Science Fiction


The Angle: The Can't Fool Me Edition

Slate

Double-dog dare you, SCOTUS: A federal judge obliterated the Trump administration's plans to include a citizenship-based question in the 2020 census, Mark Joseph Stern writes. In addition to deconstructing the various ways the commerce secretary violated established law in trying to make this happen, Judge Jesse Furman also issued a read-between-the-lines challenge to the Supreme Court, which may take up the case. Barr sinister: William Barr showed up to his confirmation hearing Tuesday with the goal of assuaging an anxious nation. The attorney general nominee succeeded, delivering what Andrew Cohen calls a "bravura performance," managing to look serious, somber, and sober. But don't be fooled, Cohen insists: Barr is still unfit to oversee the Mueller investigation.


Something Is Broken in Our Science Fiction

Slate

When it first emerged more than 30 years ago, cyberpunk was hailed as the most exciting science fiction of the '80s. The subgenre, developed by a handful of younger writers, told stories of the near future, focusing on the collision of youth subcultures, new computer technologies, and global corporate dominance. It was only ever a small part of the total SF field, but cyberpunk received an outsize amount of attention. Since then, its characteristic tropes have become clichés. By 1992, they could be hilariously parodied by Neal Stephenson in Snow Crash (a novel often mistaken as an example of the subgenre it meant to mock).


The lesser-known side of Isaac Asimov OpenMind

#artificialintelligence

Isaac Asimov, one of the Big Three--along with Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein--who brought science fiction literature to its golden age in the middle of the 20th century, used to celebrate his birthday on the second of January. But the man who bequeathed us the three laws of robotics was himself a great fictional character, starting with the first of his fictions--his own date of birth. Born in Petrovichi, a remote village in rural Russia, the day that he entered the world left no record even in the memory of his family, who came up with tentative range of dates between October 4, 1919 and January 2, 1920; it was Asimov himself who chose this last date as his birthday.


Alienware's Area 51m laptop has an upgradable CPU and graphics card

Engadget

From the beginning, Alienware computers have been built with hardcore gamers in mind -- that explains the stylish cases and aggressive designs, which helped spark the rise of bold gaming PCs. But the Alienware brand was initially inspired by The X-Files and '90s-era science fiction, and that aesthetic hasn't evolved much since then. With the Area 51m -- a reference to the company's very first laptop -- Alienware is making its biggest design leap in years. And it also includes something truly innovative for gamers: an upgradable desktop CPU and NVIDIA RTX 20-series video card. It gives a new meaning to the term "desktop replacement."


AI in Finance: From Science Fiction to Modern Financial Solutions - CoinSpectator Blog

#artificialintelligence

The term "Artificial Intelligence" was coined by American cognitive scientist John McCarthy back in 1955, initiating the whole discussion on simulated cognitive processes in machines. After the Dartmouth conference of 1956, AI became a legitimate new field of knowledge, sparking interest of intellectuals all over the world – it quickly gained its advocates (scientists John McCarty, Marvin Minsky, Allen Newell among others) and naysayers (philosopher John Searle and his famous "Chinese Room" thought experiment). Yet outside of these learned circles, the general public for years to come associated AI more with science fiction than actual science – and movies like Stanley Kubrick's "2001: Space Odyssey", with its inscrutable and menacing AI antagonist HAL9000 helped cement this notion. Things are very different today when AI has finally become part of our everyday lives. Predicting its future applications is now an almost mundane process.


The Beautiful Mind-Bending of Stanislaw Lem

The New Yorker

The science-fiction writer and futurist Stanisław Lem was well acquainted with the way that fictional worlds can sometimes encroach upon reality. In his autobiographical essay "Chance and Order," which appeared in The New Yorker, in 1984, Lem recalls how as an only child growing up in Lvov, Poland, he amused himself by creating passports, certificates, permits, government memos, and identification papers. Equipped with these eccentric toys, he would then privately access fictional places "not to be found on any map." Some years later, when his family was fleeing the Nazis, Lem notes that they escaped certain death with the help of false papers. It was as if the child's innocent game had prophesied a horrific turn in history, and Lem wonders if he'd sensed some calamity looming on the horizon--if his game had sprung "perhaps from some unconscious feeling of danger."


Sci-Fi Writers Are Grappling with a Post-Trump Reality

WIRED

At the 2018 Worldcon, fantasy author N.K. Jemisin became the first person to ever win three consecutive Hugo awards for Best Novel. Given that level of success, science fiction editor John Joseph Adams felt she'd be the perfect guest editor for the latest edition of his anthology series The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. "Given that she's clearly the face of the genre at the moment, I thought it would be wonderful to have her as guest editor," Adams says in Episode 342 of the Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast. "And thankfully she said yes." Caroline M. Yoachim, whose short story "Carnival Nine" appears in the book, says the 20 stories selected by Jemisin reflect the growing diversity of the fantasy and science fiction field. "One of the things I loved about the book was just the sheer variety of it," Yoachim says.


The Reunion: a new science-fiction story about surveillance in China

MIT Technology Review

Though only 23 minutes on the high-speed rail from Shenzhen North to West Kowloon, the journey from the mainland to Hong Kong seems to transport me back half a century. The concrete jungle of my childhood memories hasn't changed one bit. Time seems trapped in the amber of this city of seven million, while the Shenzhen Bay area that I departed has already arrived at the future ahead of schedule. My classmate from a decade earlier, Dr. Ng Lok Tin of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, waits for me at the station exit. As though to highlight the discombobulation of modern China, he greets me in Cantonese though he's a native of Shanghai; I, Hong Kong born, on the other hand, speak to him in Modern Standard Mandarin. "Leung Wah Kiu, what's this really about?" he asks me. "A few days ago, two plainclothes officers approached me to ask if Professor Lau had been in touch and for the contact info of his relatives and friends in Hong Kong." "I thought he had been placed in ...



George R. R. Martin Didn't Work on 'Nightflyers.' It Shows

WIRED

The new Syfy series Nightflyers is based on a novella by George R. R. Martin that was first published back in 1980. Fantasy author Erin Lindsey says that the original story feels dated, but that it displays a basic storytelling competence that the show never really achieves. "The things that I didn't like about the Martin novella were details, at the end of the day, but I thought the bones were good, and in a certain way this is the reverse," Lindsey says in Episode 341 of the Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast. "Some of the details are cool, but they can't make up for the fact that the bones aren't there." Science fiction author Matthew Kressel notes that Nightflyers never really moves beyond recycling familiar elements from better movies and TV shows.