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Elsewhere

By / January 26, 2017 / no comments

It’s been one of those weeks when other commitments have derailed my plans for this blog. It happens. But I can at least let you share some of the things I’ve spotted around the web recently.

2001: a Space OdysseyLet’s start with Arthur C. Clarke, since we’re celebrating his centenary this year (we’ve already started at this blog). In an introduction to a new edition of 2001, A Space Odyssey, Michael Moorcock described the sometimes fraught relationship between Clarke and Stanley Kubrick during the making of the film. And while we’re thinking of Clarke, here’s a radio discussion about him by the magician, James Randi. There’s also a very interesting portrait of Clarke as “The Man Who Wrote the Future” up at Nature.

The Whispering Swarm: Book One of The Sanctuary of the White FriarsGoing back to Michael Moorcock. Famously, at the start of his career he would turn out novels at a tremendous rate, and he here he talks about how to turn out a novel in three days. Though I suspect it isn’t a technique that he used for some of his better novels, like Mother London or, more recently, The Whispering Swarm.

Empire GamesMeanwhile, I suspect most of us are still feeling pretty frazzled at the idea of Donald Trump becoming US President. And here, Charles Stross talks about why sf is important at a time like this, as he introduces his new novel, Empire Games.

Still fretting about the state of the world today, here’s a discussion between Bruce Sterling (author, most recently, of Pirate Utopia) and Jon Lebkowski in which they look at “the most dangerous time for our planet“.

New York 2140Among the other threats to every one of us, there are the changes to the environment that the new US administration seems intent on ignoring. Science fiction, of course, has been writing about this sort of stuff for ages, but now somebody has coined the horrible term “cli-fi” to describe it. Here’s an article about the phenomenon, that particularly draws attention to Kim Stanley Robinson’s forthcoming New York 2140.

We’ve already drawn attention to the work of Ted Chiang, whose short story “Story of your Life” formed the basis of the superb film, Arrival. Now there’s a rather fine portrait of Chiang that has appeared in the New Yorker.

Going back rather further in time, long before his first novel appeared, J.G. Ballard came up with an idea for a series of billboards across London that he called “Project for a New Novel”. The posters contained curious blocks of text, odd disconnected words, extracts from scientific journals and more. (Some of these text collages, as they are called, are displayed at the British Library website.) Now there’s a theory that the collages may be related to paintings by Salvador Dali.

Ballard, of course, was one of the great writers about our urban existence, so it’s an obvious step to look at these plans for New York that were never built, but which might have dramatically changed the character of that city. Then, let’s turn from the past to the future, and imagine how our cities could look 100 years from now.

Moving away from Earth out into the solar system (because I always like to see the discoveries and revelations that might affect the science fiction we’ll be reading two or three years from now), we’ve recently learned that the Moon may have been formed of debris from comet impacts on Earth over 100m years; a giant wave has been photographed moving across the surface of Venus; video has been released of the surface of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan; and the so-far undiscovered Planet Nine may be stranger than we think.

Finally, in a first for the quantum universe, scientists now say they have manipulated pure nothingness. Though that could be just a metaphor for blogging.

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Paul

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