srijeda, 30. siječnja 2013.

io9 - 5 godina budućnosti

io9 (we come from the future), najbolji portal za popkulturno tretiranje znanstvene budućnosti i ozbiljno tretiranje sf-kulture, u povodu svoje 5-godišnjice donosi izbor najboljih 100+ članaka.

Top 100+ io9 Stories from Our First 5 Years

io9 staff
Over the past five years at io9, we've explored a lot of strange frontiers, and asked a lot of ridiculous questions. Some of our strangest discoveries have been the ones that hung around, as if we adopted a baby alien and it grew up eating out of our hands.
Here are 117 stories from our first five years that still help to define what io9 is all about.


Science Proves That Drinking Makes You Horny
One Pill Makes You Autistic — And One Pill Changes You Back
Scariest Special Effect Ever Created (NSFW)
Welcome to the Culture, the Galactic Civilization That Iain M. Banks Built

How Many of Your Internal Organs Can You Live Without?
The Twenty Science Fiction Novels that Will Change Your Life
8 Unstoppable Rules For Writing Killer Short Stories
Bad Movie Physics: A Report Card
How to Create Artificial Intelligence in Your Spare Time
Underground Fires that Burn For Decades
20 Science Books Every Science Fiction Fan (and Writer) Should Read
What If Every Single Joel Silver Movie Took Place In The Same Universe?
Superheroes Who Can't Have Sex
10 Batman Books You Must Read
Great Opening Sentences From Science Fiction
How Does Your Hero Measure Up On Our Wish-Fulfillment Checklist?
Texas House Sucked Into Wormhole
The 20 Best Worst Science Fiction Movies Of All Time
Magnetic Anomaly Map of the World
War and Social Upheaval Cause Spikes in Zombie Movie Production
The Most Demented Novel Of All Time
Does the Full Moon Really Make People Crazy?


The Greatest Inventions Nikola Tesla Never Created
At Last, Science Has Invented an Artificially Intelligent Robot Vagina
The Mysterious Cones of the Egyptian Desert
10 Tips for Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse
10 Alan Moore Comics You Must Read! (Besides Watchmen)
What is Dragon Ball Z/Dragon Ball GT/Dragon Ball Kai/etc.?
Seven (Mostly) Scientific Devices for Measuring Sexual Arousal
Most Embarrassing Alien Mating Scenes Of All Time [NSFW]
13 Alien Languages You Can Actually Read
Physicists Prove That Vampires Could Not Exist
A Harvard Psychiatrist Explains Zombie Neurobiology
7 Virtual Reality Technologies That Actually Work
Michael Bay Finally Made An Art Movie
A Drug That Could Give You Perfect Visual Memory
The 20th Century The Way It Should Have Happened
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows Of All Time
A Tragic Video History Of Male Nudity In Science Fiction [NSFW]
The 15 Dumbest Superhero Retcons Of All Time
The Clearest View Yet Of A 1,000 Year Old Explosion
It's Official: Twilight's Bella & Edward Are In An Abusive Relationship
When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?
20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Past Decade
The Larger-Than-Life Sex Lives Of Giant Women [NSFW]


Advanced Imaging Reveals a Computer 1,500 Years Ahead of Its Time
The 10 Worst Scifi Snubs In Oscar History
The Year The Army Stopped Niagara Falls
How To Convert A Tanker Truck Into A Post-Apocalyptic Home
Women And Monsters: The Weird Universe Of Kaiju Porn [NSFW]
Scientists Disrupt Moral Reasoning With Magnets To The Skull
10 Weirdest Urban Ecosystems On Earth
How to get into 20 classic science fiction shows: The ultimate guide
Five ancient technologies that were ahead of their times
100+ amazing pieces of Star Wars concept art
M. Night Shyamalan Finally Made A Comedy
Ask a Physicist: How long does it take for you to fall into a black hole?
The last thing Spider-Man should be is another white guy
Myths about the "love hormone" oxytocin that could ruin your love life
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watch
The smell of freshly-cut grass is actually a plant distress call
The web's best optical illusion videos...and how they trick your brain
Spacetime invisibility cloaks can hide entire events inside temporal voids
The fastest way to send humans to Mars is to not worry about bringing them back
2000 Vs. 2010: How the world has changed


A drug that can make your old memories like new
10 Most Awesome Ultimate Weapons
How to Create a Scientifically Plausible Alien Life Form
Little girl joins the Dark Side, is promptly kicked out of the Jedi Academy
What cannabis actually does to your brain
You're living in a computer simulation, and math proves it
Astounding Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles art brings the cartoon heroes to grim reality
The story behind the world's oldest museum, built by a Babylonian princess 2,500 years ago
Proof of the existence of God set down on paper
These are the biggest numbers in the universe
10 Psychological States You've Never Heard Of — And When You Experienced Them
The bizarre musical instruments behind classic science fiction movie sounds
10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Star Wars
Who invented the world's very first car?
10 Vestigial Traits You Didn't Know You Had
The million dollar space pen hoax
The 10 Types of Writers' Block (and How to Overcome Them)
Your brain won't allow you to believe the apocalypse could actually happen
High speed video reveals the bizarre physics of an ordinary water droplet
10 Awesome Online Classes You Can Take For Free
Handy map of the United States showing the scariest thing in every single state
Krokodil: Russia's Designer Drug That Will Eat Your Flesh
10 Bodily Functions That Continue After Death
Disney Princesses reimagined as Punk Rock Heroines


If Famous Writers Had Written Twilight
The greatest mystery of the Inca Empire was its strange economy
An Optimistic History of the Next 40 Years
Until 2009, the human clitoris was an absolute mystery
This no-budget science fiction short looks better than most movies
This is what your brain on drugs really looks like
The Scariest Ghost Movies Of All Time
In 1995, New Mexico voted on a bill requiring psychologists to dress as wizards
Why Mass Effect is the Most Important Science Fiction Universe of Our Generation
Eight sexy webcomics to read with the door locked
Japanese fart scrolls prove that human art peaked centuries ago
Did The Hunger Games really rip off Battle Royale?
Japanese sex museums are where your sanity goes to die (NSFW)
10 Things You'll See in Almost Every Tim Burton Movie
The Bizarre History of Superhero Porn [NSFW]
10 Science Fiction Novels You Pretend to Have Read (And Why You Should Actually Read Them)
10 Civilizations That Disappeared Under Mysterious Circumstances
10 Myths About Space Travel That Make Science Fiction Better
Weird Secrets of The Avengers That You'd Never Have Guessed
8 Great Philosophical Questions That We'll Never Solve
Meet the hexaflexagon. It's about to blow your mind.
What do fruits and vegetables look like inside an MRI? Short answer: "Whoa."
What happens to women denied abortions? This is the first scientific study to find out.
How NASA might build its very first warp drive
This condom delivers an anti-HIV drug, prevents pregnancy, then disappears
Six Good Habits I Learned from Being Bullied as a Geeky Kid
Why you should probably stop eating wheat

 moj izbor


Welcome to the Culture, the Galactic Civilization That Iain M. Banks Built

To celebrate the release of Iain M. Banks' novel Matter, we've put together this handy primer for you on the Culture, the pan-galactic civilization whose members and ex-members are the subjects of so many Banks novels, including Matter. Not only do we have a rundown of every single Culture novel, but we've also got some important excerpts from an obscure essay Banks wrote in 1994 about the ideas behind the Culture universe. Get ready to enter a world where ships are sentient, humans live for half a millennium, and living on a planet is probably the most backward thing you can do.
The Culture Novels:
Consider Phlebas Set during the war between The Culture and the Idirans, this is one of Banks' most widely-praised science fiction novels. Its events also shape the Culture for hundreds of years afterward. The Idirans are a lizard-like, hierarchical people who want to colonize as many worlds as possible in order to convert as many creatures as possible to their religion. The Culture, on the other hand, wants to spread its more democratic-anarchic beliefs to as many worlds as possible. Essentially, the two empires are fighting to control the ideologies of colony worlds. Our protagonist, Horza, has grown disgusted with the Culture way of life and has become a spy for the Idirans. As the war reaches a howling crescendo, we follow Horza from a dying ring world full of cannibalistic cultists, to a ship full of criminals, and at last to final showdown deep within the catacombs of a dead world. This is action-packed world-building at its most alluring: full of cool fights and interesting philosophical debates. Plus, Banks pulls a typical counter-intuitive move by introducing us to The Culture through the eyes of an outsider who has grown disgusted with it.
The Player of Games Though the subject of this novel is gaming rather than war, we never stray far from one of Banks' central preoccupations: the psychology of combat. Gurgeh is a master gamer from the Culture, where the complete intermeshing of human and machine creatures has made computer games into some of the most complicated and beautiful of sports. Unsatisfied with what the Culture has to offer, Gurgeh ventures outside its volume of space to try his hand at a game beloved by the Azad. In the Empire of Azad, games are taken so seriously that if you win, you can become Emperor.
Use of Weapons This novel, a character study of a man coming to terms with a troubled past, is a version of the first novel Banks ever wrote (the early version remains unpublished, and Banks claims you could only understand it in "six dimensions"). It's the story of Zakalwe, recruited from his podunk non-Culture society to serve in the Culture's version of a secret intelligence agency, Special Circumstances (SC). Among other duties, SC Agents are often dispatched to infiltrate non-Culture or "primitive" societies and learn about them. We follow Zakalwe's mission into many such primitive cultures, while also following him back through his own memories of growing up on a planet whose culture echoes those he's spying on. SC Agents are souped up with a lot of cool powers, and this novel offers a generous helping of superpowered spy stuff, while also ravaging your soul with the story of a man trapped in his own memories.
Excession One of the most fascinating elements of the Culture is its ruling group (or the closest thing to that) — the Minds. The Minds are AIs who live for hundreds (sometimes thousands) of years, and plunk themselves into many different bodies: ships, halo worlds called Orbitals, and cyborgs called Avatars. (Well, the Avatars are really just extensions of a Mind, but if you want to get really detailed, just read this book.) Much of Excession is told from the point of view of a Mind in a former SC ship called the Sleeper Service, who journeys to an encounter with a giant, mysterious something that exists partly in subspace known only as the "excession." (I believe "excession" is supposed to be a cool noun form of "excessive.") The joy in reading this book comes from finally getting inside the computer brains of the ships, who communicate via data packets complete with internet-like headers. But there's plenty of excitement, too. Sleeper Service is also a weapon, and the Mind is racing to reach the excession before a warlike group called The Affront (who do some incredibly horrifying things to the creatures they conquer). There's even a weird romantic subplot involving the Sleeper Service's one human passenger, a depressed human female who once tried to kill her straying lover. Banks manages to juggle all these plots beautifully, and with his characteristic dark humor.
Inversions We've sung the praises of this book on io9 already. Read about it here.
Look to Windward This novel combines Banks' interest in Minds from Excession with his interest the trauma of memory from Use of Weapons. In large part, the novel is about a Mind called Lasting Damage who was inside a ship during the Culture-Idiran War. Hundreds of years later, Lasting Damage is still traumatized by memories of the war, and has placed itself in the control center of an Orbital full of civilians. So essentially, the Mind has gone from being a ship of war to an artificial world devoted to peace. But other war-damaged survivors have been unable to find peace. Such is the case with Quilan, whose wife was murdered when they were both soldiers in a civil war masterminded by the Culture. To get revenge, he's journeying to Lasting Damage on an assassin's mission that even he doesn't fully understand — it's a mission conceived by a dead Colonel's mind that's been uploaded into Quilan's, and that will culminate during the anniversary of the Culture-Idiran war. This is one of Banks' most mournful Culture novels, a strange meditation on post-tramatic stress as suffered by both machines and men.
Matter: Our review of Matter is here.
Surface Detail: Our review of Surface Detail is here.
Banks introduces the Culture in this essay. This is a long and rich world-building exercise, originally posted by Banks' friend Ken MacLeod on a newsgroup. I suggest you read the whole thing, but here are few interesting tidbits.
On the galactic setting where the Culture exists:
The galaxy (our galaxy) in the Culture stories is a place long lived-in, and scattered with a variety of life-forms. In its vast and complicated history it has seen waves of empires, federations, colonisations, die-backs, wars, species-specific dark ages, renaissances, periods of mega-structure building and destruction, and whole ages of benign indifference and malign neglect. At the time of the Culture stories, there are perhaps a few dozen major space-faring civilisations, hundreds of minor ones, tens of thousands of species who might develop space-travel, and an uncountable number who have been there, done that, and have either gone into locatable but insular retreats to contemplate who-knows-what, or disappeared from the normal universe altogether to cultivate lives even less comprehensible.
On the ships and their Minds:
Culture starships - that is all classes of ship above inter-planetary - are sentient; their Minds (sophisticated AIs working largely in hyperspace to take advantage of the higher lightspeed there) bear the same relation to the fabric of the ship as a human brain does to the human body . . . The Culture's largest vessels - apart from certain art-works and a few Eccentrics - are the General Systems Vehicles of the Contact section. (Contact is the part of the Culture concerned with discovering, cataloguing, investigating, evaluating and - if thought prudent - interacting with other civilisations; its rationale and activities are covered elsewhere, in the stories.) The GSVs are fast and very large craft, measured in kilometres and inhabited by millions of people and machines. The idea behind them is that they represent the Culture, fully. All that the Culture knows, each GSV knows; anything that can be done anywhere in the Culture can be done within or by any GSV. In terms of both information and technology, they represent a last resort, and act like holographic fragments of the Culture itself, the whole contained within each part.
On law:
The Culture doesn't actually have laws; there are, of course, agreed-on forms of behaviour; manners, as mentioned above, but nothing that we would recognise as a legal framework. Not being spoken to, not being invited to parties, finding sarcastic anonymous articles and stories about yourself in the information network; these are the normal forms of manner-enforcement in the Culture.
On politics:
Politics in the Culture consists of referenda on issues whenever they are raised; generally, anyone may propose a ballot on any issue at any time; all citizens have one vote. Where issues concern some sub-division or part of a total habitat, all those - human and machine - who may reasonably claim to be affected by the outcome of a poll may cast a vote. Opinions are expressed and positions on issues outlined mostly via the information network (freely available, naturally), and it is here that an individual may exercise the most personal influence, given that the decisions reached as a result of those votes are usually implemented and monitored through a Hub or other supervisory machine, with humans acting (usually on a rota basis) more as liaison officers than in any sort of decision-making executive capacity; one of the few rules the Culture adheres to with any exactitude at all is that a person's access to power should be in inverse proportion to their desire for it.
On why most people in the Culture live in Orbitals:
The attraction of Orbitals is their matter efficiency. For one planet the size of Earth (population 6 billion at the moment; mass 6x1024 kg), it would be possible, using the same amount of matter, to build 1,500 full orbitals, each one boasting a surface area twenty times that of Earth and eventually holding a maximum population of perhaps 50 billion people (the Culture would regard Earth at present as over-crowded by a factor of about two, though it would consider the land-to-water ratio about right). Not, of course, that the Culture would do anything as delinquent as actually deconstructing a planet to make Orbitals; simply removing the sort of wandering debris (for example comets and asteroids) which the average solar system comes equipped with and which would threaten such an artificial world's integrity through collision almost always in itself provides sufficient material for the construction of at least one full Orbital (a trade-off whose conservatory elegance is almost blissfully appealing to the average Mind), while interstellar matter in the form of dust clouds, brown dwarfs and the like provides more distant mining sites from which the amount of mass required for several complete Orbitals may be removed with negligible effect.
Also, Banks has given himself a Culture-style name. It's Sun-Earther Iain El-Bonko Banks of North Queensferry.
Image from the cover of Excession by Mark Salwowski.

The Twenty Science Fiction Novels that Will Change Your Life

  By Annalee Newitz

Spring equinox will be here in just a few weeks, and there's no better way to get ready for the seasonal change than to dig into some great science fiction books. io9 wants to help you get in the mood for transformation by offering this list of twenty science fiction novels that could change the way you see the world, and maybe even change your life. Whether it's because they've altered the course of science fiction writing, or simply provide a genuinely alien perspective on ordinary life, these are novels that will rearrange how you think. Check out our list below.
These are in chronological order by publication date, not in order of importance.
Frankenstein (1818), by Mary Shelley

This is the first modern mad scientist novel, which set the stage for so many mad scientist tales of the next 200 years. You've got the lab full of bubbly stuff, experiments with lightning, stolen body parts, humans brought back from the dead, monsters, and a man who wants to play god. Just try to name a mad science story that doesn't have a little Frankenstein in it. This book changed your life already by creating an entire subgenre of science fiction devoted to science run amok.
The Time Machine (1895), by H.G. Wells

Another genre-shaping novel, Wells' Time Machine was one of the first stories to link time travel with science rather than magic or spiritualism. Plus his depiction of the underground-dwelling, industrial Morlocks and the willowy, surface-dwelling hippie Eloi shaped the way many people imagined the future for the next several decades.
The Twenty Science Fiction Novels that Will Change Your LifeAt the Mountains of Madness (1931), by H.P. Lovecraft

This longish short story by H.P. Lovecraft brings together all of Lovecraft's greatest and most memorable obsessions. When a group of explorers discover a lost Antarctic city, they learn that the Earth was once the home to many alien races, some of whom still lurk under the ocean (Cthulhu's spawn), and others of whom can be summoned (the Shoggoths). Reading this book will take you deep into the subterranean imagination of Lovecraft, full of lost civilizations and slimy monsters who haunt our dreams. Lucky for us, Guillermo Del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth) is working on a movie version.
I, Robot (1955), by Isaac Asimov

This collection of linked short stories quite simply changed the way we think about robots. Asimov invented the "three laws of robotics," which are included in so many subsequent tales of humanoid robots and also in the work of robotics engineers. So this book has already changed your life, by changing robot history — reading it, you'll be surprised how much this work of fiction has become accepted wisdom about the way real robots will function.
The Dispossessed (1974), by Ursula LeGuin

LeGuin pulls no punches in this novel about an anarchist-feminist society that broke away from an oppressive, consumer-driven world to live on its barren moon. Out of this vivid portrait of two flawed societies, and one brilliant physicist, comes a story about how no culture can completely erase injustice.
The Twenty Science Fiction Novels that Will Change Your LifeKindred (1979), by Octavia Butler

A black woman living in 1970s America finds herself sucked back in time to protect the life of her distant ancestor: a white slaveowner with a perverse crush on one of his slaves. Expect no political correctness, but a lot of tough questions about racial identity, in this seriously action-packed story about how the people you trust least may be the source of your existence.
Wizard (1979), by John Varley

A schizophrenic man falls in love with a centaur who has three sets of genitals and lives inside a giant cyborg in orbit around Saturn. You want to change your perspective on the world? This book will do it for you.
Consider Phlebas (1987), by Iain M. Banks

A good way-in to Iain M. Banks series of Culture novels, Consider Phlebas deals with a war between a posthuman culture of game-loving anarchists, and a hierarchical civilization of religious zealots. Beautifully-written and action-packed, the book never allows you to get complacent about what it means to be ethically right and wrong.
He, She, and It (1991), by Marge Piercy

A woman and her cyborg warrior lover fight to protect a free Jewish town from being taken over by a neighboring corporate city-state in this cyberpunk homage to the Jewish myth of the Golem. The most fascinating part of the book is what happens when the cyborg, who has been programmed to love combat, realizes that his pleasures are morally wrong. What would it feel like for a weapon to grow ethics?
Sarah Canary (1991), by Karen Joy Fowler

A mysterious alien who doesn't understand humans very well lands in nineteenth century California, blundering her way towards San Francisco with the reluctant help of a Chinese railway worker, an escaped lunatic, and a Suffragette preaching free love. Haunting and funny, this novel is as much about the alienness of human history as it is about aliens.
The Twenty Science Fiction Novels that Will Change Your LifeA Fire Upon the Deep (1992), by Vernor Vinge

This novel was the first great epic of the internet age, leapfrogging over cyberpunk and into a posthuman future where UNIX is thousands of years old and newsgroups span the galaxy. A powerful computer virus that transforms matter is attacking civilization, and our only hope may lie with two kids marooned on a medieval planet full of dog-like creatures with collective consciousness. This is quite simply one of the most inventive, astonishing, and humane space operas you'll ever read.
The Bohr Maker (1995), by Linda Nagata

One of the first novels to explore the revolutionary potential of nanotech, this globe-spanning epic is mind blowing on many levels. When a Sudanese prostitute learns to manipulate a molecular foundry better than its Western inventor can, the balance of power in the world is turned on its head.
The Twenty Science Fiction Novels that Will Change Your LifeThe Sparrow (1996), by Mary Doria Russell

Everything you learned about first contact between humans and aliens was wrong. This strange and sad book chronicles what happens when the Catholic Church sends missionaries to a planet where astronomers have discovered life. The two species of aliens our protagonist priest meets are terrifying in their difference from humans — and make the priest an alien to himself. Hauntingly written, this is literary science fiction at its best.
Cryptonomicon (2000), by Neal Stephenson

This dense, multi-layered story jumps around in time, space, and consciousness, exploring the interconnected forces of money and science that brought humans to the twenty-first century. Warning: reading this book will rearrange your brain permanently.
The Mount (2002), by Carol Emschwiller

After human civilization is destroyed by a group of invading aliens, the survivors become the ponies of their new alien overlords. Generations later, our hero is a happy mount to the alien prince, but slowly begins to realize that the life of a pampered pet is not all he wants.
Perdido Street Station (2002), by China Mieville

Set in on a planet where a strange weather system called The Torque periodically destroys the fabric of reality, Perdido Street Station is about a scientist, a man who has lost his wings, a woman with an insect head, and a city full of people whose dreams are being eaten by moths. As the dreamless city slowly goes insane, only the scientist can stop the moths — with the help of a sentient garbage heap and a cross-dimensional spider who loves wordplay. Nothing can truly capture the sublime beauty and weirdness of a Mieville novel. But it might change your life.
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (2003), by Cory Doctorow

Not only did this novel usher in a new wave of postcyber writing about downloadable brains and uploadable desires, but it also changed the way science fiction writers thought about books. Doctorow has always insisted on making his novels available for free online, and has helped popularize the idea of questioning traditional copyrights in the scifi world. So this novel has changed your world already, by helping to make the business of scifi writing as tomorrow-minded as scifi itself.
Pattern Recognition (2003), by William Gibson

One of the best novels in Gibson's new cycle of science fiction tales set in the present day (which is to say, novels that feel like science fiction but aren't by strict definition actually scifi), Pattern Recognition is a masterpiece about consumer capitalism, mass-produced illusions, and video-sharing technology. Read and be dazzled.
The Twenty Science Fiction Novels that Will Change Your LifeNewton's Wake (2004), by Ken MacLeod

From the first moments in this novel, when a group of Scottish organized criminals (erm I mean "combat archaeologists") jump through a wormhole with their "search engine" — a giant machine for finding and pillaging cool treasure — you'll be hooked. Funny, bizarre, and politically-savvy, this novel is about treasure hunters and rapture fuckers out to get a little cash and have a little revolution. You won't be able to forget it.
Glasshouse (2006), by Charles Stross

Stross has said he had the Stanford prison experiments in mind when he wrote this far-future tale of drifters who sign up for a "glasshouse" experiment to recreate the twentieth century in an isolated space habitat. They'll be arbitrarily assigned genders, and forced to engage in certain kinds of conformist behaviors for points. Our heroes, ill-at-ease in the genders they've been given, figure out that there's a deeper plot at work and must try to outsmart the glasshouse prison game while fighting mind viruses that can reorganize your whole consciousness. With unexpected twists and turns, this book is the very best mindfuck you've ever had.

8 Unstoppable Rules For Writing Killer Short Stories

8 Unstoppable Rules For Writing Killer Short Stories

Short fiction is the "garage band" of science fiction, claims Tor Books editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden, so it's time to step on that fuzzbox and thrash as hard as you can without knocking over your mom's weed-trimmer. Actually, I think Nielsen Hayden was referring to the fact that you can try more crazy experiments in short SF than in novels, because of the shorter time commitment of both writer and reader. But how can you become a super-master of the challenging form of short fiction? Here are a few suggestions.
I wouldn't claim to be an expert on short fiction writing, but I have written over a hundred of the little fuckers, a large proportion of which have been science fiction-y. Here are a bunch of do's and don'ts, that I discovered the hardest way possible.
World-building should be quick and merciless. In a novel, you can spend ten pages explaining how the 29th Galactic Congress established a Peacekeeping Force to regulate the use of interstitial jumpgates, and this Peacekeeping Force evolved over the course of a century to include A.I.s in its command structure, etc. etc. In a short story, you really need to hang your scenery as fast as possible. My friend and mentor d.g.k. goldberg always cited the Heinlein line: "The door dilated," which tells you a lot about the surroundings in three words. Little oblique references to stuff your characters take for granted can go a long way.
Make us believe there's a world beyond your characters' surroundings. Even though you can't spend tons of time on world-building, you have to include enough little touches to make us believe there's stuff we're not seeing. It's like the difference between the fake house-fronts in a cowboy movie and actual houses. We should glimpse little bits of your universe, that don't necessarily relate to your characters' obsessions.
Fuck your characters up. A little. Just like with worldbuilding, you can't necessarily devote pages to your characters' childhoods and what kind of underwear they wear under their boiler suits. Unless your story is really a character study with a bit of a science fiction plot. I used to have a worksheet that included spaces to fill in in info about each character's favorite music, hatiest color, etc. etc. Never filled those out. If I'd tried to force myself to come up with a favorite color for every character, I would have given up writing. But do try to spend a bit of time giving all of your characters some baggage, just enough to make them interesting. Most science fiction readers are interested in characters who solve problems and think positively, but that doesn't mean they can't have some damage.
Dive right in — but don't sign-post your plot in big letters. When I started writing stories, my early efforts meandered around for pages before something happened to one of the characters to make him/her freak out. And then the rest of the story would be the character(s) dealing with that problem. And then, as I got more practiced, I found the foolproof map to awesome storytelling: introduce whatever it was that was freaking out my characters in the very first sentence of the story! And then the story could be about them dealing with that problem, until they solved it in the very end. It was so perfect, how could it fail? It took me another year or two to realize that plunging the characters into the story's main conflict right away was just as boring, in its own way, as the ten pages of wandering in circles. The best short stories I've read are ones which start in the thick of things, but still keep you guessing and let you get to know the characters before you fully comprehend the trouble they're in.
Experiment with form. Short fiction isn't one form, it's a whole bunch of forms jammed together according to their length. Short stories include your standard 3,000 word mini-odyssey thru the psyche. But they also include flash fiction (sometimes defined as under 100 words, sometimes under 500 or even under 1,000.) And those wacky list things that McSweeney's runs sometimes. In fact, for a while there, postmodern short fiction was all about the list, or the footnotes, or the krazy monologue, or the story told in office memos. Try writing super-short stories of only 10 words, or mutant essay-stories written by a fictional person. Also, if you always write third person, try first person. Or if you're always doing first person, try third.
Think beyond genre. Often the best genre fiction is the stuff that cross-germinates. Pretend you're actually writing your story for the New Yorker, and try to channel George Saunders or even Alice Munro. See how far you can go towards writing a pure lit piece while still including some elements of speculation. Or try writing your story as a romance. Or a mystery. Imagine it as a Sundancey indy movie.
Don't confuse your gimmick with your plot. You may have a great idea for a piece of future technology, or some amazing mutation that turns a whole bunch of people into musicvores who survive by eating your memories of rock concerts. Maybe you have the most original basic premise evar — but that's not your plot. Your plot is how your new widget changes the people in your story, and how it affects their lives. Or what decisions your people make as a result of this new technological breakthrough.
Don't fall into the character-based/plot-based dichotomy. People, especially in writing groups and workshops, will try to categorize stories as based on either plot or character. This is a poisonous idea that will turn you into a cannibalistic freak wearing a belt made out of human spinal cords. There's no such thing as a character-based story or a plot-based story, because every story has both. Even the most incident-free Ploughshares romp or the most twisty thumpy space opera tale. If you start thinking that stories can be categorized into either pile, you'll end up writing either eventless character studies or plot-hammer symphonies starring one-dimensional nothings.

20 Science Books Every Scifi Fan (and Writer) Should Read

Click to viewYou can't have great science fiction writing without great books about science. Ever since the nineteenth century, when Charles Darwin's classics On the Origin of Species and The Descent of Man took the reading public by storm, popular science writing has been inspiring fictional thought experiments, as well as possibly less-inspiring political debates. What are the science books you should be reading now if you want your brain turned inside-out by weird new ideas that might just change the world for real? We've got 20 brilliant, and brilliantly-written, science books that have already influenced science fiction — or are about to.
Some of these books are well-known, and you will no doubt have heard of them. Others made it onto the list for exploring scientific discoveries that are less well-known but are nevertheless inspiring and mind-blowing.
I've listed them in chronological order, not in order of importance.
20 Science Books Every Scifi Fan (and Writer) Should ReadOn the Origin of Species (1859), by Charles Darwin.

This is the book where Darwin first explained to the general public the theory of natural selection, in which species compete with each other for survival in specific environments. It remains an incredibly influential scientific treatise to this day.
Male and Female (1949), by Margaret Mead.

Mead was a celebrated anthropologist whose book Coming of Age in Samoa, based on years of research into tribal society, took the world by storm. While many of the observations she made in that book have been questioned in years since, her book Male and Female has endured the test of time. In it, she turned her anthropologist's eye to mating rituals and family networks in the United States, revealing to readers how strange their practices actually were. In particular, she made a gentle but persistent argument that perhaps we ought to question our gender roles and be less rigid about sexual relationships. Funny and well-written, the book was one of the first to use the tools of anthropology on the anthropologist's own society.
Animal Liberation (1975), by Peter Singer.

Singer is one of the most famous science ethicists in the world, and he made his first mark with this book. In it, he took the first of many radical positions about humans' place on Earth, and whether we are truly worth more than animals. He argued that an ethical society must treat animals compassionately, since they have the ability to suffer.
Godel, Escher, Bach (1979), by Douglas Hofstadter.

A book about math, meaning, complex symbols, and music, this tour-de-force is a beautifully-written classic of the science writing genre. Its intertwined tales of three influential thinkers - logician Godel, artist Escher, and composer Bach - is reminiscient of the scifi novels of Neal Stephenson.
20 Science Books Every Scifi Fan (and Writer) Should Read Cosmos (1985), by Carl Sagan. The classic introduction to astrophysics, by one of the most accessible writers on the topic. Sagan was an astrophysicist himself, who worked tirelessly to secure funding for space exploration and inspire humans to search for their counterparts elsewhere in the universe.
The Selfish Gene (1990), by Richard Dawkins.

Dawkins is now primarily known as an atheist advocate, but his first big public splash came with this book, which argued that the basis for reproduction was the selfish urge to pass one's genes on. His analysis also included the urge to spread memes, or units of meaning, making the book a rather all-encompassing indictment of humans as selfish from the tiniest biological level to the broadest social one.
20 Science Books Every Scifi Fan (and Writer) Should ReadThe Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance (1995), by Laurie Garrett.

This controversial look at the spread of diseases and pandemics in a world riddled with poverty and health care deficits is both fascinating and required reading for anybody interested in zombies or plague.
Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained by its Most Brilliant Teacher (1995), by Richard P. Feynman.

The "easiest" (i.e., most accessible to people without degrees in the physical sciences) lectures from Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. These are six lectures excerpted from his famous book Lectures on Physics, originally published in 1963. Learn about everything from atoms to quantum force.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (1999), by Jared Diamond.

As influential as Dawkins' Selfish Gene, Diamond's book of evolutionary anthropology looks at why some civilizations succeeded in conquering vast parts of the globe while others died out or where conquered. Compassionate and interesting, Diamond's writing is persuasive and will change the way you look at civilization forever.
20 Science Books Every Scifi Fan (and Writer) Should ReadThe Elegant Universe (2000), by Brian Greene.

All the freakiest new physics shit, explained clearly and with good humor, in one simple book.
The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography (2000), by Simon Singh.

A fascinating story of how different civilizations through time used math, science, and later computers to communicate across great distances, even through enemy territory, without letting their secrets out. Packed with cool information about code-cracking, ciphers, and even quantum cryptography, this is a must-read for anybody who wants to write about futuristic spies.
20 Science Books Every Scifi Fan (and Writer) Should Read

The Well: A Story of Love, Death, and Real Life in the Seminal Online Community (2001), by Katie Hafner.

There are dozens of good histories of the early internet out there, but none captures the human stories behind it as well as New York Times reporter Hafner's account of one of the first online community, The Well. In many ways, The Well was doing what Facebook and MySpace later did, only in the 1980s. Technically interesting and full of gripping human drama, Hafner's book is a forgotten classic.
The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People (2002), by David Barash and Judith Lipton.

Written by a psychologist and a zoologist, this is one of the most revolutionary science books to deal with mating behaviors. The authors lay out a careful, evidence-packed argument that monogamy is incredibly rare in the animal kingdom and that the human desire to cling to it as a norm may not have any basis in biological realities. Plus there are a ton of great stories about birds cheating on each other.
A User's Guide to the Brain (2002), by John Ratey.

Harvard neuroscientist Ratey uses lots of intriguing examples from everyday life to explain the complicated neurological mechanisms that allow you to do things like pay attention and access memories.
How the Universe Got Its Spots (2002), by Janna Levin.

Levin is a physicist who studies the origins of the universe, and is also a writer whose language is both clear and poetic. Something about cosmology invites poetic meditations, and Levin manages to combine somewhat melancholy explorations of her own place in the universe with complicated physics formulas to create one of the most interesting books you'll ever read.
Why Things Break (2003), by Mark Eberhart.

This isn't about how things break, but WHY things break. What is it about certain physical materials that causes them to crack, crumble, or collapse? Written by materials scientist Eberhart in an accessible, geekish-love-of-chemistry tone, this is perhaps the best introduction you'll ever get to the science that can answer the question of why bridges collapse and gaskets blow.
20 Science Books Every Scifi Fan (and Writer) Should Read Evolution's Rainbow: Why Darwin Was Wrong About Sexual Selection (2004), by Joan Roughgarden.

Written as a sharp, highly-articulate rejoinder to people like Dawkins who believe that creatures reproduce for selfish reasons, Stanford evolutionary biologist Roughgarden proves that animals and people often collaborate in the process of reproduction for altruistic reasons. In the process, she answers the question of why so many animals regularly evolve homosexuality, a non-reproductive form of mating. She argues persuasively that non-reproducing animals are necessary to evolution.
How to Survive a Robot Uprising (2005), by Daniel H. Wilson.

Funny and bizarre, Wilson's book is a perfect blend of science writing and science fiction speculation — it's as if he's written a robotics guide for science fiction fans who want to know what could really, plausibly happen if robots were to revolt. Plus, there are a lot of tips for avoiding being killed by robots, which is always helpful.
20 Science Books Every Scifi Fan (and Writer) Should Read Illegal Beings: Human Clones and the Law (2005), by Kerry MacIntosh.

MacIntosh is a law professor who has become profoundly interested in how current human rights law will affect human clones when they are born. She's done meticulous research on the topic, and demonstrated that in fact human clones will have no legal rights because they are "illegal beings." Given that so many researchers outside the U.S. are openly developing human reproductive cloning, this legal issue is likely to become serious over the next couple of decades. MacIntosh is the only person to have written about this from a purely legal point of view, and her findings are riveting.
The Science of Orgasm (2006), by Barry Komisauruk, Carlos Beyer-Flores, and Beverly Whipple.

One of the most coveted and talked-about forms of human pleasure, the orgasm has nevertheless suffered from a paucity of scientific study. At last, Rutgers researchers have tackled this elusive experience and written a terrific book about what actually happens to you — neurologically and chemically — when you have an orgasm. And there are even suggestions for how "orgasm chemicals" might be used in future painkillers. Nobody interested in the science of human experience should miss this book.

Great Opening Sentences From Science Fiction

You can tell a lot about a science fiction book from its first sentence. Those first few words (or few dozen, in some cases) have to pull you into the story and bring you into a whole alternate world. A good first sentence "hooks" you, pulling you into the story with a quick jolt of action and mystery. But a great first sentence does way more than that - it establishes a tone, it sticks in your mind, and it's like a little otherworldly koan, confounding your expectations. And maybe freaking your shit a little. Here are our favorite science fiction opening sentences.
Having looked through a few thousand opening sentences at the bookstore and online - no exaggeration - I can generalize a bit. There are a lot of opening sentences that announce the start of a rollicking yarn, with an action sentence. Like this, from Dan Brown's Angels & Demons: "Physicist Leonardo Vetra smelled burning flesh, and he knew it was his own." Boom! A guy's flesh is burning. It's exciting! A slight variation is the juxtaposition of the mundane activity with the exciting thing that interrupts it, sort of like, "I was hanging some kitchen shelves when the cyber-rhinoceros burst through my floor, tusks exploding with brilliant fire."
And then there are tons of opening sentences that are just quirky, or rambling, letting you know the author is settling in to tell a long, rumbly bulldozer of a story. And honestly, most of the opening sentences I looked at were either very business-like, or not very interesting. Or both.
Here are the ones which actually stuck with me and lodged in my brain a bit:
Great Opening Sentences From Science Fiction"'I've watched through his eyes, I've listened through his ears, and I tell you he's the one.'" - Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Starting a story, let alone a novel, with a piece of dialog is a bold choice, and most of the time it's super cheesy. I really like this line, though, because it's so intriguing and it drops in a lot of info. How have they been watching through his eyes? Listening through his ears, and what's "the one"?
"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." - William Gibson, Neuromancer. People always cite this as a great opening line, and it's easy to see why. It's such a vivid image.
"They set a slamhound on Turner's trail in New Delhi, slotted it to his pheromones and the color of his hair." - Count Zero by William Gibson. Okay, come on. This is just so fun. It's got the wacky jargon: "slamhound," "slotted," and the idea that it can be tied to random things like hair color and pheromones. And it's crackling with energy!
"The morning after he killed Eugene Shapiro, Andre Deschenes woke early." - Undertow by Elizabeth Bear. This is almost the mundane/exciting juxtaposition, but it's more than that, because the mundane comes after the exciting. And it makes you curious about Andre Deschenes and how he can sleep after killing a guy. And who Eugene Shapiro is. I was reading Undertow a while back, and this sentence sucked me in.
"Monday morning when I answered the door there were twenty-one new real estate agents there, all in horrible polyester gold jackets." - Rudy Rucker, The Hacker And The Ants, Version 2.0. Surreal - transreal, even - and garish and weird. And the fact that there are 21 real estate agents just makes it that much better.
"I lived long enough to see the cure for death; to see the rise of the Bitchun Society, to learn ten languages; to compose three symphonies; to realize my boyhood dream of taking up residence in Disney World; to see the death of the workplace and of work." - Cory Doctorow, Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom. I like a nice brisk opening. Again, the wacky jargon (the "Bitchun Society") and the weird longevity, and then the personal suddenly gives way to the larger picture, with the death of the workplace.
"He woke, and remembered dying." - Ken MacLeod, The Stone Canal. I don't really think I need to explain why this is a great opening. It's spare and intriguing. And no adjectives or adverbs. Yay!
"The manhunt extended across more than one hundred light years and eight centuries." - Vernor Vinge, A Deepness In The Sky. This is pretty close to being your standard brisk, action-packed opening. Except for the huge scope of it, coupled with the precision.
"Two glass panes with dirt between and little tunnels from cell to cell: when I was a kid I had an ant colony." - Samuel R. Delany, The Star Pit. It's almost a poem, and it zooms outwards in a lovely way, from the dirt tunnels to the ant colony. For a moment, you think it could be an alien zoo or something.
"The five small craft passed from shadow, emerging with the suddenness of coins thrown into sunlight." - Scott Westerfeld, The Risen Empire. This one, I was on the fence about. It's a little adjective-heavy, and it has the passive construction at the end. But I really liked the coins thrown into sunlight, it's a lovely image and it's about the last thing that comes to mind when you think about spaceships emerging from somewhere.
"At the end, the bottom, the very worst of it, with the world afire and hell's flamewinged angels calling him by name, Lee Crane blamed himself." - Theodore Sturgeon, Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea. Again, it's got great energy, and even though it has my pet peeve - the random "it" occupying the space where a real world should be - it's got the Blakeian imagery, and then you absolutely have to know why Lee Crane blames himself.
Great Opening Sentences From Science Fiction"In the summer of his twelfth year - the summer the stars began to fall from the sky - the boy Isaac discovered that he could tell East from West with his eyes closed." - Axis, Robert Charles Wilson. It's got so much going on, what with the coming-of-age thing and the stars falling. But then you get that human-compass thing, which is intriguing and fascinating. And this is a nice, spare sentence, with no excess clutter. It's snappy!
"Today is the two-hundredth anniversary of the final extinction of my One True Love, as close as I can date it." - Saturn's Children, Charles Stross. It's like the start of a romance novel, except for the mention of 200 years and the word "extinction." They stick out like jagged little spurs, amidst the shmoopy "One True Love" jargon.
Oh, and I came across one opening sentence that stuck in my mind afterwards, but then I couldn't find it again. It was something like, "He did not often think about kidnapping his daughter and stealing the spaceship." But there was more to it than that. What am I thinking of?

The 20 Best Worst Science Fiction Movies Of All Time

The 20 Best Worst Science Fiction Movies Of All TimeNot every movie gets to be the Oscar darling of its time, but sometimes we love the bad movies the most. These movies exist to be found in the bottom of bargain DVD bins and are met with squeals of excitement. Movies like Red Planet, Enemy Mine, The Faculty - these aren't successful by any standards other than the people that love them and treasure watching them for the 14th time. So I asked around and pulled a sampling of what I believe is the science fiction equivalent to Point Break. Here's our list of the greatest bad scifi movies of all time.Now it needs to be said, these are movies that aren't trying to be bad. So no, you won't find Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey (though it is awfully great), Innerspace or Attack of the Killer Tomatoes here. We'll build another list of intentionally campy movies later. These are strictly films that were made in total seriousness but turned out ridiculously awful and we LOVE THEM FOR IT. Chronicles Of Riddick: There are so many awesomely terrible moments in this movie that I can recite or reenact on command. How about the fact that you can prevent the death-inducing sun from burning you alive with a little water? Diesel is literally STEAMING in this film. It's awesome. Or what about the line: "It's been a long time since I smelled beautiful"? Plus the whole Necromonger mythology is so fascinating. How about the machines that stab your neck or the crazy heat-sensing drones that follow the warriors around. None of it was ever really explained or made any sense, but it was all still amazing. I don't think I have ever passed on a Chronicles watching party, ever. One of the my 5,000 Chronicles favorite scenes is below, "Death By Tea Cup." Time Cop: Don't even pretend that you haven't tried to do the splits in your underwear on the kitchen counter after watching Jean-Claude Van Damme prance about in his mullet. This is such a bad/awesome movie, it's no wonder that on any given day of the week it's on some TV channel at 3 AM (split clip below). This is strictly a smash 'em up, everyone-tells-Van-Damme-what-a-badass-he-is movie, and that's all we wanted from it. Notice the seductive come hither look as he jumps? Mimic: Monster in a trench coat played by Doug Jones? That's horribly fantastic. Hollow Man: Terrible, horrible writing with a "we make things go boom" ending, but I can't stop watching this flick just to see the CG muscle monkey and to watch invisible Kevin Bacon torture the poor girl across the way. It's one of those movies you view between your fingers because the science and the reasoning behind all the characters' actions are so bad, you can't let yourself fully embrace it as a whole. But you still want to see them get locked in the freezer and then magnetize the dead bolt because it's silly. Planet Of The Apes (Tim Burton's Remake): The monkey people are cool - sorry those of you that hated it, but the makeup was wonderfully done. The plot? Well it took a backseat to a half-naked Estella Warren. Honestly, the shock ending was so slapdash, it's laughable. But the overall look is compelling - you can't not watch. Plus, if you put Kris Kristofferson in a movie I'm going to watch it 1,000 times. The man is a legend. The Last Star Fighter: A movie where a kid gets to go fight space war video game style? How could this not be a best/worst movie. Starship Troopers I own four copies of Starship Troopers, no lie. I go into a panic when I can't find it, and I just go buy another. Starship Troopers is so ridiculously gory and tongue and cheek that I almost axed it off this list for being campy. But you know what, this movie is also totally awesome and deserves a place here. It's got Neil Patrick Harris as a Nazi know-it-all, goo-filled arm casts, a fake head having its brains sucked out, and one of the funniest death scenes I've ever seen when Dizz scream-dies her way out of this world from the arms of Rico himself. Resident Evil: Apocalypse This was a tough one, I seriously wanted to include all of the Resident Evil Paul W.S. Anderson movies but I feel that this truly was the best of the bad trilogy, because you have crazy super soldier Milla Jovovich as Alice, fighting Matt Addison as project Nemesis, the half dead human with a heart of gold. Oh and it introduces L.J., who is a fantastic character. Alien 3 Besides the fact that this movie killed off Newt (which I thank them for), the doggie Alien was silly, but amazing. If you like terrible action movies that kill off characters the minute you start liking them, then this is a classic. I know Fincher is great, but he never really bothered to get into the backstory of a woman stuck in a once-prison-now-monks planet and the whole Ripley suicide at the end was really gratuitous. But I'd watch that bald lady jump backwards clutching her alien baby a million times, and secretly root that this time Clemens (Charles Dance) doesn't get killed off, (how quickly we forget Hicks, Miss Ripley). Like I said before, it killed Newt and has a doggie alien (sheesh). Blade Trinity: This was a hard call for me. I'm really torn between Blade Trinity and Blade. But the original doesn't have a blind computer programmer and Ryan Reynolds, who you know pissed off Wesley Snipes to know end. Sure Parker Posey just played herself with fangs, but she's entertaining to watch alone, it's like seeing the unraveling of a mind. Plus the Kris Kristofferson rule applies to her as well. The Faculty You knew who the bad guy was from the first second you watched this alien invasion movie, but who cares? Famke Janssen's head is walking around by itself. Plus there are tons of quality one-liners and run-for-your-life scenes. Who didn't dream of their high school getting invaded by aliens, and you get to kill that dick coach who made you fun the mile on Friday. You gotta love the home-remedy alien kill sticks made from ball point pens and crushed speed pills that Josh Hartnett had a lab for. Who needs a whole lab to crush pills? Deep Impact: Is this movie worse than Armageddon? I would say yes, but its failure makes it much more appealing as a best/worst scifi flick than Armageddon could ever be. Strictly because you get to see the end of the world actually happen which is something many movies don't deliver, but in a more realistic sense than The Day After Tomorrow, where people are being chased by frost. Alien Versus Predator It delivered exactly what it promised. Aliens fighting Predators in an illogical maze because of an ancient back story. Oh who cares? It's Aliens fighting with Predators. Event Horizon: This scifi horror movie was pretty ridiculous with the eye-pulling out journey that Paul W.S. Anderson tries to take us on. You know it's a bad movie when a space ship opens up a portal to hell, but you know it's a bad/good movie when you include Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill and Hellraiser-esque clips. You can't beat the scene where Neill has ripped out his own eyes and says with a smile, "where we're going we won't need eyes." The Langoliers: A classic example of a bad movie that is more fun to watch for free than to have paid for. I like people getting stopped in time and crazy bloody children creep me out just as much as the next person. It's spooky, but that's about it. Reign of Fire Shirtless Christian Bale and shirtless Matthew McConaughey fight dragons in a future world where our mining interrupted their slumber. I'll let the fighting to the talking: The Fifth Element I'm sorry but Chris Tucker in a leotard running around trying to save the world from a giant black rock that can make phone calls is not a good movie, it is a GREAT movie. Forget the silly writing, this movie is all about the cool future gadgets, Milla running around in a band aid, wacky aliens and a great chemistry between all of the characters as an ensemble. Many of you may want to argue that The Fifth Element is indeed a good movie, but there are too many people falling from the sky landing in cabs, frozen commanders, and an extremely confusing bad guy and his jumbled henchmen. (What was the back story to Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg anyways?) But honestly, who cares - Gary Oldman sells that character, one-dimensional as he may be. The Fifth Element is like chicken soup: It will always make you feel better, especially the Diva Dance. Is it a movie that's changing lives? No. Enemy Mine: Learn important moral values from Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr. Who doesn't want to learn about prejudice from two mortal space enemies marooned on a deserted planet for years? Especially when one of the guys get's pregnant and dies and Quaid has to raise the baby himself. You knew that kid was going to get the crap beaten out of him by humans, and you couldn't wait to see Quaid get unhinged. Red Planet: Red Planet was a bad, bad movie made good only by the lovable robot that goes crazy, which adheres to the doggy alien rule stated above, doggy versions of anything scifi are highly regarded as terribly awesome. Signs: Signs starts off strong enough, but then pitters off into a bad monster movie with a dude in an an alien suit. Either way, you try and change the channel when Joaquin Phoenix puts on the aluminum hats with his niece and nephew. Sure, the ending is Shyamalan's greatest stab at desperately trying to show that everything happens for a reason, but I still like that it all ties up in a cute poorly written bow. It's a poor man's thinking movie, and gives you exactly what you're looking for when you're bored on a Wednesday night. 
 The Greatest Inventions Nikola Tesla Never Created

The Greatest Inventions Nikola Tesla Never Created

Inventor Nikola Tesla invented the radio, experimented with wireless electricity, and designed a death ray. In science fiction, his work goes even further. We list Tesla's greatest fictional inventions and the facts behind the fiction.

The Greatest Inventions Nikola Tesla Never CreatedLong-Range Wireless Energy Transfer: Tesla explored the wireless transmission of energy through his work with radio and microwaves and his creation of the Tesla coil and the magnifying transmitter. But he sought to create a system where energy could be broadcast across vast distances. To that end, he constructed Wardenclyffe Tower in Shoreham, Long Island, which was to function as a wireless telecommunications facility and broadcast electrical power. But JP Morgan, who financed the construction of the tower, eventually pulled Tesla's funding. Unable to find additional backers, Tesla was forced to abandon construction of the tower, and never fulfilled his dreams of creating a worldwide wireless electrical energy system.
The Greatest Inventions Nikola Tesla Never CreatedThe Witches of Chiswick by Robert Rankin: In an alternate timeline, Tesla teams up with mathematician Charles Babbage and create a highly advanced version of the 19th Century. Tesla's perfection of wireless energy transfer combined with Babbage's computer programming enable the pair to create autonomous robots, airships, and space-bound rocketships.
The Greatest Inventions Nikola Tesla Never CreatedThe Prestige by Christopher Priest: Tesla invents a device resembling the magnifying transmitter, but it succeeds in transmitting not just energy, but matter. The problem is that, while the machine transports matter to another location, it leaves the original matter behind, creating duplicates of objects, animals, and even human beings, with their memories intact.
The Greatest Inventions Nikola Tesla Never CreatedHumanoid Robots: In 1898, Tesla demonstrated his radio-controlled boat, which he was able to control remotely. He presented it as the first of a future race of robots, which would be able to perform labor safely and effectively, and many credit the event as being the birth of robotics.
The Greatest Inventions Nikola Tesla Never CreatedFive Fists of Science by Matt Fraction: Real-life friends Nikola Tesla and Mark Twain team up against Thomas Edison, JP Morgan , Guglielmo Marconi, and Andrew Carnegie to bring about world peace. Tesla's plan is to develop a series of super-powered robots operated through a virtual reality system and then gifting each country with such an automaton, ensuring that each nation has equivalent firing power.
The Greatest Inventions Nikola Tesla Never CreatedAtomic Robo by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener: Nikola Tesla creates Atomic Robo, a wisecracking robot, war hero, and paranormal investigator. Together with the Action Scientists of Tesladyne, Robo battles supernatural forces and Nazi scientist Baron Heinrich Von Helsingard.
Death Ray: In the 1930s, Tesla claimed to have invented a particle beam weapon, or, as some called it, a "peace ray." The device was, in theory, capable of generating an intense, targeted beam of energy and sending it across great distances to demolish warplanes, foreign armies, or anything else you'd rather didn't exist. Tesla shopped the plans around to various national militaries, but never found anyone to finance its construction. It isn't known if Tesla ever developed a working prototype, and the plans for his death ray were never found after his death.
The Greatest Inventions Nikola Tesla Never CreatedJLA: Age of Wonder: After laboring for Thomas Edison, Tesla strikes up a partnership with the Superman Clark Kent to develop inventions for the betterment of mankind. But during World War I, he joins forces with former Edison bookkeeper Lex Luthor to create a death ray to battle the Germans.
Area 51 by Robert Doherty: Various theories have swirled around the Tunguska Event, a powerful and mysterious explosion that knocked down a swath of trees in Siberia in 1908. Some have suspected Tesla's experiments were responsible for the blast; others blame a UFO crash. Doherty's series explains that it was a little of both: Tesla deployed his death ray to knock down an alien spacecraft.
The Greatest Inventions Nikola Tesla Never CreatedCallahan's Key by Spider Robinson: Robinson also holds Tesla accountable for the Tunguska event, but says he deliberately knocked down the Siberian trees as a test firing. The trouble starts when government forces get their hands on the technology and use it to threaten the Earth. Fortunately, by then Tesla has become an immortal time traveler and is still around to stop them.
The Tesla Legacy by Robert G. Barrett: Tesla may not have built his death ray, but he may have created an entirely different, though still powerful, weapon. The United States Government has long kept secret Tesla's most dangerous invention: a doomsday device that could disrupt all communication systems on Earth. And it has been sitting for decades in the Australian desert.
Improved Airships: Tesla envisioned applying his theories on wireless energy transfer to improve transportation. He claimed that electrically-powered airships would transport passengers from New York to London in three hours, traveling eight miles above the ground. He also imagined that airships might draw their power from the very atmosphere, never needing to stop for refueling. Unmanned airships might even be used to transport passengers to a preselected destination or for a remote aerial strike.
The Greatest Inventions Nikola Tesla Never CreatedBarnum!: As an evil Tesla threatens the United States, he evades the forces of American spy PT Barnum in his marvelous airship, where he sometimes hides Charles Babbage's stolen thinking machine. He's also got an armory of technological achievements at his ingenious fingertips, including a gyrocopter and a wearable device that lets him electrocute victims with a handshake.
The Greatest Inventions Nikola Tesla Never CreatedThe Venture Bros.: Rusty Venture's ancestor, Colonel Lloyd Venture, protects a mysterious Orb with Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, and Aleister Crowley, all members of a Guild, aboard an airship. But Tesla and the Avon Ladies launch an aerial assault against the Guild. Incidentally, the Sovereign of the later Guild of Calamitous Intent is David Bowie, the same man who portrayed Tesla in the film adaptation of The Prestige.
Wonder of the Worlds by Sesh Heri: Tesla creates an airship that not only sails through the skies, but also travels into space. In fact, Tesla's inventions are so impressive that Martian agents steal from him a powerful crystal engine, compelling Tesla to travel to the Red Planet with Mark Twain and Harry Houdini.
The Greatest Inventions Nikola Tesla Never CreatedSuper Electrotherapy: Engineer Georges Lakhovsky believed that people could achieve good health by adjusting the oscillation of their cells. He tapped Tesla to assist him in building the Multiple Wave Oscillator. Lakhovsky claimed the machine would improve health, remove pathogens, and even cure cancer, but many regard it as medical quackery.
The Greatest Inventions Nikola Tesla Never CreatedSanctuary: In infusion of vampire blood triggers Tesla's latent vampiric genes, transforming him into an amoral bloodsucker. It also makes him long-lived enough to perfect his inventions. He even finds a way to recreate the vampire race using his own blood and a portable electrical device. Incidentally, the same device results in deep brain stimulation, and can heal psychosis-inducing brain damage.
The Greatest Inventions Nikola Tesla Never CreatedGeneration Tesla: This version of Tesla also manages to escape death, in this case by transferring his consciousness to another plane of existence. His superhuman creations have also similarly come back from the dead, transformed as he resurrects them to battle evil.

10 Alan Moore Comics You Must Read! (Besides Watchmen)

With next week's movie coming out, everybody's rediscovering the awesomeness of Watchmen. But there are tons of other mind-expanding Alan Moore comics that you should also check out. Here are our favorites.
The Ballad Of Halo Jones. Moore was writing for 2000 A.D., Britain's long-running science fiction adventure comic best known for its Judge Dredd feature. Moore saw that most of England's "IPC girl comics were heading for that last great midnight feast in the dorm," and that 2000 A.D. had a bigger female readership than anyone realized. So he pitched a comic about an ordinary young woman — not "another Tough Bitch With A Disintegrator And An Extra Y Chromosome" — having adventures in space in the far future. The result is one of the most unique space operas of all time, featuring crazy adventures and silly humor and lots and lots of bleakness. (Jones' friends tend to drop dead on her on a regular basis, and in the final volume, she gets involved in a bloody space war.) The whole thing is available as a single hardcover volume from Titan Books.
10 Alan Moore Comics You Must Read! (Besides Watchmen)Captain Britain. Moore started writing for Marvel Comics in the U.K., and took Captain Britain on a tour through alternate universes. This may be the first time that the Marvel Universe's "normal" version of Earth is referred to as Earth 616 in comics, and it also features an evil Prime Minister of England, who wants to round up all the superheroes and put them into concentration camps. I read these comics when they were reprinted as X-Men Archives Featuring Captain Britain a few years ago, and was amazed at how fresh and weird they still seem. They'll probably never be reprinted again, but those reissues can be tracked down, and there's also a collected edition. Also notable: Moore's work on Marvelman, aka Miracleman, which is even harder to find these days (and which I've never actually read!)
The Saga Of Swamp Thing. Swamp Thing was a low-selling horror comic when Moore took it over, and he transformed it into a supernatural/weird science epic that still helps to define all of DC's "mature" horror/supernatural comics, including all the Vertigo Comics line. My favorite is still the first volume, in which Swamp Thing discovers that he's not Alec Holland turned into a plant, after all — he's a plant that thinks its Alec Holland, thanks to a weird chemical accident. And he becomes the guardian of The Green, the spirit of all plant life on Earth, which is nearly usurped by the insane Jason Woodrue. All of a sudden the Swamp Thing has, not just pathos, but also a soul and real relationships, especially with the prematurely white-haired Abby.
10 Alan Moore Comics You Must Read! (Besides Watchmen)V For Vendetta. This one, you've probably already read — but if you haven't, you should rush out and track down a copy. It's a dystopian future, and England has collapsed, giving rise to a new fascist regime run by a psychopath who's in love with his computer — literally. So it's up to the Guy Fawkes-masked anarchist vigilante known only as V to help topple the hateful oppressive regime, but his methods — especially his way of recruiting a successor — leave a lot to be desired. Just as much as Watchmen, V4V is a fantastic exploration of whether the ends justify the means, and the individual's relationship with a messed-up society.
Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow? Of all Moore's work on DC's main characters, this is my favorite. (Yes, more than "The Killing Joke" or "For The Man Who Has Everything.") DC was winding up its Superman stories, in preparation for John Byrne's classic reboot. So Moore had the opportunity to write the final Superman story, in which he shows how Superman's foes become darker and more horrifying, until finally Superman has to resort to the ultimate sanction. Superman disappears soon afterwards, and is presumed dead, but 10 years later, a reporter investigates. You'll have a hard time viewing other Superman stories the same way after reading this one. Luckily, it's collected in a single volume along with all of Moore's other DC Universe work — including the amazing Green Lantern short story about the aliens that don't have any concept of light or colors.
1963. Moore (with regular collaborators like Steve Bissette, Dave Gibbons and Rick Veitch) put out a six-issue miniseries of pastiches of early 1960s Marvel comics, with titles like Tales From Beyond, Tomorrow Syndicate and Mystery Incorporated. They feature made-up superheroes like Horus, and even though they claim to be stand-alone issues of different comics, they have a continuing storyline of sorts. Plus hilarious fake ads and crazy letters to the editor. It's Moore at his most goofy and fun, and paying homage to superheroes instead of trying to recreate them or drag them into the "real world." (And it's more fun, for my money, than Moore's later Tom Strong's Terrific Tales and Tomorrow Stories anthologies.) There's no collected edition, as far as I know, but I used to see the individual issues in the dime bins at many comic book stores. Amazon now has them all for between $1.00 and $15.00 per issue.
From Hell. Moore and artist Eddie Campbell piece together all the clues about Jack The Ripper, in a huge, sprawling story of Victorian politics and Satanic rituals. The mystery isn't who killed those women — it's why, and as the graphic novel goes on, it peels back layer after layer of Victorian society to reveal more and more twisted reasons for the violence. The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. If you've only seen the horrendous movie, you owe it to yourself to track down the comic. A set of famous literary figures, including Edward Hyde, Mina Harker, Allan Quartermain, the Invisible Man and Captain Nemo, team up to save the British Empire from a series of otherworldly threats. My absolute favorite is volume two, where our heroes face off against the Martian Tripods from War Of The Worlds... and this time it'll take a bit more than the common cold to put those alien scumbags out of action. As with 1963 and several other Moore works, the fake ads accompanying the comics are worth the price of admission all by themselves, and Moore also includes some amazing text pieces. It's a journey into retrofuturist Victoriana. And thank goodness there's a third full volume coming soon, after the slightly disappointing hardcover oneshot The Black Dossier.
Promethea. Okay, this is blasphemy, I know — but the first 12 issues of Promethea might actually be my favorite Moore work of all time. I'm not saying it's better than Watchmen, just that it holds a special place in my heart. With Promethea, we come full circle to Halo Jones — it's another tale of an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances, except this time around our heroine, Sophie Bangs, is inquisitive and curious. She pieces together the history of Promethea and figures out her own way of turning into the heroine, which requires an individual act of creativity. Promethea's not just your average superhero — she's an avatar of creativity and storytelling, and she may be destined to destroy the world instead of saving it. (In the end, it's actually a lot more complicated, confusing and — yes — rewarding than that binary implies.) The more Sophie discovers about magic and fables, the more powerful she gets and the closer Moore and artist J.H. Williams come to finally taking the comics medium apart altogether. (The first two volumes are my favorites, but the rest of the series is, at the very least, fascinating and memorable.) Oh, and did I mention it's an alternate 1999 with superheroes and weird cyberculture? And an android supervillain called the Painted Doll? Top 10. Another comic which Moore created for his America's Best Comics imprint was Top 10, the story of a super-powered police squad in a world where pretty much everybody has weird powers. In contrast to Extraordinary Gentleman's literary exploration and Promethea's magical journey, Top 10 is mostly just hilarious wicked weird fun. At times, it really does read like a version of Hill Street Blues set in a world of flying people and superstrong blue men. My favorite character: the exoskeleton-wearing canine police sergeant, Caesar. Moore gave supercop Jeff Smax his own spin-off graphic novel, and later did an amazing prequel called Top 10: The 49ers. It's all pretty addictive stuff. Science fiction writer Paul Di Filippo later did a Top 10 miniseries, which captured the inventiveness of Moore's world pretty well but wasn't quite as magnetic.
Note: I know I'm leaving out his other big ABC series Tom Strong, which I like a lot, but not quite as much as these other series. Feel free to protest and throw sharp objects in comments.

The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows Of All Time

The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows Of All Time

Science fiction and fantasy have ruled television for over 50 years, but some shows have brightened our screens and supercharged our brains more than others. Here's our list of the 100 greatest science fiction/fantasy shows of all time.
How did we determine these rankings? Using science. That means that if you disagree with the shows we included, or the order we ranked them in, you are anti-science, and must go back to living in caves and eating animals you killed yourself, with your bare hands.
Just kidding — actually, we know that these rankings are highly subjective, and we argued over them for hours. And we don't expect you to agree with every single choice we made.
We did try to look at a show's popularity at the time it was on the air, how much of a cult following it's garnered since it ended (if it's already ended), and how much influence it had on other TV shows and pop culture as a whole.
Feel free to argue with us, and each other, in the comments — just please, be friendly and civil about it. Thanks!
 The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #91 Through 100
 Dead Set
How to make zombies seem fresh again? How about a five-part daily mini-series (Yeah, Torchwood got the idea here) set in the Big Brother house that brought reality TV and horror together in something funnier than 28 Days Later but scarier than Shawn Of The Dead? The only remaining survivors of a zombie apocalypse are the contestants on the closed set of reality show Big Brother. Filmed on the actual Big Brother sets with some of the stars of that show, this is a wonderfully mean-spirited and nerve-fraying miniseries that can't be missed.

The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #91 Through 100Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Cybernetic police officer Motoko Kusanagi keeps New Port City safe from cybercriminals, maniacs and terrorists, using an array of surveillance toys that includes optical camouflage and mini-tanks called tachikomas, while she tries to get to the bottom of the mysterious "Laughing Man" incident. It's been praised as one of the most fully realized cyberpunk futures, and for having the best depiction of cyberspace environments, ever created. Plus, cyborgs with tanks versus mysterious cybercriminals FTW!
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #91 Through 100Dark Shadows
Dark Shadows was an early 1970s soap that started as melodrama but suddenly introduced vampires, witches, and time travel into the plot pretty much out of nowhere. It became an instant cult favorite, with dreamy/tragic Barnabus the vampire at the center of its appeal. Rebooted briefly in the 1990s, Dark Shadows is now slated to become a Tim Burton flick with Johnny Depp rumored to play Barnabus.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #91 Through 100Thundercats
One of the many science fiction gateway drugs to come out of the 1980s, Thundercats was a freewheeling mashup of science fiction and fantasy tropes, with the last feline survivors of Thundera settling on Third Earth to escape their Mutant enemies, only to have the Mutants team up with the evil sorcerer Mumm-Ra, who seeks the mystical Eye of Thundera. Granted, it featured plenty of mindless adventures and painful dialogue, but the blend of high technology and high fantasy mesmerized viewers and has left many fans still hoping for a live-action version.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #91 Through 100Aeon Flux
Aeon Flux originally debuted on MTV's Liquid Television as a series of shorts about Aeon Flux, the bondage-clad agent of an anarchist nation battling the forces of the restrictive Bregna government, only to be repeatedly thwarted by her own death. But Aeon eventually got her own half-hour show, where she locked horns (and occasionally naughty bits) with her nemesis Trevor Goodchild in a surreal, disturbing, and yet sexy dystopian future.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #91 Through 100Warehouse 13
After an encounter with a mystical Aztec Bloodstone, Secret Service agents Pete Lattimer and Myka Bering are recruited to work at the Warehouse, a top secret entity that collects and protects dangerous gadgets and artifacts, from an electrical gun designed by Nikola Tesla to a kettle that grants wishes (though an impossible wish yields a ferret). The well-scripted, light-hearted series follows Pete and Myka as they identify and capture artifacts, cope with their eccentric and often cryptic boss Artie, and learn that there's even more to the Warehouse's history than they ever suspected.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #91 Through 100Serial Experiments Lain
Shy junior-high school girl Lain is living a quiet life — until she gets an email from her dead classmate Chisa Yomoda, who claims she's not dead, but has just transcended the flesh world and moved to cyberspace. Lain gets drawn into a journey of cyber-discovery, hallucination and weirdness, as she's encouraged to ditch her flesh body and help bring down the walls between our world and the cyber-world. Trippy and bizarre, Serial Experiments may be the best cyberspace-as-drugs show ever.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #91 Through 100He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe
He-Man fights on the back of a Tiger with a sword. It doesn't get any more bad ass than that. Plus Adam's fantastical world was pretty fun to watch him prance about in, especially his ridiculous villain muscle man, skull head Skeletor. Eternia was great I'm glad we got to escape to it every week, plus the popularity of He-Man spawned the She-Ra: Princess of Power spin off, so there's a lot to be thankful for.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #91 Through 100Primeval
Holes in the fabric of time start opening up, releasing monsters from other eras into our fragile world. The "monster of the week" stuff, from the crew who gave us Walking With Dinosaurs, is fun — but the tangly conspiracy and sinister games are what make this show shine.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #91 Through 100Static Shock
The Big Bang, an industrial accident in the city of Dakota, turns many of the city's residents into powerful metahumans. Though many "Bang Babies" use their newfound powers for evil, quick-witted teenager Virgil Hawkins uses his electromagnetic powers to fight crime, aided by the gadgets built by his genius best friend, Richie. But it's trickier hiding his identity as Static Shock from his widowed father Robert and strong-willed sister Sharon. Even amidst a glut of superhero cartoons, this is one of the most memorable.
 The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #81 Through 90
This awesome, scary show about giant, electricity-emitting sea beasts had its monstery life cut tragically short after just a half season. But this riveting tale of crytozoology lives on in fans' hearts. Even though it had very earnest giant monsters, Surface never took itself too seriously. And that's what made it brilliant.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #81 Through 90Transformers
The original Transformers animated series is where we learned where we stood. Did you side with the Decepticons of the Autobots? Transformers was the ultimate imagination generator — anything is possible when you have a robotic alien species that can transform into a truck or plane, or even a boombox. Plus Optimus Prime could very well be one of the best leaders on television. He was noble, caring, big-hearted, driven and had a velvety voice, all without being as treacly as Adam Prince of Eternia.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #81 Through 90Smallville
This isn't the first show about young Superman — there was the absurdly campy Superboy show a decade or so earlier. But by keeping Clark from becoming Superman, and showing him going to high school and having growing pains like other kids, Smallville kept its hero more grounded — even as Kryptonite meteors were turning people into super-powered freaks right and left.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #81 Through 90Airwolf
If you were a child in the mid-80s, nothing was as exciting as the sight of Jan Michael Vincent and Ernest Borgnine flying around in their eponymous indestructible super-helicopter in this "Knight Rider in the air" rip-off. Sure, looking back, it turns out to be an insanely-right wing fantasy about the CIA saving the world, but hey. We were all younger back then.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #81 Through 90Jake 2.0
Angel co-creator David Greenwalt brought us this show about Jake, an NSA computer expert who gets injected with nanobots that give him superpowers, including the ability to control technology. Before Chuck, Jake was our favorite super-charged nerd-spy.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #81 Through 90ALF
The visiting alien ALF was quite possibly the coolest puppet to graze the small screen — well, he had the most street cred anyway, with his snappy pop-culture references and born-to-be-PG-bad attitude. His real name was Gordon Shumway and he was the last known survivor of the planet Melmac who just happened to crash in suburbia. Making friends with a stereotypical family, the Tanners — a nuclear family of four, with your stereotypical braces-wearing teenage daughter and an annoying pipsqueak little brother — ALF taught us all how to survive being aliens in suburbia.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #81 Through 90Heroes
Even with the proliferation of superhero narratives on our screens these days, few shows have grappled with the joys and drawbacks of super-powers as much as Heroes has — for both good and ill. What would it really be like to hear other people's thoughts? Should people with powers be allowed to roam free, using them to cause havoc for everyone else? When Heroes managed to have relatable characters asking these questions, it was the most watchable show on TV. When its characters became incomprehensible, well... That's why it's #84.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #81 Through 90Buck Rogers In The 25th Century
This show may be the guiltiest pleasure that doesn't actually break any federal laws. Buck Rogers gets frozen for 500 years and finds himself in a post-apocalyptic future, where everything is trashy and disco, and he hangs around with a penis-headed robot who says "beady beady." And the scary-glam Princess Ardala wants him to wrestle with her heavily muscled Pantherman, so she can marry him and an obedience collar on him. All this, plus weird dancing.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #81 Through 90Dead Zone
Creepy and fun, the series based on Stephen King's novel is about a man named John Smith who awakens from a longerm coma to discover that he gets psychic readings off anything he touches. This makes him an idea detective, and also the target of a zillion shady characters who want to use him. Fun fact: Dead Zone was also made into a movie by David Cronenberg, which has nothing to do with the TV series.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #81 Through 90Pushing Daisies
Call us sentimental old fools if you must, but we still miss Bryan Fuller's romantic (in every sense of the word), larger-than-life murder mysteries, especially when we think of the whip-smart old-school screwball dialogue, the unfailing sense of fun and, most of all, Chi McBride's cynical private eye, Emerson Cod.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #71 Through 80

Nuclear bombs devastate 23 American cities, and the small town of Jericho struggles to cope in the absence of supplies or outside help. Like the new Battlestar Galactica, this show examined how our social and political institutions would hold up after a major disaster — but it also transformed into a suspenseful thriller about a post-apocalyptic U.S. falling into corporate-sponsored fascism. By the end, Jericho's fate seemed intertwined with whether the U.S. would survive in any recognizeable form — and the show still sticks in our minds.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #71 Through 80Eureka
The spirit of Andy Griffith lives on in Syfy's gentle comedy-drama that never forgets that science fiction is always as much about the characters as it is the unknown. Not that they stint on generous helpings of the unknown when it's necessary... As long as it can all be tied up within the hour, of course.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #71 Through 80Land Of The Lost
The most famous, and memorable, of the Sid-and-Marty-Krofft science fiction shows, this family adventure had everything: a family lost in the wilderness, ape people, lizard people, dinosaurs, and weird surreal touches galore.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #71 Through 80Planet Of The Apes
Given that this concept spawned a half dozen movies and an animated show, you might wonder why it needed a live-action TV show as well. But featuring classic actors like Star Trek's Mark Lenard, and weird plots like "a blind ape woman falls in love with a human by mistake," this show took the post-apocalyptic ape-dominated world in plenty of bizarre directions in its short run.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #71 Through 80My Favorite Martian
Before there were Mork and Mindy or Third Rock From The Sun, there was this sitcom about a Martian with strange powers, who comes to live with a human while he repairs his spaceship. Featuring future genre MVPs Bill Bixby and Ray Walston, this show was one of the most popular science fiction shows of the early 1960s.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #71 Through 80Jekyll
Steven Moffatt's quasi-sequel to the classic novel brought a new take to the story, with James Nesbitt compelling as the descendant of the original story's Dr. Jekyll (Or is he...?) and future Bionic Woman Michelle Ryan proving that she really could act, as assistant/enabler Katherine Reimer. Ignore the uneven humor of the first few episodes and become as frustrated as we are that they never made a second season.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #71 Through 80Kyle XY
A Seattle family finds a naked young boy with no bellybutton and amazing mental abilities — and even before we find out he's a genetic experiment, it's clear he's something different. Kyle's struggle to understand normal people is often super-entertaining, but watch the show for its supporting cast, including Kyle's fellow lab-rat Jessi, and Andi the cute nerd girl.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #71 Through 80Incredible Hulk
The Hulk, traditionally, has been a Godzilla-esque force for destruction and metaphor for nuclear weapons. So how do you do a weekly TV show about his adventures? By turning him into a Fugitive-style drifter who comes to town, sorts out your problems, turns green and destroys a few things, and then leaves. The Hulk has never been so superheroic, and Bill Bixby's wry humor is always fun to watch.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #71 Through 80Journeyman
Reporter and family man Dan Vasser finds himself occasionally and involuntarily pulled back in time to change the life of an individual for the better, a circumstance that greatly hampers his work and family life. But Journeyman isn't just a time travel show; it's a mystery, as Dan tries to figure out why he travels back in time and why he keeps running into his ex-fiancee Livia, a woman he long believed to be dead. The past frequently becomes a bizarre horror show, and relationships become slipperier and slipperier as Dan keeps changing his own past.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #71 Through 80Star Trek: Voyager
The fourth live-action Star Trek series was notoriously plagued with problems, including errors in continuity and the defanging of the Borg. But by flinging the starship Voyager into the Delta Quadrant, far from their Federation and their allies, Star Trek: Voyager returned Trek to the original spirit of exploration. Plus, it gave us Robert Picardo as the snarky, opera-loving Emergency Medical Hologram, and Jerri Ryan as the slowly humanizing Borg Seven Of Nine.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #61 Through 70
When Terry Nation wasn't busy creating the Daleks and Blake's 7 — and writing for MacGyver — he was constructing this relentlessly bleak tale of what happens after most of the world drops dead due to a plague. Civilization is in tatters, and all the things we take for granted are gone — will humans band together or tear each other apart?
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #61 Through 70Lost In Space
Known as the sillier, campier counterpart to Star Trek, this story of the "Space Family Robinson" nevertheless serves up some great space adventures. And the thorny relationship between the alliteration-spouting Dr. Smith and the friendly-but-cranky robot provides a template for spiky human-robot relations that's still followed today.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #61 Through 70Being Human
The premise — a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost all share a flat in Bristol — may sound like the set-up for a hokey sitcom, but Being Human has an often sad and chilling quality that belies its tagline (while still making room for some humor). Vampire Mitchell and werewolf George try to maintain their humanity by integrating into human society and make (often disastrous) connections with human beings, while recently deceased Annie must cope with being dead and figure out how to move on to the next life. In the process, they get caught up in a vampire plot to take over the world.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #61 Through 70Get Smart
While Sean Connery was making a splash as James Bond, Don Adams made a much more hilarious ker-plop spoofing the sexy world of spies in his own bumbling but endearing manner. Maxwell Smart and his adorable partner 99, took on the evil corporation KAOS every week, and each episode we laughed at Max's adorable hijinks. Who amongst us didn't pretend to take calls on their shoe phone from an angry Chief deep inside the secret CONTROL base? Plus, we got greats like inspector gadget out of this silly spy world, also voiced by Adams.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #61 Through 70Flash Gordon
No, we're not going to try and celebrate the recent campy-but-awful-but-trashy Syfy series. This 1950s show was Flash the way he was meant to be seen — with space rockets, diabolical aliens, and crazy adventures. It was filmed in Postwar Germany, so a lot of the stories seem to take Flash to Germany or else to comment inadvertently on the devastation wrought by the Second World War.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #61 Through 70Bionic Woman
Another show whose recent remake we're going to pretend never existed, the 1970s story of a woman with bionic limbs, fighting evil and making a difference, was a precursor of Buffy and many other shows about female heroes. Jaime Sommers brought a wry sense of humor to saving the world, and that was her real superpower.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #61 Through 70Earth: The Final Conflict
Based on one of Gene Roddenberry's post-Star Trek ideas, this show takes a much less optimistic approach to humanity's first encounter with an alien race. When the powerful Taelons arrive on Earth, they seem humankind's saviors, eliminating disease and pollution and introducing new technology, but a growing Resistance suspects the Taelons have sinister agenda, a Resistance that includes the Taelon Da'an's own bodyguards.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #61 Through 70Thunderbirds
The Tracy family fly their super-futuristic Thunderbird vehicles to rescue people in danger, as part of the super-secret International Rescue organization, with the occasional help of the classy Lady Penelope. Oh, and they're puppets. Or rather, super-marionettes. The fourth puppet show from Space: 1999 creator Gerry Anderson, this was the best known and the most fun.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #61 Through 70SeaQuest DSV
In its first season, this Roy Scheider-starring adventure show featured scientifically plausible tales of undersea exploration, mixed in with more fanciful fare. Eventually, we discover an ancient alien ship buried at the bottom fo the sea, and the show gets more science-fictional and crazier - but never entirely leaves behind its fascination with the alien wonders of the ocean.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #61 Through 70The Jetsons
This Hanna-Barbera cartoon sitcom may look silly and a tad dated, but it shaped people's views of the future world, with its robot maids, flying cars and amazing labor-saving gadgets. Despite the incredible advancements of this 21st century world, the Jetson family still faces exactly the same stresses and pressures as 20th century Americans, including a tyrannical boss.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #51 Through 60

A plucky crew of humans takes to space in the sunken battleship Yamato, repurposed as a spacecraft, in this melodramatic, thrilling animated space opera. The crew of the Yamato are never anything less than awesome, and the show really gives a feeling of space travel being slow and dangerous — but the show's real standouts are the villains, especially the sly Desslok and the chilling Comet Empire.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #51 Through 603rd Rock From The Sun
Where so many series depict humans exploring alien cultures, 3rd Rock suggested that aliens would be equally fascinated by exploring Earth. After an awkward crew of alien explorers decides to extend their stay on Earth, they try to integrate into human life in suburban Ohio, though they're often baffled or overwhelmed by human culture. It's worth watching for its dead-on satire of academic life, as an alien has surprisingly little trouble fitting in as a college professor.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #51 Through 60Greatest American Hero
A high-school teacher gets hold of an alien suit that lets him become an amazing superhero — but he loses the instruction manual. It's a silly premise, and the show uses it for maximum slapstick effect, but it's also one of the first shows to do superheroes justice on television.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #51 Through 60Adventures Of Brisco County Jr.
A postmodern weirdo scifi western with Bruce Campbell in full 1990s hotness mode, Adventures of Brisco County Jr. is a cult favorite for good reason. Hilariously written and packed with funny references, the show is about Brisco's quest to avenge his father's death – and to discover futuristic things like blimps and Led Zeppelin. Must be seen to be believed, especially if you are a Middleman fan.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #51 Through 60Ultraviolet
Before there was True Blood, there was this grown-up, sophisticated look at vampires — a secret paramilitary force uses high-tech methods to track down vampires hiding in Britain. Tense, taut and relentlessly weird, this show brings an X-Files vibe to the vampire's lair.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #51 Through 60Sliders
Physics student Quinn Mallory develops a device that allows him to "slide" between alternate universes, and he and his friends quickly find themselves unable to get back to their own version of Earth. Each episode is an exercise in alternate history, with the team sliding to a new universe in the hope that they'll eventually find their way home.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #51 Through 60Red Dwarf
Originally more a sit-com that happened to take place in space than a real SF show, the longer this British series continued, the more it started investigating the possibilities of the genre in ways that "real" sci-fi hadn't thought of. Worth it for "Better Than Life" and "Back To Reality," if nothing else.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #51 Through 60Space: Above And Beyond
To quote from Jesse Alexander's io9 guest blog, "Before Apollo and Starbuck began frakking and fighting in Battlestar Galactica, the Wildcards of Space: Above and Beyond were dogfighting in their Hammerheads, bar-brawling with in-vitro hating racists, and elbow-deep in martian mud as alien artillery screamed from the sky... [The show featured] twenty-four compelling episodes about relatable, almost ordinary characters overcoming extraordinary challenges through teamwork and sacrifice... S:AB was also one of the first shows to treat high quality visual effects as just another narrative tool."
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #51 Through 60Knight Rider
In most shows, it would be a bad thing if the hero's car had more personality than all the other characters put together. But in this show about an artificially intelligent set of wheels, it's the jumping-off point for a great buddy cop show. Just pretend they never tried to remake or continue this classic.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #51 Through 60True Blood
The vampire series True Blood strives to fill every sick fetish you didn't even know you had. In an alternate reality, vampires have come out of the coffin — no longer do they hide from society. And vampire-human assimilation is a very tricky thing, especially when all the characters hate each other, sleep with each other, and have to fight off giant sex-partying demons together. But the show's at its best when it goes whole-hog bananas.

The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #41 Through 50

Battlestar Galactica (original)
Several TV shows tried to capture the fun and excitement of Star Wars in a weekly TV format. But none of them succeeded quite as well as the original BSG, thanks to killer robots with zig-zagging red dot eyes, cute cyberdogs, and hotshot space pilots who smoked cigars and womanized. This show is pure amazing space cheese.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #41 Through 50Star Cops
Don't let the purposefully cheesy name fool you — this show from Doctor Who/Blake's 7 writer Chris Boucher set out to be a gritty crime drama in space. The space police force tries to bring law and order to the chaotic world of space stations and the Moonbase, and grapples with some intricate puzzles along the way. The cops include bribe-takers, idiots and film buffs — but somehow Commander Nathan Spring manages to turn them into a real police force. Sadly, it only lasted one season, and the season's first half is much better than its second. But it's still all great stuff.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #41 Through 50Torchwood
Until a couple months ago, we would have described this show as Doctor Who's cheeky adult spinoff, full of sexual (and specifically queer) themes and lacking in compelling stories or characters. But a funny thing happened this summer — the miniseries "Children Of Earth" pushed the show in a genuinely grown-up direction, raising tough ethical questions and showing us what monsters people can be. And suddenly, Torchwood is seeming like a show worthy of celebrating in its own right.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #41 Through 50Mystery Science Theater 3000
Not many shows can capture an important facet of fandom: science-fiction fans love to hate. And Mystery Science Theater 3000 (or "MST3K" to die-hards) made hating on bad scifi fun. "MST3K" also provided a great platform for tons of clever puns, in-jokes, pop culture references, and mocking derision of terrible movies. And on top of the consistently great humor and the fandom appeal, "MST3K" also offered a community for loyal viewers (they call themselves "Misties"). All in a format entirely untried on television (and still not duplicated to this day).
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #41 Through 50Invader Zim
Nobody seems to notice that the weird new kid in school has green skin, or that his dog is actually a robot, or that he seems bent on conquering the Earth — no one, that is, but Dib, who quickly recognizes his classmate as a poorly disguised alien bent on conquering the Earth. Most episodes deal with Zim's incompetent attempts at world domination or Dib's futile efforts to expose Zim as an alien, and the demented humor and visuals from Johnny the Homicidal Maniac artist Jhonen Vasquez elevates the alien invasion trope to gleefully black comedy.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #41 Through 50The Six Million Dollar Man
"We have the technology. We can rebuild him." Lee Majors is Steve Austin, a spy who gets wrecked in an accident — so the secret OSI gives him a new bionic body, with fancy eyesight and juiced-up limbs. The super-spy narrative suddenly gets a new twist, thanks to cybernetics — and we get one of our first great cyborg heroes.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #41 Through 50The Outer Limits
Similar to the Twilight Zone, this anthology series had a more science-fictional bent, with lots of stories focusing on alien abduction or strange invaders. People struggle against mysterious forces, and the moral isn't nearly as important as wondering what crazy twist lies in store.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #41 Through 50Adventures Of Superman
There have been many Superman-themed TV shows, but the best is still probably the 1950s series starring George Reeves. Featuring advanced special effects for its day, this show pits Superman against gansters, mole people and Kryptonite-powered robots.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #41 Through 50Stargate Atlantis
Despite being a spin-off of Stargate SG1, SGA has built up its own unique fan base. The show takes place on amilitary Gate-base in the Ancient-built Lost City of Atlantis. From there, mussy haired John Sheppard leads his team through their own Gate and all across the Pegasus Galaxy, stopping only to fight the evil alien Wraith and to trade quirky banter. Perhaps the real stand out from SGA isn't the planets, that all mysteriously look like the wilderness of Canada, or the city, or Sheppard's Cash posters — but the comic timing of the crew, especially Rodney McKay, played by David Hewlett.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #41 Through 50Space Island One
The best science fiction show you've never heard of, Space Island One follows the crew of the space station Unity, funded by a private corporation. The show unflinchingly looks at the implications of for-profit science — culminating in a shocking final episode — and provides the most realistic look ever at life in space, including bone-mass loss. A few episodes are dull, but the show is often surprisingly weird and fun, featuring an astronaut who spends a small fortune calling phone-sex lines back on Earth, and deep-space explorers who resort to cannibalism. It also features some of the most complex, believable characters of any television show.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #31 Through 40
The relatively peaceful Commonwealth has fallen at the hands of the Nietzcheans, who see themselves as Nietzsche's ubermenschen. The only one who can save civilization, Dylan Hunt, is frozen for 300 years on the event horizon of a black hole before he finally escapes and leads a rag-tag crew. Sharp, thought-provoking writing from Deep Space Nine veteran Robert Hewitt Wolfe and others helped this show stand out, especially in its first couple of years.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #31 Through 40Quatermass
Spiritual father to Doctor Who, Nigel Kneale's 1950s science hero was as unmistakably British as the stories he starred in, offering conversation and compassion at a time when American SF heroes would rather blow up any monsters than try to reason with them.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #31 Through 40The 4400
4400 people kidnapped at different points in time by mysterious beings return to the present day with cool superpowers. How will they integrate themselves back into society, and who kidnapped them in the first place? This twisty, weird, awesome show featured Jeffrey Combs and Summer Glau and was like a good cross between X-Files and Heroes.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #31 Through 40Supernatural
The Winchester Brothers aren't just sworn to hunt down the monsters that disturb the normal people — they're also doomed. Sam is cursed from birth, and Dean is trapped living in their father's image. As they wander the barren landscape of the Midwest, this often terrifying, often hilarious show never lets us hope the brothers will escape their doom — just keeps us wondering what they'll do in the face of it.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #31 Through 40Alien Nation
Long before District 9 subjected aliens to apartheid, Alien Nation used extraterrestrial visitors to explore issues of immigration and race. The Newcomers, former alien slaves who escaped to Earth in hopes of a better life, just want to integrate with human society while holding on to their own cultures and traditions. However, as human cop Matthew Sikes and his Newcomer partner discover, many humans hate, fear, and exploit the Newcomers.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #31 Through 40Robotech
The show that helped introduced space opera to a whole new generation (along with Starblazers), Robotech gave us humans struggling against not one, but three alien invasions, using bootstrapped alien technology. And more importantly — super robot armor.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #31 Through 40Lexx
As if on a mission to out-camp Star Trek's original run, Lexx brandishes its technicolor sassiness with pride. Marty Simon's soundtrack for the series shines - and while you can snicker all you want at the CGI, many of the computer rendered shots are on par with those from contemporary series Babylon 5. Besides, who doesn't love a hot half-lizard rebel love slave?
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #31 Through 40The Avengers
Simultaneously stylish and silly, this British spy-fi show left its mark on the sixties and managed to keep sputtering on into the seventies, thanks to a spin-off series. The bowler-hat-wearing John Steed has a variety of sidekicks, but the catsuit-clad Emma Peel is the only one anyone remembers — for good reason. Not only was she a fashion icon, she always seemed to be in on Steed's joke.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #31 Through 40RoswellSexy teen aliens with problems is a formula for greatness. Katherine Heigl burst out into our consciousnesses, playing an alien human hybrid stuck on Earth, along with her friends. Trapped in Roswell, NM (What are the odds) these clones of alien royalty discover they have superpowers, and a lot of teen drama ensues. A highlight of the series home town diner waitress Liz Parker played by Shiri Appleby and her alien antennae work attire. It was like Dawson's Creek, but with aliens — so yes, it worked on many levels.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #31 Through 40Quantum Leap
Let's hear it for blue unitard time-jumping. When Sam Beckett, played by a young Scott Bakula, gets lost in time after a failed experiment, he winds up body-jumping through the ages. And each body has its own problems and issues that Sam has to help him/her through. But he's not alone — his best friend, Al the hologram, appears from time to time to smoke cigars and drop some wisdom. The best part of this series is its cliffhanger endings, which almost always end up with Sam in a dress.

The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #21 Through 30

Mork And Mindy
Probably the greatest science fiction comedy of all, this show introduced us to Robin Williams and gave us a fresh spin on the "lovable alien stranded on Earth" cliche — Mork may have learned an important lesson every week, but he also taught us a little bit about the absurdity of our existence along the way.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #21 Through 30Batman Beyond
A worthy epilogue to Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond was set in 2019, when an elderly Bruce Wayne takes on a new protege, high schooler Terry McGinnis. The new Batman must protect a hi-tech version of Gotham, on where low-level criminals worship the Joker and supervillains use technology that rival Bruce Wayne's.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #21 Through 30Venture Bros.
It takes real love to come up with the on-target cynical parodies that populate Adult Swim's greatest contribution to television, and it's that knowing mix of self-loathing and unending affection that's made this one of the funniest, most intelligent, most self-aware shows on television in years.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #21 Through 30The Middleman
This short-lived ABC Family series about a superhero's apprentice didn't just serve up wry, self-aware genre silliness — it actually showed us how genre could be a philosophy to live by. The distinction between good guys and bad guys remains always meaningful, as does the show's constant insistence that anything can be turned into art — especially weird science fiction.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #21 Through 30Angel
In its early episodes, Angel explored the trials and tribulations of young adulthood in much the way its parent show Buffy dealt with high school trauma. But the series soon developed its own rich mythology, bolstered by characters like street-wise vampire hunter Charles Gunn and lounge-singing, aura-reading demon Lorne and the over-the-top machinations of otherworldly law firm Wolfram and Hart.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #21 Through 30Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Creating a TV show based on a couple of old movies about killer robots from the future didn't seem like such a great idea — until the Chronicles showed us just how rich the story of humanity's future savior growing up in a doomed world could be. Everything is colored by the knowledge that the apocalypse is probably inevitable and imminent, and yet you may not even live to see it. Over time, the show also gave us uniquely memorable artificial intelligences, including the super-computer John Henry, grappling with what it means to be alive.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #21 Through 30The Prisoner
Patrick McGoohan's paranoid spy series about individuality and society was smart, funny, creepy and the kind of thing that people are still trying to catch up to decades later (See: AMC's upcoming revival). It's enough to make us forgive him for the subsequent years of shitty movies and Columbo guest-appearances.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #21 Through 30Cowboy Bebop
This gritty, fun anime series about bounty hunters in the 22nd century probably helped inspire Firefly, and it definitely gave us one of the most memorable characters in science fiction — the super-fighter with a dark past, Spike Spiegel.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #21 Through 30Space: 1999
It's probably best if you don't think too much about this show's premise — the Moon being flung out of orbit fast enough that it swings past a new planet every week, without killing everyone in the Moonbase. The main thing is that this show picks up Star Trek's baton and goes to a slightly darker place with it — the show is full of scarily mysterious aliens, massive explosions, claustrophobic spaceships and spooky planets. Space is suddenly not quite such a benign place to roam around in.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #21 Through 30The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy
Sure, Hitchhiker's was a radio show first, and it was also a book series, a movie, a computer game and probably a brand of sentient hand-lotion. But the TV show is worth celebrating in its own right, for bringing an extra layer of sillness and slapstick to the oft-told story. Worth it just for the Hitchhiker's Guide graphic segments.

The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #11 Through 20

Astronaut John Crichton is flung across the universe via wormhole, and finds himself smack dab in the middle of a vast interstellar conflict between several alien races. Adopted by a misfit crew aboard a sentient spaceship, Crichton finds himself sucked into the war even as he tries to find a way home. Cool aliens (created by Jim Henson), intriguing character development, and sexy humor made this show a fan favorite for the ages.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #11 Through 20V
Beautiful alien visitors arrive, promising to help humanity and provide peace and prosperity... but it turns out they're actually evil lizard people, bent on enslaving us. This always-great premise is an excuse for lots of fun paranoia, but also crazy action sequences, like a lone woman standing her ground and shooting at a spaceship with her handgun. This show made alien-fighting fun again.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #11 Through 20Fringe
Created by Nerd Pack JJ Abrams, Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman, Fringe follows the increasingly weird and transdimensional adventures of a team that investigates "fringe science" events. As the mad scientist, special investigator, and mercenary researcher get closer to understanding the science conspiracy at the heart of the tale, they discover that their own lives are bound up in it. Scary, silly, and head-explodingly gross, Fringe became an instant classic when it debuted last year.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #11 Through 20Stargate SG-1
Stargate SG-1 took the successful film and managed to turn it into an insane ten seasons of adventure, by showing what happened when the military continued to use the space travel Gate technology. Richard Dean Anderson heads up a strong cast, jumping between worlds and defending Earth from alien attacks from the Goa'uld or Borg-esue Replicators. This show established Stargate as the light hearted space soap opera for anyone just looking for a laugh and a bit of suspense. Come for the cheap Gate effects, stay for RDA.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #11 Through 20Dollhouse
It's hard to think of a TV show that's created as much controversy in recent years as this one — people see its mind-wiped slaves-for-hire premise as a metaphor for rape, prostitution or just plain slavery. But creator Joss Whedon has been going out of his way to push people's buttons — and now it turns out that the supposedly fun fantasy-fulfillment of being able to hire a programmed human really does destroy the human race in the end.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #11 Through 20The Tick (animated)
The Tick broke down superhero conventions and rebuilt them in its own warped image. From the oddball costumed heroes (Wonder Woman and Batman somehow become American Maid and Der Fledermaus) to the villainous plots (Chairface Chippendale gets three letters into writing his name on the moon — a fact that continues throughout the series) to the Tick's superhero banter ("Spoooooooon!"), The Tick is a witty and often surprising parody.

The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #11 Through 20Futurama
Pizza boy Philip J. Fry is cryogenically frozen in 1999 and wakes up a thousand years later to a world of alcoholic robots, predestination paradoxes, and celebrity heads kept alive in jars. It takes repeated watchings to fully appreciate the hilariously jam-packed send-ups of pop culture in general and science fiction in particular, but you'll need a pause button and a firm understanding of mathematics to get all the jokes lurking in the background.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #11 Through 20Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Where most Star Trek series focused on the thrill of exploration, Deep Space Nine treated the Star Trek universe as a real place, fleshing out the politics of the previous series and focusing on the special challenges of a frontier outpost. With the newly liberated planet of Bajor on side of the nearby wormhole and a looming fascist empire on the other, DS9 examined the ethics of terrorism, exposed the seedy underbelly of the Federation, and reminded us that war is hell, even in the 24th Century.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #11 Through 20The Twilight Zone
One of the most iconic television shows of the twentieth century, Twilight Zone started in the late 1950s and launched the careers of dozens of actors (including William Shatner) and writers. An anthology series, each weird episode was introduced by Rod Serling, who usually explained its moral too. Tales of aliens, monsters, and the unknown were interwoven with noir-ish stories of people in bizarrely bleak situations. A mix of scifi an existentialism, it defined an entire generation of smart, dark SF.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #11 Through 20Blake's 7
Imagine a show that takes place entirely in Star Trek's mirror universe, and you've sort of got Blake's 7. The Federation is evil and oppressive, and only a gang of criminals led by a political dissident stand for freedom. At its absolute best, this show was an unflinching examination of a totalitarian society in denial. (The war-crimes trial episode is absolutely priceless) as well as an exploration into how far our freedom-fighters can go and still remain "the good guys." And it has possibly the best ending in science-fiction history.

The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #1 Through 10

With references to everything from The Flash to James Joyce, from Greek and Egyptian mythology to Star Wars, Lost manages to fold myriad themes and parallels into sophisticated meditations on destiny, choice, and faith. But Lost also manages to be a show about Utopian visions and time travel, using its scifi roots to explore deep philosophical questions. And that's what great sci-fi does: it uses speculative worlds to examine our world, our humanity. Lost does all of this, and still maintains the pathos of a good television drama, drawing a wide audience into a show about time travel. It's not only great science fiction, but it's also a form of science-fiction evangelism.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #1 Through 10Battlestar Galactica (remake)
The recent BSG reimagining is many things: a theological investigation, a mirror for our current politics, and one of the best space-war dramas of all time. But more than anything, it shows what can happen when you take a great premise — the last surviving humans flee through space after a robot-led genocide, searching for Earth — and take it seriously for a change. Almost everything that's great about this version of the show comes out of treating that premise with respect, and showing how our social institutions fare in that situation.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #1 Through 10Babylon 5
In many ways, space opera (and science fiction generally) gets divided into two camps: before Babylon 5 and after it. Show creator J. Michael Straczynski didn't just bring novel-style, long-form storytelling to the space western — he also brought more complex characters, a deeper mythology, and a sharper-edge social commentary.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #1 Through 10The X-Files
This show spawned a meme ("The truth is out there") and created a whole cult following around the duo of FBI agents investigating the weird and the outright extraterrestrial in America. But over time, its paranoia became transcendant, suggesting a much weirder and more sinister world than you'd ever suspected was also out there.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #1 Through 10Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Joss Whedon's best-known TV show started out as the quintessential heroic coming-of-age story, with a young hero who tries to balance her heroic destiny and a normal life — but over time, the metaphors grew richer and richer, and Buffy's search for herself kept going deeper and deeper. By the end, the show about the girl whom nobody would suspect of heroism at a glance turned out to hide even deeper secrets about who Buffy was underneath all that heroism.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #1 Through 10Max HeadroomA fictional US drama starring the equally fictional host of a real-life UK variety show? This short-lived 1987 spin-off from 20 Minutes In The Future did more than just vault over the fourth wall with glee; it also brought cyberpunk into mainstream living rooms, and created our lifelong crush on Amanda Pays.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #1 Through 10Star Trek: The Next Generation
The first live-action Star Trek spinoff served up two embarrassing years of warmed-over crap, and then a funny thing happened — the stories started getting really good, and the characters became archetypes in their own right. The Borg and Q are as much a part of science-fiction lore as anything the original series served up. By the time it ended, TNG really was the only Star Trek for an entire generation.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #1 Through 10Firefly
Buffy may be Joss Whedon's best-known show, but this is his most influential, especially for science-fiction lovers. The saga of a crew of underdogs, survivors of an interplanetary civil war, doing dirty deeds to survive and trying to keep a low profile, managed to spawn some of the genre's most memorable characters in just a dozen weeks on the air. Nobody doing science fiction today — especially space opera — can fail to be influenced by this show.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #1 Through 10Doctor Who
One of the most iconic shows on television — period — let alone science fiction TV, Doctor Who uses its open-ended format (a man with a time machine) to tell a dizzying variety of stories. The one thing that never changes is the show's joie de vivre, in the face of horrifying monsters. The Doctor is the ultimate outsider and the ultimate hero wrapped up into one, and watching him fight evil regenerates a small part of us every week.
The Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows: #1 Through 10Star Trek
The most famous space opera of all time is also science fiction's greatest TV show generally. The U.S.S. Enterprise doesn't just explore strange new worlds and undiscovered civilizations — it explores us, our world, and the dilemmas we face as our technology outstrips our wisdom. Captain Kirk grapples with the Cold War, outwits authoritarians and zealots, and gives a little speech every episode about the human spirit — suggesting that all of our strange new dilemmas have solutions if we just follow Captain Kirk's rules to life. (And screw the Prime Directive.)
20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade

20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade

After much mulling and culling, we've come up with our list of the twenty best books of the decade. The list is weighted towards science fiction, but does have healthy doses of fantasy and horror. And a few surprises.
This list is alphabetical, and not in order of awesomeness. All are equally great and worthy of your attention. In deciding which would make the list and which wouldn't, we weighed not only our opinions, but also those of the critical community at large - looking at how each book was received by reviewers for mainstream publications as well as science fiction magazines. There were many, many books we love that almost made the cut - if we'd let ourselves go it would have been more like the 100 best books of the decade.
Also, all of the books on this list were originally published in English. Regrettably I'm not conversant enough in global science fiction to make an educated "best of" list that includes works written in other languages. I hope those of you who are will add your picks to the comments below.
20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade 
Acacia: The War with the Mein, by David Anthony Durham (Doubleday)
According to the Washington Post:
From the first pages of Acacia, Durham, a respected historical novelist, demonstrates that he is a master of the fantasy epic. He quickly sets out in broad strokes the corrupt world that these unwitting children have been raised to rule. For 22 generations, the Akarans have presided over the empire of Acacia. And for 22 generations, they've sent a yearly shipment of child slaves to mysterious traders beyond their borders, "with no questions asked, no conditions imposed on what they did with them, and no possibility that the children would ever see Acacia again." In exchange, the Akarans get "mist," a drug that guarantees their subjects' "labor and submission." . . . Durham sacrifices nothing — not psychological acuity, not political complexity, not lyrical phrases — as he drives the plot of this gripping book forward. The names of people and places sound as if they've been recalled from a dusty past, not cobbled from J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth, a far too common practice among fantasy writers. Tropes that sound outlandish — "dream-travel," for one — are credible in Durham's telling. And the story always surprises. Characters that seem poised to take center stage are killed abruptly. Evil often triumphs.
This is the first novel in Durham's planned Acacian Trilogy. The second novel, The Other Lands, has recently been published and the third is on the way.

20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade 
Air, Or Have Not Have, by Geoff Ryman (Gollancz)
Air won the Clarke Award and was nominated for a Nebula. Here is what Strange Horizons' Geneva Melzack had to say about it:
Chung Mae lives in Kizuldah, a tiny mountain village in the country of Karzistan. The people in Kizuldah live traditional sorts of lives, making a living through farming and migrant manual labour. TV has barely arrived in the village when a national test of Air, a new form of virtual media technology, takes place, badly shaking up Kizuldah's traditional existence. The person most shaken up is Chung Mae herself, who is involved in an accident in the midst of the test that fuses her, in the virtual world of Air, with her elderly neighbour Old Mrs Tung, killing Mrs Tung in the process. Air tells the story of how Chung Mae learns to adapt to her new situation, and the work she has to do to help the rest of her village similarly adapt to the changes that the test has wrought and the further changes that she knows will come when Air is fully implemented in a year's time . . . It might be tempting to read Air as a book that is advocating change and the embracing of the new, but there's more to it than that. Change in Air is simply something that happens. It is inevitable. The future is not necessarily any better than the past, but it is coming nevertheless.
20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade  
The Alchemy of Stone, by Ekaterina Sedia (Prime)
Here is what io9 had to say about this book when it came out last year:
With a face made of porcelain, a wind-up heart, and a talent for alchemy, Mattie is hardly a typical science fictional robot. While most novels about robots focus on how these humanoid machines are stronger and smarter than humans, Ekaterina Sedia's The Alchemy of Stone explores the vulnerability of mechanical beings who depend on humans for repairs and survival. Mattie is a rare emancipated automaton in an industrial city hovering on the edge of a workers' revolution. She's gone against the wishes of her Mechanic creator and joined the ranks of the biochemist-mystic Alchemists, selling medicines and perfumes to the city's middle class. Sedia's novel captures the surreal strangeness of a city whose power structure is about to be toppled, and her focus on Mattie's relationship with her creator allows her to grapple with the tiny power struggles inherent in all human relationships - especially those between men and women.
20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade  
The Baroque Cycle, by Neal Stephenson (HarperCollins)
Love it or hate it, you have to admit that Stephenson's mammoth historical science series changed the way we think about science fiction - and managed to blow away both science fiction fans and the masses who made these novels bestsellers. Like Cryptnomicon, the Baroque Cycle blends the facts of science history with intense, intellectually-challenging adventures that make you feel smarter even when you whoop, "Dude, that was awesome!" It's a retelling of the revolutions in science and rationality during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Of the first novel in the series, the New York Times says:
Given the apparent depth of Stephenson's research, it seems clear that the anachronisms with which he seeds the novel are deliberate. Some are playful, as when a guard throws Daniel a letter with the words, ''You've got mail,'' or when the 17th-century Venetians succumb to ''Canal Rage'': ''They insist that gondoliers never used to scream at each other in this way. To them it is a symptom of the excessively rapid pace of change in the modern world, and they make an analogy to poisoning by quicksilver, which has turned so many alchemists into shaky, irritable lunatics.''

20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade 
 Confessions of Max Tivoli, by Andrew Sean Greer (Picador)
Very likely the true inspiration for the recent film The Case of Benjamin Button, this bestselling novel explores the life of Max Tivoli, a man who is growing younger - and his relationship with the woman he loves. Bookslut describes the novel like this:
With nothing known about his medical condition and no name for what he is, Max can only look to the few historical instances of cases similar to his — a pair of twins born in France as well as the son of a Viennese merchant. These bits of "research" lend a credibility to the story, making this fictional memoir seem all the more based on a factual account. Greer writes this story as if it were nonfiction — the actual diary of a man who wishes only to have his unique story known. "I burst into the world," he writes, "as if from the other end of life, and the days since then have been ones of physical reversion, of erasing the wrinkles in my hair, bringing younger muscle to my arms and dew to my skin, growing tall and then shrinking into the hairless, harmless boy who scrawls this pale confession." These are Max's experiences, regrets, and lost hopes, once found in a dusty, old attic — the efforts of an old man caught in a young boy's body, committing his life to literature.

20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade  
Down And Out In the Magic Kingdom, by Cory Doctorow (Tor)
Doctorow burst into the mainstream with this hit novel about warring factions in Disneyland: Those who are trying to preserve the ancient amusement park from being made virtual, and those who are happy to see it digitized. It was also, famously, the novel where Doctorow invented the term "whuffie," a term that refers to cultural capital - or, as South Park would later put it, "internet dollars." As Nisi Shawl said in the Seattle Times:
Even when science fiction is based on solid predictions, it can demonstrate the pinwheeling pyrotechnics of a first-class fireworks display. A longtime observer of life online, Doctorow depicts a cashless economy based on the constant, automatic tracking of public reputations by a nameless online utility. Referred to as "The Bitchun Society" (a la President Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society"), the dominant lifestyle confers immortality (of a sort) on all participants. All one has to do is periodically record one's brain patterns — to be imprinted on force-grown clones in the event of an unwanted death. (No charge for this service; there's no charge for anything, as long as one maintains a high enough reputation.) It's that trick that allows hero Jules to investigate his own murder.

20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade

The Execution Channel, by Ken MacLeod (Tor)
One of the superlative MacLeod's most critically-acclaimed and internationally popular novels, it's the tale of a near-future anti-terrorist dystopia. Known for his complicated political writing, MacLeod spun a tale that captured the public's interest, and the attention of political subcultures, too.. The Socialist Review said of the book:
More spy thriller than science fiction, The Execution Channel is full of the paranoia and the obsessive zealotry of security services in a world where power struggles between states obscure all else. The story centres on James Travis, an IT engineer. His daughter, Roisin, is part of the anti-war movement, and his son, Alec, is in the army. Despite taking neither position, Travis is headhunted for French intelligence, ostensibly due to having made the statement: "I just hate the Yanks." When a nuclear explosion destroys a US controlled airbase in Scotland Roisin is witness to it as part of a peace camp outside. . . The Travis family and US conspiracy theorist and blogger Mark Dark [try] to make sense of the events amid lies and disinformation.
20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade

Glasshouse, by Charles Stross (Ace)
Stross produced a lot of great fiction in the 2000s, but Glasshouse, a novel about far-future gaming, espionage, war, and masculinity, was a standout. io9 chose it as one of the "science fiction novels that can change your life," and we said:
Stross has said he had the Stanford prison experiments in mind when he wrote this far-future tale of drifters who sign up for a "glasshouse" experiment to recreate the twentieth century in an isolated space habitat. They'll be arbitrarily assigned genders, and forced to engage in certain kinds of conformist behaviors for points. Our heroes, ill-at-ease in the genders they've been given, figure out that there's a deeper plot at work and must try to outsmart the glasshouse prison game while fighting mind viruses that can reorganize your whole consciousness. With unexpected twists and turns, this book is the very best mindfuck you've ever had.

20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade

Harry Potter Series, by JK Rowling (Bloomsbury)
Like Durham's Acacia series, the Harry Potter books challenged conventional wisdom about what should happen in a fantasy series. At the same time, Rowling helped revive traditional fantasy storytelling for millions of people across the world. And she gave grownups permission to love young adult writing again. Of the Harry Potter series, Entertainment Weekly's Tina Jordan says:
I'm amazed, when I sit back, at the sheer, immensely complicated arc of the story; Rowling has always said she had the entire seven-book series plotted out from the very beginning, and it's clear she did. I'm stunned at the way she managed to tie up so many of the plot strands, even while weaving in new ones (and while introducing new characters too, albeit no one very important). Having just reread the first six books, I now realize how many small clues were strewn throughout (and how few I managed to pick up). Yet despite the complicated plots and subplots, despite the effortless allusions to mythology and classic tales . . . Rowling winds up her tale with a stunningly beautiful simplicity.

20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury)
Another fantasy writer who completely transformed the genre in the past decade is Clarke, whose Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is both a literary classic and a gorgeous, smart take on the thorny relationship between the kingdoms of Europe and the kingdom of Faerie. The Washington Post reviewed the bestseller like this:
[Clarke's] antiquarian romance ... resembles Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, Lawrence Norfolk's Lempriere's Dictionary and John Crowley's Aegypt sequence — deeply learned novels that reimagine the nature of history. For Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is at heart a book about the present's relationship to the past. In its pages Clarke takes the accepted fabric of English culture and inserts just a single new thread: that during the Renaissance, magic actually worked. Alas, the actual ability to perform magic gradually faded away, even as the centuries-long reign of the powerful magician-sovereign of the North — John Uskglass, the Raven King — passed into the popular mind as a lost golden age.

20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade 
Look to Windward, by Iain M. Banks (Orbit)
Look to Windward is a novel of galactic war and personal loss, human revenge and AI regret. It's also one of the most moving, intelligent novels in Banks' legendary Culture series. The UK Guardian describes the premise of the novel:
Eight centuries after the Culture fought off its greatest challenge, a war that raged for 50 years and destroyed entire solar systems, the glow from one of the exploding stars has just reached [the orbital world] Masaq'. "Tonight," as one visitor puts it, "you dance by the light of ancient mistakes." And now another chicken is coming home to roost. Billions have died because of the Culture's meddling in the neighbouring civilisation of Chel, where it set off a civil war, and some of the Chelgrians have decided to take revenge. Their instrument is a soldier called Quilan, who is sent to Masaq' on a mission that is a mystery even to him. He is one of the misguided yet decent villains who are a feature of these tales: complicit in a planned "gigadeathcrime", he is still honourable and courageous. As the moment of reckoning approaches, his memories take us back to the days before the war, when his existence still had meaning and his wife was alive.

20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade

The Mount, by Carol Emshwiller (Small Beer Press)
Poetic and intense, The Mount is a deceptively simple story about humans revolting against a group of alien conquerers who love humanity - as pets they can ride on. Here's what io9 said about it:
Carol Emshwiller's quiet, disturbing novel The Mount is about what happens when small alien invaders called Hoots take over the planet and begin breeding humans for transportation. Hoots have weak legs that fit perfectly around human necks, as well as superior weapons that easily convert the disobedient to dust. What's compelling about this beautifully-written novel, though, is that it's no simple "aliens oppress humans" tale. It explores what happens when humans get used to, and even enjoy, their servitude.

20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade

Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood (Anchor)
A controversial story of virus apocalypse caused by corporate biotech run amok, this novel dazzled mainstream readers with its persuasive vision of the near-future. It was also a strong entry in science fiction's biopunk subgenre, a cautionary tale of what happens to so-called progress when piloted by greed. Said the New York Times:
Atwood's scenario gains great power and relevance from our current scientific preoccupation with bioengineering, cloning, tissue regeneration and agricultural hybrids, and she strikes a note of warning as unambiguous as Mary Shelley's in ''Frankenstein.'' This is the intention of the novel: to goad us to thought by making us screen in the mind a powerful vision of competence run amok. What Atwood could not have intended, and what is no less alarming and exponentially more urgent, is the resonance between her rampaging plague scenario and the recent global outbreak of SARS. Moving from book to newspaper, or newspaper to book, the reader realizes, with a jolt, how the threshold of difference has been lowered in recent months. The force of Atwood's imagining grows in direct proportion to our rising anxiety level. And so does the importance of her implicit caution.

20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade

Pattern Recognition, by William Gibson (Putnam)
Gibson reinvented himself in the 2000s as a writer of technothrillers that feel like science fiction despite being set in the present - or, in the case of Pattern Recognition, one year before the book's publication. An enthralling mix of Gibson's favorite obsessions - branding, computer technologies, and artisanal smuggling networks - the book is also a moving portrait of the emotional ties forged between fans of an obscure set of viral videos online. In Wired, Rudy Rucker wrote:
What Gibson gives us is an international spy thriller comparable to the slightly skewed tales of Jonathan Franzen or David Foster Wallace. His story's central McGuffin is a fragmentary, workstation-rendered romance movie known simply as The Footage. It consists of 100-odd supernally beautiful snippets of video that someone has anonymously posted on the Web. A rabid online cult has grown around the flick, and a Belgian advertising exec (with the improbable name of Hubertus Bigend) hires Cayce Pollard to find the maker. Bigend's goal: Tap into The Footage's primo street cred strategy for profit . . . Gibson pulls you in with big ideas that make solid material for word-of-mouth proselytizing. But Pattern Recognition's essential quality is the sensual pleasure of its language. Gibson has a knack for choosing - or coining - the right phrase. With a poet's touch, he tiles words into wonderful mosaics. An expressway is "Blade Runnered by half a century of use and pollution." The Tokyo skyline is "a floating jumble of electric Lego, studded with odd shapes you somehow wouldn't see elsewhere, as if you'd need special Tokyo add-ons to build this at home."

20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade

Perdido Street Station, by China Miéville (Del Rey)
The first of Miéville's stunning New Crobuzon novels, Perdido Street Station is a tour-de-force of worldbuilding and complicated, character-driven drama. Strange Horizons described the book like this:
New Crobuzon is full of alienated individuals, social groups, and species; Miéville's main characters live on the margins of society, either by choice, or social pressure, or both. Identities are fluid, allegiances shift suddenly; spies and moles infest the city and its underworld. Betrayal is commonplace, and trust is at a premium. The main character, Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, embodies this tension. (Isaac — the sacrificial son? Isaac Newton? Both?) A marginalized scientist pursuing his own quixotic line of research — the "crisis engine" — he is also socially outcast by virtue of his romantic relationship with a xenian, a khepri artist named Lin. The khepri are partly insectile, partly anthropoid, and Lin, too, is an outcast from her society — an alienated artist who has broken away from her brood in pursuit of a more individualized art. Isaac and Lin's relationship leaves them vulnerable to blackmail and manipulation, and makes their lives in an already hazardous society even more precarious. The book's action begins with the appearance of yet another marginal, outcast character, a garuda (avian-derived) named Yagharek, who has been stripped of his wings by his species as punishment for crime; he commissions Isaac to help him regain his ability to fly. In the course of his research Isaac inadvertently unleashes. . . well, something Not At All Nice . . . The theme of the meaning and nature of consciousness, sentience, and rationality underlies the frantic action in the malevolent city. . . Perdido Street Station is an impressively imaginative novel from a promising new writer.

20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade

Rainbows End, by Vernor Vinge (Tor)
A masterpiece of plausible futuristic technologies, Rainbows End is also a very personal story of a man who has recovered from Alzheimers - only to discover that his once-magnificent mind is now healthy but average. At the UK Guardian, Wendy Grossman wrote:
Set in 2025, the characters are surrounded by logical extensions of today's developing technology. Wearable computing is commonplace. Tagging and ubiquitous networked sensors mean you can look at the landscape with your choice of overlay and detail. People send each other silent messages and Google for information within conversations with participants who may be physically present or might be remote projections. One character's projection is hijacked and becomes the front for three people. The owner of another remote intelligence is unknown. Several continents' top intelligence operatives try to solve a smart biological attack that infects a test population with the willingness to obey orders. Vinge makes two opening assumptions: no grand physical disaster occurs, and today's computing and communications trends continue.

20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade

Stories of Your Life And Others, by Ted Chiang (Orb)
Chiang is one of the legends of the science fiction world, often hailed as the best short story writer of his generation. With a keen interest in science, and a healthy love for magic, Chiang writes stories that are both gorgeous and profound. SFSite enthuses:
Stories of Your Life and Others abounds with examples of why Ted Chiang's stories have continued to be award winners. From "Understand", which both plays homage to and expands upon Daniel Keyes' classic "Flowers For Algernon" to "Story Of Your Life," in which a linguist confronts the relationship between language and reality, it will not take readers new to these stories very long to appreciate their quality and beauty. Science fiction has always depended on writers who work best at shorter lengths to continue to examine new ideas and push the boundaries of the field. In the decade plus a few years since he first started publishing, Ted Chiang has shown himself to be more than up to that task.
20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade 
Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger (MacAdam/Cage Books)
Critically-acclaimed, and this year released as a feature film, this is the tale of a man who suffers from a rare time-traveling condition. The question Niffenegger asks is how such a man could ever have a meaningful relationship, when he's constantly uprooted from the present and propelled to different eras. USA Today said:
Niffenegger, despite her moving, razor-edged prose, doesn't claim to be a romantic. She writes with the unflinching yet detached clarity of a war correspondent standing at the sidelines of an unfolding battle. She possesses a historian's eye for contextual detail. This is no romantic idyll. The ability to revisit one's past doesn't necessarily illuminate one's understanding of events. And knowing the future is not particularly a good thing, Niffenegger's story implies. This is what makes her story both compelling and unsettling. Time traveler Henry is limited in his capacity to change himself, let alone past or future events. His freakish condition brings Clare into his life, but it also keeps them from being resolutely happy; he never knows when he will disappear, and she never knows when - or in what shape - he'll return.

20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade 
Tooth and Claw, by Jo Walton (Tor)
Winner of the World Fantasy Award, Tooth and Claw is an alternative history masterpiece from an author acclaimed for her facility with narrative time-tweaking. Satirical and scathing by turns, Tooth and Claw is a nineteenth century novel of manners in which dragons are the dominant species on Earth. Here's what io9 said about it:
Influenced by Victorian writer Anthony Trollope, Tooth And Claw is about the fate of two sisters whose father dies before they are married off. They cannot inherit his caverns, and he's left them almost no money. One goes to live with their married sister, whose husband is a cruel land owner who eats the children of his servants. The other goes to live with their brother, a pastor and new husband who lives in the caves of a very wealthy woman whose son takes a shine to her. Walton manages to translate Victorian details into dragon life, commenting on what is fashionable in cave decoration and describing the dangerous machinations of dragon bureaucrats. There's even a Middlemarch-esque subplot where one of the sisters gets involved with a movement to better the lives of the poor. And of course it's a romance – even dragons get a happy ending. The best part about Tooth And Claw is that it isn't just a simple parody. Certainly it is very witty, but it is also a fascinating thought experiment in which the most savage creatures of our imagination turn out to be the very best society that 19th century civilization has to offer.

20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade 
World War Z, by Max Brooks (Crown)
A gamechanger in the horror/scifi world that hit just as the zombie craze was reaching manic intensity, Brooks' novel is written in a disturbing, satirical documentary style. The Onion AV Club said:
Brooks' acknowledgments conclude with thanks to historian Studs Terkel, zombie visionary George Romero, and John Hackett, who in 1978 wrote a book called The Third World War: August 1985. And he takes all three influences seriously. In fact, Brooks treats everything about his subject seriously. While that may sound like a ridiculous way to approach a book about a zombie apocalypse, he doesn't miss an opportunity to let his readers hear echoes of contemporary woes in the moans of the undead. When an outbreak of zombie-ism occurs in the near-future of Brooks' novel, it takes the world aback, serving as a stand-in for pandemic scares, Katrina, tsunamis, terrorism-basically any of the recent catastrophes that have reminded us how fragile civilization is beneath the surface.

10 Weirdest Urban Ecosystems On Earth

10 Weirdest Urban Ecosystems On Earth

Cities are havens for weirdness. From communities built around garbage to dogs that ride the subway, urban environments have fostered all manner of weird patterns. Here are the 10 freakiest urban ecosystems on the planet.
The other day, we showed you the Kowloon Walled City — a bizarre, super-dense development that arose as an accident of politics and urban ingenuity. You can't visit the Walled City because it was torn down in the 1990s — but here are 10 other urban ecosystems that still exist. They range from animal life adapting to cities, to developers gone mad, to cities clawing their way towards a new state of being. They include a few urban environments that no longer support people, but still remain intact.
10 Weirdest Urban Ecosystems On EarthMoscow's Metro Dogs:
Stray dogs in Moscow are nothing new — they've been around since the 19th century. But around 500 dogs have started living in the Metro (subway) stations, begging for scraps from passengers. The dogs have developed a keen instinct for which Muscovites are likely to feed them and which ones to avoid — an important survival trait since one Moscow woman stabbed a Metro dog a few years ago. And instead of the strongest or fiercest dog being the Alpha dog of the Metro dog packs, the smartest one generally is, according to experts who've studied them. Not only that, but some of the Metro dogs have learned to ride the subway on their own, apparently recognizing stations based on the conductor calling out their names, plus sense of smell — and this lets them add multiple stations to their territories. They even have their own website. For other examples of weird urban animals, check out the baboon gangs of Cape Town and the coyotes of Los Angeles. Photo by Maxim Marmur for Financial Times.
10 Weirdest Urban Ecosystems On EarthSubTropolis:
Many cities have weird subterranean structures — Paris and Rome have catacombs, Odessa has miles of weird tunnels that are full of human remains, smuggler gear, leftover war stuff and people's random attempts to grow magic mushrooms — but only Kansas City has succeeded in turning its subterranean infrastructure into tons of office space and businesses. Some 90 percent of the world's "subsurface office space" is in Kansas City, in tunnels carved out by limestone miners, including 55 businesses in SubTropolis. And many denizens of SubTropolis believe it's the wave of the future, because its environmental impact is much lower. It costs way less to heat and cool offices deep underground, and you don't need as much energy-intensive materials like steel and aluminum. The limestone keeps things cool and dry, so it's perfect for storage. And a whole SubTropolis culture has developed, in which people talk about getting a pillar instead of getting a corner office. Image by Kenny Johnson for The Atlantic.
10 Weirdest Urban Ecosystems On EarthThames Town
This quaint English village, housing 10,000 people, is just 20 miles outside the center of Shanghai, and a new rail system puts it just 15 minutes from downtown, as part of a rapidly expanding Greater Shanghai. Thames Town was designed to look exactly like a bucolic English town, complete with red brick buildings, a sandstone church, a village green, a market square, and a pub. But it's not a theme park - developers insist it's a real residential community. As the Independent wrote:
Residents can sip their bitter in a traditional English pub, "The Thames Town", as children scamper across the medieval market square to a bilingual school, while red-brick warehouses form a commercial area on the waterfront. Developers are targeting British companies such as Tesco and Sainsbury to add to the authentic high-street feel so the town's...10,000 residents can shop in true British style. There are sporting facilities and everything a town of its size should have.
You can watch a Youtube video of the place here. Photo by Dave Wyatt.
10 Weirdest Urban Ecosystems On EarthDharavi
If you saw the movie Slumdog Millionaire, then you've already seen this Mumbai slum, which occupies 0.67 square miles but houses between 600,000 and 1 million people, smack dab in the middle of greater Mumbai. The tightly packed neighborhood has a strong sense of community, and a booming economy, as the Guardian reports:
Dharavi may be one of the world's largest slums, but it is by far its most prosperous - a thriving business centre propelled by thousands of micro-entrepreneurs who have created an invaluable industry - turning around the discarded waste of Mumbai's 19 million citizens. A new estimate by economists of the output of the slum is as impressive as it seems improbable: £700m a year.
According to National Geographic, the slum's two main streets are called 90 Feet Road and 60 Feet Road, after their widths — even though 60 Feet Road is actually wider. Residents have jury-rigged access to things like water and plumbing, but there's only one toilet per 60 people and everybody uses the local creek. There's a plan underway to redevelop the area and build fancy new housing for some — but not all — of its residents. Photo by Jonas Bendikssen for National Geographic.
10 Weirdest Urban Ecosystems On EarthThe Gowanus Canal:
This Brooklyn, NY canal is one of the foulest places on Earth, and it was recently named a federal Superfund site. As housewife Eda Figueroa told the New York Daily News, "Any fish that goes in there dies of poison or if it lives, it becomes a zombie." But the canal's extreme pollution, including cancer-causing agents, may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Two City College professors, the Haque sisters, have discovered evidence that the canal's micro-organisms may have adapted to survive in such a toxic environment. Explains Nasreen Haque, "Despite the canal's toxicity, which includes cancer-causing chemical agents, microorganisms are surviving by adapting to the harsh environment there that shouldn't survive at all. Working in synergy, they seem to sense if nutrients are available; they exchange genes and secrete substances — some of which operate like antibiotics. I believe these substances may provide clues that lead to the development of new drugs to combat human disease." The canal's evolved organisms could provide the keys to curing Alzheimer's, heart disease or AIDS. Photo by Damon Winter for the New York Times.
10 Weirdest Urban Ecosystems On EarthCentralia, PA
In 1962, sanitation workers in this town began setting fire to some garbage, near a disused mine opening. The fire spread to a rich underground seam of coal, igniting a blaze that has been going for decades and could continue for up to 250 years according to some experts. The fire expanded and mutated like an amoeba. At first it was nice — the town's residents no longer had to shovel snow off their sidewalks and tomatoes grew in the middle of winter. But then trees started dying and after a child nearly fell down a sinkhole full of carbon monoxide in 1981, the town was evacuated. Now, only a few stubborn residents remain despite efforts to evacuate them. (And rumor has it this town was the inspiration for the video game Silent Hill.) Other urban developments abandoned due to disasters include Chernobyl and the nearby town Prypiat. Top image by Ray Barnett, via Offroaders.
10 Weirdest Urban Ecosystems On EarthManshiyat Naser/Garbage City
This area of Cairo, inhabited largely by a community of Coptic Christains known as the Zabbaleen, is completely packed with trash. But it's not necessarily due to a failure of public services or slumlike conditions. It's an ecosystem created by economics. Many of the Zabbaleen make a living sorting the city's trash. People live and work alongside the garbage, and every space not occupied by garbage is taken up with livestock or makeshift gardens. Some families had as many as 100 garbage-eating pigs living in their homes, until the Egyptian government launched a new pig-slaughtering policy. The government also recently privatized garbage collection, giving the contract to foreign companies — which turned right around and outsourced the job to the Zabbaleen, who are getting less money than before. Image at top of post by Helmacron on Flickr. Image above by Bas Princen.
10 Weirdest Urban Ecosystems On EarthGunkanjima
Mitsubishi bought a reef and built it out into an artificial island, a kilometer long, so the company would have a base for undersea coal mining operations in the area. And for many years, it was the world's most densely populated place, with 85,500 people per square kilometer in 1959 — and 135,000 people per square kilometer in the densest areas. The name, Gunkanjima, is Japanese for "Battleship Island," because the artificial island resembles a battleship when seen from the ocean. The island was completely closed down in 1975, when the coal ran out, and now it's quite possibly the world's largest ghost town. It looks like a dark fortress, its shadowy walls looming like death. Image by Saiga Yuji, via BLDGBLOG.
10 Weirdest Urban Ecosystems On EarthPetra
Anyone who has seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade will recognize Petra. Built as the capital of the Nabataeans around the 6th century BC, it was a central stopping point for several trade routes that ran through the area. Built in a rift valley, the city was virtually impregnable and also had the advantage of a steady, well-maintained water supply, thanks to underground cisterns that captured every drop of rainwater. The advent of sea-based trade sent the city into rapid decline under Roman rule in the first couple of centuries AD. The city's remarkably well-preserved and restored, and a burgeoning urban area has sprung up on its outskirts to service the tourists who visit it. You can take a virtual tour here Image by
10 Weirdest Urban Ecosystems On EarthThe Snow Castle Of Kemi
Every year, the town of Kemi in Finland rebuilds its snow castle, including restaurants, an art gallery, a hotel and a chapel. It's believed to be the largest snow castle in the world, and its architecture changes every year. Typically, the castle has occupied between 13,000 and 20,000 square meters, with its tallest tower typically being 20 meters tall. Finnish power-metal band Sonata Arctica performed in the castle in 2007. Here are some polar bears made out of ice guarding a tunnel inside the castle:
10 Weirdest Urban Ecosystems On Earth
Additional reporting/writing by Kelly Faircloth.

Five ancient technologies that were ahead of their times
By Ed Grabianowski
Jun 3, 2010 4:48 PM

Five ancient technologies that were ahead of their times

Sometimes archaeologists find artifacts so mind-blowing they seem like evidence of lost civilizations or alien visitors. Which ones are misinterpretations or hoaxes, and which are the real thing?
Reliable evidence of startlingly advanced ancient technology is few and far between. The Antikythera Mechanism, which we've discussed previously, is the crown jewel of astonishing artifacts. Beyond that, discoveries of ancient tech become a mixed bag.
1). Hero's Steam Engine. Hero, also called Heron, was an inventor, scientist and engineer who lived in Alexandria and taught at the legendary library there in the first century CE. He published several books of engineering principles and inventions. In Pneumatica, he described dozens of devices, including the aeolipile, or "Hero's Engine." A water-filled metal ball with opposing bent tubes would spin under the force of steam ejected under pressure when heated. Although more a proof-of-concept than a useful tool (replicas were popular in the 16th and 17th centuries), some of Hero's other inventions made use of the steam engine's principles to raise and lower stage curtains. His ideas using automated statues could be considered the earliest work in robotics.
Five ancient technologies that were ahead of their times 2). The Ancient Airplanes of Egypt and South America. Two separate claims seem to suggest the same astonishing conclusion: ancient peoples of Egypt and South America both had flight technology thousands of years before modern humans developed it. In South America, the idea is based on jewelry produced by the Chimú culture that existed in what is now Colombia about 2,000 years ago. Some of the small pendants and ornaments appear to depict human-made aircraft, including delta wing shapes, tail fins and even a cockpit. Amazing! However, considering that all the jewelry produced by the Chimú takes the form of stylized birds and insects, Occam's Razor suggests that the ornament maker happened to carve a bird shape that looks sort of like an airplane to a modern human.
The Egyptian airplane is a similar case. A wooden falcon found in Saqqara was later reported by Egyptian doctor Khalil Messiha to have exceptional flight properties. Messiha's claims were inflated and distorted over the years until the wooden toy was held as an example of perfect aerodynamic form, inexplicable for such an ancient culture. Digging a little deeper, however, reveals that the bird carving closely resembles wind vanes mounted on the masts of Egyptian riverboats, and that the design in fact violates many aerodynamic principles. Messiha's original claim that it could "sail in the air for a few yards when thrown by hand" is likely true. So will a brick.
Five ancient technologies that were ahead of their times 3). Klerksdorp Spheres. When miners near the South African town of Klerksdorp started finding small metallic spheres that seemed to have symmetrical grooves machined into them, they thought it was weird. When the spheres were noticed to have been encased in pyrophillite that was a couple of billion years old, some people immediately jumped on board the Time Travelers/Ancient Aliens/Creationist bandwagon. Many of the reported facts do seem amazing: that they are perfectly spherical; that they are made of an unknown metal that doesn't exist on Earth; that they spin around when left alone.
Of course, none of these things are actually true. Klerksdorp Spheres are the result of concretions, geologic formations that fill air bubbles in the overlying strata. They aren't perfectly spherical at all. Some of them take the form of multiple spheres stuck together, and others are more like discs. As for the mysterious material? Most of them are made of various forms of iron. The spinning thing is just pure bunk. Of course, the spheres are unique among the objects on this list in that they come from a natural phenomenon rather than being human-made at all. That hasn't stopped humans from using them to propel their agendas, though.
Five ancient technologies that were ahead of their times
4). The Coso Artifact. Wallace Lane, Virginia Maxey and Mike Mikesell found a geode in California in 1961. Inside the apparently 500,000 year old rock formation they found a bizarre ceramic and metal device. What really seems amazing about the Coso Artifact is that, as far as anyone could tell by scanning and slicing into it, it appeared to be a spark plug encased in ancient rock.
What's not so amazing is that the rock wasn't an ancient geode, it was an accretion of clay, rock and rust of a far more recent vintage. When scans of the artifact were examined in the late 1990s by the president of the Spark Plug Collectors of America, an astonishing, incredible, unbelievable thing was revealed: people actually collect spark plugs. Also, the weird device known as the Coso Artifact was manufactured by Champion in the 1920s. It was a spark plug. This has made it somewhat less useful in Creationists' arguments against evolution, but they'll surely find something else shortly.
Five ancient technologies that were ahead of their times 5). The Baghdad Battery. So far, most of these ancient techs have been frauds or pseudoscientific misinterpretations. Did ancient people ever actually create cool advanced technology? How about functional electric batteries capable of producing nearly a volt of power each? Yes, the famous Baghdad Batteries (top image) found in the 1930s in Iraq really work. Each battery (about a dozen were found) consists of a 5-inch clay jar. Inside is a copper tube wrapped around an iron rod. Acidic residue was found at the bottom of the pot, and an asphalt stopper sealed the top.
They worked in much the same way as modern batteries, just not as efficiently. An acidic liquid placed at the bottom would transfer electrons from one metal to another, creating voltage at the "terminal" poking through the asphalt plug. Numerous replications have been built and tested, using lemon juice, vinegar or grape juice as the electrolytic fluid. The Mythbusters even took a shot at it (result: Plausible).
No one is totally sure what ancient people used batteries for. There are a few theories. My favorite revolves around the discovery of ornaments that appear to have undergone electroplating, which uses a small current to evenly apply molecules of a substance (such as gold) to an object. It's possible there was some kind of medical/therapeutic use as well. The Mythbusters demonstrated the "experience the power of the divine" theory, rigging a religious idol so that true believers and non-believers alike would get a potent but non-fatal jolt. Were ancient priests resorting to parlor tricks to drum up faith? I guess they didn't have mud-encased spark plugs to fall back on.
"Riddle of 'Baghdad's Batteries.'" BBC News.
"The Coso Artifact." Bad Archaeology.
"Model Airplane?"
"The Pneumatics of Hero of Alexandria." University of Rochester.
"The Klerksdorp Spheres." Associated Content.
"The Coso Artifact." Reports of The National Center for Science Education.
"Model aeroplanes from South America." Bad Archaeology.

 25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watch
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watch

Science fiction has rocked cinemas for a century, and the genre has produced many undisputed classics during that time. But which movies are essential viewing for anyone interested in the genre? We broke down the 25 must-watch science fiction films.
Methodology: We looked at a few different criteria, including overall cinematic excellence. We wanted to include films that were important to the development of the genre, and which had helped to raise the overall level of awesomeness in science fiction films. We also wanted to represent as many different types of films as possible. And we looked for films that had an original concept, or which were the first of their kind in some way.
But most of all, we looked for films that would represent science fiction well to a new audience and totally rock a neophyte's brain.
Obviously, a list like this can never be 100 percent definitive, and we may have left your favorite movie of all time out — feel free to disagree and post your own lists in comments!
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchMetropolis (1927, dir. Fritz Lang) This film is one of the most formative works of science fiction of all time, and its imagery remains potent nearly 80 years later. And now that there's a fully restored version finally hitting cinemas — for the first time ever, outside of Germany — you can finally appreciate Fritz Lang's vision in its entirety. With its uniquely weird storyline involving a worker's uprising and a woman's robot duplicate, Metropolis remains a source of fascination — but it's also the source of much of the work that comes after it.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchThe Day The Earth Stood Still (1951, dir. Robert Wise) The 1950s were the era of sensational movies about aliens and monsters threatening our way of life — but only The Day The Earth Stood Still dares to use that framework to make us question that way of life. Klaatu's visit to us, and the warning he delivers, still resonate today. With its thought-provoking premise, this film won praise from such luminaries as Arthur C. Clarke, who put it on his own list of the best science fiction films.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchForbidden Planet (1956, dir. Fred M. Wilcox) A formative classic of space opera, this is said to be the first movie to take place on another planet, in deep space. It's often described as a retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest, but Forbidden Planet also manages to do something unique, with a monster that comes from within and its secret relationship to the mysterious scourge that wiped out the super-advanced Krell race, 200,000 years ago. Like TDTES, this film examines our own tendency towards self-destruction, but it delves into the psychology of human self-destructiveness more.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchPlanet Of The Apes (1968, dir. Franklin J. Schaffner) And then there's this version of humanity's encounter with the "other" — Charleton Heston is the indignant everyman, thrust into a world where humans are little better than beasts and apes are ascendant. With their stinking paws. This film launched a whole genre of films in which a lone human (sometimes Heston again) copes with an inhuman who have inherited our planet and transformed it in their own image. But this film is still arguably the best.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watch2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, dir. Stanley Kubrick) A total departure from everything that came before, this film benefited immensely from Kubrick's unique eye as well as Arthur C. Clarke's mixture of hard science fiction and interest in transcendance. It's almost hard to list everything this film did first, and better than anybody else since: A compelling, realistic description of life in space? A depiction of an artificial intelligence going mad? A huge mystery that spans from the dawn of humanity into our far future? Those are just the building blocks for a film that's as mind-blowing and rewarding of close attention today as it was in 1968. It's also given us some of the genre's most quotable dialogue.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchAlien (1979, dir. Ridley Scott) This film didn't just launch Scott and star Sigourney Weaver — it also launched a whole genre of movies about our terrifying encounters with creatures beyond our own imagination. Scott merged space opera, Westerns and horror in a way that pretty much nobody had done before, and the result remains vivid today. With a sharp script by Dan O'Bannon and note-perfect direction by Scott, this is a master class on how to do creepiness and a compelling story in the sterility of deep space.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchStar Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980, dir. Irvin Kerschner). This is the first of three sequels that came out in the early 1980s that were better than the films they followed, but which also innovated in a way that their precursors didn't. Not that the original Star Wars wasn't innovative — it was, in many ways, including its breathtaking effects, its fresh take on Western and Samurai themes, and its exhilerating approach to space opera. But Empire Strikes Back took all of the formal brilliance of Star Wars and married it to a story that feels truly epic. Luke Skywalker's journey in the film, from near-death on Hoth to confronting his own darkness on Dagobah to learning the truth on Bespin — this is a real voyage of discovery. You couldn't skip any of those steps and have it still work. All our other heroes struggle with tragedy and adversity — especially Han Solo — and it makes them deeper and more magnetic as characters. This isn't just the best Star Wars movie, it's one of the most essential movies, in any genre.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchMad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981, dir. George Miller) And then there's this — the first Mad Max film is brutal and awesome, and well worth watching again, especially if you've only seen the dubbed version. But where Mad Max shows the breakdown of Max and the civilization he lives in, this sequel shows the aftermath, and becomes an indelible classic of post-apocalyptic films in the process. The final huge convoy scene, with its demolition derby feeling, has influenced everything that came after. And with "peak oil" once again being a hot topic, this film's story of barbarians struggling over the last oil supplies has a new resonance.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchStar Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982, dir. Nicholas Meyer) Like Empire Strikes Back, this film rises above its status as just another installment in a big, commercial saga. You could show this movie to someone who had never seen any Trek, and it would still resonate on a hundred different levels. James Kirk is the ultimate neophile, who always wants to go forward and rediscover new worlds, but he's been doing it too long and now his past is chasing him everywhere he goes. He's got a son and an arch-enemy that he didn't know he had, and the twist — that the ultimate weapon is also a source of renewal that can literally create life where none existed before — sets up one of the most bittersweet endings in movie history. And then there are the space battles, which are totally different than Star Wars and yet indelibly awesome in their own right.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchBlade Runner (1982, dir. Ridley Scott) I think Scott's the only director who gets represented twice on this list, and with good reason — Blade Runner is just as essential as Alien, in its own way. It's still just as visually unique now as it was when it came out, and it defined the look and feel of cyberpunk as well as urban dystopia. And you can't even talk about science fiction noir without delving into Blade Runner. And like many of the other films on this list, Blade Runner looks at what it means to be human by examining our interactions with the "other" — but the line gets so blurry, and the Replicants so fascinating, that the end result is something you have to chew over in the hours after watching.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchE.T. (1982, dir. Steven Spielberg) A lot of people may hate on this film, but it changed the way we see first contact with aliens, and E.T. was one of the first really compelling aliens ever to appear on the big screen. E.T. takes the sense of wonder from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and makes it more intimate and personal. This is also the movie in which Spielberg's obessions with fatherhood, children and discovery resonate the best. But also, from a technical standpoint, it's an amazing achievement — rewatch it sometime, and look at how everything is presented from a child's eye-level, and the mom is the only adult whose face we see in the first two acts. Spielberg uses lighting, camera angles and dialog to make a film that's not just about childhood, but told from a child's point of view.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchTron (1982, dir. Steven Lisberger) It's hard to understate how much this film changed the genre of science fiction — it's arguably the first movie to use computer generated effects, as Lisberger hung out at MIT and learned from the techies there — but it's also still one of the most thrilling depictions of virtual worlds on the big screen. (Compare Tron to Lawnmower Man to see how much more exciting and believable the earlier film is.) With the theme of fighting against the fascistic Master Control Program, Lisberger manages to update science fiction's longstanding interest in social change, but makes it fun and exciting rather than dreary and preachy.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchBack To The Future (1985, dir. Robert Zemeckis) It's shocking how few truly great science fiction comedy films there are — I wanted to include Galaxy Quest on this list really badly — but BTTF would still tower above the rest even if there were tons. It's clever and yet never stops being about Marty McFly and his family. It manages to come up with a coherent theory of time travel, in which you can rewrite the past and the effects are seen nearly instantaneously (luckily, Marty is only missing like an arm and a leg before the timestream rights itself) and never becomes inconsistent. And it's surprisingly daring, jumping feet first into the tricky waters of time-traveling incest. Plus it's one of those science fiction movies that everybody, even genre-hating snobs, will admit to loving.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchBrazil (1985, dir. Terry Gilliam) And 1985's other classic film is also a comedy... well, sort of. It's possibly the darkest, bleakest, most horrifying comedy you'll ever see, with freakish plastic surgery, a man being condemned to death because of a typographical error, a lecture on ducting and a vigilante plumber. This is my favorite movie of all time, and probably the best thing to come out of Monty Python after the television series. This film probably couldn't get made today, and it definitely wouldn't get made in Hollywood, which tried to neuter it in U.S. cinemas. A subversive masterpiece, this film changed what a lot of people thought was possible in dark comedy as well as dystopian film-making.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchRoboCop (1987, dir. Paul Verhoeven) Another totally subversive science fiction movie from the 1980s, this film picks up Tron's obsessions with corporate fascism and runs in a different direction, with the evil OCP trying to take over Detroit's police force and remake the struggling city as Delta City. RoboCop himself is a great example of science fiction's struggle with the ways technology changes or negates our humanity, and 20 years before The Dark Knight, this film manages to delve into similar questions about how far we'll go to keep society safe from crime. A surreal blend of cyberpunk, Frankenstein and action movie, this film remains Verhoeven's greatest statement.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchTerminator 2: Judgment Day (1991, dir. James Cameron) Speaking of dark action movies that confront us with questions about what it means to be human — this film would deserve a spot on the list just for the scene in which John Connor opens up the Terminator's head and changes his brain from read-only to read/write, so the Terminator can begin to learn from his experiences instead of just following commands. But it's also a brilliant action movie, in which every action sequence is inventive and uses special effects in a clever way. Every big-budget, CG-heavy action film aspires to be Terminator 2 deep in its chrome heart.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchGhost In The Shell (1995, dir. Mamoru Oshii) Like Akira, this is one of the first anime films to hit the U.S. and make a big impact, and impress on U.S. fans how powerful anime film-making was becoming. It's spawned a huge franchise, which for the most part hasn't diluted the awesomeness of the concept at all — Stand Alone Complex is considered one of the greatest science fiction anime shows, and it wouldn't exist without this film. With its theme of possibly false memories and cyber-weirdness, it had a huge influence on both cyberpunks and memory-altering works like Dark City and Dollhouse, but it turns into an amazing examination of the theme of sentience and the definition of life.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchThe Matrix (1999, dir. the Wachowskis) Forget the colossal letdown of the sequels — viewed as a standalone film, this is a brilliant action movie that spawned a million imitators, but it also put an end to an entire sub-genre. There were a slew of dark cyberpunk movies in the late 1990s that mixed weirdness and clever intrigue, with a sense that nothing was real — and The Matrix basically ended that subgenre by being so good, the others paled by comparison. (Have you even heard of Cyberwars? The 13th Floor?) And this film asked philosophical questions about the nature of reality, while feeding us our messianic candy in a way that didn't leave us sick to our stomachs afterwards.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchPrimer (2004, dir. Shane Carruth) Weirdly, this film and Back To The Future stand together as the two great time travel movies, and they couldn't be more different. Primer is famous as a film that you need to watch a few times before you fully grasp what's going on, and there's never been a movie that was less eager to explain itself to its audience. The opening, in which a couple of nerds tinkering in their garage randomly hit on an amazing discovery, is one of the great iconic nerd scenes of all time, and then the movie just gets crazier and crazier, with our heroes going back in time a few times too often until they descend into a kind of insanity. Worth watching just for the Walkman scene. This film is what Lost was trying to do with its own time travel stories.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchThe Incredibles (2004, dir. Brad Bird) It took immense self-control not to load this list up with a ton of films from the Pixar guys, including Wall-E and The Iron Giant. (Yes, I know Giant wasn't a Pixar film, but it's directed by Brad Bird.) But The Incredibles is arguably the best Pixar film, and the best superhero film, of all. This film takes the mythos of the Fantastic Four and mashes it up with a bit of Watchmen, and the result manages to be just as fun as the former and almost as dark and thought-provoking as the latter. And The Incredibles does something no other superhero film — including, I'd argue, Marvel's recent self-made efforts — has pulled off: it feels like a fully realized superhero universe, in which there are superhero costume makers, and tons of larger-than-life challenges all the time, including big robots and supervillains. We can only hope a live-action superhero film will rise to this movie's challenge some day.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchEternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004, dir. Michel Gondry). This film works on so many levels. It's a metaphor for the ways in which you try to erase someone from your memories and your life, after a breakup, in order to reinvent yourself as a single person. And yet, the film manages to suggest, that process is a form of suicide — you have to destroy a piece of your life in order to excise your former lover from it. And since that process is also the reverse of falling in love, maybe it leads you to realize why you fell for the other person in the first place. But Eternal Sunshine is also an incredibly clever science fiction movie that introduces a bizarre new technology in a way that's both surreal and believable.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchChildren Of Men (2006, dir. Alfonso Cuarón) On the surface, this film is about a dystopian future in which humans can no longer procreate, and society falls into madness. But it quickly turns into a metaphor for immigration and xenophobia, as the United Kingdom tries to shut out the rest of the world. No film has depicted sheer chaos as kinetically and memorably as this one has, especially in its epic final single-take action sequence. Unpredictable, dazzling and well-made, Children Of Men sets the standard for gritty science fiction action movies.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchMoon (2009, dir. Duncan Jones) Yes, we're putting three movies from the last couple years on this list, and there are a few other recent films that were strong candidates as well, including Wall-E, Avatar and The Dark Knight. As much as it's true that we're drowning in a sea of derivative garbage, as Hollywood tries to churn out as many cookie-cutter films and sequels as possible, some really original and clever films have sneaked through. Moon is both a throwback to old-school film-making (mostly practical effects, a single massive set that was built in its entirety and sealed up during filming) and a huge step forward in terms of using special effects in a clever, inobtrusive way. (The central trick, of having two Sam Rockwells, could not have been done without CG effects, and the DVD gives some insight into just how hard it was to pull off.) This movie manages to make the theme of corporate evil and the nature of selfhood, that pops up in so many films on this list, and make it totally fresh by throwing in a horrifying twist, in which Rockwell's character turns out to be disposable in the most literal sense. Well worth watching a second time, even if you saw it in theaters.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchDistrict 9 (2009, dir. Neill Blomkamp). The other great indie film of 2009, this quasi-documentary feels like an old-school Doctor Who story about a human turning into something unrecognizeable, wrapped around a totally savage message film. There's seldom been a less sympathetic protagonist than Wikus, who's a pusillanimous cog in a brutal machine — the scene where he casually slaughters alien children and jokes about the popping sound still makes me ill — but we wind up identifying with him and his plight as he's cast out of society anyway. That makes a more powerful statement than if Wikus were a noble champion of the downtrodden from the beginning. And while Wikus finally sort of redeems himself, it's shocking how late it comes. Plus, this is another great action movie that actually uses action sequences in an inventive way. Despite its crude stereotypes of Nigerians, this remains an important, influential film.
25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watchInception (2010, dir. Christopher Nolan). It's already clear that this film that will stand as one of the genre's most important works — like Eternal Sunshine, it examines the nature of consciousness in a clever way that still makes sense in the end. And like Wrath Of Khan, it's about a man who's being swallowed up by his past, except that in this case Dom Cobb is actually haunted by a literal ghost, and he's in constant danger of being pulled so deep into a kind of netherworld that he'll never escape. But as a clever caper that revolves around a brilliantly inventive new technology and keeps reinventing itself every few minutes, Inception does what only the truly great science fiction films pull off: it makes science fiction a nexus of different genres, in which every genre is enriched by its contact with the speculative.

You're living in a computer simulation, and math proves it

You’re living in a computer simulation, and math proves it

Is your life really your life, or is it actually the dream of a butterfly? Or is it a complex computer simulation indistinguishable from "real" reality? Don't worry, it's just a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they change something.
Questions about the nature of reality weren't invented by high-as-a-kite college sophomores. Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi noticed sometime around 300 BCE that his dreams of being something other than human (a butterfly, most famously) were indistinguishable from his experience being Zhuangzi. He could not say with certainty that he was Zhuangzi dreaming of being a butterfly rather than a butterfly dreaming of being Zhuangzi.
The whole "reality is an illusion" idea has been kicked around by everyone from Siddhartha to the existentialists. It is Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom who is most often associated with the idea that we are living in a computer simulation. His premise is based on a series of assumptions:
1). A technological society could eventually achieve the capability of creating a computer simulation that is indistinguishable from reality to the inhabitants of the simulation.
2). Such a society would not do this once or twice. They would create many such simulations.
3). Left to run long enough the societies within the simulations would eventually be able to create their own simulations, also indistinguishable from reality to the sub-simulations inhabitants.
As a result, you have billions of simulations, with a nearly infinite number of cascading sub-simulations, all of them perfectly real to their inhabitants. Yet there is only a single ultimate progenitor society. The math is actually pretty simple: the odds are nearly infinity to one that we are all living in a computer simulation.You're living in a computer simulation, and math proves it
One very strong argument against this unsettling theory is that a computer with the computational power to accomplish this is impossible. Setting aside the fact that today's computational power surely seemed unimaginable 100 years ago, there's a more interesting solution – the computer only actively simulates what it needs to. This is something that actually happens in modern computer games, and you've seen it if you've ever moved faster than your graphics card was capable of rendering the scenery, as the trees and buildings that had previously been beyond your view were drawn on the screen before your eyes. It actually explains a few of the trickier things about quantum physics, like why particles have an indeterminate position until they're observed.
Even more disturbing, it may be a much smaller simulation that you think. There could be just a few active simulation inhabitants, with the rest of the world filled with "non-actor" or NPC characters controlled by the computer. Their actions are only simulated as you perceive them, carefully performed so as to present the illusion that they have entire lives separate from yours. This helps explain why the creepy homeless guy at the end of your street doesn't seem to do much other than hang out and ask you to bring him 10 dire wolf pelts.
If all that seems too weird, let's just kick it back to Zhuangzi. There are almost seven billion people in the world. They all sleep. They all dream. Odds are we're all just living someone else's extremely vivid dream.
Source: Bostrom, Nick. "Are you living in a computer simulation?" Oxford University.
Butterfly photo: Lindsay Sorensen.

Proof of the existence of God set down on paper

Proof of the existence of God set down on paper

Kurt Gödel was best known as a mathematician and secondarily known as an extreme eccentric. After his death, he became known for something else: creating an ontological proof of the existence of God.
While some branches of reasoning are meant to start with observable phenomena, ontological proof doesn't grow out of earthly proof. What heavenly thing could? Sure, things might look bleak on earth, but there could be other worlds where things always go swimmingly. Or perhaps in this world everything is going the only way they could possibly go, under the watchful eye of a loving God, but us humans are too blind to see that. Observation can't prove what is supposedly unprovable. Instead of detective work and evidence, ontological arguments are derived from reason alone. A set of assumptions, or axioms, are combined to prove a larger truth.
Gödel finished the proof in the early 1940s, but the proof was not copied by peers until the 1970s. He didn't let anyone know about it until he believed that he was dying. It wasn't finally published until the 1980s. Let's take a good look at it:
Proof of the existence of God set down on paper Well this clears everything up, doesn't it?
Gödel based his argument on an early argument of St. Anselm's. St. Anselm defined God as the greatest being in the universe. No greater being could be imagined. However, if God did not exist, then a greater being had to be possible to imagine - one which exists. Since it wasn't possible, by definition, to imagine a greater being than the greatest being imaginable, God had to exist.
Gödel twisted this argument a little. He used modal logic to prove his point. Modal logic distinguishes between certain different states that certain suppositions have. Some suppositions are possible in some worlds, some possible only in a certain world, and some true in all possible worlds. If they are true in all possible worlds, they are considered to be always 'necessary'.
God can either necessarily exist, or necessarily not exist. If God is an all-powerful being, and he exists, he necessarily exists in all possible worlds. If he doesn't exist, he necessarily doesn't exist in any possible worlds. It is not possible to say that God does not exist in any possible world. No matter how slim the chance is, God might exist. That means that God can't necessarily not exist. Since the choices are either God necessarily does exist, or necessarily doesn't, and we have eliminated the possibility that he necessarily doesn't, the only possibility left is that he necessarily does.
Start prayin'.
Or maybe not. There's no doubt that Gödel was a brilliant man - he was a good friend of Albert Einstein's, who admired him greatly. It is also thought that, during his life, he had certain religious and mystical convictions. However, he specifically held the proof back during his lifetime because he didn't wish it to be taken as 'his proof that God exists'. He, in fact, didn't want people to think he believed in God at all. He was clear that the entire proof was simply an exercise in modal logic, derived from a certain set of assumptions. Those assumptions can be questioned. For example, Gödel's definition of God didn't have anything to do with the behavior of a deity, it was just a variation on St. Anselm's 'greatest imaginable being'. In other words, it was an axiom specifically chosen for both a vague sense of religion and the ability to make the rest of the proof work. If someone defined God differently - the being that made the world in seven days, for example - then the proof no longer applies. There have plenty of atheist thinkers knocking down the proof. And plenty of theist thinkers expanding on it.
It's a pretty looking page, though.
Via Stanford and Philosophy of Religion.

Japanese sex museums are where your sanity goes to die (NSFW)

Japanese sex museums are where your sanity goes to die (NSFW)

We've witnessed the charms of Japanese erotica museums when they're entirely shuttered. It turns out they can be way more mind-warping when open.
Here are some choice scenes from the city of Beppu's hihōkan, which apparently closed (but you can still tour on YouTube for posterity's sake). During its sexy heyday, visitors could behold see-through wombs, pinnipeds mid-coitus, and an animatronic display of Snow White being pleasured by all seven dwarves while the Evil Queen peeps voyeuristically and Prince Charming watches on in horror. Said one visitor of this particular exhibit:
Yes, that's Grumpy on the right taking matters into his own hands, so to speak. Yes, the Queen has a dick for a nose. The worst part: when you hit a button on the outside of the exhibit, all of the characters would move. Dopey waved the underwear up and down, Grumpy flogged the dolphin, the others ducked around maneuvering for a good view of the action.
Japanese sex museums are where your sanity goes to die (NSFW) Japanese sex museums are where your sanity goes to die (NSFW)
Japanese sex museums are where your sanity goes to die (NSFW) Japanese sex museums are where your sanity goes to die (NSFW) Japanese sex museums are where your sanity goes to die (NSFW) Japanese sex museums are where your sanity goes to die (NSFW) Japanese sex museums are where your sanity goes to die (NSFW) Japanese sex museums are where your sanity goes to die (NSFW) Japanese sex museums are where your sanity goes to die (NSFW) Japanese sex museums are where your sanity goes to die (NSFW) Japanese sex museums are where your sanity goes to die (NSFW) Japanese sex museums are where your sanity goes to die (NSFW) Japanese sex museums are where your sanity goes to die (NSFW) Japanese sex museums are where your sanity goes to die (NSFW) Japanese sex museums are where your sanity goes to die (NSFW) Japanese sex museums are where your sanity goes to die (NSFW)And just for kicks, here's a fine tableau from the still-kicking Atami Adult Museum. Photography isn't allowed inside this museum, but someone snuck out a video of the wacky erotic dollhouse and this photo of Bugs Bunny in a threesome with two Pink Panthers.
BONUS: More photos from the abandoned House of Hidden Treasures.
Beppu photos via Asobi Tsuchiya's Flickr, except for the Snow White photos, which were taken by Jim Fischer, Gail Sensei, and Fire On The Mountain. Pink Panther photo via Dwedelstein's Flickr.
The greatest mystery of the Inca Empire was its strange economy

The greatest mystery of the Inca Empire was its strange economy

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Inca Empire was the largest South America had ever known. Centered in Peru, it stretched across the Andes' mountain tops and down to the shoreline, incorporating lands from today's Colombia, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina and Peru - all connected by a vast highway system whose complexity rivaled any in the Old World. Rich in foodstuffs, textiles, gold, and coca, the Inca were masters of city building but nevertheless had no money. In fact, they had no marketplaces at all.
The Inca Empire may be the only advanced civilization in history to have no class of traders, and no commerce of any kind within its boundaries. How did they do it?
Many aspects of Incan life remain mysterious, in part because our accounts of Incan life come from the Spanish invaders who effectively wiped them out. Famously, the conquistador Francisco Pizzaro led just a few men in an incredible defeat of the Incan army in Peru in 1532. But the real blow came roughly a decade before that, when European invaders unwittingly unleashed a smallpox epidemic that some epidemiologists believe may have killed as many as 90 percent of the Incan people. Our knowledge of these events, and our understanding of Incan culture of that era, come from just a few observers - mostly Spanish missionaries, and one mestizo priest and Inca historian named Blas Valera, who was born in Peru two decades after the fall of the Inca Empire.
The greatest mystery of the Inca Empire was its strange economy Wealth Without Money
Documents from missionaries and Valera describe the Inca as master builders and land planners, capable of extremely sophisticated mountain agriculture - and building cities to match. Incan society was so rich that it could afford to have hundreds of people who specialized in planning the agricultural uses of newly-conquered areas. They built terraced farms on the mountainsides whose crops - from potatoes and maize to peanuts and squash - were carefully chosen to thrive in the average temperatures for different altitudes. They also farmed trees to keep the thin topsoil in good condition. Incan architects were equally talented, designing and raising enormous pyramids, irrigating with sophisticated waterworks such as those found at Tipon, and creating enormous temples like Pachacamac along with mountain retreats like Machu Picchu. Designers used a system of knotted ropes to do the math required to build on slopes.
The greatest mystery of the Inca Empire was its strange economy And yet, despite all their productivity, the Incas managed without money or marketplaces. In The Incas: New Perspectives, Gordon Francis McEwan writes:
With only a few exceptions found in coastal polities incorporated into the empire, there was no trading class in Inca society, and the development of individual wealth acquired through commerce was not possible . . . A few products deemed essential by the Incas could not be produced locally and had to be imported. In these cases several strategies were employed, such as establishing colonies in specific production zones for particular commodities and permitting long-distance trade. The production, distribution, and use of commodities were centrally controlled by the Inca government. Each citizen of the empire was issued the necessities of life out of the state storehouses, including food, tools, raw materials, and clothing, and needed to purchase nothing. With no shops or markets, there was no need for a standard currency or money, and there was nowhere to spend money or purchase or trade for necessities.
So the Inca did engage in trade, but only with outsiders - not among themselves.
The secret of the Inca's great wealth may have been their unusual tax system. Instead of paying taxes in money, every Incan was required to provide labor to the state. In exchange for this labor, they were given the necessities of life.
Of course, not everybody had to pay labor tax. Nobles and their courts were exempt, as were other prominent members of Incan society. In another quirk of the Incan economy, nobles who died could still own property and their families or estate managers could continue to amass wealth for the dead nobles. Indeed, the temple at Pachacamac was basically a well-managed estate that "belonged" to a dead Incan noble. It's as if the Inca managed to invent the idea of corporations-as-people despite having almost no market economy whatsoever.
Food, Not Markets
One of the outstanding questions for scientists and historians who study the Incas is why this wealthy, sophisticated culture developed scientifically and culturally without ever inventing markets. One possibility is that life was so difficult to sustain in their environment that all their innovations revolved around agriculture rather than economics. In other words, the Inca Empire was optimized to prevent starvation rather than to foster trade.
The greatest mystery of the Inca Empire was its strange economy A few years ago, a group of archeologists took core samples in Cuzco valley in Peru, and found evidence for thousands of years of agriculture in the area, including animal husbandry, most likely of llamas. In a paper summarizing their findings, archaeologist A.J. Chepstow-Lusty and his team suggested that the Incas focused their technological and cultural institutions around food production and land management, rather than market economies. This may have been necessary in a region where droughts had likely wiped out a previous civilization (the Wari), and where climate fluctuations were a constant hazard. The rise of the Inca Empire coincided with a period of relative climate stability, but the peoples in the area would be well aware that this temperate spell could end at any time.
The greatest mystery of the Inca Empire was its strange economy Chepstow-Lusty and his colleagues write:
The scale of anthropological manipulation and transformation of the landscape in the south-central Andes appears to have increased after ca. AD 1100, probably in response to a climatic backdrop that was relatively warm, dry and essentially stable. The development of major irrigated terracing technology may have been increasingly necessary in these regions to obviate conditions of seasonal water stress, thereby allowing efficient agricultural production at higher altitudes. The outcome of these strategies was greater long-term food security and the ability to feed large populations. Such developments were exploited by the Inca of the Cuzco Valley, who were emerging as the dominant ethnic group of the region as early as ca. AD 1200. A healthy agricultural surplus supported their economic and political potential, enabling them to subjugate other local independent states and to effectively centralize power in the Cuzco region by ca. AD 1400.
So how do you become a continent-dominating empire without cash? In the case of the Incas, it's likely that the technologies that granted them agricultural surplus (extra food and textile materials) helped them with their expansive empire-building. Food was their coin; pure labor structured their economy.
Some have argued that the Inca Empire was the ideal socialist state, while others have called it an authoritarian monarchy. In truth, the Inca probably created an empire like many others. Its leaders were distracted by civil war and internecine squabbles among the nobility. And its slaves and laborers built the dramatic works dreamed up by pre-Columbian civil engineers. What's remarkable is that evidence suggests those slaves and laborers were probably well fed. Perhaps more remarkable, in this era where markets are associated with civilization, is the idea that an empire could achieve so much without ever spending a dime.

10 Civilizations That Disappeared Under Mysterious Circumstances

For almost as long as we've had civilization, we've lost it. There are records going back hundreds of years of explorers discovering huge temples encrusted with jungle, or giant pits full of treasure that were once grand palaces. Why did people abandon these once-thriving cities, agricultural centers, and trade routes? Often, the answer is unknown. Here are ten great civilizations whose demise remains a mystery.
1. The Maya
The Maya are perhaps the classic example of a civilization that was completely lost, its great monuments, cities and roads swallowed up by the central American jungles, and its peoples scattered to small villages. Though the languages and traditions of the Maya still survive up to the present day, the civilization's peak was during the first millennium AD, when their greatest architectural feats and massive agricultural projects covered a vast region in the Yucatán — today, an area stretching from Mexico to Guatemala and Belize. One of the largest Mesoamerican civilizations, the Maya made extensive use of writing, math, an elaborate calendar, and sophisticated engineering to build their pyramids and terraced farms. Though it's often said that the Maya civilization began a mysterious decline in roughly the year 900, a great deal of evidence points to climate change in the Yucatán combined with internecine warfare, which resulted in famine and abandonment of the city centers. 2. Indus Valley Civilization
One of the great civilizations of the ancient world is called simply the Indus or Harappan civilization. Thousands of years ago, it may have boasted up to 5 million people, almost 10 percent of the world's population, spread over a region that encompassed parts of today's India, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. But its grand walkways (with sophisticated roadside drainage), metallurgy shops, and massive, multistory, brick hives of houses were abandoned over 3,000 years ago. It's likely that this ancient civilization, like the Maya, suffered from gradual changes in rainfall patterns that made it difficult for its peoples to raise enough food for their massive population. 3. Easter Island
The people of Eastern Island represent another classic "lost" civilization, famed in part for its enigmatic, enormous stone statues of human heads (called Moai) lined up along the island's coastline. How did this thriving Polynesian civilization disappear after centuries of monument-building and navigating hundreds of miles of ocean waters to go from island to island? Jared Diamond sums up what many scientists now believe in his book Collapse, which is that the Easter Islanders were incredibly sophisticated, but their methods weren't sustainable. During the time they settled Easter Island, possibly between 700-1200 AD, they used up all the island's trees and agricultural resources, and then had to move on. 4. Catalhöyük
Often called the world's oldest city, Catalhöyük was part of a large city-building and agricultural civilization thriving between 9,000-7,000 years ago in what is today south-central Turkey. What's interesting about Catalhöyük is its structure, which is quite unlike most other cities since. It contained no roads as we know them, and was instead built sort of like a hive, with houses built next to each other and entered through holes in the roofs. It's believed that people farmed everything from wheat to almonds outside the city walls, and got to their homes via ladders and sidewalks that traversed their roofs. Often, these people decorated the entrances to their homes with bull skulls, and buried the bones of their honored dead beneath the packed dirt of their floors. The civilization was pre-Iron Age and pre-literate, but they nevertheless left behind ample evidence of a sophisticated society, full of art and and public ritual, that was possibly 10,000 strong at many points in its 2,000 year existence. Why did people eventually abandon the city? It is unknown. 5. Cahokia
Long before Europeans made it to North America, the so-called Mississippians had build a great city surrounded by huge earthen pyramids and a Stonehenge-like structure made of wood to track the movements of the stars. Called Cahokia today, you can still see its remains in Illinois. At its height between 600-1400 AD, the city sprawled across 6 square miles, and contained almost a hundred earthen mounds as well as an enormous grand plaza at its center. Its population might have been as much as 40,000 people, some of whom would have lived in outlying villages. The people of this great city, the biggest so far north in Mesoamerica, were brilliant artists, architects, and farmers, creating incredible art with shells, copper, and stone. They even diverted a branch of the local Mississippi and Illinois rivers to suit their needs for irrigation. It's not entirely certain what led people to abandon the city starting in the 1200s, but some archaeologists say the city had always had problems with disease and famine (it had no sanitary system to speak of), and that people left for greener (and healthier) pastures elsewhere on the Mississippi River. 10 Civilizations That Disappeared Under Mysterious Circumstances 6. Göbekli Tepe
One of the most mysterious human structures ever discovered, Göbekli Tepe was probably built in 10,000 BCE, and is located in today's southern Turkey. A series of nested, circular walls and steles, or monoliths, carved evocatively with animals, the place probably served as a temple for nomadic tribes in the area. It was not a permanent residence, though it's possible a few priests lived there all year. It is the first permanent human-built structure that we have ever found, and probably represented the pinnacle of the local Mesopotamian civilization of its era. What were people worshiping there? When did they come? Were they there to do something other than worship? We may never know, but archaeologists are working hard to find out.
7. Angkor
Most people have heard of the magnificent temple Angkor Wat in Cambodia. But it was only one small part of a massive urban civilization during the Khmer Empire called Angkor. The city flourished during the late middle ages, from 1000-1200 AD, and may have supported up to a million people. There are a lot of good reasons why Angkor may have fallen, ranging from war to natural disaster. Now most of it lies beneath the jungle. A marvel of architecture and Hindu culture, the city is mysterious mostly because we still aren't certain how many people lived there. Given all the roads and canals connecting its many regions, some archaeologists believe it may have been the biggest urban site in the world at its height. 10 Civilizations That Disappeared Under Mysterious Circumstances 8. The Turquoise Mountain
Though not every crumbling monument represents a lost civilization, some of them do. Such is the case with the Minaret of Jam, a gorgeous architectural feat built in the 1100s as part of a city in Afghanistan, where archaeological remains suggest that it was a cosmopolitan area where many religions, including Jews, Christians, and Muslims, lived together harmoniously for hundreds of years. It's possible that the incredible minaret was part of the lost medieval capital of Afghanistan, called Turquoise Mountain.
9. Niya
Now a desolate spot in the Taklamakan Desert of Xinjiang province in China, 1600 years ago Niya was a thriving city in an oasis along the famous Silk Road. For the past two centuries, archaeologists have uncovered countless treasures in the dusty, shattered remains of what was once a graceful town full of wooden houses and temples. In a sense, Niya is a relic of the lost civilization of the early Silk Road, a trade route that linked China with Central Asia, Africa, and Europe. Many groups traveled the Silk Road, from wealthy merchants and religious pilgrims to scholars and scientists, exchanging ideas and creating a complex, enlightened culture everywhere the 4,000 mile Silk Road passed. The route underwent many changes, but its importance as a trade route waned as the Mongol Empire collapsed in the 1300s. Traders afterwards preferred sea routes for trade with China. 10. Nabta Playa
From 7000 and 6500 BCE, an incredible urban community arose in what is today the Egyptian Sahara. The people who lived there domesticated cattle, farmed, created elaborate ceramics, and left behind stone circles that offer evidence that their civilization included astronomers as well.Archaeologists believe the peoples of Nabta Playa were likely the precursor civilization for the great Nile cities that arose in Egypt thousands of years later. Though the Nabta civilization is today located in an arid region, it arose at a time when monsoon patterns had shifted, filling the playa with a lake and making it possible for a large culture to bloom.
8 Great Philosophical Questions That We'll Never Solve

8 Great Philosophical Questions That We’ll Never Solve

Philosophy goes where hard science can't, or won't. Philosophers have a license to speculate about everything from metaphysics to morality, and this means they can shed light on some of the basic questions of existence. The bad news? These are questions that may always lay just beyond the limits of our comprehension.
Here are eight mysteries of philosophy that we'll probably never resolve.

1. Why is there something rather than nothing?

Our presence in the universe is something too bizarre for words. The mundaneness of our daily lives cause us take our existence for granted — but every once in awhile we're cajoled out of that complacency and enter into a profound state of existential awareness, and we ask: Why is there all this stuff in the universe, and why is it governed by such exquisitely precise laws? And why should anything exist at all? We inhabit a universe with such things as spiral galaxies, the aurora borealis, and SpongeBob Squarepants. And as Sean Carroll notes, "Nothing about modern physics explains why we have these laws rather than some totally different laws, although physicists sometimes talk that way — a mistake they might be able to avoid if they took philosophers more seriously." And as for the philosophers, the best that they can come up with is the anthropic principle — the notion that our particular universe appears the way it does by virtue of our presence as observers within it — a suggestion that has an uncomfortably tautological ring to it.

2. Is our universe real?

This the classic Cartesian question. It essentially asks, how do we know that what we see around us is the real deal, and not some grand illusion perpetuated by an unseen force (who René Descartes referred to as the hypothesized ‘evil demon')? More recently, the question has been reframed as the "brain in a vat" problem, or the Simulation Argument. And it could very well be that we're the products of an elaborate simulation. A deeper question to ask, therefore, is whether the civilization running the simulation is also in a simulation — a kind of supercomputer regression (or simulationception). Moreover, we may not be who we think we are. Assuming that the people running the simulation are also taking part in it, our true identities may be temporarily suppressed, to heighten the realness of the experience. This philosophical conundrum also forces us to re-evaluate what we mean by "real." Modal realists argue that if the universe around us seems rational (as opposed to it being dreamy, incoherent, or lawless), then we have no choice but to declare it as being real and genuine. Or maybe, as Cipher said after eating a piece of "simulated" steak in The Matrix, "Ignorance is bliss."

3. Do we have free will?

Also called the dilemma of determinism, we do not know if our actions are controlled by a causal chain of preceding events (or by some other external influence), or if we're truly free agents making decisions of our own volition. Philosophers (and now some scientists) have been debating this for millennia, and with no apparent end in sight. If our decision making is influenced by an endless chain of causality, then determinism is true and we don't have free will. But if the opposite is true, what's called indeterminism, then our actions must be random — what some argue is still not free will. Conversely, libertarians (no, not political libertarians, those are other people), make the case for compatibilism — the idea that free will is logically compatible with deterministic views of the universe. Compounding the problem are advances in neuroscience showing that our brains make decisions before we're even conscious of them. But if we don't have free will, then why did we evolve consciousness instead of zombie-minds? Quantum mechanics makes this problem even more complicated by suggesting that we live in a universe of probability, and that determinism of any sort is impossible. And as Linas Vepstas has said, "Consciousness seems to be intimately and inescapably tied to the perception of the passage of time, and indeed, the idea that the past is fixed and perfectly deterministic, and that the future is unknowable. This fits well, because if the future were predetermined, then there'd be no free will, and no point in the participation of the passage of time."

4. Does God exist?

Simply put, we cannot know if God exists or not. Both the atheists and believers are wrong in their proclamations, and the agnostics are right. True agnostics are simply being Cartesian about it, recognizing the epistemological issues involved and the limitations of human inquiry. We do not know enough about the inner workings of the universe to make any sort of grand claim about the nature of reality and whether or not a Prime Mover exists somewhere in the background. Many people defer to naturalism — the suggestion that the universe runs according to autonomous processes — but that doesn't preclude the existence of a grand designer who set the whole thing in motion (what's called deism). And as mentioned earlier, we may live in a simulation where the hacker gods control all the variables. Or perhaps the gnostics are right and powerful beings exist in some deeper reality that we're unaware of. These aren't necessarily the omniscient, omnipotent gods of the Abrahamic traditions — but they're (hypothetically) powerful beings nonetheless. Again, these aren't scientific questions per se — they're more Platonic thought experiments that force us to confront the limits of human experience and inquiry.

5. Is there life after death?

Before everyone gets excited, this is not a suggestion that we'll all end up strumming harps on some fluffy white cloud, or find ourselves shoveling coal in the depths of Hell for eternity. Because we cannot ask the dead if there's anything on the other side, we're left guessing as to what happens next. Materialists assume that there's no life after death, but it's just that — an assumption that cannot necessarily be proven. Looking closer at the machinations of the universe (or multiverse), whether it be through a classical Newtonian/Einsteinian lens, or through the spooky filter of quantum mechanics, there's no reason to believe that we only have one shot at this thing called life. It's a question of metaphysics and the possibility that the cosmos (what Carl Sagan described as "all that is or ever was or ever will be") cycles and percolates in such a way that lives are infinitely recycled. Hans Moravec put it best when, speaking in relation to the quantum Many Worlds Interpretation, said that non-observance of the universe is impossible; we must always find ourselves alive and observing the universe in some form or another. This is highly speculative stuff, but like the God problem, is one that science cannot yet tackle, leaving it to the philosophers.

6. Can you really experience anything objectively?

There's a difference between understanding the world objectively (or at least trying to, anyway) and experiencing it through an exclusively objective framework. This is essentially the problem of qualia — the notion that our surroundings can only be observed through the filter of our senses and the cogitations of our minds. Everything you know, everything you've touched, seen, and smelled, has been filtered through any number of physiological and cognitive processes. Subsequently, your subjective experience of the world is unique. In the classic example, the subjective appreciation of the color red may vary from person to person. The only way you could possibly know is if you were to somehow observe the universe from the "conscious lens" of another person in a sort of Being John Malkovich kind of way — not anything we're likely going to be able to accomplish at any stage of our scientific or technological development. Another way of saying all this is that the universe can only be observed through a brain (or potentially a machine mind), and by virtue of that, can only be interpreted subjectively. But given that the universe appears to be coherent and (somewhat) knowable, should we continue to assume that its true objective quality can never be observed or known? It's worth noting that much of Buddhist philosophy is predicated on this fundamental limitation (what they call emptiness), and a complete antithesis to Plato's idealism.

7. What is the best moral system?

8 Great Philosophical Questions That We'll Never Solve Essentially, we'll never truly be able to distinguish between "right" and "wrong" actions. At any given time in history, however, philosophers, theologians, and politicians will claim to have discovered the best way to evaluate human actions and establish the most righteous code of conduct. But it's never that easy. Life is far too messy and complicated for there to be anything like a universal morality or an absolutist ethics. The Golden Rule is great (the idea that you should treat others as you would like them to treat you), but it disregards moral autonomy and leaves no room for the imposition of justice (such as jailing criminals), and can even be used to justify oppression (Immanuel Kant was among its most staunchest critics). Moreover, it's a highly simplified rule of thumb that doesn't provision for more complex scenarios. For example, should the few be spared to save the many? Who has more moral worth: a human baby or a full-grown great ape? And as neuroscientists have shown, morality is not only a culturally-ingrained thing, it's also a part of our psychologies (the Trolly Problem is the best demonstration of this). At best, we can only say that morality is normative, while acknowledging that our sense of right and wrong will change over time.

8. What are numbers?

We use numbers every day, but taking a step back, what are they, really — and why do they do such a damn good job of helping us explain the universe (such as Newtonian laws)? Mathematical structures can consist of numbers, sets, groups, and points — but are they real objects, or do they simply describe relationships that necessarily exist in all structures? Plato argued that numbers were real (it doesn't matter that you can't "see" them), but formalists insisted that they were merely formal systems (well-defined constructions of abstract thought based on math). This is essentially an ontological problem, where we're left baffled about the true nature of the universe and which aspects of it are human constructs and which are truly tangible. Images: Banner: Luc Perrot | 1 | 2 Lightspring/shutterstock | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 Jeffrey Collingwood/shutterstock | 7 | 8

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