How to Play Hilketa, the Robot-Smashing Sport in John Scalzi’s Head On

Hilketa sport John Scalzi Head On

Hilketa is a sport, first played in the United States, in which two teams of eleven players attempt to score points, primarily by tearing off the head of one of the opposing players and either throwing or carrying the head through goal posts. Other points may be accrued through defensive or offensive action. Because of the violent nature of the sport, no human bodies are on the field during play; all play is performed with personal transports (“threeps”). Because of this, and due to the fact that until very recently all threeps were operated by people with Haden’s Syndrome, to this day all professional Hilketa athletes are “Hadens.”

Despite being a relatively new sport, the kinetic nature of the game and its scoring has caused the game to become exceptionally popular in a very short time, although the highly-specialized and expensive nature of the threeps involved ...

John Scalzi’s Head On and the Potential of the Future

John Scalzi, Head On, cover

In 2014, John Scalzi’s Lock In introduced us to a world drastically changed by Haden Syndrome, a disease that strikes 1% of the population, causing them to become “locked in”: unable to move, but still fully aware of the world around them. The world in Scalzi’s imaginary future adapts to accommodate this population of people. They create programs and infrastructure to allow people with the disease—Hadens—to continue interacting with their family and friends while also creating Haden-specific spaces. The biggest change is the development of mobility robots, called threeps, that allow Hadens to move through the world like the able-bodied.

The main character of the series, Chris Shane, is a Haden as well as an FBI agent. Lock In introduces us to Chris as a brand new agent on a Haden-related murder case. Head On, the follow up to Lock In, brings in the Haden-specific sport Hilketa. Hadens ...

Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award to Honor Speculative Fiction About the Ramifications of Technology

Neukom Institute of Computational Science Literary Arts Award Dan Rockmore

In a recent essay in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Dartmouth professor Dan Rockmore argues that for visions of the future, we should turn not to scientists or futurists but to artists: “Unimpeded by error bars and immune to the stakes that motivate futurists, they may be our best guides to the science-inflected possibilities of the future, precisely because they have the freedom to chart a possible future that many a bench scientist can’t or won’t.” In that spirit, Rockmore, director of the Neukom Institute for Computational Science, has established a new award that will recognize works of speculative fiction, especially those that ponder societal effects of everything from artificial intelligence to big data.

The Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award will celebrate near-future narratives in books and plays that pertain specifically to computational science—which can manifest as the aforementioned examples as well as many other concepts: self-driving ...

Recognizing a Familiar Future: William Gibson’s Blue Ant Trilogy

Gibson and I got off on the wrong foot. My first encounter with Gibson was the third book in the Sprawl trilogy, Mona Lisa Overdrive. I was in my teens, and stole it from my sister to read, along with Count Zero. I hated both. Viscerally. They’re only subtly interlinked, so order wasn’t the issue, it was more perhaps that I felt that world was too distant. The internet was foreign to me. I only had a basic computer for writing, and I wouldn’t encounter the internet until much later, and so the whole thing felt unreal. Fantasy instead of SF. Perils of a lower middle class, low income upbringing, disconnection with the very connection that the rest of the world seemed to be getting into. I can’t remember how long after that I found and read Neuromancer, but I wasn’t massively taken with that either, except in terms ...

Snow Crash, Infinite Jest, and Our Cyberpunk Present

Infinish Jest and Snow Crash covers Please enjoy this encore post on the literary intersections of cyberpunk, originally published on June 8, 2016. If you walked into a middle-class early ’90s living room, it would look pretty similar to what you’d see today: TVs, personal computers, video game consoles. Our stuff is just smaller now, and we use some of it to stream information and entertainment rather than using cartridges and discs. I would guess that because of this sudden influx of home-based technology, the mid-90s saw a giant spike in worry about what that tech would do to our humanity. And so into this world came two giant, happily maximalist books that seemed determined to cram every bit of pre-millennial tension into their pages. One was Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace, and the other was Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson. Snow Crash begins with a blast of worldbuilding: Hiro Protagonist barrels down ...
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Snow Crash Fan Art—Nam Shub

Near Future and Far Future: Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin

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< p class="frontmatter">Welcome to the Tor.com eBook Club! November’s pick is Spin, the first book in a sci-fi trilogy from Robert Charles Wilson. What’s so brilliant about Spin is the way that it’s a terrific human story as well as a terrific gosh-wow new-ideas science fiction story. It’s so good at this that it’s hard to think of anything else that’s as good in quite the same way. It’s hard to play the “if you like x you’ll like y” game with it. It isn’t in a subgenre, unless cutting-edge science fiction is itself a subgenre. It’s also astonishingly good at pacing of revelation——by which I mean the speed at which the reader finds out what’s going on. The story’s being told in first person and very much in hindsight, and very much as a told story, with an ongoing thread and a past-time thread, and Wilson uses all this ...
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The Questions Raised By 1973’s Westworld Made Its Revival Inevitable

Westworld 1973 movie Westworld was Michael Crichton’s very first foray into directing, a box office success that has retained its cult status over the years due to sharp casting (Yul Brynner is unforgettable everywhere, but even moreso here) and a slow burn premise that leaves its audience in a perpetual state of dread. It’s about to become HBO’s latest tentpole television series, and though the pacing of such a story will undoubtedly be different in a serialized format, it’s hard to dispute mining the tale for its subject matter. To a modern audience, the ideas posed by Westworld are bound to be more relevant now than they ever were. And more importantly, they could use an update. A cautionary tale through and through, Westworld was a sparse film, but an effective one. Much like Crichton’s later (and larger) success, Jurassic Park, Westworld told the story of an advanced theme park gone wrong; ...
Westworld 1973 movie
Westworld 1973 movie
Westworld 1973 movie
Westworld 1973 movie

Political Popularity and World Peace: Icon by Genevieve Valentine

icon-GValentine Last time we met Suyana Sapaki she had managed to survive an assassination attempt that lead to her popularity soaring amongst the general public, but falling to extremely dubious and complicated levels among the other Faces—official diplomats in a celebrity-obsessed near-future society. The young woman who, it turns out, had always been a double agent of sorts, is back in Genevieve Valentine’s Icon, the follow up to last year’s wonderful Persona. (Possible spoilers ahead for Persona, but it can’t be helped since this is a direct sequel.) As the Face’ of the United Amazonian Rainforest Confederation (UARC), Suyana is well aware that the UARC only came to public attention as a result of terrorist activities some years ago, and that now, her name (or face, if you will) is very much tied to the assassination attempt against her, and her current relationship with the American Face. ...

Hearts on Fire: False Hearts by Laura Lam

false-hearts-cover In Laura Lam’s False Hearts, identical twins Tila and Taema are raised as part of a cult hidden away from modern civilisation called Manna’s Hearth. Eventually, accidentally, they discover that there is a different, bigger world outside of the Hearth and leave for the big city lights. In this near future San Francisco, they are surgically separated, given mechanical hearts, biotech and soon learn to live their own, very different, very individual lives. Taema works for a large tech firm, developing a product that generates energy from the constant fog shrouding the city, the same company that also creates a drug that allows people to live out their fantasies in a dreamscape with no harm coming to anyone involved. Tila works as an escort at a swanky club that allows people to do just that—live out their fantasies, safely. But one night, instead of showing up for a regular ...
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Snow Crash and Infinite Jest Both Predicted Our Cyberpunk Present

Crash-Jest If you walked into a middle-class early ’90s living room, it would look pretty similar to what you’d see today: TVs, personal computers, video game consoles. Our stuff is just smaller now, and we use some of it to stream information and entertainment rather than using cartridges and discs. I would guess that because of this sudden influx of home-based technology, the mid-90s saw a giant spike in worry about what that tech would do to our humanity. And so into this world came two giant, happily maximalist books that seemed determined to cram every bit of pre-millennial tension into their pages. One was Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace, and the other was Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson. Snow Crash begins with a blast of worldbuilding: Hiro Protagonist barrels down the privatized highway to deliver a Cosa Nostra pizza, his black car lit by the “loglo”, zipping ...
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Snow Crash Fan Art—Nam Shub

Tor.com Publishing Opening to Science Fiction Novellas in June

publishing-banner Over the course of our unsolicited submissions open periods, we at Tor.com Publishing have found a wonderful variety of novellas to acquire and publish. Slush brought us such novellas as The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, Runtime, The Drowning Eyes, and more. To date Tor.com has purchased half a dozen novellas from slush, and we’d like to keep up that good work. As such, Tor.com Publishing will soon be reopening to unsolicited novella submissions! Starting June 5th, Lee Harris and Carl Engle-Laird will be reading and evaluating original novellas submitted by hopeful authors to http://submissions.tor.com/tornovellas/. You can find full guidelines here, and we highly recommend you read the guidelines, because we’re doing things a little differently this time. Until the end of June, Tor.com will only be considering novellas of between 20,000 and 40,000 words that fit one of the following ...