Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Under-ice exploration in fiction

Arthur C. Clarke features Jupiter's moon Europa in his space fiction work 2010. Having a liquid surface covered with ice, Europa is a very intriguing target for exploration. Especially where finding life is the mission.

According to this post, we'll be exploring that very same moon with technology written about by Clarke. The prospect of finding life under the ice is looking even more promising lately. In support of these seemingly barren places actually holding the keys to life, new evidence is making it more of a likelihood.

A Darwin's Orphans entry last month features two recent articles on the subject: January 22nd post.

Science and fiction sometimes converge. Searching for life under the ice is now a hot topic. Technology such as this new underwater explorer called ENDURANCE is another step toward validating all of the speculation. I'm sure it'll be another decade or two before we learn more from such an edgy piece of equipment. But when we do it would be amazing if we saw Clarke's speculative fiction turn into reality.

It's this sort of imagination that makes these kinds of stories worth reading. We all wonder what will be and when a writer forecasts a future world in an accurate way, it makes the stories even more fascinating.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Speculative fiction reading list

For readers wanting to explore the nuances of speculative fiction, check out this handy reading list. In it, D.D. Shade gives us a bit of context about the sub-genres. I've seen similar lists from other aficionados before and a number of books are recurring as genre references.

So, if you're not sure about the scope of speculative fiction, the post should make it a bit clearer for you. For others like me that have enjoyed it for years, the list will give you a new book idea or two.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Invisibility: fiction or reality?

H.G. Wells is long considered one of the grandfathers of speculative fiction. He wrote The Island of Dr. Moreau a century before bio-engineering tapped the genome. Other great future-oriented fiction classics of his were The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine. The former got the Tom Cruise treatment just a few years back.

Although these last two stories still seem very far into our collective future, one other book of Wells' seems to be getting a bit closer to reality: The Invisible Man. There is an article today in The Seattle Times entitled: Invisibility: Soon to be the new black - a clever title if you're a fashionista.

The science is very interesting: you basically steer light in different directions with advanced materials made out of carbon nanotubes. This gives you a black that reflects an extremely low percentage of visible light. There are existing problems to overcome like seeing out from behind this material...but the geniuses behind this technological advancement have a plan to get around them.

Soon, we may see invisibility cloaks on the market without needing access to the secret back hallway at Flourish and Blott's. The once far-fetched world of H.G. Wells' invisible man may come to pass in your lifetime. Only in this real world story, you'll have to cover yourself with material to become invisible. Unlike the surly character in the book, you'll still have visible skin underneath the'll be the fabric itself that you won't be able to see.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Resource for a changing world

This post by Alex Steffen reflects on speculative fiction as means for exploring the implications of present-day changes. Curious by its content, I explored a bit more around the WorldChanging site. It would be a handy reference for speculative fiction writers...or at least food for thought.

Other subjects it explores include:

  • home designs
  • urban living
  • world politics
  • the green economy
  • climate change
  • biodiversity
  • and more

There's a products-and-donations aspect sprinkled throughout the site. So, if you get excited about participation, you can become a member of the community.

Since I live in Seattle - the home base of the site - you may wonder if I'm a contributor. Unfortunately, I am not...but I'm thinking very seriously about getting involved. Perhaps I'll have a follow up post on this subject very soon.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Future tech: an Escapist view

The Escapist is an online magazine that focuses primarily on games and entertainment. However, a recent post takes a tongue-in-cheek look at future technologies. It's a fun read...check it out.

In the speculative fiction community, typical technological trends get recurring attention: robotics, artificial intelligence, space travel, anti-matter, communications, flying cars, bio-engineering and more. The social implications of these technologies are oftentimes the centerpiece (think: Brave New World and bio-engineering). Joe Blancato writes about many future technologies in his article with a mix of serious portents couched in humorous delivery.

One comment on his closing thought that he may have predicted that someone would write an article like his but never he had to write it: this is not actually the case. I think that he doesn't hang around in nerdy enough corners of the Web to find what he'd been seeking. Here are a few references to posts of past articles with similar predictive commentary:

  • the November 12, 2007 post considers Jason Fry's Wall Street Journal article on the subject of future technology expectations
  • on October 4, 2007, a similar article was published in The Vancouver Sun newspaper to commemorate Sputnik

There have been similar such essays and articles...just probably not published in a thoughtful manner for the gaming community. So, it's great that Mr. Blancato has taken the subject on in The Escapist to broaden the dialog. It's good for the speculative fiction community at large.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

More on literary fiction

This post from mediabistro just went online and it ties nicely into a recent blog entry of mine:
An essay on speculative fiction

My post reflects on Jason Sanford's article where he looks to literary fiction writers to lift up speculative fiction via forays into the genre with great works. Cormac McCarthy is cited. Ron Hogan, in the mediabistro post, also refers to McCarthy via his reference to a recent Wired magazine article.

The Wired piece talks about science fiction whereas Sanford focuses on speculative fiction. However, the sentiment is the same...mincing of genres aside. There are many camps in fiction. You could call me "in the speculative fiction camp" and it would be true. However, I don't get lost in semantics. We're talking about fiction set in a different space and time. It may not be that scientific but it's not your everyday fiction either.

Whatever you call it, one thing is certain: great writers are broadening context to comment on society through fiction. In the process, they're writing great stories. Regardless of genre trends or literary acceptance, great books are the result. I'm sure we'd all agree that's what we're after.