Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Fri 31 Jan 03 15:37
You want Abraham Lincoln in your head ... but don't you think you're more likely to end up with John Poindexter? (Ick. Need to wash my prefrontal lobes out with alcohol for that thought.) Seriously, Cory's right: there's a huge danger from broken algorithms, stupid assumptions, and "the computer said you're evil so it must be true". What's alarming, though, is that a lot of folks stand to make a lot of money if they can convince enough holders-of-purse-strings (read: politicians) that this snake oil can be made to work, so that the governments throw money at it.
Bill's Burrow (gjk) Fri 31 Jan 03 15:47
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 31 Jan 03 16:09
Anybody who actually works with large amounts of inconsistently-formatted data would see the fallacy in suppositions about NSA/TIA/GOD quickly enough.
the invetned stiff is dumb (bbraasch) Fri 31 Jan 03 16:12
ahh, but Larry Ellison would contend that what's good for Oracle is good for America. Imagine the license fees. It doesn't have to work. It just needs to get licensed.
Bill's Burrow (gjk) Fri 31 Jan 03 16:42
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Sat 1 Feb 03 05:05
Changing the subject slightly (but keeping on one of Cory's tracks): http://www.itworld.com/Net/4087/030131euantipiracy/ Turns out that in addition to the EUCD (European Union Copyright Directive), the EU Commission is trying to grapple with the conflict between the public interest/public domain and the demands of the big intelectual property oligopolists. This new draft directive, if approved, goes to the European Parliament for ratification and then has to be implemented in local law by each EU member state. (The EU constitutionally does _not_ work like the USA, because it started life as a treaty organisation, not a nation.) The interesting aspect here is that the draft -- which has already been condemned by the BSA, MPAA, and all the usual suspects -- basically exempts non-commercial users of p2p networks who download copyrighted materials from any criminal sanction. This seems to be a first for a major governmental organisation, and while I'm not sure about whether it goes far enough I think it's interesting that p2p users are now a significant enough group that the legislators are taking their interests into account. (The sort of disconnect that might emerge if the EU opts for tolerance while the US federal government goes for zero-tolerance is somewhat mind boggling. Expect the mother of all trade wars ...)
Bill's Burrows (gjk) Sat 1 Feb 03 06:44
There could be almost as much money in that as the Drug War!
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Sat 1 Feb 03 07:16
Oh f*ck. Just seen the news (about the shuttle). My sympathies.
Bill's Burrows (gjk) Sat 1 Feb 03 07:25
Shuttle flights (particulaly this one) have had international crews for well over a decade now. It's everybody's loss, so we share the grief with you, too.
Life in the big (doctorow) Sat 1 Feb 03 09:51
The shuttle news is stunning. I slept in this morning (been running a sleep defecit all week, and so I didn't roll out of bed until after 9AM) and grabbed the iBook and started paging through the wires. There were a few mentions in the RSS early on, and then they snowballed, as every single feed I read posted at least one story about the disaster.
Life in the big (doctorow) Sat 1 Feb 03 09:54
I don't know what to make of the EUCD news. Superficially, it seems like progress, but OTOH, it still exposes sharers to *civil* liability, right? And by not exempting tool-makers and network-providers, it still creates artificial pressure to design file-sharing apps to be attack-resistant instead of usable.
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Sat 1 Feb 03 12:12
I'm not sure of the EU directive, either. It's still a draft. It may still be nobbled by RIAA and MPAA. It might go the opposite way, too. All I can say is, it looks like evidence that *someone* is beginning to wake up and realise there's a public interest story here, not just big corporations screaming about the e-v-i-l p-i-r-a-t-e-s stealing their profits. Sorry. Still bummed out by the news, still in NASA denial (Not Another Shuttle Accident). Normal interview questions will probably be resumed tomorrow. (Although this does make me wonder if we're living in a Steve Baxter novel.)
Ebru Kefeli (kefe) Sun 2 Feb 03 05:23
I'm one of that new users of the Well, and just have the time to read the first chapter of the book. Unfortunately do not know the computer technology system as you do and my question will be about a small detail. Why did you pick Istanbul in a lot of cities around world to be the Dan's last destination spending eight years over there (actually here). And it seems he has done small except smoking hash and going to the bazaar. Just out of curiosity, do you think Istanbul is a city like that today and will not change in the future. Cause i think that Istanbul is going to be sort of a metropolis of the Middle East in the future. In here, we have been hearing a lot about the shuttle in the news for two days, hope they will find out the cause as soon as possible, my condolences.
Life in the big (doctorow) Sun 2 Feb 03 08:35
Actually, Istanbul was totally random. I needed a city for Dan to have passed his time in, and I was planning a holiday in Istanbul (I ended up not going), so I had some travel brochures around.
Life in the big (doctorow) Sun 2 Feb 03 08:36
Oh, and Istanbul, is, of course, the Interzone from William S. Burroughs' works.
Wild Bill Burrows and his friend G-Man (gjk) Sun 2 Feb 03 09:19
I always thought that.
Ebru Kefeli (kefe) Sun 2 Feb 03 09:57
I thought that it was random, but needed to ask. Thank you. By the way, it seems you are going to make a lot of fans in here soon. I am telling a lot of science-fiction reading friends about Magic Kingdom and already people started to read it.
Life in the big (doctorow) Sun 2 Feb 03 11:30
Hey, thanks, Ebru!
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Sun 2 Feb 03 12:44
I visited Istanbul with a school trip back when I was about 14 -- well over twenty years ago. Impressive architecture, masses of history, and I was too damn young to appreciate it. (Good coffee, too.) I imagine it's changed a lot since 1979, though ... Cory: influence of foreign travel on your writing. Care to expound?
Life in the big (doctorow) Sun 2 Feb 03 12:58
I've always travelled a lot -- when I was 12, my parents took a self- financed sabattical and we spent six months travelling around Europe in a leased Renualt 9, visiting 14 countries, including Soviet Russia. I've since spent extended periods in Baja California, Mexico and Costa Rica. I live on the road for a couple weeks a month, speaking at conferences and so forth, mostly in the US and Canada, though I do get to Europe once or twice a year. Travel has always figured heavily into the stuff I write. I like real, mimetic settings; they seem easier to actually bring to life. Eastern Standard Tribe is set in Boston, Toronto, San Francisco, and London (and some other places...) all cities I'd spent substantial amounts of time in the year before I wrote the book. I've set several stories in rural Costa Rica, and I'm working on two novels now -- one's set in Toronto and rural Ontario and the other's set in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. The character of these places really grounds the story for me. There's a lot of talk about the de-regionalizing of the world in the face of globalism: fewer accents, more transplants, but there're still really distinctive cultures and aesthetics in different places. I'm nostalgic -- almost to the point of sentimentality -- for the faux-futurism of bygone days, and I love the googie architecture of LA, roadside theme motels with neon signs advertising Color TV on back-roads near Niagara Falls, the steampunk roar of the London Tube. The googiest googie of them all is Disney World, of course. It feels like such a quaint and naive lost futurism to me, from the pneumatic trash system (a technology that I used to epitomize the futuristic non-visionaries of the pseudo-Scientology cult in my "bugout" stories) to the Skinnerian HR policies. One of the most fun parts of writing D&OITMK was thinking about how the park would continue on its PeopleMover/Monorail tradition of bad guesses about tomorrow.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 2 Feb 03 18:29
"Lost futurism" makes me think of a book I've seen around, _Yesterday's Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future_. There's an exhibit by the same name (http://www.leelanauhistory.org/yt/). Have you incorporated a retro scifi aesthetic into any of your works?
Life in the big (doctorow) Sun 2 Feb 03 20:53
One of my early stories, "Resume," which was published in On Spec, was about gullible sf fans who were duped into pouring their life-savings into gigantic fireworks displays to contact Alpha-Centaurians by a charismatic Ur-fan. More recently, my novella "A Place So Foreign" -- which will be collected in my short-story collection that Four Walls Eight Windows will publish in September, called "A Place So Foreign and Eight More" -- is about time- leakage in a cross-temporal economy. It's set in 1902 rural Utah (a setting I ripped off from Tom D. Fitzgerald's "Great Brain" kids books) and in a 1975 where time-travellers have ushered in a Jetsons-futuristic revolution, and transdimensional travellers meet to trade goods across dimensions. The story revolves around a cabal that is smuggling all the great works of SF back in time to Jules Verne, who has put his name on the works of Twain, Wells, and ER Burroughs. (It comes to a head when Verne demands a copy of Neuromancer to publish under his own name).
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Mon 3 Feb 03 04:47
Question from Peter Hollo (raven (at) fourplay.com.au): Cory's commented that the future that he maps out in "Down and Out" is explicitly _not_ one that he views as possible - and certainly there's no small amount of parable/parody in the way it's written. Cory also mentions lower down that the "new movement" which I myself have pondered that Charlie & Cory are at the vanguard of tends to treat computers as actual/non-metaphorical fodder (although Charlie's hilarious and clever "Atrocity Archive" sequence is doing something very twisted to everything from number theory to network admin to quantum physics) but plays fast and loose with bio/nano-tech... I was wondering how this reflects on that somewhat jaded but (I think) still useful term, "hard science fiction"? And possibly with the somewhat less-used "radical hard sf", which was coined I believe by David Pringle and Colin Greenland in Interzone and referred to various British writers such as Paul McAuley and Iain M Banks (and of course the Australian Greg Egan), who were attempting a form of hard science fiction that reacted against "the trad SF approach of filtering the future through One Big Change -- nanotechnology, immortality, biotech. If there's one thing we've learnt from the twentieth century, it's that change is continuous and is advancing on a thousand different fronts." (see http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/nonfiction/intpmca.htm) I imagine Charlie and Cory both in a sense fitting in with the idea of radical hard science fiction, but going about it in a somewhat more relaxed manner... Where do you think this potential new movement might be positioned in relation to (radical) hard science fiction (and indeed what do you think of the terms)? (...inasmuch as you care about pigeon-holes like this at all, of course; but it's interesting to filter this via Michael Swanwick's introduction to Paul McAuley's novella "Making History" - see http://www.michaelswanwick.com/nonfic/mcauley.html - in which he explains why "radical hard sf" is important and noteworthy in discussing McAuley...) PS to Charlie - another writer who comes to mind is Al Reynolds, although he takes a somewhat different and perhaps "harder" approach - although in such a far-future setting that it's hard to tell what's really "hard". A little while ago you interviewed Alastair Reynolds and you (or he - I'm not sure, as I correspond with him too *g*) were going to make the transcript available. Any chance of that? [[ Postscript from Charlie: I've got some answers, but I figured it would be interesting to see what Cory makes of Peter's questions before I open my trap :) ]]
Life in the big (doctorow) Mon 3 Feb 03 08:36
I think that writers like Karl Schroeder (who actually understands physics) and Peter Watts (who actually understand biology) are better bunched in with the radical-hard group than me. I'm not a scientist -- don't really even have a science background. Without google, I can't even name the laws of thermodynamics in order. What I *do* have a strong background in is *technology*. Scientific advances are interesting -- and I like to read SF written about them -- but I am perfectly happy to treat science in a Clarke's-Law/indistinguishable-from- magic way. But I like to think of myself as rigorously imaginative when I write about *technology*, regardless of the science that it sits atop. It's a cliche that you don't have to know how a TV works to watch one: you also don't have to know how a TV works to write about the way that it might evolve and what that might do to our society. I don't know much about the physics (or even the math) of networking, but I'm perfectly capable of thinking hard about what P2P nets mean in modern civilization. Indeed, I think that science sometimes gets in the way of understanding technology. In the heyday of P2P, a lot of greybeards came forward to tell us that P2P networking is nothing new, they'd been doing it since UUCP, since FIDOnet, since time immemorial. I'm sure they're correct (my first email address had !bangs in it), but that isn't a very interesting fact. It's indisputable that the P2P of UUCP is *not* the P2P of Napster or Gnutella. Plugging your ears, stroking your beard and blithely calling on people to move on, nothing to see here doesn't change that fact. I don't think of this fiction as "radical hard" at all. I think of it as "overclocked." Made by hackers, encrufted with radiator fins, built with a joyous disregard for the erosion of mean-times-between-failure and duty- cycle of the critical components. The rallying cry is YMMV!, not "reproducible science."
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Mon 3 Feb 03 09:21
Okay, time for my two eurocents ... "Radical Hard SF" is an empty slogan, but an interesting one. It was coined by Simon Ounsley, one of the original Interzone editorial collective, around 1984-5, as I recall it. The IZ collective started that British SF mag as a successor to "New Worlds" (which wasn't then publishing -- it was resurrected as an anthology in the late 80's/early 90's and may yet rise again). Before Dave Pringle acquired complete control, IZ had a much more eclectic team of amateur editors. They were generally dissatisfied with the focus of a lot of the post new-wave SF they were getting by way of submissions -- it was mostly sub-New Worlds stuff -- and wanted to see something new and fresh. At the same time, cyberpunk was beginning to happen in the US. So Simon coined the phrase "radical hard SF" and issued a challenge through the editorial page to the readers and writers to send the stuff in. He cunningly avoided _defining_ it; any definition would have aged unrecognizably. Instead, he left it up to the writers ... Paul MacAuley is one of the Interzone generation of writers most closely associated with the call. Others include Kim Newman, Greg Egan, and so on -- but it's not a movement; it's a backdrop for writers to do their own thing. (I was a bit too late and too young to really fit in that basket -- while I sold my first story to Interzone in 1986, I didn't really get a complete handle on what I was doing until around 1990-93, and besides, I'm going to come to that in a minute :) (Apropos Peter's question about my Al Reynolds interview: it is being printed in the current issue of "Dreamwatch" magazine in the UK. I'll add it to my website as soon as the copyright position allows.) Now, enough about everyone else, let's talk about me. Like Cory, I'm not a scientist -- certainly not a physicist or astronomer, as many of the old school of SF writers were prior to the 1960's. However, I _do_ have a couple of science degrees (in pharmacy -- a biomedical speciality -- and computer science). I'm just educated enough to know how ignorant I really am, and to read eclectically. The John W. Campbell generation of writers knew their aerospace engineering, radio telegraphy, and astronomy; I wouldn't measure up in those fields. However, I _do_ know computers and operating systems and a chunk of algorithmics and complexity theory and pharmacodynamics and genetics. These are mostly new sciences that weren't around to be the basis of written SF in the 1930's, and it should be no surprise that what I emit doesn't much resemble the old school. And it's not just me. Take John Meaney. Here's a hard-SF writer who has a handle on quantum entanglement, complexity theory, and oriental martial arts. (If you haven't read his books you're missing something: one of the brightest undiscovered gems of British SF.) Or Ken MacLeod -- former socialist agitator and mainframe driver. I suppose I should enlist the name of Greg Egan in this cause -- he certainly gets it, but he's so damn smart he makes me feel like a snail. These are guys at the _hard_ end of what I suppose you could call Algorithmic SF. (Well okay, Ken is towards the softer end.) Position Cory at the other end -- the humanist to Egan's cyberpunk, if you believe in polar opposites -- and you've begin to map out the shape of the new generation in SF. In summary: 1930-1958: space travel, outer space, engineering. 1959-1984: inner space, psychological exploration, new wave, literary virtues. 1985-???: cyberspace, stylistic virtues, complexity, reticulation. "Are we not Cyberpunk? We are Devo!"
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