Tuesday, January 30, 2007

People Peer in at Mundane SF

Posted by Trent Walters at 11:26 PM
Someone in Azerbaijan found us by searching for "barons as a fuel in future" and found this. (Someone in Beijing also translated us.)

Alasdair Stuart has written a very reasonable article for Coyote Wild. Unfortunately, most of my replies have been scattered or lost on defunct websites, so Alasdair may have missed my response to the unexpectedness of future science. Of course, science will change in the future. And so will MSF. MSF may be the most challenging form of genre fiction because it asks "Is this probable?" The writer cannot rely on any eye-candy because it looks cool. Every reflexive trope has to be re-evaluated. Of course, as hard SF writers know, this is nigh impossible. So be it. If nothing else, MSF should make it writers think about each gimmick before tossing it into the fictional stew.

Of course, we appreciate Alasdair Stuart's taking such a considerate approach, weighing each argument carefully.
Posted by Trent Walters at 7:02 PM
Scientific American has a blog. (Livejournal feed)

PBS on the 22nd Century.

Some worry about the lack of public awareness concerning nanotechnology (discussions of the safety problems). I discovered the lack of awareness when I had non-SF readers read a story about nano-tech. The average bloke simply hasn't even heard of its existence. Perhaps the future isn't on our minds.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Posted by Trent Walters at 8:43 PM
The garage will park your car for you (packing nearly three times the number of cars under your apartment).

One key to resolving Greenhouse may lie within Siberian peet moor:

With this new method the researcher could also clearly show that non-drained peatlands will eventually be extremely important net storage areas for greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere, even in the case of global warming.

If global warming and the northward shift of bioclimate zones continue, however, then the peat moorlands will enhance the greenhouse effect says Borren.

When we age, we get silent (undetected) strokes, leading to memory loss.

Some excitement over Titan's methane lakes: It has a cycle like earth's rain.

Death DNA so that scientists might one day construct "a 'suicide gene' to code for deadly amino acid primes. It could be attached to genetically modified organisms and activated to destroy them at a later date if they turned out to be dangerous, Hampikian suggests."

Jonathan Lethem is giving his stories away to filmakers for a dollar.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Japanese Frill Shark Seen

Posted by Trent Walters at 6:01 PM
Normally living a half mile under water, this rare shark sickened and swam to the surface. Some cool pictures.

Monday, January 15, 2007

China building a sun?

Posted by Trent Walters at 5:46 PM
Physorg reports that China's fusion tests are reliable. I hadn't heard fusion had come so far. This news site reports that it is reactor that is reliable. They're hoping to maintain their artificial sun for 1000 seconds.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Mundane SF Enters the Genre's Lexicon

Posted by Trent Walters at 7:29 AM
Due to the recent appearance of two zines soliciting Mundane SF, I performed my first google for "mundane SF" in awhile--to see how it is faring in the lexicon. Despite the initial misunderstanding of the manifesto's tone--I was surprised to learn--that idea is percolating quite well.

The biggest news is that two novelists, with novels coming out this year, have avowed their work is Mundane. Charles Stross told Scifi that he'd written a Mundane SF novel. It turns out he had already told this to HardSF.net in an interview. Anil Menon also has a Mundane SF novel coming out--his debut novel, in fact. In his journal, he compares MSF to "the Kashmiri pundit Kshemendra describ[ing] a poet's education in the Kavikanthabharana." Author Paul Cornell called David Louis Edelman's Infoquake MSF (which the publisher, PYR, proudly linked to)--as if that were a good thing. Edelman, in fact, does link to the group. (Earlier Stross had mentioned that he considered Vernor Vinge's Rainbow's End to be MSF, but I have no link for that.) (Side note on authors, #1: Ian Hocking has podcast his entire novel, Deja Vu. I can't recall if he said if it were MSF. Side note #2: A number of as yet unpublished novelists are also claiming their work as Mundane, such as David Mace, an aspiring author in the UK who is working on a Masters in linguistics.)

Tim Pratt told SFRevu that MSF had potential for exciting stuff. Patrick Samphire discusses MSF off-hand as a means of distinguishing rational SF from irrational. Hobby Space shares the MSF vision of a developed solar system but nothing else (which is not to exclude MSFers who believe only in a developed Earth). Playing with the alternate definitions of "mundane," he calls this idea "anything but mundane."

I loved this: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan translated into Italian the ideas behind Mundane SF and Infernokrusher. MSF stirred vigorous debate while infernokrusher bored them. Abigail Nussbaum described/debated MSF for SF readers in Israel (she gets hung up on the tone, but that's old news; the manifesto had always mocked itself for being a manifesto, which was supposed to be part of the fun; funny, how some people pick up on that immediately while others never do: Paperback Writer, for one, enjoys the antagonism: without evidence she attributed a Dark Cabal to MSF and a commenter of hers described his and her work as writing that doesn't "give a hang about the science." I do honestly wish Viehl the best with her writing).

In the comments, Niall Harrison compares/contrasts MSF to Spinrad. Ben Burgis described "V for Vendetta" as MSF as though that were a good quality. Someone in the commentary at Washington Monthly recommended the blog.

I finally found a description of the live debate between Ian McDonald and Geoff Ryman, written up by Andrew Ducker:

"I made it to the start of the programming in time to see Ian McDonald and Geoff Ryman argue about Mundane SF. Or rather, since Geoff turned up 20 minutes late, to see Ian McDonald defend Mundane SF by proxy until it could be defended in person. Various people seemed baffled by the idea that SF with certain limits might be considered particularly interesting, and Geoff was very careful to describe the whole thing as "rules for a particular game that I'd like to see played" as opposed to "How SF should be written".. Some members of the panel seemed slightly confused that FTL might not fit into hard SF, or that just because the story was obviously fiction didn't mean it was ok for absolutely anything to happen. Anyway, it was all fascinating, and hearing Geoff talk about the fact that Cyberpunk was effectively SF written after the fact, because people were so busy looking 3000 years into the future they weren't looking 30, made for a good discussion."

Six months ago, in Part 2 of a four part interview, Carolyn Hill for the Chronicles Network asked Geoff Ryman about MSF and how it was misunderstood. Actually, the whole interview is worth reading. Hill did a good job.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Two markets are actively soliciting for Mundane SF stories

Posted by Trent Walters at 4:35 PM


Posted by Trent Walters at 8:30 AM

Finally, Environmental Good News

Posted by Trent Walters at 12:00 AM
Scientific American: "seasonal plants can adapt quickly--even genetically--to changing climate conditions.... however,... longer-lived plants have a tougher time going with the flow."

New Scientist: "amphibians have a remarkable capacity to bounce back from environmental changes" however "Roelants warns that an ability to bounce back in the past does not necessarily mean amphibians will show the same resilience in the future."

Montserrat explodes and may explode again. Why is that good news? Locally, it's a major concern and a hardship, but according to Jared Diamond, it can be a source of new soil--even for areas distant to the explosion (strange how there can be good is some catastrophe). I also recall reading (although not where) that volcanic dust in the atmosphere may help slow the effects of global warming.

"The volcano's latest burst of activity began on Dec. 24. Glowing streaks of red from the pyroclastic flows have created nighttime spectacles visible across much of the island. The volcano's rising dome remained in place after Monday's explosion, raising fears of a bigger event soon."


In other science new: black diamonds originate in space, and the highly educated lose vocabulary faster than the less educated (so even if you pile higher and deeper, you don't get to keep that pile).