So we made it to Chicago on the train after 22 hours. That’s the first long train trip I’ve been on and it was very chill and they served me a steak and a beer so I can’t complain. We arrived in good order, checked into the hotel midst a lot of chaos as everyone was looking to get their bearings. The convention layout is a bit confusing with 2 towers and a building connecting them and an endless array of escalators and elevators not up to the task but I suppose we’ll get it figured out in time to leave.
Once we located our fan table we decided to wait until the next day to set up since we only had a few hours before the concourse was going to close. Chris and I spent the rest of the time wandering around the dealer room which is much bigger than last year with a lot more book peddlers on hand. So many books, so little money. I found lots of books to lust after but the prices were a mite too steep for my wallet. I dearly love a signed first edition but I love my wife more so I had to be content to window shop.
Whilst we were busy shopping Rico went looking for a panel. Being a teacher, “The Hunger Games in the Classroom” piqued his interest. The argument was put forth that The Hunger Games, and indeed YA fiction in general, dwells in the gutter for all the attention paid to it by high schools and universities and that it should be considered as fodder for college curricula. It was a WTF moment that he could not let pass without comment so he proceeded to make his contrary opinions known. Rico correctly, and annoyingly, pointed out that it’s written at a 3rd grade reading level and that no school concerned with it’s reputation, i.e. all of them, would consider such a possibility. He carried the point and consequently made no new friends that night.
We got together again and made our way by bus to “First Night at the Adler Planetarium” which was really great. The drive over showed us our first real glimpse of Chicago and I have to say this is a gorgeous city! The architecture is just beautiful in general with lots of old buildings mixed in with tasteful newer styles and the planetarium is no exception. It’s the oldest building of it’s kind in the western hemisphere with the addition of a huge modern wing with a sweeping view of Lake Michigan on one side and truly stunning view of the city on the other. We toured the exhibits (including a superb display of antique astronomical instruments), watched the show (where an alien entity tried to put us to sleep with it’s lilting sonorous voice) and enjoyed the light snacks on hand before we headed out for some real food around 9pm.
On our list of things to do while in Chicago is a series of eats that the city is famous for. Deep dish pizza was item number one and we found Giordarno’s just a few blocks from the hotel. The walk was pleasant with a lovely breeze and since it was 20 degrees cooler than back home we enjoyed it immensely. The pizza was delicious and ridiculously filling which is pretty much what you want from a pizza so we went back to the hotel with full bellies and called it a night. All in all a great first day at the con!
The WWEnd crew is headed north on the Amtrak Texas eagle for WorldCon in Chicago. Chris (whargoul), Rico (icowrich) and yours truly are going to be meeting up with Charles Dee and our buddy Chris at the convention where we’ll be taking in the con and showing off the site at our fan table. If you’re going to be there too be sure to stop by our table and say hi. We’ll be posting daily updates like we did last year so you can see what we’re up to.
Jeremy Frantz (jfrantz) reviews SF/F books on his blog The Hugo Endurance Project where he has given himself just 64 weeks to read every Hugo Award winner. This is his eighth GMRC review to feature in the blog and the second one this month.
Separated into three different but parallel stories, The Gods Themselves begins when scientists have discovered a way to exchange energy with another universe, the para-universe. Things get dicey when what is at first possibly the single greatest scientific achievement in history, threatens to become a horror story as it is understood that not only the two universes exchanging energy, but also physical laws which could result in our sun going nova.
Published in ’72, winner in ’73, this is another title that it seems difficult to separate from the public scientific discourse of its time. The early 70’s marked the passage of some of the most monumental environmental protection regulations in American history. I saw The Gods Themselves very clearly drawing on the experience of environmental and consumer protection messages being hashed out on the national political stage. But before I’ve got you thinking this is a book about vast conspiracies and coordinated cover-ups, rest assured Asimov elevates his discussion to broader epistemological concerns and again draws on the sentiment of the times as he pulls in questions that, given the 1962 publishing of Thomas Kuhn’s, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, spoke to the very heart of the philosophy of science in his day.
Guest Blogger, Allie McCarn, reviews science fiction and fantasy books on her blog Tethyan Books. She has contributed many great book reviews to WWEnd and has generously volunteered to write some periodic reviews for our blog.
“The Elder Isles, located in the modern-day Bay of Biscay, contain a number of independent, often contentious, kingdoms. Some of kingdom’s monarchs have an eye towards unifying the entire region under a single rule. One of these ambitious rulers is King Casmir of Lyonesse, who is determined to use anyone and anything he can to conquer the other islands. For the most part, his ambition gains him only powerful enemies and war.
It is Casmir’s pretty, powerless, neglected daughter Suldrun, however, whose sad life sets a wide-reaching tale in motion Though most of the excitement and magic is experienced by others, the start of it all can be traced back to Suldrun’s peaceful, isolated garden. In these kingdoms full of violence, war, magic, ogres and fairies, there are plenty of adventures—good and bad—to be had by young princes, cruel rulers, and powerful sorcerers.” ~Allie
Guest Blogger and WWEnd Member, Charles Dee Mitchell, has contributed a great many book reviews to WWEnd including his blog series Philip K. Dickathon and The Horror! The Horror! He can also be found on his own blog www.potatoweather.blogspot.com. This is Dee’s sixth GMRC review to feature in our blog.
My Junior high school library had a copy of Starship Troopers on the shelf. I never read it. I had read some of the Robert Heinlein juveniles, and I think I assumed Troopers was another. I had also read a paperback copy of The Puppet Masters, which was one of my first forays into genuinely adult SF and of course I loved it. But I loved monsters more than military, and so Troopers never caught my attention although I loved that first quote, “Come on, you apes. You want to live forever?”
Soon I quit reading science fiction in general and I got the word that Heinlein was the bully pulpit for the military establishment. Boo. Hiss. So I was was surprised that the novel was not nearly so jingoistic as I expected. I think it would have defeated me, however, in seventh grade. Despite the good action and cool bugs, that middle section of officer training school would have done me in.
A couple of reviews I read emphasized that the novel should not be confused with what the reviewers obviously considered the vastly inferior Paul Verhoeven 1997 film version. These reviewers must be the true believers. I loved the movie when I first saw it and thoroughly enjoyed it watching it again after reading the novel the other day. Verhoeven passes Heinlein’s text through the deconstructionist mill. (Did Michel Foucault get a consulting credit?) I’ve already said the novel did not strike me as the jingoistic broadside I anticipated, but what fun to see these minor celebrities giving their severely limited all to this high-gloss parody of everything Heinlein must have held dear. There is a rumor that the actors, few of whom were the sharpest pencils in the studio box, had no idea they were being made fun of. I think that like most young actors with few credits to their names they were more interested in their paychecks than in the socio-political implications of their characters.
Book and film should absolutely be absorbed as a single experience. Probably the book should be read first, just so you do not have to picture Casper Van Diehm in the leading role until the last possible moment.
Ray Bradbury is known especially for his short stories and novels that blur the line between fantasy and horror, but not everyone knows that he published a collection of poetry (with nearly 500 pages of verse!) named after the poem below.
They have not seen the stars,
Not one, not one
Of all the creatures on this world
In all the ages since the sands
First touched the wind,
Not one, not one,
No beast of all the beasts has stood
On meadowland or plain or hill
And known the thrill of looking at those fires.
Our soul admires what they,
Oh, they, have never known.
Five billion years have flown
In turnings of the spheres,
But not once in all those years
Has lion, dog, or bird that sweeps the air
Looked there, oh, look. Looked there.
Ah, God, the stars. Oh, look, there!
It is as if all time had never been,
Nor Universe or Sun or Moon
Or simple morning light.
Those beasts, their tragedy was mute and blind,
And so remains. Our sight?
Yes, ours? to know now what we are.
But think of it, then choose. Now, which?
Born to raw Earth, inhabiting a scene,
And all of it no sooner viewed, erased,
As if these miracles had never been?
Vast circlings of sounding fire and frost,
And all when focused, what? as quickly lost?
Or us, in fragile flesh, with God’s new eyes
That lift and comprehend and search the skies?
We watch the seasons drifting in the lunar tide
And know the years, remembering what’s died.
“Nine summers ago, I went for a visit,
To see if the moon was green cheese.
When we arrived, people on earth asked: “Is it?”
We answered: “No cheese, no bees, no trees.”
There were rocks and hills and a remarkable view
Of the beautiful earth that you know,
It’s a nice place to visit, and I’m certain that you
will enjoy it when you go.”
Neil Armstrong (1930-2012),
written 1978 for the pleasure of children
Thanks for all you did, Mr. Armstrong — both on earth and above it.
The first exciting steps are closer than you might think. “We’re launching the first telescopes” they say, “in 18 months“. A February 2014 launch date would certainly help convince me this project might actually happen. They also plan on having “10-15” of them over the next 5 years.
They go on to talk about how they’ll find promising asteroids, and then send rocket-powered versions of these telescopes to the rocks, themselves (very cool). Then they unveil this little tidbit:
There is one incredible concept: We could place the asteroid in an orbit between the Earth and Mars to allow astronauts who want to get there to hop on and off it like a bus. Think about that. You could make a spacecraft out of the asteroid.
Wha-what? These are asteroids that will also be strategically positioned to provide rocket fuel in various stages on the way to Mars. According to Anderson, future Mars programs may rely on Planetary Resources for fuel:
One of our first goals is to deploy networks of orbital rocket propellant depots, effectively setting up gas stations throughout the inner solar system to open up highways for spaceflight.
In the meantime, the search for killer asteroids is being called off:
When we visited the sea lab in early July, staff were getting ready for a visit from James Cameron and Sylvia Earle, in the hopes of drumming up more political support amidst a flagging budget. But in late July, the bad news surfaced: NOAA announced budget cuts that are likely to imperil it for good. “There were signals that the budget was tight but we didn’t think it would be zeroed out,” Thomas Potts, director of Aquarius, told ABC News in July, when the $5 million budget was killed. The lab, which is used extensively during the year for a wide spectrum of non-space-related oceanic research, is no longer mission-ready.
This, despite NASA estimates that there are 4,700 potentially hazardous asteroids. How does NASA define “potentially hazardous”?
NASA defines a potentially hazardous asteroid as one large enough to survive the intense heat generated by entry into the atmosphere and cause damage on a regional scale or worse.
I know the overall odds of a strike are statistically low at any given time, but, you know, considering the world could end, isn’t $5 million a pretty paltry sum, given that the US measures its GDP in the trillions?
Long time WWEnd member and Uber User, Emil Jung, is an obsessive SF/F reader and as such he’s become a huge supporter of WWEnd. (We often refer to him as our “South African Bureau.”) Besides hanging out here, Emil writes poetry on his blog emiljung.posterous.com. This is the sixth of Emil’s GMRC reviews to feature in our blog.
First, a confession. I have not before this book read any of Jack Vance‘s novels. Even so I’m well aware of the fact that he has long been regarded as a very accomplished creator of planetary romances and “dying Earth” fantasies, of which many fine reviews have been submitted for the GMRC. Most reviewers laud his genius for coining memorable and believable nouns for unearthly beings and artefacts, all the more solidying successful attempts to create memorable, spellbinding worlds impregnated with Damon Knight‘s sense of wonder. In The Languages of Pao Vance has created another clever, original adventure story, radiating with verbal and world-building skills. As this is the only Vance I’ve read, I can’t compare its magniloquence and style with other work, but can state that it certainly has enticed me to read more from his corpus.
The focus of the novel is on linguistics, built around a plot structure powered by the idea of vocabulary as humankind’s means of progress, but despite the seemingly high concept nature of the story, it’s far from an academic read. It starts off with an assassination of Panarch Panasper, apparently by his son Beran. It’s all a clandestine conspiracy by Beran’s uncle Bustamonte, who becomes the Regent while Beran himself is spirited away to Breakness, a world dominated by the Wizards of the Institute, males with cunning intellects that are only matched by their cybernetic augmentations, which bestow them with superpowers. Beran’s benefactor Palofax is the most augmented man on Breakness, and under his tutelage Beran grows to manhood while studying linguistics. From the outset Bustamonte’s reign is beset with difficulties, and Pao is easily conquered by raiders from the planet Batmarsh and forced to pay substantial annual tributes. Bustamonte travels to Breakness to secure help from Palofax, who has his own designs on Pao. They agree that a new breed of Paonese is required, because until then Pao has largely been a rural population that was culturally, linguistically and politically identical. Even in their language the Paonese were conspicuously docile and dispassionate and devoid of a fighting spirit. It’s inexplicable how a planet with 15 billion souls could be so easily overcome by a mere 10,000! Palofax is intent on changing the psychological foundation of Pao, which begins with the Paonese language: