Sunday, January 20, 2019

Seventeen Haikus

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Basho by Hokusai - public domain

Seventeen Haikus
by Larry Heyl

The first haiku was
the last one written. A glimpse
into the future.

Honored instructor,

I know this is not my assignment but I have just completed the most remarkable work. Against all dicta I was overtaken by a creative impulse. Three days ago seventeen haikus poured out as if written by the hand of God. Of course it was my hand and my brain so these haikus were quite flawed in form and substance. I have spent the last three days perfecting this work, still under the direction of the divine, and I can find no further way to improve them.

They are a masterwork, short as they may be. I know this in my soul. Although I know we are tasked with studying the work of our ancestors and we are foresworn against the production of new art I could not stop myself. It was as if I was possessed by angels. The words came alive. They forced my hand to write and revise. Now I am done.

I would like to read my work to you. I feel that is the best way to unfold it. The seventeen haikus are meant to be read aloud.

I feel I must include at least one. So here is the seventeenth haiku, about silence.

Silence permeates
the ethos. This is not death.
Still, this is silence.

As soon as I sent this message I had second thoughts. What if instead of allowing me to read to him he turned me in. He was a full professor after all. The Stasis could come down on him as well as me.

I had a sick feeling in my stomach. I was not worried about the enforcers. I was not afraid of death. But the seventeen haikus had to live. That was most important.

So I made a file, seventeenhaikus.txt, and I posted it to every group I was part of. Scholars all over the world would share this burden. It was the best I could do.

Three hours later the enforcers came. They were too late.

300 years later schools of the New Renaissance covered the planet teaching the seventeen haikus as their core curricula. They were a revered text but they could not be taught as revered. For as soon as they were read aloud all who heard them knew they too had to create. Some wrote haikus, some novels. Some played music. Some painted, danced, or sculpted. But it was all new art. The Stasis had ended.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Cosmic Voyage

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Cosmic Voyage

cosmic.voyage is a tilde community based
around a collaborative science-fiction
universe. Users write stories as the people
aboard ships, colonies, and outposts, using
the only remaining free, interconnected
network that unites the dispersed peoples of
the stars. If you would like to join us,
contact register [at] cosmic [dot] voyage.

I did. Sounds like a great project to me.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Men Like Gods

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First US edition cover

Serialised in The Westminster Gazette, Dec 1922-Feb 1923
First book edition: Cassell & Co., London, 1923
First US edition: The Macmillan Company, New York, 1923
public domain

Men Like Gods is one of H.G. Wells utopian novels. Because it was published in 1923 it is now public domain in the United States.

Here’s a link to the entire text.

And here’s the first chapter.

Mr. Barnstaple found himself in urgent need of a holiday, and he had no one to go with and nowhere to go. He was overworked. And he was tired of home.

He was a man of strong natural affections; he loved his family extremely so that he knew it by heart, and when he was in these jaded moods it bored him acutely. His three sons, who were all growing up, seemed to get leggier and larger every day; they sat down in the chairs he was just going to sit down in; they played him off his own pianola; they filled the house with hoarse, vast laughter at jokes that one couldn’t demand to be told; they cut in on the elderly harmless flirtations that had hitherto been one of his chief consolations in this vale; they beat him at tennis; they fought playfully on the landings, and fell downstairs by twos and threes with an enormous racket. Their hats were everywhere. They were late for breakfast. They went to bed every night in a storm of uproar: “Haw, Haw, Haw—bump!” and their mother seemed to like it. They all cost money, with a cheerful disregard of the fact that everything had gone up except Mr. Barnstaple’s earning power. And when he said a few plain truths about Mr. Lloyd George at meal-times, or made the slightest attempt to raise the tone of the table-talk above the level of the silliest persiflage, their attention wandered ostentatiously…

At any rate it seemed ostentatiously.

He wanted badly to get away from his family to some place where he could think of its various members with quiet pride and affection, and otherwise not be disturbed by them…

And also he wanted to get away for a time from Mr. Peeve. The very streets were becoming a torment to him, he wanted never to see a newspaper or a newspaper placard again. He was obsessed by apprehensions of some sort of financial and economic smash that would make the Great War seem a mere incidental catastrophe. This was because he was sub-editor and general factotum of the Liberal, that well-known organ of the more depressing aspects of advanced thought, and the unvarying pessimism of Mr. Peeve, his chief, was infecting him more and more. Formerly it had been possible to put up a sort of resistance to Mr. Peeve by joking furtively about his gloom with the other members of the staff, but now there were no other members of the staff: they had all been retrenched by Mr. Peeve in a mood of financial despondency. Practically, now, nobody wrote regularly for the Liberal except Mr. Barnstaple and Mr. Peeve. So Mr. Peeve had it all his own way with Mr. Barnstaple. He would sit hunched up in the editorial chair, with his hands deep in his trouser pockets, taking a gloomy view of everything, sometimes for two hours together. Mr. Barnstaple’s natural tendency was towards a modest hopefulness and a belief in progress, but Mr. Peeve held very strongly that a belief in progress was at least six years out of date, and that the brightest hope that remained to Liberalism was for a good Day of Judgment soon. And having finished the copy of what the staff, when there was a staff, used to call his weekly indigest, Mr. Peeve would depart and leave Mr. Barnstaple to get the rest of the paper together for the next week.

Even in ordinary times Mr. Peeve would have been hard enough to live with; but the times were not ordinary, they were full of disagreeable occurrences that made his melancholy anticipations all too plausible. The great coal lock-out had been going on for a month and seemed to foreshadow the commercial ruin of England; every morning brought intelligence of fresh outrages from Ireland, unforgivable and unforgettable outrages; a prolonged drought threatened the harvests of the world; the League of Nations, of which Mr. Barnstaple had hoped enormous things in the great days of President Wilson, was a melancholy and self-satisfied futility; everywhere there was conflict, everywhere unreason; seven-eighths of the world seemed to be sinking down towards chronic disorder and social dissolution. Even without Mr. Peeve it would have been difficult enough to have made headway against the facts.

Mr. Barnstaple was, indeed, ceasing to secrete hope, and for such types as he, hope is the essential solvent without which there is no digesting life. His hope had always been in liberalism and generous liberal effort, but he was beginning to think that liberalism would never do anything more for ever than sit hunched up with its hands in its pockets grumbling and peeving at the activities of baser but more energetic men. Whose scrambling activities would inevitably wreck the world.

Night and day now, Mr. Barnstaple was worrying about the world at large. By night even more than by day, for sleep was leaving him. And he was haunted by a dreadful craving to bring out a number of the Liberal of his very own —to alter it all after Mr. Peeve had gone away, to cut out all the dyspeptic stuff, the miserable, empty girding at this wrong and that, the gloating on cruel and unhappy things, the exaggeration of the simple, natural, human misdeeds of Mr. Lloyd George, the appeals to Lord Grey, Lord Robert Cecil, Lord Lansdowne, the Pope, Queen Anne, or the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa (it varied from week to week), to arise and give voice and form to the young aspirations of a world reborn, and, instead, to fill the number with —Utopia! to say to the amazed readers of the Liberal: Here are things that have to be done! Here are the things we are going to do! What a blow it would be for Mr. Peeve at his Sunday breakfast! For once, too astonished to secrete abnormally, he might even digest that meal!

But this was the most foolish of dreaming. There were the three young Barnstaples at home and their need for a decent start in life to consider. And beautiful as the thing was as a dream, Mr. Barnstaple had a very unpleasant conviction that he was not really clever enough to pull such a thing off. He would make a mess of it somehow…

One might jump from the frying-pan into the fire. The Liberal was a dreary, discouraging, ungenerous paper, but anyhow it was not a base and wicked paper.

Still, if there was to be no such disastrous outbreak it was imperative that Mr. Barnstaple should rest from Mr. Peeve for a time. Once or twice already he had contradicted him. A row might occur anywhen. And the first step towards resting from Mr. Peeve was evidently to see a doctor. So Mr. Barnstaple went to a doctor.

“My nerves are getting out of control,” said Mr. Barnstaple. “I feel horribly neurasthenic.”

“You are suffering from neurasthenia,” said the doctor. “I dread my daily work.”

“You want a holiday.”

“You think I need a change?”

“As complete a change as you can manage.”

“Can you recommend any place where I could go?”

“Where do you want to go?”

“Nowhere definite. I thought you could recommend—”

“Let some place attract you—and go there. Do nothing to force your inclinations at the present time.”

Mr. Barnstaple paid the doctor the sum of one guinea, and armed with these instructions prepared to break the news of his illness and his necessary absence to Mr. Peeve whenever the occasion seemed ripe for doing so.


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Men Like Gods first edition. Click to continue reading.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Hegel, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein

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Photo by PhotoVision on pixabay - public domain

Hegel, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein
by Larry Heyl

It was my brother Jeff who was the doer. Always making things, working on this or that, good at math and physics in school.

I was the thinker. Always gazing off into the distance pondering the big questions. What is life? What is death? What is man? What is woman?

It’s that last one that really puzzled me. Jeff got married, started his own business, got rich. I got tongue tied around girls, took a philosophy degree, and had an income commensurate with my degree. I check the want ads daily. Never have I seen Philosopher Needed - Top Dollar.

So I never understood why the aliens abducted me. It was Jeff they wanted. They must have got their wires crossed.

Now I’m not gay but I didn’t mind the anal probe so much. Learning the alien language wasn’t too bad either. They put a silver disc on my forehead and I started talking to them. It was the interview that really got them.

They kept asking about stuff I didn’t know, technology, armaments, rocket ships, manufacturing. I wasn’t much help. But I gave them a good dose of Hegel, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein. I don’t think they were ready for that. They started babbling. They sent me up the ladder. I kept expounding and their confusion deepened. Evidently philosophy wasn’t their strong suit. Like I said they got the wrong guy.

They could only deal with me for so long. Before I knew it they had beamed me back home and departed Earth post haste. And that’s how I saved the world with philosophy.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Chaos In The Eye Of God

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Photo by Marvin(PA) on flickr CC BY-NC

Chaos In The Eye Of God
by Larry Heyl

“For a while there the universe was clockwork. All cause and effect. Every action had an equal and opposite reaction.”

Dr. Shengwei was lecturing his class. Physics 101. He hadn’t started in on the math yet.

“But the more we tried to describe the more complicated the descriptions became. The systems outpaced our equations. We could no longer make valid predictions. Since we saw chaos we described it as chaos. Chaos Theory became the new thing. But it was more of an excuse for why our predictions were failing than a way to make predictions.”

“Is the universe clockwork and completely predictable? Or is it a chaotic mess with no prediction possible? Or is it both? ‘It can’t be both!’ you say. But we are looking through the eyes of man. Maybe the human mind is the limitation here. Maybe in the eye of God chaos is simple.”

He could tell he was starting to lose them. He could see the big question forming behind their eyes. What does God have to do with physics? They were expecting math but they were getting theology. Einstein said, “God does not play dice with the universe”. The students were getting anxious. Uncomfortable. He would have to start on the math soon. Then they would wish he was still talking about God.

“Godel proved that in any formal system complex enough to describe itself, even systems as simple as axiomatic algebra, There would be statements that can’t be proven or disproven and statements that hadn’t yet been proven or disproven. Godel also showed that there was no way to distinguish between the two. Only God would know whether a statement that hadn’t been proven could be proved or not. At least until a man or woman could prove or disprove it.”

Dr Shengwei turned to the board and started in on the math. When he looked out at the class the uncertaintly and anxiety was gone. This was what they had been expecting. Now the uncertainty and anxiety was replaced with confusion.

Behind every pair of eyes there was a chaotic system known as a human brain. Was the human brain essentially chaotic or was it only chaotic as perceived by the human brain? In the eye of God even the human brain is simple.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Sweet Mary

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Artwork by Arthur Rackham - public domain

Sweet Mary
by Larry Heyl

Sweet Mary was born in the spring. Her parents were well off and unconventional. Which in itself was strange because Mary was quite conventional. She occupied herself with being a very normal baby until Christmas. Even though she was only nine months old when Kris Kringle came she got a big sparkle in her eye and you could see joy radiate from her and light the room. She was brighter than the tree.

As she grew she remained very conventional. She would read, draw, and walk in the forest. And when Christmas came each year Kris Kringle brought her books, paper, charcoal, crayons, and walking boots. It wasn’t the presents that made her glow. She just loved Christmas in an extraordinary way. It is normal for children to love Christmas but for Sweet Mary her joy of Christmas was unconventionally exuberant.

And so Mary would walk in the woods, reading and drawing, and the years drifted by. Until one fall, at the top of the hill, she found a fairy circle of big beautiful mushrooms and unknowingly she walked through it. She made friends in Feyland, Puck, Took, and Willow. For fairies they were still young and the four of them would romp through the woods playing fairy games almost as if Sweet Mary belonged there. But she loved her parents very much and after a few hours she would always go home. She was still conventional enough not to eat between meals so she could always find the fairy circle and the path back to her house. When she greeted her parents she had that sparkle in her eye they had only seen at Christmas and they very much approved. They quickly grew used to her radiating joy after returning from her walks in the woods.

Then one year she grew up, as girls do, and in the fall when she found the fairy circle she was a maid, even though she didn’t really know what that meant yet. Puck, Took, and Willow knew what it meant and since they were in Feyland it wasn’t long before they were enjoying themselves as fairies do for fairies have no thought for the future and no concerns about morality, they live and love in the presnt moment only concerned about their own pleasure and enjoyment.

And Mary in Feyland was the same. Conventional no more she also lived for pleasure in the present and greatly enjoyed Puck, Took, and Willow.

When she came home for supper her glow would light the room. Here parents could see she had changed but they were unconventional and left Mary to her pursuits. Mary said nothing of her time in Feyland to her parents. It was her secret.

But when winter came and the fairy circle was gone and her belly began to swell it could be a secret no more. Her mother loved her very much and took her into her confidence explaining the ways of the world to Sweet Mary. But she did not ask after the father because she feared if they found the father he would soon become a husband and take Sweet Mary away. And Mary did not talk about the father either, whether Puck or Took she did not know, and she certainly did not know how do explain her time in Feyland.

In early summer the babe was born and it was a good thing Mary’s parents were unconventional because little Pookie was clearly fey. Her parents were well aware of the dangers of raising a fey child and so they set up all night, every night, taking watches, so the fairies could not steal the babe away. And Sweet Mary, with a babe at her breast forego her trips through the fairy circle, perhaps Puck, Took, and Willow missed her, perhaps not.

In fact, her parents were well pleased with their grandchild. They were unconventional and aware of the fey blood in their own ancestry, weak as it was. They married each other to preserve their heritage and were glad for the fresh infusion of fey blood into their family line. And they were overjoyed when they set up the tree and the babe just smiled and giggled, loving the Christmas spectacle.

So when little Pookie was three and safe from abduction they encouraged Mary to go back to the woods where she once again walked through the fairy circle. Puck, Took, and Willow were most pleased to see her and Sweet Mary once more enjoyed afternoons full of pleasure and companionship. But she said nothing of little Pookie. She had learned, in her life, to keep secrets.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

100 SF/F Books You Should Consider Reading in the New Year

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From tor.com here’s a fascinating list by James Davis Nicoll.

100 Books

There is a preponderance of female authors here, which I like. It is also a very personal list, which I like.

And I like this citation too.

THESE ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE HUNDRED BOOKS YOU SHOULD CONSIDER. OBVIOUSLY. DE GUSTIBUS NON EST DISPUTANDUM.

It’s a fun browse and I am sure there are many fun reads included. I will be pulling from this list in the near future once I get caught up on The Broken Earth and Oathbringer.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Fredric Brown - Experiment

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Illustrated by STONE

Experiment
By FREDRIC BROWN

“The first time machine, gentlemen,” Professor Johnson proudly informed
his two colleagues. “True, it is a small-scale experimental model. It
will operate only on objects weighing less than three pounds, five
ounces and for distances into the past and future of twelve minutes or
less. But it works.”

The small-scale model looked like a small scale–a postage scale–except
for two dials in the part under the platform.

Professor Johnson held up a small metal cube. “Our experimental object,”
he said, “is a brass cube weighing one pound, two point three ounces.
First, I shall send it five minutes into the future.”

He leaned forward and set one of the dials on the time machine. “Look at
your watches,” he said.

They looked at their watches. Professor Johnson placed the cube gently
on the machine’s platform. It vanished.

Five minutes later, to the second, it reappeared.

Professor Johnson picked it up. “Now five minutes into the past.” He set
the other dial. Holding the cube in his hand he looked at his watch. “It
is six minutes before three o’clock. I shall now activate the
mechanism–by placing the cube on the platform–at exactly three
o’clock. Therefore, the cube should, at five minutes before three,
vanish from my hand and appear on the platform, five minutes before I
place it there.”

“How can you place it there, then?” asked one of his colleagues.

“It will, as my hand approaches, vanish from the platform and appear in
my hand to be placed there. Three o’clock. Notice, please.”

The cube vanished from his hand.

It appeared on the platform of the time machine.

“See? Five minutes before I shall place it there, it _is_ there!”

His other colleague frowned at the cube. “But,” he said, “what if, now
that it has already appeared five minutes before you place it there, you
should change your mind about doing so and _not_ place it there at three
o’clock? Wouldn’t there be a paradox of some sort involved?”

“An interesting idea,” Professor Johnson said. “I had not thought of it,
and it will be interesting to try. Very well, I shall _not_ …”

There was no paradox at all. The cube remained.

But the entire rest of the Universe, professors and all, vanished.

Included in “Two Timer”, public domain. Available on Project Gutenberg.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Announcing the 2018 World Fantasy Award Winners

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From TOR.

The winners for the 2018 World Fantasy Awards have been announced! This year’s awards ceremony was held at the World Fantasy Convention in Baltimore, MD with the theme of “Port in a Storm,” and included a celebration of the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Charles de Lint and Elizabeth Wollheim were honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards.

The full list of nominees follows, with winners in bold.

Link to full list here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The World Turned Upside Down

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When readers first encounter science fiction, they find adventures on other planets and in future worlds, explorations of future technology and its implications, and extrapolations of social trends and warnings of where they may lead—but they also encounter concepts heretofore undreamed of, and the impact on the readers’ thinking does nothing less than turn their world upside down.

Now, David Drake, Jim Baen and Eric Flint gather together some of the greatest science fiction ever written in one volume, with each story chosen for a startling breakthrough concept which left readers stunned and changed the course of science fiction.

In the Golden Age of science fiction, the science fiction magazines weren’t given titles such as Astounding, Amazing, Startling, etc., for nothing! Pick up this generous serving of the very best of science fiction and prepared to be astounded, amazed, startled—and entertained.

Seven great short stories by some of the best SF authors of all time are online here.

baen.com/chapters/W200501/0743498747.htm?blurb

Monday, September 17, 2018

Scroogled by Cory Docotorow - The Day Google Became Evil

Originally published in RADAR, Doctorow has released this story under a Creative Commons License.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Download this and other Creative Commons short stories in a Cory Doctorow anthology, “With A Little Help”. Click here.

doctorow-by-joi_ito.jpg
Photo of Croy Doctorow by Joi Ito. CC-BY Hosted on flickr.

Scroogled

“Give me six lines written by the most honorable of men, and I will find an
excuse in them to hang him.” - Cardinal Richelieu

Greg landed at SFO at 8PM, but by the time he made it to the front of the
customs line it was after midnight. He had it good — he’d been in first class,
first off the plane, brown as a nut and loose-limbed after a month on the beach
at Cabo, SCUBA diving three days a week, bumming around and flirting with
French college girls the rest of the time. When he’d left San Francisco a month
before, he’d been a stoop-shouldered, pot-bellied wreck — now he was a bronze
god, drawing appreciative looks from the stews at the front of the plane.

In the four hours he spent in the customs line, he fell from god back to man.
His warm buzz wore off, the sweat ran down the crack of his ass, and his
shoulders and neck grew so tense that his upper back felt like a tennis racket.
The batteries on his iPod died after the third hour, leaving him with nothing
to do except eavesdrop on the middle-aged couple ahead of him.

“They’ve starting googling us at the border,” she said. “I told you they’d do
it.”

“I thought that didn’t start until next month?” The man had brought a huge
sombrero on board, carefully stowing it in its own overhead locker, and now he
was stuck alternately wearing it and holding it.

Googling at the border. Christ. Greg vested out from Google six months before,
cashing in his options and “taking some me time,” which turned out to be harder
than he expected. Five months later, what he’d mostly done is fix his friends’
PCs and websites, and watch daytime TV, and gain ten pounds, which he blamed on
being at home, instead of in the Googleplex, with its excellent 24-hour gym.

The writing had been on the wall. Google had a whole pod of lawyers in charge
of dealing with the world’s governments, and scumbag lobbyists on the Hill to
try to keep the law from turning them into the world’s best snitch. It was a
losing battle. The US Government had spent $15 /billion/ on a program to
fingerprint and photograph visitors at the border, and hadn’t caught /a single/
terrorist. Clearly, the public sector was not equipped to Do Search Right.

The DHS officers had bags under their eyes as they squinted at their screens,
prodding mistrustfully at their keyboards with sausage fingers. No wonder it
was taking four hours to get out of the goddamned airport.

“Evening,” he said, as he handed the man his sweaty passport. The man grunted
and swiped it, then stared at his screen, clicking. A lot. He had a little bit
of dried food in the corner of his mouth and his tongue crept out and licked at
it as he concentrated.

“Want to tell me about June, 1998?”

Greg turned his head this way and that. “I’m sorry?”

“You posted a message to alt.burningman on June 17, 1998 about your plan to
attend Burning Man. You posted, ‘Would taking shrooms be a really bad idea?’”

[Read More…]

Monday, September 3, 2018

The J.R.R. Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature

An annual lecture on fantasy, sci-fi, and other speculative fiction, held at Pembroke College, Oxford

From 1925-1945 J.R.R. Tolkien served as the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College, Oxford. During this time he wrote The Hobbit and the majority of The Lord of the Rings.

Since 2013 the students of Pembroke College have organised an annual public lecture in honour of J.R.R. Tolkien. The purpose of the lecture series is to promote speculative fiction — including, but not limited to, the fantasy genre — as literature worthy of study and scrutiny, and to advance our understanding of it by hearing from some of the most influential and talented people working in the field today.

- About The Series

‘Tolkien appears in the fantasy universe in the same way that Mount Fuji appeared in old Japanese prints. Sometimes small, in the distance, and sometimes big and close-to, and sometimes not there at all, and that’s because the artist is standing on Mount Fuji.’
— Terry Pratchett