Writer’s History #5 – Annie Geever Interview

In this episode, I interview Annie Geever, the author of the Undead Age trilogy of zombie novels.

Annie’s website.

Annie’s book recommendations:
Thirteen or Black Man by Richard K. Morgan
Fallen Dragon by Peter F. Hamilton
Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder

Check out this episode!

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#35 – Time Travel Part II: Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey

Time travel has used in many different ways by many different writers across history. In this episode, we take a whirlwind tour of ten common time travel tropes to see how they have contributed to the genre.

Book recommendation: The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter.
TV recommendation: “Blink” from Doctor Who.

Other works mentioned: too many to name. Full list here.
PBS Space Time on the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Check out this episode!

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Follow-Up: Works Mentioned in Episode #35

In this week’s episode of A Reader’s History of Science Fiction, I discussed ten common time travel tropes, with examples of each. However, this means I ran through far too many titles to list in the episode description, so I’ve offloaded the list here. I actually don’t know myself how long it is as I write this, but you should be able to see everything I talked about substantially.

Note: some of these were given as examples for multiple tropes. In those cases, only the first instance is included.

1. Rip Van Winkle

“Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving
Honi HaMe’agel
Kakudmi
The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus
Tau Zero by Poul Anderson
When the Sleeper Wakes by H. G. Wells
Armageddon 2419 A.D. by Philip Francis Nowlan
Idiocracy
Flight of the Navigator
Gene Roddenbery’s Andromeda

2. Letter from the Future/Fixing a Bad Future

Memoirs of the Twentieth Century by Samuel Madden
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Timescape by Gregory Benford
The Terminator
Looper
X-Men: Days of Future Past

3. Back in Time to Stay

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
Island in the Sea of Time by S. M. Stirling
1632 by Eric Flint
A Time Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter
Terra Nova

4. Time Tourism

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (Previously recommended)
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (Previously recommended)
A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury
Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein
Doctor Who
Dinosaur Train
Peabody’s Improbable History
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
12 Monkeys
Avengers: Endgame

5. Meddling with Time

Back to the Future
Eureka
The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov (Previously recommended)
Timecop
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow
Time Patrol by Poul Anderson
Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock

6. You Can’t Fight Fate

Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
“By His Bootstraps” by Robert Heinlein
The Light of Other Days by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter
“Blink” from Doctor Who (Recommended)

7. Alternate Timelines

Star Trek
The Butterfly Effect
Primeval
The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter (Recommended)

8. Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (Previously recommended)
Premonition
Happy Death Day
Peggy Sue Got Married

9. Altered Flow of Time

Superman: The Movie
Inception
Interstellar
Tenet
Inverted World by Christopher Priest (Previously recommended)

10. The Timey-Wimey Ball

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Futurama

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#34 – Time Travel Part I: The Classics

Time travel had a long history in science fiction, but it noticeably ramped up beginning in the 80s. In this episode, we explore some of the classic and iconic time travel stories of recent decades.

Book recommendation: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis.

Other works discussed:
Timescape by Gregory Benford
Eon by Greg Bear
Back to the Future
The Terminator
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

See also the Jimmy Kimmel Back to the Future sketch.

Check out this episode!

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#33 – Military Science Fiction

Sci-fi stories about wars and military service in the future are widespread throughout the genre. In this episode, we explore a few of the highlights from this wide field.

Book recommendation: Old Man’s War by John Scalzi.
Honorable mention: Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein.

Other books discussed:
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Check out this episode!

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New Video: What Does Negative Mass Mean? Part 1

Grant Sanderson, of the excellent 3Blue1Brown math YouTube channel, has set up a contest for new creators to make math videos, called the Summer of Math Exposition. Well, this isn’t my first math video, but in the spirit of the contest, I did take the opportunity to try something new. This is the first video I’ve made with the Manim Python library (a version of Sanderson’s code to help make cool animations) and the first that I’ve done with a serious effort at video editing.

For my entry, I chose a topic that’s been on my to-do list for a while: negative mass. Negative mass appears in some theories of exotic physics. (For example, it’s needed to make warp drives work.) However, it doesn’t seem to be in any rigorous way. The actual scientific theories seem to be mostly of the “assume a particle with negative mass” variety.

But the bigger problem, as I explain in the video, is that I’ve never seen negative mass explained in a way that made sense. If you try to work out how it works, you always seem to end up with objects passing through each other. So, for this video, I went back to the most basic level. I plugged negative numbers into the equations of motion to see what happened, and it turns out, I didn’t get objects passing through each other. I got objects exerting negative forces instead. Watch the video to find out what I found.

There is more to come. It’s going to take at least one more video to fully address how negative mass ought to work, since I only had time to do basic collisions in this one. Stay tuned for the next installment.

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#32 – Galactic Civilizations

With the release of Star Wars, sci-fi became more mainstream than ever, and in its wake came many stories about a galaxy filled with many kinds of alien life. In this episode, we explore a few of these stories of galactic civilizations.

Book recommendation: A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge

James W. Harris on 80s sci-fi.
Charlie Jane Anders on 80s sci-fi.
David Brin’s website.

Other works discussed:
OG Star Wars
Uplift
Universe by David Brin
Culture series by Iain M. Banks
Zones of Thought series by Vernor Vinge

Check out this episode!

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#31 – Alien Artifacts and Alien Contact

Stories about the discovery of mysterious alien artifacts, and the similar challenges of first contact, became prominent in the 70s and 80s. Some of them we have discussed before, but many are new. In this episode, we see an overview of these stories.

Book recommendation: Contact by Carl Sagan

Other works discussed:
Gateway by Frederick Pohl
Hyperion by Dan Simmons
Stargate
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
E.T. the Extra-terrestrial
The Sparrow
and Children of God by Mary Doria Russell

Check out this episode!

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What Is a Sport?

The Tokyo Olympics begin tomorrow, and while the Games this year have become a messy political boondoggle thanks to COVID (among other things), the likes of which is beyond the scope of this blog, I thought it was time to ask the perennial quadrennial question lurking just beneath the surface of the Olympic tradition:

What exactly is a “sport,” anyway?

Okay, maybe you weren’t asking that, but I think it’s a legitimate question because although the issue doesn’t get talked about as much as the sports people like, there are certain events in the Olympics that people frequently criticize as not being “real sports” at all. The most infamous of these is probably dressage, a competition to see who is the best at training a horse to dance, a skill that was probably impressive in the 19th century, but sounds like a headline from The Onion today.

But that raises the question: what qualifies an event as a “real sport” to begin with? Now, there’s no fixed definition of a sport—or, if you try to make one, it’s probably not going to be very useful. This is sort of like my “definition of a planet” essay. It’s less about official definitions and more about what our cultural concept of a sport is and why it is the way it is.

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Writer’s History #4 – Daniel Bensen Interview

Daniel Bensen is an author of science fiction, alternate history, and stories of speculative evolution. In this interview, we discuss his new book, Interchange, sequel to his debut novel, Junction, and other writings.

Dan’s website.

Dan’s book recommendations:
The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold
Greg Egan
The Darkness That Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker

Check out this episode!

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