Archive for the ‘Reflections on SF’ Category

The supernova hasn’t happened yet

Many people talk about a star going supernova ‘now’ and our not seeing it for a thousand years. It is true that if we see a supernova today, and we if know that it is a thousand light years away, then we can truly say that the light has been a thousand years en route […]

Posted on July 13, 2009 at 09:06 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · One Comment
In: CULTURAL ODDS AND ENDS, Reflections on SF

Clarke’s confused law

We all know Clarke’s Law, that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. One of the things wrong with this cliché is the fact that any proposition that includes the word ‘sufficiently’ is tautologous. That is, if you claim that any X that is sufficiently Y is a Z, and I show you an […]

Posted on July 14, 2009 at 09:52 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · 2 Comments
In: CULTURAL ODDS AND ENDS, Reflections on SF

Sleeping with The Alien

Well, some would say that most of us do this every day. But I am thinking rather of those SF stories with aliens who are so like us anatomically (via parallel-evolution hand-waving, panspermia or mislaid colonies) that we can have sex. Larry Niven’s interspecies sexual diplomacy (rishathra) is of course a locus classicus, but by […]

Posted on July 15, 2009 at 10:13 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: CULTURAL ODDS AND ENDS, Reflections on SF

No Free Lunch in Space

To my knowledge this has never been tested, but I wonder whether the irritation of many ordinary people with SF and fantasy does them credit, insofar as it is based on a probably instinctive comprehension of the law of conservation of energy that is lacking in many authors. You don’t need to be a scientist […]

Posted on July 19, 2009 at 07:21 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: CULTURAL ODDS AND ENDS, Reflections on SF

Magneto has it

The introductory voice-over to the second X-Men film went: ‘Are mutants the next link in the evolutionary chain… or simply a new species of humanity fighting for their share of the world?’ Such false antimonies are a staple of Hollywood trying to be portentous. In fact, there is no either-or, for evolution proceeds by speciation […]

Posted on August 11, 2009 at 10:05 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · One Comment
In: CULTURAL ODDS AND ENDS, Reflections on SF

What robots say about us

Robot stories have been around for a long time. We can trace them back through Roger Bacon and Pope Silvester to the automata of the Ancients, and by another line of descent through David Gans of Prague and his golems. All of them, on the face of it, share the idiotic idea that a few […]

Posted on August 12, 2009 at 21:16 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: CULTURAL ODDS AND ENDS, Reflections on SF

No Cornucopia Machines for Us

Science-fictional utopias from Wells and Forster to Banks and Reynolds have assumed that machines, variously imagined, would lead to shorter work and a population devoted to self-realisation, whatever that is. There are three hiccups with this notion: one, the great majority does not want self-realisation, only immediate gratification. Two, the utopia imagines a whole planet […]

Posted on August 13, 2009 at 09:44 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: CULTURAL ODDS AND ENDS, Reflections on SF

Libertarians in hard vacuum

There used to be a sub-genre in American SF that gleefully envisaged societies of the High Frontier where the air had to be paid for by the cubic metre. Hard vacuum served to correct a regrettable fault of the old, earthly Frontier, namely that, even if he had nothing else, a man could still breathe […]

Posted on September 7, 2009 at 09:03 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: CULTURAL ODDS AND ENDS, Reflections on SF

Deep Economic Impact

Who was it that said we are two meals away from barbarism? The film ‘Deep Impact’ featured a president who announced that an asteroid might be on a collision-course with Earth, might perhaps hit us and wipe us out, but that, while we waited to see whether we were all going to die, everything should […]

Posted on September 8, 2009 at 09:36 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: CULTURAL ODDS AND ENDS, Reflections on SF

A good candidate for banning

My SF bookseller does not stock anything by C. J. Cherryh, on the grounds that they don’t sell. In other words, Norwegians want nothing to do with her. This is probably because she refuses to play the Nordic game of ‘Two legs good, three legs bad’; she is acutely aware of the existence of dominant, […]

Posted on September 9, 2009 at 10:29 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: CULTURAL ODDS AND ENDS, Reflections on SF