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Articles tagged "Science Fiction"

A Map With No Edges: Science Fiction Across Cultures

Image: 1970s artistic rendering of “The Cylindrical Colony,” an imagined space colony, by Rick Guidice and Don Davis. From the NASA Ames Research Center. Have you ever wondered: is there an interconnected web that spreads out across all human consciousness, some vast unseen mechanism which dredges up the same stories in different cultures throughout time? Perhaps residing deep within our collective psyche dwells the need to tell particular types of stories,...

Alternate Pasts: An Introduction to International Uchronia

In 1995, Stanley Asimov compiled excerpts of his older brother’s correspondence in a collection titled Yours, Isaac Asimov. This assortment of more than a thousand fragments of letters not only spans several decades, but also, as one can imagine, covers a wide array of topics ranging from personal relationships with prominent people such as Carl Sagan, Kurt Vonnegut, Arthur C. Clarke and a host of others, to the inner workings of the publishing world, science fiction fandom, and...

Balm of a Long Farewell

1 The tiny oval of Orefine has a remarkable number of canals. The island once served as a center for the islands nearby, many of them even tinier. In this network, the earth dug from the canals was used to fill in the shallow straits and connect some of the islands. The main canal, Canale Grande, went through Orefine in an elongated S. On every island, this shape created backwaters in the larger canals to protect ships from rough seas. The Orefine main canal didn’t merit the name...

The Decline and Fall of a Translator’s Brain

Just when you think you’ve figured out what is going on in the Toh Enjoe story “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Galactic Empire,” you trip on another oblique reference to some bit of the outside world. It’s a story that bears up to—and in fact, requires—multiple readings, as EnJoe takes pieces of pop and folk culture and replaces the original subject with his “Galactic Empire.” By the third line of the story, my translator sense...

The Reality of Dreams: An Introduction

A little more than a year has passed since a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck forty-two miles off the coast of northeastern Japan, raising a tsunami that swelled as high as 131 feet in places and left nearly 19,000 people dead or missing. In a matter of minutes the wave swept whole towns off the map, then precipitated a series of meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that released 169 times more cesium 137 into the atmosphere than the atom bomb the U.S. dropped on...

From the Translator: The Eternonaut

I discovered El Eternauta while translating a poem. Until recently I considered myself to be primarily a translator of poetry. I’d made a few forays into prose, but poetry is always where I’ve situated myself as a writer, and following the conventional wisdom that one must be a poet in order to translate poetry I stuck to it. The poem, by the contemporary experimental Puerto Rican poet Nestor Barreto, is called El Eternauta, and was ultimately too hard at the time, too much in...

Tilism-e-Hoshruba

One of the earliest accounts of the magical arts practiced in the Islamic world is found in the fourteenth-century work the Muqaddimah of Ibn Khaldun, acknowledged as the first work on the philosophy of history and the social sciences. Ibn Khaldun devoted several pages to the definition of magic, from which we learn that its practice is viewed in the Islamic tradition as a science—not based in pagan rituals of sacrifice to gods and goddesses but requiring instead a command of a...

Reflections

Penetrate it and you'll better understand: life is revealed to us in a painted reflection.   Last night I killed my son Mauro. OK, it wasn't exactly me who did it. All I did was give the VIP executive the order to finish him off, once and for all. And of course, it wasn't my son, either. He'd lived in our house for a few years and I guess that was enough to make me feel bonded to him. Truth is, it's not really all that clear. I should have finished with him...

From Key of Passage

The pyxel appeared at a most inconvenient moment for Robert. As usual on such appearances, the air flickered a little, an invisible violin began to play softly, and there was a whiff of vanilla. The pyxel materialized some thirty centimeters above the tabletop. He windmilled his little arms, piped, "Oh shit," and fell to the table with a crash surprisingly heavy for an insubstantial being. He got up, brushed himself off, adjusted his official cap, and turned a serious face to Robert and...

From Ball Lightning

The descriptions in this book of the characteristics and behavior of ball lightning are based on historical records. Prelude I only remembered that it was my birthday after Mom and Dad lit the candles on the cake and we sat down around fourteen small tongues of flame. The storm that night made it seem as if the whole universe held nothing but the rapid flashes of lightning and our small room. Electric blue bursts froze the rain into solid drops for an instant, forming dense strings...

A Visit from Alcibiades

A Letter from Appeals Court Judge X to the Chief of the Imperial Court Police The Court, September 20, 1875 Your Excellency must excuse the tremulous handwriting and the rambling style, both of which will soon be better understood. Today, in late afternoon, after dinner as I awaited the time for the Casino, I stretched out on the sofa and opened a volume of Plutarch. Your Excellency, who were my classmate, will recall that since early days I have suffered from this devotion to things...

From The Stories of Ibis

Called Ai no Monogatari (AI's Story) in Japanese, Hiroshi Yamamoto's The Stories of Ibis is a grand tour of science fiction and an excellent example of how science fiction as a genre is collectively self-aware. The Stories of Ibis is a framed narrative; in a world where artificial intelligences rule and humans are a minority, a wandering storyteller is captured by Ibis and told seven science-fiction stories about the development of AI in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries....

Sentimental Education

I went out the back door of the sanatorium. Before me stretched a flat lawn bordered by a tall hedge. The early autumn sun had turned the tops of the linden trees more golden than green. Dressed in identical light robes, the patients standing or sitting on benches resembled blue statues dotted about an open-air exhibit. Nothing moved, like in a movie still. Disrupting this tranquility, I headed across the lawn toward the farthest bench on the left. The patient I wanted to see was always...

From 2017

That night, under the muffled, machine-like sound of the rain, the professor dreamed that this woman had come to him. Naked and very skinny, she was as perfect as a Latin letter, a sample of a special human typeface. Tucking up her angular elbow, she lay on her back, and her belly was as white as a mug of milk. There was nothing special in the lizard-narrow creature, but all the beauty on the banks of the corundum river had been a preface to this body, to the maddening shadow under her...

Balloon to Solaris

Polish speculative fiction has been developing for over two hundred years, although it was only sixty years ago that science fiction began to be treated as a separate segment of the publishing market, with its own publishing series, authors, and critical apparatus. As in the case of Polish culture more generally, extraliterary events—both historical and political—have had an enormous influence on the genre’s form, achievements, and reception in the stormy last two...

From Man from Mars

The street sizzled. The clatter of skytrains, the car horns, the rattle of speeding trolleys, the twitter of traffic lights and the massive hubbub of human voices, all seethed in dark blue air, sliced into smithereens by columns of light of all colors and shades. Like giant serpents, endless throngs poured this way and that, filling sidewalks to capacity, lit up by square shop windows and by house lights sinking into the twilight. Freshly watered asphalt hissed under hundreds of car tires....

Beings with Cruel Faces

"I can't stop thinking about them, Doctor," I said. I was prey to a strange tension, tossing and turning on the very lightweight couch, sensing the presence of my counterpart, my listener, inside of me like a brightness or a beam that was probing, mildly aching, but also inquisitive, tenacious. "Do you recognize them?" asked the doctor. The doctor's voice sounded clear, indistinct and cordial, forging the possibility of a remedy, hope. "No," I replied. "As soon as I wake up, I...

Heart’s Desire

Eliza 812 is a psychiatric computer. All female psychiatric computers are named Eliza, in accordance with a fine old tradition. All males are named Higgins. Eliza is a research project, and her main objective is not to raise the standard of psychiatric care; that can come later. The object is to ascertain to what extent a computer can be made to think and react like a person. The problem at hand holds extensive consequences and presupposes research of an interdisciplinary nature. It...

from Soul of a Clone

NOTE: Kafka's "A Report to an Academy" served as a springboard for Philip Boehm's theater piece Soul of a Clone, which premiered in January 2005 at Upstream Theater in St. Louis. The first of the play's three parts consists of a scientist presenting "found footage" that shows Kafka's ape-turned-human in St. Louis during the 1920's--corroboration of the lecturer's theory of "acute saltational mutation in primates." The second part, which is reprinted here, involves...

A Kiss

On the intergalactic station Malmorius, Jaspar the Terrible feverishly prepares for the decisive attack. Who knows where in the Central Desert of Athyria, Commander Z. checks the converters one by one, the battery of star-cannon, reversing the thrusters, planning the defense of the Planet. These are the moments of unbearable tension, an uncertain hour when the Universe strains at its hinges: first Nestor Pentacephalus is fatally shot (only three microns to impact but,...

Yoo Retoont, Sneogg.  Ay Noo

On the floor, several bright spots formed a row. Snorg liked to watch them move slowly across the dull tiles. The spots of light were different from the glow that suffused the Room. He had discovered some time ago that the source of this light was the small windows near the ceiling. He liked to lie on the floor so the spots would warm him. He wanted to do this now. He tried to move his arms but managed only to fall helplessly off the bed. "Dags . . . ," he hissed between clenched teeth. He...
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