It began when I spilled soup on my laptop. A hearty, but nevertheless very liquid chicken soup. And my tiny little Inspiron Mini kept chugging along, as I mashed the keys with a damp cloth, and tried to ensure all the liquid had been drained out.
But as it began to freeze up and I went for a reboot, it . . . didn’t. It shut down on command but wouldn’t even consider starting back up. All the little indicator lights were dark and for all I knew the circuitry was entirely fried.
I left it, hoping that, with time, any invading liquid would evaporate away. The next morning, I hit a button and it started to turn on — only to release a high-pitched squeal like a burn patient coming out of a medically-induced coma. I put it back to sleep. That night, it finally booted up properly. But the keyboard didn’t work. Not one jot.
It’s surprising how much you can do with just a trackpad, as a matter of fact. I even realized I could technically write an email, simply by opening up my bookmarks, and labouriously copying and pasting individual letters with the trackpad’s clicks. But that ain’t gonna fly for a working writer. I need my QWERTY. So now begins the hunt for a replacement work computer.
Given Tablets but No Teachers, Ethiopian Children Teach Themselves: “I thought the kids would play with the boxes. Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch … powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village … Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera, and [thie children] figured out the camera, and had hacked Android.”
It’s not that dystopias are anything new, or even stories of environmental collapse. But the SF stories and novels of the last several years have to be placed differently than the catastrophes imagined in the 40s, or even the 70s and 80s.
We’re living in a heavily depressed economy. Our countries are waging resource wars. We’re seeing the effects of a changed climate. The stories written today . . . exist in a different real-world context, and therefore might be part of a new speculative genre that couldn’t have existed until recently.
Read my full review of this excellent Canadian anthology at AESciFi.
Commodity Fantasy: “It’s important that such a work leave the reader a little unhappy, a little dissatisfied, a little edgy — and anxious to snatch up the next volume in the hope that it will provide the experience that the last book failed to. The more like a pack of cigarettes (if you’ve never smoked, trust me — cigarettes temporarily ease the craving but they never quite satisfy it) a commodity fantasy is, the more successful it will be.”
In the modern-day story, emotionally-damaged survivors of the war put a human face on a national ordeal. In Jaya’s epic kingdom-building tale — what I like to think of as Shogun, the Cambodian edition – the plot still comes down to individual human will and spirit. In the conquering of nations, sometimes even the lowliest slave has a necessary part to play.