The science-fiction community is dispossessed tonight. Ursula K Le Guin RIP.
It was drawn to my attention a couple of weeks ago that I have not yet expressed (publicly) an opinion on either Star Wars: The Last Jedi or the Doctor Who Christmas special. That is both true, and very remiss of me. Trouble is it’s now been quite a while since I saw them both.
Still, I should be able to gather together a few memory cells.
The Last Jedi
I went on opening night, as I microblogged. It was great. There are some points that could have been done differently, or left out, or speeded up; and it had the weird effect towards the end of there being a series of times when I thought it was finished, and it still wasn’t. But all in all a fine work. Not as good as The Force Awakens, maybe. But that’s partly because that one raised our expectations so high.
‘Twice Upon A Time’
Peter Capaldi’s last episode. It was damn fine, loads of fun. Great to see Bill back, even if not exactly. Unnecessary Daleks, but quite a good use of them — or ‘it,’ I should say.
And the introduction of ‘Testimony,’ scooping up people’s memories and saving them, is great. Though how many computer-simulated afterlives can one series have?
And what a dramatic start Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor is going to have.
There you go, only a month or so after the events.
The worst thing about this book is that it tells you, two or three chapters from the end, that it’s only the first half of the story. Now, I knew there are two other books in the series, but I expected the first book to be at least capable of standing alone. Turns out it isn’t: the ending leaves us hanging right after the big reveal.
The other worst thing about this book is that I’m not really that compelled to read on. I mean, I probably will, but it’s not like when I read Hyperion, say, and had to scurry around the city trying to find a copy of the second volume.1
After all the fuss about it not being published in the UK, and me not being able to get it, I had high expectations. Probably too high, as it turns out.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s by no means a bad book, and it’s astonishingly accomplished for a first novel. I did enjoy reading it. Its true weakest point— ignore all that complaining above — is that it can be a little bit hard to understand the world she creates. Not impossible, though, and Palmer does go to some efforts to explain it with minimal infodumping. Or at least with infodumping disguised as a conversation with the reader, which works quite well.
It’s about four hundred years in the future, and since the Church War some two hundred or so earlier, the world no longer exists as countries in the way that we know them. Instead people are members of one of seven “hives,” which they can choose to align themselves with at majority. Or not: some people are hiveless by choice.
Countries mean less at least in part because of super-fast international transport by “cars,” which I think are probably suborbital rockets or similar. Though they may have a more advanced propulsion system. The most confusing thing is probably that the leaders of the seven hives are characters and each of them has several names. For any given one of them, each of the others might know them by a different nickname, and the narrator uses these interchangeably. It gets hard to keep track of who’s who.
Global warming appears to have been conquered, or ameliorated to the point where it’s not a major concern. In fact it seems to be very close to a post-scarcity society. People only work at things they want to, and seem to be able to live OK without having to work.
Apart from “Servicers,” that is. Our narrator, Mycroft Canner, is one of these. People convicted of sufficiently serious crimes can end up as one of these. They are essentially public slaves. They are required to work for seemingly anyone who asks them, and are paid in food and board — and occasionally other treats such as cinema tickets. But they have no other way to get these things.
I found it quite a disturbing an idea; though it would almost certainly be better than being in prison; and at least they don’t have the death penalty.
That’s not the most disturbing thing in the book. But I’ll say no more about that.
As I write about it, my estimation of it is going up. Isn’t that strange? If I write enough about it I’ll probably stop to download Seven Surrenders, the next volume.
Oh, yes, as I said, it says it’s “the first half” of Canner’s story; but there are two more volumes. Are they both short, or is the third one more standalone? There’s only one way to find out.
But I have a stack of other things to read first. Also I realise I have no idea what the title has to do with the story. 📖
- If memory serves: it was a long time ago, and it may not have happened exactly like that. ↩
Croydon looking colourful and futuristic, yesterday
The Kickstarter for the Arthur C Clarke Award is already fully funded, but now they’re pushing for a stretch goal.
What you get already is pretty good: an anthology of original SF stories of exactly 2001 words each, by a host of great names including past Clarke winners.
But the stretch goal adds a specially-commissioned soundtrack, which is a great idea.
Why are you still reading this? Go and sign up.
My guess is it still won’t give us what we want: all the things our Friends post, in reverse-chronological order.
Turns out Lana Del Rey was… mistaken? about Radiohead having brought a lawsuit against her. After me leaping to her defence. I’m very disappointed.
Amanda Petrusich, writing in The New Yorker, tells us:
Eventually, Warner/Chappell*, Radiohead’s publisher at the time of the song’s release, refuted her claim: “It’s clear that the verses of ‘Get Free’ use musical elements found in the verses of ‘Creep’ and we’ve requested that this be acknowledged in favor of all writers of ‘Creep,’ ” the company said in a statement. “To set the record straight, no lawsuit has been issued and Radiohead have not said they ‘will only accept 100%’ of the publishing of ‘Get Free.’ ”
Which seems fairly clear. Read the whole article, though. It’s interesting.
I love that, on Touch Bar MacBooks, you can set things up so that you use your fingerprint to authorise
sudo in the Terminal.
When Gmail launched several years ago offering a free gigantic storage plan of, I think, 1 gigabyte, it seemed impossible that anyone could ever fill that much space with email. Since then, of course, the free allowance has quietly grown and grown. So too has the volume of email, and the average size of individual emails.
Until today, when I see this:
99% of 15 GB. Whoops! Of course, seven years of using it as a repository for daily backups from WordPress will do that. (It’s not the most elegant of backup solutions, but it’s easy and it works.) I deleted everything before 2017 and now it’s down to 60%.
Gotta say I hope Radiohead (or their lawyers) lose this case:
Pop star Lana Del Rey says she’s being sued by Radiohead for copying their breakthrough single, ‘Creep.’
I’m not a fan of Lana Del Rey, but I just listened to her song, ‘Get Free,’ and the only similarity is the chord progression in the first verse. You can’t claim copyright in a chord progression. Or if you can, you shouldn’t be able to.
If the chords and the melody were the same, they’d have a point, but even then apparently they want 100% of the publishing royalties; don’t the words count? Del Rey has offered them 40%, and I think that’s way too much.
I’m amused that the album containing the song gets its title from a doubtless much better one by the same name: Lust for Life. There’s no copyright in titles, of course.