#17 – Arthur C. Clarke

#17 – Arthur C. Clarke A Reader's History of Science Fiction

Arthur C. Clarke was the fourth of the "Big Four" authors of the golden age of science fiction. In this episode, we explore his work and his unique writing style, especially centered around "sufficiently advanced technology." Book recommendation: The City and the Stars. Other books mentioned: Childhood's End A Fall of Moondust 2001: A Space Odyssey The Colours of Infinity on YouTube. Clarke's three laws.
  1. #17 – Arthur C. Clarke
  2. #16 – Ray Bradbury
  3. #15 – Robert Heinlein Part II: Politics, Religion, and Sex
  4. #14 – Robert Heinlein Part I: The Juveniles
  5. #13 – Isaac Asimov Part II: Robots

Arthur C. Clarke was the fourth of the “Big Four” authors of the golden age of science fiction. In this episode, we explore his work and his unique writing style, especially centered around “sufficiently advanced technology.”

Book recommendation: The City and the Stars.

Other books mentioned:
Childhood’s End
A Fall of Moondust
2001: A Space Odyssey

The Colours of Infinity on YouTube.
Clarke’s three laws.

Check out this episode!

Posted in A Reader's History of Science Fiction, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

#16 – Ray Bradbury

#17 – Arthur C. Clarke A Reader's History of Science Fiction

Arthur C. Clarke was the fourth of the "Big Four" authors of the golden age of science fiction. In this episode, we explore his work and his unique writing style, especially centered around "sufficiently advanced technology." Book recommendation: The City and the Stars. Other books mentioned: Childhood's End A Fall of Moondust 2001: A Space Odyssey The Colours of Infinity on YouTube. Clarke's three laws.
  1. #17 – Arthur C. Clarke
  2. #16 – Ray Bradbury
  3. #15 – Robert Heinlein Part II: Politics, Religion, and Sex
  4. #14 – Robert Heinlein Part I: The Juveniles
  5. #13 – Isaac Asimov Part II: Robots

Ray Bradbury is most famous as the author of Fahrenheit 451, but he was an important and unique figure in science fiction at-large, a master of short fiction with a colorful, Hollywood-centered career. Here, we explore some of his most notable works, and his philosophy in writing.

Book recommendation: Fahrenheit 451.

Bradbury’s 1999 interview about his writing.
Bradbury in Hollywood.
Gautham Shenoy on Fahrenheit 451.
Louis Friedman’s tribute to Bradbury.

Other books mentioned:
The Martian Chronicles
The Illustrated Man

Check out this episode!

Posted in A Reader's History of Science Fiction, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

#15 – Robert Heinlein Part II: Politics, Religion, and Sex

#17 – Arthur C. Clarke A Reader's History of Science Fiction

Arthur C. Clarke was the fourth of the "Big Four" authors of the golden age of science fiction. In this episode, we explore his work and his unique writing style, especially centered around "sufficiently advanced technology." Book recommendation: The City and the Stars. Other books mentioned: Childhood's End A Fall of Moondust 2001: A Space Odyssey The Colours of Infinity on YouTube. Clarke's three laws.
  1. #17 – Arthur C. Clarke
  2. #16 – Ray Bradbury
  3. #15 – Robert Heinlein Part II: Politics, Religion, and Sex
  4. #14 – Robert Heinlein Part I: The Juveniles
  5. #13 – Isaac Asimov Part II: Robots

Robert Heinlein’s later career went to some unusual places, including books with heavy philosophical and political themes, while still continuing with his classic hard sci-fi rigor. In this episode, we explore the highlights of his later work.

Book recommendation: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.

Other books mentioned:
Starship Troopers
Stranger in a Strange Land
Time Enough for Love

Floyd Gale on Starship Troopers.
Cory Doctorow on Heinlein’s less savory works.

Check out this episode!

Posted in A Reader's History of Science Fiction, Science Fiction

Graphic Novel Review: First Knife by Simon Roy and Daniel Bensen

FIRST KNIFE TP

A couple months ago, I reviewed Junction, the debut novel of Daniel Bensen. After I posted it, Mr. Bensen was kind enough to thank me for my review and to discuss our mutual interest in writing. He recently suggested that I also read a graphic novel he co-wrote for Image Comics called First Knife, about a post-apocalyptic future Earth. To be honest, I wasn’t sure it would be my thing, but I read it, and it was really well done. I can recommend it.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Be aware that this graphic novel is rated M for blood and violence.

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Posted in Book reviews | Tagged , , ,

#14 – Robert Heinlein Part I: The Juveniles

#17 – Arthur C. Clarke A Reader's History of Science Fiction

Arthur C. Clarke was the fourth of the "Big Four" authors of the golden age of science fiction. In this episode, we explore his work and his unique writing style, especially centered around "sufficiently advanced technology." Book recommendation: The City and the Stars. Other books mentioned: Childhood's End A Fall of Moondust 2001: A Space Odyssey The Colours of Infinity on YouTube. Clarke's three laws.
  1. #17 – Arthur C. Clarke
  2. #16 – Ray Bradbury
  3. #15 – Robert Heinlein Part II: Politics, Religion, and Sex
  4. #14 – Robert Heinlein Part I: The Juveniles
  5. #13 – Isaac Asimov Part II: Robots

Robert Heinlein was one of the first major authors to write science fiction specifically for children. In this episode, we explore how he did it and what sets him apart from his contemporaries in this area, along with the other classic children’s sci-fi books up through the golden age.

Book recommendation: Have Spacesuit–Will Travel

Other books mentioned:
The Tom Swift Series
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

Grumbles from the Grave, Chapter 3
John J. Miller on Starship Troopers
Adam Gopnik on The Little Prince
Farah Mendlesohn on children’s sci-fi
Alec Nevala-Lee on Heinlein’s writing

Check out this episode!

Posted in A Reader's History of Science Fiction, Science Fiction | 1 Comment

20020: the Sequel to 17776

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b1/Pioneer-6-9.jpg
Pioneer 9

Three years ago, I reviewed a web serial/visual novel called 17776: What Football Will Look Like in the Future created by Jon Bois of the SB Nation blog, an absurdist tale about a far future where humans are immortal, and everyone plays ridiculous versions of American football.

Well, now, Jon Bois is back with the sequel, 20020. And with the surreal world we find ourselves in in reality, this one feels more timely than ever.

20020 is about the return of college football. Since humans stopped being born, aging, and dying in the year 2026 in this world, there’s not really any need for college anymore, but they revived the league, presumably for whomever wanted to sign up, for a new game designed by JUICE (the JUpiter ICy moons Explorer spacecraft), where 111 teams play on one huge field that criss-crosses the country—the usual 160 feet wide and 134,354 miles long.

Except it’s not really one field. The story so far focuses on two players from San Diego State, which alone of the 111 teams has a field that is cut off from the rest by the Mexican border. (The University of Hawaii was invited, but ultimately backed out.) They used a loophole in the rules to switch fields and have spent 2,216 years working on their master plan before finally getting a chance to make a play. (With immortality, automation doing all the work, and no science and technology left to solve, people have nothing better to do.)

20020 is just as good as the original and clearly had a lot of work put into it to figure out exactly how this insane game will work. It will update every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday through October 23, so I definitely recommend you check it out.

Posted in Science Fiction, Uncategorized, Web Review | Tagged , , , , ,

New Year’s Resolutions Update

At the end of last year, I made a post talking about my new year’s resolutions for 2020. Throughout 2019, I had discovered that I do much better with my resolutions if, instead of once a year, I revise them every three months. You might say this is more of a way to refine my personal schedule, since (if you’re doing it right) it’s not something that ends at the end of the year, but whatever you call it, it works…mostly. I was going to do the same thing this year and update you every three months on my progress.

And then COVID happened.

As you may know, I work at NASA, and I’m grateful that NASA has been very supportive of its employees and contractors through the pandemic. They transitioned surprisingly smoothly to most people working from home, and they’re also being very cautious about Coronavirus, so the current setup will likely continue into 2021.

However, this did throw off my carefully-refined schedule, and it’s only been in the past two months that I’ve gotten back on track. So, here’s that update I was going to give you. (I should have done this on September 30, but I was busy this week, and I do my weekly tracking Monday through Sunday anyway.)

At the beginning of the year, my resolutions were:

Writing
—Write 5,000 words per week across all of my projects. Completion rate 85%.
—Write 500 words after supper on nights when I don’t have anything else going on. Completion rate 65%.
—Write 1 blog post per week. Completion rate 64%.

Reading/Entertainment
—Read 1 chapter each of one audiobook and one paper book per week. (This is just so I don’t fall out of the habit.) Completion rate 75%.
—Watch 1 episode per week from my TV backlog. (Hey, I’m a science fiction writer. This is serious research.) Completion rate 72%.
—Read 1 Bible reading per day from my custom chronological reading plan. (It sounds like a lot, but we’re usually talking less than 20 minutes.) Yeah, this didn’t get anywhere. And I think it’s because I tried to set it as a daily goal. (More on that in a minute.)

Publishing
—Um…this didn’t work out so well. Trying to get a book published is too complicated to break down into “do this every week” bits. I’m going to try to draw up a plan of what needs to be done month-by-month to get where I want to be by the end of the year. Also got nowhere.

I’m a little behind last year, although I feel like I’ve hit my stride now. I think I would have done better if it weren’t for COVID, partly because I chose less ambitious goals. It might not seem like it, but this list required less disruption to my lifestyle than before while still challenging me. My biggest pitfall, I think, was trying to do anything daily. I added that qualifier to the “500 words per night” thing for a reason. When I try to schedule things daily, I can’t reliably do them every day. My schedule changes, and not always in ways I can predict. With publishing, I had the opposite problem: when I try to schedule things monthly, it’s too much “out of sight, out of mind.” They’re not in my consciousness enough to motivate action.

With this in mind, I’m making the following changes to my “new year’s” resolutions for the remainder of 2020:

—Write 500 words of fiction after supper on nights when I don’t have anything else going on. (Since I started my podcast, my focus on that has interrupted my fiction writing, so I need to readjust.)

—Bible reading plan: dropped. I will think more on this.

—Send one query letter per week while I have them in the queue. Short story submissions included. (This is actually more ambitious than I’ve ever tried before, but weekly works better than monthly, so I’m hopeful.)

Posted in Personal, Writing | Tagged ,

#13 – Isaac Asimov Part II: Robots

#17 – Arthur C. Clarke A Reader's History of Science Fiction

Arthur C. Clarke was the fourth of the "Big Four" authors of the golden age of science fiction. In this episode, we explore his work and his unique writing style, especially centered around "sufficiently advanced technology." Book recommendation: The City and the Stars. Other books mentioned: Childhood's End A Fall of Moondust 2001: A Space Odyssey The Colours of Infinity on YouTube. Clarke's three laws.
  1. #17 – Arthur C. Clarke
  2. #16 – Ray Bradbury
  3. #15 – Robert Heinlein Part II: Politics, Religion, and Sex
  4. #14 – Robert Heinlein Part I: The Juveniles
  5. #13 – Isaac Asimov Part II: Robots

We continue our exploration of the work of Isaac Asimov with a study of his Robot Series and an introduction to robot fiction in general, which he shaped in ways that remain important to this day.

Book recommendation: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov.

Other works reviewed:
R.U.R. by Karel Čapek
The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
The Bicentennial Man by Isaac Asimov
I, Robot (2004 film)

Check out this episode!

Posted in A Reader's History of Science Fiction, Science Fiction | 1 Comment

TV Review: Cosmos: Possible Worlds, Week 1

Cosmos Possible Worlds title card.jpg

During the previous season of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, I reviewed the series to discuss how it measured up to the original, and I wanted to do the same thing again. Granted, the new season, Possible Worlds, doesn’t exactly lend itself to this. A Spacetime Odyssey told many original stories, but it also spent quite a bit of time updating the material of Episodes 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 12, and 13 of Carl Sagan’s original. That does leave a few more that they could potentially draw on now. In fact, sight-unseen, I was at some point expecting an update of Episode 5, “Blues for a Red Planet,” which was all about Mars.

However, after reading the summaries, that turns out not to be the case—although Episode 8, “The Sacrifice of Cassini” does seem to parallel Episode 6 of the original, “Travelers’ Tales,” which was about the Voyager mission. Other than this, there’s only one other obvious parallel in this season. Episode 2 seems to echo Episode 11 of the original, “The Persistence of Memory.”

For the record, of the other episodes in the original series, Episode 4, “Heaven and Hell,” was about the twin disasters of asteroid impacts and the runaway greenhouse on Venus; and Episode 7, “The Backbone of Night,” was about our historical understanding of stars and the galaxy.

Anyway, last time, I reviewed four episodes at a time, but this time, since Fox aired two episodes last night, I wanted to get started now. It’s not clear if that schedule will continue. I know they’re only running one episode next week because of the Presidential debate, and the network doesn’t list their schedule further in advance.

I also need to note that this is not the order the episodes were aired on National Geographic Channel. At that time, Episode 2 of this run, “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors,” was switched with Episode 11, “The Fleeting Grace of the Habitable Zone.” The production codes reveal that the current airing on Fox is the correct order, and reading over the summaries, I think it feels more natural that way. (At least, I hope they won’t be making any more changes. I haven’t cared for how they’ve handled the series so far.)


Anyway, now that all that’s out of the way, what did I think of the episodes? Well, I thought they were solid. I took issue a little bit with the animated histories; I thought they played a bit fast and loose (a complaint I had about the previous season as well), but it was still solid storytelling.

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Posted in Science, TV Reviews | Tagged , ,

Cosmos: Possible Worlds Premiers on Fox Tomorrow

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/3f/Cosmos_Possible_Worlds_title_card.jpg

Back in March, I posted about the new season of Cosmos. This is Neil deGrasse Tyson’s second follow-up to Carl Sagan’s classic series. He already did Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey in 2014, which I enjoyed and reviewed extensively at the time. (See here to start.) So I was excited to see that he was doing a second season this year called Cosmos: Possible Worlds.

However, I wasn’t able to see the original run, which began airing in March on National Geographic Channel, because they made it nearly impossible to find for cord-cutters or even basic cable subscribers. And honestly, I and many other fans of the show have been really annoyed with Disney for how they’ve handled this because it’s bad marketing, and it sends a message that they don’t really care about the show.

A Spacetime Odyssey premiered on Fox Network, so I expected the same this time around. However, the original run aired on National Geographic Channel instead, and was only available on air or live-streaming to subscribers. From what I’ve read, it wasn’t even available On Demand for cable subscribers, or at least it wasn’t available for re-watch, which is pretty crazy. If you missed an episode, it wasn’t possible to find it again (legally) for any price in the United States.

If you care about educating the public—or for that matter, if you care about making money—this seems like a very bad move. And the advertising and certainly the hype have been a lot less for the broadcast run, at least online. I worry that this is going to lead to people either ignoring the show or pirating it, and I worry that it’s going to cut into the audience either way. It’s unfortunate that they moved the show from its original home on PBS, but understandable, but this is just shooting themselves in the foot.

But even so, Cosmos:Possible Worlds is finally airing on Fox, starting tomorrow, September 22, at 8 PM Eastern. I for one am still excited to see it, and I’m going to be analyzing it just like I did the previous season. If you’re with the 20% of US households who have cut the cord, or if you couldn’t fit it into your schedule in the first run, I hope you’ll follow along with me. Stay tuned.

Posted in Current events, Science, TV Reviews | Tagged , , ,