Tag Archives: Dune

Book Review – Childhood’s End by Sir Arthur C. Clarke

Childhood's End CoverRecommended to me a few years ago during, of all things, a job interview, I recently finished reading Childhood’s End (1953) by Sir Arthur C. Clarke. In the same set of recommendations as A Case of Conscience, the book that got my whole Science Fiction and Religion series going. As this might be considered the formal end to that series, maybe it’s fitting.

One of the most interesting things, in my edition at least, is the introduction by the author written in 2000. An interesting year for Clarke, given that his great saga began in 2001… Anyway, he focuses on two interesting things in the introduction. One is that he felt like the movie Independence Day owed a lot to him, and his opening chapter. An alien invasion arrives, and pulls into the sky over all the major cities of the world all at once, trailing their reentry burn. I think that Clarke might have had a better mental image than what he put on the page… because I wasn’t seeing the similarity other than the base concept.

The second was that he was apologetic about the plot content of the story… but didn’t feel that it overpowered the book. That’s probably true, but we can get to that… The story ends up, however, in a very supernatural place, as an explanation of why the invading aliens end up not aggressive, but peaceful. That leads me to the story, so let’s start there!

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Counterpoint: What About Dune?

So in yesterday’s post I talk a lot about the inevitability of technology in the near future… say in the Geek Baby’s lifetime. Indeed, we seem to be getting closer and closer to that point of Singularity… and the potential for a Terminator or I, Robot sort of future. I’ve written a bit about this in terms of how it always seems to be an accident when this happens in fiction…

And really, we’ve talked a lot about the dystopian possibilities of the future, in our Science Fiction Today posts. Doom and gloom honestly seem very likely. Should we plan for the future – raise the Geek Baby – with that in mind?

All The Dune!And it all comes back to Dune. Rather than writing the story about the war with the machines, Frank Herbert wrote the story of the future long after that time. When humanity has learned to do without nearly so much technology – and have done so by enhancing humanity, through rigorous training, enhanced drugs, whatever means – just to not use computers and machines instead.

If we were to raise the Geek Baby without reliance on technology, this seems like the reason and the way to do so. Raise her as a mentat almost, a human computer. All full of logic and deduction and data. Maybe start with SherlockBattlestar Galactica and the fear of networked computers?

We most likely won’t, but it does beg the question… should we?…

Science Fiction Today – Robots

RBecause of the bizarre order in which we have written my A to Z posts this year, this happens to be the last one that I am writing! That means this is being written after all my thoughts have gone into the other posts, and after many of the great conversations we’ve had.

There’s also maybe not a better topic for me to be closing out on and to have time to think about. When we think about possible futures, one thing that comes up a lot is inequality. Whether that’s financial inequality seen with corporations or money; or political inequalities like with queens or the Justice System; unequal health care or access thereof; or how about a post that’s begging to be linked to like my gender one… in any and all of these, and more, we can see how the world could turn (more) to inequality in the future.

What alternative do we have? In what sort of future could we maybe, just maybe, all live a somewhat utopian life with a decent amount of equality? Well… how about a future where everyone has a robot? We’re already moving towards some robotic things – whether it’s a Roomba cleaning up, or a driverless car. What if robots did all the hard work for us – and we all got to live lives of leisure and luxury?

Do Androids Dream of Science Fiction Today Posts?

In the interest of word count, how about some images?

One of the common problems that we run into with robots in Science Fiction is we reach a point where the robots are lifelike. Humanlike. Conscious. Have secrets – have dreams. Have souls?

And if they do – are they slaves then?

One thing I loved about Interstellar was the robots. There were robots built for utility, not for looking human.

Yet even in Interstellar, by the end, the robots are some of their closest friends…

I Want to Show You Something… Beautiful

Then of course, there’s the other thing that happens in robot – and especially artificial intelligence – stories. The robots decide, for whatever reason, that we the humans are the problem. That we are our own problem, that the number one risk to humans is other humans.

The upcoming version of this is going to be Ultron, in the new Avengers movie. However, we have a lot of history in this world at this point – and I think that Ultron will be using all their failings and faults against them, rhetorically at least. I hope they hit some new territory with this story type.

One of my favorites, though, is Dune. In Dune, it’s millennia after the war with machines. And it doesn’t take time to explain this war, really; it’s just a known fact of the past. It’s the idea there will always have been a war with the machines. What mattered was what the future looked like after that.

This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, and also part of our occasional series on Science Fiction Today. You can read an explanation of both here. We are striving to keep these posts short, and know that we have not covered every example or angle – plenty of room for discussion!

Science Fiction Today – Queens

QIt’s only a little bit of a stretch to include this in A to Z. Okay, I mean Queens and Kings, royalty in general. They still exist in our world today, often as figureheads to democratic or socialist (or democratic socialist) governments. Then there are leaders of other names who only wish they were Kings and Queens.

So now, a declarative statement: there are not a lot of democracies in Science Fiction. There are a lot of dystopias run by a small group holding all the power. There are a few bigger universes, with democracies, like Star Wars and Star Trek – for the former, that democracy falls; for the latter, we don’t watch that democracy in action, but instead the military arm. We get evil corporations working outside the law. We get captain’s rule like in Mass Effect or Battlestar Galactica.

And then, we get Queens and Kings. New royalty or ancient lines. Emperors and Empresses and Empires. So let’s look at one classic and one really recent example of royalty in Science Fiction!

Galactic Empire – Dune

By the time we get to Dune, the galaxy has had a monarchy for a long time. Hereditary rulers run the planets, a council of those monarchs meet and politic, and there’s an Emperor ruling over all of them. The Emperor can be shady and backstab, which makes the plot happen!

But hey, I called this post “Queens,” so let’s look at that for a moment. When there’s royalty, there’s so much stock taken in birth and breeding. It leads to characters like the Duke Leto, who can’t marry the woman he loves, because she’s not of the proper breeding. It is his greatest regret in life.

And the Lady Jessica is kind of a badass. And even up to the last line in the book, she understands royalty. Understands that necessity makes it so that they must marry each other, and carry on that way. But history? History will call women like her wives – she’s the real Queen in that story.

Galaxy as Royal Playground – Jupiter Ascending

Hey, let’s look at another Queen-like character – Jupiter in Jupiter Ascending. She shows part of the reason that royalty exist in Science Fiction stories – and some other fictional stories, as well. Having royal blood makes Jupiter a “chosen one” for no other reason than that.

And the movie somewhat functions as a tour of her royal family and their insane life. They inherit and control whole planets. They raise and cultivate the populations of these planets, for the purpose of harvesting them later. Because the souls of the innocent are delicious.

If the royalty in Dune seems bad, it’s because you just read a section about the Harkonnens. In Jupiter Ascending, it really is just a bad situation. We see three very different personalities and attitudes in her siblings, and it’s still a broken system and broken economy. Which is the sort of thing that royalty can perpetuate in a society, or maybe especially in a story.

Okay, little longer post. Here, have an A-to-Z music moment:

This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, and also part of our occasional series on Science Fiction Today. You can read an explanation of both here. We are striving to keep these posts short, and know that we have not covered every example or angle – plenty of room for discussion!

Why Does Time Move Faster As We Get Older?

This is an age-old observation: time flies as you get older. That as a kid, time can’t move fast enough for you… you want to get older, or get to summer break, or just be done with school for the day… but those are all daydreams. And especially parents you hear talking about how their children’s lives have flown by. So there’s one group saying that time’s going so slowly, and one saying it’s flying by!

One of our favorite... or least favorite... sorts of clocks. Found this as the thumbnail to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-o4tZHwAww

One of our favorite… or least favorite… sorts of clocks.
Found this as the thumbnail to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-o4tZHwAww

I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and it’s grown particularly apparent as we are expecting our first child this summer. I doubt this is an original sort of thought, and it’s certainly not scientifically proven… more of a hypothesis. Nonetheless, I would say I have an idea on the answer for why time flies as we get older. Let me know what you think at the end!

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