Monday, 10 October 2011


Kurt Vonnegut famously said: ‘Science is magic that works.’

But what about the spells that make that magic ... the Science Fiction that works?

Only two blogs ago, we pointed out that Captain James T Kirk of the Star Ship Enterprise was using cell phones, tablet computers – and even ebook-reading devices – on his Star Trek voyages when Steve Jobs was still in short pants.

The ‘fazer’ stun guns with various power settings, used by Capt Jim and his crew, were not the pre-cursors of today’s notoriously ubiquitous Tasers, as is often thought. The Taser is actually an acronym and a tribute to the author who dreamed up the possibility: Thomas A Swifts Electric Rifle exactly a century ago, and sixty years before scientist Jack Cover made Tom Swift’s idea a reality, never forgetting the visionary author who’d inspired his work.

Less than thirty years before man landed on the moon, a scientist was ridiculed in the US congress when he suggested he could build a rocket that would soar through the earth’s atmosphere.

Science fiction was loudly predicting space travel in the 1800s. Cyrano de Bergerac – he of the re-entry capsule-sized nose – wrote his Voyage to the Moon in 1654 ... more than three centuries before Neil Armstrong took his ‘one small step’ and planted the first human boot-print in the dust of the lunar surface. Folks of the time (they hadn’t even invented flared trousers) thought Cyrano was a loony. But, as it turned out, he could see even farther than his own impressive nose.

We’re surrounded by the gadgets of Science Fiction alchemy that foreshadowed the magic of science that works.

The evidence is in our homes, in our pockets and wallets, in our hospitals and schools, in our offices and factories, flying over our heads (Leonardo Da Vinci even designed the helicopter way before folks in the early 20th Century still thought hot air balloons were pretty nifty), and their dreams have been driving down our streets as long as anyone alive today can remember. For some of us, it’s actually implanted in our bodies.

Cloning is a reality, our interplanetary probes are already sending back signals from distances that can only be measured conveniently in terms of the speed of light, Cern in Switzerland has conquered the mysteries of anti-matter and recently discovered particles that travel at speeds beyond that of light itself. Multiverses and time travel are seriously studied by those with brains the size of planets, like Marvin, Douglas Adams’ paranoid android. Even artificial life itself, ain’t so artificial any more. Could be that our universe is a Matrix-style computer simulation, scientists now posit ... as did the old comic book’s mad Brainiac.

On the dark-side, Sci Fi also foresaw doomsday bombs, death rays, guided missiles, man-made global catastrophe, world warfare and lethal pandemics ... not to mention the kind of plastic surgery that turned Michael Jackson’s face into a pretty close match for Mary Shelley’s Dr Frankenstein creation back in 1823.

You’re reading this on a computer – a machine foretold by Sci Fi writers generations ago. And if you’re planning a video call to your old aunt half a world away this afternoon, spare a warm thought for evil Emperor Ming in the Flash Gordon comic strip and early kids’ cinema and TV series. And, of course, for NASA’s good old Voyager space probe that, like ET, never fails to phone home from mind-boggling billions of miles away.

And – through the imagination of author and poet Sam Smith – BeWrite Books beat ’em to it again with Sam’s superb The End of Science Fiction.

The backdrop to the book is that, contrary to scientific consensus, our universe's expansion is gaining pace. When it begins to contract, it will do so at an ever-accelerating rate that could leave us with less than a week’s warning of the end of everything in the cosmos; a Big Crunch that would then become another in ye gods only know how many Big Bangs that continually – billions of years apart – start the whole process over again from scratch.

This month, the Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to a three-man team of US-born egg-heads for proving that good ol’ Sam was right. They discovered that the universe IS expanding at an accelerating pace, just as Sam had predicted. And that had taken them by surprise.

Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess presented findings that overturned the conventional idea that the expansion was slowing 13.7 billion years after the Big Bang. It will reach a point where the universe will start to implode. Must have been another terrible surprise to them.

Hate to say 'we told you so,' Nobel Committee, but Sam’s The End of Science Fiction shows we did. And once again fiction was one giant leap ahead of Science Fact!

Sam said: ‘The Nobel winners reckon that, so long as we keep looking we will have billions of years’ warning in that the doppler effect will shift the light coming our way into the red spectrum. But this is from the team who initially presumed they were going to measure the rate of the universe’s slowing expansion and who instead found it to be accelerating, as per my hypothesis, couldn’t explain the acceleration and so came up with the theory of ‘dark matter’ playing games with gravity.

‘We don’t fully understand yet the effects of gravity, the team admits. So why not, as in The End of Science Fiction, where I outguessed them with an ever-accelerating rate of expansion, as the universe implodes, star systems impacting with star systems, won’t the ever-increasing mass increase the effects of gravity and pull the universe’s contents, faster and faster, back to another Big Bang? Snap!

‘My book rests its case.’

The current cover image on The End of Science Fiction is the first picture to show two galaxies in collision and dying in a cosmic firework display, light years away from Planet Earth. It’s eye-witness proof of scientific theory that these things do happen. Worlds do end. And so will universes. The photograph was taken by the wonderful Hubble orbiting space telescope and was reproduced by kind permission of NASA to BeWrite Books editor Neil Marr.

Of the imploding universe – Sam’s fictional hunch, the scientists’ later factual discovery – the Nobel Committee said: ‘It’s an enigma, perhaps the greatest in physics today.’

Perlmutter, 52, of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California, Berkeley, will receive half the $1.5 million prize. The other half will go to Schmidt, 44, at the Australian National University in Weston Creek, Australia, and Riess, 41, an astronomy professor at Johns Hopkins University and Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

‘One of the truly great discoveries in the history of science, and one whose implications are not fully understood,’ said Paul Steinhardt, a physics professor at Princeton University.

Sam? Well Sam Smith (of a certain age that makes these Johnny-come-lately scientists mere whippersnappers) wasn’t mentioned at the prize-giving ceremony in Stockholm or in the acres of news print that followed worldwide. Rude of them, we feel. What to do to honour Sam?

Tony’s just wrapping up the six-monthly BeWrite Books royalties payments and tells me there ain’t likely to be $1.5 million left in the kitty as a bonus. So the best we can do is award Sam the not-so-ignoble ‘BeWrite Bobel Prize for Beating the Boffins at Their Own Game’, and a new cover and re-release of The End of Science Fiction. Another triumph of fiction over science.

Author Sam Smith
And the first half dozen readers of this blog (or anywhere else it’s circulated) to drop me an email (email BB) will get a free copy … in the spirit of the age, in ebook format of choice rather than old-fashioned print. After all, during his star date period, only Captain Jean-Luc Picard reads printed books; and he thinks of them as quaint curios of a bygone age, like his penny whistle, the riding crop he uses on the holodeck, trying (and embarrassingly failing) to smoke a cigarette as a Raymond Chandler-style private eye from the 1950s.

Of course, Sam’s an author and poet (spurring the efforts science is a a mere sideline to him), so his Bobel Prize-Winning fast-stretching, fast-imploding hypothesis – what he once described to me as the ‘Elastic Band Effect’ – is merely the cosmic drama against which the very human drama of The End of Science Fiction is set. Here’s my original back cover text.


No matter how important your job … would YOU turn up for work
knowing that you and every living being on the planet will be dead before pay day?

A beautiful young woman is brutally murdered – just as governments around the world announce that the universe will end in five days’ time.

The planet Earth’s seven billion human beings deal with their impending extinction in seven billion different ways.

But amid global chaos, dedicated detective Herbie Watkins stays on the case, determined to discover the killer against a merciless clock that’s ticking away his own final hours.

Is he insanely obsessed, or is he the last sane man in the history of the human race?

Sam Smith weaves a unique cop story of a unique cop against a unique backdrop in a unique page-turner of a book.

No count-down novel, no disaster book, no police saga has ever been written to thrill the reader and plumb the depths of the human soul as does The End of Science Fiction. It is the last word in SF and crime.

You will read this book and over again, asking new and challenging questions of yourself and formulating new answers every time you re-open this outstanding work from the pen of an author who demands one-sitting novel reading.

You can read more about the book, download a free extract and see more about Sam Smith HERE.

Have fun folks. I’ve read EOSF a dozen times and never tire of it. Yup, it’s one of those rare books that always hold pride of place on your shelf – virtual or otherwise.

Best wishes. Neil, Tony, Sam, Hugh et al at BB

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