Jonathan Crowe

My Correct Views on Everything

The Short Fiction of Peter Watts

Peter Watts at Ad Astra 2011 In my latest piece for AE, I survey the short fiction of Peter Watts. What might have been a review of his collection Beyond the Rift quickly grew into a longer piece about the themes found in his entire corpus of short fiction, only half of which is found in that collection. (Most of his stories can be downloaded from his website or found elsewhere online.) Read on to find out why Watts’s stories are so unsettling.

Mapping the California Sea Floor

Colored Shaded-Relief Bathymetry Offshore of San Francisco, California

The USGS’s California Seafloor Mapping Program has produced a set of insanely detailed maps of the sea floor along the California coast. Downloadable as rather hefty PDF files; the map sheets are three feet across as paper maps. Above, a detail from the shaded-relief bathymetry map of the San Francisco area. Boing Boing, Wired.

Mapping An Ember in the Ashes

Jonathan Roberts's map for An Ember in the Ashes

The fantasy cartographer Jonathan Roberts has a blog post, reprinted at Tor.com, that shows some of the steps involved in creating the map for Sabaa Tahir’s novel An Ember in the Ashes.

I sometimes get asked how to do a fantasy map. I’m the wrong person to ask, because I’m basically a fantasy map critic, not a working illustrator. What the people asking me this question want is an instruction manual for the standard fantasy map, and for that, Roberts is their man, because he’s an actual illustrator. He does operate within the dominant fantasy map paradigm I often critique (though with a good deal more colour and texture than the standard line drawing), but he does it very well, and more importantly shares his methods. Roberts’s blog is full of interesting material on how he goes about creating fantasy maps: see for example this tutorial.

Google Apologizes for Offensive Map Search Results

Google Maps had to apologize again last week, this time because searching for racist terms gave results like the White House and Howard University. The results were derived from online discussions: idiots using an offensive term to describe a place associated the term with the place in Google’s search algorithms. Google says it’s changing the algorithm to fix the problem (because algorithms are to Google what procedures are to bureaucracies — the source of, and solution to, all life’s problems). Boing Boing, Engadget.

Previously: Google Map Maker Program Suspended.

John Lanzendorf’s Paleoart

Atlas Obscura has a profile of John Lanzendorf, a lifelong collector of paleoart. At one point the largest private collection of paleoart was crammed into his 1,250-square-foot Chicago apartment; in 2001 it was acquired by the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. A book about the collection, Dinosaur Imagery, came out in 2000.

Aurora Award Nomination

The finalists for the 2015 Aurora Awards have been announced. My little fanzine, Ecdysis, has been nominated in the Best Fan Publication category.

Aurora nominee logo The Aurora Awards are essentially the Canadian equivalent of the Hugo Awards. They’re voted on by members of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association; and voting takes place much as it does with the Hugos. They’re awarded at Canvention, the Canadian national science fiction convention, which takes place as part of an existing convention. (As I understand it, the French-language Auroras are administered separately.)

The Auroras are a small award in the grand scheme of things (inasmuch as sf fandom can have a grand scheme), but this is my first genre award nomination, and I have feels.

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The Martian

Just finished reading The Martian by Andy Weir. Good Lord it’s a lot of fun.

Book cover: The Martian During this year’s Hugo Awards foofaraw, there was some disappointment expressed that this book was not on the final ballot. That was not because Hugo voters were out to snub a book full of the good old stuff and lacking in social justice virtue, or whatever — it was simply ineligible. The Martian was first self-published electronically in 2011. But don’t weep overmuch for Andy Weir: after brisk online sales, both traditional publishing and Hollywood started paying attention. He got a six-figure advance for the hardcover edition, which came out in February 2014, and the movie adaptation comes out this November.

And it’s not hard to see why. The book chronicles a lone astronaut’s struggle to survive on the Martian surface after an accident leaves him stranded there, and the attempts to rescue him. It’s chock-a-block with technical detail — Weir did a lot of research, and the Mars program in the book reflects a lot of the proposals I’ve seen — and MacGyveresque solutions to problems. It’s written in a light, breezy and entertaining (if not necessarily felicitous) manner. Characterization and prose quality are not among its virtues — it’s basically an Analog story without all the Analog baggage — but Weir manages to maintain real tension while interleaving it with some legitimately funny moments; in many ways it manages to out-Scalzi John Scalzi at his own game. It’s a fun book — just what I needed right now.

The Martian
by Andy Weir
Crown, February 2014
Buy at Amazon: Canada, U.K., USA (paperback) | Goodreads | LibraryThing

Clichéa

Clichéa

A Redditor called Sarithus has created a map of Clichéa, “a map based on fantasy tropes that also pokes a little fun at unoriginal map makers.” Like others of its kind, it hearkens back, probably undeliberately, to early modern maps of Cockaigne and Schlaraffenland and other satirical maps. Cartographer’s Guild thread, Reddit thread.

Previously: The Only Fantasy World Map You’ll Ever Need.

Google Map Maker Program Suspended

Google is temporarily suspending Map Maker, its tool allowing user contributions to Google Maps, until they fix their edit moderation system. Auto-approvals of map edits had been suspended in the wake of the notorious and high-profile edits to the map near Rawalpindi; since then edits to the map have required manual approval, which has created a massive backlog. “We believe that it is more fair to only say that if we do not have the capacity to review edits at roughly the rate they come in, we have to take a pause.” Via The Verge.

Previously: Google Maps Edits Cause Embarrassment; A Google Map Maker Roundup.

Approaching Ceres

Ceres

The Dawn spacecraft’s trajectory is slowly edging it closer to Ceres. This is one of a series of images of Ceres taken between April 24 and 25 from a distance of 8,500 kilometres. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

Previously: At Ceres.

Older Entries

Historical Highway Maps of Manitoba
The Great Snake Weigh-in of 2015
Review: My Real Children
Taxonomic Changes to Crayfish, Swamp and Earth Snakes
‘1491’ Is Becoming a TV Series
Google Maps Edits Cause Embarrassment
Map of Canada Changes Depiction of Arctic Sea Ice
Valentina Lisitsa and Artists’ Social Capital
New Moon Maps
Chopin’s Preludes on a Pleyel
Space Maps: Ceres, Mars, Exoplanets
Back to Brontosaurus
Ecdysis 5
Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph
Irwin’s Controversial Legacy
A Cometary Closeup
Charge Revealed in N.B. Python Case
Various and Sundry (Again)
Backbench Conservative Hijinks, and How to Respond to Them
At Ceres