Astrogator's Logs

New Words, New Worlds
Artist, Heather Oliver             

Archive for April, 2010

The Future’s so Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades!

Monday, April 26th, 2010

As of last Friday, I’m an affiliate member of SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.  I want to thank Mary Robinette Kowal for her lightspeed approval of my application and her warm welcome; and the three friends who supported my application: Jack McDevitt, Laura Mixon and Gerry Nordley.

To further brighten this happy occasion, SF Signal is hosting my review of Shine, an anthology of optimistic near-future SF edited by author/editor Jetse de Vries.  Readers of this blog have heard me complain about the inclination of contemporary SF to whiny broodinessShine is an antidote to that: a worthwhile experiment that deserves to have readers and successors.

And… io9 approached the Science in My Fiction blog founders, asking if they can reprint posts of potential interest to their readers.  For their first “reprint”, they chose You Only Find What You’re Looking For.  Today io9, tomorrow the galaxy!

My Cup Runneth Slightly Over

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Lest anyone is worried that I’m slacking off, the reason for the (comparative) silence is that I’ve been toiling on three almost simultaneous articles.

— An expanded version of You Only Find What You’re Looking For appeared in Science in My Fiction. Opening paragraph:

“Extraterrestrial life is a staple of SF and the focus of astrobiology and SETI. Yet whereas SF has populated countless worlds with varying success, from Tiptree’s haunting Flenni (Your Haploid Heart) to Lucas’ annoying Ewoks, real ETs remain stubbornly elusive: nobody has received a transmission demanding more Chuck Berry, and the planetary probe data are maddeningly inconclusive. Equally controversial are the shadowy forms on Martian asteroid ALH84001, though the pendulum has swung toward wary favoring of the biological possibility after scientists discovered nanobacteria on earth and water on Mars.”

— I was invited to be part of a Mind Meld at SF Signal. The question was “What are some of the coolest robots in science fiction? Why?” I won’t put excerpts of this here, to avoid spoilers! Here’s a hint, though: my answer partly aligns with what I said in The Souls in Our Machines.

— My article Miranda Wrongs: Reading too Much into the Genome, which discusses naive views of genetic engineering, appeared on H+ Magazine. Opening paragraph:

“When the sequence of the human genome was declared essentially complete in 2003, all biologists (except perhaps Craig Venter) heaved a sigh of gladness that the data were all on one website, publicly available, well-annotated and carefully cross-linked. Some may have hoisted a glass of champagne. Then they went back to their benches. They knew, if nobody else did, that the work was just beginning. Having the sequence was the equivalent of sounding out the text of an alphabet whose meaning was still undeciphered. For the linguistically inclined, think of Etruscan.”

Revel in the bounty while it lasts! May will be grant-writing time again.  After that, I’ll concentrate on fewer, larger writing chunks.  In particular, my stories are banging urgently within my head.

Images:  top, T’uupieh of Titan, assassin, singer (Joan Vinge, Eyes of Amber); bottom, cartoon by Polyp.

Can’t Stop the Signal: Faces from Earth

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

My readers probably know that I’m one of those who think there is intelligent life in the universe besides humanity, although I also think that the timespace constraints for meeting (even by signaling) and the biological and cultural hurdles for mutual comprehension are formidable.

We have sent information about ourselves to the universe: in addition to the unavoidable EM transmissions, we put plaques and voice recordings in the Pioneers and Voyagers. These qualify as METI, Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligences.  The probes by themselves are messages, tiny bottles flung into the vast ocean of space.

Dr. Tibor Pacher, a Hungarian physicist working in Germany and a space enthusiast, has started a program called Faces from Earth to continue and expand these efforts, in the hopes of inspiring more people about space exploration — especially the young. Mr. Larry Klaes, a US journalist and also a space enthusiast (and a long-time friend and contributor to this blog) just wrote about Tibor’s work at Seti League: Facing the Galaxy.

Please visit both links and consider whether you might like to join. There’s a 6-minute video at Tibor’s site, with several faces and statements about why people think this is an important endeavor. Halfway into the video, you will see a face you may recognize… and catch a glimpse of my lab.

Image: One of the posters for Faces from Earth.

Note: The music for Tibor’s video is For Arnhem Land by Aalborg World Soundtracks.