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Friday

Listen Up: Tricentennial

Years and years ago, Joe Haldeman and his wife, Gay, came to Australia and totally charmed every one with their humour and an ability to sing filk songs. Back then, Joe Haldeman was mainly famous for his novel, The Forever War, and he'd written a couple of Star Trek novels (writing one was an adventure, writing a second was, apparently, painful) so he was of interest to a wide range of SF fandom. The Forever War has the wonderful opening line, "Tonight we're going to show you eight silent ways to kill a man."

Ridley Scott, of Alien fame (and Prometheus infamy) is planning to make a 3D film of The Forever War. Let's hope it's a good one and not one of those where part of the book, such as the story, is discarded in favour of something else. The film is supposed to come out in 2013, so we'll find out next year.

"Tricentennial" is one of those short stories that actually contains a sweeping saga of future history. Scientists on an L5 station find that there is someone out there, intelligent life out in deep space. The scientists want to get in touch with them. They have the technology, what is lacking is the political will. Mainly, the problem is getting permission to use an energy source in order to transmit a message out there. The amount of energy they would need would cause a power black out on Earth for about twelve hours, with resulting death and mayhem. No politician wants to give permission for that to happen. The scientists, therefore, have to come up with another plan.

One of the interesting things about this story is that it is the scientists who have the 'get up and go' spirit to try and acheive something. They are not the cautious ones here. The Earthsiders, or Groundhogs as they are referred to, hate the scientists, presumably because science has so often got it wrong and caused suffering, to the extent that they consider losing a few scientist lives to be a good thing.

Tricentennial, by Joe Haldeman, well narrated by Peter Cavell, who seems to know how to convey changes in voices without going painfully over the top. It makes for really pleasant listening despite the techno nature of parts of the story.