[Return to Home Page]

SNIPPETS 1999

(Short Pieces on a Variety of Subjects)

<-- To SNIPPETS 1998

To SNIPPETS 2000 -->

[01] 'Neon Genesis Evangelion'
[02] Music Videos
[03] Newspaper Clippings
[04] BOOK: "Knowledge of Angels" and Belief
[05] Reading Richie Rich
[06] SF Fans a Hundred Years Hence
[07] Kerry Greenwood
[08] Lucy Sussex and "Deersnake"
[09] Science and Religion
[10] BOOK: "Permutation City" - Claustrophobia in the Machine
[11] Computer Rage
[12] Dual Citizenship!
[13] My Martian Birthday
[14] The Armaggeddon Pop Culture Expo
[15] FILM: 'Star Wars I - The Phantom Menace'
[16] To ERIC LINDSAY - Republic Referendum
[17] To MARC ORTLIEB - Plagarism
[18] My Psychic Powers
[19] 21st Century Idea
[20] To JEANNE MEALY - Nanotechnology - Thoughts Alter the World
[21] The Internet
[22] Exponential Technology and SF
[23] Jane Routley
[24] "What's Your Favourite Monster?"
[25] To GERALD SMITH and WOMBLE - Aussiecon I & II & Me

[01] 'Neon Genesis Evangelion'

(February 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.8."]

I have been watching "Neon Genesis Evangelion" on SBS. It isn't the best anime I have ever seen, but it is good enough that I am prepared to put up with the atrocious American dub.

(I'm not into giant robots - or even giant encounter suits, but fortunately NGE has well-developed and diverse characters, and the interactions can be both comedic and deeply-touching. If it was all action and no human-drama I would have lost interest.)

[Top of Page]

[02] Music Videos

(February 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.8."]

I'm a great fan of music videos! They often have things I enjoy watching - like pretty girls and computer animation. They can be surrealistically inventive, and whole strange other worlds can be created and explored in 3 1/2 minutes. They can be wonderful and imaginative tapestries.

Sometimes they even have good songs!

[Top of Page]

[03] Newspaper Clippings

(April 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.9."]

I keep scrapbooks of newspaper articles. I've been doing this for a *long* time.

I originally started by collecting newspaper clippings on astronomy and space exploration in the late 1970s - when those NASA people were doing everything possible to render my old "How and Why Wonder Book of Planets and Interplanetary Travel" out of date!

Being interested in many things I expanded the scope of my clippings and now collect articles on science, technology, genetics, computers, history, politics, sociology, and scores of other topics. (And index them all into a computer file called "Scrapbook_Index.")

It turns out to be a cornucopia of curious information and little known facts. Someone once said that "The way to know what nobody knows is to read what everyone reads - one year after." I read seven year old articles about futures that never happened, or technologies that failed to bud into fruitfulness. What does this make me?

[Top of Page]

[04] BOOK: "Knowledge of Angels" and Belief

(April 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.9."]

Jill Paton Walsh's really rather good novel "Knowledge of Angels", which I read last year, presents you with the interesting situation of an atheist turning up on an Island in the Middle Ages - and causing to come into question the whole basis of the people's belief in God.

The atheist, Palinor, had long arguments with Beneditx - a scholarly monk with deep religious beliefs.

What I found most disturbing (but, paradoxically, also fascinating) was how the medieval arguments for the existence of God were each set forth in turn - and then effortlessly destroyed by the calm scientific reasoning of Palinor.

It disturbs because it makes me wonder how much of philosophy and faith is a house-of-cards. (Is something as fundamentally important to so many people as a belief in God, so easy to destroy with the strong light of the scientific method and rational thought?)

*The book has also given me other sets of ideas, but I'll leave them for another time.

[Top of Page]

[05] Reading Richie Rich

(April 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.9."]

Reading old Richie Rich comics when you're living under a budget is probably not a good idea.

[Top of Page]

[06] SF Fans a Hundred Years Hence

(April 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.9."]

At the last NOVA MOB meeting I found myself musing about SF fans a hundred years hence.

As time passes more and more SF is converted into a kind of other-reality historical novel. (Read about an alternative 1960s with flying cars, or an alternative 1980s with UFO invasions and a moonbase!)

SF will cease to be solely 'the literature of the future'- it'll become a complex combination of semi-futuristic other-reality histories, distorted near pasts and near futures, and the far-distant mythical future (which remains much as it always has - we have just given convenient and newly-minted names to some of its technologies).

(Already now in 1999 the old SF of the 1930s to 1950s has taken on an other-worldly glamour.)

I imagined a time - perhaps a hundred years hence but maybe much sooner - when literary fandom will have become an even more diverse beast than it is now.

You would have fans of so-called 'Golden Age' SF - who only read SF novels of the early twentieth century. Who get their thrills from archaic- futures and a retro-tomorrowland.

You will have fans of what we call now the New Wave. They are interested in the historical past - but as seen through the distorting lenses of its fantasists. (Some cyberpunk will fall under their auspices.)

There will be fans of the 'now' - where SF meets the experimental mainstream novel. (This used to contain myths-of-the-near-future, but with the acceleration of change, the future is compressed - and what seems wildly futuristic may grow from a speculation to a solid reality in far fewer years than we'd expect. Near-future SF will become nearer and nearer to impossible to write.)

Lastly will be fans of the mythical far-future - where SF and fantasy meet and mesh together because of Clarke's law. This is the most stable part of SF - and I expect in a hundred years it will have much the same texture as it has today.

These divisions exist in embryonic form in 1999 - but time will push them further and further apart.

What kind of fan are you?

[Top of Page]

[07] Kerry Greenwood

(June 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.10."]

Kerry Greenwood gave a talk to the Melbourne Science Fiction Club on May 7th. It was the first time I had met her. (I read her book "Blood and Circuses" last year - so I could justify attending an outing with Jocko, Jeanette and the Phryne Fisher Club.) I found out that she started out by writing Blake's Seven and Star Trek slash fiction - a type of fan fiction which I've never read but which might be fun in small doses:

"Now the Ensign's gone, Spock, you can tell me
about those Vulcan mechanical underpants!"

[Top of Page]

[08] Lucy Sussex and "Deersnake"

(June 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.10."]

Lucy Sussex gave a talk at the MSFC on May 21st. It provided me with some valuable insights into the publishing industry in Australia, and of course into her own works. (The only book by Lucy I've read is the young adult novel "Deersnake." It really is excellent - the most harrowing portrayal of fairyland since Philippa C. Maddern's truly exquisite short story "Ignorant of Magic" which is in the collection "Rooms of Paradise" edited by Lee Harding.)

[Top of Page]

[09] Science and Religion

(June 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.10."]

Watched the Compass special entitled God Only Knows? (Broadcast 9th May) - but didn't keep it for my documentary collection. Compass is a program which usually raises some valuable philosophical questions, but this program which was looking at the relationship between science and religion was a disappointment. It was interesting to see Frank Tipler being interviewed and espousing his extropian beliefs (See Prophets of the Silicon God) - but the real interface between science and religion is both tiny and banal.

[Top of Page]

[10] BOOK: "Permutation City" - Claustrophobia in the Machine

(June 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.10."]

The odd thing about reading Greg Egan's novel "Permutation City" in 1997, was that the book gave me an intense feeling of claustrophobia during the scenes set in the computer-generated universe.

Odd, because I'm sure Greg was wanting to communicate the thrill and the euphoria of being an uploaded intelligence in a totally reconfigerable environment - but I couldn't shake my impression of being squeezed down to microscopic size (in a computer chip) and being blind and deaf and unable to touch the real world.

This isolation terrified me, this being cut off from reality - trapped in the consensual hallucination.

It could be the remnants of my ancient paranoia but I like to know what is going on around me. (I'm not even comfortable walking along the street listening to a Sony Walkman.)

Of course I believe that we won't end up living as uploaded intelligences in a rich VR environment in the far future!

No folks - we will be living in the Real World! I think it will be like this. We will become a race of beings who have been genetically engineered before birth and afterwards to possess a DNA-coded telecommunications system integrated into every cell of our bodies, and we will be continuously and intimately enmeshed in the worldwide communications and computations grid. (The real world sensory data and the computer-synthesised stuff will be superimposed, so that the division between VR and the real world becomes meshed and blurred.)

We will have bodies which are constantly monitored and maintained by symbiotic nanobots - and whose form we may be able to alter at will. (The boundaries which now exist between flesh and technology, and between the natural and the artificial will be washed away. The human genome will be modified and rewritten for each new generation. We will be organic cyborgs with our inbuilt technology coded for by our own highly altered DNA.)

And the world we inhabit will be filled with Damien Broderick's intelligent fog - invisibly small nanobots in the air and the earth and the water with built in AI and, like us, connected into the worldwide communications and computations grid.

The fog will obey our unspoken commands and will shift the elements of the world around for us.

The world around us will change at our command. Structures of stone or glass or wood or metal or flesh will spin into being around us, and a quick thought will cause forms to alter.

We will be beings in a world that we can reshape at will - but this will be no computer simulation.

[Top of Page]

[11] Computer Rage

(June 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.10."]

From Computer rage a new age dilemma by Karen Collier. Herald Sun. 29 May 1999. p.19.

"Workers fed up with technology are blowing their fuse in fits of computer rage.

"Four out of five staff have witnessed colleagues swearing at or attacking their computers in frustration, according to new research."
(It was a survey of 1250 workers in the UK.)

When I read this I thought, "Crap! Four out of five, more like five out of five!"

The article goes on to place the blame on a lack of IT training, and also says that "nearly a quarter claimed their work was disrupted daily due to computer crashes and other IT faults. "

[Top of Page]

[12] Dual Citizenship!

(June 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.10."]

Re: My Martian Citizenship!

Roger Sims wrote in April 1999: "I'll not comment on your explanation of the new citizenship! However it is to be hoped that you have maintained a dual one!"

I've retained dual citizenship for the moment. After all it would be dreadful to be deported to Mars (its rather cold this time of year) - especially if NASA insists I fork out the US$500 Million for the trip!

[Top of Page]

[13] My Martian Birthday

(August 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.11."]

Had my 19th Martian birthday on June 5th, and celebrated by buying myself a (discounted) copy of John Clute's "Science Fiction - The Illustrated Encyclopedia."

It's been a bit disappointing. I'm 19 now and no Martian has offered me flying lessons, and no used-saucer salesmartians have been to visit.

I'd even be prepared to buy a century-old model in that yucky shade of green - as long as it didn't leak plutonium and came with a 30 billion light-year warranty.

There's more than enough space above the clothesline to hover-park the thing (invisibly of course) & it would be ever so much more convenient to use than public transport.

[Top of Page]

[14] The Armaggedon Pop Culture Expo

(August 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.11."]

With a friend I went to the Armageddon Pop Culture Expo on June 6th.

Tables and tables and tables of books and comics and models and videos and collectible cards and assorted this and that.

I had a sudden insight into the fan as consumer. SF media as franchise, and we as fast food junkies. License franchise mass-marketise "Star Wars", "Star Trek", "Babylon 5", whatever - Darth Maul boxer shorts, "Babylon 5" model kits, "Star Trek" imitation tricorders, "X-files" figurines, Enamel it with my favourite show - and I will come and buy (!).

I kept my "Star Wars. Episode 1" merchandise handout - it is too amusing to discard. Like Magic-the Gathering, everything seemed designed to spark a collector's craving. This set, that set - this model, that model. Dozens of miniature "Star Wars" personnel - old and new. Sets of cards to collect - rare and expensive cards - too many. A fatigue of most-idiosyncratic riches.

I left buying naught - but wondering if I'd already been caught with my "X-files" and "Star Trek" mugs, my "Babylon 5" cards, and all my "Doctor Who" books....

[Top of Page]

[15] FILM: 'Star Wars I - The Phantom Menace'

(August 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.11."]

Saw the new "Star Wars" movie on July 10th in Chadstone. It was mostly pretty good and Jar Jar Binks wasn't nearly as annoying as I thought he'd be.

It was beautiful to watch - the smooth ballet of the robotic soldiers, the sweep of grand alien vistas, a Trantorian cityscape, and a bubblescape in the dark blue deep. Monsters and a creative cornucopia of aliens.

I appreciated how they'd treated technology in this galaxy far far away. In our world over 20 years have passed since "A New Hope" and we could have shown in the new film display technologies galore, VR helmets, consensual hallucinations - which were not dreamed of in 1977. But Lucas kept the sense of history - the same crude onscreen displays remain, and the same flickery holographic projections. You can believe it is the same universe - with the same collection of technologies.

I was less satisfied with the story. It was inventive and fast moving and dramatic - but something was missing. That something was background. We are presented with two Jedi knights but we knew nothing of their background, what adventures they've had, what experiences had bonded their friendship or taught them about life. I wanted this larger background story. I wanted to know these characters as people. It was like starting with episode 5 or 6 of a television serial.

I have been spoilt with anime - where a long and satisfying complex story winds along, and episodes are taken out to explore the background of individual characters. Flesh is put on the bones of story, and we have a much richer and engrossing story resulting from it.

[Top of Page]

[16] To ERIC LINDSAY - Republic Referendum

(August 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.11."]

I agree with your qualitative assessment of Howard's proposed preamble as 'utter crap.' (I'll be forced to vote "no" in the referendum because I don't want the pollies to select our President for us - it is awful the way we can only vote for a republic with that feature.)

[Top of Page]

[17] To MARC ORTLIEB - Plagarism

(August 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.11."]

Reading your bit about "finding assignments where the kids had copied holus bolus from the web site they have plagiarised" [Drainpipe 9] reminded me of something I'd read in an article by Andy Dehnart in my favourite ezine Salon Magazine1.


1 Article "The Web's plagiarism police" at http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/1999/06/14/plagiarism/index.html


There are tools available online which will check a submitted work for a textual match on the Internet, and give a report. The article begins:

"I am a plagarist.

"At least that's what an online plagiarism-testing service report says. After analyzing my senior thesis, it said flatly that my 30-page paper was "plagiarized," and said that it had found a source on the Internet that matched my document. At first, I panicked. I hadn't copied anyone else's work, so what was going on? Was it unconscious, a phrase I'd once read and kept hidden in my memory? Had I been careless in paraphrasing or quoting? I didn't know; all I did know was that the report said I was guilty of ripping off my senior thesis from some source on the Web.

"Baffled, I went back to the report, and there, I found less-than-intuitive links to a more detailed analysis. Clicking through, I found the section that listed the URL of the source I was accused of plagarizing from. I clicked to find...

"To find that Plagiarism.org had just discovered a copy of my own thesis online. Instead of realizing that it was my work and ignoring it, the service had accused me of plagiarism. It seemed an odd thing to overlook, and an odd way of doing business to announce the crime, and let the recipient of the report figure out whether it was justified or not. I took the time to investigate the report's charges; what if a professor hadn't?"

The world grows more interesting Marc. So how did you punish the cheaters in your class?

A valuable discussion of the library versus the Internet as a research tool is found in Chapter 11 of Clifford Stoll's book "Silicon Snake Oil." [ISBN 0-330-34442-0]. It should be required reading for all uncritical Net-heads.

[Top of Page]

[18] My Psychic Powers

(October 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.12."]

Taking my cues from My Favorite Martian I've been developing my psychic powers!

I can move objects by the power of my mind alone. Unfortunately my psychic energy field doesn't extend very far, and I have to touch an object (or for best results actually grip it) before I can transfer my telekinetic force into it & make it move. Unfortunately to an outside-observer-of-little-faith it may look like I'm grabbing an item & lifting it in a normal manner.

My teleportation abilities are likewise rather limited - I can only teleport a distance of a millimetre or less - but luckily I can perform this miraculous activity up to 50 times a second - though I haven't got the knack of lifting myself off the ground yet.

Unfortunately with that persistence-of-vision thing people have, they seem to have the delusion that I'm moving about in a conventional manner!

My mind-reading has been going brilliantly though! I have splendid, high fidelity reception. Unfortunately so far I can only read my own mind.

[Top of Page]

[19] 21st Century Idea

(October 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.12."]

Here's a 21st century idea for you all to work with:

BETTER LIVING WITH LESS!

[Top of Page]

[20] To JEANNE MEALY - Nanotechnology - Thoughts Alter the World

(October 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.12."]

Jeanne Mealy wrote in August 1999: "Liked your images of the near future, but I'm confused by how mere thoughts can cause change to occur around us."

Leaving philosophy aside - the technology works like this:

We would have circuitry in our heads and nervous systems which would generate and transmit radio signals. (There are several possible paths for turning thoughts into radio signals- devices could respond to subvocals, or could be trained by biofeedback like prosthetic limbs, etc.)

The whole environment around us would be filled with trillions of tiny intelligent robots which move bits of dirt, gases, and other stuff about. (Nanotech robots would have the ability to sort out specific types of atoms - and to piece them together to build up highly specific molecular assemblies. Because there would be so many of the things about - the assembly work would be done rapidly.)

These tiny robots would have radio transceivers and would pick up radio signals from human beings. They would carry out the work of rearranging the world.

To an uninitiated observer the whole process would look like magic - which means that it's probably sufficiently advanced!

[Top of Page]

[21] The Internet

(October 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.12."]

All this information sharing is great for civilisation, international understanding, and technological, scientific and artistic advancement - but not nearly so healthy for the longevity of the average didactic dictatorship!

I can't wait to become blasé about my dirt-cheap, broadband, full multimedia, permanently-online Internet connection!

[Top of Page]

[22] Exponential Technology and SF

(October 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.12."]

The problem with living in a world with exponentially-developing technology is that even the most recent hard SF frays with technological obsolescence - and TV SF like "Star Trek" has technology which is moronically primitive for its alleged time period! I reckon that the starship will be obsolete long before 2370! By then we'll probably be creating customised spacetime continua - and generating wormholes for matter-energy transfer as casually as we now make phonecalls!

"Just warping to Sedroc's planet for a bit. He's built an underwater castle he reckons I should see!"

Likewise "Star Trek" medical technology would be seen as stupidly primitive too. By 2370 we will most likely have total control of our biology down to (at least) the atomic level - and we will morph our forms with greater fluidity than that exhibited in contemporary computer animations! Who needs sickbay when we can rebuild ourselves at will?

***MOTTO - We have enough trouble trying to extrapolate our exponentially-increasing technology 30 or 40 years into the future! Try imagining the ever accelerating curve 300 years hence....***

[Read Eric Lindsay's response on the Quotations page.]

[Top of Page]

[23] Jane Routley

(December 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.13."]

On the 22nd of October I met my old friend Jane Routley at the MSFC. We had a good chat and I found out what she had been doing in the nine years since I saw her last, and how she came to be married and living in Denmark.

Then I found out that she was the MSFC's special guest author for the night!

[Top of Page]

[24] "What's Your Favourite Monster?"

(December 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.13."]

I've thought about this. I don't have too much affinity for the average vampire or perambulating Frankenstein creation. Blobs don't impress me, though giant spiders & other creepy crawlies (or merely huge numbers of more modestly-sized ones) are freaky enough.

I'm a witch man! I love the sort of green-skinned, long-nosed, pointy-hated stereotypes that Samantha Stephens and her mum got so cheezed-off about in the early '60s.

I also have a soft spot for mad scientists. The drafty old castle, the thunder-storm, the rows and rows of coloured liquids bubbling away in glass flasks, the metal operating table, the whips and chains, the merest whisper of unspeakable experiments that mankind was never meant to do, the maniacal laughter, and ultimatums to the whole world; these thrill me!

Now - "What's your favourite monster?"

[Top of Page]

[25] To GERALD SMITH and WOMBLE - Aussiecon I & II & Me

(December 1999) [Printed in "Reality Module No.13."]

Curious to read about your Aussiecon One experiences. In 1975 I was in Grade 6 at St. Vincent's Primary School in Morwell. I'd discovered science fiction and was just beginning to tackle adult-SF - reading all the SF short story anthologies I could find in the Morwell Public Library. I watched "Doctor Who" on the ABC and "Lost In Space", but I'd never heard of fandom or SF conventions.

I went to Aussiecon Two - my first convention, I was living and working in Melbourne by 1985 so it was easy. I was surprised at the number of very mature aged SF fans - I hadn't realised they existed. It was strange to have all these famous authors around (I was too shy to talk to any of them), but none of them were like I'd imagined they'd be. Larry Niven was nothing like I'd expected. I saw some good films including that sadly neglected Australian masterpiece "Shirley Thompson versus the Aliens", and found out about filk music - and got on the Wail Songs mailing list.

[Top of Page]

 

<-- To SNIPPETS 1998

To SNIPPETS 2000 -->

[Top of Page]

[Return to Home Page]

Copyright © 1999 by Michael F. Green. All rights reserved.

Email.

Last Updated: 18 November 2004