KSR on why to go to space

Kim Stanley Robinson has an op-ed in the Washington Times on Why we should go into space
One of the best reasons:
Another good reason for a vigorous space program is the immense potential of space-based solar power. This would entail infrastructure-building with a vengeance, but investing in a system of orbiting solar power collectors — and ground stations to receive that power — could stimulate the economy, much like building interstate freeways did in the 1950s. And gathering the sun’s energy in space and beaming it down maximizes the harvest while minimizing the effects on the Earth.
My friend Scott and I have discussed this idea in depth. It’s an ambitious goal and project–and one worthy of the U.S. to tackle.
Let’s do it.

Apollo 11 and Me

Apollo 11 took off, arrived at the Moon and returned to Earth more than two years before I was born.
In fact, I was born 14 months before Apollo 17, the final Apollo Manned Mission to the Moon. I was born within the window of manned missions to the Moon, but only by that margin. My younger brother Michael was born after we had stopped going to the Moon entirely.
A damned shame. I am aware of the costs, dangers, and the technical problems with “sending monkeys into space”. Yes, many of the things in space can be done more cheaply and easily with robots than humans.
Still the emotional content matters. And a human can do things no robot can. A human can show judgment and do things off of the mission plan. Notice things. Discover things.
“Man’s destiny lies in the Stars” –Arthur Clarke.
And, to quote Jodie Foster in Contact, if we never went back, it would be an awful waste of Space.

Walter Cronkite, RIP

Cronkite’s reign and influence, of course, came before my time. He retired from the CBS Evening news when I was a child of 10, and so I wasn’t really exposed to his full power, trust, and authority.
I do recall that he did a voiceover for the movie Apollo 13, and the anchor on the miniseries V was suspiciously Cronkitian in his diction as he explained the events revolving around the contact with the Visitors.
In today’s media landscape, he would not have had the influence and power he has. (Much like Michael Jackson, come to think of it). But for his time and place, Cronkite was inescapably essential.
Rest in Peace.

Houston, We Erased The Apollo 11 Tapes

You’ve heard the tragedy of Doctor Who, where many of the pre-Pertwee episodes have been flatly lost because the BBC overwrote or plain threw out the only existing tapes. Episodes such as Marco Polo are lost, forever.
Here’s a tragedy of similar content but even worse. It seems that the high quality tapes NASA used to record the first moon landing were overwritten with plain satellite Data.
“…the lost tapes mean that the world will probably never again see the original images beamed back to Earth by the lunar camera that is now resting on the moon’s dusty Sea of Tranquility, right where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left it.”
There are remastered versions of the broadcast material, but that was of far, far inferior quality to the original signal.
It would be as if I lost the .raw and large size versions of my favorite pictures, and only had the smallest of thumbnails left.
It’s a damned shame.

NY Times on Jack Vance

Maybe a little too late in his career, for my taste, but the NY Times has a recent article on Jack Vance. They do key on Songs of the Dying Earth, the tribute anthology that has been just released, and that I have been gushing about. The author of the article relies heavily on Chabon to help decipher the singular mr. Vance.
Some bits from the article:
Michael Chabon, whose distinguished literary reputation allows him to employ popular formulas without being labeled a genre writer, told me: “Jack Vance is the most painful case of all the writers I love who I feel don’t get the credit they deserve. If ‘The Last Castle’ or ‘The Dragon Masters’ had the name Italo Calvino on it, or just a foreign name, it would be received as a profound meditation, but because he’s Jack Vance and published in Amazing Whatever, there’s this insurmountable barrier.”
Right about now you might be thinking, Well, if Vance is as good as Simmons and Chabon and Rhoads say he is, and if he refused to give in to the demands of the genres in which he worked, then maybe he would have done better to try other forms that better rewarded his strengths — isn’t it a shame that he confined himself to adolescent genres in which his grown-up talents could not truly shine? But I think that question would be wrong in its assumptions: wrong about Vance, about genre and about what “adolescent” and “grown-up” mean when we talk about literary sensibility.
Chabon contrasted Vance with Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, British dons who shared a grandiose “impulse to synthesize a mythology for a culture. There’s none of that in Vance. The engineer in him is always on view. They’re always adventure stories, too, but they’re also problem-solving puzzles. He sets up these what-ifs, like a syllogism. He has that logic-love like Poe, the Yankee engineering spirit, married to erudite love of pomp and pageantry. And he has an amazing ear and writes a beautiful sentence.”
It’s a pity Chabon didn’t contribute to Songs, since its clear that he understands and loves Vance’s work. He gets it.

Charles N Brown, RIP

As you have seen many places elsewhere if you are reading this here, Charles Brown, founder and editor of Locus, has died on his way back from Readercon.
I am not a F/SF writer and I am ambivalent on the best of days if I have the stones to be one. I came to Locus, first, because of its indispensable use to me as a fan, especially back in the 80’s and 90’s.
Locus, which I first started to read by buying copies at the Forbidden Planet in Manhattan, told me what books were coming, what authors were selling, what books were popular, what books were worth my time, and what books were winning awards. In the days before the Internets took off, that information was golden.
Nowadays, Locus is not as indispensible and solitary in conveying that sort of information, but I still find it useful, so much so that I fill out my Locus survey every year, and I’ve had a subscription for more than 10 years.
Rest in peace, Mr. Brown.

Songs of the Dying Earth Table of Contents

Now that I have the copy in my hands, I can report on the table of contents. I haven’t seen anyone else do it yet, so I get to be first!

Songs of the Dying Earth
TOC:
Thank You, Mr Vance –Dean Koontz
Preface –Jack Vance
The True Vintage of Erzuine Thale –Robert Silverberg
Grolion of Almery –Matthew Hughes
The Copsy Door –Terry Dowling
Caulk the Witch Doctor –Liz Williams
Inescapable –Mike Resnick
Abrizonde –Walter Jon Williams
The Traditions of Karzh –Paula Volsky
The Final Quest of the Wizard Sarnod –Jeff Vandermeer
The Green Bird –Kage Baker
The Last Golden Thread –Phyllis Eisenstein
An Incident in Uskvesk –Elizabeth Moon
Sylgarmo’s Proclamation –Lucius Shepard
The Lamentably Comical Tragedy (or The Laughably Tragic Comedy) of Lixal Laqavee –Tad Williams
Guyal the Curator –John C Wright
The Good Magician –Glen Cook
The Return of the Fire Witch –Elizabeth Hand
The Collegeum of Mauge –Byron Tetrick
Evillo the Uncunning –Tanith Lee
The Guiding Nose of Ulfant Banderoz –Dan Simmons
Frogskin Cap –Howard Waldrop
A Night at the Tarn House –George R R Martin
An Invocation of Curiosity –Neil Gaiman