The Stories of Ken Liu

One of the hottest names in Science Fiction today is Ken Liu, a Chinese-American programmer, lawyer and writer who seems to jump into everything he does with heart and amazing dedication. He has won the Nebula, Hugo and World Fantasy awards more than once for his short fiction, and recently announced he’s going into Epic Fantasy with his debut novel The Grace of Kings due out next year from Simon and Schuster’s new genre fiction imprint Saga Press. He’s a rising star who blends both Asian and Western sensibilities into his work, taking advantage of both to produce unique works.

I first encountered Ken’s work when the sci-fi and fantasy blog Io9 shared one of his stories, The Perfect Match, that was published in Lightspeed in 2012. While not a perfect story, it extrapolated the idea behind Apple’s Siri to its logical and disturbing conclusion with the personal assistant Tilly in a way that really caught my attention. I have since recommended his work to many of my media students to read as a glimpse into the future, because I think he’s captured it all too well.

Today, after hearing about Ken’s new novel, I wandered to his personal website for more information and was delighted to discover that he has placed 14 of his published and award-winning short stories (and more!) up for anyone to read for free on his website. So check them out, and learn why the name Ken Liu is on lips of both many a fan and publisher alike.

Rob

This 6-Foot, 330-Pound Robot May One Day Save Your Life

WOW! The future is here. Scary and cool at the same time!

This 6-Foot, 330-Pound Robot May One Day Save Your Life | Danger Room | Wired.com.

Ascension- A Novel of the Twin Stars Is LIVE!!

Ascension Cover

My very first novel, based on the Parsec Award Nominated Podcast (which has had over a Quarter of a Million Listeners)  is now up and available for Amazon Kindle. Check it out!

R’ha


“Now here’s the kicker: German director Kaleb Lechowski is only 22 years old, and created this short over the course of 7 months on his own time. Needless to say, his insanely impressive short has already caught the attention of quite a few movie company execs, and Kaleb will be making his way to Hollywood later this month. Not bad for a first year project.”

via Awesome Robo!: R’ha.

Space1970

As a child of the 70’s, I grew up watching all sorts of weird attempts at Science Fiction, from Battlestar Galactica to Space 1999. Now Christopher Mills has set up an amazing blog dedicated entirely to 1970’s Science Fiction in all its forms!

This blog is dedicated to the science fiction films and television series of the 1970s – give or take a few years (say, 1969-1983) – including such nostalgic favorites as Star Wars, Space: 1999, UFO, Space Academy, the original Battlestar Galactica, Jason of Star Command, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Logan’s Run and many others.

But be warned: I still love these productions with all the enthusiasm I held for them as a kid, and they will be treated here with affection and respect. If you’re looking for someone to snarkily denigrate “old” movies – or like to do that yourself – you’ve come to the wrong site.

So journey with us back to the days when special effects were created by skillful hands and spaceships were detailed models, when robots were obligatory comedy relief, when square-jawed heroes and cloaked villains battled among the stars — and the future was fun!

So check out Space1970!

The Gate Short Film – YouTube

Nifty short amateur sci-fi film. Excellent FX work.

4 Things Science Fiction Needs to Bring Back | Cracked.com

A truly great list that I agree with 100%!

It’s tempting to look around at today’s literary scene, with its Twilight and its Fifty Shades of Grey, and wonder if we shouldn’t just flush the whole goddamn concept of written language down the toilet — maybe start again with some sort of hybrid colorwheel/odor system for communicating thoughts. Strangely, the one genre thriving in the swamp of modern literature seems to be science fiction. It’s kind of appropriate, actually: All of our crazy high technology has made publishing and distributing books about crazy high technology much more approachable and widespread than ever. But even the best works could stand to learn a little something from the past, so here are a few things that I miss about old science fiction, and would like to see come back.

via 4 Things Science Fiction Needs to Bring Back | Cracked.com.

Guy thinks his sister is hot

Listen to the whole thing, it’s got a great ending. 🙂

The Warbots by G. Harry Stine


In the high-tech laboratories of tomorrow a new breed of super-soldier is born! The brutal face of warfare has been dramatically altered. Armored giants now roam the explosive fields of battle-massive instruments of devastation with computer minds inseparably linked with the brainwaves of their human masters. They are the Warbots, men and machines combined to create the most lethal warriors in the history of armed conflict. But a monstrous challenge emerges for the mechanical gladiators emanating from a country technology forgot. As Captain Curt Carson leads his robot infantry in a daring attempt to rescue 105 hostage Americans from the sadistic clutches of a bloodthirsty terrorist army, the soldiers of tomorrow face the butchers of yesterday in a battle for the future of the free world! -Warbots Back Cover

As I read more and more about the US becoming a country focussed on Drone Warfare, the Warbots series by G. Harry Stine begins to look more and more prophetic.

I originally picked the books up back in the 80’s at City Lights used bookshop because I was a huge mecha fan, and saw their covers:

Of course, I don’t think the guy who did those covers ever actually read the books, or maybe the publisher was looking for something more metaphorical, because that’s not what the Warbots in the story look like at all. They actually look more like this:

That’s a P.A.C./R.A.T. from the 80’s G.I. Joe toy line, and the set of them actually represent the Warbots in the book so well that I’ve often wondered if they aren’t a tribute of sorts to the books. Like the R.A.T.S. the Warbots aren’t very big, being about the size of a golf cart, and each one is equipped with a specialized weapon for a particular function. In the book, each type has a nickname, usually based on their weapon characteristics. The one I remember is the “Saucy Cans”, which is the nickname for the Soixante-quinze (75) Millimetre guns they were using.

TALON units being tested in Iraq right now.

So basically the Warbots books are military Sci-Fi books about squad-level combat in a future where the US Army has heavily integrated drone units into their forces. If I recall right (it’s been a while since I read them) a squad now consists of a human commander, and a team of AI Warbots under his or her command. The AI’s in the story aren’t very smart, and basically just follow orders (they operate on the level of a Starcraft unit), but they are incredibly deadly and dangerous, especially when properly arrayed.

The humans in the unit are all using neural interfaces that let them communicate with each other instantly using surface thoughts, and they can control and communicate with the bots using this system. It makes them quite a terrifying force in the field, actually, because the Warbots are acting as extensions of the human soldiers, albeit slightly dumb extensions that often require the humans to be on-site to supervise. (The human side of the stories don’t take place in an air conditioned military base in Nevada like real drone war combat might.)

As I recall, the stories usually tend to be about the unit in the story trying to accomplish missions in the third world. A lot of it is about them trying to deploy their Warbots to deal with overwhelming enemy forces that the bots can only hold off for so long. The Warbots aren’t very nimble (no ninja-stealth-robots here) since they’re mostly small tracked vehicles, and as a result in urban and jungle terrains can really be quite limited by the environment.

In terms of writing, the stories are okay. They’re really pulp adventure novels in a lot of ways, but with a very cool concept behind them that was way ahead of its time. Our hero Captain Curt Carson (square jawed, heroic military commander) leads his team of tough but lovable troopers on a series of missions that has him fighting villainous dictators and romancing princesses across the globe. (Not kidding, the love interest that shows up later in the series is the daughter of the Sultan of Brunei.)

Despite this, I actually recommend giving them a look if you’re into military sci-fi or the future of combat in general. While dated in some ways, I do think that Stine had the right ideas, and that in twenty years the future of warfare will look a lot more like his novels than it will how we fight today.

How Old is Sci-Fi? – Atomic Rockets

There are sites on the internet that one can easily spent a whole day lost in, for some it’s Pinterest or Wikipedia, and for me it’s Project Rho (aka Atomic Rockets). A whole site dedicated to helping writers get their science fiction spaceships right according to physics, and doing it in the most entertaining of ways. I find reading the comments, clips from books, and “laws” endlessly fascinating when I’m thinking about sci-fi stories.

Today, what caught my attention was this little gem, which I thought I’d share here:

“And all you young whipper-snappers who think that science fiction was invented in 1977 with the first Star Wars movie, I have to inform you that you are sadly mistaken. SF was old when your great-grandfather was born.

  • “Blaster” dates back to 1925 in Nictzin Dyalhis’ When the Green Star Waned.
  • “Disintegrator ray” dates back to 1898 in Garrett Serviss’ Edison’s Conquest of Mars.
  • Needler” dates back to 1934 in E.E.”Doc” Smith’s The Skylark of Valeron.
  • Stunner” dates back to 1944 in C. M. Kornbluth’s Fire-Power.
  • Isaac Asimov invented “force-field blades” in his 1952 novel David Starr, Space Ranger, which was the father of the light-saber.
  • There was a form of “virtual reality” in Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s 1956 novel The City and the Stars, and a more limited form in E.E.”Doc” Smith’s 1930 story Skylark Three.
  • Zero population growth is discussed in Walter Kately’s 1930 story “The World of a Hundred Men.”
  • Power from nuclear fusion appears in Gawain Edwards’ 1930 story “A Rescue from Jupiter.”
  • Atomic bombs are found in Sewell Wright’s 1931 story “The Dark Side of Antri.”
  • A “tiny computing machine about as large as the palm of a man’s hand” (Palm PDA?) is featured in R. F. Starzl’s 1931 story “If the Sun Died.”
  • And an unprotected man exposed to the vacuum of space but did not explode appeared in Nathan Schachner and Arthur Zagat’s 1932 story “Exiles of the Moon.”
  • “Attractor” and “Pressor” beams appear in E. E. “Doc” Smith’s The Skylark of Space (1929). The term tractor beam appears to originate in E. E. “Doc” Smith’s Spacehounds of IPC (1931)

via Preliminary Notes – Atomic Rockets.

The point here being that science fiction stories and ideas are part of a continum that extends back a long time, and are not a recent invention. It’s likely that the grandfathers of the people reading this read more sci-fi than most people will today, although admittedly most of it was pulp adventure. (Then again, isn’t most of it today as well?)

Rob