passed, unaltered, as a rider to a public works appropriations bill.

Magic, Inc. was originally copyrighted in 1940, but still remains relevant, and, most importantly for any fiction, a good read. Check the whole collection out.

(Cross-posted at Freespace).

Posted by JohnL at 09:20 PM | Comments (0) |
November 18, 2004

SF Babes Poll Number 9

This week's poll takes us back to a velveetalicious Irwin Allen Sci Fi series that premiered the year I was born: The Land of the Giants.

I loved this show as a kid.

The two contenders are Valerie Scott (portrayed by the still-quite-attractive Deanna Lund) and Betty Hamilton (portrayed by Heather Young).

Check out last week's results and the updated entry to the Gallery of the Babes.

Results (Posted 30 November 2004):

SF Babes: The Land of the Giants
ValerieScott.jpgValerie Scott
31 votes
BettyHamilton.jpgBetty Hamilton
15 votes
Posted by JohnL at 09:51 PM | Comments (0) |
November 04, 2004

Star Trek Pictures

Great Dutch website for Trek pics (including some photoshopped pics, comic strips, and fan art).

Posted by JohnL at 09:18 PM | Comments (0) |

SF Babes Poll Number 8

This week we leave the vast wasteland of TV and venture into the cinema house, where the classic Blade Runner is playing.

If you've got Vangelis' atmospheric synthesizer soundtrack, put it in the player and consider this week's candidates: the lithe (and deadly) Pris (Daryl Hannah), the lovely (if dim) Rachel (Sean Young), or the exotic (but deadly) Zhora (Joanna Cassidy).

Be sure to check out last week's winner, along with all previous winners at the new Gallery of the SF Babe Weekly Poll Winners.

Results (Posted 11 November 2004):

SF Babes - Blade Runner
16 votes
30 votes
25 votes
Posted by JohnL at 09:16 PM | Comments (0) |
October 28, 2004

SF Babes Poll Number 7

Well, I see from last week's results that the "soft" Leia in a metal bikini made just as strong an impression on my fellow geeks as she did on me. She claimed 50% of the popular vote. Not sure if either major party candidate will do that this year...

Politics aside, this week's poll celebrates the distinctive beauty of five passengers/crewmembers on Jean Wuss Picard's Enterprise: Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden), Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby), Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg), and Lwaxana Troi (Majel Barrett, for any of you milf types out there).

Vote often and early. I hope that we will know the final results of our presidential election by the time we know the results of this poll next week. Enjoy!

Results (Posted 4 November 2004):

SF Babes - Star Trek:TNG
Crusher.jpgDr. Beverly Crusher
22 votes
troi02.jpgDeanna Troi
41 votes
Natasha.jpgTasha Yar
19 votes
1 vote
Lwaxana.jpgLwaxana Troi
0 votes
Posted by JohnL at 11:53 PM | Comments (3) |
October 21, 2004

SF Babes Poll Number 6

This week's entry pits mother against daughter. Padme (Amidala) against Princess Leia Organa.

But this week, there's a new twist: both of our candidates display both a soft, stereotypically feminine side and an assertive, commanding, warrior side. You get to choose not only between the two women, but also between their personas.


Results (Posted 28 October 2004):

SF Babes - Star Wars
SoftLeia1.jpg"Soft" Leia
35 Votes
SoftPadme.jpg"Soft" Padme
15 Votes
LeiaBlaster.jpg"Warrior" Leia
5 Votes
AmidalaBlaster.jpg"Warrior" Padme
15 Votes
Posted by JohnL at 10:31 PM | Comments (2) |
October 20, 2004

Required Reading

If you haven't read any Neal Stephenson, you must at least read Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon.

I know, I know. Cryptonomicon is a BIG book, as are the recent Baroque Cycle works. If you haven't time or inclination to read those, then at least read this great interview on Slashdot, which I found via SFSignal.

Aside from the hilarious [fictional] anecdotes of Neal's epic battles with William Gibson, there's some real gold here. For example, this nugget about Blue Origin:

As for my visions of future private space flight: here I have to remind you of something, which is that, up to this point in the interview, I have been wearing my novelist hat, meaning that I talk freely about whatever I please. But private space flight is an area where I wear a different hat (or helmet). I do not freely disseminate my thoughts on this one topic because I have agreed to sell those thoughts to Blue Origin. Admittedly, this feels a little strange to a novelist who is accustomed to running his mouth whenever he feels like it. But it is a small price to pay for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become a minor character in a Robert Heinlein novel.

I like the sound of that: a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become a minor character in a Robert Heinlein novel." Unfortunately Blue Origin doesn't seem to be looking for an in-house lawyer at this time.

Posted by JohnL at 11:40 PM | Comments (2) |
October 14, 2004

SF Babes Poll Number 5

I refuse to concede last week's results. I demand a recount. Where's Richard Daley???

In the meantime, I present you with our fifth poll in the series: the lovely ladies of Space:1999: Dr. Helena Russell (Barbara Bain), Sandra Benes (Zienia Merton), Maya (Catherine Schell), Yasko (Yasuko Nagazumi), Tanya Alexandria (Suzanne Roquette), and Kate (Sarah Bullen).

Vote early and often, and ignore those wooly-headed butchers over there this week.

Results (Posted 21 October 2004):

SF Babes - Space 1999
Helena.jpg Dr. Helena Russell
4 Votes
SBenes.jpg Sahn/Sandra Benes
6 Votes
Maya.jpg Maya
12 Votes
Yasko.jpg Yasko
25 Votes
tanya.jpg Tanya Alexandria
14 Votes
8 Votes
Posted by JohnL at 11:17 PM | Comments (0) |
October 07, 2004

SF Babes Poll Number 4

Last week we again had only a plurality winner, so this week I will force you to choose a winner - no split decisions here, as I will cast any required tie-breaking vote.

I present for your consideration the two lovely ladies of Buck Rogers In the 25th Century, Princess Ardala (played by Pamela Hensley) and Wilma Deering (played by Erin Grey).

This week's poll has a place near and dear in my heart, as a debate I had with a certain Llamabutcher over the relative aesthetic merits of these two attractive women's characters in the silly TV show led to this site becoming the center of the SF Babe universe (at least according to Google).

As always, vote early and often.

Update: Welcome, Vodkapundit readers! Make yourselves at home, and please, Vote Ardala!

Results (Posted 14 October 2004):

SF Babes - Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
ardala.jpgPrincess Ardala
67 Votes
deering.jpgWilma Deering
75 Votes

But Texas has 34 electoral votes to Virginia's measley little 13, so Ardala wins. Ha! Take that, Llamas!

Posted by JohnL at 10:34 PM | Comments (23) |
September 30, 2004

SF Babes Poll Number 3

This week, the lovely ladies of Battlestar Galactica.

Last week, we had a close finish, with no single lady receiving more than 50%. Your vote counts!

Update: Although Yeoman Rand won last week's poll, I think an Honorary SF Babe of the Week Award, Special X-Prize Edition should go to Anousheh Ansari, entrepreneur, benefactor of the X-Prize foundation, and, I should add, a real babe:


Results (Posted 7 October 2004):

SF Babes - Battlestar Galactica
26 Votes
12 Votes
5 Votes
13 Votes

With a special honorable mention to Flight Corporal Rigel (whom I forgot to include):


Posted by JohnL at 11:01 PM | Comments (2) |
September 23, 2004

SF Babes Poll Number 2

This week's poll is among the three lovely ladies of Starfleet from the original Star Trek: Uhura, Nurse Chapel, and Yeoman Rand.

For the results of the first SF Babes Poll, click here.

Vote early, vote often, and have fun. Comments (the more smart-assed, the better) are encouraged and welcomed.

Results (Posted 30 September 2004):

SF Babes - Star Trek TOS
19 Votes
NurseChapel.jpgNurse Chapel
9 Votes
Rand.jpgYeoman Rand
22 Votes
Posted by JohnL at 10:02 PM | Comments (2) |
September 16, 2004

SF Babes Poll Number 1

New Feature! SF Babe of the week! Vote early! Vote often!

Since this site is the undisputed worldwide source of SF Babe information (just Google "SF Babes" if you don't believe me), I've decided to incorporate a weekly poll of SF Babes in which you, dear reader, may democratically influence the outcome of each critically important faceoff among science fiction's cutest ladies.

(I'll keep this up until I'm bored with the concept, but I will keep track of each week's winner and compile them in a running master list).

For this week, I offer you a selection among the lovely ladies of Lost in Space - both the classic TV Series and the "Major Motion Picture."

Pretend you're a Chicago voter. Vote as many times as you want. Have fun!

(If you have suggestions for future candidates, please feel free to email or comment. Thanks!)

Results (Posted 23 September 2004):

SF Babes - Lost in Space
OldJudy.jpgOld Judy
15 Votes
NewJudy.jpgNew Judy
3 Votes
OldPenny.jpgOld Penny
1 Vote
NewPenny.jpgNew Penny
7 Votes
Posted by JohnL at 11:08 PM | Comments (8) |

Another Stupid Quiz

All I can say is:


Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Posted by JohnL at 10:08 PM | Comments (3) |
August 28, 2004

The Matrix - Halo Remix

This clip is a lengthy download, but well worth it. (Download mirrors here).

Some enterprising gamers (and it took many) restaged the opening minutes of The Matrix using the X-Box game Halo. Given the number of characters on the screen most of the time, this looks like at least 2 or 3 networked X-Boxes. I wonder how many takes it took. Geek out!

Via Milk and Cookies.

Posted by JohnL at 12:06 AM | Comments (2) |
August 09, 2004

Yet More SF Babes

I think I just need to open a new category for this subject (earlier entries here, here, here, and here).

Yet more SF Babe resources:

(All above shamelessly hijacked from Gravity Lens).

Someone on a similar vibe has assembled this Amazon list of the Lovely Ladies of Golden and Silver Age Sci Fi/Horror.

Posted by JohnL at 09:36 PM | Comments (0) |
July 21, 2004

Happy Anniversary to SFSignal

When you have the chance, drop by SFSignal and leave a congratulatory note on their recent one-year bloggiversary.

Posted by JohnL at 11:34 PM | Comments (0) |
July 19, 2004

Alien Reenactment

Via Mixolydian Mode, a 30-second reenactment of Alien with bunnies.

Posted by JohnL at 11:13 PM | Comments (1) |
June 09, 2004

Quality Commentary on SF Babes

Go to Google. Type in "SF Babes." Hit return.

Can I get a yip y'all?

Posted by JohnL at 08:40 PM | Comments (0) |
June 03, 2004

Futures Imagined

An interesting site (via Gravity Lens) with loads of golden-age pulp-fiction Sci Fi artwork interleaved with photographs of real futuristic designs, some built, others not.

Posted by JohnL at 10:51 PM | Comments (0) |
June 02, 2004

Sleestak Art

I loved the old (70s) Land of the Lost show. Not surprising, despite the cheesy special effects, since many of the episodes were written by hard-SF authors such as Larry Niven, David Gerrold, and Theodore Sturgeon.

So it was fun to stumble across this clever art website the other day: Monet meets the Sleestaks. (Hat tip: Gravity Lens).

Posted by JohnL at 08:53 PM | Comments (1) |
May 28, 2004

More SF Babes

My long-time readers (all 1 or 2 of you!) might remember the good-natured back-and-forth between this blog and the Llamabutchers about SF Babes a couple of months ago.

Well, I thought of those posts the other day when the guys at SFSignal linked to the "Top 75 Heroines of Sci Fi, Fantasy, and Horror."

In the process, they also introduced me to RevolutionSF, which now finds a home on my sidebar.

Posted by JohnL at 09:55 PM | Comments (0) |
May 24, 2004


Robert Anson Heinlein, who coined the word "grok," who created the speculative future histories and alternate worlds that have captivated the imaginations of millions of readers, who, with Ayn Rand, laid much of the popular literary foundation for libertarianism, died 16 years ago on May 8, 1988.

I missed the date, as I don't usually mark the "death dates" of people, even those whom I admire. But fortunately Bill Dennis keeps track of the information at his Heinlein Blog. He also links to a good essay by J. Neil Schulman, which describes Heinlein's works as "how-to" manuals.


Posted by JohnL at 10:02 PM | Comments (0) |
May 13, 2004

Trek Limerick

Also found via Gravity Lens here.

"Ode to Spock"

There once was a commander named Spock
Who sounded so smooth when he'd talk.
From the very first day
The fans would all say
"That green blooded Vulcan, we grok!"

Posted by JohnL at 11:42 PM | Comments (0) |

Star Trek, RFD

Did you know that a couple episodes of Star Trek: The Old Series were filmed on Mayberry RFD sets? Really. The City on the Edge of Forever and Miri were both filmed partly in Mayberry.

(Hat Tip: Gravity Lens).

Posted by JohnL at 11:39 PM | Comments (1) |
April 30, 2004

Essential SF Movies

Over at SFSignal, JP is looking for a list of movies that every wannabe SF fan should see. His first list contained 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, and the Matrix. Predictably the comments soon lost sight of JP's initial criteria and turned into "my favorite SF movies of all time are . . ."

As a result, JP is seeking to define a list of "Essential SF Movies," but this time broken into subcategories:

1. Newbie friendly
2. Must be seen
3. Hidden gems
[4. - Optional -for compleatists only]

Let's see if we can help him out. See extended entry. . .

I am only listing movies I have seen, not movies I know I should see but haven't seen yet. I've put an "NF" after the ones I think belong primarily in another category but that are also newbie friendly.

Newbie Friendly
ET: The Extra Terrestrial
Jurassic Park
War of the Worlds (1953)

Must be Seen:
2001: A Space Odyssey
Star Wars (NF)
Blade Runner
A Clockwork Orange
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (NF)
Planet of the Apes (the original from my birth year - 1968) (NF)
Aliens (NF)
The Day the Earth Stood Still

Hidden Gems
Colossus: The Forbin Project
The Iron Giant (NF)
Silent Running

That's a start.

Posted by JohnL at 11:27 PM | Comments (1) |
April 21, 2004

Imperial Star Destroyer For Sale

Check it out.

Not to be even more of a geek, but I think they have the scale wrong. That ship is way too small for 4" action figures' scale.

And anyway, I thought Darth Vader's flagship was the Super Star Destroyer Executor (not that I troll Star Wars websites).

Posted by JohnL at 10:30 PM | Comments (0) |
March 29, 2004

Heinlein Wrote Fantasy?

It's true, the master of hard-SF wrote a few fantasy stories.

New Troy has a review by Robert Wilfred Franson of The Man Who Traveled in Elephants, one of Heinlein's fantasies (collected here and here).

Franson points to this vignette shared by Spider Robinson about the story in Requiem: and Tributes to the Grand Master:

[Says Robinson, presenting a battered old paperback for Heinlein to autograph]: "Mr. Heinlein, sir, I fetched this particular book because it contains my single personal all-time favorite story of yours of all time, sir."

He is used to people gibbering at him; he nods and waits politely. "It's called 'The Man Who Traveled in Elephants' --" and his face sags slightly and I panic oh hell what did I say wrong fix it fix it "-- I mean, hell, that's just my opinion, who am I --" and then I break off, because whatever he is doing with his face is the opposite of frowning.

"That," he says slowly, "is my personal favorite--and no one's ever had a nice word to say for it until now."

As they say, read the whole thing.

Posted by JohnL at 11:01 PM | Comments (0) |
March 17, 2004

Halo for the PC Review

I have to explain one other reason for the recent sparse posting. Halo PC.

I downloaded the free version the other day to try it out (I haven't bought the full-featured game yet, and probably won't, for the reasons outlined below).

The console version of this game was one major factor in my decision to get an Xbox instead of some other platform for the family. (There were several other reasons, including research and recommendations from trusted family friends, but Halo was the deal-closer). Not to be immodest, but I'm pretty sure that I rock on the Xbox version of this game. I haven't gone against adults in multiplayer (yet), but I have beaten the game on Legendary, and have replayed most of the hardest levels on Legendary several times until I can beat them pretty readily. The chance to play online against real humans is the main reason I wanted to try out the PC version. (The Xbox version does not support XboxLive, although there is a third-party freeware program that would allow me to play head-to-head over the Internet).

I have a decent computer, only a year old: Gateway Pentium IV, 2.5 GHz, 1GB RAM, 80 and 200 GB hard drives, with an upgraded 3D-accelerated graphics card. We also have broadband. The only drawback for a game like this is that I have an LCD flat screen monitor, so the graphics look "cartoony" compared to the rendering on my TV with the console version of the game. I'm not about to invest in plasma, and I'm not about to get a huge CRT monitor just for gaming, so I'm stuck with this look. All this is to say that I can account for the decreased quality in "looks" between the PC and console versions of the game. The sound is still excellent, as is the story, which made this game so captivating to me in the first place.

Unlike James Lileks (who thinks the Mac version is superior to the Xbox one), I think the
computer version is less playable. I guess I am not a PC first-person-shooter afficionado, as I think, frankly, that the mouse-keyboard control setup sucks (for lack of a better term!) I love the feel of the Xbox force-feedback S-Controllers, the intuitive triggering for the guns and grenades, the smooth action of the dual thumbsticks, and, most importantly, the easy access of my right thumb to the critical buttons needed to reload, swap, and jump.

With the PC setup, I have to do most critical functions (including all movement!) with my clumsy left hand. Long story short, I am getting slaughtered in online play. I'm thinking about getting a decently cheap gamepad to see if the PC version would be more playable, but I am really frustrated with the awkward interface. (Hello, Microsoft? I've spent a fair amount on my computer, game console, and software with you --- seems that the least you could do would be to make my XBOX controllers compatible with my PC, especially for Microsoft games. Just a thought. . .)

I understand that Halo 2 will have Xbox live support, so come this Fall the point will be moot. I will happily be going head-to-head with other console gamers like myself!

Posted by JohnL at 09:02 PM | Comments (0) |
February 25, 2004

Just How Fast Is the Millennium Falcon?

As John at SFSignal would say, "not that I troll Star Wars sites or anything," but these people have too much time on their hands.

Posted by JohnL at 09:10 PM | Comments (0) |
February 23, 2004

Last SciFi Babes Post (I Promise)

OK. I asked the question about Classic Trek babes. Robbo likes Nurse Chapel. Decent choice.

But I always had a thing for Yeoman Rand, even before it was OK to admit that I liked girls.

As to the newer Trek, if forced to choose from the list presented, I would have to say Seven of Nine, followed closely by Torres.

Sorry Steve, but I just can't see Janeway as sexy. Now that I have shown myself to be a hopeless fanboy geek, for this and future generations to read, I will move to more serious topics.

Posted by JohnL at 11:08 PM | Comments (0) |
February 21, 2004

Memory Alpha

Have a question about Star Trek?

Visit this extensive WikiWiki archive of Star Trek lore.

Posted by JohnL at 05:19 PM | Comments (0) |


Variations on a theme tonight. More Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek, as realized in LEGOs. I couldn't find any Buck Rogers fan LEGO models, though.

Posted by JohnL at 12:06 AM | Comments (0) |
February 20, 2004

Another Serving of SciFi Cheesecake

Rob thinks Princess Ardala was "skanky?" I don't see that. I would instead say earthy, sexy, and a bit dangerous in a fun way (she was, after all, the "evil" queen). Of course that was during the glorious age of disco, and a lot of women on TV looked like that. Probably warped my tastes permanently. And Wilma Deering just seemed frigid and aloof.

Oh well, de gustibus and all that.

As to the "Battlestar Babes," back then it would have been Cassiopeia; nowadays it would be Lt. Sheba, hands down.

OK, let's increase the pathetic geek factor by an order of magnitude or two: Yeoman Rand, Uhura, or Nurse Chapel?

Posted by JohnL at 10:30 PM | Comments (0) |
February 19, 2004

Buck Rogers Babes

Jonah Goldberg recently mentioned Buck Rogers in the 25th Century at The Corner. This show fell in that golden age range in my memory from around 5th to 7th grade -- as I was first beginning to appreciate both SciFi and girls.

Much commentary on the show centers on Erin Grey. Yeah, she was nice looking, but what about Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensley)?


Posted by JohnL at 10:15 PM | Comments (0) |
February 18, 2004
January 28, 2004

Kirk v. Spock

Check out the new Priceline commercials here.

Posted by JohnL at 09:36 PM | Comments (0) |
January 21, 2004

Stormtrooper Chic

I've gotta admit. This looks like a fun project.

Found via this guy's site.

Posted by JohnL at 10:02 PM | Comments (0) |

Loonie Cinema

Both SFSignal and The Eternal Golden Braid point to this report that plans are afoot to at least script a movie adaptation of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

Heinlein was a prescient writer and a lover of liberty. This work is commonly regarded as one of his most "libertarian" novels. I hope this writer really is the Heinlein fan he claims to be.

Posted by JohnL at 09:36 PM | Comments (0) |
January 13, 2004

Excellent Opinion Piece on Medicare Expansion

Scott Burns, a financial affairs columnist for the Dallas Morning News, has an excellent piece today spelling out the true impact of the recent Medicare expansion. (Free registration required. Destined for the archives in the near future).

Scott is a member of the boomer generation, but his thinking on this issue is, refreshingly, fair and clear. He calculates the bill that our current elders are presenting to my children as $43.5 trillion. He essentially restates the libertarian nugget "TANSTAAFL." At some point benefits must be decreased or taxes increased (no!) to prevent a massive default under the system.

I hope in my lifetime to see some significant extension of the human lifespan. I expect it, actually. I am ready for the future of Bruce Sterling's Holy Fire,
even its dystopian aspects.

As a consequence, I think we need to be ready to rethink our "social obligation" to our elders. Medicare and Social Security, in my mind, are unconstitutional -- they are well beyond any reasonably necessary or proper enumerated power of the federal government. But are we ready as a society to take more personal responsibility for saving, for being ready to work in our retirements, to take care of our parents and grandparents? We need to be. Fortunately, if we do see some sort of "boosterspice" in our lifetimes, we will be young and healthy enough, even at the age of 65, 70, or even 90 to continue to be active and productive citizens and not wards of the state.

Posted by JohnL at 09:51 PM | Comments (0) |
December 22, 2003

Ringworld Animation

One of the first major adult (non-juvenile) SF novels I read (at the age of 12, I think) was Larry Niven's Ringworld.

If you've played Halo, you've gotten to run around on a small ringworld. This Flash animation (via the Larry Niven mailing list) conveys a little bit more of the grand scale of the "real" Ringworld. Enjoy.

Posted by JohnL at 05:25 PM | Comments (0) |
November 18, 2003

Finger Fillet

Via SFSignal, you can replay that scene from Aliens.

Posted by JohnL at 12:07 AM | Comments (0) |
November 13, 2003

Starship Dimensions

Via EGB, this site allows you to drag the original Enterprise next to the airship Hindenburg to compare their relative sizes. Then, you can compare the Star Trek IV "Whale Ship" to the Death Star II. Geek out.

Posted by JohnL at 11:29 PM | Comments (0) |
October 31, 2003

Hal Clement, RIP

Another of the golden age hard-SF authors has passed on. (Link via Jerry Pournelle).

Hal Clement, the pen name of Harry Clement Stubbs, began writing science fiction in the 1940s. He blazed the trail of science fictional world-building that was both scientifically accurate and internally consistent in his best-known work, Mission of Gravity (1954), which was first serialized in Astounding Stories magazine (the forerunner to today's Analog).

According to editors David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer (in The Ascent of Wonder: The Evolution of Hard SF), Clement's Mission of Gravity "redefined the game of hard sf as an exercise in interrelating the sciences to achieve a created world that would plausibly withstand rigorous examination from many angles."

His was a well-lived life. He graduated from Harvard with an astronomy degree in 1943 and went into the US Army Air Corps where he piloted and copiloted B-24 Liberators for the remainder of World War II. He taught for more than 38 years. He is survived by his wife, three children, and a grandchild. Requiem aeternam dona ei Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.

Posted by JohnL at 09:40 PM | Comments (0) |
October 13, 2003

I Hope They've Read Their Asimov

Robot go go!

Posted by JohnL at 11:21 PM | Comments (1) |
October 12, 2003

Lileks Gets It

And that should go without saying, pretty much regardless of the topic. He sums up perfectly my feelings about science fiction thus:

If you headed to the past and wanted to find someone who could truly understand the world 50 years hence, look for the clerk who goes to the drugstore for his lunch break and reads Tales of Mars, not the guy who reads
the New York Times.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by JohnL at 09:35 PM | Comments (0) |
October 07, 2003

New World Man

Glenn Reynolds has an interview up with Neal Stephenson today at Tech Central Station.

Glenn wrote a column last week reflecting on Stephenson's Quicksilver and the renewed interest in the 17th century, which was the hatching ground for the Enlightenment ideals that helped form our liberal, capitalist, secular society.
Many of the criticisms I have seen of Quicksilver are aimed at the multiple narrative asides into the minutiae of 17th century life. But it was exactly those kinds of asides in Cryptonomicon that really turned me on to his writing.

I thoroughly enjoyed Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash and look forward to plowing my way through Stephenson's latest.

I'll have more comments on the Enlightenment in a later post on the separation of church and state.

Posted by JohnL at 10:49 PM | Comments (1) |
October 06, 2003

The Naked Time

Interesting synchronicity between Bruce Sterling's "top ten" list I discussed below (and which Prof. Hall discussed here) and the classic Star Trek episode "The Naked Time," which I am currently viewing on DVD (#10 on Sterling's list). At the beginning of the episode, Spock and Lt. Tormolen beam down to Psi 2000, where the lieutenant idiotically removes his glove, exposing himself to the contaminant that releases everyone's inhibitions and nearly leads to the destruction of the Enterprise. Starting at 10:21 into the episode (and shortly before his death), Lt. Tormolen waxes eloquent about the futility of manned exploration of space (#6 on Sterling's list):

"What are we doing out here anyway?. . . [We] leave men and women stuck out on freezing planets to die. . . What are we doing out here in space? Good? What good? We're polluting it. . . destroying it. . . we've got no business being out here, no business. If a man was supposed to fly, he'd have wings. If he was supposed to be out in space, he wouldn't need air to breathe . . . We don't belong here. It's not ours."

You can guess where I stand on this. I believe we do belong in outer space. As Heinlein said, the earth is just too small and fragile a basket for humanity to keep all of its eggs in. We are one asteroid impact, one script-kiddie nanobot or custom-sequenced doomsday virus from extinction. Now, whether the "manned exploration" should continue to be done by NASA is a debatable point. I am not too happy with the way NASA ended the USAF's approach best exemplified by the X-15 of incrementally expanding the flight envelope. I think there is still a valid military role, but the "scientific" value of the whole "civilian" space enterprise has been way oversold, as Rand Simberg has so much more eloquently put it elsewhere (again and again).

But now we see private enterprise picking up where the X-15 left off. Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne follows the same principle as the X-15, except that he had to design and build his own B-52 (the stunningly beautiful White Knight) to launch it from.

We also now find out that the SF idea of a space elevator may not be so farfetched given reasonably foreseeable implementations of current materials science.

So perhaps we'll see settlement (not just "exploration") sometime in the near future.

Charming Star Trek anachronisms in this episode: At 28:18, you can see Spock using a slide rule to calculate the Enterprise's orbital trajectory. Also, check out the analog clock at 47:05.

Posted by JohnL at 11:10 PM | Comments (0) |

Spry vs Sly

Kirk versus Picard. Who wins? You decide. (Via the Corner).

Posted by JohnL at 08:36 PM | Comments (0) |
October 05, 2003

Not-so-stirling Top Ten List

Texas science fiction author Bruce Sterling has a new article up at ""

When I went through my cyberpunk phase, I was a big fan of Sterling's. I drifted away from him for several years but greatly enjoyed his Holy Fire, which examines the effects of life-extension technologies on humans in the classic hard-SF tradition.

Now he has come out with a list of technologies that "deserve to die." While I think the goal of identifying obsolete technologies that should be phased out is a noble one, I don't agree with the general thrust of this particular list. It begins with Nuclear Weapons and ends with DVDs. It also contains Manned Spaceflight (#6) and Incandescent Lighting (#4). (His views on the latter are not likely to win him any rave reviews from Virginia Postrel).

Getting rid of nuclear weapons is a pipe dream. I agree with Sterling's point that we have in fact honed our precision technology to the fine point that nuclear weapons are no longer "necessary." But the main value of nukes remains their strategic deterrent power, not their tactical utility. I think we need to preserve the legitimate threat that we can vaporize Mecca, or Pyongynag, or Tehran, (or even Moscow or Beijing) to preserve the stability of our current international system. Instead of destroying nuclear weapons, I would prefer to see a gradual swords-to-plowshares transition to their peaceful use to power Orion starships.

Sterling's views on manned spaceflight also reflect a strange lack of vision in an SF author. First, his argument is against a straw man: "Thanks to decades of biological research, it [is] now quite clear that flying around the solar system is bad for ones health." I'm not sure which alternate history he is looking at, because so far we haven't done any manned "flying around the solar system." In this he fails to anticipate what many SF authors and speculative engineers propose, namely, the use of centripetal/centrifugal forces to simulate gravity on extended missions. Second, and perhaps more important, Sterling seems to see space exploration as something that can be "destroyed" as though it were nothing more than a government program. But with each passing day, I am more optimistic that we will see the development of commercial, manned space travel thanks to private pioneers such as Burt Rutan and my neighbor (of sorts) John Carmack.

I'll be posting more on these items later, but some good links to explore space news and policy in general are: Rand Simberg's Transterrestrial Musings, Keith Cowing's NasaWatch and SpaceRef pages, and Professor Hall's Spacecraft blog.

Update: I should make it clear that I don't consider flying circles in LEO, or even the seven manned missions to the moon (with six landings) to be "flying around" the solar system. Heck, Kubrick's and Clarke's 1968 vision of our future in space had us arriving at Jupiter two years ago.

Posted by JohnL at 09:55 PM | Comments (0) |