Bruce Sterling @ University & Cyberspace

Bruce Sterling gave a great speech about the term and the concepts of cyberspace at the COMMUNIA 2010 Conference: University & Cyberspace that took place in Turin, Italy, 30 June 2010.

The speech is available online in video format via the conference website. Click on the link "(00h 28m 00s)" on the webpage bellow the video to set it to the right minute.

Not in the video: during the speech Bruce mentions the U.S. Air Force Cyberspace Operator Badge, which you can see on the photo bellow.

Bruce Sterling and USAF Cyberspace Operator Badge

After Sterling, David Orban from Humanity+ & Singularity University also gave an inspirational speech, which is also available online on the page above. I took this joyful photo of the two of them during the break a little later.

David Orban & Bruce Sterling

Both photos were taken on the grounds of the Politechnico in Turin. In the background you can see the bust of Giovanni Agnelli, founder of FIAT, obviously a revered figure in this Italian motor-town, like I assume Henry Ford would be in Detroit.


More "authentic" Jesus in sci-fi

From time to time Christians world over act surprised about the notion that the usual image of tall, slender, long-haired and pretty pale Jesus does not confirm with the fact that he was a Jew from Palestine and shared the attributes of that ethnic group two thousand years ago. However, two examples show that science fiction authors were quite mindful of the historical and anthropological context.

Through links provided by Vladimir Simovski, it is quite obvious that presentations of Jesus, like those of various other shared iconic characters tend to reflect the influences of time and cultures that use them. On the other hand, forensic anthropological research conducted in 2000 reconstructed "The real face of Jesus" (PDF), based on data from the Scriptures which present him as "an average I century Joe," no different from his contemporaries: somewhat short, muscular, dark-skinned, curly-haired and bearded Semites.

The character of Jesus appears in the novelette Riverworld (1966) by Philip José Farmer. Widelly acclaimed as one of the best pieces of the series with the same name, based on the premise that alien intelligence resurrects all humans on a single planet, it juxtaposes the pacifist Joshua ben Joseph with the short, dark, green-eyed cowboy actor Tom Mix.

John Kessel's Corrupting Dr. Nice (1997) is a time-travel novel based on the premises of colonial exploitation of parallel worlds developed by Bruce Sterling and Lewis Shiner in their short story Mozart in Mirrorshades, first published in Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology (1986).

The plot partly takes place in a 40 A.D. Palestine, and characters include Yeshu and one of his apostles, Simon the Zealot. Kessel's descriptions of the Roman world occupied by American time travelers, and the attempts of the locals to deal with it through adaptation or resistance (including terrorism) are insightful and entertaining, because the characters are modeled according to the latest scientific notions of the life at the time.


New sci-fi story by Damien Krsteski

Damien Krsteski, musician and science aficionado from Macedonia, published his short story "Not in a Million Years" on his blog under CC-BY-NC-ND license.

Initially, the story was
supposed to go alongside the new Machinesaw album. However, the album left on its own.

(info via Crapwerk, via Ping.mk)


Dune: Did Frank Herbert grok Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian?

Dune a novel by Frank HerbertThe following excerpt from the first Dune novel (pg. 309) has certainly raised eyebrows of readers of the English version who are also fluent in any south Slavic language.
Deep within the cave, someone began chanting:
"Ima trava okolo!
I korenja okolo!"

Jessica translated silently: These are ashes! And these are roots!"
The funeral ceremony for Jamis was beginning.

The Fremen chant is in Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian. These closely related languages have their differences, which would not affect the above text - it would be the same in an any of them.

At first glance, the translation is deeply flawed, as the word "trava" in this form refers to grasses or herbs, while the form for ashes in the above languages would be "pepela" (from the infinitive "pepeo"). There are few solutions to this puzzle.

1. Lady Jessica made an error

Taking the contemporary meaning of the chant in Croatian/Bosnian/Serbian, Lady Jessica should have translated the chant with:
There are grasses/herbs around! And [some] roots around [too]!

This "mistake" is of no consequence later in the book, there are no incidents involving error of translation between Jessica or Paul on one hand, and the Fremen on the other.

As a device to show Jessica as capable of error ("only human" in the contemporary meaning*) it would be lost to the wast majority of readers who lack familiarity with Balkans linguistics. Therefore, we have to consider the next possibility:

2. Frank Herbert made an error

Another option is that the writer, Frank Herbert, intended the translation as "original," the "true" meaning conveyed by Jessica intended to be understood by English-language speakers, and then precluded it with a foreign-language translation to make it more exotic. In that case, he should have put the Fremen chant as
"Ima pepela okolo!
I korenja okolo!"

However, there's also a third option that would put at ease the mind of Dune fans, some of whom consider Herbert infallible.

3. Nobody's fault

No mistakes were made: Herbert grokked his Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, Jessica's Fremen was impeccable. However, considering that the action takes place in the year of 10,191 A.D. A.G. (~ 21,264 A.D. - thanks SandChigger), it would be wise to suggest that the languages changed in the meantime, especially through mixing and matching of populations and cultural influences across various planets.

It is well-known fact that the meaning of some English words has changed in little over 400 years, from the time of Shakespeare or the King James Bible. For instance, the werb "to let" meant "to hinder", "awful" meant "deserving of awe," and "notorious" meant "famous". Or consider that in contemporary mainstream slang a person can at the same time be considered cool and hot.

* No pun intended, but the word human in the Dune novels is used to designate those with elite capabilities from the rabble, as in the "humanity test" involving the Gom Jabar.