Putting the life back in science fiction


A Panglossian Cli-Fi Alt-History, for the holidays
December 14, 2019, 10:54 pm
Filed under: alt-future, science fiction, Uncategorized

Just some positive thinking–what’s happening to me?–for the holidays.  This is another in my series of alt-histories I wish someone else would write, and it’s kind of in the spirit of DC’s famous Watchmen comic.

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Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis and Alt-History

Just a quick note for those who, like me, need to fiddle for a few hours while the world burns.  Oh wait, that’s not quite what I meant, but anyway, if you want a distraction, here’s one: the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis.

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Vegetation on a Red Dwarf world

I’ve been running a blog post on Antipope while the owner is otherwise occupied.  Part of that posting was a short riff on what it would be like to colonize an earth-like world that orbits a red dwarf star Rather than bore that (largely techie) crowd over there to tears with an extended botanical geek-out, I figured I’d post it for the smaller, more discerning group here.

Here’s the question du jour: what would plants look like on a red dwarf world? Continue reading



The hole-y multiverse theory

Hi, I’m avoiding writing yet another response to yet another badly conceived development.  So I’m wasting time writing a blog post.  This here dubious speculation is something I cooked up over on Antipope a little while ago, and just to make it easier to find the idea and mock it (or whatever), I figured I’d write it up here.  This is my two-bit, I’m-not-even-good-at-physics-let-alone-a-cosmologist take on multiverse formation.  Read it in that spirit.

As background, I’ve come to the conclusion that a rational society, especially an interstellar society, could do worse than to revere black holes.  After all, without SgrA*, the giant black hole at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way wouldn’t exist and neither would we, so that’s our creator, at least in the local sense.  Since it appears that our ruling demon sultan SgrA* may be surrounded by a swarm of lesser black holes, I sometimes wonder if we should rename SgrA* “Azathoth.”  Especially if it turns out that those lesser black holes are emitting either drum-like beats of gravitational waves and/or monotonous, radio-frequency fluting whines.  Unfortunately, calling our creator and ultimate doom “Azathoth” would enshrine a rather nasty bit of islamophobia that Lovecraft emitted.  But none of that’s the point here.

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Silly summer thoughts 3: Dune Shields

First, a bit of news: I’ve got another guest post up on Antipope, if you haven’t already seen it.  Go have fun with it, if it’s your sort of thing.

Now back to summer silliness; why not pick on Dune again?  It’s a fun target at the moment, especially since it gives this distorted impression that magnates and aristocrats could be part of  a breeding project to produce a superhuman messiah, even though rationally we know that regression to the mean seems to be a more common outcome for human reproduction(except for inbreeding, which gets rather worse).  The current administration in Washington is a great example of how each generation in a wealthy family gets smarter and more talented.  Or not.

In any case, for summer silliness, I give you the shields of the Dune universe, which apparently are spherical shells of force (or weirder, if you’re David Lynch and filming the novel), that slow down objects passing through them to 6 to 9 centimeters per second (this from the glossary in the original story and here) . Continue reading



Silly summer thoughts, Part 1: new Dune movie

Just a brief one.  I recalled today that a new adaptation of Dune is currently in the works, random deities help us.  I’m not a huge fan of the series, but I did like the original Dune, for what it’s worth.  It’s gotten rather more humorous as I found that Frank Herbert’s idea of a dune was based more on his coastal Oregon dunes than on the Sahara, that his idea for the sandworms came from maggots eating a mushroom, and the Bene Gesserit and their blue eyes were, erm, inspired by his ingestion of (hopefully) non-wormy mushrooms.  Those were the days.

Thing is, I’m a grumpy ecologist.  I’m still trying to figure out how you get their metabolism to effectively run backwards so that they exhale/fart oxygen (I guess they breathe in CO2?).  And a sandworm hundreds of meters long snacking down on a human is about as close in optimal foraging strategy as humans chasing after individual ants.  Ant hives, yes, but individual ants?  Anteaters don’t bother with them, and sandworms shouldn’t bother with individual humans thumping across the dunes.

Still, I wanted to have a little fun, it being a hot afternoon in July.  So I started thinking about those still-suits, which capture and filter sweat and urine and recycle is so that the wearer can drink it again.  Talk about a sweat bath!  If you’re wearing one of these damned contraptions, you’re going to get heat stroke in short order, unless there’s some mechanism for getting the heat out of the recycling body fluids and off into the air.  I may be wrong, but I think that takes energy?  And aren’t electrical signals supposed to attract sandworms? Continue reading



The Soviet Internyet
October 21, 2016, 10:35 pm
Filed under: alt-future, science fiction, Speculation, The Internet | Tags: , ,

Just another little note.  In case you’re wondering why I’m not writing about climate change, it’s for two reasons.  One is that we’re moving next week (just a few miles, but paperwork and packing are paperwork and packing), and the other is that I’ve been commenting in real life on climate action plans for local jurisdictions, so I don’t feel like ringing the *we’re all (not quite) doooomed* bell again until Halloween, when it’s seasonally appropriate.

That said, I tripped over this interesting essay on Aeon about the Soviet Union’s abortive attempts to create an internet, and how what strangled those efforts has echoes today.  I won’t spoil it too much, because it’s a fun, fast read.

I havea couple of questions about it, and I’m hoping someone reading this could enlighten me.  One question is how accurate and/or useful this article is.  I’m not in the IT industry, and so I don’t know if this is relatively common knowledge or something neat and new. I also don’t know if the article is accurate or laden with male bovine exudate.

My other question is whether this is the kind of thing that alt-history is made of.  For example, if Comrade Garbuzov had had an attack of appendicitis or something that had prevented him from attending that fateful meeting, and Glushkov had prevailed with Brezhnev’s support, what would the world look like if the USSR had developed the first internet.   Would a Soviet Internet have been Big Brother’s playpen, would the proposed distributed network model have enabled the fall of the Soviet Union that much faster, or (gasp, shock horror, paging Ken MacLeod), would an early internet have actually made the planned economy work?  Or perhaps all three simultaneously?  That might make for some interesting science fiction.  Or has it been done already?

What do you all think?