Category: Books

If all stories were written like science fiction stories

[I was linked to this at the following address: http://lpix.org/sslptest/index.php?id=224 which is apparently a snapshot of an older site, linked on the page. The text is short enough that I’m going to post it here, as well. The story is credited to Mark Rosenfelder.]

Roger and Ann needed to meet Sergey in San Francisco. 

“Should we take a train, or a steamship, or a plane?” asked Ann. 

“Trains are too slow, and the trip by steamship around South America would take months,” replied Roger. “We’ll take a plane.” 

He logged onto the central network using his personal computer, and waited while the system verified his identity. With a few keystrokes he entered an electronic ticketing system, and entered the codes for his point of departure and his destination. In moments the computer displayed a list of possible flights, and he picked the earliest one. Dollars were automatically deducted from his personal account to pay for the transaction. 

The planes left from the city airport, which they reached using the city bi-rail. Ann had changed into her travelling outfit, which consisted of a light shirt in polycarbon-derived artifical fabric, which showed off her pert figure, without genetic enhancements, and dark blue pants made of textiles. Her attractive brown hair was uncovered. 

At the airport Roger presented their identification cards to a representative of the airline company, who used her own computer system to check his identity and retrieve his itinerary. She entered a confirmation number, and gave him two passes which gave them access to the boarding area. They now underwent a security inspection, which was required for all airline flights. They handed their luggage to another representative; it would be transported in a separate, unpressurized chamber on the aircraft. 

“Do you think we’ll be flying on a propeller plane? Or one of the newer jets?” asked Ann. 

“I’m sure it will be a jet,” said Roger. “Propeller planes are almost entirely out of date, after all. On the other hand, rocket engines are still experimental. It’s said that when they’re in general use, trips like this will take an hour at most. This one will take up to four hours.” 

After a short wait, they were ushered onto the plane with the other passengers. The plane was an enormous steel cylinder at least a hundred meters long, with sleek backswept wings on which four jet engines were mounted. They glanced into the front cabin and saw the two pilots, consulting a bank of equipment needed the fly the plane. Roger was glad that he did not need to fly the plane himself; it was a difficult profession which required years of training. 

The surprisingly large passenger area was equipped with soft benches, and windows through which they could look down at the countryside as they flew 11 km high at more than 800 km/h. There were nozzles for the pressurized air which kept the atmosphere in the cabin warm and comfortable despite the coldness of the stratosphere. 

“I’m a little nervous,” Ann said, before the plane took off. 

“There’s nothing to worry about,” he assured her. “These flights are entirely routine. You’re safer than you are in our ground transport cars!” 

Despite his calm words, Roger had to admit to some nervousness as the pilot took off, and the land dropped away below them. He and the other passengers watched out the windows for a long time. With difficulty, he could make out houses and farms and moving vehicles far below. 

“There are more people going to San Francisco today than I would have expected,” he remarked. 

“Some of them may in fact be going elsewhere,” she answered. “As you know, it’s expensive to provide airplane links between all possible locations. We employ a hub system, and people from smaller cities travel first to the hub, and then to their final destination. Fortunately, you found us a flight that takes us straight to San Francisco.” 

When they arrived at the San Francisco airport, agents of the airline company helped them out of their seats and retrieved their luggage, checking the numeric tags to ensure that they were given to the right people. 

“I can hardly believe we’re already in another city,” said Ann. “Just four hours ago we were in Chicago.” 

“We’re not quite there!” corrected Roger. “We’re in the airport, which is some distance from the city, since it requires a good deal of space on the ground, and because of occasional accidents. From here we’ll take a smaller vehicle into the city.” 

They selected one of the hydrocarbon-powered ground transports from the queue which waited outside the airport. The fee was small enough that it was not paid electronically, but using portable dollar tokens. The driver conducted his car unit into the city; though he drove only at 100 km/hr, it felt much faster since they were only a meter from the concrete road surface. He looked over at Ann, concerned that the speed might alarm her; but she seemed to be enjoying the ride. A game girl, and intelligent as well! 

At last the driver stopped his car, and they had arrived. Electronic self-opening doors welcomed them to Sergey’s building. The entire trip had taken less than seven hours.

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Sex, Drugs, and Quote Puffs

jerky puffsI already mentioned Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs in a prior blog post, but I did want to run through and pull out some of my most favorite quotes from the book, because it is particularly quotable. Presented without context, because context is for losers and it wouldn’t help most of these anyway.

“…and I hope Coldplay gets fucking dropped by fucking EMI and ends up like the Stone fucking Roses, who were actually a better band, all things considered.”

“Computers make children advance faster, but it also makes them think like computers.”

“Whenever I see repeat episodes of [Real World 3], I find myself deconstructing every casual conversation Judd and Pam have, because I know a secret they don’t—eighteen months later, they will have sex. It’s sort of like seeing old Judas Priest videos on VH1 Classic and looking for signs of Rob Halford’s homosexuality.”

“You know how historians call people who came of age during World War II ‘the greatest generation’? No one will ever say that about us. We’ll be ‘the cool generation.’ That’s all we’re good at…”

“Had Bruce [Springsteen] written “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” people would be playing it at weddings.”

“Marilyn Monroe was the perfect vessel for an age where it was wrong to want wild, easy sex; [Pamela Anderson] is the perfect vessel in an age where not wanting wild, easy sex makes you a puritanical, born-again weirdo.”

“What’s interesting about this evolution is that the value of a movie like Star Wars was vastly underrated at the time of its release and is now vastly overrated in retrospect.”

“Viewed objectively, R2-D2 is like a dwarf holding a Simon.”

“Producers want to develop movies they can refer to as “high concept,” which—somewhat ironically—is industry slang for “no concept”: It describes a movie where the human element is secondary to an episodic collection of action sequences.”

“Quite simply, [page designers] are trying to create a newspaper that can be appreciated by the illiterate.”

Reading is fun!

sex drugs cocoa puffsMy range of books I typically enjoy reading is somewhat limited in scope. I like a little bit of sci-fi, Ender’s Game and its entire universe of sequels are some of my favorite books. I like a little bit of techno-thriller, Michael Crichton’s Prey was amazing, and it’s very cool to make fun of Dan Brown but I really liked Deception Point and Digital Fortress. I like World War II stories, Flyboys is one of my favorite all-time books, Unbroken was fantastic, and various other books (particularly about the Pacific theater) were all very very interesting.

But that’s about all. Sure, I’ve read and liked other books. But that’s essentially my collection.

My ladyfriend and I, in some attempt to be more informed and more interesting and more cool, have switched books. I gave her Flyboys, which is probably not really her cup of tea but certainly had a big impact on me. And she gave me Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, a strange book by Chuck Klosterman, a collection of essays on pop culture and how it affects, well, everything.

Thus far it’s funny, makes some good points, and is enjoyable if nothing else. It sparked a discussion about the impact of The Real World with my dad, which was provoking and is interesting in and of itself.

Chuck Palahniuk’s “Survivor” quotes

I just finished re-reading this book (which is a fantastic satire on the general media and also a very curious look at life and suicide and death) and decided to pick apart my sticky note bookmark to keep track of the best quotes. They’re all near the end of the book, but I don’t think they spoil much, if anything.

“And if you never have sex,” [he’s] saying, “you never gain a sense of power. You never gain a voice or an identity of your own. Sex is the act that separates us from our parents. Children from adults. It’s by having sex that adolescents first rebel.”

And if you never have sex, [he] tells me, you never grow beyond everything else your parents taught you. If you never break the rule against sex, you won’t break any other rule.

—–

“You know, the horizontal bop. Hide the salami. The hot thing. The big O. Getting lucky. Going all the way. Hitting a home run. Scoring big-time. Laying pipe. Plowing a field. Stuffing the muff. Doing the big dirty.”

—–

Here are condoms lined with a topical anesthetic for prolonged action. What a paradox. You don’t feel a thing, but you can fuck for hours.

This really seems to miss the point.

I want my whole life lined with a topical anesthetic.

—–

“Long-term,” she says, “we’re all going to die. Then our bodies will rot. No surprise there. Short-term, we’re going to live happily ever after.

Really?

“Really,” she says. “So don’t sweat it.”

[She] says, “Can you just relax and let things happen?”

I ask, does she mean, like disasters, like pain, like misery? Can I just let all that happen?

“And Joy,” she says, “and Serenity, and Happiness, and Contentment.”

“You don’t have to control everything,” she says. “You can’t control everything.”

“If you worry about disaster all the time, that’s what you’re going to get.”

The Beginning of the Ender

enderJust today I finished reading Ender’s Shadow, the companion novel to the original Ender’s Game book.

Ender’s Game is in my top five favorite books of all time. It is both a self-contained complete experience and a grand invitation to an expanded universe of sequels and prequels. In a sense, it is the perfect book for an author to begin his series with: easy to pick up for a general reader, inviting for the particularly experienced.

I’ve had a paper copy of Ender’s Game for quite a while and it was just within the last year that I went looking for more novels in the series. Both Shadow and the third part in the main series, Xenocide, were at the local book store, and with some time to kill in between working a job and getting a ride home, I decided to pick up reading again.

It’s incredible, the parallels between the two novels. Ender, the namesake of the series, is a genius, a natural-born leader. Bean, the star of the Shadow parallel series, is perhaps the smartest person on the planet, but too analytic to be the best commander and too small to be taken seriously. Both books deal somewhat with the politics of an Earth at war in space, with alliances and rivalries, and with manipulating minds and maintaining control so as to be an effective leader and listener.

These are the kinds of things that make a man think. Why can’t I lead well, or take charge, or be brilliant and absorb information? What’s stopping me?

Well, first and foremost, it’s only a book. I know that. That’s easy. But understanding the concepts behind the book only makes me respect it more and more, and myself less and less.

Regardless. If you haven’t, go read Ender’s Game, and if you liked it, Ender’s Shadow serves as a fantastic spin on the same story arc. The other novels in the main series, Speaker For The Dead, Xenocide, and Children Of The Mind are slower-paced and more thoughtful—in fact I only got through the first two back when I was on my big reading kick toward the end of middle school, and I didn’t absorb them particularly well. But I’m going to revisit them, and there’s plenty of great reading to be had.