Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy Birthday, Connie Willis

Today is the birthday of Connie Willis, author of the award winning novels Doomsday Book (1993), To Say Nothing of the Dog (1999), and Passage (2001). Here's wishing her all the best in the year to come and continued success with her up-coming two-volume novel, Blackout and All Clear. Happy birthday to you, Connie.

The Nemesis of Suns

by Clark Ashton Smith

Lo, what are these, the gyres of sun and world,
   Fulfilled with daylight by each toiling sun-
   Lo, what are these but webs of radiance spun
Beneath the roof of Night, and torn or furled
By Night at will? All opposite powers upwhirled
   Are less than chaff to this imperious one-
   As wind-tossed chaff, until its sport be done,
Scattered, and lifted up, and downward hurled.

All gyres are held within the path unspanned
   Of Night's aeonian compass- loosely pent
     As with the embrace of lethal-tightening
All suns are grasped within the hollow hand
   Of Night, the godhead sole, omnipotent,
     Whose other names are Nemesis and Fate.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Dueling Machine

"Sonny" by Rick Raphael

"Of course, no one actually knows the power of a thought. That is, the milli—or megawatts type of power..."

The Dueling Machine by Ben Bova and Myron R. Lewis

"The trouble with great ideas is that someone is sure to expend enormous effort and ingenuity figuring out how to louse them up."

The Thirst Quenchers by Rick Raphael

"Earth has more water surface than land surface—but that does not mean we have all the water we want to drink. And right now, America is already pressing the limits of fresh water supply...."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Dead Man's Planet

"Dead Man's Planet" by William Morrison

"When a driven man arrives at a cemetery world, what else can it be but journey's end—and the start of a new one?"

"The Right Time" by John Berryman

"The trouble with prophets is that if they're accurate, the news won't do you any good, and if they aren't accurate, they're no good. Unless, of course, they're more than just prophets...."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Am I Still There?

"Ham Sandwich" by James H. Schmitz

"It gets difficult to handle the problem of a man who has a real talent that you need badly—and he cannot use it if he knows it's honest!"

"New Apples in the Garden" by Kris Neville

"Some problems are perfectly predictable—yet not in the sense that allows a preprogrammed machine to handle them—"

"Am I Still There?" by James R. Hall

"Which must in essence, of course, simply be the question "What do I mean by 'I'?"

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Minus Woman

"The Minus Woman" by R. R. Winterbotham

"What made the mass of this tiny asteroid fluctuate in defiance of all known physical laws? It was an impossible fact—but then, so was the girl who they knew couldn't exist!"

Friday, December 25, 2009


by H. P. Lovecraft

The cottage hearth beams warm and bright,
The candles gaily glow;
The stars emit a kinder light
Above the drifted snow.

Down from the sky a magic steals
To glad the passing year,
And belfries sing with joyous peals,
For Christmastide is here!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Anything You Can Do!

Anything You Can Do! by Randall Garrett

"The Alien was really alien—and Earth was faced with a strange problem indeed. They had to have a superman. And there weren't any. So...."

"The Last Straw" by William J. Smith

"Some hypotheses are rational—if not logical—but, by their nature, aren't exactly open to controlled experiment!"

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Electro Pulp Video Magazine

The Crotchety Old Fan has posted the second installment of his Electro Pulp Video Magazine. This time he goes into the origins of the pulp magazines and the way they have varied in size over the years.

I have to say I'm not as crotchety as he is and don't mind the current digest size mags. Maybe I just don't know any better.

On a related note, the Golden Age Comic Book Stories blog recently featured some hq scans of Frank R. Paul's covers for Wonder Stories Quarterly. They even posted cover scans of some 1950's sf digests, but don't tell COF.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


"Oneness" by James H. Schmitz

"At that, you know the power to enforce the Golden Rule would make a terrible weapon!"

Analog Science Fact & Fiction, January 1964

"Subjectivity" by Norman Spinrad

"Boredom on a long, interstellar trip can be quite a problem ... but the entertainment technique the government dreamed up for this one was a leeetle too good...!"

Monday, December 21, 2009

Grand Master Joe Haldeman

Joe Haldeman is to be named the next SFWA Grand Master.

"The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) have announced that Joe Haldeman will be the next recipient of their Grand Master Award next May at the 2010 Nebula Awards Ceremony in Hollywood, Florida. SFWA President Russell Davis announced the decision, made in consultation with the Board of Directors and participating past presidents.

Haldeman was SFWA's President from 1992 to 1994, and is the 27th writer recognized by SFWA as a Grand Master. He joins Robert A. Heinlein (1974), Jack Williamson (1975), Clifford D. Simak (1976), L. Sprague de Camp (1978), Fritz Leiber (1981), Andre Norton (1983), Arthur C. Clarke (1985), Isaac Asimov (1986), Alfred Bester (1987), Ray Bradbury (1988), Lester del Rey (1990), Frederik Pohl (1992), Damon Knight (1994), A.E. van Vogt (1995), Jack Vance (1996), Poul Anderson (1997), Hal Clement (1998), Brian Aldiss (1999), Philip Jose Farmer (2000), Ursula K. Le Guin (2003), Robert Silverberg (2004), Anne McCaffrey (2005), Harlan Ellison (2006), James Gunn (2007), Michael Moorcock (2008), and Harry Harrison (2009). The award was simply called the Grand Master award until 2002, when it was renamed the Damon Knight Grand Master Award, in honor of SFWA's founder who had died that year."

Congratulations, Joe! [via Mike Brotherton]

The Snow-Blossoms

by Clark Ashton Smith
But yestereve the winter trees
Reared leafless, blackly bare,
Their twigs and branches poignant-marked
Upon the sunset-flare.

White-petaled, opens now the dawn,
And in its pallid glow,
Revealed, each leaf-lorn, barren tree
Stands white with flowers of snow.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happy Birthday, Nalo Hopkinson

Birthday wishes to Nalo Hopkinson today. She's an award winning Canadian sf writer whose works include Brown Girl in the Ring (1998), Midnight Robber (2000), The Salt Roads (2003), The New Moon's Arms (2007) and numerous anthologies and short stories. Happy birthday, Nalo, and may you have good luck with the current novel.

Where There's Hope

"Where There's Hope" by Jerome Bixby

"The women had made up their minds, and nothing—repeat, nothing—could change them. But something had to give...."

"Combat" by Mack Reynolds

"An Alien landing on Earth might be readily misled, victimized by a one-sided viewpoint. And then again ... it might be the Earthmen who were misled...."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Happy Man

The Happy Man by Gerald W. Page

"More's "Utopia" was isolated—cut off—from the dreary world outside. All Utopias are..."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Happy Birthday, Michael Moorcock

Today is the birthday of Grand Master Michael Moorcock, legendary editor, award winning author, and rock-and-roll musician.

He's penned numerous novels, including Behold the Man (1966), The Cornelius Quartet (1977), The War Hound and the World's Pain (1981), Mother London (1988), and of course the immortal Elric saga.

So in your honor, I, and Oswald Bastable, Herr von Bek, Elric, Sexton Blake and the rest all raise a toast to you wishing you a very happy birthday and many more to come.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Astounding Stories (December, 1930)

Astounding Stories (December, 1930)

Slaves of the Dust By Sophie Wenzel Ellis

"Fate’s Retribution Was Adequate. There Emerged a Rat with a Man’s Head and Face."

The Pirate Planet By Charles W. Diffin

"It is War. Interplanetary War. And on Far-Distant Venus Two Fighting Earthlings Stand Up Against a Whole Planet Run Amuck." (Part Two of a Four-Part Novel.)

The Sea Terror By Captain S. P. Meek

"The Trail of Mystery Gold Leads Carnes and Dr. Bird to a Tremendous Monster of the Deep."

Gray Denim By Harl Vincent

"The Blood of the Van Dorn’s Ran in Karl’s Veins. He Rode the Skies Like an Avenging God."

The Ape-Men of Xlotli By David R. Sparks

"A Beautiful Face in the Depths of a Geyser—and Kirby Plunges into a Desperate Mid-Earth Conflict with the Dreadful Feathered Serpent." (A Complete Novelette.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Brass Bottle

Something a bit more supernatural today. F. Ansty is probably best known for his 1882 fantasy Vice Versa, which was been filmed several times. He also wrote Tourmalin's Time Cheques (1891), an early time-paradox tale.

The Brass Bottle (1900) by F. Anstey

"...offers a fruitfully funny situation as a gratefully released genie showers its benefactor with increasingly embarrassing boons...", David Langford, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Unthinking Destroyer

"The Unthinking Destroyer" by Rog Phillips

"Gordon and Harold both admitted the possibility of thinking entities other than human. But would they ever recognize the physical form of some of these beings?"

"All Day Wednesday" by Richard Olin

"Practically everybody would agree that this is Utopia...."

"The Trouble with Telstar" by John Berryman

"The real trouble with communications satellites is the enormous difficulty of repairing even the simplest little trouble. You need such a loooong screwdriver."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sound of Terror

"Mr. Chipfellow's Jackpot" by Dick Purcell

"Being one of the richest men in the world, it was only natural that many people anticipated the day he would die. For someone should claim—"

"Sound of Terror" by Don Berry

"What is more frightening than the fear of the unknown? Johnny found out!"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Climate Pledge Tracker

UNEP Launches Peoples' Climate Pledge Tracker

"People across the globe can track the proposals and plans of countries to combat climate change via an online 'climate pledge tracker', launched today by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

The 'tracker', which is being updated as new proposals are made during the UN climate convention meeting in Copenhagen, compares and consolidates all the national pledges made so far with the scientific goal of getting the world at or under a 2 degree Celsius rise compared to pre-industrial levels.

Experts estimate that what is needed is to bring emissions of greenhouse gases down to 44 billion tonnes (44Gt) of CO2 equivalent by 2020 in order to give the world a 50 percent chance of meeting that temperature target.

After 2020, emissions need to be cut to 16 billion tonnes (16 Gt) of CO2 equivalent in 2050. Meeting a 1.5 degree Celsius goal, which some countries are calling for, will require even more ambitious emissions reductions over the next 40 years."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Winter Moonlight

by Clark Ashton Smith

The silence of the silver night
Lies visibly upon the pines;
In marble tame the moon declines
Where spectral mountains dream in light.

And pale as with eternal sleep
The enchanted valleys, far and strange,
Extend for ever without change
Beneath the veiling splendors deep.

Carven of steel or fretted stone,
One stark and leafless autumn tree
With shadows made of ebony
Leans on the moon-ward field alone.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Last Resort

"Last Resort" by Stephen Bartholomew

"The phenomenon of "hysterical strength" at the physical level is well known. Wonder what the equivalent phenomenon at the psychological level might do...."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Border, Breed Nor Birth

This post is somewhat belated, but today Project Gutenberg added the first part of Mack Reynold's second novel featuring Homer Crawford.

Border, Breed Nor Birth by Mack Reynolds

"Part 1 of Two. Kipling said those things didn't count when two strong men stood face to face. But ... do they count when two strong ideologies stand face to face...?"

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Princess Robot Bubblegum

I wonder if the game designers who made this anime parody for GTAIV were fans of Prefect Hair Forever?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Martians, Go Home comic

This is cool. Marooned is reporting that there's a comic book adaptation of Fredric Brown's 1955 sf comedy classic Martians, Go Home hitting the stands.

(1976 cover by Kelly Freas)

It's being done by Sequential Pulp Comics who are also producing a comic version of Otis Adelbert Kline's swashbuckling Venusian Planetary Romances. The art by Mike Manley looks great, and assuming they're faithful to Brown's story this is definitely something to check out. I hope it does well and I hope we see more adaptations of sf classics.

Humping Robot Xmas

The new Robot Chicken Christmas Special aired last night and it was some of their funniest stuff yet. We got to see the Humping Robot save Christmas and Santa save a kid stuck in a well...sort of. My favorite sketch of the show had to be the snowflakes. Hilarious stuff, right up there with their Star Wars Specials, which are about the funniest SW parodies there are. The Family Guy SW episodes are great, and the Shin Chan SW parody was a riot, but both of those assume the viewer has some knowledge of who the show's characters are. So if you don't know who, say, Cleveland and Hima are you won't get some of the jokes. The RC SW stuff doesn't have that problem. And it helps that it's just plain funny. I just wish they could be that clever with Titan Maximum, but even after watching the season finale I still think that if you've seem the pilot episode you've seen all that show has to offer. Maybe it'll get better next season. In any case I'm looking forward to the season finale of The Venture Bros., which has come all too soon. Gary punches Brock?! I hope Sampson doesn't kill him.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

...the retina of the mind's eye.

 (Heads Up: Some spoilers for FlashForward ahead.)

Last Friday's episodes of Dollhouse were some of the best yet. And surprisingly it wasn't because Summer Glau did a turn as the creepy Bennett Halverson, though it was nice to see her get a chance to play a role that let her display some emotion. No, it was that business with Victor (Enver Gjokaj) taking on Topher's (Fran Kranz) personality that stole the show. Gjokaj's impersonation of Kranz's character was too funny for words. I can't believe a show this good is already canceled.

The year started out looking pretty good in terms of network TV sf. We had a brooding Terminator show, this new Joss Whedon epic, Dollhouse, J. J. Abrams working his magic with Fringe, and there's even a show based on a Hugo Award nominated sf novel, FlashForward. The TV had become of veritable cornucopia of sf goodies. But now as the winter solstice approaches the horn of plenty is starting to dry up. Terminator got the ax months ago. Dollhouse was canceled, renewed, and has now been canceled again. And both the other shows I regularly watch are hanging on by their finger nails.

Fringe is admittedly an X-Files pastiche (which they even alluded to by having an episode of X-Files on a TV in the background of one scene) but it manages improve upon the original premise. I'm one of those people who liked certain episodes of  the X-Files -- particularly "Jose Chung's From Outer Space," which is a classic -- but not the overarching plot about the government conspiring with alien invaders. Fringe is much more clever and coherent. Things like having the Observer hidden somewhere in each episode may be a gimmick, but it's a fun one. Luckly the news is the ratings have improved, so hopefully it will stay on the air.

I had high hopes for FlashForward, which is loosely based on Robert J. Sawyer's novel, and still watch it, but the show's producers have mishandled it from the start. The shows biggest problem is that the main character, FBI Special Agent Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes), is a douchebag. Needless to say he was not in the original book. There are interesting characters in the cast, but they never focus on them. And that's the big problem of the show: lack of focus. Just when it seems like they're on the trail of some mystery, like what (or who) caused the flashforward, or who will kill Demetri, the show meanders off on a soap opera tangent and you lose any sense that there's a mystery to be solved. Plus it's full of contrived nonsense that falls flat. The worst example is Janis Hawk (Christine Woods). Her character is a lesbian who sees that she's inexplicably pregnant in her flashforward. How can that be? Then she's shot in the stomach. Oh, no! How can she have a baby now? Quick, off to get artificially inseminated. WTF? I'm not faulting Woods here, who does a good job with the part, I'm faulting the hackneyed writing. All this is starting to tell as the show's ratings are so bad it's been put into suspended animation until March. This is almost worse than being canceled for a show which has as its central premise the solving of mysteries six months in the future. When it finally gets back on the air the events seen during the flashforward will be at hand and we'll be no closer to having any answers.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Buck is back

It looks like there's going to be a new online serial reviving the pulp-era Buck Rogers stories.

[via SF Signal & Grognardia]

The trailer isn't much more than a glimpse at what the SFX will be like. But it's probably worth checking out because the series is being produced by Cawley Entertainment. As any Star Trek fan knows, James Cawley is the driving force behind the Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II fan films which feature many ST alumni. Which means if nothing else this new Buck Rogers is going to respect the subject matter rather than being a cynical attempt to make a quick buck like that Princess of Mars b-movie. James reports that veteran Star Trek artist Andrew Probert is involved with the project, and that a recurring role will go to former 1980's Buck Rogers TV star Gil Gerard. So, I'm really looking forward to this. I wonder if it will be based more on the original novel, the comic strip, or the old movie serial? It'll be interesting to see how it compares to this World's Fair Buck Rogers short that COF added to the Classic Science Fiction Channel last summer.

Angel Island

Angel Island (Complete Novel) by Inez Haynes Gillmore

"It was the morning after the shipwreck. The five men still lay where they had slept. A long time had passed since anybody had spoken. A long time had passed since anybody had moved. Indeed, it, looked almost as if they would never speak or move again. So bruised and bloodless of skin were they, so bleak and sharp of feature, so stark and hollow of eye, so rigid and moveless of limb that they might have been corpses. Mentally, too, they were almost moribund. They stared vacantly, straight out to sea. They stared with the unwinking fixedness of those whose gaze is caught in hypnotic trance."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Asses of Balaam

"The Asses of Balaam" by Randall Garrett

"The remarkable characteristic of Balaam's ass was that it was more perceptive than its master. Sometimes a child is more perceptive—because more straightforward and logical—than an adult...."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

International SF

This month Words Without Borders — The online magazine for international literature is celebrating International Science Fiction. This is great, although the title seems rather odd to me. Given that popular authors like Greg Egan, Nancy Kress, Alastair Reynolds, and Robert J. Sawyer, all come from different countries isn't sf already "international"? And isn't the preferred term "speculative fiction"? It seems to me a better title would have been "Non-Anglo-American SF." Oh well, enough nit-picking. I'm glad they're doing this feature and it's well worth checking out. I plan to read the whole thing.
This month we’re traveling in the world of science fiction. From nineteenth-century Pakistan to twenty-first century Russia, authors rocket through time and space to explore worlds uncharted yet oddly familiar. Replicants and aliens, spaceships and shapeshifters are all in play; the future mirrors the present, and the intelligence is anything but artificial. Lift off with Stanisław Lem, Tomasz Kołodziejczak, Olga Slavnikova, Zoran Živković, Hiroshi Yamamoto, Machado de Assis, Liu Cixin, Pablo A. Castro, and Muhammad Husain Jah, and prepare to be launched into the fantastic.
[via SF Signal and Charles Tan]

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Princess of Mars

Back in the 1950's the movie Rocketship X-M was rushed into theaters to capitalize on the hype surrounding George Pal's big-budget blockbuster Destination Moon. Now it looks like the same thing is happening to Disney's planned John Carter of Mars movie.

Why am I not surprised that Dejah Thoris has been changed from a ruddy skinned, raven haired beauty into busty blond bimbo?  [via Mick Farren]

Monday, November 30, 2009

Words of wisdom

"Speaking of plots, we want to emphatically warn our prospective contributors against submitting interplanetary war stories. A plot submitted that simply relates a war between two planets, with a lot of rays and bloodshed, will receive little consideration. What we want are original ideas, new points of view on interplanetary exploration; new ideas regarding the activities of Terrestrials on strange worlds, and of extra-Terrestrials on earth. Read the letter from George W. Race in the "Reader Speaks" of this issue and see what to avoid.

The man who sends in a plot:
  1. That pictures people of other worlds as being just like Earthmen, and (as some authors put it) speak English;
  2. That shows our hero going to another world to rescue a fair princess from an evil priest;
  3. That shows our hero going to another world to single-handed overcome a great army; or
  4. That shows our hero going to another world to conquer a horde of strange beasts;
This man should not hope his plot will receive serious consideration. If our readers study the plots that have been written into stories, they will perceive in each one some original "slant" on interplanetary travel, or of the conditions on other worlds. That original "slant" is what our readers should strive for."

Hugo Gernsback, Wonder Stories, September 1, 1932.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

Darkness and Dawn

Andre Norton's Darkness and Dawn (2003) contains two unrelated but thematically similar novels published in one volume. Both are set in a post-apocalyptic world disfigured by catastrophe in which humanity has been reduced to a pre-industrial existence. They are each rite of passage stories relating how a young protagonist comes to maturity. Yet for all their similarities, each novel treats the topic in a different way and comes to very different conclusions.

The first novel, Daybreak—2250 A.D. (aka Star Man's Son, 1952), introduces us to young Fors of the Puma Clan. Fors and his mountain tribe are descendants of survivors of the Great Blow-up, a nuclear war that wiped out industrial civilization and unleashed mutations hundreds of years ago. Fors himself is just such a mutant, marked by his white hair and ability too see in the dark. The orphaned son of a Star Man, one of the brave and privileged members of the tribe who venture forth to seek the knowledge and relics of the Old Ones, Fors hopes to gain entry into that organization himself. He has already bonded with Lura, one of the giant mutant cats that live among his tribe. But because of the stigma of being a mutant he has little chance of being accepted into the order. So he sets off on his own, determined to retrieve the secrets of the past and prove himself worthy of entrance into Star Hall. He soon befriends Arskane, a black-skinned warrior whose people are descendants of the flying ones who found refuge in the desert after the Last Battle. Together they must survive the threat of both rival tribes, like the nomadic, horse riding Plainsmen, and the Beast-things, vicious, mutant humanoid rats.

The novel unfolds with a straightforward and competent vigor. Norton is a natural storyteller and she sweeps you into the book quickly and keeps the plot moving at just the right pace to ensure that the momentum never lags. The chapters of this book are short to the point of terseness, recalling the clipped delivery of the old pulp magazines. Norton does a good job of depicting tribal societies, especially that of the Plainsman. The characters are conveyed well, with Fors and Arskane being the most detailed. To begin with it is Arskane and his fervent idealism that stands out as Fors is still striving to find himself, but by the novel's climax Fors comes to his own. And while women only feature in the background of the book they aren't just decoration and have an important say in tribal matters. Perhaps the most striking thing is the human dimensions in which the main characters are drawn. Fors and Arskane are not macho action heroes capable of superhuman feats. They spend most of the book wounded and exhausted, making their eventual triumph all the more impressive. And while that triumph may be a trifle pat it makes for a satisfying conclusion to the tale.

The second book is No Night Without Stars (1975). Like the earlier novel the story is set centuries after a catastrophe has destroyed industrial society, but in this case it was not a nuclear war. There was a Dark Time when volcanoes burst forth, continents shook and rent, and the seas alternately racked the land and receded to form new coastlines. While Norton never explains the cataclysm in so many words, it's clear from the clues she gives that some sort of massive celestial body passed near the Earth and the resulting tidal strains caused devastating geological disruptions. Civilization fell and the remnants of humanity reverted to tribalism and sunk into illiterate superstition.

This is the world of Sander, the smith. He has left his tribe, the Mob, after his father died and they refused to recognize him as a fully qualified smith. Accompanied by the huge mutant coyote, Rhinn, he hopes to rediscover the lost secrets of working the hard alloys of the Before People. They come upon a destroyed fishing village that has been laid waste by the Sea Sharks, vicious pirates that prey on the coasts. That night they are confronted by someone they soon learn to be Fanyi, the Shaman of the fishers who was away at the time of the slaughter. With her two large, mutant otters, Kai and Kayi, she has vowed revenge. The two of them soon join forces and set out to find a lost city of the Before People where they hope to discover the knowledge they will need to accomplish their ends.

Although they encounter strange mutants during their odyssey, the greatest threat to them comes from their fellow human beings. There are Traders who have laid claim the the ruins of the Before People and are ready to kill in order to keep others from their finds. Even more menacing are the White Ones, ferocious light-skinned warriors from the north who ride into battle on huge mutant deer. The White Ones raided Sander's Mob when he was a child and he has never forgotten the terror of that fight.

This novel finds Norton a noticeably more assured and mature writer. While she's lost none of her storytelling panache, she brings a more practiced hand to bear on the material. The result is a book with more texture than the earlier work. The only false note struck is the complete lack of any sexual tension between Sander and Fanyi. Despite sometimes sharing cramped sleeping quarters and occasionally stripping off wet cloths in front of one another neither evinces the slightest sexual curiosity about the other. In fact, despite all they go through they never develop any real intimacy, physical or otherwise. This is somewhat understandable on Fanyi's part, as she is a Shaman and therefore a bit aloof form mundane concerns to begin with, but it is a puzzling lack in Sander.

Having these two novels in one volume allows them to be contrasted one against the other. While both evoke a strong sense of loss, of the vanished accomplishments of the destroyed civilization, they each present it very differently. In the first it is humanity's own militarism and folly that has doomed it. It is hoped by some, like Arskane, that people can remake that lost world, but this time learn from their mistakes and outgrow the warlike tenancies that doomed their ancestors. In the second, however, the catastrophe was a natural disaster beyond humanity's ability to avoid or even influence. The world that follows is one where overgrown animals abound, where humanity is dwarfed by nature (and perhaps even the supernatural). The animal's stature is increased even as humanity's figurative stature is decreased. And now the past and it's accomplishments, while initially sought out, are ultimately something to be rejected.

Both of these books are fine accomplishments by Norton. Despite the similarities of general plot each gives the subject matter a distinct and interesting treatment. There is no sense that the second novel is a pastiche of the first, as one might expect. It casts the subject in a different light and draws conclusions that stand in contrast to the earlier work. It takes a talented author to cover the same ground twice and pull it off, but in these two books Andre Norton has achieved just that.

Post-Apocalyptic Andy Rooney

You have to suffer through a 30 sec. commercial (just hit mute) to watch this sketch, but it's worth it.

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Birthday, Frederik Pohl

Today is the 90th birthday of award winning sf doyen, Frederik Pohl. One of the most important figures of the genre, the list of classics that he's written is as long as my arm. There are his famous collaborations with fellow sf heavyweights, like The Starchild Trilogy, and Doomship (1973) written with Jack Williamson, and the seminal The Space Merchants (1953) with C. M. Kornbluth.

Then there are his equally impressive solo novels, like Man Plus (1976), and Gateway (1977), which began the Heechee saga.

And his equally masterful editorship of Galaxy Science Fiction during the 1960's.  Frederik Pohl has not only penned masterpieces but charted a career that has made contributions to the genre that few can equal. Here's wishing you a very happy birthday, Frederik Pohl.

Go Sukashi!

The sentai silliness of Go Sukashi!

[via Japan Probe]

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Interstellar travel

There's a great article today on the New Scientist site about possible propulsion methods capable of traversing interstellar distances. Not only is it an interesting topic to begin with but they include a shout-out to Arthur C. Clarke who used small black holes to propel interplanetary spaceships in his novel Imperial Earth (1975).

Dark power: Grand designs for interstellar travel
25 November 2009 by Marcus Chown

SPACE is big," wrote Douglas Adams in his book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. "You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is."

So what would it take for humans to reach the stars within a lifetime? For a start, we would need a spacecraft that can rush through the cosmos at close to the speed of light. There has been no shortage of proposals: vehicles propelled by repeated blasts from hydrogen bombs, or from the annihilation of matter and antimatter. Others resemble vast sailing ships with giant reflective sails, pushed along by laser beams.

All these ambitious schemes have their shortcomings and it is doubtful they could really go the distance. Now there are two radical new possibilities on the table that might just enable us - or rather our distant descendants - to reach the stars.

In August, physicist Jia Liu at New York University outlined his design for a spacecraft powered by dark matter ( Soon afterwards, mathematicians Louis Crane and Shawn Westmoreland at Kansas State University in Manhattan proposed plans for a craft powered by an artificial black hole (
 (Full article)

The Terrible Answer

"They came to Mars inquiring after the stuff of Empire. They got—"

"The Terrible Answer" by Arthur G. Hill

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Astounding Stories (May, 1931)

Project Gutenberg provides us with another full issue of Astounding Stories from May, 1931. This issue includes a story by pulp duo Nat Schachner and Arthur L. Zagat, plus another installment in Ray Cumming's serial novel, The Exile of Time. And be sure not to miss Grand Master Frederik Pohl's series of blog posts about Astounding Stories.

Astounding Stories (May, 1931)

Dark Moon by Charles W. Diffin

Mysterious, Dark, Out of the Unknown Deep Comes a New Satellite to Lure Three Courageous Earthlings on to Strange Adventure. (A Complete Novelette.)

"When Caverns Yawned" by Captain S. P. Meek

Only Dr. Bird's Super-Scientific Sleuthing Stands in the Way of Ivan Sarnoff's Latest Attempt at Wholesale Destruction.

 The Exile of Time by Ray Cummings

Young Lovers of Three Eras Are Swept down the Torrent of the Sinister Cripple Tugh's Frightful Vengeance. (Part Two of a Four-Part Novel.)

"When the Moon Turned Green" by Hal K. Wells

Outside His Laboratory Bruce Dixon Finds a World of Living Dead Men—and Above, in the Sky, Shines a Weird Green Moon.

"The Death-Cloud" by Nat Schachner and Arthur L. Zagat

The Epic Exploit of One Who Worked in the Dark and Alone, Behind the Enemy Lines, in the Great Last War.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Day of the Dog

"The Day of the Dog" by Anderson Horne

"They came home from a strange journey.... And heroes they might have been—a little dog and a man!"

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"I'm writing the new Doctor Who"

Michael Moorcock has an article over on the Guardian website going into detail about how he decided to write the new Dr. Who novel. Well worth reading both by Whovians and travelers of the Moonbeam Roads. The New York Times has it's moments, but The Guardian proves once again to be the only major newspaper giving the genre serious attention.

About the only real science fiction I've written since the 1960s was The Dancers at the End of Time stories, all done in the 70s. They're comedies set in the distant future with a nod to the fin-de-siècle of Oscar Wilde, HG Wells, Ernest Dowson and The Yellow Book. Both comedy and SF depend on compression and exaggeration and are very often entertaining when combined. There's a long tradition of it: even Wodehouse wrote a funny, futuristic story early in his career (The Swoop! or How Clarence Saved England). In the SF magazines, writers such as Henry Kuttner, Robert Sheckley and L Sprague de Camp were best loved for their comedy. Douglas Adams, of course, hit the jackpot in the 1970s with The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Davies and his writers realised this when the Doctor made his comeback some five years ago with Christopher Eccleston and then David Tennant in the role. Both actors have a talent for comedy and melodrama. The plots became increasingly complex, playing with ideas of time and space, and I became an addict again.

Of course the paradox of TV sf is that Dr. Who, a show premised on time travel, seldom employs the tropes of the traditional time travel story, whereas Star Trek, a show premised on space exploration, not only turned the Enterprise into a flying time machine but involved so much time travel that they eventually had to introduce the Department of Temporal Investigations into the U. F. P. bureaucracy. So as I see it, MM is under no constraints to write a time travel story as such. And I can't wait to see what he does with the Who mythos.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Passenger

"The Passenger" by Kenneth Harmon

"The classic route to a man's heart is through his stomach—and she was just his dish."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Foreign Hand Tie

"The Foreign Hand Tie" by Randall Garrett

"Just because you can "see" something doesn't mean you understand it—and that can mean that even perfect telepathy isn't perfect communication...."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lion Loose

Lion Loose (novella) by James H. Schmitz

"The most dangerous of animals is not the biggest and fiercest—but the one that's hardest to stop. Add intelligence to that ... and you may come to a wrong conclusion as to what the worst menace is...."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Vital Ingredient

"Vital Ingredient" by Charles V. De Vet

"It is man's most precious possession—no living thing can exist without it. But when they gave it to Orville, it killed him."

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Unforsaken Hiero

Sterling E. Lanier's novel The Unforsaken Hiero (1983) is as you might expect a sequel to his earlier novel, Hiero's Journey (1973). An adventurous yarn like the first, it's told in the same simple, straightforward prose. The narrative picks up almost immediately where the previous book left off in a short prologue that leads into the main narrative.

Hiero has managed to outwit both the Unclean hordes and the malevolent House. Thanks to Luchare he has the manuals necessary for the Abby to make a computer. But Brother Aldo has other ideas. He tells Hiero he must go south with Luchare to face the Unclean threat there. Brother Aldo will travel north with Gorm and take the manuals to Abbot Demero, who he suddenly reveals is his friend. Hiero doesn't question why he kept this secret until now. He accepts Aldo's plans, hands over the manuals, and heads out to the southern kingdoms.

The tale then leaps forward to Hiero's life in the feudal lands. As Luchare's husband, Hiero is literally being given the royal treatment. He has ingratiated himself with her father, King Danyale, and is now an heir to the throne. The feudal kingdom of D'lwah is very different from the theocratic Metz Republic from whence he hails. Here the church is separate from the state, and he's aghast at their practice of priestly celibacy. He also discovers for the first time members of different faiths, the Mu'amans (Muslims) and the Davids (Jews), though we learn little about them other than that they exist. He has managed to pick up the skill of riding the hoppers, the huge mutant kangaroos that are used as cavalry mounts.

Yet Hiero hasn't been able to get a lead on the Unclean. His only suspects are those who are able to shield their minds from his formidable telepathy, which had increased to superhuman levels in the last book. These are the priest Joseato, and court favorite, Duke Amibale Aeo. There is no evidence of wrong doing on either one's part, and as such mind shields can occur naturally Hiero must wait and watch. But evil plots are underway, and Hiero soon finds himself kidnapped and given a drug which robs him of his psi powers. By a stroke of fortune he escapes his captors and embarks on an odyssey back to the North if only he can survive the perils along the way.

Lanier is an able story teller and this book is a good complement to the previous installment. As in the earlier work he finds occasion to give a convincing account of boating, and later in the book paints a persuasive picture of a massed fighting force. The descriptions of the hopper cavalry are as picturesque as they are implausible. The book suffers from similar flaws as the first as well. The narrative bogs down in exposition at times, and Lanier's reliance on giant animals to populate this future landscape seems uninspired. The manner in which Hieiro's telepathy is restored was also overly convenient if undeniably unconventional.

The characters are again reasonably well drawn, but as the bulk of the novel involves Hiero trekking northward on his own we hear far too little of them. The allies he makes along the way, the Children of the Wind, and the old friend he reunites with in the final chapters stand out in this regard. Hiero behaves in a relatively more priestly manner this time around, saying prayers and orisons that were noticeably lacking from the previous book. We are also given a glimpse inside the councils of the Unclean, but they are little more than stereotyped two-dimensional villains.

And as evil as they are it's hard to stomach the response of Hiero and his allies to them. At one point some Unclean are unceremoniously condemned and killed because they had just killed helpless captives, yet in this book as in the last Hiero himself orders the killing of a helpless prisoner of war. When the forces of the north deliver their first blow against the Unclean it's by shelling the port city of Neeyana despite the absence of any sizable body of enemy troops and without any regard for the civilian population. These are priests that know nothing of mercy, only ruthlessness. Add to this that Hiero is fighting in the name of a patriarchal theocracy and it makes it difficult to sympathize with his cause.

There's also an unnecessary amount of repetition in the story. Several times during his wilderness trek we're assured that Hiero's skills as an outdoorsman are compensating for his lack of psi abilities, as if Lanier recognized he was straining the reader's credulity. And twice during the story we're treated to emotional reunions between Hiero and his trusty mount. And there are strange inconsistencies in Hiero's character. As mentioned earlier he prays regularly, but he no longer applies the face-paints he wore in the previous book, something that isn't even commented on until near the end of the story. And despite his contempt for celibacy among priests when he is later introduced to an noble young priest he instantly and approvingly recognizes him as a celibate. This strange incongruity is never addressed.

There is a sense that Lanier was running out of steam. There was a gap of ten years between the first book and this sequel. The novel ends on a cliff hanger with Hiero preparing to go to Luchare's aid. There are indications that a powerful evil being, the source of the Unclean, is present in the south and must be defeated. A climatic confrontation between Good and Evil is clearly in the offing. But no concluding book was ever written. The trilogy is left incomplete and we can only wonder at the ultimate fate of Hiero and his world.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Zero Hour

"With a Vengeance" by J. B. Woodley

"Keep this in mind in teaching apprentices: They are future journeymen—and even masters!"

"Zero Hour" by Alexander Blade (pseudonym)

"By accident Bobby discovered the rocket was about to be shot to the Moon. Naturally he wanted to go along. But could he smuggle himself aboard?

"They Also Serve" by Donald E. Westlake

"Why should people hate vultures? After all, a vulture never kills anyone…"

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"It flies sideways through time..."

If it weren't for SF Signal I would've missed this and it wouldn't have blown my mind...

Michael Moorcock says, "
Looks like it's official. I'll be doing a new Dr Who novel (not a tie-in) for appearance, I understand, by next Christmas. Still have to have talks etc. with producers and publishers but we should be signing shortly. Should be fun."

He goes on to say, "I've been watching Dr Who since it began. Haven't liked all the doctors and after Peter Davison stopped watching regularly until the new BBC Wales series." And, "Since the Tom Baker series, a lot of my ideas crept into the stories and so in many ways I'll be writing a story which already echoes my own work." And much more.

Far out, man!

No word yet on how Charlie "Don't get me started on Doctor Who" Stross is taking the news.

I wonder if Dr. Who will encounter Dr. Technical and his Silver Machine?

Holes, Incorporated

Today a story by Louise Leipiar, who like most women writing sf during the Golden Age adopted a pseudonym to disguise her gender, in this case "L. Major Reynolds."

"Holes, Incorporated" by L. Major Reynolds

"Would you like to see all hell break loose? Just make a few holes in nothing at all—push some steel beams through the holes—and then head for the hills. But first, read what happened to some people who really did it."

Friday, November 13, 2009


Today we're treated to the first of James H. Schmitz's stories about the capable and psi endowed young woman, Telzey Amberdon. The stories were republished in an edited and altered form by Baen Books and the complete collection of those versions are available for free download.

"Novice" by James H. Schmitz

"A novice is one who is inexperienced—but that doesn't mean incompetent. Nor does it mean stupid!"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Monsters of Mars

Today Project Gutenberg adds another full issue of Astounding Stories featuring the writings of sf greats like Edmond Hamilton and Jack Williamson. Also included are another of Sewell Peaslee Wright's Commander John Hanson stories, and the first installment of a novel by Ray Cummings of The Girl in the Golden Atom fame.

Monsters of Mars By Edmond Hamilton

"Three Martian-Duped Earth-Men Swing Open the Gates of Space That for So Long Had Barred the Greedy Hordes of the Red Planet." (A Complete Novelette.)

The Exile of Time By Ray Cummings

"From Somewhere Out of Time Come a Swarm of Robots Who Inflict on New York the Awful Vengeance of the Diabolical Cripple Tugh." (Beginning a Four-Part Novel.)

"Hell's Dimension" By Tom Curry

"Professor Lambert Deliberately Ventures into a Vibrational Dimension to Join His Fiancée in Its Magnetic Torture-Fields."

"The World Behind the Moon" By Paul Ernst

"Two Intrepid Earth-Men Fight It Out with the Horrific Monsters of Zeud's Frightful Jungles."

Four Miles Within By Anthony Gilmore

"Far Down into the Earth Goes a Gleaming Metal Sphere Whose Passengers Are Deadly Enemies." (A Complete Novelette.)

"The Lake of Light" By Jack Williamson

"In the Frozen Wastes at the Bottom of the World Two Explorers Find a Strange Pool of White Fire—and Have a Strange Adventure."

"The Ghost World" By Sewell Peaslee Wright

"Commander John Hanson Records Another of His Thrilling Interplanetary Adventures with the Special Patrol Service."

"Blind Spot" by Bascom Jones

"Everyone supported the Martian program—until it struck home!"

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Occasion for Disaster

Today Project Gutenberg adds a novel about psi powers by Randall Garrett and Laurence M. Janifer that would later be reprinted under the title Supermind. Also added is a story by William P. McGivern published under the Ziff-Davis house name "Gerald Vance".

"Larson's Luck" by Gerald Vance

"Larson couldn't possibly have known what was going on in the engine room, yet he acted....""

"The Eyes Have It" by James McKimmey

"Daylight sometimes hides secrets that darkness will reveal—the Martian's glowing eyes, for instance. But darkness has other dangers...."

Occasion...for Disaster by Randall Garrett and Laurence M. Janifer

"A very small slip, at just the wrong place, can devastate any enterprise. One tiny transistor can go wrong ... and ruin a multi-million dollar missile. Which would be one way to stop the missiles...."

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Lost Kafoozalum

"The Lost Kafoozalum" by Pauline Ashwell

"One of the beautiful things about a delusion is that no matter how mad someone gets at it ... he can't do it any harm. Therefore a delusion can be a fine thing for prodding angry belligerents...."