Anders Monsen

Lost worlds and ports of call

Month: November 2005 (page 1 of 2)

Calling card

I’m travelling this week, hence the lack of posts. I had hoped to post a couple of book reviews, but these are still in process. In the meantime, as I’m sorting through my luggage preparing for my return flight, I notice a strange card. It appears the Transportation Security Aministration’s minions opened my checked in luggage, pawed through the contents, and left me a card explaining what they did. There’s no indication why, although I did put part of my keychain in this bag, since it includes a tiny Swiss Army knife, and I did not want it confiscated. Next time I’ll leave that implement in the car, and carry the extra luggage on the plane. And I used to like airports and flying. No more. I’m tired of the long lines, the bored yet superior attitude of the screeners, and the waste and fraud the accompany any federalized operation.

Ayn Rand and sf

Roderick T. Long relates a personal search for an elusive memory of an article on Ayn Rand and science fiction in an old issue of Starlog. The issue in question, #22, May 1979 contains an article on the science fiction of Ayn Rand, especially Anthem and Atlas Shrugged, and includes a Boris Vallejo painting of the John Galt torture scene from the latter novel. The link in Long’s article about a movie adaptation of Anthem takes the surfer to an article from early 2004. Posted by Rand scholar Chris Sciabarra this story talks about former Starlog publisher Kerry O’Quinn acquiring the movie rights to Anthem. I personally think the book would better be adapted as a graphic novel or animated movie, filmed purely in black and white. Still, Rand fans whose interest is piqued by this story may drive the price of that 26 year old issue of Starlog.

Book received: John Meaney


Next week I’m hoping to complete three long book reviews for Prometheus, the newsletter that I edit. Lo and behold, Pyr books drops a large, heavy volume at my doorstep, which I look forward to reading but will have to wait until those prior obligations are finished. John Meaney’s Context looks quite interesting. In interview at SF Site from 2002, conducted by Lou Anders, British sf writer Meaney talks about his novel.

There’s a dark force rising throughout Nulapeiron, known as the Blight, or the Dark Fire. It subsumes human beings, makes them insignificant components of a vast whole: an entity which bears the same relationship to a single human being as a person does to a bacterium. From small beginnings, realms undergo strange societal changes, until they become part of the Blight-occupied territories.

The US publication date is 2005. It’s book two of a series, but the author promises each will work as a stand-alone book. Fantastic over painting by Jim Burns. More to follow…

Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy

Via Liberty and Power, a link to an abstract of an essay by Benjamin Barton on the implied libertarian critique of government in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels.

The critique is even more devastating because the governmental actors and actions in the book look and feel so authentic and familiar. Cornelius Fudge, the original Minister of Magic, perfectly fits our notion of a bumbling politician just trying to hang onto his job. Delores Umbridge is the classic small-minded bureaucrat who only cares about rules, discipline, and her own power. Rufus Scrimgeour is a George Bush-like war leader, inspiring confidence through his steely resolve. The Ministry itself is made up of various sub-ministries with goofy names (e.g., The Goblin Liaison Office or the Ludicrous Patents Office) enforcing silly sounding regulations (e.g., The Decree for the Treatment of Non-Wizard Part-Humans or The Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery). These descriptions of government jibe with our own sarcastic views of bureaucracy and bureaucrats: bureaucrats tend to be amusing characters that propagate and enforce laws of limited utility with unwieldy names. When you combine the light-hearted satire with the above list of government activities, however, Rowling’s critique of government becomes substantially darker and more powerful.

I ventured reluctantly into the world on Harry Potter only after the third novel saw publication in paperback, but I quickly became a fan. The seven-novel saga (one book remains to be written) sketches a rich world as young Harry grows to adulthood, cursed to be different in many ways. He’s a wizard, an orphan, abused by his adoptive family, feared and misunderstood by fellow wizards, and fated to face the most dangerous wizard ever born. I noticed early on the strong antipathy towards government and its minions in Rowling’s books, especially book five. Yet also the man-hunt for Sirius Black and revelations into the way the Ministry of Magic dealt with wizards after Voldemort’s “death” highlighted the corruption of those in power. Several of Voldemort’s allies received government positions, influencing the direction of the Ministry. For an alleged children’s series, Harry Potter is layered with multiple meanings far beyond the perceptions of a young audience. Rowling writes with this in mind, resulting in the series’ popularity with adults as well.

The Prisoner ‘set for TV return’

BBC reports that Sky One is planning a new series inspired by the Prisoner. Although the themes of conspiracy and paranoia will remain, the setting will differ, and the show would take other “liberties” with the original. In 2002 the Libertarian Futurist Society recognized The Prisoner with a Prometheus Award for a classic work of liberty. The entire 17 show series is available in a nicely packaged DVD set.

More reasons to avoid Sony CDs

This story adds a level to Sony’s sly metthod of loading various DRM software on user PC. All this focus on Sony does make me wonder what other companies are up to? Lately all the discussion has been about piracy and methods to protect intellectual rights, but subverting the customer’s computer system seems like a risky path, in my opinion. There are legal implications in Sony’s method, but more importantly, your computer and privacy end up compromised. The key is to simply avoid all infected CDs. Quarantine them. Ignore them. This won’t be the last we hear from Sony, nor the last attempt at intrusive DRM in CDs and DVDs.

Infected Sony CDs

From EFF, a list of Sony CDs with draconian copy protection keyed to infect and in some cases disable your computer (and liberty). Good thing none of these bands are on my list, but in addition, some photos of how to detect these CDs, and also how to disable the XCP software.

Vernor Vinge on Accelerating Change

Vinge’s keynote address from Accelerating Change 2005 is available as an MP3 download. Recorded 9/17/05, the speech runs around 40 minutes. Very interesting stuff, and quite timely in terms of my discovery of this, as I’m currently working on a review of Ray Kurtzweil’s non-fiction book, The Singularity is Near.

RebelFire review

Chris Hibbert reviews Prometheus Award nominated novel, RebelFire: Out of the Gray Zone. Perhaps too many spoilers in the second-to-last paragraph, but overall a positive review.

Jumper adapted for screen

Sci Fi Wire reports on the announcement that Steve Gould’s novel, Jumper, will be adapted for the big screen. “Fight Club writer Jim Uhls will rewrite a script by David S. Goyer (TV’s Threshold). Production will begin in the spring.”

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