Mark Changizi's "The Vision REvolution" is about the latest research into the way humans see the world. Mark uses the metaphor of super-powers to entertainingly communicate how we see, and how our ancestors saw, and the special abilities we possess but take for granted, such as X-ray vision, and colour empathy.
Recently in Book reviews
Mark Changizi's "The Vision REvolution" is about the latest research into the way humans see the world. Mark uses the metaphor of super-powers to entertainingly communicate how we see, and how our ancestors saw, and the special abilities we possess but take for granted, such as X-ray vision, and colour empathy.
Earth (novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Cover art of Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein (1973) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
code of the lifemaker (Photo credit: cdrummbks)
The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner
Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
Jagged Orbit by John Brunner
Shockwave Rider by John Brunner
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
The Star Fraction by Ken Macleod
The Stone Canal by Ken Macleod
The Cassini Division by Ken Macleod
Dark Light by Ken Macleod
The Night Sessions by Ken Macleod
Market Forces by Richard Morgan
Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan
Accelerando by Charles Stross
Singularity Sky by Charles Stross
Consider Phlebus by Iain M Banks
Permutation City by Greg Egan
Quarantine by Greg Egan
Schrodinger's Cat by Robert Anton Wilson
A Fire Upon The Deep by Vernor Vinge
Rainbow's End by Vernor Vinge
True Names by Vernor Vinge
Across Realtime by Vernor Vinge
EarthGrip by Harry Turtledove
Norstrilia by Cordwainer Smith
The Instrumentality of Mankind by Cordwainer Smith
Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
Inherit the Sky by James P Hogan
Code of the Lifemaker by James P Hogan
Existence by David Brin
Earth by David Brin
Kiln People by David Brin
Sundiver by David Brin
Methuselah's Children by Robert Heinlein
Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein
The Door Into Summer by Robert Heinlein
The Past Through Tomorrow volumes 1 and 2 by Robert Heinlein
Cyteen by CJ Cherryh
Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold
Mindplayers by Pat Cadigan
Patterns by Pat Cadigan
The Mote In God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Ringworld by Larry Niven
Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis
Dune by Frank Herbert
The Godmakers by Frank Herbert
Space Merchants by Frederick Pohl
Software by Rudy Rucker
The Hacker and the Ants by Rudy Rucker
For the Win by Cory Doctorow
Flicker by Theodore Roszak
Starfish by Peter Watts
BlindSight by Peter Watts
Bold As Love by Gwyneth Jones
Peter and I attended a book lanch for Lee Child's new Jack Reacher novel called "The Affair". At the Random House book launch, was Duncan who had last year won the Jack Reacher look-a-like competition. Duncan was written into the latest novel as a character, so he's both real and fictional. They offered door prizes, and Peter won the first prize, and posed for some pictures with Jack Reacher, and I joined in:
I'm now half way through "The Affair", the first Jack Reacher novel I've read. Good fun!
Today I found a Christian Theologian attacking Richard Dawkins in the Sydney Morning Herald The article was actually an advertisement for the Creationist's new book. Was it a free ad? Or was he a paid contributor?
It was no surprise that an article entitled "Questions Darwinism cannot answer" was written by a Creationist. "Darwinism" is a word only used by Creationists. Perhaps the article should have been labelled as the advertisement for his book that it surely was?
What are these questions for "Darwinism"? After slogging through a personal attack on Richard Dawkins and implying that every atheist is an evil murdering fascist, it turns out they're Christian Apologetic questions and not scientific questions at all. I'll start with the questions and get to the slog afterwards.
The first question was "When does design become domination?" If the Universe is an artificial artifact as Mr Creationist insists, then it emulates a wild natural environment extremely well and we are living in The Matrix. If we are living in The Matrix, then any "Act of God" like a murderous bush fire is an infringement of free will - which is domination. The administrators of fake reality would be cruel and unethical to impose so much suffering without the consent of the free beings who inhabit the fake world.
This question assumes that that the world we are informed of by our senses, our instruments and each other is fake. If the world is a simulation then its either being run by non-human aliens, or its being run by our post-human descendants as an ancestor simulation. If the persons running the simulation impose suffering and limit choice, then they are dominating.
"Why did God create human beings, lay a good life out before them and then include the capacity to behave otherwise?" he asks. Again this assumes that the evidence of our senses is faked. Evolution and geology and nuclear physics show that life developed through small changes over very long periods of time. They show that the universe is full of things moving around in random ways, except where humans create artifacts. Humans were not created, they evolved from earlier forms of hominid and the hominids from earlier primates, the primates from earlier mammals, all the way back to the earliest self-replicating molecules that weren't properly alive. However, as good theologians we should ignore the evidence. If we didn't have free will we'd be zombies who just reacted to stimulus from a pre-programmed script. That answers your second question. If we live in a simulation as Creationists insist, then the persons who run the simulation didn't want zombies. There's no evidence that we live in The Matrix.
Finally, "Would knowing why there is something rather than nothing make a difference to life?" Darwin's answer is that curiosity is a behaviour that promotes the spread of genes, so it was selected for in the random evolution of our ancestors. Most of us want to know the answers of our origins, and we are not satisfied with silly stories about a stork or a dove.
Mr Creationist claims that evolution cannot explain the origin of life. We have seen self-replicating molecules start replicating from non-living matter. We have found the organic molecules essential for life in distant clouds of interstellar gas. We can scientifically explain the origin of life. He concludes that evolution cannot cast light on life's destiny. Evolution shows us that life doesn't have a destiny, the Watchmaker is blind. Evolutionary processes can build eyes up, or blind them, depending on the environment that animals live and breed in, but the process is random, and the environment changes randomly.
"Evolutionary theory" does NOT require or imply "continuous creation" Mr Creationist. Evolution doesn't require any intervention by magical persons at all, its the inevitable outcome of mutant survivors of disasters breeding their inheritable traits into the next generation. Mutation and sexual recombination produce variation, predators and changing environment provide the random selection. The inevitable outcome is that some variations will breed more than others and species change over very long periods of time.
Mr Creationist, quoting notable people is an Argument from Authority. With your high academic station, you surely know that its a logically invalid argument, so why did you use it? "These lines of reasoning do not prove God's existence". Could it be that you simply don't have a valid argument?
Ad Hominem attacks are not valid arguments, either, but this doesn't stop you from personally attacking Richard Dawkins. Of course the attack is simply a disguise for the same vilification of atheists as mass murdering fascists as used by Toongabbie Anglicans a few weeks ago in their sermon "Does God exist?". Mr Creationist vilifies atheists as supporting "imperialism, genocide, mass deportation, ethnic cleansing, eugenics, forced sterilisations and infanticide." He then admits that reality doesn't match his opinion, because his vilification is false. Instead of apologising and explaining his error, he accuses Richard Dawkins of lacking commitment, courage and philosophical conviction. It looks like a classic case of Freudian projection.
Mr Creationist uses arguments which he admits are invalid, vilification which he admits is invalid, claims of definition which are easily shown to be invalid, and questions which are for his contradictory Creationist cosmology and not validly for Darwin at all. Perhaps Mr Creationist lacks the courage of his own philosophical convictions? Could he have abandoned valid methods of argument and persuasion because he doesn't believe his position can be validly argued? Or is this just the usual request to open your wallet?
Whipping bunnies by Ian Woolf and Peter Eisler
"If not chocolate, life around here is astonishingly like lamington."
-- Damien Broderick 1977
The meeting opened with the news that John Brunner, E. Whitemoore,
Pierre Barbet and Michael Ende ended and that Greg Egan didn't win a
Hugo. Harlan Ellison will be at the Power House Museum in February;
questions about the ransom will be asked.
Graham Stone showed us an article written by Jadwiga Jarvis in the
Australian Bookcollector October 1995 issue, page 24. Graham was very
proud of the description Jarvis gave of his character and values.
Graham also showed us a copy of the Canberra Science Fiction Society
Inc. newsletter he'd read, which he described as being one of those
magazines read only by those who put it together.
"Our second-hand culture may be dull, and anxious to remain dull, but
the implosions and exhalations of radical change are seldom contained
for long by the strictures of rule-book efficiency experts."
-- Damien Broderick 1977
Brian Wall explained that the Dallas Option had been taken by the
makers of the new movie Aliens 4, to loud sounds of derision from all.
Ian revealed that "The Sydney Morning Herald" reported on Elvish
interference with road building in Iceland. Roadworks were stopped when
large stones that were said to be the homes of local Elves were
reached. A medium was brought in to negotiate with the Elves, and
permission was granted to move the stones, as long as no explosives
were used. In a world-first, the Elves condescended to be interviewed
through the agent of the medium on Iceland radio. Ian described an
Icelandic survey which showed that 10% of Icelandic folk believed in
Elves, 10% denied their existence, and 80% refused to say, in case the
Elves were listening. A cultural comparison was drawn to the New
Zealand belief in the mystic powers of the All-Blacks.
"If a son asks for bread, the odds are high indeed that his father will
give him a stone (or a lamington)."
-- Damien Broderick 1977
More on mules was discussed, as it has been one of the enduring threads
of Futurian discussion. Ian reported that only one mule couple has
reproduced successfully in all of recorded history; as reported in
Strange Magazine 1988. This was because, while horses have 24
chromosomes, and donkeys have 22 chromosomes, mules have only 23
chromosomes - of course. This is not sufficient to produce a viable
offspring by current understanding of genetics; an even number is
required. Gary then expounded on his theories of cross-species mating.
He revealed intimate knowledge of attempted experiments between apes
and humans. He explained that closely related species could mate in
such a way that one species' chromosomes were recessive. After such a
hybrid was born, it would look like an ordinary ape. When another
adventurous human tried rishathra, the offspring could be a human.
These genetic combinations may explain certain nightclubs frequented by
some of our members. This may also explain parthenogenesis in certain
lizards, claimed Gary. They may have bred with the other-species lizard
next door, thus attaining sufficient chromosomes to continue to
reproduce without male assistance. Gary tried too illustrate his theory
with drawings and a flashing red light. Further speculation was deemed
"Australian science fiction? Yes indeed. Warm-blooded, clawed and
billed, it hatches and suckles its young, glides daringly from
eucalyptus trees...Alas it carries a Qantas ticket in its pouch."
-- Damien Broderick 1977
Forking kangaroo genitalia once again raised their heads. An episode of
Quantum seen by three of our members had depicted koalas being milked
for semen. A close-up clearly revealed the pronged nature of their
genitals. This led to the confirmation of the bifurcated genitals of
marsupial, and by extrapolation to kangaroos. Graham then fondly
reminisced about the times he had watched kangaroos mating, and had
never seen any evidence of forked penises. However, he had observed
that they had curves like a teapot, which he mused may have functioned
to get around the obstacle of the tail. Thus continued the
Ron Clarke idly pondered aloud the topic for next months meeting, and
was surprised to be met with overwhelming cries of "TREES!".
Ian announced the arrival of living fridge magnets on the market.
Graham then suggested that this idea could be extended to venus
flytraps, and then proceeded to lecture Ian on the topic, until Ian
explained that he had cultivated carnivorous plants for ten years and
had a few hundred at home.
The OzCon memory book was hawked to raise money to recover debts from
the last convention. Looking at the photos from a couple of decades
ago, it became obvious that Eric Lindsay has the secret of eternal
youth and Ron Clarke doesn't.
Brian Wall showed us Exposure magazine and Nexus magazine, both of
which had as cover stories the Fake Moon Landing. Peter added that the
Weekly World News had covered the same story recently. Eric opined that
this was all the result of the movie "Capricorn One". Ian explained
that the hoax was to cover up the real moon landing. This led to
discussion of pyramids on Mars and whether they kept razor blades
sharp. It was suggested that pyramidal razor sharpening was responsible
for the ancient Egyptian fashion of fake beards. All eyes turned to
Gary recommended the "Bloomsbury Good Reading Guide to Science Fiction
and Fantasy" by the strangely named Zool. It was pointed out that the
author had a minor role in Ghostbusters. The entry for L.Ron Hubbard's
work had everybody in stitches. He suggested the Futurians should put
together a similar guide to Australian content. Thus the topic of
Images of Australia in Science Fiction literature was begun.
"Australian science fiction? Sometimes the flow is blocked; sometimes
it runs uphill to greener pastures; sometimes it gurgles into the sand
and leaves little trace."
-- Damien Broderick 1977
First up, George Turner was mentioned, his latest book is "Genetic
Soldier" but nobody had read his books so nobody knows how he depicts
Australia. Cordwainer Smith (alias Paul Linebarger, author of the
military textbook "Psychological Warfare" and advisor to President
Kennedy) depicted Australia invaded by a Chinese Empire after seeding a
colony world with Old North Australian culture and becoming rich from
an immortality drug manufactured from giant sick sheep, and protected
by psychic mad minks.
"Mutant Message Down Under" was murmured by many people but nobody knew
what it was about or who wrote it. Gabriel Lord's "Salt" was mentioned
but nobody had read it.
Richard Lupoff's "Space War Blues" features Aboriginal spacemen
genetically tailored to survive in vacuum. "The Exromantine War" by
Gary's High School History teacher described a future where a plague
had made reproduction by placental animals impossible. Scientists
develop a marsupial male human who is irresistible to women - of
Jonathon Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" included coordinates for Lilliput
that places it in the Nullabor Plain. Robert Heinlein in the Roads Must
Roll features an Australian ambassador who is depicted as a white
racist. John Wyndham's "The Chrysalids" mentions New Zealand as a
mutant haven. The Futurians were becoming desperate for literary
Greg Egan in "Quarantine" depicts a New Hong Kong colony being set up
in the Northern Territory, and an East Coast where everybody is black,
with artificial aid if necessary. In "Permutation City", Sydney is
still pocked with great gaping holes from incomplete construction
projects in the 21st century.
A. Bertram Chandler in his "Rim Worlds" novels features a Melbourne
Port Authority that is the central spaceport on Earth, and a galaxy
full of place names taken from Australian and British suburbs, such as
the Empire of Waverly.
Zeitgeist, a collection of Australian science fiction stories selected
by Damien Broderick; was agreed to be an example of awful Australian
science fiction published in 1977. The collection includes a story by
G. M Glaskin about ferocious man-eating sheep called "The Inheritors".
Fred Astaire played a nuclear physicist at the end of the world in a
movie set in Melbourne, based on the novel "On the Beach" by Nevil
Shute. This led us inevitably to Australia as depicted in science
"We all press our mouths to the grease-nipple; for us, pity and terror
are newly shaped, and can benefit from new means of expression."
-- Damien Broderick 1977
"The Quiet Earth", a New Zealand post-apocalyptic film about immortal
survivors of the explosion of the sun. "Mad Max" and its sequels
feature a post-apocalyptic petrol-hungry Australia. "Salute to the
Jugger" is an post-apocalyptic movie depicting an Australia obsessed
with gladiatorial ball-games. "The Time Guardian" depicted a
time-travelling city that spent some time in Australia.
"Tank Girl" once again featured marsupial males who were irresistible
to women for reasons we'd rather not go into again. "Tank girl" exists
as both a post-apocalyptic British comic series and an American film
"...(the scent of a primer, after all, is the early morning promise of
a bright moon)..."
-- Damien Broderick 1977
(or as the Americans later translated these words "I love the smell of
napalm in the morning.")
"Stark" by Ben Elton exists both as a novel and a television
adaptation. It is set in present-day Australia, with conspiracies by
wealthy West-Australian businessmen. Apparently "The Amtrack Wars"
mention Australia in passing in the books but not the video adaptation.
A Japanese empire looks down on Australians because of our distance
from their holy island.
"One last lamington as envoi."
-- Damien Broderick 1977
It was noted that there is much juvenile Australian science fiction
around, particularly in TV series. Patricia Wrightson's "Nargun and the
stars" has been adapted to a TV series. "Andra" was compulsory viewing
in some high schools in the 1980's.
Length is important by Ian Woolf and Peter Eisler
The meeting started with a discusssion of how to get people back
into reading science fiction rather than just looking at it, and
a demand to know why Ron had muted our mule when editing the
title of our last article. Ron suggested a magazine with short
stories and novellas and having the main story written for
instance in the Star Trek universe. At this point, David read us
chapter and verse on the lineage of Novels, Novellas and
Novellettes (not knowing as we do that they mean Mr, Mrs and Miss
in esperanto). The argument that length was important was
winning, until German and Italian Romantics came into the
Basenji-adoptee Gary was ambushed every time he tried to open his
mouth to contribute to the discussion, so he passed around
photocopies of his Basenji. This quieted everyone as they
tried to understand why they were looking at this carefully
folded bit of paper and passing it along, with the exception
of the few members who had attended the Other Dimensions meeting,
who laughed out loud.
Susan explained that Absolute Magnitude (nee Harsh Mistress)
should be a Jenny Craig weight loss magazine. Mark declared that
CJ Cherryh is huge. Graham again explained he is in
correspondance with a magazine collector who, if its a magazine,
collects it. Brian revealed that the original Director's Cut of
the Stallone movie "Judge Dredd" contained the Sex-shop scenes
cruelly cut from the present release.
Graham declared that he was not aware of any science
fiction stories relating to Trees. Members were amazed that he
had missed out on the Day of the Triffids, The Integral Trees,
The Word For World Is Forest, The Man In The Tree, and all the
other well know stories in the important Tree sub-genre. Ian
proposed that the meeting after next be on the topic of Trees in
Brian reported that the Vatican would no longer accept applicants
for the priesthood who were allergic to Christ. The Catholic
Church has abolished transubstantiation, once the only
present-day miracle still acknowledged by the modern Church. As a
result, people who suffer from allergic digestive ailments or
alcoholism are now barred from the priesthood as they are no
longer magically protected from the gluten in the bread by having
it miraculously turn into the flesh of Yeshua ben Yosef, and the
alcohol transforming into his blood. A story where a priest
genuinely finds human flesh and blood in his Chalice is being
held by Harlan Ellison for the next collection of his "Dangerous
Visions" series. Ransom has not been discussed. Gary explained
that St Petersburg was a nice setting for cannibalism as the
police had other fish to fry.
Locus science fiction magazine asked what books you would take on
a desert island. Peter suggested the complete works of Isaac
Asimov so that you could build a bridge to the mainland, or
barring that, a book on surviving on a desert island. Locus's
next question was which author you would bring with you. Many
suggestions were listed, from Asimov to Shakespeare. It was
pointed out that all of these people were dead. Peter pointed out
that this was a bonus, as dead authors ate less and could be used
for emergency rations. Death has not slowed the output of many
authors, it was noted that Asimov and Hubbard are still releasing
new books. Mark reported that posthumous collaboration of Isaac
Asimov and L Ron Hubbard could be expected. One of the other dead
authors listed was Anthony Trollope, which Mark found to be a
strange choice for Locus. Peter pointed out that trollops were
always welcome on a desert island.
Pictures from the Roswell Incident film were passed around,
and the absence of certain physical features on the "female
alien cadaver" prompted some profound questions. (Not, "why do
little blue midgets hit me with fish?")
Susan immediately asked the deep evolutionary physiological
question; why do men have nipples? A discussion of lactating men
followed. This led to the discovery that the Rosswell alien, like
Adam, may have been of immaculate conception.
Discussing the topic was then discussed. The fact that the topic
of the rise and fall of civilsations - "The Long Night" was
altered by editor Ron in the Futurian #10 to refer erroneously to
Galactic Empires. It was reluctantly agreed that stories about
Earth were allowed. However, it was universally agreed that bad
post-apocolypse stories should be ignored.
Runestaff by Michael Moorcock
Post-apocolyptic Mask wearing Masonic Londoners hurt people.
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller jnr
Civilisation is nutured by monks during a post-nuclear holocaust
who rediscover electricity.
Empire of the Atom by A E Van Vogt
Post-nuclear civilsation run by secret mutants.
World of Tiers series by Phillip Jose Farmer
A man who isn't who he thought he was explores the Worlds of
Tiers left from the fall of the Lord's civilisation.
Future History series by Robert Heinlein
Lazarus Long keeps living through the rise and fall and rise of
Eon and Eternity by Greg Bear
An asteroid city from the far future intervenes in the fall ofcivilsation.
Foundation series by Isaac Asimov
A social scientist predicts the fall of galactic civilsation and
sets up some Foundations to make it only a Short Night.
The Long Night by Poul Anderson
The Polesotechnic League of merchant princes flowers and fades to
be succeeded by the Terran Empire which in turn succombs to
decadence, espionage and butlers until it also falls.
Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
Over-population and advanced drugs contribute to the world going to
hell except for one small nation, so they find out why.
Stone that Never Came Down by John Brunner
Civilisation starts to fall until a method of changing human
behaviour is spread by dissadents.
Rim World series by A Bertram Chandler
An Galactic civilisation arises on the Rim of the Galaxy where
the Laws of men and nature are spread thin, in the ashes of a
previous Galactic Empire.
Norstrilia series by Cordwainer Smith
Civilsation rises and falls and rises changing the nature of man
and beast such that we have more in common with the animals of
the future than with the new humans and their sick sheep.
Marching Morons by Cyril Kornbluth
Honest John solves the Moron problem for future geniuses.
Lord of Light by Roger Zelazney
After the fall of Earth, technology makes the Hindu religion the
Galactic Empires edited by Brian Aldiss
Short stories about Galactic Empires.
Space Opera edited by Brian Aldiss
Short stories of Space Operas.
Nightfall by Isaac Asimov
Night falls and civilisation ends once again.
Blood by Michael Moorcock
Engineers drilling into the Ultimate Nature of Reality make a
mistake, and civilisation and Reality decline.
Stainless Steel Rat series by Harry Harrison
A thief is set to catch less clever criminals for the latest
esperanto Galactic government.
Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
Freelance executioner wanders through the ruins of Earth.
The future of the Star Trek universe, after the fall?
Dying Earth series by Jack Vance
In the Last Days bored Sorcerors and thieves battle and time
Armageddon 2419 by Nolan
Buck Rogers sleeps through the fall and rise of galactic
The Time Machine by HG Wells
Man travels through time observing.
Mad Max with gills.
The Giants series by James P. Hogan
Ancient human civilisation rises and destroys itself, leaving
evidence on the moon.
Monkey Planet by Pierre Boulle
Monkeys take over the planet.
The Practice Effect by David Brin
Civilisation falls and rises as a new physical law is unleashed.
Flux and Anchor series by Jack L. Chalker
Civilisation changes as Physical law becomes subject to those
with the stronger will.
Chronicles of Morgain by CJ Cherryh
A gate-closing swordswoman and friend use a vortex.
Planet of No Return series by Harry Harisson
Duo contact worlds lost in the last Fall of civilisation.
Dune series by Frank Herbert
Galactic Empire of drug-addicts arises after an anti-computer
Cthulhu Mythhos cycle by HP Lovecraft
The Old Ones dream us in their Long Night - our nightmare begins
when they awaken.
Pern series by Anne Macaffrey
Dragon-based economy develops after a world is shunned by the
Ringworld by Larry Niven
Civilsation falls after a superconductor-eating plague on the
The Mote in Gods Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Sex-addicted alien civilisation rises and falls due to
The Warlock series by Christopher Stasheff
Democratic rebels escape despotic galactic government to set up
General series by SM Stirling and David Drake
Computer-assisted General conquers a helpless world left from
fall of a Galactic empire.
Spider World series by Colin Wilson
Giant spiders enlave humanity.
Battlefield Earth by L Ron Hubbard
Psychos stripmine Earth.
Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague De Camp
Time-traveler to ancient Rome modernizes it.
Bolo series by Keith Laumer
Giant tanks fight wars
Also mentioned but not read by us:
Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon
War of the Air by HG Wells
Amtrack Wars by Patrick Tilley
Space Viking by H Beam Piper
The Pelbar cycle by PO Williams
City by Clifford Simak
Against a Dark Background by Iain M. Banks
Not a Culture novel
Hainish series by Ursula K LeGuin
The Stone God Awakens by Phillip Jose Farmer
Hyperion cantos by Dan Simmons
The Inquisitor series by S Suchartil
She by CS Forester
People attending the meeting:
Duncan Smith (no relation)
Treed by Russell by Ian Woolf and Peter "Kar" Eisler
The meeting opened with science fiction related news from everyone
around the table. Ian related a technical report published on the
World Wide Web called "Fun with Grapes". You must cut white seedless
grapes in half, put them flat side down on a microwave-safe plate, and
put into a microwave oven on high temperature for 20 seconds. Ian then
described the results and encouraged the members to further
experiments. Ron claimed that peas reacted in a similar manner.
However independent scientific tests disproved this completely. The
speedy aging of wine in microwave ovens was mentioned by Mark. Ian also
reports that Urigeller has sunk to a new low by appearing in bendy
spoon Yoghurt ads.
New Scientist reports on a proposed experiment to test for parallel
universes. It was generally agreed that the experiment should
definitely be performed, and that Schroedinger's Quantum Veterinary
clinic should then be opened. This led to discussion of the escape of
the calicivirus rabbit killing virus in Australia ; to which the
Commonwealth Government reaction is to a consider deliberate release so
they don't look so dumb. There were also reports of evolutionary
atavism in the laboratory - scientists are inducing throwbacks to
earlier body parts in experimental animals. Star Wars fans and
Creationists are believed to be at large in the population. The Gnomes,
Elves and Little Men's Chowder and Marching society was discussed.
As a follow up to the Icelandic Elf survey, Peter reported that a US
survey shows that 2 out of 3 people in the USA believe in Satan, while
1 in 3 believe they have been personally tempted by Satan. Among the
works that people believe Satan has been personally responsible for
are: the Oklahoma city bombing, the spread of pornography, and the rise
of Gay rights.
Peter stole Mark's thunder by reporting that Galaxy bookshop had a
surprize dawn raid by Alan Dean Foster, who then autographed all his
books. This prompted the riddle: "How do you know when Alan Dean Foster
has broken into your home? All your books have been signed!" Peter
further noted "You've got to worry when you find that your Bible has
Brian Walls Reported that Ozcon was coming up. There will be a dinner
for Harlan Ellison somewhere between 4 -7 January 1996 organized by the
Powerhouse museum and Dymoks during writers week in first week of
January. Brian reported upcoming Infinitas bookshop SF meeting. The
Sydney Morning Herald had a "Horror Ditmar" headline. The movie "Island
of Lost Souls" features a whip from Australia - no bunnies, but banned
for sex scenes. He also mentioned an HG wells movie called "Unknown"
featuring an armless knife thrower with Lon Chaney. British copyright
has been extended to now cover 70 years after an author's death, as
opposed to the old limit of fifty years.
Graham Stone reported of Sirius zine "If I write for it, it must be
good.", the price is now up to $7.95. Peter calculated that Graham's
contribution would cost you 70 cents. A new magazine he'd been sent was
Body Dabbler - Australian Crime fiction. Graham noticed that the
previous meeting featured a "Mysterious Nexus appearance" claimed to be
owned by Nobody.
Ron declared "Come to the Lugarno meeting - its mostly women, Brad is
the only regular male in attendance."
The Melbourne 24 hours SF movie marathon was warned to be planned to be
on Saturday 9th December, by now you have missed it. Rocky Horror has a
Summer bikini theme the week before, you missed that one also, it was
very good. However Xmas Rocky will be held on the 22nd December, but
you'll probably have missed that one too. You missed Macquariecon also,
which was announced at the meeting. (You ARE getting slow!)
Gary reports Roswell Alien autopsy film features Basenji-style injury,
however Gary refused to reveal publically if the Basenji yodel. Private
revelations on the matter have been supressed in the name of good
taste. Entertainment Tonight said that Fox rabbitted on about their
own Roswell tape for sale. Fox had Will Riker doing his Orson Wells
impressions for the voice-overs.
"Roots, trunks and leaves - thats a tree." Tonight's topic was opened
by noting the contribution trees had made to science fiction in the
form of paper. A moment of silence was held.
Brian Walls had a flash that he'd read Alien Earth by Edmund Hamilton.
A Westerner goes to a Vietnam village and takes a wonder drug that
slows his metabolism so that he see trees as revolting monsters.
Ron extended his muting from mules to trees by announcing the end of
the meeting just as Peter was about to read his carefully prepared
speech. Some of these references are from that speech.
The Saliva Tree by Brian Aldiss - at the end of time a giant tree
grows to the moon, all that survives on Earth are plants and a few
people. Nobody was able to explain the saliva reference.
Genocides by Thomas Disch - aliens sow seeds on Earth, trees grow
uncontrollably destroying civilisation as we know it. Aliens clean out
all of humanity except root dwellers. Who then die during the harvest.
An uplifting book.
Destiny Doll by Clifford Simak - conifer grid shoots encoded nuts at things.
Broken worlds by Poul Anderson features worlds in a black hole with
people living on heat-engine trees "screw your way into space".
Alan Dean Foster wrote and probably signed Midworld - A Human
ex-commonwealth forest world where the forest alters humans
genetically. Also Green Thieves - daring exploits of criminal trees.
The Stone God Awakens by Phillip Jose Farmer- man sleeps, man wakes,
man fights big tree.
Copernicus Rebellion by Leo Frankowski features tree hosues and
mosquito larvae that eat iron.
Millenium Tree by Kevin ODonnel Jnr features teleporting sentient cacti
in a religious war. Far galaxy picks up human DNA in radio broadcast
and reassembles them onto super massive trees living on asteroids with
atomic drives providing light and thrust.
Seeds from Space by Lawrence Manning (1935) may have inspired Trffids
playboy parasite nonentity gets hit by seeds that grow into intelligent
mobile trees NOT called Russell.
Planet Entity by Clarke Ashton Smith, - vine like plant on Mars decides
to "Branch out" to Earth.
Seeds of the Dust by Raymond Z Galoon - Earth is cold, human
descenbdants bug out to Venus, until Martian trees stop them.
Legion of Space by Jack Williamson -- band shot down and land on a
giant log, monstor amoeba on other end pursues them in the worlds
slowest chase scene. This scene was described to the meeting for longer
than the actual events in the book.
Beyond this Horizon by Robert Heinlein - General Sherman Tree (sequoia)
is head of subversives.
Branch lines by James Blish has crystal vibes in tree for FTL
Son of Tree by Jack Vance - carnivorous agave tree God
Xenocide by Orson Scott Card - aliens kill child and plant a tree in
her corpse to be friendly.
The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin - Hainish tree novel
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham - slapping good tree yarn
Relic of Empire by Larry Niven - genetically engineered trees save the
West of Eden by Harry Harrison smart dinosaurs live in tree cities
The Bride and the Beast by Ed Wood featured a headline "110 000 Chinese
living in trees."
(movie Terminator Tree ruled out as too silly)
Process by A E Van Vogt intelligent trees cope with human intrusions.
Douglas Adams Hitchhikers Guide series featured leaves as currency,
trees as military bases (potentially), and a sentient bowl of
Krugg syndrome by A. McAllister - man is convinced he is the spearhead
of alien invasion of trees.
Spider World by Colin Wilson - alien tree topples human civilsation and
replaces it with spiders.
Earthgrip by Harry Turtledove - Sherlockian logic solves dying tree mystery
Garbage Chronicles by Brian Herbert features mobile vegetable
Shade of the Tree by Piers Anthony - naughty tree upsets woman
Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury - Tree celebrates Halloween
Tree houses to superSEED buildings?
The Man Who Awoke (1933)by Lawrence Manning, Forest dwellers in the
Pirates of venus. by Edgar Rice Burroughs features more forest dwellers
in the future.
Integral Trees by Larry Niven - even more tree dweller in the future
Protector by Larry Niven - Tree of Life provides aliens with yams.
World of Null-A by A.E Van Vogt - non-Aristotlian detective dwells in
trees in the future.
Hothouse by Brian Aldiss - tree dwellers in the future, too.
Deathworld by Harry Harrison features killer trees among forest dweller
in the future.
In other worlds by A. Attanasio features intelligent trees who draw
people through black holes to dwell in them in the future
Houses of Iszm by Jack Vance - secret of forest dwelling carefully
suppressed in the future.
Mother by Phillip Jose Farmer - man dwells inside sessile maternal tree
in the future
Lord of the Trees by Phillip Jose Farmer - Tarzan dwells in trees in
Genesis by Yahweh Elohim - Indian Giver gardner demonstrates the
violence inherent in the system when the fruits of the Tree of
Knowledge are consumed. He takes back the Tree of Life to prevent
equality, and maintain his authoritarian regime. Thus condemning the
descendants to dwell in trees in the future.
Next months topic will be "Probabilities and their breakdown".
Scratch the Giant Carrot by Ian Woolf and Peter Eisler
The meeting opened with Ron Clarke explaining to Eric Lindsay why food
couldn't be sex. Graham Stone regaled us with the latest chapter in his
continuing battle with Jadwiga Jarvis in the Australian Bookcollector,
the latest article was titled "Book Arts My Arse". Ian and Eric brought
food for the end-of-year Food meeting, as everyone had been asked to at
the last meeting by Ron. Nobody else remembered. [Except for Peter, who
couldn't be bothered.]
Eric announced that Harlan Ellison will be appearing at the Powerhouse
Museum on the 5th, 6th, and 7th of January 1996. [You've already missed
this]. To quote from the flyer:
"Harlan Ellison. [What sort of sentence is this?] As a writer, he has
won more Hugo Awards (7 1/2) than anyone. [HALF??? Wasn't that
particular story popular enough for a whole Hugo Award?] As a
screenwriter his name is synonymous with the original [Harlan
Ellison's:] STAR TREK,[Harlan Ellison's:] OUTER LIMITS, and new [Harlan
Ellison's:]TWILIGHT ZONE. Currently Creative Consultant on BABYLON 5
[the only SF TV show with pockets], his world now encompasses the
realms of computer games [ours has encompassed them for years]
(Cyberdream's I HAVE NO MOUTH, AND I MUST SCREAM), and comics (HARLAN
ELLISON'S DREAM CORRIDOR). As Tom Snyder said on the NBC TOMORROW show
[ which no doubt all of you watched]: "An amazing talent; meeting him
is an incredible experience."
We would have gone if they had instead used the quote below:
`"The Last Dangerous Visions" may be the most promising of all (it is
promised for 1980, as it has been annually for the past half-dozen
years)... Largely through his own efforts he has become
controversial... In the past decade Ellison has made increasingly
vocal efforts to detach himself both from fandom and from science
-- James Gunn, 1979
Eric promoted DUFF, MAF - a one way trip across the Sargasso Sea, but
not MUFF. The SF World Con will be making a move to "take back
territory for hard sf." Or at least the closest hill. "People go for
size." Because it is important. "Hopefully gamers will have their own
convention. [We're aware of at least six that were held last year.].
Eric then commented that "there are only a few hard science fiction
writers", to which Gary Dalrymple replied "if only we can get them to
Ian next reported on the success of the MacquarieCon Role Playing Game
Convention, which was echoed by the five gamers at the meeting. Marc
Ortlieb's Bullsheet used the Futurian to keep tabs on the whereabouts
of one Kevin Dillon. [Hi Marc!] Kevin was amused.
Digital Equipment Corporation have published technical reports on the
World Wide Web detailing their discovery of Light Emitting Vegetable
Diodes. They found that if they stuck electrodes in a pickle and turned
up the curent, the pickle glowed. Inspired by this, further DEC
engineers tried the experiment on some Kim Chee which Gary explained
was fermented Korean coleslaw. The Kim Chee didn't glow very much,
however an oscilloscope trace revealed it was performing as a
rectifier, turning the AC into DC. Thus paving the way for new McGuyver
episodes. This in turn inspired the Twinkies Project, inwhich the
American cream cake was subjected to rigorous testing, and reporting on
the internet. The Twinkies were subjected to Solubility, Gravitational,
Radiation, Rapid Oxidation, and finally a Turing test. The Turing test
was last so that they wouldn't feel bad about doing the destructive
experiments if the Twinkies proved to be sentient. Gary explained that
Basenji regard the word "twinkles" as an instruction to ur Ian related
that further tests have shown conclusively that despite Ron's claims at
the previous meetings, peas do not behave as spectacularly in
microwaves as grapes do. It has also been found that red grapes do not
display the same behaviour after being microwaved on high.
Gary informed us that Kevin Doughty is very active in the Conception
display at the Powerhouse. He also revealed [on topic] that Basenji eat
chocolate cake. With great dramatical flair, Gary read out the
following Doctor Who political tract:
"I want to bring fandom together. I want fans to be able to visit
anywhere or move anywhere and be sure in the knowledge taht there'll be
a friendly group of Doctor Who fans, who meet often, not far away. I
want fandm to be fun again. Competition is good but co-operation is
better. Clubs will always compete in merchandise but I'm sure we can
work together in other areas. Remember, the fans are always the most
important. Perhaps, one day, the clubs will join together to organise
that 'round Australia tour that John Pertwee has always wanted. The
first step must be taken now.
Nuzing in ze vurld, can ztop me now...
I've just finished reading the NA Pencil-Case and it really doesn't
stand up against the AF NA Lamp-Post. Thanks to the uproar over the new
Universal Doctor Who Theme Park..."
-- Editorials, Data Extract, Doctor Who Club of Australia
Members of the Doctor Who Club of Australia like to be known as Whoons.
Gary opened the meeting with a tasty description of the movie
"Greenslime", in which an alien algae gets killed by kamikaze
astronauts sponsered by Campbells [who, no doubt, will sue us for
mentioning them, when its really Gary Dalrymple's fault]. This reminded
people of a movie called "The Stuff" [not, to our knowledge related to
the guarana-enriched nectar of the same name] in which killer tofutti
takes over your brain, bubbles out of the ground, and wanders around
the fridge at night. Next came "Soylent Green", which several people
simultaneously, and loudly declared was different to the original Harry
Harrison story "Make Room, Make Room!". Gary then reminded us of the
Doctor Who episodes featuring maggot corgis with greenslime yachting up
the Amazon looking for mushrooms.
Ron then brought up H.G. Well's "Food of The Gods", which prompted a
remark about `Scratch the giant carrot' that nobody understood, and a
New Twilight Zone episode plagiarised by Ellison [synonomously, no
doubt] from `Food of the Gods' featuring dead giant animals. This
reminded Gary of the Japanese mushroom people movie. Which Gary then
enacted for our amusement.
Graham Stone then raised John Wyndham's "Puffball Menace", "Survivor"
and "The Day of the Triffids", wherein Triffids were cultivated for
their edible oil and ground up and fed to blind people. This led to the
novel "Year of the Angry Rabbit" by Russell Braddon, and the movie of
it, "Night of the Lepus". Rabbits terrorize the countryside and eat
This led to the Big Bunny Goodies episode, featuring rabbits that
travel to the moon, and Bill Oddie eating the British Prime Minister.
The Space Merchants by Frederick Pohl featured harmless addictive
alkaloids and cultured meat. An article in a recent issue of New
Scientist disussed a new kilojoule-free oil-substitute that the FDA is
considering. The only safety problems are the fact that it leaches
vitamins out of food you';ve already eaten, and also cancer-preventing
chemicals out of fruit. People eating the oil-substitute found that
when it passed through their bodies undigested, they suffered the
problem of leakage.
Several people remembered the concept of "steak-easies", but none of us
could remember which stories featured the idea or who wrote them.
However we all wanted to visit one.
L. Sprague De Camp's "Hyperpilosity" features a wonder-food that has the
small side effect of covering the consumer with long fur. In John
Christopher's "Death of Grass", all grain crops die.
Peter at this point declared that everybody would now hear his words
before they left rather than after, as happened last month - the rude
bastards. "Bordered in Black" by Larry Niven is about a world of oceans
covered in edible algae, and the continents bordered in black.
"Lucifer's Hammer" was about some well-organised cannibals. "Soft
Weapon" had a carnivorous alien telepath being tortured by a human
vividly remembering eating a carrot.
Norman Spinrad's "Men in the jungle" had a cannibal society that was
well-organised. In "Snow Crash" by Neal Stephenson, Pizza deliveries
are run by organised criminals. In "Only Forward" by Michael Marshall
Smith, had badly organised criminal cannibals, who forced the hero to
wait forever in Pancakes at the Movies. This reminded Gary of the
"cloned foreskin over St Peter's dome basilika", but he wouldn't tell
us why. Peter however was reminded of "Dad's Nuke" by M. Laidlaw, where
Christians had kept Christ's foreskin, cloned it, and were using it as
This reminded Graham of the milk-giving Shmoo in Li'l Abner, although
nobody else could see the connection. Ian then suggested that this was
like Norman Lindsay's "Magic Pudding", who loudly insisted on his
crminal owners eating from him on an organised basis. Frederic Brown's
"Last Vampires" features two vampires who travelled forward in time to
a period inhabited by giant carrots, and starved. Douglas Adam's
Hitchiker's series featured Bistromatics, the Nutromatic machine, the
universe extrapolated from a piece of fairy bread, a space drive based
on a strong cup of tea, and the cow that not only wanted to be eaten,
but was able to say so. In John W. Campbell's "Who Goes There?",
organised people are converted to aliens by eating them.
Michael Coney's "Cat Karina", in which society believed it was
vegetarian, but wasn't. Phillip K. Dick's "Cheery Gum" in which a
happiness drug with no physiological side-effects destroys society when
chewed. "Holy Quarrel" in which aliens invade Earth via Gumball machines. In
"Counter-clock world" backwards-living people consume tubes of hot and
cold sorghum. harry Harrison's "Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers"
features a spacedrive based on cheese. Robert Rankin's "Armageddon"
trilogy features Elvis time travelling due to a Brussel Sprout called
Barry. Peter then shut up, before anyone could leave.
Ian hauled out his list. Frank Herbert's "Dune" series revolved around
spicey worms. Larry Niven in "Their Assimilating Our Culture" has
astronauts who innocently consent to tissue samples horrified to find
their cloned selves in gourmet butcheries. In "Table Manners" humans
must learn to feast with predators inspired by sushimi. "What can you
say about Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers?" features aliens using
pick-up lines as a filter for highly intelligent people to abduct.
Piers Anthony's "Prostho Plus" is about a dentist abducted by aliens.
John Brunner's "The Stone That Never Came Down" is about food that
changes human nature. Orson Scott Card wrote a story about a man who
saves a human colony by persuading aliens to organise to eat them a bit
at a time. In Damon Knight's "To Serve Man" a great punchline is used
that we won't reveal. In "Raturava's Case" by Phillip K. Dick, humans
undergoing near-death are soothed by formless aliens who feed them
religious images. Unfortunately, this involves formless aliens being
given form by being eaten by a structured God, rather than the
Christian ideal of formed humans eating a formless God to take on a
Divine nature. They don't enjoy themselves.
It was decided that June's topic (being mid-winter) shall be Santa
Claus in science fiction.
The Topic That Never Was, or Possessed by J Morrow
by Ian Woolf and Peter Eisler
The meeting opened with Graham Stone reporting that despite the
physical absence of Kevin Dillon, nine adults met at Seven Hills. Also
that the Southern crowd will be meeting on Sunday (you missed it). Jack
Finney and Don Pendleton died. Eric Lindsay pushed the Worldcon in
Australia in 1999 bid yet again. The three main choices open to voters
will be Zagreb, Australia, and Las Vegas (pushed by the Chicago mob
against the will of the Las Vegas members). Eric then dumped several
hundred "Worldcon in Australia in '99" onto the table for the nine
adults present to collect.
Terry Pratchett's heavy schedule was outlined by Kevin and Peter,
alternating locations and times, completely unrehearsed. Apparently he
appeared at Galaxy bookshop, Dymoks bookshop, the NSW State Library,
and Cancon. Eric revealed that there is a Bureau that keeps lists of
writers and organises with venues for displaying them (ASIO?).
"You can't be too cynical about Australian writers", opined Eric,
complaining about the troubles with the local SF writing scene. "If it
hasn't got a dragon or a unicorn on the cover it won't sell." Eric went
on to report that most science fiction titles sell only 2000 copies in
Australia, which deters publishers from spending money. However Qantas
can be persuaded to bump up the class.
Harlan Ellison's visit went well, except that Peter admitted to
insulting Harlan with pedantry. In revenge Harlan harrassed Leigh
Blackmore. A newspaper article was shown reporting the discovery of
several new planets, one of which was calculated to have a surface
temperature of 80 degrees Celcius. The writer pointed out that this makes
liquid water possible, and made much of the idea that this makes
life as we know it possible. However the planet in question is a giant
like Jupiter, so liquid water is unlikely. There was some small
discussion of the fact that it was becoming trendy to feature Leonardo
Da Vinci in SF novels, despite the fact that he's dead.
Eric forged his press pass in an elaborate scam to gain free gifts at
Comdex. Free gifts from various marketers still cross the Pacific in
hopes of wooing Eric's gilded pen. In Las Vegas Eric bought some chips
and was given a free night and meal at the hotel as a result. The next
day someone else cashed them in, and that night they bought the same
amount of chips, and continued the cycle.
Uri Geller, when not making yoghurt ads, now has his own World Wide Web
site, as falsely promoted in the Sydney Morning Herald. The article
reported that Geller had a million dollar psychic challenge open to
denizens of the internet. The basis of the challenge was reported to be
spoon locked in a safe in Geller's house, complete with camera focussed
on it and reporting to the web page. When the spoon bent, the people
connected at that time would be gathered to Geller's house for further
tests. The winner (as determined by Geller) would then get the million
dollars and succeed Uri Geller's lofty position. On investigation, Ian
disovered that Geller is still searching for a sponsor to provide the
million dollars; and the safe, and the camera, and the spoon. Sounds bent to
us. His page contains only a brief explanation of the challenge, and a
series of well laid out advertisements for his consulting business. The
Futurians came up with a better test which will be implemented after
the interactive Basenjis site is activated.
New Scientist had further elf sightings on the cloudtops. The IgNoble
awards were given out by the Annals Of Improbable Research for 1995.
Here is a complete list of the 1995 Ig Nobel Prizewinners:
NUTRITION John Martinez of J. Martinez & Company in
Atlanta, for Luak Coffee, the world's most expensive
coffee, which is made from coffee beans ingested and
excreted by the luak (aka, the palm civet), a bobcat-like
animal native to Indonesia.
PHYSICS D.M.R. Georget, R. Parker, and A.C. Smith, of the
Institute of Food Research, Norwich, England, for their
rigorous analysis of soggy breakfast cereal, published in
the report entitled 'A Study of the Effects of Water
Content on the Compaction Behaviour of Breakfast Cereal
Flakes." [Published in the research journal "Powder
Technology," November, 1994, vol. 81, no. 2, pp. 189-96.]
ECONOMICS Awarded jointly to Nick Leeson and his superiors
at Barings Bank and to Robert Citron of Orange County,
California, for using the calculus of derivatives to
demonstrate that every financial institution has its
MEDICINE Marcia E. Buebel, David S. Shannahoff-Khalsa, and
Michael R. Boyle, for their invigorating study entitled
"The Effects of Unilateral Forced Nostril Breathing on
Cognition." [Published in "International Journal of
Neuroscience," vol. 57, 1991, pp. 239-249.]
LITERATURE David B. Busch and James R. Starling, of
Madison Wisconsin, for their deeply penetrating research
report, "Rectal foreign bodies: Case Reports and a
Comprehensive Review of the World's Literature." The
citations include reports of, among other items: seven
light bulbs; a knife sharpener; two flashlights; a wire
spring; a snuff box; an oil can with potato stopper;
eleven different forms of fruits, vegetables and other
foodstuffs; a jeweler's saw; a frozen pig's tail; a tin
cup; a beer glass; and one patient's remarkable ensemble
collection consisting of spectacles, a suitcase key, a
tobacco pouch and a magazine. [Published in the medical
journal "Surgery," September 1986, pp. 512-519.]
PEACE The Taiwan National Parliament, for demonstrating
that politicians gain more by punching, kicking and
gouging each other than by waging war against other
PSYCHOLOGY Shigeru Watanabe, Junko Sakamoto, and Masumi
Wakita, of Keio University, for their success in training
pigeons to discriminate between the paintings of Picasso
and those of Monet. [Their report, entitled "Pigeons'
Discrimination of Paintings by Monet and Picasso," was
published in "Journal of the Experimental Analysis of
Behavior," vol. 63, 1995, pp. 165-174.]
PUBLIC HEALTH Martha Kold Bakkevig of Sintef Unimed in
Trondheim, Norway, and Ruth Nielson of the Technical
University of Denmark, for their exhaustive study, "Impact
of Wet Underwear on Thermoregulatory Responses and Thermal
Comfort in the Cold." [Published in "Ergonomics," vol 37,
no. 8, Aug. 1994 , pp. 1375- 89.]
DENTISTRY Robert H. Beaumont, of Shore View, Minnesota,
for his incisive study "Patient Preference for Waxed or
Unwaxed Dental Floss." [Published in the research journal
"Journal of Periodontology," vol. 61, no. 2, Feb. 1990,
pp. 123-5. ]
CHEMISTRY Bijan Pakzad of Beverly Hills, for creating DNA
Cologne and DNA Perfume, neither of which contain
deoxyribonucleic acid, and both of which come in a triple
(This data is taken from http://www.improb.com/projects/igs95-winners.html
Up-to-the-minute news about the Ig Nobel Prizes and about the Annals of
Improbable Research can be obtained by sending e-mail to:
Eric elaborated on an AIR article on Rectal Foreign Bodies. The
story one patient gave was that he'd heard a burglar outside, so he had
stood on the sink to look outside, and had slipped, falling backwards
upon the champagne bottle. The doctor asked what had happened to his
trousers. This reminded Graham of a story from (yes!) the 1930's,
called "The thousand deaths of Mr Small", in which Mr Small bashes his
child, falls onto a coal scuttle, the handle of which, becoming a
rectal foreign body, kills him.
The creation of antimatter hydrogen atoms was also reported in the
newspapers. Brian reported on the new German SF series screening on SBS
called "Stella Stellaris" which he hadn't seen. Peter and Ian reported
that it seemed to be about an alien blonde whose secret ability was to
make clothes disappear. The Infinitas bookshop runs SF meetings with no
name on the 1st or 2nd thursday of the month. Brian went on to relate
his almost adventures at the Cinestore, a movie script shop. He began
to regale us with tales of not meeting Sama Hung, and finding an Oliver
Stone script of Bester's "The Demolished Man". However Graham felt the
need to expostulate. "Can I just interrupt the flow of rhetoric?", he
asked rhetorically. He then proceeded to answer his own question by
plowing forward. Brian then continued informing us about the "Island of
Doctor Moreau". Apparently Marlon Brando has chosen to perform his role
in full Kabuki makeup. The director has gone Feral. Val Kilmer also
wanted to dress in kabuki makeup but but had to settle for looking like
a racoon. "Independence day" is a film script about the invasion of
America by aliens. There was loud cheering from the Futurians. A film
titled "Men In Black" is in the works (don't tell anybody). "Strange
Days", and "12 Monkeys" are to be released this year, and he also saw
Michael Crichton's forthcoming film about an amusement park where the
controlling computer system breaks down and the exhibits kill people.
This time its called "Twister".
At this point in the evening, fireworks were observed out the windows
over Darling Harbour. We rushed to the windows to watch. Gary turned
out the lights and the fireworks stopped. He turned them on again and
the fireworks obediently started up again. He was told "do that again".
So he did. the fireworks obeyed again. At this point we got bored and
returned to the discussion. The newspapers had reported that if you
wore red/green glasses the fireworks would appear 3-D. We noted the red
and green fireworks, but everything out the windows appeared 3-D that
night, so it must have been a generalized effect.
Brian also saw the "Aliens VS Species" script. On the merchandising
front, the Johnny Mnemonic pinball game has appeared and was reviewed
by Mark Phillips. There is also an Area 51 video game. Area 51 is a US
Air Base that does not appear on civilian maps. In the game, you get to
shoot US troops.
Mark mentioned "Towing Jehovah" which led Peter to chant "J Morrow, J
Morrow, J Morrow", and to record this in his notepad for later study. He
then repressed the memory in best Freudian fashion, while Ian covered
by suggesting a cartoon of "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathon
Garry reported that a magazine starting with "P" was showing a
gynacological tour of Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson). Peter claimed to
have a friend with a copy, and would borrow a copy for the next
meeting. Ron Clarke reported that Trek Australis was breaking up due to
debts, with the mailing list being part of the settlement.
In an unlikely turn of events tonight's topic of "Probabilty and its
breakdown" was not discussed as the meeting ended at this point. After
careful consideration, the topic was determined to be more appropriate
for the next meeting.
Technological Singularity is a buzzword
by Ian Woolf and Peter Eisler
Kyla Ward, Peter and Dr David Bofinger the unbeliever were interviewed
about the highly successful and entertaining Sydcon Role Playing Game
Convention by Maynard, as featured recently on Foxtel in Australia, but
unfortunately nobody we know gets Foxtel, so nobody saw it.
Inventex Inventor's Exhibition will be on 22nd to 25th August 1996 at the
Sydney Showground, Hall No 3 contact (02) 810 6645 for moore details.
(don't miss that). The Australian Skeptics will be holding their annual
convention on September 21 and 22 at Monash University in Melbourne.
Reverend Doctor Garry Dalrymple then scared away a stray woman who nearly
made the mistake of unintentionally joining our meeting, to the regret of
the other members. He then gave a sermon on the subject of British
Israelites. Apparently many subjects of the British Empire felt that there
was no question that the British were God's Chosen. Therefore, with
inexorable logic, they decided that the British were in fact, the Biblical
lost twelfth tribe of Israel. Unfortunately for them, the lost twelfth
tribe has been discovered in Ethiopia, still practicing Judaism as it was
practiced at the time of King Solomon, and have been repatriated to
Israel, where they are known as the "Felasha". David revealed that at
present they are being bled at blood donor stations, but the blood is
being thrown away because they are at a higher risk of HIV. Apparently
this is intended to make them feel more like they are contributing to
Daniel Jacobs opened the topic of Technological Singularities and
Future Shock with his personal interpretation of a technological
singularity based loosely on Frank Tipler's ideas of a point where a
cosmic omnipotent computer incorporating all the matter in the Universe
arises. This idea is explored in Tipler's "The Physics of
Immortality", Morovec's "Mind Children", Ed Regis' "Great Mambo Chicken
and The Transhuman Condition", Fred Pohl's "Gateway" series, and Greg
Bear's "Eon". In Dan Simmons' "Hyperion" a computer which makes
teleportation possible , borrows human brains during the brief moment
of transfer. Isaac Asimov's "Question", the multivac computer grows
through human history, until it becomes God in the process of answering
the question. In Frederic Brown's "Answer", a computer grows to
enormous size, and becomes God in the process of answering a question.
David violently disagreed with this definition of the topic, as did Ian.
However both Ian and David disagreed with each other, and David also
disagreed with himself. David defined a technological singularity as the
point where technological advance increased so rapidly that humans could
no longer cope with the influx of information. More inventions and
discoveries are made more quickly, until it is all happening at once, and
everything has been invented.
Ian mentioned a story called "Slow Tuesday Night" by R. A. Lafferty,
wherein people can have four or more intricate careers within an eight
hour period after having a mental block removed by "metasurgery". In
rebuttal, David quoted Vernor Vinge's prediction of ever increasing
returns, increasing in geometric progression of infinite steps. Graham
Stone declared that it would be a case of diminishing returns. Ignoring
this David emphasized that you couldn't have a story near the singularity
or at the singularity, because it was always an infinite number of steps
away. David emphasized this point in close to an infinite regression. Ian
then mentioned some of Vernor Vinge's stories which feature
post-Singularity humans. "Original Sin" features post-Singularity
humans evading capture by use of a tool that can cause an effect very
much like extremely bad luck.
Ian proposed a definition based on a related concept of geometrically
progressing technology and society, but with the Singularity being the
point at which human society changes so much that present-day humans
cannot imagine what they will be like. This was Ian's understanding of
what Vernor Vinge meant by the term. Cordwainer Smith's "Norstrilia"
series has humans so far changed from modern people, that we have more in
common with the animals of the time. Michael Moorcock's "Dancers at the
End of Time" features people with near omnipotence, whose emotions and
motivations are very alien to our own. In Iain M. Banks "Player of Games",
the machine intelligences are far above human intellects, and basically
have the same affection for them as humans do for their pets. In
"Brainchild" by David jay Brown, nanotechnology makes humans able to
change themselves and their environment to such a degree that the two
begin to merge. In Greg Egan's "Quarantine", humans learn to choose
between possibilities. Vernor Vinge's "A Fire Upon The Deep" has the
Galaxy layered in zones of different physical laws, which permit different
levels of intelligence. At the outermost zone, is the "Transcend" zone
where there are God-like beings. Faster-than-light travel is possible in
the "Beyond" zone, as are sentient computers, but not in the "Slowness"
which is where Earth is located. Further on into the centre of the galaxy
is the "Unthinking Depths" zone, where sentient life is impossible. An
information network very similar to the Internet's usenet is used by the
galactic civilisations to discuss a rogue "Transcend" entity called the
Blight. Roger Zelazny's "Lord of Light" and "Creatures of Light and
Darkness" features humans who have become Gods. Vernor Vinge's "True
Names" and "The Peace War" feature humans using computers as extensions of
their brains - actually thinking with the machines.
In Robert L. Forward's "Dragon's Egg" humans contact the inhabitants of
a neutron star. These practically two dimensional beings live much
faster than humans, and are more intelligent. They swiftly absorb human
knowledge and culture and progress beyond us . In Cyril M. Kornbluth's
"Marching Morons", the majority of people have no idea how the
technology they use works, and it is designed so that the Doctor's
"Little Black Bag" does ALL of the work. The meeting closed, all
members agreeing that they had enjoyed a singular experience.
On "Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty Day" the meeting
started with much table moving to accomodate the hordes that descended on
the Futurian meeting. Fame of the Futurian experience drew a record 17
people, including Kevin Dillon and some interstate visitors.
The meeting turned serious at Eric Lindsay's news that Bob Shaw had
recently died. Eric also distributed more Australia in 1999 WorldCon
fliers. Eric reported that Australian fans had made a deal with Las Vegas
fans because they still don't want the Con that Chicago say they have to
have. An offer they couldn't refuse. Eric then showed us his Australia in
1999 WorldCon Web site.
Brian Walls reported that the science fiction society that meets at
Infinitas Bookshop in Parramatta will be gathering on the first Thursday
of March at 7pm (you missed it). They are open to suggestions for names
but will turn yours down. The Ned Kelly Cr ime Fiction award details are
available at Abbey's bookshop, because Brian wasn't telling. A movie is
being made of Robert E. Howard's lifestory called "Whole Wide World". Yet
another Ed Wood documentary film "The Haunted World of Ed Wood" was shown
with "Crossroads of Loreador" at Academy Cinema on February 25th (but you
missed this one too).
Susan and Brian visited Ozcon. "Space Above and Beyond" was previewed and
comes highly recommended.
Garry reported on a documentary on White Surpremists he saw called "Blood
in the Face", which revealed that you can tell Aryans, but not much. The
documentary featured Poised Koreans.
Eric reported that world-renowned Evolutionary Dentist Richard Dawkins
will be featured at this years Skeptics convention in Melbourne, in
September. He will be accompanied by his wife Lala Ward, once Professional
Companion (nudge-wink) to Dr Who.(Don't m iss that one).
Garry cried Free Basenjis! He then distributed the literature, and
explained he had seen the results of an attack. Garry then reported that
the Sydney Tourist Authority have a Heritage Trip of a bus following
around a firetruck.
Saint Ian reported that the two Manga films Ghost in the Shell and Gunhed
had been shown at the Hoover Complex in Goulburn St (did you miss that?);
and that Reverend Peter had become a Professional RPG Convention goer.
Reverend Peter then performed the ri tual trophy passing and gloating
session. SydCon will be enjoyed over the Easter long weekend, 5,6,7 & 8th
of April. Greg Egan's story collection "Axiomatic" was highly recommended.
Greg Egan's open letter to SF fandom was read out. He requested that nobo
dy ever vote for him in the Ditmar awards. Eric mentioned that the Hugo
awards were to be voted on. The Retro-Hugos are awarded for stories
written in the years before Hugos were awarded, regardless of how
contradictary a notion that is.
St Ian reported the discovery that you can become ordained as a Minister
of Religion in a matter of minutes, in the Universal Life Church, by using
the internet. Revealing that he'd been Canonized that very day with the
words "We only wish there were more of you, a clone of about 10,000
individuals identical to you could rule the world." Pursuant to this plan
11 Futurians were ordained on the spot, and another four in absentia. The
Universal Life Church will ordain anybody that believes in freedom of reli
gion and doing what they believe is right. People with no internet access
may send postcards. The ordination is legal in the USA, where ULC
ministers may marry people. As the Universal Life Church is illegal in
Australia, it was suggested that Australian ministers could marry couples
by internet tele-presence in America, and that this might be legal in
Australia when they returned.
One of our members snorted "the most beautiful sight in the world is your
name in print", whilst passing around a copy of the Canberra SF Club Inc
newsletter and mumbling about phallic umbrellas. Reverend Ron Clarke
explained that "Mentor" readers only get sent copies of the magazine if
they contribute letters.
Reverend Eric recommended "Chicks in Chainmail" which he had recently
Reverend Sarah Murray-White explained that she was unable to get to LACon
as the Airline told her they were "too busy" to sell her a ticket, every
time she called them.
Reverend Peter opened the topic by passing around his centuhedral die, and
a couple of pool balls for no apparent reason. In reply to reverend Ron's
request for an explanation of the topic, he illustrated the Breakdown of
Probability with the example from Red Dwarf, where sick people get lucky.
"All the Myriad Ways" by Larry Niven, in which people with imaginations
"The Number of the Beast" by Robert Heinlein featured monkeys with horns
that broke down probability after losing gyroscopes.
"Patterns of Chaos" by Colin Kapp featured causality reversals about a
"Foundation" by Isaac Asimov featured a future science that predicted mass
human behaviour perfectly, until upset by an intelligent mule.
In "Snowball Effect" probably by William Tenn, sociologists create a
The Church of the SunGenius preaches of the Infinite Luck Plane.
One of our members interrupted the meeting pointing and shouting "Look a
U.F.O.". Reverend Peter corrected him "AN U.F.O." Everyone looked out the
windows at the 16th floor view, and when asked if the UFO was near the
crane light, the member was forced to admit that it WAS the crane light on
a nearby building. It was thus established that the so-called "UFO" was
neither an U., nor an F., but definitely an O.
Reverend Ron returned us to the topic by mentioning "The Hitch-hiker's
Guide to the Galaxy" featured an Infinite Improbability Drive based on the
Brownian motion in a goood cup of tea.
"WellWorld" series has a character who is unconsciously God, and thus the
Universe conspires to help him.
David Brin's "Practice Effect" features a Universe where tools get better
when you practice with them, but humans still wear out.
Phillip K. Dick's "Solar Lottery", "Gameplayers of Titan", "Variable Man",
"Counter-Clock World" and many of his other stories feature a Universe
where probability breaks down.
Mary Gentle's "Rats and Gargoyles" has a University of Crime, where
academics cheat at Tarot to manipulate the Universe.
A E Van Vogt's "Weapon Shops of Isher" has a character who gains a
"Calidetic" talent in a Casino and wins all the games.
In the "Dune" series by Frank Herbert, Seers try to choose between the
futures they see.
Daniel Keyes Moran's "Armageddon Blues" features a character who is
ignored by the law of Entropy in convenient ways.
The "Ringworld" series by Larry Niven has the Human genome distorted by
"The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline", and
"Thiotimoline to the Stars" by Isaac Asimov describe a substance that
dissolves BEFORE you add water to it.
Greg Egan's "Quarantine" featured humans who bend probability by choosing
Peter Hamilton's "MindStar Rising" featured a precog who narrows down
suspects by viewing alternative futures.
Keith Laumer's "World Shuffler" series features a character who slips the
restraints of those who would stop him manipulating reality by fighting
back with garlic sausage.
Steve Perry's "Hellstar" features fundamental changes to reality
increasing as a starship travels further away from Earth.
Tim Powers "Last Call" combines Tarot card manipulation of probability
nexuses by a Fisher Jack.
Mike Resnick's "Prophet" is about a Precog who selects her desired future
by not spilling a drink.
Luke Rhinehart in "Diceman" features a group who make all decisions on the
roll of dice.
And finally, Leo P. Kelly in "Coins of Murph" has a post-apocalypse society
that decides everything on the tosss of a coin, naturally the leaders have
Topic: Rebels and Revolutionaries in science fiction
One of our members explained that the Crusaders were repelled by sheep.
Apparently an entire castle was manned by sheep, fooling the Crusading
knights into a prolonged siege. Wayne Turner reported his WA trip to
SwanCon. Among the SwanCon special guests were Terry Dowling, Neil
Gainman, Jack Dann and Storm Constantine. Garry Dalrymple reminded
everyone that Star Trek Voyager was starting to be screened.
There.was.great.enthusiasm. Sliders was also coming to our screens that
very night, nobody had remembered to tape it. Bugs was also starting.
Brian Walls reported that TV series based on a toned down Mad Max was in
the works, so look out for Mild Max. Babe of course was the toned down
version of Razorback. Manga animation "Ghost In the Shell" was showing at
the Mandolin theatre and the Valhalla Cinema. Aliens 4, starring Wynona
Ryder and a clone of the late Ripley is also in the works, and will
hopefully stay there. Strange Days had started the night before and was
highly recommended. A feature of the movie is millennial celebrations
being held a year early on December 31st 1999, the writers apparently
missed this point. Brian mentioned that the technical term for Russian
scientists entering Chernobyl for pre-retirement study, is "stalkers"
taken from the Strugatsky novel "Roadside Picnic", released as the movie
"Stalker". However as most scientists read science fiction, this is not
Ian then proceeded to some scientific tidbits culled from New
Scientist magazine. The painkiller ibuprofen, found in such
over-the-counter drugs as Nurofen, and Naprosyn has shown an ability to
help prevent Alzheimers disease and is useful in treating the
illness. Unfortunately it has such drastic effects on the stomach with
long-term use that it is unusable.Rock-eating bacteria with no reliance on
sunlight have been discovered living happily 1000 metres below the Earth's
surface in conditions similar to Mars. This means that either similar
organisms may be discovered on Mars, or failing that, that these bacteria
could be introduced in a terraforming effort. The sub-surface
lithoautotrophic microbial ecosystem is known as SLIME for short. They
subsist on hydrogen generated in a reaction between water and ferrous
silicates. NASA is preparing to protect itself from lawsuits from
green-exploiting anti-technology eco-luddites for its upcoming Martian
missions. They are carefully getting lawyers to scrutinize their two dozen
failsafe quarantine systems for bringing Martian soil back to Earth for
study. Earth First representatives are believed to be carefully holding
several meteorites for questioning. Star Trek tricorder-style scanners
have been developed to detect jaundice in babies so that they can be
properly treated with the conventional blue and green lights. Against
traditional wisdom, it has been discovered that human nerve cells can be
induced to regrow after damage. Statistically, people who drink co ffee
have a lower suicide rate. A new no-risk treatment for short-sightedness
is to mould the eyes into the required shape instead of putting lenses in
front of them or cutting them with blades or lasers. New nappy linings
made from sugary hydrogel can hold more than 1 litre of urine.
The politically-correct self-censoring Internet software service
"Surfwatch" banned the entire Whitehouse domain due to the evil actions
of the Clinton's cat Sox on his Web page. The web page contained the
naughty word "coup les", so it was banned, as is this article. This
same action of banning material based on automatic keyword searching
has led to America Online pulling the plug from the International
Breast Cancer Support group discussions. Clinton's staff called the Sur
fwatch company and the Whitehouse was given a special exemption from
the consequences of Sox's crime. This appears more than hypocritical in
light of Clinton's recent Communication Decency Act. The Easter Long
Weekend saw the SydCon roleplaying game convention. Peter and Ian
co-wrote and co-ran a comedy troll freeform game, and won trophies for
another game. The UNSW Unisearch House second-hand booksale was on the
following weekend [yes you missed it, and its only on every two years].
Ian produced his certificate of Sainthood from the Universal Life
Church. Peter's was in the mail.
Having learned his lesson from previous meetings, Peter opened the topic
of Rebels and Revolutionaries in science fiction with the observation that
Steve Perry's Matador series is the thinking man's Star Wars. Whereas the
rebels in Star Wars relied on mys tical powers and a magic knife to win
when the badly formed plans failed completely; the revolutionaries in the
Matador series rely on skill and detailed plans that work. Peter then
continued his list of appropriate titles. Lloyd Biggle Jnr's "The Still
Small Voice of Trumpets" and "The World-Menders" both have a Galactic
Government agency set up to foment revolutions that end in democracy, but
which have a strict code of secret subtlety, because "DEMOCRACY IMPOSED
FROM WITHOUT IS THE SEVEREST FORM OF TYRANNY". F.N. Busby's Tregare
series has a rebellion against a tyrannical Earth-based government. C.J.
Cherryh's Alliance-Union-Cyteen series involves a civil war between the
tyrannical Earth-based government and the rebels over hundreds of years
and sever al worlds. Robert Frezza's "Small Colonial War" involves rebels
fighting a Japanese-culture Earth-based tyrannical government, where the
government troops choose to side with the rebels. Simon Green's
"Deathstalker" has a miltary hero leading a rebellion against his Empress'
Earth-based tyrannical government. Frank Herbert's "Dune" concerns the
drug-based rebellion against the Galactic Imperial tyrannical Earth-based
government. Elron Hubbard's "Battlefield Earth" features humans rebelling
against an alie n tyrannical Earth government. Michael Moorcock's
Runestaff series is about a hero who fights an evil tyrannical Earth
government despite his headaches. "Fallen Angels" by Jerry Pournelle,
Michael Flynn and Larry Niven features organised science fiction f ans
rebelling against an evil green-exploiting anti-technology eco-luddites
American-based tyrannical government. Voerman's "Weird Colonial Boy"
rebels against a British-based tyrannical government by being silly. Brian
reminded us that Star Wars had rebels, too. And so did Total Recall,
Johnny Mnemonic, and Logan's Run.
Ian brought out his list. Earth, by David Brin features physicists
rebelling against United Nations restrictions to bottled black hole
research. Kurt Vonnegut's "Player Piano" has people rebelling against an
automated tyrannical Earth-based government. "L ord of Light" by Roger
Zelazny has people rebelling against a tyrannical Hindu-based government.
"Software" by Rudy Rucker is about Lunar robots that rebel against a
tyrannical Earth-based government. "A Gift from Earth" by Larry Niven is
about colonists who rebel against a tyrannical organ-transplant based
government. "Footfall" by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle is about science
fiction writers rebelling against an alien tyrannical Earth-based
government. "The Space Merchants" by Cyril Kornbluth and Fre derick Pohl
is about a rebellion against a tyrannical advertising agency government
based on Earth. "Bio of a Space Tyrant" by Piers Anthony is about someone
who rebels against a democracy and sets up a Jupiter based tyrannical
government. Garry explained that Piers Anthony has owned a Basenjis.
Garry raised Sterling and Gibson's "The Difference Engine", which featured
the computer revolution arising simultaneously with the steam revolution.
Cyril Kornbluth's "Syndic" features rebels against the Mafia-based
tyrannical American rulers, without any help from the unelected US
government-in-exile. The "Alien Nation" novel, "Day of the Descent" by
Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens is about alien rebels seeking refuge in
an Earth-based government. During the gravitational recession that we had
to have, Barrington Bayley's "Zen Gun" features a colonia l girl rebelling
against an Earth-based tyrannical cosmic pig empire utilizing "the
absolutely ultimate weapon that can never exist". "The Weapon Shops of
Isher" and "The Weapon Makers" by A. E. Van Vogt has magic weapon shops
selling extremely automatic weapons and pushing people to revolt against
the tyrannical Earth-based government with the slogan "THE RIGHT TO BEAR
WEAPONS IS THE RIGHT TO BE FREE"; only in America. Nineteen Eighty-Four by
George Orwell is a light romp through an Earth-based tyrannica l
government by one of its rebels. The TV series "V" featured rebellion
against Lizard Nazi tyrannical Earth-based government.
Wayne Turner told us about Phillip Jose Farmer's Dayworld series, and
its rebellion against a tyrannical Earth government, and his Riverworld
series which involved a rebellion against a tyrannical Riverworld-based
government. Kevin Dillon raised Robert Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh
Mistress". This is about Lunar revolution against a tyrannical
Earth-based government. Heinlein's "Beyond This Horizon" features a
super-rebel against a Eugenic Earth-based tyrannical government. His
"Sixth Column" or "The Day after Tomorrow" features a Reverend-led
rebellion against Han Chinese tyrannical Earth-based government. Kim
Stanley Robinson's Mars series features 21st Century Martians rebelling
against an Earth-based tyrannical governmen t. In Armageddon 2419 by
Phillip Francis Nowlan, Buck Rogers rebels against the Han Chinese
tyrannical Earth-based government. In John Varly's "Ophiuchi Hotline"
human rebels survive alien invasion and a tyrannical Earth-based
government by use of the ultimate galactic 0055 number.
Topic: Criminals and Evil Geniuses
Brian Walls admitted to being one of the selfish bastards who waited 3
hours for the celebrities to show up outside Planet Hollywood and thus
completely blocked access to George St to legitimate pedestrians. By 4pm
Sunday afternoon, people were close to rioting from the crowding, and the
fact that they could enter the crowd in the direction they wished to
travel, but were prevented from moving once they were trapped within the
crowd. People trapped in the centre of the crowd were observed to be
having anxiety attacks from fears of being crushed and trampled. Only a
pedestrian versed in collapsing eigenstates and higher geometries was
capable of traversing the distance against the will of the fans.
[The crowding fans and organisers were the criminals, and I, the
pedestrian, was the Evil Genius - Ian [A likely excuse to be late for a
pool game - Peter]]
Brian reported that Variety magazine had information about the special 3-D
remake of 15 minutes of the movie Terminator-2. A new movie "Escape from
LA" is being planned as the sequel to "Escape from New York", no doubt to
be followed by "Escape from America" in time. A movie to be called "Men In
Black" is in production, but we're not allowed to say anything further.
Yet another Roswell movie may have prompted this move.
Graeme Stone once again lamented that we never show up to his Southern
"group". He also reported that he had been interviewed on radio about his
nonexistent connections to Elron Hubbard.
Eric Lindsay reported that Harlan Ellison had suffered a heart attack and
David Bofinger related the story from a novel related by a friend, of an
Evil Genius who would regularly pick up people in bars, take them home,
scramble their brains with a fine platinum wire, then return them to the
bar; as a lark.
"The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson was
raised by Brian as an example of an Evil Genius in science fiction. Fu
Manchu was never caught in the Fu Manchu series by Sax Rohmer. Professor
Moriarty from the "Sherlock Holmes" series of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has
been used in may science fiction stories as Genius hero and villain. One
view holds that Moriarty was based on a blend of Nietzche and Freud.
Moriarty also found his way into the BBC Goon Show. Brian then propounded
on apparent similarities between the Unabomber in the USA and Professor
Moriarty - they were both Mathematics Professors.
James Bond stories seem to always feature a criminal who believes he is an
The "Skylark" series of books by E.E. 'Doc' Smith featured an Evil Genius
called Blackie DuQuesne.
D. Wingrove's "Chung Kuo" series features an Evil Genius subtley called
Frank Herbert's "The Dosadi Experiment" featured a Governmental "Bureau of
Sabotage", sanctioned to commit crimes.
Rudy Rucker's "Software" series features robots who kidnap people, and
finely dice their brains to extract the structure and then reproduce their
minds in mainframes.
Larry Niven's "World of Ptavvs" features a criminal with the power of
telepathic hynosis. In "Protector", a race of genocidal parents look out
for their young.
H.P. Lovecraft's stories soley concerned Evil Geniuses learning Things Man
Was Not Meant to Capitalise, er Know.
The TV series "X-Files" regularly features criminals and Evil Geniuses.
Richard Condon wrote "The Manchurian Candidate", wherein an innocent
bystander is programmed to perform a political assassination on facing a
Stephen Bury wrote "Interface", about a worldwide conspiracy that uses a
brain prosthetic to control a presdential candidate.
"The Syndic" by Cyril Kornbluth is about an Ameria ruled by Organised
"The Demlished Man" by Alfred Bester, features an attempt at a "perfect
crime" in a world policed by telepaths.
George Alec Effinger's "Marid Audran" series features a detective working
for a criminal organisation, who fights crime by other criminals.
"The Stanless Steel Rat" series by Harry Harrison is about a master
criminal who fights Evil Geniuses.
Neal Stephenson's Zodiac is about a crusading Eco-guerilla who committs
crimes to stop Crimes Against Humanity by evil coporations.
The "Illumnatus!" trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea features
an embarrasment of riches. More Evil Geniuses and criminals than you can
poke a stick at, if that's your idea of a good time.
This is a kill or cure for paranoiacs, with an embarrassment of riches of conspiracies - complete with detailed evidence which is easily referenced. The mout outrageous and silly conspiracies are true (the Principia Discordia quotes are real), and some of the more believeable stuff is false. Wilson and Shea call it "guerilla ontology". Some people may find the viewpoint character changing so often to be distracting, but I enjoyed it as part of the trip. Its very seventies hippy culture, and very funny and perceptive. Its mind-blowing to realize it was written before Watergate and the Nixon insanities were publically known.
A witty and entertaining tutorial on the art of informal logic. He shows you how to recognize when logic is being abused, by teaching you how to win arguments by abusing the rules of informal logic. So you learn the rules by being taught to cheat!
You are introduced to all of the logical fallacies you may have felt were wrong, but previously never had a name for, and then how they can unfairly be used to win arguments. This way you learn how to conduct fair arguments and to avoid the fallacies yourself. Every high school student and undergrad should be given a copy to study, certainly everyone who has ever been in an argument.
"Midnight Lamp" by Gwyneth Jones, was a fun, engaging view of a future not very far from now when the instability of Britain predicted by Ken Macleod and other authors has come to pass. Rockstars have taken control. The world has quietly been complicated by the discovery of "effective magic" and "Zen Self" technology, accessing the "information space" that underlies reality and the rockstars are at the heart of it.
This is the third in the series starting with "Bold As Love" and "Castles Made Of Sand", which I haven't read yet. Jones is such a good writer that I had no trouble with starting the story AFTER the major magical battle between the heroes and the monster. She gets the best of both markets by having very English rockstars wandering around a very American Hollywood landscape.
The three-way romance between the rockstar heroes is believable and touching. Ax, Sage, and Fiorinda are all walking wounded, but all are a lot more than they appear to be and always looking out for each other. Ax Preston, with his digitally animated skull mask, is the super-powerful rockstar Ozzie Osbourne fantasized about being, and like Osbourne, he's now older and trying to cope with responsibility and having survived his youth. Sage is a bodhisattva, brought to Zen enlightenment by information space technology, and returned to the Earth with wisdom, but badly injured and recuperating from his magical battle. Fiorinda is a fragile, beautiful redheaded diva who has effective magic without any technology, but who dare not use it because of the schizophrenia the magical battle has brought upon her.
The heroes are in retreat on a beach in Mexico when they get drawn into an American plot to "weaponize" effective magic by the Pentagon. Somebody wants to use black magic to pump a talented candidate up to "Fat Boy" status - a human weapon of mass destruction. The rockstars have to stay free of other people's plans and save the world.
Midnight Lamp will be published by Allen and Unwin in Australia in February 2004, don't miss it.
I loved Richard Morgan's first novel "Altered Carbon", and this is the sequel. In the first book, Kovacs has been trained to be an Envoy, an elite government soldier who discovers that the only retirement job is crime. He lives in a future where your mind and personality are routinel;y accurately recorded on an Altered Carbon chip embedded at the base of your brain. The chip can be extracted at death, and then implanted in a forced-grown clone adult body so that you can live again.
Kovacs has been caught, his data extracted, and squirted as information faster than light from his colony homeworld to Earth. Convicts are no longer kept imprisoned in the expensive flesh, instead their chips are removed and kept in a Stack. Kovacs is taken off the stack to become a bonded private detective and solve a murder in "Altered Carbon".
"Broken Angels" takes up Kovacs' career afterwards, and he's returned to the military as a mercenary. His edge over everyone else is his Envoy conditioning and training. This is another story where Zen enlightenment has been adavnced by science into a useuable technology. Not so far-fetched when New Scientist is running stories about how the brain scans of Zen masters are different than average and where they can see in the neurology how Zen practices can make a person feel more inner peace and control. Kovacs can control his emotions and his perceptions utterly, he's always cool. He has skills and reflexes that can transfer over to an unfamiliar body in unfamiliar environments.
Kovacs has been "sleeved", re-embodied, in a war zone to recover an alien artefact before the other side do so. Human life is cheap among mercenaries, but in Kovacs' case, he goes to a market to buy soldiers mind chips, recovered from their battlefield corpses. He's cheerfully served by a man who scoops chips out of a huge pile and charges by the kilogram. Soldier's minds are booted up in a virtual environment, where the recruitment officer asks them if they want to sign up. Since the alternative is death, its an offer that can't be refused.
This is a very different book to the previous one, it was a big jump for me from private detective muder mystery to military campaign, and so I don't know if the feeling I had that we took too long to get to the artefact was because of the change of pace in the switch in sub-genres, or was just my impatience. I love the character and the writing, but the second book wasn't quite the pure joy of "Altered Carbon".
Richard Morgan has a wonderful writing style, and he keeps coming up with further and further implications of his basic world set-up and technology. Kovacs is a punk who doesn't deserve the Zen enlightenment his Envoy conditioning has gifted him, and is enlightened enough to know so. His character grows throughout the two books, and I'll be very interested to see where Morgan has him going next.
Stephen Baxter's "evolution" is a really ambitious piece of writing, he's attempted no less than to novellize ALL human history from our early rat-like primate ancestors scurrying around the feet of giant dinosaurs, all the way through pre-human and more human ancestors, the stone age, the invention of agriculture, all the way up to the modern day, the near future, and then the far future. He's mostly succeeded.
By the very scope of the subject, the book is really a linked series of short stories, where a female ancestor is the central character. Baxter's description of the motivations and perceptions and most importantly, the relationships of his characters is amazing. Starting the book, I wasn't certain I could stay interested in animal stories while waiting for the humans to emerge, but Baxter rewards the reader for persisting.
It was fascinating to read about how our basic body plan evolved way before our brains, and that our bodies are optimized for running. Two legs are faster than four, and we were once the fastest and most persistent of predators, before we could even speak. Just when you start to get impressed with these people, you discover that there are giant sabre toothed tigers that have evolved to out-smart the clever pre-humans. Baxter gets into the minds of our ancestors and convincingly describes how they feel, and to what extent they think. He shows how consciousness evolved in response to social relationship needs, and how originally our ancestors only had "selves" when they interacted with others. The invention of grandmothers has as huge effects as the invention of stone tools.
Baxter charts the time when there were several different human species all living in competition and cooperation, the stagnant millenia when human culture was stuck in a stone-age balance with the environment, the effects of schizophrenia and creativity, deception and political manipulation. Our brains evolved to deal with other people, and the people are realized very sharply and believably.
Baxter has done such a remarkable job that I was almost disappointed when the people have developed into modern humans with an agricultural feudal society with an aristocrat called "Potus" at the head of the empire. POTUS stands for "President of The United States" to fans of the West Wing TV series. However Baxter comes through with continuity from the ancestor characters, and keeps you fascinated, on up to the present, and into the far future.
"evolution" takes a little patience and persistance at times, but you'll come away looking at the world with new eyes.
My first impression of LIGHT was that it was entertaining, but mean. You're reading along enjoying the thread, when people are suddenly, coldly and irrationally killed. And thats before the Lovecraftian horror elements are introduced. Then the thread switches from the near to the far future, and the reader is sucked in the same way again. Its a schizophrenic, but fun ride.
Every chapter is a different thread, and we switch between physicist Michael Kearney of modern day, researching quantum computers and running away from a un-human entity. K-captain Seria Mau Genliche is a brain-in-a-ship of the year 2400, using Kearney's discoveries to navigate her space battles faster than light. Finally virtual-reality addict Ed Chianese of 2400, also running away.
Michael Kearney lives in Britain and has met and objectively verified the reality of the horror that pursues him. Harrison uses the classic element of horror stories, where the reader knows Kearney's work is related to what haunts him, but Kearney is too terrified to deal with it rationally. Everything that happens to him spurs him in a new direction as he constantly reacts to the fear that destiny will eat him up. Is he right, or is he massively over-reacting?
K-Captain Seria Mau Genlicher lives near the Kefahuchi Tract, a huge conglomaration of astronomical bodies centered around a naked singularity that beeds impossibility into the fabric of reality. Humanity has come in sixty-five million years after other intelligent species have tried to find the secrets of the Tract. Humans and aliens alike now mine the ancient artefacts of the peoples who have explored before them; millions of years worth of working technology and ideas. The nightmare and wonder is that everything works. Even when the underlying theories contradict each other, the technology works. Seria wants to believe her inner life and her relationships bring her far past humanity, but she knows she'd do anything to live as a person again.
Ed Chianese is a twink, someone who spends their time and money escaping into virtual reality fantasies. His everyday life in 2400 on the Beach of the KafaHuchi Tract gives a great sense of how bizarre 21st Century life really is. He surfs life without any plan, and is happier that way. He enters the Circus of Doctor Lao, and like the famous legend, he grows from the experience and finds Destiny there.
M. John Harrison has achieved amazing things in LIGHT. The style is fun, and playful, while still filling the reader with wonder and horror by turns. He describes a rich, vibrant, bizarre, but believable and engaging world. I highly recommend you read this book.