A lovely cover snap by Adam of a stream in Delft, taken during his European visit.
This issue, we discuss ecocide, building and designing robots, an invasion and climate politics.
Marc Ortlieb looks at Lewis Carrol’s Phantasmagoria, Tony Thomas provides a poetic glimpse at our future, and Ian Borchardt looks at Jane Austin, Private Eye. We’ve also returned the comment forms to make it easier for you to respond. Enjoy!
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Adam: It has been a busy time since the last issue. Probably the highlight for me was a lightning trip to Europe. For various reasons I’ve been working on a long-running research project to develop a system that we hope will encourage the reuse of building components. Currently the construction industry is one of, if not the biggest producer of waste materials in Australia, so any means to reduce that waste is a worthwhile step. And while recycling is good, it is better to reuse than to recycle.
Adam looks at two similar games to consider why one succeeds, and the other doesn’t.
I have relatively little shame in admitting that I’m a Pokémon Go player. I will admit that I do have some shame, but it is manageable. I started playing back when the game was new, exciting, and popular, and kept playing as everyone else I knew slowly dropped away, leaving just a small group of serious players who refuse to move on. Those players include my wife and one of our children, (the other having given up a year or so ago), so I guess I can use them as an excuse for my interest, but that would be lying. I’m simply addicted, and not very good at giving up on games.
One of the interesting things Adam does in his “spare” time is to build robots.
After taking a year off, in 2019 I returned to mentoring the local student robotics team, the RoboRoos. I enjoyed my break but I admit to missing the team, and even though difficult years can be more than a tad frustrating, when things are working there is little that I enjoy more. The RoboRoos is a community-based team consisting of high school students, alumni and a small number of parent/mentors.
As mentioned in a previous issue, each year the teams have been given a new task and six weeks to build a robot. The theme this year was “Destination: Deep Space” to coincide with the anniversary of the moon landing, and the task proved to be a complex one.
A French group, Le Phun, created a hundred of these sculptures for WOMADelaide.
“The innovative theatre company from Toulouse combines the reality of the everyday with the creative world of the imagination. Their beguiling, ephemeral Leafies (Les Pheuillus) – plant sculptures born from autumn leaves, in human form – will appear and migrate to unexpected places in Botanic Park during the festival, as a reflection on the poetic aspects of nature.”
I didn’t make it to WOMADelaide this year, but soon discovered that the leafies had escaped the Botanic Park and started to show up in unexpected places around the city of Adelaide.
On the 150th Anniversary of one of Lewis Carroll’s lesser known works.
Phantasmagoria is Lewis Carroll’s longest poem, weighing in at 140 verses with five lines per verse, as opposed to The Hunting of the Snark, which has one more verse but in which each verse consists only of four lines. All things considered, I prefer the Snark, but Phantasmagoria has its own charms.
Polly Higgins was a Scottish barrister, who left her career as a corporate lawyer to focus on environmental advocacy, and unsuccessfully lobbied the United Nations Law Commission to recognise ecocide as an international crime.
Ecocide had been proposed as one of the international crimes against peace in 1996, but failed to be included in the final Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Higgins started to campaign for its inclusion around 2009, when the Rome statue was being reviewed.
I had the great pleasure of interviewing her in 2014.
We shared a pot of tea, sat on my patio on a warm summer’s day, and discussed why ecocide wasn’t adopted as an international crime.
In part two of my 2014 interview with Polly Higgins, we start by talking bout why ecocide should be a criminal, rather than civil matter.
There was an interesting discussion between Jonathan Strahan and Gary Wolfe a while back on the Coode Street Podcast about the attractions of the novella form: long enough to allow some interesting world-building and development, but not as major a commitment as a novel. With Tor (in particular) publishing a number of novellas, there’s a market for the stories. Unsurprisingly, authors have risen to the challenge. As part of the discussions at Critical Mass, we’ve been looking at recent nominees in that category. Here are some of my notes…
This is the story of a young Alfred Pennyworth (the future butler to Thomas Wayne), set in the 1950s in an alternative Britain. He was a soldier in the war, and starts a security service after the war. Produced by the makers of Gotham, Alfred reminds us of a young Michael Caine playing Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File — not just the accent, but the working class background and gruff attitude.
Acknowledgement: The first line was seen on a placard on the climate change march in
Melbourne, Sunday 21 September 2014, which inspired the rest.
The Denier’s Nightmare
by Tony Thomas
I love a sun-powered country
Whose roofs are turning green,
Where trees have done for coal stacks
And cars are seldom seen.