I’m back, baby!

The last post on this blog was sometime in 2009.  That’s a long damn time ago.  As a matter of fact, for the past couple of years, the site has been completely broken, and unviewable.  So, I’ve converted it back from Nucleus CMS (which is funny, given this post ), cleaned some things up, removed some of the crap that seemed like a good idea in 2008, and vowed to start writing again.

This blog started out as an attempt to talk seriously about Science  Fiction as Literature.  How the pulp fiction of the past has influenced culture and mores, and how our views of the present and the future are intimately tied up with the science fiction of our past.  Honestly, I failed miserably at that.  And I think now it’s just going to be about how much fun science fiction is.  So, I’m going to jump back in mainly with book and movie reviews, what I’m reading and watching, and what I’m having fun with.

Space battles with Alien Chinese Spammers

So, I haven’t been posting much lately. I’ve been very busy with several projects and just can’t seem to find the time. Unfortunately, since I’ve been so inattentive, the site was invaded by evil alien spammers from China. Some of your witty, incisive comments may have become casualties in the battle. If that’s the case, then I apologize and invite you to come back. In any case, my web guy, Rich has gotten the Death Star on station so we’re finally protected from them. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get back to posting more often and the Elf won’t have to worry about his security.

Necrophil, I mean Necroscope don’t rock!

I have a rather long list of things that I haven’t read, but am always on the lookout for. Recently I ran across a battered collection of the first four Necroscopes. I picked them up for a song, and got ready to cross a few good reads off my list. The Necroscope series, by Brian Lumley has a large “cult” following. Necroscope fans are rabid, almost as bad as Ringworld geeks. For whatever reason, I just never had the chance to read any of the stories, even though they’ve been recommended to me many times. The Necroscope is Harry Keogh, a young Englishman who has a rather peculiar talent. He can speak to the dead. And I don’t mean using a crystal ball and a silly gown. He can carry on a conversation with anyone who has ever died. In fact, that’s one of the major metaphysical conjectures of the novel, that nothing happens after you die, you just sort of go on but without a body. Leaving that aside, Harry is able to learn from the dead, and he uses their expertise to teach himself self defense, languages, mathematics, etc… So, OK, a good concept, enough to draw me in for a good read. The problem is, it just isn’t that good.Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty good, it just didn’t excite me. One of the biggest failings with Necroscope was that it couldn’t decide what it wanted to be. There were lots of attempts at horror, with walking corpses and even some vampire shenanigans, but there was also a lot of science fiction. For instance, Harry contacts August Mobius (creator of the strip that bears his name) and learns a branch of higher math that allows him to manipulate space-time. There’s also the metaphysical aspect in that the dead just lie in their graves and think, frankly they get lonely and they love Harry for the comfort that he brings them.

Aside from all of that, the writing is that typically British, late 70s type of prose. If you’ve ever read any early Frederick Forsythe, then you know what I mean. It’s as if the whole thing is written as a sort of police blotter version of events. The British people that I know don’t actually talk that way, and it’s off-putting. Anyway, for a yard sale find, I could have done much worse. However, I’m not going to waste my time with the rest of the series. I’m actually a bit disappointed, as I’m always ready to latch on to a new series, but it just didn’t happen with Necroscope.

Watch the Skies!!!

OK, 2 points to anyone who knows where the title quote comes from. Any Sci-Fi commando worth his waldoes should know that one. In any case, I’m right in the middle of a re-read of David Weber & Steve White’s “The Stars at War”, and it’s a rocking good read. An omnibus edition containing two great novels, “Insurrection” and “In Death Ground”, “The Stars at War” follows an ensemble cast through two Interstellar wars. Weber is a master of space combat, as those of you who’ve read the Honor Harrington series know, and Steve White knows what he’s doing as well.
Without going into a complete synopsis of the two stories, suffice it to say that they’re both about virtually unstoppable alien warmonger’s who invade human space. After suffering initial setbacks, mainly caused by self serving politicians and liberal fascists, the honor, courage & commitment of the human armed forces saves the day.

I tend to go through cycles of reading material, moving from hard sci-fi to fantasy, to military fiction, and back. “The Stars at War” falls squarely in the military sci-fi camp, although it tends to have deeper levels of meaning. But that’s the great thing about really good science fiction, even in an old fashioned space opera, with the ray guns blasting and the warp drives singing, there’s something that makes you think about what it means to be human. And I don’t mean in the biological sense. I’m talking about the Terentius, Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto, sense here. With all of the diversity around us, the major differences in culture, religion, thought, philosophy, we all have the same hopes and dreams. A better life for our children, freedom from pain and suffering, the chance to find love, the pursuit of happiness… And some of us have had to (or are willing to) fight for those things. Creating a universe where we can explore what would happen if we all pulled together against the real enemies out there is the truest function of science fiction. It shows us an idealized mirror where our defining characteristic is not that we’re Jews or Christian or White or African, but that we’re human, that we’re people, and it let’s us imagine what might happen if we could put aside our differences and work together. Maybe that will happen someday when and if we finally do find that we’re not alone in the universe, or maybe it will remain a pipe dream, but I love Weber & White for making me think about it.

Spartans Rock!

I just started re-reading one of my all time favorite novels. Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
by Steven Pressfield, is an amazing novelization of the battle of Thermopylae. Definitely not Science Fiction or Fantasy, Gates is one of those rare books that pulls you in, makes you fall in love with the characters, and you’ll read it over and over again just to spend more time with them. Told from the viewpoint of a survivor of the battle, Gates of Fire explores the lives, loves and passions of some of the 300 Spartan Knights who resisted Xerxes March on Greece in 480 BC. The same battle that inspired the movie ‘The 300′, it was quite possibly a turning point in the history of Western Civilization. Some might even say it was the beginning of the division between Western & Eastern Civilization. In any case, I leave it to you to do further research on the Battle itself, but for an amazing, emotional, inspiring read, I highly recommend Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
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Thing From Another World!

Hi all. As everyone who reads this bit of dreck knows, I’m not very disciplined when it comes to posting. Heck, sometimes weeks can go by without a new post from the Cyborgelf (and I know you loyal readers out there are champing at the bit to get a new piece of Sci-Fi wisdom from me). So, for the foreseeable future, one of my good friends & sponsors will be doing some guest posting here at the home of Science Fiction & Fantasy. TFAW, or Things From Another World is a great Sci-Fi/Comic Book shop that really has a great take on pop culture, Science Fiction, Fantasy, etc… In addition to having some really great merchandise, they tend to really know us, their customers and they ahve a knack for giving us what we want. So keep an eye out for future guest posts from them, and visit Things From Another World for a massive selection of Star Wars, Hellboy, Manga, Superheroes and other pop culture favorites.

Where’s the rest of the Damned World?!

I know, I know I haven’t posted in, like, a month. Sorry, but I’ve been reading a lot. Plus Kindle: Amazon’s 6″ Wireless Reading Device came out recently, so I’m excited about that. Anyway, I recently picked up Darkness of the Light (The Hidden Earth Chronicles) by Peter David. And it Rocks! Peter David is a big name comic book writer, so he really knows how to toss around some heroic action, and in Darkness he really delivers.
The basic premise is that humanity is virtually extinct, having been wiped out by a group of aliens. The twist here is that the aliens are the monsters and legends from humanity’s past, Minotaurs, Cyclops, Dragons, Mer-people, etc… Apparently they have all visited Earth in the deep past as scouts, and become part of human legend. They are actually exiled from their own planets and refer to the Earth as “The Damned World”.
Now the thing that pisses me off is that Darkness was released as a Mass Market Paperback in 2007, that’s over two years ago people. It’s supposed to be part of a larger series called “The Hidden Earth”, but I haven’t been able to find the second installment. I can’t believe that Tor (the publisher) would just kill a project that has this much merit, but I cannot find any information about it anywhere. Does anyone out there know anything about this? In any case, I’m looking forward to reading the next installment, if it ever happens.

How Thomas Hardy saved Star Trek.

Now there’s a proposition for you. What does a 19th century English novelist have to do with late 20th century Science Fiction? He made it possible, that’s what. Inspired by the recent PBS airing of “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”, I’ve been thinking a lot about how some of the classic works of literature have influenced Science Fiction. Specifically, in Hardy’s case, some of his works prompted some of the most successful anti-censorship activity in history.For those of you who’ve never read “Tess”, you should take a look. The story of a young woman coerced by her poor family into seeking out wealthy relatives, Tess is one of the most tragic characters in all of literature. Raped by her cousin, she is denied love, abused, downtrodden and finally ends as a murderess (You go, girl!). Needless to say, 19th century England was scandalized.”So what in the heck does that have to do with Science Fiction?”, you may be asking yourself. I admit it isn’t a direct connection, but Sci-Fi & Fantasy is all about exploring. Exploring your thoughts, beliefs, wishes and dreams and pretending that the normal boundaries don’t apply. That kind of thinking has allowed us to advance our “hard” sciences, expand the limits of medical possibility, and put a man on the moon. Science fiction is pure unbounded imagination, and in great measure, it owes its freedom to those who have gone before. So, if Thomas Hardy hadn’t refused to cut the objectionable bits out of “Tess”, then we may have never had television’s first inter-racial kiss (Capt. Kirk & Lt. Uhura), and Heinlein certainly wouldn’t have been able to publish “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” (lots of kinky stuff there). So, I say we all owe a great debt to Mr. Hardy for refusing to bow his head in the face of harsh criticism, and you’d do well to pick up a copy of damn near anything that he ever wrote.

Vampire Demons from Hell on Friday the 13th

I just had to post something on Friday the 13th.  I tend to stay away from the horror stuff, although I do enjoy reading about Myth & Mystery.  Also, I’m a bit of a history buff and I’ve always thought that the whole Friday the 13th myth arose from Phillip the Fair’s persecution of the Knights Templar, which began on Friday, October 13th, 1307.  Lately, however, I’ve read some work that suggests that the belief in an unlucky day goes (how do you spell goes?) back much farther.

Some scholars have suggested that the myth of Friday the 13th can be traced all the way back to the end of the Norse religions when Christianity subsumed the old traditions and demoted the Norse pantheon to the status of Demons.  Frigga, the Norse goddess of love & fertility was labeled a witch by the Early church, and it is from Frigga that we get the word Friday.  In any case, I’m not particularly superstitious, but I’ll still try to be a little more careful today.

On another note, and in keeping with the mystical aspect of the day.  I downloaded Digital Knight, by Ryk Spoor, from the Baen Free library. It’s basically an anthology of stories about Jason Wood, an information specialist, who gets mixed up with the world of the supernatural. Vampires, Werewolves, the usual suspects. It’s a good read so far, but I’ll tell the world what I think when I finish it. Until next time, keep your head down.

The Great Copyright Debate

I read almost everything in ebook format.  I’ve never been one of those people who loves books for their physical presence.  To me, the story inside the book is what’s important.  Ebooks let me take multiple books wherever I go and I just find the format more practical.  That being said, there is a lot of controversy surrounding ebooks.  For the same reasons that the RIAA is suing little old ladies for downloading music, many authors and publishers frown on the (illegal) downloading of ebooks.  On a basic level, downloading media that you haven’t paid for is illegal, but here’s my take on things. 
I recently posted about discovering David Gemmell’s Drenai series.  I downloaded “Legend” from a P2P site.  I wasn’t sure whether I would like it, I’d never read any of his work before, and I couldn’t justify the money.  However, after reading Legend, I liked it so much that I actually bought the next four books in the series.  So, who’s the loser here?  I think it might be time for publishers to take a second look at how they distribute their work.
Baen Books, one of the great science fiction publishing houses, has already taken the next step.  Through the Baen Free Library, you can freely download many of their offerings.  Generally, they offer older works for free, knowing full well that if you like those, then you might buy more.  This is one of the reasons why I trust Baen.  I know that they’re counting on the strength of their authors, some of whom include David Drake, Eric Flint & David Weber, to sell their products.  And that’s an approach that makes sense to me.
Rock on, Baen.