DAVID BRIN's world of ideas WRITING & science fiction Is SF truly "the literature of change"? Can it help teach? What are the tricks of the trade and methods of good storytelling? What controversies roil the genre of exploration? legislating the FUTURE? West Virginia delegate Ray Canterbury proposed legislation to teach science fiction in the classroom to "stimlate interest in math and science." search for EXTRATERRESTRIAL INTELLIGENCE Where is everybody? POLITICS for the 21st CENTURY Ever-changing and always paasionate, my blogs and articles are not limited by the absurd so-called "left-right political axis"! economy PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE Taxes? our PINTERESTING world Browse articles about science, tech, transparency, and what kind of future awaits us. science & space Expanding our horizons: As an astrophysicist, Brin has studied our solar system and beyond. media, film & games Videos, podcasts, games, speeches and TV appearances... and more podcasts galore! will we ever ACHIEVE a POSITIVE-SUM SOCIETY? COLLAPSING societies
10 of the Greatest Essays on Writing Ever Written If there’s one topic that writers can be counted on to tackle at least once in their working lives, it’s writing itself. A good thing too, especially for all those aspiring writers out there looking for a little bit of guidance. For some winter inspiration and honing of your craft, here you’ll find ten great essays on writing, from the classic to the contemporary, from the specific to the all-encompassing. Note: there are many, many, many great essays on writing. “Not-Knowing,” Donald Barthelme, from Not Knowing: the Essays and Interviews of Donald Barthelme. In which Barthelme, a personal favorite and king of strange and wonderful stories, muses on not-knowing, style, our ability to “quarrel with the world, constructively,” messiness, Mallarmé, and a thief named Zeno passed out wearing a chastity belt. “The not-knowing is crucial to art, is what permits art to be made.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot's prison letters to Slavoj Žižek 2 January 2013 Dear Nadezhda, I hope you have been able to organise your life in prison around small rituals that make it tolerable, and that you have time to read. Here are my thoughts on your predicament. John Jay Chapman, an American political essayist, wrote this about radicals in 1900: "They are really always saying the same thing. They don't change; everybody else changes. But what is this truth? [Žižek then explores what he sees as a global trend towards limiting democracy.] But the crisis provided proof that it is these experts who don't know what they are doing, rather than the people. No wonder, then, that Pussy Riot make us all uneasy – you know very well what you don't know, and you don't pretend to have any quick or easy answers, but you are telling us that those in power don't know either. Comradely greetings, Slavoj 23 February 2013 Dear Slavoj, Once, in the autumn of 2012, when I was still in the pre-trial prison in Moscow with other Pussy Riot activists, I visited you. Nadia
The Colonial Machine: French Science and Overseas Expansion in the Old Regime (De Diversis Artibus): J. McClellan III and F. Regourd: 9782503532608: Amazon.com Political agency and changing the world In her Guest of Honor speech at Denvention, Lois Bujold said: In fact, if romances are fantasies of love, and mysteries are fantasies of justice, I would now describe much SF as fantasies of political agency. All three genres also may embody themes of personal psychological empowerment, of course, though often very different in the details, as contrasted by the way the heroines “win” in romances, the way detectives “win” in mysteries, and the way, say, young male characters “win” in adventure tales. But now that I’ve noticed the politics in SF, they seem to be everywhere, like packs of little yapping dogs trying to savage your ankles. Not universally, thank heavens—there are wonderful lyrical books such as The Last Unicorn or other idiosyncratic tales that escape the trend. I’d never thought about this before, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since. It is, of course, possible to find exceptions to “fantasy of political agency,” as Bujold herself does above.
Writers and critics on the best books of 2013 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw (Fourth Estate) is a brilliant, sprawling, layered and unsentimental portrayal of contemporary China. It made me think and laugh. William Boyd By strange coincidence two of the most intriguing art books I read this year had the word "Breakfast" in their titles. Bill Bryson The Compatibility Gene by Daniel M Davis (Allen Lane) is an elegantly written, unexpectedly gripping account of how scientists painstakingly unravelled the way in which a small group of genes (known as MHC genes) crucially influence, and unexpectedly interconnect, various aspects of our lives, from how well we fight off infection to how skilfully we find a mate. Eleanor Catton My discovery of the year was Eimear McBride's debut novel A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing (Galley Beggar Press): in style, very similar to Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, but the broken ellipses never feel like a gimmick or a game. Shami Chakrabarti Sarah Churchwell Jim Crace Roddy Doyle
Facebook and Microsoft help fund rightwing lobby network, report finds | World news Some of America’s largest technology and telecoms companies, including Facebook, Microsoft and AT&T, are backing a network of self-styled “free-market thinktanks” promoting a radical rightwing agenda in states across the nation, according to a new report by a lobbying watchdog. The Center for Media and Democracy asserts that the State Policy Network (SPN), an umbrella group of 64 thinktanks based in each of the 50 states, is acting as a largely beneath-the-radar lobbying machine for major corporations and rightwing donors. Its policies include cutting taxes, opposing climate change regulations, advocating reductions in labour protections and the minimum wage, privatising education, restricting voter rights and lobbying for the tobacco industry. The network’s $83.2m annual warchest comes from major donors. More surprisingly, backers also include Facebook and Microsoft, as well as the telecoms giants AT&T, Time Warner Cable and Verizon.
Reading our way around the world in 365 days Evan Selinger: What Sci-Fi Can Teach Us About the Present and Future of Information Combine growing attachment to smartphones with advances in cutting-edge goggles (think Google Glass), and what do you get? Acceptance of augmented reality (AR), which supposedly became ready for "prime time" last year. With the technology out of the incubator and in our living rooms, Silicon Valley's mouthpieces are becoming increasingly comfortable generating hype about the exciting new world it will create. Get ready, they say, for a "more information-rich, more navigable, more interesting, more fun" existence. Equating more with better is an old advertising trick. Persuasive jingles need desirable products, or at least evocative references to them. With so many changes to look forward to, Evernote CEO Phil Libin speculates that soon it will seem "seem barbaric" to look at the world without AR lenses. Maughan and I began to exchange ideas about technology when he contributed to a recent article I wrote for The Atlantic: "Augmented Reality Racism." So, how does this transfer to AR?
50 Books That Define the Past Five Years in Literature Five years ago this month saw the publication of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 in English — which made it one of those rare moments when you could walk into a coffee shop, step onto a bus, or enter a bookstore and find someone raving about or devouring an ambitious novel that topped a thousand pages. Bolaño’s posthumously published book topped almost every year-end list and signaled yet another shift in literary tastes, creating larger audiences for works in translation, historical storylines, and narrative complexity. The years since the publication of 2666 have been a strange but undeniably excellent time to be a fan of literature. Open City, Teju Cole (2012) It’s hard to believe that Cole only has only published a novella and this novel on the life and times of a Nigerian immigrant student, and not volumes and volumes of his prolific writings for such publications as The New Yorker, Granta, and the New York Times, but a novel this wonderful and fully realized will do (for now).
15 Works of Dystopian Fiction Everyone Should Read Dystopian fiction has enjoyed a renaissance in these scary post-9/11 times, and the fact that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is sure to destroy all competition at the box office is a testament to the fact that, weirdly enough, fiction set in some post-apocalyptic world run by some totalitarian government has occupied the same place in the current cultural zeitgeist as otherworldly monsters like vampires and zombies. Although the books were initially written for teenagers, adults have helped make The Hunger Games a cultural phenomenon. Maybe the trilogy is not as iconic as George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, or Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (all of which you should already have read), but it’s definitely required reading if you find yourself drawn to dystopian fiction. Invitation to a Beheading, Vladimir Nabokov
Crimes of Art and Terror: Frank Lentricchia, Jody McAuliffe: 9780226472058: Amazon.com 20 Essential Books About the Next Step in Human Evolution Hm, I dunno. Natural (as in, not being directed by humans or a third party. It seems many of the examples on this list are not of the natural sort) evolution is something that one can't really predict. Though considering that humans are the only species with the concept of genetics and evolution, (well, as far as we know...) to what degree does "natural" evolution really apply to us? I'm left thinking about a couple things.