asher553: (queen)
If you were to ask me what there's not enough of in the world, I would have to think long and hard, because there's too much of so many things. But after a few moments' deliberation, my answer would probably include "real-life astronauts writing reviews of science-fiction entertainment".

Anyway, if you're similarly minded, rejoice, because here's one of 'em. Aldrin was the second man to walk on the moon, and the Command Pilot on Gemini 12. 'Aldrin's two-hour, 20-minute tethered space-walk, during which he photographed star fields, retrieved a micrometeorite collector and did other chores, at last demonstrated the feasibility of extravehicular activity.' []

Aldrin reviews 'Gravity':
asher553: (Default)
[Re-posted from comments; a response to [ profile] sasha_feather.]

I remember reading one of Philip Jose Farmer's stories in one of the SF magazines when I was a teenager in the 70s. There was some kind of alien spaceship - the details weren't important - that appeared over the Earth and slowly, inexorably began erasing people's memories.

The story was set in the near future (i.e., now) when electronic calendars were commonplace, and at first everybody thought there was a bug in the software that was making the calendars skip dates. Then they gradually realized that their own memories were vanishing - beginning with the most recent events, and gradually working backward. Finally the characters realize that the situation is hopeless and there is nothing they can do against this progressive amnesia.

The story ended with the words, "Perhaps there are two kinds of memory."

I thought about this story a lot when I was losing my father to Alzheimer's.

There are, indeed, two kinds of memory: there are the memories of facts, names, places, and events, which allow us to navigate in this confusing world. And then there are the deeper memories - feelings and dreams, which are of no practical value to the analytical mind but which make us who we are and give our lives substance. One of these is perishable, the other durable.

Because my own memory is imperfect, I can't recall the title of the story, the date, or the magazine in which it appeared. I only remember the impression it made on me - perhaps at that deeper level of memory. But I am quite sure it was one of Philip Jose Farmer's works.

Any PJF fans out there who can help?
asher553: (Default)
Well, sort of.

I am:
Isaac Asimov
One of the most prolific writers in history, on any imaginable subject.  Cared little for art but created lasting and memorable tales.

Which science fiction writer are you?

Hat tip: [ profile] joel_rosenberg.

For those of you who know me, no prizes for guessing how I answered #5 ...
asher553: (Default)
Last day in Putnam! I'm flying home tomorrow - homeward bound, leavin' on a jet plane, etc. Two weeks of rest, relaxation, and being spoiled rotten by relatives was just about right. Now I'm ready to go back to normal life.

LiveJournal seems to be working *almost* reliably this morning.

[ profile] heyfoureyes - I love pen and paper. It forces me to slow down. Also easier to keep track of work and revisions. Different product? Yes, I think so. I'm going back to drafting in longhand for new episodes of TQC - never mind the enormous mountain of notes I've already generated - because it makes me more conscious of the work.

BTW, a while back you were asking about single-gender societies in SF. Did I mention the short story "Breathmoss" by Ian McLeod? I thought it was quite well done.

[ profile] heldc - It's baaaaaack!
asher553: (Default)
Poland's science-fiction legend Stanislaw Lem has died.

Stanislaw Lem, 84, a Polish-born writer of "reality based" science fiction who tweaked Communist authorities and became one of the world's best-selling authors with books such as "Solaris" and "The Futurological Congress," died March 27 at a hospital in Krakow, Poland. He had a heart ailment.

Mr. Lem disliked having the phrase "science fiction" applied to his body of work, which included dozens of books, plays, collections of essays and a memoir. "I've always believed in science, but I write about the real world," he said. "So I write about what is happening, only in my own way, in my own terms." ...

One of many great minds to come out of Poland. (Other gifted Poles included Copernicus, Marie Curie, Joseph Conrad, and Russian-born space visionary Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, who came from a large family of Polish immigrants.)

Random thoughts: My favorite Lem novels growing up were "His Master's Voice" and "The Investigation". I also enjoyed "The Cyberiad". I liked his way of making reality ambiguous - wrote a term paper on "The Investigation" for a high school lit class. No doubt I would understand his writing on a different level today, reading as an adult.

A couple of years ago I read his memoir, "Highcastle", and found it gripping and immensely moving.

Lem was, without a doubt, one of THE BEST science fiction writers ever. (Even if he disliked the label.) Go read his books if you get the chance.
asher553: (Default)
SF writer and astrophysicist Jeanne Cavelos writes:
Against a background of stars and X-wing fighters, Luke holds his
lightsaber aloft while Leia crouches below him, brandishing a gun: two
tough heroes ready to fight the evil Empire. In my love of Star Wars, I
spent endless hours longing for 'a galaxy far, far away,' replaying the
movie in my head, studying every detail of the poster on my wall. It seemed
to embody the excitement of the movie and its strong heroes, Luke and Leia.
But as the Star Wars saga unfolded, I became troubled. While George Lucas
brilliantly combined diverse ideas and influences to create something
startling and inspiring, one aspect of the movies didn't live up to the
rest. I began to notice something new about the poster on my wall. Luke
above, superior; Leia below, inferior. It seemed to reflect the treatment
of the characters in the movies. The problem is not that the women are
supporting characters, though they are. Even a supporting character can be
striking and compelling. Han Solo is such a powerful, heroic figure, he
nearly eclipses Luke. But the women in Star Wars are not the memorable
figures they could be. Compared to their male counterparts, they are
inconsistent and underdeveloped. There is a clear lack of focus on these
characters on the part of George Lucas and the other writers, a tendency to
sacrifice the female characters to make the males look better, and a decided
inclination to reduce initially powerful women to inaction and irrelevance.
Leia and Amidala, as the two most prominent female figures in the films,
exemplify these weaknesses.

- "Stop Her, She's Got a Gun! How the Rebel Princess and the Virgin Queen
Became Marginalized and Powerless in George Lucas' Fairy Tale"
essay in STAR WARS ON TRIAL edited by David Brin and Matthew Woodring Stover
BenBella Books--FORTHCOMING June 2006
US $17.95/Canada $24.95
ISBN 1-932100-89-X

Jeanne Cavelos is the author of (inter alia) the Techno-Mage books, based on the Babylon 5 TV series. These are among my favorite works of recent science fiction: dramatically and morally complex, and very disturbing, but ultimately hopeful. I'll be looking forward to reading Cavelos' essay in the book when it comes out.
  • Jeanne Cavelos homepage

  • Cross-posted at
  • Dreams Into Lightning
  • .
    asher553: (Default)
    Octavia Butler has died, reports fellow SF novelist Steven Barnes. (Hat tip: heyiya.)

    This is an awful tragedy. Octavia Butler's passing is a great loss to the world. I enjoyed her ingenious and often chilling stories in "Bloodchild", as well as "Mind of my Mind" and "Parable of the Sower". I really don't know what else to say now; I'm just stunned.

    Octavia Butler info page.

    Cross-posted to Dreams Into Lightning.
    asher553: (Default)
    Via various blogs at the Technorati "science fiction" tag, I've just learned the sad news that Andreas Katsulas has died of lung cancer, at age 59.

    Katsulas was known to Babylon 5 fans as Ambassador G'Kar, the tough but thoughtful ambassador of the Narn people. It was the genius of the B5 series that alien characters could at once represent their respective cultures and yet remain wholly individual; so it was with G'Kar, whose mystical bent was in sharp contrast to the unsentimental style of his aide N'toth. It was Katsulas' genius that he could so wholly and elegantly inhabit his character, even beneath the heavy sci-fi makeup.

    For me, the characters of G'Kar and Londo, mortal enemies, were the highlight of the show. Katsulas, playing opposite the equally splendid Peter Jurasik, brought a rare combination of power and grace to his role. (Jurasik, for his part, somehow managed to combine ruthlessness, humanity, and humor in his tragic character.)

    The universe is diminished with Andreas Katsulas' passing.


    Babylon 5

    UPI news item
    asher553: (Default)
    A friend's fascination with the character of River in the movie "Serenity" got me thinking. Because River isn't really a hero through most of the movie, or a warrior; she's controlled by forces outside of herself. She spends the first part of the movie hiding from her warrior side, and in fear of it. It's only at the end - when she can confront that side of herself - that she can use her abilities to fight evil and protect the rest of the crew of Serenity.

    This internal transformation is mirrored on a macroscopic scale by the movie's premise. It was the quest for a utopia - specifically, a world free of violence and aggression - that led to the invention of the aptly-named drug Pax. The drug caused most people to lose the will to live - while in a small minority, it had an opposite, and even worse, effect. Mal must force his crew, in the most horrifying way imaginable, to mingle with that banished, evil side.

    And come to think of it, isn't it strange how River's name sounds so much like the word "Reaver"?

    Aggression and conflict are part of our reality. There is conflict in our world, there is aggression in our nature. We don't get a choice in this. What we do get to choose is how to handle these things. We can run from them and drive them underground; or we can acknowledge them and work with them responsibly.

    If we refuse to acknowledge the dark side of ourselves, we are only inviting it to do us harm. To embrace it is to learn true power, and humility, and wholeness.

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