Posts concerning weekly

Considerations for a Space Opera Setting: Artificial Intelligence

23:48 16 Oct 2011

The effect of AI on a setting is similar to the effect of sentient alien beings, in that it helps to define the limits of “humanity”. By AI here I mean strong AI, the ability to create sentient machines, and particularly sentient machines of vastly greater intelligence than humans.

While it’s certainly possible to include AI created by non-human civilizations, that’s really the realm of “sentient aliens” rather than what I have in mind here, which is strong AI created by the human race. The interplay/tension between those two groups is critical a lot of space opera, e.g. Iain M. Banks’ Culture series and Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos—not to mention Battlestar Galactica and critical aspects of the background of the Dune setting.

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Steve Jobs

23:47 09 Oct 2011

I wasn’t a big Steve Jobs fan; despite my working almost exclusively on Mac hardware for the last several years, I disagreed strongly with the direction I thought he was moving computing in. I was surprised to find myself feeling very sad at the news of his passing.

I’m not entirely sure what drove the extent of that sadness.

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One Wednesday in Baseball History

23:44 02 Oct 2011

Crazy things happen in sports. What happened in baseball last Wednesday was a big bag of the insane, the dramatic, and the historic, strongly spiced with the unprecedented.

At the end of the baseball regular season, eight teams (of 32) qualify for the playoffs. The regular season is 162 games long, and usually those eight teams separate themselves from the rest quite a while before it’s over.

But not always. Sometimes every game matters for a team. Last Wednesday, four teams entered the final night of play facing critical games, and for two of those teams not only a playoff spot but the avoidance of an ignominious record was at stake.

It’s been described as the best night in regular season baseball history.

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Considerations for a Space Opera Setting: Energy

19:02 25 Sep 2011

Given that I’ve chosen FTL travel and FTL communication as well as a scale that involves a fair amount of space, energy production and consumption are going to be important in the setting. The availability and cost of energy help to define many of the parameters of the milieu, including its economy.

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Djokovic Wins US Open

09:07 18 Sep 2011

Last Monday (the final having been delayed for the fourth consecutive year), Novak Djokovic continued his remarkable year, winning in New York for the first time and extending his 2011 record to a ridiculous 64–2—with one of those losses from a retirement due to injury.

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Q’Rith: Maps and World-Building

23:31 11 Sep 2011. Updated: 18:19 17 Sep 2011

I started the process of building the world of Q’Rith, and the nature and politics of the area of it my campaign would be focused on, conceptually rather than visually, which is to say: I didn’t have a map.

I had a strong sense of how it was supposed to work in terms of the dynamics between regions, what the scale should be like, and of pieces of the history of the region. I also knew it would start on the east coast of a large continent, and that the continent’s dominant state would stretch from one coast to the other. But that was more or less all.

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23:51 04 Sep 2011. Updated: 18:19 17 Sep 2011

Last week there was a significant amount of internet outcry over a post by Alyssa Bereznak about two dates she went on with Jon Finkel, a former Magic: The Gathering world champion. Bereznak called him out by name, and made clear that she had no interest in dating him because he was a former MTG world champion who still played the game. She also did more than that, and it’s the more that I’m looking at in this post—that, and how a defense of Bereznak by Sady Doyle at Tiger Beatdown misses the point and perpetuates the core problem with the original post.

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Q’Rith: Navigation, Sea Turtles, and Magic

17:59 28 Aug 2011. Updated: 18:19 17 Sep 2011

While getting ready to run the second season of my roleplaying campaign, I found myself with a question: several societies in the setting (based on this outline) are able to reliably navigate over vast oceans, but how are they able to do this?

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Expression, Pseudonymity, Google+

23:06 21 Aug 2011. Updated: 18:19 17 Sep 2011

Google+ has come under fire recently for banning users who don’t have usernames conforming to the service’s rules about what usernames should be like. Google’s policies on the matter are wrong, and the reasons why they’re wrong, as well as the potential implications of their policy, are important.

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The Rorschach Riots

23:28 14 Aug 2011. Updated: 18:19 17 Sep 2011

I mean the various incidents of unrest in England earlier this week. The reference is not to the Watchmen character, but to the blots, because from what I can tell every commentator (I include myself here) is seeing in the events a confirmation of their already-existing political beliefs. That’s not unique to this particular issue, but it strikes me as a particularly egregious example of the phenomenon.

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Considerations for a Space Opera Setting: Aliens

15:14 07 Aug 2011. Updated: 18:19 17 Sep 2011

FTL travel, and the “big universe” aspect of space opera, mean that if a setting includes alien life, humans are likely to encounter it. Its presence or absence does a great deal to shape the setting, both in terms of power dynamics and politics and in terms of how it feels.

Note that I’m not considering the question of whether or not it’s more “realistic” for a setting to contain aliens or not, as the question of our being alone in the universe is both too large for this post and not one I want to try to answer satisfactorily before starting to write this particular space opera piece.

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