Tag Archives: SF

Neal Stephenson

I’ve been a fan of Neal Stephenson since Snow Crash (1992), his third novel. I’ve read much of his work — the big exception being The Baroque Cycle, descriptions of which haven’t captured my interest yet. I like his writing enough that I’ll probably enjoy them if I ever take the plunge.

Stephenson writes pretty hard SF, which I love, and he explores such interesting ideas that I’m generally quite enthralled by what some see as fictionalized physics books. The thing is, I’d enjoy reading those physics books, so having it come coated in any kind of frosting is a win in my (pardon the pun) book.

I’ve just gotten started on his most recent novel, Fall; or, Dodge in Hell.

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A Bit of Huang and Laurie

For a Sci-Fi Saturday post, this started as a stretch and then some. While Zero Sum Game (2018), by S.L. Huang, has at least a science fiction flavor, The Gun Seller (1996), by Hugh Laurie (yes, that Hugh Laurie), is more fantastical than science fictional. They do have in common a protagonist beyond capable as well as action hero thriller plots.

I can redeem the post now that I’ve read The Android’s Dream (2006), by John Scalzi (whom I’ve praised here before for Redshirts). Here, too, is an extremely competent protagonist in an action hero thriller. (As an aside, the two written by men feature a love interest. (While I’m at it, guess which of the three does not have a Wiki page.))

The bottom line: I thoroughly enjoyed all three!

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Thor and Avengers

Well I have at long last finally seen Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) and Thor (2011) — two of the early films in the long-running Infinity Saga (the series has 23 films out so far; more are coming). The short version is I thought The Avengers had some good bits, but overall I found them both fairly underwhelming (but I’m so not the audience for these).

Unfortunately, I was also a little underwhelmed this week by Stargate: Universe, which I tried binge watching because John Scalzi (whose book Redshirts I really liked) was the creative consultant on the show. I quit after three episodes. It wasn’t that it was bad so much as it (as with these comic book movies) just seems like the same old stuff I’ve seen many, many times.

Ah well, you can’t win them all.

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SF: Old Gems and Older Duds

I’ve been reading Spacehounds of IPC (1947), by E.E. “Doc” Smith, and… it hasn’t aged well. For a long time I’ve been thinking it would be fun to read Smith’s Lensmen series again, but given that I’m having a hard time finishing Spacehounds, maybe that train left the station some time ago (especially with so much other stuff to read).

It’s a pity because I sure liked those books when I was (much) younger. Smith wrote action-filled space opera that was very imaginative and which also reeked of technology and science. I’ve never been that much into the space battles, but I’ve always been a sucker for hard SF. Fictionalized tech manuals work okay for me.

But these aren’t the gems mentioned in the post’s title.

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Super Stupid SF

I think I’ve reached the breaking point with The Orville. Watching episode five of the new season, I found myself yelling at the TV for the fifth time, because the writing seems so stupid and the characters seem so lame. I’m angry that a show with so much potential is so infuriating and dumb. I had to turn the episode off and start this post.

When the second season started, I re-watched the entire first season as an appetizer, and my conclusion was that there were many more good episodes than bad. There’s really only one I found a stinker (and couldn’t watch all of), but overall it was positive. I was looking forward to the second season.

Sadly, I’ve really hated all five episodes so far. I’m really torn about watching the show anymore.

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Whither Science Fiction?

Judy, Judy, Judy!

I’ve been a fan of science fiction since the early 1960s. I was already an avid fan and ready audience for Lost in Space (1966–68; Judy was one of my earliest childhood crushes), It’s About Time (1966–67), and I was glued to the TV set enthralled when Kirk, Spock, and the rest, first boldly went in 1966.

By then I’d already consumed all I could of Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, along with Verne, Wells, and Burroughs (I didn’t discover Tolkien or Howard until high school a few years later).

Movies like The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), and Forbidden Planet (1956), all had me avid for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

It’s been a whole lot of years, and a whole lot of science fiction, is my point.

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Westworld: Final Reflections

Make no mistake here: I am still definitely a fan of HBO’s Westworld. I think it’s pretty darn good television science fiction, but I do recognize that it’s not great TV SF. It is a bit niche, both as SF and as a puzzle box, and this season seems to suffer some poor (or at least odd) thinking along with some apparent style-over-substance decisions.

But I’m still a fan; I’ll be back to watch season three. In 2020. If I’m even still alive. (I’m old enough for that not to be a given, although it never really is.) I’ve seen a lot more negative coverage this season (generally well-deserved, I think), and I’m hoping it is taken to heart and results in a better third season.

In this last Westworld post (for now) I offer some general reflections and observations of the series so far.

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Westworld: Yeah, But!

The more I reflect on the second season of HBO’s Westworld, the more I have some very serious questions about key aspects of the story. In the first season, I had serious questions about The Maze, which was central to the story. This season’s serious questions, equally story central, seem even more serious.

Primarily, there is the matter of the Peter Abernathy encryption key, which spans both seasons. Secondarily, there are the related matters of The Door and The Flood. And, finally, there is the matter of Ford’s Final Game for William.

I really can’t seem to find the logic behind any of them! They all give me a bad case of the Yeah, Buts!

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Westworld: More Questions!

The second season of the HBO show, Westworld, has answered many of the questions raised in season one. Of course, it’s also raised a whole crop of new questions! And, sadly, that crop seems to contain more WTF questions than last season.

The big WTF in the first season was The Maze, and there were some smaller ones, mostly to do with Ford’s astonishing foresight into what people would do. (Smacks a bit of Hari Seldon’s Psychohistory.) But this season has a number of choices that strike me as working backwards from a cool image or as style over substance.

More important are the actual questions raised, and hopefully there are far more of those. Let’s find out (serious spoilers, obviously)…

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Westworld: Host Brains!

In a previous post I wrote a story about how the guns might work in the HBO show, Westworld. In this post I thought I’d take a stab at describing how the host brains might work — a much more challenging task!

As with the guns, as with any of us fans trying to understand any work of fiction we love, our guesswork depends on the facts we can observe in the show — the official canon, so to speak. Additional facts can come from the Word Of God (the show’s creators). Any creation of ours has to fit all these facts, and has to be logical and plausible within the context of the story.

So what do we know about host brains, and what might we guess about their operation, capabilities, and limits?

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