A Country Without (SF) Readers: “Antologia Cyberpunk” by Editorial Divergência

Review:

Proxy - Divergência

Published 2016.

 

“O Neuromante foi publicado por mim em Portugal apenas dois anos depois da primeira edição em língua inglesa. Talvez tenha sido a primeira tradução para uma língua estrangeira. Estremeci de alegria quando o livro veio à estampa. Pensei: agora sim, agora os detractores da FC vão engolir mil sapos.

Infelizmente esqueci-me de que vivemos em Portugal. Num país sem grande futuro, nem mesmo o do Gernsback. Um país sem leitores. Trataram-no como se nem sequer existisse. Ou como se se tratasse de mais umas tantas páginas de lixo escapista. Nas livrarias, foi parar às secções de literatura infantil ou às prateleiras de estudos informáticos. Enfim, não vendeu. Nas Feiras do Livro que se lhe seguiram, foi vendido a retalho por tuta e meia, como se o quisessem oferecer a um pobre. [….] E por não ter vendido, nada de nada, foi razão mais do que suficiente para o Editor me olhar, imbuído de um triste desprezo, me dizer que eu só escolhia coisas muito más, e que por isso teria de pôr fim à colecção de FC. Meu dito meu feito.”

 

(“Neuromancer was published by me in Portugal only two years after the first edition in English. Maybe it was the first translation into a foreign language. I jumped with joy when the translation first came out. I thought: ‘Yes, now the detractors of SF must bite the bullet.’ Unfortunately, I forgot that we live in Portugal. In a country with no great future, not even Gernsback’s. A country without readers. They treated the translation as if it did not even exist. Or as if it were some more pages of escapist junk. In the bookstores, it went to the sections of children’s literature or to the shelves of computer studies. Anyway, it did not sell. At the Book Fairs that followed, it was sold to retail stores for nothing, as if they wanted to offer it to the poor. [….] And for not having sold anything at all, it was more than enough reason for the Editor to look at me, imbued with a sad contempt, to tell me that I only chose very bad things, and thus end the SF collection. No sooner said than done.“)

 

In the foreword by João Barreiros in “Antologia Cyberpunk” by Editorial Divergência.

 

 

I’ve been reading some old best-of-the-year SF anthologies lately, bought on eBay, as well as this one by Editoral Divergência, a Portuguese book publishing house; it was the last one of the bunch, and in there the cyberpunk trope seems to be swimming in foreign waters, literal and figuratively speaking. While the cyberpunk stories in these anthologies are generally good, there’s a distinct sense of hardening sub-genre assumptions about them — the shared idea that computer criminals would largely be members of street gangs seems particularly far off. By the 1989 anthology, most of the authors who’d been doing cyberpunk had gone on to other things. What about 2016 when this Portuguese cyberpunk anthology came out?

 

 

If you’re into SF, read on.

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Beyond the Usual Alpha-Beta Search: "Deep Thinking – Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins” by Garry Kasparov, Mig Greengard

Review:

Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins - Garry Kasparov, Mig Greengard

“In 2016, nineteen years after my loss to Deep Blue, the Google-backed AI project DeepMind and its Go-playing offshoot AlphaGo defeated the world’s top Go player, Lee Sedol. More importantly, as also as predicted, the methods used to create AlphaGo were more interesting as an IA Project than anything that had produced the top chess machines. It uses machine learning and neural networks to teach itself how to play better, as well as other sophisticated techniques beyond the usual alpha-beta search. Deep Blue was the end; AlphaGo is a beginning.”

 

In “Deep Thinking – Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins” by Garry Kasparov, Mig Greengard 

 

My personal experience with Go dates back at least a decade. I remember getting slaughtered every time by the free GNUgo software, just as I had been by every human opponent for the last 20 years. Never got the hang of it, though I was school chess captain back in the day. Totally different mindset. I first came across it in a little-remembered crime series called ‘The Man in Room 17’, with Richard Vernon and Denholm Ellit eponymously solving crimes without leaving their office, where they were always playing go. I also remember a funny little story while I was attending the British Council. Back in the 80s, a Korean guy gave me a game. After every move I played, he stifled a laugh and started a rapid fire of, “No! Cos you purrin [‘put in’, I presume] there, then I purrin here, after you purrin there an’ I purrin here, you lose these piece” None of which made anything clearer. At chess, the first (okay, tenth) time I got mated on the back row by a rook, I learned not to leave the king behind a wall of pawns. Never got my head round the simplest ‘joseki’ (corner opening) at Go. Beautifully elegant game though.

 

If you’re into Chess, and Computer Science of the AI variety, read on.

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Sci-Fi LX 2017 – Look Beyond: Science Fiction International Convention at IST

 

Most of my Portuguese SF friends (the Tribe) only read SF in English. I’m one of those cases. But I also read Portuguese SF written in Portuguese. What I don’t do is read Anglo-Saxon SF translated into Portuguese. With a only a few exceptions, most of the guys translating SF into Portuguese are not conversant with the genre conventions. Forget it! The question of the prevalence of English-speaking authors in Portugal is thus unavoidable (because we don’t read SF in translation). In my view (and I presume, in the case of those with good judgment and enough SF reading in the bag), the notoriety of many authors who write in English is mainly due to the fact that this is the language that dominates the literary market around the world. I believe that if many of these Anglo-Saxon SF authors were Portuguese, born in Portugal and writing in Portuguese, hardly anyone would hear of them because they wouldn’t stand a chance in hell of being published. 

 

 

If you’re into SF and into SF conventions in particular, read on.

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antao.booklikes.com/post/1579278/sci-fi-lx-2017-look-beyond-science-fiction-international-convention-at-ist

Smart-Alecky SF: "Skullsworn" by Brian Staveley

Review:

Skullsworn - Brian Staveley

“’If I wanted you dead, you would be dead’?” He sucked some blood from between his teeth, then spat it onto the cobbles. “What is that? A line from some mid-century melodrama? You hear that onstage a few nights ago?”

 

In “Skullsworn” by Brian Staveley

 

 

Reasons to avoid some Fantasy:

 

  1. 1 – Trilogies – a story seldom needs 3 volumes, nobody wants to read the ‘excluded middle’ of tosh, let alone wait for the third volume when they have forgotten the contents of the first – strike George R.R. Martin;

 

  1. 2 – Sequel proliferation. Ditto objection 1 squared – strike Eddings et al;

 

  1. 3 – Formulaic – It’s often better to re-read Tolkien, skipping some of his embarrassing attempts at females than read the whole thing again with different silly names – strike all sorts of piffle;

 

  1. 4 – Silly names – countries; cities; people. How about concepts; recipes; politics – invent something – move to include Iain M. Banks ‘Culture’ – or does invention have to belong to THE science fiction part of SF?

 

  1. 5 – Written by die cast. Surely much is the product of hashish and D&D – this you can make up for yourself;

 

  1. 6 – Poor writing – to wit the obviously much beloved Staveley – whilst his books were entertaining they are limited by his repetitive vocabulary; why can’t his educated characters master the conditional subjunctive…?

 

 

If you’re into SF, read on.

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antao.booklikes.com/post/1578937/smart-alecky-sf-skullsworn-by-brian-staveley

Dark Underbelly of Utopia: "Use of Weapons" by Iain M. Banks

Review:

Use of Weapons - Iain M. Banks

From the moment I picked up the Culture books eons ago they changed the way I viewed the natural world around me, adding a layer of mysticism to every tree, every rock and every hill; along with a wonderment of what untold stories each has born witness too. think it’s often a combination of the book itself and the moment it comes into your life. I was one of those textbook cases – I had read just about everything by Enid Blyton in English as a child, and had never managed to make the jump (and what a jump it was!) to anything else, with a very tiny vocabulary. Then when I was 16, an older friend who I thought was super-cool (and would have done anything to impress) said that I should try Heinlein. I promptly got “Have Space – Will Travel” and read it, not really understanding what I was reading but at the same time fascinated and excited by the twisted tale. It was at that point, I realise now, that I vowed to try and find out what literature was all about. Many years and many hundreds of books later, I’m still on that wonderful journey, and I’m thankful for having come across him at just the right moment in my life. It was this fact that allowed me, many years later, to “discover” Banks. It was just happenstance; without that I wouldn’t be here writing these words.

 

 

If you’re into SF, read on.

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antao.booklikes.com/post/1578415/dark-underbelly-of-utopia-use-of-weapons-by-iain-m-banks

Multidisciplinary Show in Lisbon: "Once Upon a Time" at Maria Matos Theatre by LX Dance Group

 

Just as a cats brain appears to be tickled by certain types of movement, so the brains of many humans appears to be tickled by beauty – giving us a sense of pleasure that I tend to think once served some primordial purpose. Perhaps it still does.

 
I’ve also noticed that not everyone appears to share this sensation; humans divide themselves in many ways and one quite striking division is between those who think we ought to survive at any cost, however cramped and crowded, ugly and distasteful the world becomes; and those who prioritize the quality of human life and the life of all other flora and fauna. For the former, beauty appears to me to be a lesser consideration. For the latter, it is of paramount importance.
 
So if you have beauty in art, for me, you need no other excuse. If you ‘deprioritize’ beauty and dismiss it as ‘sentimentality’ you do need some other excuse.
 
 
NB: This show will be presented on the 12th of July by my friend Fátima Veloso, LX Dance‘s director. The “Nossa Senhora do Amparo” sacred music choir to which I belong will also make an appearance. Yours truly as male tenor will also sing his heart out…

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antao.booklikes.com/post/1577689/multidisciplinary-show-in-lisbon-once-upon-a-time-at-maria-matos-theatre-by-lx-dance-group

For the Love of the Game: "Lions vs. Al Blacks – 2017 Series – Third Game"

 

Series tied 1-1 (third’s test score: 15-15).

 

What a game, the Lions put on a defensive effort. I don’t think any other country or countries could have withstood the All Black onslaughts, so good and heavy was the defense that I have never seen the All Blacks drop so much ball. At one stage the All Blacks had 78% possession and whilst the Lions never looked like scoring a try they continually repelled the All Blacks.

 

I don’t think the All Blacks tight 5 have received enough praise, they virtually dominated the scrum and negated the Lions platform over the advantage line, something they could do in the 2nd test although with a man advantage. I was slightly perplexed with some of the penalties given in the latter stages of the game by Poite to the Lions that evened up the possession somewhat. Warburton was fantastic at breakdown and stole or slowed down so much ball, with Johnathon Davis a colossus in the mid field.

 

The question asked earlier in the tour who of the Lions players would make the All Blacks team, currently I would say Davis and Warburton, whilst Itoje is the flavour of the month in the press, I still don’t believe he could oust Retallic and Whitlock. I was skeptical with Hansen calling in Laumape and Barrett for their first run on debuts however they were both fantastic, I am not saying Smith and Crotty could have done better however we will never know. It was also good to see the fridge running over people as is his want, with himself and B Barrett making incredible running metres along with the Lions Williams.

 

If you’re into Rugby, read on.

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