Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Some Panoramas

Most of these panoramas were taken at Lohgad, one was taken at Vangani, on the way to Chanderi, and two were taken on the way to Peth Fort. Tried to stitch them up on a bunch of panorama makers, every single one of them performed crappily. The famed PT and PTGUI commercial edition (got it off a torrent) failed miserably, leaving a hell lot of artefacts. The fault, I presumed, was mostly accounted by the software having to match up just grass and clouds, with little else to go on. I settled to stitch them up individually on photoshop - which is what some of these are. If the white balance was not kept at a constant when the photo was taken, then it is necessary to slide the brightness bar a little towards either way in photoshop before the photos flow into one another. It was hard work. Then along comes Rossi from my office, and shows me a feature in CS3. Go to file>automate>photomerge, select the photos and you are done! It works wonderfully, correcting even brightness and contrast errors better than doing it manually. Some of these panoramas are proper 360 degree cylinderical panoramas - they have been made into the circular panoramas. The circular panoramas were made by stretching out the panoramas to a square, inverting them, using the polar co-ordinates filter in photoshop, and getting rid of the line where they match up. Use the rectangular to polar setting if you wanna try it. They are called 'planets', these are not great, but are my first attempt.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Some Macro Photography

These are all downsized photos taken during a trek to Lohgad. Lohgad cannot actually be called a trek, as there is a pakka road almost all the way to the top. From there on there are proper steps to reach the fort. The entire area is full of asters and bluebells, and a lot of other flowers. One particular stretch was so good that we dubbed it Switzerland. This is doing it a great injustice, as it is a unique location and does not need to be compared. However, we created a stir amongst eavesdroppers who heard snippets of conversation like "if there is no sun, let's go sleep in Switzerland".

That apart, the trek is great for checking out some authentic Maharashtrian flora, and for a host of tiny beautiful critters. Think of these insects... and the one mollusc as unique individuals, who have no concept of vanity, and no means to appreciate their own existance. Such a pity.

To be frank, this one was posed. The leaf was moving like crazy, the caterpillar was roving all over the place, and this is one of at least ten-twelve shots. The difficult part was to get it to focus, as it is impossible to use the autofocus function while shooting close-ups.

There is almost no concept of size here, as the background is all blurred, but the spider was tiny. It had just finished another portion of a large web, the thread can be made out in the photo.

This was a very easy shot actually, as the insect was still for long enough to take plenty of shots. It was possible to photograph it from different angles. The flowers seen here bloom in elongated clusters, and a tree full of them is a sight to behold - but they are pretty common around there.

These flies were HUGE... but both patient models.

This snail is my favorite of the lot. Where else have you seen the color grey being the most interesting in a field of green, blue, yellow and pink? I spotted it by chance, was looking straight at it without knowing it was there.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


This desert was unlike any desert on Earth. There were no dunes, no hidden rivers of water ran deep below the sand, therefore no desert life was extant. Not a lizard, or a cactus, or even the stray beetle. There was not a cloud to be seen in the clear blue skies, and worst of all, there was no sun. It was always day here, in the realm of the mirage-creatures, those alien wizards whose technological prowess had forged this land, to hide themselves from the stars, from the cities, and from all other forms of life. Here they meditated, and here they grew in power, through thought and by the deep focus of will, and here it was rumored that men could go beyond desires and passions, and live out their abilities. It was not the place to go, if anyone was in search of peace or happiness.
The pilgrim who had ventured into this place, had passed through many portals on many realms, traveled through tunnels bored deep beneath the grounds of infinite planes, crossed the vast distances between the stars of various skies, and had trespassed through secret and guarded doors that were never meant to be opened. Once there, all knowledge of the past escaped into the atmosphere, taking with it the primitive urges of sleep, hunger or thirst. The instincts evaporated, all knowledge of language or logic or syntax were forgotten. The senses, however grew keener in their reckoning. There was nothing to see but the endless expanse of the sand. There was nothing to hear but the murmur of sand rubbing against sand. There was nothing to feel except the slight gusts of warm wind or the heat that radiated from the ground and the sky. The tongue and the nose were useless here, at least their designs were. Solitude could be sensed, along with a great power of the mind, and a greater will bent upon him, calling for him. There was no death or decay here, but that brought him little hope.
He could do little but walk. On and on he plodded, without count of the hours, for there was nothing to count time by, and without count of distance, for there was nothing to measure by, not even a trail of his own footprints crawling back to the horizon. The very ground beneath him mutated and changed, forming matrices and patterns, constantly sifting, as if he were walking through a large shallow quicksand. He moved at random, towards whatever he felt like, it was a time before he understood that he was answering a greater summons, following not his own will but of another... or of others. The glimmer in the horizon resolved into a cloud of mist very close to the ground. It shimmered, but without reflected light, like the fumes above a fire. It was a thick blanket, cloaking something. He walked towards it. It was not a mirage, or a body of water, but a thick fog. He could make out shapes and shadows, moving about in the midst of it. He was sure that this was it, the climax of his long journeys, the people he was looking for. There were many of them, he could not count them, indeed, he knew no such thing as numbers. There was however, a vague understanding of quantity, few, more, many, less... suchlike. They were all garbed in a similar fashion, ragged pieces of cloth tied around their waists, some wore robes, a few had turbans. As he moved through them, each one he came close to raised his hand and slapped the back of his head hard. This, he assumed, was the part of some initiation ceremony. No one spoke to him, or to each other. It took him a while to understand that with every slap he received on the back of his head, a different stream of thoughts began to pour into him.
He must have received the magik from all of them, when another grotesque ritual took place. They called him, from the inside of his own head, towards a basin of iron that had been conjured, and in it, each of them passed by dropping a bloated leech. They then attached a leech on him, and waited till it was bloated, and then another one, and another one, till all his blood was drained. These leeches, for that was the closest approximation, were bio-engineered to drain blood, and release it again, without gaining in the process. The energy for this operation, they drew from the metals in the air, but it will suffice to call them magiked. Then each of them took a leech, and attached it to their own arms, and let it fill them with the pilgrim's blood. The pilgrim, meanwhile, had fainted into the bowl, and the leeches drained the blood from all of them into him, rejuvenating him with life.
He understood the morbid significance of this ritual, they were all tied with the strongest bond possible - that of blood. And yet none spoke to him, gave him any command through telepathy, or revealed their intentions in any fashion. Many rested, or seemed to be in thought, or deep meditation. He too sat down, and waited, for there was little else he could do. They approached him, two by two, led him away from the group, to a little place by their own, stripped him down, and mingled their bodies with his. When he was done with one pair, another approached, and then another. Each orgy was bereft of any sexual energy, and yet sex was exactly what it was, he let his body be possessed by each of them in turn. This act lasted a long time, drained him more than the others, and at the end of it, he was convinced that it was his time to wake, to receive, to progress and to learn.
The other's conferred amongst themselves by telepathy. He had come far, further than the most of them. He had proven his will was strong enough to receive the powers they shared and commanded. The powers that were unmatched by the gods of any civilisation. They were willing to open their minds to the newcomer.
It was like a flash in his mind, only in slow motion. With each change in the amount of brightness, of knowledge, came an anticipation of it growing in brightness, and the power radiated through him, waxing in his mind, encompassing it. He sought to explore it, instead of controlling it. He sought to see how bright or powerful it could get, instead of containing it. The infinity of possibilities, of understanding, and of knowledge flooded through his brains. It was the greatest mistake he ever made. After conquering all else, he failed the final test, he failed to receive the gift, and to use it. The power that pulsed through him, killed him.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

From a huddle to a romp

The Penguin mother had just taken over the duty of sitting on the egg from the Penguin father. This was one of the few colonies this far down south. The colony was never really far away from the edge of the water, but none of the penguins were in it. A pod of orcas were nearby, and the penguins were weary, the nesting mothers especially so. The father penguin was checking his camcorder, he wanted to be as prepared as he could for the big moment. The camcorder was a gift from the men, it had large buttons that could be easily used with the flipper, and the resulting images were broadcasted by radio to a secure server. They were broadcasted back if the father penguin wanted a playback.
The father penguin and the mother penguin had come together for the season to have this child. They would go their separate ways after the Antarctic summer and find different mates in the next season. They were hardly devoted to each other, functioning like automatons, but their lives revolved around the egg, to which they were totally devoted. The egg was thick, and well protected from stray accidents, but that never came about. While the father penguin nested, the mother penguin went in search of food, and then they would trade places, the mother penguin nested and the father penguin went out in search of food. The egg itself was large and mostly white, with a few specks of brown.
After a time the egg cracked, the father penguin was recording the proceedings. What wriggled out was a long creature with short brown hair, with legs where the flippers should have been, and a rather large and elongated . The father penguin looked at his child. The brown coloring was acceptable, it was a rare occurrence, but not unheard of amongst penguins. Every now and then, along came a brown chick. It would have trouble finding a mate, but otherwise they tended to live normal lives. The paws instead of the flippers were unheard of. The snout-like beak was also unheard of. There was something terribly wrong with this chick. The mother penguin looked at the abomination, and thought vague penguin thoughts about the hard times ahead.
The baby penguin cried at different times in the night, it spend hours putting its beak into the snow and searching... for something, and the parents had to combine their efforts to keep it away from the bob of seals nearby, it could easily get eaten.
It was hard work, the other penguins would have nothing to do with the creature, and the baby penguin would not go in with the other baby penguins. The parents lost a lot of food because the baby had to be tended separately from the crèche. The mother penguin came up with an idea. It was cruel to abandon the creature, and yet, it was impossible to bring it up. It was a miserable creation, and the best hope was to hand it over to the humans. This meant going on a long trek away from the rookery, but it would be worth it. The father penguin agreed to this, and together, they left for the warmer seas, roughly in the direction of a base they knew about. All along, the father penguin was recording the proceedings of his child.
When the parents left the other penguins behind, a technician at the servers noticed the creature in the myraid streams of video coming in. It stood out pretty clearly. Looking more like a small dog than a penguin, with what looked like a flipper where the tail should have been. This must have been some kind of a mutant. The video was broadcast over and over again, and all over the world, people started tuning in to watch the progress of the two penguins. The humans at the closest Antarctic base were informed about the penguins, and asked to intercept them. Meanwhile, the tabloids went crazy with caps from the video stream, never clear enough to give a definite form, but it looked alien, the feathers were too thin and too narrow - almost like tufts of hair, the feet were as brown as the rest of the body, and there was no white patch on the stomach, but nothing else could be made out as it was so small.
Meanwhile, the penguins flitted from floe to floe, in search of the humans, keeping the child warm, protecting it from the seals and the orcas, and happy about the fact that at least it ate fish. Their voyage did not last too long. They came across the three men and the women in the bright red jackets. The father penguin approached close enough, but the mother penguin was a little nervous. The baby penguin approached the humans fearlessly on its own violation, and after exchanging a few puzzled penguin remarks, the parents waddled off, back to their own rookery, never to mate with each other again.
The puzzled humans were shocked. It was impossible for a creature like this to be born from an egg. Was it a platypus? or a weasel? or maybe a beaver? Hell, it might even be a polecat. This was definitely not a bird, or mother nature had surprises hidden in the DNA that no one had heard of. They took the creature with them back to the base, to house it and study it in more detail. On the way, along the shore, came a huge bevy of otters. From the shore till the horizon, the otters swam with branches in their mouths, towards some big dam project further south. The creature could smell something, it cried, and a few voices cried back from the sea. It escaped the hands of the confused man holding it, and dove right into the sea. Then it swam off into the horizon, amongst its own, off to build that big dam they were all planning, the otter-zion.

The Reaper

One of the biggest disadvantages of interstellar travel is that you lose everything in the process - at least your mind and your body. There are a thousand ways to do it, but every race has come up with the same logic. Encode your being into pulses in the electromagnetic spectrum, and send it across space. At the receiving end, you are made whole again. Sometimes, you can get lost because of a cloud of dust, a shower of haywire particles or any kind of noise that can show up - which is a very rare occurrence, but sometimes, some people just get unlucky. At such times, it was a matter of keeping the decoding on hold till the message cycled over, as it always did. It was possible to be in two places at once. It was possible to be immortal. It was possible to exist in many versions. Technology had taken man a long way, but the progress had left many unanswered mysteries. Why had life spawned on Earth alone, amongst all the planets in the many universes? Why was the speed of light a constant throught every kind of space there was? It was many millennia since the first nano machines had explored into the depths of black holes. The light with the human spirits had followed them. Universes with holes that opened into each other were portals for the travels of many men. No matter how much they searched, they found no life... not even stray strands of bacteria. They were alone in the universe, for some ungodly reason, and soon enough, on the scale of time at which the universe works, factions of man became each other's aliens, many losing the capacity to interbreed, records of the old colonizing efforts being lost, and a vast universe, and the vastness of all the other universes, even the ones forged according to the designs of engineers, were filled to the brim with the same old boring life. And a hundred million years was but a second to the immortals.

Maybe I had an illness, maybe it was a condition, or maybe he could take me home. The botanist. The short, stout man with spectacles and a rambling, confusing mode of speaking that he alone could comprehend. I had never seen him, but could picture him clearly in my mind. I was wandering through the streets of a strange town. It may have been on another planet, or another universe, I was bound by the strange and perverse laws of reality, and had no way of knowing. The entire town seemed to be made out of houses, large and grand mansions with high walls and strong iron gates. They were all different, but had the same angles running to them. There was some strange rock, or plant, of a soft and squishy consistency, that was strewn all over the town. Could have been the dung of the bulls. The worst thing about that town were the bulls. Ever single house had them, chained to the posts of the gate. Each gate had exactly two bulls - one for each post. Large creatures with long painted horns. Brown, White, Grey and a Black one now and then. Some were ruminating on some fodder, drooling yellow and red saliva. The chains looked flimsy, and they could reach till the middle of the street despite them. Every one of them tried to gore me, but they moved slowly, too slowly for me. I was always able to dodge them, but grew wary of doing so. There was no one else on the streets. Maybe they were all dead, or had abandoned the town, or had the habit of sleeping during the daytime. Maybe the only people here chose to live as bulls chained to the posts. I knew of at least one man here, the Botanist with the herb that could save me. Each house had a symbol, a very simple symbol, probably signifying the profession of the owner. I recognized a barber, a swordsmith, a geologist, an alchemist, and a fishmonger or maybe a fisherman. Every house I passed, the same set of events took place, the bulls got excited as I approached, tried to move towards me, realized halfway that they could not make it, and they bobbed their heads as if they would gore me if I were any nearer. I walked at a brisk pace through the center of the road. A different building came into view, a building made of black stone, a large dome of a building, with a gaping entrance. It looked like some place of worship, a temple of some kind. There were heretics living in this place, occultists of some kind. I hurried past that particular place quickly and walked on. I took turns at random, not knowing where to go, looking at the signs on the houses - anything with a leaf, or a tree, or a flower. Even a seed or a nut would have done. I saw nothing of that sort, and kept walking, and I must have ended up walking in a circle because I passed that imposing, featureless black dome again. I kept walking, avoiding it again, choosing to go in a totally different direction, and wondering if there were many such buildings throughout the town. Maybe I was getting tired, and was slowing down, or maybe the bulls got more active with the passing of the day, but a few of those long horns had come uncomfortable close. I had had enough. I just wanted to leave the city, maybe the whole area was some kind of a morbid sanctum. I just wanted out. So I walked in a straight line, and kept going, still looking out for the horns, and only half paying attention to the symbols. Suddenly, the black dome loomed in front of me again. I passed it by, a little bewildered, and a little irritated. The town was curved into itself, that much was clear. I heard the footfalls of another creature behind me and turned around to take a look. It was a dog, or at least, most of it was. It was a dog till it's neck, complete with a wagging tail, but it's head was that of a lizard, or a snake, couldn't which. It did not look malevolent, so I ignored it and continued to walk. The dog overtook me, and went ahead of me. I watched as it approached one of the bulls at a house. The bull tried to attack it, it ran to the other side of the road, where another bull managed to gore it. I had expected that a second before it happened, but what I did not expect was the feeding frenzy that followed. The two bulls tore up the creature between the two of them, and did not even take a step in my direction as I crossed them. The blood was dripping from their mouths. It had not occurred to me that they were carnivorous. I began to run.
Sure enough, when I came across the dome of black stone, I entered it only because there was nowhere else to go. It seemed much larger from the inside. Domes always do, the canopy of every sky is positively tiny when seen from the outside. It was an empty and bare structure save for the fountain in the middle. There was a dark pool of liquid, and the jet spurted out of the earth like the earth itself was ejecting it, more like a geyser than a fountain. I approached it, it was a thick, dark red liquid. The pool was full of many coins, from many ages, races and civilisations. Some of them I recognized, some of them hardly looked like coins, there were a few cubes of glass, a few shards of silver, and even a pearl. I reached into my pockets, and threw in a coin, forgetting that the crude ritual involved making a wish of some kind. The fountain accepted my payment, and a cup rose to the surface from the murky depths. It was a very fragile cup, of some flimsy material, but sufficient to hold the liquid. If I had a choice then, I did not consider it. I drank it. Then I looked around, expecting something to happen. I walked around the fountain a few times. I sat down in the corner, and contemplated horrible thoughts. I considered my options carefully. I resigned to the only reasonable course of action - make a better effort at finding the botanist.
I walked out. There was no doubt about it, the bulls were much more aggressive now, much more quicker. I had to run, but I found that I was full of energy, maybe that was what the drink did to me. An then, to my surprise, I found it, a simple brown leaf in a green circle. This had to be the place. The house smelt like a herbarium. Now to get past the bulls. That was not going to be easy, they were watching my move, prepared to gore me the second I got near enough. They were tied to the posts with very thin chains. I never had the chance to think twice about it, I took a short run up, scaled the gate in a trice, and was over it with only a bruise on my back to show for it - that was where I supposed one of the horns had got me. The door to the house was open, there was even a light on inside. I entered without announcing myself. I saw a table, many bottles with specimens of plants, or herbs or something, a few pots with flowering plants and a couple of chairs. I dared not explore the rest of the house, and waited for the owner to show up. The table was strewn with papers, notes of many kinds, designs and diagrams. I looked through them, I did not understand a single word, or decipher a single diagram, but they looked intricate, carefully crafted, and exhaustively created. With no particular idea of why I was doing it, I pocketed a couple of those handwritten manuals.
The short man in the spectacles and the mane of dark hair appeared. I felt like I had known him all my life. He behaved like it. He took out a small pouch from his pocket, and extracted a handful of seeds from it. He handed them over to me. "This is what you want" he said. "What do I do, eat them?" I asked. "Walk around to the back of the house. Find a patch of bare earth. Plant them there. You can stay here till they grow. I have other things to attend to." And just like that, he left me alone in the room.

==fantasy, NOT sci fi==

Friday, September 19, 2008

Grotesque gaming girls

The midiveal ones are caps from the Warhammer trailer, the dark/gothic ones are from the Requiem: Bloodrayne trailer. Look how far away they are from, by comparison a normal gamer girl from the classic Duke Nukem, which is the pic above. They just don't make em like that anymore. Wonder what the kids playing these games will expect when they grow up. Ah well.

If you got here because of a google search or all of this turned you on, head over to: http://www.spike.com/gtgirls. If it is just the digital boobies, head over to http://www.spike.com/video/top-10-boobies-in/3021884 to get the very best in the business.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

tricks on google search

Bunch of tricks to try out on google search - and their flipsides.

0) This is not exactly a 'trick' but is very useful nonetheless. Suppose you want to search for methods to convert an xls file to the xml format, or want to generate a xml file from a spreadsheet, searching for [generate xlm from xls] will return a limited number of results as compared to [~generate xlm from xls]. The tilde is used to replace generate with related works. This means that you can search for create, make, form etcx using the tilde key without running multiple searches. Go [~porn].

1) If you are not sure of the system time, or want the accurate time anyway, type in [time] in the search field, and hit enter. This works for [time in China] or [time in zanzibar]. Unfortunately, and for a very strange reason [date] brings up the usual porno.

2) It is possible to use google as a calculator. Enter the equation in the search bar and hit enter. [2+2] works, and so does [Two plus two] and so does [speed of light divided by pi] (the speed of light divided by pi = 95 426 903.2 m / s). This works for really abstract things like [answer to life, the universe, and everything] too. Unfortunately, all answers above 4 are not returned as 'a suffusion of the color yellow'. Google needs to get i-chinged.

3) Put in [movie: righteous kill Mumbai] and you get this shit:

It is a convinient mix of showtimes and reviews. Amazingly enough, this works for Plays as well [play: whatever Mumbai]. The biggest fuck up is [cricket match: mumbai] still draws up schedules and reviews for - MOVIES! you get Iqbal, and Lagaan, and Land Tax, Pyaar ke side effects and even Chain Kulli ki main Kulli. WTF???

4) Whatever you want to search and then add an extension after [filetype: ]. This can get you the usual shit like mp3s and avis as direct links in the search itself - which means you can download them off the search; but the real awesomeness of this feature is the ability to go [filetype: xls] and get your hands on some data - go figure.

5) Convert units. Go [unit1 in unit2] and you have it! some interesting results:

how many furlongs in a lightyear
1 lightyear = 4.70279985 × 1013 furlongs

how many hands in a knot
1 knot = 18 228.3465 hands

1 INR in ZWD
1 inr = 740 zwd

(ZWD is the dollars in Zimbabwe)

6) Country info [gdp: pakistan], [population: pakistan] and [area: pakistan] all work. Even [Population: Bihar] works. [Population: Patna] however returns 2001 results. Filthy idiots.

7) [DOB: anyone] and [Birthplace: anyone] gives you the answer upfront. This works not only for [DOB: Walt Disney] but also for [DOB: Mickey Mouse]. [Birthplace: Karl Marx] returns Place of Birth: Trier, Germany; however [Birthplace: Rasputin] returns Birthplace: Russia. Needs a little refinement.

8) Saved the best for last. Do you need to give someone a call and trouble them? Are you a hot-headed male on the lookout for some phone numbers? Find a nice candidate on google image search? Ah well - try the [phonebook: name of person] search. Works in only a few countries - probably just the states. This has some interesting results though. You can look up the number of Bill Gates - or Michael Jackson - only there are 600 people listed as Michael Jackson:

As you can see (at least if you click on it for a larger size), google also throws up a map to show where they live. There are 93 people whose names are Charles Prince, 600 John Smith, who must all be undercover CIA agents, and 1 guy who shares my surname living in Denver. This can be useful to hunt down long lost friends in the states - and particularly useful if you want to give Darth Vader a call: (405) 872-9335.

Some other phone numbers for entertainment
Luke Skywalker (713) 665-3511
Frodo Baggins (518) 672-4626
Spiderman (352) 505-6771
Ding Dong (530) 253-1168
King Kong (703) 257-5764
Yin Yang (718) 627-1995
Bob Cat (770) 426-4428
Screw Driver (509) 943-6656
Dirt Cheap (203) 270-0515
Bob Marley (530) 283-9712
Dead Dead (202) 396-6458
Bing Bing (215) 769-7541
Dirty Sanchez (407) 657-2401
Donald Duck (207) 467-3292

===What I would really like===

1) [Phonebook:] to work in India
2) [Price:obect]
3) [date]
4) [Distance between Bangalore and Mumbai]
5) [Temperature: Mumbai]
6) [Humidity: Mumbai]
7) [Score: Ind Vs Aus]
8) [Chemist: Sanpada]
9) [e-mail id: Name]
10)Free Daru


So after it was settled that atoms make up the universe, somebody gets the bright idea to nuke the atoms and see what happens. How do you blow tiny bits of matter to smithereens? You have to build a big circular tunnel across two countries, get the media to hype the whole affair up enough to make people kill themselves, and then see what you get. You know what would be really great? At the end of the experiment, the girl who committed suicide should show up in the middle of the particle accelerator. Apparently, they have spotted more sub-atomic particles than elements in their experiments, which is not a surprising thing considering they are destroying matter in the middle of cold nothingness. In fact, you should be able to get anything just because you are destroying everything.

In A.D. 2008
War was beginning.
Stupid girl: What happen ?
News Channel: Somebody set up us the bomb.
Operator: We get signal.
Stupid Girl: What !
Operator: Particle accelerator turn on.
Stupid Girl: It's you !!
CERN: How are you gentlemen !!
CERN: All your base are belong to us.
CERN: You are on the way to destruction.
Stupid Girl: What you say !!
CERN: You have no chance to survive make your time.
CERN: Ha ha ha ha ....
News Channel: Stupid Girl!!
Scientist: Take off every 'Proton'!!
Scientist: You know what you doing.
Scientist: Move 'Proton'.
Scientist: For great justice.
News Channel: World face great destruction!
stupid Girl: Bye Bye World!!
CERN: Bomb Atom

==2 months later==
Scientist: Sheep in accelerator
News Channel: Sheep in accelerator
CERN: Bomb proton; get sheep???
Scientist: Search anti-sheep
Sheep: Baa

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Science Fiction is perhaps the least understood, most abused and most underrated genre of literature out there. The beauty of Science Fiction is that it thoroughly explores the nature of man and his relationship with the cosmos. Science Fiction is not about star travel, alien contact or a bunch of weird planets out there. Star Wars for example, is not at all SF, it is fantasy. For this reason, a lot of anthologies have both fantasy and SF stories together. Not that I don't like fantasy, Moorcock can easily give Asimov a run for his money in my book, but it is very unfair to the genre to classify good SF books with vampires, dragons, dwarfs, wizards and the lot. It is also unfair to the genre to classify futuristic fiction, or fantasy books such as Artemis Fowl as SF. Star Wars is again the biggest example of this very misconception. It is a universe where guys with crystal-produced laser swords fight around on a desert planet wearing cloaks woven out of alien animal hair. It is not scientific. Good SF is based on hard facts, on science, on being technically accurate. Lightsabres have no place in a proper SF story. Some people tend to call this genre of SF as hard SF. The 'hard' in Hard SF is not the same as 'hardcore', it is not about how outrageous or how intense the depiction of the science and technology in the in-story universe is, it is about how technically accurate the science is the story is. All of Arthur C Clark's books for example, are so technically accurate, that many a times science has caught up to his ideas. This is because most of his stories were based on the latest developments in the field at that point of time. He is one of the few SF authors who has dabbled in faster than light travel, knowing that it was impossible - his most favorite work, 2001 being an example of it. Some of the best SF books I have read is already heavily out of date - which is a good thing, as it shows clearly the technical accuracy of the writing. For example, when Jules Verne wrote 20,000 leagues under the sea, undersea travel was impossible. He came up with the word 'submarine' for Captain Nemo's Nautilus. Around the world in 80 days was a great effort of immense love towards the planet. It was the time when the world was a big, great place, with infinite possibilities hiding around every meridian. Man's relentless conquest of the planet was the thing that led to later generations of SF writers to look towards the stars. And the stars are a long way from being conquered.

Moorcock's 'A fall of moondust' is by far the best example of authentic SF that I have read. He has written better books, 'Sunstorm', The Rama series, and the odyssey series, but 'A fall of moondust' is realistic, scientifically accurate, and has a degree of psychological depth alien to the SF genre. Anderson's 'Kyrie' and Robinson's Mars trilogy are other good examples of - there is no other word for it - proper SF works. The best and most intense of the lot is probably the works of Michael Flynn - the Nanotech Chronicles. Read some of it recently, and it is a a beautiful piece of science fiction, exploring the cultural and social impact of new technology as much as exploring the details of the technology itself. There are equations and allusions to ancient mythology in the same work. There was a guy called Kalpit in the book and I was mid-way through it before realising it was an Indian name. Unfortunately, there are not many such books out there - maybe because publishers won't go for them, maybe because they are not really popular. There are however, exemplary short stories in the genre, and the only way to find them is to hunt through the hundreds of anthologies where one gem is hidden somewhere.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


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2008-09-02 14:43:36 Error occurred!
2008-09-02 14:43:36 You have already reached the retry limit.