Filed under: Amazon, Arthur C. Clarke, Brave New World, Connections, Feedback, H. G. Wells, Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Mark Twain, movies, Paleo-Future, Predictions, Robert A. Heinlein, Science, Science Fiction, Society, Space, tech, Wales, Writing stuff | Tags: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Aberystwyth University, Aeon magazine, Amazon, Arthur C. Clarke, blogging, Communion of Dreams, feedback, futurism, H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Iwan Rhys Morus, jim downey, Kindle, literature, movies, optimism, paleo-future, predictions, reviews, Robert A. Heinlein, science, Science Fiction, space, St. Cybi's Well, technology, Victorian, Wales, writing
A very insightful essay into the role which speculative fiction played in the Victorian era, and how it is still echoed in our fiction today: Future perfect Social progress, high-speed transport and electricity everywhere – how the Victorians invented the future
Here’s an excerpt, but the whole thing is very much worth reading:
It’s easy to pick and choose when reading this sort of future history from the privileged vantage point of now – to celebrate the predictive hits and snigger at the misses (Wells thought air travel would never catch on, for example); but what’s still striking throughout these books is Wells’s insistence that particular technologies (such as the railways) generated particular sorts of society, and that when those technologies were replaced (as railways would be by what he called the ‘motor truck’ and the ‘motor carriage’), society would need replacing also.
It makes sense to read much contemporary futurism in this way too: as a new efflorescence of this Victorian tradition. Until a few years ago, I would have said that this way of using technology to imagine the future was irrecoverably dead, since it depended on our inheritance of a Victorian optimism, expressed as faith in progress and improvement as realisable individual and collective goals. That optimism was still there in the science fiction of Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke, but it fizzled out in the 1960s and ’70s. More recently, we’ve been watching the future in the deadly Terminator franchise, rather than in hopeful film such as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). The coupling of technological progress and social evolution that the Victorians inaugurated and took for granted no longer seemed appealing.
I think this is very much why many people find that Communion of Dreams seems to fit in so well with the style of SF from the 1950s and 60s — in spite of being set in a post-apocalyptic world, there is an … optimism … and a sense of wonder which runs through it (which was very deliberate on my part). As noted in a recent Amazon review*:
James Downey has created a novel that compares favorably with the old masters of science fiction.
Our universe would be a better place were it more like the one he has imagined and written about so eloquently.
Anyway, go read the Aeon essay by (who happens to be a professor at Aberystwyth University in Wales — no, I did not make this up).
*Oh, there’s another new review up I haven’t mentioned.
Filed under: Arthur C. Clarke, Connections, Mars, movies, NASA, Paleo-Future, Predictions, Science, Science Fiction, Space, Survival, tech, YouTube | Tags: 2001, 2001: A Space Odyssey, blogging, Irene Klotz, jim downey, Mars, NASA, predictions, science, Science Fiction, space, technology, www youtube
A NASA-backed study explores an innovative way to dramatically cut the cost of a human expedition to Mars — put the crew in stasis.
The deep sleep, called torpor, would reduce astronauts’ metabolic functions with existing medical procedures. Torpor also can occur naturally in cases of hypothermia.
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Economically, the payoff looks impressive. Crews can live inside smaller ships with fewer amenities like galleys, exercise gear and of course water, food and clothing. One design includes a spinning habitat to provide a low-gravity environment to help offset bone and muscle loss.
Hmm … seems that I’ve heard of something like that before …
*Obviously. Hat tip to ML for the link.
Filed under: Art, Connections, H. R. Giger, movies, Paleo-Future, Science Fiction, YouTube | Tags: art, blogging, Dan O'Bannon, Dune, Frank Herbert, jim downey, Jodorowsky, Moebius, movies, Open Culture, Science Fiction, video, www youtube
A decade before David Lynch’s flawed but visually brilliant adaptation of Dune hit the silver screen (see our post on that from Monday), another cinematic visionary tried to turn Frank Herbert’s cult book into a movie. And it would have been a mind-bogglingly grand epic.
And be sure to check out the still images. Great stuff, and would have made one hell of a Science Fiction movie. Perhaps a completely *bonkers* one, but nonetheless …
Filed under: Brave New World, Connections, DARPA, Emergency, Government, movies, Paleo-Future, Predictions, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, tech, Violence | Tags: blogging, DARPA, drones, government, jim downey, movies, Pentagon, predictions, robotics, Science Fiction, technology, Terminator
Well, anyone paying attention should have known this was coming:
Washington (AFP) – US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel got a first-hand look at a life-size robot that resembles Hollywood’s “Terminator,” the latest experiment by the Pentagon’s hi-tech researchers.
But unlike the cinematic version, the hulking Atlas robot is designed not as a warrior but as a humanitarian machine that would rescue victims in the rubble of a natural disaster, officials said on Tuesday.
The 6-foot-2-inch (187 centimeters) Atlas is one of the entrants in a contest designed to produce a man-like life-saver machine, the brainchild of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Right. Because the Pentagon would never *dream* of putting weapons on any new piece of technology…
Filed under: Arthur C. Clarke, Augmented Reality, Brave New World, Connections, Emergency, General Musings, Health, Paleo-Future, Predictions, Science, Science Fiction, Star Trek, Survival, tech, Writing stuff | Tags: Arthur C. Clarke, augmented reality, blogging, cell phone, energy, fracking, hydraulic fracturing, jim downey, mundane science fiction, oil, predictions, Samuel Tisherman, science, Science Fiction, Star Trek, suspended animation, technology, writing
Suspended animation of one sort or another has been a staple of Science Fiction just about forever. Of course, as such it has often been dismissed as being little more than fantasy — just a magic trick that a lazy author will resort to in order to get around some technological barrier or another. Because, you know, it’s just completely unrealistic …
NEITHER dead or alive, knife-wound or gunshot victims will be cooled down and placed in suspended animation later this month, as a groundbreaking emergency technique is tested out for the first time.
Surgeons are now on call at the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to perform the operation, which will buy doctors time to fix injuries that would otherwise be lethal.
“We are suspending life, but we don’t like to call it suspended animation because it sounds like science fiction,” says Samuel Tisherman, a surgeon at the hospital, who is leading the trial. “So we call it emergency preservation and resuscitation.”
Yeah, you certainly wouldn’t want it to sound like Science Fiction. ‘Cause that stuff’s just nuts.
I’ve written previously about ‘mundane science fiction‘, the idea being that we have to stick with what we know to be technologically realistic. The thing is, what we consider to be technologically “realistic” keeps changing, often in surprising ways. I remember the energy crisis of the mid-’70’s, and when US energy independence was considered to be little more than a fantasy talking-point of presidents. Well, the US currently produces more oil than we consume. Sure, it has come with real costs/problems, but it is nonetheless true. (And actually, I think that sort of trade-off makes for a more interesting Science Fiction story overall, exploring both the benefits and problems of new technologies.)
Clarke had it right: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. That doesn’t give a Science Fiction writer complete latitude to just make shit up. But it also cautions against dismissing any technology as “unrealistic” out-of-hand.
Just ask the first person who will be saved due to “emergency preservation and resuscitation.” Chances are, sometime later this year you’ll be able to do so on his/her cell phone.
Filed under: Brave New World, Humor, movies, Paleo-Future, Predictions, Science, Science Fiction, Society | Tags: BiteLabs, blogging, Harry Harrison, humor, jim downey, movies, predictions, science, Science Fiction, Soylent Green, technology
Now comes the perfect commoditization of celebrity:
“BiteLabs grows meat from celebrity tissue samples and uses it to make artisanal salami.” So proclaims the copy on BiteLabs.org, right under an all-caps call to action: EAT CELEBRITY MEAT. The site proposes taking actual tissue samples of celebrities—specifically, James Franco, Kanye West, Jennifer Lawrence, and Ellen DeGeneres—and growing their cloned meat for use in a marketable salami blend.
* * *
“The product is indeed salami,” Kevin says. “Each salami will have roughly 30% celebrity meat and 40% lab-grown animal meats (we’re currently looking into ostrich and venison but it pork and beef are more popular in our early research). The rest will consist of fats and spices. This break-down comes from consultation with expert food designers and chefs.”
Admittedly, I have an … odd … sense of humor, but for the life of me I can’t figure out whether this is funnier if it is satire or if it is real.
Welcome to the future, though it’s a bit different than what we expected.
Filed under: Arthur C. Clarke, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Brave New World, Expert systems, Humor, Marketing, movies, Paleo-Future, Predictions, Science Fiction, Society, tech, TIME Magazine | Tags: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke, artificial intelligence, blogging, Communion of Dreams, HAL, HAL9000, humor, jim downey, movies, predictions, Science Fiction, Seth, St. Cybi's Well, technology
One with an ‘expert’ like Seth from Communion of Dreams?
Ha! Sucker. You should know that reality would prove to be more … banal. And corporate. Like this:
The phone call came from a charming woman with a bright, engaging voice to the cell phone of a TIME Washington Bureau Chief Michael Scherer. She wanted to offer a deal on health insurance, but something was fishy.
When Scherer asked point blank if she was a real person, or a computer-operated robot voice, she replied enthusiastically that she was real, with a charming laugh. But then she failed several other tests. When asked “What vegetable is found in tomato soup?” she said she did not understand the question. When asked multiple times what day of the week it was yesterday, she complained repeatedly of a bad connection.
Over the course of the next hour, several TIME reporters called her back, working to uncover the mystery of her bona fides. Her name, she said, was Samantha West, and she was definitely a robot, given the pitch perfect repetition of her answers. Her goal was to ask a series of questions about health coverage—”Are you on Medicare?” etc.—and then transfer the potential customer to a real person, who could close the sale.
Hmm, I think I can still work “Samantha” into St. Cybi’s Well …