Monday, September 8, 2014

Cosmic Megastructures @ Popular Mechanics

I love cosmic megastructures or, as some call them: big dumb objects. Larry Niven's Ringworld and The Ringworld Engineers are two of my favorite examples of the genre (I regretfully never got through the third book in the series, as the quality took an inexplicable nosedive). The first time I ever played Halo, I did an awful lot of sight-seeing in between battles—the scale of that original game was like nothing we had ever seen.

my copy of Ringworld

Right now, Popular Mechanics is running a series on these kinds of big science fiction ideas. These articles serve more as primers than in-depth analyses, but it's still a decent batch of reading material. Here's a list of the ones I've checked out so far:
There might be others, so keep an eye out for them. In the meantime, here's a picture of Niven's Puppeteers, who initially seem to be a cowardly race of aliens, but they turn out to be one of science fiction's most interesting creations:


I see Barlowe's Guide at second hand stores all the time, but it's worth the price for a new copy.

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On an unrelated note, I don't read fantasy nearly as much as I read science fiction, but David Gemmell's Legend is kicking all kinds of ass for me. It's a light read that's half about the circumstances leading up to the inevitable castle siege, and half about the siege itself. Fun, fast-paced, and gloriously violent. I also have a soft spot for aging warriors, especially if they have a reputation to live up to, and the main character Druss is certainly that. Considering his age and physical flaws in this novel, I'm not sure how Gemmell went on to write more books with the character, not if they're as action-packed as this.

Which reminds me: we need more fun books. I've been reading so much dour shit lately I can't see straight. I liked Accelerando as much as anyone, but singularity fiction is getting capital-B Boring, much like the devout transhumanists who consistently barge into serious threads on futurism forums and bark about how the A.I. revolution is upon us. No, the technological singularity is not a given. If it does happen, what we've speculated so far is going to be as innaccurate as the Jetsons' view of the future. More importantly, stories set in the future don't have to be about the singularity, nor do they even need to mention why it did not occur.

For fuck's sake, I just want to see humans cruising around the galaxy in rocket ships again. Throw in some sword fights and pirates just for the hell of it. Too much to ask for?

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