Fantasist's Scroll

Fun, Fiction and Strange Things from the Desk of the Fantasist.

9/30/2004

Review: The Freemasons: A History of the World’s Most Powerful Secret Society

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I finished The Freemasons: A History of the World’s Most Powerful Secret Society by Jasper Ridleylast week.

As a Freemason myself, I found the book quite interesting. First of all, it looks at masonic history from the perspective of a what is known and concrete, not with any real speculation at all. It’s a very, very scholarly work which included a significant bibliography.
Secondly, it was written by a non-Mason. While that, in itself, is not remarkable, what is special about that is that the author maintains an even-handed look at masonic history. He sticks to the facts and was actually quite enlightening in many areas, at least to me.
Thirdly, the book covers quite a bit of history, but it completely discounts the claims that some authors have made regarding Freemasonry being descended from the Knights Templar. This is, oddly enough, unusual these days. It seems like the majority of books lean the other way. Jasper Ridley, though, maintains that the simplest explanation is, in fact, correct. That the story we’re told from the Grand Lodge is right. Namely, that the Freemasons are an outgrowth and offshoot of the original working, or operative masons, who were essentially an early trade union.
Finally, as Mr. Ridley sums up at the end, he gives the Freemasons a fairly good endorsement, which we can surely use for a change!

If you have any interest at all in the history of Freemasonry, this is an excellent place to start. I wish I’d read it first, before all the others that I’ve gotten into this past year or so. But, if you’ve only a passing interest, there are other, easier books to read. As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, this is a rather scholarly work.

9/28/2004

Or, maybe keep it cold!

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is a Full Moon

Cold fusion, that is.

According to this article on the IEEE website, cold fusion is alive and kicking. Well, at least, it may get a second chance. Apparently, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science will receive a report from a panel of experts on the prospects for cold fusion later this month. (Incidentally, for those of you who aren’t familiar, cold fusion is the “supposed generation of thermonuclear energy using tabletop apparatus.”) You can read more about it at the article.
The interesting thing here, for me, is that this one doesn’t seem to die. No one has been able to reproduce the results of that first experiment. At least, not with any degree of credibility within the scientific community. But, still, they chase the dream. “A reactor in every household!” I can see the slogans now… Ah, well, considering the story I brought you yesterday, I suppose it’s only a matter of time.

9/27/2004

Reactor in a Box

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I stole that from the article.

This article at New Scientist, that is. It’s all about an idea the US government has come up with to help bring power to the powerless. It is, as the title indicates, a reactor in a box. SPecifically, it’s a small nuclear reactor/power-plant in a sealed container that is easily transportable. It can generate anywhere from 10 to 100 megawatts, depending on the size, but can still be moved “easily” by ship or large truck to where it’s needed. So, why in a sealed container? Why, to help make sure that the Third World countries we shop it out to don’t take it apart to make bombs, of course! So, how long before that happens, do you think? Well, anyway, I thought it would be a thought provoking article.
Enjoy!

9/26/2004

Sadly enough…

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I’m not really a writer anymore.

When I noticed that Joe Clifford Faust had listed my website under “Resources” instead of “Writer’s Blogs” I was, well, a little miffed. Don’t I have free fiction on my site? Haven’t I submitted to magazines? And even been accepted?! Well, yes, I had one story accepted by a magazine that promptly shut down. More than ten years ago.

More than ten years ago.

Gah! What have I been doing with myself? Not enough writing, that’s for sure. So, I have to reluctantly admit that I am NOT, in fact, a writer anymore. I’m just a “wannabe”. So, now, after not really writing in quite some time. How do I start again? Well, I guess, I’ll start by reading a book by Damon Knight on short story writing. I have it right by my bed. It’s called Creating Short Fiction : The Classic Guide to Writing Short Fiction. And, then, I guess, I’ll have to actually make time to write!

9/24/2004

Happy Birthday SciFi netowrk!

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Wheee!

Today is not only the birthday of the Science Fiction Channel, but also Space: Above and Beyond! The SciFi Channel launched today in 1992 and started a revolution in television.
But, just as important my favorite science-fiction show of ALL time launched today in 1995. There wasn’t anything quite like Space: Above and Beyond, and there hasn’t been anything like it since, either. Imagine all the best things about Star Trek combined with the grit from Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (the book, not the movie!) and you start to get an idea. It was military science-fiction at its finest! The story, in a nutshell, is that Earth colonies get attacked by an unknown alien invasion force and we’re suddenly off to war. The series focused on a group of Marine pilots who fly off to space, each for their own reasons, to fight the enemy. And then it started to get really interesting. In my opinion, there hasn’t been writing this good in either science-fiction or television in years. I was really sorry to see it go. Maybe I’ll get lucky and the SciFi Channel will bring it back again! Or, maybe you would like to see it on DVD? Well, so would all the fans, but it’s not out yet. If you’d like to see this show released on DVD, why not sign the Space: Above and Beyond DVD Petition?

9/23/2004

Review: Iron Council

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I finished Iron Council by China Mi�ville last week.

It was good, but not quite as good as his last two.
This one dealt with an attempt to run a transcontinental railroad across Bas Lag, home of New Crobuzon. Something goes wrong and the people building the railroad rebel and become their own, moving, city. While the idea is interesting, and the descriptions of magic and struggle are compelling, the book focuses elsewhere. Specifically, it seems as if Mr. Mi�ville has a social message to impart to us. A rather anti-capitalist, socialist message.
While there’s nothing wrong with that, per se, it does take away from the story in this case. The book seems less about exploring the world of Bas Lag than either Perdido Street Station or The Scar . It is not, by any means, his best effort.
However, it was a good book. I certainly enjoyed the previous two more, but I was not sorry that I bought Iron Council and read it.

If you’re already a fan, Iron Council will be worth it. But, if you’re new to China Mi�ville, it would be better to start with either Perdido Street Station or The Scar .

9/22/2004

Religion in Writing

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

And, for that matter, gaming.

One of my favorite constructed worlds, or “conworld”, is Tkumel, which is an ongoing project of M.A.R. Barker. One of Professor Barker’s assertions is that religous belief is very important to a created world, but often overlooked or done poorly. In games, we find poorly understood real-world religons being “modernized” or otherwise adapted to the game world in a very surface-level way. Or, religions are simply motions that people go through with little thought or belief behind it. And, while such things often occur in our own world, more people actually believe in a religion of some kind than simply take it as a set of rituals to perform. In any case, it is usually quite a bit more complicated than the way most folks represent. Professor Barker wrote an article about it which you can find in the Blue Room Archives at Tkumel.com It’s worth reading if you’re thinking about integrating a “real” religion into your work.

9/21/2004

The Dangerous Dead

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

An interesting twist on the potential danger of the dead.

Okay, now, usually, when someone says something about how dangerous the dead are, I’m thinking the walking dead. Zombies, vampires, ghouls and the like. But, according to this article on WiredNews.com, the dead can be dangerous in real life!
Frankly, this hadn’t really occurred to me before, but it makes sense. With all the biological warfare agents out and about in the world, a large group of dead can be quite troublesome. Imagine, if you will, a great big pile of very, very infectious corpses baking in the sun. How do you dispose of them without spreading the contagion? How do you handle them to even figure out what the disease, or other agent, that killed them even is? All very good questions. For a few answers, read the article.


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