Archive for the ‘SF is Important’ Category
Saturday, November 19th, 2011
Wow, check out this letter I just got about my story “Save Me Plz”:
I came across your short story “Save Me Plz” on your website maybe a year and a half ago, and I liked it. I actually forwarded it to a friend of mine, who I was really worried about then because he spent so much time playing MMOs and wasn’t doing well, failing his studies and kind of withdrawing from us. Reading the story was apparently a turning point for him, a wake-up call if you want, and it’s great to see that he is doing much, much better now. He even said once that the story “saved his life.”
Tuesday, March 30th, 2010
This new Newsweek profile of Paul Krugman has a bit about how science fiction got him interested in economics:
Born of poor Russian-immigrant stock, raised in a small suburban house on middle-class Long Island, Krugman, 56, has never pretended to be in the cool crowd. Taunted in school as a nerd, he came home one day with a bloody nose—but told his parents to stay out of it, he would take care of himself. “He was so shy as a child that I’m shocked at the way he turned out,” says his mother, Anita. Krugman says he found himself in the science fiction of Isaac Asimov, especially the “Foundation” series — “It was nerds saving civilization, quants who had a theory of society, people writing equations on a blackboard, saying, ‘See, unless you follow this formula, the empire will fail and be followed by a thousand years of barbarism’.”
His Yale was “not George Bush’s Yale,” he says —- no boola-boola, no frats or secret societies, rather “drinking coffee in the Economics Department lounge.” Social science, he says, offered the promise of what he dreamed of in science fiction — “the beauty of pushing a button to solve problems. Sometimes there really are simple solutions: you really can have a grand idea.”
Tuesday, May 19th, 2009
I just listened to a great interview with Michio Kaku on the SciFiDimensions podcast. As a teenager I read Kaku’s book Hyperspace, which really blew my mind, and I’m looking forward to checking out his new book Physics of the Impossible. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
H.G. Wells wrote a book that mentioned the atomic bomb, and he mentioned that in 1933 a scientist would discover the secret of the atomic bomb. Well, in real life Leo Szilard, a physicist, read that book and said, “Oh my god, it’s 1933 right now. I gotta figure out the secret of the atomic bomb.” And he did. He worked out the chain reaction, and then he wrote Einstein a letter, and the rest is in the history books, but the history books don’t mention that it was H.G. Wells’ novel which inspired Leo Szilard to creat the chain reaction … And if you take a look at the greatest astronomer of the twentieth century, Edwin Hubble — the Hubble space telescope is named after him — he got inspired by reading Jules Verne as a child. When he was a child his father, who was a Missouri lawyer, was very strong and wanted his son to be a lawyer just like him. So Hubble studied law — went to Oxford university to study law — then as an adult — as an adult lawyer — he remembered the romance of science fiction as a child. He quit his law practice, went to the university of Chicago, got his PhD in astronomy, and went on to discover the expanding universe, and eventually the Big Bang. So many times science fiction has inspired scientists because it frees up the imagination to think about the future.
Saturday, April 25th, 2009
Here’s a lecture that’s worth watching: Military Robots and the Future of War, presented by P. W. Singer. (Check out my interview with Singer on the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.) A key excerpt:
Mankind’s five thousand year old monopoly on the fighting of war is breaking down in our very lifetime. I spent the last several years going around meeting with all the players in this field, from the robot scientists to the science fiction authors who inspired them to the 19-year-old drone pilots who are fighting from Nevada … The kinds of things that we used to only talk about at science fiction conventions like Comic Con have to be talked about in the halls of power, and places like the Pentagon. A robots revolution is upon us.
Hey, you know what would be awesome? How about if people in the halls of power and in places like the Pentagon started thinking about the implications of new technology as seriously as people at Comic Con before those technologies actually got built. Maybe even decades before. Is that so hard? I guess maybe it is, considering the willful ignorance of so many people in our halls of power, who are still trying to wrap their heads around 19th-century science (say, evolution) or 20th-century science (say, global warming) let alone 21st-century science.
Anyway, here are two of the many new technologies touched on in this lecture:
The PHASR. Downside: Likely to Mostly Be Used on People Complaining
About Their Rights Being Taken Away. Upside: Looks Really Freaking Rad
Virtual Reality Ball: Because Why Should
Gerbils Get to Have All the Fun?
Thursday, May 8th, 2008
A wildly disproportionate number of our culture’s best and brightest were inspired in their pursuits by a childhood exposure to fantasy & science fiction. This reality isn’t anywhere near as widely appreciated as it should be, so it always gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling when I come across some mention of this fact in the media. Here’s one that’s new to me: Paul Krugman, Princeton professor and New York Times columnist, writes of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series: “That’s how I got into economics: I wanted to be a psychohistorian when I grew up, and economics was as close as I could get.”
I recently read Krugman’s new book, The Conscience of a Liberal, which is worth checking out. Krugman basically argues, with lots of data to back up his assertions, that: 1) The shared middle-class prosperity of the New Deal era was not the result of impersonal economic forces, but was rather a direct result of federal policy. 2) The collapse of the American middle class in the eighties and nineties was similarly not the result of impersonal economic forces (technology, globalization) but was again the direct result of federal policy. (Other countries faced the same economic pressures, but only America experienced a collapse of the middle class.) 3) Over the past thirty years, American workers have greatly increased their productivity, mostly as a result of technological innovation, but these workers have not seen any increase in their wages, since all the additional revenue being generated is simply being absorbed by the massive salaries of upper management. 4) America’s tortured race relations play a major role in the country’s distinctive unwillingness to provide a strong social safety net for the poor.
Tuesday, February 5th, 2008
Here’s a Wall Street Journal Profile of David Gemmell (link via Locus).
I thought this part was interesting: “When Gemmell was a boy, a teacher read The Hobbit to his class, turning Gemmell into a lifelong fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, whose characters became his role models. On a train platform one evening, Gemmell — a big-and-tall fellow who once worked as a bouncer — saw three men beating up a fourth. As he told the Independent, ‘A voice inside my head said, “What would Boromir do?”‘ He jumped into the fray and fought off the assailants. Years later, Gemmell told a New Zealand newspaper about receiving a letter from a fan who had gone out for a walk with his dog when he saw two men attacking a woman. He charged in and they ran off. ‘He said he did not think he would have done it if he hadn’t been reading one of my books about heroes,’ said Gemmell. ‘That’s the kind of thing that I shall carry with me, not making millions or whatever.’”
Sunday, June 17th, 2007
Here’s a long, interesting interview with Michael Chabon [dead link], in which he talks briefly about how his early love of Tolkien and fantasy worldbuilding informed his new novel, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union.
Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007
Michael Dirda in the Washington Post: “Over the past 25 years, literary fiction has increasingly disdained the strict tenets of social realism. Our finest writers are now producing what is essentially science fiction (Cormac McCarthy’s The Road), alternate history (Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union) and absurdist fantasy (the short stories of George Saunders). A hot author such as Jonathan Lethem proudly introduces the work of Philip K. Dick for the Library of America. Neil Gaiman, creator of the Sandman series, has achieved rock-star status. We are living in an age when genre fiction — whether thrillers or graphic novels, children’s books or sf — seems far more exciting and relevant than well-wrought stories of adultery in Connecticut.”