Penn Jillette, In Conversation

David Marchese interviews Jillette:

The long and successful career of Penn Jillette, the bigger half (physically and personality-wise) of the magic duo Penn & Teller, itself constitutes a kind of trick. He’s a magician who’ll loudly disdain magic, a comedian who doesn’t do straight comedy, and a provocative public intellectual — often advocating on behalf of atheism and libertarianism — who makes the bulk of his living performing for tourists in Las Vegas….

Jillette is a compelling advocate for libertarianism motivated by compassion, and he does that here. Excellent interview.

vulture.com

Never too late

Twitter thread

Heinlein’s future history stories of the 30s and 40s

Jo Walton:

In these early stories, Heinlein wrote about the future as if he’d been there. He wrote the most absurd things—the rolling roads of “The Roads Must Roll” and the mathematics of psychology in “Blowups Happen,” but he wrote them with a kind of authority and authenticity that made them seem real. It’s partly the way he drops the details in and writes about it as if it’s routine: “The rockets roared on time; Jake went back to sleep” (“Space Jockey”). Of course he did. Lazarus Long wears a kilt because there’s a fashion for wearing kilts—because that’s the kind of thing that happens. People say they live “in the Moon,” only a groundhog would say “on the Moon.” Of course they do, and of course people from Earth are groundhogs. There’s an inevitability to Heinlein’s futures, however inherently implausible they are, and however much the real future has overtaken them. It’s the inevitability of having people do the kind of things people do, and the kind of thing anyone would do, in the new circumstances. There was more to him than that, but this was Heinlein’s genius—making you read along, making up the world in your head, and saying “Of course.”

Tor.com

Trump backed ‘space force’ after months of lobbying by officials with ties to aerospace industry

When President Trump spoke to Marines at Air Station Miramar in San Diego on March 13, he threw out an idea that he suggested had just come to him.

“You know, I was saying it the other day, because we’re doing a tremendous amount of work in space — I said maybe we need a new force. We’ll call it the ‘space force,’” he told the crowd. “And I was not really serious. And then I said what a great idea — maybe we’ll have to do that.”

The origin of the space force wasn’t that simple.

The concept had been pushed unsuccessfully since 2016 by a small group of current and former government officials, some with deep financial ties to the aerospace industry, who see creation of the sixth military service as a surefire way to hike Pentagon spending on satellite and other space systems.

Space pork.

latimes.com

“Hawk Among the Sparrows”

I read this novella in a secondhand copy of the very issue of Analog whose cover is shown here. My cousin Barry gave me a box of about five years of Analog magazines, the nearly complete run from 1968-73. Barry gave me this gift around 1973, when I was 12 years old. I read the magazines cover to cover one summer, every word, including the letters and probably the ads too.

Barry is about 15 years older than I, so he would have been in his late 20s or 30 then, when I was about 12. And he was a voracious science fiction reader. I think he moved on to technothrillers over the course of the 80s. When we visited his house in the early 70s, he let me borrow freely from his library. Some of the books I was exposed to at that time were racy and dealt with drug use and other themes; this was the time of the science fiction New Wave. But I got a lot of the classics from the 1940s and 1950s that way too.

Barry outright gave me his castoff books, some of which I loved and are still in my collection. He and I now have very different tastes in fiction; I think a lot of it has to do with my having formed my tastes to a large degree on books he gave me because he didn’t want them!

“Hawk Among the Sparrows” is a time-travel story with a twist. Published in 1968, it’s about the pilot of a cutting-edge (for 1968) fighter jet cast back in time to World War I, along with his fully fueled and operational plane. The pilot tries to use his advanced technology to win the war for the Allies against the Axis powers. But he finds his technology is too advanced. If I recall correctly, the missiles are heat-seeking. Either that or they’re metal-seeking. Either way, there isn’t enough heat (or metal) on a World War I battlefield for the missiles to target on. Also, the plane requires prodiguous quantities of kerosene to fly, and the entire Allied economy can barely produce enough to put that one plane in the air. So the pilot and his World War I friends struggle to find a way to use this technology from 50 years in the future.

Amazingly, 1968 is only slightly further in the future of World War I than today is to 1968.