Friday, August 18, 2017

The Wood Beyond The World by William Morris

the_wood_beyond_the_world.jpg

Frontispiece from the book. Public Domain.
https://en.wikipedia … ood_Beyond_the_World

CHAPTER I: OF GOLDEN WALTER AND HIS FATHER

Awhile ago there was a young man dwelling in a great and goodly city by
the sea which had to name Langton on Holm. He was but of five and
twenty winters, a fair-faced man, yellow-haired, tall and strong; rather
wiser than foolisher than young men are mostly wont; a valiant youth, and
a kind; not of many words but courteous of speech; no roisterer, nought
masterful, but peaceable and knowing how to forbear: in a fray a perilous
foe, and a trusty war-fellow. His father, with whom he was dwelling
when this tale begins, was a great merchant, richer than a baron of the
land, a head-man of the greatest of the Lineages of Langton, and a
captain of the Porte; he was of the Lineage of the Goldings, therefore
was he called Bartholomew Golden, and his son Golden Walter.

Now ye may well deem that such a youngling as this was looked upon by all
as a lucky man without a lack; but there was this flaw in his lot,
whereas he had fallen into the toils of love of a woman exceeding fair,
and had taken her to wife, she nought unwilling as it seemed. But when
they had been wedded some six months he found by manifest tokens, that
his fairness was not so much to her but that she must seek to the
foulness of one worser than he in all ways; wherefore his rest departed
from him, whereas he hated her for her untruth and her hatred of him; yet
would the sound of her voice, as she came and went in the house, make his
heart beat; and the sight of her stirred desire within him, so that he
longed for her to be sweet and kind with him, and deemed that, might it
be so, he should forget all the evil gone by. But it was not so; for
ever when she saw him, her face changed, and her hatred of him became
manifest, and howsoever she were sweet with others, with him she was hard
and sour.

So this went on a while till the chambers of his father’s house, yea the
very streets of the city, became loathsome to him; and yet he called to
mind that the world was wide and he but a young man. So on a day as he
sat with his father alone, he spake to him and said: “Father, I was on
the quays even now, and I looked on the ships that were nigh boun, and
thy sign I saw on a tall ship that seemed to me nighest boun. Will it
be long ere she sail?”

“Nay,” said his father, “that ship, which hight the Katherine, will they
warp out of the haven in two days’ time. But why askest thou of her?”

“The shortest word is best, father,” said Walter, “and this it is, that I
would depart in the said ship and see other lands.”

“Yea and whither, son?” said the merchant.

“Whither she goeth,” said Walter, “for I am ill at ease at home, as thou
wottest, father.”

The merchant held his peace awhile, and looked hard on his son, for there
was strong love between them; but at last he said: “Well, son, maybe it
were best for thee; but maybe also we shall not meet again.”

“Yet if we do meet, father, then shalt thou see a new man in me.”

Read the book here or download in your preferred format.

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/3055

From wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia … ood_Beyond_the_World

Morris considered his fantasies a revival of the medieval tradition of chivalrous romances. In consequence, they tend to have sprawling plots comprising strung-together adventures. His use of archaic language is a challenge to some readers.

When the novel was reissued in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series, James Blish noted that Morris’s style was a successful recapturing of the style of Sir Thomas Malory, “all the way down to the marginal glosses and the nonstop compound sentences hitched together with scores of semicolons. He also recaptured much of the poetry; and if the reader will make the small effort necessary to accommodate himself to the rhythm of the style, he will find both it and the story rewarding.”

The Well At The World’s End by William Morris

640px-the_well_at_the_worlds_end_met_dp322254.jpg

Image from the book. Public domain.
http://www.metmuseum … ection/search/354288

BOOK ONE

The Road Unto Love

CHAPTER 1

The Sundering of the Ways

Long ago there was a little land, over which ruled a regulus or
kinglet, who was called King Peter, though his kingdom was but little.
He had four sons whose names were Blaise, Hugh, Gregory and Ralph: of
these Ralph was the youngest, whereas he was but of twenty winters and
one; and Blaise was the oldest and had seen thirty winters.

Now it came to this at last, that to these young men the kingdom of
their father seemed strait; and they longed to see the ways of other
men, and to strive for life. For though they were king’s sons, they
had but little world’s wealth; save and except good meat and drink, and
enough or too much thereof; house-room of the best; friends to be merry
with, and maidens to kiss, and these also as good as might be; freedom
withal to come and go as they would; the heavens above them, the earth
to bear them up, and the meadows and acres, the woods and fair streams,
and the little hills of Upmeads, for that was the name of their country
and the kingdom of King Peter.

So having nought but this little they longed for much; and that the
more because, king’s sons as they were, they had but scant dominion
save over their horses and dogs: for the men of that country were
stubborn and sturdy vavassors, and might not away with masterful
doings, but were like to pay back a blow with a blow, and a foul word
with a buffet. So that, all things considered, it was little wonder if
King Peter’s sons found themselves straitened in their little land:
wherein was no great merchant city; no mighty castle, or noble abbey of
monks: nought but fair little halls of yeomen, with here and there a
franklin’s court or a shield-knight’s manor-house; with many a goodly
church, and whiles a house of good canons, who knew not the road to
Rome, nor how to find the door of the Chancellor’s house.

Read the whole book at Project Gutenberg or download in your preferred format.

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/169

H.G. Wells compared this to Mallory. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein took inspiration from this tale.

Read this review, The Well at the World’s End - A Review of Morris’ Classic Masterpiece.

William Morris (according to Lin Carter) is the founder of modern fantasy literature and The Well at the World’s End is his masterpiece. And after reading this book and the little that I have about the author I find it odd that his works are not more widely read or discussed in the fantasy literature community. I searched the internet and various bulletin boards and found a few isolated discussions or worthy mentions, but nothing like what this novel or its author deserve. So here I am, giving credit where it’s due.

I read it. It’s heart wrenching.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Technological Singularity

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Lime Singularity by David Trowbridge CC-BY-SA

TECHNOLOGICAL SINGULARITY

© 1993 by Vernor Vinge

(This article may be reproduced for noncommercial purposes if it is copied in its entirety, including this notice.)

The original version of this article was presented at the VISION-21 Symposium sponsored by NASA Lewis Research Center and the Ohio Aerospace Institute, March 30-31, 1993. A slightly changed version appeared in the Winter 1993 issue of Whole Earth Review.

1. What Is The Singularity?
The acceleration of technological progress has been the central feature of this century. We are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth. The precise cause of this change is the imminent creation by technology of entities with greater-than-human intelligence. Science may achieve this breakthrough by several means (and this is another reason for having confidence that the event will occur):

Computers that are “awake” and superhumanly intelligent may be developed. (To date, there has been much controversy as to whether we can create human equivalence in a machine. But if the answer is “yes,” then there is little doubt that more intelligent beings can be constructed shortly thereafter.)

Large computer networks and their associated users may “wake up” as superhumanly intelligent entities.

Computer/human interfaces may become so intimate that users may reasonably be considered superhumanly intelligent.

Biological science may provide means to improve natural human intellect.

The first three possibilities depend on improvements in computer hardware. Progress in hardware has followed an amazingly steady curve in the last few decades. Based on this trend, I believe that the creation of greater-than-human intelligence will occur during the next thirty years. (Charles Platt has pointed out that AI enthusiasts have been making claims like this for thirty years. Just so I’m not guilty of a relative-time ambiguity, let me be more specific: I’ll be surprised if this event occurs before 2005 or after 2030.)

What are the consequences of this event? When greater-than-human intelligence drives progress, that progress will be much more rapid. In fact, there seems no reason why progress itself would not involve the creation of still more intelligent entities — on a still-shorter time scale. The best analogy I see is to the evolutionary past: Animals can adapt to problems and make inventions, but often no faster than natural selection can do its work — the world acts as its own simulator in the case of natural selection. We humans have the ability to internalize the world and conduct what-if’s in our heads; we can solve many problems thousands of times faster than natural selection could. Now, by creating the means to execute those simulations at much higher speeds, we are entering a regime as radically different from our human past as we humans are from the lower animals.

This change will be a throwing-away of all the human rules, perhaps in the blink of an eye — an exponential runaway beyond any hope of control. Developments that were thought might only happen in “a million years” (if ever) will likely happen in the next century.

It’s fair to call this event a singularity (”the Singularity” for the purposes of this piece). It is a point where our old models must be discarded and a new reality rules, a point that will loom vaster and vaster over human affairs until the notion becomes a commonplace. Yet when it finally happens, it may still be a great surprise and a greater unknown. In the 1950s very few saw it: Stan Ulam1 paraphrased John von Neumann as saying:

One conversation centered on the ever-accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.

Von Neumann even uses the term singularity, though it appears he is thinking of normal progress, not the creation of superhuman intellect. (For me, the superhumanity is the essence of the Singularity. Without that we would get a glut of technical riches, never properly absorbed.)

The 1960s saw recognition of some of the implications of superhuman intelligence. I. J. Good2 wrote:

Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an “intelligence explosion,” and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make, provided that the machine is docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control. . . . It is more probable than not that, within the twentieth century, an ultraintelligent machine will be built and that it will be the last invention that man need make.

Good has captured the essence of the runaway, but he does not pursue its most disturbing consequences. Any intelligent machine of the sort he describes would not be humankind’s “tool” — any more than humans are the tools of rabbits, robins, or chimpanzees.

Through the sixties and seventies and eighties, recognition of the cataclysm spread. Perhaps it was the science-fiction writers who felt the first concrete impact. After all, the “hard” science-fiction writers are the ones who try to write specific stories about all that technology may do for us. More and more, these writers felt an opaque wall across the future. Once, they could put such fantasies millions of years in the future. Now they saw that their most diligent extrapolations resulted in the unknowable . . . soon. Once, galactic empires might have seemed a Posthuman domain. Now, sadly, even interplanetary ones are.

What about the coming decades, as we slide toward the edge? How will the approach of the Singularity spread across the human world view? For a while yet, the general critics of machine sapience will have good press. After all, until we have hardware as powerful as a human brain it is probably foolish to think we’ll be able to create human-equivalent (or greater) intelligence. (There is the farfetched possibility that we could make a human equivalent out of less powerful hardware — if we were willing to give up speed, if we were willing to settle for an artificial being that was literally slow. But it’s much more likely that devising the software will be a tricky process, involving lots of false starts and experimentation. If so, then the arrival of self-aware machines will not happen until after the development of hardware that is substantially more powerful than humans’ natural equipment.)

But as time passes, we should see more symptoms. The dilemma felt by science-fiction writers will be perceived in other creative endeavors. (I have heard thoughtful comicbook writers worry about how to create spectacular effects when everything visible can be produced by the technologically commonplace.) We will see automation replacing higher- and higher-level jobs. We have tools right now (symbolic math programs, cad/cam) that release us from most low-level drudgery. Put another way: the work that is truly productive is the domain of a steadily smaller and more elite fraction of humanity. In the coming of the Singularity, we will see the predictions of true technological unemployment finally come true.

Another symptom of progress toward the Singularity: ideas themselves should spread ever faster, and even the most radical will quickly become commonplace.

And what of the arrival of the Singularity itself? What can be said of its actual appearance? Since it involves an intellectual runaway, it will probably occur faster than any technical revolution seen so far. The precipitating event will likely be unexpected — perhaps even by the researchers involved (”But all our previous models were catatonic! We were just tweaking some parameters . . .”). If networking is widespread enough (into ubiquitous embedded systems), it may seem as if our artifacts as a whole had suddenly awakened.

And what happens a month or two (or a day or two) after that? I have only analogies to point to: The rise of humankind. We will be in the Posthuman era. And for all my technological optimism, I think I’d be more comfortable if I were regarding these transcendental events from one thousand years’ remove . . . instead of twenty.

[Read More…]

Friday, August 4, 2017

SFF Webcomics

These are not free culture or Creative Commons but they are free as in beer and you can read them on the internet all you want.


ootssquare.gif

Order Of The Stick is based on Fantasy Role Playing. Lots of inside jokes and out of the box humor. Great Stuff. Artwork used with permission.

http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots.html

You really have to start at the beginning. There is a phenomena when you first read Order Of The Stick where you begin to believe you will never run out of episodes. Enjoy the illusion while it lasts. After you get current they don’t come fast enough.


Questionable Content has robots. Nuff said. Well almost. Current day alternate reality with AI in robots soap opera. Somehow very satisfying.

http://questionablecontent.net/

This link takes you to the new episode. Be sure to click First and read it from the beginning.


peppre_and_carrot_ep13.jpeg

I’ve covered this before but so what?. For your free culture webcomic there’s always Pepper and Carrot. CC-BY So artwork above by David Revoy, www.davidrevoy.com

https://www.peppercarrot.com/


I love webcomics so to get your favorite webcomic listed here send me a link. hairylarry@deltaboogie.com. Thanks.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Stellardrone - Between The Rings

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Stellardrone - Between The Rings

https://stellardrone … ck/between-the-rings

The tags say it all.

tags: ambient ambient cinematic electronic soundscape space music Lithuania

Note the cinematic.

Here’s the song titles.

1. To The Great Beyond 05:34
2. Breathe In The Light 05:02
3. Rendezvous With Rama 06:13
4. Northern Lights 05:05
5. Between The Rings 05:07

There’s a definite SFF theme going there.

These songs are CC-BY so if you need some music for your Science Fiction movie, here you go.