One of the things that I’ve really loved about this column is getting a sense of how connected everyone was. Truly, everyone seemed to know one another, even as small groups formed around certain editors. A case in point, over the last couple of columns, I’ve been looking at the Golden Age of SF, which is generally regarded as beginning with John W. Campbell Jr.’s rein at Astounding. Campbell’s star was bright and enduring, but it lost its innovative edge. H.L. Gold, I think, deserves more attention for his role during the Golden Age, as his magazine Galaxy Science Fiction provided some of the genre’s most enduring classics.
Go read Changing the Playing Field: H.L. Gold & Galaxy Science Fiction over on the Kirkus Reviews blog!
Earlier this week, SF Grandmaster Jack Vance passed away at the age of 96. His writing career lasted over six decades, and he’s known for his fantastic world building in addition to his enormous volume of works. I wrote about this at the Kirkus Reviews Blog. Go read Jack Vance, Inventor of Worlds.
Last year, I picked up and read The Stars My Destination for the first time. It’s an astonishing book, one that I alternatively wish that I’d read it earlier, and that I’m glad that I read it now, with the capabilities to really get how important of a book it is. I’ve been waiting to get to Bester for a while now.
Over on the Kirkus Reviews Blog today: The Nomadic Alfred Bester, Renaissance Man.
One of the interesting things that I came across recently was the story of the Futurians at the 1st WorldCon in 1939. The Futurians were a legendary group of fans – quite a few notable authors came out of their ranks over the years, and it looked like an interesting story, one that was far more complicated than I thought.
Go read about it at the Kirkus Reviews blog: The Futurians and the 1939 World Science Fiction Convention.
One of the things that I’ve found distinctly interesting about the Golden Age of SF is how the authors shape the field that they’re in, but also how much one can extrapolate a larger picture out of an author’s life. An excellent example of this is Judith Merril, through whom one can find an excellent viewpoint of the shifts in publishing, as well as a number of similarly-high-profiled authors writing at the same time.
Go read The Connections of Judith Merril over on the Kirkus Reviews Blog.
REVIEW SUMMARY: A fantastic hour and a half of SF television.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A body falls out of the sky in the Canadian Arctic and sparks an international firestorm in a post-oil world.
PROS: Fantastic plotting, acting and potential.
CONS: Never picked up for a series.
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BOOK REVIEW: Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve, by William H. Patterson, Jr.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The first of two volumes of Robert Heinlein’s life.
PROS: Detailed; exhaustive.
CONS: Volume 2 is still in the works.
BOTTOM LINE: A comprehensive and serious look at an author’s life and legacy.
I received a copy of Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve following its publication in 2010, intending on reading and reviewing it then. After cracking it open and starting it, I… stopped. There’s no good reason for this; it’s detailed, interesting, and does much to shed light on a very notable author in the science fiction community. But, it’s a dense read, and not really something that’s conducive to sitting down and reading cover to cover. I set the book aside at one point, intending to return shortly thereafter, and the break stretched out.
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BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In 2046, the Earth has been radically transformed following the arrival of seven alien races and subsequent war between the newcomers and humanity. After the war, the town of Defiance springs up in the ruins of the old world.
PROS: Vivid, immersive new world with lots of potential.
CONS: Story, CGI are somewhat lacking.
After five years of development and a major media blitz, the SyFy Channel has released their latest tent pole show: Defiance. Following the cancellation of shows like Caprica and Stargate: Universe (not to mention the failure to pick up Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome), the channel has a new space-based show. There’s a lot to like here: There’s aliens! Frontier-like settings! Lasers! Drama! A cynical hero! Amongst it all, the network that’s been known for its space shows, such as Stargate SG-1/Atlantis/Universe, Battlestar Galactica, Farscape, and others, finally has something that directly appeals to the fans who have been missing their fix of the prime-time Science Fiction drama that’s been missing from the airwaves for so many years.
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I came across an interesting tidbit a while ago, while reading something about Robert Heinlein: he served as a researcher during World War II, alongside fellow SF authors Isaac Asimov and L. Sprague de Camp. At the NAES, they all worked on various experimental projects, working in the high-tech, cutting edge of R&D that’s so often portrayed in the genre at the time. It’s a neat story, one that tells quite a bit about each of the authors.
Read all about it over on Kirkus Reviews: Asimov, de Camp and Heinlein at the Naval Air Experimental Station.
When I was writing about C.L. Moore a couple of weeks ago, I came across a familiar name several times: Leigh Brackett, another female author writing during the Golden Age of SF. She had a fascinating career as both a short story author, novelist and screenwriter.
Want to know more? Read about Leigh Brackett’s Planetary Romances over on Kirkus Reviews.
Of all the works of his career, Isaac Asimov’s Robot stories are perhaps some of his best known works. Spanning short stories, novellas, centuries and even genres, his fiction helped change the perceptions of robots in science fiction.
Go read Isaac Asimov and the 3 Laws of Robotics over on Kirkus Reviews.
This was a surprise: Early on Wednesday, Entertainment Weekly broke the news that Rob Thomas, creator of Veronica Mars, was launching a Kickstarter project to bring his character to the big screen. Within hours, the project amassed $900,000 (as of the start of my writing this), and it looks as though we’re going to have a new Veronica Mars production. It’s exciting news for fans of the show, with its pop-culture references, smart characters and great stories. The project, according to Thomas, aims to raise $2 million in the next 30 days, which will finance the production of the movie. Warner Brothers, which owns the rights, will handle the distribution, production and promotion of the film, with a limited theater run and online VOD release. What’s interesting about this project is that it’s the latest in a crowd of projects that seem to be gaining a new lease on life with the help of its fan bases.
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Tom King is the author of the 2012 book, A Once Crowded Sky. (See the SF Signal Review.) Following the attacks on September 11th, King worked for the Central Intelligence Agency as an Operations Office. Prior to his service, he interned with Marvel and D.C. Comics. He recently had a moment to speak with us about his first novel:
SF Signal: Hi Tom, thanks for taking a couple of moments to speak with us! My first question is one you probably get a lot: how do you go from interning with comic book companies to the Central Intelligence Agency?
Tom King: The basic answer is 9/11. After the attacks, I was one of the millions of people who volunteered to help. The way I chose to do it was to apply to the CIA; I just figured they’d be the closest to the front lines. It was a new and righteous war. I wanted to be in it. I wanted to save the world. I was very young.
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After working our way through the pulp era, it’s time to begin looking at the ‘Golden Age’ of Science Fiction. Many people felt that this movement began with John Campbell Jr.’s work at Astounding magazine, and there’s no better way to start off this movement than examining the magazine that helped bring science fiction out of the pulp magazines.
Go Read John Campbell Jr. and Astounding Magazine over on Kirkus Reviews.
Catherine Lucielle Moore was one of the earlier female authors to have been writing within the genre, with her first stories published in the early 1930s to a great success. Her career and life was a fascinating one: her own beginnings in the magazines, to her marriage with Henry Kuttner and their subsequent collaboration
Today at the Kirkus Reviews blog, you can read up on The Many Names of Catherine Lucille Moore.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Following the events of Control Point, Col. Alan Bookbinder finds himself reassigned to FOB Frontier after finding that he’s a Latent. Once there, the base comes under attack, and he must lead the entire base to safety, aided by the man who put the base in danger in the first place.
PROS: A solid improvement from Control Point, with a fantastic set of new characters.
Myke Cole’s debut novel was a fun story, a blend of magic in the real world, and the military’s response to a justifiably complicated problem. Where Control Point took on the coming of age / learning to control one’s powers style of story (See Harry Potter, The Magicians, Name of the Wind, Circle of Magic, etc), the second novel in the Shadow Ops series takes on the Quest story that’s so popular in fantasy, and completely succeeds. Fortress Frontier is a second novel, and shows that Cole hasn’t experienced a sophomore slump.
The internet is abuzz with the possible news that J.J. Abrams will be directing the newly announced Star Wars Episode VII. Ever since the announcement that Disney had acquired LucasFilm Limited, a parade of potential contenders have surfaced among fansites: Matthew Vaughn, Steven Spielberg, Neill Blomkamp, Alfonso Cuarón, Darren Aronofsky, Joss Whedon, Jon Favreau, Joseph Kosinski, Colin Trevorrow, J. J. Abrams, Brad Bird and Rian Johnson. Out of that list, there are some who are better candidates than others – and Abrams is in the top tier, and appears to be the one.
Consider his resume: He’s managed several highly successful television shows: LOST, Alias, Fringe, and Felicity (the first two of which belonged to ABC, which is in turn owned by Disney), and a number of highly successful films: Mission Impossible III, Super 8, and Star Trek (with the second Star Trek: Into Darkness, coming out this year). His name is invariably attached to a huge list of other projects at any given time.
In my previous Kirkus Reviews column, I talked about E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith and his stories that kickstarted Space Opera. This week, we’re going back a little further and looking at pulp author Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the characters for which he’s known: John Carter and Tarzan.
Go read Edgar Rice Burroughs and the Moons of Mars over on the Kirkus Reviews blog.
Space Opera is said to have begun with a fellow known as E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith. Last time we talked about science fiction, we left with Hugo Gernsback and his contributions to the genre, and between his work and the beginnings of John W. Campbell’s Golden Age, Smith’s a major figure to look at. He’s a fascinating character, and his contributions to the genre deserve quite a bit more notice.
In a lot of ways, Smith invented the intergalactic space opera, from which so many well known books, television shows and films owe their existence.
Read up on The Amazing Stories of E.E. Doc Smith over on the Kirkus Reviews blog.