The Crystal Spheres by David Brin

In this Hugo winning short story, David Brin looks back into our modern history to postulate a probable, though completely fictional explanation to Fermi Paradox. His interesting yet unclear universe includes Crystal Spheres – invisible envelopes, around every galaxy. Unlike the usual sci-fi route of metaphysical arguments, Brin’s Crystal Spheres are completely materialistic with seemingly protective intentions – like Kandor in Fortress of Solitude or dust cloud surrounding planet Krikkit in Hitchhikers.

Background of the story involves futuristic Earth with Interstellar travel and deep space dwellers,and Milky Way with ‘broken by accident’ Crystal Sphere. What troubles me is the entire breakage of so called gargantuan envelope in one single impact, whose physics and existence are completely unfathomable. God would have been like, ‘I need to shield every universe from each other, lets get the most brittle material for that’. Anyway, since then, humans were on an active SETI mission that ends in one solid clincher- unbreakable Crystal Spheres enveloping other universes. At the wake of the novella, a deep spacer is called for duty , on discovery of a broken Crystal Sphere, which could be humanity’s First Contact, and bright answer to many disappointing frustrated years.

cnhBrins argument actually aligns with the progressive Segan thought (aliens exists) and the relatively hegemonic yet pessimistic Hart- Tipler (where are they if they do exist) thought. Though fascinating and full of imagination, story didn’t work well with my rigid mind.

  • Included in The River of Time, collection, 1994, Bantam Spectra.
  • A well read audio version is available under this link starshipsofa

spoilers:

There were few things I couldn’t get my head around. Unnecessary word building, the whole idea of fixing cosmic stuff as Shards from Crystal Spheres and the voting out of night from Earth(?) would be a few. Also the incentive of meeting intelligent life seems far less convincing for suspended animation (or stuff) of a whole civilization (Natarals),since it practically bookends progress, leaving them inferior to the very intelligent life they seek so badly for.

The 43 Antarean Dynasties by Mike Resnick

Capture.JPGIn this Hugo winning short, Author intertwines the once glorious history of erstwhile Antarean Intergalactic dynasty and a guided tour happening in present through it’s remains. And a reader could relate with both sides, whether it’s the proud erudite romantic tourist guide, who is forced to chuck his pride and knowledge to make a living, or yokel earth tourists, keen only on the boasting rights and instagramming part of sight seeing.

Coincidentally I’ve been doing some readings on per-independent India and British Raj, while I came across the 43 Antarean Dynasties. Though panning over an Intergalactic scale, this story helped me understand the asymmetrical cultural shock and post colonial attitudes between the Orient and Occident, far better than any historical texts. Highly recommend.

“What is obscene to one being is simply boring to another”

A far better analysis can be found here, along with the free text to complete story http://martyhalpern.blogspot.in/2011/06/alien-contact-anthology-story-8-43.html

Valentines Day

#guestpost

giphy

I don't burn to see other people being happy

I just curse myself for not being able to get over a hypocrite and a coward

I don't deserve you at all.I deserve much better but I'm unable to get you out of my life and head. 

You are almost always mean to me but I never say anything. 

You are always judgemental and intolerant towards me. 

I can clearly feel your irritation every time we talk.

 I'm not jealous of others or desperate because I'm single.

It's just nice to know that you are important to someone. 

And you know the interesting thing about love? 

Once it's gone it never ever comes back in the same way. 

So stop walking all over me like I am your doormat. 

Stop judging me by the things I say to you. 

I have never had a filter in my thoughts when I'm speaking to you 

And by the unfiltered things I say you, have made up this image of me as the stereotypical frustrated spinster or something. 

So just stop with that. 

I have spent enough time n heartbreaks on you. 

So this Valentine's Day I have only three words to you. 

Three last words and I'll never ever speak to you again.

 


 


 





Go F**k Yourself.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti is a Nebula and Hugo Award winning novella and below review covers only the first installment of an ongoing series. An ambitious Wakandan-ish girl, also the very first person from her tribe to leave the planet, is left with the heavy responsibility of universal peace as some Romulans– ish race butcher her Starship,  which was on its way to Oomza University – this story’s StarFleet Academy.

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One is often insecure about his stand when it comes to registering his like or dislike towards a culturally or ethnically diverse work; which often leads to a personally unjust review, under peer pressure or the fear of being branded by the adjectives for intolerance, non progressiveness and their kins. I am unable to get my head around this old school racism or sectarianism, that forms the basic framework of Binti (also some how limited to protagonist’s particular tribe), considering the extremely diverse and pluralistic Intergalactic society, story’s universe is based on.

Okorafor is a really good writer, and I heavily appreciate the prose which consorted well with tribal girl narrative, and the non pretentious word/world/culture building; but as far as science fiction is considered, story is solid meh.

From a whovian perspective, the philosophy of Binti would be something like this – Hey, I can’t accept Martha Jones, but Sontarans are cool.

 

But, Afrotourism? Really?

also,

Bint(d)i- the red dot that decorates an average Indian lady’s forehead.

Way Station by Clifford D. Simak

waystationMost of our contemporary science fiction rattles around a technologically advanced gone wrong future, that is obsessed over the imperfect past we never truly cared to live in.* It is a contradiction considering the classics we started off from, like Way Station which envisioned a future of Intergalactic peace and confraternity among Stars.

This novel essentially represented a Space Opera during cold war, spatially confined within the private bulwark of a Man from the Earth civil war veteran, by American Midwest. Our anachronistic Highlander, Enoch Wallace, and his House of Leaves soon falls under the surveillance of covert Men in Black, thanks to the static sloppy life he has been protracting for over a century. This classic mystery build up from an outsider pov eventually shifts, and takes the reader through protagonist’s eternal loneliness and indirect adventures in an Intergalactic Way Station, for which he is the custodian of. In my imagination Way Station looked like a controlled visitation zone, full of artifacts and sacrosanct knowledge. The novel subtly touches the terrains of human emotions and humanity as a whole through the eyes of alien visitors, hind-bound local yokels and a morally conflicted old man.

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I found a pub by the name Way Station on internet, which I pretty much captures the strange image I had in mind, and it has got a Tardis!

Might be a bit far fetching, but, Enoch and Lucy had the facsimile of a censored docile Old Man Logan, more with the upcoming movie than the comic it claims to have been adapted off. And I kept wondering whether Douglas Adam‘s Babel fish came from Simak‘s pasimology for understanding intergalactic shibboleths, till getting hit by the obvious parental reference – the Bible. Prose has been simple yet classy and I actually copied down one correspondence between Enoch and an unknown science journal editor, for embellishing my ongoing job covering letters.

Way Station was a pleasant reading experience, a calm soft classic sci-fi with little dystopian elements. It hasn’t been entirely faultless especially with the rushed resolution and extra nicety around, but none of them mitigated the kernel of the story nor it’s debonairness.

 

*source – John Dally

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

The Forever War feels a lot like Halo, with Captain Mandella playing a novice Master Chief against the Covenant looking Prophet less Taurians. For a novel written in 1976 on horrors of Vietnam war with an Interstellar undertone, this hard science fiction feels so surprisingly contemporary and expedient. Or accurately prognostic.

Humanity is at war with Taurians, an alien civilization we know very little about except the fact that they initiated the conflict on the very first contact, attacking Earth’s outpost in farther space. Planet’s elites, the ones with IQ above 150, are soon absorbed by UNEF and then send to Charon for revenge and recon. Many couldn’t survive the rigorous training itself, and a lot more were killed during the first post-hypnotically suggested initial combat, thanks to the alien environments and weaponry. Soldiers travel intergalactically through Collapsor jumps (worm holes), with enigmatic relativistic effects, by the order of centuries back on Earth, making them alien to the world whose very future they’ve been fighting for.

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Sci fi is often metaphorical in nature, and in this novel Haldeman depicts the horrors he experienced in Vietnam war, without recreating it essentially. I don’t think any other linear work directly dealing with the subject of war could have accurately conveyed the essence and remained ageless at the same time. Another book I know which did a similar job, though not essentially similar is Slaughterhouse Five, which portrayed war through a nonchalant non linear life, where everything felt preordained with time travel.

Peter F. Hamilton calls this “damn near perfect” for a novel and I couldn’t agree more. Haldeman’s vision for future covered almost everything in Taurian war, where survival was only by mistake.

  •  Unaccounted combat units either slaughtered or lost or crawling through normal space at near light speed to a Earth, which by their arrival would be centuries ahead.
  • Heavily outsourced job scenario, where most of the countries are promoting homosexuality as a strategy for population control.
  • Temporal lingua franca with which a soldier could communicate with someone contemporary of his/her double digit time grandfather or grand-kid for that matter.
  • Wormholes and collapsor jumps making some one feel like Galileo meeting Einstein or Genghis Khan meeting Mass Effect’s Shepherd in terms of military tech (future shock).

interstellar-matthew-mcconaughey-anne-hathaway-slice

Couldn’t help but notice the areas Interstellar borrowed from this one, including the final letter between Marygay and Mandella. Even though this was a dystopian military sci-fi novel, it had a pleasant aura around it, and subtle humour, with a very satisfactory ending. Like Hamilton says- “damn near perfect.”

Venus on the Half-Shell by Kilger Trout

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Kilger Trout is a familiar name among Vonnegut fans, the fictional sci fi writer whose existence every reader secretly wished and googled for. Though Farmer’s version made Vonnegut cross, who according to internet overstatement legends, had dismissed the novel as a fakers drivel (mostly coz of creator ambiguity, which was later cleared by a by-line), I found it pretty fab.

This book is weird, comical, extremely absurd, reference filled and absolutely staggering. I was enraptured from the very introduction itself, and found it a worthy source(successor) material for that brief Trout plot from God Bless You Mr. Rosewater. Novel follows facetious accounts of Simon Wagstaff in his quest for “definitive answer to the most important question” (which I believe Douglas Adamas later payed homage to), with a peculiar Scheckley like sci fi humour. For a book that is propelled by its absurdness, it was delightfully scientific and philosophical at parts. Well, after fist few chapters fun seemed to dwindle and absurdity went a large, making me a bit Vonnegut-ish, only to have it compensated in long run.

rick-and-morty42Novel opened up with a Gunslinger like hero in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy scenario. Then on, it transcended into a series of Mindswap style adventures of our Space cowboy and his little Guardians of the Galaxy gang with Anubis the dog, Athena the owl, and his super hot alien robot girlfriend – Chworktap[anagram for Patchwork] (yes, arguments are invalid). There were tons of literary references during this loquacious honky-tonk, on which the novel hilariously craps on. Exploding Star creating a new religion, Titanic and Icarus Spaceship company, 2001 A Space Odessy conscious AI, even Westworld, Doctor Who Face of Boe feline society, Shaltoonian’s Assassins Creed, Hwang Ho for Millennium Falcon, Cowboy Bebop, Reichenbach falls and Sherlock Holmes with Ralf von Wau Wau are a few I had fun picking at. Oh and that uncanny resemblance between Sommers’ John Clayter series and Doctor Who porn parody.

450px-sandro_botticelli_-_la_nascita_di_venere_-_google_art_project_-_edited
Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, figures

Venus on half shell is the Rick and Morty of sci-fi literature. It is like one of those day dream fantasy we devour as college sophomores and cringe on later in maturity. Anyway I found myself googling Jonathan Sommers III, Farmer’s Kilger Trout to fill the void left by this.

If you are weird and like weird things, this book is for you.