Tag Archives: technology

Spectral Cafe: Books! Science Fiction I Have Read

While my blogging has been sporadic, doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading stuff. Here are three different but related visions of the future:

 

PERSONA by Genevieve Valentine 

I became a big fan of Valentine because of her first published novel Mechanique, an absolutely beautifully written book that skillfully blended violent action, steampunk and suspense with meditations on art, love, loss and death. Persona has that Valentine touch but it’s a different type of story with a style that is more straightforward, less poetic, more brainy spy thriller. The novel is set in the near future when technology has advanced in various areas, notably surveillance, and global issues dominate. Countries, including some new ones on the scene, negotiate it out in a fishbowl of diplomats who are mostly just used as celebrities in the world reality show, called Faces. There are official journalists and black market journalists (snaps.) The novel centers on Suyana Sapaki, a third rate Face for the newer United Amazon Rainforest Confederation angling for a better deal for her struggling young country, and secondly on Daniel Park, a former journalist on the run, trying to become a snap, who happens to interrupt a mysterious assassination attempt on Sapaki. Everybody is hiding lots of secrets that are likely to get them killed by one group or another. The paranoia is ramped up to eleven, and it’s wonderful. It’s a crisp, punchy novel about a future that, while a few things might not fully hold up, has some scary parallels to what’s going on today and how they could be worse. I enjoyed it a lot and am looking forward to reading the sequel that came out this year, Icon.

ZEROES by Chuck Wendig

I’ve also been a fan of Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black series, which are contemporary fantasy thrillers. (He is better known now as the guy who is doing the funky new Star Wars tie-in bestsellers.) In Zeroes he turns to science fiction in the contemporary to near future time range. In the novel, the tech involved is of the cyber variety and also has a lot of stuff about surveillance. Wendig sets up the classic hackers story: five disparate types of criminal hackers are grabbed by the U.S. government and forced to work at a secret complex as cyber spies to avoid federal prison for the rest of their lives. And of course there are conspiracies within conspiracies that the thrown together group are forced to deal with in order to survive. But from there, things get weirder and weirder, because that’s how Wendig rolls. He also has a brilliant ability to take a stereotype frame and play with it, turning them into buyable and fleshed out characters, and has interesting side characters as well. While I didn’t enjoy the novel as much as the Miriam Black books, I did very much like the combo of extrapolating where cybernetics might go with Dirty Dozen face-offs and chases. There is a sequel/spin-off that involves ants just out called Invasive. I don’t even want to think what Wendig might do with ants.

TERMS OF ENLISTMENT by Marko Kloos

Everybody started talking about newcomer Marko Kloos and so I got around to reading his first novel, the start of the Frontline series. The novel is set in a farther away future that is bleakly dystopian. The Earth is overpopulated, trashed and food shorted, with tons of poor folk kept trapped in giant city camps — pretty much a standard scenario. Some try to escape it by joining the military, with the hopes that if you survive service, you’ll get a pension and maybe the ability to settle on more breathable colonies out on other planets. That’s what the novel’s protagonist, Andrew Grayson, decides to do. The tech here is military, also involves methods of surveillance, and some of it is interesting. The novel is really two stories together. The first involves Grayson’s training and service on Earth where they put down “threats” both foreign and domestic as hated enforcers. The second part has Grayson going up into space on a military patrol vessel that encounters a totally new threat to humans. Kloos makes a bit of a first-timers mistake in the first part, for me, of believing that detailed descriptions of military training and procedures are both fascinating and totally unfamiliar to his reading audience. So the first part doesn’t move along quite as well as the second part, though it gets more exciting as it goes. The second part of the novel offers us more of a new world, better pacing and Kloos’ aliens are neat. Overall, it’s a bit of an uneven book that is nonetheless free of bombast, has lots of action and knows its military hardware. And has a protagonist who isn’t a total saint but does have a strong emotional core. So I’m interested to read the next one in the series and see what Kloos does with his wider landscape.

 

 

 

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Various Geek Article Links

Some interesting bits and news from the Internet:

 

Mindy at Skepchick ponders the science of Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ Starkiller base

And speaking of Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ Starkiller base, blogger Matty Granger fisks and debunks a really obnoxious article in the Huffington Post about plot holes in the movie. Not that there weren’t any plot holes in the movie, but I agree with Granger that there’s a big difference between inattention and actual plot holes.  Plus, it’s just a fun piece if you’re a Star Wars fan.

An announcement that Vanessa Hudgens will headline a new DC Comics sitcom. Which sounds like an interesting experiment.

The New York Times digs out a business piece from 1985 expressing that laptops and mobile computers is going to be a limited market, just to show that tech prediction is frequently not very predictive about how we’ll use tech.

Author Kevin Hearne gets author Ursula Vernon to do her rant about the potato apocalypse on Twitter.

An interesting experiment based on the Harry Potter world, though she seems to have cheated a good bit.

A rundown on everything you need to know about upcoming Disney movies. (The Mouse will not be stopped!)

 

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Filed under Humor, Movies/TV, SFFH, Technology

Moving Things Around

In a very short bit of time, my blog, The Open Window, will be having a five year anniversary. This blog was an experiment for me, a lab in which I could try things out and figure out how I wanted to do certain things, in which I got to say some things I wanted to say, and bring attention to some books and artists I liked. There were periods of time that it was neglected, because life got in the way, mostly in a good way. I got a little better at using the formatting devices of Word Press. There were various decorating changes over the years. Now that I’ve entered a new phase of my life, I’m not entirely sure what this blog is going to turn into, but I am going to keep going with it and see.

As I was looking through the stuff I had backlogged from last year, one thing that was clear was that 2014 was a very busy year for issues of diversity, civil rights and social equality, in SFF and book publishing and in many areas outside of those things. And that stuff is important to me, to my family, I’m going to write about it, link to articles I find interesting. But, it’s not primarily what I want this particular blog to be focused on. And so I’m expanding the blog a little, in part to make things easier to find as I did with the Books to Read page. I’ve added a separate page called Social Equality.

I’m still going to do pieces on those subjects on the main page, like the Women in Film review, which will be coming shortly, but those pieces will also be copied on the Social Equality page. Other entries and collections of links to others’ writing on diversity and civil rights issues may be only on the Social Equality page, however, with a link to them on the main page. If you are following me mainly for my talking about those issues or to learn about interesting articles and stories on those issues, you’ll be able to just go to the Social Equality page if you want. (Older pieces on those subjects are available in the blog archives.) So it’s kind of three little blogs together, and I’ll see how that works for me. I may end up changing it; hey, I may get a website at some point. I really don’t know what’s going to happen this year. But we are well into our shiny new century millennium, and while the electricity is still on, we might as well keep talking.

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Some Art To Peruse (Dumping Days)

Still cleaning out my closets, and here are some lovely and strange artworks and links to more.

Artist Carl Jara does amazing things with sand sculptures:

Carl Jara

I unfortunately couldn’t find out whose photo graphic art this is, so if anybody knows, let me know, but I utterly love it, with the ocean as a pup tent:

 

Then there’s the amazing cardboard sculpture art of Kai-Xiang Xhong:

Kai-Xiang Xhong

 

And because I love them, more 3-D chalk art!

 

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Gamesplayers Are A Mighty Wave

Once upon a time, a very angry man teamed up with some anti-feminist frothy guys to get revenge on his game-designer ex-girlfriend. They claimed that she had sex with a game reviewer in return for favorable review coverage of her game, and harassed, doxed and death threatened her. The fact that the favorable review coverage never occurred was irrelevant; the charge was meant only to raise questions on the Net. Meanwhile, the frothy guys proceeded to attack with doxing, harassment and death threats other women who had nothing to do with game reviewing or game company PR, and then went after anyone and any website that criticized them for it.

Despite all this, their efforts didn’t draw much media attention outside of the geekosphere until two events occurred. First, the frothy guys confused some Intel marketing folk into withdrawing one of thousands of ad buys from a games website that had been critical of them.* And second, they shut down a talk by an academic in women’s studies at a university by threatening a mass shooting at the event. The bulk of the media coverage from that was negative, depicting the frothy guys as terrorizing women and bigoted. Right wing activists, who used to decry games as violent degeneracy, about-faced and helped push the message that those calling for better diversity and talking about the presentation of women in games were somehow corrupting the gaming industry and engaging in vague, often contradictory conspiracies. (*Update: Intel has now re-bought the ads they pulled a month ago, after getting a clue.)

The saddening thing about this campaign – and it has been an organized campaign — is that its threats and identity theft towards these women are ultimately futile towards its main stated goals. Yes, women have only a toehold in the engineering, tech, animation and gaming industries. But women used to have only a toehold in the fields of medicine, law, education, publishing and laboratory sciences too. The men in those areas used to throw up their hands and suggest that maybe the women were few because they weren’t really suited for those fields, while frantically rolling boulders to try to keep women out and making the atmosphere as toxic as possible for the ones who were there.

Women have always worked in games, despite such barriers, from board and tabletop to educational games, sports, and electronic games from the arcade to the console to the computer networks. And women have always played electronic games, in great numbers, from their earliest days. Currently, they make up half the gaming market and the largest demographic group in the 18-39 age range. Electronic games have always been commercially mainstream, put out by large companies for a global market, and sporting a wealth-load of popular spin-off merchandise and toys, from Pac Man lunch boxes to Pong earrings.  Continue reading

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Interesting Writings on Writing and Publishing

Lot going on here and in about three, four weeks, I’m going to be making some changes to the blog, but until then, have some more links! These are about writing fiction, book publishing and SFFH media:

Author Ferrett Steinmetz talks about selling his novel.

Lauren Davis talks about the perils of genre shaming readers and writers.

Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff talks about issues in critiquing people’s writing.

Mary Robinette Kowal talks about turning off your inner editor when writing.

An article on award-winning SF author Ann Leckie, her novel Ancillary Justice and its impact in the field. (I quite liked Ancillary Justice — more on that later.)

Ask a Game Developer explains what it is important to focus on in higher education if you want to get into games development.

Gwenda Bond explains quite simply about fiction being a symbiotic market for authors and how you should concentrate on your own career in fiction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yay Science!

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