It Might Be a Classic, and I Might Even Like It

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My memory of the excellent novel by Jeff Vandermeer is shaky, but not THAT shaky. ANNIHILATION really is a case of a major book “inspiring” a big-budget movie. The director/writer Alex Garland is no slouch with a pen, and he wrote a loose adaptation of the book, with little worry about being faithful.

The result is an impressive attempt to bring an adult sensibility about life and love to a story of a quasi-military mission into a distorted region that may be a case of first contact with an alien life form. It’s part of the wave of mainstream non-action SF, and would appeal to fans of CONTACT, INTERSTELLAR and THE ARRIVAL.

Natalie Portman is very good as the lead, but Jennifer Jason Leigh really holds the screen as a scientist leading the expedition into “The Shimmer,” a region affected by a meteor strike, resulting in mutation of plants and animals.

Like The Zone in Tarkovsky’s STALKER, The Shimmer is a place of wild vegetation. This being a Hollywood flick, there are also mutated animals a.k.a. monsters. The encounters with these are highlights. I can imagine people talking about movies they’ve seen bringing this up, and in less than ten seconds someone says, “And what about that BEAR thing? That was messed up!”

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“You first.”

This has a small cast for a movie with such scale. That the team is made up of women is brought up and dispensed with in probably three seconds. We get snapshots of each of these people and understand who they are and why they’re interested in The Shimmer.

Where the movie goes off for me is in the reaching of the heart of The Shimmer. STALKER dealt with this issue by not penetrating the mystery, and making the reasons why the characters choose to NOT go into the room they’ve come to see the whole point–WHY would they not go in? You can only play that card so many times, though. ANNIHILATION climaxes with an encounter with the alien life inside The Shimmer, in a kind of biological version of the 2001 Star Gate sequence. Like another Tarkovsky, SOLARIS, the alien is TRULY alien; unlike something like STAR TREK, here the alien remains totally Other and incomprehensible. After discovering what happened/is happening to those who tried to explore The Shimmer before her, Portman confronts and interacts with the alien/aliens. We’re left with an “Is she or isn’t she?” ending, but it was like Garland shrugged and said, “Whatever.”

Worth seeing? Definitely. A masterpiece I’m too slow to grasp? Probably. But there’s something missing that makes ANNIHILATION feel thin, to me.

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Dog Days and Irishmen

I’m kind of spinning around these days, lacking focus, but I’ll get back to regular posting someday. This is just a way of touching base.

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I’ve been reading a steady diet of horror stories these days, while I shape up and send out horror submissions. All this horror is surprisingly invigorating–the best horror stories aren’t about pushing your face into the mud. The finest horror stories have a core of wonder about the unknown.

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Still kinda bummed about Ellison. But when you get to be my age (old), you don’t have such tight connections to celebrities and other strangers as you do when you’re young.

But Harlan was a special case.

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Crumbling vistas!

BLADE RUNNER 2049 was just as good the second time. I still think it’d be better if they cut out the virtual reality girlfriend, and the unnecessary cat-and-mouse crap before K and Dekkard talk. But they’re minor flaws in the best SF film in years.

ALIEN: COVENANT still sucks, though. The first ALIEN movie I didn’t watch more than once. (I don’t count those Predator abominations.)

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I blew up my computer. I dug out an old laptop to use, and blew that up, too.

Two computers in 24 hours.

I had to reformat this computer, and lose a whole month’s writing. I don’t wanna talk about this anymore, other than to say it’s forced me to pause and consider what I’m doing.

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I just read this for the third time. I wish he’d write another book–his others are very good–but could such a book be written about the last decade’s movies?

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As Robert Silverberg says when asked for writing advice:

Read, read, read.

Write, write, write.

 

Harlan

When you’re a kid, people you know only through their art can seem unreal. Artists, musicians and writers are out there somewhere, in the big wide world, living exciting lives that are so very different from the dull, routine ones the adults around you live. Writers, for example, spend their days making up interesting stories. You don’t know them, but if you’re a kid who finds the world confusing and scary sometimes, a writer’s work can offer shelter and also guidance.

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Artists we discover as kids, when we’re susceptible to being inspired, can become heroic to us just by producing work that touches us. When you’re a kid, you don’t get to pick who’s going to inspire you. It just happens, and your life might follow a certain path because of a writer’s work, without you even knowing it.

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“I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream” was the first Ellison story I read. I think; memory can be tricky. It is about the last few people left on Earth after a nuclear apocalypse caused by a supercomputer, which has kept these people alive in order to torture them. After several sadistic episodes, the story climaxes in what can only be called a stunning act of self-sacrificial homicide.

I read an obituary of Ellison that claimed he didn’t write about love or compassion, which did not fill me with hope for the state of journalism.

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I first encountered Harlan Ellison in an issue of Starlog magazine in the seventies. He complained about his treatment by Hollywood, he complained about how people behave, and he complained about science fiction. I had never read an interview with someone who talked like that, who was so passionate about writing. It made me want to be that passionate about something, too.

As a pre-teenager who liked comic books and Creature Double Feature, I was surprised that someone was pushing the idea that sci fi could be about important things, maybe things that weren’t important to me at that point, but things adults were interested in. I was going to be an adult someday, so maybe I should think about these things, too.

Harlan was interested in comic books and movies and fiction, but he was also interested in ethical behavior, and women’s rights, and racism, and doing the right thing. This was heady stuff for a kid whose favorite thing in the world was The Fantastic Four.

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“Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes” is about a prostitute whose soul ends up stuck inside a slot machine, and the loser who is seduced into changing places with her. It’s about hate and bitterness and the way love gets warped and can be used for selfish ends.

It’s also about the shocking idea that men have feelings, too. Women aren’t the only ones who are lonely, who long for love. Ellison wrote about this not in some fat-headed “privileged” way or as special pleading, but as one would talk about the simple reality that EVERYONE deserves love. Yes, even “white boys.”

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I bought every book of his I could get my hands on, looking for more of that high octane stuff. I bought lots of science fiction and often ended up disappointed. The few exceptions included the work of Robert Silverberg and Samuel R. Delany, whose works were not like Ellison’s but seemed rooted in the real world, too. Though I also enjoyed Roger Zelazny and Theodore Sturgeon, I discovered that Ellison didn’t write science fiction stories, he wrote Harlan Ellison stories.

I went to my first science fiction convention (I’ve only attended one other) and saw Ellison talk for a couple of hours. He was very entertaining, talking about Star Dreck: The Motionless Picture and his friend Terry Carr and so many other things. He made the 14-year-old me think the world was waiting for me, and it could be great or it could be terrible, but no one was going to hand you anything, you had to go out and live an adventure. The next day he had an autograph session. I presented two items for him to sign, and he said hello, signed the magazines. I stood there like a dope, saying nothing. I thanked him, and this ogre, this horrible man who says mean things about people, thanked ME.

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“Jeffty is Five” is the story of a boy who’s friends with this weird kid who’s into comic books and radio adventures. The hero moves away, goes to college, starts a business and comes back to his home town, where he finds that Jeffty is still five. It’s one of those stories that builds a little home in your memories, and even though you age and experience life and read more profound or more critically-accepted, less-sentimental fiction, there it is, still in there, making you think a little each time you remember it.

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Ellison kept writing. I bought each of his books as they appeared, watched the new Twilight Zone because he was involved, bought every magazine that included a story or interview or column.

And then, in the nineties, I kind of drifted away from him.

Or, he drifted away from me. A guy who was always complaining about how loathsome TV is seemed to grab every TV job that came his way; a guy who bragged about his upcoming novels being on the bestseller lists never came out with a novel in my lifetime; a guy who used to rack up awards and nominations started selling to few top markets. He seemed to go into the underground of an already subterranean genre. He seemed like what many of his critics called him, just a crank who talked a good game but was off to the side while others writers took the spotlight that you’d think Harlan commanded, the way he talked.

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As I came into contact with a wider variety of people I discovered that not all successful people not named Harlan Ellison were evil, and not all  non-white people were saintly–and that stereotyping them as such was insulting and dehumanizing. His patronizing attitude toward poor black and Hispanic people, as he does in his Twilight Zone screenplay Nackles, became annoying, and embarassing. When he was on, as in Mephisto in Onyx, he could use race and the idea of ‘white privilege’ to force the reader to question his or her beliefs about race. But he often came off as a typical Hollywood liberal, looking down on those who weren’t as enlightened even as he talked about how noble were the folks he didn’t seem to know much about beyond the cliches of a 60’s liberal.

Ellison was always bragging about how many women he’d been with, how much money he made, and how with-it he was. He’d throw something at me if he heard this, but the person in our culture who seems most like Ellison is Donald Trump.  Ellison’s reputation with women included an infamous case with a writer, which resulted in the man who championed the equal rights amendment to the constitution being considered a sexist pig. Yet for all his being a bigmouth, a womanizer and, frankly, a liar, Ellison is an example of someone who can be all those things and still be good at his work.

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“A Boy and His Dog” is great. The movie is great, but Harlan was right about that last line. The sequel story, “Eggsucker,” is heartbreaking. Killing off Vic and having Blood hook up with a woman seems like the act of someone bowing to pressure. Even self-described gadflies care what others think about them. In this case, I think he ruined something that could have been expanded into a novel.

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I think THE ESSENTIAL ELLISON was the last hardcover of Ellison’s I bought until the White Wolf hardcovers, which were reprints of books I already had. That series was abandoned, and Ellison seemed to get away from me. I’ve been told by someone who knew him that Ellison had many problems with publishers, which makes sense. Harlan discussed his own health problems and writing issues.

He was still alive, still working, but he sure seemed to do a lot of convention appearances. The people he used to mock, the sci fi fans, became a big source of income. I have zero problem with that, or with doing commercials or anything done to make money legally, but it’s odd to see all that when for years he made a point of how much he hated it.

He used to behave like the only writer who was on the ball, too busy writing big Hollywood movies to ever go back to TV or deal with those pimple-faced nerds, winning awards and grabbing headlines. But in the last few years he published a lot of books you could order from him but couldn’t find in a book store. He wasn’t writing the stories or novels people were talking about.

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“Shattered Like A Glass Goblin” is an anti-drug story, but it is indicative of something so few seem to grasp in the drug debate, that one can be all for people doing what they want and still criticize what they’re doing. Ellison didn’t do drugs, and believed in legalization, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t depict what a waste of time it is to do that crazy shit.

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I think that sometime in the eighties Harlan lost his way.  Short stories just aren’t a major part of today’s culture, not even today’s comic book and SF culture. People ask “Have you seen that new movie?” or TV episode or even read that novel; they don’t much talk about short stories. And Harlan was a writer of short stories. His television work was negligible, episodes of shows that never broke through to the audience I suspect he really wanted–for all his excellence, his knowledge of SF and comic book history, he never created a LOST, or a comic book adapted into a hit movie, or a STAR TREK (despite writing the best episode of the original show).

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Harlan’s introductions in DANGEROUS VISIONS and AGAIN, DANGEROUS VISIONS are some of his best writing. Someone should collect all of his introductions into a book. Well, a series of books.

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Or it might be something else. It might be something that happens to many writers, including songwriters. Harlan got married. A video I saw a few years ago shows a husband and wife who truly liked each other. I don’t say this lightly, it might be the case that he just became a happy person and lost some of what fueled his work.

But something changed, and it impacted my enjoyment of his fiction. There’s a reason that almost all of my favorites of his work come from the sixties and seventies. He always had a streak of self-righteousness that emerged in almost every story, usually as the Ellison stand-in lecturing other characters and especially the reader as to proper behavior and the right way to think. Often his stories were dramatically flawed because Ellison did all the work for the reader–you always knew which was the right way to think about whatever issue was being discussed. The right way, of course, was Harlan’s way. Other stories were simply anecdotes, or situations described in his amped-up, excessive manner.

Luckily, I had all those old paperbacks of his, a kind of comfort food reading. Harlan would lose his lunch if he knew his sexual, violent stories, meant to burn readers’ minds, were some fans’ fuzzy teddy bears.

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Some of Ellison’s stories from the sixties deal with racism and loneliness in ways no other genre writer has ever dealt with them, with such open pain behind them. Later stories such as “Croatoan,” “Hitler Painted Roses” and “In Fear of K” address the wounds left by romantic relationships using fantasy backgrounds. I don’t think they’d find much interest from contemporary readers of SF and fantasy.

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It’s silly to try to carry childhood heroes into adulthood, but I think Ellison’s work was so fine, his manner so entertaining, and his talk about ethics and decent behavior so important that long after I tossed aside hero worship, I still kept an eye on his career, still picked up any books of new Ellison material, and was happy when he won awards. I liked knowing he was still in the world.

Harlan inspired me in everything from choosing to follow a writing career to working with the homeless and at-risk youth. He also inspired some of the dumbest things I’ve ever done. But there are borders of responsibility strangers cannot penetrate; we have to take responsibility for our own choices in life, not blame someone we never met whose work we got something from that changed us for life, for better or for worse.

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He talked and wrote about people who didn’t have anything, about victims, about the lonely and the oppressed, all in genre fiction which is either junk or P.C. pamphelteering. He was a significant person in a world where most of us just manage to endure, and he lived the kind of life most people never even bother dreaming about.

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“The Deathbird” is an example of a “dated” story, I guess. It’s a relic of the New Wave, it’s written in an unconventional style that would probably be mocked in a modern writing class, and its goals could be met in a more Carver-like way. I guess. But Ellison was a fantasist, and a lover of art and film, and in this story you can see someone taking the death of his mother and painting on a huge canvas in order to depict the depth of his feeling. Hemingway-like stripped-down language is not the only acceptable way to talk about things. Sometimes, depicting the death of your mother and your dog using planet-destroying birds can get at you in a way a more respectable method might not.

Just like writing a couple thousand words about someone you only met for a few minutes a couple of times can have meaning, if only for the one writing it, in ways more straightforward memoirs could.

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It just figures that when Ellison’s death is the topic I’d drone on too long, unable to express a few sentiments at reasonable length. But, like Harlan, I feel justified. Because to this person who didn’t know him, Ellison had significance.

I know no one lives forever, but I’m sad that he’s gone.

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Race and Time: THE YEAR OF THE QUIET SUN

EXTRA SPECIAL WARNING: SUPER DUPER SPOILERS!

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I like Wilson Tucker’s titles. THE LONG LOUD SILENCE is a grim post-apocalyptic story about plague victims quarantined in a ravaged America. It originally climaxed with the hero eating the heroine, but that bit didn’t make it to the published book. (Harlan Ellison’s A BOY AND HIS DOG came out over a decade later.) It was runner-up to Alfred Bester’s THE DEMOLISHED MAN for the first Hugo for Best Novel.

Tucker published twenty books and some short stories, but he never really made the big time like some other lesser writers. His biggest success was his award-winning novel of time travel and race war.

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Biblical scholar Brian Chaney takes part in a time travel project. The U.S. president insists the project go forward so Chaney can come back and tell him if he’s re-elected in 1980. Two military men go forward, but Chaney, who goes last, ends up arriving earlier in time than the other two. There he learns the president has won by using racial tensions, specifically in Chicago, which he has divided with a wall.

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Chaney and the other two go forward again. Cheney ends up in 1999, when America in the middle of a race war, a big topic in the early seventies. This was written in a time when political novels were written not about Democrat vs. Republican so much as about the actual issues parties fought about. You don’t have to think hard to figure out the positions of parties in Wilson’s imagined future, but Wilson goes beyond “Look at how bad Those Guys are!” Chaney goes into the future again and sees the further fallout from President Meek’s actions.

The major subplot involves Cheney’s love for Kathryn, the woman who recruited him to the project. It’s low-key and believable, and shows another angle on the time travel concept.

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YEAR OF THE QUIET SUN is not about action, not about spectacle. The characters are well-drawn and believable, and we learn about them gradually. The big reveal is hinted at early on but is blown by Michael Whelan’s cover for one of the reprintings. It’s as significant as the ending to Charles Willeford’s PICK UP, in its way, and makes you think about what you’ve been reading in a new way.

The tone of QUIET SUN is similar to that of the movie IDAHO TRANSFER, which you might not have seen, so I’ll have to write about that soon. Meanwhile, if you want a slow-paced novel of time travel and race, THE YEAR OF THE QUIET SUN is worth reading.

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The Day the Earth Stood Still and Took It

I’ve never understood the praise lavished on THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.

I love the score by Bernard Herrmann. The acting is good. The few visual effects are expertly done. “Klaatu Barada Necco” is the coolest way to ask for the worst candy.

I THINK it’s beloved because it is unabashedly anti-war while the Cold War was on. It’s loved today because it shows that Hollywood could make mainstream entertainment with Progressive themes.

My response to that is–Well, who was STOPPING you?

And who’s stopping you TODAY?

The same folks who were behind blacklisting: Hollywood.

That’s a whole ‘nother topic I won’t get into here. Maybe on my rampaging politics-almost-only Twitter feed, which I do not recommend. Stay away from it.

The thing is, if DAY could be made as ‘intelligent’ science fiction, there was no outside governmental or conservative force preventing more such films from being made and accepted by the public. Instead, Hollywood liberals talked the talk, then ran and hid when their wallets were at risk. I’m not putting them down, but one good development from the current Red Scare is that Hollywood’s finally STFU about the McCarthy era, which for decades was up there with concentration camps and Soviet show trials (which you rarely heard about here) as the worst thing ever to be done by anyone. Just step around those piles of Soviet and Nazi and Chinese bodies, a handful of people had to use pen names… This is why I avoid politics here.

But man, what an overrated bore this movie is. Overrated meaning “Everyone else thinks it’s a classic but I don’t like it.”

WARNING: Don’t read this if you think DAY is an untouchable masterpiece or have no sense of humor. But I repeat myself…

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“It’s message of peace is cool, but cooler is when Gort kills people and destroys things!”

I like how Hugh Marlowe is shown to be a villain by saying his bride-to-be will be proud of him once she sees him in the paper for turning in Public Enemy #1. Everyone in Hollywood would kill to be on the front page of the paper for anything short of eating a living baby.

“I don’t care about the rest of the world!” And thus, Hugh is revealed as a total villain, or just a regular person who makes a bad judgment and spouts off during an argument. So understanding of human flaws, folks in Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey’s line of work.

“Your choice is simple: join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration.” The message of every conquering warlord ever.

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Scientist with flyaway hair = Einstein

“I’m impatient with stupidity. My people have learned to live without it.” How? Eugenics, or just deleting any opposing viewpoints?

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War is bad. Deep.

“We have come to visit you in peace and with goodwill.” And then there’s the whole ‘turn your planet into a burned-out cinder’ thing.

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The worst thing about DAY?

White hero, white villain(s), white heroine, white supporting characters…and a couple cuts to non-white faces (no speaking roles) during the big speech at the end. See CURSE/NIGHT OF THE DEMON for a living, breathing, talking Indian supporting character, oh Progressive self-congratulating Hollywoodies.

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Special effects are used carefully, and all are nicely-done.

Fear and ignorance are what Bad People have in the world of this movie. Why would anyone be afraid of an alien being approaching them holding what looks like a lethal dildo, which spouts spines while a stranger is holding it like a weapon?

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It’s a radio. Oh, maybe I should’ve told you that before I pointed it at you and made the pointy things pop out threateningly.

People get really pretentious when writing about this movie. “And so begins one of Hollywood’s greatest…” “Iconic” and “undisputed” and “masterpiece” must show up in any article written about this.

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Clearly, a tale of peace and understanding, not like those sci fi flicks we watch over and over, because, uh…

Do what we say, or we’ll kill you with our Death Star-level weapon. AH, THE POWER OF RATIONAL THOUGHT! Attack of the Clones should’ve gotten a Nobel Peace Prize. The idea is floated to give the UN the equipment and manpower to put down aggression.

Where is all this peace stuff coming from?

Robert Wise was a good, efficient, no-nonsense director who has been elevated to greatness he doesn’t deserve. His rep is used to claim STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE is an overlooked classic, and that’s just going too far. ANDROMEDA STRAIN is cold, efficient and very well-written, a unique way of doing an ‘alien virus’ movie. Like DAY, it’s sci fi for people who’re otherwise embarrassed to be watching sci fi.

(Yes, I know the comic book came years and years later, I’m trying not to get too heavy.)

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Hi, I’m Jesus, can I have a room?

The nods to Mr. Carpenter as Christlike savior would be laughed out of any other movie. Ditto all of Klaatu’s talk about honor and Mr. Lincoln. “Patriotic flag-waving flapdoodle, I say!” – DAY fan in alternate reality

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He can destroy planets but he moves like an arthritic old man, knocking over furniture.

How stupid the way you respond to fear! Now watch us turn off all power on Earth! Doesn’t that make you happy?!?!

In 1950, Klaus Fuchs, German scientist, gave Soviets nuclear secrets. The ‘witch hunt’ the makers and fans of this movie talk about in the DVD extras is a bit more complex than that.

Maybe if those folks weren’t so self-satisfied that liking a cool little SF movie makes them so much smarter than those silly folks who’d recently put  a world war behind them, I might go easier on this. But probably not.

Sorry, I know people like this movie. But as is the case with many things we experience in childhood (ex. breast milk), THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL has a very inflated reputation. It’s not awful, it’s decent. But it’s not the unimpeachable classic it’s made out to be. For me, it’s not even in the top ten best SF of the fifties.

Rant over.

The Many Covers of the First Novel I Ever Read

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Cover art by–I’m guessing–Dean Ellis

My father used to bring home the occasional book from work. He worked for a utility company, and guys who read on their breaks would leave books behind for others to read.

I remember being in bed sick for a couple of days. But without documentation, how can I know this is the case?

My father came home one day and gave me a comic book adaptation of The Invisible Man.

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I  think it’s this one. Date seems about right.

He also gave me THE LAST PLANET by Andre Norton. I didn’t read it right away, but I was fascinated by the cover art showing a white starship coming in for a hard landing–this is actually what happens right before the book starts. The cover shows the backstory.

Previous covers were a lot less my style.

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While the one above is too old-fashioned (aka “old school”) the one below is by Richard Powers. It’s cool, but the original really fits the book beautifully, setting the tone of mystery that leads to an ending that’s pretty obvious to an adult. To a kid, I didn’t really understand it until much later.

I’ll mention it below this cover.

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The old faithful, “The deserted planet we crashed on is earth!” It kind of makes sense in context, he said weakly.

I haven’t read any others in the series, but Norton was pretty consistent, i.e. all her books are pretty much like all the others. She was a big seller, but since her audience was of kids who liked sci-fi, she got zero critical attention for most of her long career. I suspect she’s known by a lot more readers than many other writers. Just check out her publishing history. The woman wrote cleanly and effectively i.e. she churned ’em out.

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Not a bad cover to show some diversity–the crew is made up of aliens and humans, ala the later Star Trek show you might be familiar with.

The latest cover I’m aware of is actually the one closest to a scene in the book.

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THE LAST PLANET/STAR RANGERS is a fun book, nothing you need to read. The cover is still the standard for book covers of adventure sci-fi for me. It makes me hope the book inside is going to live up to the cover.

This one did.

 

Even Minor PKD Ain’t Bad: VULCAN’S HAMMER

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Surprisingly accurate cover. No, they’re not killer flashlights.

Having read some of his earliest stories recently, I’m a little more open to Philip K. Dick’s journeyman stuff, the stories he expanded into novels so he could feed his family. The pleasant surprise for me has been in watching PKD rapidly develop from a sci-fi writer into the guy who wrote PKD science fiction novels.

VULCAN’S HAMMER is from 1960. It’s a post-war world rejuvenated by giving all power to Vulcan 3, a computer that can build extra levels for itself. A bureaucracy sustains Vulcan 3, led by Dill, the only man who actually “feeds” info to Vulcan 3. There is a barely-defined opposition that’s been killing some of the bureaucracy that sustains the world government, but Vulcan 3 hasn’t been getting this intelligence.

Soon after an agent is killed by a mob (in the opening scene), the predecessor to Vulcan 3, Vulcan 2, is blown up. How? Who…or what…could’ve done that–and why? Why not just blow up the controlling model?

The plot follows Dill and one of his subordinates, a regional director named Barris who is being set up as a traitor. The paranoia stuff is a little cursory–yeah, I don’t trust you, well I don’t trust YOU–but this is kind of a kiddie version of PKD. I could see the young me reading it and wanting to read more of this guy’s stuff. (One of the leaders of the opposition has a child who seems to be a major character at first, then disappears into the re-education wing of the government…)

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The best cover for this book. I like that it proudly pushes the tape reel-level tech.

I’ll level with you: this ain’t great. Other books have dealt with these ideas in much more fluent, informed ways. PKD’s is clearly an expanded SF story, more about plot than the ideas. That’s too bad; I’d have liked the PKD of fifteen years later to take on what is admittedly one of those ‘power chords’ of science fiction ala Rudy Rucker.

Two books that handled the all-powerful computer running everything idea:

(Also, COLOSSUS, but I’ve only seen the movie, not read the book.)

But if you want a PKD fix and you’ve read everything else with 4-5 stars, it’s a fun way to kill a few hours (it’s only @160 pages).

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Not a great cover for this, but a nice generic PKD visual