Sunday, January 17, 2010

Who Reads My Books? Graeme Finch

IT server hardware engineer on site, RFS Qualified but no longer practising Arborist (Tree Surgeon), one time lifegaurd (swimming pool variety). Grounds and terminal maintenance person at London City Airport when it first opened, cutting grass on the runway, painting terminal lounges and the like so dignitaries could get their fix of emulsion smell. One time mechanical and electrical maintenance estimator for the UK’s (then) largest facilities maintenance company, all these fields look random but are each connected by that six degrees of separation rule, what employment agencies call transferable skills.

I scuba dived extensively in my early twenties, and read the Godwhale and Cachalot for the first time during this period. I do a fair bit of walking, swimming and cycling, I read as much historical fiction as I do science fiction and have trawled through some Dickins. I will read Moby Dick this year and have tackled both the Illiad and Odessy both original translations and novelised versions and Dan Simmons Illium series that takes the themes of the Illiad and incorporates them into a far flung future and our very own past as well as a parallel universe (or two). The classics offer us a window on the past, attitudes to life and death, towards each other and reflect in some ways what was socially cohesive or topical at the time (a bit like climate change, and over population today). Neal’s own references to strong diseases and weak humans in Cowl will if we are unlucky prove to be one of those Scfi “cos that’s wot’l appen” moments some time down the line.

The first series of books I read were the Amtrak Wars by Patrick Tilley, before that I’d been a reluctant reader, after that I couldn’t get enough. My favourite book of all time is The Silmarillion by Tolkien, closely followed by The Lord of the Rings. I’m currently reading the Seven Suns Saga by some bloke called Kevin J Anderson, who I’d not heard of but is apparently a notable in StarWars circles and Co wrote some Dune books (I’ve only read Dune, it was brilliant), I’m struggling with the first book of the series because I feel a bit patronised by it, though it has some good stuff in it. I've read a good few Stephen Kings, Dean Koontz and Brian Lumley books. And down the years I've read countless odds and sods, from detective novels that were the only thing avaiable when I had a long stay in hospital when I was eighteen, to erotic fiction with some rampant bird I met during my divorce (I needed help maintaining my hormone levels at overdrive, though to be fair she wore me out and then gave me the Spanish archer treatment "El Bow").

I have a hard back copy of Orbus which I’ll be reading next (though to be fair I can’t abide hardbacks), they don’t fit in my backpack pockets and take up too much room, and if they do go in the pack they invariably get damp damage because they share space with my swimming gear.

I Have a broad understanding of Particle physics, Cosmology, Theory of relativity and many other subjects science related. In part through science fiction and that nagging bit of the brain that says “is that actually plausible”? I’m curious, about the very massive and the very small and how if you could stand on an atom and look out through the rest of a cell at all the other atoms in the human body (for instance). Would the specs of light look like the stars in our galaxy and would the distances be relative. Then you take that idea out to the size of a planet and get your head around how far our nearest neighbour planet is, then our largest planet neighbour, then the next nearest galaxy and so forth.

Science fiction, generally makes you optimistic (I think) (someone I know of disagrees), though sometimes it makes you wish you were born in a couple of hundred years time. I also think older science fiction is a great gauge of what we imagined and what has now been realised (see line above).


Alexander Kruel said...

A broad understanding of particle physics? Here's a question for you. What energies has a future particle accelerator to exceed that we'll have to seriously consider the possibility of it destroying the Earth? For example, would you be afraid of an accelerator that can reach energies about a factor of 100 stronger than the LHC?


Different topic:
I don't know of much SF that actually portrays optimistic ends. I guess that's one of the reasons I love SF. Though if you put lots of excitement on a level with optimism and you like apocalyptic settings, you're right. The future promises lots of excitement, whatever is likely going to happen.

I know less about particle physics than Sarah Palin about biological evolution.

Alexander Kruel said...

Thought about it. Well, I don't know how it appeared. But this was not meant to embarrass you. As far as I know, nobody knows a definitive answer to this question. Just interesting to think about. The likelihood for the LHC to destroy the Earth tends towards a zero probability. But then, we don't have a TOE yet...who knows for sure?

vaudeviewgalor raandisisraisins said...

"is that plausible?"

yes it is:

me with my Deep/Old Ones sleeve on. give me 20 yrs. i will eat your light.

Martin Sommerfeld said...

At last someone mentions the Amtrak Wars! I was quite young (maybe 13?) when I read them, so no idea if I would like them today, but anyway - I just loved them! Bpught the english versions some years ago, but havent found the time to go at them. And I always waited for some new series by Patrick Tilley to be published, but he has been silent since then. Sad.

Alexander Kruel said...

What science fiction novel can pass a scrutiny of plausibility? At least based on our current grasp of reality. Maybe Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge...

Grim's Reality said...

Hmmm good question, but what you're asking is: How do we accelerate a particle 100 times faster than the speed of light? If you look at the LHC site you can find how much juice they need to use to push particles around the acelerator. Which is not the same as how much energy would be released by particles colliding at 100 times the speed of light.

It's very deep. I used the example of standing on an atom, however this isn't possible becasue and atom is composed of a number of sub atomic parts I.E a Proton and a Neutron, these are composed of even smaller bits. And so on and so forth.

I think if you read ScFi you can't be anything but optimistic... otherwise how did we get to the futures often proposed.


Grim's Reality said...

All science fiction has a certain level of plausability, it just requires time. When Startrek was on when I was a kid, the hand communicators were beyond belief, as was live face to face communication to anywhere in the world... now we have mobile phones with satellite capability, and Skype. We just need to give ourselves enough space and time to get there :-)

Grim's Reality said...

I re-read the Amtrak Wars series again last year. It was even better than first time, a lot easier to get my head around all the grown up concepts, of the old world being ground to dust, and entirely new civilisations emerging. Well worth going over again, I also read Mission, which was interesting, and am looking to find a copy of Fadeout, his only other book.

This said there is a Patrick Tilley website which tells a little more about the man and his work.

Grim's Reality said...

An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.
— Essai philosophique sur les probabilitĂ©s, Introduction. 1814

Neal Asher said...

An impossibility unless that intellect stands outside nature, since within nature it would need to model its own mind too and that would lead to an infinite regression.

Alexander Kruel said...

Neal is right, Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem:

In short:
No system can understand itself for that the very understanding would evade itself forever. A bin trying to contain itself.

But even if it would stand outside. It would likely have to account for some kind of observer effect?

Neal Asher said...

Rewind and see Heisenberg's Uncertainty principle.

Alexander Kruel said...

If it stands outside the 'Matrix' then the uncertainty principle, as part of the inner rules of our layer of reality, would likely not be an obstacle? Thought I cannot imagine any reality where the observer effect does not confound prediction.

Neal Asher said...

Yeah, but the obstacle would be how would it see anything at all. Seeing (or sensing in any other way) is receiving information, which needs to be carried by some medium, which must be carried from the 'inside' to the 'outside'...

And if someone mentions quantum entanglement I'll shoot myself.

Grim's Reality said...

Transporters on starships in Startrek have Heisenberg compensators, and seeing as it's just a docu/drama filmed by the future journalist Gene Rodenberry, who was flung back in time and used his knowledge to show us how good things could be in a couple of hundred years time... I think we can all sleep soundly in our beds at night, knowing that we can transport matter from place to place, and call up memorized matter patterns to create Mars bars, Rice Krispies or Hot Earl Grey tea any time we like.

It boggles the mind, does it not?


Alexander Kruel said...

With 'outside' I was rather suggesting a larger system incorporating a smaller, non-idealized closed system.

This smaller system could very well be our universe, a mathematical universe. It's not a big leap from there to seeing the uncertainty principle inherent to our reality layer. Though, as I said before, something very similar should be the case for any reality that I can imagine, namely one based on reciprocal causal effects.

But how strong is this observer effect, given the absolute knowledge of all parameters of our layer. This intellect might very well be very passive and every observation neglected by a large 'error' tolerance and correction.

Neal Asher said...

Ah, but Gene dropped off of mainline time into a parallel far down the probability slope. Up on the peak of the wave we're all data-chipped slaves to Worldgov, recognition programs tracking our every move and political officers checking anything those programs pass on.

Xanares said...

Very nice post Graeme.

I am curious to how you found the Simmons books you mention, although I gather you might like them seeing you mentioned them at all.

Reg. Andersson's books, I read them all. They kind of got me back into reading a lot of scifi after some years of detox (clever scuba-ref) and I like them on one level, maybe for being simple - dislike the too stereotypical creatures and as you say patronizing - although that is maybe part of the simple trick.

Grim's Reality said...


I have a terrible confession to make, The Dan Simmons books had really shiny prismatic flip flop covers and I thought they looked cool. I then found which book was the first in the series and bought it. At the time I saw the covers my brain hadn't made the Illium/Illiad connection. I loved them.

Same goes for Brass Man, I was desperate for a read, had trawled a shitload of shelves in a pokey WHSmiths on Liverpool Street station, and then I saw this picture in Green of what looked like a robot being stretched backwards reflected in an eye. Picked it up and have been buying Mr Asher’s books ever since.

XiXidu you I think you know shedloads more than you admit to above.

Xanares said...

Graeme: Haha fair enough! I am completely like that too, on occasion. A drawing cover means a lot more than most people will admit, especially intellectuals.

I loved the books too, the story was very well thought out and he doesn't spare the reader for the gritty details of especially the war.