Thursday, August 27, 2015

The End of All Things

I decided to finish up the novels on my iPad by kind of "known authors" who I have enjoyed in the past before moving on to new stuff. Next up was "The End of All Things", by John Scalzi. This is the latest (6th?) installment in The Old Man's War universe. Scalzi again serialized this book, I think as 4 $2.99 novellas, before releasing it as a novel. I'm guessing he makes more money that way, good for him.

It is a very enjoyable read. It has many of the same characters from the previous 1 or 2 novels. A different narrative voice for each of the 4 parts. Scalzi seemed to be somewhat less snarky, which I think is not bad for him.

Note that 2 of the 4 narrators are female voices. Scalzi, who was prez of SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) for a few years recently, has been one of the main warriors fighting against the dumbasses who finally coalesced into Sad Puppies (and GamerGate) - poor oppressed white males, who just want everything to be the way it used to be: manly men without all this obviously wrong politically correct support for feminism, multiculturalism, LGBT rights, etc. [sarcasm] These guys stuffed the ballots in the Hugo award nominating process to create slates where all the candidates were mostly inferior but mostly WASP males (I don't know, maybe they snuck a Slav in there somewhere). But, yay, a couple of days ago they mostly got their butts kicked with "No Award" taking all the categories where they had allowed for no real worthy alternatives. They are, of course, vowing vengeance! You all just wait until next year!

Plus ca change, plus ca la meme!

In the light of that, in addition to the 2/4 female narrative voices, I am going to guess that at least 1/2 of the characters in this novel, lots of whom are Colonial Marines, are female. That wasn't hard, was it? It does not affect the story at all to do this. It does not create any cognitive dissonance.

If all the scripts coming into Hollywood did this, it might fix a lot of the problems with underrepresentation of females in their productions. I personally feel, the more women in any production the better. The FIFA Women's World Cup, particularly the 5-2 final win over Japan, was some of the best soccer I've ever seen - and I coached soccer 9 years and refereed for 12, so I know the game.

Go wimminz!!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


A couple of weeks ago I finished reading "Aurora", by Kim Stanley Robinson. Somehow KSR seems to have become scifi's Elder Statesman. In addition to his Mars novels and his "Science in the Capital" series about climate change, I really liked his prior novel "2312", blogged here. That one was the closest to Ian M. Banks' Culture of anything I can remember recently. I was hoping for more of that - I need the vision of a post-scarcity, anarchist, socialist utopia to keep me going!

This novel is a generation-ship story. There is a complex computer program that maybe approaches AI levels. I think it was in the discussion of this that KSR brings up several times various cognitive errors:

ease of representation, probability blindness, overconfidence, and anchoring.

Even those aware of the existence of these genetically inherited cognitive errors cannot seem to avoid making them.

Very interesting stuff, I would have liked to have seen it explored in more depth.

The plot has several interesting twists - and probably some bad news for the concept of exploring other planets. It is a great read, I don't think KSR can create anything else. We just need to get him pointed back at post-scarcity, anarchist, socialist utopias!

Monday, August 03, 2015

The Annihilation Score

"The Annihilation Score" is the 6th Laundry Files novel by Charles Stross. These stories are H.P. Lovecraft meets Dilbert meets James Bond. The first 4 Charlie was paying tribute to different spy novel styles. The 5th one, he decided to riff on vampires. This one the secret sauce is superheros. Additionally, the protagonist is Dr. Mo O'Brien, the wife of our normal protagonist Bob Howard.

Charles Stross is one of the leading lights of modern science fiction. He knows code and coders. He skewers both corporate mentality and modern political trends. There are, as usual, several LOL zingers scattered throughout the book.

But, as much as this series is a money maker for him, I think he's getting tired of it. The pacing is off in this novel, particularly through the 2nd half of the book. The ending winds up being somehow a totally foregone conclusion.

I will always read everything Charlie writes, but, I would rather he turn his energies to new universes (which he of course is). Maybe 1 or 2 more Laundry Files and I think I'll have had enough.