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July 08, 2004
No Phones, No Pool, No Pets

I'm sorry about the relative scarcity of blogging these days.

Since we installed our new and improved phone and internet access system, our phone and internet access have become increasingly unreliable. In particular, they're both prone to not being functional first thing in the morning. Since I show up at around 7:30 and, as a rule, no one else shows their little face until around 9:00 or 9:30, I'm really the only one inconvenienced.

While this doesn't stop me from making a pest of myself, unreasonably demanding that the systems work all the time, it does mean that it hasn't been the priority for others that it might have been.

I wouldn't want you to think we aren't making progress, though. Today part of the phone system was working when I arrived. I can't check my voicemail or anything, but should the urge to make a call come over me, the lines are functional. In a way, this is rather a shame since the phone lines are the only part of the new system that I've learned to tinker with. I mean, had the phone lines been down when I arrived, I could have resolved that problem.

No one has taught me what to do when the internet access is down. I'll have to demand that knowledge today.

In the meantime, I'm blogging without purpose, as you've probably figured out.

I'm in the middle of six books, none of which I have with me, so I can't start on a book review.

NPR this morning offered a story about yet another bombing in Iraq. Four soldiers from the 1st Battalion killed, at last report.

They also offered a story about the opening of the Science Fiction Museum in...I believe it was Seattle, I'm not certain. (I tuned in after the story had started.)

Not much to say about that except that I would have liked to hear some coverage of Golden Age science fiction literature but, as is habitual with broadcast media, their coverage went no farther than broadcast media. To be specific, Disney's Tomorrowland.

That's fair enough, I suppose. I've gotten endless hours of amusement from watching cheesy SF movies myself. The really good ones, of course, are the ones from the 50s, 60s, and early 70s. Nothing produced in the last 25 years really qualifies. (Not that some of them aren't good but they're just not in the same class of entertainment as something like Journey To the Center Of the Earth or The People That Time Forgot.)

I have an ongoing passion for Golden Age SF literature. It's not only or even mostly the sense of innocence; it's the sense of wonder, the sense of the limitless potential of our abilities. The sense that we could accomplish You just don't get that in fiction any more.

Today it's all grim urban angst and post-apocalyptic suffering. In keeping, one presumes, with "modern times," modern SF is full disease, death, and destruction.

Like the world we live on, our speculative literature is obsessed with the possibility of world-wide war, of planet-destroying ecological disaster, and of incurable, contagious plagues.

I've always thought about science fiction as being the literature exploring the possibilities of what we might achieve.

I liked it better when what we might achieve wasn't limited to the myriads of ways we're discovering to destroy ourselves and the planet we live on.

I liked us better when we weren't so depressed.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:06 AM


That's one reason why I prefer a little Fantasy with my SF (and my one fiction subscription is, indeed, to Fantasy and Science Fiction) and I like my SF short so that it doesn't have to work out all the implications of every self-destructive tendency we've discovered in ourselves.

I like the Golden Age stuff (Kuttner and Moore rock like nobody else), but I grew up on the Silver Age stuff (Heinlein straddles the line; Niven, Ellison), discovering the potential for complexity and unintended consequences, the drama of dystopia as well as utopia. That's where the "speculative" part gets interesting, for me.

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at July 9, 2004 03:36 AM

p.s. There's an essay to be written contrasting Asimov's actual Robot stories with the silly Conspiracy Theory knockoff they've produce for our summer entertainment. I might get to it, but you're welcome to try, too.

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at July 9, 2004 03:38 AM

I grew up on the "Silver Age" fiction as well, and we seem to have much the same taste in authors. :)

I discovered the Golden Age work later and was entranced by the different approach the entire era took toward 'science fiction.' I enjoy re-reading the best of that fiction today (although Campbell's insistance on The Ultimate Triumphant Nobility of Humanity can be almost . . . almost annoying in this more cynical age).

P.S. I hadn't actually planned to see Conspiracy Theory, but I look forward to your review. :)

Posted by: Anne at July 9, 2004 08:29 AM

Sorry, I wasn't clear. Conspiracy Theory is an interesting film; though I'm not much of a Mel Gibson fan these days, that remains a signature performance, in which his twitchyness becomes his character. Patrick Stewart as menacingly banal bad guy is great, though.

I, Robot is, judging by the trailers, a pitiful melange of derivative components: Matrix prequel for "thriller" plot; Men in Black and Enemy of the State for Will Smith's performances; a little theory from Asimov (by way of Philip Dick/Blade Runner and William Gibson, of course), and ten-year old CGI technology. I'm unlikely to waste money on it, but I'll read enough about it to contrast it with the great puzzlers Asimov gave us.

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at July 9, 2004 11:49 PM

Ahhh...I see what you mean, Jonathan. For the record, after having seeing previews for I, Robot I can safely say that there's no conceivable way I'd waste money or time on it.

Posted by: Anne at July 15, 2004 11:59 AM