Read The Bezzle

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Money-laundering, cyber-knavery and shell-company chicanery: Marty Hench is an expert in them all. He’s Silicon Valley’s most accomplished forensic accountant and well versed in the devious ways of Fortune 500s, divorcing oligarchs, and international drug cartels alike (and there’s more crossover than you might imagine).
Cory Doctorow’s hard-charging, read-in-one-sitting, techno take on the classic PI pulp novel.
**It’s 2006, and Marty Hench is at the top of his game as a self-employed forensic accountant, a veteran of the long guerrilla war between the people who want to hide money and the people who want to find it.
He spends his downtime holidaying on Catalina Island, where scenic, imported bison wander the bluffs and frozen, reheated fast food burgers cost $25. (Wait, what?)
When, during one vacation, Marty disrupts a seemingly innocuous scheme, he has no idea he’s kicked off a chain of events that will overtake the next decade of his life.
Because he’s made his most dangerous mistake yet. He’s trespassed into the playgrounds of the ultra-wealthy and identified their latest target: California’s Department of Corrections, who manage the state’s prison system.
Secure in the knowledge that they’re living behind far too many firewalls to be identified, the tycoons have hundreds of thousands of prisoners at their mercy, and the potential of millions of pounds to make off them.
But now, Marty is about to ruin their fun…

Source: The Bezzle by Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow has a way of holding up a mirror that helps make the world around feel that bit stranger, in a good way. The Martin Hench series explores the world through the eyes of forensic accountant. With The Bezzle, Doctorow dives into the world of the US prison system and the way that anyone can be held guilty of something. Marlene argues that the book is a ‘bezzle within a bezzle’:

The story in The Bezzle is a bezzle within a bezzle in a kind of möbius strip of bezzling that doesn’t so much end as shift into a state of mutually assured destruction. A state that Marty, fortunately for him, is finally able to observe from the outside looking in, instead of either from the inside of a jail cell looking out the way that his friend Scott ends up, or up from six feet under, as the villain of this story certainly intended.


However, I was left wondering if we are always-already interpellated within the bezzle and that we are never truly outside of this?

I enjoyed the book and as always was left thinking about everything from pyramid schemes, open access and privitisation. I liked Tavendale’s suggestion that it is part novel and part cautionary tale.

It reads partly as a novel and partly a cautionary tale on the excesses of the worlds of business and finance, and on the toothlessness of governmental oversight.

Source: Book Review: The Bezzle by Cory Doctorow by Tavendale

This is probably a good way of discussing most of Doctorow’s writing as he shines a light on certain elements of life around us to help us think differently.

My only frustration was with who is Martin Hench. Yes there were similarities with The Red Team Blues, but there were times it felt like a different characters. I kind of wondered if this was some sort of quantum fiction where the same character is able to live out different realities in different worlds that are both related and unrelated. For example, in Red Team Blues, Hench is in his late 60’s. However, in the ten years that this book spans, I am unsure how old Hench is or is meant to be. With all that aside, I felt it was a thought provoking read and enjoyed reading it.

Liked Pluralistic: The Coprophagic AI crisis (14 Mar 2024) by Cory DoctorowCory Doctorow (

A key requirement for being a science fiction writer without losing your mind is the ability to distinguish between science fiction (futuristic thought experiments) and predictions. SF writers who lack this trait come to fancy themselves fortune-tellers who SEE! THE! FUTURE!

The thing is, sf writers cheat. We palm cards in order to set up pulp adventure stories that let us indulge our thought experiments. These palmed cards – say, faster-than-light drives or time-machines – are narrative devices, not scientifically grounded proposals.

The Coprophagic AI crisis by Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow reflects on the science fiction narrative device that ‘more training data’ can improve artificial intelligence arguing that it simply is not true.

What’s more, while the proposition that “more training data will linearly improve the quality of AI predictions” is a mere article of faith, “training an AI on the output of another AI makes it exponentially worse” is a matter of fact.

Source: The Coprophagic AI crisis by Cory Doctorow


The Island of Doctor Moreau is an 1896 science fiction novel by English author H. G. Wells. The text of the novel is the narration of Edward Prendick, a shipwrecked man rescued by a passing boat. He is left on the island home of Doctor Moreau, a mad scientist who creates human-like hybrid beings from animals via vivisection. The novel deals with a number of themes, including pain and cruelty, moral responsibility, human identity, human interference with nature, and the effects of trauma.[2] Wells described it as “an exercise in youthful blasphemy.”[3]

The Island of Doctor Moreau is a classic work of early science fiction[4] and remains one of Wells’s best-known books. The novel is the earliest depiction of the science fiction motif “uplift” in which a more advanced race intervenes in the evolution of an animal species to bring the latter to a higher level of intelligence.[5] It has been adapted to film and other media on many occasions.

The Island of Dr Moreau, by H.G. Wells, tells the story of Edward Prendick and his experience visiting the island of Dr Moreau,  located somewhere in the Pacific. Dr Moreau is a scientist experimenting with creating human-like hybrid beings from animals via vivisection.

Was this the same Moreau? He had published some very astonishing facts in connection with the transfusion of blood, and in addition was known to be doing valuable work on morbid growths. Then suddenly his career was closed. He had to leave England. A journalist obtained access to his laboratory in the capacity of laboratory-assistant, with the deliberate intention of making sensational exposures; and by the help of a shocking accident (if it was an accident), his gruesome pamphlet became notorious. On the day of its publication a wretched dog, flayed and otherwise mutilated, escaped from Moreau’s house. It was in the silly season, and a prominent editor, a cousin of the temporary laboratory-assistant, appealed to the conscience of the nation. It was not the first time that conscience has turned against the methods of research. The doctor was simply howled out of the country.

Through Moreau’s creations, the novel explores what it means to be human, it is epitomised by the chant:

“Not to go on all-fours; that is the Law. Are we not Men?

“Not to suck up Drink; that is the Law. Are we not Men?

“Not to eat Fish or Flesh; that is the Law. Are we not Men?

“Not to claw the Bark of Trees; that is the Law. Are we not Men?

“Not to chase other Men; that is the Law. Are we not Men?”

Wells makes comparisons between Moreau’s Beast Men and those living in colonies. For example, Montgomery finds it hard to discern between Moreau’s creations and the people they trade with in the colonies.

At first I had a shivering horror of the brutes, felt all too keenly that they were still brutes; but insensibly I became a little habituated to the idea of them, and moreover I was affected by Montgomery’s attitude towards them. He had been with them so long that he had come to regard them as almost normal human beings. His London days seemed a glorious, impossible past to him. Only once in a year or so did he go to Arica to deal with Moreau’s agent, a trader in animals there. He hardly met the finest type of mankind in that seafaring village of Spanish mongrels. The men aboard-ship, he told me, seemed at first just as strange to him as the Beast Men seemed to me,—unnaturally long in the leg, flat in the face, prominent in the forehead, suspicious, dangerous, and cold-hearted. In fact, he did not like men: his heart had warmed to me, he thought, because he had saved my life. I fancied even then that he had a sneaking kindness for some of these metamorphosed brutes, a vicious sympathy with some of their ways, but that he attempted to veil it from me at first.

This is something that Andrew Cunningham and Craig Getting discuss on the Overdue podcast.  An example of such analysis is Matthew Thompson’s exploration of the tendency to racialise and the supposed journey from beast to civilised man.

In distinctly racialising the characters of the Beast People, Wells parallels the discourses of evolutionary science that use race as a means of distinguishing a narrative of human progression from primitiveness to civilisation. Such a narrative not only features to further the casting of the racialised Other as ‘primitive’, but, in the case of Moreau and other evolutionary scientists such as T. H. Huxley, to cast these subjectivities as animalistic.

Source: “The White Face of Moreau”: Race, Gender, and Animalism in the Literature of the Imperial Campaign by Matthew Thompson

The novel ends with Prendick sharing his enduring trauma from having survived the island.

My trouble took the strangest form. I could not persuade myself that the men and women I met were not also another Beast People, animals half wrought into the outward image of human souls, and that they would presently begin to revert,—to show first this bestial mark and then that. But I have confided my case to a strangely able man,—a man who had known Moreau, and seemed half to credit my story; a mental specialist,—and he has helped me mightily, though I do not expect that the terror of that island will ever altogether leave me. At most times it lies far in the back of my mind, a mere distant cloud, a memory, and a faint distrust; but there are times when the little cloud spreads until it obscures the whole sky. Then I look about me at my fellow-men; and I go in fear. I see faces, keen and bright; others dull or dangerous; others, unsteady, insincere,—none that have the calm authority of a reasonable soul. I feel as though the animal was surging up through them; that presently the degradation of the Islanders will be played over again on a larger scale. I know this is an illusion; that these seeming men and women about me are indeed men and women,—men and women for ever, perfectly reasonable creatures, full of human desires and tender solicitude, emancipated from instinct and the slaves of no fantastic Law,—beings altogether different from the Beast Folk. Yet I shrink from them, from their curious glances, their inquiries and assistance, and long to be away from them and alone. For that reason I live near the broad free downland, and can escape thither when this shadow is over my soul; and very sweet is the empty downland then, under the wind-swept sky.

This dual world where Prendick struggles to reintegrate within supposed civilised society reminded me of ending of The Heart of Darkness where the truth is surpressed in order to survive.

“‘His last word—to live with,’ she insisted. ‘Don’t you understand I loved him—I loved him—I loved him!’

“I pulled myself together and spoke slowly.

“‘The last word he pronounced was—your name.’

Source: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Stylistically, I was also reminded of the narrative style of Thomas More’s Utopia, where we are provided a perspective of place through the eyes of a visitor.

Continue reading “📚 The Island of Doctor Moreau (H. G. Wells)”

I was inspired to read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by the Overdue podcast. I enjoy Andrew Cunningham and Craig Getting’s discussions, the way in which they bounce off each other. Although I had seen both the original Blade Runner (I actually studied it in Year 12) and the remake, I do not remember ever reading the book before.

Coming at the book via the film, I could not help but compare. I was particularly intrigued with the description of the ‘chicken heads’ and the androids and the idea of humanity. This reminded me of H.G. Wells comparison of the animals and the people in foreign ports in The Island of Dr Moreau.

As with the film, the book asks many questions. How do we know what is real? What does it mean to be human? How do we know who we can trust?

Read Antarctica

Antarctica (1997) is a science fiction novel by American writer Kim Stanley Robinson. It deals with a variety of characters living at or visiting an Antarctic research station. It incorporates many of Robinson’s common themes, including scientific process and the importance of environmental protection.

In The Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy talks about heath to set the scene, however Antarctica for Kim Stanley Robinson feels like more than just a setting, it is both a physical place, but also political one too. With this, the book can be appreciated as an investigation into Antarctica, while being about Antarctica. Whether it be the geography, history, science, Robinson explores Antarctica in all its detail. In particular, the book attempts to go beyond the surface level of opinions on past expedition:

Everyone who joined a Footsteps expedition was an expert; it only took a half-dozen books to fill you in on the entire history of Antarctica, and after that everyone had an opinion.

Source: Antarctica by Kim Stanley Robinson

In some ways Robinson’s intertextual approach reminded of James Mitchener and the way in which different narratives are tied together to capture a particular subject. In Robinson’s case, this includes X, an idealistic young man working as a field assistant at McMurdo; Val, a trek guide helping people to trace the steps of past explorers; Wade Norton, an aide for a Californian senator; and the ferals, the ‘native’ people of Antarctica.

(Alternatively, I was also reminded of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. This made me think about whether Melville should be considered as a science fiction author?)

With each of the competing narratives, It is Norton who ties all these stories together. He has been sent down to Antarctica to get a picture of what is happening by Senator Phil Chase. As the novel unfolds, he relays everything back to Chase.

In some ways, this relationship is a proxy for Robinson’s relationship with us as the reader. Like Chase, we depend upon Robinson to provide an insight into all things Antarctica. One such insight relates to science.

It was not a matter of evil-doing either way; the simple truth was that science was a matter of making alliances to help you to show what you wanted to show, and to make clear also that what you were showing was important. And your own graduate students and post-docs were necessarily your closest allies in that struggle to pull together all the strings of an argument. All this became even more true when there was a controversy ongoing, when there were people on the other side publishing articles with titles like “Unstable Ice or Unstable Ideas?” and so on, so that the animus had grown a bit higher than normal.

Science was not a matter of automatons seeking Truth, but of people struggling to black-box some facts.

Source: Antarctica by Kim Stanley Robinson

As a medium, fiction allows a means of capturing various perspectives.

There are so many aspects that reminded me of The Ministry for the Future, ranging from blimps, science, politics and terrorism. I am left wondering if these are usual aspects to all of Robinson’s work.

Read science fiction novels by Kim Stanley Robinson by Contributors to Wikimedia projects

The Mars trilogy is a series of science fiction novels by Kim Stanley Robinson that chronicles the settlement and terraforming of the planet Mars through the personal and detailed viewpoints of a wide variety of characters spanning almost two centuries. Ultimately more utopian than dystopian, the story focuses on egalitarian, sociological, and scientific advances made on Mars, while Earth suffers from overpopulation and ecological disaster.

The three novels are Red Mars (1992), Green Mars (1993), and Blue Mars (1996). The Martians (1999) is a collection of short stories set in the same fictional universe. Red Mars won the BSFA Award in 1992 and Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1993. Green Mars won the Hugo Award for Best Novel and Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in 1994. Blue Mars also won the Hugo and Locus Awards in 1997.

I continued my exploration of Kim Stanley Robinson with Red Mars, the first book in the Mars trilogy. It was included as a part of the Audible membership.

Red Mars explores the colonisation of Mars. This journey begins with the First Hundred, who set up the initial settlement. (This reminded me of The 100.) One of the biggest challenges faced is that of radiation and atmosphere. This leads to significant debate around terraforming. Eventually, the debate is decided for them after someone sneaks in some algae into windmills. From there the novel explores the arrival of those coming to Mars not just to live and survive, but to exploit the environment. With this comes a change in culture, politics and conditions.

In the end, this is not The Martian. I wonder if that is because The Martian is somehow more authentic? Maybe, things have changed in the 30 years since Red Mars was published? However, I feel that sometimes Robinson’s narratives are as much about people and their consequences, as they are about the literal plausibility of everything discussed, from the burning up of ice asteroids to building a space elevator. It is interesting to consider this alongside as Antarctica, a foreign space on earth.

Red Team Blues by Cory Doctorow is the first novel in the Marty Hench series. It revolves around Hench, a forensic accountant doing one last job. However, things do not necessarily go to plan.

One of the things that I find interesting about Doctorow’s work is the balance between observing the world and explaining how things work. With Red Team Blues, more than say the Little Brother series, I felt myself enthralled in the story, rather than being endlessly distracted by the technology. Paul Di Filippo talks about a ‘maturing’, but I also think that this series has a different feel, providing a different perspective. Rather than youth, we are given an older perspective, with Marty Hench 67 and ready for retirement.

My only gripe with the novel was that Hench really did not seem like a 67 year old, but then again, his life is clearly a bit different.

I got the Wil Wheaton read audiobook as a part of a pledged associated with the Kickstarter campaign.

Watched 2016 American mystery drama television series by Contributors to Wikimedia projects from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
The OA explores a multi-verse stemming from near-death experiences. Although I felt it was a bit slow to unpack all the characters and storyline, once it gets going it was quite captivating. From a storytelling point of view I feel like all these science fiction series blend into each other. There were aspects of talking between dimensions similar to Stranger Things, while the puzzle house reminded me of 1899.
Read 2008 science fiction novel by by Contributors to Wikimedia projects

The Three-Body Problem (Chinese: 三体; lit. ‘Three-Body’; pinyinsān tǐ) is a science fiction novel written by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin. The title refers to the three-body problem in orbital mechanics. It is the first novel of the Remembrance of Earth’s Past (Chinese: 地球往事) trilogy, but the whole series is normally referred to as The Three-Body Problem.[1] The trilogy’s second and third novels are The Dark Forest and Death’s End respectively.

The first volume of The Three-Body Problem was first serialized in Science Fiction World between May and December 2006.[2] It was published as a standalone book in 2008, becoming one of the most successful Chinese science fiction novels of the last two decades.[3] The novel received the Chinese Science Fiction Yinhe (“Galaxy“) Award in 2006[4] along with many more over the years. By 2015, a Chinese film adaptation of the same name was in production.

The English translation by Ken Liu was published by Tor Books in 2014.[5] Thereafter, it became the first Asian novel ever to win a Hugo Award for Best Novel,[6][7] and was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel.[8]

The series portrays a future where, in the first book, Earth encounters an alien civilisation in a nearby star system that consists of three solar-type stars orbiting each other in an unstable three-body system.

The Three-Body Problem is one of those novels that takes on new meaning as each layer is revealed. It has a lot to say about science, culture and progress.

The odd thing is that the less practical your research is, the more they’re afraid of you—like abstract theories, the kind of thing Yang Dong worked on. They are more frightened of such work than you are of the universe winking at you. That’s why they’re so ruthless. If killing you would solve the problem, you’d all be dead by now. But the most effective technique remains disrupting your thoughts. When a scientist dies, another will take his place. But if his thoughts are confused, then science is over.” (Page 125)

In the end I was left feeling incredibly small and rather insignificant.

Liked 20 of the Best Science Fiction Books of All Time by Caitlin Hobbs (
Watched American science fiction horror Netflix series by Contributors to Wikimedia projects from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Stranger Things is an American science fiction horror drama television series created by the Duffer Brothers that is streaming on Netflix. The brothers serve as showrunners and are executive producers along with Shawn Levy and Dan Cohen. The first season of the series was released on Netflix on July 15, 2016, with the second, third, and fourth seasons following in October 2017, July 2019, and May and July 2022, respectively. In February 2022, the series was renewed for a fifth and final season.

Set in the 1980s primarily in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, the series centers around numerous supernatural events occurring around the town, specifically around their connection to a hostile alternate reality called the “Upside Down”, after a link between it and Earth is made by a United States government child experimentation facility. The series stars Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Joe Keery, Cara Buono, Matthew Modine, Dacre Montgomery, Sean Astin, Paul Reiser, Maya Hawke, Priah Ferguson, and Brett Gelman.

The Duffer Brothers developed Stranger Things as a mix of investigative drama and supernatural elements portrayed with horror, science fiction and childlike sensibilities. Setting the series in the 1980s, the Duffer Brothers infused references to the pop culture of that decade while themes and directorial aspects were inspired by the works of Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, David Lynch, Stephen King, Wes Craven and H. P. Lovecraft. They also took inspiration from experiments conducted during the Cold War and conspiracy theories involving secret government experiments.

I watched Season One of Stranger Things a few years ago after getting a downloaded copy. After finally getting Netflix I finally got around to watching the remaining seasons. Having binged all four seasons, although there were aspects that seemed somewhat stretched, such as breaking back into a Russian prison and Jim Hopper being able to wield a sword seemingly without much training, I think that the story line does a pretty good job in tying everything together. What I liked the most was how the series finds balance between the story and growth of the characters. Whether it be Hopper’s human foibles, Steve Harrington’s maturity beyond being a jock or the various recognitions of failed love, there was something relatable throughout. Although each of these characters seem to achieve a heroic feet, none are traditional heroes. As Debadrita Sur touches on in regards to Hopper:

Hopper is no hero, nor is he an anti-hero. He does not embark on a quest-like journey. The first season sees Hopper as the Chief of Police in Hawkins, whose alcohol-fuelled life is spent in a drug daze of despair. Hopper is trying to drown himself in hedonism to fill the void inside his heart. He is pathetic and human. When his childhood friend Joyce Byers comes to him tearfully to investigate her son Will’s disappearance, he deals with it very matter-of-factly by addressing it as a simple missing person case. However, he is shaken by Joyce’s comments about how he would react had it been his daughter. 

Hopper is a tough guy. He punches people before they can respond to his interrogation — the archetypal strong man. But under this tough exterior lies a grief-stricken, unhappy soul. Imagine losing the apple of your eye to a disease where you can do nothing but helplessly watch her fade away. That is exactly what happened to Hopper.

Or as Guy Dolbey touches on in regards to Donnie Darko.

The difference between these modern reimaginings of ‘80s childhood and the stories they homage is their priorities in terms of character. While these classic entries are often ostensibly coming-of-age stories, this is generally approached in the abstract with their journey representing something grander as opposed to digging into the characters themselves.

On the other hand, Stranger Things and the modern It are heavily character-focused with the former especially using its supernatural elements almost entirely as a catalyst for drama. In this sense, Donnie Darko is the missing link between the original texts and their romantic reimaginings, specifically in the approach to the internality of its characters.

For me there were times the series reminded me a bit of Donnie Darko’s eighties suburbia, Harry Potter’s battle of Voldermort and other times of Buffy and the hellmouth, but in the end with the plethora of references and references the series comes out rather original.

Watched 2014-2020 American science fiction television series by Contributors to Wikimedia projects from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

The 100 (pronounced The Hundred [2]) is an American post-apocalyptic science fiction drama television series that premiered on March 19, 2014 on The CW, and ended on September 30, 2020. Developed by Jason Rothenberg, the series is loosely based on the young adult novel series of the same name by Kass Morgan.[3] The 100 follows post-apocalyptic survivors from a space habitat, the Ark, who return to Earth nearly a century after a devastating nuclear apocalypse. The first people sent to Earth are a group of juvenile delinquents who encounter descendants of survivors of the nuclear disaster on the ground.

The main characters of juvenile prisoners includes Clarke Griffin (Eliza Taylor), Finn Collins (Thomas McDonell), Bellamy Blake (Bob Morley), Octavia Blake (Marie Avgeropoulos), Jasper Jordan (Devon Bostick), Monty Green (Christopher Larkin), and John Murphy (Richard Harmon). Other lead characters include Clarke’s mother Dr. Abby Griffin (Paige Turco), Marcus Kane (Henry Ian Cusick), and Chancellor Thelonious Jaha (Isaiah Washington), all of whom are council members on the Ark, and Raven Reyes (Lindsey Morgan), an engineer aboard the Ark.

The 100 is an interesting series. In some ways there was a lot of repetition where the same scenarios were raised again and again, but from different perspectives. This came up in regards to nightbloods and sacrificing for the greater good, as well as the place of artificial intelligence. Jason Rothenberg has explained how he actually treated each season as a new beginning:

“For me, every season was designed to be almost like a new show and a new story,” says Rothenberg, who was pitched the series by the CW and wrote the pilot at the same time Kass Morgan wrote her young adult novel, on which “The 100” is loosely based. “I approached it as a feature writer coming into television for the first time, as each of these seasons was a movie broken down into 13 or 16 parts. That’s why the show changes so drastically season to season, which is one of the things I love about it.”

As much as I enjoyed the general story and the evolution of the characters, there were some aspects of storytelling and world building that felt somewhat circumspect. In the beginning we have supposed monsters in the water and deformed beasts, yet they seem to magically disappear beyond Season 1. In the beginning Bellamy has seemingly embraced a life of debauchery, yet this seems to quickly wane. Another niggle is the ability to magically traverse between so many different biomes so quickly to me felt odd. We jump from desert to rainforest to ice all within a days driving distance or a few days hike, especially as the series went on. (This is all made somewhat absurd with the discovery of the worm holes.) Also the various chance discoveries, such as the Second Dawn bunker and that there is a second nuclear holocaust coming. Maybe the reality was not always the point or strength of the show, instead it was all about the maybes and what ifs associated with the environment, technologies, society and identity. As Richard Harmon discusses in regards to her character, Murphy.

“I definitely had worked quite a bit playing a certain type of character for years,” Harmon says. “Always bad guys. This show gave me the opportunity to expand what I can do as an actor because I never thought I would play a hero. Here I am seven years later and Murphy is trying his darnedest to do the right thing. People can change, it’s just hard.”

In the end I think Maggie Fremont captures it all best in her discussion of the conclusion of the series:

So much happened in seven seasons! And I didn’t even get into all those City of Light shenanigans or the cannibalism-in-the-bunker situation or the fate of our precious Lincoln. Just know that if you stuck with The 100 for all seven seasons, you have seen some things.

Watched science-fiction television series from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Altered Carbon is an American cyberpunk television series created by Laeta Kalogridis and based on the 2002 novel of the same title by English author Richard K. Morgan.[1] In a world where consciousness can be transferred to different bodies, Takeshi Kovacs, a former soldier turned investigator, is released from prison in order to solve a murder. The first season consists of ten episodes and premiered on Netflix on February 2, 2018.[2] On July 27, 2018, the series was renewed for a second season of eight episodes,[3] which was released on February 27, 2020, with an anime film set before the first season released on March 19, 2020. Though the series received generally positive reviews, it was canceled after two seasons.[4]

I enjoyed watching Altered Carbon. As all great science fiction does, it posed many questions around life, death and reality.

When it’s firing on all cylinders, Altered Carbon is to hard sci-fi what The Witcher is to high fantasy: a series that just plunges you into its strange and meticulously detailed world, one that’s fun and accessible as long as you understand that the ridiculousness is part of the appeal.

Read The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness is a science fiction novel by U.S. writer Ursula K. Le Guin. Published in 1969, it became immensely popular, and established Le Guin’s status as a major author of science fiction.[6] The novel is set in the fictional Hainish universe as part of the Hainish Cycle, a series of novels and short stories by Le Guin, which she introduced in the 1964 short story “The Dowry of Angyar”. It was fourth in sequence of writing among the Hainish novels, preceded by City of Illusions, and followed by The Word for World Is Forest.[3]

The novel follows the story of Genly Ai, a human native of Terra, who is sent to the planet of Gethen as an envoy of the Ekumen, a loose confederation of planets. Ai’s mission is to persuade the nations of Gethen to join the Ekumen, but he is stymied by a lack of understanding of their culture. Individuals on Gethen are ambisexual, with no fixed sex; this has a strong influence on the culture of the planet, and creates a barrier of understanding for Ai.

I was inspired by a lecture from Kim Stanley Robinson to read more of Ursula K. Le Guin.  What I found intriguing was the discussion of another culture as a way of appreciating your own.


Introduction by Ursula K. Le Guin

This book is not extrapolative. If you like you can read it, and a lot of other science fiction, as a thought-experiment.

Science fiction is not predictive; it is descriptive.

Prediction is the business of prophets, clairvoyants, and futurologists. It is not the business of novelists. A novelist’s business is lying.

In reading a novel, any novel, we have to know perfectly well that the whole thing is nonsense, and then, while reading, believe every word of it. Finally, when we’re done with it, we may find – if it’s a good novel – that we’re a bit different from what we were before we read it, that we have changed a little, as if by having met a new face, crossed a street we never crossed before. But it’s very hard to say just what we learned, how we were changed.

The Left-Hand of Darkness

“You don’t see yet, Genry, why we perfected and practice Foretelling?” “No—” “To exhibit the perfect uselessness of knowing the answer to the wrong question.” (Page: 57)

The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.” (Page: 58)

There is no division of humanity into strong and weak halves, protective/protected, dominant/submissive, owner/chattel, active/passive. In fact the whole tendency to dualism that pervades human thinking may be found to be lessened, or changed, on Winter. (Page: 77)

To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness. (Page: 126)

After all he is no more an oddity, a sexual freak, than I am; up here on the Ice each of us is singular, isolate, I as cut off from those like me, from my society and its rules, as he from his. There is no world full of other Gethenians here to explain and support my existence. We are equals at last, equal, alien, alone. He did not laugh, of course. Rather he spoke with a gentleness that I did not know was in him. After a while he too came to speak of isolation, of loneliness.(Page: 194)

Light is the left hand of darkness and darkness the right hand of light. Two are one, life and death, lying together like lovers in kemmer, like hands joined together, like the end and the way. (Page: 195)

Liked Time Travelers Should Be a Lot More Worried About Viruses (WIRED)

One of the biggest threats would be viruses, an issue that’s seldom tackled in science fiction. “The problem with time travel is that if you went back in time, you would probably wipe out the whole population then, and they would probably kill you within months with viruses that you have no immunity to,” Carrier says. “So note to time travel authors: You have to come up with a universal immunity so that the time traveler who goes back is not bringing viruses that everybody is not immune to, and is immune to viruses that his body has never encountered.”

Liked The Realism of Our Times: Kim Stanley Robinson on How Science Fiction Works | Public Books,The Realism of Our Times: Kim Stanley Robinson on How Science Fiction Works (Public Books)

The way I’ve been putting it over the last few years is that science fiction works by a double action. This is maybe another way of talking about the estrangement effect. Think of the glasses that you put on at a 3D movie. Those special glasses have one lens showing you one thing and the other lens showing you another thing, slightly different. And your brain puts together a 3D view from these.

So one lens of science fiction is a real attempt to imagine a possible future. The other lens is a metaphor for the way things are right now. What you get when the two coalesce is a vision of historical time, cast into the future. Like a trajectory of deep time.

Bookmarked Edtech sci-fi (code acts in education)

Here’s a list the lovely people on Twitter suggested of edtech sci-fi texts, TV, and film. Three were even suggestions of existing compilations of edtech sci-fi: a 2015 piece by Audrey Watters on Education in Science Fiction, a collection by Stephen Heppell, and an entry on Education in SF at the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Check those out too. I’ve alphabetized the list but nothing more. Some people added short descriptions, which I’ve paraphrased, and others links, which you’ll have to mine the replies to find, I’m afraid.

Ben Williamson collects together a collection of science fiction texts which depict education. It would be interesting to have a reader collating excerpts from each that could be used as a provocation to “engage with the complex social, political, economic and and environmental crises of our time.”
Liked Asimov’s Empire, Asimov’s Wall | Public Books,Asimov’s Empire, Asimov’s Wall (Public Books)

Isaac Asimov loved large numbers. He was born a century ago this month, and when he died, in 1992, he was both the most famous science fiction writer in the world and perhaps the most prolific author in American history. He kept close track of his publications, most of which were nonfiction, and confessed that he was generous when it came to including borderline cases, such as anthologies, in his total of nearly five hundred books: “We all want to be known for something, and I was beginning to see that there would be a good chance that if for nothing else, I would be known for the vast number of books I would publish.”

In the end, however, another number might turn out to be equally meaningful. Over the course of many decades, Asimov groped or engaged in other forms of unwanted touching with countless women, often at conventions, but also privately and in the workplace

Bookmarked How William Gibson Keeps His Science Fiction Real (The New Yorker)

Midway through his career, the inventor of “cyberspace” turned his attention to a strange new world: the present.

Joshua Rothman speaks with William Gibson about science fiction, his new novel Agency and the present. This lengthy profile provides an insight into the mind of the writer.


Gibson doesn’t have a name for his method; he knows only that it isn’t about prediction. It proceeds, instead, from a deep engagement with the present.

Most science fiction takes place in a world in which “the future” has definitively arrived; the locomotive filmed by the Lumière brothers has finally burst through the screen. But in “Neuromancer” there was only a continuous arrival—an ongoing, alarming present. “Things aren’t different. Things are things,” an A.I. reports, after achieving a new level of consciousness. “You can’t let the little pricks generation-gap you,” one protagonist tells another, after an unnerving encounter with a teen-ager. In its uncertain sense of temporality—are we living in the future, or not?—“Neuromancer” was science fiction for the modern age. The novel’s influence has increased with time, establishing Gibson as an authority on the world to come.

Gibson’s strategy of extreme presentness reflects his belief that the current moment is itself science-fictional.

“The future is already here,” he has said. “It’s just not very evenly distributed.”The further Gibson developed his present-tense sci-fi, the more mysterious and resonant his novels became.

Gibson has a bemused, gentle, curious vibe. He is not a dystopian writer; he aims to see change in a flat, even light. “Every so often—and I bet a lot of people do this but don’t mention it—I have an experience unique in my life, of going, ‘This is so bad—could this possibly be real?’ ” he said, laughing. “Because it really looks very dire. If we were merely looking at the possible collapse of democracy in the United States of America—that’s pretty fucked. But if we’re looking at the collapse of democracy in the United States of America within the context of our failure to do anything that means shit about global warming over the next decade . . . I don’t know.”

Some speculative writers are architects: they build orderly worlds. But Gibson has a collagist’s mind. He has depicted himself as “burrowing from surface to previously unconnected surface.”

His plots are Tetris-like, their components snapping together at the last possible moment until the space of the novel is filled.