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  • Showing only topics with the tag "science fiction". Back to normal view
    1. Down to earth, present or near-future, science or science fiction stories featuring space?

      I just finished binging The Habitat, the awesome podcast about NASA's simulated mission to Mars. And I'm feeling the urge to read something along those lines: fiction or true stories and indulge...

      I just finished binging The Habitat, the awesome podcast about NASA's simulated mission to Mars. And I'm feeling the urge to read something along those lines: fiction or true stories and indulge my fascination with space (and things coming from it) and how that relates to contemporary imagination.

      Any suggestions?

      11 votes
    2. Sci Fi trends over the decades

      I've just finished The Sirens of Titan from 1959 (after seeing it recommended here, actually) and something struck me compared to more recent books. A lot of the more technical stuff is kind of...

      I've just finished The Sirens of Titan from 1959 (after seeing it recommended here, actually) and something struck me compared to more recent books. A lot of the more technical stuff is kind of hand-waved away. It's not a criticism, just something that stuck out as I was reading. Is this a trend? Do readers demand more details these days? I've read a bunch of sci fi from the 60s until the present day, but I've only really gotten back into it more recently with Sirens.

      Perhaps I've read too much Neal Stephenson, who has likely never hand-waved anything away! The Martian also springs to mind, but that's very deliberately focused on the details and keeping it realistic, IIRC.

      Spoilers

      I'm mostly thinking about the radio-controlling of the Martian army beyond "there is a little box in their pocket" and most of the atmospheric questions beyond how they breathe.

      13 votes
    3. Reflections on Farenheit 451, published 65 years ago

      Finished this last night. It's been so long since I read any Bradbury for the first time. His style shows some age, but he's a really poetic and visionary writer. Published in 1953, this tale is a...

      Finished this last night. It's been so long since I read any Bradbury for the first time. His style shows some age, but he's a really poetic and visionary writer.

      Published in 1953, this tale is a battle between visual media and books, but taking the form of the fleeting versus the permanent, the here and now versus history, pop culture versus capital C Culture.

      In a way, its datedness is a strength, because of so much of Bradbury's prophetic vision and because of the way his 1950's idea of dystopia contrasts with the more numerous recent ideas.

      If there was ever an object lesson about filter bubbles, Farenheit 451 is it: recent enough to be relatable and distant enough to be outside our current filters. Readers should take note of this when relating and evaluating fiction and any work that lies outside their personal space. A valuable lesson in itself.

      So often we're totally unaware of the walls we create for ourselves, our comfort zone. It's precisely because they provide comfort that we tend to stay within them.

      And of course, Bradbury's whole novel is both about this issue and again a reference object for it.

      8 votes
    4. Noticing sources from Information Theory in Le Guin's "soft" fantasy

      Ursula K. Le Guin was my favourite SciFi & Fantasy writer. Her passing earlier in the year was a great loss. I'm reading her scifi-fantasy book Always Coming Home (1985), a compilation of...

      Ursula K. Le Guin was my favourite SciFi & Fantasy writer. Her passing earlier in the year was a great loss.

      I'm reading her scifi-fantasy book Always Coming Home (1985), a compilation of "in-universe" codices and oral traditions as seen by an anthropologist. Her works were usually put in the "soft scifi" bin, as opposed to the "harder" genre. What caught my attention was a passage from the book, as appeared in an oral narrative (p. 161):

      There are records of the red brick people in the Memory of the Exchange, of course, but I don't think many people have ever looked at them. They would be hard to make sense of. The City mind [a vast autonomous network of computers] thinks that sense has been made if a writing is read, if a message is transmitted, but we don't think that way.

      Here we're called to notice the information vs. meaning distinction, for which a lot has been said and will be said. It was striking to me how the definition of "sense" according to the "City mind" closely paralleled the concept of information in Claude E. Shannon's seminal paper, A Mathematical Theory of Communication (PDF link). There, "information" simply meant what was transmitted between a sender and a receiver. It gave rise to a consistent definition of the amount of information based on the Shannon entropy.

      However, we implicitly feel that this concept of information isn't encompassing enough to include meaning -- a vague term, but one we feel to be important. It seems that meaning enters information only as we (or someone) interpret it. In the words of computer scientist Melanie A. Mitchell, "meaning" seems to have an evolutionary value (Complexity: a Guided Tour, 2009). I feel that we could as well say, meaning may be bonded to the bodily and messy reality where flesh and blood living is at stake.

      Returning to the passage in the novel, for me it was read as a rare spark of "hard" science in Le Guin's scifi works. Was it possible that she actually read into the information theory for inspiration? I don't know. But it appears to have captured the tension in the "ever-thorny issue" of meaning vs. information. For the computers, "sense" follows the information-theory concept of information; but for the human people in the story, it "would be hard to make sense of" the information in that way.

      Do you have similar "aha" moments, where you find a insightful moment of grasping an important "hard-science" idea while immersed in a "soft" scifi/fantasy work?

      Or, we can talk about anything vaguely connected to this post :) Let me know.

      10 votes