Posts Tagged ‘robotics’

Galactic Center series – Gregory Benford

January 8, 2008

I’ve discussed In the Ocean of Night, because of a memorable scene in one of the original stories, and referred to the fact that it became the first of the Galactic Center series and future history 7 years later with the publication of Across the Sea of Suns in 1984.  Then, across the next 10 years, Benford detoured from Nigel Walmsley’s interstellar travels to jump a hundred thousand years into the future near the Galactic Center, not too far from the Eater embedded in the galaxy’s core.  Telling of the remnants of desiccated Snowglade’s Bishop clan, endlessly running the deserts, avoiding the latest mech attempts to kill them, legs pistoning in a 150 kilometer an hour stride, Killeen and his father trying to watch over his son Toby, Benford spun out a trilogy about their own interstellar wanderings.

Finally, in the sixth and culminating volume,  Sailing Bright Eternity, in 1995, he picks up Nigel’s story, pointed to in a indirect reference in one of the Killeen trilogy, to the Taj Majal replica he built after arriving in the Center.  Both sets of characters intersect as the mechs try to keep the galaxy clean of organics, Naughts being of no use to Ones.  The fabric of normal Space-Time twists into multidimensional esty layers at the edge of the core’s black hole as the characters plunge into strangeness and possible safety.

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In the Ocean of Night – memorable

December 28, 2007

I’m not doing my memorable sf phrases/scenes in chronological order, but by one jogging another loose from my memories.  My early love of astronomy and spaceflight also colors my choices, then and now.

So thinking of “In the Cave of Night” immediately recalled a memorable sf scene from a story with a similiar title, 17 years later, also in an sf magazine.  This time the magazine was Worlds of If, the May/June 1972 issue.

A visiting space probe communicates with the human race, receives all of our knowledge, and eventually moves towards Earth. So astronaut Nigel Walmsley is lofted on an intercept course looping around Luna and ordered to prevent the ship from leaving the solar system. Coming out of the sun to mask his ship’s signature, flying blind to avoid alerting the Snark with his radar, Nigel is lining up his missiles when:

‘A voice said:

“I wish you the riding of comfortable winds.”

Nigel froze.  The odd, brassy voice came from his helmet speakers, free of static.’ And the computer AI starts to converse with him … [Part Four, chapter four, page 189 of the original Dell pb.]

And I was gripped by awe at seeing a far superior tech level in such a small detail as no static; I assumed the probe was directly manipulating his speakers without using radio. But our mileage varied, because I had read the original If version, which varied in the dialogue. I can’t refer to the issue, but I recall Nigel hesitating to launch, and the static-free voice asking, “are you all thus so double?”

All 4 of these Walmsley stories [including one that happened to a different character, rewritten to be Walmsley in the novel] were collected as In the Ocean of Night in 1977.

Seven years later, it became the first of the sweeping Galactic Center six novel series, when Across the Sea of Suns (Galactic Center 2) was published.

At the same time in Galaxy magazine, Dr. Ernest Taves was showing me The True School of Modesty in his Luna series, in my next memorable sf scene.

Catchy or memorable sf words or phrases

November 5, 2007

Reading a half-century of sf has left me with quite a few memories.  One subcategory of sf reading memories is “catchy or memorable sf words or phrases,” not necessarily popularized ones, you grok?  Just ones that resonated for you.

One coinage I’ve admired was from a short story called “The Ultimate Racer,” by Gary Wright in the Nov 1964 Worlds of If sf magazine.  [Wright was mentioned by Fred Pohl as being a Samuel R. Delany pseudonym – I can’t find internet confirmation.]

In the story, the greatest computer company and biggest automaker collaborate on a new computer-driven car.  To get publicity and to demonstrate its safety, they set up a race with 3 of their new cars against the world’s greatest race driver.  The reader doesn’t see the robotic car’s name until race day, when the protagonist watches the racer get into his car, and turns to look at the 3 idling black-painted IBM-GMs.  I loved the creativeness and menace and sound and rhythm of “the IBM-GMs.”

Flash-forward by way of antiskid brakes, anticollision radar, 8 processors per car, GPS, and OnStar to Nov 2007 and the “DARPA Challenge,” a robotic city-street driving competition with U$3.5 million in prizes.  One of the University teams, Carnegie-Mellon is funded by the largest automaker, General Motors.  Yes, their entry could be called a “CM-GM!”  🙂

Here’s the item on the competition that told me this:

http://www.spacemart.com/reports/US_military_spurs_robot_car_creations_with_big_money_race_999.html

Update – And the winner – the CM-GM!  As reported on 11/05/07 at RLV & Space Transport News, my prime source of non-Nasa manned spaceflight news at

http://www.rlvnews.com which takes u to:

http://www.hobbyspace.com/nucleus/index.php

Additional update – Dr. Red Whitaker, leader of the CM team, is now involved with a group planning to win the Google Lunar Rover Prize…

I’ll share other phrases with you.  Next one: “In the cave of night.” Let’s hear yours!


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