Category Archives: Science fiction

The Pioneers of Pulp

Science Fiction and Fantasy, once despised by the creators of popular entertainment as well as literary scholars, have not only risen in the eyes of serious students of literature but among the general public. What accounts for this sea-change? We could point to the surprising success of both Star Trek (soft sci-fi) or Star Wars (sci-fan), but the origins of the near-dominance of sci-fi/fantasy in popular entertainment today goes back a little further, as this must-read from Open Culture argues:

Do we start with The Castle of Otranto, the first Gothic novel, which opened the door for such books as Dracula and Frankenstein? Or do we open with Edgar Allan Poe, whose macabre short stories and poems captivated the public’s imagination and inspired a million imitators? Maybe. But if we really want to know when the most populist, mass-market horror and fantasy began—the kind that inspired television shows from the Twilight Zone to the X-Files to Supernatural to The Walking Dead—we need to start with H.P. Lovecraft, and with the pulpy magazine that published his bizarre stories, Weird Tales.

I have to agree. Lovecraft’s the man!

Don’t miss the article’s treasure trove of links to the letters of H.P. Lovecraft, as well as links to classic editions of Weird Tales featuring stories by Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Dorothy Quick, Robert Bloch, and Theodor Sturgeon. What a great way to get ready for Halloween!

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A Quiet Place

As my wife and I settled into our dollar-movie-theatre seats, I was pleased to recall that yet another sci-fi film had received glowing audience and critical acclaim. Minutes after it started, I realized the reviews don’t give a clue about how good, how intelligent, and how soul-stirring this movie is.

Yes, it’s entertaining, and yes, it breaks conventions. Some of the breaks worked for me. Making it a (mostly) silent movie transformed it into much more that a “scary” movie. And scary it is, with plenty of white-knuckle scenes as a rural family cowers from a blind but ruthless predator that locates and attacks its victims when they make the faintest sound. The scant dialogue revved up the power of the visual tension to nearly unbearable levels. (At one point, a lady a few seats behind me whispered to her husband that she couldn’t take any more, and scampered out of the theatre.) Some of the conventions it broke left me feeling a bit cheated and shocked. Think a tale about a loving family struggling to survive will end without any casualties? The movie breaks that one in the first scene.

So it’s a hard film to watch at times. But “A Quiet Place” is a masterpiece of cinematic storytelling. Also, it tackles some themes head on in ways I found deeply moving and agreeable. It’s a pro-natalist, pro-sociobiology adventure; both the mother and father courageously do what they must to preserve the family. Despite the danger and the sacrifice, the husband and wife decide to have another baby. (And remember – babies cry!) At one point, the mother asks her husband, “Who are we if we can’t protect our children?”

That’s the key question of our age – just as it is in any age.

April issue of Metaphorosis on Amazon

Metaphorosis April 2018

You can now pre-order the April issue of Metaphorosis Magazine in paperback, which will be available on July 1. Here’s what’s included:

Bye Bye Skinny Cow – Hamilton Perez
Cathedra – M. C. Tuggle
The Cypress and the Rose – Sandi Leibowitz
Koehl’s Quality Impressions – Tim McDaniel

I’m honored to be included with such distinguished authors. The cover shows Saturn’s mysterious moon Enceladus, the setting of my contribution, “Cathedra.” And I was particularly excited by the reviews:

“‘Cathedra’ is beautiful, realistic, fun to read.” Alice Osborn, author of Heroes Without Capes

“‘Cathedra’ is a wonderful–and memorable–story.” Susan Shell Winston, author of Singer of Norgondy

Metaphorosis offers “well-written stories with humor, emotion, and wit,” and I think you’ll agree they deliver what they promise. Enjoy!

Quote of the day

James Cameron
Image by Angela George

“Science fiction is a very good way to talk about politics and human systems, by extrapolating them to another planet or into a future where it doesn’t piss people off to read about them. You talk about people’s politics or religion and they get mad because they feel threatened. But you set it on another planet or in some alternate universe, and they can look at it with a more objective eye and maybe look at the world through another perspective, if only for a short time.” James Cameron, director of Avatar, The Terminator and True Lies

You, Me, and the Whole Wide World

Whole Wide World

I recently wrote a guest post for Sue Vincent’s wonderful spiritual, art, and folklore site. My post focuses on a topic I find myself thinking about more and more:

Countless online and printed articles have wrestled with what has become the most troubling question of our age: What is happening to us?

The cascade of electrons and ink aimed at this question underscores our growing realization that many of the sources of order we once relied on, from governments to churches, are coming apart. Individuals are coming apart, too. Despite our material opulence and abundance of sexual choices, we’re depressed. People are increasingly alienated from each other, divorcing at record rates, and respond by insulating themselves in electronic diversions and pills. Many commentators have attempted explanations, but I think no one has attacked the question more directly and honestly than anthropologist Helen Fisher in this interview with Krista Tippett:

Ms. Tippett: Right. We don’t have those extended circles of people who know them.
Ms. Fisher: … Serial pair-bonding is probably basic to the human animal, series of partnerships. But what is really unusual, for me, is the loss of local community. We have extended communities — we have our internet friends; we’ve got our work friends; we’ve got our people who we exercise with; we’ve got people who we go to a poetry conference with — whatever it is. But we don’t have local community.

Read the rest at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Cathedra

“‘Cathedra’ is a wonderful–and memorable–story.”
Susan Shell Winston, author of Singer of Norgondy

Metaphorosis April 2018

My story “Cathedra” is featured in the latest issue of Metaphorosis. It’s free online all week.

Ben Kaplan is a loner who considers himself the best astrogeologist in the Asteroid Belt. But when he’s blamed for the deaths of two miners on Enceladus, Saturn’s most mysterious moon, he confronts more than a threat to his reputation. When a previously unknown species that rules the moon’s sub-surface ocean captures Kaplan, the only way to save himself is to stop the creatures from destroying the entire colony.

Cathedra

In a wondrous yet deadly setting of underground oceans, organic atomic reactors, and sunlit geysers shooting into space, “Cathedra” is a tale about the individual’s quest for identity and purpose within society, as well as one’s connection to the universe. The title and theme came from this beautiful anecdote:

A man came upon a construction site where three people were working. He asked the first, “What are you doing?” and the man replied: “I am laying bricks.” He asked the second, “What are you doing?” and the man replied: “I am building a wall.” As he approached the third, he heard him humming a tune as he worked, and asked, “What are you doing?” The man stood, looked up at the sky, and smiled, “I am building a cathedral!”

This is my first appearance in Metaphorosis, which bills itself as “a magazine of science fiction and fantasy. We offer intelligent, beautifully written stories for adults.” “Cathedra” is hard sci-fi inspired by an article in Astronomy magazine about Enceladus, one of the most promising sites for life in our solar system. (That’s a NASA photo of Enceladus on the cover.)

I want to express thanks to my wife Julie and to my comrades-in-critique at the Charlotte Writer’s Club for their invaluable suggestions and insights. I hope you enjoy “Cathedra.”