Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Short Story of the Week (September 2012)


Neil is picking the stories this month but he gave the first one to me ahead of time and told me I could write his bio. :)

Neil, who hails from Oregon City, Oregon, comes from a long line of Neils. In fact he has traced his line all the way back to King Neil the First who did all the real heavy lifting against the Persian Empire before that Alexander guy came in and took all the credit.

Present day Neil’s first brush with science fiction occurred when he was introduced to Theodore Sturgeon at a dinner party and he asked Sturgeon what he did for a living and Sturgeon replied that he wrote science fiction. And Neil said, “Isn’t 90% of that crap?” Everybody laughed at his quip and the Sturgeon asked, “Mind if I steal that?”

But, after that rocky start Neil developed a great love for science fiction. He devoured such classics as “The Foundation,” “Dune,” and “They’d Rather Be Right.” And I mean he literally devoured them, as in he ate the books. I know it’s kind of strange isn’t it? Pictured above are some of the novels in his home that he hasn’t had a chance to eat yet

Other then enjoying a tasty science fiction novel, Neil has two other passions in life: skydiving and weight lifting. Here are two recent pictures of Neil enjoying his hobbies.         

louandskydivingcopy Neil skydiving and Lou  Ferrigno...I mean Neil lifting some weights.

Neil is a true renaissance man he has also dabbled in the entertainment business, he wrote and sang lots of number one hit songs like “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” and “Sweet Caroline.” And he wrote such Tony award winning plays as the “Odd Couple” and “Barefoot in the Park.” He costars on the hit comedy show “How I Met Your Mother.” And, he was the first man to walk on the moon. 

September Short Fiction

Week #1 How to Become a Mars Overlord by Cathryn M Valente

Neil said, "Valente is one of the most imaginative writers out there right now in my opinion."

According to Wikipedia, "Valente's work tends to center on folkloric and mythological themes, reimagining fairy tales and genre tropes via feminist, surrealist, and postmodern lenses. Her writing is characterized by stylistic and structural experimentation as well as complex linguistic and poetic techniques."

Her novel "Palimpest" was nominated for a Hugo Award.

Week #2 Spider the Artist by Nnedi Okarofor

Who Fears Death was one of my favorite books I read this year. Nnedi Okarofor
has a different voice that get's right into your head when you read her words.

Anyway a story about oil, zombies and music in Spider the Artist.

Week #3 Super-Toys Last All Summer Long by Brian Aldiss

A classic from 1969, the inspiration for the movie A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

Aldiss is one of those authors who can really create an atmosphere in his
writing, I think he captures the feeling of loneliness,almost hopelessness with
this story.

Week #4 The Ferryman by Eric Brown

I started the book that was based on this story this week. It's an interesting
premise. What would happen to the world if aliens arrived and gave humanity
immortality, it's seen through the experiences of a small Yorkshire village.

I'm not sure how successful the book is yet but this story definitely has the
human element down.

Week #5 The Streets of Ashkelon by Harry Harrison

This seemed appropriate, I remember reading it a long time ago, this and
Moorcock's Behold the Man had a profound affect on me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Thoughts on "The Time Traders"



“The Time Traders” (1958) is the first Andre Norton book I’ve read. I was a little bit surprised that it was a typical 50s science fiction action/adventure story. I mean, I guess I incorrectly thought that since it was written by a woman it would have some sort of feminine touch, but there was only one female character in the entire novel and her part in the story was pretty much insignificant.

The book felt like one of those old movie serials because the hero was constantly getting himself into some sort of cliffhanger moment. I found myself constantly thinking, “How is he going to get himself out of this one?” Through out the course of the novel the hero, Ross Murdock is captured, hit so hard he develops amnesia, tortured, left for dead, shot at, falls into the river, captured again, tortured again, etc.

At the beginning of the story Ross has been found guilty of a crime and is meeting with his judge. The judge tells him that his two options are mental rehabilitation or signing up for a secret government mission. This beginning really reminded me of the beginning of “The Stainless Steel Rat.” I wonder if Harry Harrison ever read “The Time Traders”?

I thought it was neat how at the beginning of the novel Ross doesn’t care about anyone and he just wants to escape, but as the novel progresses this changes. The first change occurs when Ross runs away from the base with a guy that turns out to be a Russian agent. Ross suddenly realizes he does care about America. And then, when he finds out the project concerns time travel, well then Ross is interested because he craves adventure. And as the story progresses Ross forms a friendship with Ashe his mentor and fellow agent.

I really liked the concept of this novel that the Russian and the American in addition to the “space race” were having a “time travel race” and the prize was that somewhere there was advanced technology in the past. It was an intriguing mystery.

I thought the part where Ross has amnesia and thinks he really is a Beaker Trader got to be confusing especially when he’s going through the Russian time machine and ending up who knows when. But, it became less muddled once he got to the alien spaceship and remembered who he was.

I thought it was really cool that Norton didn’t spell everything out. We learn almost nothing about the aliens in the novel. What are they like? Are they evil to the core or, do they just think humans aren’t ready for their technology? And is their civilization still around in the present?

It is also only subtlely implied that Ross has certain mental powers. He says he was such a good criminal because he could read people. Was that undeveloped telepathy or empathy? Then the aliens took a special interest in him. Was that interest really just because he took a pair or their clothing or, was it because they sensed latent mental ability? And then at the end of the book two of the aliens try to invade Ross’s mind and he fights them off with the raw power of his mind. I hope the sequels farther develop this angle.

I’ve already started the next book in the series “The Galactic Derelict” and am excited that it has a Western theme with the point of view character being a “modern day” Apache.  

Henry is on the Move


Henry is 7 months old and he is on the move. He crawls all around the room, but he doesn’t really use his knees, he just sort of army crawls. Or he just rolls where he wants to go. But he gets into everything. He tries to eat my socks and my shoes or he plays with the cat’s scratching post. Right now he still moves slow enough that I can stop him before he gets into trouble, but when he gets his knees involved and really starts moving he’s going to need a lot more minding.

I know I say this every month but Henry really is a genius. The other night he crawled over to where we keep some of his books in the living room and started to pick all of them out and put them down in different spots and then he looked at them all like he was trying to decide which one I should read to him that night. One of his teachers at daycare has a video of him flipping through a board book by himself.

Henry’s started to talk but the only words he says are “Da Da Da.” At first that made me feel good like he really liked me, but he calls his toys “Da Da” too so that makes it less special.

One time, it was four in the morning and Henry started to talk in his crib and we heard him on the monitor, “Da Da Da.” Carol turns to me and says, “he’s asking for you, I guess you better go feed him.”

I had a breakthrough the other day with Henry. I started teaching him how to make monkey noises. I said Oh-oh-ah Ah! And scratched my head and danced around with my arms flailing. And he loved it, he laughed and laughed. The very next day I get home from work and Carol says, “I hope you’re happy, he’s been making monkey sounds all day.” He learned that in one day, the kids a genius!


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Short Story of the Week (August 2012)

Each week at the Classic Science Fiction Message Board we read a short science fiction piece (short story, novelette or novella). These stories are always available for FREE online so that anyone can participate in the discussion. The stories are chosen by a different member every month, so that we get to read a variety of stories. August's stories are being picked by me (loveable furry old Grover):


I started life as a child and the first novels that really meant a lot to me were “Gulliver’s Travels” and “Robinson Crusoe.” The first science fiction book I remember reading was “The Foundation” and I’ve been hooked ever since. 

Some fun facts about me:

I was recruited by the FBI for my talent of speaking pig-latin.

I can pat my head and rub my tummy while crewing gum and walking and then stick my tongue out and touch my ear.

I know lots of different card games but I almost won a lot of money at a 52-pick-up tournament in Las Vegas.


Week #1 “Genesis” by H. Beam Piper

A story about space colonists that’s mother ship is destroyed and they are forced to live without their technology. Piper, is best remembered for the novel “Little Fuzzy” and the short story “Omnilingual,” but he has written lots of other great stories many of which are out of copyright and are available for FREE online here.

Week #2 "The Unnullified World" by Lloyd Biggle Jr.

This story is about a man going to the planet Llayless to track down a murderer.
The hitch is that Llayless is a planet without laws! One of Biggle's novels "Monument" was one of the Classic Group Reads in 2011.

Week #3 "The Repairman" by Harry Harrison

A lot of us, myself included, are pretty broken up about Harrison's death, so I thought it would be appropriate to read and discuss one of his short stories this week as sort of a tribute.

"The Repairman" stuck me as having a lot of the Harrison elements.

There is a male protagonist who lives to buck authority, but finds that authority is always three steps ahead of him. It's got some space travel, some adventure, some wacky aliens, but it's down to earth. I mean the guy's a repairman.

Week #4 "Forever" by Robert Sheckley

In this short and humorous tale Charles Dennison runs into all kinds of trouble when he discovers the secret to immortality.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Lennon Versus McCartney


It’s one of the great rock and roll debates, who was the better songwriter for the Beatles John Lennon or Paul McCartney. Any fan of the Beatles probably has their favorite. So a debate over each one’s merits can be an endless discussion and probably lots of fun, but artistically there may be no true answer. But I decided to look at a small part of the argument mathematically.

So the first thing I decided was what I was going to look at and I decided focus on their singles and only count number 1 hits. If it was a number one hit in the UK or the US, I counted it. If it only got to number 2, I didn’t count it. I did this to keep it simple. We’re going for who’s got the bragging rights here, so if it didn’t reach number 1 then it wasn’t a true hit!

I didn’t factor in how long it was a number 1 hit. For my purposes it doesn’t matter.

                                                                              Written by     
                                                            Lennon            McCartney       Both      Harrison
27 number 1 hits in UK or US                 8                        14                 4              1   
19 number 1 hits in UK                           7                         9                  3               -
22 number 1 hits in US                            7                         11                3               1
14 number 1 hits in Both                         6                         6                  2              -

Okay, so lets look at that data. It shows that McCartney has 6 songs on Lennon overall. A staggering number when you consider that most people consider them nearly equally accomplished songwriters. 

But this didn’t tell me the whole story. When I started thinking about this I had the hypothesis that Lennon was the stronger writer when the Beatles first started and that McCartney ended up surpassing him at some point. So, I decided what I needed to do was to look at this year by year.


                                                          Lennon             McCartney                   Both
1 number 1 hits UK or US                    -                              1                             -                  
0 number 1 hits UK                              -                              -                              -
1 number 1 hits US                               -                               1                             -
0 number 1 hits in both                        -                               -                             -

Winner- McCartney has the single hit for this year, "Love Me Do" went #1 in America. I didn't realize the Beatles went #1 in America first. "Love Me Do" got to #4 in the UK.
                                                          Lennon             McCartney                   Both
3 number 1 hits UK or US                    -                                 -                         3
3 number 1 hits UK                              -                                 -                         3         
2 number 1 hits US                               -                                 -                         2
2 number 1 hits in both                        -                                 -                         2

Winner- None. This is the year of teamwork, with 3 #1 hits that were collaborative efforts. "She Loves You," and "I Want to Hold Your Hand" were #1 on both sides of the pond. And "From Me to You" was #1 in the UK, but only #41 in the US.
                                                          Lennon             McCartney                  Both
4 number 1 hits UK or US                    2                               1                         1                     
4 number 1 hits UK                              2                               1                          -
4 number 1 hits US                               2                               1                         1
3 number 1 hits in both                        2                               1                         -

Winner- Lennon wrote "Hard Day's Night" and "I Feel Fine," which were #1 in both countries. McCartney's contribution this year was "Can't Buy Me Love, which went to #1 in the UK and the US. Meanwhile, collaboratively written "Eight Days a Week" was only released as a single in the US, where it got to #1. 
                                                          Lennon             McCartney                Both
5 number 1 hits UK or US                      3                           2                          -
4 number 1 hits UK                                3                           1                          -
4 number 1 hits US                                 2                           2                          -          
3 number 1 hits in both                          2                           1                          -

Winner- Lennon wrote "Help" and "Ticket to Ride" both topped the charts on both sides of the pond. "Day Tripper" was #1 in the UK, but #5 in the US. Meanwhile, McCartney had a #1 in both countries with "We Can Work it Out," and "Yesterday" was #1 in the US, but topped at #8 in the UK. "Day Tripper" and "We Can Work it Out" were a double A-side single.
                                                          Lennon             McCartney                   Both
3 number 1 hits UK or US                    -                            3                             -    
3 number 1 hits UK                              -                            3                             -
1 number 1 hits US                               -                            1                              -
1 number 1 hits in both                        -                            1                              -

Winner- McCartney had a good year with "Paperback Writer" reaching #1 in the UK and the US. Double A-side "Eleanor Rigby" and "Yellow Submarine" both got to # 1 in the UK, but "Eleanor only got to #11 in the US and Yellow Submarine was almost there reaching #2. Lennon didn't write a #1 hit single this year.

                                                          Lennon             McCartney                   Both
3 number 1 hits UK or US                     1                             2                            -
2 number 1 hits UK                               1                             1                            -
3 number 1 hits US                                1                             2                            -
2 number 1 hits in both                         1                             1                            -

Winner- McCartney has a #1 hit in The UK and the US with "Hello Goodbye." He also reaches #1 in the US with "Penny Lane" in the UK it only gets to #2. Penny Lane was a double A-side with Lennon's "Strawberry Fields," which also reaches #2 in the UK, but only #8 in the US. Lennon's #1 hit in the UK and the US this year was "All You Need is Love".
                                                          Lennon             McCartney                   Both
2 number 1 hits UK or US                      -                            2                           - 
2 number 1 hits UK                                -                            2                           -
1 number 1 hits US                                 -                            1                           -
1 number 1 hits in both                          -                            1                           -

Winner- McCartney goes #1 on both sides of the pond with "Hey Jude" and "Lady Madonna" reaches #1 in the UK, but only #4 in the US. Lennon does not have a #1 hit single this year.
                                                          Lennon             McCartney       Both      Harrison
6 number 1 hits UK or US                      2                            3                -             1           
2 number 1 hits UK                                1                            1                -             -
6 number 1 hits US                                 2                            3                -             1
2 number 1 hits in both                          1                            1                -             -

Winner- McCartney "Get Back" goes # 1 in the UK and the US. "Let it Be" is #1 in the US, but only gets to #2 in the UK and the Long and Winding Road is only released as a single in the US where it reaches #1. Lennon's "Ballad of John and Yoko" is a #1 hit the UK and the US and "Come Together" is a #1 in the US, but only #4 in the UK. And George Harrison gets his first #1 hit single Something gets to # 1 in the US, but only #4 in the UK. "Come Together" and "Something" were a double A-side single.
Overall Winner-McCartney. As we saw from the first chart McCartney had nearly double the number of #1 singles, so It's no surprise he is the overall winner with 5 years vs. Lennon winning 2. But it definitely seems like my hypothesis might be right, Lennon did seem to be more dominate in the Beatle's earlier period winning 1964 and 1965.

Conclusions- I don't really know how much this data tells us. I mean I didn't factor in a large number of EPs that went #1 in the UK. Plus, I didn't look at the Beatles albums and see what the breakdown of songs was there. Plus all I did was crunch some numbers based on sales. I mean talking about what I think of their songs would be a totally different discussion. The fact that Penny Lane is on the list, but Strawberry Fields isn't because it only got to #2 in the UK and #8 in the US was almost enough for me to scrap the whole project, because in my mind there is no comparison Strawberry Fields is a much better song. But I guess that just means I'll have to write some more of these in the future.