Thursday, May 24, 2007

Encyclopedia of Life

Posted by goatchurch at 2:33 AM
Recently I got an iPod which now allows me to listen to all kinds of interesting broadcasts from around the world that were previously unaccessed. The aggregator software, the citizen journalism, the interviews with scientists who speak about what they believe in without the need to be filtered through the boring style required of scientific papers -- all of this has appeared in the last couple of years as yet another phenomenon never mentioned in an SF story before it happened. Like most aspects of the internet.

Writers have been too busy about telling us about holographic telephones to dream up the real stuff that matters.

The internet is moving into a different age. The dot-com boom was all about trying to make money out of this new technology. The logic of a business plan happens to give the most extremely blinkered view imaginable. Almost all the ideas were about how to make people shop more. Luckily, after all those millions of dollars were wasted on not writing any useful software (where the heck did it go?), no lasting damage was done. I say luckily, because all of the software patents that those companies took out -- claiming ownership of ideas -- could have been worth more than the paper they were written on, which would means they would have been extracting an idea tax from everything that followed.

In the May 16, 2007 edition of the Scientific American podcast is a segment entitled: "The Encyclopedia of Life; and the End of John Horgan's Pessimism" where there is an interview with the biologist E. O. Wilson who has a lot of very interesting theories.

In this interview he says he feels that for the first time in his life he is making history, because he was present at the launch of the Encyclopedia of Life.

The web-page doesn't have much to show for itself to be honest, so stick to the podcast. The idea is to gather together, organize, and provide totally free access to everything that is known to science about every living species on the planet.

Given that it is believed that the Earth is presently undergoing one of the greatest mass extinctions in its entire history, they're going to have to hurry up.

What could emerge from this encyclopedia is evidence of large scale patterns that no one has yet imagined, or particular species in the entire spectrum that happen to be the pathogen or the cure of vital importance. Maybe the identification of a particular roundworm in the wrong place is the vital clue in a detective story.

Here's a different miserable web-page that might just save your life: Famine foods.

Friday, May 18, 2007

At last

Posted by goatchurch at 6:26 PM
It's still early days. We've dealt with about 15 stories through the web-page so far, so at least my design of the code is up to scratch. Each editor has their own password, and we can look at the table of stories awaiting attention simultaneously whilst coordinating through a Skype channel.

If anyone out there wants a copy of the program that runs the webpage, drop me a message. I wrote it a year ago, and since then it's been used to manage the submission of abstracts for the Experimental Psychology Society. I'll probably put a copy up somewhere which can be downloaded for free.

In the meantime, we don't expect the floodgates to open until later in the summer when folks have finally begun finishing off their mundaneSF short stories. What we're getting now is obviously not inspired by the guidelines, but was written beforehand and just happened to fit.

Stories so far are better written than I had expected, but they seem to be lacking in ambition in my opinion. Real life gets the better of it. And it shouldn't. If you read through the wikipedia article on Hurricane Katrina you'd see about 20 different stories that chart the event through the eyes of vastly different characters. There were people were on the rooftops, and others who drove down from the North with supplies because they were appalled by the government failure. There were even some men who got lost in the prison system for over a year because they had been picked up for an unpaid fine and then all the police records were destroyed by the floods so no one could tell the murderers apart from the people who hadn't handed back their library books in time. There's so much there.

Now, just to be clear, I do not want to see any stories about Hurricane Katrina. That's something that has now happened, and we can read the real life stories that are every bit as compelling as the best fiction anyone could ever write. What I am trying to get across is the fact that there are these spectacular events which are happening now and will happen in the future. It's got to be Science Fiction. The flooding and chaos of New Orleans was Science Fiction back in 2004. Now it's too late because it's reality. Had we published a story of someone living through those extraordinary events back then, it would have made the news. But we didn't. And we must do better in future.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Mundane Interzone Issue

Posted by goatchurch at 6:54 PM
It's time to revive this blog from the doldrums. A plan has suddenly been set in motion.

Originally we were going to sponsor a MundaneSF anthology. Then I thought of an "easier" option: Why not ask to be a guest editor for one issue of an SF magazine? We appear to have talked Interzone into it.

As you can see, the call for submissions is already up on their page. I had written this story submission webpage system a year ago, which still seemed to be working. While attempting to bring it up to date I was horrified to find that that there were already six(!) stories posted on it in the past week.

Well, at least it means the interface works. Unfortunately, the first story I picked out didn't look much like Science Fiction to me. Hoo Boy.

The closing date is 31st October 2007. The contact email is: Further details to follow.