How to Brew Beer in the Confines of a Generation Ship

Beer is the oldest human-made alcoholic beverage that we know about. People living in the Yellow River Valley (now in China) were brewing some sort of fermented grain alcohol around 9,000 B.C.E., and the first barley beer was probably made in the Zagros Mountains of Iran around 3,400 B.C.E. We’ve been drinking it, in all its ethanol-and-carbonation-filled glory, for pretty much as long as we’ve been people. Some of our earliest writing is even about beer: the Hymn to Ninkasi, the Mesopotamian goddess of beer, was not only a praise song but also a way of remembering the standard beer recipe. It stands to reason that, if humans manage to get off of earth and head for the vast reaches of the galaxy, we’d want to have some beer to drink along the way.

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Cory Doctorow’s Radicalized Has Been Shortlisted for the Canada Reads Prize!

Tor Books, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, is excited to announce that Radicalized, by bestselling and critically acclaimed author Cory Doctorow, has been shortlisted for the Canada Reads prize.

Often referred to as “literary Survivor,” Canada Reads nominates five books each year to be represented by one of five celebrity champions. Each day, panelists vote to eliminate one book. The single remaining title is chosen as the one the whole country should read that year. Canada Reads is broadcast on CBC Radio, CBC-TV, and CBC Books.

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And Now for an All-Too-Brief Tribute to Terry Jones

What I found about Terry was difficult is he cared passionately about everything. We all care about some things, but we don’t care so much about others, so we can compromise on them. Terry cared about everything. It didn’t matter how tiny the detail. –John Cleese

When I saw the news about Terry Jones I felt an odd sense of urgency: I should write something, but I was so afraid I’d mess it up that I froze. This doesn’t happen to me often and it’s taken me an entire day to figure out why: Terry Jones is not my personal favorite Python (that’s Palin) but I think he was the most important Python.

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History and SFF: Big Data and The Centenal Cycle by Malka Older

My family’s first computer had a 41 MB hard drive. I saved my carefully crafted teenage observations of life on 1.5 MB floppy discs that never seemed to be filled to capacity. Two years later, I moved away to go to college. I brought with me a laptop computer with a 240 MB hard drive. I was a very proud owner of this technological marvel, even though I had no idea what to do with all that storage space. Since 2005, we have been living in the age of Web 2.0 and Big Data. Now, I download 240 MB of data every time I update the apps on my smartphone.

The exact origins of the term “Big Data” might be in dispute, but its meaning is clear. Big Data gets its name from the enormous amounts of digital information generated, collected, and stored every second.

[What might a future dominated by Big Data look like?]

Back to the Future — Star Trek: Picard’s “Remembrance”

The opening of Picard’s premiere episode is pure fan service: we’ve got the Enterprise-D flying through space just like it was on The Next Generation, we’ve got Data back in his old uniform, we’ve got Ten-Forward, we’ve got a poker game (a running gag that got its start in the episode “The Measure of a Man,” far from the last callback to that episode we’ll see in this first hour), and we’ve got Bing Crosby singing “Blue Sky,” which Data sang at the Riker-Troi wedding in Star Trek: Nemesis.

It’s all a dream, of course. But the fan service doesn’t end there….

[I don’t want the game to end….]

Five SF Works Involving Epic Space Journeys

Some readers may be familiar with the mission of the Down Under Fan Fund; for those who are not, allow me to quote from the official site:

DUFF, the Down Under Fan Fund, was created by John Foyster in 1970 as a means of increasing the face-to-face communication between science fiction fans in Australia and New Zealand, and North America. It was based on an earlier fan fund called TAFF which did the same for fans in Europe and North America. Other fan funds have spun off from these two, all in the name of promoting a better understanding of worldwide fandom.

As it happens, this year I am one of four candidates for DUFF. More details can be found via previous DUFF winner Paul Weimer’s tweet.

Of course, the tradition of sending people very far away for various laudable reasons is an old one. Unsurprisingly, this is reflected through the lens of science fiction. Various SF protagonists have been sent quite astonishing distances; sometimes they are even permitted to return home. Here are five examples.

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Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Caretaker”

“Caretaker”
Written by Rick Berman & Michael Piller & Jeri Taylor
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Season 1, Episode 1
Production episode 101
Original air date: January 16, 1995
Stardate: 48315.6

Captain’s log. A crawl explains the existence of the Maquis, who are rebels against a Federation-Cardassian treaty that ceded disputed territories to each side regardless of who was living there. Gul Evek is chasing a Maquis ship into the Badlands. Maquis engineer B’Elanna Torres takes the weapons offline to add impulse power so Chakotay, the cell’s leader, can get into the Badlands. Tuvok of Vulcan thinks this is a bad idea, but goes along.

Evek follows them into the Badlands, to Chakotay’s surprise, and is damaged. Chakotay avoids a plasma storm, but then is hit by a tetryon beam of unknown origin.

[“We were warned about the Ferengi at the Academy.” “Warned about Ferengi, were you?” “That’s right.” “Slurs, about my people, at Starfleet Academy!” “What I meant was…” “Here I am, trying to be a cordial host!”]

Series: Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

The Citadel of the Autarch, Part 1: A Festival of Stories

Welcome back to the Gene Wolfe Reread. It’s been a while since we last followed in the footsteps of Severian, who began his life as an apprentice in Matachin Tower and in a short span of time became a torturer, an outcast, a journeyman, a healer, an actor, a lictor, a lover, a father, and, the last time we saw him, someone ready to become a volunteer in the war against the Ascians.

As you may recall, my role in this reread is not exactly the one of a scholar, even though I am also one (as well as a fiction writer and a Gene Wolfe fan, naturally), but of a perplexed reader. When I called my first article of this series “The Reader in the Mist,” I did so to describe what I was feeling then—as a kind of a novice, being just initiated into the mysteries of Wolfe’s fiction.

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Series: Rereading Gene Wolfe

Exploring the People of Middle-earth: Gandalf, Kindler of Hearts

In this biweekly series, we’re exploring the evolution of both major and minor figures in Tolkien’s legendarium, tracing the transformations of these characters through drafts and early manuscripts through to the finished work. This week’s installment, by special request, takes a look at some of the more obscure aspects of the beloved and mysterious wizard Gandalf.

Gandalf is, without a doubt, one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s most iconic characters. The wizard’s good-hearted, grumpy, mysterious persona has influenced more than a few modern wizards (we won’t name names), and few who have encountered him, whether in Middle-earth or in our primary world, leave the experience unchanged. While he doesn’t seem to be a common favorite among younger readers (check out Luke Shelton’s work on readers’ experiences with The Lord of the Rings for more info), Gandalf tends to make an impact on adults, who find themselves drawn to his dry wit, his gruff kindness, and his commitment to doing what needs to be done and saying what needs to be said regardless of consequences. And in the wake of Ian McKellan’s masterful portrayal of the old wizard in Peter Jackson’s adaptations…well, suffice it to say that Gandalf has quite a legacy.

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On the Origins of Modern Biology and the Fantastic: Part 16 — William Gibson and the Human Genome Project

Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts… A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding… —William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)

Neuromancer is William S. Burroughs meets Blade Runner, a noir thriller where a found family of high tech low-lifes navigate a job full of twists, turns, and double-crosses, through the real to the unreal and back again. Its vision of cyberspace as a neon-drenched nightmare city in a world of crime syndicates and multinational corporations inspired the makers of the internet. Burroughs understood that in a world where information is power and national boundaries are meaningless, everyone is empowered and everyone is helpless, and created a mirror of the dystopian anxieties of the 1980s. It is the book that gave the brief but revolutionary subgenre of cyberpunk its legs.

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