Decades of Science Fiction compiled, introduced and provided with interesting background information by Applewhite and Minyard.

Decades of Science Fiction is a compendium of short sci-fi story’s illustrating the development of the genre from the late 1800s, with Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, through the golden era of Pulps, to the 90’s with the wonderful Arthur C. Clarke. And of course Asimov makes an appearance no sci-fi collection could be complete without him.

The book is divided into eras with each prefaced by significant events, historical context and developments in sci-fi. The individual story’s are also introduced with a short biography of the author.

I found this additional information fascinating. It really adds a depth to book preventing it from becoming purely a collection of disparate story’s, allowing you to see the changes in the genre. Interestingly the book is intended both for a general audience and for serious academic studies.

The academic aspect shows itself in a series of essay questions and topics for discussion following each story. However a large number of these seem unnecessary and only have value as busy work, or perhaps to remind the reader of the works value as a learning source.

In addition to the big names of sci-fi this book offers a number of gems not often reprinted, short stories in general tend not to get reprinted except in the cases of the very well-known authors. It provides a good opportunity to read less well-known authors of sci-fi.

Some of my favourites from the collection include:

The Electric Ant: This is classic Phillip K. Dick full of existential angst over not being who you think you are, about preconceptions being torn apart and the possibility of living in a manipulated reality.

The Sliced-Crosswise Only-On-Tuesday World: In which massive overpopulation has led to an ingenious system of time-sharing, where individuals are held in stasis 6 out of 7 days a week. The story is essentially a star-crossed love kind of thing, doomed never to meet the one he loves because she lives on Wednesdays and he on Tuesdays.

The Ship Who Sang: The brains of disabled babies are placed in machines and used as living processors in ships. Fascinating for the possibility of human/ machine hybrids, but disturbing for the initial view of the disables as worthless without the augmentation.

Overall the book offers a good range of sci-fi, the selection being limited only by the length of the works included.

Verdict: Read it, it’s well worth it. Unless of course you hate sci-fi then it’s probably not for you.

Incidentally if your interested in pulp era sci-fi, or pulps in general, there’s a large collection of scans available here: The quality can be poor but the chance to read original pulps is not to be missed.

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Herland book review

Herland is a wonderful wonderful book.

I sought it out after hearing it discussed on the partially examined life podcast (

It is ostensibly an old-fashioned tale of discovery and exploration, full of social commentary, without it seeming shoehorned in, in fact the story would be impossible without it. Herland is the tale of three explores who having heard tales of a land inhabited only by women succeed in finding said land but it is vastly different from their expectations of what a society of only women could be like.

They expect frivolousness and bickering, what they find is more or less utopian. A Society of well-educated, strong and cooperative individuals organised in such a way that all individuals have their needs met and where education is paramount, and is of the progressive rather than controlling variety.

To begin with they can’t believe that there aren’t men somewhere behind the scenes pulling the strings. The book was written in 1915 when the prevailing view was that the behaviour of the sexes was biologically determined, which the author does her best to challenge. Incidentally the society is descended from a single individual some 2000 years before who, when the men were wiped out in war and a volcanic explosion, was able to reproduce parthenogenetically, which while ludicrously far-fetched, does have precedent in other animals that reproduce sexually, such as commodo dragons.

problematically this is presented in such a way as to give the impression that women have no sexuality that’s not directed towards reproduction. However the best books have bits you disagree with. It stops you from reading them complacently, it keeps you thinking. It makes you examine the contrasting views more closely.

Overall the book makes you question how much you think you know about groups of individuals is due to the structure of the society they live in. Obviously we no longer have the same rigid views of what a woman is, that they had in the early 1900’s but we still have notions that there are differences between the behaviour of men and women, the question remains how much of this is social conditioning. I recommend this book highly both for its historical perspective and it’s undeniable merits as an adventure story.

Verdict: It’s good. Read it.

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On my possibly doomed quest to become a better writer

I want to be able to write. There’s only one thing likely to hold me back and that is shear incompetence. This isn’t fishing for complements, I’m just not very good. I can write stream of consciousness type introspection, nonsensical I imagine to all but me, and I can write academically, with all the hedging of statements, and the he asserted this however . . . type of evaluation. Fiction eludes me entirely, I’m utterly incapable of writing speech that’s believable as spoken. I don’t have an easy off hand manner perfect for internet articles. I have a strange vocabulary and often manner of phrasing that could seem that I’m putting it on, trying to seem more sophisticated or more educated than I am. But really it’s because I read excessively and from old eccentric books on philosophy and such, as a result I have some very anachronistic tendency’s, unfortunately I’m not attentive enough or socially aware enough to necessarily tell when I’m being weird.

I have a dream of being able to write professionally but this is partly because I am socially incompetent, and this struck me as a job where this would be less of a hindrance than it would be to most others. I realise that this is a forlorn hope though. I don’t have any experience to recommend me yet. I need to write, those few fanfics and tragic angst ridden poems on wont cut it, probably they would only hinder me, really I think they need to stay hidden in the recesses of the internet.

So what am I going to do? (I never feel quite right putting ?’s on the end of rhetorical question, their not real questions; just rhetorical devices.) For a start is this, that is to say figuring out my limitations and what realisticly I can do, and the writing of it itself.. I need practice, so that writing comes more easily to me. The problem is that when I try to find things to write about, that I could put on a blog to demonstrate my skills, I come up blank or with ideas so dull or impossible to implement that It only serves to depress and off-put me. So I will write things like this, whatever is going through my mind, and maybe some of them will be good enough to put up on the blog. Perhaps I’ll post this even and have a serial of post’s on my ill fated attempts to become a better writer, or not and that statement will serve only to remind me of my unattainable aspirations.

For now I think I will write about books and the things that I read, because if there’s one thing I do and do well it’s read. I read a lot, hopefully some of what I find striking will be interesting enough to want to be read by others.

Wish me luck and I beg your indulgences especially for this rather dull and self-interested post.

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New Start

I have a confession to make, I had entirely forgotten that I’d created a wordpress blog. I had forgotten this fact so completely that, I only realised when I decided to start a blog and found that the username callmebaka had already been taken. Curious, I googled this blog and lo and behold it was me with a grand total of two posts. So rather than waste space, creating a new blog, I’ve decided to revive this one. Hopefully with a little more perseverance this time.

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Descartes Demonic Deceiver


Is this real?

Am I sitting at my desk, composing, typing and indulging my caffeine addiction?

Or as Descartes considered as a distinct possibility, am I being deceived by malicious demon?

Personally I’m inclined towards the former, but that’s not enough, I need to be able to support my position somehow.

To attempt this lets first look at what lead Descartes to entertain this possibility.

His motto is doubt everything, by doing this he is trying to find some truth that is absolutely indubitable; the possibility that all his senses are unreliable is just one stage in the process.

His reasoning is more or less as follows: My senses sometimes deceive me I could be dreaming or delirious, the fact that I think I’m seeing something is no guarantee that it’s real. As a result of this we can never be sure if what we perceive is real. The evil demons influence is offered as a reason for why this might be.

Now there’s one fairly obvious flaw with this argument, which is that he’s appealing to his senses to argue that senses are unreliable. How could you be sure that your dreams weren’t real unless you were comparing them to real life.

So can we be sure we’re not being deceived?

No, we can’t, but the inability to disprove an assertion is no reason to accept it as truth. If I told you there was an invisible fairy living in my laptop altering my files when no ones looking, you wouldn’t be able to disprove me, but that’s not a good enough reason for anyone to take the claim seriously.

It’s possible there’s a malicious demon deceiving us, but highly improbable.

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Hi, this is my blog.

I wouldn’t bother reading it.

It’s crap.

No really, i have no talent, skill or intellect.

It will almost certainly bore the pants off you.

Are you still here?

But why?

Ok, you can stay if you want, but don’t get your hopes up or anything.

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