• Someday, Robots May Save or Destroy Us All—For Now, They're Still Kinda Dumb In the fall of 1941, with war raging in Europe and Russia, science-fiction author Isaac Asimov wrote a short story set in a far-distant future. The year is 2015, the location, Mercury. There, a couple of interplanetary miners named Gregory Powell and Mike Donovan are having trouble with a robot nicknamed Speedy, who’s been sent onto Mercury’s furnace-like surface to perform what should be a routin…
  • Life on Pluto, Circa 1959 When NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft flew past Pluto and its moons recently, after journeying more than three billion miles over the course of nine-and-a-half years, much was made of the former planet’s craterless surface. The absence of craters indicates that Pluto is geologically active, which means that in this respect, if no other, Pluto is more like Earth than our pockmarked moon. Perhaps Dona…
  • Daniel H. Wilson on Robot Uprisings and Hollywood Sci-Fi Blockbusters As a kid, I played with lots of robot toys, like Gobots and Transformers. Of course, robots are up there in the pantheon of pop culture icons, along with cowboys, astronauts, and dinosaurs. After I finished an undergraduate degree in computer science, I was trying to decide what to study in grad school, because I knew I didn't want to get a job programming. Looking around, I saw robotics on the…
  • Rare Books: The Time Machine One of my favorite "books as objects" is the first edition of H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine: an Invention.” Published in 1895, it was Wells’ first novel and is naturally regarded as one of the first works of science fiction. It is also the earliest sci-fi work based on time travel, and was described by Wells himself as “my trump card.” I say “book as object” because there is something extremely…
  • To Catch A Thief: A Rare Book Expert on His Literary Obsessions I don’t remember a time when I didn’t read books. In grade school, I devoured library books. I also loved comic books, and was wheeling and dealing them as a child—buying them for a nickel, sell them for dime. Bertrand Smith let me into the rare book room, and I bought a Maxwell Parrish "Arabian Nights." I bought an just for the illustrations. At the time I had no idea the artist was a Welsh wo…
  • The Last Word on First Editions Strictly speaking, a book’s edition refers to the setting of the text. So the first time you set the text and print a book with it, and then sell a bound book that you’ve just printed, that’s the first edition, first printing. If you use the same setup of text and print it again, that would be the second printing—a printing is therefore a subclass of an edition. The printing is also called the imp…