Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Dark Between the Stars

I went outside to walk the dogs and to try and do some observing. Alas, the haze and the light pollution is such that the only "star" I could see was Jupiter.

It struck me then, especially after reading (today) Ed Hamilton's Interstellar Patrol stories as well as (in the recent past) some Poul Anderson, some Jack Williamson, some Olaf Stapledon and a few others...maybe "science fiction is dead" or "hard science fiction is dead" or "space opera" is dead not because we've grown up, or because science has caught up with the fiction (like that will ever happen) or we're getter gray or we're getting distracted by the intertubes or because (fill in the blank).

Maybe "science fiction is dead" because most of us don't see the stars anymore. We don't have a connection with the universe and its immense size. We don't have a connection with the Milky Way, the change of the seasons shown by the change of the constellations, the diamond dust. Even Ed Hamilton at his pulpiest showed more of a connection to the universe than many of today's SF authors, alas.

Well, it's my theory. As legit or silly as anything else pumped out by your typical MFA candidate!
Crashing Suns!

Edmond Hamilton; The Collected Edmond Hamilton, Volume One: The Metal Giants and Others (Haffner Press; 2009; ISBN 978-1-893887-31-2; cover by Joseph Dolin).

Made up of: Introduction (Robert Weinberg); The Monster-God of Mamurth; Across Space; The Metal Giants; The Atomic Conquerors; Evolution Island; The Moon Menace; The Time-Raider; The Comet Doom; The Dimension Terror; The Polar Doom; The Sea Horror; Locked Worlds; The Abysmal Invaders

Part of the 2009 Year in Shorts.

Edmond Hamilton; The Collected Edmond Hamilton, Volume Two: The Star-Stealers: The Complete Tales of the Interstellar Patrol (Haffner Press; 2009; ISBN 978-1-893887-33-6; cover by Hugh Rankin).

This volume contains all of Hamilton's Interstellar Patrol tales, plus two others (The Hidden World and The Other Side of the Moon) not in the series. As Walter Jon Williams shows in the introduction, and a number of commentators point out in the letters reproduced in the Appendix, these are pretty formulaic stories: a impending doom is discovered, a desperate mission is sent out to save the universe, the mission is overcome by the evil alien menace and at the last moment...Earth/the Federation/the Galaxy is saved. Until the next story.

O.K., O.K., they are formulaic. They could be punched out with a cookie cutter. The characters are one-dimensional to the point where you forget the names (why bother, they are the same in each story...same character, that is). But...

But...Hamilton's enthusiasm gets to you. You are carried on by the stories. And, on occasion, the prose overcomes the pulp. Whether it is describing the emptiness between the stars (in language that Alastair Reynolds echoes) or his spaceships that could be sailing vessels or steam vessels (echoes of which today can be found in David Weber's Honor Harrington stories or David Drake's Leary of the RCN stories), the occasional heroic moment, the occasional flash of a writer working under deadlines, poor rates and the need to write, write, write, or find work in Depression-era and again you find the diamonds in the rough.

The book ends with an extensive Appendix made up of illustrations from the original magazine appearances or reprints or paperback originals, plus a number of letters about Hamilton's stories (that appeared in those magazines...think flame wars are an invention of the internet...wait until you hear from a young Henry Kuttner, a young Don Wollheim, a young Margaret St. Clair, a young Forrest J. Ackerman...) and finally several letters from the editor accepting various stories (particularly amusing are why the second-in-command in The Star-Stealers went from male to female and some comments on the competition).

Fun stuff.

Made up of: Introduction (Walter Jon Williams); Crashing Suns; The Star-Stealers; Within the Nebula; Outside the Universe; The Comet-Drivers; The Sun People; The Cosmic Cloud; Corsairs of the Cosmos; The Hidden World; The Other Side of the Moon; Appendix.

Counts as four entries in the 2009 Year in Shorts.

Counts as five entries in the 2010 Year in Shorts.

Edmond Hamilton: The Collected Captain Future, Volume One: Captain Future, Wizard of Science (Haffner Press; 2009; ISBN 978-1-893887-35-0; cover by George Rozen).

Made up of: Introduction (Richard A. Lupoff); Captain Future and the Space Emperor; Calling Captain Future; Captain Future's Challenge; The Triumph of Captain Future.

Part of the 2009 Year in Shorts.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Return of Captain Future

Mr. Postman was very nice to me today. He brought me three new books from Haffner Press. Haffner has made a name for itself by publishing beautiful editions of the works of Leigh Brackett, Jack Williamson and Ed Hamilton. These three continue the reprinting of Ed Hamilton, after a pretty long gap.

Two of the books are collections of Hamilton's stories, The Metal Giants and Others and The Star-Stealers (The Complete Tales of The Interstellar Patrol). The third book is the first volume of reprints of Hamilton's best-known series, Captain Future.

I'm really looking forward to reading these. They are beautiful looking books and the Big Poobah at Haffner Press is to be commended for turning these out.

Addendum: And so the reading begins!

So the WorldCon has come and go. Congrats to the winners, especially the Professors Foglio for Girl Genius.

Some noise has been made over the number of votes for the Hugo. It seems there was a 100% increase in voting numbers! Celebrate, eh?

Maybe not. Unless the person I was talking to was mistaken, the number of votes was 1,000. Yes, one thousand. Can that be correct? Only one thousand people voted? Which means the previous year was...500 votes.

How many people watch a bad SF show at "SyyyyyFyyyyy"? How many people buy a new manga? How many people buy a new release from Neil Gaiman? How many people subscribe to Baen's Webscriptions each month?

How many people attend ComiCon?

Clearly "SMOF" is not in touch with most of the genre universe...
Geek Blips

Because you can never have TOO MUCH CONTENT.
Epic. Fail.

You know a search on Google is going nowhere when five of the results you get are...your own blog!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Clean, Well-Lighted Space

The workspaces of various genre writers. Great shot of "Chip" Delany! Interesting to see Joe Haldeman's lighting system.
Star Wolf

Every now and again I search the intertubes for any news about David Gerrold's Star Wolf series. I've previously posted this very informative article about the journey from television to book to television to book to television to ???

This most recent search turned up a page of preproduction sketches. I'm guessing this is from the most recent attempt to make a television series. Pretty nifty stuff. Wish somebody would step up to the plate instead of giving up another sequel to "Mansquito"!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Site Update (An Occasional Feature)

2009: The Year in Books updated (2 more books done). More to come...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Site Update (An Occasional Feature)

Things have been crazy of late, more so than usual. I was hoping that the summer would see a slowing of the pace, but that was not to be. My father's illness (physical end) has gotten worse and now dementia has set in; to be honest, he is pretty much a very cranky two-year-old in many ways. A very big two-year-old. I don't know how my mother can do it! So I help out when I can, going up on weekends and spent all of last week "dad sitting".

This site gets updated, but I realized that a lot of what I update is "invisible". Whenever I finish a book, for example, I update the current The Year in Books posting. But you don't "see" that unless you hunt for it. I thought that perhaps I'll toss up the occasional blog update, showing what pages have been changed in the recent days/weeks/months.

So...what has been updated?

2009: The Year in Books

2009: The Year in Shorts

2009: The Year in Current Reads

Bertrand R. Brinley: Richard the Deep Breather.

Freeman Dyson: The Scientist as Rebel.

Larry Niven: Tales of Known Space.

Patrick O'Brian: Down to the Sea in Ships. Two Years Before the Mast.

Lewis Thomas: Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Two Years Before the Mast

Following up on this omnibus review of several books of The Canon, here are the last few installments of the massive Patrick O'Brian-authored series of sea tales that have occupied so much of my interest for so many years.

Patrick O'Brian; The Hundred Days (W.W. Norton & Co.; 1999; cover by Geoff Hunt).

Having ended the war with the previous book, Jack and Stephen end up in the thick of things again as Napoleon escapes from his exile/prison. The thing that struck me oddest about this volume was the juxtaposition of two deaths. Stephen loses someone close to him before the start of the action and spends a lot of time thinking on it. Jack loses someone close to him near the end of the action, but as it is in the midst of a battle, hardly bats an eyelash. The first death (Stephen) was gradually accepted, due to the pacing of how it was considered. The second death (Jack) sat not at all well, given the way it was presented (an eyeblink) and considered (hardly at all).

Patrick O'Brian; Blue at the Mizzen (W.W. Norton & Co.; 2000; cover by Geoff Hunt).

With Napoleon finally (heh) bottled up, Jack and Stephen can proceed on their "hydrographical expedition" (mapping plus revolutionary stirring) to South America. A complex plot of moves and counter-moves, changing alliances and orders complicates things. Making the best of the shifting sands, the action is called back overseas when a letter arrives. Jack has been made an Admiral of the Blue and will next command a fleet.

Patrick O'Brian; 21: The Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey (W.W. Norton & Co.; 2004; cover by Geoff Hunt).

A fragment, alas. O'Brian was only a few chapters (drafts at best) into the next volume (which would have taken Jack to his command near South Africa, and presumably would have taken Stephen closer to his fiance) when it all ends...

I titled this posting Two Years Before the Mast because I read these books, end-to-end, during two years (I could have gone through faster, but there are so many other books!). Amazing books, even having been read (some volumes) eight or more times since I first found them. I'm not sure if these would be my sole choice for a deserted isle, but they very might well be. Fantastic writing, amazing stories, wonderful characters, the food, the music...and...the sea. The eternal sea.

Where now, Columbus? I have several non-fiction books set in and around the era of The Canon. I have a couple of other O'Brian books, including two sea tales written before this series. Maybe a visit to Neal Stephenson and his Baroque Cycle, along with the non-fiction books I've collected for that series. Harry Flashman, maybe? We shall see!
Fred's Reading Report (July 2009)

A busy month!

204 books, year-to-date! Holy smokes! My eyeballs are going to fall out...

Part of the volume was the start of a reading project to celebrate the 40th anniversary of our first steps on the Moon.

Highlights of the month included several volumes of Patrick O'Brian, as well as David Drake's latest Leary of the RCN series (itself a homage to O'Brian, and a volume in which a certain Commander Kiesche appears!). A new author (to me) was John D. McDonald and his Travis McGee series. I finished several more volumes of Naruto, at least as far as the library or personal purchases had taken me!

On the short work side of things, 316 logged entries (there are probably, as usual, anywhere from several to a dozen not yet counted). Goal is 365 for the year and I'm comfortable that I'll make it.

See you next month!