Submitted by: Unknown
Via: Geeks are Sexy
Submitted by: Unknown
Via: Geeks are Sexy
Well, just as everyone is remarking on how the new conversant iPhone is making science fiction true to life, one pretty big part of the science fiction imagination remains just that; while the 21st century has not only arrived, we’re a decade into it, but we won’t be taking any sight seeing trips to Mars in the near future. Even a suborbital cruise will have to wait until 2013. The overly ambitiously and to-date technically impossibly named Virgin Galactic, a space tourism company founded by British billionaire and all-around let’s do something fun and make some money at it guy Sir Richard Branson, has announced that commercial flights have been delayed for another two years. But don’t start buying any tickets, as this is something like the fourth time the schedule has been bumped forward since flights were supposed to begin back in 2008.
If you did want to get in on the ground floor, so to speak, tickets cost 0,000, with a deposit of,000 required. Not sure if that includes complimentary drinks.
After Odysseus, famed warrior and inventor of the Trojan Horse (the original wooden one, not the one you can pick up from questionable internet sites), left behind the Island of the Lotus-Eaters, he sails on to a far more dangerous location: the Island of the Cyclops.
Whatever. The island where a bunch of one-eyed cannibalistic giants live.
Unfortunately for Odysseus and his men, they don’t realize that they’ve staggered out of a naval adventure movie and into a horror flick. All they know is that they arrive on shore, starving and desperate for shelter, and find a giant cave stocked with cheese, and only a complete monster would object to starving, desperate, lost travellers eating. Right?
They’re in for a shock when Polyphemus returns. He not only objects, he turns around and eats two of Odysseus’ crew members (thus proving that the Red Shirt trope is older than dirt). Odysseus objects to this, claiming that it is wrong to eat one’s guests. Or anyone, for that matter. Polyphemus responds that since Odysseus is his guest, he will give him the gift of eating him last.
The horror of this scene comes from not one but two strong taboos being broken. The first and obvious is the Cyclops’ cannibalism. But the ancient audience would have been at least as disturbed by the violation of the laws of hospitality. It’s hard for us, in an age of hotels, motels, and homeaway.com, to understand just how deeply ingrained the relationship between a host and a guest was in the ancient world. As a parallel, in the Illiad, two characters meet on opposing sides of the battlefield and discover that their grandfathers had been guest and host once. Rather than remarking that it was a tragedy that they would have to kill each other, they traded armor so that they would never run the risk of killing each other by mistake. In order to understand the revulsion Homer’s audience would feel at the suggestion of a host EATING one of his guests, we’d have to reach for an analogy like our own reaction to pedophilia. It was that strong a taboo.
So we know right away that Polyphemus is a monster. Like all great monsters, he shows us what we are as supposedly civilized people by being what we are not. The Cyclopes, Homer tells us, don’t eat bread (that is, they don’t have agriculture), don’t live together in communities, don’t have laws, don’t offer sacrifices to the gods, and, clearly, don’t mind a meal of human flesh now and then.
What makes this episode great story-telling (and popular with High School teachers everywhere) is that it also perfectly demonstrates what kind of man, and what kind of hero, Odysseus is. Trapped in a cave with a giant with a hankering for long pork, he resorts to his wiles. He tricks Polyphemus (who has never had a drink before) into getting so drunk that he passes out, then gouges out his eye with a telephone pole.
Why not just kill him outright? Here’s the trick: Polyphemus keeps his cave locked with a giant boulder so large that none of the humans can move it. But he lets the sheep (who sleep in the cave with him at night) out every morning to pasture. So Odysseus and his men strap themselves underneath the sheep and ride out to safety.
Odysseus is a different kind of hero: he’s fearsome on the battlefield but his primary strength is his cunning. He’s so wily, in fact, that he attracts the attention of the goddess Athena, the patron of wisdom and warfare.
But he’s also his own worst enemy. His arrogance, his curiosity, and his inherent smart-assery prove time and again to be his (and his men’s) undoing. In the case of his encounter with the Cyclops, he waits until he is out of Polyphemus’ reach before taunting him. The Cyclops then calls down the wrath of his father, the god Poseidon.
Since the only way Odysseus can get home is by sea, this is particularly bad luck.
In this quality, Odysseus is the forerunner of the classic rogue. Han Solo, Harry Dresden, Mal Reynolds: tricksters all, and Homer’s hero is one of their granddaddies.
Next up: Odysseus messes with the weather and learns that, like the Cyclops, he should have slept with one eye open. (Can I get a rim shot? Anyone? Is this thing on?)
Ace (303 pp, .99, March 2009)
Reviewed by E.E. Knight
Good news for fans of urban fantasy detective stories: Anton Strout hits one well into the bleachers with his sophomore publishing effort. Deader Still is the worthy follow on to last year’s Dead To Me. Strout is writing a first-person paranormal gumshoe saga about investigator Simon Canderous, a baseball bat-swinging sleuth. Simon works for the city government’s Department of Extraordinary Affairs, an underfunded law enforcement organization. Think Bill Murray’s college-basement departmental digs in Ghostbusters without the glamour. And the rest of officialdom feels much the same way about the Department as Murray’s outraged Dean. They’re on a shoestring budget for everything but paperwork.
Simon is a mix of beefy, quirky, and a little intense that makes me think of a young Jon Voight. He makes a nice pivot for the other characters in the series. There is more to Simon than his trusty baseball bat. He is a user of psychometry, able to get a read off an object and some idea of what was on the mind of the last person to handle it. This is fun for readers and impresses me as an author. One of the big problems with writing first person (or third person limited to a single character) is getting glimpses of other characters’ inner lives. Simon’s reading of objects nicely bridges the gap between points of view and the author in me finds the device brilliant. Ordinary readers will simply find it fun and interesting. I thought some of the best parts of the first book were Simon’s readings of objects, and that trend holds true for the sequel.
This time out his department is dealing with a purposeful zombie outbreak in New York, not the least of which is explaining the chaos without unduly alarming the citizens. Complicating matters is a troubled relationship with Jane, his would-be girlfriend, sometime savior, and technomancer in training. She is on the run from a dark past, but isn’t quite sure Simon is what she should be running to. Simon’s old girlfriend Mina shows up at the right place but the wrong time with grand larceny on her mind.
If the novel has a flaw it is in the pacing. Strout keeps the action up at the ‘frappe’ setting through much of the book. The constant action gets exhausting at times, though it was fun imagining the street outside the Guggenheim filled with the living dead. While Strout isn’t blazing any new trails in the genre, he is more than capable of pounding some new life into a crowded field with Simon’s baseball bat. Deader Still should impress fans of hard-boiled paranormals, readers who like appealing ensembles of characters sparking as they work out their problems, and action buffs who like an author who keeps it gritty and two-fisted. If you enjoy Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books, give Simon Canderous a try.
A slightly different version of this review originally appeared in Black Gate Magazine #14
“Fermilab is Building a ‘Holometer’ to Determine Once and For All Whether Reality Is Just an Illusion”
Art by Alex Grey
Questions and answers are as meaningless as the people who ask and answer them. People search for the meaning of existence and their contribution to it because they have nothing else to do. We are not fighting for our lives everyday, we are not focused on survival 24/7 like most other creatures. We have heating, blankets, food stores, even the true environmentalist like hobos can survive with ease if they plan properly. The thing is we’re bored, so we make up stuff like meaning and quality and fate and destiny and purpose, all of which is personal and relative. one person’s idea of destiny can be totally different than someone elses and so on. but I mean when it comes down to it all, where do you think you came from, some higher human like being? How about apes? How about dirt? Everything you eat comes from dirt and water. In fact, dirt helps sustain all life on earth… Do you?
So perhaps 42 is just a completely random number that some weird guy happened to think of while contemplating what the worst possible response to the meaning of everything could be and perhaps by choosing a number that made no sense at all it would in turn be the best possible answer, for it holds no real meaning what so ever, just like all of us.