Showing posts from July, 2008

Post-Apocalypse Now

[originally published March 2003] It's curious that post-apocalyptic fantasies are such a popular fictional form. What is the allure of the end of civilization as we know it, and how did our interest in it emerge? Writers have speculated about the end of the world for a long time. In fact, we can trace much of our contemporary vocabulary and imagery about the apocalypse back to the Bible's The Revelation to John. Over the past 50 years, however, we've seen a particularly vigorous upsurge in the production of post-apocalyptic works. In this edition of Biblio Tech, we will look at an example of the post-apocalyptic genre, David Brin's 1985 novel The Postman and the 1997 Kevin Costner movie that it inspired. Dystopia Although the cyberpunk genre, which I mentioned in my last column, focuses on dystopic futures, post-apocalyptic fantasies also tend to present their own dystopias. The difference is the path between the present and the future. In cyberpunk novels, dystopia

AI Bites Man?

[originally published January 2003] Over the years, people have explored the broader implications of many seminal ideas in technology through the medium of speculative fiction. Some of these works tremendously influenced the technical community, as evidenced by the broad suffusion of terms into its working vocabulary. When Robert Morris disrupted the burgeoning Internet in 1988, for example, the computer scientists trying to understand and counteract his attack quickly deemed the offending software a "worm," after a term first introduced in John Brunner's seminal 1975 work, The Shockwave Rider . Brunner's book launched several terms that became standard labels for artifacts we see today, including "virus." In future installments of this department we'll look at the important writers, thinkers, works, and ideas in speculative fiction that have got us thinking about the way technological change could affect our lives. This is not to imply that science fict