One of the most frequent requests we get here at Worlds Without End is for more Military SF. You military fans have been after us from the get go. “Why no Mil-SF?” “Where are the Davids?” (Weber, Drake and Feintuch) “You guys must hate Military SF, America and kittens too…”
No, it’s nothing like that I promise. While I freely admit we’ve been under-budget on our “Davids” we did have a decent selection of Mil-SF in the bag: The Forever War, Ender’s Game, Starship Troopers, Downbelow Station, Old Man’s War and Dorsai! to name a few. Some of those books got added to our DB as a result of the awards we cover. Others got added when we started paying attention to the Book Lists as well.
Those books weren’t enough to stop the emails though, so I went looking for a Military Science Fiction award to bolster our military cred. I wanted to add the best Mil-SF available instead of just dumping in a bunch of books from a sub-genre that I don’t know much about. Imagine my surprise when I couldn’t find a single award dedicated to Mil-SF. That just blew me away. It’s a huge sub-genre with a massive following, surely there was an award…. No? Well, OK, how about a “best of” list from some fan organization or genre luminary then? Nope. Nada. What’s a guy to do?
Luckily, I came across an article by SF author Mike Resnick called Military Science Fiction: A Brief History (posted here with the author’s permission) that gave me some direction. It’s an overview of Military SF from E.E. “Doc” Smith to Mr. Resnick’s own Starship Series and I determined that I’d add all the books he mentions in his article to the WWEnd DB. So far I’ve added over 40 new books across 10 Military SF series. Not a bad start methinks.
With the Lightnings (1998)
Off Armageddon Reef (2007)
Midshipman’s Hope (1994)
Starship: Mutiny (2005)
Trading in Danger (2003)
Roger MacBride Allen
The Depths of Time (2000)
David Weber and John Ringo
March Upcountry (2001)
The Tank Lords (1997)
On Basilisk Station (1992)
A Hymn Before Battle (2000)
So, what do you think? Are you a fan of Mil-SF? What books or authors am I missing? If you know of any awards or authoritative lists let me know.
- One, Conrad Williams (Virgin)
- The Language of Dying, Sarah Pinborough (PS)
Best Short Story
- What Happens When You Wake Up In The Night, Michael Marshall Smith (Nightjar)
- The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 20, ed. Stephen Jones (Constable and Robinson)
- Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical, Robert Shearman (Big Finish)
PS Publishing Award for Best Small Press
- Telos Publishing (David Howe)
Best Comic/Graphic Novel
- Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert (DC)
- Vincent Chong, for work including covers for The Witnesses are Gone (PS) and Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 20 (Constable and Robinson)
- Ansible Link, David Langford (http://news.ansible.co.uk)
- Murky Depths, ed. Terry Martin (The House of Murky Depths)
- Doctor Who (BBC1)
- Let the Right One In, dir. Tomas Alfredson (EFTI)
Best Newcomer (Sydney J. Bounds Award):
- Kari Sperring for Living With Ghosts (DAW)
The British Fantasy Society Special Award (Karl Edward Wagner Award):
- Robert Holdstock
Congrats to Conrad Williams and all the other winners and nominees.
As mentioned earlier, Robert J. Sawyer was in town on Wednesday and gave a talk at UT Dallas about the future of technology. Some of the responsible parties and I attended and listened to his thoughts on Artificial Intelligence, and how its inevitable emergence will affect the world. Sawyer pulled a lot of his thoughts explicitly from his WWW trilogy, and expounded on the philosophy behind his fictional speculations. In the midst of all this, he touched on evolution, ancient human history, the existence of God, and Hollywood’s ambivalent take on A.I. Sawyer’s talk was most interesting to me, however, because of his speculations on the roots and causes of consciousness and intelligence.
His take on consciousness was stereotypically deterministic and materialistic, which I’ve never found satisfying. For Sawyer, consciousness and self-awareness are simply the results of a certain level of complexity, and it is something that spontaneously occurs at a particular degree of brain development, as if life had hit a saturation point. Even though I am Catholic, the Church doesn’t have much doctrine about consciousness as such, and Catholic theologians who do talk about consciousness generally are repeating Aristotle through the middle-man of St. Thomas Aquinas. It is fitting, I suppose, that a religious body should be more concerned with things that are in the realm of divine revelation (like the immortality of the human soul), and less with speculations about the natural world (like the nature of consciousness).
One of the best books I’ve read on the nature of consciousness in all its different forms is E.F. Schumacher’s A Guide for the Perplexed, originally published in 1977. Schumacher pulls a great deal from classical and medieval philosophy about the human mind, and spends a lot of time explaining the ancient idea of the Great Chain of Being. He thus divides the sensible world (i.e., the world that can be observed by the senses) into four, sharply divided areas: mineral, vegetable, animal and human. The higher levels contain all the powers and substances of the lower, but not the other way around. For instance, minerals are composed of matter, and that matter is dead and simply obeys the physical laws of the universe according to its particular composition; however, vegetation is composed of matter but is also alive, and has a life-principle that minerals do not have, which allows it to grow and care for its own being. Animals possess the powers of the two lower levels, as well as the powers of consciousness (in the sense of being aware of the world) and self-produced locomotion. Man, according to Schumacher, possesses all of these powers with the addition of self-awareness, the ability to think about one’s own thinking. Each level evinces an increase not only in power, but also in freedom: a gecko skittering about has more freedom of motion and choice than does the rock it’s skittering upon.
But intelligence really isn’t the same thing as consciousness or self-awareness. Even a flower has a certain level of intelligence in that it “knows” how to process minerals and water and sunlight to its own advantage, and on the cellular level it works almost programmatically to achieve its goals. In this sense, even an automated machine—which is composed of dead minerals—is intelligent, whether it be a train or a computer. Artificial Intelligence has been with us for a long time. What people really mean when they talk about A.I. is Artificial Self-Awareness (A.S.A.), which, if you’re following Schumacher’s levels, must in the case of computers skip all the way from "mineral" to "man." It is something that spontaneously assumes upon itself all the powers of life, consciousness and self-awareness without gradually moving through any stages in-between. Even if one accepts Sawyer’s thesis that human self-awareness was the result of a slow increase in complexity, it is still the increasing complexity of an already-living species. A.S.A. would seem to require the preexistence of a living computer, and then a conscious (aware) computer; only after these things could we expect self-awareness. In WWW: Wake, however, the computerized life-form that subsists in the Internet awakens fully-formed as an A.S.A. without any intermediate stages.
Where are the missing links?
As smartphones get smarter and computers get faster, humans, who err and just get slower with age, seem to be almost superfluous at times. But award-winning science fiction novelist Robert J. Sawyer isn’t overly worried.
The winner of Nebula and Hugo Awards for best science fiction writing will explore the issue of human obsolescence in a lecture at UT Dallas. The program, “Forget About Killer Robots: How Humanity Will Continue to Prosper After the Advent of Super-Intelligent Machines,” is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 15, at 7:30 p.m. in the Conference Center.
This event is part of UT Dallas’ “Incite Your Curiosity: Exploring Human Enhancement” lectures, presented by the Center for Values in Medicine, Science and Technology. The lecture is free and open to the public.
We kinda figured this might happen.
If you remember from a few months back, we sent our WWEnd intern Barry on the job hunt with a resume laden with stints at fictitious evil sci fi corporations. This was in response to the government’s assertion that the job market was getting better; we thought we’d just put that to the test. Plus, it seemed a good idea at the time to see if any employers caught on to our ruse.
With the latest media reports that over 9% of the country is unemployed, and a further 16% is underemployed (that’s a quarter of all working-age Americans, people!), it was a long shot at best that our man Barry would land anything more promising than Junior Assistant Burger Flipper.
Well, Barry beat the odds and got a job. A real job, a six-figure job. And he’s decided to accept.
(Apparently, New England pharmaceutical companies pay better than the owners of science fiction websites. Who knew? Those male enhancement pills must be more popular – and lucrative – then I initially suspected.)
For legal reasons we can’t divulge our former intern’s new employer, but Big Unnamed Pharmacy Company couldn’t resist a candidate like Barry – especially after his extensive experience in the Credit Department at Tyrell Corporation, as well as his five years of service as a Financial Risk Analyst at Weyland-Yutani and seven years as an Account Manager at Soylent Corporation. (Which is kind of funny when you consider Barry, who’s only 25, had a fictional career that spanned 18 years.)
So much for background checks.
Anyway, with it being Labor Day weekend, it was only fitting to report that Barry came to us, resignation in hand and big fat smile on his big fat face. I guess it serves us right.
Regrettably, Barry’s treason does not bode well for the rest of the WWEnd interns. While I’m personally understanding of Barry’s desire to do better for himself, our WWEnd Chief Financial Officer isn’t quite as forgiving, and he’s decided to send a message to the other interns.
As a result, our entire intern family is deep in the throes of a special project at the behest of our CFO, who has dictated that they spend Labor Day weekend crafting a 300-page report on why The Adventures of Pluto Nash failed at the box office. To include pie graphs.
While our interns are sweating out repeated viewings of Pluto Nash, I figured that in their honor I would pull together a list of 10 Guys in Need of a Career Change. To follow are some real working class stiffs (in a few cases, literally!)…
10 Guys in Need of a Career Change
10.) Malakili the Rancor Keeper (played by Paul Brooke) / Return of the Jedi (1983)
Sometimes known as the Larry Fortensky of the sci fi universe, this poor sap suddenly found himself underemployed when Luke Skywalker showed his pet monster the door. On the upside, with the Rancor gone he’s saving a bundle on kitty litter.
9.) Carter Blake, Shark Wrangler (played by Thomas Jane) / Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Talk about a misleading job posting, this one definitely looked better on paper: “Interact with marine life in a cutting edge oceanographic facility. Great pay, solid benefits, personal chef onsite.” Sorry, but this is not the Beluga Whale exhibit at Sea World.
8.) Pig Killer (played by Robert Grubb) / Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
I pride myself on being a bacon man. But I draw the line at what I’m willing to do for the swine candy, such as having to shovel pig poop in Jimmy Dean’s Inferno. This job would almost make me consider going vegan. Almost.
7.) Zap ‘Em Exterminator (played by Ken Thorley) / Men in Black (1997)
Every job has its share of pests who delight in bugging you. It’s not a big problem, until one goes all Full Metal Jacket on you; then you’re hosed. And you thought Delbert McClintock had issues.
6.) Floral Arranger Boy, aka Harkonnen’s Victim (played by Ernesto Laguardia) / Dune (1984)
Who knew that being an FTD delivery man was so fraught with danger? Having a boxed wine spigot inserted into your heart might be a tip off that this job is not a long-term assignment. And then there’s the boss in dire need of sensitivity training…
5.) Desk Sergeant (played by Bruce M. Kerner) / The Terminator (1984)
The irony of course is you’d think desk jockey would be the safest job on the force. Funny how an angry time traveling cyborg can change that equation in a hurry. The Los Angeles DMV wouldn’t see this much action again until Lindsay Lohan came along.
4.) Cabbie (played by Ernest Borgnine) / Escape From New York (1981)
Driving a cab in New York City? Sure, that’s rough. Make it an apocalyptic-style maximum security prison New York City replete with lethal near-mutants, and it’s extreme. But throw in the moniker “comic sidekick,” and you have a recipe for fatality.
3.) Remy (played by Jude Law) / Repo Men (2010)
Healthcare may be a growth industry, but for blue collar schmoes like Jude Law it just means he’s got to work his guts out. Seriously. Hey Jude, if your supervisor tells you to take heart, put in for a transfer.
I don’t mean to pick on a guy when he’s down, but when a million people sign an online petition asking you to quit, it bears consideration. (If it’s any consolation, Dr. Boll, I’m faced with the same thing. Hang tough, brother.)
1.) Winston Smith (played by John Hurt) / 1984 (1984)
Memo to Big Brother: when it comes to company mission statements, “the worst place in the world” could use a little work. This movie redefined how to conduct a performance review, with Winston Smith as the epitome of put-upon employee. As in, “My boss wants to put a rat upon my face.”
Good luck, Barry. Call if you need a reference.
- Best Novel: TIE: The City & The City, China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan UK); The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade)
- Best Novella: “Palimpsest”, Charles Stross (Wireless; Ace, Orbit)
- Best Novelette: “The Island”, Peter Watts (The New Space Opera 2; Eos)
- Best Short Story: “Bridesicle”, Will McIntosh (Asimov’s 1/09)
- Best Related Book: This is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This is “I”), Jack Vance (Subterranean)
- Best Graphic Story: Girl Genius, Volume 9: Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm Written by Kaja and Phil Foglio; Art by Phil Foglio; Colours by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
- Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Moon Screenplay by Nathan Parker; Story by Duncan Jones; Directed by Duncan Jones (Liberty Films)
- Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Doctor Who: “The Waters of Mars” Written by Russell T Davies & Phil Ford; Directed by Graeme Harper (BBC Wales)
- Best Editor Short Form: Patrick Nielsen Hayden
- Best Editor Long Form: Ellen Datlow
- Best Professional Artist: Shaun Tan
- Best Semiprozine: Clarkesworld edited by Neil Clarke, Sean Wallace, & Cheryl Morgan
- Best Fan Writer: Frederik Pohl
- Best Fanzine: StarShipSofa edited by Tony C. Smith
- Best Fan Artist: Brad W. Foster
And the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (presented by Dell Magazines): Seanan McGuire
Congratulations to all the winners and nominees!