Monday, February 19, 2007

1st sf reading group proposal

here is my idea. for a first reading group selection i propose the novel "Light" by M. John Harrison. this novel recieved strong critical attention upon its release and seems as good as any contemporary novel to start with (besides i've been pushing it for years on science fiction readers who stop into Main Street Books and am anxious to take some of my own medicine).
and here is the rest of the idea...... we meet either march 26th or 27th at 8pm (which date works better?) at the Draft Zone on Main Street. in addition to any book discusion going down better with a bit of lubrication, the Draft Zone folks offer a smoke free social space, good beer, and the best bar food in town. monday and tuesday are usually quiet nights so noise should not be a problem.
if anyone needs a copy of the book we will carry some extras at Main Street Books. since this will be a book for a reading club it will come at a 10% discount. so stop in if you are in need.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

Pan's Labyrinth, of which Sydney and I are proud co-sponsors, is this Friday and Saturday, Feb. 16-17, at Frostburg's irreplaceable Palace Theatre on Main Street. Showtime each night is 8. Sydney and I are going to Friday night's show, and may even take some FS2 fliers with us, if I have time to make any. Maybe some of us could get together after the show, or at least in the lobby beforehand?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A good reading list

I love reading lists, especially science fiction/fantasy reading lists, and while looking through the latest Science Fiction Book Club mailing tonight, I was impressed by the roster of reprint titles in the club's 50th Anniversary Collection. So far there are four series, each one reprinting eight titles from a different decade.

The '50s
City by Clifford D. Simak
The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke
The Door Into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein
The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov
The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson
Under Pressure by Frank Herbert

The '60s
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.
The Dream Master by Roger Zelazny
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
Norstrilia by Cordwainer Smith
Rite of Passage by Alexei Panshin
Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer

The '70s
Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Gloriana by Michael Moorcock
Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by James Tiptree Jr.
The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge
Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler

The '80s
The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
Blood Music by Greg Bear
Courtship Rite by Donald Kingsbury
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock
Schismatrix Plus by Bruce Sterling
Startide Rising by David Brin

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

"Science Fiction Down the Tubes"?

Jeremy's post "Science Fiction Down the Tubes" at The Voltage Gate drew several responses recommending current sf writers who do, indeed, write about science: Greg Bear, Gregory Benford, David Brin, Greg Egan, John Kessel, Geoffrey A. Landis, Wil McCarthy, Alistair Reynolds, Kim Stanley Robinson, Joan Slonczewski and Charles Stross. To those I would add, off the top of my head, Stephen Baxter, Mike Brotherton, Ted Chiang, Cory Doctorow, Nancy Kress, Syne Mitchell, Christopher Rowe and Rudy Rucker. The magazines Analog, Asimov's, Interzone and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction are full of the stuff, as are the annual volumes The Year's Best Science Fiction, edited by Gardner Dozois, and Year's Best SF, edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer. Hartwell and Cramer also co-edited a couple of enormous honking recent anthologies that include much recent material as well as "classic" stuff: The Space Opera Renaissance and The Ascent of Wonder: The Evolution of Hard SF. I think more good sf is being written and published now than ever was published in any other decade. Does it sell well? Not as well as fantasy. Are its authors household names? No. Can you tell the good books from the bad by looking at their covers? No. Best resources for pointing the way to new writers: the frequent New Books updates at Locus Online and the book reviews published monthly in the print version, Locus, to which every serious sf reader should subscribe (along with at least one of the magazines listed above).

I'm curious, Jeremy, why you write of Neil Gaiman: "Gaiman is considered science fiction without any semblance of science incorporated into his work." Is Gaiman considered science fiction? This is news to me. I thought he was considered a fantasist. Maybe you're annoyed that his books are shelved under Science Fiction? That bookstores and libraries shelve fantasy and science fiction together is old news, and entirely forgiveable old news at that. Most science fiction writers write fantasy, too, and vice versa, and 'twas ever thus, and the same magazines and publishers publish both, and 'twas ever thus, and the Science Fiction Writers of America changed its name to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America years ago, and I can't even keep the genres separate on my own shelves, so why should Main Street Books make the attempt?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Rocket boys and girls

The Jan. 21 issue of Parade has an article by NASA engineer and Rocket Boys author Homer Hickam about the National Association of Rocketry, which encourages young people to get interested in science and engineering through model rockets. The chapter nearest us seems to be Mountaineer Rocket Club 641 in Morgantown, W.Va., about an hour west of Frostburg, run by Jerry Steketee. Here's his e-mail address, if anyone's interested in a launch schedule.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Nobody tells this wookie what to do

Alas, it's a doomed world when even our most beloved alien figures start headbutting innocent tourists:
Churlish Chewbacca.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Highly interesting fantasy artist -- and local!

I see in today's Times-News that works by fantasy artist James Odbert, a.k.a. Nybor, will be on exhibit through March 3 at the Brickhood Hearth restaurant on Main Street in Romney, W.Va., which is about 27 miles south of Cumberland on Route 28. The exhibit opens with a reception tonight (Feb. 2) at 7:30. Moreover, Nybor lives in Keyser, W.Va., about 22 miles south of Frostburg.

I don't see a website for Nybor, but googling around, I see that his art appeared in 1970s fanzines alongside Phil Foglio and Tim Kirk; that in the 1980s he did illustrations for Analog magazine, covers for books by Gordon R. Dickson and Theodore Sturgeon, and (apparently) the original maps for Robert Asprin's Thieves' World series; and that his painting Kiss of Ages was a Judges' Choice at the Millennium Philcon, the Philadelphia World Science Fiction Convention of 2001.

Dickson raved about Odbert's cover and interior illustrations for the 1978 edition of his novella Home from the Shore, calling it "something not merely entirely new in publishing but in artistic concept ... The result is something more than a book. It is a mechanism for the imagination."

In recent years, Nybor has been very active in occult circles. The Witches' Voice calls him "one of the community's most respected elders"; scroll down to see a great photo of him by Bill Kilborn. (In the photo, he reminds me of the late Georgia outsider artist Eddie Owens Martin, a.k.a. St. EOM.) Nybor also is on the Grey Council, the faculty of the online Grey School of Wizardry (which claims 612 students). Here's his faculty bio:
A graduate from the Minneapolis School of Art, Nybor has owned and operated art studios in Minneapolis and New York City and is most renowned for his black and white science fiction art, including book and magazine covers and interiors. In the 1980’s, Nybor was freelancing in New York, designing logos and knocking out magazine illustrations for a variety of publications. He was busy, prosperous, and developing ulcers in the fast-lane society. In 1985, he gave up the tie, tails, and “cocktail crowd” for a humbler, more peaceful life in the West Virginia mountains where he could dedicate himself to creating the art he wanted to create. When you look at the detailed and colorful works of Nybor, you would never know that this artist has been colorblind since birth.
Nybor's "major lifework" is the Nybor Tarot Deck, published in 2001; here are some samples.

As Mel Allen would have said: How about that?