Peter Watts on The Handmaid’s Tale

July 19th, 2017

Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a landmark work of television – certainly one of the best adaptations ever of an SF novel. But is it really science fiction? SF author, Peter Watts, weighs in on the topic in this blog post. It’s worth a read (as is all of Peter’s SF).

I’m sticking to my story. I’m going all in, too. I’m not even going to take the easy way out, stick Atwood over with those Humanities soft-SF types who aren’t even interested in science or technology, who’d rather use aliens and dystopias as metaphors for Othering and Intersectionality and Heteronormative whateverthehells. Atwood herself eschewed that particular cop-out when she wrapped herself in the flag of “speculative fiction”: the thing that separated her writing from science fiction, she said then, was that her fiction was rigorously researched and based on Real Science. (I myself have always preferred William Gibson’s offhanded rejoinder that “All fiction is speculative.”)

No, I’m going to argue— after, admittedly, some serious moments of self-doubt— that The Handmaid’s Tale is science fiction in the pure sense: fiction designed to explore the societal impact of scientific and technological change. The All of this has happened before, all of this will happen again argument is true but irrelevant. The fact that Gilead is based on historical precedent does not get Handmaid a Get-Out-Of-SF-Free card.

Galaxy Magazine Now on Internet Archive

July 16th, 2017

Almost all of the complete run of Galaxy Science Fiction is now available on the Internet Archive. Galaxy was one of the major digest SF magazines and published many classic stories. Its companion magazine, Worlds of IF, is also available on the Internet Archive.

At its peak, Galaxy greatly influenced in the science fiction field. It was regarded as one of the leading sf magazines almost from the start, and its influence did not wane until Pohl’s departure in 1969. Gold brought a “sophisticated intellectual subtlety” to magazine science fiction according to Pohl, who added that “after Galaxy it was impossible to go on being naive.”[1] SF historian David Kyle agrees, commenting that “of all the editors in and out of the post-war scene, the most influential beyond any doubt was H. L. Gold”.[2] Kyle suggests that the new direction Gold set “inevitably” led to the experimental New Wave, the defining science fiction literary movement of the 1960s.

The Sabbatical Out on VOD

July 13th, 2017

Last year we went to the Canadian premiere of The Sabbatical, a movie directed by Brian Stockton (who is the brother of my friend, Paul Stockton). We enjoyed the movie and I’m glad to see that it is now available on video-0n-demand services such as iTunes. The HollywoodInsider has a podcast interview with Brian.

The Sabbatical follows James Pittman (James Whittingham), a professor who is forced to produce a photography book on his year off – publish or perish, as they say. With his wife (a charming Bernadette Mullen) busy working on a project of her own and his best friend submerged in family life, he makes fast friends with a carefree artist named Lucy (Laura Abramson). We follow James as he struggles to keep up with a much younger friend, and a mid-life crisis of sorts sets in.

The Sabbatical is a quirky character comedy that has a snarky, curmudgeon leading us through his crisis as he glides along with Lucy’s free-spirit lifestyle. It’s a witty and charming ride as you grow to appreciate both characters as they learn a bit more about each other, and James about his own place in the world.

And if you think I might be a little biased about the movie, read this.

Fodder for Sleepless Nights

July 11th, 2017

First, apologies for not posting more regularly. Things have been a bit hectic in the Soltys household and it’s summer, which means I’d rather be out walking than blogging. So this will be an omnibus post of some cheery articles to keep you awake at 3:00 a.m.

What I Read in June 2017

July 4th, 2017

I managed to finish only one book in June – Peter F. Hamilton’s The Evolutionary Void, the third book in his Void trilogy. I have been rereading his Commonwealth series before starting the latest books from him. So one book for the month, but it was a long one, even if I did skip much of Edeard’s story.

Currently I’m reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140 and liking it a lot.

More Problems for Active Implants

July 3rd, 2017

The dangers of Internet-connected medical implants are well known; check out almost any talk by Cory Doctorow from the past few years for examples. But having your pacemaker hacked might not be the biggest problem you could have. It turns out that many devices (deep brain stimulators for Parkinsons, insulin pumps, and pacemakers to name a few types) are susceptible to interference from common sources like store security systems.

In 2009, Gary Olhoeft walked into a Best Buy to buy some DVDs. He walked out with his whole body twitching and convulsing. Olhoeft has a brain implant, tiny bits of microelectronic circuitry that deliver electrical impulses to his motor cortex in order to control the debilitating tremors he suffers as a symptom of Parkinson’s disease. It had been working fine. So, what happened when he passed through those double wide doors into consumer electronics paradise? He thinks the theft-prevention system interfered with his implant and turned it off.

We live in a world of many, many signals. The more signals there are, the more opportunity for them to cross—and for people with implanted devices, the effect can be disastrous.

Olhoeft’s experience isn’t unique. According to the Food and Drug Administration’s MAUDE database of medical device reports, over the past five years there have been at least 374 cases where electromagnetic interference was reportedly a factor in an injury involving medical devices including neural implants, pacemakers and insulin pumps. In those reports, people detailed experiencing problems with their devices when going through airport security, using massagers or simply being near electrical sources like microwaves, cordless drills or “church sound boards.”