September 23, 2014

Paging Doctor Bowman...

Freefall has gotten complicated lately. Spoilers below.

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September 07, 2014

Sevens

I admit it, it's a challenge I can't pass by. XKCD has one element each from seven different seven-of-a-kind, and I can't identify them all.

Sneezy -- the seven dwarves, of course.
Phylum -- ?
Europe -- the seven continents (only Europe isn't really a continent)
Sloth -- the seven deadly sins
Guacamole -- ?
DataLink -- ?
Colossus of Rhodes -- the seven wonders of the ancient world

So I got four of them, what are the other three?

UPDATE: When I was a kid and we got taught that there were seven continents, it never made sense to me that Europe and Asia were considered separate continents. They sure don't look like it on the map. I say there are only six: Eurasia, Africa, North America, South America, Australia, Antarctica.

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May 16, 2014

Here's something we didn't need

They're planning a sequel to Blade Runner.

They say they want Harrison Ford back for it. It's supposedly set several decades after the first film. There's a really huge continuity problem with that.

Spoilers below the fold.

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April 29, 2014

Fairy Tail manga -- chapter 382

So most of Fairy Tail is now captured and immobilized. Some discussion (spoilers) of the situation below the fold.

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April 24, 2014

Hugo? Hugo who?

Hugo Gernsback, that's who. If you aren't into SF, you probably don't know what the Hugo award is. And you're probably better off for not knowing.

Back in the 1980's I was romantically involved with a woman who was heavily into science fiction fandom. She attended multiple conventions per year, always including the World Science Fiction Convention (AKA "WorldCon", a trademarked term), and while we were involved she dragged me to most of them.

I wasn't really a Fan although I did read SF at the time. So at most conventions I'd seek out the game room and try to stay busy there. (Gamers are viewed as a lower breed; tolerated but not really part of the guild.) The true fans? You've never seen such a load of self-important people in your life.

SF fans themselves are aware of this phenomenon and have a term SMOF for such amongst them. It stands for Secret Masters of Fandom and refers to the folks who think they're doing something far more significant and important than just reading books and hanging out. (And drinking beer.)

SMOFs have a place in life, and the rest of us who attended conventions were grateful. It's the SMOFs who are willing to put in dozens or hundreds of hours organizing the cons so the rest of us could attend. But they could still become rather annoying at times.

In Boston (where I lived at the time) the center of SMOFdom was NESFA, the New England Science Fiction Association, whose club house was in Cambridge. NESFA basically was in the business of putting on Boskone every year. They spend the entire year organizing for each year's Boskone. And they've been doing it for decades. (The first Boskone was in 1941.)

NESFA and Boskone got so insufferable that eventually another group started putting on their own convention, which they named Arisia. (Which is a fannish joke. "Boskone" were the villains in the classic Lensman series, and "Arisia" were the good guys.)

Anyway, back to the WorldCons and the Hugo awards. The first Worldcon was held in 1939 in NYC, and for a long time it was US-exclusive. But eventually they started holding them other places in the world. Groups in various cities put together bid committees and attend conventions and Worldcons to try to advertise their bids, and each year at the Worldcon there is a vote on where the con two years out (IIRC) will be, so as to give the winning bid committee a reasonable amount of time to do their organizing.

The voters are everyone who attend the convention, or who pay for a membership and don't bother attending. And it's become something of an agreement in fandom that it should be held outside of North America every third year. (Though apparently that pattern has broken recently.)

Everyone who buys a membership also receives a ballot for the Hugos, to be mailed in before the con by a particular date. I never bothered, but you wouldn't believe how seriously some people take that. It's a big responsibility, you understand. The fate of the world depends on making a good choice. Or so it seemed.

Back then, I don't recall that anyone ever paid attention to author ideology, but given the way that Political Correctness has invaded everything else, I'm not at all surprised to learn that it's taken over the Hugo award process as well.

"We can't give the award to him no matter how good his book is! He's one'a them Conservatives!" Sheesh.

The most amazing thing of all about the process is that so many people think it actually matters who wins. I never understood that.

After I broke up with her, I stopped being involved in fandom. It was never anything that mattered much to me, but she expected me to go with her, and I admit it was kind of fun. In 1990 it was in The Hague, so that's the only time I've ever been outside of North America.

Not all the events that are planned are about SF. At The Hague one of the events was a beer tasting. The idea was the people would bring beer from their home nations and share it around. Now this was just about the time that the American Craft Beer revolution was beginning, and in Europe we still had the reputation of carbonating horse piss and calling it beer. So I took a six-pack of Anchor Porter with me. Which was heavy and a hassle, but I did manage to get one Brit to do a double take after he tasted (and liked) it, and I told him it was from San Francisco. "Let me see that bottle!"

The Netherlands is a beautiful country. I can't imagine living there but I'm glad I visited it.

For that matter, the only time I've ever been in DC was to attend a con.

But in the end, those kinds of cons are sounds of furiousness signifying nothing (or whatever that phrase is) and the people who get the most enjoyment out of them are the ones who don't take it so seriously. (And spend their time hanging out and drinking beer.)

And as to the Hugo awards? They're beauty contests. I never took them very seriously before my stint in fandom, and now I don't grant them any credence whatever.

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April 08, 2014

First as tragedy, again as farce.

DC killed Superman. Remember? (And then he got better.)

Marvel, not to be outdone, killed Reed Richards. (And then he got better.)

Well, I think we've reached the preposterous limit of this trend: Archie Andrews is going to die heroically.

How much you want to bet that he, too, will get better? Maybe not; they're going to end the comic too.

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March 05, 2014

Chekhov's Vial

"Chekhov's Gun" refers to a dictum from great author Anton Chekhov that if you write a scene with a gun hanging on the wall, that before your story is over someone better use that gun for something. Otherwise you shouldn't have put it in.

In one of the Freefall strips about 4 years ago, Sam stole a vial from EU and gave it to Florence. "It's a factory reset. You sniff it and it erases any direct orders your evil Human Overlords may have given you."

Ever since then I keep expecting it to get used. I'm sure it will be. But when? and for what?

I think now we're coming to that point. Florence has just learned a lot of things she shouldn't know, and eventually someone is going to give her a direct order not to reveal any of it to anyone. They may give her a lot of other orders which end up messing her up. She's going to use that vial to cancel them.

It's possible that Dr. Bowman will tell her something about the bolt-on brain design that is dangerous and not widely known, and that's what she'll be ordered to suppress. And after the override she'll tell the robots.

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March 03, 2014

Dr. Bowman -- the latest guess

It's all spoilers.

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February 27, 2014

Dr. Bowman revealed!

Freefall: Now that is a big surprise. I sure didn't expect it.

UPDATE: And now Florence knows the real reason for all the data-chaff about him.

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February 14, 2014

Impermanance

The most amazing event of my lifetime was the dissolution of the USSR. It's not something I thought I'd live to see, because I thought the only way the USSR would come to an end was in nuclear holocaust, which would happen to me in the US, too.

The idea that the USSR would simply collapse and vanish without causing a World War was a complete surprise.

(In case you're wondering, the second most amazing event of my lifetime was the eruption of Mt. St. Helens.)

I think the dissolution of the USSR was unexpected by nearly everyone, and once in a while I run into fiction in which it still exists. There's a USSR in Full Metal Panic, for instance, but that was nostalgia. Having a Soviet Union in the world made it a more interesting, albeit dangerous, place. FMP was written long after 1991.

I occasionally have an urge to read a book I used to own, and if it's offered for Kindle I will buy it. I just did that a couple of days ago with the so-called Giant's trilogy by Hogan: Inherit the Stars, The Gentle Giants of Ganymede, and Giant's Star. I'm reading the third one now and it has an active USSR in it. (It was written in 1981.)

He doesn't assume political stasis; he also includes a "United States of Europe". But, like almost everyone else, he assumes the permanance of the USSR. Which, of course, no longer exists.

There's a lot of that in science fiction. In the movie 2001, the shuttle that Dr. Floyd is on to go to the space station belongs to Eastern Airlines. Which no longer exists; it was one of the victims of deregulation. (Frank Lorenzo bought it and looted it in 1991.) (Oops, no, it was PanAm, which also died in 1991 because of deregulation.)

And, of course, any picture of Manhattan which includes the WTC always brings a twinge.

I suppose it's trite to say, but things change. And no one can predict which things will change. Even mountains change.

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