Monday, October 20, 2014

An Unstable World? Part One: Russia

Some folks have lately asked why I seem so calm, when every week brings news of yet another brewing disaster, with the world apparently spinning into chaos.  So much for Francis Fukayama's famous line - around 1990 - that the rapid and unstoppable spread of liberal democracy would soon bring an "end of history."

unstable-worldA few years earlier, I had made a different prediction. That the Cold War and the communist empire would soon shatter... (few believed it even remotely possible)... but that our struggles would thereupon move on to strife between a rising world-liberal culture... and one branch or another of machismo... traditionally male dominated cultures upset over the prospect of seeing their women become like ours.

At the time, I could not say which it would be... Latin, Hindi or Muslim machismo, though I guessed the lattermost of these. With the saving grace that - thereupon - the other two would swing our way.
But never mind that. Lately I've heard a lot of: "Brin, you warned us, way back a year ago, that 2014 could be world-shaking! You said the last three centuries began in their fourteenth year! Aren't these ructions around the planet signs that you're right?"
Well... yes... perhaps.  But here's how to tell when someone really is in the future biz.  He doesn't wed his ego to any one forecast! Or any twenty! I am in the line of posing possibilities to explore. Being proved right? I'll leave that for others to judge.
In fact, looking at the crises of the moment, I have not yet broken a sweat. Maybe I'll tell you why, later in this series.  But first, some specific trouble zones.
== What's up with Russia? ==
ukraine-rebelsFascinating! The pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk (eastern Ukraine) are resurrecting Soviet symbols, incantations and methods, even collective farms -- and (as described in this article) the same thing was happening in other disputed territories like South Ossetia and Abkhazia. 
We already know that Russian President Vladimir Putin -- a former official in the very-communist KGB -- called the breakup of the USSR "History's greatest tragedy." But... but... he's also supervised the most spectacular rise in oligarchic-moneyed inequality since the days of Ivan the Terrible. So... what gives?
I have to tell you that I lay 30% odds that Vladimir may turn out to be something that almost no one on Earth suspects. Sincere. And faithful (deep down) to the memes of his youth.
I may be alone in thinking that is possible -- on a "minority" or three-to-one wager. But lonely observations are what I do.

(Another example. Why does no one even consider what I deem a 20% possibility: that the absolutely uniform chain of destructive-to-America outcomes from the GW Bush presidency might have been deliberate or "manchurian"? I only give the possibility 1:5 odds, despite it being the only explanation that fits all facts. Indeed, it does parsimoniously fit all Bush Administration outcomes, far better than the standard theories: dogmatism, venality and stupidity. But the truly curious thing is that absolutely no one will discuss a lesser-odds option, even just to have it on a corner of the table.  But... back to Putin.)
What do I mean by sincere? Ah, well, if you ever actually read Karl Marx (which I assume no member of my generation has ever done), you'd realize how easily the present situation in Russia is "adaptable" in Marxist-Leninist terms. So, a couple of hundred oligarchs have consolidated all wealth, capital and power in a few hands? That is actually a well-described Marxist phase. The penultimate pre-revolutionary phase. When the time comes... 

...but I will leave that as a what-if hint. Remember, I only laid a 30% on this one. But it fits.

Of course, there are other Russia-related items, like the effects of plummeting oil prices. But the most important from our perspective is... our perspective.

== We talk ourselves into idiocy ==

Take the utter love fest for Vladimir Putin that surges across America's right wing media, especially Beck, Limbaugh and Fox.  "If only we had strong and savvy leadership like that!" The fellow is shown shirtless on Fox more often than a Playboy centerfold.

To listen to our media... both right and left... Putin is a master player who has won round after round against the feckless democratic leaders of the West, especially Barack Obama.  After all, he grabbed Crimea, only suffering some sanctions as a result.  And now he has nibbled off portions of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions as quasi-Marxist-Russian enclaves with considerable autonomy from Kiev.  Spectacular gamesmanship!

Except... um... am I the only one who's noticed that, in the last year, Putin ... lost Ukraine?  What had been an almost wholly-owned satrapy of over forty million skilled people, with vast resources, turned decisively westward. Does that fact weigh on anyone's scales?

To be clear, Putin himself kvetched that this revolution was the direct result of western/european/american scheming. So why do his admirers in US media not take him at his word?

If european/american governments, led by Barack Obama did scheme/support/facilitate the westward swing of 90% of Ukraine, it was a geopolitical coup of stunning aggressiveness and effectiveness, about which the Kremlin could do little more than whine a bit, and nibble-back a few crusts where the population was overwhelmingly Russian in background, and clearly preferred Putin's land.

And... your complaint about all this... is? 

It is like the mad-right proclaiming hatred of the "socialist George Soros, who is so scary he toppled 8 foreign governments!" Never mentioning which foreign governments the Fox/Beck/Limbaugh nuremberg rally credits the lefty Soros with toppling.   

Likewise, amid what seems a huge victory for the west (if you insist on viewing a simple act of self-determination by Ukrainians in such primitive terms), all these propagandists and their cretinous viewers can do is focus on a few nibble-back "defeats."

Truly, we live awash in silliness.
Oh, one last item.  Look up this fellow: Fyodor Dmitrievich Berezin is a Ukrainian science fiction writer. In the Ukraine Civil War he currently serves as the deputy Defense Minister  of the People's Republic of Donetsk.  His sci fi always features virtuous Russian or revived Soviet forces destroying decadent-smug American hegemons.  Wowzer.
== So where's the optimism? ==
ISIS-CRISIS-SYRIASorry, not this time. You'll have to wait for me to plumb the "ISIS-Crisis." And the endless disappointments between Israel and Palestine. And Ebola! 

And so many other modern ructions that make it seem that I was right about the "fourteenth year."
Well, sure... I might be right.  Or I might be crazy.
But I am starting to perk up a bit, imagining that... I might be wrong.  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

How Far Conservatism Has Changed

All right, it is an important U.S. political season.  As a registered Republican and a frequent speaker at libertarian gatherings, I remain hopeful that this will be the year that several million temperamentally conservative-but-calmly-rational Americans will wake up to the way their movement and the GOP have been hijacked. And that only a shattering drubbing at the polls will send the American right back to the drawing boards -- learning to do politics again. Including negotiation about real problems. 

Oh, but it will be so hard! 
The oligarchs who have done the hijacking have ordered up so many narratives, from "birther" paranoia to climate denialism, from preaching "oligarchy is gooood for you" to utter lies about U.S. history. I will explicate the best and most hilariously most damning example below -- the George Soros Effect.  
thats-not-austinBut first -- In That's Not What They Meant!: Reclaiming the Founding Fathers from America's Right WingProfessor Michael Austin examines dozens of books, articles, speeches, and radio broadcasts by such figures as Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Larry Schweikart, and David Barton to expose the deep historical flaws in their use of America's founding history. In contrast to their misleading method of citing proof texts to serve a narrow agenda, Austin allows the Founding Fathers to speak for themselves, situating all quotations in the proper historical context. 
What emerges is a true historical picture of men who often disagreed with one another on such crucial issues as federal power, judicial review, and the separation of church and state. 


As Austin -- whom I met last week, at Newman University, in Kansas -- shows, the real legacy of the Founding Fathers to us is a political process: a system of disagreement, debate, and compromise that has kept democracy vibrant in America for more than two hundred years, but that regularly comes under attack. How extreme has been the veer off any path of sane conservatism?  

== A Look Back to 1956 ==
A commenter on the New York Magazine site said: Nothing underscores the change in the Republican Party more than to read Dwight Eisenhower's 1956 Republican Platform:
government-head-heartPHILOSOPHY: "Our great President Eisenhower has counseled us further: "In all those things which deal with people, be liberal, be human. Government must have a heart as well as a head. "
LABOR: "Workers have benefited by the progress which has been made in carrying out the programs and principles set forth in the 1952 Republican platform. All workers have gained and unions have grown in strength and responsibility, and have increased their membership by 2 millions. "
EDUCATION: "Republican action created the Department of Health, Education and Welfare as the first new Federal department in 40 years, to raise the continuing consideration of these problems for the first time to the highest council of Government, the President's Cabinet."
FOREIGN POLICY: "We shall continue vigorously to support the United Nations."
SAFETY NET: The Federal minimum wage has been raised for more than 2 million workers. Social Security has been extended to an additional 10 million workers and the benefits raised for 6 1/2 million. The protection of unemployment insurance has been brought to 4 million additional workers.
ENVIRONMENT: "We recognize the need for maintaining isolated wilderness areas to provide opportunity for future generations to experience some of the wilderness living through which the traditional American spirit of hardihood was developed. Added more than 400,000 acres to our National Park system, and 90,000 acres to wildlife refuges."  
How did that Republican Party mutate into today's openly treasonous and insane New Confederacy? Openly and repeatedly declaring -- under the "Hastert Rule" -- that negotiating with their opponents, in any way and over anything, is absolutely forbidden?

Propaganda. Aimed at destroying politics as an American problem solving tool. And here's an example to show just how blatant it has become.

== On George Soros == soros-globalization
All right. let's illustrate the mad-right's narrative machine, and how sadly incurious millions of our neighbors have become, nodding and swallowing anything that gets fed to them on Fox. 

Use this!  Ask your crazy uncle what he thinks of a man named... George Soros. 

Oh, any Fox-watcher will tell you about Soros! How he is a criminal mastermind with a huge media empire that has suckered millions of Blue Americans into raving socialist-communist frenzy. 

Never mind that Soros's wealth and media "empire" are minuscule compared to the triumvirate of Rupert Mudoch, the Koch boys and the Saudi royal family, all co-owners of Fox. Folks following the narrative call George Soros a "super-leftist" master-demon.
A special moment: they nod in terror when Glen Beck howls "Soros toppled EIGHT foreign governments!" 

In fact, that's true! For once, Beck ain't lying at all. George Soros did help to topple eight foreign governments! He is, indeed, a formidable fellow. Alas, in a sign of how far GOP intellect has plummeted since days of Goldwater and Buckley, not one audience member of the Beck or Limbaugh or Fox riefenstahl-rallies ever lifts his head to ask ... 

"Um... Glen? Rush? Sean? WHICH eight foreign governments do you credit Soros - the super leftist with toppling?"

 In ten years of daring these guys, none of the Fox-ites I've  confronted has ever been able to name even one of those toppled foreign governments. It just never occurred to them, to ask.
Are you ready to ask? Ready for the list? Here are those eight foreign governments Beck/Limbaugh/Fox credit George Soros with toppling.
The communist dictatorship of Hungary.
The communist dictatorship of Poland
The communist dictatorship of Czechoslovakia
The communist dictatorship of Romania
The communist dictatorship of Bulgaria
The communist dictatorship of Estonia
The communist dictatorship of Latvia
The communist dictatorship of Lithuania
And mind you it isn't just uber-conservatives Beck and Limbaugh who credit Soros with this terrifying feat! The Heritage Foundation and AEI and most rightist pundit-castes have repeated it! Along with many GOP candidates. (Though sometimes the figure is nine since it rightfully should include East Germany.) Indeed, Soros's relentless efforts to undermine the USSR and communism made up his core life's work and even many sane political observers credit him substantially.
soros-EULet’s make this explicit. Glen Beck and all those other right wing mavens officially credit terrifying leftist George Soros with the toppling of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Warsaw Pact, the liberation of hundreds of millions and the victorious end of the Cold War. 

Huh. I thought it was that other liberal (compared to today’s GOP) Ronald Reagan. In fact, they both share equal credit with Michail Gorbachev and with the architect of our grand 1945-2000 plan -- George Marshall. (With Jimmy Carter deserving more of an assist cred than you’d believe.)
Look, the crux here is not who actually tore down the wall. Hey, let's credit the people of those nations, above all. 

No, the core point is this: why are the viewers of Fox and Beck/Limbaugh so cosmically stupid that they never — any of them — ask enough questions to notice the tsunami of ironies and contradictions and outright lies at their Nuremberg Rally? 

So... um... where does this ghastly example of looniness, incuriosity and knee jerk obedience to declared dogma leave the credibility of today's monster that has hijacked the once intellectually solid American conservative movement?
Oh, pity Barry Goldwater. spinning 6000 RPM in his grave.
== Make that 10,000 RPM... ==
I have long believed we should be dealing with crises with a multi-pronged approach. The far-left, in opposing even experiments in (say) ocean fertilization, is almost 10% as crazy as today’s entire US right. (Yes, that crazy!) 

Both sides poison pragmatism, which is portrayed on this page about ways to ameliorate the incredible harm that carbonate-driven acidification is doing to our oceansphforecastBut yes, there’s no doubt it is the Denialist Cult doing the worst harm.
Ocean acidification is the silver bullet, boys and girls. It is undeniable. It cannot be armwaved away with Fox-nuremberg-style sieg-incantations. It is pure fact, and caused by human generated CO2. And it threatens our children. 

Furthermore, those who would sneer us into doing nothing - refusing even to negotiate moderate improvements in energy efficiency that would save consumers billions - are complicit with murdering the future.
TWODA-new-brinDo not let them get away with the tactic of yelling “Squirrel!” and pointing elsewhere to change the subject. Repeat it. The oceans are going acid. The oceans are going acid. The oceans are going acid. The oceans are going acid. The oceans are going acid. The oceans are going acid. The oceans are going acid. The oceans are going acid…. ".

..And if YOU guys keep this up, and the seas die, we will remember you. Yes you. Personally. By name.”

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rejection of Tomorrow

I keep seeing and hearing cynics sigh about how far we have "fallen." The disease is rampant, on both right and left. The striking thing to me is the inanity of cliches, like: "Isn't it a shame that our wisdom has not kept pace with technology?" This nonsense is spouted amid the greatest transformation of diversity, inclusion, acceptance, re-evaluation and tolerance in the history of our species! At no other time were so many hoary/awful assumptions - about race-gender and so on - pilloried by light and scrutiny! 

2001And if that is not ADVANCEMENT of our souls, I do not know what would be.

In pointing this out, I do not call for complacency. These trends - expanding our horizons of worry, exploration, concern, inclusion and so on - are the core essence of my life, in activism, science and science fiction. But it is important to note that this progress was not achieved by radical polemicists and cynics, who deny that we have already made great progress. 

It was propelled by science, which examined and demolished old taken-for-granted assumptions. It was propelled by millions who mixed idealism with pragmatism... the realization of the stupidity of wasting human potential by limiting options for women and minorities, for example. 

Some claim that we must let our wisdom catch up with advances in technology, suggesting that we would be better off if we slowed or suppressed changes in technology. I disagree -- I believe that technology has not yet caught up with our wisdom..

Indeed, there is no greater enemy of further progress than the cynics who declare that great progress HAS NOT ALREADY HAPPENED. 

Political correctness is not the driver of progress, but an unpleasant waste product of progress, unavoidable but to be navigated with high boots, while helping the best civilization in human history to get... and note this phrase... even-better.

See also my earlier posting: Who is worse? Those who think progress will be easy? Or those who deny progress at all?

==Future Primitive==

There are delightful moments when everything comes together: either you find a person who is right a lot and has expanded your horizons re: what’s possible… or you find the opposite extreme: a sublime rationalizer who induces stunned amazement at his universal wrongness, opening your eyes to the true diversity of the species we belong-to.
Future-PrimitiveHere is an article  -- Why Do the Anarcho-Primitivists Want to Abolish Civilization -- about an anarcho-primitivist… once a confidant of the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski… who makes statement after statement that is not only retro-nostalgic, but absolutely, provably and universally false.
George Dvorsky writes“Philosopher John Zerzan wants you to get rid of all your technology — your car, your mobile phone, your computer, your appliances — the whole lot. In his perfect world, you'd be stripped off all your technological creature comforts, reduced to a lifestyle that harkens back to when our hunter-gatherer ancestors romped around the African plains.”
Dvorsky does a good job leading Zerzan onto limb after limb, where Zerzan then saws them himself. Alas, George does not ask “what is the carrying capacity of the Earth in hunter gatherers?" That would have exposed Zeran’s prescription for what it is — a call for the death of billions.
And yes, as a LONG RANGE goal, convincing billions to have so few children that we equilibrate at a few hundred thousand, or a few millions, who superficially are hunter-gatherers but are augmented by science and background tools so that they avoid the true tormented and horrific life that our pre-agriculture ancestors *actually* lived? Well, that at least is something that could be argued, in a science fictional sort of way. (See the final episode of Battlestar Galactica). Wrongheaded, but nowhere near as much as Zeran.
Indeed, in my Brightness Reef Trilogy, I posit a strong reason why several galactic races might deliberately choose this path, diving into every-more primitive states in order to achieve a type of redemption. I do not refuse to contemplate such ideas! I just like them to be contemplated well and with sincere willingness to tradeoff reality-grounded ideas… not bizarrely reality-detached wish fantasies.
REJECTION-TOMORROWThe important lesson here is that the crazy far right may be our biggest problem, today, with its campaign to restore the feudalism that oppressed 99% of our ancestors since agriculture. (There is a sub-movement on that side that openly seeks a return to lordship-rule). But retro-troglodytic-nostalgism also includes some who might be called “leftist,” who want the other kinds of oppression that preceded agriculture.
Both retro movements are crazy. Their common theme is rejection of tomorrow. But the enlightenment civilization that brought us science and wealth and education and positive sum games... and especially the much-smarter-than-us kids who might weigh the evidence better than we can -- is still the only way that humanity might choose to navigate the difficult path ahead.
==Denying Science==
DENYING-SCIENCEContinuing re the march of the paranoids... In Stop Pretending That Liberals are Just As Anti-Science as Conservatives, Chris Mooney does service by cataloging in great detail the gone-mad American right’s War on Science. Here, he (on Mother Jones) attempts to prove that the American left is not “just as bad as the right” in reviling science. Mooney both succeeds and fails. On his side of the ledger...
(1) Yes, the crazy-wing of the left is smaller (though it include examples like Mr. Zeran), and...
(2) The flakiest types on the left have only picked a few topics, for example, GMOs and anti-vaccination. Most have not joined an across-the-board hatred of science, and...
(3) In each of those campaigns, there appear to be just as many conservatives.
Where Mooney stumbles is in trying to soft-pedal the blatant fact that America’s far-left does contain some anti-science tendencies. 

You can find one root source in the left’s bastion — several hundred university soft-studies departments, where mutant versions of that intellectual disease -- post-modernism -- still metastacize and thrive. Sure, that's a small sliver of American life, but an important one and a realm wherein their cult is just as horrifically loony and anti-future and conspiratorial as any corporate boardroom or Tea Party cult cell! If you have ever spent substantial time on campus, you know the lesson these infestations prove…
...that dogmatic bullies will gather, wherever they can get away with it. And then find rationalized incantations to justify their bullying.
(Especially irksome is the way so many (not all!) university literature and English departments have been reflexively hateful toward science fiction, the one branch of literature for which Americans should be most proud. This is starting to shift. But recent attempts to undermine a crown jewel — The University of California at Riverside’s Eaton SF Collection — serve as case in point.)
science-left-behindTwo books that delve further into this subject: The Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney, as well as Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left by Alex Berezow and Hank Campbell (of the excellent science blogging site, Science 2.0)
Let me reiterate — there is no comparison of MAGNITUDE between the very-far-left’s little islands of cranky, highly specific, anti-future science hating… and the vastly, vastly larger and more deadly-to-us-all madness that has taken over the entire American right. Go ahead and read Chris Mooney’s article!
Just remember to keep a wary eye on your allies.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Science Fiction and our Dreams of the Future

dystopian-science-fictionAn essay in Wired: Is Dystopian Sci Fi Making us Fear Technology? ponders the pandemic plague of cheap dystopias and apocalypses and feudal fantasties that have metastacized and infected science fiction. Michael Solana muses that a certain amount of dire warnings can be a tonic, but it becomes poisonous in the kind of excess that we are now seeing, in which the fundamental rule seems to be “never show any possibility of a better world.”
“Fiction is capable of charting our human potential—with science fiction the most natural and forward form of this—so anything less than a push toward good through the medium is not only overdone at this point, but an incredible opportunity squandered. Every fiction is an illusion, of course. The very real danger here is man’s tendency to look to his illusion for inspiration, which is the foundation on which we build society. “
DYSTOPIA-WORD-CLOUDI make essentially the same point in a dozen places, across the last 20 years, but especially here, where I describe why modern film directors and authors are inflicting a tsunami of despairing tales upon us… not because any but a few of them actually believe it, but out of storytelling laziness, pure and simple. The “idiot plot” syndrome, in which it is just a lot easier to put your characters in dramatic jeopardy if you start with the assumption the civilization is useless and all our neighbors are foolish sheep.
Solana approaches the whole problem from more of an artistic plaint. But he concludes: “Our dystopian obsession has grown up in our nightmares as a true monster, which can only be countered by something truly beautiful. Simply, we need a hero. Our fears are demons in our fiction placing our utopia at risk, but we must not run from them. We must stand up and defeat them.”
Or, as Nick Bilton writes in the New York Times, perhaps "we need to imagine the nightmare so it doesn't become real." Certainly Orwell's 1984 and other science fiction novels offered us the self-preventing prophecy -- warning us away from their dark visions.  As Ramaz Naam reminds us -- In Defense of Dystopian Science Fiction -- “Dystopian fiction has also helped us pass down important mores about the freedoms we find central, and helped rally people against injustice."
The argument over what I have called a “plague of dystopias” in fiction - especially science fiction - is taken a step forward in this philosophical musing my my young friend, the New York artist John Powers, who counters Solana: "..the problems we face as a society today are problems that require us to act as a society," not by a "hero facing his fears." Powers goes on, "But dystopias are allowing our powers of problem-solving imagination to go flabby."
hope-problem-solving
Powers concludes, "The project is to imagine a future society with problems, but not a future in which society is the problem." 

Indeed, nothing says "hope" better than expressing a belief in our ability to solve problems.

==Alternate Visions of the Future==
Can we imagine a brighter future? Science Fiction has frequently tried to do so...
hieroglyph
And now, Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future is an anthology that brings together "twenty of today’s leading thinkers, writers, and visionaries—among them Cory Doctorow, Gregory Benford, Elizabeth Bear, Bruce Sterling, Geoff Landis and Neal Stephenson (not to mention me)—to contribute works of “techno-optimism” that challenge us to dream and do Big Stuff. Engaging, mind-bending, provocative, and imaginative, Hieroglyph offers a forward-thinking approach to the intersection of art and technology that has the power to change our world. " 
Sample a free excerpt on Scribd.
I've spoken elsewhere of the tedious obsession with dystopia that allows so many writers of producer/directors to be plot lazy.  It also spreads a poison, undermining our confidence that dystopia can be avoided, through hard work, good will and innovation. Well, Hieroglyph brings back that can-do spirit that once filled science fiction with a sense of adventure and wonder!
machine-stopsHow did writers of the past imagine the future? "The Machine Stops" is a science fiction short story by E. M. Forster. Published in November 1909, Forster's chilling story describes a future in which most humans have lost the ability to live on the surface of the Earth. In isolation, individuals subsist underground in 'cells', cared for by an omnipotent, global Machine. Communication takes place via a type of instant video-messaging machine. It is through this speaking apparatus that people pursue the only activity available to them -- sharing ideas and what passes for knowledge. Read it here: http://archive.ncsa.illinois.edu/prajlich/forster.html
In a brilliantly cogent essay, the wondrous Nancy Kress explains why her novels so often deal with genetic engineering. And why she almost never does the reflex tech-loathing thing, but tries to show both the good and bad possibilities that have come from every technology since fire.
Which SF books have had the most impact today? io9 offers one reviewer’s list of “21 of the most influential science fiction and fantasy books.
great-movies-sfAnother list: Ten (Potentially) Great Movies that Failed...with The Postman at the top!
This Kickstarter aims at creating an anthology of age appropriate stories that all kids can identify with. “We have great stories, from a wide range of writers and a diverse set of characters – girls, boys, robots… everyone belongs here! Of the stories we've accepted so far, 80% have female main characters. We don't have girls who are prizes to be won, or waiting to be rescued. All of our heroines and heroes are on their own adventure, not a side note in someone else’s.”
My story “Chrysalis” has appeared in the latest issue of ANALOG Magazine. It portrays a pair of Nobel winning biologists — once upon a time they had been married — exploring the “hidden genome” to find a bizarre discovery… traits that the ancestors of all mammals gave up - possibly for good reason (!) - 300 million years ago.
Civilization-beyond-earthIf I had the self-copier from Kiln People, I would definitely play Civilization V and its coming new offshoot, Civilization: Beyond Earth! See the review on io9. Alas, limited lifespan! So, get thee behind me, Satan…
Plug: For that long summer drive. The audio version of EXISTENCE used Audible’s three best narrators! I helped assign roles and transitions. It is one of the best audio books out there.
Have you heard about Amazon's new e-book subscription service? If you subscribe, be sure to turn at least 10% of the pages of every book you get so that the author gets a royalty. Please SHARE to benefit your favorite writers! — (Passed along from Ransom Stephens)
==The 'Rebel' Genre==
slusser-eatonHere’s a fascinating interview about the underpinnings of science fiction as a literary form. During George Slusser‘s 25-year curatorship, the Eaton Collection at the University of California, Riverside, became the greatest archive of science fiction and fantasy in the world. It contains more than 100,000 volumes, ranging from the 1517 edition of Thomas More’s Utopia to the most recently published titles in all languages. The collection also includes journals, comic books, and 300,000 fanzines.
This interview elucidates many ways that SF remains a “rebel” genre in the halls of academia. Indeed, even in those places where SF is studied and appraised by scholars, it seems that just a few authors - maybe a dozen - are deemed acceptable.
SCIENCE-FICTION-REBEL-GENRE(Aside: at one point George suggests that “…writers like David Brin, Gregory Benford, Robert A. Heinlein are rejected on “politically correct” grounds.” Which I find amusing, since I have probably canceled Greg’s vote in sixteen out of the last twenty elections! (For the last few, Greg has seen the light and now rails against the party of Fox-n-Bush.) Indeed, my politics and overall zeitgeist coincide roughly with those of Kim Stanley Robinson! Though yes, I admit I throw in a Heinleinian libertarian zig and an anti-PC zag or two. As a contrarian, I don’t like polemical prescribers of any ilk. So yeah. That probably accounts for it.)
If literary SF matters do interest you, and you feel centers of excellence like the Eaton Collection are important, then you might read with dismay what SF-author Nalo Hopkinson says about recent attempts to undermine the Eaton and possibly eliminate it.
==SF and the Military==
All three of the US Army’s competing prototypes for the replacement of the Humvee (the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle) bear striking resemblance to the design that our team came up with in one of the pilot episodes for the 48 hour design challenge show The Architechs… a great program that the History Channel gave a pass on, during their ill-fated transition to becoming the Bigfoot Channel.
ARCHITECHSI wish you could see the “Humvee Episode” but that one never aired! (Perhaps some brash person will post it anyway — in this case, no one’s economic interests will be harmed.) Four star general Paul Kern (ret) took the episode with him, though, and I hear it was watched closely by all three current design teams.
Our other pilot — coming up with a dozen new ways in and out of burning buildings, was even better!
Ah, but the Army is already thinking science fiction for the next generation. They need … The Architechs!
== Space is also for dreams ==
A lot of the stuff on Daily Kos is — well — left-wing tendentious. But this story - if true - is worrisome: “Teacher Incarcerated For Writing Science Fiction.”  Okay, his self-published novel was about a school shooting, 900 years from now. And the Kos story tells us nothing about the details: e.g. whether the scenes might be perverted enough to indicate an unbalanced mind. Still, on the face of it, this sure sounds like something truly silly is going on.
SixWordStoryI’ve written many varieties of super-short stories, e.g. those that are precisely 250 words. My six-worder was the lead story in WIRED’s spread of 6 word tales. (It had three scenes, action, conversation and pathos!)
Now see a site offering chilling Two Sentence Horror Stories! 
(Here are the six-worders: http://www.davidbrin.com/shortstories.html.
Watch out next year for DARK ORBIT by the up and coming talent Carolyn Ives Gilman.