Thursday, February 28, 2008

Apocalyptic Fiction

I recently completed the first book in Kim Stanley Robinson's Three California's trilogy.... The Wild Shore. Of course, I liked it a lot, which didn't surprise me as I generally like his stuff. It was written back in the early 80's and so uses one of the two most common devices used back then for ending the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI). Nuclear destruction and/or some sort of biological warfare on the human race. A list of post-apocalyptic books using one or the other of these devices makes for pretty good reading. You have, at the head of the class of course, Stephen King's The Stand, Earth Abides by George R. Stewart, Alas Babylon by Pat Frank, and Nevil Shute's On The Beach. Wikipedia has a marvelous discussion and description of the history of this genre of fiction.

Modern post-apocalyptic fiction authors have largely replaced nuclear destruction with environmental catastrophe as a device for ending civilization. Perhaps the most dramatic example of this is the blockbuster movie The Day After Tomorrow, which depending on your political views, you either loved or hated.

Juvenile fiction hasn't lagged in this genre. Scott Westerfeld has written an excellent trilogy for teens starting with the book titled Uglies. Scott skillfully combines a number of teen issues into his post-apocalyptic world (including some interesting environmental issues). Poking around his website provides some fascinating insight into many of these teen issues.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention a third plot device that has provided the fans of this genre with a number of marvelous books and movies. The idea of something from outer space, either an asteroid/comet hitting Earth, or aliens of one form or another invading Earth. The Day of the Tryffids by John Wyndham (movie and book), the movies Armageddon and Independance Day, and Lucifer's Hammer by Jerry Pournelle are all highly recommended and high on my favorites list.

Back to KSR's The Wild Shore. I can see the influence this series might have had on S.M. Stirling and his current books (Dies the Fire trilogy, Conquistador and The Sunrise Lands) portraying the world after some "event" that ends civilization as we know it. I think a large part of why these books appeal to me (and I'm certain this is true for many others) is the desire to live a simpler life. Technology has crowded our lives to the point of breaking.

but anyhow...that's a post for the future

Monday, February 18, 2008

February, the longest short month of the year

I've always disliked February. Growing up in NW Missouri, I've learned that one thing you can count on in February is cold. And usually some snow. Sometimes lots of snow.

I like snow on Christmas morning. And, like any schoolkid, I love getting out of school for snow. Beyond that... I've never been skiing, nor had any desire to. I take my kids sledding when they ask...but always a bit reluctantly. I just don't like being cold.

Needless to say I'm ready for spring. I drafted my first fantasy baseball squad yesterday (free yahoo fantasy baseball). I'm eternally optimistic about the KC Royals (tough job in the last decade or so). Baseball is my favorite sport, both to play (although I'm relegated to old man softball now) and to watch. Having coached high school baseball... February means preparing to start practice, always with the knowledge that you probably won't get to go outside much in the first week or two (and if you do it will be cold).

Of course, good things follow the month of February. March and it's basketball madness, April and the true beginning of spring, and then May and summer.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Super Bowl XLII (42)

Wow! What a great Super Bowl. You actually had to watch all the way to the end. It helps that I was rooting for the Giants and Eli Manning, I mean who wouldn't root for little brother? I really like the Mannings. They seem like the epitome of America and American values. The importance of hard work and family.

And of course, the Super Bowl, $3 million dollar ads. The dancing lizards, Doritos mouse, and talking baby topped my list of favorites.

And last and probably least, the game itself was very good. The Giants outplayed the Patriots, showed better preparation (guess Belichek couldn't get a camera into the Giants practice), more desire and heart, and all around better effort. I knew, I really did, that Randy Moss was not going to work for the Patriots. And he showed it... yes of course, he scored the go ahead touchdown with 4 minutes to go, but Randy was Randy for most of the game, not running his routes, alligator-arming passes thrown his way and invisible for 3/4's of the game.

And then you have your unlikely hero. David Tyree making the spectacular helmet catch of Mannings desperation throw with a minute to go in the game will go down in Super Bowl history.