Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Science fiction’ Category

Be careful what you write

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UPDATE: There was more than the novels. Here’s a follow-up.

A teacher wrote a science-fiction novel set in the far future (2902), and in the novel are two school shootings (a topic I imagine most school teachers think about from time to time, given their responsibilities).

Apparently authorship is now considered some sort of crime. Robby Soave posts at

A Dorchester County, Maryland, teacher was taken in for an “emergency medical evaluation,” suspended from his job, and barred from setting foot on another public school. Authorities searched his school, Mace’s Lane Middle School in Cambridge, for weapons. As classes resumed, parents worried that their children were in danger, so police decided to remain on the premises to watch over them.

What happened? The teacher, Patrick McLaw, published a fiction novel. Under a pen name. About a made-up school shooting. Set in the year 2902.

If you’re having trouble figuring out which part of that was criminal, or negligent, or even inappropriate, you’re not alone. From WBOC:

Early last week the school board was alerted that one of its eighth grade language arts teachers at Mace’s Lane Middle School had several aliases.  Police said that under those names, he wrote two fictional books about the largest school shooting in the country’s history set in the future.  Now, Patrick McLaw is placed on leave.

Dr. K.S. Voltaer is better known by some in Dorchester County as Patrick McLaw, or even Patrick Beale.  Not only was he a teacher at Mace’s Lane Middle School in Cambridge, but according to Dorchester Sheriff James Phillips, McLaw is also the author of two books: “The Insurrectionist” and its sequel, “Lillith’s Heir.”

Those books are what caught the attention of police and school board officials in Dorchester County.  “The Insurrectionist” is about two school shootings set in the future, the largest in the country’s history.

Phillips said McLaw was taken in for an emergency medical evaluation. The sheriff would not disclose where McLaw is now, but he did say that he is not on the Eastern Shore. The same day that McLaw was taken in for an evaluation, police swept Mace’s Lane Middle School for bombs and guns, coming up empty.

But coming up empty did not stop the authorities from punishing McLaw: . . .

Continue reading.

And here’s a follow-up story by Soave.

Surely there must be some other reason, right? Surely.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 September 2014 at 8:36 am

“Rise Up from Science Fiction Monoculture!”

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Written by LeisureGuy

9 August 2014 at 11:21 am

Posted in Books, Science fiction

Daniel Keyes, author of Flowers for Algernon, dies at 86

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A powerful book—and a surprisingly good movie. Here’s a brief obituary in the Washington Post.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 June 2014 at 8:02 am

Posted in Books, Science fiction

Polywater revisited

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I remember polywater vividly. It appeared, it caught everyone’s attention because of the fictional ice-9 in Cat’s Cradle, and then it disappeared as quickly. Here’s a little look back, thanks to TYD. As the author points out, science works: a new idea or process appears, a lot of people test it, and if it doesn’t survive, we continue, in a process quite similar to evolution.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2013 at 11:22 am

Science fiction titan Frederik Pohl dies, aged 93

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An obituary. I strongly recommend memoir, The Way The Future Was., If you read science-fiction at all, and you’ve not read it, click now and buy a (secondhand, inexpensive) copy at the link. It’s simply totally wonderful, and Pohl was in the thick of it when the foundations were being laid. Do Not Miss.

Kevin Drum has a nice post.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2013 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Books, Science fiction

The 100 Best Sci-Fi Stories by Women Writers (Read 20 for Free Online)

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Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 August 2013 at 2:18 pm

Posted in Books, Science fiction

Science-fiction as social forecast: 1969’s Stand on Zanzibar viewed today

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The Younger Daughter pointed out Ted Gioia’s look at Stand on Zanzibar‘s predictions and find that they hold up well. I vividly remember reading this novel (by John Brunner) when it first came out. Terrific novel, and even better than I realized at the time. Inexpensive secondhand copies available here.

Stand on Zanzibar is that rarity among science fiction novels — it really made accurate predictions about the future. The book, published in 1969, is set in the year 2010, and this allows us to make a point-by-point comparison, and marvel at novelist John Brunner’s uncanny ability to anticipate the shape of the world to come.  Indeed, his vision of the year 2010 even includes a popular leader named President Obomi — face it, Nate Silver himself couldn’t have done that back in 1969!

Let me list some of the other correct predictions in Brunner’s book:

(1) Random acts of violence by crazy individuals, often taking place at schools, plague society inStand on Zanzibar.

(2) The other major source of instability and violence comes from terrorists, who are now a major threat to U.S. interests, and even manage to attack buildings within the United States.

(3) Prices have increased sixfold between 1960 and 2010 because of inflation. (The actual increase in U.S. prices during that period was sevenfold, but Brunner was close.)

(4) The most powerful U.S. rival is no longer the Soviet Union, but China. However, much of the competition between the U.S. and Asia is played out in economics, trade, and technology instead of overt warfare.

(5) Europeans have formed a union of nations to improve their economic prospects and influence on world affairs. In international issues, Britain tends to side with the U.S., but other countries in Europe are often critical of U.S. initiatives.

(6) Africa still trails far behind the rest of the world in economic development, and Israel remains the epicenter of tensions in the Middle East.

(7) Although some people still get married, many in the younger generation now prefer short-term hookups without long-term commitment.

(8) Gay and bisexual lifestyles have gone mainstream, and pharmaceuticals to improve sexual performance are widely used (and even advertised in the media).

(9) Many decades of affirmative action have brought blacks into positions of power, but racial tensions still simmer throughout society.

(10) Motor vehicles increasingly run on electric fuel cells. Honda (primarily known as a motorcycle manufacturers when Brunner wrote his book) is a major supplier, along with General Motors.

(11) . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 March 2013 at 7:50 am


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