Sunday, March 30, 2008

More on Stross

A few days ago, I had just come across a review of Charles Stross' recent book Halting State. For more details, see this post.

Surfing around today, a new review on a different Stross book showed up...not sure why: the book was published in 2006 but the write up seems like one for a fresh release. Regardless, the novel Glasshouse also has an interesting premise and seems worth reading.

Halting State should arrive soon from the friendly Amazon delivery guy. If it's a solid book maybe Glasshouse will be next. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Go with Halting State

You may not have heard of Charles Stross or his new book Halting State. I know I hadn't heard of either until I read this review.

However, after reading the premise, I just ordered it online. It sounds like a good read for speculative fiction fans...especially those that prefer near-future fiction like me. Admittedly, my book Darwin's Orphans is in this very same genre, but Stross' book sounds intriguing.

For example, RFID tags tracking people's locations is already a possibility...just not in practice (or at least we don't think it is). Cars are getting close to driving themselves, so the unmanned taxi scenario described in the book is also a reasonable expectation for our near future.

There are a couple of influences here requiring full disclosure. First off, this book is being recommended by an Aussie. I've got family from north of Sydney and they've turned me on to some good books. Secondly, there's a passage in the review that echoes a concept that I featured in my own book:

  • A 15-year-old caught kissing a 16-year-old on CCTV is forever labelled with a "pedophile caution" in the EU's police database.

My story Darwin's Orphans features social labeling whereby a database lists folks with violent tendencies.

It sounds like Stross had much of the same fun I did in writing his thriller. When you consider where society and technology are heading, folding it into a story can be an enjoyable exercise. I know it was for me. Hopefully, Stross had a good time as well.

After I finish reading the book, expect a bit of follow up commentary.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Early memories of Authur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke was laid to rest today. He leaves behind stark memories in the minds of many least he left them with me.

On my personal Clarke journey, it all started with Childhood's End. Long before Hollywood produced Independence Day Clarke wrote a vision of aliens taking over the earth with a visceral effect. I remember, as a kid, a gutsy teacher of mine having us read the book. It was one of the finest assignments I've ever received and it definitely piqued my interest in speculative fiction.

Although I went on to read many similar works, I think this was the first book of its kind I ever read. Needless to say, I became hooked and have since written my own speculative fiction.

Clarke assembed a fascinating mix of characteristics in his aliens. The book also had a compelling dramatic struggle that a reader seeks as well. In hindsight, I don't recall any romantic aspects in the story but Clarke was never known to write about women or love matters in an effective way. As a young lad, I'm sure I didn't really care about that at the time.

Also during my youth, I caught 2001: A Space Odyssey on television. My brother and I were avid film buffs as boys but the movie was out before our time. It was an intriguing film that had so much sub-text about society but I'm sure my first viewing was more "woah!" than meaningful commentary.

Clarke appeared on television and in interviews since I got a grip on his visionary nature. It kept me on the look out for his commentary. He truly understood science yet was able to keep humanity in context of the scientific implications. It is this mixture of capabilities that made him such a wonderful writer. It was a blessing that we had him around for so many years considering his health challenges.

To Arthur C. Clarke: Cheers!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Interesting Inspirations

If you've ever pondered the inspirations of futuristic fictional ideas, this post has some cool info for you. Although the article focuses on celluloid depictions, it's still very interesting stuff.

Someone had mentioned to me in the past about George Lucas' inspiration for the turbo tank AT-AT's. Folks that hadn't heard the Lucas tidbit before likely made this connection on their own. Ditto for Stanley Kubrick's close circuit camera inspiration. There's not really much of a leap there either.

Check out the article...especially if you're a film buff. You'll start looking at hot fudge in a whole new way.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Harlan Ellison goes off

Wired online published a piece today with some classic quotes from living speculative fiction legend Harlan Ellison. With his acerbic wit in full biting force, Ellison rants in the included video piece.

This article hit home in two ways:

  1. First, the interview was at South-by-Southwest in Austin where my buddy Roy is having roaring time as an attendee
  2. Second, the writer-game-in-Hollywood speech sounds like my brother going off about the town's studio expectations

Ellison remains one of the most colorful writers around. I remember reading Again, Dangerous Visions back in the early eighties. He edited the Dangerous Visions series and it remains one of the most impressive collections of great speculative fiction you'll ever have the pleasure of reading. He's not only a great writer, he knows great writers.

For insights into included authors, check out this list. Ursula K. LeGuin won an award for her story in the book, and Ellison, deservedly so, won an award for editing the anthology.

So, as a fan, it's always nice to see Ellison show up again in the press. You know he's not pulling any punches. He never has.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Interesting clone premise

In this book review from an Indian news site, critic Sudipta Datta sparks interest in Priya Sarukkai Chabria's new story about 14th century clones in the 24th century.

Although I can't find this book on Amazon, it's likely he's read a review copy. The novel sounds interesting enough. With references to 1984 and Brave New World, Datta comments on the book's future speculation profile. With the cloning focus, it seems more like Huxley than Orwell.

As soon as this tome becomes available, it sounds worth reading. Datta is distracted by the excess of digressions...but, who knows, perhaps that's exactly what some readers need right now.