Archive for the ‘memorable’ Category

1.5 x 10-to-the-twelfth, Ringworld Engineers by Larry Niven

May 7, 2008

This installment of personally memorable sf words, phrases, or scenes deals with another number, a horrifyingly large number, “One-point-five-times-ten-to-the-twelfth!”, or one and a half trillion, from Ringworld Engineers.

Cover by Dale GustafsonLarry Niven - Ringworld Engineers cover

Rather than deal in spoilers and spoiler warnings, I’ll just say that units of measure can sometimes be terrifying in themselves, and suggest you read the novel.  But it *is* the title of the last chapter … At what point does the meme “the greater good for the greater number” fail to comfort you? Here’s one answer. And now, some Known Space advice and background … 

Niven’s Ringworld in 1970 and Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama in 1972 popularized an sf subgenre about exploring what were disparagingly labelled BDOs, Big Dumb Objects [a borrowing from rocketry’s Big Dumb Booster designer’s acronym] by some critics with no sense of wonder about meeting alien technologies far in advance of our own.

One of the reasons Larry wrote Ringworld Engineers was to show that it was a Big Smart Object after all, and another was to address the instability issues if the Ring weren’t controlled.  There was a 3rd reason.  We asked Larry “did you write a sequel because of one of our suggestions?”  He smiled at the half-dozen of us and said, “no, I did it because I thought of something you didn’t!”


1.933 cms, The Space Eater by David Langford

January 25, 2008

In the last installment of “memorable“, we discussed a slim-chance number, 1 in 300.  This time, the number is terribly small, 1.933 centimeters – in diameter and you get another phrase as well …


If you go to my “About Paradox and Spike” page, you’ll see my interest in “hard science” sf; so why am I remembering and recommending a story about a “Force zombie killer?”  Because Forceman Ken Jacklin, fighting to keep order in a war-torn London, has died 46 times and has gotten used to dying in combat, although he doesn’t have an interest in anything else any more …

My answer is a pair of phrases.  Jacklin offers to take one of the firsttimers into town at night for recreation.  Of course most of the lights and generators are out or smashed.  “Some places, back alleys especially, we were picking our way just by the nova lights in the sky.”

What remains of the government picks Jacklin to go to the one stellar colony to prevent them from making AP/Anomalous Physics experiments themselves.  To get there, he and the tele(pathic)com officer will go through an AP gate – 1.933 centimeters wide …

The original 1983 Space Eater pb was reprinted in 2004 as The Space Eater, trade paperback and as a Space Eater Kindle edition.  There are plenty of used 1983 pb versions available for the budget-minded.

I’ll be doing a post about Greg Bear’s use of new physics in his novels Moving Mars, Eon, and Anvil of Stars.

Memorable‘s next installment will consider a terribly large number – 1.5 times ten-to-the-twelfth.

One in 300 by J.T. McIntosh

January 21, 2008

This installment of “memorable” has two phrases, actually.  Both are from the same tale of doomsday.


[cover by Ed Valigursky, Ace Books, 1955]

Our sun’s solar output will go up a couple percent soon – time to move!  But how?  Have the great manufacturing centers build lifeships.  One pilot, ten passengers, and enough ships for every “one in three hundred” of Earth’s population to try to fly to Mars.  Madness!  But it helped some of the world to deal with doomsday…  Here’s McIntosh’s opening:

“I ignored the half-human thing that ran at my heels like a dog, crying, “Please! Please! Please!”  …  I was twenty-eight, Lt. Bill Easson, and a more unremarkable young man it would have been difficult to find.  but now through no fault of my own, I was a god.”  Lt Easson is in Simsville, pop. 3261, to secretly pick in 3 weeks the ten people he would try to fly to Mars.  “Lt. Bill Easson, god!”


the Luna stories by Dr. Ernest Taves (some assembly required)

January 2, 2008

These classic six stories of near-future Lunar exploration and survival have never been republished since their original Galaxy SF Magazine appearances in the early 1970s, so you will have to buy the magazines at or elsewhere for U$3-4 each, to read these stories.  Hence, “some assembly required.”  🙂

 Galaxy 1971 Mar – Pegasus Two, 14 pages

Galaxy 1972 Sept – True School of Modesty, 14 pages [Pegasus 4 & 6]

Galaxy 1972 Nov – Mayflower One, 22 pages

Galaxy 1973 Jan – Mayflower Three, 25 pages

Galaxy 1973 July – Luna One, 43 Pages

 Galaxy 1973 Nov – Mayflower 2, 18 pages


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