messier object

normally i am not wild about TED

but still, I gotta post this:

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the first science fiction novel i remember reading

This eluded me for years, what it was called.  It wasn’t this edition, though, but a library edition of the original hardback with the blue cover – on the lower left.

The part I remembered best was the part where they fly around the space station on giant pogo sticks. And where they meet old people who grow huge in space. One of those is an exaggeration, but which? Also I really don't think it was dangerous at all. I mean, they sent a kid up there for a quiz-show prize.

Thanks, parochial school library’s lack of attention to weeding!  You made me what I am today, kinda.

well the view is delightful/but your air is recycled

The Dexateens – “Neil Armstrong” (from Hardwire Healing, Skybucket, 2007)

This song raises some important questions – like what kind of car does Neil Armstrong drive?  It’s probably not a Volvo, if you can go by this inexplicable ad from c. 1975.

What man could resist a shaving lotion so laden with futurity?

It’s the future’s future now, but I just want to remind you why you should be reading Brett Holman (who seems to be a nice fellow, too)’s Airminded instead of this blog in the coming second decade of the third millennium*:

Are you going to wait — or be one of the ‘Moderns’? For the sake of your skin and your razor-blades do step out of that rut.

So how is the future invoked here in the pursuit of higher sales figures for Field-day? Most obviously, the city of the future has giant skyscrapers, with aeroplanes (and giant tubes of shaving lotion, ridden by a man who is clearly accustomed to boldly taking charge of his destiny in his dressing-gown) flying in between them. In fact, one of the skyscrapers is also an airport: there’s an aeroplane just taking off from it, and at the top of the tower is a windsock. Aside from the odd heliport or two, downtown airports have failed to materialise, but they remained a possibility in the 1930s. The text mentions such wondrous technological possibilities as glass houses, autogiros, and wrist televisions.

Then there is the rhetorical, almost ritual, use of the names of those two great novels about the future to come out of Britain in the 1930s, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) and H. G. Wells’s The Shape of Things to Come (1933) (or rather, the 1936 film-of-the-book, Things to Come). Neither of these can be said to look forwards to the future without any misgivings, however; the one is a dystopia (albeit one masquerading as a utopia), and the other might as well be, at least for the hundreds of millions of people killed along the road to a technologically-sophisticated, tunic-wearing paradise. So they might seem an odd choice for a straightforwardly optimistic (if not entirely straightfaced, perhaps) depiction of the future. But that’s par for the course: the titles of both books very quickly became a shorthand for the unknown future, often with little relation to anything in Huxley or Wells.

Finally, there are all the key words defining the attributes which are to be associated with the future, and with Field-day: it will be revolutionary, incomparably better, different, faster, longer lasting, simple and safe. What man could resist a shaving lotion so laden with futurity? It is indeed the shave of the future, NOW. I do so want to be one of the Moderns, and I’d buy it myself, for sure — except that judging by Google, it looks like neither Field-day nor J. C. and J. Field, Ltd., its manufacturer, actually made it into this future. O brave new world, that doesn’t have such things in it!

*and, yes, I realize we aren’t there yet.

hello, i’m a robot!

Not only is Hello, I’m a Robot! an adorable, adorable title for an East-Bloc children’s book, the drawings themselves are excellent.  The first one, the robo-duck, and the walking foot all especially remind me of the illustrations for Stanisław Lem’s Cyberiad (supposedly, according to Amazon, by Daniel Mruz, on whom I can find no other information except that he has an entry in a comics encyclopedia somewhere) or Theo Ellsworth’s brilliant Sleeper Car.  And what’s more, it’s (it seems) supposed to be a serious book about how robots work for kids.  Poor Soviet kids, thinking robots have abacuses in their brains and terrifying metal claws to cuddle with.

the evolution of the brain, according to "hello, i'm a robot!"

(via the excellent journey round my skull)

“aloha, mars!”

Fun facts from the Futurama complete set’s complete commentaries: not only is “Fear of a Bot Planet” (s1e05) based on a Stanisław Lem short story about an astronaut who crash-lands on a planet of robots where, as it turns out, all the robots are actually just other astronauts who’ve disguised themselves, they wanted to make another episode based on Karel Čapek’s War with the Newts.

google recommended this as a christmas present:

Merry Christmas Eve, internet!

it’s a very, very mad world

Following all that negativity, though, there is one good thing I have to say about the viral campaign for this – the (oh god I’m about to hate myself) Twitter account is pretty neat.  The notion of having a part of a viral campaign just reporting on related real-life news ups the menace a little (a little) and weaves the fiction in a little neater than the Dakon/Pendrill site or the Ogden Marsh homepage do.  I’m a bit surprised this intermingling has only cropped up in ARGs in the past year or so, though.  I suppose the 8 years since The Beast/Majestic debuted isn’t that long, but still.

Anyways, for making it through that here’s some Tears for Fears as my gift to you.

a burning ring of fire
2009, December 19, 10:50 pm
Filed under: history | Tags: , , ,
"Love/is a burning flame/and it makes a fiery ring/Bringing hurt/to the heart's desire"

“H32 jet helicopter is propelled by blazing ramjet engines on blade tips at Camp Rucker Army Aviation Center. (1956)”

reblogged from the always-delightful x-planes.

old news, apparently

Image comics presents: the Soviet Syd Mead!

But there’s a Soviet SF manga?  As bizarre as it seems to me to create socialist-inflected science fiction in this day and age*, it’s certainly interesting both as an aesthetic (ushankas for everyone!) and as a stylistic experiment.   I think the fact that it’s comics makes it even more fun, potentially, in the former – there’s certainly enough neatlooking abandoned Soviet futuristic hardware. But I don’t know how far it actually is going to go as a style experiment.  In Subversive Imaginations: Fantastic Prose and the End of Soviet Literature, 1970s-1990s, Nadya Peterson wrote that (and I think I agree) “the Stalinist novel and Soviet science fiction are both formulaic structures whose protagonists ‘know or discover the laws governing their social existence, and the ultimate outcome of those laws in a Great Society of the future.’ Which, if you’re writing a Soviet-style science fiction history of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, leaves you with a pretty depressing Marxist world-system – something that could be cool, but might not be attractive for most authors.  So will it live up to the maxim**?  I dunno, but I just ordered the first volume, so we’ll see.

*and, yes, I’m not counting China Miéville here.

**so, so hard to avoid a Mac Sim/Strugatskys pun.