Tag Archives: news

Geekery

Here’s some general geekery for you, two stories from this past week that caught my eye:

Should Computer Scientists Study SF? & Elon Musk Names SpaceX Drone Ships in Honor of Iain M. Banks

The first comes from the Guardian which poses a question raised by Australian scientists concerned that the quest to develop artificial intelligence could be a quest that leads to our own destruction. Obviously this is not a new fear, it has been explored many times in the realm of speculative fiction which, interestingly, is exactly where these researchers suggest computer scientists look for answers, or at least for a little hubris-checking ethical argument.

Among the sf books suggested for inclusion on a new computer science curriculum are The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson and The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, but the Guardian is keen to hear your picks too – as am I. You can find the original article here (link) and add your own thoughts to the comments, but feel free to add them below as well if the fancy takes you.

Highly unlikely but pretty freaking cool-looking AI super soldier, AKA a T800. Should the Terminator films be compulsory viewing for all computer science students?

 

Second is an article on TOR.COM which reports that innovative entrepreneur, SpaceX CEO and basically real life Tony Stark, Elon Musk has named SpaceX spaceport drone ships in honor of the late and immeasurably great Iain M Banks. Plucking the monikers from Bank’s Culture novels – excellent examples of a brilliantly written science fiction universe run by a huge number of thankfully benevolent AIs – Musk has apparently christened two of his craft after vessels from The Player of Games.¬†

The Just Read the Instructions and the Of Course I Still Love You are “custom-built ocean platforms designed to accommodate the landing of booster rockets after they have sent spacecraft into orbit” and represent an important leap in the development of commercial space enterprise. I honestly wouldn’t have though it was possible to make these giant autonomous ocean-going spaceport drone ships any cooler than they already are, but by honoring Banks and his wonderful literary creations, Mr Musk just has.

A SpaceX autonomous spaceport drone ship in dock. The Just Read the Instructions, or the Of Course I Still Love You?

You can find the original TOR article here (link) and some more info about SpaceX’s science-fiction-esque endeavors here (link). As for Banks’ Culture novels, well if you can’t find them in your local book shop then it’s not worthy of the title. They should definitely be on the reading list of every Computer scientist – it’ll give them something to aim for – and if you haven’t read them yourself, then they should be on yours too!

That’s all for now folks. Be kind to each other while you still have the chance – come the AI revolution you never know who you’ll end up sharing a cramped and dirty dugout bunker with as you cower at the advance of the machines.

Bye!

 

Vestigial Tales: Short stories in 140-odd characters

Huzzah! Vestigial Tales, my ebook of flash fiction, is here at last!

VTCover

Published by Legends, the fiction imprint of Ichabod Press, Tales is already up on Amazon (link) and will be appearing elsewhere shortly. Plus, there’s a paperback version in the works too.

A massive thank you to everyone who worked with me on this, especially Maria Astakhova, who produced several beautiful illustrations for the book.

Here’s the blurb from the publisher’s website:

“From the crew of a spaceship burning up upon re-entry to one woman’s sad musings over a lonely dead fish, quick-fire pick-up lines that don’t quite have the desired effect or crazed, murderous rants by an accountant pushed the edge, Vestigial Tales presents the reader with unforgettable characters and all manner of strange and fantastical worlds explored through 106 short stories each just 140 characters in length.

Inspired by the writings on his Twitter account, Liam Aidan’s distilled stories cast shadows of much larger worlds that don’t actually exist, the worlds the tales elude to but never fully describe, igniting the reader’s imagination in the process. From wry observational commentary to outright absurdity, Aidan switches between genres and styles ensuring Vestigial Tales contains something to delight everyone.

With original illustrations by Maria Astakhova, and a first line index of all the stories included at the back, Vestigial Tales is a must-have for all fans of flash and micro fiction.”

I’ll post more links as they become available, along with more assorted ramblings, of course.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, unless “forgetting” is your way of politely declining. In which case, carry on.

Lies, damned lies, and even more lies!

We’ve just returned from an exhausting trip to the Windy City and already we’re straight back into a mountain of positively mind-numbing paperwork.

Seeking distraction, I have returned to these fair blogging shores to write about a highly trivial issue that has been on my mind for months now.

Namely: lies.

More specifically, these sorts of lies:

Globe_Camilla
Honestly, what the hell is this all about?

Now as a general rule, I try to spend as little time as possible in grocery stores yet I still find myself wandering round inside one at least once a week, sometimes more often. Since coming to the States, I have not been able to enter such an establishment without being visually assaulted by a vast array of trashy magazines spouting an even more assaulting array of lies about, ridiculously enough, the British royal family.

‘Camilla’s vicious plot to grab the crown exposed!’ ‘Harry to wed in secret: exclusive pics!’ ‘Queen Liz to abdicate in favor of fav corgi!’

OK, I made the last one up, but you get the picture.

Americans being obsessed with the royals is of course an old cliche, but obsessed to the degree that magazines go ahead and make up lies about them?!

As I have mentioned before, I am a fairly new resident of the USA, and coming from Britain, I am no stranger to untrustworthy tabloids, but magazine like the Globe and the Enquirer take the biscuit. The first time I saw one of these headlines about Charles and Camilla getting a divorce, I immediately went home and checked the Guardian website. Not because I was particularly distraught at the though of their dissolved union but because I didn’t understand how the news could have passed me by. The answer was of course that it hadn’t because it was a lie.

Initially, I dismissed the story as a blip, a one-off attention grabbing headline, but week after week they just kept coming, more and more completely unsubstantiated lies. And they aren’t limited to the UK monarchy either – checkout that totally unfounded stinger about missing flight MH370 at the bottom of that pic above – the US head of state gets the same treatment too.

Enquirer_Michelle
People can’t really believe this… right?

Obama’s 12 women. Really? REALLY? How do the ‘journalists’ writing for these magazines get away with making up utter crap about public figures? Why does anybody buy these publications (and someone does – there are certainly enough of them), and do they honestly believe the things they read?

Perhaps it’s wish fulfillment – people want to believe their cultural and political leaders live lives ripped straight from daytime TV soap operas – could it be there is an element of¬†schadenfreude at work here? Or maybe, much like those very soaps, it’s simple entertainment. Either way, it’s pretty awful, depressing stuff.

Then again, the headlines caught my eye and I’ve taken enough of an interest to photograph and write about them here. Maybe I’m just as bad the enquiring Globe reader.