Monday, December 10, 2007

A Quote

I am currently reading Steve Martin's memoir entitled "Born Standing Up." As you may have guess from the title the book focuses on his ten years as a working stand up comedian. Here's a great quote from the book concerning his decision to attempt to make a living by making people laugh: "I did have the one element necessary to all early creativity: naivete, that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do."

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Safe for work back from the dead?

I went back and read a classic piece of science fiction a couple of weeks back. I read The Stars, My Destination by Alfred Bester. I read the novel because it kept popping up on lists that covered the all-time best science fiction novels. As a reader of science fiction shouldn't I read the one book, that I haven't read, that seems to appear on these lists?

It's a rare science fiction novel that can read well after ten or twenty years. The Stars, My Destination was published in 1956. As someone who has read a lot of classic SF much of it written back in what's called the golden age of SF I have found that much of what passes for future technology in 1945 or 1956 can appear downright strange to the reader in 2007. For example, I read The Door into Summer (1957) by Robert Heinlein recently and he described an invention by the main character that could be easily seen as a precursor to computer aided design. But, since this is the early 50's the drafting tool he describes is mechanical, not a piece of software. Same idea but different ballpark completely.

The Stars, My Destination though, holds up well. One reason is the use of teleportation by most of humanity. Since common folk can transport themselves from almost any point of the planet to another with their minds, the richest people on the planet (members of families that run corporations like feudal lords) choose to travel as primitively as possible by using classic vehicles driven by chauffeurs. The truly decadent may have a horse driven coach or pay to have a train track put in for a single use. The very powerful also wouldn't email each other, they send messengers. Emailing or using a telephone would be common. Hey, if everyone could afford a giant SUV no one would own one.