Skepticism

Misc literary stuff

Hi all, I’m going to be offline for a few weeks, but I wanted to post an update of some literary things before I disappear….

First, check out this excellent post about the Pakistani government saying it is OK for Islamists to attack and kill Salmon Rushdie (again) because he’s recently been knighted by the Queen and this is, apparently, a gigantic insult to Islam. The article does not cover the details of the news story, but rather discusses the implications for freedom of speech and of religion, both ostensibly enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and valued everywhere by those who love democracy and freedom.

Second, please continue discussing Gormglaith. I think it might be interesting to talk about robots and androids in sci-fi. I asked Heidi to talk a little bit about the robots in Gormglaith, and here’s what she said:

Lots of robots are glimpsed in Gormglaith’s world. Some are big machines like the reapers, sleds and skates, others are gadget-like, some are no more than holographic light. Two kinds are “anthropomorphic,” fetchingly crafted to deal with folks in terms of their own physical space and ways but never talking. The somewhat skeletal ones show up as appliances, serving food, tidying up and fixing stuff or whatever. Then there are robots called “wigs” (Anglo Saxon for “idol”) which look and mostly behave spot on like girls and have makers’ marks (or “runes”) on the smalls of their backs. In the tale they show up as sulky dolls showing off clothes (longstockings, cutty sarks, klompen and so on) in shop windows but they do seem to have a long and rather scathing history. Gwenhwyfer says she thinks they’re “swank,” then Bairrfhionn tells how when she was 11 and asked why folks don’t keep them as “house robots or whatever,” the swift answer she got back was, “How might we slaughter happiness, thou meanst!”

Being as I am, a huge fan of almost all robots (I admit that even industrial robots give me goosebumps), I easily fall in love with fictional robotic characters — from Aliens to Star Trek, I often find the robots’ search for humanity to be the most interesting part of the story and I’d love for these humanoid androids to become a reality in my lifetime. For that reason, I’m also a huge fan of Alan Turing and his test for non-biological intelligence. If you don’t know much about him, you should read the excellent biography by Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: The Enigma.

And finally, what’s coming up on our reading list? For those who want to read on ahead, because of my trip and procrastination, June will meld into July, and here’s what’s coming up next:

In August, we will be reading A 21st Century Rationalist in Medieval America by John Bice. This book is largely a collection of columns that John wrote for a newspaper over the past several years, and it includes an introduction that will make you want to start writing for your local paper as well. I know it’s inpsired me and I hope to be able to get some opinion columns published next year. The subtitle, “Essays on Religion, Science, Morality, and the Bush Administration” gives you a pretty good idea of what’s contained between the covers.

In September, we’ll take a look at feminism and skepchickism. I am, without apology, a radical feminist. But there’s one thing I hate about feminism, and that is the tendency to embrace magical bullshit, particularly under the guise of science being “a man’s way of knowing.” I hope that Jessica Valenti of feministing.com doesn’t go that way in Full Frontal Feminism, but I’m willing to read her book to find out because it looks like a really fun romp through the basics of feminism for those of us who are too young to have experienced it in its earlier hey-day. The issues are still extremely important, and the older I get the more I realize that we women are still getting the shaft far too often.

Okay skepchicks and dudes, have fun in July!

writerdd

Donna Druchunas is a freelance technical writer and editor and a knitwear designer. When she's not working, she blogs, studies Lithuanian, reads science and sci-fi books, mouths off on atheist forums, and checks her email every three minutes. (She does that when she's working, too.) Although she loves to chat, she can't keep an IM program open or she'd never get anything else done.

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