Imagining the Future

i-623d2553395dea8ccb96564bd63b94dc-futurebuzz.jpgOn Universe, Claire L. Evans interviews sci-fi world-builder Ursula K. Le Guin. Their conversation centers on the Google Books Settlement, which seeks to “circumvent existing U.S. copyright law.” While Le Guin hopes her books will become more accessible in the future, she says “the vast and currently chaotic electronic expansion of publishing should not be controlled solely by corporations.” On Uncertain Principles, Chad Orzel reviews China Mieville’s new novel The City and the City, which is about two cities that enforce very strict boundaries despite being “co-located” on the same real estate. While Chad appreciates the trickiness of the premise and Mieville’s “bravura show of writing ability,” he wonders why either city “would agree to such a daft state of affairs.” On Pharyngula, PZ Myers gripes about SF’s dependence on humanoid aliens, asking why more creators don’t examine “the diversity within the phylum Chordata, let alone some of the weirdness in other phyla.” And on Collective Imagination Greg Laden wonders if having a chip in his head might make his medical odyssey a bit more efficient.

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Assessing Avatar

i-61f411434dffb8a58312bc9b17b2b544-avabuzz.jpgScienceBloggers liked Avatar, but that hasn’t stopped them from picking the science apart from the science fiction. On The Scientific Indian, Selva wonders how communication between the humans and their avatars could take place inside the “vortex,” when all other kinds of transmission are disrupted. PZ Myers on Pharyngula lauds the detailed flora and fauna imagined for Pandora, but laments that the natives ended up looking so safely human in an otherwise alien world. On Greg Laden’s Blog, Greg turns a critical eye to the film’s anthropological undercurrents, comparing the representation of the Native American-like Na’vi to the Westernized military-industrial villains. And on The Frontal Cortex, Jonah Lehrer discusses the real-life brain activity of film viewers, explaining that auditory and visual immersion inhibits the logical faculties of the prefrontal cortex in favor of pure sensorimotor processing. For this reason, Lehrer holds Avatar to be a paragon of the cinematic medium.

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Linking Fact and Fiction

i-727d32e5032303905de7127284b5eaa9-sfbuzz.jpgGood science takes time, but good science fiction hinges on impatience. Why wait for the invention of real technological marvels when you can imagine them yourself or see them on TV? On The Quantum Pontiff, Dave Bacon ponders the formative links between fantasy and reality, spurred by an Intel talk on the possibilities of “fictional prototyping.” He writes, “the creative act of telling a story shares many similarities with the creative act of developing a new research idea or inventing a new technology.” On Built on Facts, Matt Springer compares phasers with lasers, writing “it’s a nice job perk that I can see old science fiction tropes come to life pretty much every day.” On Aardvarchaelogy, Martin Rundkvist says there are two ways of writing SF: either you use current scientific knowledge to write an explanation that “sort of makes sense,” or you use “technobabble” to dazzle your readers with made-up vocabulary. Do neither and, like author Dan Simmons, you will be ridiculed. Finally, travel back in time for an article by Chad Orzel on Uncertain Principles, where he considers the long-running role of mysticism in SF, and notes that the genre “has broadened considerably over the last few decades.”

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