Science Fiction

TFFX – The Future Fire Ten Year Anthology – Trailer Microstory

Rather thrillingly The Future Fire are bringing out TFFX, an anthology of selected stories from the magazine to celebrate their ten-year anniversary. And even more thrillingly (for me, at any rate) they are going to include my short story Art Attack!


As part of the celebrations they’ve been asking the authors to write a microstory that takes place 10 years after the original story. And my contribution ‘2084’ is now up on the Future Fire blog site HERE

It was an interesting exercise to write a ’10 years after’ – which is also a sort of trailer for the Art Attack! story. In the event, I rather drifted away from the Art Attack universe. I didn’t want to satirise the same things twice, so the world of the story had to change accordingly. What I did keep was the rather sarcastic contemptuous attitude, and the ‘motto inserts’. Another thing I thought would be fun this time around was to make the literary allusion more explicit. Art Attack! has allusions also (or perhaps more properly called thefts) but they are so obscure they are only amusing to me. It was nice to have the chance to revisit that aspect of the original story — and this time — give the literary allusion a proper use.

On a personal note, due to too much ‘stuff’ (not interesting or varied stuff, but a lot of it), I haven’t written anything in ages — so it was great to have the prompt to do some writing, and be reminded of the fun of it.

Part and parcel of the way publishing is changing – and appropriate to an SF magazine especially — The Future Fire are running a fundraiser so the anthology is sort of pre-sold before they publish. All very interesting.

Writers’ Bloc at Eastercon 2014: Planet Scotland

Some of our comrades will be appearing at the 65th Eastercon, Satellite 4, this weekend.
On Friday night, Hannu Rajaniemi will be a victim guest of Horrorshow, a late night talk show hosted by Andrew J. Wilson. (22:00 – 23:30 in Castle 1)

On Sunday evening, we’ll embark for Planet Scotland, live performances of the best new Scottish SF and fantasy featuring established and up-and-coming talent from the Word Dogs and Writers’ Bloc spoken-word performance groups including Hal Duncan, Phil Raines, and Bloc comrades Mark Harding, Stuart Wallace, and Halsted M. Bernard. The event will be hosted by Andrew J. Wilson and Neil Williamson. (20:00 – 22:00 in Castle 1)

Planet Scotland


The Nearest Star website gives some perturbing information:

Proxima Centauri is the nearest star to our Sun, at 4.22 light years away. This means that Voyager, travelling at 38,000mph/ 61,000kph would take 73,000 years to reach the star.

The fastest space craft is the Helios 2 solar probe, at 157,100mph/ 252,800 kph. So if Helios 2 went to Proxima Centauri it would still take 17,633 years.

Self Aware Android

Kara – Self Aware Android — What is wrong with this picture?

I guess there are three elements involved:
The Story: To get round uncanny valley a quite elaborate story has been told. It reminds of the Pinocchio story as discussed by Scott Bukatman in Beyond The Finite. Pinocchio’s humanness is actually displayed in disobeying (moral choice). (Humm, also reminds me of Genesis.) However, in the story told here, what is more important than moral choice is the need to survive. Everything else Kara does (gratitude etc) can be seen as ‘built in’ (unthinking) functions to support this need to survive. But on these grounds, then any animal programmed by evolution, as it were, (and, at least, some plants) should be considered as having self-awareness.

The Image: If our response to the illusion of self-awareness is actually to the lifelike expressions and voice, then the AI already exists — its the video itself. Cory Doctorow is makes the relevant comment: “It would be interesting to re-render this with the “robot” as a kind of arachnoid assembly-line robot with a gender-neutral voice and see what happens to the film’s affect.” Quite a different effect, I would imagine.

The Technology: Not being a game developer or user, the tech article doesn’t mean too much to me. What is interesting is the importance given to having a good actor (shot with 28 cameras simultaneously) to get the expression and tone. So from the technical POV it is purely about developing an image which faithfully replicates the actor expressions. I can see the point of this for game development, though the point of it in films like Tintin escapes me. Surely one of the pleasures of animation is the artificiality, playing on the cusp of the uncanny?