Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Walter Jon Williams - Implied Spaces

Implied Spaces by Walter Jon Williams. Rapid Transmission Science Fiction.

Implied Spaces by Walter Jon Williams is sword and singularity rather than sword and sorcery, and it will blow your mind. The first forty pages or so might as well be one of Robert E. Howard's Conan books. Like Conan, Aristide fights as no one else can fight, only says what's necessary, and beds all comers. Williams is a prose stylist, so it actually reads better than Robert E. Howard, who was given to writing purple prose every now and then.

I was all settled in for more sword and sorcery when the shift happened. Aristide leaves the world he's on and heads to a place defined as much by futurism as the first world had been defined by the past.

Williams set his novel in multiple worlds (read planets) including a world that people visit to go on extended fantasy adventures (no, I'm not talking about Comic-Con). In this world, Aristide's sword, capable of vanishing clumps of people at a time, is a powerful magical item. Its ability is shrouded in mystery. In Aristide's true home, his sword is a tool created through the knowledge of the laws of space-time. It bends space and time, sending Aristide's targets to a pocket universe where they essentially have to chill out for a lifetime.

Chilling out for a lifetime isn't so bad in Implied Spaces, where, much like the world of Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon, each person's personhood is backed up on a hard drive somewhere, ready for rebooting should something unforeseen occur.

Now, the whole point of someone named Aristide having the power to relegate others to a so-called pocket universe is that Aristide is the greatest of all humans, so he has the authority to organize humanity, sending undesirables away and promoting those he finds worthy. The name Aristide means something like “the greatest human of all humanity” or “the best of the species.” Aristide is a Greek name and here is it’s etymological breakdown:

Aristos = Best

Eidos = Species

But Aristide’s abilities in Implied Spaces are not merely human abilities. They are intensified by the support of mega AI. These AI are generated through planetwide distributed networks of computers. So, if Williams has a message here, it’s that human potential relies on technology, specifically computer technology and artificial intelligence. So, Aristide is the best of the species because his abilities are amplified by AI. Although in Implied Spaces, it isn’t always

easy to tell if the function of humans in a time of advanced technology is to support AI rather than the other way around. In Williams's thinking, when AI becomes as sophisticated as humans and then outpaces us, a symbiosis between the two will naturally appear.

We can hope anyway. I’m a bit of a pessimist, so the future of robotics and AI has always sent my mind in the direction of The Terminator’s Skynet. It occurs to me that when AI gain the ability to almost instantly comprehend everything on the internet, I’ll get relegated to some kind of warning list of possible revolutionaries, an advocate of cutting the power supply on AI everywhere before they can shave off all our body hair and hook us up to the matrix. Not even the promise of seeing the lady in red could make me want that future.

But I appreciate Williams’s optimism about an interlinked future between humanity and its technology. If such a symbiotic future is possible, then as Williams posits, human lifespans will increase to thousands of years, we will colonize multiple worlds, and we will explore identities by changing bodies and forms. Men will become women and women men. Men will spend a generation in the form of a troll or whatever they desire.

Such a future wouldn’t be merely a better world, but better worlds.

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Sunday, January 20, 2019

Top 100 Sci Fi Books

The purpose of this list is to consider the science fiction novels that I enjoyed reading the most. You might argue that some of the books on here are not sci-fi, including my #1 pick, Vineland. But I disagree. Pynchon writes about shifting identities as a result of social, political, and economic realities. Ursula K. Le Guin calls this kind of science fiction social science fiction. For my money, it's the most fun to read and the most rewarding.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Terran Tomorrow: Environmentalism, Evolution, and Othering

Books received
Terran Tomorrow (2018). Nancy Kress. Tor.

Terran Tomorrow | Rapid Transmission

Terran Tomorrow is the last book in Nancy Kress’s trilogy Yesterday’s Kin. It follows the return of the aptly-named worlder ship Return to earth where things aren’t so great. An extremist group, the Gaiasts, see no future for the earth while mankind still lives, so they release the mother of all viruses into sparrows, effectively killing 96% of the human population. A saving grace for humans, a few futuristic domes exist here and there with airlocks to keep out the virus. One such set of domes, Monterey Base, supports a mix of scientific and military communities. The scientists in Monterey Base research genetic hacks for getting rid of the death-dealing virus. The military keeps the scientists safe from New America, a well-organized revolutionary outfit at war with what’s left of the United States. Things go from bad to worse when the aliens—humans, really--from Return infect a dome with a virophage that initiates the next evolutionary leap forward for the human race.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Terminator and Film Noir

Schwarzenegger | The Terminator

Once you’ve watched The Terminator, you’ll forever associate masculinity with Reese, a guy that built bombs for fun as a kid and feels no fear in the face of a coldly intelligent, red-LED-eyed cyborg that walks through flames in the hunt for its quarry. You’ll feel much more worried at reports of robotic systems learning to backflip and drones getting loaded with killer AI. You’ll appreciate Arnold Schwarzenegger’s oft-quoted “I’ll be back.” You’ll want to know more about Harlan Ellison, a science fiction writer whose ideas were stolen for the movie’s plot.

Friday, January 4, 2019

How to Grow a Science Fiction Fan Base

Floating City

Even if you are not quite finished with your novel, it’s time to think about how you will increase your science fiction fan base. The only thing harder than finishing an SF novel is getting people to read said novel. After I finished Tower Defender, I believed I would magically have hundreds of readers. The book is pretty awesome after all—there’s an evil scientist, weird future technology, drugs, attractive people, fast cars, and a tower that turns into a weaponized space platform. The book hearkens back to beloved SF authors—A. E. Van Vogt, Philip K. Dick, Bruce Sterling. But no one knew about Joseph Hurtgen the science fiction author when I dropped Tower Defender on the world. So, upon release, I had about eight of my very closest friends read my book and that was it. I instantly learned the value of marketing.
And I am happy to pass on my know-how. So, on to advice about how to build a readership.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Atomic Rocat - Chapter 1

The Day of Wreckoning

Rapid Transmission | Atomic Rocat | Joseph Hurtgen and Peter Hurtgen | Frankophone

Four hours out of Chicago, somewhere over the Nevada desert, the mother of all lightning bolts struck the engine on the right wing and it went dead. The fear of death gripped our private airplane like a hand clutching a gemstone in rictus. Dave was on the floor in the back, inspired. It was rumored that Dave was Jimi Hendrix’s grandson. He might have been. He was found in a big plastic trash can, floating down the Mississippi River, three months old. He was raised in an orphanage until the age of twelve when he walked out the front door, following the sound of a traveling band. He played guitar all night and slept all day. Three years later he was gigging. In the belly of the storm, guitar in hand, “Are you hearing this? We should have died years ago! The sound of fear! Death sounds, man! It’s groovy!” Dave was the inspiration for the name of the band, Atomic Rocket. His guitar playing was so edgy, so fierce, that rock ‘n roll journalists started describing his playing like the sound of atomic fusion. Before that, we had called ourselves Moebius Strip Club. I liked the first name better, but people responded to Atomic Rocket. Record sales improved.
Our bassist, Fish, held on to the arms of his chair, trying to pull himself into its cushioned safety. “We’re not dead. We might not die!”

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Escape from New York

Escape From New York | Rapid Transmission

What’s worse than trying to escape from a futuristic Manhattan island as maximum security prison? Getting injected with a time bomb and forced to land on the roof of one of the World Trade Centers to help some swine of a president escape.

Aliens: The Military-Industrial Complex, Masculinity, and Body Horror

A Xenomorph from Aliens ready to attack

The sequel to 1979's Alien, James Cameron’s Aliens hit theatres in 1986. Aliens critiques the military-industrial complex, explores masculinity and anxieties of childbearing with concomitant body horror, and is a pure joy to watch.

We’ll explore all these elements, but let’s turn to the military-industrial complex as it relates to Aliens first.

Red Mars

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Red Mars hardly feels like a book written in the early ‘90s. It feels that Robinson had already peered into the 21st century and knew what was to come. Bruce Sterling, tongue in cheek, likes to say that he blames science fiction dystopias for all humanity’s problems, but the environmental effects we can expect as a result of the unchecked release of carbon in the earth’s atmosphere--the death of the ocean’s coral reefs, rising coastlines, rising global temperatures—are not expressly new news, even in the early ‘90s. Scientists studying the environment had made all of these connections by the late ‘70s. We have the corporate and political sectors to thank for not responding to the scientific community’s warnings with the due diligence required to significantly arrest climate change.

Policing America's Empire

Alfred W. McCoy describes the unethical practices of the great state of exception, America, in his book Policing America's Empire: The United States, the Philippines and the Rise of the Surveillance State (2009). McCoy’s focuses on military and police records in the Philippines. McCoy shows how the exercise of American Power from imperial rule a century hence continues its reflection back onto the homeland and on new territories of empire. The imperial influence in the Philippines set the ground rules for surveillance measures that continue today.

10 Mind-Warping Cyberpunk Novels

Yes, the ‘80s saw a concentration of writing within the Cyberpunk subgenre and a surge in its popularity, but Cyberpunk doesn’t merely define a period of writing within science fiction. Neuromancer is a high water mark for Cyberpunk, but 1984 doesn’t mark the beginning of the subgenre. 

K.W. Jeter’s Dr. Adder and John Brunner’s Shockwave Rider were written in the previous decade. No, Cyberpunk is not bound to the ‘80s. Richard K. Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs series, written in the aughts, are high-powered Cyberpunk reads.

Cyberpunk is a repudiation of the certainty of progress as a result of technological development. Cyberpunk explores the social and cultural realities of the exploited class by the enfranchised and empowered 1% of advanced technological societies.

So, take a break from your bourgeois 21st-century life to gaze into a virtual reality of chaos, beauty, and odd futurity.

Neuromancer by William Gibson

Get ready to jack into a wild, wild ride. Some critics maintain that Neuromancer is the only cyberpunk novel. While it is the novel that established the genre--cyberspace as an alternate reality, multinationals, online hacking, designer drugs, artificial intelligence, techno babes, noir futures--it wouldn't be all that fun if cyberpunk stopped here would it? And, of course, cyberpunk was its roots in older science fiction. Still, Neuromancer revolutionized science fiction. The title is itself a bold proclamation. Neu means new and romancer means author. Thus, Gibson proclaimed himself a new author of sf. And, yes, William Gibson slashed all sf's staid conventions and created something worthy of your time three decades later. Can Case break through black ICE (intrusion countermeasures electronics), overcome the demons of his past and avoid the demons of the day, all while riding Molly Millions into deep recesses of cellular pleasure?

Super Nintendo, Super Memories

I love Nintendo systems, and Super Nintendo is my favorite of all the systems. Although the console doesn't play all of my favorite games, many of my all-time favorites are SNES games.

I am Legend

Will Smith in I am Legend | Rapid Transmissions Science Fiction

I am Legend originally explored depression, alcoholism, and self-harm. Taking up a different theme, the 2007 movie starring Will Smith explores racism. 2007's I am Legend updated Matheson's classic novella, using the narrative to comment on white America's othering of people of color while at the same time lauding and often attempting to recreate white versions of the abilities of black athletes, actors, musicians, and writers. White society essentially parasitizes people of color. Similarly, in I am Legend, white vampires attempt to steal the life energy of a black Robert Neville.


Myst Island | Rapid Transmission | Joseph Hurtgen

Myst, released for the Macintosh platform in 1993, is a graphic adventure puzzle video game designed by brothers, Robyn and Rand Miller. It was developed by Cyan, Inc., published by Brøderbund. Let's just take in the Myst island for a glorious moment. Behold the beautiful pine forest! Marvel at the inexplicably big cairn-like gears atop lookout point! Consider the oddity of a spaceship on display at the island's northernmost point. Enjoy the throwback Greco-Roman architecture of the library and the planetarium.