Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Future of Humanity (and a Group Giveaway)

Michio Kako interviewed both scientists and science fiction authors for his recent book The Future of Humanity. If you want to think about the long-term future of the human race, this is a book worth reading. Kako lays out in an orderly fashion how we can establish a settlement on the moon; then gradually work our way to Mars and moons in the outer solar system; and leave the solar system, the Milky Way, and possibly even our universe. Of course, there is the slight problem of overcoming the current obstacles we face first. Besides colonizing space, Kako also suggests that we may overcome death (I wonder if I'll live long enough to see that) and will adapt ourselves to new planets while still retaining our basic humanity. I guess it's up to the science fiction writers to fill in more details about that.

Speaking of speculative fiction, I'm part of another group giveaway on Instafreebie. You can check it out at this link. The giveaway runs through the end of the month and includes science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I hope you find some interesting new books there!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Bookshelf Maintenance

Recently, as I bought an eBook version of The Years of Rice and Salt to replace my paperback, I realized how little bookshelf maintenance I have to do these days. When I was younger, I lived in apartments with limited space for shelves. I also bought a lot more paperbacks than I do these days. Every so often, I'd have to organize my bookshelves. Each genre had a separate section, which was further organized by author surname and (if necessary) series. I preferred to get paperbacks because they took up the least space, but occasionally I'd find a random niche for hardcovers. Books didn't get shelved until they were read, so I'd usually have several books to place in the right locations, which would then bump other books to a different spot. Unfortunately, I'd also have to purge older books to make room for new ones.

These days, I seldom have to add books to my shelves, since it takes me much longer to make progress on my to-read stack. Instead, I tend to get rid of paperbacks once I have the eBook. While I still enjoy looking at my shelves and remembering what I've read, I'm not as attached to the physical books as I used to be. I have more space for things, but I want to declutter.

Do you keep paper books after you've read them? If so, do you have a special way of organizing your bookshelves? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Thanos' Motives and Actions (Infinity War Spoilers)

 I'm very much a newcomer to the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), so I've only seen two of the previous movies (the first Guardians of the Galaxy and Black Panther) and a highlight video before watching Infinity War on Sunday. While I have enough background to follow the story, I'm sure there are a lot of nuances I missed. In particular, since this movie focused on Thanos, I feel like I need to learn more about his motivations to understand some of the actions he took (or didn't take).

For starters, it seemed to me that once Thanos obtained the Reality Stone, he could have eliminated his opponents anytime he liked. If he could turn their weapons into bubble guns, there are definitely plenty of other ways he could have made his path to the rest of the stones much smoother. Maybe I don't know enough about the stones' power to understand what, if any, limits they have. It does seem to me that their power increases exponentially as you acquire more of them.

Another question I have about Thanos' actions was inspired by a discussion I saw on someone else's Facebook feed. If Thanos wants to kill off half of the universe's population so everyone else has enough resources, why not double the amount of resources instead? Or why not set a cap on the sentient population of the universe to be below the total carrying capacity? There are plenty of other, more compassionate ways you can solve this problem without causing such a massive amount of genocide--though then you wouldn't have a cinematic-worthy conflict. I think I heard a line in the movie about a similar mass murder on Titan, so perhaps Thanos is just repeating something from his personal experience.

For me, part of the reason I'm obsessed with analyzing Thanos is because he's such a powerful antagonist. As a writer, it's important for me to develop the villain's motivations and actions as much as the hero's. The line between hero and villain can be very narrow at times. Just as the hero gets funneled down a particular pathway during the course of a story, the same must happen to a villain. Sometimes the only difference between a hero and a villain is what the character learns over the course of a story and how that influences her final choice.

If you saw the movie, what did you think about it? Did you feel Thanos made a good villain? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Science Fiction and Society

Last week, I got to be part of a project on science fiction. A friend of mine has a son who was preparing a report on the subject, and since he needed to interview a science fiction author, he asked me. His topic turned out to be how science fiction influences society. He already had examples of scientists who chose their discipline because of science fiction, so I gave him another angle: how science fiction affects politics and protests. Here are a few points I made during the interview:

  • Aliens can be a metaphor for the "Other," and how we view the aliens can reflect how we treat marginalized people in our own society
  • The first interracial kiss shown on TV was on Star Trek. (It might have been more acceptable in a science fiction context than in a mainstream one.)
  • Women have been dressing as handmaids from The Handmaid's Tale at political protests
  • Dystopian novels like The Hunger Games, where a teenager challenges a corrupt system, had inspired teenagers with their own protests.
How else do you think science fiction affects society? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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