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Category archive: Science fiction

Thursday December 28 2017

For years now, I’ve wanted nail down a particularly choice Terry Pratchett quote, concerning the limits of the idea of equality, which is that for there to be equality, someone has or some people have to insist upon it, and if that insistence is to count for anything, then there goes your equality.  My problem was that I didn’t have the name of the character that the quote was about.

But today, I described the quote as best I could to my friend Adriana, and she told me at once that the name of the lady in question was Granny Weatherwax.  And once I had the name, the rest was easy.

The quote I was looking for is the second from the bottom of these Quotes About Granny Weatherwax:

“Mistress Weatherwax is the head witch, then, is she?’

‘Oh no!’ said Miss Level, looking shocked. ‘Witches are all equal. We don’t have things like head witches. That’s quite against the spirit of witchcraft.’

‘Oh, I see,’ said Tiffany.

‘Besides,’ Miss Level added, ‘Mistress Weatherwax would never allow that sort of thing.”

That is to be found in A Hat Full of Sky.

Thursday August 24 2017

For quite a while now, I have had links open to two short stories that I wrote in the nineties.  These were my attempts at “Libertarian Fictions”.  I was prodded into reading them again by the experience of writing a summary of a Marc Sidwell talk, in favour of us creating more libertarian fictions.

I called my two stories Those Who Can Do, and The Lion’s Share.

These were, I now realise, very bad titles, especially in the age of the internet, then still in the future of course.  Google either of those titles, without my name, and those stories will be totally buried under a ton of other irrelevance, including, I dare say, quite a few other short stories with identical titles, chosen by other equally inexperienced short story writers.

In contrast, last night I went to a show written and acted by a friend of mine.  This was called Madam Bovary’s Communist After-Party.  Never mind if this was a good show.  It was and is, very, but that’s not my point here.  Nor is it relevant to the point of this posting that if you follow that link, you will get to an amazingly good photo of my friend, done by a young Real Photographer lady who is on the up-and-uo, which I may have sold quite a few extra tickets.  No, my point here is: that’s a very good title.  Google “Madam Bovary’s Communist After-Party”, with those exact words in that exact order, and all hits will be relevant.

So, my stories needed – and now need – to be called things more like The Public Goodness of a Struggling Writer, and How Starshine McKane Tried to Kill Everyone.

Tuesday October 25 2016

Incoming from Michael Jennings: One for you.

It certainly is.  Apparently, in Mexico, Uber is using drones to advertise itself, by having them hover, with signs, over traffic jams:


Drones to carry adverts, or signs.  But of course.  The possibilities are endless, and the probability is: lots of complaining, drone destruction, car crashes blamed on drones carrying adverts or signs, etc.

Imagine it.  You are going at a speed considered too fast by the Big Computer in the Sky, so it sends a drone out to fly out in front of you, telling you to slow down or be fined.  Or more probably, just telling you that you have already have been fined.  Ah, modern life.  Science fiction just never sees it coming.

By the way, what is that sign saying?

Wednesday March 18 2015

Ever since that ruckus when a Labour Shadow Cabinet Ministress got into hot water with a tweet which involved a White Van, I’ve been photoing White Vans.  And, in fact, I think I have been doing this since before that little drama.  This White Van, photoed by me today in the Covent Garden area, is one of my favourites so far:


The point is, White Vans have rather gone up in the world.  Lots of them now come with much carefully designed décor and info.  London now abounds with fleets of White Vans thus decorated, white being the preferred colour by far.  It’s like an automotive uniform.

It’s as if White Vans have a sort of macho-stroke-ironic appeal to those who drive them, and to the rest of us.  The drivers, when asked what they do for a living, can say: I drive a White Van.  Oh, ha ha ha!  But no, not one of those White Vans, the sort they have in Essex.  Oh no.

Or alternatively, if the driver is a genuine White Van Man, with no irony involved, of the sort that lady politician was having a go at, he’s happy too, even if he would probably prefer plain white, rather than all that poncey verbiage.  And he’d rather have sacks of cement or tubs of plaster in the back there, rather than nerdy SF stuff.

Well, not sure about that.  But White Vans are definitely, as they say nowadays, a thing.

Wednesday October 01 2014

Taking the first question first: is it practise or practice?

This is the kind of question that, in the days before the www, used to rattle about inside several million heads for decades on end.  As it so happens, it did so rattle in mine.  But for a decade and more now, such questions could and can be answered, and today I answered this question for myself, by finding my way, very quickly, pretty much as soon as I started trying, to this site.  I’d been meaning to do this for a long time.  Today, I did.  What it says at the other end of that link, assuming I read it right, is that practice is the noun and practise is the verb, as with advice and advise.  I know, you knew that.  I must be an uneducated pillock not to know it.  But, although in many ways not an uneducated pillock, I was for many decades just that, in this particular way.  Besides which, the essence of educatedness is not mere knowledge, it is knowing that one needs to acquire this or that further item of further knowledge, and if far later than is dignified, well so be it.

I’m not saying that this answer is correct.  I’m just saying that from now on, this is the answer I will try to apply whenever the practice/practise dilemma presents itself to me.

Moving on to the question in the brackets above.  Answer: no.  The site where I found this answer (right or wrong) is called “Future Perfect”, and its subtitle is “Improving Written Communications”.  Like, that’s all it would take to make the future perfect.  I do not believe this.  I get it.  Future perfect is also a piece of grammar, and grammar is (along with spelling) one of the things this place is about.  Ho ho.  But, future perfect?

Perfect communication could just mean perfectly expressed abuse.  Remember that fish in Hitchhiker’s Guide, which enabled everyone to communicate perfectly with everyone else, and which started terrible wars, because now everyone could understood everyone else’s insults.  Perfect communication is indeed, maybe, part of the perfect future, but saying perfectly nice things is also an important part of perfection, I would say.  And that’s quite aside from the fact that actual perfection would also be terrible, for other reasons.

Thursday March 20 2014

Yes, here is another strange science-fictional artificial landscape, photographed by me a few days ago, to set beside this strange artificial landscape, photoed by me last August:


Both these images were contrived in the same way with the same raw material.  But what is the raw material and what did I do with it?

Monday November 25 2013

Yes.  I spent my blogging time today fretting about the finishing of this.  So, no time to do much here.

But there’s an internet out there.

Here’s a very quick vid, of Kenneth Williams opining (which would be a good word for him to say) about specialisation.

And here’s a slightly longer bit of video, which is a snippet from one of my favourite science fiction movies.  An astronaut argues philosophy with a bomb.  I found it here.  And I do mean here.


Monday September 16 2013

Does this photo tell us the direction the Great Climate Debate is going?  I took it in Foyles, underneath the Royal Festival Hall, London, on September 2nd:


I put this up to entertain you, and also so that I can send a short email to Bishop Hill about it, rather than a long and annoying one. Because I’m guessing it might interest him.

The Bishop’s (as of now) latest posting concerns an article written by some academic CAGWers (CAGW = Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming), about how they can defeat their ever more annoying and persuasive “denier” enemies?

Bishop Hill:

The answer to this conundrum is - you will never believe it - to be found in the realms of communication. Although Garud and his colleagues note that some observers think that communication is not enough, and point to such initiatives as the Climate Science Rapid Response Team (seriously!) that are already in place, they suggest that something called a ‘narrative approach’ might also be a part of the solution.

But that, as the Bishop well knows but Garud et al do not, is no solution to the problem the CAGWers have.  The “narrative approach” is their problem.  What the CAGWers have been doing is spinning a narrative and calling it science for the last quarter of a century and more, and now this narrative is unravelling, thanks to the efforts of people like Bishop Hill.  This latest plan is for them to stop pretending that they aren’t doing this.  That can’t work.

If the anti-CAGWers had relied on books like Michael Crichton’s State of Fear, which is one of the books in the above photo, to carry the main weight of their arguments, they’d have been utterly crushed.

LATER: Bishop Hill has linked to this, and there are comments there too.

The mystery of the one good photo
The Monolith?
To Serve Man
Sleeping rough and reading an SF classic
Lucky we didn’t go to Lords
Unravelling the puzzle – and making it into a movie
“This is fun!”
Twickenham shop attacked by the Dark Side of The Force
She learned to knit her before she learned to spell her
The robotic future
“Jeepers Professor!”
iPods From Space
The old USSR: good for thirty more years . . . then it collapsed