On The Future by Martin Rees

Last night, I finished reading Martin Rees‘ book On The Future: Prospects for Humanity. Before I get into a rundown of the book, some background is needed here.

This book’s title caught my eye because of a recent interest, for personal storytelling purposes, in learning more about the science behind future humans, or the future of human evolution.

If you’ve been here a little while, you know that the fiction of James S.A. Corey is a huge influence on my view of scifi writing and what it could/should be. One of the areas that I think they excel in is the indirect study of humanity’s future evolution into, more or less, four different strains due to space travel and the settlement of planetary and space station based colonies.

During my graduate studies at the University of Missouri, St Louis (UMSL), I encountered the area of literary criticism known as Literary Darwinism and one of its chief advocates, Joseph Carroll. A quick oversimplified description of the field is it uses evolutionary psychology and evolutionary biology, with a focus on gene-culture co-evolution, to study the motivations behind character actions in literature.

Rees’ book carried praise quotes from Edward O. Wilson, an evolutionary biologist, and Steven Pinker, an evolutionary psychologist. In the field of Literary Darwinism, these are probably the single two most referenced authorities after Dr Carroll. And that is how the book ended up in my hands.

Rees offers some interesting insights into what he believes the future might hold for humanity. While not as pessimistic on artificial intelligence and alien contact as his University of Cambridge colleague, Stephen Hawking, Rees remains cautiously optimistic in his approach.

Unfortunately, Rees’ look into future human evolution gets somewhat lost between an almost obsessive view of posthumans in the forms of technology-enhanced human cyborgs and computer-based human uploads and a concern for human-driven climate change that overrides most of the books other discussions.

While Rees’ book didn’t meet my own storytelling goals, I think there’s still a lot to digest for others. Cyberpunk and Post Cyberpunk readers and writers will definitely find a lot of background to populate future stories. Writers with AI characters will also find some scientific source material here. For the Literary Darwinism academics, this definitely belongs on the bookshelf for future reference.

Star Wars and Storytelling

My love affair with storytelling began when I was five years old. A little movie entitled Star Wars arrived in the theaters. After seeing the movie, Star Wars became the center of all my playtime activities, most of which were different forms of storytelling.

Fast forward a few years ago, the newest Star Wars movie trilogy began with the return of old characters and the introduction of new characters. Adult me was just as excited about the prospects of this coming addition to the Star Wars mythos.

As most readers are aware, this past weekend saw the Star Wars Celebration in Chicago. During this event, the powers that be behind the Star Wars movies decided to release the official name and teaser trailer for the latest Star Wars movie and the conclusion of the Skywalker family saga.

I know, I for one, had the same sense of excitement seeing the release of this trailer as I did when the trailer for Star Wars:The Force Awakens released a few years ago. If you haven’t seen the teaser yet, I’ve included the link below. If you have, one more view won’t hurt you.

Black Holes from SciFi to SciFact

This is the black hole picture image released this morning by the National Science Foundation and the Event Horizon Telescope. This is the supermassive black hole at the center of the Messier 87 galaxy.

While the research of Kip Thorne and Stephen Hawking has given us an understanding of what a black hole is and the science behind them, this is the first time we’ve been able to see what one actually looks like.

If you write or read scifi, you’ll need to update your research records and your story notes. We now know what a black hole looks like and most of the guesswork is over.

Some Observations of the Absurd

Truth is stranger than fiction.  Albert Camus and Soren Kierkegaard both observed life is absurd, in general.  However, in some cases. life can be even more absurd than usual.  These are some of my observations over the past few days:

  • Sometimes absurdity is the only proper response to the absurd.
    • Using logic to counter the absurd will just result in a headache.
  • Any time life appears to be under control, it’s just the universe’s way of signaling that an unplanned car repair is in your near future.
    • It’s usually something I need to last just one more month.
  • Even when the brain knows something is pseudoscience, it will still collect “observable evidence” to try to scientifically prove it.
    • My brain does this with depressed days and full and new moon cycles.
  • There seems to be a direct correlation to the amount of prep work for a project and the difficulty in finding the motivation and inspiration to actually do it.
    • I’ve got a couple of projects planned out that I just can’t get started.
  • Any time there is a tough choice between what we want to do and what we need to do, life finds a way to manufacture a third option of what we can afford to do.
    • Option three is usually just me not getting do the first two options.

Clipart stolen from Clipartmax.

Tiamat’s Wrath by James S.A. Corey

I will avoid spoilers here and request that any comments remain spoiler free as well.

Tiamat’s Wrath, the eighth volume of the James S.A. Corey writing team’s series The Expanse, finally arrived March 26, 2019.

For those not familiar with the name, James S.A. Corey is pen name used by the writing team of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. The Expanse is a series of books that read much like what one would expect a Hollywood Summer blockbuster to look like in text form.

The Expanse is a series that appears often in any nonfiction I write. Blog entries on world building and The Passage make reference to this series of books.

In this latest entry, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante return once again to save the universe from alien threats and save the various strains of humanity from themselves. However, the crew spends most of the novel working independently to accomplish this.

The Laconian Empire revealed in the previous book, Persepolis Rising, remains in control of most of humanity’s worlds. James Holden remains prisoner and honored guest of the Laconian Empire. The rest of the crew are operating in different capacities as part of the underground resistance that has arisen to meet the authoritarian Laconians.

In typical Corey storytelling style, there are twists and turns along the way. Old characters return and some of those don’t make through to the end. New characters emerge and some of those don’t survive the book. Escapes and battles carry the reader through the book at speeds just shy of the speed of light.

However, Holden and the crew of the Roci don’t directly participate in one of the more interesting subplots of this novel, which instead follows the return of some characters last seen in Cibola Burn.

If you’re a fan of The Expanse book series, The Expanse tv series, or high-speed scifi stories, this book is a must read. If you haven’t been reading the series, start now and catch up quick before the book series ending volume 9 arrives later this year or early next year.

I again request that any comments remain spoiler free.