This delicious topic for the meeting was suggested by David Bofinger.
Garry Dalrymple opened the meeting with some bad news, Nick Stefoplis has
had a heart attack. G. Harry Stine has died, and George Hayes has died. We
congratulated Futurian Mark Phillips on becoming a father. We were warned
that a new movie has been released that may have been intended as a
prequel for Frank herbet's "Dune", called "Spiceworld". There is also a
rumour that a six hour TV miniseries of "Dune" is being planned. The new
Kevi n Costner film "The Postman" based on a david Brin novel has gotten
mixed reviews. Reports ae that David Brin is happy with it, but then the
press releases always say that. When reviewed on the SBS "Movie Show",
they praised the content and the issues but damned the execution. To me,
this sounds like the novel would be worth reading, but the movie misses
Brian Walls reported that the "Starburst" science fiction magazine now
comes with a CDROM. Peter Eisler announced that the CanCon roleplaying
game convention would be held over the Australia Day weekend at Lake
Ginanderra College, Belconnen, Canberra. David Bofinger related that the
lunar prospector has reached a 100km orbit of the moon, and is sending
data back at the amazingly slow speed of 3600 bits per ssecond. Most
modern computer modems operate at around 33600 bits per second. The lunar
prospector i s searching for ice on the moon using neutron scattering. The
robot has found that the moon has a magnetic field. This is the first
scientific moon mission since Apollo 17.
Eric Lindsay regaled us with tales of the practical jokes you can play in
the cardiac ward of a hospital. Apparently cardiac patients are connected
to their heart monitor via an antenna. Eric found that if he moved out of
the door, the antenna moved out o f range with the heart monitor and the
nurses thought he had died when his heart signal stopped registering. Eric
has also participated in a double blind test of an experimental new heart
Mark informed us that the Reading Group would be meeting on Thursday 28th
January at around 6pm at Galaxy bookshop, before moving on to their room
in the Imperial Arcade nearby. They would be discussing Gene Wolfe's "Book
of the New Sun". The Powerhouse M useum held a "Space fact and fantasy"
festival over January, including talks on SETI. The Search for
On the TV news and in News Scientist its been reported that longevity
scientists ahve been able to successfully extend the life of cells by
applying an enzyme that extends the telomere "fuse" that determines how
long a cell lives before self-destructing. This has applications to heart
disease, eye diseases and cancer treatments. How long individual cells
can live was once the absolute upper limit on how long it was possible for
humans to live, regardless of treatments for aging and disease. This limit
n o longer applies. Further in New Scientist, the USA is experimenting
with laser powered spacecraft. The laser engine stayss on the ground and
heats air in a bell under the craft in a pulse that pushes the craft into
orbit on a column of heated air. A patent has been taken out on a unisex
aphrodisiac based on chilli, that is supposed to be applied to the
genitals directly. If the wrong dose is used, it may be a long time before
any sort of aphrodisiac can help your love life. I receieved in email an
advert isement from an US company that is planning on taking people into
the upper atmosphere for 3 minutes of weightlessness - "civilian
The topic of humans treated as meat in science fiction was opened for
discussion. In Larry Niven's Known Space novel "A Gift From Earth",
colonists are used for spare organs for an aristocracy's medical needs. In
"The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton", a future i s portrayed in which people are
regularly abducted by organised criminals to be broken down into orrgans
to be sold on the black market to wealthy customers. Once the problems of
rejection and reattachment are solved, a healthy organ transplant can cure
a lmost any disease or injury. In other short stories, Larry Niven relates
how these medical advances lead to executed criminals being forced to
donate organs to public organ banks, and a greedy public voting in the
death penalty for smaller and smaller crimes.
Greg Egan's "The Extra" has people growing clones at home from kits. ""A
planet called Sheol" by Cordwainer Smith and "Aplanet called Treason" by
Orson Scott Card feature people who grow extra organs on their bodies for
harbvest and off-planet export. The movie "Seconds" is about organlegging,
as is the movie "Freejack", where they steal organs from people in the
past using a time machine.George Alec Effinger's "A fire in the Sun"
features organlegging - black market sales of human ogans for transplants.
The movie and TV series "Max Headroom" featured a gray market organ bank
where they weren't too particular whether the bodies they bought were dead
yet. In fact they paid extra for a "live dead body". In the Star Trek
episode "Spock's Brain", aliens steal Mr Spock's brain for their computer
system. Dr McCoy is able to supply a temporary replacement while they
chase after the thieves.
Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" has an entire human illicitly constructed
from the organs of several dead people. Garry insisted we include the
story of Genesis from the Old Testament, as Eve is cloned from Adam's rib.
Movies such as Woody Allen's "Sleeper" have an attempt to reconstruct a
dictator from the only organ left after an assassination - his nose. In
the movie "Alien resurrection", the central character's body is cloned
along with her stored personality after her death - the company literally
own her soul. Other bodies owned by the company are hijacked. "World Out
Of Time" by Larry Niven has a future where the minds of cryogenically
preserved people are extracted and transplanted to condemned criminal's
In "Piecework" by David Brin, women rent their uterus for
nanotechnologically built hardware to be grown in. They give birth to the
hi-tech tools and parts.
"The Great Galactics" by A E Van Vogt features alien vampires who feed on
blood and life energy. The movie "Dark Angel" starring Dolf Lundgren has
alien vampires mugging people for their endorphins. "Liquid Sky" has
aliens stealing endorphins from men hav ing sex.
Larry Niven's "Assimilating our Culture" is about aliens who take tissue
samples during a "routine medical", and then clone them for human organs
to use as delicacies. The Shepherd" by Orson Scott Card is about a man who
saves a colony from human-eating alien invaders by serving them up as
dinner a piece at a time rather than killing them outright.
Vernor Vinge's "A Fire Upon The Deep" features a malevolent aline who fits
whole planets of people with modems and uses them as remotes. Neuromancer
by William Gibson had prostitutes who ran on electronic auto-pilot while
renting out their bodies. "Plague of Demons" had aliens abducting people
to use their brains in military tanks. "Software" by Rudy Rucker has
sentient robots ginding up h umans to extract their mental software, and
the robots surgically implanting electronic "rats" in people's heads in
order to operate them as remotes.
"Dead Man Switch" by Timothy Zahn features a Faster Than Light drive that
can only be operated by someone who is killed as the drive is started.
"Bordered in Black" by Larry Niven is about bleak future world of
cannibals. "Soylent Green" by Harry Harrison is about a bleak future with
Phillip K. Dick's "Prepeople" has a dark future where the legal definition
of humanity is an ability to do algebra. Hence young children and Arts
students are "prepeople" with no legal right to live.
The next meetings topic will be "Earth", the seventh planet in from the
edge of the solar system.