Tag Archives: Science fiction

STAR WARS VIII THE LAST JEDI

With the last installment from the mind of no-imagination J.J. Abrams making me nostalgic for the Star Wars prequels, I have No Hope for this movie. Even though I will take myself to the theater to see it.

I am not even providing a link to the new trailer. I have no real interest in seeing Mary Sue do EVERYTHING. How one explains away all the ridiculous shit Abrams put in the last installment is beyond me. My bet is, judging from the trailer, the new director and screenwriter said, “screw it, she found Luke Skywalker, she’s on the planet, we’ll just trust the audience to gloss over any “technicalities.”

The “technicalities” here consist of some of the worst story writing ever put to film. Abrams likes (or he is grotesquely incompetent) to “reboot” franchises by breaking all the rules already established by the franchise. That, however, you cannot do. You can do everything else, but the rules of the invented world are what constitute it’s verisimilitude. If Jason (Friday the 13th) can take a hatchet through his skull and still come after you, a bullet in the gut is not allowed to take him out. You, dear viewer, may balk at the unreality of his surviving the hatchet to the skull in the first place, but if you accept it then a rule has been set – nothing less than that can stop him.

The character of the girl in Abram’s Star Wars (unlike the George Lucas movies, including the prequels, I can’t remember the names of Abrams characters) acquires a complete set of Jedi skills in that film – with no knowledge, no training, without even a knowledge of a thing such as the Force. The rule is – only a long process of merciless training from a master will give you the skill to go fighting with a lightsaber against a baddie (or JJ Abrams spoiled teenager stand it.. Kylo – what a douchebag emo name). That was established in The Empire Strikes Back.

Abrams shouldn’t be allowed out of a movie set concession stand. How anyone let this guy behind a camera is beyond me. If the new director or screenwriter can fart his way out the galactic sized plot holes from the previous movie, I will consider him a writing wizard.


FIRST THINGS talks PAST MASTER

The Christian online (online?) magazine FIRST THINGS, talks PAST MASTER, and DEAD LADY OF CLOWN TOWN, MANSIONS IN SPACE, and a few others.

Hey, they got the essential theme right!


FEAST OF LAUGHTER 4!

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FEAST OF LAUGHTER 4!

[NOTE: The link is to AmazonSmile which is Amazon’s charity site. So pick a charity, you Scrooges, and buy this fanzine! Part of your purchase will go to whatever charity you choose. But choose something good, like St. Jude Children’s Hospital or mine, Compassion International. Not something lame like End Beef Now!  or World Proletariate! Oppressed Vagina League!]

And here is a link to Feast of Laughter itself and the contents for each issue. As you can see, number four is knocking it out of the park!

It took a while for this baby to come out, but out it is! This is the fourth installment of the Lafferty Appreciation series (you can’t call it a magazine at 386 pages – how about periodical? sounds a little stodgy for something so fun but, oh my God am I still talking?).

And this time there is a brand new, never before published Lafferty story, THE ROD AND THE RING! The first new story, I have heard, in fifteen or so years! The man passed in 2002 but he left an extensive, so I have read, collection of unpublished manuscripts. Manuscripts that I hope we’ll all see someday.

Issue four has some heavy hitters in it including Gene Wolfe (worth the price right there, well, I mean besides it being a Lafferty appreciation I mean…) Robert Silverberg, Gardner Dozois and many others.

There is Lafferty’s notes for DeepSouthCon speech The Day After the World Ended. This is important material for understanding a lot of what goes on in Lafferty’s stories. Put it this way, the title of the talk is about an actual event that really happened. Don’t remember that occurring? That is one of the symptoms!

Two interviews are reprinted in this issue: Cranky Old Man From Tulsa, and Maybe They Needed Killing & the Importance of Happiness (yes, in the same title!).

Oh, shit, I just saw Michael Swanwick is in this volume as well.

Works inspired by Lafferty is always fun. It’s fun to see what comes through various lenses .

Are you still reading this? Go get your copy!


The Big Book of Science Fiction

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I got this the other day. It is edited by Jeff and Ann Vandermeer and it is quite a large collection. I did not buy it because there is a R.A. Lafferty story in it even though there is. I own that story in probably three other collections. No, I got this collection because of how many unheard of authors (unheard of by myself at least) are between its covers.

Now it is part and parcel of the elite clique in charge of science fiction and fantasy circle to poo-poo much of science fiction’s (and fantasy’s) origins as a American/British white male dominated field. I am not one of those people. Although I hate the phrase, I think it useful here: It is what it is. It was a white male (mostly American and British phenomena) dominated field for quite some time. Dominated but not exclusive.

Simple fact is it was thusly dominated because it was, in fact, thusly dominated. The people writing it and overwhelmingly the people reading were, and to a large extent still are, white males. I go to Norwescon here in the Seattle area and, say what you will, it is a white affair, baby. Some newcomers want to make an issue of it. It is a non-issue. Particularly of such a field as science fiction. Talk about a historically inclusive field with a historically inclusively dominate theme running through much of its history.

Plain fact of the matter is white male writers produced white male fans who in turn became the writers. Woman have been part of science fiction for decades now. More now than ever – but that is because of acceptability. Acceptability among women themselves is part of the bigger push, I believe, than anything else.

If someone asks me why there haven’t been as many black science fiction writers than there could have been, I am more likely to say, “because most of them thought it was stupid?”

For myself I don’t really care who, or what, the author is. And in general I avoid bios of authors. I know nothing about the actors I watch on television (mostly) and even less about musicians whose music I listen (mostly). I care about the story.

And I fucking mean that. You can have a message (for Christ’s sake I spent over a decade with Atlas Shrugged as my favorite novel!) but it better gel within the story. If not, it sticks out like a horny thumb through a peanut butter & jelly samich. Speaking of Atlas Shrugged, I still hold that she did a great job of melding message to story what with the force of the anvil over the head messaging in any lesser hands it would have been beyond intolerable. I know some people do, in fact, find the book intolerable, but if looked at dispassionately from a technical standpoint with that level of message she intertwined it quite well.

That rambling aside it remains true that my experience of science fiction (and to a lesser extent fantasy – I don’t read all that much of what is defined as fantasy) has been almost exclusively an American/British affair. And it has had the biggest impact, all around, on the development of the genre. That is just how the world works.

The introduction to this book doesn’t convey that they hold the Golden Age in much regard, that “… gee whiz, can do attitude…” Well, again the genre does not live outside the world that gave rise to it. And America was still just that sort of country that would produce that kind of work for young boys, and some men, to gobble up. You cannot divorce 30’s science fiction and 60’s science fiction from the society they rise in.

Would Frank Capra have been Quentin Tarantino if only born several decades later? Probably not, but he probably also would not have been Frank Capra – at least not the one who made such movies as It’s a Wonderful Life. We cannot divorce the artist entirely from his milieu. Even the rare genius has at least ephemeral feet in his time whether in reaction or protest or material.

And that rambling aside! So I was intrigued by the book. It is good to dip your feet in unfamiliar waters. Maybe I’ll find that there is even more reason why the American/ British dominance existed. Maybe they were also producing the only stuff worth reading! I don’t know. I doubt that, some of these entries are for Russian authors. A country not famous for producing poor writers. Producing shitty governments, check, but not shitty writers.

I’ll post any gems I find.

 


Placemarker for, hopefully, Future Posts

As often happens when I am neck deep in schoolwork and I post that I will not be able to post, things come up that I really feel an urge to discuss.

One such is the Hugo award for short story going to Cat Pictures Please – it is kind of hard to believe there isn’t a destructive element, a ruling element, out there when pieces like this are awarded as the best science fiction has to offer.

I hope to have more to say about it if I can later. Suffice it to say that if this is the best (or even the most popular) that science fiction has to offer now, science fiction is dead. Or at least in its death throes.

We merely have to determine if her death is from natural causes or homicide. I’m leaning towards murder.

Anyone remember the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes – or You Better Not Let ol’ Joe Stalin See You Stop Applauding First? They raise the unexceptional (or even completely outside the category) and you are expected to clap. Applause and praise for the unworthy will identify you as in the group and your duties are dispatched to you. Silence will let you roam the room for a time – but there will come a time when ol’ Joe is eyeing you… To call the sham for what it is is to be branded as outside the group, and to be submitted to the hate, to be non-Fan.

Mr. I can’t finish my series Martin last year even prescribed personality traits that a TruFan should have. He thereby threw Harlan Ellison clear outside of “fandom”. Actually threw anyone out who hasn’t conformed to the New Rulers that took over almost completely about ten years ago.

My favorite author, R.A. Lafferty, saw these people coming decades ago. But no one wanted to listen to a crazy old Catholic man.

They’re here!

I thought this was supposed to be a future post? Ah, it got away from me.

The other is I’d like to explore (from a time that science fiction awarded – at least in the short story realm – excellence and not rambling blog posts of little worth as blog posts) the theme of science fiction’s oft-overlooked treasure.

Science fiction can boast as having within her history two of the best American short stories writers. Yes two. I have another favorite author as well (he comes in the top 5 at least). I can only think of one thing these two men had in common, and that was their command of the short story. Particularly the sleight of hand, the magician’s trick, the short story with the twist.

These two authors were R.A. Lafferty and Fredric Brown. If you have never heard of the first, welcome to my blog; if not the second, you will know him as the writer of the Star Trek episode Arena (and several Hitchcock hour episodes as well). If you do not know the Star Trek episode Arena – I’m sorry you ended up at the wrong website.

I’ve talked little of Fredric Brown here. While he was a master of the short story (and the unparalleled master of the short-short story) his work was usually not very deep, many times there wasn’t much beyond the gimmick. But they were mostly fun stories that were pleasurable in their own right and showed a deft skill of execution. Their lightness had a cause. Fredric Brown was actually a mystery writer (of which he is more famous for usually – see The Fabulous Clip Joint or The Screaming Mimi) who did science fiction on the side while he was idle on the mysteries.

Again, future reference.


Addendum to Previous Post

I wrote in my previous post about my premature evaluation of The Platypus of Doom and Other Nihilists:

They seem to live in a far future where space is no longer a hostile environment to man and yet they seem to live communally and under some sort of soft dictatorship.

They seem to… This is a great way of writing that too rarely done. Too many times I think an author tries to give the reader an absolute. It is “The Cat is on the Mat” style of writing which may work for children since their imaginations can take the most flat and literal expressions and make them into wonder.

I don’t care that I don’t know exactly, at least not yet, how or what these people really are. Those are questions that keep me going forward. Sort of like the questions of life itself, no? There are two ways to do this by the end of a story, and I’ve seen it done right both ways. You never really find out or the vagueness is used to reveal as we go on.

Now this is material I’ve covered before elsewhere but here it is for the purposes of a book recommendation. One of the best constructed books I have read especially of science fiction. The author, Brian Aldiss uses this technique with the best skill I have ever seen.

The book is Non-Stop (otherwise known as Starship) by Brian Aldiss. His technique is comparatively easy to do on film, not so easy to pull off on paper. But he does it. It is not a deep book, no meta-ethic or anything, just great technique. Or, perhaps, I was so engrossed in his perfection of technique, I missed anything wider. Entirely possible…

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The Platypus of Doom and Other Nihilists

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I saw this at the bookstore a couple of months ago and my wife got it for me as an early birthday present because I was so intrigued by the title. It is a little rare to find – $60. I decided my breakfast book could not be the current

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(which, btw, is so far great – a mix of Catholicism, spiritualism, psychology, physics, cosmology – its first of a four part series of books by the former president of Gonzaga University) because it is too technical to read over the morning news and my wife getting ready for work. So I decided to take Platypus out of the plastic and dive in.

So far it is different which is one of my key qualifiers for new work. Put it this way, I have no interest in ever reading the James Patersons or Nora Roberts or John Grishams of the world. Stephen King? Sure. Although I prefer his less popular works like Tommyknockers. He calls it his worst novel. I loved it!

He, Cover, is not stylistically inventive in any particular way that jumps out but the subject matter and approach of story is. They seem to live in a far future where space is no longer a hostile environment to man and yet they seem to live communally and under some sort of soft dictatorship. Or a hard dictatorship since those in control can direct your soul where they wish after you die. Or at least the people think they can.

And now the leader says that the Black Pirates are to have their champion fight the Black Pirates champion and the winner will be visited by the dreaded Platypus of Doom!

And this was after the lead character’s girlfriend was killed by a meteor and one of the members was telling him how ugly his girlfriend had been and how revolting it must have been to have entered her. And how he should bed her daughter.

Quite unusual.

There are no technical explanations of how, for instance, the lead character (he has no name as yet) is able to get away from it all by, basically, willing himself to a different galaxy. You just accept that these people have this ability. It is that sort of “soft” science fiction that I usually prefer.

Only 8 pages in and I can give this one a recommendation. One of the tests of recommendation, I think (meaning, would I recommend a work to someone) is: does the material stay in the mind? Will the material stay in the mind? There are many a Pohl and even Heinlein story that I can remember nothing of.

I’ll remember, if nothing else, these first eight pages. So if you run across a copy, snatch it up!

Oh, and the author is not English. You’d think with a name like Arthur Byron Cover he’d be from across the pond!


Rork!

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This was my first foray into the world of Avram Davidson. Not so sure about this guy. The writing style was competent, the story… not very memorable. It certainly fits into its time. You know if a man lands on a planet and slips pretty easily into two or more vaginas within the first 50 pages (to be fair though the book is only 148 pages… alright now I’m laughing) you are reading a book written by a creepy white dude in (probably) America in the 1960’s or 1970’s. There is almost a pathology to it. It is almost incidental. The words related to any fornication could be substituted for relative words for eating a meal together and it would have so the same impact on plot and their lives.

They do the same sort of thing now but we are bored by something as commonplace as free-love, or consequence-free sleeping around with easy women. Instead we get rape and incest a la George RR Martin and sundry types. We’re all John Norman now!

If you contemplate this may all be wish fulfillment… you want to back away… slowly…

Anyway, I am not sure if Rork! represents a nadir in Davidson’s career. A simple “meh” moment, or he simply isn’t that good. I have a couple other books of his that I got off a personal library clearance.

It just wasn’t that special.


Next Centipede Edition of Lafferty Up at Amazon

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First observation is they are getting a little obscure with the introductions. I, at least, have never heard of Richard A. Lupoff. I’m not sure that is just me though. Everyone has heard of Harlan Ellison or Gene Wolfe. Too early for the story list, but I’m sure they’ll add it at some point. I didn’t check Centipede Press as I was stopping by Amazon to order yet another book for my medical coding classes (shit is going to break me, I haven’t written in sixteen months – sixteen months! I long for the days of frantic procrastination and creative loitering (wink). Better that a wannabe writer sits there and wastes his life away in daydreams than to be just fingers grasp away from the object of his desire.)

Anyway, it is still nine months away, but I am looking forward to another installment!

 


A Little Catch Up

Still slowly drilling away at school. Somewhere between the last time I was officially in school (98-99 for electrical engineering) and now I have grown dumber, or, more dumberer…er. Eh? I literally [edit: I hate this use of the word literally, but I already hit the send button, so it will have to stay] kicked the shit out of the material in electronics. Perhaps it is not age, perhaps it is the material.

The electronics had immediate application. This, what I am taking now, is over a year, so far, of memorization of mountains and mountains of terms. And I have seemed to have lost my knack for concentration and study.

But, enough of that.

Looking forward to this – IF  I can manage to get to it. It is a little ways away. Correction, a long way away.

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Went to The Book of Mormon last month. It was freaking hilarious. The Spooky Mormon Hell Dream song was the tops for me. When, in the middle of the song one of the Mormons tossed Satan the electric guitar and he started jamming out an 80’s style solo, I almost messed me shorts. Turn it Off (a happy Mormon song about turning off and saying no to your gay thoughts) was also worth the price of admission.

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I also got to see my favorite rock band of all time one more time (and I’m pretty sure with the singer a little over a year away from 70, it is the last time). Age means almost nothing when seeing them, they shredded us. Age meant something to me though. I got so into it I headbanged a tad which I haven’t done since the 80’s. A week later, I can still feel it in my neck and shoulders.

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It was a great time.

Song of Kali, the Dan Simmons horror book, was great. I really enjoyed it, and recommend it. Right now I am on a few different books. I had planned to start Lafferty’s Arrive at Easterwine, but saw Larry Niven’s Ringworld still sitting on my shelf. I decided I was really stretching it calling myself a science fiction fan but never reading it. I am now, its a little weird.

Being in school and working the last had really sapped my reading time. Now that I am just doing school I can get to some of that reading that has been piling up. I finally finished the first Lafferty short story collection from Centipede. Yes, the first. I still have all of the second and my copy of the third may be here even this day! I was going to read Lafferty very slow so I didn’t get to the end and have no more left, since the man has passed on. But as soon as I am done with school and back on a solid work schedule, I am going to rage through his work. The material invites many a reading.

I’m still keeping the China Mieville on the back burner. I have a feeling if I don’t meet this guy in the right mood, the relationship will be short, but it could be good so I shall wait until it pulls me to the shelf, not the other way around.