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.

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In memoriam, the good Gardner

The wonderful staff of The New York Review of Science Fiction have produced a memorial issue (#349) in honor of Gardner Dozois, award-winning sf author and long-time editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine and The Year’s Best SF anthologies, who died in May.

It is available as a free PDF download on the Weightless Books website, being 36 pages chock full of wicked Gardner anecdotes and zingers and heartfelt appreciations of his work as writer and as co-writer/editor.

On a wing and a prayer

White Wing cover

At least they got to use their own names instead of the “Gordon Kendall” pseudonym.

All tidied up and on best behavior, the Beamers gathered to meet the author of this month’s book, Susan Shwartz, in the friendly confines of our old home, Watchung Booksellers.  Alas, the recent arrival of the flu bug upset our plan to quiz the author directly and left us falling back upon our usual mode of question and discussion.  Did the “spies, bombs, and poisonings” in White Wing provide “something for everyone” (to quote one review), or did we take deadly aim to give the Mercy “vape” to another poor work? Continue reading

The best of Xero, Pat Lupoff (1937 – 2018)

Pat Lupoff, the first woman to win a Hugo, died on October 18.  Ms. Lupoff was recognized in 1963 for editing (along with husband Richard and co-editor Bhob Stewart) the influential fanzine, Xero, which covered a variety of speculative genres and media, especially the comics branch.  Xero featured a wide spectrum of pro and amateur contributors (such as Harlan Ellison, Frederik Pohl, and Bob Tucker), but it may be best remembered for also featuring the contributions (particularly the poetry) of a young, downstate Illinois fan named Roger Ebert.  A collection drawn from the issues of their ‘zine, The Best of Xero, won the 2005 Hugo for Best Related Work.

Among their many contributions to sf/f fan lifestyles, Ms. and Mr. Lupoff are arguably the first cosplayers, appearing as Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel at the 1960 World Science Fiction Convention:

lupoffs-then-and-now

From the 1960 World SF Convention to the 2019 San Diego Comic Fest, the Lupoffs were the fans to follow. Credit: San Diego Comic Fest (www.sdcomicfest.org)

Ms. Lupoff is survived by her husband, Richard, who is an author of science fiction with a pulp (in)sensibility.

All in a whirl of worlds

 

Twitter user Nathalie Ouellette (@AngryAstroPanda) could not contain her delight at seeing a “movie” made from the views taken over the course of 8 years of a star (HR 8799) that is 130 light-years from us and around which 4 exo-planets are visibly revolving:

Ms. Ouellette is an administrator for @iExoplanets, the Twitter account of the Institute for Exoplanet Studies (iREx) at the University of Montreal.

Taking light steps when climbing Gold Mountain

Have peachwood sword; will NOT travel.

Our tight-knit community of readers gathered to discuss another tight-knit community, the Chinese immigrants and offspring of San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1898, the setting of M. H. Boroson’s debut novel, The Girl with Ghost Eyes.  As a debut novel, it does show the kinds of flaws that are frequently seen in first published works.  Boroson can “tell” more than “show”, particularly with his protagonist, Li-lin, the widowed daughter of an imperious, important Daoist priest.  Struggling to get out from under his shadow, and that of her dead, heroic husband, Li-lin comes to embrace those elements of Chinatown that normally would be her adversaries, including a rival tong boss, a tiger spirit trying to become a Buddhist monk, and the sentient eyeball of her father (sacrificed to save her from being trapped in Limbo, now enjoying taking baths in cups of tea).  Continue reading

J. R. R. Tolkien under glass

Bilbo and eagle

Bilbo having a quiet lie-in, accompanied by a mighty Eagle.

Sean McLachlan on Black Gate on-line magazine gives a nice report on the extensive exhibition of the works of Prof. J. R. R. Tolkien that are currently displayed at Oxford’s Bodleian libraries.  The exhibit, Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth, includes the Professor’s own artifacts, such as his working draft of the map of Middle-Earth (individual sheets of paper taped together as it grew in the telling, along with the occasional burn from his pipe), a typed page of his prose translation of Beowulf, the first of his Father Christmas letters written for his children, and many, many of his watercolors, going back to his college days when he was portraying the Elvish city of Kor in Valinor, as well as fan letters (some in Elvish runes, and one from Queen Margrethe of Denmark with her own chapter illustrations for The Lord of the Rings) and collaborations with other artists, like the recently discovered annotated map of Middle-Earth that the Professor worked on with illustrator Pauline Baynes to create the poster map of Middle-Earth.

Annotated map of Middle Earth, with notes written by Tolkien and Pauline Baynes

The finished poster, illustrated by Ms. Baynes

The Bodleian exhibition will be open until October 28, 2018, and then, wonder of wonders, the exhibition will cross the Pond to the J. Pierpont Morgan Library in NYC, from January 25 to May 12, 2019.  The Bodleian ad copy for the exhibition calls it a “once-in-a-generation” event. For those of us of “a certain age”, who treasure our old Ballantine LotR paperbacks (or even the “pirated” Ace editions), this show may be more of a “once-in-a-lifetime” occasion, one surely not to be missed.

NYT Reviews War with the Newts

big_valka-s-mloky-DrJ-183310img_492869_orig82 years after first publication, the New York Times has gotten around to reviewing Karl Capek’s “War with the Newts.”

Capek is, of course, the inventor of the word ‘robot’, which he first used in his novel “R.U.R.

“War with the Newts” is a more mature novel than “R.U.R.”

A disenchanted sea captain goes into an exploitative partnership with a race of amphibians. All goes well … initially.

The book has been described as the pioneer of all anti-fascist and anti-militarist science fiction.

According to Ben Dolnick of the Times:

“War with the Newts” is a funny, bizarre, dystopian masterpiece, and Capek deserves a place on the Mount Rushmore of authorial seers, right alongside George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and Margaret Atwood.

Next up from the New York Times:

  • Nazi Germany invades Rhineland
  • The Hoover Dam is completed
  • Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” debuts
  • Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind” is published

Once a king, always a king, but once a knight is enough

Quite a good picture of Belvedere Castle in Central Park, actually, with the San Remo looming behind.

With a good dose of August chasing the Beamers into the chilly embrace of Panera’s, the subject of this month’s book, King Arthur Pendragon (or Arthur Penn to his new NYC constituents), brought out some heated discussion, much along the lines of whether we do need a “once and future king” in these unsettled times.  Having elected one Chief Executive whose claim on the office was his complete inexperience with politics, would the Beamers want yet another? Continue reading

I, romantic

When it comes to matters of the heart, it appears that those of us with positronic brains are the most level-headed.  New research on the romantic awareness of American adults shows that readers of sf and fantasy are the least likely to submit to a number of romantic illusions (or “myths” as the study authors deemed them), as reported by Tom Jacobs in the news section of Pacific Standard magazine.

Comparing their adherence to 5 “unrealistic relationship beliefs”, sf/f readers were only above-average in believing in the possibility (or pursuit) of sexual perfection between partners.  Romance readers were also only likely to endorse the idea that the sexes are fundamentally different, but readers of “literary” fiction (and those high-brows know who they are!) fell for 4 out of the 5 “myths”.

Stranger cover

After all, what was the ’60s “bible” for Free Love? It was much more Mr. Spock than Dr. Spock!

The study authors caution that they are showing a connection, not a cause-effect relationship, so the sf/f genres may appeal to people who already have more realistic expectations about romantic relationships.  However, the article does cite a 2017 study that indicates sf/f readers are more open-minded and less rigid in their moral codes, possibly as a result of being exposed to so many “alien” cultures and lifestyles in their reading.

So, weep not for the lonely, unloved sf/f geek.  S/he is doing better than most at navigating the tricky currents of the Ocean of Love.  As Mr. Jacobs puts it, “it apparently helps to have J.R.R. Tolkien or George R.R. Martin as your unofficial couples counselor.”

The last beach book you will ever read

On the Beach cover

Subtlety, thy name is 1950s paperback covers!

With typical Beamer bravado, we took to the sandy expanses down by the ocean on a summery day to enjoy the End of The World, as detailed in Nevil Shute’s On the Beach.  A quiet, inexorable submarine ride set in a post-atomic war Australia, this 1957 novel takes a chilling premise about the globe-circling radioactive cloud slowly closing in on the last humans and makes it very personable. Would Beamers stick around until the bitter end, or would we bail out (like many of the characters) before it got too painful? Continue reading

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