Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hawke to play time-travelling agent

From Google News: Hawke to play time-travelling agent

Ethan Hawke is set to star as a time-travelling crime fighter in new film Predestination.

The sci-fi action thriller has been written by brothers Michael and Peter Spierig, who worked with Ethan on hit horror film Daybreakers.

The Training Day star will play a "temporal government agent sent on an intricate series of time-travel journeys designed to stop future killers", Variety reports.

The Spierig brothers said: "Predestination is based on the classic Robert A Heinlein short story All You Zombies. No, it's not a Zombie flick, but it's one of our favourite short stories and is unlike anything you've ever read before.

"The short is on many sci-fi lists as one of the greatest short stories of all time, and the mother of all time paradox tales. Heinlein is considered one of the great science fiction masters alongside Phillip K Dick, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C Clarke."

The brothers will also direct and co-produce the movie for Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions.
Filming is due to begin in Australia at the beginning of next year.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Back to our regularly scheduled blogging

Visiting relative  has left, traveling has done, and I'm ready to devote myself to this blog again.

So thanks for  your patience!

Monday, May 21, 2012

I crave your indulgence

My mother's sister is visiting for three days. My mom's deaf as a post, my dad can't be bothered to get out of his chair, so I will be doing the entertaining - the chauffeuring and the talking and the communicating - for the next three days. So I'll be posting back here Thursday. Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Asimov's Luck: Talented Authors Who Go Unnoticed

From the SOP: Asimov's Luck: Talented Authors Who Go Unnoticed
Isaac Asimov attributed his fame and notoriety to luck, as much as talent. He was in the right places at the right times, and happened to know the right people.

Sure, indisputably, he had talent, he was a brilliant writer. Indeed, he is known as one of the greatest sci-fi authors in history.

But without luck or synchronicity, Asimov would not have been acknowledged as a Great science fiction author-- along with Heinlein, Clarke and Bradbury.

In many cases, all you need is that kind of luck; no talent required. Merely someone in a place of influence to like what you wrote and get it published, distributed, publicized.

And what about all the talented authors who are not so lucky? In the eyes of the world, they do not exist; they are not `real` writers, are not successful. We only know of people like Asimov because they got attention, got noticed.

When I see voting lists and polls for awards given to authors, I cringe "because I know the list is incomplete, biased, and therefore invalid. Worthy candidates have been omitted, the unlucky one not even considered. Just like movie and music awards.

The person who gets credit is only the one to get credit, not necessarily the one who did it first or best, or even actually did it. This is true throughout history, in every field of endeavor and enterprise.

There are many authors as deserving of attention "if not more so, than the ones publically recognized, whom we do not hear about. In the shadows, behind the scenes, there are talented authors who will never receive any kind of fame, any kind of wide public awareness" if any awareness. Some, because luck eludes them, others because they do not desire such attention.

Ultimately, Asimov`s luck is the key to any author`s not success, but official and public recognition.

Being noticed by the right people at the right time. Not only the right place and time in their own lives, but within history.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Back to normal Sunday

Tomorrow - I hope and pray to all the gods and in particular Om - that the guy who has been doing my sheet rock one ceiling hole every Saturday, will come here tomorrow (having missed last Saturday) finish sheet rocking the final of four holes, then adding the tape and the "mud" and the textured paint. I'm fed up with the delay - he was supposed to do it last year, for God's sake! Many reasons why I let him get away with the delay, but I want it done tomorrow becausew all my furniture and books are topsy turvy and I'm in a state where I can't accomplish anything.

He's promised to be here early tomorrow - I'll believe it when I see it. But I hope it's true.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Cory Doctorow: A Prose By Any Other Name

From Locus Online: Cory Doctorow: A Prose By Any Other Name
Back in 2005, I did something weird. I decided that I would embark on a project to write short stories with the same (or similar) titles to famous science fiction books and stories. My initial motivation for this was Ray Bradbury objecting to Michael Moore calling a movie Fahrenheit 9/11, which led Bradbury to call Moore an ‘‘asshole’’ and a ‘‘horrible human being’’ who’d ‘‘stolen’’ the title. Like many other writers, Bradbury has rightfully never shied from taking and adapting titles from other writers and works (‘‘I Sing the Body Electric’’, ‘‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’’, ‘‘The Women’’, etc.), and I thought that this was a silly thing for a respected writer to say. I suspected that, despite his denials, Bradbury disagreed with Moore’s politics and invented an ad hoc ethical code regarding titles to explain why what he did to Walt Whitman was fundamentally different from what Moore had done to him.

The more I thought about writing stories with ‘‘borrowed’’ titles, the more interesting it all got. Every time I thought about a famous title – one I hated, one I loved, one I had mixed feelings about – I found my subconscious simmering and then bubbling over with ideas. Stories – more so than novels – are often the product of odd subconscious associations. I’ll see something, I’ll see something else, the two will rub together, and wham, there’s a story idea crystallizing in my mind, and off I go to find a keyboard.

But for every story fragment that finds a complementary fragment to bond with and form into an idea, there are dozens of lonely haploids, grains of potential that never find another grain to join and synthesize with. Seven years into the project, the single most significant and reliable trait of ‘‘title’’ stories is that the titles exert a powerful gravity on story fragments, aggregating them into full-blown inspiration.

Take ‘‘I, Robot’’, the story that was inspired by Asimov’s three-laws stories (Asimov’s collection I, Robot, took its title from an Eando Binder story of the same name – Binder, of course, got it from I, Claudius). For some time I had been entertaining the germ of a story about the dangers of designing computers so that users can’t control them and so that the authorities can, and it just wouldn’t gel into a narrative. Then, as I was packing up a shelf-load of Isaac Asimov books (leftovers from a re-read I did when writing a Wired story on the I, Robot film adaptation) I was skewered on the realization that I, Robot was exactly what my story fragment was missing.

There, buried in Asimov’s Ur-canon about the role that robots will play in our world, I found one of the earliest examples of the fallacy that society can closely regulate computers without regulating everything that computers are used for. The constraints that Asimov regulates into the positronic brain are so stable that they persist for thousands of years, through multiple collapses and resurgences of civilization, across the galaxy. Though the three laws present riddles and puzzles to Asimov’s people (human and robotic), they are never really the source of huge social spasms, though they amount to a kind of Prohibition for Turing-completeness, an incest-taboo against Von Neumann architecture. Once I had the title, the entire story snapped into place, and I wrote it in a weekend. It won the Locus award and was nominated for the Hugo, and has been reprinted numerous times, adapted for audio and comics, and continues to generate a fair whack of fan-mail.

As it turned out, I still had something to say about Asimov, even after finishing ‘‘I, Robot’’. Hence my 2006 story, ‘‘I, Row-Boat’’, which considered the effect of norms – not laws – as a form of technological regulation. In hindsight, this was a story about how telling science-fiction stories about how robots should behave was every bit as powerful as passing laws about it. I wrote this one before I learned that Brooklyn’s MakerBot – a company that makes 3D printers – was presented with a commercial lease that required the company to ensure that none of its products would violate Asimov’s three laws.

(There's more to the article, but check it out at the original link if interested. The above is all that dealt with Asimov.)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Asteroid mining: Staple of science fiction becomes reality

From Mother Nature Network: Asteroid mining: Staple of science fiction becomes reality
new billionaire-backed venture announced today that it plans to use robots to mine asteroids for precious metals and in the process add trillions of dollars to the global economy. If the so-called Planetary Resources group, which includes director James Cameron and Google co-founder Larry Page, succeed, they will breathe life into an idea that is more than a century old and a staple of many science fiction books and movies.

One of the earliest works to explore this idea is the 1898 American space opera, the Thomas Edison-endorsed "Edison’s Conquest of Mars." Written by astronomer-fiction author Garrett P. Serviss, the book, which also stars Edison as the hero, follows a fleet of spaceships that run into huge-headed Martians mining asteroids for gold. The book was a watershed title for the sci-fi genre, introducing tropes like asteroid mining, as well as alien abductions, disintegrator laser beams and more. [Does Asteroid Mining Violate Space Law?]

As the genre became more popular, the notion of space travel and colonization grew into a dominant theme. And in many of these stories, tapping asteroids for valuable resources was a staple for any story’s intergalactic backdrop. Hugo-winning sci-fi writer Larry Niven used ore-rich asteroids to populate the universe in his famed collection of novels, "Known Space."

Isaac Asimov’s 1944 short story “Catch That Rabbit,” part of his "Robot" series, uses an asteroid mining station as the setting. (Drama ensues when Dave the robot malfunctions and ceases his mining duties.) Asimov’s peer, Robert Heinlein, also depicted asteroids as vessels for precious commodities. In his 1952 novel "The Rolling Stones," Heinlein gave the asteroid belt the Gold Rush treatment. Galactic prospectors ventured from far and wide to find the space rocks, which brimmed with radioactive ores that promised fabulous wealth. Stripping near-Earth objects has also been used as a plot device in TV and film, like in the 2004 "Battlestar Galactica" episode “The Hand of God.” The characters discover Cylons mining an asteroid that’s ripe with tylium, a fuel source.

In Yoshiyuki Tomino’s anime and novel franchise "Gundam," asteroid mining is mentioned often: For example, the 1985 anime "Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam"features Axis, an asteroid mining colony located in the asteroid belt, that becomes a stronghold for the Republic of Zeon.

British sci-fi sitcom "Red Dwarf" saw the eponymous mining cargo ship transport ore (presumably extracted from asteroids), only for the journey to go awry.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Satisfying riffs on ancient texts

From Creative Loafing: Satisfying riffs on ancient texts
When you attend the new Stephen Seay Productions presentation of The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged) at Petra's Piano Bar, you not only get a program as you enter, you get a biblical family tree that takes you from "the beginning" all the way to the Book of Exodus and a few chapters beyond. That genealogy is good to have, because when the three madcap actors start spraying the audience with water, you can use it to defend yourself without getting your playbill wet.

Leslie Ann Giles, Caleb Sigmon, and Christopher Jones are our loony guides as we fast-forward in the patented Reduced Shakespeare style through the two testaments. Leslie leans on a book by Isaac Asimov for insights on Holy Writ while Caleb takes the Bible more literally. Or to put it another way, Caleb is using a Bible that he proudly claims to have stolen. Christopher manages to distinguish himself as the simpleton in this trio, sporting an illustrated children's book for his biblical intro.

It continues that way as these dubious scholars fracture scripture, divvying up the pillars of the Judeo-Christian tradition: Leslie usually presides and plays straight (relatively speaking), Caleb takes us weird and wild, and Christopher serves as the go-to buffoon and bimbo. Ryan Stamey is the silent partner of all the action onstage, settling in behind an electric keyboard and contributing his own original songs to the gumbo. Just that should clue you into the extent that Seay as director permits his cast to deviate from the original Reduced script by Adam Long, Reed Martin, and Austin Tichenor.

So my dread of seeing Complete Word yet again quickly evaporated — very much like the spraying applied to the audience. Another good time — 106 minutes, to be precise — at Petra's.

The last time I saw Matt Cosper's World Without End was nearly nine years ago — when Children's Theatre was still on Morehead Street, Cosper's current company was The Farm Theatre, and Dubya was barely halfway through his first term. So I'd forgotten that the script was an adaptation of Sophocles' Antigone and a frontal assault on Bush 43 and homeland security hysteria. With a little left over for Bill Clinton.

Or was it? In the new Chaos Ensemble production, designed and directed by James Yost, the Bush/Clinton tyrant is Kenny, based on Sophocles' Creon, a character who never appeared in Cosper's 2003 draft! Now the modernization follows Sophocles far more closely and clocks in 26 minutes longer.

So the truth is that these young Providence High School students are presenting a totally reconceived work by Cosper — and it's one honey of a piece, sporting a metallic soundtrack played live by guitarist Brian Froeb and Jon Michael Askew. The satiric thrust definitely comes from Andre Egas's alternately boorish and ingratiating portrayal of Kenny, while Reem Saed endows Annie (Antigone) with more than sufficient fire. Really, everything needn't be bellowed.

In its compression, still only 86 minutes, the script isn't always clear about which character is speaking — Eurydice ought to be more surely identified as Creon's queen and Haimon's mother — but the relevance of the ancient tragedy is striking as ethical debates sprout up and main characters begin falling like dominoes. Though they appear in modern dress, all the faces are partially or totally painted, adding a primal overlay that often flips over into harlequinade.

Brandishing a saxophone, Mack White brings a punkish edge to Haimon, the fulcrum of the drama as Creon's resentful son and Antigone's fiancé. You'll also like the nerdiness Halley Freger brings to Creon's Clown and the sass Olivia Dalzell brings to her dual roles as Eurydice and chorus leader. And for those of you who actually know Sophocles' tragedy, you'll find that Cosper adds a surprising and satisfying coda.