Monday, December 28, 2015

Tomorrow's Tech ... Today! #3

Tomorrow’s Tech … Today!

Many futuristic inventions have come to pass, while some may never be realized.

[Some of this was used as content for the Program Book of SoonerCon 24 in June 2015.  Hope you like the idea!]


          George Langelaan’s “The Fly” appeared in 1957, but an 1877 story “The Man Without a Body” posited matter transfer, beginning with a cat; then things go awry.  In 1913 Charles Fort coined the word “teleportation.”

          From Yu-Gi-Oh! to Star Trek to the Tarnhelm in Wagner’s Ring cycle, matter transfer seems to pose a myriad of problems that must be solved.  Larry Niven warned that things such as planetary rotation and inertia would affect a technologically based teleportation system.  Star Trek, while bandying such jargon as “boost your matter gain” and “wide-pattern dispersal,” isn’t much help either. 

           And what happens to a person’s soul when you destroy the original body?  Does it snap like a rubber band to the “new” body, as suggested by Philip José Farmer in his Riverworld  series?  Although we may never have a real-life matter transfer device, we’ll always have “Beam me up, Scotty.


            Zap beams have been a staple of SF because they’re so cool (in a totally destructive way).  Perhaps HG Wells’ 1898 Martian heat rays were the first, but they’ve become the Swiss Army Knife of SF.  More refined types can be set to Stun or Kill, as in Star Trek.  Others simply take you away faster than Calgon, with no intermediate steps, as demonstrated in Mars Attacks!

          While bad guys such as Ming the Merciless and the evil spies in Jonny Quest’s “Mystery of the Lizard Men” only want to lay waste, good guys such as Buck Rogers and Han Solo take a more surgical approach to the Blaster, the Zapper, the Phaser, or the Ray Gun (unless they SHOT FIRST). 

While LASER and MASER research continues in today’s world, nobody has yet reached the attainment of Duck Dodgers in the 24½ Century, featuring the Acme Disintegrating Pistol, which … disintegrated.

I’m taking off next Thursday for New Year’s.  See you January 4th!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Stephen King and I Think Horribly Alike

In Stephen King’s 2015 anthology, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams: Stories, one of his twisted tales is a novella called Ur , originally published as an eBook in 2009.

In Ur, an English professor who’s wedded to books decides to take the plunge into electronic reading, and buys a Kindle.  When it arrives, it turns out to be a *special* Kindle, which apparently has the ability to access eBooks from other realities.

Then he finds out it can also read newspapers from the futures of this and other realities, as well, which leads to a horrifying revelation ….

This story bemused me for several reasons.

1)         It’s often been an interesting “What If?” kind of thought experiment:  What if I could sidestep to a universe next door (pace e e cummings) that didn’t happen to have the Beatles, or Beethoven, and “compose” that music to great acclaim in the new world?

Of course, my next depressing thought is that a world whose history was so different as to not produce The Fab Four or the Great Beetle-Browed One, would likely as not be a world that didn’t appreciate their music.  A whole lot of things led up to great works, and trailed after them (streaming glories, pace Wordsworth), so it’s not as if I could come down from Mount Sinai with the White Album and expect to get away with it, right?

2)         The more interesting amusement is how similar in basic concept this story is to one I wrote in 1981, called “On the Cable,” about a guy whose cable box fritzes out and gives him TV programming from other realities.

This amazes me and amuses me, that Mr King’s mind and mine are twisted enough (in some of the same ways) to have independently come up with the same concept.  I feel honored that I was able to dip into the same trough, so to speak, as that crafter of great stuff.

Of course, there are other angles on the same idea, such as CBS’s 1996-2000 Early Edition.

“On the Cable” was concocted as an entry in The Twilight Zone magazine’s short story contest.  The first version had a downer ending.

 I received this nice postcard back

Being a clueless, snotty-nosed type, I immediately took this as encouragement and rewrote the story to come out happier.  Since the story is the same until page 6, that’s where this scan of the second version starts.

I didn’t win anything, but it was a fun effort.

When I read the King story in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, I was soon smiling as if greeting the child of a best friend, in whom I see a family resemblance.

Mr King’s craft and talent take the idea to much more realistic and outré heights, you’ll agree.  But I hope you’ll also agree with me that it’s kind of humorous that we came up with semi-similar variations on the whole foresee-the-future-through-technology angle.

Mr King, I salute you!  (Even though I like the cut version of The Stand better.)  If you want to read more of my rejections, send me a note!


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Silly Amazon Suggestions

            As the commercial realm tries to get you to BUY-BUY-BUY things, on Thursdays I’m going to share some of the left-field suggestions that Amazon’s algorithms have calculated for me.

            You know how it works.  If you buy A, Amazon’s computers suggest that you might like to by B, because B is the same sort of consumer item as A.  Or, B is an author who sells the same genre of books as A.  USW. (German:  “und so weiter,”  their version of  “et cetera.”)

            In each case, the object of examination is not really the product suggested, but the REASON why the product was suggested.  The two products don’t as a rule suggest each other!

 OK, I bought a cassette/CD boombox.  Does that necessarily make me so old that I've got a kid the needs a car seat?  To be honest, I'm so old that even my GRANDKIDS have no need for car seats!

 What one attachment for a socket set has to do with the original Get Smart, I can't say.  Sorry about that!

 This is a real puzzler.  I assume that the Daniel referred to is the one from the Fiery Furnace in the Bible.  Does that mean you should only eat BBQ?  I'm for that, baby!

But what a theologically related diet has to do with TV's The Addams Family is beyond my ken,
ne comprends ?

 Tish, that's French!

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© by Mark Alfred