Dune Foresaw—and Influenced—Half a Century of Global Conflict

“Written even before the advent of America’s war in Vietnam, Dune captures a world in which war is inherently asymmetric, where head-on, conventional military conflict has largely been replaced with all the subtler ways that humans seek to dominate one another: insurgency and counterinsurgency, sabotage and assassination, diplomacy, espionage and treachery, proxy wars and resource control. For the military officers and intelligence analysts who still read and reread Dune today, it presents an uncanny reflection of the state of geopolitical competition in 2021—from the pitfalls of regime change to the terra incognita of cyberwar.

-Andy Greenberg, “Dune Foresaw—and Influenced—Half a Century of Global Conflict.” Wired. September 28 ,2021

Obligatory. See also: The Secret History of Dune.

John Shirley’s Wet Bones & A Song Called Youth

“Working in Hollywood developing the script that would eventually become The Crow, Shirley relapsed into drug addiction. This time he managed to stay off the street but it was hard on his loved ones. Shirley channeled his rage, shame and sorrow at himself and his addiction into nightmare fuel. The result was the novel Wetbones; it feels like the bastard child of Requiem for a Dream, Lovecraft, early David Fincher and Cronenberg films, all while surgically satirizing the Hollywood of the time.

Wetbones is the story of a father looking for his lost drug-addicted daughter who has been kidnapped by a supernatural serial killer. This psychically empowered psychokiller feeds off, and controls, his victim’s addictions. The desire that can never be satisfied is the lurking monster; the inherent desire in us all is the key. We are all one choice away from the control of this monster. It is what makes the novel frightening to the core….

…In the 80s he wrote a Cyberpunk trilogy A Song Called Youth that is now re-issued as a massive complete volume from Dove books. It comprises three novels: Eclipse, Eclipse Penumbra, and Eclipse Corona.

Strangely, I’ve never heard of John Shirley, but I think A Song Called Youth needs to be put near the top of my reading list.

Crystal Nights by Greg Egan

“The Phites who’d invented the boost had had one big advantage as they’d tinkered with each other’s brains: it had not been a purely theoretical exercise for them. They hadn’t gazed at anatomical diagrams and then reasoned their way to a better design. They had experienced the effects of thousands of small experimental changes, and the results had shaped their intuition for the process. Very little of that intuition had been spoken aloud, let alone written down and formalised. And the process of decoding those insights from a purely structural view of their brains was every bit as difficult as decoding the language itself.”

—Greg Egan, “Crystal Nights.”

Struck me as an interesting example of how lived experience cannot be reduced to language and abstraction.

Tachyon Humble Book Bundle

“Get ready to ride off into the stars and charge into magical battles. We’ve teamed up with Tachyon to provide you with a bundle of imaginative digital sci-fi and fantasy books for your reading pleasure! Get ebooks like Ivory Apples by Lisa Goldstein, The Very Best of Caitlin by R. Kiernan, and Beyond Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.”

Humble Book Bundle: Celebrating 25 Years of Sci-Fi & Fantasy from Tachyon.

Most excited about Jo Walton’s Starlings, The Best of Michael Moorcock, Bruce Sterling’s Pirate Utopia, and Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology in this collection.

You Don’t Need Internet Shit / Crazytown…

“You don’t need internet shit, and you don’t need crazytown.”

There’s something I call the “90% rule” and is properly called “Sturgeon’s Law“. There was a time when people questioned science fiction as a genre. Theodore Sturgeon was a popular science fiction writer at the time, and critics would point out that the vast majority of science fiction was terrible. Sturgeon’s reply: “Ninety percent of everything is crap.”

The solution to crap is not to consume more crap, as if you were panning for gold. The solution is to focus on reducing the ratio of crap to gold. Instead of starting the New Year with a resolution about what you are going to start doing, perhaps do the opposite. What are you going to stop doing?

Start with the bullshit. In the main:

  1. Stop litigating the obvious.
  2. Stop apologizing, explaining and complaining.
  3. Stop trying to be liked.
  4. Stop getting involved in other people’s problems.
  5. Stop looking for good and bad guys.

Of course, there are always exceptions. There are times for an explanation and apology. The problem is when the exception becomes the rule. Discerning the difference is key:

“The undiscerning mind is like the root of the tree, it absorbs equally everything it touches, even the poison that would kill it.”

-Kung Fu, the television series

Weird Fiction Review

“[Weird Fiction Review] is meant to be an ongoing exploration into all facets of the weird, in all of its many forms — a kind of non‐denominational approach that appreciates Lovecraft

but also Kafka, Angela Carter and Clark Ashton Smith, Shirley Jackson and Fritz Leiber — along with the next generation of weird writers and
international weird. The emphasis will be on nonfiction on writers and particular books, but we will also run features on weird art, music, and film, as well as occasional fiction.”

Weird Fiction Review

Discovered Weird Fiction Review (WFR) while reading a review of Dempow Torishima’s Sisyphean, which was described by WFR as “weird [even for] weird fiction.” Sounds like my kind of weird.

American Science Fiction, Classic Novels of the 1950’s

“Kingsley Amis did in his 1960 critical study New Maps of Hell. Amis contended that science fiction, like jazz, developed a self-aware identity in the second and third decades of the twentieth century, attracted a knowledgeable and devoted following largely of younger fans, and gained new levels of imaginative and stylistic sophistication in the 1940s…By the 1950s, science fiction had accreted a variety of modes and conventions…By the end of the decade, a field once dominated by short “pulp” fiction had reinvented itself, and expanded the range of “the novel” more generally.”

Classic American Science Fiction Novels of the 1950s

Never really thought of the 1950s as the time science fiction transitioned from pulp fiction to the novel, but it’s obviously true now that I see it pointed out. This website provides an overview of seminal works of the period.

Silurian Stories

I have a idea for a series of stories exploring the Silurian Hypothesis as recurrent history, where we discover previous industrial civilizations on earth, and are in turn discovered by the industrial civilization after ours, possibly after some minor colonization of the solar system but where climate change catastrophe cuts the sustainability of human settlements everywhere and tracing a future history where there is a decline to small hunter gatherer groups that then returns to an Information Age, and perhaps a discovery of an artifact from our previous era, something distinctive like a Space Shuttle, fusion reactor, NORAD bunker, or some such.