Tag Archives: science fiction

Book Review: The Martian Chronicles

Book Name: The Martian Chronicles
Author: Ray Bradbury
First Published: 1950

Ray Bradbury was an American fantasy, science fiction, and mystery fiction writer. He was known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 and for the science fiction and horror stories gathered together in The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man. Many of Bradbury’s works have been adapted into television and films and he has left his stamp on the science fiction and fantasy genres.

Bradbury was born in the mid-west, but his family moved back and forth between Waukegan, Illinios and Tucson, Arizona for most of his formative years. When Bradbury was fourteen, his family settled in Los Angeles, California and he remained in the Southern California area for much of his life. Bradbury was a reader and writer throughout his youth. He claimed that he was inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars series and wrote a fanfiction based on those tales at the age of twelve. He credits this series as the inspiration for The Martian Chronicles and notes that he likely would never have written about Mars at all if it was not for his love of the Burroughs’ series.

Bradbury cited H.G. Wells and Jules Verne as his biggest science fiction influences, followed by Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Theodore Sturgeon, and A. E. van Vogt. As Bradbury matured, he drew more from the style and works of Alexander Pope and poet John Donne. When later asked about the lyrical nature of his prose, Bradbury replied that it came, “From reading so much poetry every day of my life. My favorite writers have been those who’ve said things well.” He also has said, “If you’re reluctant to weep, you won’t live a full and complete life.”

Bradbury did not attend college. Instead, he sold newspapers once he graduated from high school and spent much of his time reading. “Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.” Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 at the UCLA’s Powell Library where he rented a typewriter in one of their study rooms. The rental rate for completing the entire novel was around ten dollars since the rental of the manual typewriter was ten cents per half hour. He preferred to write on a typewriter instead of computers because that was what he was used to.

Ray Bradbury lived at home until the age of twenty-seven when he married his sweetheart, Marguerite McClure. They had four children together. He was an active member of Los Angeles Science Fiction Society where he made his first connections in the writing community of Los Angeles. From these connections, he began to meet publishers and gained a following for his work that now spans the globe. Bradbury is credited with writing 27 novels and over 600 short stories. More than eight million copies of his works, published in over 36 languages, have been sold around the world.

In his later years, Ray Bradbury became a well sought out speaker at literary events in the Southern California area. He never obtained a driver’s license and did not enjoy travel. It was well known on the speaker circuit, if you wanted Ray Bradbury to speak at your event, you should arrange to have a driver come and get him. I regret that I did not take the opportunity to meet Mr. Bradbury in person before he passed away in December of 2011. He was a favorite on the literary speaker’s circuit in Southern California and I personally know many writers that consider him to be an inspiration.

“Science is no more than an investigation of a miracle we can never explain, and art is an interpretation of that miracle.” – Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles

The Martian Chronicles is a collection of short stories based on the colonization of the planet Mars by people fleeing from an atomic devastated Earth. There is conflict between the aboriginal Martians and the colonists as they adjust to life on the new world. The stories are tied together by short vignettes, creating a loose novel in three parts.

The first third of the book tells of the first attempts by humans to land and explore on Mars. The native Martians endeavor to prevent them from returning. In the fourth story _And the Moon be Still as Bright, it is discovered that the Martians have been decimated by a plague brought by the humans, much the way that the American natives were brought down by European disease by the conquistadors. This sets the stage for the second part of the book when the humans colonize the deserted planet and set about making it into a second Earth. The final part of the book occurs after a global nuclear war on Earth cuts off contact between the two worlds. The few surviving humans that remain on Mars become the new Martians and the circle of life continues.

the-martian-chronicles-book-coverMy first exposure to The Martian Chronicles was during the 1980s when the mini-series starring Rock Hudson came out in 1980. Hudson played one of the colonists from the fourth Martian expedition who later returned with his family to colonize Mars. I have never forgotten the scene when Hudson playing Col. John Wilder takes his children to a Martian canal and points at their reflection in the water. “There are the Martians.” He tells them. One day there will be humans to do this and not all that far in the future.

I have always loved the ERB series, John Carter of Mars, and between the two, a love for stories about the red planet has grown in me. After The Martian Chronicles mini-series, I made a point to seek out the original book. While I enjoyed the written stories, I think that in this case, I prefer the mini-series, although Ray Bradbury himself thought it boring! You can still see all three episodes today on YouTube. ONE TWO THREE

The science behind the stories is sorely outdated. Back when Bradbury wrote the stories, it was believed that Mars had more atmosphere and it would be more hospitable to human life. Today, we know that living on Mars will be much more difficult than simply getting there and setting up homes. We will need to combat a rampant CO2 atmosphere, low gravity and live without the protection of a magnetic planetary field. Still, this is a classic science fiction tale and several of the stories in the collection are well worth reading. My personal favorites are: “Rocket Summer”, “Ylla”, “-And The Moon Be Still As Bright”, “The Off Season”, and “The Million-Year Picnic.”

Author Interview: Elizabeth Crowens

I met Author Elizabeth Crowens at World Con in Kansas City.  We are both members of Broad Universe.  Her Time Traveler Professor series is an alternate history/spooky steampunk published out of London.  Please welcome her here on No Wasted Ink.

author-elizabeth-crowensHi, I’m Elizabeth Crowens. Why do I use a pen name? Because back in the 80’s I wrote for Ninja Magazine and a bunch of other unusual publications. This was when Hollywood and Hong Kong were churning out a lot of over the top films on the tail end of the Bruce Lee craze. I actually had a blackbelt in ninjutsu that I received from the top masters in Japan, but I knew the reality behind the façade and felt I needed a bit of anonymity from my professional life working at a publishing company at the time. The last headache I needed was to have someone plan a surprise attack to see if I could really do a triple backflip and throw ninja stars in my defense. I didn’t need the hassle. So I just came up with a pen name.

When and why did you begin writing?

In the 70’s when I was in college I thought my career path was going to be screenwriting. Back then I didn’t have a very realistic view of how the film industry worked. My head was in the clouds with wildly creative ideas, and my teachers weren’t the best influences because they came from the avant-garde and Andy Warhol schools of artsy indie filmmaking. However, my goals were commercially oriented. New York film schools were like that back then. Unfortunately, I was young, naïve and didn’t know any better and flying by the seat of my pants until I finally moved out to Hollywood in 1990.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Back in the 80’s when I was writing articles for magazines and working on the first draft of this manuscript. However, I wasn’t making enough money to make a living out of it. My degree was in Photography and Film studies, but I found out the hard way that in journalism people were paid more for writing articles in magazines than they were for the photography that accompanied them. So I thought to myself, “Hey, I was always good at English in school. I’ll write the article, as well, especially since I’d get paid more for it.”

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

Silent Meridian is a 19th century X-Files meets H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine featuring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his paranormal enthusiast partner, John Patrick Scott, the Time Traveler Professor. It’s a delightful mash-up blending those elements with hints of Doctor Who, Tim Powers, and Nicholas Meyer. Contrary to people’s first impression it is not a Sherlock Holmes story.

What inspired you to write this book?

That’s a stranger than fiction story. I’ve always had a passion of collecting antiques and antiquarian books. Very similar situations that occur in the book, sometimes finding a strange book or an unusual item can inspire a whole flood of ideas.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I try to mimic a Victorian first-person point of view although I tone it down for modern readers. Authors such as Henry James and Arthur Machen can get incredibly wordy. Editors today are always hopping on our backs about word count.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

In the book, I refer to two similar metaphors, i.e. the sfumato effect and the Verdaccio technique of underpainting. These are both art terms from the Italian Renaissance referring to the methods used by Leonardo da Vinci as to how he depicts seamless and invisible edges in paintings such as the Mona Lisa. However, it alludes to the often-indistinguishable transition from dreams to reality to jumping back and forth in time.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

“The key to the future lies in clues from the past.” That’s from a quote in the novel. It’s very much tied into resolving karma and moving forward and any conflicts you experience now most likely can have their roots traced back in history—therefore the justification of traveling through time.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Shush! That’s a secret.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

I’d rephrase that by asking the question, “What books or media have been the most influence?” I’ve gone through spurts with reading, but I’ve always been a film buff. My answer? Stanley Kubrick, Harry Potter and Star Wars. Kubrick and Lucas were the reasons why I got involved in the film industry. I remember being blown away by A Clockwork Orange, especially in its art direction and cinematography, when I was in high school and Star Wars just at the time I was graduating college and about to spring out in the job market working in film production. Harry Potter didn’t come around until many years later.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

If I can resurrect someone from the dead it would be Arthur Conan Doyle, because his Sherlock Holmes stories are so damned clever. One that is living now? Tim Powers. I’m amazed as to how he puts everything together in his plotting.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

This was an unusual situation where I, as the author, had a significant amount of input in the cover design. After I signed my contract with my publisher, he hooked me up with the graphic designer that handles most of his covers. The graphic designer asked me if I had any ideas since this was basically a steampunk novel and not the typical Sherlock Holmes pastiche that comprises most of my publishing company’s catalogue.

“Do I have any ideas?” I thought to myself. “Boy, am I going to surprise everyone!”

Little did they know that I’ve been professionally trained as both a graphic designer and photographer and have had over 20 years experience with Photoshop. Previously in my career, I used to art direct and shoot movie posters in Hollywood. Since I had full intentions of pitching the Time Traveler Professor series (Silent Meridian is the first of approximately seven books) as either a film series or a cable television series, I had already composited a one-sheet or sell sheet mini-poster as a leave behind. The background photo on the cover is one that I took at the University of Edinburgh Medical School where Conan Doyle received his medical degree.

Brian Berlanger, MX Publishing’s graphic designer, and I worked together refining some of the images. I took a back seat and allowed him to get all the credit just because I was so thrilled to have as much input as I did.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

To quote Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story, “Never give up. Never surrender.”
silent-meridian-book-coverElizabeth Crowens
New York, NY

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Silent Meridian

Art Director: Elizabeth Crowens
Cover artist: Brian Berlanger.
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Why Gene Wolfe? by Jeff Michaels

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“My definition of good literature is that which can be read by an educated reader, and reread with increased pleasure.” Gene Wolfe in a letter to Neil Gaiman

Recently I invoked the name of my favorite author, Gene Wolfe, in an offhand comment on Facebook. I am quite certain that no one caught my point. It is not uncommon for me to invoke Gene’s name; he is a vocabularic virtuoso, a poetic maestro, a genius level wordsmith, and a heck of a nice guy.

My oblique reference was to an early short story of his titled “A Method Bit in ‘B’” which concerns an actor in a werewolf movie, likely filmed in black and white. It is one of my favorite stories and I do not entirely know why.

It is also, to the best of my knowledge, uncollected at this point. To read it you must find a copy of Orbit 8, edited by Damon Knight – which I encourage you to do. It is easy enough if you are one of the first to hit Amazon’s second-hand third party market. At the time of this post $9.99 gets you the hardcover, while $2.99 gets you a paperback. Hurry. There were not many available. It is worth the price for Wolfe’s story, but there are also many other excellent short stories waiting to be discovered by you, including a second Wolfe short about the future of pets. Grim and funny stuff.

One of the things I will say about “A Method Bit in ‘B’” is that it is clever. By clever I mean sly. By sly I mean devious, unobvious, sneaky, O. Henry-esque in its own Wolfean way. It does not ask the reader to understand, nor does it explain the conceit of the story and it steadfastly refuses to let the reader in on the secret with a wink or a nudge of exposition. This is a tale that respects the reader’s intelligence. Sadly, many readers are unwilling to invest their time in Gene’s often dense, always literate prose.

There are few writers working in this day and age who are daring enough to leap from the hidebound rules of the MFA programs of monolithic institutions. Rules which change, by the way, based on the perpetual “new normals” instituted by those who dare. What is taught is often what last succeeded. Heaven forfend that we try something new! Gene Wolfe knows the rules. He also knows how to re-engineer them in interesting ways.

There are, among the few authors that take the leap, still fewer who have the actual skill to make the leap. Some do it once, by sheer awesome hutzpah and the amazing lack of knowledge that tells them they cannot possibly succeed in their mad endeavor. Often their second leap is weak and injurious to their career.

Gene has been taking that leap, and making it look easy, for over forty years now. That takes skill and confidence. Also daring. I suspect that Gene is such a veteran of the publishing world that he does not view what he accomplishes as a feat of derring-do. I also believe that he does not take each new leap for granted. Like any good magician (the word I want to use is Wizard) he works hard to make it look easy.

Although I mention Gene Wolfe often and hold his art in the highest esteem, I do not always recommend him to readers. The reason is the same as to why I do not recommend a film of the caliber of say, Citizen Kane or Shakespeare’s histories to someone who prefers watching reality television programming. Their interest is in lighter stuff.

Wolfe can be playful, the story deceptively light, but there is never anything simple about Gene’s storytelling. He is often purposely deceiving. You can never quite trust a Wolfe story to be what it first seems or is labeled. There is surprise within the forest of language and often you are well along the path before you realize what you have witnessed.

Rereading Gene Wolfe’s books and stories will almost always reward the attentive audience with a missed twist or reference. For a writer you will likely find yourself educated in the matter of style, with your sights set higher regarding your own work.

Why do I like “A Method Bit in ‘B’” or any of Gene Wolfe’s crafty tales?

I am never quite sure.

jeffreyjmichaels4wendy2Jeffrey J. Michaels is a Gemini. As such he is deeply involved in whatever interests him at the moment. His describes his book “A Day at the Beach and Other Brief Diversions” as “metaphyictional,” combining fantasy and humor with metaphysical elements.

He is currently polishing a sweeping fantasy series of interconnected tales collectively known as “The Mystical Histories.” It is varied enough that he says he may even finish most of the stories.

In his real life he is a well-respected creative and spiritual consultant.
He does not like to talk about his award-winning horror story.

a-day-at-the-beach-book-coverA Day At the Beach and Other Brief Diversions

What if… …your perfect day never ended? …your life were to pass before your eyes, one person at a time? …the genie in the lamp had a wish? …you heard the perfect last words? Versatile author Jeffrey J. Michaels invites you to explore new ways of looking at your world and worlds beyond in this selection of metaphyictional short stories.

Scifaiku of Wendy Van Camp featured in Quantum Visions 5

 

quantumvisions5-2016

It is with great pleasure that I announce that five of my poems and illustrations have been published in the magazine “Quantum Visions 5” edited by Jude-Marie Green.  It is a chapbook featuring science fiction stories of the Orange County Science Fiction Club’s Writer’s Orbit.  I am the only poet in the edition.  This magazine used to be print only, but this year Ms. Green is offering online versions.  You can purchase an online chapbook at the following link:

Quantum Visions 5

Author Interview: Tabitha Lord

Author Tabitha Lord is a woman who wears many hats.   Not only is she a science fiction author, but she is also a senior editor for Book Club Babble and working on a non-fiction collection of stories connected with an awareness campaign for children with pediatric cancer.  I am honored to feature her here on No Wasted Ink.

author-tabitha-lordHi Wendy! Thank you so much for having me on No Wasted Ink! Let me take a moment to introduce myself. I currently live in Rhode Island, a few towns away from where I grew up. I’m married, have four great kids, two spoiled cats, and lovable lab mix. My degree is in Classics from College of the Holy Cross, and I taught Latin for years at the Meadowbrook Waldorf School. Yes, I’m a dinosaur! I also worked in the admissions office there for over a decade before turning my attention to full-time writing. It’s worth noting that I didn’t publish my first novel until after I turned forty, so for anyone thinking of a career change, it’s never too late!

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I loved to write stories as a child. In fact, when I was sorting through some of my grandma’s things after she passed, I came across a whole collection of poetry and stories I’d written. It was very sweet. In my professional life I’ve written some ad copy, blog posts, and done some editing for school publications, but I had very little time or energy for creative writing.

When my children got older and the dynamics of my family shifted, I began to consider changing careers. While I pondered what was next for me professionally I took on a yearlong writing project at work thinking it would give me the change of pace I needed. Turns out it was one of the most satisfying things I’d ever done in my career. Since I was in the habit of writing every day for work, I challenged myself to write creatively every day as well. Lo and behold, when the report was finished a year later, so was my first manuscript.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

I’ve been asked to describe my book in ten words. Here’s what I came up with: Science fiction meets romance meets survival fiction meets military thriller!

What inspired you to write this book?

Thoughts for my stories come to me in different ways. Sometimes it’s a character that appears in my head, fully formed – personality, career, physical appearance, and name – ready for me to create a story around. Other times, there’s an interesting scene that builds up in my imagination over time. Or sometimes there’s a theme or idea I want to explore.

With Horizon, I had two distinct parts of a story floating in my head. The first was the opening crash sequence. It was more basic at the time of its inception – just a pilot who crash lands on a planet, and a young woman, in some kind of trouble, who saves his life.

The second part was more complex. I was playing with the idea of what would happen if one segment of an already small isolated population evolved differently, either naturally or by design, from the other. What if some had gifts that enabled them to imagine a different kind of future for themselves and their world? What if they were empathic and could sense each other’s emotions and thoughts? What if some of them could heal with their mind? How would the unchanged people feel about their neighbors? It created such an interesting premise I knew I had to find a way to make it into a story.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

There’s a big chunk of survival fiction in the first part of Horizon. Caeli is living alone in the wilderness, fending for herself, and living off the land. I grew up in a rural neighborhood until I was twelve years old and spent most of my playtime outdoors, in the woods, exploring and climbing trees. I distinctly remember the smell of pine, the quiet in the forest after the first snow, the taste of wild blueberries. I tried to call on my own childhood memories to give Caeli’s experience authenticity. And as an adult, I’ve had a few adventures that influenced this particular aspect of the story! Over the years, I’ve accompanied students on several class trips. We’ve hiked the rain forests in Costa Rica, paddled dozens of nautical miles in the open ocean off the coast of Maine, and camped in the mountains of West Virginia. I have actually tended a cooking fire, carved utensils, found edible plants, bathed in the ocean, and slept outdoors.

I’m also a medical school dropout! But my experience in medical school, and for years as an EMT, I think gives Caeli some authority as a healer. And when I wasn’t sure about a particular treatment, I’d call my brother-in-law, who did finish medical school and is a practicing physician!

What authors or books have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

This is a tough one. I love genre fiction and my shelves are filled with everything from horror, to military thrillers, to historical romance. I also appreciate good literary fiction with characters I remember long after I turn the last page. I just enjoy a good story, no matter the genre or style!

Some of my all-time favorites include The Stand by Stephen King. To me this is the ultimate apocalypse story, full of disquieting horror. Harry Potter is at the top of the list. Such incredible world building and rich characters! Outlander is fabulous. Diana Gabaldon’s dialogue is beautiful, and the relationship between Jamie and Claire is so complex and lovely. Recently I read, and loved, The Goldfinch. Literary fiction at its best! The Snow Child also really stayed with me after I finished reading. As I write this, I am staring at my library shelves and thinking, how can I leave off Barbara Kingsolver or Isabel Allende! Or my favorite Steinbeck novel East of Eden! I learn something different from each of these writers, but mostly I’m just incredibly grateful for the pleasure of reading their work. If someone asks me this question next week, I’ll probably have an entirely different list.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

The immensely talented Steven Meyer-Rassow did both the cover art and interior design for Horizon. I wanted to collaborate with someone whose style and artistry resonated with my own. Every single image of Steven’s that I could find was stunning, and when we discussed my project, I knew he really understood my vision. One of the things we talked about initially was the fact that Horizon would be a trilogy, and we’d like to “brand” the series somehow. So in addition to amazing cover artwork, Steve created a title treatment that will carry through and give all the future Horizon books a cohesive look.

Another thing we discussed was that while Horizon firmly belongs on the shelf with other sci-fi novels, it definitely crosses genres. The cover, therefore, needed to have wide appeal. It needed to be intriguing and eye-catching enough for non-sci-fi readers to pick it up, yet stylistically still fit in with its main genre.

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Oh, for sure! First, finish something. A bad draft is better than no draft. Second, keep writing even when you feel stuck. Good habits will help you work through the blocks. But if I had to pick the most important thing for new writers it would be this: a first draft is nowhere near the finished product. This was shocking to me as a first-time novelist – although it shouldn’t have been! I knew edits were going to happen, but I had no idea how much work they would be. If I had to estimate, I would say that writing the first draft was only about one-third of the work. Editing and working through the business side of publishing made up the other two-thirds. What’s fun though, or at least what’s satisfying about the post-first-draft phase, is transforming the story from a rambling, exhaustive, stream of consciousness manuscript, to a work that has structure, flow, and even some artistry. I’ve learned so much about the craft of writing through editing.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

The most important thing for me, as a writer, is to tell a good story. I write because I have to get these stories out of my head and onto the paper, but I also write for my readers and fans. I hope people fall in love with my characters and lose themselves in the plot. I hope they’re transported to different worlds. I hope they open my book and time flies away. This is what I want when I read, and I hope I can provide that experience for my fans!

horizon_cover_03_bTabitha Lord
North Kingstown, RI

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Cover Artist: Steven Meyer-Rassow
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