Aloha!

Welcome to the Beam Me Up Science Fiction Book Club blog!

“Live long and prosper!” G. Roddenberry

“Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible; and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer.” J.R.R. Tolkien

“By Grabthar’s hammer, by the suns of Warvan, you shall be avenged!” Dr. Lazarus of Tev’Meck

All are welcome to join us at our monthly meetings. This is us and this is what we will be reading and discussing.

Nine T. Rex’s in amber, with plumage

National Geographic is reporting on a recent discovery in China of a piece of amber from Myanmar (Burma) in which, along with Cretaceous plants and an ant, is a piece of dinosaur tail, with feathers clearly displayed:

It's like a boa wearing a boa!

It’s like a boa wearing a boa!

The amber specimen had already been worked by jewelers shaping it into an oval form, which is bit of a mixed blessing, as it occasioned some loss of the sample but did also create a cross-section of the dinosaur vertebra and preserved soft tissue around it, which led scientists at China University of Geosciences to conclude that the animal was not an early avian as the vertebrae are articulated and not fused, as in birds.  The feathers are also not flight but ornamental feathers, meant for display or thermo-regulation.

Possibly the greatest pendant piece, ever!

Possibly the greatest pendant piece, ever!

The revolution will be televised, but on “mute”

Award-winning sf author Cixin Liu (The Three-Body Problem) has published a think piece in the NY Times Turning Points magazine on the rise of robotic systems and artificial intelligence.  His forecast is not a pretty one:

“As A.I. whisks us from place to place … we will look out the windows, as unaware of its plans for us as a poodle on its way to the groomer’s.”

Shades of Jack Williamson’s “With Folded Hands”!  As Mr. Liu predicts, the robot revolution may be a quiet one, punctuated only by cries (or groans) of regret.

It's 9 am. Commence twiddling!

It’s 9 am. Commence twiddling!

Grimm and grimmer?

John O’Neill, publisher and editor of Black Gate web magazine, is reporting that author-artist Shaun Tan (Academy Award winning short film The Lost Thing, The Arrival) is publishing a book of illustrations of the sculptures he has created to accompany his re-imaginings of the classic Grimm brothers fairy tales like “Hansel and Gretel”.

the-singing-bones-hansel-and-gretel

Not too sure how to get *that* witch into the oven …

the-singing-bones-frog-king

Ripples in the pond of the Imagination, no doubt.

The Singing Bones has been published by Arthur A. Levine Books this past October, and it features an introduction by fairy-tale expert Jack Zipes and a foreword by modern-day fabulist Neil Gaiman.  Time to lay down that trail of bread crumbs to the local bookstore!

How do I radiate thee? Let me Geiger counter the ways …

The Science Fiction Poetry Association has announced the winners of its annual poetry contest, with Dwarf Form (10 or fewer lines), Short Form, and Long Form (50+ lines) poems selected.  Winners, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers are all on display on the 2016 contest web page on the SFPA website.  The judge, Michael Kriesel, poet and reviewer and past President of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, provides comments on each of his selections.

The poems range from the quick snacks like Susan Burch’s haiku (Dwarf Form 3rd Place):

speed of light —

how quickly you think

I should get over it

up through Stacey Balkun’s fairy tale coda “Gretel at Menlo Mall 1996” (Short Form 2nd Place) and Wendy Rathbone’s cosmic musings on aging and the changing beliefs of life, “We Shall Meet in the Star-spackled Ruins” (Long Form 3rd Place):

after the heat-death

we shall meet in the

star-spackled ruins

of December

The Hugo and Nebula crowd do not know what they are missing.

Turnabout is fair and playful reading

Don't blink or you will miss the transformation!

Don’t blink or you will miss the transformation!

For a blustery November that needed a touch of levity, the Beamers were fortunate enough to slide through the centuries with Virginia Woolf’s quasi-biography of her friend and lover, Vita Sackville-West, published as Orlando.  Taking a noble Englishman and turning a him into a her, the novel turns out to be an exuberant stroll along the Thames that took the Beamers along and gave us a fine appreciation for country life and city society. Continue reading

Illuminate! Illuminate!

Jamie Anderson, a director of audio dramas for Big Finish Productions, took a line out of a recent Dr. Who adventure, The Order of the Daleks, and commissioned a stained-glass version of every sf fan’s favorite “pepperpot” villains:

In nomine Davros, et Peri, et Doctorus Quisnam

In nomine Davros, et Peri, et Doctorus Quisnam

Artist/designer Chris Thompson discusses his ideas about building “Dalek Stainley” on Mr. Anderson’s blog.

“I usually don’t read Horror, but …”

Like the story, the original cover is simple, suggestive, and surprising.

Like the story, the original cover is simple, suggestive, and surprising.

For the scary month of October, home of Hallowe’en, the Beamers like to pick a book that can shock and frighten.  Or at least try to.  This month, we went back for a classic of the 1970s American Horror Renaissance, Ghost Story by Peter Straub.  Coming out just after Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, it tells of another isolated town, Milburn NY, that is suddenly fallen prey to a ghost or ghoul out of its past.  For the Beamers, the trip to the past of the 1970s was as enjoyable as the trip to the past of the members of the Chowder Society who rose to fight for their homes. Continue reading

Space, on tilt

Tilt-shift photography relies on the neat effects of moving the lens of the instrument to capture the whole of a subject without the distortion of perspective lines, which leads to a 3-D effect of seeing a photo subject as a miniature that can be “moved” around in the photo field of focus.

While we lack such tilt-shift lenses in space, digital post-processing can mimic this effect, and give us a sense of cosmic objects like the Horsehead Nebula or the Andromeda Galaxy as “miniatures” that we can manipulate.  Some find this miniaturization of the Universe comforting; I find it makes the object more “real” and embraceable as actual structures.  To each, his/her own, in this cosmos.

Tadpole Galaxy - wonder what it will look like when it grows up Photo credit: Hubble Space Telescope image, processed by Bill Snyder

Tadpole Galaxy – wonder what it will look like when it grows up
Photo credit: Hubble Space Telescope image, processed by Bill Snyder

One horse I would love to ride! Photo credit: NASA, ESA, and Hubble Heritage Team

One horse I would love to ride!
Photo credit: NASA, ESA, and Hubble Heritage Team

NGC 5128, or Centaurus A to its friends ...

NGC 5128, or Centaurus A to its friends … Photo credit: ESO/WFI

The Andromeda Galaxy, our last, best hope in about 4 billion years. Photo credit: Adam Evans

The Andromeda Galaxy, our last, best hope in about 4 billion years.
Photo credit: Adam Evans

Crab Nebula, what's left when a star exploded on July 4, 1054 CE (Chinese records) Photo credit: Adam Block, Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, U. of Arizona

Crab Nebula, what’s left when a star exploded on July 4, 1054 CE (Chinese records)
Photo credit: Adam Block, Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, U. of Arizona

A short way to forever

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the books of our lives ...

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the books of our lives …

On a steamy September evening, the Beamers hitched up their literary packs and loaded their reading protocols to take a classic sf hill, The Forever War by Joe Haldeman.  Long acclaimed as a classic of the military sf sub-genre, would this 40-year-old book stand up to the withering fire of Beamer criticisms and critiques, or would it fold under pressure like a human collapsar outpost crawling with Taurans? Continue reading

Kirk!

Stardate 70120.6: Science Officer Personal Log

Our continuing mission continues. We ventured across the tidal estuary know as Hudson, rode a great escalator and arrived  in the Center of Javits. There we encountered this native of the northern lands.william_shatnerNo longer telling fans “To get a life!”

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