Monday, 2 July 2018

A Few Fragments

Some phrases do not become even proto-stories but remain forever fragments:

In 4019, the Mutant led his fleet into the Solar System...

Two feet behind and above us on the spaceship bridge stood the Absolute Dictator of Earth...

The Patrol asked me to survey the Morecambe Bay Area, 2000-2050: a complicated passage back and forth through both time and space. Usually disguised, I would not have recognized my older selves. Once, early in the survey but near the end of the period, I did recognize my undisguised future self and my ex, looking happy together...

The Very First Draft Of A Science Fiction Story

"You And I"

You were unemployed in '25 and the Benefits Office put you on an Employment: Special Projects training scheme in a former agricultural college in Kent: endless psychometric tests, cybertraining, subliminal audiovisual inputs, sleep learning, EEG scans and semi-military discipline. Your class knew that some candidates would be selected for higher level training but did not know for what. Because of the continuing emergency, security was tight.

The psychological side-effects were intense. Complete strangers became close friends very quickly but there were also inexplicable polarizations. The sounds of the discos that you did not attend seemed to echo in your room. The Happy Clappers and Stampers met in the room above yours. You heard, almost felt, their initiation ceremonies and conversion experiences, then something else, a warning, like a still small voice: Leave now before the next scan.

While signing for your weekend pass, you knew exactly what the uniformed perimeter guard thought of you as he looked you up and down: These unemployable dissident intellectuals!

In London, you went underground and contacted what was left of the Organization. They faked your ID and helped you to fly to Kapustin Yar where the Russian ESP program is located, where I, the first Russian telepath, wait.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Time And (Sex In) Space

Time
In an unfinished novel, "The Dark Tower," CS Lewis argues that physical time travel is impossible and then presents mental transference between timelines.

In two stories and one novel, Robert Heinlein presents three classic statements of the circular causality paradox.

In many stories and novels, Poul Anderson addresses every aspect of time travel.

(Sex In) Space
In Heinlein's " - All You Zombies -," the time traveler changes sex and is both his own parents. While female, she joins the:

"'Women's Emergency National Corps, Hospitality & Entertainment Section...'"
-Robert Heinlein, " - All You Zombies - " IN Heinlein, The Unpleasant Profession Of Jonathan Hoag (London, 1980), pp. 126-137 AT p. 128 -

- known in other periods as:

"'Auxiliary Nursing Group, Extraterrestrial LegionS'..."
-ibid. -

and:

"Women's Hospitality Order Refortifying & Encouraging Spacemen..."
-ibid.

Heinlein makes the same points as Lewis in "Ministering Angels":

it is recognized that men sent into space for extended periods will need a release of tension;
"'But most volunteers were old hookers...'" (ibid.)

By the time of Anderson's Young Flandry Trilogy, space travel is no longer difficult or dangerous so that more acceptable young women can be sent to extrasolar Naval bases.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Cosmic Dawn

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/feb/28/cosmic-dawn-astronomers-detect-signals-from-first-stars-in-the-universe

My daughter emailed me the above link.

Writers of cosmological sf, including Poul Anderson, have incorporated stellar evolution into the plots of novels. It seems that physicists have now detected the very beginning of that evolution. Cosmic Dawn would make a good title for an sf novel although the phrase has already been used for at least two works of non-fiction. See the attached images.

I have no idea how the new discoveries can be incorporated into fiction but then I would not have been able to write The Avatar or Tau Zero either. Both of these novels by Poul Anderson describe a cosmic journey and the beginning of a universe. The journeys are by T-machines and time dilation, respectively. The time dilation occurs in an accelerating Bussard ramjet. Neither of these novels invokes "hyperspace" although Anderson also imagined different versions of that. His future history series, the History of Technic Civilization, addresses the rise and fall of civilizations against the backdrop of galaxies, spiral arms, pulsars and supernovae. Hopefully, Anderson's many successors can meet the challenge of the Cosmic Dawn.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Science Fiction, Swords And The Supernatural

Science fiction is an extremely broad category. I have just read the concluding section of Prince Of Outcasts by SM Stirling. Soldiers fight with swords and the supernatural is manifested so is this sf? Yes. The story is set in the future. The premise of the series is that advanced technology has stopped working, therefore warfare has returned to swords. The supernatural is a transcosmic consciousness that had emerged from a previous cosmos and has caused the Change. Thus, every feature of the plot is scientifically rationalized although several volumes read like fantasy. The companion series, about the temporally displaced Nantucket, is time travel sf without any supernatural manifestations beyond the as yet unexplained Change/Event. The premise of divergent timelines allows for any number of coexisting scenarios as demonstrated in other novels and series by Stirling. Sf as a literary ghetto developed various stereotypes and cliches but is always able to transcend them.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

A-Mortality

According to Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (London, 2014), human agelessness and post-organic intelligences may be imminent.

In Poul Anderson's sf:

aging is ended in World Without Stars and in The Boat Of A Million Years;

post-organic intelligences coexist with human beings in the Harvest of Stars Tetralogy and supersede humanity in Genesis.

I have referred to Anderson's ageless characters, Hugh Valland and Hanno, as "immortal" although they are not immune to either accident or violence. See Two Unaging Men. Harari contributes appropriate terminology:

"A few serious scholars suggest that by 2050, some humans will become a-mortal (not immortal, because they could still die of some accident, but a-mortal, meaning that in the absence of fatal trauma their lives could be extended indefinitely.)" (p. 301)

I think that John W. Campbell said, "The first immortal man has already been born." By googling, I found similar claims. See here.

See also Hanno, Lazarus Long And John Carter.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Myth Meets Economics

SM Stirling, The Tears Of The Sun (New York, 2012) is an fsf mix so it is appropriate to discuss it on an sf blog. There are gods but they are scientifically rationalized. Mind, sometimes manifesting as gods, evolved in an earlier universe and now transforms new universes from their beginnings. (Norse gods originated in a precosmic void so the origin of Stirling's gods is legitimate.)

Let's look at history in our universe before we get into Stirling's fiction. Why were kings powerful?

Mythological answer: because they were descended from and appointed by gods.

Economic answer: because social labour had produced a surplus that maintained, and was controlled by, a ruling class.

My response: appreciate the mythology and understand the economics.

In Stirling's fiction:

high technology stopped working in the Change;
economies retrogressed to cannibal, tribal, feudal etc;
many populations have taken refuge in diverse mythologies;
and beings answering the descriptions of gods, saints and demons have become active both in the Change and in the subsequent course of events.

Now, in this context:

"The Destined Prince with the Magic Sword is wonderful, but less wonderful when he asks you to cough up every tenth bushel and piglet and takes out a mortgage on your farm." (Chapter Fifteen, p. 463)

Myth meets economics. A divinely appointed High King must raise taxes to wage expensive wars against demonolaters. Why can't the gods be more helpful by making him financially independent, e.g., with a secretly located, privately owned gold mine?