War of the Worlds – in Chinese Sci-Fi

Robert Beatty illustration

❝ Two rival civilizations are battling for supremacy. Civilization A is stronger than Civilization B and is perceived by Civilization B as a grave threat; its position, however, is more fragile than it seems. Neither side hesitates to employ espionage, subterfuge, and surveillance, because the rules of conduct—to the extent that they exist—are ill-defined and frequently contested. But the battle lines are clear: whoever controls the technological frontier controls the future…

❝ When the first volume of the series was published in the United States, in 2014, the models for Trisolaris and Earth were immediately apparent…As Liu Cixin told the Times, “China is on the path of rapid modernization and progress, kind of like the U.S. during the golden age of science fiction.” The future, he went on, would be “full of threats and challenges,” and “very fertile soil” for speculative fiction…

❝ Liu’s tomes—they tend to be tomes—have been translated into more than twenty languages, and the trilogy has sold some eight million copies worldwide. He has won China’s highest honor for science-fiction writing, the Galaxy Award, nine times, and in 2015 he became the first Asian writer to win the Hugo Award, the most prestigious international science-fiction prize.

Science-fiction played an important role in my education. One of my treasures is a postcard from an exchange I had with Ray Bradbury in 1951. The second book club I joined while still in elementary school was named the Science Fiction Book Club…though there were several such around at the time.

Still a genre for the speculative writer to engage in their own signature version of understanding and/or re-ordering the world we know…or don’t, yet.

William Gibson has written a graphic novel — it rocks!

Click to enlarge

[minor spoiler alerts in the linked article]

William Gibson has made the leap from prose to picture books, collaborating with Michael St. John Smith and artist Bruce Guice to give us this week’s first issue of new IDW series Archangel.

“It’s an alternate-history/cross-worlds story,” Gibson writes in the back matter. “And I wouldn’t want to spoil too much of the frame, because that’s an inherent part of our narrative. But I will say that one of the first verbal tags we had for the material was ‘Band Of Brothers vs. Blackwater.'”…

Now comes the frustrating part. Having to wait at least a month for the next 20-odd pages is going to seem like an eternity. Archangel evidently hit a chord, though. Publisher IDW sold out the initial run in just a few days before announcing it would print a second run. But seeing as we live in our non-dystopian 2016, Archangel is also available in PDF and ePub formats, which suffer no such restrictions. If you’re fan of thought-provoking science fiction, of Gibson’s oeuvre, or even World War II spy thrillers, you ought to check it out.

I’m getting it, tomorrow.

Ray Bradbury…dies at 91

Ray Bradbury, recipient of the 2000 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the 2004 National Medal of Arts, and the 2007 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation, died on June 5, 2012, at the age of 91 after a long illness. He lived in Los Angeles.

In a career spanning more than seventy years, Ray Bradbury has inspired generations of readers to dream, think, and create. A prolific author of hundreds of short stories and close to fifty books, as well as numerous poems, essays, operas, plays, teleplays, and screenplays, Bradbury was one of the most celebrated writers of our time. His groundbreaking works include Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, and Something Wicked This Way Comes. He wrote the screen play for John Huston’s classic film adaptation of Moby Dick, and was nominated for an Academy Award. He adapted sixty-five of his stories for television’s The Ray Bradbury Theater, and won an Emmy for his teleplay of The Halloween Tree. In 2005, Bradbury published a book of essays titled Bradbury Speaks, in which he wrote: In my later years I have looked in the mirror each day and found a happy person staring back. Occasionally I wonder why I can be so happy. The answer is that every day of my life I’ve worked only for myself and for the joy that comes from writing and creating. The image in my mirror is not optimistic, but the result of optimal behavior…

Throughout his life, Bradbury liked to recount the story of meeting a carnival magician, Mr. Electrico, in 1932. At the end of his performance Electrico reached out to the twelve-year-old Bradbury, touched the boy with his sword, and commanded, Live forever! Bradbury later said, I decided that was the greatest idea I had ever heard. I started writing every day. I never stopped.

Sitting next to me at my desk is a penny postcard – with a 1¢ stamp added to account for a rise in postage – I received from Ray Bradbury in 1952.

It contains a favorite quote: “an author’s face shouldn’t be displayed too publicly, too often…” He would rather have been read than to have folks listen to him talking about his writing.

He will be missed.

Intel’s future casting anthology online/free – The Tomorrow Project

Chip maker Intel has commissioned leading science fiction authors to pen short stories that imagine future uses for the firm’s technology. The collection, called “The Tomorrow Project”, aims to capture the public’s imagination regarding the company’s current research.

The anthology has been made available online as a free download.

The Tomorrow Project is led by Intel futurist Brian David Johnson, who regards the scheme as an important way to assess future technology trends.

“When we design chips to go into your television, your computers, your phones – we need to do it about five or ten years in advance. We need to have an understanding of what people will want to do with those devices,” said Mr Johnson.

What science fiction does is give us a way to think about the implications of the technologies that we’re building, for the people who will actually be using them.”

The concept is called “future casting” – and aims to drive future technology uses, rather than simply responding to market forces…

The initiative suggests a cultural shift by the chip giant, which has had to adjust to sharp changes in the consumer tech landscape.

In previous decades, Intel was able to drive progress and profits through steady increments in processor speed. Yet in a post-PC world, firms like Apple have successfully used lifestyle innovations to frame future market appetites.

Best price in the marketplace.

Canadian writer beaten and arrested at US border

Hugo-award-nominated science fiction author Dr. Peter Watts is in serious legal trouble after he was beaten, pepper-sprayed and imprisoned by American border guards at a Canada U.S. border crossing December 8.

Peter, a Canadian citizen, was on his way back to Canada after helping a friend move house to Nebraska over the weekend. He was stopped at the border crossing at Port Huron, Michigan by U.S. border police for a search of his rental vehicle. When Peter got out of the car and questioned the nature of the search, the gang of border guards subjected him to a beating, restrained him and pepper sprayed him.

At the end of it, local police laid a felony charge of assault against a federal officer against Peter.

On Wednesday, he posted bond and was taken across the border to Canada in shirtsleeves (he was released by Port Huron officials with his car and possessions locked in impound, into a winter storm that evening).

He’s home safe. For now. But he has to go back to Michigan to face the charge brought against him.

The charge is spurious. But it’s also very serious. It could mean two years in prison in the United States, and a ban on travel in that country for the rest of Peter’s life. Peter is mounting a vigorous defense, but it’s going to be expensive – he’s effectively going up against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and he needs the best legal help that he can get.

RTFA for details, an interview with Peter, comments by friends and peers.

Thanks, Cinaedh

Battlestar Galactica – the ending begins

It’s been six long months since we last saw the “Battlestar Galactica” crew and their new Cylon allies go from the giddy high of finally finding Earth to the pitch-black depression of discovering the planet is a nuclear wasteland.

Tonight at 10 EST on the SciFi network, the second half of the fourth and final season commences with a gripping premiere episode that offers up a few more shockers..

Tonight we pick up right where we left off, with the expedition of humans and Cylons surveying the bleak landscape of what they had hoped would be their new home. The planet is not only fried, but the ruins offer myth-shattering clues about the original inhabitants that sucker-punch the survivors…

The series has played deliberately as a modern allegory. The new question is uncomfortably timely: What do you do when you’ve put all your eggs in one basket and the bottom of the basket drops out? Given the show’s admirable history of exploring humanity’s darker corners, it’s no surprise that some characters lament the cracked shells while others try to salvage an omelet.

I’d take the allegory further; but – that’s me. The stupidity and cruelty of war. The reason behind struggling for a better life together instead of seeking domination over all that live and dies. The potential dangers from political abuse of the gifts of science.

It’s set to record automatically in Hi-Def on the DVR. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Arthur C. Clarke’s last vision

Arthur C. Clarke’s health was failing fast, but he still had a story to tell. So he turned to fellow science fiction writer Frederik Pohl, and together the longtime friends wrote what turned out to be Clarke’s last novel.

“The Last Theorem,” which grew from 100 pages of notes scribbled by Clarke, is more than a futuristic tale about a mathematician who discovers a proof to a centuries-old mathematical puzzle.

The novel, due in bookstores August 5, represents a historic collaboration between two of the genre’s most influential writers in the twilight of their careers. Clarke, best known for his 1968 work, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” died in March at age 90; Pohl is 89.

“As much as anything, it’ll be a historic artifact,” says Robin Wayne Bailey, a former president of Science Fiction Writers of America and a writer. “This is a book between two of the last remaining giants in the field.”

Chris Schluep, senior editor at Random House Inc., who worked with Clarke on the book’s concept from the beginning, said the final manuscript maintained a “golden thread” of Clarke throughout but was a clear collaboration between both authors.

“It’s sort of a worthy exclamation point on two pretty incredible careers,” Schluep said.

I couldn’t agree more. Clarke and Pohl have been threaded through my reading for over 60 years, now.