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
      weight;
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

Christmas

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

Subjectivity




"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]