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Worlds Without End Blog

2017 BSFA Shortlist Posted at 1:31 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

The Rift Dreams Before the Start of Time Exit West Provenance

The British Science Fiction Association has announced the shortlist for the 2017 BSFA Awards.

See the press release for the complete shortlists in all categories. The winners will be announced at the 69th Eastercon, Follycon, to be held March 30-April 2, 2018 at the Majestic Hotel Harrogate, UK.

2017 Aurealis Awards Finalists Posted at 8:32 AM by Dave Post

Dave Post

The finalists for the 2017 Aurealis Awards have been announced. The nominees in the SF, Fantasy, and Horror novel categories are:

Closing Down Terra Nullius Year of the Orphan An Uncertain Grace From the Wreck Lotus Blue

BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL

 

Crossroads of Canopy Gwen Cassandra Godsgrave Gap Year In Ghost Town Wellside

BEST FANTASY NOVEL

 

Aletheia Who's Afraid Too? Soon

BEST HORROR NOVEL

 

See the official press release for the all the nominees in all categories.

Winners of the 2017 Aurealis Awards will be announced at the Aurealis Awards ceremony during the Easter long weekend as part of the Swancon convention at the Pan Pacific hotel, Perth.

 

Reading the Pulps #1: “Quietus” by Ross Rocklynne Posted at 11:48 AM by James Wallace Harris

jwharris28

Original Source: Astounding Science-Fiction September 1940 (link to Luminist.org where you can find old issues of Astounding Science Fiction)

In Anthologies you might own:

WARNING: This column contains spoilers

I don’t remember reading any Ross Rocklynne before I started reading The Great SF Stories edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg. From the 1940 volume, I read “Into the Darkness,” Rocklynne’s impressive science fiction philosophical fairy tale that felt inspired by the writings of Olaf Stapledon. I probably read “Quietus” before in my youth because I loved the Adventures in Time and Space anthology, but I’ve totally forgotten it.

I’m undergoing a reading renaissance in science fiction in my retirement years that is as exciting as when I first discovered science fiction at age twelve. But it’s for a different reason. This time around, I’m thrilled by the history of science fiction and how its ideas, themes, and concepts evolved. And because many pulp magazines from that era are available online I can study them. I love trying to imagine how readers back then (whatever the date on the magazine) felt about the story with their then current knowledge. Our culture is so filled with science, and our pop culture so filled with science fiction, it’s hard to comprehend when their science fictional ideas were fresh and original.

“Quietus” begins with “The creatures from Alcon saw from the first that Earth, as a planet, was practically dead; dead in the sense that it had given birth to life, and was responsible, indirectly, for its almost complete extinction.”

Tark and Vascar, two intelligent beings evolved from birds on the planet Alcon, are on an exploration trip. Tark is male, Vascar is female. On their way home, they spot Earth. It appears that an asteroid has hit our world and only a small patch of green is left on the globe. This 1940 story grabbed my attention right away, reminding me of an avian version of Star Trek.

The Great Science Fiction Stories Volume 2, 1940The action next cuts to a naked young man on Earth killing and eating a rabbit raw. We quickly learn that Tommy survived the asteroid apocalypse as a child, becoming a feral kid living alone. He is now a young adult and his language skills are limited to that of childhood. Tommy has a crow companion named Blacky that parrots his words, and often saying phrases before Tommy, anticipating his reactions.

Tommy is driven by two kinds of hunger. One he knows for food, but the second he doesn’t understand until he finds the trail of a young woman. At this point, I worried that Rocklynne was going to give us one of those cliché Adam and Eve endings that used to show up in science fiction.

The story switches back to Tark and Vascar who spot Tommy and his quest with their viewer. They argue about what to do. Vascar wants to assume the crow is the intelligent species because it rides on Tommy’s shoulders and speaks commands to him. Tark wants to keep an open mind, assuming either could be the dominant species. There’s some nice speculation about what happened to the Earth, determining its future, and the proper approach to make when contacting the intelligent species of the planet. Tark is like Mr. Spock, analytical. Vascar is more like Kirk, impulsive.

The story jumps back and forth from Tommy’s point of view to those of the Alconians.

Eventually, Tommy gets closer to the elusive female. We start to feel for him and want them to meet and mate. Whenever he gets close, she panics at the sight of the crow and takes off again. At one point, Tommy gets mad at Blacky and starts to throw stones at him, when:

“It’s all your fault, Blacky!” Tommy raged. He picked up a rock the size of his fist. He started to throw it, but did not. A tiny, sharp sound bit through the air. Tommy pitched forward. He did not make the slightest twitching motion to show that he had bridged the gap between life and death.”

WTF!?! This is cold.

Rocklynne just killed our sympathetic character. That shocked me. I had already had two assumptions about where the story might go. First, I thought Tommy and the girl would mate and the Alconians would discover the humans were the intelligent species. Then they would think about how to protect the last pair of humans surviving on Earth. Or, I thought Tark and Vascar might take them away as a breeding pair to their planet. I wasn’t expecting them to do something we’d do.

Tark was furious at Vascar for killing the human. He says, “You have killed their species.” They eventually check out the crow, but it eludes them, and they begin to assume it’s not intelligent. Eventually, they return to their ship and head home to Alcon. For us, this is a story about the end of humanity.

After a bit of contemplation, I decide I really like this ending, even though it shocked me. I admired Rocklynne for having the guts to go against convention. This story is cold like “The Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin (Astounding Science Fiction, 1954).

Which brings me to concepts and themes. Besides interstellar travel, alien cultures, and space exploration teams, the story combines post-apocalyptic survival with the last men on Earth themes. Two of my favorites. Generally, science fiction offers hope we’ll survive, but occasionally, it writes our ending. Somehow science fiction has claimed stories about the first and last men as its territory. Two stories I recently read from 1939 were about Neanderthals. And “Quietus” is at least the second story I read in the last couple weeks about our end. The other was “Living Fossil” by L. Sprague de Camp.

But there’s another theme here that’s quieter. I’m guessing between 1926-1946 science fiction was ahead of the game when it came to promoting space travel ideas, but I’m not sure. As I read pulp fiction stories I’m paying attention to ideas and trends. I’m pretty sure the concept of spacesuits were developed in science fiction before they were theorized by scientists. But what about the ideas of space navigation, orbiting planets, escape velocity, airlocks, landings, interplanetary and interstellar travel, etc. We’ve grown up knowing all kinds of things about space travel, but I’m guessing those ideas didn’t exist before a certain point in time, and maybe science fiction introduced them to the public before scientists.

At one-point Rocklynne said, “The ship made a slow circuit of Earth” and I wondered when science and science fiction would start saying “going into orbit” or “achieving orbit” or some other common phrase we use today? That got me to thinking. This is 1940, way before Americans heard about V-1s and V-2s, but Robert Goddard had been working with rockets since the 1910s. On 1/12/20 The New York Times ran a front-page story, “Believes Rocket Can Reach Moon” about Goddard’s work. In 1924 Goddard published an article in Popular Science “How My Speed Rocket Can Propel Itself in Vacuum.” Goddard’s rockets didn’t look like rockets then.

Wikipedia says Goddard was often misunderstood and mocked. Goddard didn’t achieve liquid fuel flights until 1926. Lindbergh got interested in Goddard, and then the public started noticing him more in 1929 and 1930. Throughout the 1930s Goddard continued to develop rockets that began to look like modern rockets (cylinder with fins). Goddard’s work was probably well known by this 1940 story.  Here’s a 1924 article about rocketry in Popular Science that mentions Goddard and other rocket pioneers.

It’s hard to comprehend the public’s mindset of the past. Their science fiction came down to us, but not their popular science books. Yesterday I discovered I could read old issues of Popular Science online. These old issues are very revealing. In fact, they can be more fun than reading the old pulps.

My plan for this column is to discuss the stories I read and try to figure out how science fiction and science fictional ideas evolved in the popular conscience of the day.

JWH

 

 

 

The 2017 Bram Stoker Awards Final Ballot Posted at 9:25 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

Ararat Sleeping Beauties Black Mad Wheel I Wish I Was Like You Ubo

The Horror Writers Association has announced the 2017 Bram Stoker Awards Final Ballot. The finalists for Superior Achievement in a Novel are:

See the official press release for the nominees in all categories.

The presentation of the awards will occur during the third annual StokerCon, to be held March 1st-4th at the historic Biltmore Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island.

Solo: A Star Wars Story Official Teaser Posted at 6:01 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

Yeah, not bad at all.  What do you think?

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams – Starts Today on Prime Video Posted at 2:32 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

“From the mind of the prolific sci-fi author, comes the new anthology series Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams. With 10 standalone episodes and a sweeping all-star cast, each epic story will explore fantasy, humanity, and a future we’ve only begun to imagine.”

Stop. You had me at Buscemi. This looks particularly good based on the cast alone and it starts today! Not sure how I missed this but I’m glad I saw it in time.

Altered Carbon | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix Posted at 6:17 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

And my excitement continues to build. High expectations are a dangerous thing to have….

READY PLAYER ONE – Official Trailer 1 [HD] Posted at 2:33 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

This looks really good!  I will definitely have to read the book before this one comes out.

Altered Carbon | Date Announcement [HD] | Netflix Posted at 4:38 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

Hell yes.

Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War Official Trailer Posted at 10:11 AM by Dave Post

Dave Post

Don’t know about you but I am getting a little tired of super hero movies… but this is the big one we’ve been waiting a long time to see and it looks pretty damn good.