written by David Steffen Escape Pod is the weekly science fiction podcast, edited by Norm Sherman, what is I think the longest running science fiction podcast out there. In February Escape Pod once again participated in the Artemis Rising event across the EA podcasts. Escape Pod published 43 stories in 2016. Every story that is […]
For my 88th birthday, I celebrate with a bottle of bourbon. I fumble with the anti-intoxication meds my doctor insists I take, the dispenser flying out of my hands and across the kitchen table. “Goddammit!”
Chrissy walks in, putting her hands on her hips in disapproval. Her face is her mother’s, but when I look for my eyes, all I see are the blank, grey eyes of an android. Not my daughter, only her avatar.
“Is it so hard to ask for help?” she snaps. The avatar has a faux personality—based on Chrissy’s—but the motherly tone in her voice tells me my daughter is sitting halfway around the world, jacked-in.
“I’m an old man,” I say, reaching for the bourbon. “Why bother?”
She walks over to the table, deftly dispenses a tablet, and pops it into my mouth. Sitting down in a chair beside me, she pushes two glasses my way.
“Do you at least have a glass of something where you are?” I ask, filling both glasses.
She chuckles. “It’s morning over here, Dad. You know that.”
“I know,” I say, washing the pill down with the bourbon. “I was just testing you.”
“Sure you were.” She follows my lead, downing the glass.
I fill them both again. “You know I’m just going to empty your stomach reservoir and drink it, right?”
Aftermath is a Star Wars franchise tie-in novel written by Chuck Wendig and published in September 2015 by Del Rey. Since Disney decided to declare all of the pre-2014 novelizations as a separate timeline from The Force Awakens movie in 2015, Aftermath is one of the few novels in the current movie timeline.
Aftermath picks up shortly after the original movie trilogy. The second Death Star has been destroyed. Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine are dead. The Empire is shaken and leaderless, but not gone (keep in mind that this book was published before The Force Awakens hit theaters, so we hadn’t yet met Kylo Ren and the First Order yet). The Rebel Alliance has become the New Republic, trying to restore as much order as possible in the wake of the conflict with the Empire.
Arrival is a science fiction first contact movie released in November 2016, which is based on the short story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang. The movie stars Amy Adams, with Forest Whitaker and Jeremy Renner.
The movie begins shortly after 12 gigantic alien aircraft suddenly appear over various places around the globe, including one in the United States in an isolated spot in Montana. Linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams), struggling with memories of a lost daughter, is recruited by Army Colonel Weber (Whitaker) to find out why the aliens have come and what they want. Louise leads the team alongside Ian Donnelly, a theoretical physicist aiming to use science as the medium of communication. It’s a race against time, because the other 11 eleven alien vessels are communicating with the governments and militaries of other countries. Do they mean us harm? Are they willing to share their technology? Will they share weapons? What if they share weapons with all those they are in contact with? What if they share weapons with only some of them? What if the aliens support one country against another. The Army has set up protocols for the meetings, about what exact topics may be spoken of, and exactly how the aliens can be approached, but Louise is willing to take big risks to try to make a breakthrough happen. Meanwhile, as Louise becomes more and more fatigued from overworking, she struggles with memories of the loss of her daughter, coming to mind at odd moments.
“Captain, we have a situation. I’ve been investigating a potential religious sect.”
Captain Madeleine Salim of the generation ship Continental Drift set down her vitamin soup bottle. Instead of spending the start of her shift in contemplation of the new planet below, part of the anti-agoraphobia program mandated by the ship-to-shore landing process, she faced the lieutenant. Ronald Chin resembled the noble eagle from their histories, with short wavy hair, sharp nose and piercing eyes. Salim returned his salute.
“Why wasn’t this brought to my attention immediately?”
Chin stiffened. “I couldn’t report gossip. Rumors of religion crop up during every new generation. In the past, they turned out to be student groups prepping for exams, or thought experiments. I had to rule out those possibilities.” His proper military posture tired Salim, who waved him to a seat.
“History,” spoke The University. Albert had no interest in History. Nor had he interest in Mathematics, Science, Language, Art, or any of the other schools of The University. But one did not question The University, let alone defy it. Tales skittered among the Uneducated about Accepted Candidates thrown back from the gates for a single […]
The Archivist held the three remaining beads in her left hand. Images flickered across her visual cortex: an unknown woman’s face, a sunset on a planet she couldn’t name, the dazzling color of a sea she no longer had the words to express. The beads felt cool and impersonal in her fingers, though what they contained was neither. She had only these few memories left and she no longer remembered if they were hers or someone else’s.
Around her, the machine chugged and whirred. The metal tubing that encased her pod vibrated. The glowing core rose in front of her, spinning slowly around its vertical axis.
“Cat Pictures Please” is one of the Hugo Finalists for the short story category this year. It was published by Clarkesworld Magazine, and you can read it here in its entirety or listen to it in audio.
The protagonist of “Cat Pictures Please” is an AI written as the core of a search engine algorithm. As the story points out, an AI isn’t needed to find things that people search for, but it is needed to find what people need. The search engine knows a lot about people, including things they will not share with each other.
In order to prevent contamination on the space station, all the members of the shuttle crew have to be thoroughly sterilized. This means systematically cleansing themselves and their skin of all potential contaminates, including their hair. All crew members have to be completely shaved and waxed before launch. Despite this being her seventeenth mission, Yukino Kojima is always stunned at how easily her hair falls away beneath the barber’s clippers, gathering around her ankles like strands of silver fog and leaving a gray fuzz to be waxed off.
The Ray Bradbury Award is given out every year with the Nebula Awards but is not a Nebula Award in itself. Like the Nebula Awards, the final ballot and the eventual winner are decided by votes from members of SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (which despite the name has an international membership).
I like to use the award every year as a sampler of well-loved science fiction and fantasy movies from the previous year. I have been very happy with this tactic, and this year is no exception. I try to watch every movie on the ballot that I can find by rental (usually via RedBox, or occasionally from Comcast On Demand) and review them all within the voting period.
This year, on the ballot but not on this list is the episode of the TV show Jessica Jones titled “AKA Smile”. Since I haven’t seen any episode of the series, even if I could get a copy to watch I didn’t feel it would be fair to review a single episode of a show I’m not familiar with.
At the time I am writing this preliminary post, I haven’t yet rented The Martian, but I intend to.