Who-Dun-It Meets the Laws of Robotics #scifi #asimov #sciencefiction #robot #robotics #review #bookreview

Robots of Dawn book coverI read Robots of Dawn to discover how Asimov tackled sex – repressed and free-love versions. The book was important to at least one teen struggling with sexual identity.

Sex is mostly discussed rather than experienced in the story, but there is one sexual encounter – gently done. Asimov published the book in 1983, so I guess he was rather late to the topic as compared to other Giants of Science Fiction.

The story is a who-dun-it puzzle based on Asimov’s famous Three Laws of Robotics. He wrote several stories where a robot is trapped in some bizarre behavior when the laws conflict. Here, a robot’s positronic mind has been destroyed, which leads to a political crisis between two roboticists on the planet Aurora, which further leads to detective Baley being called to solve the case.

Asimov tries to lift the story from merely a puzzle to something important to humanity by saying Aurora-humans must have humanoid robots to colonize new worlds before occupying them. And that Aurorans can somehow forbid Earth-humans from exploring new worlds. This isn’t convincing to me, but doesn’t really matter to the story.

The book is pure Asimov. While events do occur, the story is told in lengthy conversations among the characters. I read the book in many short sittings, but read every word and got through without trouble. I call the style Socratic. Characters question each other back and forth in static encounters. This can drag, and one character even complains to Baley, “I know you must have everything repeated and repeated.”

The robots are barely described. Asimov sometimes goes into great detail on settings, even basic settings like a dining room, so this seems odd. Maybe it’s because Robots of Dawn is the third book in the series and he thinks I already know.

All robots seem to be humanoid, and two are called humaniform. (Here’s a detail: a male-shaped humaniform robot is fully functional. As Star Trek’s Mr Data is fully functional. I told you this story involves sex. And in case you think Asimov’s story is fantasy, think again – sexbot-induced social change is on the horizon.) Asimov’s character also spends a lot of time in bathrooms and thinking about bathroom behavior. Aurorans have holographically enhanced bathrooms. Nothing gross, though.

I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say
Baley uncovers enough to settle the political issues, and he solves the robotics puzzle too in a neat twist that turns the book into a prequel to his famous Foundation series from the 1940s.

I read an old paperback edition from my town’s public library. The introduction promised that not a single word had been omitted from the original 1983 hardcover book.

I’ve included links to an ebook edition in this post. In reviews on some of Asimov’s other works that were transmogrified into ebooks, I’ve seen comments warning they’d been badly edited. I can’t say if this book was re-edited, but reader beware. Maybe you can find an old paper edition.

What others are saying on Amazon
“By the time this third installment was written, some of the tech was already looking and feeling a little obsolete–but Asimov is regarded as a master for good reason.”

“The book kept me guessing about the solution to the mystery. The only problem I had is that the book felt a tad contrived with the social situation.”

“This book has very little action. Almost every little detail is intellectualize then analyzed to the nth degree . It makes reading rather sluggish.”

I agree with these comments from Amazon readers, but I also found it easy to finish as laong as I took my time. Robots of Dawn was easier to read than Asimov’s earlier Foundation, and most readers enjoyed Robots and the entire robot series.

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Visit the True Golden Age of Scifi With These Zines # scifi #sciencefiction #magazine #goldenage

Peon magazine coverThe 1950s were the Golden Age of Science Fiction. You may recognize the names of zines like Astounding Science Fiction, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Imaginative Tales. But there were many more.

I recently found a couple real gems: fantascience magazines Peon and LEER, both published by Charles Lee Riddle. Independent publishing didn’t start with ebooks and Amazon – it was well underway with only snail-mail to rely on. These magazines were true labors of love, since Riddle was active duty military and so forbidden to make a profit on his zines.

Peon and LEER could have been lost, but Riddle’s son Bob Riddle has posted their history and several almost-lost editions.

Peon magazine coverPublishing in those days involved typing the stories on a mimeograph stencil master with a manual typewriter. He had his own mimeograph machine and equipment but still had problems with the print quality or transferring artwork to the stencil, as he pointed out in several issues.

There were pen-like tools, with points and wheels and ball-shaped knobs on the ends that looked like they belonged in the hands of a dentist. Plastic templates were his source for clipart.

[Look for] some familiar names from the world of Science Fiction that appear as contributing authors.

Peon magazine cover

Hmm… Bela Lugosi?

Don’t spend another minute reading this blog post. Instead, download pdfs of these wonderful magazines with their articles and stories from scifi’s past. They’re delightful, and I thank Bob Riddle for sharing them with us.

Federation Diplomat Scifi – how history informs science fiction #scifi #sciencefiction #history #stories #author

Retrograde book coverToday I’m pleased to present a guest post by E J Randolph, author of a fascinating scifi series that follows a diplomat solving planetary problems. Though there’s plenty of action and good characters, it’s EJ’s unique perspective I especially enjoy. Take it away, EJ.

I use history in my science fiction. Strange as it seems, to write about the future, I have to know the past.

My main character is a Federation diplomat who goes to planets troubled by civil unrest, and she brings about peace through unusual but still historically valid methods.

That means I have to know how insurgencies develop.

There is a continuum that all insurgencies follow. First there is a movement. The government cracks down. The movement organizes. The government cracks down with violence. The insurgents pick up weapons, and a shooting war starts.

You may have noticed something. The government is driving the escalation of violence. In the news, the rebels are always portrayed as instigating things. No, the government is unwilling to share any power or address any issues.

Consider the problem: Does anyone willingly give up power?

Yeah, now you know why insurgencies seem to have an innate dynamic, why they seem unstoppable. Because the government has mishandled things.

And, that my friends, is a lesson of history.

Start reading EJs books with Retrograde: Some Principles Are Timeless and continue on with the series. Visit her at randolphweb.wordpress.com.

Looking for a Good Read? Check Out Reviews Here including my book :) #review #bookreview #scifi #sciencefiction #fantasy

Thanks to N K Chavush for reviewing my scifi story about a near-future Mars colony, Glory on Mars. Authors can be the hardest critics, so it’s an honor to be his Book of the Week.

Glory on Mars coverLately there has been a buzz with Mars being at its closest to earth for a long time and appearing bright in the summer night’s sky. Kate Rauner’s genius writing style brings the red planet even closer to us and is so original that it’s a lot different to other science fiction space novels. The characters work so well together and fit well into the alien scenery.

If you’re looking for a good scifi/fantasy read, check out the reviews here by author N K Chavush.

Then check out N K Chavusk’s own book, Anto: Curse of the Hidden City, also available in the UK

book coverWhen something dark and evil is headed towards Anto, an underground city that is unknown to man, the Anthidden tribe will do anything to protect their very own existence. Only one soldier: Tarmus has what it takes to save the city, but will it be enough against what’s coming?

Are You Going to the Mars Society Convention? #Mars #space #SpaceX #NASA

2018 Mars Society Convention PosterThe real journey to Mars! These citizen scientists have been working on the mission for years – they even run Mars simulations. Now, here comes the 21st Annual International Mars Society Convention – Pasadena Convention Center – August 23-26, 2018
 
Future of U.S. Mars exploration, an update on the Mars InSight mission, the debate over planning for the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, the past, present and future of Mars rover missions, the use of VR for exploring Mars, NASA’s search for exo-planets, SpaceX plans for the Red Planet and a full review of the Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station and the most recent University Rover Challenge.
 
I won’t make it 😦 Any of you going? Be sure to post – come back here and post in the comments if you don’t have your own blog, or even if you do: Links welcome!

Ages of a Dog #dog #puppy #years #poem #poetry #Shakespeare

With apologies to William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Act II Scene VII.

dogs playing tug-a-warAll the world’s a stage,
And all canines upon it merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one dog in his day plays many parts,
His acts being six ages.

At first, the puppy,
Snuggling with his litter mates,
Warm at momma’s side.
Then the happy junior,
Chewing everything in sight,
Drooling on humans much-beloved
In his forever home.

And next the adult, quite content,
Who knows his home and family,
Where best to snuffle for fresh scents,
Prepared to defend pack and den.

And then mature,
In fair round belly with good kibbles lined,
Escorting his owner on long walks,
Calm and wise with muzzle graying;
And so he plays his part.

The fifth age shifts
To senior dog,
His youthful energies, now rationed
For the occasional rabbit,
Deep baying sometimes hoarse,
Still willing, even as his legs betray.

Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Geriatric,
Wags and smiles when hears his name,
Content within his doggie bed.

Kate Rauner

With thanks to livescience.com for the age of dogs and cats. Write your own version 🙂 We especially need a cat poem.

You’re a Mutant and it Gets Worse Every Day – Here’s How #biology #gene #radioactive #DNA #Asimov

DNA structure

DNA, just peppered with carbon atoms

Does the thought of mutations in your DNA (and other bits of your body’s cells) scare you? Do you worry about toxins, or GMOs, or species-hopping viruses? Cancer, or growing a second head? Here’s something that may terrify you. Or, since it happens every day and you’re not dead yet, maybe comfort you.

Here’s how you mutate. Your body contains a lot of carbon. This is such a basic fact that to say a chemical is organic means it contains carbon atoms in its molecules. Your DNA, the genetic blueprint that pilots your cells through life, contains carbon atoms.

Not likely!

Carbon, like many elements, exists in different forms called isotopes. Mostly we have carbon-12, but a fraction of all carbon is carbon-14, which is radioactive. When it decays (that is, releases a sub-atomic particle or energy from its nucleus), it transmogrifies into a different element, nitrogen.

Isaac Asimov once estimated that this transmogrification happens roughly six times a second somewhere in the DNA in your body, every second of every day, throughout your life. I’m way too lazy to check his figures, but whatever the rate, it happens. Every one of these events mutates the DNA where it occurred. A lot of the mutations will be in body cells, and some will be in sperm or eggs (reproductive cells.) A mutation might kill the cell, cause cancer, get passed on to offspring, or do nothing discernable.

So, you are a mutant. So am I. And we’re still alive. Do you feel better? Or worse?

BTW: Carbon-14 is created in Earth’s atmosphere every day by a natural process. Cosmic radiation strikes our planet from every direction, and it includes sub-atomic particles known as neutrons. Occasionally a neutron strikes a nitrogen atom. Our atmosphere is roughly 75% nitrogen, so this is no surprise.

The neutron reshuffles nitrogen’s nucleus and transforms it to carbon-14, which is radioactive and so decays back to nitrogen. It takes 5,700 years for half of a given amount of C-14 to decay, but it happens at a steady rate. The entire process happens at a steady rate and the C-14 way up high mixes into the air down low that we breathe, so the amount of C-14 in the body of any living organism stays constant until it stops breathing (or otherwise respiring). Then radioactive decay depletes the body of C-14. This is the basis of carbon-14 dating, which you may have heard of.

BTW2: Asimov’s book is old – published in 1988 – but still worth reading. He covers a lot of history and basic science. New discoveries seldom change what we know about the basics, like radioactive decay.