Friday, December 16, 2011

The Life of Forry, by Deborah Painter

I have reviewed Forry: The Life of Forrest J. Ackerman, by Deborah Painter, in the e-pages of The Thunderchild (, and now share it here.

When Jefferson Davis became President of the Confederate States of America, one of his admirers said, "The man and the hour have met." The implication being that Davis was the best possible man for the job. This turned out to not be true, however, Davis had plenty of detractors then and now who thought he was totally the wrong person to lead the fledgling country through the Civil War.

The same can not be said for Forrest J. Ackerman. He was born in 1916, and thus, was in on everything from the beginning - the perfection of silent movies, the coming of sound, the first magazine devoted solely to science fiction, the first fan club, founded by Forry himself, and the first fan conventions.

In the 1930s and 40s, from the 60s even up to the 70s and 80s, no one, least of all the movie makers concerned, thought that props, costumes and sets from movies were worth saving. With Forry Ackerman, it was very much the "man and the hour" meeting. Forry corresponded with many film makers, asking for props and posters and so on (beginning with Carl Laemmle.) Many of these film makers obliged, and Forryassembled quite a collection of material that otherwise would have been destroyed.

Forry is perhaps most famous as being the editor of the seminal magazine, The Famous Monsters of Filmland, published by James Warren. The magazine debuted in 1958 and ran until 1983. (Its resurrection, by Ray Ferry, in 1993, would prove not to be a happy one for Forry.)

Forry's success with Famous Monsters of Filmland is actually ironic, as science fiction rather than horror was actually his first and main love. Indeed, Warren put out the magazine Spacemen which attempted to do for sci fi what FM did for horror, but it was not a success and folded after 8 issues.)

Forry is also well known as a friend of the "two Rays" - Ray Harryhausen and Ray Bradbury, meeting each at the very start of their careers, and in Bradbury's case, helping him along. Forry also knew the other great sci fi luminary (well, in this case, SF luminary) as Isaac Asimov.

In Forry: The Life of Forrest J. Ackerman, Deborah Painter shares stories from that life. In the best tradition of biographers, she starts with Forry's grandparents, and moves onward from there.

Table of Contents
Foreword: Marching to the Beast of a Different Drummer, by Joe Moe
1. Forry's Background, Family and Early Years
2. "I Couldn't Sleep with Marlene Dietrich!"
3. Sergeant Ack-Ack
4. The 1950s - Forry's Rise to Fame
5. The 1960s - Forrest J. Ackerman, Movie Actor
6. The 1970s - Colleges, Conventions and Creatures
7. The 1980s - the Best of Times, the Worst of Times
8. The 1990s - Pinnacles of Achievement
9. The 2000s - Documentarian and Octogenarian
Five Personal reminiscences: Martin Powell, Paul Knight, Rick Atkins, David Hawk and Jim Morrow
Chapter Notes
A Brief Bio-bibliography

Author Deborah Painter was a friend of Forry's for 20 years, and her biography is full of warmth and affection. Unfortunately, it could have benefited from a bit of work by an editor. The biography moves along at a fast that many events are glossed over, and some events are gone into in too much detail.

For example, Forry was married to Wendayne (Wendy) Wahrman. Her real first name was Mathilde, but Forry nicknamed her "Wendayne," and "always referred to her thereafter as Wendy."

Why Wendayne? Where did that name come from? Inquiring minds want to know!

Inserted right after that comment about Wednayne is a single sentence paragraph, quite out of the blue and apropos nothing that had gone before and nothing that went afterward:

"Forry took one alcoholic drink at the age of 30 and never drank again. He also never regretted that."

She then goes on to talk about fandom, and Forry's attempts to arrange conventions.

This kind of thing is prevalent throughout the book.

Having said that, these kinds of undeveloped non-sequiturs are a mere bagatelle. Forry led a fascinating life and Painter gives us a good view of it (including the Ackermansion and later the Ackerminimansion that housed Forry's collection of memorabilia.

In 1993 Ray Ferry brought Famous Monsters of Filmland back to life and invited Forry to be editor. Their relationship was not a happy one, culminating in Forry suing the new publisher for defamation of character. Painter covers this sorry time, then ends the book by sharing reminisces from five of Forry's admirers and friends: Martin Powell, Paul Knight, Rick Atkins, David Hawk and Jim Morrow.

The book is also chock full of photographs, of Forry as a young man, with his wife, members of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, Robert Bloch, Basil Gogos, the interior of the Ackermansionat various conventions, and so on.

I recommend this book highly for any genre fan.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

3 Jan, 2012, Cleveland, OH - Meet an Astronaut

Join the International Women's Air and Space Museum (located at Burke Airport in Cleveland, Ohio) in partnership with NASA Glenn Research Center, on Tuesday, January 3, 2012, at 7:00pm, for a special presentation by Astronaut Catherine "Cady" Coleman.

This past May, Coleman returned home after 159 days aboard the International Space Station, as a member of the Expedition 26 crew. In addition, Cady was a mission specialist on STS-73 and was lead mission specialist on STS-93 for the deployment of the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Following the presentation, Cady will be available for a brief autograph session. The event is free and open to the public. A reservation is required to attend the event. Please RSVP at 216-623-1111. Seating is limited.

DATE: 1/3/2012
TIME: 7:00pm-8:30pm
LOCATION: International Women's Air & Space Museum
MORE: Autograph session begins promptly at 8:00pm
Call 216-623-1111 to reserve your seat today!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Thundercats, Season One, Book One

Press Release

Spring into action with the first eight episodes of the new hit series as ThunderCats is unleashed on DVD October 18.

Join Lion-O, Panthro, Cheetara and more as Warner Home Video releases ThunderCats: Season 1, Book 1 on DVD October 18, 2011. The two disc set features the first eight action-packed episodes of the new anime-inspired feline fantasy from Warner Brothers Animation, based on the 1980s animated classic. The DVD is priced to own at $19.97.

ThunderCats presents the grand origin story of Prince Lion-O's ascension to the throne - and those who would thwart his destiny at any cost - and takes on epic dimensions in this sharp new telling. As the forces of good and evil battle each other in the quest for the fabled Stones of Power, Lion-O and his champions learn valuable lessons of loyalty, honor, and mortality.

The 21st century re-imagining marks a creative collaboration between Warner Brothers Animation and Studio 4C, one of the most vibrant animation studios in Japan, giving the orginal characters a new cutting-edge look while remaining true to the compelling storylines and mythology of the series.

Starring the voice talents of: Will Friedle, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Madeleine Hall, Satomi Kohrogi, Matthew Mercer, Eamon Pirruccello, Kevin Michael Richardson, Dee Bradley Baker, Clancy Brown, Corey Burton, Robin Atkins Downs, and Larry Kenney.

Executivve producer Sam Register. Produced by Michael Jelenic and Ethan Spalding.

1. Omens, Part 1
2. Omens, Part 2
3. Ramlak Rising
4. Song of the Petaliers
5. Old Friends
6. Journey to the Tower of Omens
7. Legacy
8. The Duelist and the Drifter

In English, with Spanish and French subtitles.

Approximate running time for all 8 episodes: 88 minutes!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Pop Culture Books From McFarland. Pg 1

I received my McFarland catalog the other day... they're the folks who publish very scholarly books on TV series, movies and so on, in hard cover, so that the average cost for one of their books is $50.

Their URL:

Here's the list of their books in this catalog, advertised as "Great Holiday Ideas."

There are a lot of them, so I'll share a page of titles a day.

--The Stewart/Colbert Effect, edited by Amarnath Amarasingham
--Picturing Tolkien: Essays on Peter Jackson The Lord of the Rings Film TRilogy, edited by Janice Bogstad
--Andrew V. McLaglen: The Life and Hollywood Career, by Stephen B. Armstrong
--Generation Zombie: Essays on the Living Dead in Modern Culture, edited by Stephanie Boluk
--Robert Altman: Critical Essays. Edited by Rick Armstrong
--The Television World of Pushing Daisies: Critical Essays on the Bryan Fuller series, edited by Alissa Burger
--Welsh Mythology and Folklore in Popular Culture: Essays on Adaptions in Literature, Film, Television and Digital Media. Edited by Audrey Becker
--The Fairy Tale and Anime: Traditional Themes, Images and Symbols at Play on Screen, by Dani Cavallaro
--Jesse James and the Moves, by Johnny D. Boggs
--The Pather Panchali of Satyajit Ray: An Illustrated Study, by Surendar Chawdhary.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wow! Someone reads my Facebook page!

A few days ago I ressurected my Facebook page which I'd created a couple years ago. I'd never seen any benefit from it.

I decided I'd try once again to use it to promote my two websites - The Thunder Chld and Winged Victory - as well as to try to promote my writing.

Well, posting links to my Kindle books at Amazon did no good, but yesterday I posted a link to an interview with Cheryl Henderson (wife of Robert Henderson, warbird sculptor), and as of 10.29 am mountain time, 11 people have looked at it, via the Facebook link.

So let's hope this is the beginning of bigger and better things.

I've also got a MySpace page...maybe I'll try to resurrect that... and Twitter.

So we'll see how it goes...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tardis Keys on Ebay

I ordered a Tom Baker-era Tardis key from the Intergalactic Trading Co, on Ebay, for only $12.95, got it today, and was disappointed.

Oh, it's a Tardis key, but a cheap imitation. My metallurgic skills are not such that I can tell what it's made of... bright shiny, thick ...aluminum?.

It doesn't have the right feel or look (oh, it's got the raised design on the front and the inset design on the back, but it's too shiny, and too light. Feels like aluminum instead of what it should feel like - pewter? Something).

I have had Tardis keys before - the definite article - that I got over 20 years ago. Unfortunately my mom seemed to have a hatred of Tardis keys, and on the two times that I'd loaned her my car keys - which had the Tardis key attached, she lost the key - and the keys - both times! What's up with that?

Anyway, there are a couple of folks on ebay who sell Tardis keys. I chose these folks because they were only charging $12.95. Another company was charging $30... and I wonder if they were selling "the real deal."

I wont't return the makes a nice hanging display... but if it had been the real'd be on my keychain right now...

Also available at Ebay is the Tardis key used during the Sylvester McCoy era:

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Girl in the Golden Atom, by Ray Cummings, ch 2



The cigars were lighted and dinner over before the Doctor broached the subject uppermost in the minds of every member of the party.

"A toast, gentlemen," he said, raising his glass. "To the greatest research chemist in the world. May he be successful in his adventure to-night."

The Chemist bowed his acknowledgment.

"You have not heard me yet," he said smiling.

"But we want to," said the Very Young Man impulsively.

"And you shall." He settled himself more comfortably in his chair. "Gentlemen, I am going to tell you, first, as simply as possible, just what I have done in the past two years. You must draw your own conclusions from the evidence I give you.

"You will remember that I told you last week of my dilemma after the destruction of the microscope. Its loss and the impossibility of replacing it, led me into still bolder plans than merely the visual examination of this minute world. I reasoned, as I have told you, that because of its physical proximity, its similar environment, so to speak, this outer world should be capable of supporting life identical with our own.

"By no process of reasoning can I find adequate refutation of this theory. Then, again, I had the evidence of my own eyes to prove that a being I could not tell from one of my own kind was living there. That this girl, other than in size, differs radically from those of our race, I cannot believe.

"I saw then but one obstacle standing between me and this other world--the discrepancy of size. The distance separating our world from this other is infinitely great or infinitely small, according to the viewpoint. In my present size it is only a few feet from here to the ring on that plate. But to an inhabitant of that other world, we are as remote as the faintest stars of the heavens, diminished a thousand times."

He paused a moment, signing the waiter to leave the room.

"This reduction of bodily size, great as it is, involves no deeper principle than does a light contraction of tissue, except that it must be carried further. The problem, then, was to find a chemical, sufficiently unharmful to life, that would so act upon the body cells as to cause a reduction in bulk, without changing their shape. I had to secure a uniform and also a proportionate rate of contraction of each cell, in order not to have the body shape altered.

"After a comparatively small amount of research work, I encountered an apparently insurmountable obstacle. As you know, gentlemen, our living
human bodies are held together by the power of the central intelligence we call the mind. Every instant during your lifetime your subconscious mind is commanding and directing the individual life of each cell that makes up your body. At death this power is withdrawn; each cell is thrown under its own individual command, and dissolution of the body takes place.

"I found, therefore, that I could not act upon the cells separately, so long as they were under control of the mind. On the other hand, I could not withdraw this power of the subconscious mind without causing death.

"I progressed no further than this for several months. Then came the solution. I reasoned that after death the body does not immediately disintegrate; far more time elapses than I expected to need for the cell-contraction. I devoted my time, then to finding a chemical that would temporarily withhold, during the period of cell-contraction, the power of the subconscious mind, just as the power of the conscious mind is withheld by hypnotism.

"I am not going to weary you by trying to lead you through the maze of chemical experiments into which I plunged. Only one of you," he
indicated the Doctor, "has the technical basis of knowledge to follow me. No one had been before me along the path I traversed. I pursued the method of pure theoretical deduction, drawing my conclusions from the practical results obtained.

"I worked on rabbits almost exclusively. After a few weeks I succeeded in completely suspending animation in one of them for several hours. There was no life apparently existing during that period. It was not a trance or coma, but the complete simulation of death. No harmful results followed the revivifying of the animal. The contraction of the cells was far more difficult to accomplish; I finished my last experiment less than six months ago."

"Then you really have been able to make an animal infinitely small?" asked the Big Business Man.

The Chemist smiled. "I sent four rabbits into the unknown last week," he said.

"What did they look like going?" asked the Very Young Man. The Chemist signed him to be patient.

"The quantity of diminution to be obtained bothered me considerably. Exactly how small that other universe is, I had no means of knowing, except by the computations I made of the magnifying power of my lens. These figures, I know, must necessarily be very inaccurate. Then, again, I have no means of judging by the visual rate of diminution of these rabbits, whether this contraction is at a uniform rate or accelerated. Nor can I tell how long it is prolonged, for the quantity of drug administered, as only a fraction of the diminution has taken place when the animal passes beyond the range of any microscope I now possess.

"These questions were overshadowed, however, by a far more serious problem that encompassed them all.

"As I was planning to project myself into this unknown universe and to reach the exact size proportionate to it, I soon realized such a result could not be obtained were I in an unconscious state. Only by successive doses of the drug, or its retardent about which I will tell you later, could I hope to reach the proper size. Another necessity is that I place myself on the exact spot on that ring where I wish to enter and to climb down among its atoms when I have become sufficiently small to do so. Obviously, this would be impossible to one not possessing all his faculties and physical strength."

"And did you solve that problem, too?" asked the Banker.

"I'd like to see it done," he added, reading his answer in the other's confident smile.

The Chemist produced two small paper packages from his wallet. "These drugs are the result of my research," he said. "One of them causes contraction, and the other expansion, by an exact reversal of the process. Taken together, they produce no effect, and a lesser amount of one retards the action of the other." He opened the papers, showing two small vials. "I have made them as you see, in the form of tiny pills, each containing a minute quantity of the drug. It is by taking them successively in unequal amounts that I expect to reach the desired size."

"There's one point that you do not mention," said the Doctor. "Those vials and their contents will have to change size as you do. How are you going to manage that?"

"By experimentation I have found," answered the Chemist, "that any object held in close physical contact with the living body being contracted is contracted itself at an equal rate. I believe that my clothes will be affected also. These vials I will carry strapped under my armpits."

"Suppose you should die, or be killed, would the contraction cease?" asked the Doctor.

"Yes, almost immediately," replied the Chemist. "Apparently, though I am acting through the subconscious mind while its power is held in abeyance, when this power is permanently withdrawn by death, the drug no longer affects the individual cells. The contraction or expansion ceases almost at once."

The Chemist cleared a space before him on the table. "In a well-managed club like this," he said, "there should be no flies, but I see several around. Do you suppose we can catch one of them?"

"I can," said the Very Young Man, and forthwith he did.

The Chemist moistened a lump of sugar and laid it on the table before him. Then, selecting one of the smallest of the pills, he ground it to powder with the back of a spoon and sprinkled this powder on the sugar.

"Will you give me the fly, please?"

The Very Young Man gingerly did so. The Chemist held the insect by its wings over the sugar. "Will someone lend me one of his shoes?"

The Very Young Man hastily slipped off a dancing pump.

"Thank you," said the Chemist, placing it on the table with a quizzical smile.

The rest of the company rose from their chairs and gathered around, watching with interested faces what was about to happen.

"I hope he is hungry," remarked the Chemist, and placed the fly gently down on the sugar, still holding it by the wings. The insect, after a moment, ate a little.

Silence fell upon the group as each watched intently. For a few moments nothing happened. Then, almost imperceptibly at first, the fly became larger. In another minute it was the size of a large horse-fly, struggling to release its wings from the Chemist's grasp. A minute more and it was the size of a beetle. No one spoke. The Banker moistened his lips, drained his glass hurriedly and moved slightly farther away. Still the insect grew; now it was the size of a small chicken, the multiple lens of its eyes presenting a most terrifying aspect, while its ferocious droning reverberated through the room. Then suddenly the Chemist threw it upon the table, covered it with a napkin, and beat it violently with the slipper. When all movement had ceased he tossed its quivering body into a corner of the room.

"Good God!" ejaculated the Banker, as the white-faced men stared at each other. The quiet voice of the Chemist brought them back to themselves. "That, gentlemen, you must understand, was only a fraction of the very first stage of growth. As you may have noticed, it was constantly accelerated. This acceleration attains a speed of possibly fifty thousand times that you observed. Beyond that, it is my theory, the change is at a uniform rate." He looked at the body of the fly, lying inert on the floor. "You can appreciate now, gentlemen, the importance
of having this growth cease after death."

"Good Lord, I should say so!" murmured the Big Business Man, mopping his forehead. The Chemist took the lump of sugar and threw it into the open fire.

"Gosh!" said the Very Young Man, "suppose when we were not looking, another fly had----"

"Shut up!" growled the Banker.

"Not so skeptical now, eh, George?" said the Big Business Man.

"Can you catch me another fly?" asked the Chemist. The Very Young Man hastened to do so. "The second demonstration, gentlemen," said the Chemist, "is less spectacular, but far more pertinent than the one you have just witnessed." He took the fly by the wings, and prepared another lump of sugar, sprinkling a crushed pill from the other vial upon it.

"When he is small enough I am going to try to put him on the ring, if he will stay still," said the Chemist.

The Doctor pulled the plate containing the ring forward until it was directly under the light, and every one crowded closer to watch; already the fly was almost too small to be held. The Chemist tried to set it on the ring, but could not; so with his other hand he brushed it lightly into the plate, where it lay, a tiny black speck against the gleaming whiteness of the china.

"Watch it carefully, gentlemen," he said, as they bent closer.

"It's gone," said the Big Business Man.

"No, I can still see it," said the Doctor. Then he raised the plate closer to his face. "Now it's gone," he said.

The Chemist sat down in his chair. "It's probably still there, only too small for you to see. In a few minutes, if it took a sufficient amount
of the drug, it will be small enough to fall between the molecules of the plate."

"Do you suppose it will find another inhabited universe down there?" asked the Very Young Man.

"Who knows," smiled the Chemist. "Very possibly it will. But the one we are interested in is here," he added, touching the ring.

"Is it your intention to take this stuff yourself to-night?" asked the
Big Business Man.

"If you will give me your help, I think so, yes. I have made all arrangements. The club has given us this room in absolute privacy for forty-eight hours. Your meals will be served here when you want them, and I am going to ask you, gentlemen, to take turns watching and guarding the ring during that time. Will you do it?"

"I should say we would," cried the Doctor, and the others nodded assent.

"It is because I wanted you to be convinced of my entire sincerity that I have taken you so thoroughly into my confidence. Are those doors locked?" The Very Young Man locked them.

"Thank you," said the Chemist, starting to disrobe. In a moment he stood before them attired in a woolen bathing-suit of pure white. Over his shoulders was strapped tightly a narrow leather harness, supporting two silken pockets, one under each armpit. Into each of these he placed one of the vials, first laying four pills from one of them upon the table.

At this point the Banker rose from his chair and selected another in the further corner of the room. He sank into it a crumpled heap and wiped the beads of perspiration from his face with a shaking hand.

"I have every expectation," said the Chemist, "that this suit and harness will contract in size uniformly with me. If the harness should not, then I shall have to hold the vials in my hand."

On the table, directly under the light, he spread a large silk handkerchief, upon which he placed the ring. He then produced a teaspoon, which he handed to the Doctor.

"Please listen carefully," he said, "for perhaps the whole success of my adventure, and my life itself, may depend upon your actions during the next few minutes. You will realize, of course, that when I am still large enough to be visible to you I shall be so small that my voice may be inaudible. Therefore, I want you to know, now, just what to expect.

"When I am something under a foot high, I shall step upon that handkerchief, where you will see my white suit plainly against its black surface. When I become less than an inch high, I shall run over to the ring and stand beside it. When I have diminished to about a quarter of an inch, I shall climb upon it, and, as I get smaller, will follow its surface until I come to the scratch.

"I want you to watch me very closely. I may miscalculate the time and wait until I am too small to climb upon the ring. Or I may fall off. In either case, you will place that spoon beside me and I will climb into it. You will then do your best to help me get on the ring. Is all this quite clear?"

The Doctor nodded assent.

"Very well, watch me as long as I remain visible. If I have an accident,
I shall take the other drug and endeavor to return to you at once. This you must expect at any moment during the next forty-eight hours. Under all circumstances, if I am alive, I shall return at the expiration of that time.

"And, gentlemen, let me caution you most solemnly, do not allow that ring to be touched until that length of time has expired. Can I depend on you?"

"Yes," they answered breathlessly.

"After I have taken the pills," the Chemist continued, "I shall not speak unless it is absolutely necessary. I do not know what my sensations will be, and I want to follow them as closely as possible." He then turned out all the lights in the room with the exception of the center electrolier, that shone down directly on the handkerchief and ring.

The Chemist looked about him. "Good-by, gentlemen," he said, shaking hands all round. "Wish me luck," and without hesitation he placed the four pills in his mouth and washed them down with a swallow of water.

Silence fell on the group as the Chemist seated himself and covered his face with his hands. For perhaps two minutes the tenseness of the silence was unbroken, save by the heavy breathing of the Banker as he lay huddled in his chair.

"Oh, my God! He _is_ growing smaller!" whispered the Big Business Man in a horrified tone to the Doctor. The Chemist raised his head and smiled at them. Then he stood up, steadying himself against a chair. He was less than four feet high. Steadily he grew smaller before their horrified eyes. Once he made, as if to speak, and the Doctor knelt down beside him. "It's all right, good-by," he said in a tiny voice.

Then he stepped upon the handkerchief. The Doctor knelt on the floor beside it, the wooden spoon ready in his hand, while the others, except the Banker, stood behind him. The figure of the Chemist, standing motionless near the edge of the handkerchief, seemed now like a little white wooden toy, hardly more than an inch in height.

Waving his hand and smiling, he suddenly started to walk and then ran swiftly over to the ring. By the time he reached it, somewhat out of breath, he was little more than twice as high as the width of its band.
Without pausing, he leaped up, and sat astraddle, leaning over and holding to it tightly with his hands. In another moment he was on his feet, on the upper edge of the ring, walking carefully along its circumference towards the scratch.

The Big Business Man touched the Doctor on the shoulder and tried to smile. "He's making it," he whispered. As if in answer the little figure turned and waved its arms. They could just distinguish its white outline against the gold surface underneath.

"I don't see him," said the Very Young Man in a scared voice.

"He's right near the scratch," answered the Doctor, bending closer.
Then, after a moment, "He's gone." He rose to his feet. "Good Lord! Why haven't we a microscope!"

"I never thought of that," said the Big Business Man, "we could have watched him for a long time yet."

"Well, he's gone now," returned the Doctor, "and there is nothing for us to do but wait."

"I hope he finds that girl," sighed the Very Young Man, as he sat chin in hand beside the handkerchief.

Monday, November 07, 2011

What is this love affair with the Lion King?

I have to admit I have never understood why The Lion King is so popular.

I didn't like it when I first saw it and I really don't care to see it again.

Why. one sense it was true to nature. Male lions lie around all day and sleep, female lions are the ones that go out and hunt and kill - then the male lion struts up and eats his fill, then the females and cubs get to eat what's left.

Well, that's nature. Can't blame animals for acting according to instinct.

But in the movie, all the animals were intelligent - anthropomorphized. Humanized. So we get the male lion who gets to be in charge - not just of the pride of lions but also the entire plains of Africa! And when Scar proves to be a total loser, the female lions don't kick him out themselves, the female lion goes in search of "the lion king" her old boyfriend, to rescue the pride and the animals.

Just grated on my nerves!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Fiction:The Girl in the Golden Atom, by Ray Cummings

public domain, first published in 1922.

by Ray Cummings


"Then you mean to say there is no such thing as the smallest particle of matter?" asked the Doctor.

"You can put it that way if you like," the Chemist replied. "In other words, what I believe is that things can be infinitely small just as well as they can be infinitely large. Astronomers tell us of the immensity of space. I have tried to imagine space as finite. It is impossible. How can you conceive the edge of space? Something must be beyond--something or nothing, and even that would be more space, wouldn't it?"

"Gosh," said the Very Young Man, and lighted another cigarette.

The Chemist resumed, smiling a little. "Now, if it seems probable that there is no limit to the immensity of space, why should we make its smallness finite? How can you say that the atom cannot be divided? As a matter of fact, it already has been. The most powerful microscope will show you realms of smallness to which you can penetrate no other way. Multiply that power a thousand times, or ten thousand times, and who shall say what you will see?"

The Chemist paused, and looked at the intent little group around him.

He was a youngish man, with large features and horn-rimmed glasses, his rough English-cut clothes hanging loosely over his broad, spare frame. The Banker drained his glass and rang for the waiter.

"Very interesting," he remarked.

"Don't be an ass, George," said the Big Business Man. "Just because you don't understand, doesn't mean there is no sense to it."

"What I don't get clearly"--began the Doctor.

"None of it's clear to me," said the Very Young Man.

The Doctor crossed under the light and took an easier chair. "You intimated you had discovered something unusual in these realms of the infinitely small," he suggested, sinking back luxuriously. "Will you tell us about it?"

"Yes, if you like," said the Chemist, turning from one to the other. A nod of assent followed his glance, as each settled himself more comfortably.

"Well, gentlemen, when you say I have discovered something unusual in another world--in the world of the infinitely small--you are right in a way. I have seen something and lost it. You won't believe me probably," he glanced at the Banker an instant, "but that is not important. I am going to tell you the facts, just as they happened."

The Big Business Man filled up the glasses all around, and the Chemist resumed:

"It was in 1910, this problem first came to interest me. I had never gone in for microscopic work very much, but now I let it absorb all my attention. I secured larger, more powerful instruments--I spent most of my money," he smiled ruefully, "but never could I come to the end of the space into which I was looking. Something was always hidden beyond--something I could almost, but not quite, distinguish.

"Then I realized that I was on the wrong track. My instrument was not merely of insufficient power, it was not one-thousandth the power I needed.

"So I began to study the laws of optics and lenses. In 1913 I went abroad, and with one of the most famous lens-makers of Europe I produced a lens of an entirely different quality, a lens that I hoped would give me what I wanted. So I returned here and fitted up my microscope that I knew would prove vastly more powerful than any yet constructed.

"It was finally completed and set up in my laboratory, and one night I went in alone to look through it for the first time. It was in the fall of 1914, I remember, just after the first declaration of war.

"I can recall now my feelings at that moment. I was about to see into another world, to behold what no man had ever looked on before. What would I see? What new realms was I, first of all our human race, to enter? With furiously beating heart, I sat down before the huge instrument and adjusted the eyepiece.

"Then I glanced around for some object to examine. On my finger I had a ring, my mother's wedding-ring, and I decided to use that. I have it here." He took a plain gold band from his little finger and laid it on the table.

"You will see a slight mark on the outside. That is the place into which I looked."

His friends crowded around the table and examined a scratch on one side of the band.

"What did you see?" asked the Very Young Man eagerly.

"Gentlemen," resumed the Chemist, "what I saw staggered even my own imagination. With trembling hands I put the ring in place, looking directly down into that scratch. For a moment I saw nothing. I was like a person coming suddenly out of the sunlight into a darkened room. I knew there was something visible in my view, but my eyes did not seem able to receive the impressions. I realize now they were not yet adjusted to the new form of light. Gradually, as I looked, objects of definite shape began to emerge from the blackness.

"Gentlemen, I want to make clear to you now--as clear as I can--the peculiar aspect of everything that I saw under this microscope. I seemed to be inside an immense cave. One side, near at hand, I could now make out quite clearly. The walls were extraordinarily rough and indented, with a peculiar phosphorescent light on the projections and blackness in the hollows. I say phosphorescent light, for that is the nearest word I can find to describe it--a curious radiation, quite different from the reflected light to which we are accustomed.

"I said that the hollows inside of the cave were blackness. But not blackness--the absence of light--as we know it. It was a blackness that seemed also to radiate light, if you can imagine such a condition; a blackness that seemed not empty, but merely withholding its contents just beyond my vision.

"Except for a dim suggestion of roof over the cave, and its floor, I could distinguish nothing. After a moment this floor became clearer. It seemed to be--well, perhaps I might call it black marble--smooth, glossy, yet somewhat translucent. In the foreground the floor was apparently liquid. In no way did it differ in appearance from the solid part, except that its surface seemed to be in motion.

"Another curious thing was the outlines of all the shapes in view. I noticed that no outline held steady when I looked at it directly; it seemed to quiver. You see something like it when looking at an object through water--only, of course, there was no distortion. It was also like looking at something with the radiation of heat between.

"Of the back and other side of the cave, I could see nothing, except in one place, where a narrow effulgence of light drifted out into the immensity of the distance behind.

"I do not know how long I sat looking at this scene; it may have been several hours. Although I was obviously in a cave, I never felt shut in--never got the impression of being in a narrow, confined space.

"On the contrary, after a time I seemed to feel the vast immensity of the blackness before me. I think perhaps it may have been that path of light stretching out into the distance. As I looked it seemed like the reversed tail of a comet, or the dim glow of the Milky Way, and penetrating to equally remote realms of space.

"Perhaps I fell asleep, or at least there was an interval of time during which I was so absorbed in my own thoughts I was hardly conscious of the scene before me.

"Then I became aware of a dim shape in the foreground--a shape merged with the outlines surrounding it. And as I looked, it gradually assumed form, and I saw it was the figure of a young girl, sitting beside the liquid pool. Except for the same waviness of outline and phosphorescent glow, she had quite the normal aspect of a human being of our own world. She was beautiful, according to our own standards of beauty; her long braided hair a glowing black, her face, delicate of feature and winsome in expression. Her lips were a deep red, although I felt rather than saw the colour.

"She was dressed only in a short tunic of a substance I might describe as gray opaque glass, and the pearly whiteness of her skin gleamed with iridescence.

"She seemed to be singing, although I heard no sound. Once she bent over the pool and plunged her hand into it, laughing gaily.

"Gentlemen, I cannot make you appreciate my emotions, when all at once I remembered I was looking through a microscope. I had forgotten entirely my situation, absorbed in the scene before me. And then, abruptly, a great realization came upon me--the realization that everything I saw was inside that ring. I was unnerved for the moment at the importance of my discovery.

"When I looked again, after the few moments my eye took to become accustomed to the new form of light, the scene showed itself as before, except that the girl had gone.

"For over a week, each night at the same time I watched that cave. The girl came always, and sat by the pool as I had first seen her. Once she danced with the wild grace of a wood nymph, whirling in and out the shadows, and falling at last in a little heap beside the pool.

"It was on the tenth night after I had first seen her that the accident happened. I had been watching, I remember, an unusually long time before she appeared, gliding out of the shadows. She seemed in a different mood, pensive and sad, as she bent down over the pool, staring into it intently. Suddenly there was a tremendous cracking sound, sharp as an explosion, and I was thrown backward upon the floor.

"When I recovered consciousness--I must have struck my head on something--I found the microscope in ruins. Upon examination I saw that its larger lens had exploded--flown into fragments scattered around the room. Why I was not killed I do not understand. The ring I picked up from the floor; it was unharmed and unchanged.

"Can I make you understand how I felt at this loss? Because of the war in Europe I knew I could never replace my lens--for many years, at any rate. And then, gentlemen, came the most terrible feeling of all; I knew at last that the scientific achievement I had made and lost counted for little with me. It was the girl. I realized then that the only being I ever could care for was living out her life with her world, and, indeed, her whole universe, in an atom of that ring."

The Chemist stopped talking and looked from one to the other of the tense faces of his companions.

"It's almost too big an idea to grasp," murmured the Doctor.

"What caused the explosion?" asked the Very Young Man.

"I do not know." The Chemist addressed his reply to the Doctor, as the most understanding of the group. "I can appreciate, though, that through that lens I was magnifying tremendously those peculiar light-radiations that I have described. I believe the molecules of the lens were shattered by them--I had exposed it longer to them that evening than any of the others."

The Doctor nodded his comprehension of this theory.

Impressed in spite of himself, the Banker took another drink and leaned forward in his chair. "Then you really think that there is a girl now inside the gold of that ring?" he asked.

"He didn't say that necessarily," interrupted the Big Business Man.

"Yes, he did."

"As a matter of fact, I do believe that to be the case," said the Chemist earnestly. "I believe that every particle of matter in our universe contains within it an equally complex and complete a universe, which to its inhabitants seems as large as ours. I think, also that the whole realm of our interplanetary space, our solar system and all the remote stars of the heavens are contained within the atom of some other universe as gigantic to us as we are to the universe in that ring."

"Gosh!" said the Very Young Man.

"It doesn't make one feel very important in the scheme of things, does it?" remarked the Big Business Man dryly.

The Chemist smiled. "The existence of no individual, no nation, no world, nor any one universe is of the least importance."

"Then it would be possible," said the Doctor, "for this gigantic universe that contains us in one of its atoms, to be itself contained within the atom of another universe, still more gigantic, and so on."

"That is my theory," said the Chemist.

"And in each of the atoms of the rocks of that cave there may be other worlds proportionately minute?"

"I can see no reason to doubt it."

"Well, there is no proof, anyway," said the Banker. "We might as well believe it."

"I intend to get proof," said the Chemist.

"Do you believe all these innumerable universes, both larger and smaller than ours, are inhabited?" asked the Doctor.

"I should think probably most of them are. The existence of life, I believe, is as fundamental as the existence of matter without life."

"How do you suppose that girl got in there?" asked the Very Young Man, coming out of a brown study.

"What puzzled me," resumed the Chemist, ignoring the question, "is why the girl should so resemble our own race. I have thought about it a good deal, and I have reached the conclusion that the inhabitants of any universe in the next smaller or larger plane to ours probably resemble us fairly closely. That ring, you see, is in the same--shall we say--environment as ourselves. The same forces control it that control us. Now, if the ring had been created on Mars, for instance, I believe that the universes within its atoms would be inhabited by beings like the Martians--if Mars has any inhabitants. Of course, in planes beyond those next to ours, either smaller or larger, changes would probably occur, becoming greater as you go in or out from our own universe."

"Good Lord! It makes one dizzy to think of it," said the Big Business Man.

"I wish I knew how that girl got in there," sighed the Very Young Man, looking at the ring.

"She probably didn't," retorted the Doctor. "Very likely she was created there, the same as you were here."

"I think that is probably so," said the Chemist. "And yet, sometimes I am not at all sure. She was very human." The Very Young Man looked at him sympathetically.

"How are you going to prove your theories?" asked the Banker, in his most irritatingly practical way.

The Chemist picked up the ring and put it on his finger. "Gentlemen," he said. "I have tried to tell you facts, not theories. What I saw through that ultramicroscope was not an unproven theory, but a fact. My theories you have brought out by your questions."

"You are quite right," said the Doctor; "but you did mention yourself that you hoped to provide proof."

The Chemist hesitated a moment, then made his decision. "I will tell you the rest," he said.

"After the destruction of the microscope, I was quite at a loss how to proceed. I thought about the problem for many weeks. Finally I decided to work along another altogether different line--a theory about which I am surprised you have not already questioned me."

He paused, but no one spoke.

"I am hardly ready with proof to-night," he resumed after a moment. "Will you all take dinner with me here at the club one week from to-night?" He read affirmation in the glance of each.

"Good. That's settled," he said, rising. "At seven, then."

"But what was the theory you expected us to question you about?" asked the Very Young Man.

The Chemist leaned on the back of his chair.

"The only solution I could see to the problem," he said slowly, "was to find some way of making myself sufficiently small to be able to enter that other universe. I have found such a way and one week from to-night, gentlemen, with your assistance, I am going to enter the surface of that ring at the point where it is scratched!"

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Detonator Is a Huge Science Fiction Motorcycle Brought to Electric Life

From Gizmodo: The Detonator Is a Huge Science Fiction Motorcycle Brought to Electric Life
Daniel Simon designed the Light Cycles for Tron: Legacy and the vehicles for Captain America, but now one of his craziest concepts yet is coming to life in a street legal version. Let's hope no one kills themselves riding it.

The Detonator is an 11.5 foot electric motorcycle powered by a lithium-ion battery that gets 80-100 miles on a one-hour charge. The bike rips too—it's supposed to go up to 120 mph, but here's the thing: the Detonator probably isn't the easiest bike in the world to handle. The rider sits way in the back from where they have to maneuver a huge, elongated front-end that makes even showy custom choppers with long forks look puny.

The Detonator concept was drawn-up by Simon for his futuristic vehicle design company, Cosmic Motors, and it's being built by Parker Brothers Choppers, which also produced a run of real-life Light Cycles. Simon's website calls the Detonator a "street cruiser bike built for humanoid droids." (Does this guy have the coolest job ever or what?) Admittedly, that sounds more like science fiction than anything your dad is going to be driving around on the weekends, but if you've got $100,000 lying around, you can have a Detonator of your own

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The 10 Most Mortifying Seasons of Science Fiction and Fantasy TV Shows

From I09: The 10 Most Mortifying Seasons of Science Fiction and Fantasy TV Shows
The 10 Most Mortifying Seasons of Science Fiction and Fantasy TV ShowsTelevision shows are like sports teams: Sometimes they just have an off season. (And sometimes they just dive down a terrible hole and get trapped forever.) When a science fiction or fantasy show has a terrible no-good year, it's especially noticeable, because the fantastical plot devices get dumber and the world-building gets sloppier.

Almost every beloved science fiction or fantasy show will have a bad year, if it lasts long enough. But some shows have gone so far off course that "disappointment" doesn't begin to describe the experience of watching them. Here are 10 seasons of science fiction and fantasy TV that left us downright mortified. Spoilers ahead...

10) True Blood season four
Since this just aired, we'll be light on the spoilers. (You can always read our exhaustive recaps for the down and dirty on just where this show went so horribly wrong.) Suffice to say, this season felt like a horrible mockery of the previous years — it lacked a cool villain, and meanwhile Vampire Eric was mistreated in the worst way. Not to mention what happened to Jason.

The 10 Most Mortifying Seasons of Science Fiction and Fantasy TV Shows9) Space: 1999 season two
Some people would probably try to claim that this show was always campy, and the second season was just a continuation of the same ridiculous "Moon traveling through space fast enough to reach new planets every week but somehow the Moonbase inhabitants survive" storyline. But season one was at least creepy and weird, and seemed to be trying to do something a bit different and ambitious. Season two, meanwhile, was retooled into a terrible Star Trek copycat. (Not unlike the second season of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.) The addition of Maya the shapeshifter was sorta fun, but the plots became much less trippy and much more like standard TV space opera stories.

The 10 Most Mortifying Seasons of Science Fiction and Fantasy TV Shows8) Galactica 1980
Sure, the one season of the original Battlestar Galactica wasn't exactly a masterpiece — but Lords of Kobol, the one-season spinoff in which the Galactica finally discovers Earth was a veritable Viper-crash. From the zany flying motorcycles to the child savant, to the weird storyline where the Colonials give a small child a mind-control device to torment his classmates, to the whole "some Colonials want to give the Nazis super-technology" plot arc. And on and on. Not to mention the awful blow-dried Apollo and Starbuck replacements, Dylan and Troy. At least the original BSG is a fun Star Wars knock-off — this sequel is just soul-scarring.

The 10 Most Mortifying Seasons of Science Fiction and Fantasy TV Shows7) Alias season three
This is the "Sydney has amnesia and can't remember the last two years" season. Not to mention the "Vaughn is married to someone else, who's secretly evil but nobody can figure it out" season. The show just started to lurch off the rails, without nearly as much of a coherent mythology and less of an interesting setup than in the first two seasons. Even show creator J.J. Abrams reportedly admitted that the show got out of hand in its third season and had to be reined back in. (Although I can't find the interview where he said that, just people citing it in various articles.)

The 10 Most Mortifying Seasons of Science Fiction and Fantasy TV Shows6) Earth: Final Conflict season five
There should be a separate list for "shows that tried to revamp drastically in their final season, only to run into trouble." Consider that a running theme for the next few entries on this list in any case. (Another candidate: Sliders.) Earth: The Final Conflict had already abandoned a lot of its ideas after its first season (as this message-board poster points out) Basically, by season five, the entire cast of the show was pretty much gone, and so were the original antagonists, the Taelons — instead, they were replaced by some weird vampire aliens, and the show's new hero was a Buffy knock-off named Renee.

The 10 Most Mortifying Seasons of Science Fiction and Fantasy TV Shows5) The X-Files season nine
Annnd... then there's this show, in which they tried to keep it going without Fox Mulder. Instead, the show's creators had the brilliant idea of flipping the traditional Mulder/Scully dynamic, with Scully now being the true believer paired with a skeptical agent. But also, this show just sort of ran out of juice and no longer seemed to have any real stories to tell.

The 10 Most Mortifying Seasons of Science Fiction and Fantasy TV Shows4) Andromeda season five
Andromeda was nearly cancelled at the end of its fourth season, following a couple of years during which the show was limping creatively. (The original developer, Robert Hewitt Wolfe, had been forced out during season two, in the hopes of making the show less complex and more focused on Kevin Sorbo.) But instead of being put out of its misery, Andromeda was renewed for one last season by the Sci Fi Channel, except that the budget was slashed and the whole show was drastically reinvented — now, Dylan Hunt and friends were trapped in the small Seefra star system. All of the characters get drastically revamped, to the point where they're unrecognizeable, and meanwhile Dylan Hunt develops godlike powers over time and space because his father turns out to have been a Paradine. The end result is somewhat baffling and distressing.

The 10 Most Mortifying Seasons of Science Fiction and Fantasy TV Shows3) Heroes season three
This is a tough one to choose — why not Heroes season two, in which nothing much happens until the show is driven off a cliff by the writers' strike? Or season four, with the evil carnies and Sylar brainwashed to be Nathan? Still, season three stands out as the worst of the bunch, and causes the most headaches when you contemplate it, because the show was just trying so damn hard, and so many weird plot developments still feel like an icepick in the skull. The season was divided into two nonsensical "chapters," for maximum insanity, including the "Sylar becomes a good guy and everybody else becomes a bad guy" chapter. And the "mutants are rounded up and sent to Guantanamo, so we can have War on Terror metaphors" chapter. This was the season where we were promised President Worf and then the show gave us Boring Papa Petrelli instead.

The 10 Most Mortifying Seasons of Science Fiction and Fantasy TV Shows2) Doctor Who: Trial of a Time Lord
There are a few contenders for "most face-clawingly awful season of classic Doctor Who," but luckily "Trial of a Time Lord" leaves them all in the dust. Colin Baker's tenure as the Doctor had gotten off to a somewhat rocky start, and the show was skirting the edge of cancellation — so the producers decided the show was on trial, so its hero should be as well. Cue a dozen episodes of the Doctor and a group of Time Lords sitting around watching Doctor Who, while stopping every few minutes to comment on how crap it all is. And then there's the ending — first writer Robert Holmes died in the middle of writing episode 14, then the script editor rewrote the episode and then quit — leaving the show unable to use any of his story ideas for the season finale. The show hastily hired replacement writers, and gave them a weekend to write a new concluding episode from scratch. Resulting in the greatest line of dialogue ever: "You cannot prevent the catharsis of spurious morality!" (If only the season had ended on a cliffhanger as originally intended, they could have resolved it by introducing a new Doctor, instead of putting Sylvester McCoy in a blond wig.)

The 10 Most Mortifying Seasons of Science Fiction and Fantasy TV Shows1) Star Trek: The Next Generation season two
It's really hard to imagine that a show could get this bad in its second season and still come back for a third. Thank goodness for syndication, I guess. TNG's second season was hit by a writer's strike, so that Gene Roddenberry and company were digging around and repurposing old scripts for the nixed 1970s Trek show Phase Two, plus whatever else they could find. Meanwhile, due to behind-the-scenes tensions, Gates McFadden was replaced by Diana Muldaur, who was super-talented but had way less chemistry with the rest of the cast. The result was some of the most dreary storytelling that Star Trek has ever given us, including stories that clearly didn't fit this crew. This was the year of "Data learns stand-up comedy from Joe Piscopo," "Troi has a wacky pregnancy," "Riker gets trapped in a casino," etc. — culminating in the worst clip show ever, the "Riker relives his most emotional memories to get rid of a parasite" episode.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gearzap - Gear for the Kindle

There's a company in the UK that offers all kinds of covers for the Kindle, as well as IPads, for tablets and for Macbooks

They've got more stuff than you can shake a stick at.

The only caveat is that the descriptions of the products don't give dimensions - I ordered a Kindle cover for the "latest generation of Kindle" - only to find out it didn't fit (The "latest generation" are those ones without keyboards, mine has a keyboard but its a year or two old). That's my fault - if I'd taken a closer look at the Kindle in the illustration I would have seen that it didn't match my Kindle - it's the newer grey version rather than my older white one - and my doesn't it look clunky!

But since the Kindle isn't backlit, a cover with a light works nice!

They have a variety of clip on lights for the Kindle, for example (my major interest!,) so that if you already have a cover, you can just clip on with the light without having to buy a new cover.

Check 'em out today - you'll be surprised at how much stuff there is to make your Kindle experience more enjoyable! They are located in the UK but in this day and age of computers, you can order from them with no problem if you live in the US.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Moon Wars: International law could let China own the moon

From Yahoo News: Moon Wars: International law could let China own the moon
With commercial spaceflight (literally) launching soon, the U.S. private sector isn't the only group stepping up its space game. China just sent its 8.5-ton Tiangong-1 space station module skyward, and now the country could be poised to stake out the moon for its own.

At the 2011 International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight, aerospace entrepreneur and commercial space expert Robert Bigelow made the case that the U.S. is just resting on its lunar laurels — and China might make a big move. In the scenario, China will continue to ramp up its space program for the next ten years, a trend the country has already expressed clear interest in pursuing. Then, based on murky international space laws, China could actually take ownership of the moon — especially if it were able to defend its claim with a constant lunar human presence. Of course, the U.S. could do the same, but is limited by a tightening space budget and a much higher level of national debt.

But who does own the moon? Technically, either no one or anyone who says they do. In 1967, the United Nations published a document (Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies) declaring that space is "the province of all mankind" and can't be divvied up, according to international space law. Many space-faring countries signed onto the agreement, but some enterprising commercial groups are still in the business of "selling" parcels of the moon to private entities, claiming that space law only applies to nations.

While the broader Outer Space Treaty found wide international support (China and the U.S. included) when it was drafted, nations have been reluctant to commit to a more recent U.N. document known as the Moon Treaty (or Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies). The treaty stipulates that no state can claim sovereignty over any territory of celestial bodies, but nations like China, the U.S. and Russia are conspicuously absent. To date only 13 nations have been signed on and ratified, none of which have an established space presence.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

First photos of Russell Crow as Jor-el

It's a British newspaper as opposed to an American one which may be why the reporting is a bit harsh...

But a male actor has actually been criticized for being "paunchy!" More than that, the article actually shows two photos of the guy standing sideways, just so we can see how paunchy he is!

I thought this kind of weight-scutiny and mockery only happened to female actors!

The guy is Russell Crowe, by the way, playing Jor-el, Superman's father, in the new "reboot" of the series, which sees Superman wearing some kind of stupid mesh suit - the same material that the reboot Spiderman's suit is made of. Looks stupid.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New book for the Kindle: The Hidden Crystal

This is the link to the Amazon page to purchase the book via your computer. OR just use your Kindle to go to the Kindle Store and search under the title The Hidden Crystal.

Here's the description of The Hidden Crystal:
Sarac, a young student magician is beaten and cast aside when Alena, a priestess he loves is captured and carried off to sea by marauders who torch his village in search of the Crystal of Fire.

Sarac resolves to rescue Alena, though doesn’t realize that his urgent quest is part of a greater purpose; the Crystal of Fire is one of four Crystals of Power ancient Wizards created to prevent the terrible planetary upheaval their world suffers every one thousand years. Sarac must find the Crystals of Power and unite them before the Fall Equinox when the red planet Nibiru comes into alignment with their planet or all will be lost.

Naga, an evil sorcerer, who led his soldiers in search of the Crystal of Fire, seeks the Crystals of Power as well for a different purpose, to enslave all mankind and gain dominion over their world regardless of the devastation it will cause.

With the help of Joran, a wizard of immense power, Sarac faces increasing threats from the approaching cataclysm which is starting to rain destruction on their planet, and from Naga who is determined to retrieve the Crystals of Power at all costs. The urgency of their quest increases when Sarac learns that Naga is torturing Alena to get her to reveal the location of the remaining Crystals of Power. As the Fall Equinox approaches, Sarac struggles to unravel an ancient prophecy, defeat Naga, rescue Alena, and ultimately save their world from violent destruction.

Chapter One
Chapter 1: Land of the Golden Sun

Sweat ran down Sarac’s cheek as he raced down a narrow forest path, panicking as branches lashed his face. His boots crunched through virgin snow, now stained with drops of blood. He clutched his wounded chest and stopped suddenly, unsure of his surroundings. Nothing looked familiar.

Pale blue eyes stared out at the surroundings from a narrow face of sixteen seasons, framed by thin cheekbones. He ran a hand through his tousled blonde hair and shivered, pulling his coarse white robe tighter around him. This was supposed to be a training exercise and he was wholly unprepared for the climate. He pressed himself against the trunk of a tree as the sound of his pursuers passed close by, trying to remain as still as possible while his ragged breathing sent puffs of fog into the cold air.

Four shadows appeared around a bend in the trail. A thin boy with straw-colored hair and a sour expression on his face, wearing a white robe with a polished buckle of a golden sun stepped forward, followed closely by three other boys. “Which way did Sarac go?” came Braden’s surly voice. “I should have killed him when I had the chance. If he makes it back to the Temple of Inscriptions to tell the Elders what happened…”

Sarac picked up a small rock and threw it hard against a tree on the other side of the trail. It made a loud cracking sound as it struck the trunk.

“This way!” Braden shouted, leading the boys away from Sarac’s hiding place.
Sarac breathed a sigh of relief, and stumbled forward. Female voices drifted on the wind as Sarac’s feet snapped fallen branches. In a grassy clearing ahead, four girls were practicing their dancing. A chestnut-haired girl in a white dress caught his eye; her long, brown tresses flowed as her feet skimmed the ground. Sarac’s eyes widened as he watched, entranced as the girl spun and twirled, seeming to float across the meadow. She looked like an angel as the radiance of the sun cast a golden nimbus behind her, lighting up the edges of her dress. The way her body moves! Sarac felt faint. He looked down at the jagged tear in his soaked shirt, and the underlying wound in his chest and was startled to see how much blood he had lost. His vision wavered and he stumbled forward into the clearing. The girl’s heads spun toward him; three of the girls shrieked and fled the clearing. Sarac clutched the front of the remaining girl’s shawl as he fell forward, his bloodied fingers leaving red marks on her dress.

“What are you doing over here on this side of the river?” the girl asked, one hand on her hip. Her dark eyebrows lowered in concern and she gasped as she saw Sarac’s bloodied chest. She quickly bent down over him, her hanging hair framing her face as she shook him gently.

Sarac moaned and stirred, slowly opening his eyes as he looked at her. “There was a—”
The girl placed a finger against Sarac’s lips and smoothed back his hair. “I’m a healer. Rest now and let me see what I can do for your injuries,” she said, closing her eyes in intense concentration. White light flowed from her fingertips, snaking across Sarac’s body. Sarac gasped and arched his back; he squeezed his eyes tight, pain rippling through his body as his flesh mended and muscles knit. When the power faded, the only sign that Sarac had been injured was a lightening of the skin on his chest. The healer swayed unsteadily on her feet, her face pale.

Sarac opened his eyes and moved his lips, trying to form words as he rose unsteadily to his feet. “I’m Sarac. Thanks for healing me.”

The girl extended her hand. “Nice to meet you. I’m Alena. I’m studying to be a Keeper of the Flame.”

Sarac nodded his head. “I know, I saw you practicing―”

Color rose to Alena’s cheeks as she brushed a dark strand of hair out of her eyes. “How embarrassing!” she said. She put a hand to her head and stumbled forward.
“Are you okay?” Sarac asked.

“I just need to rest for a minute. Healing is hard work.”

“Here, let me help you,” Sarac said, offering her his shoulder to lean on.
“Thank you. I must be getting back to the temple as the Sisters will start to wonder what happened to me.”

When the golden dome of the Temple of Fire came into view above the treetops, Alena stopped on the wooded trail. “Well, this is where we part. I can’t risk them seeing us together this close to the temple.”


“I’m studying to be a Sister of the Flame and must remain pure and chaste. For the other Sisters to see us together and think—”

“Say no more,” Sarac said as he raised her warm hand to his lips and kissed it tenderly.

“Alena! Where are you, child?” A stern female voice carried through the forest along with the sound of snapping twigs.

Alena’s eyes widened. “Oh, no! A Sister of the Flame! She cannot see me here with you, Sarac!”

The Sister burst through the underbrush, to find Sarac still holding Alena’s hand. “Out here with a boy, and an apprentice of the Temple of Inscriptions, no less!”

Sarac turned and ran in the other direction as the Sister grabbed Alena by the ear.
“Thought you would have some fun out here, did you?” the teacher sneered as she pulled Alena back down the trail toward the Temple of Fire.

“No, I healed him! You must believe me!” Alena cried in protest.

Sarac watched in dismay from the protection of a thicket of bushes, wondering if he would ever see Alena again.

Want to know what happens next? Order the book for your Kindle!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Harlan Ellison sues yet another science fiction movie for copyright infringement

From IO9: Harlan Ellison sues yet another science fiction movie for copyright infringement
Harlan Ellison famously sued James Cameron over The Terminator and won — and now he's going after Andrew "Gattaca" Niccol's new film In Time. Ellison claims In Time is too similar to his story "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman." And he's not just seeking a payout — he's trying to stop the October 28 release of the film, and seeking the destruction of all copies of the film. (Of course, I'm sure he's open to a settlement.)

In Time has been in development for ages, and there have been trailers that basically narrated the entire plot for months now, but apparently Ellison only just noticed.

In "Harlequin," being late for anything is a crime, and the Master Timekeeper can shorten your life in punishment for failing to be on time for things — and when your appointed time runs out, the Master Timekeeper can stop your heart using something called a "cardioplate."

In In Time, everyone stops aging at 25, but after a year you die, unless you can earn or inherit more time to live. Rich people have millions of years to live, while poor people (like Justin Timberlake's character) usually only have 24 hours to live and have to keep earning more time.

It seems highly unlikely that Ellison will be able to stop the release of In Time, but you never know. [The Hollywood Reporter]

Source Code Film Being Developed Into A New Science Fiction TV Series

From Television Blend: Source Code Film Being Developed Into A New Science Fiction TV Series

Source Code, one of the best science-fiction actioners from the summer film season, is already headed for a TV adaptation. The Jake Gyllenhaal starring, Duncan Jones directed film is about a soldier who has only eight minutes to solve a terrorist train bombing. Well, eight minutes every time he's reinserted into the source code. Yeah, you may want to check out the film because describing the plot in full may take a while.

THR first reported the news that the Source Code producer's production unit, "Mark Gordon Company, which is locked into an overall deal at ABC Studios, has sold a TV version of the sci-fi thriller to CBS with a meaningful penalty."

Gordon already dabbles heavily in TV with shows like Grey's Anatomy under his belt (ugh). However, no one apparently consulted with the film's director Duncan Jones, which is odd considering his talent is a large part of what made the project work in the first place. They should at least offer Jones the pilot to direct if he wants it but judging by tweets [in which he says he's never heard of the show], he probably would amiably refuse.

The Hitchcockian thriller was a hit with both critics and audiences alike, so it's easy to see why the people behind the film are pushing for the adaptation. The premise actually lends itself quite nicely to a television series. I just commented yesterday about the intriguing mix of episodic and serialized storytelling that the new Hannibal Lecter TV show can take advantage of and this seems right up the same alley. Each week a new attack or crime needs to be solved by our 'source code' soldier while the overall narrative trajectory can follow him/her finding out what happened to them and why they suddenly woke up as part of this new program.

Either way, Source Code doesn't sound like a bad idea for a new show and maybe this and Hannibal are just the first few in a new trend, bringing features to the small-screen instead of vice versa.

17 Sept: Science fiction-themed radio show at Kenosha museum

From The Journal Times (Wisconsin): Science fiction-themed radio show at Kenosha museum
KENOSHA - RG Radio Productions will present an old-time radio show with a science fiction theme at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, at the Kenosha Public Museum, 5500 First Ave. The show will include episodes from "Flash Gordon" and "Space Patrol" and is free and open to the public.

Flash Gordon, from about 1935, features Gale Gordon as Flash Gordon, an interplanetary traveler who battled the evil Emperor Ming on Planet Mongo. Flash Gordon originated as a comic book series.

Space Cadet ran concurrently on television and radio in the early 1950s with the same performers in key roles. The story concerned the universe-jumping exploits of Commander Buzz Corry, assigned to bring law and order to the interplanetary frontier, and Cadet Happy, whose astonishment at inevitable trouble was expressed in the catchphrase "Smokin' Rockets."

Children are encouraged to come in costume as comic book superheros. Prizes will be awarded.

Free tickets to the production will be available beginning at 9 a.m. Sept. 17 at the museum. Doors to the show open as 12:30 p.m. Seating is unreserved.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wesley Snipes Could Have Been Geordi LeForge!

This is a blog entry from the Letters of Note blog.

Star Trek casting
It could have been so different. From the archives of Paramount we have a memo - written in April of 1987 to the studio's Head of Network TV - detailing the acting talent then being considered for various roles in Star Trek: The Next Generation; a programme that would begin to grace the small screen just five months later. A few observations: at this juncture, Patrick Stewart was already a favourite for Picard, alongside Patrick Bauchau; Brent Spiner wasn't even being considered for the role he eventually took, as Data; a young man by the name of Wesley Snipes was in the running for the part of Geordi, a role ultimately filled by LeVar Burton but seemingly close to being taken by Reggie Jackson; Jenny Agutter at least read for the part of Beverly, and there was, as of yet, no sign of a certain Wil Wheaton, the youngster who eventually played her son, Wesley Crusher.

Transcript follows. Memo found at Slice of SciFi.

Recommended reading: Making of Star Trek, by Stephen E. Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry.

DATE: APRIL 13, 1987

Per your request, following is a list of actors who are being considered for their respective roles in STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION.

Patrick Stewart
Mitch Ryan
Roy Thinnes
Yaphet Kotto
Patrick Bauchau

Lianne Langland
Julia Nickson
Rosalind Chao
Leah Ayers
Bunty Bailey

Mark Lindsay Chapman
Eric Menyuk
Kevin Peter Hall (also for Geordi)
Kelvin Han Yee

Michael O'Gorman
Gregg Marx
Jonathan Frakes
Ben Murphy

LeVar Burton
Reggie Jackson
Tim Russ
Wesley Snipes
Victor Love
Chip McCallister
Clarence Gilyard Jr.
Kevin Peter Hall

Anne Twomey
Jenny Augutter
Cheryl McFadden

Denise Crosby

J.D. Roth

The above actors will be brought in to read for Gene Roddenberry starting next week. However, Patrick Bauchau did come in to read for Gene today for the role of "Picard." His reading was well received; he and Patrick Stewart seem to be the favorites for the role of "Picard."

For the role of "Ryker," Michael O'Gorman seems to be a favorite. He's sort of an atypical choice for the role, however, a good one.

Denise Crosby seems to be the only possibility for the role of "Troi" at this point; the same for J.D. Roth for the role of "Wesley."

There are several contenders for "Tasha," "Geordi," and "Data." However, Rosalind Chao seems to be a favorite for "Tasha"; Reggie Jackson for "Geordi"; and Mark Lindsay Chapman for "Data."

For the role of "Beverly," Cheryl McFadden is the favorite. However, her schedule may pose a problem. She's currently performing in a play in San Diego.

General reading sessions are continuing; our next one is on April 14.

cc: Jeff Hayes

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The War of the Worlds in 30 seconds

Re-enacted by Bunnies.

There's one for Star trek: Wrath of Kahn, but I wasn't impressed with that one.

This one is a lot of fun.

An alternate Star Trek t heme

Apparently on the BLue Ray version of Star Trek's second pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before," there was a different Kirk preamble and different theme music!

and this is supposed to be the original theme (with the vocal by Loulie Jean Norman)

Monday, September 05, 2011

UK: Was postmodernism born with Close Encounters of the Third Kind?

Francois Truffaut
From Was postmodernism born with Close Encounters of the Third Kind?

Is Close Encounters of the Third Kind the first and greatest work of postmodern art? As the Victoria and Albert Museum prepares to unveil its exhibition Postmodernism, I have been watching Steven Spielberg's 1977 science-fiction film and it struck me as a work of art, almost a filmed installation, that defines what "postmodernity" is, or was, or will be. I remember seeing a still from the film, a few years ago, in an exhibition in some New York gallery or other. But even without that prompt, the postmodern look of Close Encounters is hard to ignore.

Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990 Victoria and Albert Museum, London SW7 Starts 24 September Until 15 January 2012 More details
A man sees lights in the sky that move and dance. He is not imagining things. The aliens have arrived, in a glorious nocturnal spectacle of fear and wonder. At home, he starts making models, first of clay then of earth and rock, of a mountain in his mind's eye. That too turns out to be a real place, where he intrudes on a secret scientific gathering and finally enters the blinding light of the alien mothership.

What makes me call this film "postmodernist"? Partly it is the homely suburban world where Spielberg sets his story. American films have a long heritage of adventure. Big films before this tended to be set in big places with big characters – but Richard Dreyfuss plays a nobody who lives in nowhereseville to whom something weird happens.

In high art, postmodernism was the moment when the idea of the avant garde as a radical movement – rejecting conventional society and pushing perception forward into an ever more ambitious vision of the new – collapsed. The lofty idealism of a Rothko was suddenly unconvincing to advanced artists. The idea of artists as prophets or priests was abandoned. Artists were not special and neither was art. This was above all an American moment, for it was in America in the 1950s and 60s that modernism attained its loftiest heights and shaped a national culture, from skyscrapers to the space race.

Close Encounters marks this same moment in popular culture. Science fiction is a form of modernism. It shares modern art's belief in progress and meaningful change: it proposes a history of the future. 2001, the great modernist science fiction film, actually creates a model of history in which we evolve as a species under alien guidance. By contrast, Close Encounters does not offer any sense of history or progress or any theory as to what the alien encounter means. It is rooted in everyday suburbia and the revelation that unfurls is beyond understanding. In fact, it does not feel right to call it "science fiction" at all, for it refuses the genre's rationality.

Instead of reasoning, Dreyfuss builds a mountain in his home, like a work of contemporary art. The new artists of the postmodern age in the 1980s, from Cindy Sherman to Jeff Koons, did not claim a loftier vision or even a higher level of skill than other people. They were suburban artists, like Dreyfuss, using the stuff of everyday life to make images at once ordinary and bizarre.

Postmodernism anticipated the fall of the Berlin Wall, the fall of communism, and a world with a single superpower: a global, American, suburban culture. But as soon as those things came to pass at the end of the 1980s, art moved on again, imaginations railed at the supposed complacency of postmodernism and turned once more to grand themes of death, history and mourning. Spielberg himself took up the burden of the Holocaust, leaving the unexplained, eerie optimism of Close Encounters – whoever they are, the aliens mean us no harm – far behind.

Spielberg was at his best, and so was postmodernism, in that spookily still and light-filled moment when a suburban man steps into a spaceship, and history ends. (Of course, you may have found this pretentious and baffling. But, as the movement that launched a thousand cultural theories, that, too, was typical of the postmodernist era the V&A is about to celebrate.)

The Picard Song

I'm not quite sure how this video was made, but it's pretty good.

It goes on about a minute too long, but the first four minutes are great.

QUIRKY CURRICULUM: Professor’s class gets graphic

From Red and Black (University of Georgia): QUIRKY CURRICULUM: Professor’s class gets graphicChris Pizzino has a cure for American culture — more comics.
University professor Chris Pizzino teaches two classes extolling the virtues of the graphic novel and science fiction. MICHAEL BARONE/Staff
“The anti-comics prejudice is out there,” said Pizzino, assistant professor in the University English department. “You pick it up as you go, even if you were never told it in no uncertain terms. It’s in our cultural DNA and we’re having to do some intellectual gene therapy to change how people think about comics. So that’s what I want the comics class to do.”

Pizzino, who has taught a recurring class on graphic novels in past semesters and is now teaching a class on science fiction, said he developed an interest in studying the subjects when he realized their potential for scholarly inquiry.

“Such choices don’t always arise,” he said. “I’m actually very fortunate, here at the University of Georgia, to be able to teach these classes because they’re not on the books that colleges and universities have been very supportive of making part of the English curriculum. I’ve definitely spoken to colleagues at other universities who have met some form of resistance about this. And for the science fiction, the same.”

Though Pizzino has not received resistance from professors, he said some students have come in with misguided expectations for the comics class.

“Every once in a while, someone will take the comics class out of a kind of whimsical curiosity, thinking that it’s just going to be pure fun,” he said. “And most of those people are happy to discover that they are having fun but they’re also learning to read comics. I haven’t yet had anyone turn bitter when they discover this class is going to be work as well as fun.”

And people’s understanding of comics as a lower literary form, and their urge to hide that interest as they grow older, is something Pizzino said he understands.

“I think I absorbed what was in the air,” Pizzino said. “I’ve always read comics, and then like a lot of people of my generation I kind of quit for a while and then came back to them. I came back to them to find they had been changing and were changing before my eyes in terms of the kinds of comics that were being produced.”

It’s this use of the medium as a literary form, and the cultural attitudes surrounding it, that drives Pizzino’s research — as he is working on a book entitled “Arrested Development: Comics at the Bounderies of Literature.”

“I feel that the barrier is much lower for science fiction as a narrative mode than it is for comics as a medium,” Pizzino said. “Although science fiction is definitely put down, it’s never had to undergo the legacy of censorship that comics have undergone.”

Science fiction also enjoys a higher status in American culture because certain works in that genre, such as “Fahrenheit 451” and “Stranger in a Strange Land” have become cultural touchstones to non-fans of the genre.

“At various points in American history, various science fiction novels have come to be very important to different sectors of Americans,” Pizzino said.

Still, despite the significance that science fiction and graphic novel works have had in American culture, Americans still reject science fiction and comic “nerds.”

That stigma of over-enjoyment, of loving sci-fi and the graphic novel a little too much, is something Pizzino rejects.

“I guess in the eyes of some Americans there’s something uncool about excessive enthusiasm about anything,” he said.

But a secret love of comics and science fiction is something Pizzino believes is starting to be drawn out of people by modern cinema.

“We’re seeing a lot of closeted nerds now decloseted by going to movies,” Pizzino said. “And people around the world went to see ‘Inception,’ which was a very nerdy movie to the tune of $800 million,” Pizzino said.

Using the tools of scholars before him, and the cultural value of both comics and science fiction, has become the main method Pizzino uses to spark a love for both genres in his students.

“Comic scholarship has been going on in a serious way for, depending on how you measure the time, a few years, or a decade, or more,” he said. “The comics class is very much about either
introducing a type of literacy that people may not be very familiar with or reintroducing a type of literacy and getting people to see it anew — [and] that it gives the same pleasures and challenges and rewards as any other kind of literature.”

But though he said he believes comics and science fiction are not as valued as intellectual forms, it’s become more than a topic of conversation.

In a way, it is the conversation.

With the larger advent of sci-fi pop culture, enthusiasts everywhere are “coming out of the closet.”

“Although comics are definitely seen by many in a sort of lesser light, they’re also very much a part of cultural parlance,” Pizzino said. “Even people who say they’re not science fiction nerds probably use some term every day that came from a science fiction text. They go to see science fiction films. We’re all nerds now, to some degree or another.”

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger

This movie has been out for a while and I just saw it a couple of days ago.

I enjoyed it... it coulda been better.

The movie takes place in the 1940s, but it was made to set up the Avengers movie, which takes place in the present day. So that gave pretty short shrift to Cap's adventures throughout WWII (as told in the contemporary to WWII Captain America comic book), and to Nick Fury (who does not appear at all) and the Howling Commandoes. [Yes, I said Nick Fury doesn't appear at all. There is a character with that name in the movie, at the very end, but that isn't the real Nick Fury, I don't care what anybody says!]

I've been reading the IMDB message boards about the movie, and there are a couple of threads about the multi-racial/ethnic Howling Commandos. The ignorant (aka unknowledgeable, not stupid) posters have been set straight - that wasn't an invention of the movie makers - in the 1960s comic series entitled Nick Fury and the Howling Commandoes, that's who was there - the Free Frenchman, the Englishman, the African-American. Truth to tell I don't remember a Nisei being with the team, but it's possible.

(Japanese immigrants and even first generation citizens were interred during the War, but the US Army actually had the gall to draft the boys of fighting age and send them off to battle - albeit in the Western theater, not the Eastern. And these Nisei troops proved their courage and their patriotism over and over again - I think they were the most wounded, and the most decorated outfit in the Western theater over the course of the war.)

Anyway, the ending was an anti-climactic disappointment.

Spoilers below.

As anyone familiar with the story of Captain America knows, the comic book ran during World War II, and after the war, ceased pubication. The comic featured Steve Rogers and his sidekick, Bucky - who was only 16 or so and the camp mascot - not a grown up soldier.

In the 1960s, the character was resurrected. The Avengers, cruising around the North Atlantic, find an iceblock calved off an iceberg, and inside it is Captain America, who has been frozen since the end of the war. He thaws and wakes up screaming, "Jump, Bucky, jump!"

Turns out, the Red Skull has been defeated and is escaping in a plane. Cap and Bucky jump onto the plane, intending to bring it down. Then Cap realizes its been booby-trapped and the Red Skull isn't aboard. (There's no threat to the US). Cap slips off the plane, Bucky doesn't, and so dies. Cap falls into the North Sea, gets frozen, and wakes up 25 years later.

In the movie, the Red Skull is flying the plane toward the US, where its set to crash into the capitol and will kill thousands of people. So Cap heroically steers the plane straight down into the Arctic icecap.

The problem? Why does he do it? It wasn't clear to me that, once he'd set the plane heading straight downward, he couldn't have just jumped out of the plane with a parachute. (He still could have hit the ground, been knocked unconscious, and been frozen, but I guess the movie makers wanted him found inside the plane.)

Second problem. The anticlimactic part.

While Cap is piloting the plane into the Arctic ice, he and love interest Peggy Carter have a dialog, where they're talking like he's going to meet her at a restaurant at 8 pm in the next week.

Then his voice goes silent, and she starts to cry.

What should have happened was that the movie switches back to present day, where Cap's frozen body has just been found, and while he's still unconscious, somebody says, "that's Captain America. We need him now more than ever."

Instead, what happens is, he wakes up in what looks like 1940s US, with a baseball game going.

We think to ourselves... oh, no, he's just been dreaming all this? We've been tricked?

No. Because the baseball game Cap is listening to is not one that took place after he disappeared, but rather one that took place before he even became Captain America. How stupid is that? THat's his clue that he's being tricked, so he breaks out of the room, out of the building, and runs into high-tech Times Square, where some guy named Nick Fury (portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson) approaches him and explains they'd wanted to acclimate him slowly to the truth, that he's been asleep for 70 years.

"I had a date," says Steve.

If they had to do this, why couldn't they just have had Steve go to the restaurant, and find the very aged Peggy Carter sitting there. She sees him, she's happy, she dies. That would have been poignant.

So, flawed, but enjoyable. And a helluva lot better and more worthy to be viewed than My Idiot Brother or Don't Be Afraid of the Dark!