Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

In Memoriam: Stephen Hawking, 1942-2018

Hawking's passing wasn't exactly unexpected, considering his nearly lifelong illness; what was unexpected was the fact that he survived ALS for over 50 years while becoming one of the most important scientists of that same half-century. His death is a gigantic loss to the science world, of course, but a couple of essays published by Gregory Benford in 2005 and 2012 (and reproduced on File 770 here and here) show a more personal side of Hawking. From the former:

A week after my evening at Cambridge, I got from Stephen’s secretary a transcript of all his remarks. I have used it here to reproduce his style of conversation. Printed out on his wheelchair computer, his sole link with us, the lines seem to come from a great distance. Across an abyss.

Portraying the flinty faces of science—daunting complexity twinned with numbing wonder—demands both craft and art. Some of us paint with fiction. Stephen paints with his impressionistic views of vast, cool mathematical landscapes. To knit together our fraying times, to span the cultural abyss, demands all these approaches—and more, if we can but invent them.

Stephen has faced daunting physical constrictions with a renewed attack on the large issues, on great sweeps of space and time. Daily he struggles without much fuss against the narrowing that is perhaps the worst element of infirmity. I recalled him rapt with Marilyn [Monroe], still deeply engaged with life, holding firmly against tides of entropy.

In Memoriam: Kate Wilhelm, 1928-2018

It seems like all I do these days is post obituaries. This isn't the biggest one I'll post today, but there's no underestimating Wilhelm's influence on the SF community, both in terms of the fiction she produced and her involvement with the Clarion writer's workshops.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

In Memoriam: Peter Nicholls, 1939-2018

His Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (co-edited with John Clute) will remain an indispensable guide to the SF-perplexed for decades after his passing; I can remember referring to a copy of it at the library at Northeastern Illinois University when I couldn't even buy a used copy, and the only book that might've caused me to check out the works of more SF authors was Baird Searles and Co.'s A Reader's Guide to Science Fiction, which I still own a badly dog-eared copy of somewhere; it's just that Searles' book comes off as a comparative light introduction while Nicholls' and Clute's comes off as definitive to the point of being obsessive.

Mother Russia, abusive parent

The correlation you can draw between the attempted assassination of yet another pair of Russian expatriates (in this case, former Russian intelligence agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia) and this ill-disguised threat on Russian state television is quite a simple one: cross Vladimir Putin and you'll end up dead.

Meanwhile, in another part of the world, a certain other demagogic politician possessing a good deal less intelligence than Czar Vladimir apparently continues to believe that his good buddy would never, ever attempt to interfere with American elections. At least that's what this unspent $120 million intended to prevent such interference in the future seems to indicate.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Now reading

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams.


A bit of an artificial milestone since it doesn't take into account my posts at Blogspot under a previous title, but we live in an era where people are crazy enough to post about far less, so...