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.

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!”

Resolved: A book should be resolved!

Central Station cover

Spaceport of the Future!, built by Chinese immigrants, staffed by immigrants from Nigeria, cleaned by Filipinos.

On a sultry August evening, the thunderstorms threatened outside and inside as the Beamers tried to wrestle a meaning out of our latest book, Central Station by Lavie Tidhar, a short work that seemed overly long on ideas but not on plot. Continue reading

Three suns delivered in dazzling drone-style

Natalie Zutter on Tor.com reports on a stage adaptation of Ciuxin Liu’s first Trisolaran novel, The Three-Body Problem.  Produced by the Shanghai-based Lotus Lee Drama Studio, the work features new and old stage technology such as holographic displays as well as shadow projections and drone-driven floating scenery to astound audiences with a tale of a doomed planet under three suns whose inhabitants seek to flee to (and conquer) Earth.

The three suns of Trisolara hover omniously

The three suns of Trisolara hover omniously. [Photo credit: China Daily/IC]

Pay no attention to the little drone behind the sun!

Pay no attention to the little drone behind the sun! [Photo credit: China Daily/IC]

Director Liu Fangqi stated that the adaptation was intended to be faithful to the (rather long) novel: “We only made slight changes of the original novel; about 85% was completely original.  But we have reinforced the personality of the characters and played down the science parts.”  (Seems like Shanghai has been talking to Hollywood!)

Trisolaran and Earthling communicate via holograms.

Trisolaran and Earthling communicate via holograms. [Photo credit: China Daily/IC]

The author, Ciuxin Liu, is pleased with the results, though, and a 20-city tour for the production is planned.  Director Liu is also at work on a second stage adaptation from the trilogy, presumably from the second novel, The Dark Forest.

Holograph effects

A scene of “strategic planning” illuminated by a super-color info dump. [Photo credit: China Daily/IC]

Encounter at Not-So-Farpoint

Stardate 70060.5: Science Officer Personal Log

As part of our continuing mission, we journeyed deep into territory controlled by Stephen King, author of the Beamer’s June 2016 book. There we discovered this strange creature in the not-so-horrific environs of Penobscot Bay.IMG_0701I’m a pillow, not an action figure!

The two of them

Being a Review of My Real Children by Jo Walton.

My Real Children cover

It’s as if Joanna Russ’s Female Man were sharing a co-op.

[Note: A version of this review appears in the June 2016 issue of The New York Review of Science Fiction, #334.  Many thanks to them for their kind support of my writing.]

Snakes in the Garden

The snake of Uncertainty starts to take up residence in the epistemological Garden when Immanuel Kant ponders the unknowability of “the thing in itself” (Ding an sich), splitting away the crisp “objective” Truth from our more vague “subjective” understanding of a world that is mediated by our perception.  Try as we might, no St. Patrick has arisen to banish the snake from Science or from Literature.  Continue reading

Tunnel in the sky of books

Enter to find treasure!

Enter to find treasure! Photo credit: Shao Feng

Kurt Kohlstedt of the Web Urbanist architecture and design website is reporting on a new bookstore in the Chinese city of Zhenyuan that incorporates an entryway that resembles a tunnel of books.  Built by the Shanghai firm XL-Muse, the store design, with its reflective floor, mimics the look of the city itself, with the Wu Yang river running though it and graceful circular bridge arches connecting parts of the city across the waters.

Standing amid the displays, how can one choose?

Standing amid the displays, how can one choose? Photo credit: Shao Feng

The bridges of Zhenyuan leap gracefully across the Wu Yang.  Photo credit: Derreck Chang, CNN

The bridges of Zhenyuan leap gracefully across the Wu Yang. Photo credit: Derreck Chang, CNN

Discussing their use of the landscape for the interior of the store, the architects said:

In the past, guided by water, many literati and poets visited and gathered here. [Architectural elements were] used to be the guiding factor of culture and commerce, and they represent that the bookstore is the bond between humans and books at the same time.

If the local Panera's ever fails, the Beamers now have a back-up meeting space (even if a long commute)

If the local Panera’s ever fails, the Beamers now have a back-up meeting space (even if a long commute). Photo credit: Shao Feng

Tribute to a fallen star

j-michael-straczynskis-statement-death-jerry-doyle

“He was funny, and dangerous, and loyal, and a prankster, and a pain in the ass” … Which I think works as a good epitaph.

J. Michael Straczynski, the creator of Babylon 5, offers a warm tribute to Jerry Doyle, the actor who portrayed the station’s security chief, Michael Garibaldi.  Doyle, 60, died unexpectedly at home in Las Vegas on July 28.  Though worlds apart politically, (JMS to the left, Doyle running as a Republican congressional candidate), Straczynski admired Doyle’s uncompromising professionalism, enough so to donate to Doyle’s run for Congress.

Lamenting the cast members who have died, JMS asks that the Universe just “knock it off for a while”, a sentiment he feels would be Doyle’s as well:

Because this isn’t fair.  Jerry Doyle would be the first to tell you that. Right before he put a fist in your face.  Which is what I imagine he’s doing right now, on the other side of the veil.

Is there in truth no beauty?

Germain Lussier on io9/Gizmodo reports on one of the more intriguing commemorations for the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, the Star Trek: 50 Artists 50 Years exhibit, which is kicking its tour off at San Diego Comic-Con this week before hitting the road and visiting all the Usual Suspects (Las Vegas, Toronto, NYC, et al.).  While all of the Trekiverse is open for business, it seems that most of the artists find inspiration in the Original Series, as befits the idea of celebrating its launch in 1966.  I have dropped a selection of pieces below, and more can be found in Mr. Lussier’s article (above).

Exhibit entrance, hoping that you enter and make it so!

Exhibit entrance, hoping that you enter and make it so!

 

Art by Paul Shipper. Technically, the pilot being shot in 1964 would make it 52 years of Trek, but hey ...

Art by Paul Shipper.
Technically, the pilot being shot in 1964 would make it 52 years of Trek, but hey …

 

Art by Mattel Smith. Yes, it is a Borg cube; yes, those are Hot Wheels cars composing it.

Art by Smith Mattel.
Yes, it is a Borg cube; yes, those are Hot Wheels cars composing it.

 

Art by Glen Brogan. Just another typical day on the bridge of the Enterprise ...

Art by Glen Brogan.
Just another typical day on the bridge of the Enterprise …

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