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Finding your way around Mars...

Pretty soon we will be able to know the solar system like the back of our hand. Then what? Stars in our pockets like grains of sand? watch on Youtube

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Steele Savage - Adventures with the Heroes

A nice surprise at the Davis Square Goodwill!   An ex-library copy of Adventures With the Heroes (1954), illustrated by Steele Savage.   This is the companion volume to Adventures With the Giants (1950) that you can find nicely scanned over at Ragged Claws Network. In both volumes, you will find Steele Savage’s crisp rendering in pen and ink, with a beautiful depth and texture provided by two-color separations.    For example, the illustration for the chapter, Sigurd’s Horse (p45), shows a wonderful use of a single color — darkened with black hachure lines for the foreground figures, loosely rendered for the curving river, and lightly washed across the background for mountains. The painted cover (presumably done in watercolor) is a lovely composite of the major scenes found in the book, with a mild looking dragon lying slain at the feet of a diminutive hero, and with its tail wrapped across the pale green landscape.  This altogether dreamlike image reveals the mastery of an artist who deserves our attention all the more. The complete set is posted at yunchtime.tumblr.com  

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A Mirror Full of Noir: Tyador Borlú Gets Lost

Just finished China Miéville’s _The City and the City_, a very satisfying, even inspiring, book, rich with metaphor and symbolism. It is like a film noir, set in a mythical Eastern European city — I’m convinced it is partly based on Prague — where populations living in mutually incompatible paradlgms “unsee“ each other. The beauty of this idea is that, (quite beyond the metaphor,) it could be almost any *real* city; with populations that are utterly invisible to one another. Old and young, rich and poor, leftist and fascist, black and white: there are, in fact, far too many axes of unseeing in our everyday lives…

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Unboxing a 1964 Smith Corona Sterling

It would be great if everyone was as lucky as I was today when unboxing a Fedex carton containing a used manual typewriter.   The typical horror stories of rattling loose pieces and totally brok

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Readercon 24, Where did we go from here?

Last year at Readercon, there was an emotional dust-up over a sordid harassment incident, in addition to a scary and unexpected medical emergency for one of our favorite editors. At this year’s Readercon, we were spared this additional drama, and found ourselves sailing through a very mellow and enjoyable con. Of course, it was great to catch up with other fans and pros, like Alan Hanscomb, who finished his novel _Sharon of Two Salems_, and Mark Borok, Dianne Weinstein, and the whole Readercon gang; and also great to make some new acquaintances, like some writer named Seamus who was wearing a little black straw fedora, and a couple of mathematics and linguistics-loving commedia dell’arte performers. Most surprising for me perhaps, was to hijack a moment of Name Your LinkJohn Shirley’s time, reminiscing about his gigs at CBGBs back in 1980, where I saw him stripped to the waist and flailing around like a maniac singing “_I am electricity!“   Now that was a memorable night.  Probably Shirley will scratch his head and wonder just who the heck I am and how I knew him well enough to be on the guest list… but I was gracious enough not to mention in public some of the other crazy shit that we both witnessed in Greenwich Village back then.    Like Mickey Mouse as the sorcerer’s apprentice, those were some nutty times…   _ So where did we go from here?    Yes, the panel sessions.

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Down and Out in Paris and London, Ch. 22

Most of George Orwell’s classic, Down and Out in Paris and London, is a first person account of near-starvation and slaving away as a dishwasher in the bowels of a French hotel.   But there is o

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50 Years Ago: the first woman in space!

On June 19th, 1963, Valentina Tereshkova returned to earth after three days and 49 orbits. making her the first woman to travel in outer space. Her landing near Baevo, Altai was quite rough. Since t

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Food From Outer Space

Now that we are vegetarian, Sophia invents some interesting dishes just for fun. This alien platter is a weird masterpiece!   A bizzare bitter melon, with a texture like an alien lizard, is holl

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Exposing the Dirty Wars

Sophia and her new pals, Amy Goodman and Jeremy Scahill Great book launch at the Harvard Science Center yesterday, featuring Jeremy Scahill on his new book, Dirty Wars.  After his excellent wo

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The warm stream conquers the cold

Харийс Брантс (Harris Brants) illustration for Picnic on Paradise in Издательский дом Дейч — Коллекция «Фантастика» Аркадий и Борис Стругацкие 2008 Reading “The Second Marxian Invasion“ about the Strugatski Brothers by Stephen W. Potts. Apparently this was Potts’ thesis at UC Berkeley and it is fascinating reading indeed. Tracing the utopian, socialist, and totalitarian themes in Russian fantastika literature from it’s earliest origins in the late 18th Century, the author describes how various Russian writers reacted to events such as the failed revolution in 1905, and the victory of the communists in 1917. For every utopian vision of the early Russian SF, there were dystopias, horrors, and complexities. Zamaytin’s _We_, published in 1921, is considered the classic tale of dystopia under totalitarianism, but according to Potts, it was not a counter-revolutionary work so much as a complaint that the Bolshevik utopia had not gone far enough towards the total liberation and union of personal and political interests. The modernist craze of the Leninist years eventually was constricted by Stalin’s paranoia, resulting in a number of science fiction authors vanishing to the gulags. Only writers like Belyaev, who could “reduce their technological miracles to the level of fairy tales, and inject their work with starkly ideological plots” were able to survive. When the “thaw” finally took place in 1956, the subsequent launch of Sputnik propelled Soviet SF into a new hard science phase that eventually was characterized as “cold stream” SF. This cold stream was one in which SF was narrowly conceived of as optimistic, science-oriented, and upbeat; similar to our sense-of-wonder space opera days, but one emerging from the constraints of Stalinist censorship and therefore self-consciously regulating itself and focused on a sort of vanguard of hard science futurism. The Strugatsky brothers, whose themes were more diffuse, more challenging, and informed by anthropology, psychology and the “soft” sciences, as well as the nascent New Wave, were seen as “warm stream” writers. In the 60s there was an ideological battle between the cold stream and warm stream, which was conceptually decided when the warm stream became more popular and when important critics advocated for science fiction with a purpose that transcended mere prediction and imagining of future technological advances. Here Potts quotes some criticism from 1968 about SF, but which raises some interesting thoughts about the purpose of writing in general: …we take as a criterion in assessing the value of a work everything that promotes the development of the human personality, extends its horizon, inspires it with lofty ideals, ennobles it morally and intellectually, improves its aesthetic preception [sic] of the environment, helps to gain an insight into the good and evil of this world, and to respond to them more keenly — in short, it is everything that promotes the truly human in man. ** (E. Brandis, V. Dmitrevsky, “In the Land of SF,” Soviet Literature (no. 5, 1968): 148) This strikes me as just a brilliant way to write anything!