Science Fiction (mostly Asimov + Clarke)

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(A few noteworthy) Sci-fi Quotes

"Science Fiction is something that could happen - but usually you wouldn't want it to. Fantasy is something that couldn't happen - though often you only wish that it could"
Arthur C. Clarke
Forward to: "The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke"

"Fantasy involves that which general opinion regards as impossible; Science Fiction involves that which general opinion regards as possible under the right circumstances"
Philip K Dick

"You can't argue with mundanes because they do not appear to be fully aware".
Alfred Bester (Psi Cop from Babylon-5)
(Bester's quote refers to non-telepaths. According to Comic-Con attendees, mundanes are people who "don't understand or enjoy sci-fi")

Two 'Hard Sci-fi' Writers

What is hard science-fiction? Read this short Wikipedia article

Isaac Asimov (PhD Biochemistry; not an honorary degree)

Isaac Asimov PhDFrom the rear dust jacket of "The Caves of Steel"
Doubleday 1954 hardcover edition

For a long time the author has led a double life: one as one of the masters of the fast, terse, often humorous galactic melodramas, and as a biochemist and teacher at the Boston University School of Medicine, where he is engaged in cancer research. Mr. Asimov says: "Science Fiction invades most of the facets of my life, even my serious research. At my final examination for a doctorate in biochemistry (with seven professors asking profound and embarrassing questions) the last question concerned one of the incidents in one of my science-fiction stories. I got my degree." Mr. Asimov also says he is better known for such stories as Pebble in the Sky, The Stars, Like Dust and The Currents of Space in the science fiction world (which takes science fiction very seriously) than he is ever likely to be for his cancer research.

TODAY'S (1954) FICTION - TOMORROW'S FACTS

LIFE Magazine says there are more than TWO MILLION science fiction fans in this country. From all corners of the nation comes the resounding proof that science fiction has established itself as an exciting and imaginative NEW FORM OF LITERATURE that is attracting literally tens of thousands of new readers every year! Why? Because no other form of fiction can provide you with such thrilling and unprecedented adventures! No other form of fiction can take you on an eerie trip to Mars ... amaze you with a journey into the year 3000 A.D. ... or sweep you into the fabulous realms of unexplored Space! Yes, it's no wonder that this exciting new form of imaginative literature has captivated the largest group of fascinated new readers in the United States today!
From the "The Left Hand of the Electron"
Introduction to chapter 4 (The 3-D Molecule)

In the days when I was actively teaching, full time, at a medical school, there was always the psychological difficulty of facing a sullen audience. The students had come to school to study medicine. They wanted white coats, a stethoscope, a tongue depressor, and a prescription pad. Instead, they found that for the first two years (at least, as it was in the days when I was actively teaching) they were subjected to the "basic sciences." That meant they had to listen to lectures very much in the style of those they had suffered through in college. Some of those basic sciences had, at least, a clear connection with what they recognized as the doctor business, especially anatomy, where they had all the fun of slicing up cadavers. Of all the basic sciences, though, the one that seemed least immediately "relevant," farthest removed from the game of doctor-and-patient, most abstract, most collegiate, and most saturated with despised Ph.D.'s as professors was biochemistry. And, of course, it was biochemistry that I taught. I tried various means of counteracting the natural contempt of medical student for biochemistry. The device which worked best (or, at least, gave me most pleasure) was to launch into a spirited account of "the greatest single discovery in all the history of medicine" that is, the germ theory of disease. I can get very dramatic when pushed, and I would build up the discovery and its consequences to the loftiest possible pinnacle. And then I would say, "But, of course, as you probably all take for granted, no mere physician could so fundamentally revolutionize medicine. The discoverer was Louis Pasteur, Ph.D., a biochemist."
From the dust jacket of "Robots and Empire"
Doubleday 1985 hardcover edition

Isaac Asimov's ROBOTS AND EMPIRE heralds a major new landmark in the great Asimovian galaxy of science fiction. For it not only presents the trilling sequel to the best-selling ROBOTS OF DAWN, but also ingeniously interweaves all three of Asimov's classic series: Robot, Foundation, and Empire. This is the work Asimov fans have been waiting for - an electrifying tale of interstellar intrigue and adventure that sets a new standard in the realm of SF literature.

Two hundred years have passed since THE ROBOTS OF DAWN and Elijah Baley, the beloved hero of Earthpeople, is dead. The future of the Universe is at a crossroads. Though the forces of the sinister Spacers are weakened, Dr. Keldon Amadiro has never forgotten -- or forgiven -- his humiliating defeat at the hands of Elijah. Now, with vengeance burning in his heart, he is more determined than ever to bring about the total annihilation of the planet Earth.

But Amadiro had not counted on the equally determined Lady Gladia. Devoted to Elijah Baley, the Auroran beauty has taken upon the legacy of her fallen lover, vowing to stop the Spacer's at any cost. With her two robot companions, Daneel and Giskard, she prepares to set into motion a daring and dangerous plan . . . a plan whose success -- or failure -- will forever seal the fate of Earth and all who live there.

Culminating in a stunning surprise climax, ROBOTS AND EMPIRE is singular science fiction that excites the mind and stimulates the imagination. It is Isaac Asimov at his triumphant best, proving him, once again, the true Master of the genre.
Back in 2004, Isaac Asimov (already dead for 12 years) sent humanity a message from 1988.

Okay so it was only a few paragraphs from a just-delivered used 1988 book but I was "in the zone" so took it seriously because it reminded me of the posthumous messages sent by Hari Seldon to all of humanity, via the Time Vault, in Asimov's Foundation Trilogy. Sci-fi fans should read this message too because Asimov's Favorite Fifteen are the basis for a provocative humanistic-robotic philosophy so awe-inspiring that I could, if I so desired, create a religion based upon it (although I would not because Asimov would not have approved). Although half of Asimov's stories were written in the 1940s and 1950s, they do not seem anachronistic in any way. In fact, they seem to have been written last week.
 
Neil Rieck
Asimov's message (in the gray box) follows...
From "Author's Note" (pages ix to x) of "Prelude To Foundation"
Doubleday 1988 hardcover edition © 1988 by Nightfall Inc.

When I wrote Foundation, which appeared in the May 1942 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, I had no idea I had begun a series of stories that would eventually grow into six volumes and a total of 650,000 words (so far). Nor did I have any idea that it would be unified with my series of short stories and novels involving robots and my novels involving the Galactic Empire for a grand total (so far) of fourteen volumes and a total of about 1,450,000 words.

You will see, if you study the publication dates of these books, that there was a twenty-five-year hiatus between 1957 and 1982, during which I did not add to this series. This is not because I had stopped writing. Indeed, I wrote full-speed throughout the quarter century, but I wrote other things. That I returned to the series in 1982 was not my own notion but was the result of a combination of pressures from readers and publishers that eventually became overwhelming.

In any case, the situation has become sufficiently complicated for me to feel that the readers might welcome a kind of guide to the series, since they were not written in the order in which (perhaps) they should be read.

The fourteen books, all published by Doubleday, offer a kind of history of the future, which is, perhaps, not completely consistent, since I did not plan consistency to begin with. The chronological order of the books, in terms of future history (and not of publication date), is as follows:

Syllabus reading order as suggested by Isaac Asimov:
# Title G
r
p
Asimov's Comments
(NSR comments and/or changes in RED)
Wikipedia
0 The End of Eternity (1955) 0 One hardcore Asimov fan told me this book was listed before all the others in a recommended list published in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine link
1 I, Robot (1950) 1 I, Robot is a collection of nine short stories presented as the memoirs of robot psychologist Dr. Susan Calvin (an employee of U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men Corporation).
  • Most people will not understand this book's title until they read chapter 8 ("Evidence") where a politician is accused of being a robot.
  • All modern citizens should read chapter 9 ("Evitable Conflict") which is a 1950 story dealing with climate change. Click here for more details from my review.
link
The Complete Robot (1982) The Complete Robot is a collection of thirty-one robot short stories published between 1940 and 1976 and includes every story in my earlier collection I, Robot (1950). Only one robot short story has been written since this collection appeared. That is Robot Dreams, which has not yet appeared in any Doubleday collection. link
2 Caves of Steel (1954) 2 This is the first of my robot novels. link
3 The Naked Sun (1957) 2 The second robot novel. link
4 The Robots of Dawn (1983) 2 The third robot novel. link
5 Robots and Empire (1985) 2 The fourth robot novel. link
6 The Currents of Space (1952) 3 This is the first of my [Galactic] Empire novels. link
7 The Stars, Like Dust (1951) 3 The second [Galactic] Empire novel. link
8 Pebble in the Sky (1950) 3 The third [Galactic] Empire novel and first novel. link
9 Prelude to Foundation (1988) 4 This is the first Foundation novel. link
10 Forward the Foundation (1993) 4 This is the second Foundation novel. [ this title was not in Asimov's original list; Fourteen books become Fifteen ] link
11 Foundation (1951) 5 The is the third Foundation novel but most of the world knows this book as the first book of the Foundation Trilogy. Actually, it began as a collection of four short stories, originally published between 1942 and 1944, plus an introductory section written for the book in 1949. link
12 Foundation and Empire (1952) 5 This is the fourth Foundation novel, made from of two short stories, originally published in 1945. link
13 Second Foundation (1953) 5 This is the fifth Foundation novel, made from two short stories, originally published in 1948 and 1949. link
14 Foundation's Edge (1982) 4 This is the sixth Foundation novel. link
15 Foundation and Earth (1986) 4 This is the seventh Foundation novel. [ Asimov's list shows a publishing date of 1983 but this is a typo ] link

Will I add additional books to the series? I might. There is room for a book between Robots and Empire and The Currents of Space, and between Prelude to Foundation and Foundation (which turned out to be Forward the Foundation), and of course between others as well. And then I can follow Foundation and Earth with with additional volumes -- as many as I like. Naturally, there's got to be some limit, for I don't expect to to live forever, but I do intend to hang on as long as possible.


NSR Subscripts:
  1. Even though this book {I, Robot} was originally published in 1950, the pre-1950 stories contained within seem to stand the test of time. This might have something to do with the fact that Asimov usually glosses over technological details while concentrating more on the human side of things. Remembering that these stories were written during the age of vacuum tubes which predates transistors and integrated circuits (chips), Asimov never mentions these components but he does refer to "the Positronic Brain" which is just a literary device for "unknown technology". One dated phrase he uses is "robot psychologist" which should probably have been "computer programmer" but who really knows if my criticism is correct. Artificial Intelligence (AI) programming may become so complex that "robot psychology" may become a programming discipline.
     
  2. The story Robot Dreams did appear in a robot compilation published by Byron Press in 1986 titled Robot Dreams. A second robot compilation was published by Byron Press in 1990 titled Robot Visions.
     
  3. Books 6-8 are part of Asimov's Galactic Empire series. Asimov thought that these books were not very good (as far as the Robot-to-Foundation story line is concerned). He once stated "You can skip these books and still have a very enjoyable read [of the other 12]"
    • Primarily due to the book clubs of the 1950s and 1960s, there once was a time when Asimov was better known for these three books than he was for the Foundation Trilogy
    • Book 8 (Pebble in the Sky) was republished in hardcover on January 2008 and I enjoyed it immensely.
    • Book 7 (The Stars, Like Dust) was republished in hardcover on December 2008 and I enjoyed it as well.
    • Book 6 (The Currents of Space) was republished in hardcover on April 2009 and think it was worth every penny.
       
  4. Book 10 (Forward the Foundation) was not in Asimov's original list because he had not yet written it. This means that books 11-15 reflect new numberings. Forward the Foundation was Asimov's last book. Click here for suppressed information about Asimov's death in 1992 at the age of 72.
     
  5. Books 11-13 are known by the public-at-large as The Foundation Trilogy. Even still, for maximum enjoyment you should read books 9-15 in order. Since some well known Robots pop up here, you should read books 1-5 (or 1-8) first.
     
  6. It is unfortunate that we cannot able to travel back in time to convince Asimov to get 45 minutes of daily exercise so he could avoid the triple bypass surgery responsible for infecting his blood with a deadly virus. I cannot imagine this collection without Forward the Foundation and now can only wonder about what he had in mind for these other insertion points. Generally speaking, Asimov fans have been very critical about the work done by other authors commissioned by Asimov's estate.
     
  7. If you are a hard sci-fi fan like me then every one of these 15 books are worth reading today. They seem to stand the test of time and do not seem dated in any way. Locate rare and out-of-print books: www.bookfinder.com
Readers familiar with the Sherlock Holmes stories will already know that Doctor Watson referred to himself as Holmes' biographer. People who have immersed themselves in those stories will have come to the realization that Arthur Conon Doyle was, in effect, Watson. The fact that Doyle was a real-world doctor was just icing on the cake.

Isaac Asimov = Hari Seldon in the Foundation Novels?

It has not escaped my attention that "stumbling upon Asimov's suggested reading order in an original imprint from 1988" is very much like "receiving a posthumous message from Hari Seldon". Yes, Asimov still speaks to humanity today but I am certain he wouldn't want you to turn his humanist-robotic philosophies into a religion even though you could.



A few more thoughts on Asimov's Favorite-15 in 2019: As a computer technologist, I find it amusing that most people today are confusing A.I. (artificial intelligence) with artificial consciousness. While A.I. has brought fully autonomous vehicles close to general use, such a vehicle that accidentally causes a crash will not be able to be interviewed by an investigating police officer or dragged into court to give testimony.

It appears to me that Asimov already broached these issues in his stories which are dominated by robots (A.I. is everywhere) but only these two robots possessed artificial consciousness:  Together, they co-develop the zeroth law of robotics which is used (over the course of 15 books) to save humanity from itself
Neil Rieck

Behind the Foundation
From the introduction to "Foundation and Earth"
Doubleday 1986 hardcover edition

On August 1, 1941, when I was a lad of twenty-one, I was a graduate student in chemistry at Columbia University and had been writing science fiction professionally for three years. I was hastening to see John Campbell, editor of Astounding, to whom I had sold five stories by then. I was anxious to tell him of a new idea I had for a science fiction story.

It was to write a historical novel of the future; to tell the story of the fall of the Galactic Empire. My enthusiasm must have been catching, for Campbell grew as excited as I was. He didn't want me to write a single story. He wanted a series of stories, in which the full history of of the thousand years of turmoil between the First Galactic Empire and the rise of the Second Galactic Empire was to be outlined. It would all be illuminated by the science of psychohistory that Campbell and I thrashed out between us.

The first story appeared in the May 1942 Astounding and the second story appeared in the June 1942 issue. They were at once popular and Campbell saw to it that I wrote six more stories before the end of the decade. The stories grew longer too. The first one was only twelve thousand words long. Two of the last three stories were fifty thousand words apiece.

By the time the decade was over, I had grown tired of the series, dropped it, and went on to other things. By then, however, various publishing houses were beginning to put out hardcover science fiction books. One such house was a small semiprofessional firm, Gnome Press. They published my Foundation Series in three volumes: Foundation (1951); Foundation and Empire (1952); and Second Foundation (1953). The three books together came to be known as The Foundation Trilogy.

The books did not do very well, for Gnome Press did not have the capital with which to advertise and promote them. I got neither statements nor royalties from them.

In early 1961, my then-editor at Doubleday, Timothy Seldes, told me he had received a request from a foreign publisher to reprint the Foundation books. Since they were not Doubleday books, he passed the request on to me. I shrugged my shoulders. "Not interested, Tim. I don't get royalties on those books"

Seldes was horrified, and instantly set about getting the rights to the books from Gnome Press (which was, by that time, moribund), and in August of that year, the books (along with "I, Robot") became Doubleday property.

From that moment on, the Foundation series took off and began to earn increasing royalties. Doubleday published the Trilogy in a single volume and distributed them through the Science Fiction Book Club. Because of that the Foundation series became enormously well known.

In the 1966 World Science Fiction Convention, held in Cleveland, the fans were asked to vote on a category of "The Best All-Time Series". It was the first time (and, so far, the last) the category had been included in the nominations for the Hugo Award. The Foundation Trilogy won the award, which further added to the popularity of the series.

Increasingly, fans kept asking me to continue the series. I was polite but I kept refusing. Still, it fascinated me that people who had not been born when the series was begun had managed to become caught up in it.

Doubleday, however, took the demands far more seriously that I did. They had humored me for twenty years but as demands kept growing in intensity and number, they finally lost patience. In 1981, they told me that I simply had to write another Foundation novel and, in order to sugar-coat the demand, offered me a contract at ten times my usual advance.

Nervously, I agreed. It had been thirty-two years since I had written a Foundation story and now I was instructed to write one 140,000 words long, twice that of any earlier volumes and nearly three times as long as any previous individual story. I re-read The Foundation Trilogy and, taking a deep breath, dived into the task.

The fourth book of the series, Foundation's Edge, was published in October 1982, and then a very strange thing happened. It appeared in the New York Times bestseller list at once. In fact, it stayed one that list for twenty-five weeks, much to my utter astonishment. Nothing like that had ever happened to me.

Doubleday at once signed me up to do additional novels and I wrote two that were part of another series, The Robot Novels. - And then it was time to return to the Foundation.

So I wrote Foundation and Earth, which begins at the very moment that Foundation's Edge ends, and that is the book you now hold. It might help if you glanced over Foundation's Edge just to refresh your memory, but you don't have to, Foundation and Earth stands by itself. I hope you enjoy it.

Isaac Asimov,
New York City, 1986

Resources

Some Useful Multimedia Links:

Isaac Asimov - Cover of Skeptic Magazine - Vol 1 - No 1
  • Isaac Asimov on Bill Moyers World of Ideas
    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uj7IXIAReMM
    • www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/blog/2008/03/bill_moyers_rewind_isaac_asimo_1.html
      In 1988, Bill Moyers interviewed author Isaac Asimov for WORLD OF IDEAS. Incredibly prolific in various genres beyond the science fiction for which he was best known, Asimov wrote well over 400 books on topics ranging from sci-fi to the Bible before his death in 1992. In one thread of his wide-ranging interview, Asimov shared his thoughts on overpopulation:

      Bill Moyers: "What happens to the idea of the dignity of the human species if this population growth continues at its present rate?"
      Isaac Asimov: "It will be completely destroyed. I like to use what I call my bathroom metaphor: If two people live in an apartment, and there are two bathrooms, then both have freedom of the bathroom. You can go to the bathroom anytime you want, stay as long as you want, for whatever you need. And everyone believes in Freedom of the Bathroom; It should be right there in the Constitution. But if you have twenty people in the apartment and two bathrooms, then no matter how much every person believes in Freedom of the Bathroom, there's no such thing. You have to set up times for each person, you have to bang on the door, 'Aren't you through yet?' And so on." Right now most of the world is living under appalling conditions. We can't possibly improve the conditions of everyone. We can't raise the entire world to the average standard of living in the United States because we don't have the resources and the ability to distribute well enough for that. So right now as it is, we have condemned most of the world to a miserable, starvation level of existence. And it will just get worse as the population continues to go up... Democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive it. Convenience and decency cannot survive it. As you put more and more people onto the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears. It doesn't matter if someone dies. The more people there are, the less one individual matters."

  • Isaac Asimov speaks

Sad Information About Isaac Asimov's Death

In 2002-08-10 it was revealed by Dr. Asimov's widow, Dr. Janet Jeppson Asimov, in the new biography It's Been a Good Life (my review below), that his death was in fact due to AIDS. In 1983 he had triple bypass surgery and received blood transfusions containing HIV. (Ironic that the city he loved was the cause of his death; doubtless nowhere else in the United States had a higher incidence of HIV in the blood supply than New York at that time.) As Dr. Jeppson Asimov states, after his triple bypass "the next day he had a high fever... only years later, in hindsight, did we realize that the post transfusion HIV infection had taken hold." In the mid-Eighties Dr. Jeppson Asimov noted that her husband had some AIDS symptoms and brought them to the attention of his internist and cardiologist, who pooh-poohed and refused to test him. He was finally tested in February of 1990, prior to further surgery, when he presented HIV-positive with his T-cells half the normal level. The astonishing fact of Dr. Asimov's AIDS was kept secret at the advice of his physicians - they apparently strong-armed him in his sickbed with the threat that his wife would be shunned as a suspected PWA (person with AIDS) as well. The secret was kept not till after Dr. Asimov's death in 1992, nor till after the death of his widow and daughter (indeed they are still alive), but till after the deaths of his physicians (see Dr. Jeppson Asimov's letter to Locus magazine). You can draw your own conclusions, but that makes me feel that it was primarily the physicians' reputations that were being protected by this secret.
So there you have it. The whole world has been deprived of probably another dozen books by Isaac Asimov. I wished we could have convinced him to diet and exercise so he could avoid both "the triple-bypass surgery" as well as "the associated blood transfusions". Since he was smarter than us we can only ask ourselves "why this PhD didn't engage in preventative measures to prevent this situation?" 
Caveat Section: start (runs for ~ 400 lines)
Don't bother reading between this older content. Some time after creating my own online review of Isaac Asimov's books in 2004, I discovered a much better collection of reviews at Wikipedia.

Note: sidelined content has been moved here
Caveat Section: End

Arthur C. Clarke (BSc. Mathematics + Physics - King's College London)

To film buffs, Arthur C. Clarke is best known as the author who collaborated with Stanley Kubrick to produce 2001: A Space Odyssey. The scientific community remembers him as the man who first conceptualized geosynchronous communication-satellites, in a 1945 paper that became the foundation for modern communications technology. But science-fiction fans have any number of touchstones for the British author: He's one of very few to be designated a Science Fiction Grand Master, he's the author of the classic novels Childhood's End and Rendezvous With Rama, and he first created the popular axiom "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." By his late 80s, Clarke had written or collaborated on more than 70 books, including three 2001 sequels, three Rendezvous With Rama sequels (co-authored with Gentry Lee), two autobiographies, a wide variety of essays, short stories, and two video games. His non-fiction includes collections of his correspondence with C.S. Lewis and Lord Dunsany, as well as many books on physics, science, and space travel, from 1950's guidebook Interplanetary Flight to 1994's The Snows Of Olympus, a graphic look at a terraformed Mars. His latest, Time's Eye, is a new collaboration with Stephen Baxter, the first in a series of novels involving a cataclysm that slices Earth into segments from across history, leading cosmonauts and prehistoric humans to mix in an epic struggle. From his home in Sri Lanka, Clarke spoke (2004-02) with The Onion A.V. Club about religion, transcendence, the possibility of life on Mars, and the dinosaur that was named after him.
 

It all began at Christmas 1948 - yes 1948 - with a four-thousand-word short story that I wrote for a contest sponsored by the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). The Sentinel described the discovery of a small pyramid on the Moon, set there by some alien civilization to await the emergence of mankind as a planet-faring species. Until then, it was implied, we would be too primitive to be of any interest. The BBC rejected my modest effort, and it was not published until almost three years later in the one-and-only (Spring 1951) issue of "10 Story Fantasy" - a magazine that, as the invaluable Encyclopedia of Science Fiction wryly comments, is "primarily remembered for its poor arithmetic (there were thirteen stories)."
From "Valediction", "3001: The Final Odyssey"
Ballantine Books (1997) hardcover edition
"Astrologers used to believe that Man's destiny is controlled by the stars. But one day it may come to pass that the stars' destiny is controlled by Man."
Arthur C. Clarke
IEEE Spectrum: Final Thoughts from Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) - Clarke's very last interview

Odyssey Series

Space Odyssey (published before y2k)
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
    • Three monoliths are introduced to humanity: a small monolith 6 million years ago on Earth; a larger monolith is found buried on the moon; a huge monolith is found in orbit around Jupiter
    • On the journey to Jupiter, HAL-9000 (the onboard computer) kills astronaut Frank Poole during a spacewalk to repair the AE-35 antenna
    • Dave Bowman disconnects HAL then continues the mission alone
    • read: book-movie differences
  • 2010: Odyssey Two (1982)
    • American and Russian scientists on a mission to Jupiter
    • read: book-movie differences (from a reread in 2010 then again in 2020)
  • 2061: Odyssey Three (1988)
    • Heywood Floyd visits Halley's Comet
  • 3001: The Final Odyssey (1997)
    • Frank Poole's body is recovered and revived; Dave Bowman returns to Sol
Time Odyssey (a sinister retelling of the Space Odyssey series published after y2k)
  • Time's Eye - Book One of A Time Odyssey (2003) 1
    • "2001: A Space Odyssey" began with "Moon-Watcher" in Africa; "Time's Eye" begins with "Seeker" in the North-West Frontier (Pakistan - Afghanistan border); Earth has been observed for eons by the "Firstborn"
    • This books spends too-much time in the past and yet you need to read it in order to read the next book
  • Sunstorm - Book Two of A Time Odyssey (2005) 1
    • This book is much better than the other two
    • "Time's Eye" seems to be 30% Clarke and 70% Baxter
    • "Sunstorm" seems to be 70% Clarke and 30% Baxter
  • Firstborn - Book Three of A Time Odyssey (2007) 1
    • This book is not as good as Sunstorm (spends too-much time in the past).

Rama Series

Odyssey-Rama Subscripts

  1. Coauthored with Stephen Baxter
  2. Coauthored with Gentry Lee
  3. Locate rare and out-of-print books: www.bookfinder.com
Rama (the 1996 PC-based Game)

Based on the novel by Arthur C. Clarke. By now, the year 2130, all of the largest asteroids in the solar system have long since been discovered. Smaller ones are being downed at the rate of a dozen a day. So when a huge new asteroid appears the only surprise is that is was overlooked for so long. It is duly assigned the next available name, Rama, and is promptly forgotten about - but not for long. As Rama approaches the Earth, every question about it seems to have an answer that raises more questions. And as observations continue, the most impossible explanation becomes the only one: Rama is actually a spaceship. The next step is obvious: mankind must attempt a rendezvous. But only one of our spaceships is close enough. As fate has it, that ship is Endeavor - the ship that you command. Without even reading them, you know what your orders will be: to rendezvous with the giant ship, to explore it, to meet with its inhabitants, and to return home before it speeds on its orbit away from the solar system. Yet even in your excitement, you realize it is not an easy mission. You will have to make difficult decisions - many of them. And you will have to work very fast - because if you stay on Rama too long, returning home will be impossible. From the first moment it has been clear: this is the mission of your lifetime. Thousands would gladly sacrifice anything for the chance. Only you can explore Rama. Rendezvous with Rama is the first computer adventure to be produced in collaboration with Arthur C. Clarke. The program allows you to talk with three other crew members. Multiple disks offer extended play - and the game may be played with or without graphics. Arthur C. Clarke, world-famous author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, continues to be a major force in science fiction; over twenty-million copies of his books have been printed World-Wide. The novel Rendezvous with Rama has won three highest science fiction awards: the Hugo, the Nebula and the John W. Campbell Awards. The adventure game Rendezvous with Rama was developed and produced by Byron Preiss Video Productions, Inc., leading designers of entertainment and educational software. Their technical director is Lee Jackson.

Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rama_(video_game)

One highly note-worthy non-fiction book

How the World was One (1992)
  • From The Dust Jacket:
    Arthur C. Clarke, visionary author of both science fact and science fiction, first conceived of satellite communications in 1945--and twenty-five years later his dream became reality. Now, in this new personal and colorful nonfiction work, Clarke examines the rapid transformation of our society by technology and communication. As the infant field of communications began growing in the early part of this century, so did the boy named Arthur C. Clarke--who watched, wide-eyed, as his small English village was transformed overnight. In his job as the village switchboard operator he once overloaded the circuits, excitedly eavesdropping on his first transatlantic call. From there his involvement grew more and more technical, culminating in his now-famous paper "Extra-Terrestrial Relays," which anticipated many of the developments of the next fifty years. For five thousand years communication never advanced beyond the speed of horse and wind-driven ship--but in the explosive span of thirty years, it changed forever. Newer, faster communication toppled tyranny, won wars, and changed history all the way from the second Russian Revolution to the Gulf war. Here is the story of the stranger-than-fiction mishaps, oversights, capricious acts of fate, and incredible human energy that eventually transformed the earth into our modern global village. Clarke brings unique expertise and a lifetime of experience to How the World Was One. Beginning with submarine cables, through the development of fiber optics and communications satellites, and then projecting far into a future of neutrino, gravitational, and tachyon (faster than light) communications, Arthur C. Clarke shows how these remarkable innovations shaped and changed the earth--and made the world one.
  • Excerpt from Preface, Page 1, Paragraph 3
    Nevertheless, Toynbee was essentially correct. Except for a few dwindling tribes in (alas) equally dwindling forests, the human race has now become almost a single entity, divided by time zones rather rather than by natural frontiers of geography. The same TV news networks cover the globe; the world's markets are linked by the most complex machine ever devised by mankind -- the international telephone/telex/fax/data transfer system.
  • Excerpt from Preface, Page 2, Paragraph 2
    Despite the linguistic, religious, and cultural barriers that still sunder nations, the unification of the world [by telecommunications] has passed the point of return...
  • Excerpt from Chapter 1, Page 1, Paragraph 3
    This state of affairs has existed for the greater part of human history. When Queen Victoria came to power in 1837, she had no swifter means of sending messages to the far parts of her empire than had Julius Caesar -- or, for that matter, Moses.
  • Excerpt from Chapter 27, Page 200, Paragraphs 3-4
    Telstar (and its successor Telstar 2, launched May 7, 1963) showed that active satellites could do everything that had been claimed for them, and with very modest powers -- as long as they were backed up by massive ground equipment. The Bell System had built an even larger horn-antenna for the Telstar than for Echo; the giant ear at Andover, Maine, weighed 370 tons yet was able to track the speeding satellite to an accuracy of better than a twentieth of a degree.
    And that was the big problem. Because of its relatively low altitude (between 950 and 5,600 kilometres) Telstar 1 circled the Earth several times per day; its orbital period was only a fraction of the magic twenty-four hours.
  • Excerpt from Chapter 27, Page 201, Paragraphs 3
    ... paradoxically, it takes rather more energy to park [a satellite] twenty two thousand miles up than to land on the ten-times-more-distant moon.
  • Contents:
    1. WIRING THE ABYSS
      1. Introduction (to electrical / electronic communications)
      2. The Coming of the Telegraph
      3. Channel Crossing
      4. A Great American (Cyrus West Field)
      5. Lord of Science (William Thomson a.k.a. Lord Kelvin)
      6. False Start (to laying an Atlantic telegraph cable)
      7. Triumph of Disaster
      8. Post-mortem
      9. The Brink of Success
      10. Heart's Content (the first successful cable is laid)
      11. Battle on the Seabed (they try to grapple for a dropped cable)
      12. Girdle Round the Earth
      13. The Deserts of the Deep
      14. The Cable's Core
    2. VOICE ACROSS THE SEA
      1. The Wires Begin to Speak (Alexander Graham Bell)
      2. The Man Before Einstein (Oliver Heaviside)
      3. Mirror in the Sky (the ionosphere is discovered)
      4. Transatlantic Telephone
      5. "Wireless" (Clarke's boyhood recollections of crystal and valve (vacuum tube) radios
      6. Exploring the Spectrum
    3. A BRIEF PREHISTORY OF COMSATS
      1. Beyond the Ionosphere
      2. "You're on the glide path... I think..."
      3. How I Lost a Billion Dollars in My Spare Time
      4. "If you've got a message..."
      5. The Making of a Moon (a reprinted short story)
      6. "I Remember Babylon" (a reprinted short story)
    4. STARRY MESSENGERS
      1. Echo and Telstar
      2. Syncon
      3. Early Bird
      4. The United States of Earth
      5. Satellites and Saris
      6. At the UN
      7. Coop's Troop
      8. Appointment in the Vatican
      9. Happy Birthday, Comsat!
      10. The Clarke Awards
      11. CNN Live
      12. Peacesat
    5. LET THERE BE LIGHT!
      1. Cable Comeback
      2. Talking with Light
      3. As Far As Eye Can See (like this book's title, Clarke appears to have a sense of humor :-)
        Epilogue: Fin de siecle -- or Dawn of a New Millennium
        Postscript: The Second Russian Revolution
        Appendix A
        Appendix B
  • NSR Comments: I was surprised to learn that many telegraph cable projects were doomed to failure because overly optimistic participants refused to learn Ohm's Law. Playing with technology resulted in the loss of many billions of dollars which is reminiscent of the losses associated with the Dot-Com (dot-con?) meltdown of 2000-2002.

Some Useful Links:

Clarke's First Law:

"When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."

Clarke defines the adjective 'elderly' as :"In physics, mathematics and astronautics it means over thirty; in other disciplines, senile decay is sometimes postponed to the forties. There are of course, glorious exceptions; but as every researcher just out of college knows, scientists of over fifty are good for nothing but board meetings, and should at all costs be kept out of the laboratory". (in Profiles of the Future.)

Clarke's Second Law:

"The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible."

Clarke's Third Law:

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Though he wrote after the laws that "Since three laws was sufficient for both the Isaacs - Newton and Asimov - I have decided to stop here", he continued to write laws, as we can see in the Appendix 2 of The Odyssey File where he states the Clarke's 69th Law:

"Reading computer manuals without the hardware is as frustrating as reading sex manuals without the software."

Clarke's Fourth Law:

“For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert.”

Cool quote:

A hundred years ago, the electric telegraph made the United States of America possible if not inevitable. The communications satellite will make a United Nations of Earth equally inevitable. Let us hope that the transition period will not be equally bloody.

Arthur C. Clarke, "First on the Moon", 1970

Star Trek fan reboot

Prelude

  • No one can deny that Star Trek: TOS (the original series) introduced the public-at-large to science fiction so I still do not understand why Gulf+Western (which acquired Desilu in 1967 then was renamed to Paramount) did not do a better job funding writers and set designers. They owned the goose that laid golden eggs (to quote Aesop) but only fed it a substandard diet.
  • The infighting associated with Star Trek: TNG (my favorite series) is well known especially after watching a recent William Shatner documentary titled Chaos on the Bridge but I am certain that most sci-fi fans only recognize half of these episodes as true sci-fi
  • Star Trek: Enterprise showed promise but I have no idea what the hell happened to sci-fi during Star Trek: DS9 and Star Trek: Voyager. I watched ever episode hoping for more sci-fi but it seemed like Hollywood was cranking out Star Trek episodes the way that butchers crank out sausage
  • Everyone reading this already knows about the Star Trek movie odd-number curse and most would agree with it being a writing problem. You can spend all the time you want reediting a movie, or adding more CGI, but if the story sucks the movie will be much less profitable (for proof: just look to the successful comics which have zero CGI). I wonder what would a Ferengi say about that?
  • Speaking about lack of sci-fi stories, did Hollywood really think rebooting Star Trek with in an alternate universe with a younger Kirk and Spock (Star Trek: 2009) or Khan in 2013 (Star_Trek_Into_Darkness) would be desirable or successful? Both stories have plot holes large enough to fly a Star Ship through. And do we really need to recycle these characters again?

Fan-based Creations

TRON (actually Science-Fantasy, but still really neat)

TRON (1982 movie)

TRON uses the I/O tower to
communicate with his user,
"Alan1" (Here is my disc)
TRON is probably the best science-fantasy computer theme ever made into a movie (what else would you expect from Disney?). People studying computer science, working in IS/IT, or just hacking will recognize many more metaphors. This must be why TRON is an underground cult classic with computer engineering students.

Computer Trivia:

  1. In the early days of computing many video terminals had TRON (trace on) and TROF (trace off) keys
  2. In the early days of BASIC interpreter programming, the developer could issue TRON and TROFF commands at the command prompt prior to using a RUN command. Later on, some BASIC dialects allowed tracing to be enabled/disabled by inserting TRON control statements within the source program.
  3. In the 1970s and 1980s, DEC PDP-11 minicomputers running the RSX-11M operating system signaled readiness to the operator with an MCR> prompt. MCR is an acronym for Monitor Console Routine. In the TRON movie, the computer's operating system is the MCP which stands for Master Control Program. Coincidence?
    p.s. in the movie, the MCP was always seen rotating even when it appeared to stop and stare at TRON. In a single CPU system only one process (program instance) can run at any time. So the OS runs a scheduler which allocates a small slice of time (10-100 mS) to each waiting user process. A programmable RTC (real time clock) interrupts the active thread (putting the just-running-process back to sleep) then handing control back to the scheduler. The scheduler would then rotate to the next waiting process.

Memorable Lines (and more trivia):

  • Who does he calculate he is?
    • rather than "who does he think he is?"
  • Can I merge with this memory? Bit?
    • CLU "polling" the bit; only assembly-language programmers will know what this means
  • Oh my User.
    • rather than "Oh my god"
  • Video game warriors leaving the game grid...This is an illegal exit!
    • in modular programming one needs to leave a program, routine, subroutine, or function, through a planned exit point. If you just jump out in the middle (spaghetti code), or crash out (stack dump), or fault out (illegal instruction), or bounce out (noise on the address bus lines), then you have experienced an illegal exit.
      (well to be honest, spaghetti code isn't illegal as much as bad form)
  • We had better! Null Unit...
    • on some systems null units were device drivers with no attached device. They were an aid to learning how to program; they were also a convenient way to delete data by copying to null. On PDP and VMS systems this device had the name "NL:"
  • Targets leaving protected field.
    • a protected field can either refer to a protected memory location (you are only able to access it if you have the necessary privileges) or a protected field in a database or an on-screen form.
The Personification of Software
Program User Actor
CLU Kevin Flynn Jeff Bridges
TRON Alan Bradley Bruce Boxleitner (Captain John Sheridan in Babylon 5)
SARK Ed Dillinger David Warner
YORI Lora Baines Cindy Morgan
DUMONT Dr. Walter Gibbs (tower guardian) Barnard Hughes
RAM Roy "RAM" Kleinberg
(never seen in the movie)
Dan Shor
CROM Mr. Henderson, a full branch manager
(never seen in the movie)
Peter Jurasik (Ambassador Londo Molari in Babylon 5)
BIT ??? CGI (computer generated graphics)
MCP ??? CGI (computer generated graphics)
Spiders ??? (anti-virus) CGI (computer generated graphics)
Recognizers ??? (system monitors?) CGI (computer generated graphics)
Tower Guards ??? (part of the scheduler?) CGI (computer generated graphics)

More Thoughts (comparing the real world to the computer paradigm)

The earliest developers of any OS (operating system) write the device-driver software. So it makes sense that Walter Gibbs would appear as the I/O tower guardian since that I/O Device driver would probably have been written by him.

Diseases: 

  • Real-world biological viruses come in two major flavors.
    1. An DNA virus is a virus that has DNA as its genetic material and replicates using a DNA-dependent DNA polymerase.
    2. An RNA virus is a virus that has RNA as its genetic material
      • most RNA viruses employ RNA to stop a cell dead in its tracks then hijack cell organelles (like the ribosome) to make more copies of the virus. One example is influenza.
      • A retrovirus is an RNA virus that is replicated in a host cell via the enzyme reverse transcriptase to produce DNA from its RNA genome. The DNA is then incorporated into the host's genome by an integrase enzyme. The virus thereafter replicates as part of the host cell's DNA. Retroviruses are enveloped viruses that belong to the viral family Retroviridae (e.g. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS).
  • Real-world computer viruses comes in multiple forms mimicking biological viruses
    • one type of virus will highjack your whole machine
    • one type of virus will highjack an individual program (like a browser)
    • one type of virus will copy itself into other software (like a retrovirus) so normal program operation will also quietly propagate viral copies which may express itself later or elsewhere (think Stuxnet)
  • Medical researchers tell us that 20% of all cancers are caused by viruses (HPV is one example).
    • Cancer is best described as individual cells starting doing their own thing rather than being part of a cooperative whole (perhaps cells "forget their current function" or "are incapable of communicating with neighboring cells which is necessary to be part of a cooperative whole").
    • So if cancer is best defined as a move from "being part of a cooperative" to "cells doing their own thing", then isn't this a real-world example of deresolution (derezing)?

TRON: Legacy (2010 movie)

It seems me that corners were cut in the TRON: Legacy storyline. What's up with movie producers these days? Don't they realize that without a perfect story there will be no market to fleece for the next 10-20 years? (witness Star Wars Prequel and Blade Runner to only name two of many). I watched TRON: Legacy in 3d and although the graphics were superb, the story was no where near as good as the original TRON movie from 1982.

A writer once told me "if it wont work on the page then it wont work on the stage"
 
My advice to sci-fi movie producers: only allow comic book people to write your screen plays and have them do all the story-boarding in a comic book format. If the story won't work in a comic book (where there is no CGI to lean on) then the movie will not work on the silver screen or anywhere else.

Program User Actor
CLU (Codified Likeness Utility) Kevin Flynn Jeff Bridges

TRON: Evolution (2010 game)

Graphic Novels (Comic Books)

A few (of many) books responsible for warping my brain as a child

Magnus, Robot Fighter 4000 AD

  • a 1963 comic book set in the year 4000. People sat around getting fat while robot servants tended to their every need
  • So you are recalling your sci-fi youth and wouldn't mind rereading Magnus, Robot Fighter 4000 A.D. but don't want to buy expensive plastic-wrapped originals so what do you do? It turns out that a really cool company called Dark Horse Comics has republished the first 21 Magnus issues in three hard-cover books on high quality paper (:
    • Volume-1 contains Magnus, Robot Fighter comic book issues 01-07 (1963-02-xx to 1964-08-xx) 205 pages
      • Also available from this on-line retailer: Things From Another World
      • Also contains a Russ Manning biography
      • click this preview and you'll see Asimov's First Law of Robotics in the lower left
      • many of these stories seem to be the basis for many other sci-fi products, like:
        • The Matrix
          • Story #1 tells how one robot kidnapped 1,000 people then connected them electronically to form a giant computer. In the Matrix, all of humanity is connected to a computer to keep us dreaming while our bodily fluids are drained off to run a power plant.
        • Star Trek: TOS (The Original Series)
          • Magnus is replaced with a robot equivalent then other people don't know which one is human as is seen in the episode What Are Little Girls Made Of?
          • Magnus is beamed 60,000 light years (through sub-space) to the robot planet called Malev-6 and then is taken captive by installing a remote-controlled metal ring around his neck as is seen in the episode The Gamesters of Triskelion
          • The robot planet of MALEV-6 was created 1,500 galactic years ago when a robot ship crash landed. Over the eons, hard radiation from Malev corrupted/modified the ship's self repair system. This is a variation of the story present in the episode The Changeling
          • humans are too dependent on robots as is seen in the episode I, Mudd
          • although the evil genius-scientist Xyrkol is human with a beard, he does have a prominent set of pointed ears which look just like those on Mr. Spock.
        • Babylon 5
          • the last story tells us how the 1,000 people from the first story are telepathic (were they selected as computer processors because they were telepaths, or did they become telepathic as a result of the experience?) and how they all held hands to increase their psychokinetic powers so they can assist Magnus on Malev-6. This sounds just like something that happened in Babylon-5 episode "A Race Through Dark Places"
    • Volume-2 contains Magnus, Robot Fighter comic book issues 08-14 (1964-11-xx to 1966-05-xx) 197 pages
    • Volume-3 contains Magnus, Robot Fighter comic book issues 15-21 (1966-08-xx to 1968-02-xx) 176 pages
      • Even though I read this stuff 40 years ago, I remember some of the artwork including one scene where robots are feeding morbidly obese humans
      • Story #21 ("Space Specter" which was published 1968-02-xx) is about an attack on North Am which affects everyone except descendants of Blackfoot Indians. Magnus uses their help to defeat the alien presence affect two robot geniuses. This story caused me to recall the Star Trek episode titled The Paradise Syndrome which aired 1968-08-1

Space Family Robinson

  • this 1962 Gold Key Comics publication was based upon the Disney movie "Swiss Family Robinson". This comic was later turned into the disappointing TV program "Lost in Space". The comic was serious sci-fi but the TV program was some sort of bad joke.

Miscellaneous Stuff

  1. Interocitor @ wikipedia
    • Click here to see the Interocitor I built in 2002
  2. Visit my Blade Runner page
  3. Klaatu's Speech: I am leaving soon and you'll forgive me if I speak bluntly. The universe grows smaller every day and the threat of aggression by any group anywhere can no longer be tolerated. There must be security for all or no one is secure. Now this does not mean giving up any freedom, except the freedom to act irresponsibly. Your ancestors knew this when they made laws to govern themselves and hired policemen to enforce them. We, of the other planets, have long accepted this principle. We have an organization for the mutual protection of all planets and for the complete elimination of aggression. The test of any such higher authority is, of course, the police force that supports it. For our policemen we created a race of robots. Their function is to patrol the planets in spaceships like this one and preserve the peace. In matters of aggression we have given them absolute power over us. This power cannot be revoked. At the first signs of violence they act automatically against the aggressor. The penalty for provoking their action is too terrible to risk. The result is we live in peace without arms or armies, secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war, free to pursue more profitable enterprises. Now, we do not pretend to have achieved perfection, but we do have a system, and it works. I came here to give you these facts. It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet, but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you.
     
  4. As George Winston, the beleaguered hero of George Orwell's "1984", leafed through Emmanuel Goldstein's subversive tract "The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism" he learns the rationale that underlies the mobilization for perpetual war. According to the principles of doublethink (synonym for American Neo-Con Newspeak?), Winston reads, it does not matter if the war is not real or real, victory is not possible – what matters is that the masses are kept are kept in a relative state of deprivation. Thus the purpose of war is to destroy surplus wealth (+US$400 Billion in Iraq?) in order to maintain the hierarchical structure of society – the status quo. As George Orwell baldly puts it, "A hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation - the war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or east Asia but to keep the very structure of society in tact"
    1. 1984 by George Orwell: A searchable online version at The Literature Network
    2. The Complete Newspeak Dictionary
       
  5. Art imitates Life?
     
    Sonny: I just might get to like this place. Let's see if the Braves are on. How do you turn on this here teevee?
    Riker: Teevee?
    Sonny: Yeah, boob-tube... you know. I'd like to find out how the Braves are doin' after all this time. Probably still finding ways to lose.
    Data to Riker: Oh -- I think he means television, sir.
    Sonny: Or maybe catch up on the soaps.
    Data to Sonny: That particular form of entertainment did not last much beyond the year Two Thousand Forty.
    Reference: STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION - Episode 126 - Titled: "The Neutral Zone"
    Reality: Television died in 2004; not 2040
    Reason: in order to maximize their profits, the networks decided to replace programs based upon "professional writing and acting" with "so-called Reality TV"
     
  6. Cool quote from Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones:
     

    00:12:24   I'd much rather dream about Padmé.
    00:12:27   Just being around her again is... intoxicating.
    00:12:31   Be mindful of your thoughts, Anakin. They betray you.
    00:12:34   You've made a commitment to the Jedi order, a commitment not easily broken.
    00:12:38   And don't forget, she's a politician, and they're not to be trusted.
    00:12:41   [ Anakin ] She's not like the others in the senate, Master.
    00:12:44   [ Obi-Wan ] It is my experience that senators...
    00:12:46   focus only on pleasing those who fund their campaigns...
    00:12:50   and they're in no means scared of forgetting the niceties of democracy...
    00:12:53   -in order to get those funds. - [ Anakin ] Not another lecture.
    00:12:55   At least not on the economics of politics.
     
  7. First a little Star Wars movie history: The first three movies (SW1-3 :: 1977-1983 :: EP4-6) are titled episodes 4-6. The second three movies (SW4-SW6 :: 1999-2005 :: EP1-3) are titled episodes 1-3. In my world, sci-fi fans are split down the middle: some prefer the first three movies while others prefer the second three. There is no right or wrong here, it's just a matter of preference (some people hate Jar Jar Binks while others hate the Ewoks; some loved watching Yoda training Luke on Dagobah while others like me preferred the martial arts of Darth Maul; some thought the first three were targeted at children while others thought the politics of the second three made them more appropriate for adults). SW7 (2015) follows the story SW3 (1983) and was co-written with Lawrence Kasdan (who also co-wrote SW2 + SW3) so I suspect that only half the audience will love it.

    comment-1: Okay so I just saw the film in 3D and can tell you all that SW7 is better than any of the first three movies (1977-1983) but not better than any of the second three (1999-2005). I have no idea why people where watching it multiple times when it opened.
     
    comment-2 - Recently I have found that if you prefer the movies from 1977-1983 then you probably like SW7 (the force awakens) and SW8 (the last jedi). But I am not one of these people although I like the idea of a female warrior. IMHO, Star Wars is going to end up like Mickey Mouse. Parents are going to drag their kids to the movies as well as the theme parks but the kids aren't going to have a clue. But Disney will make money.
     
  8. I just watched season #1 of The Man in the High Castle and was very impressed (like all good science fiction, this story is very thought provoking)
    • Based on the award-winning novel by Philip K. Dick, and executive produced by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien, Gladiator, The Martian), and Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files), The Man in the High Castle explores an alternate an alternate world where the Allied Powers lost WWII, leaving Japan and Germany to rule the United States
    • https://www.amazon.com/Man-High-Castle-Season/dp/B00RSGIVVO  ( watch s1e1 free of charge )
    • observations from episode-1:
      • Teikoku Station in San Francisco looks a lot like the LAPD Station in Blade Runner
      • at time mark 00:54:23 we see an origami unicorn (reminding me of Blade Runner)
      • more: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1740299/trivia
      • comment: Last year I watched season-1 on a PC with a 22 inch (58.8 cm) hi-def monitor. This year I rewatched season-1 on a 60 inch (152 cm) Samsung HDTV (via a PS4) and came away with totally different experience. Why? You miss too many visual details on the small screen. Think about what Blade Runner might look like on a small screen on a pad or phone.
    • Four seasons are now online at Amazon Prime Video
    • (some) Differences between the book and the video
      Item Book Amazon Video
      Frank and Juliana married not married (perhaps dating or just living together)
      John Smith n/a a new character to assist in plot development
      Inspector Kido n/a a new character to assist in plot development
      The Grasshopper Lies Heavy title of Hawthorne Abendsen's novel seen on news reel canisters and NAZI file folders
      Hitler not present in1962 still alive in 1962
    Click here to learn about more German-related stories as told by Philip K. Dick
  9. The Expanse might be the best science-fiction story ever shown on TV (scores 100 on rotten tomatoes) so here's what I don't understand: the SyFy Channel in the USA cancelled The Expanse after season #3. I'm not certain of their reasons but they mentioned "returning to their roots" which assumes more "zombies" as well as "teenage girls romancing vampire bad-boys" (neither are sci-fi). This is a long roundabout way of saying that if you are a sci-fi fan like me, and have limited entertainment funds, then you may need to swap your "SyFy subscription" for Amazon Prime Video where season 4 of the Expanse was published on 2019-12-13 (Seasons 1-3 were placed online 2019-04-xx) and Season-5 has been officially confirmed. And while there be sure to watch all four seasons of the Philip K Dick classic The Man in the High Castle (discussed just above) or the techno thriller Mr. Robot which has nothing to do with robots.

    Three cheers for big budget sci-fi. We all know about the struggles getting sci-fi on corporate-run television networks: recall how NBC strangled, then cancelled, Star Trek just as it was taking off; recall how none of the big-three networks would touch Star Trek: The Next Generation so it was only shown on independent stations; recall how Babylon 5 was kicked from network to network; recall how Fox fumbled Firefly then tried to blame the whole thing on the show's producer; recall how Caprica was squeezed out during a corporate takeover. Hey, I just realized that NBC owns SyFy so it looks like NBC did it to us again

    Learn the stunning story on how The Expanse end up on Amazon Prime Video:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1ilpNQQHps
    The worlds of The Expanse:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNjrI0YvZYA
    interview with authors, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (who write under the pseudonym James S. A. Corey):
      https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24432573-400-how-the-expanse-is-still-putting-humans-at-the-heart-of-sci-fi/

     
  10. THE EXPANSE (season 5)
    • the first three episodes of season-5 will begin showing on Tuesday Dec-15 at Amazon Prime Video
    • one new episode will be released each Wednesday week starting on Dec-23
    • the will continue until Wednesday Feb-3 with the release of episode 10
    • seasons 1-4 are always available

    comments:

  11. "Mr. Robot" is a techno thriller and psychological drama inhabiting a modern day story of nerds, computers and computer culture. Once you start watching you will not be able to stop. All four seasons on Amazon Prime Video

All I need to know about life, I learned from STAR TREK

  • Seek out new life an new civilizations
  • Non-interference is the prime directive
  • Keep your phaser set on stun
  • Humans are highly illogical
  • There's no such thing as a Vulcan death grip
  • Live long and prosper
  • Having is not so pleasing a thing as wanting; it is not logical, but it is often true
  • Infinite diversity in infinite combinations (IDIC)
  • Tribbles hate Klingons (and Klingons hate Tribbles) (I guess that make me Klingon!)
  • Enemies are often invisible - like Klingons, they can be cloaked
  • Don't put all your ranking officers in one shuttle craft
  • When your logic fails, trust a hunch
  • Insufficient data does not compute
  • If it can't be fixed, just ask Scotty
  • Even in our own world, sometimes we are aliens
  • When going out into the Universe, remember: "Boldly go where no man has gone before!"
    (NSR's note: should read "Boldly go where no one has gone before!")

    Note: the above text was taken from a large laminated poster hanging on the wall in my office.
    No copyright notice could be located.

Cyberpunk

I have always been into cyberpunk and do not know why. Here is s short list of my cyberpunk entertainment (in chronological order)

Year Title Author/
Director
Media Notes/Comments
1962 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K Dick book  
1982 Blade Runner Ridley Scott movie this movie was updated and rereleased over 25 -years
1982 TRON Disney movie  
1984 Neuromancer William Gibson book  
1995 Blade Runner 2: On the edge of human K. W. Jeter book  
1996 Blade Runner: Replicant Night K. W. Jeter book  
1999 The Matrix The Wachowski Brothers movie  
2010 TRON: Legacy Disney movie  
2010 TRON: Evolution Disney Interactive movie  
2011 Deus Ex: Human Revolution Eidos Montréal video game still available for PS3 purchase in 2018
2013 Deus Ex: Human Revolution - Director's Cut Eidos Montréal video game still available for PS3 purchase in 2018
2014 Ex Machina Alex Garland movie  
2016 Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Eidos Montréal video game still available for PS4 purchase in 2018
2017 Blade Runner 2049 Denis Villeneuve movie not related to any of the Blade Runner books
2020 Cyberpunk 2077 CD Projekt Red video game XBOX, PS4 - PS5, Windows PC

I just found a more complete cyberpunk site here: https://cyberpunkdatabase.net

A few lost-then-found gems

Babylon-5

After season 3 of The Expanse finished on SPACE, I was going through a sci-fi dry spell so I decided to watch one episode of Babylon 5 each night. The current box set "Babylon 5: The Complete Series + The Movie / Crusade Collection [DVD] [2004]" contains 39-disks so if you buy that along with "Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers" and "Babylon 5: Lost Tales" you will be in for a special treat. Especially if you watch everything in this order (one movie comes first, one comes last but needs to be watched before you start Crusade)

My wife has only a passing interest in sci-fi but hearing the well-written dialog from the next room made her a Babylon-5 fan before I finished season-1. One morning she asked me "do you think John Sheridan died at Z'ha'dum?". At other times she has asked "do you think we should watch two episodes tonight?"

Sure, no problem!

Total Recall 2070

By 2019-02-xx my wife and I had made it through all of the Babylon 5 media but there still wasn't anything neat on TV (well, there's Star Trek Discovery but only a die-hard trekor like me would watch it because there isn't much of a story). So I was rooting through my DVD collection when I happened upon Total Recall 2070. What a treat. This series from 1999 was released (uncut) to DVD in 2011 but is only shown in 1.33:1 (4x3). But at least there are some decent stories.

Firefly

Okay so this was a surprise to me. During Christmas vacation I met some people who mentioned Serenity (2005) but didn't know about Firefly (or that it was available on DVD). Once again let me yell out "STORIES can be found here"

p.s. I lent my Serenity DVDs to these people and they were totally blown away

TekWar

The TekWar series was created by William Shatner and shown between 1994 and 1996. Like Total Recall 2070, TekWar was release on DVD in 2011. STORIES - STORIES - STORIES


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Neil Rieck
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.