Some free Neil Gaiman stories

April 20th, 2015

By now you’d probably have to be living under a rock not to know who Neil Gaiman is. At this point, he’s probably the most popular SF author of his generation, in the same league as George R. R. Martin and Stephen King, but they’re both older.  Over the years, Gaiman has made quite a bit of his work freely available and OpenCulture has collected much of it on this page. If you’re not a fan, check it out – I suspect you’ll be one after you read a couple of his stories.

Neil Gaiman is one of the handful of writers who has made comics respectable over the past several decades. He has written some classic children’s stories, plus a novel that will be adapted by HBO. A great deal of his output, though, has been in the form of short stories, and we have pulled together some free copies for you today. Some stories are available in audio and video, others in text. (We have them all separately listed in our collections:  630 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free and 700 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices.)

SpaceX landing attempt video

April 15th, 2015

Here’s the hi-res video of the SpaceX landing attempt. They came SO close – it looked like they were right on top of the barge coming down, veered sideways, corrected and toppled because there was still some sideways motion. And if that video is slow motion, they came in a lot faster than I expected.

Demolishing climate change deniers

April 14th, 2015

I’ve been a fan of SF author David Brin for a long time, ever since his first novel Sundiver came out back in the 1980s. He hasn’t been writing a lot of fiction these days, but his blog, Contrary Brin, is always worth reading, and this post more so than most. He starts out by taking a strip off anti-vaxxers, and once he gets warmed up, goes after climate change deniers. He’s a joy to read.

cean acidification, Ocean acidification, Ocean acidification, Ocean acidification,  Ocean acidification, Ocean acidification, Ocean acidification, Ocean acidification,  Ocean acidification, Ocean acidification,  Ocean acidification, Ocean acidification, oh… yeah… and Ocean acidification.

Or else use de-basing the seas. It gets around one of their trick responses.  You’ll see.
Please dig this well. The reason why Fox and pals never mention Ocean Acidification is that there are zero conceivable non-human causes for this extremely blatant trend — caused by rapidly rising, human-generated atmospheric CO2 — that is already killing the seas.

Oh and now we know that CO2-induced ocean acidification was responsible for the greatest mass die-off extinction on Planet Earth, far worse than the asteroid-caused doom of the dinosaurs.

For you denialist-cultists to ignore ocean acidification… shouting “squirrel!” and pointing elsewhere… is the act of psychopaths. Again, just sayin’.

More on the Hugo nominations

April 11th, 2015

As I noted last week, the finalists for the 2015 Hugo Awards have been announced and a firestorm of controversy has erupted. Some background here on the Black Gate blog and from George R. R. Martin, who has weighed in with a series of posts.

I have been an SF reader since I was 10 or thereabouts (since a school librarian gave me a copy of Robert A. Heinlein’s Red Planet), and a fan (in the sense of attending conventions and participating in fanish activities) since 1971. There have been controversies since then, but in all that time I have never seen anything like the controversy that has ensued because of the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies successful attempt to grab the Hugo nominations. Nothing else comes close.

My first reaction was one of incredulity, then horror, then anger. I’m still pissed off. The integrity of the Hugos has been compromised and the continuity with the past that is part of their brand has been broken. As well, the campaign has brought out a lot of nastiness, most (but not all) coming from the Puppies side, which seems to have accumulated a few of the wackos from GamerGate. As several non-American fans have pointed out, it’s managed to export the insanity of the U.S. culture war that’s currently going on into an area where it doesn’t belong and is most definitely not welcome. And in case you think I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, the controversy has attracted a fair share of attention from the mainstream media.

I have decided that I will vote on the Hugos this year and have purchased a supporting membership in Sasquan, the 2015 World Science Fiction convention. My first reaction was just to vote No Award, but I finally decided that it wouldn’t be fair to some of the authors, who through no fault of their own, have been tarred with the Puppies brush. So I will look at the nominations and judge them by my own standard of quality. I may very well vote No Award on some of them, but it won’t be automatic.

For coverage of the ongoing controversy, the best place to go is probably Mike Glyer’s Hugo winning File 770 site, which has been providing daily updates that are far more comprehensive than anything I could put together. George R. R. Martin, has sadly been side tracked from finishing Winds of Winter and has written a long and thoughtful series of posts starting with this one. Finally, there is the Black Gate blog, which ended up on the Rabid Puppies slate and scored a nomination through no fault of the publishers (it’s a good site and deserved the nomination) and author and blogger Matthew David Surridge, who declined his nomination and explains why in this lengthy post.

I’ll have more to say about this later. I will probably post about my voting choices once I’ve had a chance to read the stories and think about the other categories.

Update: Update: For a look at the three people behind the two Puppies slates, here’s an article from the Daily Beast.  They do not seem like a very cuddly bunch.

A download treat for Doctor Who fans

April 11th, 2015

Here’s some big news for all you Doctor Who fans out there. The BBC has released a Best Of Doctor Who set of 10 episodes with a bunch of extras that you can download via BitTorrent for the very reasonable cost of $12. I’ve probably got all of the episodes squirreled away somewhere, but I might grab it anyway, as these are some of the best of the last decade and it’s worth it for the extras.

Canada and the Middle East

April 8th, 2015

From author and flu blogger, Crawford Killian, a wise article about the Middle East conflicts and Canada’s role in them.

The Islamic State is just one among several radical movements in the Muslim world, and they are pulling us into their violence in countries far from Iraq: from northern Nigeria to the foothills of Pakistan’s Himalayas.

In the process, we are blundering into the killing of polio vaccination teams in Pakistan. Meanwhile Ebola fighters in West Africa must deal with communities where funeral rites demand touching Ebola corpses just when they are most contagious.

So what could we Canadians do to ease the collateral damage of the Great Muslim Civil War?

Blowing stuff up gets us nowhere. It just distracts us from a public-health catastrophe far greater than Ebola, going on in the Syrian refugee camps of Turkey and Jordan, and now extending to Yemen, the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula.