In 1967 when Gene Roddenberry was accused of personally organizing scores of protesting fans who physically demonstrated in front of NBC Studios to keep Star Trek on the air he said “That’s very flattering, because if I could start demonstrations around the country from this desk, I’d get the hell out of science fiction and into politics.” This quote is one of thousands found in the new book, The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: Volume One: The First 25 Years by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman. It’s the first volume of two, and like that Roddenberry quip; the entire text shines a bright light on the chasm between what you think you know about the history of Star Trek and what the history of Star Trek really was.
As literary chimeras go, John Wray could be called a blend of all sorts of authors. Aspects of his novel Lowboy read as though Dickens teleported Oliver Twist from the 19th century onto a contemporary subway train. But, Wray is also a history junkie with an eye towards science fiction. Though his novel The Right Hand of Sleep isn’t science fiction, its title is a reference to The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, one of Wray’s idols.
With his latest novel—The Lost Time Accidents—John Wray presents his unique cocktail of historical fiction blended with the science fiction tradition of time-slipping. For a writer who isn’t really writing science fiction, John Wray sure knows a lot about science fiction. I chatted with him recently about the inspirations for his latest book, how to write a multi-dimensional family saga and what Ursula K. Le Guin taught him about imitating old school SF writers.
Series: Genre in the Mainstream
Talking animals are popular for two obvious reasons:
- They’re cute.
- Everything they say and do is probably about us.
Good science fiction is very often social commentary about “real” things dressed up in a way that is both close enough to the truth, and complexly unique enough to be its own brilliant thing. Which is why the odyssey of Bunny Police Officer Judy Hopps in Zootopia is socially conscious science fiction storytelling at its finest.
Between the Night Vale World Tour and the novel version of Welcome to Night Vale, fans of phantasmagorically delicious podcast had a pretty great 2015. Now that 2016 is here, what should fans of Night Vale be getting excited about? Well, if you love horror, H.P. Lovecraft, and the genre-spanning writing of Victor LaValle, then maybe you want to listen to Kevin R. Free—“Kevin” on Welcome to Night Vale—narrate LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom!
We sat down with Kevin to get his thoughts on Welcome to Night Vale, voicing sci-fi/horror books, and what it’s like to be famous online.
Star Trek fans of every shade just received the best news: writer/director Nicholas Meyer is joining CBS’ new Star Trek television show, which is set to debut in 2017 with Bryan Fuller producing.
Not sure who Nicholas Meyer is? He’s the guy who saved Star Trek from obscurity and made it smarter than you ever realized. Here’s why this is possibly the best geek-related news of the past 20 years.
Let’s pretend for a second that The Academy Awards is designed to accurately represent the best achievements in a given year in the field of cinema. We know that it doesn’t—and the #oscarssowhite problem more than proves that—but let’s just say that the Oscars should be providing a representation of movies that were both relevant to the culture and were “good”: achieving the balance between entertaining people and doing something somewhat new in the field of cinema. I think The Academy Awards should have honored this approach by nominating Star Wars: The Force Awakens for Best Picture.
Whether they’re in their Kirk and Spock guises, or just being themselves, it’s hard to prefer William Shatner to Leonard Nimoy. Nimoy just seems more comfortable and real of the two, whereas Shatner appears to be putting on airs. Over the years, William Shatner seems to have figured this out and embraced the fact that no one will ever totally take him seriously. All of this makes the publication of a memoir written by him about Leonard Nimoy both look like a cynical cash-grab and a disingenuous maneuver of faux-love.
But if you’re a Star Trek fan, or casually interested in Leonard Nimoy, Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship With a Remarkable Man reveals that not only is Shatner a good guy, but that Leonard Nimoy may not have been the cool one, and did in fact fight all sorts of demons both inside and out.
If you know even little bit about Stephen Hawking, then you know that you’re dealing with someone so extraordinary that his life and work might seem to be fashioned from the pages of science fiction. As a physicist, Hawking pushed our understanding of black holes into new frontiers, but as a person, he is nothing short of an enduring example of someone who just will not give up.
Today is his 74th birthday: happy birthday, Professor Hawking!
Series: On This Day
In both the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel A Study in Scarlet and in the latest installment of BBC’s Sherlock—“The Abominable Bride”—we’re told “there is nothing new under the sun.” This mirrored sentiment explains the preponderance of fan fiction and fan writing in general, but also the tendency for the show Sherlock to feel more like fanish creation than a straight-up adaptation. So, if fandom be the food of our love for Sherlock Holmes, then “The Abominable Bride” isn’t really a new episode of Sherlock at all, but rather, a nearly endless hall of mirrors in which Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss do what they do best with our notions of these great characters: they play.
No one knows the exact date of Isaac Asimov’s birth…not even the amazing Asimov himself! In Memory Yet Green, citing dodgy birth records, the author writes that his birthday could be as early as October 19th, 1919, but that he celebrates it as January 2nd, 1920.
Who are we to argue with Asimov’s calculations? Happy birthday, Professor Asimov!
Series: On This Day
If I had a pet reindeer, or any kind of creature that resembled a fawn or Bambi-style animal, I’d name it Dickens. Come on. How adorable would it be to have a little pet deer named Dickens? Here Dickens! Come have a sugar cube! That’s a good little Dickens. What’s your favorite story? What’s that you say, “A Christmas Carol?” Well, I don’t feel like reading to you, because you’re a little deer, so let’s watch a movie or a TV special instead. Whatyda say? And then, as a gift to Dickens, I would have to compile a list of movie and TV adaptations of Charles Dickens’s awesome book—A Christmas Carol—and I’d want those adaptations to be somehow a little bit different from their source material, because deer like stuff that’s new.
What are the best non-traditional versions of A Christmas Carol? These.
Thinking about telepaths when telepaths are in the room is hard because they know you’re thinking about them. This is why—on most days—I’m glad I never actually had the chance to meet science fiction legend Alfred Bester, because my thoughts about him would have been disgustingly gushing and I’m sure he would have heard those thoughts because he was likely a real deal telepath and I would have been embarrassed. I’m kidding. I’m super sad I didn’t get to meet him! (But he was probably a real telepath…)
Today would have been Bester’s 102nd birthday. He won the first Hugo award for a novel ever, and made everything in SF way more fun. Here’s why he’s still the best.
Series: On This Day
In his afterword to a 1977 paperback collection called The Best of Philip K. Dick, PKD writes about the notion of questioning reality. At one point, Dick says the world made “sense” to him:
“I used to dig in the garden, and there isn’t anything fantastic or ultradimensional about crab grass…unless you are a sf writer, in which case, pretty soon you’re viewing crabgrass with suspicion. What are its real motives? And who sent it in the first place? The question I always found myself asking was, What is it really?”
Looking back on his work today, on the 86th anniversary of Dick’s birthday, the escape from the conspiracy of the mundane is a concept that certainly dominates the oeuvre of perhaps the most famous science fiction author ever. And why not? Don’t we all wish our lives were a little more interesting, a little more fantastic than perhaps they are?
Series: On This Day
Today we mark what would have been the 97th birthday of the great Arthur C. Clarke. Often credited with making fantastic predictions in his science fiction that actually came true, Clarke is among the most recognized and celebrated authors of the previous century. Perhaps the hardest of “hard science fiction” writers, Clarke was the authority on futurism and concepts both mind-bending and fascinatingly plausible. Known best for the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey and the epic film of the same name, Arthur C. Clarke is probably the writer most responsible for making futuristic space travel look realistic in our mind’s eye.
Series: On This Day
I needed help. Paramount put out a trailer for Star Trek Beyond, a movie that I think I kind of need to be good and evocative of Star Trek, and I thought it was the worst thing ever.
In flew Ryan Britt, noted Star Wars and geek culture expert, to assure me that the trailer wasn’t the worst thing ever. That there were, in fact, some good takeaways!
Being of two-and-a-half minds about everything, we thought we’d list out the pros and cons of the latest trailer for this thing we love called Star Trek. Because there’s truly a full spectrum of reaction here. So let’s consider the trailer beyond our own perspective!
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