“Twelve Tomorrows 2013” science fiction anthology

MIT Technology Review just announced their “Twelve Tomorrows 2013” science fiction anthology.  Please note that I have not read this edition yet.  The 2011-2012 anthology received good reviews on Amazon, and here’s Tor’s review.

I’m particularly interested in “Twelve Tomorrows 2013” because of author Nancy Fulda’s description of her story, “The Cyborg and the Cemetery”.  Maybe I’ve seen too many Star Trek episodes or my scientific mindset is rooted more in the arts than in engineering, but I too think that emotional experience is as important — or more important — to establishing human identity as thought is.  How much of what makes us who we are is established by the finely tuned, or perhaps not so finely tuned, interactions between our brains and our hormones?  I’ll be curious to read Fulda’s story and review “Twelve Tomorrows 2013”.

When I found out about MIT Technology Review’s first science fiction anthology, “trsf”, I was excited that they were promoting science fiction in a technology-driven magazine.  I still am.  I think that MIT Technology Review requests stories only from known and acclaimed writers.  As a reader and writer of small press SF, I would like the publication to open the next anthology — 2014, I presume — to submissions from less-well-known authors.  Maybe they could leave a few slots open for such stories.

MIT Technology Review also features some interesting interviews with author Neal Stephenson regarding the nature of science fiction.  I’d also add this Curiosity.com video below of physicist Michio Kaku talking about technology and science fiction.

Astroturfing – digital disguise

After reading comments at the end of online articles or social media postings, I have often wondered whether some or many of the comments were from real people.   Astroturfing refers to the practice of creating a fake “grass-roots” movement.  Computerworld published an article on the subject of astroturfing this week.

Astroturfing sure sounds like subject matter for science fiction.  Sure enough, in a paper about astroturfing legal implications in Australia published on Studymode.com, we find that astroturfing has been used in scifi as early as the 1980’s: “…In Orson Scott Card’s science fiction epic, Ender’s Game, two child geniuses use fake profiles to generate social and political unrest over the ‘nets’…”

Intellivisionaries, a podcast

I recently was interviewed by Intellivisionaries — a group of Intellivision devotees — for their podcast #3.  They have a Facebook page too.  They just posted podcast #2, and at the very end of the show they discuss my classic video game “Microsurgeon” (Imagic 1982) as a prelude to their next podcast.  Look for my interview in their podcast #3 sometime in the next month or so.  Nowadays, in addition to thinking about new game ideas, I write science fiction.  In a way, Microsurgeon was my first science fiction story, told as a video game.


SkyCall, a fun robotic guide

Why am I blogging about SkyCall?  It’s a drone and software developed at MIT to guide people around campus, and I think it captures the fun of robotics.

As a classic video games developer and science fiction writer, I have spent much of my career accentuating the “fun” and entertainment aspects of computers and the future.  Not only is it nice to see MIT researchers looking for ways to help people find their way around campus, but it’s especially great — it makes me smile — to see them experimenting with a flying quadcopter to lead the way.  Granted, there may end up better ways to guide people around campus, but would the research engineers and people looking for directions have as much fun designing and trying it out?

That’s why I like to write about time travel (“Science Fiction: Time Travel”) and robots (“Science Fiction: Robots & Cyborgs”).  Some of my science fiction stories may introduce technologies that will never be made, but I always hope that my readers will enjoy the concepts and the journeys nevertheless.

Decentralization of Innovation

Former CEO and co-founder of America Online (AOL) Steve Case has some interesting thoughts on decentralizing investments in innovation, especially for education and healthcare.  He reminds me of my own thinking about decentralizing research and development (r&d), either through geographically diversified venture capital investing or remote workers backed by Silicon Valley companies.  Considering all the investment by high tech companies in The Cloud, why aren’t these same companies using The Cloud to geographically diversity their r&d development around the country?  Yes we do see hubs, such as the many Microsoft, Apple, Google, etc. research labs around the world, but I’d like to see distribution of r&d to far more states and cities around America and the world.  Nowadays engineers and other high tech workers should not be forced to live in one or two areas of the country to do their jobs.

Start of personal computing

In 1975 the Homebrew Computer Club was formed.  Former club members and others interested have been running a Kickstarter campaign to bring back many of the former enthusiasts for a meeting in the Silicon Valley.  Lee Felsenstein, inventor of the world’s first mass produced computer (Processor Technology Sol, 8080 based computer) can be seen in the video below.  Around 1977 I coded a 4k chess playing program that ran on my Sol-20 computer.  It was the first video game I ever created.  In 1978, I attended the Second West Coast Computer Faire, where many of the Homebrew Computer Club members showed their wares and the first microcomputer chess tournament was held.

“Microsurgeon”-like games

Since I developed “Microsurgeon” for Intellivision and TI 99/4a in 1981-1982, there have been a number of in-the-body games created.  One old game which came out around the time of “Microsurgeon” was “Fantastic Voyage” for Atari 2600.  A more recent game is EA’s “Microbot”.

While “Microbot” has wonderful graphics, and a number of other games offer this kind of inside-the-bloodstream look — such as the educational game “Immune Attack”, it doesn’t seem to offer a similar attractive outside-the-body view.  I admit that I haven’t played the full game, so I could be wrong.  “Fantastic Voyage” did the inside-the-bloodstream view, and although it did offer maze and shooter gameplay, it didn’t really capture the nice look-and-feel that “Microbot” provides today.

When I first designed “Microsurgeon”, I had hoped to bring both views to the game, but the inside-the-body view was too difficult to do well with the blocky graphics we had back then.  Lucky for me I had Michael Becker at Imagic to help me create the iconic graphics — featured on several magazine and music album covers — that you see in “Microsurgeon”.

Below are videos of the three games.

Ancestry buys “Find A Grave”

The Genealogy Insider blogger on Family Tree Magazine reports that Ancestry.com has purchased “Find A Grave”.  While this may not have much immediate impact, perhaps eventually it will make “Find A Grave” easier to use.  In my own amateur genealogy experience, I have found “Find A Grave” sometimes difficult to navigate (e.g. back and forth in the browser) after a search.  Also, I’m hoping that this will lead to even more information and headstone pictures on “Find A Grave”.

“Find A Grave” can be a useful family tree search tool.  If you browse the list of names at a cemetery where you know a family member is buried, you may see other persons with the same name or with familiar names in your family tree.  If Ancestry.com makes it easier for you to perform census and other searches straight from a “Find A Grave” entry, that may help members find more family tree connections.  One can even imagine a scenario where Ancestry provides an app for smartphones where you can search using a photo while you are at the cemetery.  Similar, though more limited, kinds of apps are already appearing.

Below is a video tutorial about the “Find A Grave” website.