Required Reading

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Technological Prophecies

One of the more interesting aspects of having read science fiction for over 50 years is the number of things I have seen that were totally imaginative when I first read them and eventually became reality.  Here is a very nice guest post from a U.K. site that runs with this idea. 

The Internet will no doubt be heralded as one of mankind's greatest achievements.  We now download music, stream videos and surf Wikipedia without so much as a second thought.  Thanks to iPads, eBooks and smart phones we've quickly grown accustomed to having knowledge, news and entertainment accessible wherever we are and whenever we want it - so much so that we often wonder what we'd do without it.  But consider that we live in a time where the Internet is in its infancy, and it took us 160,000 years to invent it.  You have to wonder how some saw it coming long before the world got connected?

Here we explore some visionaries who were way ahead of their time in predicting such technological marvels...
"Prophecy is the most gratuitous form of error."
George Eliot (1819-1880)

Stansilaw Lem predicted eBooks, and perhaps even Amazon, in Return from the Stars (1961)

"I spent the afternoon in a bookstore. There were no books in it. None had been printed for nearly half a century... The bookstore resembled, instead, an electronic laboratory... all my purchases fitted into one pocket, though there must have been almost three hundred titles."
Sci-Fi master Isaac Asimov predicted eBooks in The Fun They Had (1951)

"'Gee,' said Tommy. 'What a waste. When you're through with the book, you just throw it away... Our television screen must have had a million books on it and it's good for plenty more. I wouldn't throw it away.'"
Jules Verne prophesied eBooks in Paris in the Twentieth Century (1863). Read below for more information about Verne's uncanny knack for predicting future technology.

"Michel searched for literature... but nothing but technology was available in bookstores."

(Interestingly, Verne locked the original manuscript in a safe after his editor scorned it and the novel wasn't discovered until 1994. The editor claimed the book was too fantastical, writing "No-one today will believe your prophecy". The novel also predicted gasoline-powered vehicles, pocket calculators and a 'worldwide telegraphic communications network'.)
I-Pads and Laptops
Arthur C Clarke predicted iPads in the iconic 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

"When he tired of official reports and memoranda and minutes, he would plug in his foolscap-size newspad into the ship's information circuit and scan the latest reports from Earth. One by one he would conjure up the world's major electronic papers"
James P. Hogan accurately described a laptop years before their invention in Inherit the Stars (1977)

"Rob Gray ... sat with an open briefcase resting on his knees. He studied the information being displayed on the screen built into its lid... Gray addressed the [microphone] grille, located next to the tiny lens just above the screen."
Stanislaw Lem prophesied iPad-like devices in The Futurological Congress (1983)

"Dinner with Aileen again, at the 'Bronx'. A sweet girl, always has something to say, not like those women in the scuttle who let they handbag computers carry all the conversation."
David Hadju wrote this predictive article on iPhones in an issue of Video Review magazine (1982)

"Video walkie-talkies... with micro-processors and the first flat screen display picture tubes. There's something preventing the development of personal, two-way TV transmitters / receivers - except perhaps the FCC."
HG Wells predicted iPhone technology in When the Sleeper Wakes (1910)

"He became aware of voices and music, and noticed a play of colour on the smooth front face. He suddenly realised what this might be, and stepped back to regard it. On the flat surface was now a little picture, very vividly coloured, and in this picture were figures that moved. Not only did they move, but they were conversing in clear small voices. It was exactly like reality viewed through an inverted opera glass and heard through a long tube."
The Star Trek Communicator bore remarkable similarities to iPhones (it first appeared in the episode Catspaw, 1967)
Nikola Tesla prophesied a device eerily similar to the BlackBerry in an issue of Popular Mechanics magazine (1909)

"An inexpensive instrument, not bigger than a watch, will enable its bearer to hear anywhere, on sea or land, music or song... it will be possible for a business man in New York to dictate instructions, and have them instantly appear in type at his office in London or elsewhere."
Robert Heinlein foretold of the omnipresence of BlackBerry-like devices in Assignment in Eternity (1953)

"'How come,' he asked as he came abreast, 'they had to search for you?'
'Left my pocketphone in my other suit,' Coburn returned briefly. 'Did it on purpose - I wanted a little peace and quiet. No luck.'"

Computers and the Internet
Murray Leinster accurately predicted the future of computers and the Internet in A Logic Named Joe (1946)

"You know the Logic's set-up. You got a Logic in your house. It looks like a vision-receiver used to, only it's got keys instead of dials and you punch the keys for what you wanna get... you punch "Sally Hancock's Phone" an' the screen blinks an' sputters an' you're hooked up with the Logic in her house an' if someone answers you got a vision-phone connection."

"The Tank is a big buildin' full of all the facts in creation and all the recorded telecasts that ever was made - an' it's hooked in with all the other Tanks all over the country - an' everything you wanna know or see or hear, you punch for it an' you get it."
Vannevar Bush wrote of an entity similar to the Internet (in particular, Wikipedia) in As We May Think (1945)

"Wholly new forms of encyclopaedias will appear, ready-made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified." 

Some Predictions That Did Not Pan Out

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943
"Radio has no future. Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible. X-rays will prove to be a hoax."
William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, British scientist, 1899
"Space travel is bunk."
Sir Harold Spencer Jones, Astronomer Royal of the UK, 1957
"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
Ken Olson, president of Digital Equipment Corp in 1977
The cinema is little more than a fad. It's canned drama."
Charlie Chaplin, 1916
"Television won't last. It's a flash in the pan."
Mary Somerville, radio broadcaster, 1948
"Nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality in 10 years."
Alex Lewyt, president of vacuum cleaner company Lewyt Corp, 1955
"There is practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television, or radio service inside the United States."
T. Craven, FCC Commissioner, 1961

Other Curiosities

  • The earliest known use of the @ symbol can be traced back to 1448, noting a wheat shipment from the Kingdom of Aragon
  • Google's Ngram viewer can track word usage in books printed since 1500. The word Internet seems to first appear in the early 1900s.
  • In October 2010, filmmaker George Clarke noticed an oddity in Charlie Chaplin's film The Circus - footage shows a woman talking into what appears to be a mobile phone in the background. The film was released in 1928.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Service of the Sword by David Weber

 This is Worlds of Honor number 4. It is a series of short stories by David Weber, John Ringo, Eric Flint, Jane Lindskold and Timothy Zahn. With the exception of Ms. Linkskold, I have multiple books from each of the other authors listed. The story takes place in David Weber’s Honor Harrington universe.

You would not need to have read all of David Weber’s books to enjoy this series of short stories. Of course having read all of David Weber's work, I was able to enjoy all of the nuances that might be missed, if you are not a fan, that were in the stories.

It is always a treat to revisit the Honor Harrington universe where courage loyalty and honor our hallmarks of the stories.

I highly recommend the book and the series.

Body of work of David Weber

Web site

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Olympus Union: The Past Repeated by Gary Bloom

A world on the path of self destruction is united into a union of dissimilar sections.   Current national boundaries are rewritten and dissent is smothered all for the benefit of mankind or those who end up as the governing lords.

The most memorable character in the book is the black eyed mercenary.   He demonstrates a self confident arrogance that successfully conquers all efforts to thwart his goal of rescuing an unassuming prisoner in a penal orbital prison.  

The book clearly shows that unification may have laudable goals but the implementation of those goals may swamp all of the well meaning impetus.  Gary Bloom creates a dysfunctional world with the same fragilities as the time worn existence it is trying to replace.

All is not easy in the new utopia and dissent is hidden behind facades of power.    This is a dystopian disaster brewing with multiple sequels.  Gary brings a fresh new voice to the scifi arena.  

Body of work of Gary Bloom

Web Site:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Quest for Good Manners by Karin Lefranc

A sassy princess and her dragon, Sparkler, demonstrate poor manners.   This book details her quest to discover why manners are important.

The illustrator of this book scored well with my grand-kids.   They liked the look of Princess Rosalind and Sparkler.   They were satisfyingly dismayed over the Princess’s behavior.  (My grandchildren are polite and well mannered most of the time; I count myself lucky to have taught their father’s so well. LOL) 

The kids enjoyed the adventure and were glad to see that the Princess and Sparkler returned from their quest enlightened with better behavior.

I recommend the book.  

Body of work of Karin Lefranc

Web Site:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Stone of Destiny by Jim Ware

A sick Mom, an obsessed junior alchemist, wee people, giants and magic combine in a hunt for treasured stones.

Morgan Izaak is trying to follow in his father’s footsteps, striving to save his mother from dying.   His friend, Eny, finds her self embroiled in her own mystic journey.     The book ties together typical fantasy components with Christian overtones.   I found it a bit confusing. 

I didn’t get wrapped in the characters.   I felt all the ingredients were there but they just didn’t captivate me.  I don’t know if it is my mood or the book so take my lack of enthusiasm with a grain of salt.   It is worth reading and even redeeming in some ways and most definitely faith affirming.    

Body of work of Jim Ware

Web site:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Children of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy

I first posted this article and published as Book Review: Children of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy on Blogcritics.

The book is a sequel to Song of Scarabaeus.  I would recommend reading the books in order.   A cypherteck, Edie, finds herself defending all she loves in a far future terraforming scenario.

I enjoyed this book but would have enjoyed it more had I read Song of Scarabaeus.   There just wasn’t enough context to easily grasp what Edie was and what she was facing.   A few pages of back story would have helped enormously.   Finn, Edie’s body guard was more than he seemed but it would have been good to know what being a Saeth meant. 

Finn was steadfast and loyal, I liked that.  Cat could have had more face time, she seemed like a character with potential.   I liked the ambivalence in Natesa character.  It was difficult to determine whether she was motivated by ego or good intentions.  That was a good reflection of reality.
The kids were another reflection of reality.  Pushed into a specific role at an early age, the kids were expected to be crucial to terraforming projects.   The scandals faced by some of the iconic fashion labels with regards to child labor in foreign locales certainly demonstrate the need for concern over the plight of working children.  Edie’s childhood experiences practically forced her to become an advocate for the kids. 
The characters were well done, some likeable and some not so much.   There was a ill defined gray area in the behavior of some of the characters which again is a very good reflection on real life.   As much as we want black and white contrasts in behavior, real life situations are often gray.   The strength of feelings demonstrated by both Finn and Edie were admirable.  

This book was good as a stand alone but I think it may have been excellent with some historic context and defining of terminology.   I don’t mean a glossary; I just mean maybe a chapter re-hashing how the characters got to where they were. 

I still recommend the book.

Body of work of Sara Creasy

Web site:

Friday, May 13, 2011

Dark Descendant by Jenna Black

Nikki Glass is a private eye who suddenly becomes much more than human.  Her transitional experience is traumatic to say the least.   Caught in a battle between supra-normals she needs to choose a side to survive.

I liked the characterizations the Ms. Black portrays.  She is able to imbue her characters with a sense of normalcy.   Nikki Glass could be someone you know.   The premise of demi-gods was far-fetched and yet still entertaining.   They exhibited personalities that were both true to their historic roots and yet modern in their behavior.  

There is plenty of action and emotion with just a hint of sensuality.   This provides a touch of romanticism that doesn’t deter from a good urban fantasy.   I haven’t read any of Ms. Black’s work before but I am looking forward to reading the next in this series. 

I recommend it.

Body of work of Jenna Black

Web Site:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Star Rangers by Andre Norton

In a post galactic apocalypse, the Star Rangers, the former peace keepers find their true home and look forward to reestablishing galactic peace.

I mentioned in my last review how Norton does a wonderful job examining motivation and behavior. She paints honorable protagonists and sinister villains. She shows the evils of intolerance and the benefits of integration when racial inequities were still common place in our own nation.

The galactic empire was dissolving into anarchy. Without support the Star Rangers continued to try and keep the peace but without resources and support their efforts were futile.

This book depicts a small band of rangers and demonstrates their ability to shape their own destiny and to maintain honor and integrity in trying circumstances.

A mixed band of extraterrestrials solidifies even further when faced with a talented bigot. Sergeant Kartr is the center of the fray and shows his tolerance and acceptance clearly. Once again, Norton demonstrates her readability and sustainability, this book was first published in 1953 and certainly has survived the test of time.

I strongly recommend the book!

Body of work of Andre Norton

Web site:
Not really her site but a nice biography.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Augen eReader Lacks Technical Support

Attention Kmart Shoppers, Augen Electronics Support Stinks

 How is that for a start.   I have the Augen eBook.   I reviewed it last July.
Overall it is a good product for the money but you do get what you pay for.   In this case that is a non-existent technical support department.   The reader has not worked well with DRM books from the start.  DRM is digital rights management and it is a protection scheme by the powers who dictate that kind of thing.  If you google it you will find many articles on “cracks” for DRM.  It is obvious I am not the only one that finds DRM annoying and I am an author.   The problem is that DRM causes books to behave badly.  

In my case, DRM handling by Augen means periodically dropping lines of the story.   Since I review books on Pick of the Literate and Azure Dwarf’s Horde of SciFi and Fantasy I get a lot of books protected by DRM.   Dropping lines can have an impact on the plot and the enjoyment of the story.

I went to Augen Electronics website and found that they had a fix.  Sadly the fix does not work.   In fact the fix, locked up the eBook every time I tried to use it.   The Augen site claims to have online chat for tech issues but I have yet to see the icon indicate that anyone is there.   The readme files on the “Fix” are either a result of a horrendously bad translation program or someone whose first language is definitively not English and who has obviously been indulging in some mind altering substances prior to writing the information.   In other words, the “Fix” is useless.   I have emailed Augen multiple times for help and get an automated response that someone will get back to me.   Thank goodness I didn’t hold my breath or I would be long, long dead.

So as an amendment to my original review of the product,   it is still a fair value for the money however with the Kindle now at $139.00 and a color nook and tablets dropping in price, I would suggest saving your money and purchasing a product that actually works the way it is suppose to and that perhaps has technical support that exists.

Alas Augen Electronics the bloom is off the rose and Attention Kmart shoppers, don’t touch Augen products with a 10’ blue light special.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cool Headers 11

Perusing other scifi/fantasy book sites is fun. There are so many good blogs I never know which ones to post links so I have started my Cool Headers series. This isn’t saying that I agree with everything on these blogs, just that I think they have a very cool header.  This header has nothing to do with SciFi or Fantasy but I really liked it so it made the cut.   Click on the header to check out their blog.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Tourniquet by Richard D. Monson

This book was written like a journal.  It details the last days of Israel and ties that with the USA’s border issues with Mexico.

A one sentence description of this book is difficult.    A far seeing future president strives to alleviate the border issues with Mexico with a pro-active program.   He establishes a tourniquet just south of the USA/Mexican border.  This tourniquet is designed to stop the flow of people, drugs and misery.   It is an ambitious program that can only be funded by reducing foreign aid across the globe.  

It ties to Israel due to a Mexican terrorist for hire and his role in the Middle East.   It ties together much better than it sounds.   Monson writes in an interesting manner.  I liked the book but found it a choppy kind of read.   It doesn’t flow but it maintains your interest. 

For an look at an innovative approach to the immigration issue and the potential for increased violence in the Middle East, this is a very interesting read. 

I recommend the book.

Body of work of Richard D. Monson

Web site: