Friday, July 31, 2009

SF humor: “What’s He Doing in There?” a 1957 short story by Fritz Leiber

Here’s a humorous short story from the Golden Age of Science Fiction: “What’s He Doing in There?” by Hugo Award-winning author Fritz Leiber. Originally published
in the December 1957 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction magazine and downloadable for free from either or Project Gutenberg, "What’s He Doing in There?”
is about a cultural encounter between an anthropologist’s family and the first Martian to visit Earth. Starring the Professor, his Wife, his Little Son, his Coltish Daughter, and the Martian, here are the opening lines of the story:

The Professor was congratulating Earth's first visitor from another planet on his wisdom in getting in touch with a cultural anthropologist before contacting any other scientists (or governments, God forbid!), and in learning English from radio and TV before landing from his orbit-parked rocket, when the Martian stood up and said hesitantly, "Excuse me, please, but where is it?" ...

Thanks to Tinkoo of Variety SF for the tip and the link!

Stock certificate of the Mars Mining Company

Mars Mining Company. 1889. Washoe County, Nevada. Issued and uncancelled stock certificate. 500 Shares. Black border, title, text and vignette. Vignette of arms of Maine. Rare Nevada mining stock.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

“Anhedonia," a new short story by British SF author and critic Adam Roberts

“Anhedonia,” a new short story written by British SF author and critic Adam Roberts, has been published in editor Mike Ashley's new anthology, The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF (July 2009). Here’s a description of the story, taken from Roberts' website:

Nearish-future humans, on a Mars base, encounter aliens, who in turn promise to gift mankind the wherewithal to travel ftl to the stars. But the aliens have taken away the crew's ability to experience pleasure, and they're an elusive, weird set of entities, so it's not clear why they have done so, or why they're prepared to hand over this galaxy-opening tech, or what their hidden agenda might be.

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, anhedonia is
"a psychological condition characterized by inability to experience pleasure in normally pleasurable acts."

The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF contains five new stories and 20 reprinted stories. Contributors include Stephen Baxter, Gregory Benford, Eric Brown, Paul DiFillipo, Robert Reed, Alastair Reynolds, and Robert Silverberg.

Photo of pioneer SF&F writer Leslie F. Stone

Here’s a neat item, thanks to longtime SF fan, editor, and publisher Andrew Porter: a photograph of pioneer science fiction and fantasy writer Leslie F. Stone (pseudonym of Leslie F. Silberberg, nee Leslie Francis Rubenstein; 1905-1991). The only other image I’ve seen of Stone is a portrait sketch that was printed in the April 1931 issue of Wonder Stories magazine and reproduced in Justine Larbalestier’s The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction (2002) and her Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century (2006).

To accompany the photo, I found a nice biographical sketch of "Miss Stone" in Eric Leif Davin’s Partners in Wonder: Women and the Birth of Science Fiction, 1926-1965 (2005):
Leslie F. Stone, (1905-1991): Born in Philadelphia, Stone’s family moved to Philadelphia when she was eight. She began selling fairy tales to newspapers at age fifteen. Perhaps for this reason she studied journalism in school. She was married to William Silberberg from 1927 until his death in 1957. They had two sons. In the late 1940s they moved to Kensington, Maryland, where she became a prize-winning ceramicist and gardener. In the 1960s she worked at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda.

Along with Clare Winger Harris, Stone was one of the first women writers to appear in the science fiction magazines, debuting in 1929. Her science fiction was most popular in the Thirties. She also published two SF novels. In addition to her science fiction, she published fantasy fiction in Weird Tales between 1935-1938. Her last story appeared in 1951.
Leslie F. Stone is the author of the novella/novel Out of the Void (1929/1967) and the short story "The Human Pets of Mars" (1936).

Checkout some other historical photos of SF fandom in Andrew Porter's collection.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

FYI: Request an ARC of The Martian Chronicles: The Complete Edition from Subterranean Press

Subterranean Press just announced that it has a stack of Advanced Reading Copies of its forthcoming The Martian Chronicles: The Complete Edition, by Ray Bradbury. High traffic bloggers and reviewers can request an ARC, which is nearly 750 oversized pages. Otherwise, “the book itself should go to press in September, with an eye toward shipping
in December.”

Check out the cover! Various scenes remind me of an Edward Hopper painting, a Pink Floyd album cover, and Norman Bates’ house. Nice!

Both Inkwell Foundation and Authors Guild need teachable moment on nonprofit governance

One of the sad things about some well-educated and successful professionals in the nonprofit world is their ignorance about industry “Best Practices.”

The Boston Globe reports that the Inkwell Foundation, a charity controlled by distinguished African-American scholar and Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., plans to file an amendment to the organization’s 2007 IRS Form 990, after questions were raised about “research grants” awarded to staff members.

Meanwhile, the Authors Guild has neglected to post on its website a biography or photograph of attorney Paul Aiken, the organization’s longtime Executive Director. Aiken is one of the key players in the proposed Google Book Search Settlement, an agreement which “may be the biggest book deal in U.S. history.”

Best Practices? Nope. Time for a couple of teachable moments? Yep!

Podcast review of The Sky So Big and Black, a 2002 novel by John Barnes

When Brit Luke Burrage isn’t earning a living as a juggler or traveling the world on holiday, he reads science fiction books and reviews them via his Science Fiction Book Review Podcast. Recently, he reviewed The Sky So Big and Black (2002), a novel about terraforming Mars written by American science fiction author John Barnes. At nearly 32 minutes, the podcast is full of humor and raves about Barnes’ novel, which Burrage gives 4.5 stars out of a possible 5.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New Orwellian novel: 2084: Mars, a New World, self-published by Robert A. Kaiser

Robert A. Kaiser, a retired chemical engineer who worked for many years on both civilian and government nuclear projects, self-published 2084: Mars, a New World (March 2009), his second novel, earlier this year through AuthorHouse. An Orwellian novel about a family that survives a Korean nuclear attack on California and eventually forms a revolutionary group to overthrow a totalitarian government on Mars in the year 2084, here’s a description from

The book is a modern version of George Orwell's novel 1984 projected 100 years into the future. It was originally intended to be a sequel to the author’s first book but soon developed into a science fiction novel. A worldwide planetary system of government has come to power to assure that deviant forms of terrorism no longer exist. Emphasizing strict adherence to governing council regulations prohibiting citizen dissent, it soon becomes a militaristic, totalitarian society requiring dedication to the "common good" with little respect for individual rights. Although mankind has established colonies on the moon and the planet Mars, society is still coping with what appears to be the eternal struggle for freedom. It takes the rugged pioneering spirit of the inhabitants of Mars to incite a revolution that will eventually result in the reemergence of original democratic ideals.

You can read an excerpt from Chapter 1 of 2084: Mars, a New World on Robert A. Kaiser’s website, or purchase the novel through Amazon.

“Menace from Mars,” a comic from the early 1950s

Pappy’s Golden Age Comics Blogzine has beautiful, readable jpegs of a comic entitled “Menace from Mars.” Published in the #13, October/November 1950, issue of Adventures Into the Unknown, the comic is ten pages long and the artwork is attributed to Charles Sultan. Here are the lines from the opening panel of “Menace from Mars”:

Here’s something new and strange, reader ... Truly an Adventure Into the Unknown! But this one’s different ... A manuscript slipped under our door, and written with all the fervor and desperation of truth! It’s the story of a weird Menace from Mars ... A message that you should know! Here it is, set down in the words of its author! Is it fact ... or fiction?

According to reader Pat S. Calhoun, “Menace from Mars" ends with
"a plea for world peace as the only way to prevent interplanetary invasion because Martian secret agents disguised as humans are warmongering, hoping we'll wipe ourselves out so they can take over.”

Thanks to Dave Tackett of the blog QuasarDragon for the tip!

Monday, July 27, 2009

"The Waters of Mars": Approaching age 60, Doctor Who actress Lindsay Duncan is still sexy

The most refreshing aspect of the BBC’s forthcoming Doctor Who television special, “The Waters of Mars,” scheduled to be aired in the UK in late 2009, isn’t the youthfulness British actor David Tennant brings to the role of the Time Lord, or the clever storyline that the waters of Mars can transform humans into zombies. Rather, the most refreshing aspect is the decision to cast 58-year-old Scottish actress Lindsay Duncan as Adelaide, head of a base on Mars and "the Doctor's cleverest and most strong-minded companion yet.”

Lindsay Duncan isn’t a household name in the States and she probably will not get as much media attention as fellow Doctor Who actress and barely-legal gal Karen Gillan, but Duncan proves that almost-60 is still sexy and that our planet doesn’t have to revolve around twenty-somethings. Here’s how The Independent, a British newspaper, described Duncan in 2005:

While it would be unforgivably coarse to join those lensmen in a bout of prose slavering over her good looks, it would be prissy to shirk the obvious truths that most film actresses are still required to be beautiful. Some three decades and more after her stage debut, Lindsay Duncan is looking, well, terrific: movie-set glamorous even sitting inconspicuously in a north London coffee shop, dressed in regular old T-shirt and dark trousers with no fancy lighting set-ups, and no more than the most perfunctory hint of slap. Fine-boned and patrician in the face, slender in the body, she could easily pass for a good 15 or 20 years younger than her true age (She was born in 1950, and doesn't seem to give a hoot who knows it.)

Check out Lindsay Duncan in this "The Waters of Mars" photo gallery preview or in this new video trailer (YouTube, 1:15 mins.) that just debuted at Comic-Con 2009 in San Diego.

Pictured: Lindsay Duncan

A look inside renovated Nantucket bookstore controlled by wife of Google CEO

Plum TV has two neat July 2009 video clips about Mitchell’s Book Corner on Nantucket. Established in 1968 and one of the island’s literary landmarks, the bookstore just reopened after an eight-month green renovation. The project, which included a new second floor (that’s where the SF books are!) and an elevator for handicap access, reused original building material and ensured that all new materials were environmentally friendly. The bookstore is controlled by Wendy Schmidt, president of the Schmidt Family Foundation and wife of Google CEO Eric Schmidt, whose philanthropic vehicle ReMain Nantucket purchased the store and its historic building in early 2008.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Memo to Mr. President: Serve Sky Mountain Porter and read a Ray Bradbury short story

To: President Barack Obama
From: Paul
Date: July 26, 2009
Re: RaceFail 2009

Mr. President, just a couple of suggestions with respect to your forthcoming RaceFail 2009 meeting with African-American scholar and Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Cambridge Police Dept. officer Sergeant James Crowley.

First, please consider serving a few beakers of Sky Mountain Porter, a refreshing beer made on Mars by Sky Mountain Brewery. The hops and barley are grown in “red Mars dust composted with human waste and weeds of Earth” and the label shows “Mons Olympus with its top circled in stars against the black Martian sky, and at its foot a tiny alien ship from Earth on a black lava plain.”

Second, please consider having Dr. Gates and Sgt. Crowley read aloud a Ray Bradbury short story. I suggest “Way in the Middle of the Air” (1950) or “The Other Foot” (1951), as either will provide for a teachable moment.



P.S. I don’t think you acted stupidly by wearing your “mom jeans” to the All-Star game. What did they expect? Khakis?

“Invasion,” a 1930s novelette by Murray Leinster

Thanks to a post by Tinkoo of the blog Variety SF, I had an opportunity to read my first piece of science fiction written by award-winning author Murray Leinster: “Invasion.” Originally published in the March 1933 issue of Astounding Stories magazine and downloadable for free from either or Project Gutenberg, "Invasion” is a pre-Cold War story about Thorn Hard, a high-level flier for the Pacific Watch, and Martians that land in Colorado. Here are the opening lines of the story:

It was August 19, 2037. The United Nations was just fifty years old. Televisors were still monochromatic. The Nidics had just won the World Series in Prague. Com-Pub observatories were publishing elaborate figures on moving specks in space which they considered
to be Martian spaceships on their way to Earth, but which United Nations astronomers could not discover at all. Women were using
gilt lipsticks that year. Heat-induction motors were still considered efficient prime movers. ...

If you’re not afraid of spoilers, read Tinkoo’s summary of “Invasion.” He rates the story a “B". Also, as Tinkoo suggests, writer Murray Leinster failed to accurately predict the future of newspapers.

Re-imagined movie poster is a Total Recall of a 1980s Patrick Nagel painting

The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Texas is selling re-imagined movie posters for classic science fiction films, including Total Recall (1990), which is set on Mars and stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone, and Rachel Ticotin. Created by artist Tyler Stout, the re-imagined Total Recall poster reminds me of a 1980s Patrick Nagel painting because of the way Ticotin is portrayed. Check out some of Nagel's paintings, including the famous cover of Duran Duran's album Rio.

Thanks to John DeNardo of SF Signal for the tip on the poster.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sci-Fi baby names: Iris

Name: Iris

Origin: 20th-century Earth

Source: The Angry Red Planet (1960)

Biography: Amnesiac exobiologist Iris Ryan is one of only two survivors of an ill-fated mission to Mars in the 1960’s The Angry Red Planet. Her hypnosis-induced recollections of the expedition include encounters with several surreal Martian creatures -- such as an intelligent amoeba -- and much panicked screaming.

Quote: “I know this is funny for a scientist, but maybe there are some things better left unknown.”

[Taken directly from Sci-Fi Baby Names: 500 Out-of-This-World Baby Names from Anakin to Zardoz, by Robert Schnakenberg (2007)]

Friday, July 24, 2009

Yobs piss the galactic pool, have American SF and Premiership fans seeing red

2009 may go down in history as the Year of the Yob.

In May, British SF&F author Andy Remic established the controversial but now-defunct Science Fiction and Fantasy Ethics project, and then ranted about some unnamed “motherfuckers” who are "systematically ruining the SFFH genres.”

In mid July, Stuart Jeffries, a book columnist for the British newspaper Guardian, called American science fiction writers “wimps” for allegedly neglecting to write about “far-future set, space-operatic, hard sci-fi.”

In late July, British SF author and critic Adam “Robespierre” Roberts urinated all over the Hugo Awards (again!).

What next, former Premier League football superstar and current Los Angeles Galaxy soccer player David Beckham will get fined $1,000
for acting like an East End yob before the hometown crowd? Oh, Manchester, so much to answer for.

Take the University of Maryland's 1997 "Mars in Science Fiction Quiz"

Want to test your knowledge of science fiction books and films about Mars and Martians? Take the University of Maryland’s “Mars in Science Fiction Quiz,” which was created in the Fall of 1997 as part of the university’s Mars in Fact and Fiction exhibit. Housed in “The Mars Room” at the Hornbake Library, the exhibit displayed items such as the U.S. postage stamp honoring NASA's Pathfinder, miniature models of Pathfinder and Sojourner, and old paperback versions of H. G. Wells' seminal novel The War of the Worlds (1898). In addition, the walls of the exhibit area were decorated with Hollywood movie posters, a NASA poster of Mars, 3-D photographs
of the Martian surface, a cardboard model of the planet's Valles Marineris, illustrations from the original serialization of The War of the Worlds in Pearson's magazine, newspaper articles, and copies of script pages from the famous 1938 Orson Welles radio broadcast.

Ready? Here’s the quiz:

1. What well-known American writer, in a series of novels, referred to Mars as "Barsoom"?

2. In the 1938 Orson Welles radio program where did the fictional Martian invasion of the USA begin?

3. In what novel did a noted science-fiction writer have a colony named "Port Lowell"?

4. What was the name of the 12-year-old boy-hero of the 1953 movie Invaders from Mars?

5. In what 1984 science-fiction movie was the Orson Welles 1938 radio play suggested to be a cover for a real invastion of the Earth by aliens?

6. What famous short story about Mars, written by Stanley Weinbaum, featured a Martian named "Tweel"?

7. Who played the scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester in the 1953 movie The War of the Worlds?

8. What famous English novelist and essayist called Mars "Malacandra"?

9. Who is the author of the trilogy, Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars?

10. In what famous science-fiction novel was the Martian verb "to grok" introduced? What does "to grok" mean?

Although no answers to the quiz are provided, I’ve figured out the answers and posted them in the comments section. I answered most, but not all, of the questions correctly. Good luck!

Pictured: Cover of 1976 Andor Classic paperback edition of H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds.

August 1969: Demonstrators at Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles say “Fuck Mars”

A newly-released CBS News poll finds that 43% of Americans are opposed to the United States sending astronauts on a mission to Mars. In 2004, 47% were opposed; in 1999, 35% were opposed; in 1994, 40% were opposed. Perhaps then it should come as no surprise that back in the summer of 1969, shortly after the astronauts of NASA's Apollo 11 mission landed on the moon, some Americans opposed the idea of the United States sending humans to the Red Planet:
Shortly after the Apollo 11 mission was completed, President Nixon hosted a large formal dinner to celebrate the event. The dinner was scheduled for August 13, 1969, and was to be held at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. As a NASA center director, I was invited to attend the party along with my wife. I want to describe what happened at the dinner, not because it was intrinsically important, but because it illustrated the attitudes toward the space program that were prevalent at the time. My wife and I were pleased to be able to attend, and we were excited because this was the first time that we had been invited to go to a party hosted by the president of the United States. Accordingly, we made the necessary preparations to attend.

On the appointed day, we flew to Los Angeles and drove to our hotel. We changed clothes and then drove to the Century Plaza. In the politically heated atmosphere of the time, there were almost certain to be pickets in front of the Century Plaza, and there was the possibility of a more active demonstration as well. Sure enough, the pickets and the demonstrators were out in force. A major feature of the demonstration was a huge sign with the legend
“Fuck Mars” printed on it in large letters that the demonstrators had somehow been able to hang along the upper floors of one of the office buildings across the street from the Century Plaza. The same message was clearly repeated on signs that some of the demonstrators carried. It was very apparent to us where the demonstrators stood on the value of the space program and on some of the plans then being considered for the post-Apollo effort. (I thought that the way the message was presented was also typical of the intellectual level on which the protests of the 1960s - with few exceptions - were conducted.)
An excerpt from The Space Station (1987), a nonfiction book written by Hans Mark, former director of NASA’s Ames Research Center and secretary of the United States Air Force.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

PS Publishing uncovers artwork for Eric Brown’s forthcoming novella "Gilbert and Edgar on Mars"

United Kingdom-based PS Publishing recently uncovered science fiction, fantasy, and horror artist J.K. Potter’s artwork for "Gilbert and Edgar on Mars," a forthcoming novella written by British SF author Eric Brown. Scheduled to be published in mid 2009, the novella focuses on an encounter between G.K. Chesterton and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Here’s a synopsis, taken directly from PS Publishing’s website:

G.K. Chesterton, fantastical novelist, literary journalist, paradoxical poet and prolific short story writer penned more than a hundred books in his lifetime as well as countless articles and essays on every subject under the sun -- but only now can his travels across the face of the red planet be revealed.

In this exuberant novella Eric Brown recounts Chesterton's astounding adventures on Mars, his meeting with Edgar Rice Burroughs and his treatment at the hands of the Six Philosophers.

Why was Chesterton whisked away from planet Earth -- and will he ever return?

Eric Brown writes a monthly science fiction review column for Britain's Guardian newspaper and maintains his own website.

“The Man the Martians Made,” a 1950s short story by Frank Belknap Long

Thanks to a recent post by Dave Tackett of the blog QuasarDragon, I spent an enjoyable evening reading “The Man the Martians Made,” a short story by renowned science fiction, fantasy, and horror writer Frank Belknap Long. Originally published in the January 1954 issue of Fantastic Universe magazine and downloadable for free from either ManyBooks or Project Gutenberg, "The Man the Martians Made" is set on a crudely colonized Mars and involves love, murder, and the legend of Larsen. Here are the opening lines of the story:

No mortal had ever seen the Martians, but they had heard their whisperings -- without knowing the terrible secret they kept hidden.

There was death in the camp.

I knew when I awoke that it had come to stand with us in the night and was waiting now for the day to break and flood the desert with light. There was a prickling at the base of my scalp and I was drenched with cold sweat. ...

Frank Belknap Long is also the author of the novels Mars is My Destination (1962) and The Martian Visitors (1964).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A review of Stephen Baxter’s 1996 alternate history novel Voyage

The blog Republibot recently posted a lengthy review of Voyage (1996), an award-winning alternate history novel written by British hard science fiction author Stephen Baxter in which President John F. Kennedy survives his assassination attempt and the first manned mission to Mars blasts off in 1985. Trumpeting Voyage as the best alternate history novel ever, Republibot concludes, in part: “This is a great, great, great, book and very strongly recommended. It avoids all of the flaws of the Alternate History subgenre, and most of the flaws
of the “First mission to Mars” stories as well.”

Speaking of voyages to the Red planet, a majority of Americans surveyed believe the United States should send astronauts on a mission to Mars, a newly-releasesd CBS News poll finds.

The funny thing about Amazon as Big Brother is George Orwell had bad bookshop memories

Perhaps the funniest thing about the accusation that online bookseller Amazon acted as a Big Brother in deleting unauthorized copies of British author George Orwell’s 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four from customers’ Kindle
e-book readers is that Orwell had bad memories of working in Booklover's Corner, a second-hand bookshop in Hampstead, England.

If you have time, read Orwell's “Bookshop Memories,” a humorous autobiographical essay that was originally published in the British magazine Fortnightly Review in November 1936. Here are the opening and closing lines of Orwell's essay:

"When I worked in a second-hand bookshop -- so easily pictured, if you don't work in one, as a kind of paradise where charming old gentlemen browse eternally among calf-bound folios -- the thing that chiefly struck me was the rarity of really bookish people. [...] The sweet smell of decaying paper appeals to me no longer. It is too closely associated in my mind with paranoiac customers and dead bluebottles.”

Yes, Virginia, you can smoke a cigarette on Mars

Remember the good old days, when Rod Sterling inspired kids to ignite their backyard rockets with a Chesterfield, science fiction paperbacks contained cigarette ads, and the most refined ladies at the local Sci-Fi conference smoked Virginia Slims? Yeah, the good old days, when life was simpler and more enjoyable in many ways.

Author Frederik Pohl remembers the good old days. Platinum Pohl (2005), a collection of thirty essential short stories that span his entire writing career, is packed with references to cigarettes and smoking. Here’s a neat passage from Pohl’s short story “The Middle of Nowhere" (1955), which confirms that it is possible to smoke a cigarette on Mars:
It grew very slightly darker, bit by bit; and then it was black. Even in our cave we could hear the screaming of the twilight wind. We were in a little slit in the raw rock, halfway down one of the crevasses that gave the Split Cliffs area its name. Craggy, tumbled, bare rocks a hundred feet below us, and the other wall of the crevasse barely jumping distance away. We had come to it along an irregular sloping ledge, and to reach us at all the wind had to pass through a series of natural baffles. And even so, we saw the scant shrubbery at the cave mouth whipped and scoured by the dusk-wind.

Demaree shivered and attempted to light a cigarette. On the fourth try he got it burning, but it went out almost at once -- it is possible to smoke in Mars’ air, but not easy, because of the pressure. The tobacco burns poorly, and tastes worse. He grunted, “Damn the stuff. You think we’ll be all right here?”
Author Robert A. Heinlein would have remembered the good old days, too, for both he and his wife, Virginia, smoked. I can almost hear a grumble from Heinlein's grave in an attempt to settle an affectionate disagreement: “Yes, Virginia, you can smoke a cigarette on Mars.”

Pictured: Robert A. Heinlein smoking a cigarette.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Orbit Books bypasses Mars en route to the “Most Awesomely Bad SFF Cover in the World”

Publisher Orbit Books has bypassed Mars and left Martian science fiction fans stranded en route to its “Most Awesomely Bad SFF Cover in the World.” Sifting through over 350 reader submissions for “the most ridiculously bad high-concept SFF book cover in the universe,” including more than
20 ideas that mention Mars or Martians, here are the five fictional book titles that Orbit will consider for its mock book cover:

The Thing with the Glass Buttock

Rise of the Fallen, Book Seven, The Pre-Antepenultimate Battle

A Stain Upon The Vastness

Across a Trembling Sea the Cyborg Fairies Dance

An Old Dragon, A Dead Witch, and a Fat Guy: The Third Book of Stories that Go Nowhere

If you fancy any of these titles, vote for your favorite one using Orbit’s online poll. Once Orbit has settled on a title, they’ll work out the reading line, the blurbs, and the cover elements. Then, fans will have an opportunity to help Orbit design a mock cover for the fictional book.

Pictured: A word cloud for Orbit’s journey to the “Most Awesomely Bad SFF Cover in the World.” According to Annalee Newitz of the science fiction blog io9, Tanith Lee's 1980 novel Sabella has “liberal doses of love, vampires, Mars, and space.”

New flash fiction: “Passage” by Steve Smith

The free science fiction story site 365 Tomorrows has an interesting piece of flash fiction titled “Passage” (2009), by Steve Smith. It’s about a Special Ops solider named Tucker and his need to secure a seat on the Mars shuttle. Here's the opening line: “Tucker went through the drills with the rest of the squad in a state of meditative indifference.”

Malle Mars: Retired NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin featured in new Louis Vuitton ad campaign

Looking to the future, French fashion and luxury goods company Louis Vuitton is seeking to capitalize on several past NASA missions. In honor of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, Louis Vuitton hosted a star-studded party on July 13th in the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History in Washington. Retired astronauts Buzz Aldrin, the Lunar Module pilot on Apollo 11 and the second man to walk on the moon, and Jim Lovell, the captain of Apollo 13, were the guests on honor, while Sally Ride, of space shuttle fame, was also in attendance. In addition to historic photographs, vintage space-themed toys, and moonfaced models from Victoria’s Secret, the bash featured a conceptual trunk for what Louis Vuitton hopes is the future of luxury travel: Malle Mars. According to The New York Times, Daniel Lalonde, the CEO of Louis Vuitton North America, said the space-age silver trunk, which looks a bit like a futuristic Faberge egg, is “a luxurious and pragmatic way to get to Mars.”

Aldrin, Lovell, and Ride will also appear in a brand new Louis Vuitton advertisement campaign. According to The Wall Street Journal, the threesome will appear in photos shot by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz, sitting on a battered pickup truck in the California desert, gazing at the stars, talking about how space changed their lives. The ads will appear in magazines in a couple of weeks and Louis Vuitton will also maintain a website, A Journey Beyond. Meanwhile, check out the ad campaign’s video teaser and see what's inside Malle Mars!

Pictured: Louis Vuitton's Malle Mars trunk.

Monday, July 20, 2009

“Vulcan's Workshop,” a 1930s short story written by Harl Vincent

Thanks to Dave Tackett of the blog QuasarDragon, I recently read “Vulcan’s Workshop,” an old short story written by Harl Vincent. Originally published in the June 1932 issue of Astounding Stories magazine and downloadable for free from the website, the story is about Luke Fenton, a gorilla-like creature with a troubled past, and the Vulcan’s Worskhop, a dreaded Martian prison camp. Here are the opening lines of the story:

Savagely cursing, Luke Fenton reeled backward from the porthole, his great hairy paws clapped over his eyes. No one had warned him, and he did not know that total blindness might result from gazing too earnestly into the sun's unscreened flaming orb, especially with that body not more than twenty million miles distant in space. ...

According to the story, the desolate planet Vulcan was discovered in 1859 by one Lescarbault, a French physician.

Results of poll: Will Women's history land in a Martian crater in the near future?

Here are the results of the recent poll I conducted to determine which future landmark event in Women’s history readers think will happen last:

30% of the readers who answered the question believe the last event will be the United States electing a woman president

23% believe the last event will be a woman walking on the surface of Mars

7% believe the last event will be a woman named as CEO of "Mother" Merrill Lynch

38% believe the last event will be the International Astronomical Union (IAU) naming a crater on Mars in honor of a woman science fiction writer

Thanks to the 13 readers who participated in the poll. Considering the results, here is a suggested summer reading list for the androgynous members of IAU’s Task Group for Mars Nomenclature:

Women of Wonder: The Classic Years: Science Fiction by Women from the 1940s to the 1970s (1995), by Pamela Sargent

Women of Wonder: The Contemporary Years: Science Fiction by Women from the 1970s to the 1990s (1995), by Pamela Sargent

Frankenstein's Daughters: Women Writing Science Fiction (1997),
by Jane Donawerth

Martian Quest: The Early Brackett (2002), by Leigh Brackett

The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction (2002), by Justine Larbalestier

Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril (2002), by Judith Merril and Emily Pohl-Weary

“Spaceballs,” by Carol Cooper, The Village Voice, July 16, 2002

Partners in Wonder: Women and the Birth of Science Fiction, 1926-1965 (2005), by Eric Leif Davin

Northwest of Earth: The Complete Northwest Smith (2008), by Catherine L. Moore

Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy (2008, two volumes), by Robin Reid

Pictured: SF author Judith Merril, the real “Mother" Merril.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Amid Saltywood slump, Utah looks forward to the filming of John Carter of Mars

The Associated Press reports that Utah's film industry has been hit hard by the economic downturn and, in response, the state film commission is scrambling to attract more productions. Marshall Moore, director of the Utah Film Commission, told film industry leaders at a recent luncheon that 13 feature films were produced in the state in the past year, creating 520 jobs with an economic impact of $12.3 million. Those figures compare with the creation of 1,200 jobs and a $56 million economic impact for the previous year. Moore said the filming of the Disney/Pixar movie John Carter of Mars, which is scheduled to begin in November 2009, is expected to have a $27 million economic impact on the state.

Meanwhile, The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Utah Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, who spoke at the aforementioned film industry luncheon, “wistfully admitted he may be one of the few people in the banquet hall old enough to have read Edgar Rice Burroughs' novel A Princess of Mars, on which the movie will be based. [...] that when he was a kid, he would sometimes look up at the stars and imagine that he could wish himself to Mars -- as John Carter does in the Burroughs book series.” Herbert will become Utah’s next governor when the United States Senate confirms current Gov. Jon Huntsman as ambassador to China.

Celebrate Edmond Hamilton Day by reading his 1931 novelette “Monsters of Mars”

Today, July 18, 2009, the folks of Kinsman, Ohio are celebrating Edmond Hamilton Day. Edmond Hamilton, who died in 1977, was "The Dean of Science Fiction,” husband of Sci-Fi author Leigh Brackett, and a local resident. Sponsored by the Kinsman Historical Society, events include the launch of Haffner Press' The Collected Edmond Hamilton series, a display of rare Hamilton books and pulps, a slide show of Hamilton and Brackett, and a memorial toast at The Dean's gravesite.

If you don’t live in the Kinsman, Ohio area, consider celebrating Edmond Hamilton Day by reading one of his novelettes: “Monster of Mars.” Published in the April 1931 issue of Astounding Stories magazine and digitized by the Internet Archive, “Monsters of Mars” revolves around three humans who are invited to the Red Planet but unexpectedly find hostile Martians that are eager to conquer Earth.

“Monsters of Mars” starts on Page 4 of the April 1931 issue of Astounding Stories and goes on to Page 5, Page 6, Page 7, Page 8, Page 9, Page 10, Page 11, Page 12, Page 13, Page 14, Page 15, Page 16, Page 17, Page 18, Page 19, Page 20, Page 21, Page 22, Page 23, Page 24, and Page 25. If you have difficulty reading the Internet Archive’s raw digitized images, copy the images and dump them into your photo application, where you can manipulate them to a better size and clarity. A lot of work, but better than nothing.

Thanks to Locus online for the tip about Edmond Hamilton Day.

Friday, July 17, 2009

There once was a Martian named Zed …

The “Poet-Tree” section of the blog Really Good Quotes has a few limericks submitted by readers and based on the opening line: “There once was a Martian named Zed ...” I’m always interested in an intellectual challenge, so I pillaged the bulk of one of these limericks and penned my own:

There once was a Martian named Zed
Who was surprisingly well read
You could tell by his looks
That he loved Sci-Fi books
Because of the size of his head

I even found an image to go with my limerick. Check out the cover of the June 8 & 15, 2009, issue of The New Yorker magazine, which I've cropped above.

Seattle woman in $5m cracked Kindle e-reader lawsuit is expert on legal issues of Space Elevator

Alisa Brodkowitz, the Seattle woman whose cracked Kindle 2 e-reader prompted her husband, Matthew J. Geise, to file a $5 million class-action lawsuit against hometown Internet retailer Amazon, is a well-respected aviation attorney with experience in personal injury litigation, products liability, wrongful death, and conflict of laws. Ms. Brodkowitz even gave a presentation, “Legal Issues Relevant to the Space Elevator: Jurisdiction, Protecting Space Flight Participants, Liability Convention of 1972 and Recommendations,” at the 2008 Space Elevator Conference, held in Redmond, Washington.

So, why is an affluent bibliophile like Ms. Brodkowitz willing to have her husband serve as lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against Amazon when she could easily afford to replace her Kindle 2 e-reader? According to the website of Brodkowitz Law, “Alisa believes in holding manufacturers to higher standards and restoring dignity to her clients after an injury or loss.”

Presumably, Ms. Brodkowitz will not be doing any aviation legal work in the near future for Blue Origin, an aerospace company founded and controlled by Amazon CEO Jeffrey Bezos.

Cool comic cover art: Fox's Rocket Kelly and the mystery of Mars

Here’s a cool piece of comic cover art from the 1940s: Fox Feature Syndicate’s Rocket Kelly, Issue #2 (Winter 1945), in which Rocket Kelly, an interplanetary champion of democracy who always dresses as an aviator, speeds off to the Red Planet to unravel The Mars Mystery!

Thanks to Doc Mars of the French blog Mars & SF for the scan.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Actor Willem Dafoe lands a role in Hollywood's long-awaited John Carter of Mars film

The Hollywood Reporter reports that American actor Willem Dafoe will play the role of Tars Tarkas, a Martian warrior, in the forthcoming Disney/Pixar film John Carter of Mars. The film, starring actor Taylor Kitsch as John Carter and actress Lynn Collins as princess Dejah Thoris, is being directed by Hollywood director Andrew Stanton and is scheduled to land in theaters in 2012. John Carter of Mars is based on the science fiction novel A Princess of Mars (1912, 1917), written by pulp author Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Pictured: Willem Dafoe

The textual history of Hugo Gernsback's novel Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660

I just started reading SF author, editor, and critic
Gary Westfahl’s ambitious essay entitled “Evolution of Modern Science Fiction: The Textual History of Hugo Gernsback's Ralph 124C 41+,” published in the March 1996 issue of Science Fiction Studies.

A serious piece of scholarship, Westfahl’s essay studies five editions of Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660 (original 1911-12 serial published in Modern Electrics magazine; first edition of novel, published in 1925 by Stratford Company; 1929 version published in Winter 1929 issue of Amazing Stories Quarterly magazine; second edition of novel, published in 1950 by Frederick Fell, Inc.; 1958 novel published by Fawcett Crest) and concludes that Hugo Gernsback’s Mars and Martians have their roots in To Mars via the Moon (1911),
a “scientific novel” written by Mark Wicks and one which Gernsback likely read and reviewed in August 1911.

Pictured: First edition of Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660, published in 1925 by the Stratford Company of Boston and illustrated by Frank R. Paul.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dreading another staff meeting from hell? Consider the Doom Resurrection app for your iPhone!

Do you fear suffering through another pointless monthly staff meeting at which the most important topic is deciding who will bring the milk and cookies to the next meeting? Then consider purchasing the Doom Resurrection application for your iPhone! A new first-person shooter survival horror game and the latest installation in the Doom series, Doom Resurrection will allow you to escape to a research facility on Mars, where all hell has literally broken loose. You see, the Martian researchers have lost control of their experiment and you, the last surviving Marine in your combat unit, need to demonstrate your skill set by addressing the situation.

Check out a video trailer for Doom Resurrection!

“Curtain Call on Mars,” a recent Space Opera written by Bob Bolin

The July 2009 issue of Planetary Stories, an e-zine that pays homage to the Space Operas of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, has a short story written by Bob Bolin titled “Curtain Call on Mars.” Revised slightly from an earlier story of the same title that was published online in the September 2006 issue of Surprising Stories, “Curtain Call on Mars” revolves around an acting gig and a female robot named Tolly. Here are the opening lines:

Pap Burton propped his head on a skinny elbow and stared deliberately at the green cone shapes of the mountains behind his accuser that he saw through a window. He shoved the bottle of 'kick' away across the bar.

"What do you want?" he demanded, dimly aware that the head showman, Johnny Johnson had stepped inside the room and was glaring at him. Only a short time ago they had finished their act and were now resting. The bar was under the domed roof of the Martian city. The stage was empty of actors. ...

Thanks to Dave Tackett of the blog QuasarDragon for the tip.

Pictured: Illo by Jim Garrison.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Science: Russian-European Capricorn One returns safely after 105-day mission to Mars

In a scene reminiscent of the late 1970s film Capricorn One, a joint Russian-European crew landed safely in Moscow after a 105-day simulated mission to the Red Planet. The first phase of a Mars500 isolation study, scientists and medical doctors seek to understand how the physical and psychological performance capabilities of a human can be maintained at normal standards under the extreme conditions faced during a long-term space mission. The crew was comprised of six men and zero women: four from Russia, one from Germany, and one from France.

The second phase of the isolation study is scheduled for March 2010, when a crew will participate in a simulated mission to Mars lasting 520 days. An artificial Martian surface is being constructed, on which three crew members will spend a total of 20 days.

10 hip Martian SF items listed on AbeBooks

1) A Plunge into Space, by Robert Cromie, with an address by French science fiction author Jules Verne.
A second edition published in London in 1891, this 240-page novel is dedicated to Verne, who contributed a one-page address “To My English Readers.” Apparently, the 1890 first edition does not contain Verne's address. $850

2) Mars as the Abode of Life, by Percival Lowell, signed by Ray Bradbury. A 1910 edition of an influential nonfiction work and the first Mars book to mention canals. Signed by author Ray Bradbury: “This book influenced me, age 10! Ray Bradbury.” $945

3) Original two-page contract between author Edgar Rice Burroughs and his publisher, A. C. McClurg & Co., for the publication of the first edition of The Chessmen of Mars (1922). Signed by Burroughs and dated September 6, 1922. Framed with a photograph. $6,500

4) August and September 1929 issues of Amazing Stories magazine, which contain Part 1 and Part 2 of Leslie F. Stone’s little-known novella “Out of the Void.” The story was later expanded and published as a novel in 1967. $30 each.

5) March 1933 issue of Wonder Stories magazine, which contains
“The Dweller in Martian Depths,” a famous short story by Clark Ashton Smith. Apparently, Smith submitted the story under the title “The Dweller in the Gulf,” but magazine editor Hugo Gernsback changed the title to “The Dweller in Martian Depths” and altered the ending. $75

6) Quip, by Hugo Gernsback, with illustrations by artist Frank Paul. Printed in 1949 as a "Christmas card," this 48-page booklet contains “facts” about Mars and Martians. $250

7) Black Wing of Mars, by Vargo Statten (pseudonym of John Russell Fearn). A paperback original published in London by Scion Limited in 1953. $25

8) Blades of Mars; Warriors of Mars; and Barbarians of Mars, by Edward P. Bradbury (pseudonym of Michael Moorcock). Here we have Moorcock's Michael Kane trilogy, a pastiche of Edgar Rice Burrough's Barsoom novels. Three first editions, first printings, paperback originals, all published in 1965 and signed on the title pages by Moorcock. $350

9) March 1975 issue of Science Fiction Studies, which is devoted to "The Science Fiction of Philip K. Dick." A pamphlet published by Indiana State University, it contains articles by Brian Aldiss, Stanislaw Lem, and Ian Watson, among others. $60

10) Invaders from Mars, by Ray Garton. A paperback original published in 1986, this book is a novelization of the screenplay for the 1986 film Invaders from Mars. $25

Pictured: Cover of Black Wing of Mars (1953), by Vargo Statten.

Disclaimer: This list of items is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be construed as an endorsement to purchase any of the items.

Monday, July 13, 2009

F is for Fiction: Law school's Public Index to $125m Google Book Search Settlement

With each passing week, New York Law School’s highly anticipated “The Public Index” to the proposed $125 million Google Book Search Settlement seems more and more like a solid piece of Information Age fiction. According to an increasingly humorous press release of May 5, 2009, announcing the launch of the school’s Public Interest Book Search Initiative:
Later this May, the Law School will introduce The Public Index, a Web site that will feature discussion forums, a comprehensive archive of settlement documents and related commentary, and a tool for users to insert their analysis and commentary on individual paragraphs of the proposed settlement.

“The Public Index will respond to the enormous public interest in the lawsuit by providing both high-quality information about the issues and a forum for the public to the make their own voices heard,” Professor Grimmelmann said.

The Public Index will feature an “open source amicus brief” -- a wiki that provides site users with the opportunity to edit and discuss a draft of the Institute’s brief to the court explaining the benefits and risks of the proposed settlement from a public-interest perspective.“This will be a legal brief of the people, by the people, and for the people,” Professor Grimmelmann said.
Professor James Grimmelmann is an expert on the Authors Guild v. Google lawsuit and author of “How to Fix the Google Book Search Settlement.”

Hopefully, "D is for Digitize," a conference on the Google Book Search Lawsuit to be held at New York Law School, October 8 through October 10, 2009, is not fictitious.

“Dog Days,” a new first contact short story written by Republibot 3.0

Republibot, a science fiction website that refreshingly refuses to worship Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5, Lost, or Doctor Who, has a new, interesting, original short story set on the Red Planet around the year 1990. Written by Republibot 3.0, “Dog Days” (2009) is about the third-and-final American expedition to Mars and its first contact with an alien settlement. Here are the opening lines:

Although there had been a couple unofficial contacts between Humans and Aliens previously, they were not well documented at the time, and didn’t become common knowledge until long after the contact with the Tractus Canis, (or, if you’re pedantic, Intercapedo Canis) so the Canis indecent remained fixed in everyone’s mind as the ‘first contact’, much as Lindberg’s crossing of the Atlantic was remembered as a first, or Columbus’ discovery of America was regarded as a first: none of them actually were, but 99% of the world’s population would swear they really were. ...

Somewhat related: According to NASA, daytime temperatures on Mars during the dog days of Martian summer can rocket all the way up to a balmy 68°F from the summer nighttime low of -130°F.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

BBC telly working on “The Waters of Mars,” a Doctor Who special

BBC One is working on a production of a Doctor Who television special entitled “The Waters of Mars.” Scheduled to be aired in the UK in the fall of 2009, the storyline is set on the Red Planet and involves humans, zombies, and the waters of Mars. Actor David Tennant will star as the Doctor and acclaimed actress Lindsay Duncan will play the role of Adelaide, head of a base on Mars.

"So what can we expect from The Waters of Mars? There's the question of the prophesy the Doctor heard at the close of Planet of the Dead. His song ending? He will knock four times? Will the Doctor learn more on the Red Planet? And when we last left him, he was travelling alone. The Time Lord who once delighted in sharing the wonders of the universe was once again the 'lonely angel'. But judging from what we already know of the story, he won't have long to worry about loneliness. There will be action, danger... and an awful lot of running!"

Check out video clips and a photo gallery for BBC’s forthcoming Doctor Who: “The Waters of Mars.”

Friday, July 10, 2009

Yahoo’s new Red Planet dropkicker is a bibliophile

Eric Brown, Yahoo’s new head of public relations and the individual responsible for enforcing CEO Carol Bartz's edict to "dropkick to fucking Mars" any employee caught leaking stories to the press, is a proud bibliophile. Introducing himself to company employees in a July 6th memo that was leaked to the press (D'oh!), Brown declared:

• He is “impressed with how many amazing books this group has collectively read.”

• He earned a B.A. in English from the College of William & Mary. “Loved lit crit. Senior honors thesis was on post-WWII masculinity in American society as represented by the works of Norman Mailer.”

• He loves reading, “though I haven' t picked up a Norman Mailer since my undergrad days.”

• “If the Internet didn' t exist, what I' d be doing right now: teaching literature to high school students.”

• His “Favorite book: someone who majored in literature can' t just name one, so I'll split them into categories ... Favorite works of literature: The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne, The Awakening by Kate Chopin, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Favorite work that kindled my imagination: The Hobbit by Tolkien. Favorite works that make me laugh: anything by David Sedaris (the man is wicked funny).”

• “My guiltiest pleasure: ice cream in bed with the Kindle (yes, just as Elisa put in her email) – the ice cream HAS to be Ben & Jerry's (LOVE being on this floor with the conference room names!) and my favorite is Peach Cobbler.”

Consider reading the entire memo. It's hilarious. Champagne, Gucci, jaunts to Paris and Hong Kong, a ratty old Buick Skyhawk. Reminds me of the elitist Louis Winthorpe III, played by actor Dan Aykroyd, in the film Trading Places (1983).

Yahoo's Eric Brown is not related to British SF author Eric Brown.

The Empress of Mars: An interview with SF author Kage Baker and a review of her new novel

Much to my delight, science fiction editor John Joseph Adams’s recent piece at, The Empress of Mars ... in 60 Seconds,” is less of a review of Kage Baker’s new novel The Empress of Mars (2009) and more of an interview with the author. Discussing the plot, protagonist, and research for the book, Baker has quite a few interesting things to say about Mars. Here’s an excerpt:
Baker said that doing the worldbuilding for the book was fun. “Mars is a perfect place to take a failed sterile colony and model its progress from gritty frontier town to developing mom ’n’ pop capitalist enterprise,” she said. “Especially when people bring their own expectations to Mars: for some characters it’s Barsoom, for other characters it’s the Old West, for others still it’s an agrarian socialist utopia watered by Schiaparelli’s canals. There are hints that the God of Old Mars is watching, throwing in a bit of magic realism.”
Speaking of Baker's new novel, publishing manager Andrew Wheeler of the blog The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent. recently wrote a short review. Wheeler concludes, in part: “Like the original [2003] novella, The Empress of Mars is the story of the triumph of pluck over adversity and of pints over prissiness. It's not one of Baker's most ambitious works, but it's an amusing story full of colorful characters, with a SFnal skin.”

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fans flock to Mars for “Most Awesomely Bad SFF Cover in the World”

Publisher Orbit Books is asking fans for suggestions so it can create an especially bad, but entirely fictional, SFF book cover. If you’re interested, you have a couple of weeks to submit an idea for “the most ridiculously bad high-concept SFF book cover in the universe.” Once Orbit has picked a title, they’ll work out the reading line, the blurbs, and the cover elements. Then, fans will have an opportunity to help Orbit design a cover for the fictional book.

At the moment, 120 fans have submitted fictional book titles or plot concepts. As you can see from the following titles, fans have flocked to Mars and embraced Martians:

He Left Me on Mars

The Hobbits Go to Mars

Invasion of the Massive Mosquito-pods from Mars!

Mars Needs Fairies!

Mars on $5 a Day

Mars or Bust

Martian in the Mirror

Martian Sex Trap

Martian Under the Doormat

Martians are from Mars, Humans are from Earth: A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want

Motherf*ckers from Mars

Planet of the Martian Ladies

Revolt of the Martian Marmots, #6 in The Revolting series

Speed-dating on Mars

Tentacle Sex Fiends From Mars

True Tales of Martian Wanderlust

Wereturtles of Mars -- the Mutant Ninja Saga

Winner Winner, Martian Dinner

Witch Way to Mars

Pictured: Skyler White of the recent AMC television drama Breaking Bad. She is rumored to be one of the MILFs in the fictional SF novel Motherf*ckers from Mars.

Mars art: “The Martian Base,” a 1950s painting by space artist Leslie Carr

Here’s a beautiful piece of Mars art: “The Martian Base,” a painting by British space artist Leslie Carr depicting a domed Martian city with rooftop gardens. Based on a drawing by fellow artist R.A. Smith, the painting was reproduced for the nonfiction book The Exploration of Space (1951), by Arthur C. Clarke.

Interestingly, Leslie Carr served in the Auxiliary Fire Service in London during World War II. He painted several well-known works depicting the destruction caused by the German Blitz in late 1940. One of those paintings appears in the November 11, 1941, issue of The New York Times and was part of a traveling exhibition of works by British firemen artists that was shown in Washington, New York, and on the West Coast.

Thanks to Matt Novak of the blog Paleo-Future for the scan of Carr's "The Martian Base."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pyr Books reprints Ian McDonald’s acclaimed 1988 debut novel Desolation Road

Editor Lou Anders of the publisher Pyr Books recently announced that the highly anticipated paperback reprint of British science fiction author Ian McDonald’s 1988 debut novel Desolation Road has been released. Receiving widespread praise by both the industry and fans when it was first published, here’s a summary of the novel, taken directly from Pyr’s website:

It all began thirty years ago on Mars, with a greenperson. But by the time it all finished, the town of Desolation Road had experienced every conceivable abnormality from Adam Black's Wonderful Travelling Chautauqua and Educational ‘Stravaganza (complete with its very own captive angel) to the Astounding Tatterdemalion Air Bazaar. Its inhabitants ranged from Dr. Alimantando, the town’s founder and resident genius, to the Babooshka, a barren grandmother who just wants her own child -- grown in a fruit jar; from Rajendra Das, mechanical hobo who has a mystical way with machines to the Gallacelli brothers, identical triplets who fell in love with -- and married -- the same woman.

Today, Desolation Road is perhaps most noted for two things.

First, the novel is considered to be a hybrid of science fiction and magical realism that combines the colonization narrative of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles (1950) with the texture of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967). Presumably, this notion came from either Ian McDonald or a reviewer, back in 1988. The earliest reference I could find to the Bradbury/Márquez-McDonald comparison is in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (Clute & Nicholls, 1995), which states that Desolation Road “has been described as The Martian Chronicles crossed with One Hundred Years of Solitude, a joke limited in accuracy only by its failure to add Cordwainer Smith to Ray Bradbury and Gabriel García Márquez. IM is not so much being influenced or writing pastiche as appropriating deftly from other writers the precise gestures needed to make ideological or emotional points about the human implications of terraforming or cyborgization.” However, there is an interesting 2001 interview between Ian McDonald and Nick Gevers that was published in Interzone magazine in which McDonald mentions both Ray Bradbury and Gabriel García Márquez.

Second, Desolation Road has had a profound influence on the writing career of Canadian science fiction author, journalist, and blogger Cory Doctorow. In 2001, Doctorow declared on the blog Boing Boing: “Ian McDonald's Desolation Road is one of the books that has influenced me the most as a writer. Funny and sad and wildly imaginative [...] What a book!” More recently, in 2009, Doctorow expanded his comments on Boing Boing, writing, in part: “Ian McDonald's Desolation Road is one of my most personally influential novels. It's an epic tale of the terraforming of Mars, whose sweep captures the birth and death of mythologies, economics, art, revolution, politics. Its publication preceded Kim Stanley Robinson's brilliant Red/Blue/Green Mars books by years, but the two are very good companions [...] Desolation Road pays homage to David Byrne's Catherine Wheel, to Ray Bradbury's entire canon and to Jack Vance, blending all these disparate creators in a way that surprises, delights, then surprises and delights again. Spanning centuries, the book includes transcendent math, alternate realities, corporate dystopias, travelling carnivals, post-singularity godlike AIs, geoengineering, and mechanical hobos, each integral to the plot.”

For the cast of characters in Desolation Road, see my blog post of February 28, 2009.

Also, check out a detailed scan of the new cover, pictured above!

Science: Carbon footprint from U2's world tour is big enough to fly the band to Mars and back

The Belfast Telegram reports that, according to an environmental company, the Irish rock band U2 will log 70,000 miles in their fuel-guzzling private jet over the course of a 100-date, eighteen-month 360° world tour. Additional aircraft will lug three stages, equipment, and about 200 crew and backstage staff around the globe.

Carbon Footprint Ltd, a British company that specializes in assessing environmental damage and maintains, has calculated that Bono and the boys will generate emissions of up to 65,000 tonnes of CO2, enough to fly the four band members to the planet Mars -- and back!

Helen Roberts, an environment consultant at Carbon Footprint Ltd, said: “The carbon footprint generated by U2’s 44 concerts this year is equal to carbon created by the four band members travelling the 34.125 million miles from Earth to Mars in a passenger plane. You also have to add the carbon emissions from the same number of concerts again next year. [...] To offset this year’s carbon emissions, U2 would need to plant 20,118 trees.”