Tag Archives: science fiction

Book Review: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

Book Name: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea
Author: Jules Verne
First Published: 1870

Jules Verne was born the son of an French attorney in Nantes, France. As a boy, Verne developed a great love for travel and exploration, which was reflected in his science fiction writings. His interest in storytelling often cost him progress in other school subjects. It is rumored that the child Verne was so enthralled with adventure that he stowed away on a vessel going to the West Indies, but his voyage of discovery was cut short when he found his father waiting for him at the next port of call.

As Verne grew to adulthood, he began to write libretti for operettas even as he was studying in law school. When his father discovered that he was not attending to his law studies, his educational funds were cut off. Jules Verne turned to being a stockbroker to make his living, a profession that he hated. Around this time, he met and married Honorine de Viane Morel, a widow with two daughters. Honorine encouraged her husband to do what he loved, to write.

Verne’s writing career improved when he met Pierre-Jules Hetzel, an important French publisher, after being rejected by many other publishers. Verne and Hetzel formed a successful writer-publisher team until Hetzel’s death. Verne was prone to be overly scientific and melancholy in his writing, Hetzel forced the author to be more upbeat and to add in more adventure and less science. The combination proved to be gold. Verne began publishing his novels two years after the birth of his son and generally published two books a year after that point. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was one of his more famous works and one of the earlier novels that he published.

The novel begins in 1866 when a mysterious sea monster is sighted by ships of several countries. In New York City, an expedition to track down and kill the menace is formed by the US government. Professor Pierre Aronnax, a renoun french marine biologist, is invited to join the expedition at the last minute. Aronnax, his assistant Conseil and harpoon master Ned Land set sail from Brooklyn aboard the naval ship Abraham Lincoln and travel around Cape Horn and entering the Pacific Ocean.

The monster is discovered and the ship enters into battle. During the fight, the three men are thrown overboard and find themselves stranded on the “hide” of the monster. Much to their surprise, they find that the animal is a metal ship. The men are captured and brought on board the strange vessel where they meet its creator and commander, Captain Nemo. The vessel is an electrically powered submarine known as the Nautilus which roams the oceans to carry out marine biology research and to serve as an instrument of revenge for her captain. Nemo and Aronnax form a friendship as Aronnax is enthralled by the undersea views, despite the fact that Nemo has forbidden the three passengers to leave the vessel. Only Ned Land continues to plan their escape.

The title of 20,000 leagues under the sea does not refer to the depth that the electrical submarine dives, but rather the distance that the vessel travels in the ocean during the story. The passengers of the Nautilus see the coral reefs of the Red Sea, the shipwrecks of the battle of Vigo Bay, the Antarctic ice shelves and the fictional sunken nation of Atlantis. The crew does battle with sharks and other marine life and the ship itself is attacked by a giant octopus.

In the end, Nemo’s vessel is attacked by a ship from Nemo’s home nation. The battle pushes Nemo into an emotional depression and in his grief, he allows the Nautilus to enter a whirlpool off the coast of Norway. During this distraction, Aronnax, Conseil and Land manage to escape the submarine and return to land. However, the fate of Captain Nemo and the Nautilus remains a mystery.

I can’t remember a time when I did not know of and love the stories of Jules Verne. So many of his stories have been adapted into movies, his characters have been adopted into other novels, and there was once a ride in Disneyland based on the book. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was the first of his novels that I read, prompted by seeing the Disney movie by the same name starring Kirk Douglas (who sings!) produced in 1954. This movie is likely the most famous of numerous films based upon this book. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is considered one of his “Voyages Extraordinaires” novels which also include Around the World in 80 Days, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Mysterious Island, and From the Earth to the Moon. Many of the inventions that Verne wrote about are now real technology that we see everyday. Verne paid attention to the state of the art scientific information of his time and embellished upon it with his vivid imagination to create his fantastic worlds of the future. If you have not read Jules Verne, I urge you to look into his novels. You’ll see long ago dreams that now have become the shape of life as we know it.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is considered in the public domain and is available for free download at Project Gutenberg or at your local public library.

Book Review: The Time Machine

Book Name: The Time Machine
Author: H.G. Wells
First Published: 1895

The Time Machine was H. G. Wells’ first novel of literary importance. He would go on to write The Island of Dr. Moreau and The War of the Worlds soon after. At the time of his writing of The Time Machine, he was a young man of 29 years, a hard working former apprentice to a draper who felt the class system in England all to keenly. Gaining access to books through the connection of his mother who worked in service as a lady’s maid, he was able to gain an understanding to the classics of literature from her employer’s private library. He would later become a socialist, a supporter of women’s suffrage and become a man who loved to fight for causes. H G Wells would marry twice and carry on several affairs with women artists and authors, having several additional children out-of-wedlock in addition to his two sons by his wife Amy Robbins.

The idea for time travel came from a student debating society at Imperial College in London. The debate was on new scientific ideas about the nature of time and from there, Wells spliced science fact into his fascination of government and the effects of the English class system. During the period that he was writing the novel, he was renting a flat with his soon to be second wife, Amy Robbins. His landlady disapproved of the relationship and would spend time outside his window in the dead of night making rude comments about Wells and his private living arrangements. It is said that much of the Morlocks, the villains of the story, were based on this woman’s personality!

The Time Machine is the story of a victorian scientist and inventor from England. He is entertaining dinner guests in his home and reveals to them that he has built a machine that can travel through time. The time traveller leaves the dinner party to test his device and travels into the far future where he discovers the Eloi, a tribe of simple people that have no concept of work and seem to have little curiosity about their environment. The time traveller speculates that they are a peaceful communist society, the result of humanity overcoming nature and evolving to where intellect and strength are not advantageous for survival.

During his efforts to communicate with Eloi, and in particular an Eloi woman named Weena, the time machine is stolen. The time traveller realizes that the machine has been dragged into a close by building that resembles a sphinx. During the night, he is threatened by the nocturnal Morlocks and within their underground home he finds the technology that makes the Eloi way of life possible. The Morlocks control the Eloi to their advantage, using the simple people as their livestock.

The Morlocks, fearing the strangeness that the traveller represents, using the captured time machine to bait the traveller into an underground trap, little realizing that once he gains access to his machine, he is able to use it to escape them. The traveller pushes forward in time to the end of the world before he returns back to his origin, arriving a scant 3 hours later in the evening to the astonishment of his dinner guests. He relates his adventures to his guests and produces two exotic blooms from his pocket that he claims were given to him by Weena as proof. The following day, the time traveller prepares to make a second journey, promising to return in a half hour, but in the end he does not and after three years of waiting, the original narrator of the story realizes that he will never be seen again.

My first exposure to this classic science fiction story and author was via the 1960 movie The Time Machine starring Rod Taylor. It was a special effects giant of its day, winning an academy award for stop-motion photography. I was completely enamored of film and it led me to seek out the book by H.G. Wells. From there I started to read more of his scientific romance stories and became hooked on his writing. Later, I would also become a fan of the 1979 movie Time After Time where the characters Herbert George Wells and Amy Robbins supposedly meet and fall in love in the 1970’s before they return via time machine to Well’s Victorian era where he is inspired to write his famous science fiction novels. The character of George Wells in the movie is very much as real life H G Wells might have been in personality.

H. G. Wells is considered one of the progenitors of the science fiction genre and of scientific romance in particular. His views on the future were not always pleasant, but in his writings there is such a sense of reality that you can believe his reasoning and accept his views as a logical progression of where humanity might go. I personally find that the book has a steampunk feel to it, although it was created decades before the steampunk movement in literature began. The author and the protagonist of The Time Machine originate during victorian times and the story concerns an inventor of a fantastic machine that likely runs on steam like technology. Perhaps in a way, The Time Machine could be considered a forerunner to the steampunk sub-genre.

The Time Machine Book CoverYou can download a free copy of The Time Machine at Project Gutenberg. It is one of the very first novels that they transcribed for the project.

Author Interview: Brad Blake

Brad Blake and I met at the El Capitan Theater in Los Angeles during a science fiction get together for fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs. He is an author with several books under his belt and is a fellow “late starter” like myself when it comes to writing novels. I’m grateful that he consented to be interviewed here at No Wasted Ink.

Please introduce yourself to our readers, Brad.

I’m a native Northern Californian, married with two grown children and a career spent in technology sales. My mom was a teacher and librarian and my dad was a lover of history. I enjoy sports, travel, food, movies, music, the arts, and of course have a lifelong love affair with books. I’ll give in eventually, but do not yet own an eBook reader of any kind.

When and why did you begin writing?

My first memory is writing a nonsensical story about transforming into a bug which I tried to read in front of my 6th grade class, but started laughing so hard I couldn’t stop. I recall reading Mysterious Island by Jules Verne about this time, which forever hooked me into grand adventure and science fiction. My first serious attempt at fiction writing was after college, and mostly short stories submitted to science fiction magazines. Looking at these stories now offers a lesson in how not to write. I put writing aside for the next 20 years while raising a family and working.

Back in 2000 I took a screenwriting class. Over the next few years I wrote a handful of movie scripts, two of which are quite good and have done well in competitions. However, as I attended awards ceremonies at film events such as the Charleston International Film Festival, it became obvious that even the greatest screenplay has almost zero chance of being made into anything. However, the fact that I’d completed full movie scripts gave me the confidence that I needed to start writing. Plus the positive recognition gave me the confidence that I could write a good novel. Unlike screenplays, there was the potential to publish.

In early 2009 I was looking for a new job, and while searching, my wife suggested I start writing my first book. Now in 2012 I have three novels published, the fourth written and the fifth fully plotted and almost half done. These comprise one story arc spread over five books. On a side note I’m also an artist, mostly pen and ink, and have included my original drawings in each book.

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

Since this is a five book “Blue Third” series, I’ll start with the first:

Blue Third – Citlalli and the Destroyer – The title is meant to be a throwback to the grand adventure books I’ve always loved, from Verne to H.G. Wells to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars series. I tried with Citlalli to create and write this kind of exciting tale, updated into our 21st century world, with young adults as its main heroes.

Citlalli and the Destroyer is a space adventure with a unique, fast-paced story. The novel takes seven teenagers from different cultures, one from 5,000 years ago, and throws them into unbelievable adventures on which the fate of Earth and the galaxy rests. The story begins by introducing Citlalli in her native Mexico of 5,000 years ago. After inadvertently becoming a stowaway on a cocoa trader’s interstellar vessel, she ends up being teamed with six teenagers of today. They come from different cultures and families, and along with Citlalli and a bunch of intelligent alien allies are thrust into journeys that will determine the fate of everyone’s civilizations in battling a monstrously evil entity known as The Destroyer. The adventurers include five girls, two boys, and a Basset hound named Lucy. Their journey forces them to learn about friendship, courage, strength, sacrifice and more. I believe the novel offers unique ideas, a very original story, and a genuinely exciting and fun reading experience. I remain very proud of it.

What inspired you to write this book?

All those wonderful authors and their fantastic stories I’ve read my entire life. I would add that I’d been kicking around the idea of Cocoa being the catalyst for Earth’s entry into the interstellar community for 25 years, and finally brought this idea to fruition as the foundation for the first book.

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

Blue Third is the series title, like Harry Potter, and each book has its own subtitle: Citlalli and the Destroyer, The Cocoa War, Chasing Time, Citlalli and the Dark, and lastly Seven of the Blue Third. Blue Third signifies Planet Earth. In the first book Earth becomes the long lost legendary home of Cocoa, with the whispered name Blue Third, and thus the series title. As for the subtitles, I am a big fan of classic science fiction books and movies from the ‘40s and ‘50s, and each title (including its font and slant on the cover) tries to reflect the spirit of those great titles of yesteryear.

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

I didn’t start with a message, but since they’re written for all ages there is a consistent focus on teamwork, respecting others who are different than you, never giving up and overcoming great odds to succeed. Honestly, my main goal is for readers to have fun and get sucked into the story of these brave kids.

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

There are too many to name with many influences in these books. Harlan Ellison inspired my screenwriting and is definitely one of my primary influences. Others off the top of my head include Vonnegut, Tolkien, Bradbury, Pohl, Lovecraft, Wodehouse, Joe R. Lansdale, and way too many others. Having been told my writing is like James Patterson, I’ve read his Maximum Ride novels, which I enjoyed.

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

All the covers and titles were my ideas, with mockups I’d create for both front and back, and interpreted by the in-house artists at CreateSpace (my publisher) and approved by me. Perhaps someday I’ll be able to redo these with original artwork by a wonderful illustrator, but I’m very happy with them as is.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I’m a classic late starter and wish I hadn’t taken twenty years off, so my advice is simple: Write. Get the bug and just do it as often as you can. And it’s never too late to start. I was 53 in 2009 as I started my first book, and three years later I’m completing book five. And the feeling is awesome.

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

First of all, thank you to anyone who’s read my books. My daughter just started reading the first book to her class of second graders, admittedly a bit young, but apparently enthralled and enjoying the story very much, and are especially impressed that her Dad wrote it. For me that’s what I started writing for in the first place. Whether young or old, I hope anyone reading my books has a wonderful time and enjoys them just as I did when discovering reading so long ago.

Brad Blake
I’m a writer of young adult to adult adventure/science fiction as well as dark comedic screenplays.

The Blue Third series is published by CreateSpace and each is available on Amazon under “Blue Third”, both as hard copies and also on Kindle.

You can find the first three of the novels in this series via Smashwords where epub, mobi and other ebook reader formats are available.

Author Interview: Scott Dutton

Due to my love of the work of Edgar Rich Burroughs, I came across Scott’s novel, Return to Barsoom and fell in love with it. Thankfully, Scott has agreed to share more about his work and his insights as an author here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Scott DuttonMy name is Scott Dutton. I primarily practice as an art director/graphic designer. I have considerable experience in magazines, and currently work in marketing in a corporate environment. Outside of that, I am one of the many designers moving to ebooks as part of the future of publishing. I intend to create and design my own written/illustrated works, as well as providing packaging services to authors that understand the business advantage quality design brings to the marketplace.

When and why did you begin writing?

Storytelling has always been central to my life. I was fascinated with the science fiction and fantasy television shows of the 60s and 70s, Star Trek, Irwin Allen’s shows, and so on and that led directly into comic books. I started drawing and creating my own stories to entertain myself, and showed a talent for writing that was encouraged by teachers. It wasn’t until I got into my early teens that I began writing and drawing my own comics.

I went to art school for my training in design and illustration, and throughout my 20s worked part-time in comics, but was not overly successful at it. It wasn’t until I self-published my own work as part of the small press that I found my voice. During this time, I also did straight prose work, but lacked the focus to finish anything substantial.

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

Return to Barsoom was one of those projects started in my early 20s. I worked on it off and on for about 20 years, finally finishing it in 2009. It served two purposes, bringing my ideas to Burroughs’ world and to demonstrate my design capabilities to the emerging ebook design market.

What inspired you to write this book?

I very much loved reading Burroughs’ books, beginning with Tarzan of the Apes when I was 12. Later, I read the John Carter of Mars series and the bulk of his other works. By far, I felt his best concepts and a continuing freshness were found in the Mars series.

As I talk about on the book’s page on my site I loved the books, and it’s natural if you immerse yourself in that world to think about what you might do with it if you made it your own. There are a lot of pastiches out there that play out very closely to how Burroughs’ thought of the world. They choose to be reverential to the original stories. That’s a valid approach. For myself, I thought that would be a bit constraining and unremarkable at that time.

We’re now a hundred years beyond the society that created John Carter of Mars, and much of how we view our place in the world has changed. I describe Burroughs’ approach as colonial fiction; the virtuous western man will invariably rise to the top over other cultures. In Tarzan, it was over the apes and black African culture. In John Carter, it is the decaying and warring factions of red and green men.

Having come of age in the latter part of the 20th century, I think we now know the myth of western superiority, or at least we should.

That fit in with what we know about the real Mars. If you start from the position that we’ve lost contact with Mars since the 1940s (the last Burroughs story), and we know our Mars is a cold, desolate place, it brings some mystery and a chance to discover what happened since then for new and old readers alike. It also allows me as a writer to reset that world’s culture and assumptions. That was what inspired me: how could I respect what Burroughs had created, while bringing a modern or post-modern reality to how we think of people. What does an adventure story look like when you apply that to it?

Did you need any special permissions in order to write a story based on the Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs?

If I was intending to commercialize my Barsoom books, yes, but there are no restrictions in writing your own versions to be distributed freely. There’s a long tradition of fan fiction, and as long as you’re not taking a bite out of the rights holders’ pie, they’re likely to leave you alone. By comparison, Dynamite Comics is being sued for unfair competition with their Tarzan and Mars comics. And as far as I know, Simon & Schuster haven’t come under fire yet for their original Under the Moons of Mars collection.

I prefer to play things pretty straight, and see myself falling somewhere between fan fiction and a published book. While I own the rights to my story and the original characters created for it, I wouldn’t try to monetize my Barsoom work unless I worked out a licensing agreement with Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. first.

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

It comes from the lead character’s desire for the simpleness of youthful adventure before the weight of adulthood levels most of us.

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

I very much believe in Roland Barthe’s idea of the death of the author. Once I was done writing the book and said what I wanted to say, I no longer mattered. What the reader sees in it and takes away from it is entirely up to them and has its own validity.

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

I was inspired by a number of authors over the years. They’re listed in the dedication to the book.

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

I designed it myself, using a JPL/NASA image as a base. I chose this very specifically over the traditional science fiction/fantasy style painting to clearly show I was making a break from the romantic past and Burroughs’ style. I don’t think we need that illusion anymore, and the cover sets the stage for creating a new perception of what Barsoom can be.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write regularly. Observe everything. Be engaged in the world, not just a genre. Understand your times and the path history took to get us here. Write from your heart and guts. Find your own voice. People are motivated ultimately by their emotions and you must be true to how people act and react.

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

Comments and criticism are always welcome, especially so when I’m not directly making a living off writing adventure stories.

Return to Barsoom Book CoverScott Dutton
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Writing adventure fiction that respects the past while taking it into the future.
Published by Catspaw Dynamics (my design and publishing trade name)
Scott Dutton designed the cover, sourcing a JPL/NASA image of Mars.

You may download the book for free here: Return to Barsoom

Book Review: Little Fuzzy

Book Name: Little Fuzzy
Author: H. Beam Piper
First Published: 1962
Won the 1963 Hugo Award for Best Novel

H. Beam Piper was a self-educated man, with a great deal of interest in history and science, the two subjects which would figure prominently in his later writings. Being expelled from high school, Piper went to work at the age of 18 as a common laborer at the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Altoona Yards in Pennsylvania and later became a night watchman for the third shift at the same railroad yard. He was married to Betty Hirst for several years, but their marriage was unhappy and eventually they divorced without children.

Piper’s writing career began in 1953 with the novel Murder in the Gunroom, a story that would be linked to his death due to the similarity of the plot and his own demise. Soon after his novel Little Fuzzy won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1963, H. Beam Piper committed suicide by pistol in early November of the following year. He was a member of the National Rifle Association and owned a large collection of guns, swords and knives with over 100 antique and modern weapons and accessories. It is said that Piper felt burdened by financial hardships in the wake of his divorce and the mistaken belief that his career was going under. He died without gaining critical attention for his work or knowing of the large sales his books were starting to gain for him. After his apparent suicide, his stories began to gain a cult-like following that continues to this day.

Little Fuzzy is the story of Jack Holloway, a crusty prospector on the planet Zarathustra. While humans have been on the planet for decades, he is the first to encounter these tiny humanoid life forms. He befriends a small group of them, taking them in as curious pets. As the days go on, he begins to realize that the Fuzzies, as he calls them, show signs of being more than simple animals, but as thinking beings. If they are sapient, this could ruin the commercial charter of Zarathustra Company and disrupt their taking of the natural resources of the world and in particular, the rare sunstone jewel that is found no where else in the galaxy. It is up to Jack and his friends to protect the Fuzzies and to help them win their day in court.

When I first encountered Little Fuzzy on the book shelf, I mistook it for a children’s book. Who would not with a little furry alien on the cover and a story about cute child-like animals that are “adopted”? Yet, there is an undercurrent to Little Fuzzy in it’s courtroom drama that questions who gains the rights of citizenship and who is considered a second class citizen a reservation that strikes home even today. The notions of corporate interests stifling scientific discoveries that might hurt their bottom line and of environmentalism are all woven into this tale of delightful aliens and the crusty libertarian prospector. The story is memorable and has inspired many sequels. I highly recommend checking out this classic science fiction tale that has inspired many authors down through the years.

Little Fuzzy by H. Beam PiperLittle Fuzzy is in the public domain and can be found for free download at Project Gutenberg.