Science Fiction Future
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50 Essential Science Fiction Books

50 Essential Science Fiction Books | Science Fiction Future |

This was a virtually impossible task. Put together a list of 50 must-read science fiction books and don’t make anyone angry. Science fiction is the most discussed and argued over genre in literature but it actually goes way beyond books and into film, TV, video games and even toys.

Here are the criteria I used. One book per author, so that was hard on the big three of science fiction – Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke, who each have multiple classic titles to their name. Attempt to show as many sub-genres of science fiction and plot themes as possible. Include early stories that influenced the genre as a whole and launched popular themes, even if those books appear a bit dated today.


I wanted to show the unbelievable breadth of this galactic-sized genre and, of course, I failed because this is just the tip of the spaceberg – there are probably 500 essential science fiction books, not 50.

The War of the Worlds is on the list, a famous example of invasion literature, but I could easily have used The Time Machine. For Ray Bradbury, there’s The Illustrated Man but I could have used Fahrenheit 451 or The Martian Chronicles.


Many people include alternate reality novels as science fiction but I didn’t feel comfortable having them on the list as there’s not much science in that sort of fiction.


The list includes hard and soft science fiction. Hard science fiction features great attention to detail in the quantitative sciences, while soft riffs on the social sciences. You’ll also find space opera with its heroes and heroines on distant planets; cyberpunk, loved by nerds in goggles everywhere; time travel – a simple concept that’s been around since Mark Twain’s day; military science fiction where soldiers drive the narrative; dystopian fiction where society has usually gone awry; superhuman stories where humans develop new or greater skills (and that usually means trouble) and the always cheery apocalyptic fiction sub-genre (where we could be battling to avoid the end of Earth or struggling to survive after a catastrophe). There are many recurrent powerful themes such as machine and human relationships, aliens and human relationships, biological and ecological matters, and paranormal activities.


You are spoiled for choice – this list includes novellas, short story collections, a graphic novel and books from published 1864 to 2011.


For further reading recommendations, brush up on the Hugo and Nebula Awards - the winners and the shortlisted titles - and also the books published by Tor (who really know this genre, and fantasy, inside out), as well as Locus Magazine and the science fiction tags on

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Space Cartoons to Space Psychedelia: How Sci-Fi Book Covers Evolved

Space Cartoons to Space Psychedelia: How Sci-Fi Book Covers Evolved | Science Fiction Future |

The phrase "pulp sci-fi" conjures images of rockets and men with ray guns landing on distant planets. That wouldn't necessarily be wrong, but the classic images associated with science fiction literature usually refer to the Golden Age of sci-fi: the magazine-dominated epoch lasting roughly from the 1920s until the 1950s, when graphic artists like Frank R. Paul and Hugo Gernsback set the standard for speculative fiction cover art. Fun, simple, and very literal in its connection to the story that it accompanies, that kind of art was generally intended for a younger audience. But sci-fi cover illustrations evolved after the 1950s in near parallel with the other changes that transformed America in that time.


In New York City, it's became easier to delve into this evolution firsthand ever since the "bookstore at the end of the world," as Singularity & Co. calls itself, opened last year. The shop represents an earnest attempt by a handful of book lovers to preserve science fiction and fantasy novels by tracking down rare physical copies and then digitizing them. I asked them to give me an overview of how sci-fi cover art has morphed over the decades, and they obliged. "To understand a cover that changes, to distill a conceit, you have to ask about its relationship with the time and place," the shop's Jamil Moen told me. Of course, for many of the genre's biggest fans, the appeal of these images isn't entirely in their social and historical implications. As Ash Kalb, a Singularity & Co. co-founder and graduate of Columbia University Law School, said simply when explaining his tastes, "I like spaceships."


In the early days of pulp publication, the artwork provided a literal depiction of the stories' content. Take the famous 1927 Frank R. Paul Amazing Stories "War of the Worlds" cover (it, and many of the other covers I'll mention, is in the slideshow below). The cover for a tale about Martians attacking the Earth shows... well, Martians attacking the Earth. These early sci-fi themes seem easily enough articulated: a general sense of anxiety about technology and space paired with a fear of invasion by The Other. After World War II, the anxiousness and fear remained, magnified by threat of nuclear conflict. Directed towards the Baby Boomers, who were already becoming a formidably large market, material similar to pre-war science fiction was repackaged in a fresh way for its young audiences. As the author and sci-fi expert Robert Horton said in an interview, "...there was a giant new youth culture that emerged in the 1950s, and those kids wanted different kinds of stories, just for them."


The 1960s marked a new, more-mature era for sci-fi novel art. Then-director of Penguin Books' cover art, Germano Facetti, moved away from cartoonish images of rocket ships and space men by using famous modern artists to convey a mood or tone rather than a literal rendering of the plot. In doing so, he helped legitimize a genre that was still struggling for seriousness and opened the door for even further experimentation. By using images by established artists like Paul Klee, Max Ernst, and Wassily Kandinsky, Facetti was visually connecting these genre novels to a tradition of Western avant garde and high culture. You might not learn anything about the plot of the book from looking at the cover, but at least you would feel smart. These modernist '60s covers conveyed seriousness but sacrificed earlier eras' humor and sense of juvenile wonder. That sterility wouldn't last past the middle of the decade.


The late '60s novel covers playfully incorporated counterculture elements that would have been unthinkable even 10 years earlier.

Still as abstract as their High Art predecessors, the late '60s novel covers playfully incorporated counterculture elements that would have been unthinkable even 10 years earlier. Take the Robert Heinlein book The Puppet Masters: In its second, 1963, Signet edition, the cover shows a dark but still cartoonish rendering of what looks like a giant space craft. The image is somewhere between the juvenile magazine illustration of the '50s and the abstractions of the early '60s. But by the third edition, in 1970, the cover consists of a partially nude woman standing jauntily in front of two naked men in the foreground, while the background appears to be a tie-dyed "fabric" looking pattern. It's abstract, artistic, playful, sexual, and edgy. It's also confident, almost to the point of being naive: a perfect cover to encapsulate hippiedom's apex in the moment just before Watergate.


There are obvious parallels between the progression of sci-fi cover art and album cover art. After hitting a crescendo of sorts during the heyday of the counterculture, both became less relevant or at least less experimental in the following years. Digitization eventually pushed cover art closer to irrelevance, and as Betsy Morais has written, possibly killed it altogether. But just because the art isn't on the cover of books anymore doesn't mean that it's dead. As Moen pointed out to me, sci-fi influenced visual art has become so ingrained in our culture that, unlike other types of cover art, we might actually be even more exposed to it now. Think of visually stunning science-fiction movies orhigh fashion. We might just have to live with the fact that sci-fi cover art has detached itself from the text, surviving by diffusing itself through our entire culture. That seems like an appropriate fate for a genre so preoccupied with big ideas and radical change.

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Paul Krugman On Why I Love Isaac Asimov's Foundation

Paul Krugman On Why I Love Isaac Asimov's Foundation | Science Fiction Future |
The fantastical tale offers a still-inspiring dream of a social science that could save civilisation


There are certain novels that can shape a teenage boy's life. For some, it'sAyn Rand's Atlas Shrugged; for others it's Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. As a widely quoted internet meme says, the unrealistic fantasy world portrayed in one of those books can warp a young man's character forever; the other book is about orcs. But for me, of course, it was neither. My Book – the one that has stayed with me for four-and-a-half decades – is Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, written when Asimov was barely out of his teens himself. I didn't grow up wanting to be a square-jawed individualist or join a heroic quest; I grew up wanting to be Hari Seldon, using my understanding of the mathematics of human behaviour to save civilisation.


OK, economics is a pretty poor substitute; I don't expect to be making recorded appearances in the Time Vault a century or two from now. But I tried.


So how do the Foundation novels look to me now that I have, as my immigrant grandmother used to say, grown to mature adultery? Better than ever. The trilogy really is a unique masterpiece; there has never been anything quite like it. By the way, spoilers follow, so stop reading if you want to encounter the whole thing fresh.


Maybe the first thing to say about Foundation is that it's not exactly sciencefiction – not really. Yes, it's set in the future, there's interstellar travel, people shoot each other with blasters instead of pistols and so on. But these are superficial details, playing a fairly minor part in the story. The Foundation novels are about society, not gadgets – and unlike, say, William Gibson's cyberpunk novels, which are excellent in a very different way, they're about societies that don't seem much affected by technological progress. Asimov's Galactic Empire sounds an awful lot like the Roman Empire. Trantor, the empire's capital, comes across as a sort of hyper-version of Manhattan in the 1940s. The Foundation itself seems to recapitulate a fair bit of American history, passing through Boss Tweed politics and Robber Baron-style plutocracy; by the end of the trilogy it has evolved into something resembling mid 20th-century America – although Asimov makes it clear that this is by no means its final state.


Let me be clear, however: in pointing out the familiarity of the various societies we see in Foundation, I'm not being critical. On the contrary, this familiarity, the way Asimov's invented societies recapitulate historical models, goes right along with his underlying conceit: the possibility of a rigorous, mathematical social science that understands society, can predict how it changes, and can be used to shape those changes.


That conceit underlies the whole story arc. In Foundation, we learn that a small group of mathematicians have developed "psychohistory", the aforementioned rigorous science of society. Applying that science to the all-powerful Galactic Empire in which they live, they discover that it is in fact in terminal decline, and that a 30,000-year era of barbarism will follow its fall. But they also discover that a carefully designed nudge can change that path. The empire can't be saved, but the length of the coming dark age can be reduced to a mere millennium.

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First Fifty Pages of Peter F. Hamilton's Great North Road

First Fifty Pages of Peter F. Hamilton's Great North Road | Science Fiction Future |

Every Friday, we here @ Del Rey Spectra will place a 50 page excerpt of a selected title on Suvudu. Whether it is science fiction, epic fantasy, alternate history, horror, urban fantasy, paranormal, the possibilities are endless.

Great North Road, Peter F. Hamilton’s riveting new thriller, combines the nail-biting suspense of a serial-killer investigation with clear-eyed scientific and social extrapolation to create a future that seems not merely plausible but inevitable. Let’s here what the author has to say:

“Ask most people, and they’ll tell you I’m an author of series (large ones). My last stand-alone novel, Fallen Dragon, was published in 2001. And since then I’ve brought out five books, all set in my Commonwealth universe. So why the change? Why bring out a single novel again? Simple, really; I wanted the change. Writing series is enjoyable, and from a writer’s point of view edging towards comfy. By now I’m familiar enough with the Commonwealth that I don’t need too many new notes if I start a fresh book set there. And that leads to a danger of getting trapped in a rut.

So this is one reason why Great North Road exists, along with me wanting to tell this particular story. Not only is it a stand-alone novel, it’s in a brand new universe. That takes time to put together. Out of the two years I spent writing Great North Road, the first six months was devoted entirely to worldbuilding: making sure the society I was thinking of worked, and then refining the details until I was convinced it was plausible. As it’s set only a hundred and thirty years in the future, I had to be a lot more careful how I extrapolated trends and their impact on society. You can’t get away with as much as you can with a story set a couple of thousand years ahead.

The advantage of this is that it gives me an opportunity to try out new ideas–and not just technology, but the way the book is written, too. Great North Road takes place over a hundred days, with each day effectively being one chapter–an interesting choice of structure when you consider that Great North Road is 1000 pages long! (I’m not the most popular author in the production department.) But as this is a one-off, I can use it with confidence. Besides, there’s a lot of the main character’s life told in flashback, filling in her motives and astonishing upbringing.

Which brings us to: what’s it all about? Well, at heart it’s a detective story. With aliens–possibly. It’s also a love story. And then there’s a big chunk of shiny military hardware. And also the faith people have in themselves and their ideals. And not forgetting how some things just never change. Plus… well, after all it is 1000 pages long. I hope you enjoy it.”

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Sci-fi Illustrations By Jim Burns

Sci-fi Illustrations By Jim Burns | Science Fiction Future |

Sci-fi iIllustrations By British science fiction illustrator Jim Burns

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Literary Treks 1: In Tempest's Wake and the Development of Vanguard

Literary Treks 1: In Tempest's Wake and the Development of Vanguard | Science Fiction Future |
Star Trek prime books now have a dedicated podcast !

Episode 2 with Kirsten Beyer here:

This is Fantastic !
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U.S. Forecast as No. 2 Economy but Energy Independent

U.S. Forecast as No. 2 Economy but Energy Independent | Science Fiction Future |

A new intelligence assessment of global trends projects that China will outstrip the United States as the leading economic power before 2030, but that America will remain an indispensable world leader, bolstered in part by an era of energy independence.

Russia’s clout would wane, as would the economic strength of other countries reliant on oil for revenues.  

The product of four years of intelligence-gathering and analysis, the study, by the National Intelligence Council, presents grounds for optimism and pessimism in nearly equal measure. The council reports to the director of national intelligence and has responsibilities for long-term strategic analysis.

One remarkable development it anticipates is a spreading affluence that leads to a larger global middle class that is better educated and has wider access to health care and new communications technologies like the Internet and smartphones. The report assesses global trends to 2030.


“The growth of the global middle class constitutes a tectonic shift,” the study states, saying that billions of people will gain new individual power as they climb out of poverty. “For the first time, a majority of the world’s population will not be impoverished, and the middle classes will be the most important social and economic sector in the vast majority of countries around the world.”

At the same time, it warns, half of the world’s population probably will be living in areas that suffer severe shortages of fresh water, meaning that management of natural resources will be a key component of global national security efforts.


But these developments also bring significant risks, allowing radicalized groups to enter world politics on a scale even more violent than current terrorist organizations by adopting “lethal and disruptive technologies,” including biological weapons and cyberweapons.

The study warns of the risk that terrorists could mount a computer-network attack in which the casualties would be measured not by the hundreds or thousands killed but by the millions severely affected by damaged infrastructure, like electrical grids’ being taken down.

“There will not be any hegemonic power,” the 166-page report states. “Power will shift to networks and coalitions in a multipolar world.”


It warns that at least 15 countries are “at high risk of state failure” by 2030, among them Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also Somalia, Burundi, Rwanda, Yemen and Uganda.

The study acknowledges that the future “is malleable,” and lists important “game-changers” that will most influence the global scene to 2030: a crisis-prone world economy, shortcomings in governance, conflicts within states and between them, the impact of new technologies and whether the United States can “work with new partners to reinvent the international system.”

The best-case situation for global security to 2030, according to the study, would be a growing political partnership between the United States and China. But it could take a crisis to bring Washington and Beijing together — something like a nuclear standoff between India and Pakistan resolved only by bold cooperation between the United States and China.


The worst-case situation envisions a stalling of economic globalization that would preclude any advancement of financial well-being around the world. That would be a likely outcome following an outbreak of a health pandemic that, even if short-lived, would result in closed borders and economic isolationism.


The chief author and manager of the project, Mathew Burrows, who is counselor for the National Intelligence Council, said the findings had been presented in advance in more than 20 nations to groups of academic experts, business leaders and government officials, including local intelligence officers.


In an interview, Mr. Burrows noted that the audiences in China were far more accepting of the American intelligence assessments — both those predicting China’s economic ascendancy and those warning of political dangers if there was no reform of governance in Beijing — than were audiences in Russia.


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A 'Star Trek: TNG'-style communicator for your shirt

A 'Star Trek: TNG'-style communicator for your shirt | Science Fiction Future |

Taking its cues from next-gen "Star Trek," this wearable Bluetooth speakerphone lets you make and take calls and issue voice commands (hello, Siri!) with just one tap.


Joke all you want, but Siri is pretty cool. And Google Search? Even cooler. Just one problem: These voice-powered assistants require you to take your phone out of your pocket, purse, briefcase, or whatever. You can't just talk to the air and have your commands recognized.

What you need is one of those "Star Trek: The Next Generation"-style communicators, the kind Captain Jean-Luc Picard wore on his chest. One little tap and he's all, "Commander Data, meet me in Engineering."

Indiegogo project CommBadge may not look Starfleet-issue, but it accomplishes much the same thing as those shiny communicators. It's a small, round, Bluetooth-powered speakerphone you can clip to your shirt, then press whenever you want to make or take a call or issue a voice command.

This is perhaps better demonstrated than explained, so check out the CommBadge promo video, then meet me below for some thoughts.

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Christmas Gifts 2012: the Best Science Fiction

Christmas Gifts 2012: the Best Science Fiction | Science Fiction Future |

In September, the critic Paul Kincaid reviewed a clutch of science fictionanthologies for the Los Angeles Review of Books. His conclusion – that on the evidence of what SF itself selects as its best, "the genres of the fantastic themselves have reached a state of exhaustion" – provoked a gush of debate in the many online venues through which fandom conducts its conversations with itself.


Is it true, as Kincaid suggests, that "science fiction has lost confidence in the future"? Or is the genre still able to do interesting things with its 1950s paradigm of hard science and spaceships zooming between the planets? The galactic defence attorney might point to the fact that three of the year's best SF novels were brilliant variations on familiar genre models: Kim Stanley Robinson's capacious and marvellous future-history 2312 (Harper Voyager), Paul McAuley's scientifically rigorous, beautifully written spacewar novel In the Mouth of the Whale (Gollancz), and Alastair Reynolds's solar-system-spanningBlue Remembered Earth (Gollancz). On the other hand, the galactic prosecutor can certainly call into evidence a great quantity of drearily over-familiar novels and cliché-raddled stories. Contemporary SF is still, predominantly, in dialogue with its own backlist, and there's some truth in Kincaid's diagnosis of "a genre treading water, picking up shiny relics from its own long history as though they were bright new ideas".


The least we're entitled to expect is that writers will rework those old tropes in interesting ways. And some do: Madeline Ashby's vN (Angry Robot) manages to take those generic clichés, robots, and make something distinctively 21st century out of them. Hannu Rajaniemi's The Fractal Prince (Gollancz) spins original variations on core science fiction tropes, but does so in a richly decadent prose a parsec away from Asimov and Heinlein's dry pabulum. And John Scalzi's Redshirts (Tor/Gollancz) – one of the year's stand-out books – stirs up our memories of the original Star Trek in ways both funny and clever.


There have been innovations too. Proof that SF isn't just rocket-ships and rayguns is found in two sensitive, thought-provoking novels about the ethics of where medical science is taking us: Scottish writer Ken MacLeod's Intrusion(Orbit) and German author Juli Zeh's The Method (translated by Sally-Ann Spencer, Harvill Secker). Then there's Nick Harkaway's Angelmaker(Heinemann/Vintage), a crowded carnivalesque masterpiece that is quite unlike other crowded carnivalesque novels you may have read in being both funnier and more estranging. Lavie Tidhar's Osama (PS Books) addresses questions of contemporary terrorism, politics and culpability through the vigorous hokum of pulp noir and alternate history, to vivid effect. The best short-story collection I read this year was Kij Johnson's At the Mouth of the River of Bees (Small Beer Press). She is a writer who is always fresh, always dazzling.


It can be argued that the most significant developments in 2012 were less about content and more about medium. Three examples: Jeff Noon's welcome return to novel-writing after a decade away, Channel SK1N is a powerful satiric phantasmagoria rendered via his brilliantly unsettling prose. But it's not published by a mainstream imprint; instead, it's available as a DRM-free ebook on Noon's own website, Margaret Atwood is currently serialising her new book, Positron, as a series of e-published chapbooks. And then there's Arc, a new online-only SF magazine from the New Scientist stable that launched this year and has been consistently brilliant ( I could add that the best criticism of genre has been appearing online, rather than in print, for many years now.


It's tempting to think that all this online activity is drawing us into an SF-publishing stargate, directing us down disorienting psychedelic corridors to a world in which paper-and-ink books are no more. Nevertheless, my nomination for best SF novel of the year (indeed, for best novel of the year) was published as a hardback by one of the genre's oldest publishers, Gollancz: M John Harrison's extraordinary Empty Space. So perhaps there's life in the old tree book yet.


• Adam Roberts's latest novel is Jack Glass (Gollancz).

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The Secret to the Success of Iain M. Banks’ Culture Novels

The Secret to the Success of Iain M. Banks’ Culture Novels | Science Fiction Future |

Iain M. Banks’ Consider Phlebas was published in 1987, the first book written of what would come to be known as the Culture sequence (or cycle). Released just this year, The Hydrogen Sonata marks the tenth book in the long running, award winning Space Opera series. But what makes for a good Culture novel, what is the secret to Banks’ longevity?


We asked this week’s panelists…


Q: In celebration of Iain Banks’ CULTURE series, what do you think sets this work apart from other space opera fiction? What specifically makes for a good CULTURE novel and why?


Here’s what they said…

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Hail the Goddess: Citroen DS Transcends the Boundaries

Hail the Goddess: Citroen DS Transcends the Boundaries | Science Fiction Future |

“I think that cars today are almost the exact equivalent of the great Gothic cathedrals: I mean the supreme creation of an era, conceived with passion by unknown artists, and consumed in image if not in usage by a whole population which appro­priates them as a purely magical object.”


“It is obvious that the new Citroen has fallen from the sky inasmuch as it appears at first sight as a super­lative object. We must not forget that an object is the best messenger of a world above that of nature: one can easily see in an object at once a perfection and an absence of origin, a closure and a brilliance, a trans­form­ation of life into matter (matter is much more magical than life), and in a word a silence which belongs to the realm of fairy-tales.”


“The D.S. — the “Goddess” — has all the features (or at least the public is unanimous in attrib­uting them to it at first sight) of one of those objects from another universe which have supplied fuel for the neomania of the eight­eenth century and that of our own science-fiction: the Deesse is first and foremost a new Nautilus.”


“It is well known that smoothness is always an attribute of perfection because its opposite reveals a technical and typically human operation of assem­bling: Christ’s robe was seamless, just as the airships of science-fiction are made of unbroken metal. The D.S 19 has no preten­sions about being as smooth as cake-icing, although its its general shape is very rounded; yet it is the dove-tailing of its sections which interest the public most: one keenly fingers the edges of the windows, one feels along the wide rubber grooves which link the back window to its metal surround.”


“There are in the D.S. the begin­nings of a new phenomen­ology of assem­bling, as if one progressed from a world where elements are welded to a world where they are juxta­posed and hold together by sole virtue of their wondrous shape, which of course is meant to prepare one for the idea of a more benign Nature.”


“We are therefore dealing here with a humanized art, and it is possible that the Deesse marks a change in the mythology of cars. Until now, the ultimate in cars belonged rather to the bestiary of power; here it becomes at once more spiritual and more object-like, and despite some conces­sions to neomania (such as the empty steering wheel), it is now more homely, more attuned to this sublim­ation of the utensil which one also finds in the design of contem­porary household equipment.”

“The dashboard looks more like the working surface of a modern kitchen than the control room of a factory; the slim panes of matt fluted metal, the small levers topped by a white ball, the very simple dials, the very discreetness of the nickel-work, all this signifies a kind of control exercised over motion rather than performance. One is obviously turning from an alchemy of speed to a relish in driving.”


“The public, it seems, has admirably divined the novelty of the themes which are suggested to it. Responding at first to the neologism (a whole publicity campaign had kept it on the alert for years), it tries very quickly to fall back on a behaviour which indicates adjustment and a readiness to use (“You’ve got to get used to it ”). In the exhib­ition halls, the car on show is explored with an intense, amorous studi­ousness: it is the great tactile phase of discovery, the moment when visual wonder is about to receive the reasoned assault of touch (for touch is the most demys­ti­fying of all senses, unlike sight, which is the most magical).”

“The bodywork, the lines of union are touched, the uphol­stery palpated, the seats tried, the doors caressed, the cushions fondled; before the wheel, one pretends to drive with one’s whole body. The object here is totally prosti­tuted, appro­priated: origin­ating from the heaven of Metropolis , the Goddess is in a quarter of an hour mediatized, actual­izing through this exorcism the very essence of petit-bourgeois advancement.”


©Roland Barthes
Reproduced with permission from
ISBN 0 09 997220 4

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Grand Old Planet : Paul Krugman on Republicans and Science

Grand Old Planet : Paul Krugman on Republicans and Science | Science Fiction Future |

Earlier this week, GQ magazine published an interview with Senator Marco Rubio, whom many consider a contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, in which Mr. Rubio was asked how old the earth is. After declaring “I’m not a scientist, man,” the senator went into desperate evasive action, ending with the declaration that “it’s one of the great mysteries.”

It’s funny stuff, and conservatives would like us to forget about it as soon as possible. Hey, they say, he was just pandering to likely voters in the 2016 Republican primaries — a claim that for some reason is supposed to comfort us.


But we shouldn’t let go that easily. Reading Mr. Rubio’s interview is like driving through a deeply eroded canyon; all at once, you can clearly see what lies below the superficial landscape. Like striated rock beds that speak of deep time, his inability to acknowledge scientific evidence speaks of the anti-rational mind-set that has taken over his political party.

By the way, that question didn’t come out of the blue. As speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Mr. Rubio provided powerful aid to creationists trying to water down science education. In one interview, he compared the teaching of evolution to Communist indoctrination tactics — although he graciously added that “I’m not equating the evolution people with Fidel Castro.” Gee, thanks.


What was Mr. Rubio’s complaint about science teaching? That it might undermine children’s faith in what their parents told them to believe. And right there you have the modern G.O.P.’s attitude, not just toward biology, but toward everything: If evidence seems to contradict faith, suppress the evidence.

The most obvious example other than evolution is man-made climate change. As the evidence for a warming planet becomes ever stronger — and ever scarier — the G.O.P. has buried deeper into denial, into assertions that the whole thing is a hoax concocted by a vast conspiracy of scientists. And this denial has been accompanied by frantic efforts to silence and punish anyone reporting the inconvenient facts.


But the same phenomenon is visible in many other fields. The most recent demonstration came in the matter of election polls. Coming into the recent election, state-level polling clearly pointed to an Obama victory — yet more or less the whole Republican Party refused to acknowledge this reality. Instead, pundits and politicians alike fiercely denied the numbers and personally attacked anyone pointing out the obvious; the demonizing of The Times’s Nate Silver, in particular, was remarkable to behold.


What accounts for this pattern of denial? Earlier this year, the science writer Chris Mooney published “The Republican Brain,” which was not, as you might think, a partisan screed. It was, instead, a survey of the now-extensive research linking political views to personality types. As Mr. Mooney showed, modern American conservatism is highly correlated with authoritarian inclinations — and authoritarians are strongly inclined to reject any evidence contradicting their prior beliefs. Today’s Republicans cocoon themselves in an alternate reality defined by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, and only on rare occasions — like on election night — encounter any hint that what they believe might not be true.

And, no, it’s not symmetric. Liberals, being human, often give in to wishful thinking — but not in the same systematic, all-encompassing way.

Coming back to the age of the earth: Does it matter? No, says Mr. Rubio, pronouncing it “a dispute amongst theologians” — what about the geologists? — that has “has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States.” But he couldn’t be more wrong.


We are, after all, living in an era when science plays a crucial economic role. How are we going to search effectively for natural resources if schools trying to teach modern geology must give equal time to claims that the world is only 6.000 years old? How are we going to stay competitive in biotechnology if biology classes avoid any material that might offend creationists?

And then there’s the matter of using evidence to shape economic policy. You may have read about the recent study from the Congressional Research Service finding no empirical support for the dogma that cutting taxes on the wealthy leads to higher economic growth. How did Republicans respond? By suppressing the report. On economics, as in hard science, modern conservatives don’t want to hear anything challenging their preconceptions — and they don’t want anyone else to hear about it, either.

So don’t shrug off Mr. Rubio’s awkward moment. His inability to deal with geological evidence was symptomatic of a much broader problem — one that may, in the end, set America on a path of inexorable decline.

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10 Landmarks in Science Fiction History That Could Happen in Your Lifetime

10 Landmarks in Science Fiction History That Could Happen in Your Lifetime | Science Fiction Future |

The Golden Age of science fiction is long over. But some of the genre's greatest moments haven't arrived yet. There are major landmarks in the history of science fiction that are just on the horizon — and some of them could arrive in your lifetime. Technology may have caught up to science fiction in some areas, but it's going to be transforming the genre in others.


Here are 10 landmarks in the history of science fiction that could be happening in the next few decades.

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Adbusters’ War Against Too Much of Everything

Adbusters’ War Against Too Much of Everything | Science Fiction Future |

IF you haven’t finished your holiday shopping yet, don’t bother.


Kalle Lasn, the maestro of Adbusters, says that new waves of global activism fill him “with more optimism than I’ve felt for many years.”


Skip the mall and the neighborhood store, resist the urge to shop online and, by all means, don’t buy anything you don’t truly need.


So says Kalle Lasn, 70, maestro of the proudly radical magazine Adbusters,published in Vancouver, British Columbia. Mr. Lasn takes gleeful pleasure in lobbing provocations at global corporations — and his latest salvo is “Buy Nothing Christmas.”


“As our planet gets warmer, as animals go extinct, as the humans get sicker, as our economies bail and our politicians grow ever more twisted,” Americans just go shopping, Adbusters says on its Web site. Overconsumption is destroying us, yet shopping is “our solace, our sedative: consumerism is the opiate of the masses.”

“We’ve got to break the habit,” Mr. Lasn said in a telephone interview. “It will be a shock, but we’ve got to shift to a new paradigm. Otherwise, I’m afraid will be facing a new Dark Age.”

Of course, retailers will be facing a Dark Age if people really stop shopping. And because consumer spending accounts for roughly 70 percent of United States gross domestic product, an abrupt shift to nonconsumption would drive the already faltering economy to its knees.


There are no signs that consumers are heeding Mr. Lasn’s call, says Marshal Cohen,chief retail analyst at the NPD Group. “I find that people are shoppers or they’re not,” he said. “Shoppers keep shopping.”

So it’s easy to dismiss this latest campaign as yet another empty gesture from a figure on the radical fringe. Why take Mr. Lasn’s words seriously?

Well, last year, a campaign prompted by Mr. Lasn and his magazine improbably caught fire. It was Occupy Wall Street.


Adbusters gave Occupy its name and opening date and designed the poster with Occupy’s defining image: an elegant ballerina perched atop Wall Street’s raging bull while gas-masked figures loomed in the background. The poster contained this text: “What Is Our One Demand? #OccupyWallStreet. Sept. 17th. Bring Tent.” A digital version went viral.


Mr. Lasn’s main role in the Zuccotti Park occupation, however, pretty much ended there: he remained in Vancouver, never visiting the Lower Manhattan encampment and participating in the local organizational work that made it possible. But his contribution began long before then.

Born in Estonia, Mr. Lasn lived for several years in German resettlement camps with his parents after they fled the advancing Soviet army toward the end of World War II. The family moved to Australia when he was 7. He graduated from the University of Adelaide, where he studied theoretical and applied mathematics and then worked four years for the Australian military, writing computer code for war games.


Then he moved to Tokyo, where the skills he developed in Australia served him well. He started a market research company and, he says, did computer-based studies of ad campaigns for global corporations. The work was lucrative, and he used his money to see the world. It was 1968, and a left-wing student rebellion in Paris resonated worldwide. He says he imbibed the spirit of rebellion, and it changed him.


“Until Occupy, the greatest political movement I’d ever seen was the uprising of ’68. It really inspired me, and I’ve been running on that energy — and have been trying to recapture it — ever since.”


LAST year, he says, he did recapture it. Stirred by the uprisings in Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt — the Arab Spring — he and colleagues at Adbusters “began to consider the possibilities of achieving a soft regime change in the United States, of finding some way to tap into the revolutionary zeitgeist.” Out of those discussions came the idea of Occupy Wall Street.

Max Haiven, a postdoctoral fellow in art and public policy at New York University, who has studied Adbusters for years, said: “That was a fantastic initiative for them. They’ve been in global anticonsumption battles for years, and Adbusters has called for many big campaigns that never really happened. This one did. In a way, they got lucky.”


He added: “What led to Occupy Wall Street taking off was not just the iconic image of the ballerina and the bull but a number of factors — including on-the-ground activists building an organization through many, many meetings and relationships and hard work in New York and elsewhere. Adbusters didn’t do that. Other people did it.”


Mr. Lasn acknowledges the truth of that, and says he’s not a community organizer and certainly not a graceful politician. “I’ve said some things that have pissed people off,” he says. And it’s not just corporations like Nike, McDonald’s and Philip Morris that have been stung by him. Israel’s policies toward Palestinians are an Adbusters target.

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Science fiction and fantasy of the Year

Science fiction and fantasy of the Year | Science Fiction Future |
Tim Martin celebrates the year’s best science fiction and fantasy, including Iain M Banks and China Miéville.
James Keith's insight:

‘If you were to draw a graph of a mainline book you’d find it would just be smoothly wobbling up and down like ripples on a lake, whereas fantasy would have peaks and troughs and be generally bouncing about – sometimes a whole series of peaks and troughs, like those on a seismograph.” So said the glorious Diana Wynne Jones, who died this year, in one of the interviews reprinted in Reflections (David Fickling, £25), a book that deserves top billing on the Christmas list of anyone remotely interested in the nebulous, seismographical fields of science fiction and fantasy. Happily, the year’s best books in these notoriously broad churches did nothing to clarify the limits of either genre, guaranteeing a variety of literary escapes from the bounds of consensus reality.


The absurdly talented Adam Roberts is professor of 19th-century literature at London University, and spends the rest of his time hauling British science fiction into a bright future of sparkling sentences and densely ironic conceits. Jack Glass (Gollancz, £14.99) is a dazzling trio of locked-room murder-mysteries set in a brittle future autarchy, drawing heavily on golden-age SF but even more from the English detective stories of Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh. Even more far-reaching in aspiration is M John Harrison’s Empty Space (Gollancz, £12.99), the third novel in a trilogy that began with the extraordinary Light in 2002. On a sentence level Harrison outwrites most British authors currently working in any genre, but it has to be said that this third part will be pretty baffling to anyone not acquainted with the first two, offering a typically abrupt download of Chandlerian future-noir, quantum space opera and some sad vignettes of contemporary British alienation. With patience, it’s extraordinary.


Graham Joyce’s Some Kind of Fairy Tale (Gollancz, £9.99) is a sly, observant story in which a teenage girl walks back unchanged into a rural community after going missing in the bluebell woods two decades ago. Joyce keeps the focus on the human drama, allowing his fairyland to build itself with threatening glamour in the shadows of the reader’s imagination.

Among the many satisfactions of Ken MacLeod’s fiction is his confidence in literature as a tool of political engagement. Intrusion (Orbit, £18.99) is a vision of life in a near-future Britain where nanny-state supervision has edged into soft-totalitarian surveillance and control. The plot revolves around an expectant mother seeking an exemption from the genetic “fix”, a single pill that guarantees a healthy foetus, but things get rapidly less cheerful from there in this steely, brilliant piece of work.


Lovers of starships cavorting in the vasty deeps were amply catered for this year, too, with strong showings from several of the finest hard-SF writers. Iain M Banks’s latest addition to his Culture series, The Hydrogen Sonata (Orbit, £20), was another deftly sarcastic saga of deep-space politics with welcome reappearances from his garrulous, heavily armed, philosophical warships. Hannu Rajaniemi’s The Fractal Prince (Gollancz, £20) was equally formidable, a quantum caper thriller set above a planet where rogue software infects the unwary, and ancient djinns lie coiled in receptive minds.

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Top 5 best science fiction and fantasy books of 2012 | SciFiNow

Top 5 best science fiction and fantasy books of 2012 | SciFiNow | Science Fiction Future |
Peter F Hamilton, Ken MacLeod and Joe Abercrombie in the best SF and fantasy of 2012
Susan Calvin's comment, January 2, 2013 11:07 AM
i haven't read any of them yet :_
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If You Want To Defeat The Evil Scientists, You Are Going To Have To Play Their 'Evidence' Games

If You Want To Defeat The Evil Scientists, You Are Going To Have To Play Their 'Evidence' Games | Science Fiction Future |
I'm excited to see this church's peer-reviewed paper debunking evolution.
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Spiner, Burton and DeGrasse Tyson

Spiner, Burton and DeGrasse Tyson | Science Fiction Future |

Sometimes the Awesome Club reveals photos of its super-private and awesome meetings. Here’s the latest: Brent Spiner, Levar Burton, and Neil deGrasse Tyson had a sunglass summit to determine how long they could stay badass on the surface of Mercury. The jury is still out on who won.

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How space-based solar power will solve all our energy needs

How space-based solar power will solve all our energy needs | Science Fiction Future |

Humanity's demand for energy is growing at an astonishing rate. Combine this with an ever-dwindling supply of fossil fuels, and it becomes painfully clear that something innovative and powerful is required. There's one high-tech proposal that holds tremendous promise — an idea that has been around since the late 1960s. Here's how space-based solar power will eventually solve all our energy needs.


Humans needs more power


Assuming that economic progress and globalization continues at its current pace, we'll need to produce twice the amount of energy that's consumed today by the 2030s — what will reach a monumental 220 trillion kiloWatt hours per year. And by the end of the century, we'll need four times the current rate of consumption.


Just as importantly, we're also going to have to kick the fossil fuel habit — and not only because it'll eventually run out. Rising CO2 emissions are wreaking havoc on the Earth's atmosphere, what's creating environmentally deleterious side-effects at a rate faster than expected.

Moreover, if greenhouse gases are to be brought under control over the course of the next several decades, we'll need to get upwards of 90% of all our energy from either renewable or nuclear sources.

While there are a number of proposals on the table for how we might be able to meet these challenges, none really appear to be truly viable.

Except for solar powered satellites.


Obvious benefits


A closer look at a space-based solution yields a lengthy list of advantages.

Solar powered satellites don't produce any greenhouse gases, nor do they take up valuable real estate on Earth. Once the initial costs are met, they would be relatively cheap to maintain; the solar modules used for generating solar energy have a long service life, not to mention the astounding ROI that would come from a virtually unlimited energy source.

Additionally, they're not constrained by night/day cycles, the weather, or the changing seasons. And indeed, they would be much more efficient than any kind of ground-based station. The collection of solar energy in space is seven times greater per unit area than on the surface of the planet. Moreover, the amount of solar energy available up there is staggering — on the order of billions of times greater than what we draw today; the Earth receives only one part in 2.3 billion of the Sun's output. The potential for scalability is enormous, to say the least.

Solar powered satellites won't be prone to terrorist attacks and they'll reduce geopolitical pressure for oil. According to futurist Keith Henson, space-based solar could be used to power vehicles, like electric cars, or by enabling the production of synthetic fuels — which at a penny per kiloWatt hour would result in gasoline that costs one dollar a gallon.

At the same time, space-based solar would provide true energy independence for those nations who choose to implement it. And on top of that, the energy could be exported to virtually anywhere in the world; it would be especially valuable for isolated areas of the globe, including Africa and India.


Lastly, space-based solar power would also yield tremendous benefits to human and robotic space exploration, including the powering of off-planet colonies on the Moon, Mars, and space stations. It could also serve as the first seed in the development of a Dyson Sphere — a massive array of solar collectors that would completely envelope the sun at a distance of about 1 AU.

Krozen's curator insight, January 28, 2013 12:05 PM

A great idea, I'd say. Some kinks may have to be worked out, but it certainly has potential to push humanity ahead.

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We’re too close to the sea

We’re too close to the sea | Science Fiction Future |

Retreat from the sea will be painful no matter how it is executed, but it will hurt most if Americans continue to try to protect all existing infrastructure until the sea destroys it and if we repeatedly rebuild in the same places.


Planning for the coming reality must be a collaborative effort of the multiple stakeholders with diverse interests in coastal values. We offer these suggestions as a starting point.


●Federal, state and local coastal policies should encourage people to develop in low-risk, environmentally robust areas, not high-risk, environmentally sensitive places.


●Planning should begin to depopulate high-risk areas now, rather than waiting for disasters to cause further loss of life and property.


●Certain things should be recognized as dependent on shorelines, such as shipping terminals, fishing ports, beach recreation, and shorebird and fish habitats. Shoreline dependence should be an important criterion as trade-offs among land uses are evaluated.


●The sea should be walled off only to protect shoreline-dependent infrastructure and only when no other protective actions are possible. Soft walls (dunes) may be necessary for short-term protection in areas where retreat is planned and ongoing.


●The coast should be recognized as a limited natural resource that provides ecological, economic, aesthetic, recreational and cultural benefits. New policies should provide a fair balance between the public and private costs of managing the coast and public and private benefits derived from this resource.


For centuries Americans have made their homes on the coast. Its lands and waters have provided food, places to live and safe harbors for the ships that serve our centers of commerce. Coastal fish and wildlife, and even storms, have inspired us. We can continue to reap these benefits from the coast, but the benefits will be greatest and the costs least if we manage ourselves wisely.

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