“The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci
I recently received, as a gift, My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals and My Last Supper: Second Course by Melanie Dunea. As the titles suggest, the books ask chefs about their ideal final meal on Earth.
The gift was very appropriate because I regularly ask people this question. It was, I believe, one of the first questions I asked The Wife when she was still The-Really-Interesting-Woman-I-Want-To-Date, and it is a question that I ask everyone that I interview for a job. During one such interview, another manager exclaimed, “That’s a really morbid question.”
I couldn’t disagree more. Continue reading
This was a gift from my sister and is a solid science fictiony quote – one that I’m quite happy to put on my wall1.
The Time Machine by HG Wells (1991 Bantam Classic Reissue from library of Josh Witten)
Being a fan of, but hardly an expert on HG Wells2 and being a fan of, but hardly an expert on the history of science, I had to wonder if this quote was actually from HG Wells’ The Time Machine, or was from one of the movie adaptations. As you will see, this is an easy question to answer. The trick is figuring out why you might want to ask the question in the first place.
HG Wells was brilliant and reasonably familiar with scientific research. To pen that line, he would also need to be a time traveler himself. Continue reading
In honor of World Book Day, here are a few books that we’ve reviewed and found interesting in the past year:
The purpose of the Big Dumb Object in science fiction is to cure us of our familiarity with the universe. We tend to forget that the universe is complex, vast, exotic, eerie, and downright mystifying. Our daily experiences with its odd phenomena constitute what is normal, and normal is, of course, that which we’re inclined to take for granted. Among the bizarre things we accept as normal are the spontaneous development of a child into an adult, our ability to perceive coherent images and sounds that reach us through a tangled mess of reflecting waves, that there “are mountains in Chile, and not a hill in La Plata,” and the fortunate fact that Jupiter hasn’t yet sent the Earth spinning out of the Solar System.
Big Dumb Objects are metaphors that regenerate the strangeness of the universe in order remind us that a strange universe is a necessary condition for the sublime experience of scientific discovery. Two writers who knew this well were Arthur C. Clarke and John Keats. Continue reading
Arthur C. Clarke didn’t write write typical post-apocalyptic stories, but he sure liked to write about dying worlds, long-abandoned constructions, last cities, the end of humanity, and vast, empty spaces. In his stories, humans who face extinction, or who live as the last holdouts on a barren Earth, are not doomed. Instead, they’re about to have their consciousness expanded as they become tied into a grand galactic narrative. But unlike other galactic narratives like Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, which treat the galaxy or universe as a gigantic platform on which to re-stage Edward Gibbon, Clarke keeps his universe unfailingly mysterious. Pursuing that mystery is humanity’s noblest aim – it is an essentially religious imperative that becomes a means of transcendence.
What that means for Clarke’s End of the World stories is that the theme of extinction or a dying Earth is an opportunity to encourage us to leave our petty terrestrial concerns behind and embrace our galactic manifest destiny. Continue reading