Monday, 4 November 2013

David Brin, Thinker.

Robert Sawyer mentioned his friend David Brin, the SF author.

 I'm right now listening to one of David's 4 videos on the future of space exploration. And this guy's got the knowledge - Wikipedia says about him:

In 1973, he graduated from the California Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in astrophysics.[8] He followed this with a Master of Science in applied physics in 1978 and a Doctor of Philosophy in space science in 1981, both from the University of California, San Diego.
Brin is a 2010 fellow of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.[9] He helped establish the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination (UCSD). He serves on the advisory board of NASA's Innovative and Advanced Concepts group and frequently does futurist consulting for corporations and government agencies.

On the subject of Mars, he's thinking of the 'expedition' profile of mission, not the 'one-way-ticket' espoused by Mars One and others. Still lots of common sense - cache supplies, use resources out there, formulate a wise overall goal for space exploration that will work economically. Warning: you need time and spare brain power to listen to this guy.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Is There Hope In Science Fiction?

So I went to the event and it was great to hear the authors Dr. Vincent Lam, Robert J Sawyer (or Rob, as he prefers) and Ania Szado talk about their books and read from it. The Airlanes Hotel ballroom was packed. Thunder Bay's literary community was out in force tonight. The Northern Women's Bookstore was represented on the back tables, selling the authors' books and some local writers' works too - yes, mine was there as well. I gave the store three copies some 10 months ago and they are still faithfully tending all three of them! Maybe the northern women customers don't like kids' sci-fi much.

Anyway, perhaps you're wondering if I asked any or all of my dazzling questions. I managed to squeeze one in right under the wire, when I thought all three writers must be exhausted from talking so much. It came to me in the car, fizzing along the expressway at 7:01 pm. I once read an interview of Kim Stanley Robinson (Stan to his friends, of whom Rob is one) in which he said that the backdrops of SF writing tend to be dystopian, dark, and in response he tries to write in such a way as to inspire hope, to awaken a vision in scientists and others that points to ways in which people could use science and technology to solve some of the big issues facing the human race today. I think he's certainly done that, to the extent to which I've read his stuff. His Mars trilogy points to one way in which all sorts of people might make Mars their home against all the odds and carve out a new kind of community for themselves.

So I asked something like this to all 3 writers - How can writers inspire hope through their writings, or is it even their function? Should we really write about the world 'as it really is'? And the answers were very thoughtful. Rob counts himself as one of fairly few SF writers who write hopefully of the future; Vincent and Ania said in different ways (as I dimly remember) that they write about life as they see it, be it sad, funny, hopeful or whatever. I think Vincent said that if someone tells a writer how they should write, usually a writer will react by writing the opposite!

Rob Sawyer sees our present age as much, much better than those that precede it, and expects the future to be even better in many ways. I'm sure his thoughts are more complex than that; forgive me Rob if I over-simplified there. Looking at today's news in horror and comparing it to past centuries may be like telling my dog his breath only smells from close-up. The horrors of history were undoubtably awful to live through; perhaps today 'we've never had it so good.' Yes... and no. Mankind today has, I think, much more potential for good and evil than ever before. I think the stakes are being raised every day. Are we becoming a race of TV- and web-educated fools, led by the blind? Hmm. I'll have to think about that.

Comments gratefully received below.