Near-future divergence?

Someone on Twitter recently asked me an interesting question:

After thinking it over, I decided that this was something we could explore a bit. The case that Joia is referencing deals with a story that takes place in the year 2058. Clearly, the technology in the tale should be far advanced beyond our own, current technologies. 

And while that is true for the most part, there are some interesting differences: for one, most data is contained on a disc, like a DVD. It wasn't enough to take me out of the story, but funny enough that I remembered it long after reading. It's kind of like when you see a movie at the AMC IMAX, and they show you that intro sequence bragging about resolution equivalent to 15,000 CD-ROMS!!

It doesn't really matter that it's an amazing resolution; what matters to most viewers (enough to regularly elicit giggles from the audience) is that they use a CD-ROM for this analogy.

I use the IMAX example because it has the problem of dating itself. Likewise, a near-future science fiction book has the problem of dating itself very badly by using existing technologies as an integral part of the story. In 1995, when Naked in Death was written, CD-ROMs were kind of a big deal. In that scenario, should an author like J.D. Robb have the foresight to try and protect their story against outdating? Is that even possible for a near-future or hard sci-fi tale?

Back to the original question, what do we call the phenomena when "reality catches up to near-future fiction enough to see the two diverge?" Does it even need a name? I kind of like the idea of "near-future divergence," because that can cover a lot of things beyond just technology. What would you call it?

S&L Podcast - #81 - Elephant paper

Is Neal Stephenson fantasizing revenge?  How does Patrick Norton read so preternaturally fast? Can you really make paper out of elephant dung?  All these questions and more exlpored on this episode of Sword and Laser.


Art of the Hobbit: Never-Before-Seen Drawings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Terry Pratchett on Snuff

Mark Charan Newton's THE REEF released as an ebook

10 Debut Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels That Took the World by Storm

The Victorian Hugos: 1885
The Victorian Hugos: 1886



1Q84 paper texture

Reamde : Why terrorists?


Grimm - the other fairy tale show

The 1986 infomercial for the Neuromancer movie that never was


Vote for the next book!


Sam, Sheala, Jared, Michael, Bree, Kristin, Kodai, Tracy, Reuben, Christina, Mark, Joshua, Chip, Everitt, Emma (aka Liliy), Jonathan


S&L Podcast - #81 - Elephant paper

S&L Podcast - #74 - Live at DragonCon with Robert J. Sawyer

Dragon*Con is one of our favorite times of year, and 2011 was no exception! We had the wonderful opportunity to interview Hugo and Nebula-award winning science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer. This was especially fortuitous, considering we're reading FlashForward for the book club this month (ok... that was no coincidence). 

There are no Quick Burns or Bare Your Swords this week, but thanks to everyone who sent in questions for the interview. Pick up Flashforward at a library or book store near you, and join in on the discussion on Goodreads!


Also, check out previous Dragon*Con interviews, including David Gerrold and Timothy Zahn


S&L Podcast - #74 - Live at DragonCon with Robert J. Sawyer

S&L Podcast - #73 - Fuzzy Nation Wrap-up

We're excited about Dragon*Con and our interview with Robert J. Sawyer.  In fact we're picking his book Flashforward as our next read, which we'll kick off next week. This week we wrap-up our last alternate selection, Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi.


Joe Abercrombie and R. Scott Bakker fans needed

Scientifically accurate sf novels with help from NASA


9/1/2011 Seed, Robert Ziegler (Night Shade Books)
9/6/2011 Legacy of Kings by C. S. Friedman
9/6/2011 Tears of the Sun: A novel of change by S. M. Stirling
9/13/2011 The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
9/15/2011 War in Heaven by Gavin Smith
9/20/2011 Reamde, Neal Stephenson (William Morrow)


United Moon Colonies by Tom Merritt

Tamahome and Jenny on Sffaudio

Who's going to Dragon*Con this year?

TV and Movies

And three more roles for THRONES

BOOK Wrap-up

Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

Next Book Pick: Flash Forward by Robert J. Sawyer


Hey y'all,

Over in Goodreads I don't know if this has been discussed yet, so sorry if it has. I've seen people wonder about using the hide spoiler feature in threads that are clearly marked spoilery from the get go. I think it's still important to hide spoilers so people can decide to what degree they want to get spoilery. Also, perhaps more importantly, thread comments you make will appear in your friends' feeds and they won't be happy campers if a big nasty spoiler appears on their Goodreads home page after you comment on a spoilery thread. Keep up the good work, you guys have a lot of fun doing the show and it's contagious!



Hey Tom and Veronica,

Catching up on podcasts and I heard Veronica say she was interested in a listener's bad theatre experience, so I thought I'd share one I had recently. Like the letter writer, I've also had people wait outside the theatre for me because I've politely asked them to be quiet, but this one take the cake. I copied it from my tumblr, (Zombie Otaku), so I hope you don't mind.

So I decide to leave the house for once and go see one of those moving pictures that are all the rage with the kids today. There is an art house/indy film theatre not far from me that I’ve always intended on frequenting, so last night was the night.

So I arrive, and it’s all old people. Well, older than me. All gray hair, all wearing slacks and weekend plaid. I’m wearing a Ramones shirt and Chuck Taylors, so they of course check their wallets and ask their spouses if they locked the car.

I decide to commit to this place and get a membership. This way I’ll have to go, since I paid extra and I hate not getting my money’s worth. The woman looks pissed off at me, since this means she has to fill out out a card and laminate it. Somehow, she gets through this ordeal.

I go into the theatre, ready to see Midnight In Paris. A contingent of what I assume were lawn bowlers sit down across the aisle and start yelling at each other in Greek, even though they’re sitting beside one another. A man in thick rimmed black glasses glares at them, switches off his iPhone, and storms to a new seat.

I counted lots of thick, black rimmed glasses on guys checking their iPhones.

The movie finally starts. At this point the ancient seats start giving me back spasms. Still, I’m going to enjoy this movie. Twenty minutes in, something flies past the screen.

I look. It flies past the screen again. Then it swoops over my head. The audience all jump.


Now I’m not watching the movie. I’m watching bats flying around the place. I count three of them. When they fly close to the projector, their silhouette fills the screen, and I wonder how many us will now be inspired to fight crime as Batman.

Then they start swooping. I can feel one just miss my head, impacting on the chair behind me. It screams, flops around, and takes to the air again. I’m out of my chair, deciding someone should tell management we’re under attack.

But a bat is flying in front of the door leading to the lobby. It’s bouncing back and forth between the walls, getting pissed. Then it flies at me, I duck, and run out into the lobby.

The manager jumps out of his chair in his office. “What’s wrong?”

“Bats are attacking the audience,” I say, because I wasn’t sure what else to say. Do we discuss the decline of art cinema first, then move onto the bat problem?

He looks into the theatre. The bats are flying fast and furious in front of the screen.

“Yeah, I see them,” he says. “They’re early this year.”

So this is normal.

“I’m just worried someone might get bit,” I said,

“Yeah, I hope not,” he replied.


“Guess I’ll go back in,” I said.

“Okay,” and he went back to his office.

So in I went. I watched the bats a bit longer, especially when they hung on the screen and screeched. But then they disappeared, and I finally got to watch the film.

Sean Twist


Carl, Graeme, Boots, Eric, Jess, Alden, William, Karen, Adrienne, Kristin, Chris, Joel, David, Jez, Heather, Scott, Richard, Jason, Matt, Ben, Isla (Eye-LA), Jay.

S&L Podcast - #73 - Fuzzy Nation Wrap-up

Almost the end of the world (as we know it) - The S&L Podcast #51

We're almost to the end of the world in Gaiman and Pratchett's Good Omens, but Veronica's not quite done yet so we just give some less spoilery evaluations of the book so far and we'll wrap it up next week. We also are trying to make room in our wallets and on our bookshelves for some excellent new SciFi and Fantasy hitting store shelves in the next couple weeks. Joe Abercrombie! Yay!

Gene Wolfe talks dystopian futures, and the chances of star-drive in our lifetime
Among Others: extraordinary, magic story of science fiction as a toolkit for taking apart the world


1/25/2011 While Mortals Sleep: Unpublished short fiction of Kurt Vonnegut - The 16 previously unpublished short stories of this collection, taken from the beginning of Vonnegut's career, show a young author already grappling with themes and ideas that would define his work for decades to come. (Kindle)

1/27/2011 The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie (in the UK - US doesn't get it until 2/7) Union commander Lord Marshal Kroy coordinates the fight with the aid of a motley group of incompetent, self-important officers. The strangely sympathetic Col. Bremer dan Gorst is officially a royal observer who nurses a burning desire to kill or be killed. Leading a much smaller army against the Union is Black Dow, whose grip on the throne of the Northmen is tenuous and based on fear and brutality. (Kindle) 

1/31/2011 The Alchemist by P. Bacigalupi - The first foray into fantasy from Hugo winner Bacigalupi (The Windup Girl) is one of two novellas (the other by Tobias S. Buckell) set in a world where using magic has terrible consequences. Jeoz is a destitute alchemist living in Khaim, a city literally being strangled to death by bramble, a "wormy malevolence" that expands its thorny vines every time someone uses magic. 

2/3/2011 License to Ensorcell by Katherine Kerr - a psychic agent and her Israeli sidekick tracking down a werewolf-murdering serial killer in San Francisco. (Kindle) 

2/7/2011 Deep State by Walter Jon Williams (Kindle) - The sequel to This is Not a Game, about where alternate reality games and real life cross and meet.

Joe Abercrombie appearing in England 1/27 at Forbidden Planet in London from 6 PM, and January 29 at Forbidden PLanet in Bristol from 1 PM AD 


4004 BC (possible minor spoilers) 

Too many characters? 

What horseman would you be? 

Library Closures 


Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

This podcast is brought to you by the internet’s leading provider of audiobooks with more than 75,000 downloadable titles across all types of literature, including fiction, non-fiction and periodicals.   For a free audiobook of your choice, go to

The Alchemist and the Executioness  from Audible.


Almost the end of the world (as we know it) - The S&L Podcast #51

#022 – The S&L Podcast: George R. R. Martin is not your bitch

It's time to pick a new book, but for some reason we just can't stop talking about George R. R. Martin. And in some cases singing about him. But we DID pick a new book and it's The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. It involves relativity, interstellar war and sad soldiers. In fact it's sometimes thought of as an anti-Starship Troopers. We think this book is a timely choice as Ridley Scott is making a 3D movie out of it. More on that in this and future episodes. If you want a sneak peek, take a look at this Forever War' Concept Art . [display_podcast] Also don't forget we're doing a live Sword and Laser in Atlanta at Dragon*Con! The show takes place Friday evening, September 4 at 8:30 PM in Hilton room 204. It will be Veronica, me and special guest Timothy Zahn. Other guests may be announced as well. BARE YOUR SWORD - feedback from the audience. Audio books are no good for SF Do you like your endings with everything-wrapped-up or open-ended? Hi Tom and Veronica, John Anealio' George R. R. Martin is not your bitch. QUICK BURNS - unrelated news of the month Robo-Ethicists Want to Revamp Asimov’s 3 Laws A Game Of Thrones pilot script leaked A brief history of SteamPunk Personal Effects: Dark Art by JC Hutchins. The book with a lot of cool extra materials. Tagline Contest Congratulations Barry O'Neil "Different worlds - different discussion"
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#018 - The S&L Podcast: Kwisatz and the Haderachs

It was Dune time and we found out how much of nerd I (Tom) am for Frank Herbert's stuff and how hard it is to pronounce pretty much anything he wrote when you try to say it out loud. [display_podcast] We also found out that there are Dune influences all over popular culture including Films, spinoffs, and metal. In fact there are all kinds of heavy metal scifi influences. Including, apparently this podcast. You must listen to the end to hear the rockingest book club rock anthem ever to rock. And we also form a new band based on Dune. More info, including club members thoughts on Dune, in the podcast and after the jump. Dune comments Hard to get into - Terpkristin Bizarre early attempt to make a film of Dune - Josh Lawrence Great lines - Sean o'Hara One thing I love about Dune is the great quotes it provides. - A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct. - Mood's a thing for cattle or making love or playing the baliset. (For some reason I imagine Gurney sounding like Groundskeeper Willy when he says this) - I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain. What are the ones that stand out to you? Comment by Sh1mm3r Does anyone else find the sentence structure a little wacky? I find myself having to re-read some to understand what is being said. I'm in the first few pages though. I might just need to get into the rhythm. Tom's currently reading the Butlerian Jihad by K. Anderson (one of the extended universe novels - a prequel actually) Thread of the month Books with both Sword and Lasers Next Book: Daemon (buy here)
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