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ellen
Posted on Friday, October 03, 2003 - 09:31 pm:   

Michael Swanwick's ambitious Periodic Table of Science Fiction is drawing to a close in mid-November when the last element is wrestled to the ground and defeated by the Great Swanwick.

So ... any suggestions as to what might take the place of those elements?
Step right up and throw out those ideas!
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Jonathan Strahan
Posted on Saturday, October 04, 2003 - 04:21 am:   

How about Howard doing a series of short-shorts on the rise and fall of popular culture, as told in a series of flash cards prepared for, but never used by, the Lindbergh baby?

J
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ellen
Posted on Saturday, October 04, 2003 - 08:09 am:   

Hmm. Interesting, but could I get him to write them in a timely manner :-) With Howard, that's always an issue. And would anyone comprehend what he was doing? Then again, would it matter....
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Matthew
Posted on Saturday, October 04, 2003 - 10:46 am:   

Let's see, you could do something with the planets
(a story for Mars etc) or perhaps the zodiac.
You could have a story written for each Holiday of the year, sort of like Gene Wolfe's book of days.
You could have a series of stories based on mythical creatues like centaurs and griffen's etc.
You could do something about the letters of the Alphabet.
This is just off the top of my head.
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Lou Antonelli - East Texas, USA
Posted on Saturday, October 04, 2003 - 12:48 pm:   

How about a series based on the American Presidents, posited in a world where they're super heroes. They could be heroes, villains, or hopelessly ambivalent neutrals, but all have super powers and capabilities.

This gives you a series of 41 characters (don't forget Grover Cleveland only counts once for these purposes). This could be clever and satirical, as well as entertaining (shades of Cavalier Clay?)

I'm sure some authors would love to write up their take on some of the more recent presidents - Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan would be great material. Plus there's the presidents of the 19th century who are no longer well known. Millard Fillmore makes a great villain.

If it was done in chronological order, the series would compile into an alternate history of the U.S. You don't have to explain why the presidents have super powers - they just do. You could also farm out different presidents to different authors and see what they come back with. It could be fun.

There's not enough fun in science fiction. That's why I've always loved Robert Sheckley.

My other idea is to have a series of 50 stories where each one must be set in a different state, written by an author that lives in that state. You could call it the "Atlas of American Science Fiction". Some of the choices woule be obvious - well, Robert Reed gets Nebraska. Paul DiFillipo gets Rhode Island. Dozois and Swanwick can arm wrestle over Pennsylvania. The stories must have a local setting, and should have local flavor and voice, if you know what I mean.

Well, you asked for suggestions. Meanwhile, I'm in a world of my own here in East Texas.
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Matthew
Posted on Saturday, October 04, 2003 - 01:29 pm:   

Wasn't there a Saturday Night Live cartoon skit called Ex-Presidents, where Carter, Ford, Reagan, and Bush were given superpowers?
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Maureen McHugh
Posted on Saturday, October 04, 2003 - 02:47 pm:   

I like Lou's suggestion for the fifty states, but how easy is it going to be to find someone from North Dakota? (I can give you a lead on Iowa.)
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ellen
Posted on Saturday, October 04, 2003 - 05:54 pm:   

Ok. Further strictures that I need to clarify. Stories must be under 1,000 words each--preferably 500-700 words. And as I'd be commissioning them (no open submissions on this item) they would have to be written by writers whose work I know and trust to commission a story.

So perhaps each state could be written about (the story has to be sf or fantasy, of course) but not necessarily by writers from that state.


Broadening the president theme is a possibility. Superheroes no--too restrictive. But then using presidents sounds too much like the Alternate Presidents anthology by Resnick was it-- or Benford? and Greenberg.
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jeff ford
Posted on Saturday, October 04, 2003 - 06:12 pm:   

Ellen: Perhaps a series by different writers that deals with stories surrounding fanciful inventions or scientific discoveries -- based in real science, to some extent, and then extrapolated into science fiction. The stories could involve the scientists who created the inventions or came up with the discovery and its tragic or comic or incredible results. Something like Tales From the Patent Office or The 100 Greatest Scientific Inventions.
Just a thought.
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ellen
Posted on Saturday, October 04, 2003 - 07:31 pm:   

Jeff: I was thinking that something related to sf and actual science might be a promising avenue to explore. But could this be done in 500-1000 words each? I suspect it would be tough. I bet you could do one easily :-)

Hmm. I like it And I like the title--actually both titles.

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ellen
Posted on Saturday, October 04, 2003 - 07:38 pm:   

I'll talk to my producer and my boss this week and see what they think. I'd pay $150 per story no matter the length (but it MUST be 1,000 words or under).
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jeff ford
Posted on Saturday, October 04, 2003 - 08:12 pm:   

Ellen: The 1000 words or under would be a fun challenge. I did a couple of those Curiosities columns for F&SF and it was tough trying to get across the information I'd accumulated and needed to let the reader know about the novel and its author and say why it was still worthwhile. I think anyone whose done one of those can attest to the puzzle-like nature of it, but it was an interesting exercise in compression. Those were only 350 words. 1000 words is three whole pages of text or close to it. I'm pretty sure it could be done with a science fiction story.
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ben peek
Posted on Saturday, October 04, 2003 - 11:00 pm:   

ellen:

perhaps you could do it country by country, rather than state to state. you could link in to tiny fables or scientific constructions or tiny window views of cities/countries in a way somewhat similar to calvino's INVISIBLE CITIES.

(the tarot card mention reminded me of calvino, which is what jumped me to this.)
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ellen
Posted on Sunday, October 05, 2003 - 08:51 am:   

Jeff: 1000 words is really a lot to work with...for some people. Michael's elements were 500-800 words, after all.

Ben: Nice idea too. More opportunity for variety country by country because of cultural differences.

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jeff ford
Posted on Sunday, October 05, 2003 - 09:08 am:   

Ellen: Yeah, to think of doing a 500-800 word stories of a consistently high calibre as Michael did every week is tough enough, but then you add the fact that they have to be based on the elements of the periodic chart. It's mind boggling.

Best,


Jeff
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Jonathan Strahan
Posted on Sunday, October 05, 2003 - 03:00 pm:   

Hey Ellen,

A possibility along these lines might be something like 'The Book of Dead Media', the stories of whatever number items of great technology that either never took off or are now obsolete and dead.

J
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ellen
Posted on Sunday, October 05, 2003 - 06:28 pm:   

Hi Jonathan. Not bad. I like that. There has to be a limit though, like 50 or something.
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ben peek
Posted on Sunday, October 05, 2003 - 11:13 pm:   

ellen--

variety would be the key. it could also be structured for a writer from each country, so there's even more diversity. of course, that does make it a slightly more complex thing, cause you've then got to find a 'representative' a guess for each country, which i can only imagine would be difficult at times.
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ellen
Posted on Monday, October 06, 2003 - 08:47 am:   

I've heard back from Michael, my producer, regarding Jeff's idea of the inventions/patents and he likes it a lot. Now I just need to let Craig know I want to do it. If he has no problem Michael will try to get our designer to create a page similar to what Michael created for the Periodic table --a template and then the stories would be pop-ups.

Ben: finding an sf/f writer from each country would be a difficult task. Finding one who could write to order would be impossible. Do you know any sf/f writers on the African continent? Or more than a handful in Eastern Europe? I don't.
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ben peek
Posted on Monday, October 06, 2003 - 10:38 pm:   

ellen,

nope. don't know any african writers--it's part of the selfish reason for suggesting the idea, so i can find a bunch of folk i've never heard of outside my poor white boy upbringing :-)

still, it's a nice idea, even if it can only exist in theory, i guess.
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ellen
Posted on Tuesday, October 07, 2003 - 06:44 am:   

Ben,
It is a nice idea but inpractical idea, alas.
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Evan McClanahan
Posted on Thursday, December 04, 2003 - 10:43 pm:   

How about a top five imaginary bands retrospective, one artist per decade for, say, the 2020s to the 2100s? One writer per decade, one band per week, climbing through the years. I can just imagine the fun that people would be able to have with the names.
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M. Bishop
Posted on Friday, December 05, 2003 - 04:51 am:   

How about a series of eccentric and/or discredited diseases? Okay, maybe not.
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Neal Stanifer
Posted on Friday, December 05, 2003 - 06:07 am:   

Hm. I haven't been reading this thread in a while, and I've missed some great ideas. Shame on me.

I love Jeff's idea for imaginary inventions. I also like Evan's imaginary bands retrospective, though keeping the idea fresh over a sustained series might be tougher.

My own suggestion --

Pages from the journals of fictional explorers through history (and into the future), beginning in the days of Marco Polo and Sir John Mandeville, and extending into the present (or even the future, perhaps via the expedient of time travel or some other convenience). Each entry could be rendered as a fragment from an ongoing journal, and could deal with a particular event, discovery, or whatnot.

Alternatively, the series could center around quests for one particular McGuffin -- a lost city, a fabled artifact, a mysterious creature -- and could be rendered in the styles of various ages as new generations of explorers set off in pursuit of whatever this thingamabob happens to be.

The McGuffin should be fresh enough to sustain its own interest as the object of the various quests, and it should be chosen so that it permits writers to work in various genres, approaching the quest motif from a number of angles. In fact, it might be fun to let the McGuffin unfold itself over the span of several stories in a kind of Exquisite-Corpse manner, so that readers would keep reading through different generic treatments as their mental image of the quest-object grows and mutates.
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Ellen
Posted on Friday, December 05, 2003 - 09:29 am:   

Evan and Neal,
Thanks for your input. I don't know if/when we'll be doing another short-short series --it depends on my 2004 budget.

I'm not wild about the music idea because it seems too narrow a topic to keep my own interest for so many weeks.

I think reading a series of journal entries indefinitely is also problematic (I know I would hate it after awhile)--also, the 500 or less word limit is also a problem. Not sure many writers could create satisfying pieces at that length. I've done serial stories at OMNI and Event Horizon and most were fun experiments but not satisfying as "stories."

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Thomas R
Posted on Friday, December 05, 2003 - 02:39 pm:   

Kind of going back a ways, but I think there are some SF writers from Egypt, Nigeria, and Mauritius. Mauritius is more prosperous than most of Africa so for it's size I think it has more than normal for the continent. The Hausa are among the more literate peoples of Africa, with a scholarly tradition going back to Medieval times, so they have a small amount of SF writers. Egypt has maybe the most outside perhaps South Africa. Although that's more like Arab SF. Odd not on South Africa, their recent Nobel winner JM Coetzee was once nominated for a Philip K Dick award. Otherwise I don't think he's an SF writer.

For reasons I'm not quite sure of most African SF I've heard about seems to be plays, children's books, and spy novels.

As for ideas for the next series perhaps a bestiary? Science fictional and mythological beasts written by several different authors. Or maybe mathematical constants. Terrible ideas I suspect.
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Ellen
Posted on Friday, December 05, 2003 - 06:33 pm:   

THomas: a bestiary isn't a bad idea but it's likely more fantasy than sf. Unless they're all bio-engineered, which gets us into the fantastic realm anyway.
Math is not my subject so I doubt I'd understand most stories about it :-)
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Evan McClanahan
Posted on Saturday, December 06, 2003 - 12:54 am:   

Ellen: you most likely have it right. I was pretty much expanding one of my own story ideas (a best of the 21st century band retrospective top 10 or 20) into the space that you've set out. I'm almost of the opinion that someone poisoned the discussion by mention of Invisible Cities (poisoned in a good way, perhaps crystalized is a better word) which gives everyone the idea of a series of imaginary whatsits, rather than a series of stories inspired by something serial, which is what I percieve that Mr. Swanwick is doing. This makes the problem more on the order of 'How many serial aritifacts (physical and mental) do we have to mine?'.

Looked at from that perspective, I'm pretty much lost. The only thing that I can think of right off hand are stories inspired by verses of the Tao Te Ching, or perhaps something else which I thought of and my sodden brain has immedately forgotten. I'll let you know if I think of anything fantastic.
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Thomas R
Posted on Saturday, December 06, 2003 - 11:13 am:   

Yeah I was trying to think of a list of real things but my mine ran empty. Most of what came to me sounded very cliche or too similar to something others are doing. Like Constitutional Amendments, the satellites of the nine planets, months of the year, etc.
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ET
Posted on Saturday, December 06, 2003 - 05:37 pm:   

Thomas, I like the idea of mathematical constants. Or perhaps just a series of stories about numbers. This way it could include a wider range of stories, since numbers can have an occult meaning or scientific meaning or many other meanings. Not just integer numbers, but numbers like pi and e. Or concepts, like prime numbers, which could include a set of numbers in one story.
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ET
Posted on Saturday, December 06, 2003 - 05:40 pm:   

Thomas, I like the idea of mathematical constants. Or perhaps just a series of stories about numbers. This way it could include a wider range of stories, since numbers can have an occult meaning or scientific meaning or many other meanings. Not just integer numbers, but numbers like pi and e. Or concepts, like prime numbers, which could include a set of numbers in one story.
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ET
Posted on Saturday, December 06, 2003 - 05:41 pm:   

Sorry about the double post.
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Thomas R
Posted on Saturday, December 06, 2003 - 05:52 pm:   

Really I thought that might be kind of nerdy and lame. Now Pi, Phi(or the golden ratio), and e(natural log) I could see making stories out of. Phi & e are really more interesting in some ways, but I'm more fond of Pi for some reason.

Euler's Constant is neat too in that we still don't entirely understand it. We kind of "get" what those others are to some degree.

The quest concerning the great unsolved problems in math like Riemman's hypothesis are pretty fascinating too. More as history than due to any specific number. Hence I imagine the best stories there might be the true ones. In fact they did an Oscar winning film on one of the people who has worked on Riemann. Not that he got far on it as his schizophrenia kicked in soon after he began. (I get the sense from his bio there were some signs of it before that, but not so overt)
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Ellen
Posted on Saturday, December 06, 2003 - 08:10 pm:   

Thomas, so how many math questions can you come up with off the top of your head--I don't want you researching it :-) I'm just curious.

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Thomas R
Posted on Saturday, December 06, 2003 - 09:15 pm:   

Oh I'm very much a layman enthusiast on math. I minored in it for a semester, but switched to geography after that. The more abstract math I tend not to get as well.

I read about the great unanswered problems of math, but Riemann was the only one to stick with me. Even that one I doubt I understand well. I know it's about the sequence of primes and the Zeta function, but not much more. I also recall that Riemann's mathematics of curved space proved very important to relativistic physics, but sadly Riemann never lived to see that.

I'm not sure it's a great unanswered problem, but the Goldblach conjecture was one I recall hearing about. It states that all even numbers are the sum of two primes. So far this has worked, but I'm not sure it's proven.

Many of the others I think are kind of obscure.

There are some solved problems in math that had interesting stories. Fermat's Last theorem had several men and women working on it until Andrew Wiles solved it. It turned out to be far more complex than Fermat could've imagined requiring concepts not developped until the 20th c. A Japanese man named Taniyama being crucial in those concepts. He was doing great work and seemed happily engaged, but then killed himself. His note stated exhaustion as the most likely reason, but otherwise said "Until yesterday I had no definite intention of killing myself. ... I don't quite understand it myself, but it is not the result of a particular incident, nor of a specific matter." His fiance joined him in suicide soon after. Sorry that's more personalities than math. The stories in math kind of interest me more than the math itself in some cases. Looking it up he did work relating elliptic curves to modular functions. I don't quite understand what that means, but I think it means there's an Algebraic way to turn an elliptic curve into this other function. Or vice versa. As for what a modular function is I'll admit I've forgotten. Which is embarrassing as it seems like it was something obvious. Maybe ET knows.

The Fermat theorem I actually understood stated that if you take 2 to the power of a prime then minus two you have a multiple of that prime. Like this.

2^5=32
32-2=30
30 is 6 fives.

2^13=8192
8192-2=8190
8190 is 630 thirteens

Sometimes when I get bored I try to go higher than that, but I think it's been proved.

Then I remember reading about Seki's work on determinants. For centuries everyone thought Leibnitz started that, but the Japanese had this school of mathematical philosophers enamored with problems involving circles. They'd pose problems to each other and Seki was the first to work determinants in them. Yet this knowledge was kept in Japan as they were isolated then and the West had it's own thing going.

Then there was Godel's Incompleteness theorem. That's kind of ended up having some philosophical influence, in a way I'm not sure he would've liked. The philosophy view of it is that some questions can not be answered. However it was about how some things can't be proved or disproved.

Probably more history than math here. Likely I'm botching them both, apologies.
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ET
Posted on Sunday, December 07, 2003 - 12:33 pm:   

Fermat's theorem states that there are no non-zero integer numbers that fulfill xn+yn=zn for n>2 (for a power of 2, 3-4-5 fulfill it, for example). There's a good book about the history of the solution (which I had but I have no idea where it's now). I really don't understand the advanced math, though. I did a math/CS degree but that was some ten years ago, and even then it mainly convinced me that math was very complicated (although also very interesting). Besides the Fermat proof involved very specific branches of math, IIRC. I think it was explained in the book. Maybe I even understood it superficially when I read it.

BTW, I like Pi. I usually give it when people ask me what my favourite number is. The reason is that it's a round number.
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Deborah
Posted on Thursday, December 11, 2003 - 07:31 pm:   

Godel's Incompleteness Theorem says that no matter how rich your language (and by "language" here is meant _formal language_) there will be truths that can't be proved in it -- which isn't the same thing as saying there are things that can't be proved, but the temptation to make the more general claim out of it seems irresistible to lots of philosophers.

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Nick Gevers
Posted on Wednesday, December 17, 2003 - 01:22 am:   

Ellen, a couple of short-short series ideas:

The Greatest SF novels never written: different writers contribute reviews of non-existent SF masterpieces.

Or: a leaf from Rhys Hughes's upcoming book, A NEW UNIVERSAL HISTORY OF INFAMY: short Borgesian "biographies" of imaginary villains and despots, past, future, or alternate history.

--Nick Gevers.
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E Thomas
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 09:22 am:   

I like the novels never written idea. You could even add a number if you felt like it--"The 100 Greatest SF Novels Never Written."
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ellen
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 11:44 am:   

But Nick is suggesting "reviews" of the unwritten novels, not the novels themselves.

If I do another series I'd rather go with sf not fantasy or meta-fantasy (eg reviews of books not written).
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Billc
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 01:57 pm:   

Didn't Michael Swanwick - who else - already do one of those for an Apr 1 edition of Locus Online. I seem to recall it was of William Gibson's "The Ballad of the Mustang Sally", or something like that. Definately Gibson, though.
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jeff ford
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 02:08 pm:   

Stanislaw Lem did a whole volume of them. The Perfect Vaccuum.
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Thomas R
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 08:17 pm:   

The villain or book idea could be tweaked to be actual stories. It could be stories of different futuristic dictators or killers. Or moments in the lives of great writers of the future or alternate history.
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Nick Gevers
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 11:42 pm:   

I think E Thomas and Thomas R are correct--the ideas I offered can easily be tweaked into a format for straight short-short SF stories: simple descriptions of non-existent SF novels, a la Lem, or Swanwick's Gibson piece; or alternate and future-historical anecdotes, a lot of historical drift or change compressed skillfully into a very short format.

--Nick.
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Luke Hannafin
Posted on Friday, May 14, 2004 - 08:28 am:   

Flavor (particle physics)
Flavor is a property of a fermion that identifies it, a label that specifies the name of the particle.

In the Standard Model quarks are said to be present in six flavors (up, down, charm, strange, top and bottom, often abbreviated by their initial letter as u, d, c, s, t and b)

Don't know who would be best to write them, though I might have a go at it myself.

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