Ray Harryhausen – Featuring Creatures

As a kid in the 1960s I loved the Sunday afternoon movies. Sometimes a Tarzan flick, sometimes a Kung Fu movie, sometimes a Hammer Horror, and sometimes it was a creature feature. Sure Godzilla or Mothra were fun, but the BEST creature features were done by a guy by the name of Ray Harryhausen.

Harryhausen was inspired by the work of one Willis O’Brien, and specifically by O’Brien’s 1933 film King Kong that used stop-motion animation beside live action. On O’Brien’s advice, the teenaged Harryhausen dove into graphic design and sculpture classes and, along the way, made friends with an aspiring writer named Ray Bradbury. When World War II came about, Harryhausen enlisted and was stationed with the ‘Special Services,’ the entertainment branch of the Army, where he served under Colonel Frank Capra and worked with Ted Geisel. If those names sound familiar – the former was already a directorial giant in the movie industry before enlisting, and the latter became known to folks as Dr Suess. Continue reading “Ray Harryhausen – Featuring Creatures”

Book Series by Volume – Galactic Edition

I’m one of those people that love book series – big book series. When I see a trilogy my first thought is often “Isn’t that cute!” as I turn my attention to truly massive piles of words. This can work to my disadvantage, as I have that compulsion to finish a series no matter the cost to my psyche. (The Warriors series by Erin Hunter about killed me) Today, though, I’m focusing on the expanses of space and epic science fiction series. (All measurements below are from the hardback editions)

The Ringworld Series, by Larry Niven – With only 10 books it seems light at a mere 2/3rd of a cubic foot, but one shouldn’t neglect that it is part of his Tales of Known Space that clocks in at around 2.5 cubic feet!

Larry Niven is the prototypical “hard” sci-fi writer. By sheer osmosis the reader will somehow learn a bit of physics and astro-mechanics entirely by accident while reading his stories. The Ringworld itself is just that – a ring 186 million miles in diameter built around a star. The first book follows a human, Louis Wu, and his companions as they investigate the Ringworld at the behest of Nessus, a member of the Puppeteer race. Think of a 3-legged deer with 2 snake-like single-eyed heads – that’s a Puppeteer. Oh, and they’re manipulative cowards, but hey, they have cool haircuts (on the hump between their heads) so they have that going for them. Continue reading “Book Series by Volume – Galactic Edition”

Pandemic Post-Apocalyptic Podcast

It was amazing, astounding, this loss of communication with the world. It was exactly as if the world had ceased, been blotted out. …With the coming of the Scarlet Death the world fell apart, absolutely, irretrievably.
The Scarlet Plague, by Jack London

Just a handful of years after the novella quoted above came out, the world was plunged into a global pandemic that claimed over 50 million lives. Jack London didn’t live to see it, but he had recently witnessed the ominous return of the Black Death, a startling outbreak of bubonic plague in turn-of-the-century San Francisco that is recounted in David Randall’s Black Death at the Golden Gate. What’s more, he had the foresight to know that worse – much worse – was to come:

Now this is the strange thing about these germs. There were always new ones coming to live in men’s bodies. …the more men there were, the more thickly were they packed together on the earth, the more new kinds of germs became diseases. There were warnings. Soldervetzsky, as early as 1929, told the bacteriologists that they had no guaranty against some new disease, a thousand times more deadly than any they knew, arising and killing by the hundreds of millions and even by the billion.  

While not all of the predictions in London’s vision of America circa 2013 ring true – personal dirigibles, anyone? – his pandemic prophecies have only gained force. In H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, humankind is saved by micro-organisms; in London’s The Scarlet Plague, these same germs turn on us, and almost win. Looking back from the year 2073 on the devastation, an old man attempts to teach his grandsons how to relight the torch of civilization, with the aid of that most precious tool: books! Continue reading “Pandemic Post-Apocalyptic Podcast”

Science Fiction 4 All Seasons

Four Science Fiction eAudiobooks featuring four different styles of Science Fiction stories. Happy listening!

Anne Manx in Lives of the Cat by Larry Weiner, read by Claudia Christian and Patricia Tallman

[Science Fiction Noir] For fans of Science Fiction Radio Serials
Anne Manx is an honest detective, maybe the last one remaining in the star system. And because of this, when a sudden insurrection within the police force puts the entire system on the edge of anarchy, she finds herself on the wrong end of a gun barrel. But this is not where Anne Manx’s story ends. For this end is merely a beginning, and like the mythical cat with nine lives, Anne Manx is one hard cat to kill. A fast-paced romp through space full of campy fun, this fully-staged radio production is an homage to radio serials of old, like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, mixed with the satirical adult humor of Barbarella.

Armada by Ernest Cline, read by Wil Wheaton

[Science Fiction] For fans of Ready Player One, Ender’s Game, and all things growing up in the 80’s
From the team that brought you the new sci-fi cult classic novel and audiobook, Ready Player One, author Ernest Cline and narrator Wil Wheaton, have reteamed to create another ode to the 80’s in Armada! This fast-paced science fiction adventure is the perfect blend of two 80’s Sci-Fi classics, Jonathan R. Betuel’s film, The Last Starfighter and Orson Scott Card’s novel, Ender’s Game. High school senior Zack Lightman is doing what he does most days in class, staring out the window and daydreaming, when suddenly he sees something that he certainly couldn’t have seen. If you asked him what he saw, he wouldn’t tell you. Absolutely not. Because if he did, you’d think he was going crazy. Just like his dearly departed dad. Because, what he saw in the sky that day wasn’t a bird, or a plane, or even a super-man, but a spaceship. A very specific spaceship, as a matter of fact. A spaceship from his favorite game, Armada. But that can’t be right. Because that would be crazy. Continue reading “Science Fiction 4 All Seasons”

Science fiction and fantasy books about change

During these times of uncertainty, many of us are looking to our favorite writers for comfort and guidance. For decades, speculative-fiction writers have shown themselves to be especially well-versed in the subject of uncertainty, using their magical worlds to explore social problems and existential questions that complicate our daily lives. Here are three science fiction and fantasy novels that offer empowering perspectives on change and adjusting to a new normal.

The Left Hand of Darkness book cover imageThe Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

This novel is perhaps best known for its commentary on the social effects of gender roles, thanks to Le Guin’s detailed, almost anthropological portrayal of an alien society where gender does not exist. These are the Gethenians, who live out their days on the planet Winter, named so because it is covered eternally in snow, wind, and ice. As narrator Genly Ai learns about the Gethenians’ culture and lifestyle on their frozen planet, the patient reader slowly learns along with him and ultimately is rewarded with profound meditations on change, ephemerality, and living under harsh conditions in a world full of great unknowns. Continue reading “Science fiction and fantasy books about change”