A Neo-Golden Age of Science Fiction

First let me assure you that I will write another installment of Against the Cold of Deepest Space. I like the story and intend to give it the attention it deserves. I often write my blog posts right before I go to bed. If I have to go to work the next morning that limits the amount of time I can spend working on a post before I must quit and go to bed. Consequently, I am limited as far as how much I can write in any one blog post and still meet my daily blogging commitment. That was probably more than you cared to know about the details of how this blog gets written.

I imagine that it is clear by now that I like science fiction. I cut my teeth on Robert Heinlein and Andre Norton. I soon discovered Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov. After that I read any science fiction that I could get my hands on. But my favorite stories were always the Space Operas. The Tom Corbett Space Cadet series was an early favorite. E. E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman series was another.

I recently read a book that reminded me of the Space Operas of the Golden Age of science fiction. Only this time, it was updated to reflect all the things that we have learned about actual space travel, space manufacturing, and building space habitats. It was called Seveneves and was written by Neal Stephenson. I highly recommend the book. It is, like all of Stephenson’s books, epic in scope. It is also extremely well researched and grounded in hard science. Stephenson work for a while at Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and had access to some of the premier minds in space science as a result. And, best of all, it is a page turner. I would tell you more about it but I wouldn’t want to spoil any of the numerous surprises that Stephenson cooks up.

Reading Seveneves is what inspired me to try my hand at writing Space Opera. The installment last night, Against the Cold of Deepest Space (Part 1) was so much fun that I’m going to do some planning and some research and try and get at least a novella out of it if not a full blown novel. November is right around the corner. I may do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) again with this as my project. In any case, I will post more excerpts here as I write them.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the people you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

The Martian (a micro-review)

I watched The Martian on TV last night. I missed it when it was in the theaters. It was gorgeous on the big screen, I am sure, but finances and other commitments conspired to keep me from seeing it there. It was a rare thing, a film that captured the spirit and the patina of the original book. Sure, there were things left out but it inspired most of the same feelings that the book did. Now that I’ve seen the movie I understand that much of the renewed enthusiasm for Mars missions are traceable to this movie. I can never thank Riddley Scott enough for sharing this marvelous vision of a possible near future with us. I suspect the actual Mars missions will look somewhat different from what we saw in this movie but their very existence may be thanks to it.

I’ll Take a Cup of Cocoa® Please

I found a great book this weekend. It’s Cocoa® Programming Developer’s Handbook, Second Edition, by David Chisnall, published by Addison-Wesley Professional. It provides a very complete coverage of this broad subject but, unlike many of the other books I’ve read on the topic, it assumes that the reader is already a competent programmer. The author tells how Cocoa started life as NeXTStep on the NeXT computer and follows its evolution through a collaboration with Sun Microcomputers which resulted in OpenStep until Apple bought NeXT and adopted OpenStep as the heart of it’s development of OS X.

The book is wide, deep and fast paced. Don’t be frustrated if you find yourself having to read some sections more than once.  It includes an historical overview, a survey of the languages that have interfaces to Cocoa and why you might want to consider using each of them, an overview of the Developer Tools that Apple supplies to write applications with Cocoa, and of course, in depth discussions of how to use all of the various frameworks that comprise Cocoa (e.g. Core Framework, Core Graphics, Core Data, Core Audio, etc.) It also discusses the philosophy of Document-Driven Applications that was pioneered by Apple on the Mac. It frames these discussions with plenty of code examples that help place them in a practical context.

James Cameron’s Avatar: See It!

 I finally went to see Avatar in 3D today. All I can say is “ZOMG!” My friend Bob had pronounced it James Cameron’s magnum opus. I had thought he was perhaps exaggerating just a little. After having seen it, if this isn’t his magnum opus, I can’t even imagine what it will be like.

This movie pushed the envelope on so many fronts it boggles my mind. In the first place, the amount of motion capture CGI alone is overwhelming. In the second place, its use of 3D as an integral part of the story telling instead of just as a gimmick is unprecedented in my experience. Third, the creation of an entire world and culture far more detailed than Lord of the Rings or Dune ever hoped to be sets the bar for the entire genre.

New science fiction premises are few and very far between and this premise is not entirely without precedent. It is new, as far as I’m aware, to movies though. While not breaking entirely new ground in the speculative fiction canon, it is an incredibly innovative mash-up of some of the more esoteric premises from that corpus.

Everyone loves a story with heart and this one has a heart as big as an alien world. It moved me to tears in more than one place. I can say no more for fear of spoiling one of the most amazing and entertaining films I have ever seen. I heartily recommend you see it and be sure to see it in 3D. It is truly an immersive experience.