Saturday, May 30, 2009
"It was on the third day of August that Joe come off the assembly line, and on the fifth Laurine come into town, an' that afternoon I saved civilization." (12MB MP3)
Thursday, May 28, 2009
"Nor is Star Trek unique in this regard. Stars and planets are regularly destroyed in Star Wars, too, and in lots of other science fiction from the Golden Age right up to the very doorstep of the Singularity.
But here's the thing: destroying a planet takes time. They're big, dense objects, and destroying one is not like popping a balloon or even vaporizing a city with nukes."
I'll just be happy when Hollywood gets rid of that magical expanding ring of light that seems to accompany any explosion in space.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Originally an anime short, Blood: The Last Vampire threw the viewer straight into a world in which hideous shape-shifting demons took on human form to feast on mortals, and only the grim and mysterious Saya could stand against them. It was "based on a concept by Mamoru Oshii" who is best known for his Ghost in the Shell animes, but who also directed the live-action sleeper sf classic, Avalon. Despite its brevity it was an intense and gripping film that spawned a series of novels and a less intense but not terrible TV series, Blood+. If this movie is even half as good as the live-action Death Note movies it'll be a must see.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
This is Klon Calling by Walter J. Sheldon
"One sure way to live dangerously is to become a practical joker. Should you have any doubts about it you might ask Professor Dane."
When I Grow Up by Richard E. Lowe
"The two professors couldn't agree on the fundamentals of child behavior. But that was before they met little Herbux!"
Monday, May 25, 2009
Clark Ashton Smith
Upon the stark, blue blankness of the sky,
The assailing armies of the stars have swept,
And all the night is splendid with their spears.
The azure emptiness hath grown a page,
Inscribed with countless characters of flame -
Gigantic hieroglyphs inscrutable,
Emblazonry eternal of the dark,
And ciphers bright whose key is yet unfound,
That burn as riddles to unnumbered eyes
On worlds uncountable.
The earth rolls on
Within its shadow - darkness that lays bare
The sister worlds, and legions of the suns
That flame remote, as day to unseen spheres,
And gleaming atoms on the night to us.
Enormous revelation of the dark!
The finite looks upon Infinity,
The endless star-processions that unfold
On midnight roads of the unceasing void.
O suns, thy light doth blind and stun the soul!
The imponderable abyss is as a weight
To crush the spirit utterly! I feel,
More strong than thunder on the astounded ear,
The vast, stupendous silence of the gulf.
Its darkness wraps me round, and I am lost,
All sense of self o'erwhelmed, and my soul steeped
In night, till it becomes a darkness, too.
What suns beyond the suns, what further voids
The night doth hide! What skies unseen are bright
To dwellers in Polaris' worlds! What depths
Of black, abysmal silence fall unsunned
Sunday, May 24, 2009
One Out of Ten by J. Anthony Ferlaine
"There may be a town called Mars in Montana. But little Mrs. Freda Dunny didn't come from there!"
Compatible by Richard R. Smith
"There are many ways—murder included—in which husbands can settle certain problems. This was even more drastic!"
Collector's Item by Robert F. Young
"Very trivial things can go into the weaving of a nest. The human race, for instance—"
Friday, May 22, 2009
(Of all the stories in the land, Least liable to bore us
Is that of Captain Carter and
- The lovely Dejah Thoris
It’s held its own with boys and men
Since ‘way back there in 1910.)
- Captain John Carter, C.S.A., prospecting in the west,
Beheld his partner, Powell, get an arrow in the vest.
He turned his horse around and ran, pursued by painted braves;
With whoop-de-doo, they chased him through the canyons and the caves.
- He hid within a cave at last, a dismal place and haunted;
The Indians came, a-searching him, but even they were daunted
By something in the cavern dim -- then Carter got a sniff
Of something old and dead and cold, and he was frozen stiff!
- He lay for hours within the cave, as still and cold as ice;
He tried to wiggle, tried to squirm, he tried to move -- no dice.
At last he felt a funny click -- by every Grecian god! he Jumped up and gee!
He found that he was standing by his body!
- Don’t get me wrong, no ghost was he, he still was just as stolid
And grim and stern and handsome as before, and just as solid.
He stepped outside the cave and looking up beheld the stars.
A moment’s spark of cold and dark, and Bam! He’s up on Mars!
The Martians known as Tharks were quite the strangest ever seen;
With walrus tusks and four long arms, fifteen feet high, and green.
They lived like desert Arabs, but instead of sheep and goats,
Up there on Mars there’s zitidars, calots and banths and thoats.
- John Carter killed a warrior, and standing by the carcass,
He saw a Thark walk up and say, “Good work! My name’s Tars Tarkas.
“No one can have a friend on Mars, no one can have a wife,
“But keep it quiet, friend, and I will be your friend for life.”
- One day, while Carter cleaned his guns and hummed a little ditty,
An airship from far Helium came sailing o’er the city.
They shot it down ’mid squeals and yells, a wild and savage chorus;
And there inside was Helium’s pride -- the lovely Dejah Thoris!
- Oh “who is Sylvia, what is she, that all our swains commend her?”
An who is Trojan Helen, e’en with Venus to defend her?
And who is Shakespeare’s Juliet? These ladies all were quinces.
Not one would dare to risk compare with Captain Carter’s princess.
- John Carter as a fighter was a superman for certain.
John Carter as a lover -- Let us quickly draw the curtain. .
He stuttered, stammered, stumbled -- he was in a dreadful state;
And only two clear words got through; he muttered, “Let’s escape.”
- “So forth from Alexandria --” (Beg pardon, that’s a quote),
So forth from their imprisonment they rode upon a thoat.
Across the dead sea bed they fled, past many an ancient ruin,
Till, in dismay, they saw the next day the green men were pursuin’.
- The green men came up fast so she fled upon a thoat.
John Carter told her, “Go, I’ll stay behind and be the goat.”
But when the Martians got up close, he saw they were no Tharks.
These savage goons were all Warhoons, a damsite worse than sharks.
They took him to their city and they put him in a cell.
He found that they had captured a red Helium man as well --
A noble friendly fellow by the name of Kantos Kan--
And it really burned him up when he had to fight the man.
- The Warhoons like a battle, so they made their prisoners fight
From early in the morning until pretty late at night
And then they turned the last one loose, so Carter got a plan.
“It’s up to you to see me through,” he said to Kantos Kan.
- So Kantos killed a dozen men, and Carter killed a score,
Then turned upon each other when there weren’t any more;
And Kantos faked a sudden thrust and Carter fell “defeated”,
And lay there, stark, till after dark and then got up and beat it.
Across the dead sea bottom Carter quickly made his way,
And came across a great big building, late the following day.
An old man bade him welcome, saying, “Enter without fear,
“For I’m the cheese that makes the breeze that people breathe up here.”
(You see, the planet Mars is old and hasn’t got a bit
Of natural atmosphere and so they manufacture it.
They have to keep it secret from the whole blamed Martian race,
Or pretty soon some dumb Warhoon would try to raid the place.”
The old man flattered Carter and he made him stay for lunch
And said he had to spend the night, but Carter got a hunch
That this old boy would kill him just to keep his secret tight --
So with the dawn, J.C. was gone, continuing his flight.
Across the dead sea bottom (golly! here we go again!)
Came Carter to Zodanga where he joined the ruler’s men.
And one day on the street he saw an old familiar pan.
“Well, knock me stiff,” said Carter, “if it isn’t Kantos Kan!
Said Kantos Kan, “By Issus, you’re the guy I’m glad to see.
“I’ve got a job to do and you can be a help to me.
“These fellows caught our princess fair, as from the Tharks she fled,
“And now the clown that runs the town insists that they be wed.
- John Carter said, indignantly, “Well, whaddya think of that,
“I’ll wallop these Zodangans till they don’t know where they’re at.
“The nerve of them! The princess is the girl who’s won my heart.
“Them easy marks! I’ll get the Tharks and take this place apart.”
He leaped upon his thoat and rode, with Thark his journey’s end.
Tars Tarkas was their ruler now; he said, “Hello, my friend.”
Said Carter, “I’ve got a job for you,. my friend, so do you duty,
“And in the end you’ll get, my friend, a lot of loot and booty.”
- To make a long tale short -- they smote Zodanga, hip and thigh;
The Tharks attacked them from the ground and Helium from the sky.
Zodanga lost its freedom and its ruler lost his life;
The Tharks got loot and wealth to boot -- and Carter got his wife.
For ten long years, ‘mid smiles and tears, he led the life of Reilly
As Dejah Thoris’ husband. He was honored very highly.
And then, one day, he heard her say what threw him for a loss:
“Your loving wife would bet her life they’ve killed the air-plant boss!”
Said John, “Now that you mention it, it is quite stuffy here.
“I guess it’s up to old J. C. to save the atmosphere.”
He quickly called a flier and set off across the plain.
And flew and few till he came to the airplant once again.
He fixed the air-plant up, all right, the best that he could do,
But he was darned short-winded by the time that he got through.
He gazed up at the sky, beheld the planet of his birth --
A moment’s spark of cold and dark, and Bam! he’s back on earth!
Oh, Edgar Burroughs antedated Joyce by several years
In writing stories that go ‘round in circles, it appears.
If I were old John Carter, I would sure be broken-hearted
To fight so much with Tharks and such, and wind up where I started.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Of Time and Texas by William F. Nolan
"Open the C. Cydwick Ohms Time Door, take but a single step, and—"
Two Plus Two Makes Crazy by Walter J. Sheldon
"The Computer could do no wrong. Then it was asked a simple little question by a simple little man."
Benefactor by George H. Smith
"He clutched at the lever with more force than he'd intended. It was set for further in the future...."
William F. Nolan is most famous for writing the novel Logan's Run (1967) and its sequels. Walter Sheldon is something of an enigma and not much seems to be known about him. George H. Smith shouldn't be confused with the Libertarian ideologue of the same name, or with fellow sf writer George O. Smith, author of the Venus Equilateral series.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
The Copper-Clad World by Harl Vincent
"Blaine comes out of the hypnosis of the pink gas to find himself deep within Io, the copper-clad second satellite of Jupiter."
Harl Vincent was a pseudonym of mechanical engineer and New Yorker Harold Vincent Schoepflin (1893-1968). Everett F. Bleiler comments that "Vincent was one of the most prolific genre writers of the pre-Campbell period..." He penned pulp stories with lurid titles like "The War of the Planets," "Microcosmic Buccaneers," and "The Terror of Air-Level Six." Bleiler's assessment is that "Vincent was an uneven writer, whose work, though always demonstrating intelligence, often showed marks of haste. It would seem obvious that he often wrote down for the market." He seems to have quit writing when WWII broke out, but briefly returned to the genre in the late 1960's with tales like "Lethal Planetoid," "Space Storm," and the planetary romance novel, The Doomsday Planet (1966).
Monday, May 18, 2009
International Association of Time Travelers: Members' Forum Subforum: Europe – Twentieth Century – Second World War
At 14:52:28, FreedomFighter69 wrote:
Reporting my first temporal excursion since joining IATT: have just returned from 1936 Berlin, having taken the place of one of Leni Riefenstahl's cameramen and assassinated Adolf Hitler during the opening of the Olympic Games. Let a free world rejoice!
At 14:57:44, SilverFox316 wrote:
Back from 1936 Berlin; incapacitated FreedomFighter69 before he could pull his little stunt. Freedomfighter69, as you are a new member, please read IATT Bulletin 1147 regarding the killing of Hitler before your next excursion. Failure to do so may result in your expulsion per Bylaw 223.
At 18:06:59, BigChill wrote:
Take it easy on the kid, SilverFox316; everybody kills Hitler on their first trip. I did. It always gets fixed within a few minutes, what's the harm?
At 18:33:10, SilverFox316 wrote:
Easy for you to say, BigChill, since to my recollection you've never volunteered to go back and fix it. You think I've got nothing better to do?
Saturday, May 16, 2009
The Sargasso of Space by Edmond Hamilton
"Helpless, doomed, into the graveyard of space floats the wrecked freighter Pallas."
Edmond Hamilton was one of the towering figures of early space opera and is on my Appendix N (which despite the facetious introduction really does list authors I like.) Wikipedia gets it right when it says, "Hamilton was always associated with an extravagant, romantic, high-adventure style of SF, perhaps best represented by his 1947 novel The Star Kings." I'd add his Interstellar Patrol novels, Outside the Universe (1964) and Crashing Suns (1965), all of which are available via you public library.
(Don't confuse this with Andre Norton's later novel of the same name, which is part of here Solar Queen series.)
Friday, May 15, 2009
Similar problems plague Abrams' new Star Trek film. While undeniably successful, and fun to watch, it seems to have accomplished this largely by reducing Star Trek to a formulaic action movie. The complex relationship of the original show, in which Kirk, embodying American pragmatism, attempted to strike a balance between the softhearted humanitarianism of McCoy and the calculating realism of Spock, has been expunged in favor of Kirk and Spock acting out Hollywood's stock Buddy cop cliché. Rebellious maverick Kirk and stiff-necked, by-the-book Spock must learn to work together to bring criminal Nero to justice, while both vie for the affections of the beautiful Uhura. Standard movie fare, complete with space chases and pyrotechnic shoot-outs. It all seems a far cry from Roddenberry's belief that "excitement is not made of car chases" and that a show "need not be violent to be exciting."
And why are there pregnant women in every Abrams' production? What's that all about? And destiny. Gotta have talk of destiny (or implications of it, in the case of Fringe.) Not to mention father figures aplenty. He even packed three into Star Trek. And of course there are the airplane crashes, or spaceship crashes, as the case may be. Then there's the gruesome medical procedures, either the surgeries of Lost, the autopsies of Fringe, or that odd scene in Star Trek involving the comically over-sized syringe and the giant drop of Red Matter (blood?). I'm sure there's something too all this, but I'm not sure I want to know what it is.
Whatever the case, I do keep watching.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
"What with all the Star Trek hoopla for the origins re-do, not to mention the release of the Best Original Trek DVD, I decided to take a look at not just the best but ALL of the episodes of the original series that were written by real science fiction authors."
I've always thought that one of the reasons Star Trek had such lasting appeal is that it wasn't just another Hollywood fistfight, but had one foot in the sf world. That hasn't really happened since, although Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski was no stranger to the genre. That's why I'm keeping my fingers crossed for ABC's upcoming television adaptation of Robert J. Sawyer's novel Flashforward. If it does well maybe we'll see more sf books and series on screen and George R. R. Martin can stop bellyaching.
At one time he hoped to land some commissions doing book covers for Star Trek and Star Wars but unfortunately it never panned out.
I've tried to convince him to sell his paintings at cons,
but he's not too interested in the idea.
He still paints fantasy & sf subjects, but mostly for his own amusement.
I forgot to mention that John thinks The Crazy Indian Video is the funniest thing ever.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
The Defenders by Philip K. Dick
"No weapon has ever been frightful enough to put a stop to war — perhaps because we never before had any that thought for themselves!"
I just remembered that this is one the PKD stories adapted for the great old radio show X Minus One (MP3 13MB)
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Monday, May 11, 2009
"I was ready to be disappointed with this revision of Trek. But I wasn’t. I loved it.
But I am here to review the science of the movie."
[via Mike Brotherton]
Saturday, May 9, 2009
As a melodrama, the film holds up well. The characters are all engaging, the actors deliver solid performances, and the film's narrative pace never misses a beat. There are also well played comic moments that help lighten the film. The only real melodramatic shortcoming is the antagonist, Nero. What could have been a poignant character in the mold of Khan is instead a sketchily drawn galactic maniac embarked on a misguided campaign of revenge. What made Khan such an intriguing figure is that he was avenging actual wrongs. Khan, it could be argued, had justice on his side. What made him morally ambiguous was that he brutally killed so many innocent people in the course of his vendetta. By contrast, Abram's Nero is a wrong-headed lunatic who is punishing people that did their best to help save his homeworld. His actions are manifestly unjust which makes him a completely unsympathetic character. What's worse is that he's two dimensional. We get no insight into his character. He has none of the memorable lines that made Khan such a vivid villain. It's the biggest waste of a baddie since Darth Maul.
When viewed as science fiction the film fares rather less well. I'm not talking about nitpicks, like phasers that are beams when fired by the ship but not when fired from a pistol, or Kirk, Sulu and a Redshirt skydiving from orbit instead of becoming squirming satellites. I'm talking about an ignorance of basic scientific facts. Star Trek has never put a premium on scientific accuracy, but one thing it has always avoided is the blunder of confusing a solar system with a galaxy. That's the kind of embarrassing mistake only comic book writers or the old pulp penman of the last century would make. It's like confusing an island for a planet. Abram's Star Trek makes that mistake. We're expected to believe that a supernova, an exploding star, threatens the entire galaxy. A galaxy made up of billions and billions of stars. It's utterly preposterous. It's like a hand grenade being a danger to the entire planet. But it gets worse. We're supposed to accept that Spock, who has been marooned on the planet Delta Vega, can look up at the sky and watch with the naked eye as his native Vulcan comes to an untimely end. To realize just how ridiculous that is keep in mind that Venus is the largest planet close to the Earth and it appears as nothing but a bright light in the night sky. Couldn't they at least have given Spock a telescope? I know we live in a scientifically illiterate society but is that really expecting too much? The result is to reduce Star Trek to the level of a Gojira film: fun to watch but hard to take seriously.
And it is fun to watch. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the film. It's just that the scientific gaffs it makes are so outrageous and unnecessary that they stand out like a sore thumb. Which is a shame because it lives down to Star Trek's reputation for bogus science which has inspired such parodies as Voltaire's song "The U.S.S. Make Shit Up." It reduces the film to being a good action movie rather than a convincing science fiction yarn.
Update: added a link to an article about supernovas.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
The God in the Box by Sewell P. Wright
In the course of his Special Patrol duties Commander John Hanson resolves the unique and poignant mystery of "toma annerson."
The Crystal Crypt by Philip K. Dick
Stark terror ruled the Inner-Flight ship on that last Mars-Terra run. For the black-clad Leiters were on the prowl ... and the grim red planet was not far behind.
Monday, May 4, 2009
A Question Of Reentry (MP3 6.67 MB)
Cloud Sculptors Of Coral D (MP3 6.75 MB)
Escapement (MP3 6.76 MB)
Having A Wonderful (MP3 6.72 MB)
Low Flying Aircraft (MP3 6.69 MB)
News From The Sun (MP3 6.64 MB)
Sunday, May 3, 2009
"The Virginia State Legislature has declared June 27, 2009 as Will F. Jenkins Day, a deserved honor for a man who, writing as Murray Leinster, was one of the true grandmasters of science fiction since his writing not only predated the development of the genre, but who was responsible for many of the iconic ideas in the field."
That's great news. Murray Leinster was a pioneer in many ways. He was possibly the first to imagine, in 1964's "Plague on Kryder II," a spaceship using its drive as a weapon, something often mistakenly credited to Larry Niven.
"The other ship swerved. Calhoun changed course to match. The other ship wavered. Its pilot couldn't understand. He'd lost the initiative. The Med Ship plunged for the very nose of the other vessel. They moved toward each other with vastly more than the speed of rifle bullets. At the last instant the other ship tried crazily to sheer off. At that precise moment Calhoun swung the Med Ship into a quarter-turn. He cut his rockets and the Aesclipus Twenty plunged ahead, moving sidewise, and then Calhoun cut in his rockets again. Their white-hot flames, flittering through a quarter-mile of space, splashed upon the other ship. They penetrated. They sliced the other ship into two ragged and uneven halves, and those two halves wallowed onward."
More important to his legacy is his prediction of the personal computer in his 1946 story "A Logic Named Joe," about a personal computer, or logic, which gains self-awareness.
"Listen, fella! Logics changed civilization. Logics are civilization! If we shut off logics, we go back to a kind of civilization we have forgotten how to run!"
Many of Murray Leinster's best stories are freely available to download and enjoy, courtesy of the Baen Free Library and Project Gutenberg. No need to wait for Will F. Jenkins Day to read his stories.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Friday, May 1, 2009
Beyond the Door by Philip K. Dick
"Did you ever wonder at the lonely life the bird in a cuckoo clock has to lead—that it might possibly love and hate just as easily as a real animal of flesh and blood? Philip Dick used that idea for this brief fantasy tale. We're sure that after reading it you'll give cuckoo clocks more respect."
Year of the Big Thaw by Marion Zimmer Bradley
"In this warm and fanciful story of a Connecticut farmer, Marion Zimmer Bradley has caught some of the glory that is man's love for man—no matter who he is nor whence he's from. By heck, you'll like little Matt."
Belly Laugh by Randall Garrett (writing as Ivar Jorgensen)
"You hear a lot of talk these days about secret weapons. If it's not a new wrinkle in nuclear fission, it's a gun to shoot around corners and down winding staircases. Or maybe a nice new strain of bacteria guaranteed to give you radio-active dandruff. Our own suggestion is to pipe a few of our television commercials into Russia and bore the enemy to death.
Well, it seems that Ivar Jorgensen has hit on the ultimate engine of destruction: a weapon designed to exploit man's greatest weakness. The blueprint can be found in the next few pages; and as the soldier in the story says, our only hope is to keep a sense of humor!"
Texas Week by Albert Hernhuter
"One of the chief purposes of psychiatry is to separate fantasy from reality. It is reasonable to expect that future psychiatrists will know more about this borderline than the most learned doctors of today. Yet now and again even the best of them may encounter situations that defy all logic."
Lost in the Future by John Victor Peterson
"Did you ever wonder what might happen if mankind ever exceeded the speed of light? Here is a profound story based on that thought—a story which may well forecast one of the problems to be encountered in space travel."
Solar Stiff by Chas. A. Stopher
"Totem poles are a dime a dozen north of 63° ... but only Ketch, the lying Eskimo, vowed they dropped out of frigid northern skies."