The editor of this magazine [Ray Bradbury], under the impression that I am still one of that queer tribe known as science-fiction fans, has asked me to write an article. I am no longer a science-fiction fan. I'm through! However, I have decided to do the article and explain with my chin leading just why I am through.
"First Contact" first aired January 15, 1958, from the series Exploring Tomorrow. It is based on a novelette by Murray Leinster, first published in 1945.
Thoughts Before Listening
Aliens probably? It would cool if this weren't about aliens. It’s probably about aliens though.
Three old science fiction stories, liberated from the vaults of Project Gutenberg. Includes E.E. Doc Smith's "Tedric", Charles Dake's A Strange Discovery (his sequel to Poe's Arthur Gordon Pym) and C.H. Hinton's Scientific Romances. They're all... flawed... but very interesting.
"Tedric" (1953) and "Lord Tedric" (1954) by E.E. Doc Smith
"Tedric" is good ol' fashioned sword and sorcery novelette, bracketed by some science fictional wand-waving. Professors from the SPACEFUTURE see the Darkest Timeline coming about and, accordingly, fiddle about in the past to find a way of preventing it. Their roving time-eye lands on Tedric - an ironworker in a quasi-fantasy realm who is disgruntled with the whole 'human sacrifice' ethos of the reigning theocracy. The friendly professors pass Tedric the secrets of steelworking and the ironworker (6'4" and 200+ pounds of man-muscle) builds himself an Iron Steel Man suit and a big sword. A one man revolution ensues.
The most interesting thing about Star Wars: The Force Awakens has to do with the cultural moment into which it was received. I don’t mean that it has been greeted so rapturously by fans and cinema-goers, that it has already earned a shedload of money, that it is set fair to overtake Avatar as the highest grossing movie of all time—we could all see that coming a mile off. I mean the acute and often panicky paranoia about spoilers this release has occasioned. How angry people get! Spoiling Star Wars became suddenly one the worst things a person could do, just below genocide and just above admitting a fondness for Coldplay.
[Editor's note: ...which is probably the right time to say - "contains spoilers".]
Fiction: "The Time-Traveling Mystery-Solving Teens in... Murder on Dinosaur Island!" by Benjamin Blattberg
We are excited to watch this because...
Minal: I like psychic powers and hot, powerful women of color. I really like watching or reading stuff without too much information, so all I know is that it's some sort of speculative fiction show that is probably science fiction but possibly also fantasy (magic?) and that it has some diversity to it, i.e. characters all over the world. As an American writer who has been fairly preoccupied with questions of diversity, multiculturalism, and globalization of culture for 20+ years, and also as a lover of SFF, I'm curious to see how they do it. Will the story be engaging? Will the characters ring true or will they be multiculti shells that are like demographic tickboxes (like ‘Quantico’ - here's the hot brown babe, here’s the gay dude, here’s the token straight white guy for all the “normal” viewers out there).
Kuzhali: I’m actually so excited for this I can’t even tell you. Even though I’ve been threatened by a certain acquaintance with “the Ganesha clip”, even though I’ve read waaaay too much about how the show is so great, how it is not so great, even though I don’t really know what 'sensate', 'limbic' or 'resonance' really mean, I don’t care, EXCITED AS FUCK TO SEE THIS OMG
Aleriel is out now - a resurrected Victorian space travel novel, complete with a new sequel from Molly Tanzer. (Molly's had a busy week!) Molly's sequel puts a new spin on the original novel. Lach-Szyrma's titular Venusian traveller was particularly impressed by the theocratic society he finds on Mars. Molly? Less so, and "Civilisation and Its Discontents" shows this presumed utopia from a different perspective.
So, naturally, we asked Molly for a short list of some of her other favourite dystopias, so, without further ado...
I mean, even considering that BioShock was too scary for me to play, and 1984 and Brave New World seemed too easy, these were some tough choices. In the end, I settled on this list, which I felt were (1) a nice mix of various media, and (2) also contain utopias disguised as dystopias, and vice versa. Enjoy!
Adeline Radloff's Sidekick (2010) is about, well, a sidekick. Katie Holmes (no, not that one - a joke that's just barely on acceptable side of annoying) is a teen adoptee, living with her foster mom and and Finn. Finn is Bruce Wayne. Mom is Alfred. Katie is Robin.
There's a little more complexity to it (there's a more Alfred-y Alfred, but he died somewhere in the past, for example), but that's the book in a nutshell. Finn, unlike Batman, has actual superpowers as well - he can fuss around with time, although there are various limitations and side effects that are introduced as the book goes on. Katie is remarkable because, besides Finn, she's the only person that isn't frozen solid when Finn does his time-travel mojo. Which means she can help Finn move stuff around, save lives, fight evil, remember to eat a sandwich, and, you know, be a sidekick.
Our erratic and extremely particular publishing wing, Jurassic London, has a new (or very old) title on the horizon: Aleriel, A Voyage to Other Worlds.
First published in 1883, Aleriel is one of the early classics of science fiction. The titular hero explores the Solar System - from his homeworld of Venus to the 'inchoate horrors of Saturn', with lengthy stops to visit a Utopian society on Mars and, of course, Earth. Notable for the way the novel incorporated the latest scientific, political and religious thinking, Aleriel is also the first work of fiction to use the words 'Martian' or 'Venusian' to describe the residents of these planets.
This new edition of Aleriel contains the author's original prefaces and end-notes to the first and second editions, and comes with a lengthy introduction from the Richard Dunn (Head of Science and Technology, Royal Museums Greenwich) and Marek Kukula (Public Astronomer, Royal Observatory Greenwich), discussing the role our celestial neighbours - especially Mars - have played in inspiring contemporary fiction.
As a further bonus, Vermilion and The Pleasure Merchant's (and Pornokitsch's) Molly Tanzer has written a brand new sequel to Aleriel, "Civilisation and Its Discontented", which investigates the repercussions of Aleriel's visit to Mars.
The cover is by Jonathan Edwards, whose distinctive style can be found in the Guardian, Q and NME, as well as adorning album covers by, amongst others, The Black Eyed Peas.