Monday, July 25, 2011

Elegance and Beauty

     This post is a collection of some of my philosophies, along with my follow-ups.


    Humans exist. Why they exist is beyond the scope of my philosophy and will not be discussed. There are a variety of ways to organize all of the things that exist. For the purposes here, I have chosen to organize things (all things that exist) 3 ways:

Category 1: Humans.
Category 2: Exist because of humans. (Humans are relevant.)
Category 3: Exist prior to humans. (Humans are irrelevant.)

    Summarily, we have humans, those things humans have brought into existence, and those things that existed prior to humans. Examples, I feel, are appropriate at this point.
    -An ant maintains a category 3 existence. If humans disappeared, ants would not disappear. Ants do not require humans in order to exist. This example can be extended to nearly the entirety of the animal kingdom, with the exception of certain bacteria and insects that require humans.
    -The boogeyman maintains a category 2 existence. He exists within the imagination of human beings. If humans ceased to exist, the boogeyman would go extinct. This example can be extended considerably to encompass the totality of human imagination.
    -Atoms maintain a category 2 and 3 existence. Elements heavier than plutonium do not occur naturally, so they require our existence. Those lighter than, and including plutonium, do not require humans.
    -Both science and religion maintain a category 2 existence. Science is a process by which natural processes are investigated and occurs due to the human mind. Religion is a collection of belief systems and exists due to human imagination.
    -The Gods (Christian, Muslim, Greek, Norse, etc.) maintain a category 2 existence. Since Gods arise from religion, they are automatically category 2. Some people mistakenly place Gods in category 3.
    More examples of category 2 existence:
 Art, sports, writing systems, music, computers and books.
    Highly debatable category 2 possibility:
Language. (Animals do communicate.)
    More examples of category 3 existence:
Dinosaurs, planets, gravity, stars, electrons, space and time.

    My philosophy does not invalidate the existence of anything. Reality is simple and this is a simple explanation. In order to accept my philosophy, one must overlook a minor detail - the future. The future is beyond the scope of my philosophy, although time is included. The future, although a part of time, has not yet happened. I am not sure how to sufficiently explain this problem, so I must call it a 'paradox' for now.


FOLLOW-UP to Philosophy of Reality

    I had written my philosophy about 3 years ago, due to frustration. I’m not sure what use it may have, or even if it has any use. It is interesting to think about. I chose to place humans (us) above everything else because it is impossible to deny that we exist. While you may certainly deny that other humans exist, you would be hard pressed to deny your own existence. So each human, at the very least, believes that at least one human exists. Since one human exists, this implies that others exist, since it takes humans to make humans. So it is conceivable that even the most stubborn solipsist acknowledges the existence of other humans.
    I got to thinking about what could be possibly be left if humans exist. That leaves two possibilities (not to be mistaken with the categories):
    1. Things that humans did make.
    2. Things that humans did not make.
    After thinking about my philosophy, I have decided it is elegant. This is because it is simple and easy to understand. A child could have made this up. There is a fine point to discuss, though. Humans have actually not created anything (physically). All humans are capable of doing is transforming matter, or making complicated things from simpler things. For example, a building is made from materials that were dredged from the earth. Everything used to make a building was already on this planet. So we can’t create anything, since we essentially just change the shape and properties of materials. We don’t actually create matter. Even childbirth is not a creation. If childbirth were actually a creation of life, then the pregnant female would not need to eat food. A pregnant woman unconsciously changes the shape of matter. She essentially ingests a great deal of atoms, which combine to form another human. Those atoms that form a new human could have come from anywhere on this planet. Parts of your infant self could have formerly been grasshopper legs or dinosaur teeth. It would be really hard to find out what you were before you started to develop in the womb.   
    One might argue, however, that certain abstractions, such as numbers, were created by humans. This would contradict my statement that humans have not created anything. It’s hard to say whether the number 5 existed or not before we came up with the notion. It doesn’t matter whether humans exist or not; quantities of 5 objects are all over the place. I would argue that assigning numbers to objects could just be a way of thinking.
    How could I not place God above humans? There is evidence that humans exist, but God isn’t doing so well. While He purportedly created us, no evidence has been found indicating that He exists. God must be accepted on faith. The thing about faith is that humans invented it. Since humans invented faith, that makes it a Category 2 (refer to the first page). If humans did not exist, then faith would not exist. Since faith is required to make God “exist”, this implies that God would disappear if humans disappeared. Which means: God needs us. We don’t need Him.
    I have decided not to be concerned with how humans originated. It is still beyond the scope of my philosophy. The bigger question is: Where did all of the matter come from? I disagree with the Big Bang Theory, simply because it was proposed as a joke (by the physicist Fred Hoyle). No one has any clue where the matter came from that makes up our Universe. We certainly didn’t make it. So all matter, including ourselves, is Category 3. That is one hell of a paradox. We existed prior to ourselves. Great. So much for elegance.



    Let’s say that God really did create humans. First of all, what is God? God is supposed to be an all-powerful being responsible for the creation of the universe. God, if it exists, is not all powerful if it created humans. We humans are extremely advanced, but very incapable of certain tasks. We made computers because they are more advanced in certain areas, but they are not considered to be alive because they don’t fit our definition. The purpose of the computer is to do what humans cannot. The purpose of God is to do what humans cannot. From God’s point of view we are probably not considered to be alive. God must be more aware of things, just as humans are more aware than computers. Somehow, God is more alive. If God created humans, then we are artificial and not natural. Therefore we are not alive. If God were infinitely powerful and knowledgeable, then it would only need to exist for a fleeting instant. It would only need an infinitesimal instant to do everything possible. Is what we consider to be the universe part of God’s infinite possibilities? Not likely. If God knew everything, it would have to do nothing.
    As far as I’m concerned, humans are alive and God did not create us - we created him. God fills an enormous gap in our knowledge of things. The gap is shrinking and so is God. Eventually God will vanish because it is just a placeholder for much of reality. Everything humans have created has a purpose. We created God and its purpose was to create us. What’s wrong with existing just to exist? For the time being that will have to be sufficient, because we don’t know where we came from. For the small amount of us that think all too clearly, God is just a festering annoyance.

    (The above was written in 1999, when I was 23.)

    FOLLOW-UP to Artificial Humans

    I don’t remember writing it, since it was done 11 years ago. But I do remember the point I was trying to make.
    Whenever we humans make something, it is typically done out of a desire to improve our lives. A car offers significant improvements over walking. A car is able to do something we cannot - and it is also not alive. Almost everything we make is considered artificial. We don’t make natural things; they occur without our involvement.
    My reasoning was that if we were created, then we must be artificial. We wouldn’t be natural. This would imply that there is a type of life that is “more alive” than us. Since we have no evidence of anything “more alive” than us, we must have occurred naturally.
    The difference between create and make in the way I’m using them is subtle. As an example, we can make a building, but we cannot create one. We can create a short story, but we cannot make one. Making refers to things that can be touched (since it involves the transformation of materials), while creation refers to things that cannot be touched.
    If God did create humans, then that would further imply we are not made of any sort of material, but simply thoughts in his mind. We’re His story. That’s even less tenable than being artificial, since it implies we are just a bunch of characters.



    It may seem on the surface level that I'm referring to a freedom associated with stimulating the mind to a high level of mental activity. In fact, the title of this page has an unwanted psychological effect. Inspiration, among other meanings, means the act of drawing in air, or simply - breathing. The Latin root is spirare, which means “to breathe”.
       The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees U.S. citizens freedom of speech. It may appear that freedom of inspiration and freedom of speech are not related, but they are almost
precisely the same thing. All people, everywhere, are allowed to breathe freely. There are no restrictions on the amount and type of breathing that one may engage in. If, for instance, one wishes to breathe underwater (without any type of SCUBA - self contained underwater breathing apparatus), one may do so. However, there is a penalty for breathing in certain places, such as underwater. Just like one may breathe anywhere, one may talk anywhere.
       Freedom of speech is precisely that. We all have complete freedom to say whatever we want, whenever we want, wherever we want. Just like there is a penalty for breathing in certain places, there is a penalty for talking in certain places and times, and saying certain things. The freedom cannot be violated and anyone that thinks otherwise needs to remember their place in things. Freedom of speech not only applies to YOU, but to everyone else. If someone decides they don't like what you are saying on TV and cuts you off, your freedom of speech has not been violated. Remember - we all have freedom of speech. Even the censors. If someone censors your words, they are merely exercising their freedom of speech.
       So, there are 2 main types of freedom of speech...

   1. Freedom, but with penalty.
   2. Freedom - with no penalty.

       The first type of freedom is the one that we, along with the rest of life, experience. It is the same in every country. Whether one lives in North Korea, Cambodia, Russia, or the United States, the freedom of speech is precisely the same - the kind that has a penalty. To explicitly state that Americans have freedom of speech is no different than stating that we have freedom of breathing. This type of freedom is not an illusion, as one may suspect, although it is deceptively contradictory. The second type of freedom, actually, is the illusion.
       In order to realize the second type of freedom, humans would need to form a single mind or live in isolation, singly. Neither situation is palatable nor allows life to flourish; thus, freedom must carry a penalty.
        The seemingly contradictory nature of freedom is so problematic that the definition ought to be heavily modified. But this is reality, not an illusion.


FOLLOW-UP to Freedom of Inspiration

    How could someone possibly relate breathing to freedom of speech? Well, it seems obvious to me that we are allowed to breathe wherever we want, even in situations that would kill us. So we have the freedom to breathe, but it is not free of problems. Likewise, we are able to say anything we want, even things that could get us into a lot of trouble. So we do have freedom of speech, in the sense that we can say anything.
    However, after thinking about freedom, I realized there are at least 2 types. Everyone knows this, but I would suspect few people are concerned with defining it.
    I didn’t know about Facebook when I wrote the essay. Due to Facebook, I can now provide a more relevant example; something more in tune with the Zeitgeist (German for “spirit of the times”).
    On Facebook, one has the freedom to post anything they want on their “wall”. That freedom even extends to other users’ pages, which are considered, often in name only, “friends” of the poster. The casual postings, often made in a few seconds or less, can cause real-life complications, such as losing one’s job or losing one’s life. (Though I would argue that losing one’s life is a little bit more than a complication.)
    So, Facebook users are exposed to the penalizing consequences of freedom of speech at a frequency that our ancestors could have never imagined. Our ancestors had to wait to use the telephone, wait for physical encounters, etc. They couldn’t just turn on a computer and instantly annoy the shit out of 258 people.
    In summary, the point of the original essay was to show that freedom of speech, in the sense we’d like to believe, does not exist. The only possible way to have freedom of speech without consequences is to reduce the population of the planet to one person. In other words, freedom is more an ideal concept than an actuality.



    By my reasoning, their first "life" experiences would occur in the afterlife. These people would, of course, be trained as angels - or demons. These people that die early would ultimately be called the "Superiors". When us regular humans die, we are shuffled into heaven or hell, since we had a life to judge. The Superiors bypass heaven and hell. I would have to invent this third place. I'm not sure what it is yet.   

    (I wrote the above sometime in 2007, spurred by my readings of the Riverworld series.)   


    The above is purely fantasy. I don’t believe in heaven or hell. I was writing about people that die early, before age 3 or 4. They didn’t live long enough to experience much of anything on the Earth, so their first “experiences” would occur in the afterlife, assuming it exists. This would make them “Superior” to someone that lived for a long time on the Earth, since they would be exempt from judgment. They didn’t have a life to judge, so they could not possibly enter heaven or hell. There logically must be a third place, for people that died early.
    Another reason why they would be superior is due to the fact they would be “raised” in the afterlife. Whatever the afterlife is, people that die early would regard that as their first life. So they would be more comfortable and knowledgeable about the afterlife than some person that had 80 years of experience on the Earth. Long-lived people would thus be at a disadvantage when entering the afterlife, and the early death people would tell them what to do.
    So if you believe in the afterlife, then get ready. There will be no freedom for you.



    Sometime in 2007, I had proposed a question concerning the afterlife:

    If you could choose between immortality and the afterlife, which would you choose?

    I called it the “Ultimate Gamble”. This is because, if one chooses immortality, then they will be unable to die. It would lock one into a permanent existence in a body. If one chooses the afterlife, then they will die. But there is a problem with dying. We have no actual information about the afterlife. We don’t know if it’s real. So, if one picks immortality, then they would be unable to experience the afterlife, assuming it exists. One would have to choose between guaranteed life (immortality) and guarantees according to religion (afterlife). It’s an unrealistic decision, but would be the toughest decision I can imagine. It would be easy for me, since I’m not religious. But most people are religious.



    My thoughts often drift into the realm of science. I wonder where our universe came from and if there can be a smallest thing. According to science, our universe exploded and created space. There was no explosion in space, since space was created by the explosion. So I wonder if the universe ever had a smallest size, a starting point. Or perhaps it has always been expanding? If the universe never had a smallest size, then that neatly eliminates what happened “before”, since there was no before (in that case). Some religious people have it very easy; they merely say God created the universe and they are satisfied. In order for me to think that way, I would first have to understand where God came from (if He exists). I stated some religious people because some religions, like Buddhism, don’t have God. That doesn’t mean I’m Buddhist or Hindu; reincarnation and nirvana have no supporting evidence. In fact, there is no evidence of any kind suggesting an afterlife exists. Death, to me, is much like the period of time before birth. An interesting question I propose is this:
    Is the period of time before birth longer than the period of time after death? In other words, which interval of nonexistence is longer?
    Imagine for a moment that, somehow, each interval is infinitely long. This means there was an infinite amount of time before your birth and there will be an infinite amount of time after your death. If that is valid, then we have all already been dead. There will be no surprise - we’ve already been there. One could almost argue that life is an interruption, it’s so damned brief.

    (I wrote the above sometime in 2005.)

    FOLLOW-UP to Interruption

    I was thinking that life could be interpreted as a point on a number line. Compared to the amount of time that exists, a human life would be a mere pinprick. The amount of numbers that exist is infinite. No matter where one decides to put their life on a number line, there would be an infinite stretch in both directions. This implies that one’s life is just a slight disturbance; hardly worth noticing.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Complete Listing of Science Fiction Books I Have Read

     This blog post is for keeping track of the science fiction books I have read from age 14 to present.

     Last Update = 1-2-2016

     Total number of science fiction (and related) books read since age fourteen = 480.

(I have not included several anthologies and many short stories. I probably forgot a few, as well. The number isn't really accurate, since many of these books contain more than one novel. I counted the omnibus volumes as one unit each, so the number read is a tad higher. Also, I have a lot of magazines with short stories and I'm not sure how to count them, so I didn't add them.)

(I have also included some fantasy novels and non-genre books by science fiction authors.)

Edwin A. Abbott


Lloyd Alexander

The Book of Three
The Black Cauldron
The Castle of Llyr
Taran Wanderer
The High King

Roger MacBride Allen

The Ring of Charon
The Shattered Sphere
The Depths of Time
The Ocean of Years
The Shores of Tomorrow
Ambush at Corellia
Assault at Selonia
Showdown at Centerpoint

Aaron Allston

Wraith Squadron
Iron Fist
Solo Command
Starfighters of Adumar
Enemy Lines I: Rebel Dream
Enemy Lines II: Rebel Stand

Kevin J. Anderson

Jedi Search
Dark Apprentice
Champions of the Force
Lethal Exposure

Poul Anderson

Vault of the Ages

Piers Anthony

Double Exposure (Omnibus)

Isaac Asimov

The Foundation Trilogy
Foundation's Edge
The Naked Sun

Paolo Bacigalupi

The Windup Girl
Pump Six and Other Stories (Collection)

John Barnes


Greg Bear

Dinosaur Summer

Peter Benchley


Alfred Bester

Starburst (Collection)
The Dark Side of the Earth (Collection)

Jerome Bixby

Space By The Tale (Collection)

William Peter Blatty

The Exorcist

Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451

David Brin


Mike Brotherton

Star Dragon

John Brunner

Bedlam Planet
The Squares of the City

F. M. Busby

The Demu Trilogy
Rissa Kerguelen
Zelde M'tana
Star Rebel
Rebel's Quest
The Alien Debt
Rebels' Seed
All These Earths  

Octavia E. Butler

Wild Seed
Mind of My Mind
Clay's Ark
Bloodchild and other stories (Collection)

Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game
Speaker for the Dead
Children of the Mind
Ender's Shadow
Shadow of the Hegemon
Shadow Puppets

Ted Chiang

Stories of Your Life and Others (Collection)
The Lifecycle of Software Objects

Robert Chilson

The Shores of Kansas

Arthur C. Clarke

Childhood's End
Imperial Earth
Cradle (with Gentry Lee)
The Hammer of God
The Light of Other Days (with Stephen Baxter)
2001: A Space Odyssey
2010: Odyssey Two
2061: Odyssey Three
3001: The Final Odyssey
Rendezvous with Rama
Rama II (with Gentry Lee)
The Garden of Rama (with Gentry Lee)
Rama Revealed (with Gentry Lee)

Stanton A. Coblentz

Hidden World

D.G. Compton

The Palace (non-genre)

Michael G. Coney

Mirror Image
Friends Come in Boxes
The Hero of Downways

Richard Cowper


Michael Crichton

The Terminal Man
Jurassic Park
The Lost World

A.C. Crispin

The Paradise Snare
The Hutt Gambit
Rebel Dawn

Elaine Cunningham

Dark Journey

Troy Denning

Tatooine Ghost
Star by Star
The Joiner King

Philip K. Dick

The World Jones Made
The Man Who Japed
Time Out of Joint
Dr. Futurity
Vulcan's Hammer
The Man in the High Castle
The Game-Players of Titan
Lies, Inc.
Now Wait For Last Year
Counter-Clock World
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Our Friends From Frolix 8
We Can Build You
Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said
A Scanner Darkly
Radio Free Albemuth
The Divine Invasion
Gather Yourselves Together (non-genre)
Voices From the Street (non-genre)
The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike (non-genre)
Puttering About in a Small Land (non-genre)

Gordon R. Dickson

Sleepwalker's World

George Alec Effinger

What Entropy Means To Me
Mixed Feelings (Collection)

Greg Egan

Permutation City
Schild's Ladder
The Clockwork Rocket
The Eternal Flame
The Arrows of Time
Dark Integers and Other Stories (Collection)
Crystal Nights and Other Stories (Collection)

Gordon Eklund

The Eclipse of Dawn
A Trace of Dreams

Harlan Ellison

 The Deadly Streets
Gentleman Junkie and Other Stories of the Hung-Up Generation
Ellison Wonderland
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream

Philip José Farmer

To Your Scattered Bodies Go
The Fabulous Riverboat
The Dark Design
The Magic Labyrinth
Gods of the Riverworld
The Maker of Universes
The Gates of Creation
A Private Cosmos
Behind the Walls of Terra
The Lavalite World
Red Orc's Rage
More Than Fire
A Feast Unknown
Lord of the Trees
Image of the Beast/Blown
Traitor to the Living
Dayworld Rebel
The Lovers
A Woman a Day
The Green Odyssey
Inside Outside
Time's Last Gift
Jesus on Mars
Dark is the Sun
The Unreasoning Mask
Up From the Bottomless Pit
Fire and the Night

Robert L. Forward

Dragon's Egg
Camelot 30K
Saturn Rukh

Alan Dean Foster

Splinter of the Mind's Eye
Transformers: Ghosts of Yesterday

Daniel F. Galouye

Dark Universe
A Scourge of Screamers

William Gibson


Tom Godwin

The Cold Equations and Other Stories

Wyman Guin

The Standing Joy
Living Way Out (Collection)

Joe Haldeman

The Forever War 

Barbara Hambly

Children of the Jedi
Planet of Twilight

Robert A. Heinlein

"If This Goes On --"
Methuselah's Children
Orphans of the Sky
Time Enough For Love
The Number of the Beast
The Cat Who Walks Through Walls
To Sail Beyond the Sunset
Beyond This Horizon
Red Planet
Sixth Column
Farmer in the Sky
The Puppet Masters
The Rolling Stones
Starman Jones
The Star Beast
Tunnel in the Sky
Double Star
Time for the Stars
The Door into Summer
Citizen of the Galaxy
Have Space Suit - Will Travel
Starship Troopers
Stranger in a Strange Land
Glory Road
Podkayne of Mars
Farnham's Freehold
Job: A Comedy of Justice
The Man Who Sold the Moon (Collection)
Waldo and Magic, Inc. (Collection)
The Green Hills of Earth (Collection)
Assignment in Eternity (Collection)
The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag (Collection)
The Menace From Earth (Collection)

Zenna Henderson

The Anything Box (Collection)

Frank Herbert


Fred Hoyle

The Black Cloud
October the First is Too Late

L. Ron Hubbard

Ole Doc Methuselah (Collection)

Aldous Huxley

Brave New World

K.W. Jeter

 Dr. Adder
The Glass Hammer
The Mandalorian Armor
Slave Ship
Hard Merchandise

Greg Keyes

Edge of Victory I: Conquest
Edge of Victory II: Rebirth
The Final Prophecy

Stephen King

The Gunslinger
The Drawing of the Three
The Waste Lands
Wizard and Glass
The Green Mile
The Shining
The Stand
The Running Man
Pet Sematary
Needful Things
Rose Madder
Night Shift (Collection)
Four Past Midnight (Collection)

Dean Koontz

The Funhouse
The House of Thunder
The Bad Place
Cold Fire
Fear Nothing
Seize the Night

Cyril M. Kornbluth

Not This August

Michael P. Kube-Mcdowell

Before the Storm
Shield of Lies
Tyrant's Test

Madeleine L'engle

A Wrinkle in Time

R.A. Lafferty

Past Master
Space Chantey
The Reefs of Earth
Fourth Mansions
Arrive at Easterwine: The Autobiography of a Ktistec Machine
Not To Mention Camels
Nine Hundred Grandmothers (Collection)
Through Elegant Eyes (Collection)

David J. Lake

Walkers on the Sky
The Right Hand of Dextra

Keith Laumer

The Great Time Machine Hoax
A Plague of Demons
Nine By Laumer (Collection)

Frank Lauria

Dark City

Gentry Lee

Bright Messengers
Double Full Moon Night

Cixin Liu

The Wandering Earth (Collection) 

 Frank Belknap Long

The Rim of the Unknown

Barry B. Longyear

Manifest Destiny (Collection)
The Tomorrow Testament  

James Luceno

Agents of Chaos I: Hero's Trial
Agents of Chaos II: Jedi Eclipse
The Unifying Force

Barry Malzberg

The Empty People
The Remaking of Sigmund Freud

David Marusek

Counting Heads
Mind Over Ship  

Anne McCaffrey

The Dragonriders of Pern (Omnibus)
The Harper Hall of Pern (Omnibus)

Wil McCarthy

The Collapsium
The Wellstone
Lost in Transmission
To Crush the Moon

Steven McDonald

Event Horizon

Thomas R. McDonough

The Architects of Hyperspace 

Wil McIntosh

Love Minus Eighty 

Vonda McIntyre

The Crystal Star

Ray Faraday Nelson

Blake's Progress
The Revolt of the Unemployables
Virtual Zen

Larry Niven

World of Ptavvs
The Ringworld Engineers
The Mote in God's Eye
The Gripping Hand
Neutron Star (Collection)
The Draco Tavern (Collection)

William F. Nolan

Things Beyond Midnight (Collection)

Andrew J. Offutt

Evil is Live Spelled Backwards

George Orwell

Animal Farm

Edgar Pangborn


Steve Perry

Shadows of the Empire

Clifford A. Pickover

Spider Legs (with Piers Anthony)

Doris Piserchia

Mr. Justice
Star Rider
A Billion Days of Earth
The Spinner
The Fluger
Earth in Twilight

Frederik Pohl

The Space Merchants (with C.M. Kornbluth)
The Merchants' War 
The Other End of Time
The Siege of Eternity
The Far Shore of Time
Alternating Currents (Collection)
The Case Against Tomorrow (Collection)
Tomorrow Times Seven (Collection)
The Man Who Ate the World (Collection)

Michael Reaves

Shadow Hunter

Rudy Rucker

White Light
Spacetime Donuts
Sex Sphere
Master of Space and Time
The Secret of Life
Mathematicians in Love

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

The New Rebellion

Richard Paul Russo

Ship of Fools

R.A. Salvatore

Vector Prime

Bob Shaw

Orbitsville Departure
Orbitsville Judgement

Robert Sheckley

Immortality, Inc.
The Status Civilization
Journey Beyond Tomorrow
Dimension of Miracles
The 10th Victim
Untouched By Human Hands (Collection)
Citizen in Space (Collection)
Pilgrimage to Earth (Collection)
Notions: Unlimited (Collection)
Store of Infinity (Collection)
Shards of Space (Collection)
The People Trap (Collection)
The Same To You Doubled (Collection)

T. L. Sherred

First Person, Peculiar (Collection)

Robert Silverberg

To Be Continued (Collection)

To The Dark Star (Collection)
Something Wild is Loose (Collection)
Trips (Collection)
One of Our Asteroids is Missing

Clifford D. Simak

Cosmic Engineers
They Walked Like Men
Way Station
Why Call Them Back From Heaven?
The Werewolf Principle
The Goblin Reservation
Out of Their Minds
The Visitors
Special Deliverance

Cordwainer Smith

The Rediscovery of Man (Collection)

Evelyn E. Smith

The Perfect Planet

L. Neil Smith

Star Wars: The Lando Calrissian Adventures

Michael A. Stackpole

Rogue Squadron
Wedge's Gamble
The Krytos Trap
The Bacta War
Isard's Revenge
I, Jedi
Dark Tide I: Onslaught
Dark Tide II: Ruin

John E. Stith

Manhattan Transfer
Reunion on Neverend
Reckoning Infinity

Matthew Stover


Theodore Sturgeon

The Ultimate Egoist (Collection)
Microcosmic God (Collection)
Killdozer! (Collection)

William Tenn

Immodest Proposals: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn, Volume I
Here Comes Civilization: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn, Volume II

James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon)

10,000 Light-Years From Home (Collection)
Warm Worlds And Otherwise (Collection) 

J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit

Kathy Tyers

The Truce at Bakura
Balance Point

Jack Vance

The Five Gold Bands
The Languages of Pao
Araminta Station
Ecce and Old Earth

Vernor Vinge

The Peace War
Marooned in Realtime
A Fire Upon the Deep
The Children of The Sky
Rainbows End

A.E. van Vogt

The Voyage of the Space Beagle
Empire of the Atom
The Wizard of Linn
Mission to the Stars
The Book of Ptath
The House That Stood Still
The Universe Maker
Masters of Time
The Violent Man

Kurt Vonnegut

Player Piano
The Sirens of Titan
Mother Night
Cat's Cradle

Andy Weir

The Martian   

H.G. Wells

The Island of Dr. Moreau
The Time Machine

Robert Wells

The Parasaurians
Candle in the Sun
Right-Handed Wilderness

Sean Williams

Force Heretic I: Remnant
Force Heretic II: Refugee
Force Heretic III: Reunion

Walter Jon Williams

Destiny's Way

Dave Wolverton

The Courtship of Princess Leia

Timothy Zahn

The Icarus Hunt
Manta's Gift
The Green and the Gray
Heir to the Empire
Dark Force Rising
The Last Command
Specter of the Past
Vision of the Future
Survivor's Quest

George Zebrowski

The Monadic Universe (Collection)  

Roger Zelazny

Damnation Alley

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Jack Vance's Cadwal Chronicles

     It took me roughly two weeks to read the 1,245 pages that comprise the 3 volumes. This trilogy is about an Earth-like planet named Cadwal that has three continents: Ecce, Deucas, and Throy. The original explorers decided to leave the planet as untouched as possible, so they made a small settlement on one of the continents and drew up a Charter with strict rules designed to keep the population in check and to thwart mass colonization. Araminta Station is the name of the human settlement and also the name of the first book.

Araminta Station (1988)

 Ecce and Old Earth (1991)

Throy (1992)

     Jack Vance does not write hard science fiction, so the science is kept at a minimum. In fact, this could've taken place on Earth. The only thing that makes it science fiction is that the events take place on other planets and on the Earth of the future. Vance mainly writes sociological and psychological science fiction, in which the focus is on the behavior of humans. There are aliens, but they are similar to humans in appearance and - no surprise: sociologically and psychologically very different. Alien fauna is also introduced and I was reminded of Michael Coney's fiction, because of the amorphs (shape-shifting biological organisms). I suppose that octopi are the closest we have to amorphs here on Earth. 
     Summarily, this trilogy is one fascinating detective novel, with some serious revenge. If you're out for justice that involves blood, you will find it here. 
     Jack Vance has quite the vocabulary. Here are some of the words I had to look up, either because I had never seen them, or because I wasn't sure of the meaning. 

avarice - similar in meaning to "cupidity", a word I am familiar with
bellwether - one that serves as an indicator of future trends
calumny - similar in meaning to "slander"
catarrh - inflammation of mucous membranes
dishabille - the state of being casually dressed; careless
eclat - great brilliance, as of performance or achievement
epicure - a person with refined taste in food and wine
gauche - lacking social polish; tactless
halcyon - This is an interesting word. I had known it was a type of bird, but as an adjective, it means calm and peaceful; tranquil
hauteur - haughtiness in bearing and attitude; arrogance
indite - to write; to put in writing
laconic - use of few words; terse
lucubration - laborious study or meditation
marmoreal - resembling marble
maudlin - tearfully sentimental
pantology - This word is not listed in my 1992 American Heritage Dictionary, although I did correctly guess the definition. The root "pan-" gives it away.
peccancies - From the word "peccant" meaning sinful or guilty; violating an accepted practice
peculation - to embezzle or engage in embezzlement
plash - As a noun, it means a light splashing noise. As a verb it means to spatter liquid about.
pulchritude - great physical beauty and appeal
sang-froid - coolness and composure, especially in trying circumstances
solecism - an impropriety, a mistake, especially in grammar or etiquette
staid - Sober, serious, fixed, permanent
stolid - having or revealing little emotion
sylvan - relating to or characteristic of the woods or forested regions
termagant - a quarrelsome, scolding woman
venality - susceptibility to bribery or corruption

Some funny dialogue from Araminta Station:

"Under this law the killing of the night-whisks became a crime punishable by death, and the poaching stopped at once."
"Death?" cried Julian in consternation. "For hunting a bird? Isn't that extreme?"
"It doesn't seem so to me," said Glawen. "No one stands in the slightest danger unless he breaks the law. It is transparently simple."
"I understand!" said Milo. "I will explain to Julian. If I jump off a cliff, I will die. If I kill a night-whisk, I will die. Both acts are discretionary, both are suicide, and a person makes his own choice."

The aliens that resemble humans, the Yips, had some pretty amusing dialogue. As an example:

During the interrogation of Selious, when Bodwyn Wook accuses him of withholding facts, to which Selious replies:

"I will cite these facts if you tell me what they are."

My two favorite Korean movies.

     Out of the 200+ Korean movies I have watched since 2005, I have to rate these as my picks for the #1 position.

Attack the Gas Station! (1999)

DVD Front

DVD Back

     Attack the Gas Station! was one of the very first Korean movies I watched, almost exactly 6 years ago. It has an original story (not a remake of anything), the actors are risible, and it gets better with each viewing. Some of the actors in this movie have gone on to star in many more films, and some have previously starred in many films. Who attacks the gas station?
     These are the four ragtags on the DVD front above:

     1. 이성재 (Lee Seong-Jae) He's standing third from the left, in the front. He plays the leader of the gang and has starred in several other K-movies I like:
     2. 유오성 (Yoo Oh-Seung) He's the one holding the stick and plays the enforcer of the gang; he does the heavy beating, when necessary. The only other movie I've seen him in that I liked was Friend (2001). He also starred in several movies before this, and I've seen one of them and it was horrible: Terrorist (1995).

     3. 강성진 (Kang Seong-Jin) He is standing on the far right in the image above and plays a crazy guy addicted to music. If he doesn't hear music, then he'll start smashing things and beating people. This actor is one of my favorite comedians in Korean cinema. I also like him in the following movies:
     4. 유지태 (Yoo Ji-Tae) He's jumping on the far left in the image above and plays a fairly taciturn role, only deigning to make a ruckus when he sees complicated words. He spends most of the time making nude art. He's also the most well-known of the four hoodlums. I have enjoyed his acting ability in these other Korean movies:
     Who else is in this movie? These are the big three. (I don't know how to extract their images from the DVD.)

      1. 유해진 (Yoo Hae-Jin) He plays the leader of a competing gang of thugs that collects money from one of the gas station employees. Yoo Hae-Jin has been in many Korean movies that I have enjoyed.
     2. 김수로 (Kim Soo-Ro) He plays the leader of the motorcycle gang and initially meets the ragtag four when they order out for Chinese food, as he is the delivery driver. I have enjoyed his antics in these other movies:
     I also want to mention that Kim Soo-Ro played a small role in Taegukgi (2004). His role was near the end of the movie, where he had suspected communists kneel down in front of pits, to prepare for execution. It felt strange to see him playing such an evil character, after having seen so many of his comedic roles.

     3. 김응수 (Kim Eung-Soo) This man has been in every Korean movie. There must've been a time when I once randomly selected a few movies to watch and he appeared in each one. In Attack the Gas Station!, he plays the role of one of the two police officers you first see, and yells at Kang Seong-Jin for drinking a can of Pepsi. He usually plays a bad guy in movies; someone that yells a lot and becomes angry easily. It's rare to see him do anything nice and I've never seen him with a leading role.

     I lent Attack the Gas Station! to a co-worker and while he didn't care for it, he stated his cousin loved it; it was the funniest thing he had ever seen. My parents were able to tolerate it and I can't even get my friends to watch it. Some people just can't handle subtitles. Another thing I want to mention is the soundtrack. Occasionally, Korean movies will use music from video games. I heard music from Guilty Gear XX Reload during some action scenes in My Wife is a Gangster 3 and music from Outrun in Chilsu and Mansu. From what game did this movie borrow music from? G-Darius. At the very beginning, when they are preparing to raid the gas station, you can hear the beginning of the song G Zero #2 (track 1 on the arrange album). The rest of the music is pretty good and I would like to have the soundtrack, but it's OOP in Korea and quite expensive. My only complaint about the Attack the Gas Station! DVD is that the image is not anamorphic. It looks great on a standard 4:3 set and there is no way to fix the image on a 16:9 set without losing some of the image, unless you put the TV in 4:3 mode.

     A Dirty Carnival took me several viewings to comprehend. This is what you need to know:

     1. Gun control laws are very strict in South Korea.
     2. Gangsters that use guns are regarded as sissies.
     3. Gangsters need sponsors. A sponsor is a semi-legitimate businessman that needs someone to carry out his illegal activities.

     I had wondered about the paucity of guns and why the gangsters needed sponsors so badly. Once those basic things are understood, then this movie makes a lot more sense. It is very much unlike your typical gangster movie, involving the Mafia or the Yakuza. These gangsters have to fight and coerce people with knives and bats; they are thugs in suits. Have you seen 28 Weeks Later? Do you remember that horrifically cold scene at the very beginning, when the man left his wife behind? This movie is like that scene. It is cold, it ends cold, and it leaves a cold feeling. This is a hard hitting movie that doesn't use violence in the most extreme sense, such as that used in I Saw the Devil, but it effectively skewers any hope of happiness in your heart. 
     By the time I had watched this movie, I was far more familiar with Korean cinema and the actors involved, so this was quite dissimilar to Attack the Gas Station!, on many levels. I do want to mention that the director, Yu Ha, is one of my favorites. I also greatly enjoyed Marriage is a Crazy Thing and A Frozen Flower.

     In summary, my two favorite Korean movies are opposites. One is happy and the other is cold. This was not done on purpose.