Tag Archives: science fiction

Book Excerpt: 2062 – The World That AI Made by Toby Walsh

Witness the fascinating world of AI, with Toby Walsh, one of the world’s leading researchers in Artificial Intelligence, in his latest book, 2062 – The World that AI made. (Published by Speaking Tiger, 2020)

THE MACHINE ADVANTAGE 

To understand why Homo sapiens is set to be replaced, you need to understand the many advantages computers have over humans and that the digital world has over the analog. Co- learning is one important advantage, but let’s look at some others. 

The first is that computers can have a much more expansive memory capacity than humans. Everything we remember has to be stored in our bony craniums. Indeed, we already pay a significant price for having heads as big as they are. Until recently, childbirth was one of the major causes of death for women. And the size of the birth canal limits us from having bigger heads still. 

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Is eco literature our future?

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Nicanor Parra … courtesy Arteaga

With protests staged by environmentalists of different ages in many parts of the world, one is left wondering if this is not a major issue that needs to be addressed by the literary community over other issues as it links to our basic survival. These lines by Nicannor Parra, the famous Chilean poet, say it all.

The mistake we made was in thinking

that the earth belonged to us

when the fact of the matter is

we’re the ones who belong to the earth.

He redefined himself as an eco poet in the latter part of his career and said: “The eco-poet also works with contradiction, he defends nature, but he cannot fall into the trap of a new dogmatism. So there are some eco-poems which are apparently anti-ecological, like the following: ‘I don’t see the need for all this fuss, we all know the world is at its end.’ It must be kept in mind that any type of dogmatism, including ecological dogmatism, produces a hardening of the soul. To avoid this hardening, this new dictatorship, this new central committee, one has to denounce even ecological dogmatism. Paradoxically, this is also the soul regulating itself. The man who only affirms runs the risk of freezing up inside. Constant movement, vital motion is crucially important for me.”

So, what is eco literature? Is it the same as cli- fi ?Is it in the genre of speculative fiction or science fiction? Read more

Book Review: The Butterfly Effect by Rajat Chaudhuri

By Suvasree Karanjai

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Title: The Butterfly Effect

Author: Rajat Chaudhuri

Publisher : Niyogi Books,2018

 

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

(W.B. YEATS, The Second Coming)

                                          The earth is doomed to be a ghost,

                                         She who rocks all death in herself.

(Sophia De Mello Breyner, I Feel the Dead)

We all dream of a utopia, an ideal, the zenith of flawlessness and excellence. With the concept of utopia comes  its inverse, dystopia, which lurks behind curtains with equal power to devastate and destroy. In recent times, dystopias have become an independent literary genre, a potent medium to envision and warn against catastrophes, a result of what could have started as an alternative futuristic ultra modern/utopian state. Rajat Chaudhuri’s “well-oiled” and polished novel, The Butterfly Effect,is a welcome addition to such tellings that aim to reiterate obliquely the oft-quoted saying: “With great power comes great responsibility” and to question whether we are ready to shoulder that liability.

The Butterfly Effect is a brilliant exploration of the local and the global, Calcutta and the world, in a post-apocalyptic state in the face of ultra-modernisation, totalitarianism and technologization.

Rajat Chaudhuri, an esteemed bilingual (Bengali and English) novelist and short story writer with a number of prestigious fellowships under his belt, has been involved with environment and development. His concerns are reflected in his  earlier works (like Hotel Calcutta, Amber Dusk) as well as in his recent novel The Butterfly Effect (2018).  Read more

Short story: Falling through the Labyrinth by Joseph F. Nacino

 

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

For some time, I tried to find my way towards the centre of the station. I encountered dead-ends and paths blocked by fire, metal, and machines. I had to backtrack several times and wondered if I would be killed by a whirring gear out of nowhere, or impaled on an inopportune girder. After the longest hour of my life, I saw my destination: a massive metal ball in the middle of the station, supported by several pylons. With the propulsion rig, I roved over the ball’s surface to find a hatchway into the control centre. Steadying myself against the wall near a hatch, I keyed opened the door and pulled myself into the structure.

The inside of the control centre had a similar appearance to the command centre in the habitat section: a wide, 360-degree view of the whole interior of the station, two chairs instead of one, and a wide array of consoles and banks of monitors. Though it was dark inside the chamber, the viewing glass allowed the industrial lights around the centre to paint the whole chamber a stark white. Read more

A true utopia: An interview with N. K. Jemisin

(From the Paris Review. Link to the complete interview is given below)

N. K. Jemisin is the author of nine books—a duology, two trilogies, and a short story collection. The last of those, How Long ‘til Black Future Month?, is her most recent. Not only is she the only writer to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel, one of the highest awards in science fiction and fantasy, three years in a row (for all three groundbreaking books of the Broken Earth series), but she is also the first black person to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel ever. Speculative fiction is about imagining futures, but those futures are only as revolutionary as the minds of those who create them. We are lucky to have Jemisin’s revolutionary imagination to expand our own.

How Long ‘til Black Future Month? is a collection of twenty-two stories written over the course of fifteen years. Each story contains a world that you never want to leave, whether it’s to stay close to Franca while she cooks meals in the kitchen of an inn or to walk alongside Jessaline while she undertakes a covert mission to save her people. Jemisin’s characters usually don’t live in a utopia, but they are fighters—for better futures, for better lives, for their fellow kind.

In 2016, the New York Times referred to Ursula K. Le Guin as America’s greatest living science-fiction writer. Though Jemisin’s books have only been in circulation for eight years, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that she could one day be the greatest living science-fiction writer for a new generation. She may already be.

A few days before Thanksgiving, Jemisin and I spoke by phone about utopia, justice, sitting with damage, and more.

INTERVIEWER

In the introduction to How Long ‘til Black Future Month?, you write that short stories presented a way for you to work out techniques and consider perspectives without the commitment of a novel. What else do short stories offer you that the novel doesn’t?

JEMISIN

Really, that’s the main thing. You’re still putting a pretty hefty mental commitment into making a short story. Even though it’s relatively brief, you still have to come up with a world that’s coherent. I find short stories almost as difficult to write as novels, it’s just less time-consuming. Short stories are hard for me. That’s why the collection is something like fifteen years worth of short stories. They asked me to write several new ones for the collection and I was just like, Not likely to happen. In fact, I can really only write them when I’m between novels because they take away from whatever energy I’m trying to pour into a novel.

Read more at the Paris Review link here

 

After decades of dwarfs and elves, writers of color redefine fantasy

(Courtesy The Christian Science Monitor)

N.K. Jemisin, the first black writer to win the Hugo Award for best novel, packs a powerful idea into a few lines of dialogue in “The Fifth Season,” in which an otherworldly woman’s search for her daughter resonates with the emotions of African-Americans after the Civil War desperate to reunite families ravaged by slavery.

“There’s a hole, a gap,” Ms. Jemisin writes. “In history.”

History suffers when perspectives are left out, Jemisin points out. The same may be said of literature. After decades of dwarves, elves, and other Norse-based mythology, the world of fantasy is changing, incorporating the myths and legends of cultures around the world.

While the field was largely dominated by white men in decades past, today diverse writers are bringing new voices to the conversation, imagining futures based on more inclusive readings of the past, and creating multiethnic worlds that can help people understand their own. Certainly, speculative fiction writers since at least Octavia Butler – the first science-fiction writer to win a MacArthur grant – have looked beyond Europe for inspiration. But no longer can they be dismissed as niche. From the $1 billion-plus box office of “Black Panther,” directed by Ryan Coogler, to this spring’s breakout debut novel, “Children of Blood and Bone,” by Nigerian-American author Tomi Adeyemi, audiences and readers are flocking to well-drawn worlds inspired by African and Asian countries.

Read More at this link

Even what doesn’t happen is epic

The revival of science fiction in China

Science fiction isn’t new to China, as Cixin Liu explains in Invisible Planets, an introduction to Chinese sci-fi by some of its most prominent authors, but good science fiction is. The first Chinese sci-fi tales appeared at the turn of the 20th century, written by intellectuals fascinated by Western technology. ‘At its birth,’ Cixin writes, science fiction ‘became a tool of propaganda for the Chinese who dreamed of a strong China free of colonial depredations’. One of the earliest stories was written by the scholar Liang Qichao, a leader of the failed Hundred Days’ Reform of 1898, and imagined a Shanghai World’s Fair, a dream that didn’t become a reality until 2010. Perhaps surprisingly, given the degree of idealistic fervour that followed Mao’s accession, very little utopian science fiction was produced under communism (in the Soviet Union there was plenty, at least initially). What little there was in China was written largely for children and intended to educate; it stuck to the near future and didn’t venture beyond Mars. By the 1980s Chinese authors had begun to write under the influence of Western science fiction, but their works were suppressed because they drew attention to the disparity in technological development between China and the West. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s, when Deng’s reforms began to bite, that Chinese science fiction experienced what Cixin calls a ‘renaissance’.

Cixin himself has been at the forefront of the scene since the 1990s. He is the first Asian writer to receive a Hugo award (in 2015), and the author whose work best captures the giddying, libidinous pace of the Chinese economic boom. His monumental Three-Body Trilogy – first published between 2006 and 2010, and recently translated into English by Ken Liu, a Chinese-American sci-fi writer – is Chinese science fiction’s best-known work. Barack Obama is a fan, and the forthcoming movie adaptations are already being described as ‘China’s Star Wars’. The trilogy concerns the catastrophic consequences of humanity’s attempt to make contact with extraterrestrials (it turns out that the reason we haven’t heard from aliens yet is that we’re the only species thick enough to reveal our own location in the universe). It is one of the most ambitious works of science fiction ever written. The story begins during the Cultural Revolution and ends 18,906,416 years into the future. There is a scene in ancient Byzantium, and a scene told from the perspective of an ant. The first book is set on Earth, though several of its scenes take place in virtual reality representations of Qin dynasty China and ancient Egypt; by the end of the third book, the stage has expanded to encompass an intercivilisational war that spans not only the three-dimensional universe but other dimensions too.

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The rise of Chinese sci-fi: Part 1

By Carly O’Connell

In 2015, Chinese Sci-fi hit the American literary scene when Ken Liu’s translation of The Three-Body Problem by Chinese author Cixin Liu received a Hugo Award and a Nebula nomination. These prestigious science fiction/fantasy honors see few works in translation, and until now, none had been Chinese. As the general public begins to follow the literary critics in their curiosity towards Liu’s work and others like it, I decided to write a two-part series on the rise of Chinese sci-fi. Part one will focus on the sci-fi genre in China and its long history inextricably tied up with translation, culminating in a discussion of The Three-Body Problem. In two weeks, tune in again for part two, focusing more on the American side. I will discuss American readership of foreign literature, author and translator Ken Liu, and the diversification of the sci-fi genre. Read more

Source: Asia Times

Book review: Liu Cixin wraps up a sci-fi master class

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All eyes seem to be on China’s science-fiction writers. In August, the 2016 Hugo Award for best novelette went to Folding Beijing , a dystopian work written by 32-year-old Tianjin native Hao Jingfang, beating out none other than horror master Stephen King. And in 2015, the Hugo for best novel went to The Three-Body Problem, the first volume in a mind-expanding trilogy that starts with an alien invasion threat discovered during China’s Cultural Revolution.

That novel introduced English-speaking readers to the creative mind of Liu Cixin, China’s most beloved science-fiction author and a multiple-award winner. Last month’s English-language publication of Death’s End, the final instalment in the trilogy, cements Liu’s position as a leading sci-fi mastermind not only in China, but around the globe. Read more

Sci-Fi ‘most internationalized’ literary genre: Chinese writer Liu Cixin

Compared with other literature, science fiction is a genre best able to transcend cultural boundaries, as what it depicts is a universal crisis facing the entire human race, China’s leading sci-fi writer Liu Cixin told Xinhua.

“For instance, the doomsday portrait in a sci-fi novel is an apocalyptical scene descending onthe entire human race, rather than a single race,” he said. Read more

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