Saturday, December 2nd, 2017
Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017
He had a good innings. A very good innings. He lived to 92 and was writing right up to the end.
I’m trying to remember the first thing I read by Brian Aldiss. I think it might have been The Billion Year Spree, his encyclopaedia of science fiction. The library in my hometown had a copy when I was growing up, and I was devouring everything SF-related.
Decades later I had the great pleasure of meeting the man. It was 2012 and I was in charge of putting together the line-up for that year’s dConstruct. I had the brilliant Lauren Beukes on the line-up all the way from South Africa and I thought it would be fun to organise some kind of sci-fi author event the evening before. Well, one thing led to another: Rifa introduced me to Tim Aldiss, who passed along a request to his father, who kindly agreed to come to Brighton for the event. Then Brighton-based Jeff Noon came on board. The end result was an hour and a half in the company of three fantastic—and fantastically different—authors.
That evening and the subsequent dConstruct talks—including the mighty James Burke—combined to create one of the greatest weekends of my life. Seriously. I thought it was just me, but Chris has also written about how special that author event was.
Brian Aldiss was simply wonderful that evening. He regaled us with the most marvellous stories, at times hilarious, at other times incredibly touching. He was a true gentleman.
I’m so grateful that I’ll always have the memory of that evening. I’m also very grateful that I have so many Brian Aldiss books still to read.
I’ve barely made a dent into the ludicrously prolific output of the man. I’ve read just some of his books:
- Non-stop—I’m a sucker for generation starship stories,
- Hothouse—ludicrously lush and trippy,
- Greybeard—a grim vision of a childless world before Children Of Men,
- The Hand-reared Boy—filthy, honest and beautifully written,
- Heliconia Spring—a deep-time epic …and I haven’t even read the next two books in the series!
Then there are the short stories. Hundreds of ‘em! Most famously Super-Toys Last All Summer Long—inspiration for the Kubrick/Spielberg A.I. film. It’s one of the most incredibly sad stories I’ve ever read. I find it hard to read it without weeping.
Whenever a great artist dies, it has become a cliché to say that they will live on through their work. In the case of Brian Aldiss and his astounding output, it’s quite literally true. I’m looking forward to many, many years of reading his words.
My sincerest condolences to his son Tim, his partner Alison, and everyone who knew and loved Brian Aldiss.
Monday, August 21st, 2017
Every newspaper has an obituary of Brian Aldiss today, but this heartfelt reminiscence by Chris feels very special to me:
Jeremy got Brian for the panel alongside Lauren Beukes and Jeff Noon - the result is still probably the single best author event I’ve ever attended.
Wednesday, April 12th, 2017
A collection of interface patterns for granting or denying permissions.
Monday, December 26th, 2016
One might think sending messages to other stars would be a massive, expensive job. No. It isn’t. The Cosmic Call was essentially a crowdfunded hobby project.
Wednesday, December 7th, 2016
Software is politics, because software is power.
The transcript of a tremendous talk by Richard Pope.
Monday, April 4th, 2016
Classic Swiss designs recreated in CSS (with added animation).
Saturday, December 5th, 2015
Saturday, October 31st, 2015
Pssst! Wanna read something scary for Halloween? Well, this should make you shit your pants.
Seriously though, if the event described here turn out to be true, it is one of the most frightening moments in the history of our species.
Sunday, August 2nd, 2015
Salt of the Earth
It’s Summertime in England so Jessica and I are eating the bounty of the season. Now is the perfect time for lamb. Yesterday we went to the Open Market and picked up half a leg of lamb (butterflied) from Tottington Manor Farm. This evening, we marinated it with rosemary, thyme, garlic, olive oil, and lemon and then threw it on the barbecue.
While we ate, we listened to a podcast episode. This time it was a documentary about salt from my Huffduffer feed. It’s an entertaining listen. As well as covering the science and history of salt, there were some interesting titbits on salt-based folklore. There’s the obvious one of throwing spilt salt over your shoulder (in to the eyes of the devil, apparently) but there was also one that neither of us had heard of: that offering someone salt at the dinner table is bad luck and warrants the rebuttal “pass me salt, pass me sorrow!”
Well, you live and learn.
Then we started thinking about other salt-based traditions. I have something in the back of my mind about a new year’s eve tradition in Ireland involving throwing bread at the door and sprinkling salt in the doorway. Jessica remembered something about a tradition in eastern European countries involving bread and salt as a greeting. Sure enough, a quick web search turned up the Russian tradition: “Хлеб да соль!!” ( “Bread and salt!”).
This traditional greeting has been extended off our planet. During the historic Apollo-Soyuz docking, crackers and salt were used as an easy substitute. But now when cosmonauts arrive at the International Space Station, they are greeted with specially-made portions of bread and salt.
We finished listening to the podcast. We finished eating our lamb—liberally seasoned with Oregonian salt from Jacobson. Then we went outside and looked up at the ISS flying overhead. When Oleg, Gennady, and Mikhail arrive back on Earth, they will be offered the traditional greeting of bread and salt.
Friday, June 5th, 2015
100 words 075
Today was a Salter Cane practice day. It was a good one. We tried throwing some old songs at our new drummer, Emily. They stuck surprisingly well. Anomie, Long Gone, John Hope …they all sounded pretty damn good. To be honest, Emily was probably playing them better than the rest of us.
It was an energetic band practice so by the time I got home, I was really tired. I kicked back and relaxed with the latest copy of Spaceflight magazine from the British Interplanetary Society.
Then I went outside and watched the International Space Station fly over my house.
Monday, April 13th, 2015
100 words 022
I spent the day in London. As my train arrived back in Brighton, it was enveloped in a chilly fog. The whole town was bedecked in an eerie seaside mist—not an uncommon Brighton phenomenon.
Fortunately the fog cleared by the time the ISS made its way across the sky this evening. It was a beautiful sight.
I was hoping to also look for a Dragon capsule on its resupply mission shortly afterwards. Alas, the launch was scrubbed. I got lucky with the weather; SpaceX, not so much.
Perhaps tomorrow will bring better fortune. I’ll be looking to the sky.
Thursday, February 19th, 2015
A beautiful website for ISS-based biology experiments.
Thursday, November 27th, 2014
A lovely little science hack: listen to whatever radio station is broadcasting below the position of the International Space Station.
Wednesday, November 26th, 2014
We’re going back to the moon. With a robot. So we can take sublunarean samples.
You can help fund it on Kickstarter.
Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
A great series of articles on the sci-fi films of the ’60s and ’70s:
The Laser Age examines a rich period in the history of science-fiction filmmaking that began in the late 1960s and faded away by the mid 1980s.
…all wrapped up in a nice responsive design too.
Sunday, December 15th, 2013
Brian Aldiss: ‘These days I don’t read any science fiction. I only read Tolstoy’ | Books | The Guardian
A profile of Brian Aldiss in The Guardian.
I still can’t quite believe I managed to get him for last year’s Brighton SF.
Sunday, September 1st, 2013
This history of hacking.
Information doth wish to be free.
Wednesday, August 21st, 2013
August in America, day eighteen
UX Week kicked off today. It’s a four-day event: one day of talks, followed by two days of workshops, followed by another day of talks. I’ll be spending all of the third day doing workshops back-to-back.
Bizarrely, even though it’s a four-day event, they only offer speakers three nights of accommodation. Seems odd to me: I would’ve thought they’d want us to stick around for the whole thing.
So, as I don’t get my hotel room until tomorrow, today I had to make my way from Tantek’s place in the Haight all the way over to the Mission Bay Conference Center—a fairly long MUNI ride. Alas, that meant I missed Steven Johnson’s opening talk. Curses!
Fortunately I did make it time for Ian Bogost’s talk, which was excellent.
In the afternoon, I walked over to Four Barrel, the excellent coffee shop that was celebrating its fifth birthday. They had a balloons, a photo both, a petting zoo, games, and best of all, free coffee. Tom popped by and we had a lovely time chatting in the sun (and drinking free coffee).
Seeing as I was in the Mission anyway, it would’ve been crazy not to have a mission burrito, so a trip to Papalote quickly followed. Best of all, Erin popped by. Then, as we were heading home via Dolores Park, we met up with Ted. Just like I hoped!
Thursday, August 15th, 2013
The story behind the classic arcade game Missile Command and the toll it took on its creator:
Theurer’s constant strides for perfection left him working his body to the point that Missile Command’s premise started to manifest itself in his subconscious, sneaking into his dreams and turning them to nightmares.
There was something about the sound of those explosions, the feeling of the trackball in your hand, and the realisation that no matter how well you played, you could only delay the inevitable.