Anders Monsen

Lost worlds and ports of call

Month: December 2012 (page 1 of 3)

Fiscal cliff extended

With mere hours left remaining in 2012, news sites everywhere are reporting a fiscal cliff deal. You can bet the farm thus deal includes massive tax increases and zero spending cuts. And those new taxes? Why, the will go to new programs, of course. Like junkies on smack, politicians think only about the short term. They can always print more money, or quit tomorrow, right?

War on alcohol killed thousands

A little-known effort by the US government killed 10,000 people during Prohibition, when they poisoned industrial alcohol to prevent people from converting it into drinking alcohol.

This sounds almost too horrifying to be true, but is just one of many examples of humanitarians with guillotines. And the power of the State behind them.

Salvage and Demolition: new Tim Powers novella

Tim Powers fans rejoice! Subterranean Press is publishing a new, 21,000 word novella called Salvage and Demolition. Apparently the limited edition is already sold out, and no doubt the trade edition shortly will follow suit. The brief description sounds like classic Powers stuff:

Richard Blanzac, a San Francisco-based rare book dealer, opens a box of consignment items and encounters the unexpected. There, among an assortment of literary rarities, he discovers a manuscript in verse, an Ace Double Novel, and a scattering of very old cigarette butts. These commonplace objects serve as catalysts for an extraordinary—and unpredictable—adventure.

RIP Gerry Anderson

Some of my core TV memories from growing up in Zambia are Astro Boy, The Incredible Hulk, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Thunderbirds. Though puppet shows seem corny and wince-inducing, Thunderbirds had cool space ships, action, and exciting stories. A couple of days ago the show’s creator, Gerry Anderson, passed away at age 83. I had no idea, though, that a live action movie based on his show appeared in 2004. If must have flown well below the radar.

From science fiction to real life

Some science fiction ideas that became reality. The quantum teleportation remains the most intriguing one, and seems still in early stages.

The science fiction of language

Over at the New Yorker a long and complex essay on utopianism of language. An invented language emerges from the mind of one person into Russian consciousness, and expands. Similarity to a Heinlein idea is noted:

An article titled “The Speed of Thought” noted remarkable similarities between Ithkuil and an imaginary language cooked up by the science-fiction writer Robert Heinlein for his novella “Gulf,” from 1949. Heinlein’s story describes a secret society of geniuses called the New Men who train themselves to think more rapidly and precisely using a language called Speedtalk, which is capable of condensing entire sentences into single words. Using their efficient language to communicate, the New Men plot to take over the world from the benighted “homo saps.”

More than 900 languages have been invented since the 12th century, according to the article. Many have as their goal making language more precise, much like the 20th century views of the Logical Positivists, who thought language needed to be codified by their rules into a common language. Thus, like many utopian ideas, language inventors believe their visions needs to be imposed upon everyone. However, John Quijada’s invented language, Ithkuil, isn’t one that he wants to impose, even though he created it because he believed “natural languages are adequate, but that doesn’t mean they’re optimal.”

The problem with invented language is they tend to be overly complex, mentally burdensome, and only a handful of enthusiasts bother to learn them. That, and humans might actually prefer ambiguity, as it allows them degrees of freedom and individuality that preciseness and rules prevent. Interestingly, some of the most ardent Eastern European fans of Ithkuil mentioned in the article lean toward authoritarian ideals.

Year’s best British sf?

A very short list from the Telegraph.

Planets around every star

That seems to be the consensus after astronomers discover planets orbiting Tau Ceti, only 12 light years away from Earth. One of those might lie within the habitable zone. I just hope they don’t name it Tau Ceti 5. Maybe Alphanor?

The persistence of slavery

Slavery might be as old as mankind, and even in the 21st century this abhorrent practice exists. When there are free markets and humans can move freely to find job opportunities, then maybe slavery will vanish.

Singularity and capitalism

Another view on the forthcoming rapture of the nerds, over at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. The gloomy conclusion: “Singularitarians are selling snake oil, just in a shinier container with more free gadgets. The singularity, and advanced intelligences, will not and cannot be a panacea for the systemic oppression and exploitation inherent in capitalism, and as such will never benefitall of humanity.” In other words, capitalism bad, and all bad things in the world caused by capitalism.

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