Round up #293: the future of dystopias, do I know you?

Round up #293: the future of dystopias, do I know you?

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Do I know you?

I recently mentioned that I have one sibling with a mystery novel being released on June 1st:

One Murder More (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I have another sibling who already has published books, and is doing a

Kickstarter campaign (through May 23)

to publish a new one (A Problem Solving Graphic Novel Guide for General Physics…a $5 pledge gets you a Kindle edition…you only pay if they get enough pledges to publish it).

Well, that got me thinking: I really know a lot of people who have published books!

Both my parents have.

Other relatives have.

My coworkers have.

People with whom I served on a non-profit have.

E-quaintances (people I only know electronically…I’ve never met them In Real Life) have.

If I expand the net to include people I’ve met but don’t really know personally…yow!

I do want to support them, but I don’t want to bug you about them in the blog.

So, I decided to create a page (still under construction) on the ILMK blogsite dedicated to them.

Here’s where I’d like your help:

If I know you (even only electronically, as mentioned above), and you have a book (even out of print) listed at Amazon, please remind me! You can comment on this post and ask me to keep it private, if you like.

I’m sure I’ll accidentally omit people…or, I’ll take so long trying to think of everybody that I’ll never get the page posted. 😉

For everybody, I’ll let you know when the page is up (I may add to it over time, of course), in case you are interested.

Amazon Echo adds IFTTT support


CNET article by Ry Crist

does a good job of explaining the new capabilities added to

the Amazon Echo

By the way, it now says it will be in stock on July 8, 2015…at $199. Prime members, if they were given an invitation to buy one after asking for them, were able to get it for $99 originally. Mine is supposed to be coming May 21st. Update: I got an e-mail this morning that my Echo will now be here May 8th (Friday)! I have to admit, I’ll believe it more when I see that is has shipped…but that should be within the next day or so.

What IFTTT does is allow you to link apps and things together, based on “triggers”. In other words, you say that when I do this in this thing, do that in this other thing. That’s the initialism: IFTTT=If This Then That.

It makes the Echo much more practical…and many more options will be coming! One interesting one: when you say something to the Echo, it will send a text of those words to a specific person. It’s cheating, a bit, and definitely a work around: it uses the Shopping List. Still, interesting.

Ruth Rendell has reportedly died

Ruth Rendell (at AmazonSmile*)

(AKA Barbara Vine) was a popular and, yes, beloved author of more than sixty books (more than twenty just in the Inspector Wexford series).

Some of them are available at no additional cost to subscribers in

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)


  • A Dark Adapted Eye
  • The Fatal Inversion
  • King Solomon’s Carpet

Dark Corners is scheduled for publication on December 1st of this year.

It’s the end of the world as we know it…over and over and over again


NPR article by Jason Heller

looks at the current and future state of post-Apocalyptic fiction.

Do I think it will stick around as a genre?


I mean, it goes back to Jack London (and beyond).

I’ve written about the genre before…this one is from 2012:

Don’t dys the topia

Some people clearly like to imagine the world becoming worse…well, an optimist like me figures its because people like fantasy. 😉

Actually, in most dystopias, it’s about people overcoming the circumstances (and often overturning the status quo), which is a hopeful vision, right?

What do you think? Do you read dystopias? Do you read utopias? Why do people like dystopias…because they think the world is getting worse, or because they think that ultimately, good and joy will triumph? Are they meant as warnings, or thinly veiled criticisms…or all of the above? Will you pay $199 for an Echo? If someone had never read Ruth Rendell, is there one you’d recommend? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


21 Responses to “Round up #293: the future of dystopias, do I know you?”

  1. Amy Says:

    Ok, I’m an ILMK fan and subscriber, so you know me electronically, I guess. I’ve published three books that are on Amazon.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Amy!

      Yep, that counts!

      Could you give me a link to your Amazon Author Central page? I’m not finding anything under your name. If you’d like me to keep it private (so readers of the blog don’t connect your comments here with your writing), just let me know.

  2. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I was in SF all last week for the Microsoft Build conference. That meant I had two five hours heads down plane-ride sessions with no email interruptions. The Amazon Echo/IFTTT email came just before I left — so I was able to think deeply about how this dramatically changes the game with the Echo.

    Amazon has added a new “channel” to IFTTT called “Amazon Alexa”. Within this channel are a bunch of triggers: one for every time you add, edit, or delete an item from either your Echo ToDo list or shopping list and also two triggers when you ask Alexa what is on your ToDo or shopping lists (so the channel contains 8 triggers).

    When a trigger is activated, you can invoke a recipe that might invoke a trigger in another channel. So for example every time you add an item to your todo list, the trigger could also add that item to a todo list in Microsoft OneNote, EverNote, or many other list apps. When you ask Alexa to tell you what’s on a list you could invoke a recipe to send the list as an email (using gmail, or many other email clients).

    You can create whatever recipes make sense to you given the available IFTTT channels, and what they respond to. Now if I’m lying in bed, and I have a great new idea for world domination, I can ask Alexa to add it to my todo list, and have it copied to my master list on OneNote (:grin).

    Instead of a printed food shopping list manually maintained on my fridge door, I can use the Echo remote from the kitchen to tell Alexa to add items to my shopping list. Just before I head out, I ask Alexa to tell me what’s on my shopping list, and the list is emailed to my smartphone — Cool!

    • Edward Boyhan Says:

      Oh, and I forgot to add that users have already created over 100 recipes in the Amazon Alexa channel. So it’s probably likely that for many, useful recipes already exist.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      Yes, it opens up all sorts of possibilities!

      Right off, I see using the To Do list to create texts to my Significant Other instead. I think we will get multiple to do or shopping lists soon, which could really make this work well. Of course, they could just let us say, “Alexa, text to…” and make you set a texting program in the Settings in the app.

  3. danny63 Says:

    Here’s link to my Amazon account:

    Thanks for offering to list me on your new page!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, danny63!

      I’ve added it…not quite sure when I’ll feel it’s ready to make public, but I’d say within the next week.

      • danny63 Says:

        Thanks, Bufo! Look forward to seeing the page.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, danny63!

        I hope to work on it today. I took the day off, but I’ve got several appointments. I’m trying to take a writing day each month, but this won’t one. 😉

  4. Zebras Says:


    I think I need a tutorial on the IFTTT. I looked at it and felt overwhelmed! Can’t wait for you to have your Echo, I’m sure you will have wonderful new ways for us to use it!

    Since I’ve been “kindleized,” I have started to become quite the dystopian fan. Maybe I always was, but just didn’t read them. For instance, I’ve always loved the Mad Max movies. Kindle got me out of a longstanding reading rut, so I do read a great variety now, but post-apocalyptic and dystopian have become favorite genres. I’m reading a post-apocalyptic one right now, and I realized it takes place in a town where my sister-in-law worked years ago, and it turns out she had met the author at that time. Pretty cool.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Zebras!

      When I write about the Echo, I’ll talk about IFTTT. I haven’t really used it myself, yet, although I understand the concept.

      As to Mad Max…I feel like the first movie is like the first Oz book…it doesn’t really fit in with the others. I doubt many Americans saw it…for one thing, it was in futuristic Australian slang, which made it a bit of a challenge.

      I think the second one, The Road Warrior, is a great movie! I haven’t watched it in awhile, but I remember it as this great thrill ride, sort of like Aliens versus Alien. The third movie, Beyond Thunderdome, had some really memorable things to it (“Two men enter, one man leaves”).

      Pursuant to my post I’m curious…would you consider yourself an optimistic person?

      • Zebras Says:

        Yes. I consider myself an optimist.

        I, too, enjoy the 2nd Mad Max movie more. However, recently I had a chance to see the original with the original soundtrack and it all seemed to make more sense with the Australian accents. I always find dubbed movies a little flat.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Zebras!

        Interesting that optimists (as we both are) can enjoy dystopias. Again, my suspicion is that it is because the dystopia is the setting, but that people tend to “win” against it.

        As to dubs…depends in part on the skill of the dubbing, and, I find, the original language. I’ve seen movies which were originally in Italian where I wasn’t sure if it was dubbed or not at first…although if it wasn’t dubbed, I knew it was uninspired acting. 🙂 On the other hand, I’ve never seen a Japanese movie where it wasn’t obvious, even though I’ve seen ones where the voice acting was good. I think it’s the “rhythm” of the sentences, mostly…in the English dub, we tend to get rapid fire syllables, followed by a long drawn out one: “HeywatchagonnadoaboutitSpeed, huuuuuuuuuuuuuuh?” Yes, that would be Speed as in Speed Racer, a cartoon (anime) which going to be different…but I see the same pattern sometimes in live action.

  5. Phink Says:

    Off Subject:

    Bufo, remember the school bus driver you were talking about a week or so ago. That was nothing compared to this.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      Fortunately, it doesn’t sound like this person has any real authority (unlike a schoolbus driver and kids). It looks to me like it is really just a thought experiment…but I’ll look at it more carefully.


  6. S. Rornat Says:

    I am sick to death of dystopian and post apocolytic fiction posing as SF recently. It depresses the hell out of me. I prefer SF that is fun, interesting and adventurous that also doesn’t portray science and scientist as evil. I’ve been gravitating to hard-SF and Space Opera lately to get my fix of SF and actively boycott any novel and or movie that is remotely dystopian. I’m hoping the trend ends soon and all all the hack authors who jumped on that bandwagon find another to jump on.

    Another thing: please don’t lump Fantasy and Horror in with Science Fiction.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, S.!

      Fortunately for me, no fiction makes me sick or depresses me…I enjoy it all. 🙂 However, I always jokingly say that I have a genetic abnormality: I’m an optimist. It probably makes your life easier to narrow your focus, and that’s certainly fine.

      I think we’ll always have dystopias (they go back a very long time), but they will probably fall out of prominence. However, once something has been established as a popular genre, that increases the chances that you’ll see more of it even decades later. For example, you are probably reading books that were still (often indirectly) “inheritors” of the DNA of E.E. Doc Smith’s Skylark of Space from 1928.

      It’s interesting to me that you would say you are reading space opera, and then you are a splitter (there are “lumpers” and “splitters”) for fantasy. I assume, then, that the space opera you read doesn’t have faster than light travel (for object with mass) or telepathy in it? Many hard science fiction fans would put those into fantasy, as I’m sure you know.

      For me, I would put science fiction, fantasy, and supernatural horror (not psychological horror) into fiction first, so in that case, I do “lump them” together.

      Then, I tend to separate fantasy from non-fantasy, and that would include science fiction, fantasy, and supernatural horror. Essentially, it’s anything that (and this is a fuzzy definition) mainstream consensus reality would consider to be impossible currently.

      Within that, I would split Fantasy and Science Fiction. Science Fiction, while it is impossible currently, is an extension of mainstream consensus scientific principles, while, for me at this level, Fantasy is not.

      I don’t tend to split horror off (except as a marketing category…marketing is why you see SF/F/H all together in a bookstore…the same people tend to buy them, broadly. I’m a former bookstore manager). For example, Alien certainly fits the general definition of Horror (which has to do with the feelings it is intended to evoke): for that reason, would you then eliminate it from Science Fiction (since you don’t want the two lumped together)? I’m guessing you wouldn’t, but I’d be interested to hear what you have to say on the matter.

      I appreciate you expressing your opinion! Regular readers know that my favorite thing is when people disagree with me respectfully…it helps me consider my own positions, and give readers something to contemplate.

      • Scott Says:

        Thanks for the reply Bufo. One could write a book expounding the virtues, history and psychology of Dystopias. Suffice it to say I’m a Civill Engineer who prefers to build things rather than see things torn down. I am also “afflicted” with too much empathy for fictional characters so that I cannot abide any horror at all. I never saw any of the Alien movies for that very reason.

        As for Fantasy, I refer to the classic sword and sorcery type of hackneyed stories of lost princes on a quest against dragons, elves and wizards. In essence I don’t like magic. I never read any Harry Potter for that reason too. Maybe it’s the Engineer in me that can’t get past the impossibility of it all. And yes, some classic Space Opera tropes may be be impossibilities but I refer to Arthur C. Clarke’s law about advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic.

        I also get tired of people referring to dystopian and horror projects as “Sci Fi” (I dislike the “Sci-Fi” label but that’s whole ‘nother story. See some Isaac Asimov’ essays on that subject). I understand the marketing aspect but I think my aversion to “lumping” goes back to when I was a kid who wanted to buy Asimov’s Foundation series paperbacks but was prevented by my Mother because it was shelved under “Occult/Horror”.

        Thanks to my Kindle I can read more new and classic SF to my hearts content without going past displays of Fantasy and Horror in a bookstore. Don’t get the impression that I limit myself to SF only however. I also enjoy biographies (I really enjoyed the latest Martin Short one and and am reading the Robert Heinlein one), Mysteries, History and my guilty pleasure: Steampunk.

        Keep on loving that Kindle Bufo.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Scott!

        Thanks also for the thoughtful response!

        I did have the honor of seeing Isaac Asimov speak once…it was a great event, a “debate” with Harlan Ellison. They had a mock feud, coming from two very different backgrounds. If you go back far enough, it was sort of a Jack Benny/Fred Allen kind of thing…they really got along well, but the feud made for great show business!

        My favorite Isaac Asimov moment: Asimov did a commercial years ago, I believe for a tire company. On the screen, the author of books on a vast array of subjects was simply identified as “Isaac Asimov, Expert”. 😉

        As to “sci fi”…that’s a coinage of Forry Ackerman of Famous Monsters of Filmland, and one of the real starters of science fiction fandom (it’s argued that Forry started cosplay, for example…in 1939). It was a play on “hi fi”, although I think that’s now lost on most people. There are some people who derisively use the term “skiffy” (a deliberate mispronunciation of “sci fi”) to dismiss works which get classified as science fiction, but which they don’t think fit the standard.

        Shelving Foundation under Occult/Horror? As a former bookstore manager, that’s just wrong! 🙂 If my choice as “Occult/Horror” or general fiction, I would have filed it under general fiction. I think it has more in common with, oh, John Steinbeck or perhaps Tom Clancy than with Graham Masterton.

        So, I can completely understand how that experience could “scar” you…your mother was given misinformation.

        One last thing (for now…you are more than welcome to write again): while sufficiently advanced technology may be indistinguishable from magic, I would say that the opposite isn’t true. I think it would be rare that someone would mistake a talisman for a transistor. 😉

  7. Man in the Middle Says:

    I’m an old Eagle Scout, so like to “be prepared.” To some extent, that makes me a “prepper”, but I’m now old enough to have no interest in surviving the kinds of situations that would require me to fight my way to some remote part of Idaho for the rest of a nasty, brutish and short life. Thus, I find books like “One Second After” useful as reminders of how easily and permanently technology we take for granted could fail. But I have no interest in long series about a new thousand year dark age, let alone zombies.

    In general, the world and human life appear to be improving, especially for poor folks in the third world, so I much prefer my sci fi hopeful and showing a future better in many ways than today.

    I also view “1984” as a cautionary tale rather than a “how to” manual.

    And +1 on the comments from S. Rornat above.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Man!

      It’s interesting, because I think people might reasonably conclude we tend to differ: but I agree that “…the world and human life seem to be improving.” I was shocked a while back when some young employees of mine didn’t think that (I wouldn’t be now…I’ve grown). I always give people a simple thought experiment in that case: what would life have been like for you personally 100 years ago? 200? A thousand? I doubt very many people could honestly say that their lives would have been better…many of them couldn’t have voted, everybody pretty much would have had a shorter life expectancy…and since we’re all readers, let’s not forget access to books (and being allowed to even be literate, for that matter)!

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