" In this universe the night was falling; the shadows were lengthening towards an east that would not know another dawn. But elsewhere the stars were still young and the light of morning lingered; and along the path he once had followed, Man would one day go again"

Arthur C. Clarke Against the Fall of Night

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Loud Table - Jonathan Carroll

I have loved Jonathan Carroll since I first read his brilliant novel Land of Laughs some 30 years ago and I have read almost everything he has written since. His combination of fabulation, fantasy and horror is perfectly suited to his stories where our everyday urban world transforms into a reality that is anything but. So I was delighted to find that Tor had provided access to his story "The Loud Table".

As an old duffer myself I know that there are two pastimes we indulge in frequentely, the first is gathering with friends to talk for hours over meals or coffee, and once there, to discuss our faltering memories. Carroll has captured this wonderfully in a tale of one such group of friends in search of a new coffee spot, and his has done this in a tale that belongs very much within our jagged orbit. Great stuff.


And if you have not read anything by Jonathan Carroll, please give him a try.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury read by Leonard Nimoy

The Martian Chronicles, The Heritage Press, 
illustration by Joseph Mugnaini.

I found this link tonight while searching on Ray Bradbury. I am 
not sure about copyright if I need to delete the link 
please let me know.


Ray, Leonard, thinking about you.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

New Arrivals

Wednesday my buddy Doug and I visited The Sentry Box in
Calgary. It is a large gaming store that also sells new and 
used books. They also maintain an accurate online 
database of stock so you can find out if they have what 
you want before you go. 

I love Kiernan's SF and HPL inspired stories, this novel got
a good review on Speculiction so I was looking for it.
Cover Gene Mollica.


I have discussed several of Lupoff's  HPL inspired stories on my 
HPL site so I was intrigued by these. 

Covers George Barr and James Warren.

Having finished Neuromancer I was able to pick up the next 
two sprawl novels. Covers Richard Berry?, Will Cormier.

And of course anthologies

Covers Lomberg and Darrell Sweet

Some great authors, Ken Lui, Aliette de Bodard, Robert Reed,
Vandna Singh, Liz Williams among others and I love that they 
are small format pbk, cheaper and easier to shelve, hint hint. 

Covers by Pye Parr

And I just have a soft spot for covers with critters like this on
them.  Cover unattributed

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Michael Chabon Attacks Prejudice Against Science Fiction from Wired 03.07.12

  This week my wife and I attended a talk at the university by author Michael Chabon. My wife is a fan of Chabon's writing and has read a number of his novels. I have to admit that despite his reputation, among many other awards he has won a Hugo, a Nebula and something called Pulitzer Prize, I had not read anything by him. The talk was very good, Chabon skillfully weaved his experience and influences from age five onward into a very engaging narrative explaining his world view, which of course is reflected in his writing, (as I understood him) he is a rationalist and a sceptic, wary of anything that smacks of mysticism and personal exceptionalism. He is also interested in both mainstream and genre literature something I am also quite interested in. I guess I should not be surprised that a man who has been a professional story teller in multiple genres and mediums for so long, should be so engaging and eloquent but I was, very pleasantly surprised. His ability to organize and delivery his thoughts impressed me. He has obviously given his experiences and personal world view a lot of thought. It was also nice to hear from someone who obviously looks at the world rationally and critically. Having since read three of his short stories, the steam punk flavoured "The Martian Agent, A Planetary Romance" and two Lovecraft inspired tales "The God of Dark Laughter" and “In the Black Mill,” I am impressed with his writing, and will move on to his novels once I clean up the basement and find them.

I also never realized that he had been involved in the screenplay for the movie John Carter one of several movies, Van Helsing, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen among others etc. etc. that my wife and I apparently alone enjoyed based on the critical response. Okay it started with way too much earthly backstory, but I always hate back story. I was very happy to find out he was a huge fan of Burroughs Mars books, as am I, so overall I really enjoyed the talk. I have included a link to a interview he gave to Wired which I found quite interesting should anyone care to read more about Chabon's career.

 "I never abandoned genre fiction as a reader at all, and what happened, you know, after The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Wonder Boys, the book you mentioned, and the short stories that I wrote at the beginning of my career as a published writer, is it presented me eventually with this puzzle to myself of, “What happened to that idea of writing the kinds of books that you love to read?” And yes, the books that I was writing were modelled to some degree or another on other books that I loved, but my diet as a reader had never abandoned things that my output as a writer was just clearly not reflecting, and I wondered about that, like, “Why? Why does my backlist look so monochromatic, when the spectrum of my reading is so multicolored?” And I didn’t really have a good answer."

Michael Chabon Attacks Prejudice Against Science Fiction

from Wired 03.07.12


And I finish with a quote I loved from his (excellent ) HPL inspired New Yorker story, (which I will discuss on my HPL site) that I felt captured some of the skeptical and rational aspects of his world view as expressed in his talk. It is also, in my mind beautifully written.

"Here I conclude my report, and with it my tenure as district attorney for this blighted and unfortunate county. I have staked my career—my life itself—on the things I could see, on the stories I could credit, and on the eventual vindication, when the book was closed, of the reasonable and skeptical approach. In the face of twenty-five years of bloodshed, mayhem, criminality, and the universal human pastime of ruination, I have clung fiercely to Occam's razor, seeking always to keep my solutions unadorned and free of conjecture, and never to resort to conspiracy or any kind of prosecutorial woolgathering. My mother, whenever she was confronted by calamity or personal sorrow, invoked cosmic emanations, invisible empires, ancient prophecies, and intrigues; it has been the business of my life to reject such folderol and seek the simpler explanation. But we were fools, she and I, arrant blockheads, each of us blind to or heedless of the readiest explanation: that the world is an ungettable joke, and our human need to explain its wonders and horrors, our appalling genius for devising such explanations, is nothing more than the rim shot that accompanies the punch line."

from "The God of Dark Laughter"
New Yorker April 9, 2001 by Michael Chabon

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Gernsback Continuum by William Gibson

 "You could hide the Empire State building in one of the smallest of these towers. Roads of crystal soared between the spires, crossed and recrossed by smooth silver silver shapes like beads of running mercury.  The air was thick with ships…," (8) The Gernsback Continuum.

This cover is for Amazing Stories July 1923, Cover by Leo Morey

Some time ago I decided to read up on the cyberpunk classics I had missed. Thus far I have read "Burning Chrome", the short story and Neuromancer by William Gibson and "True Names" by Vernor Vinge. Easily distracted I also read "Hinterlands" by Gibson, brilliant, Bruce Sterling's "We See Things Differently" also brilliant see my earlier post, and "Swarm" a great insect society tale and the first work in Sterling’s  Shaper/Mechanist series. In an effort to get back on track I opened up Mirrorshades The Cyberpunk Anthology edited by Sterling. The first story was William Gibson's "The Gernsback Continuum", based on my previous posts I think we can guess which story I read first. In his introduction Sterling points out that this is Gibson's first professional publication (1981) while noting the importance of Gibson's Sprawl Series Sterling states "But this story led the way. It was a coolly accurate perception of the wrongheaded elements of the past-and a clarion call for a new SF aesthetic of the Eighties." Huh? the 1980’s while the removal of the wall was great and I enjoyed Max Headroom we also had Culture Club, Ronald Regan, Margaret Thatcher and Who's the Boss, wait I can see why a cyberpunk future is so dreary. I for one am still waiting for my jetpack. 

Grosset & Dunlap 1958, Illustrated by Graham Kaye

But on to Gibson's story, our narrator is a professional photographer who has taken a commission from a British art historian Dialta Downes to provide photos for an upcoming book The Airstream Futuropolis: The Tomorrow That Never Was. While Downes is thinking American architecture the narrator remembers the flying cars of the 1950's newsreels, or going back to the beginnings, the streamlined pencil sharpeners of the 1930's created by the first American industrial designers. The story specifically mentions Gernsback, Jules  Verne, Frank R. Paul and Tom Swift, great stuff in my mind. In an effort to capture the desired "look" the narrator photographs gas stations, "During the high point of the Downes Age, they put Ming the Merciless in charge of designing California gas stations. Favouring the architecture of his native Mongo, he cruised up and down the coast erecting raygun emplacements in white stucco. Lots of them featured superfluous central towers ringed with those strange radiator flanges that were a signature motif of the style," (4). 

And it is while photographing these gas stations that our narrator slips into the Gernsback Continuum. Gibson is a very good writer and I was quite impressed with the quality of this, his first published story. He perfectly captures the visual mood of the SF future as depicted the the magazines, books, merchandise, movies and television programs produced from the 1930’s thru the 1950’s. The story has none the gritty nihilistic vision of Blade Runner which I associate with cyberpunk. If anything it reminds me of the moody short stories of Tim Powers and James Blaylock where solitary narrators move through shifting realities infused with the Victorian science of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, alchemy, nostalgia, California dreaming, and zeppelins. I really enjoyed the story but think in the end I came to different conclusions if I can say that about a short story. I will  discuss this below.

Wonder Stories Dec. 1932, Frank R. Paul
Spoilers and quibbles

The narrator wants to be free of his visions of this “Gernsback” future especially after seeing the inhabitants of this future, “they were white, blond and probably had blue eyes” "They were smug, happy, and utterly content with themselves and their world”, and we are told “It had all of the sinister fruitiness of the Hitler Youth propaganda” (9). The narrator and possibly by extension Gibson and Sterling? see the technological future represented by Gernsback, as helping create our current problems of reliance on fossil fuels, traffic congestion, overpopulation, pollution, violence and racism. For myself I, as anyone who has read the site would know, love the Gernsback/Paul vision even while admitting it is both unrealistic and flawed. However a cyberpunk future while possibly more realistic also stereotypes, women are commonly assassins or prostitutes or both, the Japanese all seem to be augmented ninja or yakuza businessmen. Cyberpunk is still every bit as much about technology and we are still going into space but the ships are a lot more unpleasant and most of us will be indentured servants or cargo.

I know which I prefer, food pill anyone?  

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Xenu’s Paradox: The Fiction of L. Ron Hubbard and the Making of Scientology

April 1940, cover by Hubert Rogers
(for Copyright purposes I want to mention that I took 
this photo of one of my pulps. I do not republish 
photos from other sites.)

I found the following article on http://aldaily.com/

I thought it would be of interest to readers  of early SF. Any conclusions are of course those of the author, but I thought the link worth passing along and I am looking forward to reviews of his upcoming book, Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

"Xenu’s Paradox: The Fiction of L. Ron Hubbard and the Making of Scientology"

Alec Nevala-Lee, author of Astounding, a forthcoming book on the history of science fiction, digs into the writing career of L. Ron Hubbard, gaining new insights into the life of the controversial founder of dianetics and the origins and nature of Scientology itself.

quoted from the article;

"And it gets even stranger. When we turn to the stories themselves, we find that most of them have nothing in common with the tale of Xenu. In the pages of Astounding, Hubbard tended to write comic fantasies or adventures staged on a very modest scale, with situations lifted straight from the nautical or military fiction that he was publishing elsewhere. Aliens and galactic empires rarely played any significant role. When he employed these conventions, it was as a target for parody or as a kind of painted backdrop for the action. Yet when the time came to give Scientology a founding myth, he turned to space opera, referring to it explicitly in those terms, and the result didn’t look or sound much like anything he had ever written before."