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May 14, 2005

Which sf writer?
Posted by Teresa at 03:42 PM *

I got to fiddling with the Which Science Fiction Writer Are You? test. I already knew two reasons not to take it seriously: (1.) Greg Benford is one of its easiest-to-get results, but when Greg Benford took it, it told him he was Arthur C. Clarke; and (2.) the test is unshakably convinced that I’m Kurt Vonnegut.

But validity isn’t the point here. I was fiddling with it to see if I could predict which stereotypes would result in which author. My first attempt was successful: I answered as though I were Jerry Pournelle, and got Jerry Pournelle.

Cool. I next tried answering as though I were David Brin. It told me I was Greg Benford. That didn’t seem too far off. Neither was getting Olaf Stapledon when I was trying for Cordwainer Smith, or Hal Clement when I was trying for Poul Anderson, or Alice Sheldon when I was trying for Ursula K. LeGuin. (When I tried for Alice Sheldon, it gave me Olaf Stapledon.)

So, not too bad. I was a little brought down when I tried for J. G. Ballard and got Octavia Butler instead, but then I scored again: answered as Samuel R. Delany, got Samuel R. Delany. Go, me!

Then I hit the wall. How is it that I can’t get this test to tell me I’m Bill Gibson, Fred Pohl, Harlan Ellison, or Robert A. Heinlein? No set of answers that falls within the parameters of what I know about Heinlein has worked so far. Two out of three times it tells me I’m Hal Clement, and the rest of the time it says I’m Arthur C. Clarke.

Any range of answers that’s plausible for Harlan Ellison will get you Philip K. Dick.

Fred Pohl was a long shot, but it was interesting to see the results. As I varied my responses, it told me I was John Brunner, Frank Herbert, and Stanislaw Lem.

Getting Bill Gibson was a lot tougher than I’d anticipated. First time I tried, it returned Greg Benford, which is just wrong. I varied the anwers. Greg Benford again. I varied them some more. Still Greg Benford. I stretched them as far as I could, and it came back with Samuel R. Delany.

Later, I accidentally discovered that you can get Bill Gibson by saying the grand theme of life you focus on most often is “rape and mind control”—which I would never have identified as one of his primary themes—and that cybernetics is your favorite technology. To my mind, that combination ought to yield Alice Sheldon.

Three more oddments. If you answer as “stereotypical loud right-winger,” you get Doc Smith. The range of answers I would have predicted would yield one of the post-New Wave feminists—Ursula Le Guin, Joanna Russ, Suzy Charnas, Lizzy Lynn, Vonda McIntyre, etc.—instead turns up John Brunner, whom the test identifies as a dystopian. And if you say your main theme is “futility and confusion,” then configure the rest of your answers to make it impossible for the test to identify you as Kurt Vonnegut, it’ll tell you you’re Mickey Spillane.

Comments on Which sf writer?:
#1 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 05:33 PM:

Heh, when I first took it I was trying for Ursula Le Guin and got Cordwainer Smith. Took two adjustments to get Le Guin, the second of which felt wrong.

#2 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 05:52 PM:

I come up as Ursula Le Guin every time. Sometimes, though, the answer I'd choose just isn't there.

#3 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 06:23 PM:

I was able to get Heinlein on the first try (of trying for Heinlein, that is - my own answers, I get Greg Benford). After some fiddling (though not exhasutive), I believe the keys are being only a moderate asshole, more of a talker than not, "traitorous pinko", and "brimming full". (Interestingly, it's easiest to slip from being Heinlein to being Ayn Rand.)

#4 ::: Tim Hall ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 06:28 PM:

I'm Isaac Asimov.

I tried answering what I thought was "Sterotypical loud rightwinger", and got Pournelle. Which is the one I'd expect...

#5 ::: Lisa Spadafora ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 06:36 PM:

My wife and I just took the quiz independently, and then figured out that we only responded differently to one question. Apparently the only difference between Alice Sheldon and Samuel Delany is who they would've voted for in 2000. So, as I shamefully have yet to get to reading something by either of them, I thought I'd put the question before the group--does that sound right to y'all?

#6 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 06:46 PM:

According to the test, I'm H.G.Wells.

Which is nice, I suppose.


#7 ::: Ed Gaillard ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 06:51 PM:

This set of answers told me I was Hal Clement: 1) individuality vs tyranny 2) Fundamental Physics/Atsrophysics 3) Patriotism is foolish... 4) I try to practice common courtesy... 5) I'm happily married... 6) ...on a subject I care about, I'll surprise you 7) It's a craft... 8) Al 9) God gave us two ears... 10) I have some intriguing theories... 11) The glass is twice the necessary size.

The same answers, but with "martial arts and bullets" on #2 instead of physics, gives me Philip Jos้ Farmer. _Any_ other answer on #2 gives me William Gibson.

With #2 as "Physics", changing #3 to "The good old USA..." and #11 to "It's brimming full!" got me Heinlein.

#8 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 06:55 PM:

Hmm. The first time through I was LeGuin. Second time through, by altering only my answer on the first question, I became Alice Sheldon. Several different answers for that first question, combined with my original answers for the rest of the quiz, gave me Sheldon, but finally I changed that first answer again and got Hal Clement. When I restored the test to my original set of answers and changed one answer in the second question I was once again LeGuin.

I'm trying to figure out what this means.

#9 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 07:04 PM:

I got Heinlein the first try, too--comes from having an average of three copies per book around the house, I suppose.

Here's how I got it, if you'd care to see:

Individuality vs. tyranny.
Genetics and biology.
The good old U.S. of A. is the model toward which all other nations should strive.
I try to practice common courtesy -- which I don't find to be terribly common.
I'm happily married, so (thank god) I don't have to worry much about that sort of thing now.
When you get onto a subject that I care about, I'll surprise you.
It's a nice scam -- I wonder how much longer people will pay me to do this?
None of the above.
I'm such a fascinating talker, folks are glad to let me do more of the talking.
I have some intriguing theories that might be fruitful.
Hell, it's practically brimming full!

I think it's the second, and the second and third to the last answers which are key.

#10 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 07:40 PM:

The only person who ever had the right attitude to these "which Guardian of Oa are you?" things is Lore Sj๖berg, though on the "Which Lore Sj๖berg are you?" test I come up as S. J. Perelman.

This one (on which you will all be astonished to discover I am Greg Benford, dashing my hopes of being Kathy Acker) seems to be rather more of a "how do you act at conventions?" test than anything much to do with what one writes, though I suppose that may be a more valid psychological data set. (Imagine getting James Branch Cabell. Now take a couple of aspirin.) And trying to deconstruct "when you get on a subject I care about, I'll surprise you" leads nowhere useful. Admittedly it would rule out being John Bolton -- not the artist -- but that's not much help.

I mean, I realize we're working with what the RAND guys call "delimited options" here, and this isn't the Minnehaha Pistolphaser Personality Repertory (which consists of five hundred yes/no questions, all of them "I am not crazy"). Nobody's going to take these things seriously, or at least nobody should. But anything, even low comedy, can be approached with a bit of technique and -- here it comes -- artistry, and it'd be nice to see just one of them that gave a sense of sophisticated machinery inside. (And the illusion of sophistication can be provided by some awfully simple algorithms. You seem very positive. Oh, shut up.)

Kids, remember, don't mess around with game design, you'll want those brain cells one of these days. At least with weed you've gotta inhale, even if you won't remember whether you did or not.

#11 ::: risa ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 07:52 PM:

Try taking the test as Alfred Bester - that gave me Bill Gibson as a result.

It was fascinating to take the test as each of my different favorite sci-fi authors (Friedman, LeGuin, Anderson, Bester, Panshin), because I realized that I personally would view their unifying theme as individuality vs. tyranny. It was most intriguing to realize that the LeGuin books I love the most are centered on that theme - The Dispossessed and Tombs of Atuan being perfect examples - rather than peace and social justice, with which she's more commonly identified. It definitely gives me a bit of insight into myself.

#12 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 07:57 PM:

It thinks I'm Arthur C. Clarke, which is (I suppose) at least marginally preferable to being slapped with a haddock.

#13 ::: Callum ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 07:59 PM:

When in doubt, cheat... right click -> view source :)

#14 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 08:03 PM:

Another Benford. It's going to be hard to divvy up those royalty checks.

#15 ::: Dori ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 08:22 PM:

Looking at the source gives you the easy reason why you never show up as Harlan -- he's not one of the answers. The end result will always be one of: Isaac Asimov, Alfred Bester, Arthur C. Clarke, David Brin, Octavia E. Butler, Philip Jos้ Farmer, Gregory Benford, Frank Herbert, Samuel R. Delany, Jerry Pournelle, Mickey Spillane, Ursula LeGuin, Stanislav Lem, William Gibson, Olaf Stapledon, Philip K. Dick, Hal Clement, Robert A. Heinlein, E.E. "Doc" Smith, James Tiptree, Jr., Jules Verne, Kurt Vonnegut, H.G. Wells, Cordwainer Smith, Ayn Rand, or John Brunner.

At which point I start to wonder why these 26 were chosen as opposed to a number of other SF authors who would come to mind more quickly...

There's some other interesting stuff in the source, such as the comment, "Generally speaking, the answers that I attach to each writer should not be construed as necessarily accurate or factual. When I have no idea what the right answer is, I just make one up."

#16 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 08:30 PM:

If you want to make the test come out David Brin, you should answer as though you were Mitch Wagner.

#17 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 08:39 PM:

Mickey Spillane is not the first name I think of when I think of science fiction, certainly. Or even, it must be said, the second.

#18 ::: handslive ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 08:40 PM:

I got Gibson, but I don't know him:

Individuality vs. tyranny
Cybernetics
Patriotism is foolish
common courtesy
The ladies warn each other
I'll surprise you
It's a craft
we could listen more than we talk
intriguing theories
The glass is twice the necessary size

Just to show that you don't have to pick 'rape and mind control" to get Gibson as a result. :-/

There's quite a lot of room for variation. Most of these if I only change one answer, there's exactly one answer that moves it away from Gibson. Which is interesting.

#19 ::: elizabeth bear ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 09:08 PM:

The sheer geekiness of your deconstructing the methodology of a silly SF writer quiz has made my entire weekend.

Thank you.

#20 ::: Soli ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 09:10 PM:

I was going to ask if anyone knew all the answers, and there they are in comments, yay!

I was trying for Octavia Butler but got Samuel Delany.

#21 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 09:30 PM:

What is this? No Lionel Fanthorpe (or Pel Torro, for He Has Many Names)? No Ed Earl Repp? No Guy N. Smith? No Greno Gashbuck? No H. C. Turk? No Jim Theis?

O Stefnalia, verily the past is dead among thee, thy oviparous princesses have departed unto crossover romance titles, and thy blog* is low in proof. And again, verily. Woe. And giddyup.

*The other kind.

#22 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 09:51 PM:

I came up as David Brin answering off the top of my head and honestly. WTF?????

#23 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 10:11 PM:

I did the same and got Gibson! Um, no. I'd rather slap Arthur C. Clarke in the face with a wet haddock.

#24 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 10:13 PM:

Gee, when I tried to answer for Heinlein, I got Ayn Rand. When I answered for myself, I got Heinlein...

...but AdamSJ, my answers were different from yours in two out of the three questions you thought were Heinlein-spotters. And the one we both answered was the "I've got some fascinating theories".

Hmmm. He has been my favorite writer since I first ran into The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I guess I've internalized more than I though.

#25 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 10:25 PM:

I got LeGuin and it didn't occur to me to play around with it because I'm not as clever as some people. I was okay with that. I would have been also happy with Maureen McHugh or Octavia Butler.

But the thing I want to say is: Every time I take one of these quizes I want to answer "don't you have a write-in option?"

#26 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 10:36 PM:

In answering as myself I got William Gibson, but my answers to the first two were "God" and "Genetics and Biology" respectively, so I can only assume that my later answers are skewed very heavily towards him.

(I just checked and I still get Gibson if I change Genetics and Biology to my second choice of Sociology and Anthropology. How odd...)

(Also, for the record, my later answers were:
I'm a total internationalist
I try to practice common courtesy
I probably offend a lot more people
When you get onto a subject that I care about
It's a nice scam
Al
God gave us two ears
I'm all about questions
and
Hell it's practically brimming full)

#27 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 10:39 PM:

I answered as myself and got Samuel R. Delany. I'd be utterly delighted if only I could write and think like him.

#28 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 11:11 PM:

Answering off the top of my head, I got Asimov. Then I read the comments, went back and changed a single answer (to "are you patriotic") and got Ayn Rand!
Never met either one, but I wouldn't think they had THAT much in common.

#29 ::: RobT. ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 11:33 PM:

When answering as myself I got Isaac Asimov, not sure quite how, except for his being my earliest favorite sf writer. (Our personalities may be similar in some ways, but I don't write nearly as much!)

Just about as graftifying was turning out to be Igor Stravinsky on the linked "Which classical composer are you?" test, as I'm a huge Stravinsky fan. From where I'm typing I can look over my shoulder at my 23-CD set "Igor Stravinsky: The Recorded Legacy", which I made a point of buying when I still worked for a record store and could get it on an employee discount.

#30 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 11:52 PM:

Madeleine Robins:

"Mickey Spillane is not the first name I think of when I think of science fiction, certainly. Or even, it must be said, the second."

He did write one Science Fiction novel (antigravity macguffin).

But then, last night I was reading the fine Travis McGee con artist double-crosser novel "Bright Orange for the Shroud" by John D. MacDonald [Fawcett Gold Medal, Sep 1965] when suddenly, when I least expected it [Chp. 11]:

"In some remote year the historians will record that Twentieth Century America attempted the astonishing blunder of changing its culture to fit automobiles instead of people, putting a skin of concrete and asphalt over millions of acres of arable land, rotting the hearts of their cities, so encoraging the proliferation of murderous, high-speed junk that when finally the invention of the Transporlon rendered the automobile obsolete, it took twenty years and half a trillion dollars to obliterate the ugliness of all the years of madness, and rebuild the supercities in a manner to dignify the human instead of his toys."

#31 ::: janet lafler ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 11:55 PM:

Answering as myself (more or less -- not all questions really apply to me) I got William Gibson. I had to show the result screen to my husband because he wanted to know what I was snorting about.

My answers were:

1A, 2B, 3C, 4B, 5F, 6B, 7C, 8A, 9B, 10A, 11B

I got the same result when I changed my answer on 5 from "I am the opposite sex" to "I'm happily married..." which is the other plausible answer I could give.

#32 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 12:04 AM:

I got Frank Herbert, which (they tell me) makes me a clumsy writer but immensely popular.

Now I'm completely confused.

#33 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 12:10 AM:

Jerry Pournelle seems to be a gimmie. I tried answering as a strong libertarian, and got... Asimov? "Sociology and anthropology" seems to have an Asimov bias, due to Foundation I suppose.

#34 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 12:14 AM:

JVP:
John D. MacDonald wrote a lot more science fiction than Mickey Spillane did.

#35 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 12:28 AM:

It's not terribly surprising that John D. McDonald would slip a moment of stfnal speculation into a McGee, given that he wrote two sf novels, Ballroom of the Skies and The Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything. Neither of these is obscure. Gold Watch is not-fantasy by the grace of a slim engineering explanation for its gimmick, but Ballroom is straight-up sf.

And given his middle name, he could have been Jack Dann if he'd wanted.

The number of people who are Officially Mystery Writers but have made planetfall in f/sf is not short, even if we leave out Michael Avallone. There was this guy named Poe, too. And lots of us on this side of the impregnable subquantum force field have slipped over now and then.

#36 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 12:35 AM:

John M. Ford: "The number of people who are Officially Mystery Writers but have made planetfall in f/sf is not short.... "

Donald E. Westlake was one of them. As far as I could see, he was a mediocre sf writer. But he's a brilliant crime writer.

#37 ::: Steve Thorn ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 12:45 AM:

Philip Jose Farmer.. sigh. Not exactly what I was hoping for, then again, I could only hope to be myself anyways.

#38 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 01:12 AM:

It's not terribly surprising that John D. McDonald would slip a moment of stfnal speculation into a McGee, given that he wrote two sf novels, Ballroom of the Skies and The Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything.

And a third, Wine of the Dreamers. There's also a short story collection, Other Times, Other Worlds.

Donald E. Westlake.... As far as I could see, he was a mediocre sf writer. But he's a brilliant crime writer.

He left the sf field in a huff, with a blistering manifesto Naming Names. It was in Dick & Pat Lupoff's fanzine Xero in 1960 or thereabouts, and recently reprinted in their wonderful book The Best of XERO, along with the letters-of-comment it inspired.

#39 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 01:26 AM:

Jeffrey Smith, John M. Ford, Mitch Wagner:

That John D. MacDonald could turn a mean genre trope does not surprise me, in and of itself.

I know. You know I know. I know you know I know. But that quotation surprised me because it was in a Crime novel; yet a reversion to his earlier form, like my father suddenly making a maneuver on the highway that was more like his landing a plane in World War II, when he was a flight instructor.

There was a brilliant series of short stories in Galaxy that still come to mind:

• The Waker Dreams • Richard Matheson • short story, Galaxy Dec '50
• Susceptibility • John D. MacDonald • short story, Galaxy Jan '51
• Common Denominator • John D. MacDonald • short story, Galaxy Jul '51
• Common Denominator • John D. MacDonald • short story, Galaxy Jul '51
• Game for Blondes • John D. MacDonald • short story, Galaxy Oct '52

These were around just before and after I was born, and I read them as soon as I was old enough to read. The anthology that changed my life was actually at my grandparents' house, which my Dad presumably got free, as he was then a book editor at Crown. My god, what astonishing fiction:

Second Galaxy Reader of Science Fiction ed. Horace L. Gold (Crown, 1954, hc)

• To the Hills! • Horace L. Gold • editorial, Galaxy Oct '53
• The Year of the Jackpot • Robert A. Heinlein • novella, Galaxy Mar '52
• A Bad Day for Sales • Fritz Leiber • short story, Galaxy Jul '53
• The Misogynist • James E. Gunn • short story, Galaxy Nov '52
• Saucer of Loneliness • Theodore Sturgeon • short story, Galaxy Feb '53
• Teething Ring • James Causey • short story, Galaxy Jan '53
• A Gleeb for Earth • Charles Schafhauser • short story, Galaxy May '53
• Hallucination Orbit • J. T. McIntosh • novella, Galaxy Jan '52
• The C-Chute • Isaac Asimov • novella, Galaxy Oct '51
• Junkyard • Clifford D. Simak • novella, Galaxy May '53
• Problem on Balak • Roger Dee • short story, Galaxy Sep '53
• Surface Tension • James Blish • novella, Galaxy Aug '52
• Specialist • Robert Sheckley • short story, Galaxy May '53
• Four in One • Damon Knight • novella, Galaxy Feb '53
• Caretaker • James H. Schmitz • short story, Galaxy Jul '53
• Lost Memory • Peter Phillips • short story, Galaxy May '52
• Not Fit for Children • Evelyn E. Smith • short story, Galaxy May '53
• Student Body • Floyd L. Wallace • novella, Galaxy Mar '53
• Lover, When You're Near Me • Richard Matheson • novella, Galaxy May '52
• Command Performance • Walter M. Miller, Jr. • short story, Galaxy Nov '52
• Star, Bright • Mark Clifton • novella, Galaxy Jul '52
• Warm • Robert Sheckley • short story, Galaxy Jun '53
• Unready to Wear • Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. • short story, Galaxy Apr '53
• Tiger by the Tail • Alan E. Nourse • short story, Galaxy Nov '51
• Self Portrait • Bernard Wolfe • novella, Galaxy Nov '51
• The Snowball Effect • Katherine MacLean • short story, Galaxy Sep '52
• Pillar to Post • John Wyndham • novella, Galaxy Dec '51
• Minimum Sentence • Theodore R. Cogswell • short story, Galaxy Aug '53
• Game for Blondes • John D. MacDonald • short story, Galaxy Oct '52
• University • Peter Phillips • novella, Galaxy Apr '53
• Tea Tray in the Sky • Evelyn E. Smith • short story, Galaxy Sep '52
• A Pail of Air • Fritz Leiber • short story, Galaxy Dec '51

I read and reread and rereread that anthology whenever I visited my grandparents. Again and again, those fireworks going off, in bliding colors out of space.

That was the greatest book ever written, so far as I know, from my point of view. That was the apogee of the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

I've thanked the majority of the authors represented in that hardcover vcolume, and weep that I never had a chance to thank the rest.

That Teresa and Patrick take Science Fiction editing seriously is part of why I respect them so much, even if they had Gold's agoraphobia or desire to rewrite clumsily, which they don't. If Asimov, Blish, Heinlein, Knight, Leiber, Simak, Sturgeon, Vonnegut, et al. were gods, then how can Sheckley be so ill in Kiev right now? And what are the Editors, who intermediate between us and the gods?


#40 ::: JonathanMoeller ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 01:26 AM:

Apparently I am Philip Farmer.

This is astonishing; I always thought of myself as Mickey Spillane.

#41 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 02:09 AM:

Interesting - I tried for Le Guin and got Le Guin. Then again, I probably share with the author of the quiz (and not with TNH or PNH) a knowledge of the authors solely through their works, not as actual people. Perhaps this helps "get" the answer the quiz writer intented.

When I took the quiz for myself, I came up as William Gibson. If only I could write the way he does. (Heck, if only I had the skill and the motivation to write at all...)

#42 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 02:23 AM:

It's good to see the list of who's available, actually -- most of the ones I'd seen in another venue were authors I'd met! Now I know that I met or corresponded with (Tiptree) 19 out of the 26 -- not bad! The set of books I have that are autographed by the list is smaller (15), but not a subset as I have a book signed by Cordwainer Smith.

#43 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 03:05 AM:

Answering as myself, I am Chip Delany. Maybe it's an East Village thing.

I actually quite like Westlake's one real sf novel, Anarchaos, even if it is basically Parker in space. He still occasionally dabbles in fantasy when Parker and Dortmunder aren't keeping him busy.

Spillane's last novel is not sf, but you won't know that till close to the end.

#44 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 03:18 AM:

Googling for "Pel Torro" brings up a Google-ad for lawnmowers.

#45 ::: Sin ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 05:30 AM:

I'm Arthur C. Clarke. In some rather awful way, that really depresses me. I like his writing, but I'd much rather be Bester, or hell, Harlan Ellison.

#46 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 05:51 AM:

Googling for "Pel Torro" brings up a Google-ad for lawnmowers.

You can't judge all lawnmowers by one bad example.

And besides, there are lots of locations where, if you search on (e.g.) "Ming's Purple Death Dust," you'll get offers to provide all your Ming's Purple Death Dust needs on eBay. At exceptional discounts. Order tickets to Frigia on Travelocity now.

#47 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 07:01 AM:

Okay--I tried, shooting for James Blish. I came up with Hal Clement, which I figure is not too far off. At least they were contemporaries, although Hal lived a lot longer than Blish.

(I have no idea what Blish was reputed to be like when drunk....that's probably the one that did it!)

#48 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 07:02 AM:

I'm William Gibson. I can't begin to tell you how thrilled I am! And I didn't have to write a single book.

#49 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 08:47 AM:

Answering honestly, I got Hal Clement. When I started fiddling around with things, I was bemused to discover that Hal Clement is one answer off from Kurt Vonnegut. Weirder still, the change from Clement to Vonnegut could be made by switching from "I try to practice common courtesy..." to "I am so sweet and harmless..." I can't claim to know much about Hal Clement, but that seems almost exactly backwards.

Clearly, what's needed here is the Making Light version of this quiz, with questions compiled from the readers of this thread...

#50 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 10:29 AM:

I know someone who answered the questions straight and got Heinlein; this wouldn't surprise me if the test were accurate, but from what I see here it sounds more like one person's prejudices and ignorance.

MacDonald certainly had the visualization of a writer of SF; Ballroom of the Skies has a very good portrayal of the U.S. as a past-its-prime nation and India as top dog -- which is looking much more realistic now than when he wrote the book. But he could also misread current trends: McGee in one of the later books grumbles that all the U.S. kids are playing video games and being dazed thereby, where other nations are learning to write them; the last I heard, most of the writers had been avid players. (It's harder to be good with machinery if you don't care what the machinery is for?) Sometimes his codger-views-with-grumpiness line just didn't work.

No, I didn't take the test -- maybe even more than Lucy K., I \hate/ having a constrained set of options none of which fit. That applies to answers as well as questions; I took Laurie Marks's which-element-are-you test (up when Fire Logic came out -- looks like the site has disappeared) and found when I answered it honestly that I was 1/4 of each.

#51 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 10:54 AM:

Chad, I think "practice common courtesy" means you're polite and considerate, and "sweet and harmless" means you don't think you have to be.

#52 ::: James Nicoll ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 12:16 PM:

John Farrell writes:

"Okay--I tried, shooting for James Blish. I came up with Hal Clement, which I figure is not too far off. At least they were contemporaries, although Hal lived a lot longer than Blish."

But Blish was a self-described non-Hitleran fascist and Clement, I am fairly certain, wasn't.

Here's the difference I came up with in 10 seconds of thought: Clement was likely to use limits imposed by physical law to shape his stories: A planet whose gravity varies with latitude [1], the odd effects of an atmosphere close to its critical point, the risks inherent in unregulated replication technology.

1: Is it possible to make one where it varies by longitude?

Blish was more likely to focus on necessary limits imposed by a political system: controlling unruly teens, crunching NYC cultural landscape down to the variability of a small town, the need for harsh centrally planned regimentation in a trillion person world.

#53 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 12:33 PM:

James Nicoll:

In a sense, the Hard SF of Clement is the most different from Sci-Fi of any subgenre (as argued in Open Thread 40).

If You Like This, You'll Like That: Hard SF
"Mission of Gravity" [Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement, Garden City NJ: Doubleday, 1954] has one of the most vividly rendered alien planets with ETs ever written. Set on the planet Mesklin, where gravity is some 300 times as intense as Earth at the poles, and yet only 3 times Earth-strength at the equator (due to centrifugal force on the very-rapidly spinning planet), the methane-chemistry ETs (Mesklinites) explore weird parts of their world while being in constant radio communication with human beings in orbit whom they have already met face-to-face aboard the human spaceship.

This is one of the first great "Hard Science Fiction" novels, dealing with meticulously accurate astronomy, chemistry, and physics, and also clearly presents us with intriguing aliens. Author Hal Clement (pseudonym for the high school chemistry teacher Harry Stubbs) even defines "Hard science fiction" for us in a related essay ["Hard Sciences and Tough
Technologies", Hal Clement, in The Craft of Science Fiction, ed. Reginald Bretnor, New York: Harper & Row, 1976, p.51]...

"A planet whose gravity varies with latitude [1], the odd effects of an atmosphere close to its critical point, the risks inherent in unregulated replication technology."

1: Is it possible to make one where it varies by longitude?

Gravity varies with both latitude and longitude even on Earth. Google "geoid" and, for the Moon, "mascon."

#54 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 01:12 PM:

Of course, "experimental fiction" is far apart from sci-fi too.

Is this the place for me to show a "poem" that, sort of, reads the same backwards AND upside-down?

deus am
-- so sued, mad dooms sped dad,
dad passed
passed pep
`pep pads swoop pew` pans os --
we snap

ฉ 1994-2003 by Darius Bacon

See the applet to turn English text upside-down (modulo some typewriterish fonts):

Upside Down Typing
by Melinda Green

#55 ::: Garrett Fitzgerald ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 03:09 PM:

Neil Gaiman was Chip Delany. :-)

#56 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 03:11 PM:

James Nicoll: 1: Is it possible to make [a planet] where [gravity] varies by longitude?

How long does it have to last? *g*

#57 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 03:38 PM:

I tested as either Heinlein or Brin, merely by changing one answer. Makes you wonder how either would have felt about it.

Personally, I like the results Michael Burstein got when he took the test...

#58 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 03:45 PM:

There's a lovely book review in today's Los Angeles Times Book Review, by James Sallis [registration required for web viewing] of "A Stroke of Midnight" by Laurell K. Hamilton [Ballentine Books, 2005, 370 pp., $23.95].

Excerpt:

"At one and the same time, we are assured that our map of the world is accurate and yet desperate to believe there is something more...."

"Even among its genre fwllows -- crime, science fiction, fantasy and other such fiction -- horror is often perceived as a poor cousin, sent to its room when company comes."

Sallis neatly compares Laurell K. Hamilton's 12 Anita Blake novels to Fritz Leiber, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, P. N. Elrod, and Joss Whedon: "part of an ongoing evolution in which 'super' as in 'supernatural' becomes something of a subscript. In the works of these writers, vampires take meetings, the powers of darkness have corporate headquarters, demons go out with buddies for burgers and fries, and faeries give news conferences.... In the liveliness of Hamilton's prose, in her feel for characters, in her play of anticipation and surprise, in the elegant way she folds the marvelous into the ordinary, she sometimes reminds me of past master Roger Zelazny (a high recommendation indeed)...."

#59 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 04:09 PM:

We did this in the SF discussion group at the library maybe a year ago. We have three couples in the group, and they each got the same writer as their spouse. I got Gibson and I don't even much like his writing.

It took us longer to sign up for serial use of the library computer than it did to actually do the test -- the library has strict procedures and we couldn't all just go on one person's turn. They only have mice (I've offered to donate trackballs), so someone else had to click for me.

#60 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 04:10 PM:

in the liveliness of Hamilton's prose

(N.B.: extreme snarkiness)

Does that mean this one actually got edited?

#61 ::: James Nicoll ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 04:32 PM:

Marilee writes:

"We did this in the SF discussion group at the library maybe a year ago. We have three couples in the group, and they each got the same writer as their spouse. I got Gibson and I don't even much like his writing."

I loathe my own writing and yet careful experiments (most recently with a razor applied with too much enthusiasm) seem to indicate that I am in fact me.

#62 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 05:41 PM:

Teresa: Charlie Stross was pretty freaked out when he answered honestly as himself and got Heinlein. Inquiring minds would like to know what you get when you answer as Charlie.

MKK--Hal Clement (comes of being a physics groupie)

#63 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 06:43 PM:

I seem to recall Blish was a fan of Oswald Spengler's view of history, and may have tried to work some of that into the background of his Cities in Flight novels.

What I still enjoy reading by Blish the most are his two small books of criticism, The Issue at Hand, and More Issues at Hand. I found them both extremely helpful when I started writing my own stories.

#64 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 06:58 PM:

Dori:
At which point I start to wonder why these 26 were chosen as opposed to a number of other SF authors who would come to mind more quickly...

Isaac Asimov, Alfred Bester, Arthur C. Clarke, David Brin, Octavia E. Butler, Philip Jos้ Farmer, Gregory Benford, Frank Herbert, Samuel R. Delany [exception 1], Jerry Pournelle, Mickey Spillane, Ursula LeGuin, Stanislav Lem, William Gibson, Olaf Stapledon, Philip K. Dick, Hal Clement [exception 2], Robert A. Heinlein, E.E. "Doc" Smith, James Tiptree, Jr., Jules Verne, Kurt Vonnegut, H.G. Wells, Cordwainer Smith [exception 3], Ayn Rand, or John Brunner [exception 4].

It seems the author couldn't think of any appropriate authors for I, Q, X or Z, and I'm not sure why they chose these particular authors for those cases, but the remainder are pretty clear.

Oh, and it seems we've slashdotted the quiz site. Well done. :)

#65 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 08:07 PM:

Jules:

From my vast Ultimate Science Fiction Web Guide:

Science Fiction Authors: I

Science Fiction Authors: Q

Science Fiction Authors: XYZ

with microessays thrown in at random.

#66 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 08:07 PM:

It seems the author couldn't think of any appropriate authors for I, Q, X or Z ...

Not being able to come up with a "Z" author requires really not thinking very hard. Though while the number 26 is certainly gnomic, the alphabet list has few enough initials as to very possibly be artifactual.

#67 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 08:11 PM:

Some discussion of "Cities in Flight" on my favorite weblog. I love the books to death, but they're badly dated and not for everyone. Sorely in need of what Hollywood calls "re-imagining."

The series was explicitly based on Spengler; at least one edition of the novels has a big fat appendix explaining the Spenglerian underpinnings.

#68 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 09:16 PM:

there are lots of locations where, if you search on (e.g.) "Ming's Purple Death Dust," you'll get offers to provide all your Ming's Purple Death Dust needs on eBay. At exceptional discounts. Order tickets to Frigia on Travelocity now.

My favorite example was when I was poking around on the San Francisco Chronicle's web site and found an article about the activity of the Hayward Fault. At the bottom of the page:

Fault Line
New and used Fault Line available at low prices on eBay.

Um, I'll pass, thanks.

#69 ::: Cassandra ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 11:12 PM:

I got Gibson. I've only read one of his novels, and write with speech steeped in a childhood spent reading almost entirely Victorian literature. Go figure.

#70 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 12:50 AM:

If you switch Delany and Brin both I and D are quite appropriately covered. Delany being a much better D and Brin's ego making the I... (no, I won't say that!). The others are slightly more difficult.

#71 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 03:55 AM:

I would definitely have put Dick down for 'K', which would free up P for a more sensible choice than Mickey Spillane -- perhaps Frederick Pohl.

It's still a rather strange selection, but presumably the author found each letter to be mnemonic of the writer in question.

#72 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 09:29 AM:

If you say your main theme is “futility and confusion,” and then answer the rest like an international pacifist, you get Stanislaw Lem.

Answering it strait, I got Octavia E. Butler, which is odd, as my strait answers varied from the result that got me Lem buy only one or two.

#73 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 09:35 AM:

Now I'm reading Spillane's "The Twisted Thing." It is explicitly about a scientist who raised his son to be a genius. Then the son seems to be kidnapped. That covers roughly the territory of the pure SF novel "The 4th R."

But raising a child to be a genius is not, itself, Science Fiction. It happens in real life, too. Famous examples include B. F. Skinner and his daughter; John Von Neumann's and his father (hope you bought some of the postage stamps of him, my mentor Feynman, Barbara McClintock, and Josiah Gibbs) and his daughter Marina (noted Economic Advisor); and Noam Chomsky.

In one of the Elderhostel classes I taught, I had a couple of 70-ish students who had known Chomsky's parents well. They are sure that Noam takes controversial stances (such as pro-PLO) deliberately to annoy his parents, and, now that they're dead, in continued reactiuon against his mental images of them.

Note to me son and those who read his Post. Okay, I got up at 6:00 a.m. this morning and got you up... blogging nonetheless.

#74 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 10:10 AM:

I think you mean notwithstanding. </grammar geek>

#75 ::: Shannon ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 12:17 PM:

I'm suspecting that the creator of the quiz picked those authors because they were people either whose work he knew best or who he had met in person. I know when I created a sci-fi author quiz (which I suspect isn't nearly as cool as his), that's what I did. I wasn't going to put in authors that I didn't know.

#76 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 02:56 PM:

I got Heinlein. Okay, guess I can live with that -- we have a pretty comprehensive Heinlein shelf. But I am also, according to the quiz What Office Supply are You? (http://www.paulkienitz.net/office-supply.html), a bulldog clip. Is there a correlation?!

#77 ::: Avery ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 03:42 PM:

Looking at some of the odd answer / result patterns makes me wonder how much backwards engineering you could do on the creator's reading list. I mean, what might you infer about Norman Spinrad if all you read was, "The Iron Dream"?

Also, the William Gibson / rape theme thing: In "Burning Chrome" there is a story where a girl who'd been psychologically conditioned with a "chastity lock" has this used against her as a means of extortion. I also remember holographic bi-planes but don't have time to properly track it down.

#78 ::: Merriam Webbish ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 03:51 PM:

Pardon the pseudonym, I'm feeling anonymish. Anyway, favorite mystery writers are often also SFish writers, even when I don't realize it till I've read many of their mysteries.

Examples: Barbara Paul, Peter Dickinson.

#79 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 04:49 PM:

Avery: "Dogfight," by Gibson and Michael Swanwick, is the story of a pool-hall hustler who travels between shitkicker bars in the American South, beating the local champions and winning bets.]

Except the game they play isn't pool. It's a game involving dogfights between miniature, holographic Fokkers and Spads. IIRC, it's even played on a green-felt-top table.

Very cool story. It's cyberpunk at its best -- one of the best elements I associate with cyberpunk is writing about petty criminals and other people who live on the fringes of society, using keen observation and vernacular. Until cyberpunk, you mostly had to go outside of sf for that kind of thing, mainly to Chandler, Hammett and other crime writers. Elmore Leonard (another mystery writer who occasionally writes sf) was hitting it big around the same time as cyberpunk was.

Disclaimer: I'm not claiming that writing authentically about petty criminals and other fringe people is somehow better than other themes. It's just different, and not something that sf had done a lot of until cyberpunk. With notable exceptions — such as, for instance, "Starman Jones," by Heinlein (careful readers who think I'm an idiot are are now high-fiving each other and saying, "Yup, Wagner worked Heinlein into the discussion again.) and the second "Cities in Flight" book by Blish, the one with the Pennsylvania hillbilly kid who goes to observe Scranton going Okie.

#80 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 04:51 PM:

Avery: The story is Dogfight, co-written by Gibson and Michael Swanwick.

#81 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 04:52 PM:

Also, Chip Delany. I was trying to make the point in my previous message that even sf writers we consider old-school Golden Age crewcuts-and-sliderule sf writers were doing proto-cyberpunk. Everybody already knows Delany was proto-cyberpunk.

#82 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 05:21 PM:

Mitch Wagner:

I brought my sliderule with me to Caltech in 1968, having grown up on old-school Golden Age crewcuts-and-sliderule sf writers (plus other literature, of course). There I published a genuine (really should be anthologized) protocyberpunk story.

"Down-jazzed, Up-tight, Side-souled Dad", California Tech, Pasadena, CA, 29 Jan 1970, pp.7+10; arguably the world's first published Cyberpunk fiction, featuring "street" use of high temperature superconductors, neural reprogramming, pop music of 1999, and swimming pools programmed to thermally code music for the
mind-altered.

#83 ::: Rebecca Pierce ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 05:26 PM:

I am Jules Verne - i answered honestly, including the 'i am the opposite sex.' As a 25 year old female, BA in music and halfway through a JD, i find something lovely about the idea that such a simple test brought me so much smugness for so long yeaterday.

how many woman as men and men as women have we been getting?

#84 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 05:31 PM:

My two cents: this quiz is another cookie-cutter origami-style fortune teller. It has a few more folds in the paper than the Livejournal ones (which mostly plug random friends list entries into humorous cell boxes).

Simple quizzes of this type work out pretty well, when the programmer is a good geek for the subject matter. See "Which Doctor Are You?" There were only nine possible outcomes for that one, when it was written, allowing the author to put more energy into the content of the questions.

This current sf writer quiz isn't clever enough to make it as a funny variant, or detailed enough to make it as a sercon variant. To do the job right, I think, requires more than a casual s-f reader with programming skills. If One of Us actually had too much time on their hands, I'd suggest using the code from a quiz with more detailed and intelligently-differentiated questions -- like this one..

Mike Ford: You are Ganthet of OA. Your even temper and well-developed cosmic sense of humor preclude your ever being mistaken for Appa Ali Apsa. And there really aren't a whole bunch of other Blueskins who're identifiable by name.

#85 ::: Avery ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 05:50 PM:

I think the which thing in this set of things are you type quizes is nicely summed up here:

Which Industrial Solvent Are You?

#86 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 06:51 PM:

Avery, I turn out to be:

SOYsolvฎ:
You are made from soybean oil, and are used in a wide range of applications, including asphalt release, mastic removal, and hydrocarbon cleaning. You are biodegradable, and your flash point is >300ฐF, Pensky-Martens closed cup, and >650ฐF open cup.

Biodegradable is a good thing, but I don't like most soy things.

#87 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 06:55 PM:

Lenny: a simple "purity test" is a lot easier to create than one trying to drop people into cells on multiple axes; I didn't check the source but can't imagine the code for your link being complicated enough. (It's not even a full-length test; purity tests are supposed to have 100 questions, and I found one with 400 back when Usenet was young.)

wrt gravity varying by longitude -- IIRC one of the worlds in Niven's "Known Space" stories had a serious bulge in one side due to being gravity-locked to a huge primary. (Was that Jinx?) There wasn't anything to breath on most of the bulge, but that wasn't the question -- although it does make me wonder how the atmosphere of Mesklin would be distributed with that severe aspect ratio (>2:1) and rotation (18 minutes).

#88 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 07:12 PM:

Damn, I was hoping for denatured alcohol:

NC-300:
You are a water soluble, heavy duty detergent designed for industrial cleaning. You may be used effectively on metals, plastics, rubber or concrete, and can be diluted with up to eighty parts water. You emulsify and hold oily soil in suspension for rinsing or wiping.

#89 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 07:18 PM:

Thank you, Lenny. I knew that you were worthy to wear the You Know What, even though my cosmic sense of humor caused me to create your Battery in the shape of a fuzzy green bunny with a drum.

And I still won't apologize for Guy.

#90 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 08:32 PM:

Chip:

I won't argue that the question range for a good version of the SF Writer quiz might need to be larger than the Geek purity test I came up with. My point was that the SF Writer quiz we're discussing has questions that aren't nuanced enough, and there aren't enough of them for a "thought piece." It struck me that a strategy of collecting "purity points" for each writer might produce more interesting results than a small number of simple questions -- with each answer choice in a question counting as a point for a different writer. (Amateur disclaimer here: No Statistics or Psych degree.) The short battery (with "answer choice"="outcome point") works when the questions and outcome results create an intrinsically entertaining caricature.

Mike: "Which GL are you?" may have more quiz fun potential than "which Guardian." (Agh. G'Nort?)

#91 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 09:01 PM:

Merriam, Peter Dickinson is one of the best writers who can be claimed by SF, mystery, humor, or children's books (he got his apprenticeship writing and editing for the British humor magazine PUNCH). He is an underappreciated treasure because one of his greatnesses is always writing in the language and POV of his protagonist(s). And this only shows visibly in a few of his single books, most notably KING AND JOKER. Otherwise you have to pay attention across three or four to begin to see this. It'd be pretty hard to fit him into a quiz like this because his books are so different....

#92 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 09:22 PM:

BTW, the site owner has closed down for the month to prevent excessive bandwidth charges.

#93 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 02:13 AM:

Footnote. I actually meant to link to this"Which Doctor Are You?" quiz. The other one is funny, but mostly a trivia contest. This one manages to be wry, while simultaneously passing as a personality inventory.

#94 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 07:30 AM:

I tried that quiz, answering as me, and came up as Isaac Asimov. But the first question was hard, because I obsess over most of the subjects listed. I changed my answer to the first question from "exploration and discovery" to "futility and confusion" and got Gibson. Then changed it to "God" and got Stapeldon.

#95 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 08:22 AM:

Rebecca,

I came up as William Gibson, (and I didn't choose rape and confusion) and try as I might I couldn't come up female. Which was disconcerting to say the least.

#96 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 10:33 AM:

The quiz cannot produce Neal Stephenson, who only hit the bestseller list on each volume of his trilogy, for a $500,000 advance? What, is it not Science Fiction?

Very Large Diamonds Produced Very Fast

“The diamond age is upon us,” concluded Hemley.

#97 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 11:36 AM:

Note that Hugo- and Nebula-winner Dr. Geoffrey A. Landis has an Evil Twin. Googling "Greg Landis" and "Gregory Landis" turns up numerous hits, including yesterday's:


Plane promises new views of Venus

CNN, Monday, May 16, 2005 Posted: 12:07 PM EDT (1607 GMT)
"The aircraft would also carry a 'flying brain' for a more durable surface rover that could emulate the success of NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers on Mars, team leader Greg Landis told the New Scientist
magazine."


New take offered on solar sails

"Gregory Landis of the Ohio Aerospace Institute at NASA's Glenn Research Center has said the problem with interstellar travel is the weight of the propellant. In the Star Trek universe, solar sails are described as actual sails carrying space probes out on the right winds in much the same way early explorers sailed out on earth's oceans looking for new lands."

In other news, Geoffrey Benford and Geoffrey Bear announce a new trilogy...

Say, can't get Bear on the quiz, either.

#98 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 11:59 AM:

That's an awsome story, Jonathan. Now, if only they can build a diamond zepplin with a hard vacume core, we'll be in business.

#99 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 12:41 PM:

OBITUARIES
Steve Moss, 56; Started Two Weekly Papers and 55-Word Short-Story Contest
By Valerie J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
17 May 2005
p.B11
[URL omitted, as registration required]

"Steve Moss, who founded two alternative weekly newspapers on California's Central Coast and dared would-be authors to master the 55-word short story, has died. He was 56...."

"In 1987, Moss thought up a succinct short-story contest — 'storytelling at its leanest,' he said — that brought entries to the New Times from as far away as Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Each story had to be 55 words or less and contain the classic ingredients associated with the best short stories: a setting, a character or characters, conflict and resolution."

Imagine if "Twilight Zone" had been only a minute long, or if O. Henry only had a business card to write on, Moss told the New Orleans Time-Picayune while promoting "The World's Shortest Stories" (1998), the first of two anthologies he would edit. "The World's Shortest Stories of Love and Death" was published in 2000.

A brief example, Jeffrey Whitmore's "Bedtime Story" from "The World's Shortest Stories":

"Careful, honey, it's loaded," he said, reentering the bedroom.

Her back rested against the headboard.

"This for your wife?"

"No, too chancy. I'm hiring a professional."

"How about me?"

He smirked. "Cute, but who'd be dumb enough to hire a lady hit man?"

She wet her lips, sighting along the barrel.

"Your wife."

*** the end ***

#100 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 12:58 PM:

CHip: IIRC one of the worlds in Niven's "Known Space" stories had a serious bulge in one side due to being gravity-locked to a huge primary. (Was that Jinx?) There wasn't anything to breath on most of the bulge, but that wasn't the question

Are you sure you're not thinking of Niven's planet Lookitthat? It's the opposite of what you describe — unbreathable, soupy, 600-degree atmosphere all over the planet, except for a single plateau with an Earth-like atmosphere at the summit?

By the way, I tried to post this message yesterday, but the discussion software blocked me, saying it had "questionable content." Turned out the reason, according to PNH, was that I initially included a textual representation of the sound one makes when thinking -- starts with an H followed by multiple Ms -- seems that MT doesn't want you to post anything containing multiple Ms in sequence. I have searched on Google for the Onomatopoetic Filter Plugin for Movable Type, but have been unable to locate it.

#101 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 01:24 PM:

The asymmetric world in Known Space is Jinx; it's relatively high gravity and the bit that sticks out is referred to as the West Pole.

There's a semi-canonical story in the Man-Kzin Wars series where this is explained as the result of an exchange of fire during the Slaver-Tnuctipun war a billion years previously.

I would like to note that 'gravity varying by longitude' is true of the Moon and the Earth, just not very much in either case.

#102 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 07:05 PM:

Mitch: I'd forgotten Lookitthat, but the link confirms that it's not as good an example of longitudinal gravity; Plateau is only 40 miles above the surface (gives 2.1% lighter gravity), and it's an isolated mountain (so most latitudes have the same gravity all the way around). Running up and down the other side of your link doesn't find precise figures for Jinx, but it sounds like it is more distorted overall (giving a larger variation, and since it is egg-shaped, circumnavigating it on any parallel that's not too close to the pole gets you significant variations in gravity.

Graydon: that's definitely "semi-canonical"; in "Down in Flames", Niven suggested that most of what is known outside the immediate time and space is false; the Slavers never existed (Kzanol is a one-off construct) and the Tnuctipun are alive right now.

Lenny: that's much clearer; certainly the information available from a handful of questions (and connecting to a handful of authors) is superficial. But would MMPIs of authors be as entertaining?

#103 ::: Temperance ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 08:34 PM:

I was LeGuin the first time thru, which is fine because she's one of my favorite authors ever, but then I thought some of my answers needed adjusting and I ended up as Arthur C. Clarke ... which is weird because I flunked physics. Sigh.

And Peter Dickinson IS a great writer. Try "The Kin" or "The Blue Hawk" or "The Glass-Sided Ants' Nest" for stuff that will not leave your mind, ever. Hell, read everything he ever wrote!

#104 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 10:28 PM:

Peter Dickinson's children's books are terrific too. Some that come to mind: Time & the Clock Mice, Etcetera; Eva; The Ropemaker. I have The Gift Boat in my bag calling to me.

#105 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2005, 01:18 AM:

Even his little-kid books are way cool -- Hepzibah, The Iron Lion (both versions -- the texts are very different). I've never heard of The Gift Boat, though, so now I need to go out and find more!

#106 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2005, 09:36 AM:

Hmm... "Down in Flames" was such an extensive retcon that, barring an actual finished version of the story instead of idle "what I'd do for a grand finale" speculation, I'd rather take its revisions as non-canonical. Anyway, he's repeatedly come back to Known Space after more or less giving it up in that essay. But Niven fans have probably argued about this forever...

#107 ::: Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2005, 01:12 PM:

Speaking of "Down in Flames": starting about ten years ago, there was a persistent rumor in the SF publishing world that a bunch of authors were going to do similar "let's knock out all the assumptions of my fictional universe" stories or essays, and that they would be collected in an anthology titled Down in Flames. Niven and Spinrad's inspiration was cited.

When I'd ask someone in the publishing or bookselling fields about this at the occasional Philcon over the eyars, everyone took it utterly seriously and insisted that the book would be out Real Soon Now. But I've heard nothing about it for several years now.

So was it all a big inside joke, or what?

#108 ::: Strockwife ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2005, 11:54 PM:

I haven't taken the test because it's down until the end of the month.

Alas..
...I know I'll be Cordwainer Bird.

#109 ::: Rick Owens ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2005, 02:03 PM:

A fix for bandwidth limits: visit a wayback version of the test.

#110 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2005, 02:07 PM:

My wife just asked me for a name in a crossword puzzle she was doing, i.e. "First name of poet Teasdale" and I snapped back "Sarah." Which fit. Then I wondered who was she, that I came up with her? Googling, I looked at several poems by Sarah Teasdale [1884-1933] and was struck by one which reminded me strongly of Robert A. Heinlein's song lyrics by the fictitious Rhysling, Blind Poet of the Spaceways, after whom the SFPA's Rhysling Awards are named.

MOODS
by Sarah Teasdale

I am the still rain falling,
Too tired for singing mirth --
Oh, be the green fields calling,
Oh, be for me the earth!

I am the brown bird pining
To leave the nest and fly --
Oh, be the fresh cloud shining,
Oh, be for me the sky!

-----

Okay, green fields/hills, earth/sky, still rains/fresh breezes, be for me the sky/freindly skies: coincidence?

Compare and contrast:

The Green Hills of Earth
by "Rhysling" [Robert A. Heinlein]

Let the sweet fresh breezes heal me
As they rove around the girth
Of our lovely mother planet
Of the cool, green hills of Earth.

We rot in the moulds of Venus,
We retch at her tainted breath.
Foul are her flooded jungles,
Crawling with unclean death.

[ --- the harsh bright soil of Luna ---
--- Saturn's rainbow rings ---
--- the frozen night of Titan --- ]

We've tried each spinning space mote
And reckoned its true worth:
Take us back again to the homes of men
On the cool, green hills of Earth.

The arching sky is calling
Spacemen back to their trade.
ALL HANDS! STAND BY! FREE FALLING!
And the lights below us fade.

Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet,
Up leaps a race of Earthmen,
Out, far, and onward yet ---

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the friendly skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.

Of course, RAH invented the now-common phrase "Free Fall" -- rendered here as a gerund.

Is this anything, or do I need more coffee? Or should the Heinleins have asked royalties for the slogan "fly the friendly skies of United?"

#111 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2005, 02:25 PM:

Well, today, in a more optimistic mood, I come out as Isaac Asimov. I don't agree with a word this test says, but I defend to the death its right to say it!

#112 ::: John M. Ford finds jolly old comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2005, 08:21 AM:

Hm. Sounds like someone hit C-3PO with a brick and he started babbling in 240 variations of organic and machine communication.

Though "him pacific poker bet showdown juice!" is just the sort of thing I would imagine a Dumb White Guy to say at a Native American casino, just before he drew two to an inside straight.

#113 ::: J. Teasdale Blow ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2005, 12:13 AM:

The quiz is back up.

#114 ::: Kat ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2005, 04:23 PM:

What does it say that I was pegged as William Gibson from the get-go?

#116 ::: Alex Cohen is confused by comment spam protocol ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 06:53 AM:

Shoot, what are we supposed to say now?

Feel free to delete this post.

#117 ::: Jill Smith spots comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 09:03 AM:

Annoying online poker comment spam, at that.

#118 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 10:29 AM:

You can say anything you want, but I'd rather you phrased it in a way that can't be mistaken for a comment on the existing thread after I've zapped the offending spam. Which all of you did; so full points all round.

#119 ::: Anton P. Nym spots comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2005, 05:29 PM:

Mmm, yummy viox spam. Dee-lish!

#120 ::: JDM Spots Spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2005, 09:17 AM:

Alas, away from home and without the URL, unable to go forth.

#121 ::: adamsj sees even more comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2005, 09:19 AM:

Multiples--someones been giving those SOBs fertility drugs.

#122 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2005, 09:58 AM:

The poker bots have been crossbreeding with spam bots. They want the World Series of Poker to do a hostile takeover of the Hugo Awards and Nebula Awards. They've started to break out of the cyber casinos, cash in their virtual chips, and take over the world. They aren't bluffing!

#123 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2005, 12:30 PM:

The usual pattern is that you get one piece of spam in an old thread, then several more, as they test the water. After that, the deluge.

And gosh, that just makes me so darn mad! I'm going to shut down all my comment threads,* just to let them know that I'm not running free ads for their benefit.

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Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.