Arthur C. Clarke, Proselytizer Of Space

There were two authors I read extensively when I first started reading science fiction. The first was Isaac Asimov, because, well. Robots. Foundation. Reasons. The other was Arthur C. Clarke. The first story I really remember reading from him came from a thick anthology cultivated by Asimov, with one fantastic story by Clarke in it: Who’s There? I then ran through a bunch of his books: 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2010, 2061 and 3001 are the ones I checked out over and over again. Later, I dug into Rama and even later, Childhood’s End.

A while ago, I had some grand idea of doing a parallel column for another website on the history of SF film, but quickly found that I didn’t have the time or background to really get into it. I started writing an inaugural piece on – you guessed it – 2001: A Space Odyssey, before quickly realizing that I was really writing a column about the book.

There’s a lot out on Clarke, more than most of the authors I typically write about. As a result, this column’s quite a bit longer than what I usually put together.

There’s a lot of tie-in novels out there, from all the major franchises, but typically, the books come as a result of the film, or there’s a film based on the book. Far less common is when the book and film are created simultaneously, as is the case with Clarke’s book. It’s not his best work, but it’s probably his most visible.

Go read Arthur C. Clarke, Proselytizer Of Space over on Kirkus Reviews.

Sources:

Billion / Trillion Year Spree, Brian Aldiss. Aldiss comes out of the British scene, and has some interesting and good notes on Clarke’s works, although not as much on 2001 specifically.
Science Fiction Writers: Second Edition, Richard Bleiler. This book has a good section on Clarke and his life, which works as a good thumbnail for his life and where everything fits.
2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke. I have two editions of this book: a special release from 2001, and an original Signet Paperback from 1968. The latter has a good forward with some helpful details. The former is also neat, and it’s helpful to hold something one’s writing about in one’s hands.
Astounding Days: A Science Fictional Biography, Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke wrote a short autobiography of his time at Astounding, which helped with some of his earlier moments as a writer. This is pretty limited, only going up to the 1950s, but it’s a neat look at Astounding.
The Lost Worlds of 2001, Arthur C. Clarke. Not merely content to write a book to have a movie based on it, Clarke also did a book on how the movie came about. This has some particularly good details on the writing process, repent with dates and neat details. (Asimov’s 3 Laws in the movie? Think of how it could have changed!)
Olaf Stapledon: Speaking for the Future, Robert Crossley. Stapledon was a major influence on Clarke’s works, and this book recounts his encounter with Clarke, who invited him to a BIS meeting.
Arthur C. Clarke: The Authorized Biography, Neil McAleer. This book is a very good biography. Detailed and interesting, it provides a great amount of detail into how Clarke and Kubrick came up with the story.
History of Science Fiction, Adam Roberts. Clarke makes an appropriate appearance here, and Roberts has a good discussion of his works.

The Fantastic Foresight of Katherine MacLean

Over the last year, I’ve been trying to write more about the women who wrote SF throughout its history. We’ve seen a bunch: Francis Stevens, Margaret St. Clair, Judith Merrill, Leigh Brackett, C.L. Moore, and Mary Shelley. While fewer in number than their male counterparts, they were all pretty influential. Recently, there’s been quite a bit of talk over the role of women who write genre fiction, and a common argument that women simply don’t write hard science fiction. Katherine MacLean counters this argument, adapting well to the world of magazine fiction from the 1950s through about the 1980s. For me, it was an introduction to a new author whom I have never come across before, and it was a delight to read up on some stories that really should be read more widely. 

Also, go wish her a happy birthday – she turns 89 today.

Go read The Fantastic Foresight of Katherine MacLean over on Kirkus Reviews.

Sources

  • Science Fiction Writers, 2nd Edition, edited by Richard Bleiler. Part of the Scribner Writers series, this volume has an excellent section on Katherine MacLean’s life and works.
  • Interview, Katherine MacLean. Katherine is the first subject which I’ve directly interviewed for this, and she provided quite a bit of detail for this piece.
  • The Diploids and Other Flights of Fancy, Katherine MacLean. This is an excellent collection of 8 short stories – in particular, read Incommunicado.
  • An Interview with Katherine MacLean, Darrell Schweitzer. This interview appeared in the New York Review of Science Fiction’s July 2013 issue, and it’s an excellent, in depth chat about her life and works, conducted at the 2012 ReaderCon in Burlington MA. It’s worth a read.

 

 

Bram in 2091

According to a random longevity calculator that I found on the web, my son, Bram (as a white male, born in Vermont) has a projected lifespan of 78 years, giving him until the year 2091 to live, provided everything remains the same. I’m guessing, given the age of some of my relatives, and the potential for progress in medical science, that there’s a good chance that he could live to see 2100 and beyond. By the same measure, someone born in 1913 would live until 1991, or someone born in 1935 would live until 2013. It’s an impressive range of time, and it gets me thinking about how things change from one time to another, and what it means.

It’s a slightly morbid subject, but it’s an interesting one to look at. I’m a historian, and recently, I’ve been reading quite a bit on the development of the 20th Century. Human nature generally gives us a short-term viewpoint for everything around us, and when it comes to imagining what the future holds for us, our art fails us. Science fiction doesn’t really have a good track record, despite some notable predictions here and there from Verne and Clarke. SF is more about the present than it is about what the future will really be like.

So, what’s Bram’s world going to be like over the next eight decades? To get an idea of how things change, it’s instructive to look at how much has changed since 1935 for some context.

Between 1935 and 1945, the Great Depression was underway and ending. World War 1 was just about two decades behind everyone, with those veterans now parents and trying to find work. The repercussions from the Great War no longer in the immediate forefront in US policy. Facism was on the rise in the world with Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler in power and actively breaking treaties. The Dust Bowl, a major ecological catastrophe, caused by over farming, loomed in the American Southwest. The WPA was formed by the Roosevelt administration, as well as the Social Security administration. World War 2 rose and broke over a majority of that time, with devastating, transformative consequences for the world. In the science fiction world, the pulps were started up and took off into a run, with the Golden Age starting up.

From 1945 to 1955: The Second World War ended with Hitler’s suicide and the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan. The nuclear race started, with a Soviet bomb in 1949. The Korean war started and ended, and the Cold War began. The US was quickly becoming an economic powerhouse in the new world. Golden age of SF was still going strong. Novels were starting to appear, magazines were waning. The Baby boomer generation were around, and getting older.

From 1955 to 1965: Sputnik orbited the planet in 1957, and the first man went into space a couple of years later. The Cold War was still going strong, and the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs showed us that we could go into space. The Vietnam War was starting to brew (US not fully involved yet). John F. Kennedy was killed.

1965-1975: Vietnam War was going strong. Robert Kennedy was killed, as well as Martin Luther King. Counterculture was in full swing, and the Vietnam War reaches its peak and ended. We landed on the Moon, more than once, and launched Skylab in 1973. Computers were starting to appear in colleges.

1975-1985: Iranian revolution happened and began to change some things in the Middle East, while the 1st Persian Gulf War began. Space Shuttle program was in full swing. The Regan administration was elected. Science Fiction shifts from books to movies. Star Wars, Alien, Blade Runner were all released during this time. I was born.

1985-1995: 1st Gulf War, Space Shuttle Challenger, fall of the Soviet Union all happen. Computers begin to enter classrooms, introducing the Internet to students (like myself). We get a computer in our house for the first time. Babylon 5 starts airing.

1995-2005: The internet is here to stay. Terror attacks in New York City and Washington DC shift the political focus in the country. Soviet Communism is a pretty distant memory, with the threat of radicalized islamic groups taking their place. Star Wars is re-released and a new trilogy hits theaters. Firefly is aired and cancelled. Space Shuttle program suffers blow with Columbia’s loss. The ISS begins construction in ’98.

2005-2013: Social Media sites take over the web, internet communications are intensely monitored. I watch/read (almost) live as a Mars lander hits the surface of the planet. Space X becomes first private company to launch and dock with the ISS. The Space Shuttle program ends. Bram is born into a house that has eight computers (5 of them hand-held) and parents who are both working in a technology-based workplace.

There’s a lot of changes in that time.

Born in 2013, Bram will never know a world in which the United States hasn’t had an African-American president, where the mobile phone is one of the dominant and most proliferated pieces of technology on the planet, and where he can watch an astronaut fix a space station from his home. He can talk to someone on a video phone with the tap of a couple of buttons. He’s growing up in a household with a robot in it.

He’s never going to know a world where there’s more hours of Star Wars: Clone Wars episodes than there are of the Original Trilogy. He’ll never know a household where there isn’t something to do with that franchise kicking around. He’ll never know a world in which the space shuttle was in operation, but he will know one where private operations are in existence, even flourishing. In all likelihood, he’ll see people land on the moon again, as well as seeing manned missions to asteroids, Mars and potentially, the moons of Saturn and Jupiter. He’ll see the beginning of a new space program, Orion. He’s growing up in a world where he’ll never know a World War I veteran.

Politically, while he’s growing up in a state that’s one of the least diverse in the US, he’s part of a generation that’s going to be amongst the most diverse in the country – ethnically, sexually, politically. This’ll have major implications for policy and the general makeup and attitude of Americans. He’s the beneficiary of a world that doesn’t have Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein, but there’s plenty of other bad people in the world to take their places. He’ll see the final years of the war in Afghanistan.

Environmentally, he’s going to get the full brunt of global anthropomorphic climate change. If he stays in Vermont, we’ll likely still see extreme winters, but as global temperatures rise, the state will most likely see a collapse of its Maple Tree population as it gets too warm for them – no more glorious fall hillsides. Invasive species will decimate other tree species, which makes me wonder if we’ll see more evergreens over maples and ashes. Vermont will have its own issues as we see major storms pass over the state – our geography will lend itself to major flooding throughout the fall and spring seasons, and parts of the state will need to be reinforced against it, with more green spaces in flood plains, or total abandonment of some areas.

Computer-wise, he’s never going to know a time without a computer. A mobile phone that was pure imagination in 1935 took his first picture minutes after he was born, and he sees us work and watch things on our home computers. He’s entering an age when the television isn’t supreme: we don’t have live TV in the house at all. Moore’s Law will probably end, but computers will grow increasingly faster. Almost half of the world’s population will have access to the internet.

Bram will be 10 in 2023. Countries such as China, India and Brazil will likely be major world powers alongside the US, and we’ll likely see major space efforts to reach the Moon and Mars during this time. Bram’s schooling will probably have a lot to do with computers and online classrooms. We’ll probably see autonomous cars and aircraft more often, but not everywhere. The ISS will be decommissioned and will be deorbited over the Pacific Ocean. The veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will be in their 30s/40s/50s, and the conflicts will start to pass into history. They’ll likely become precursors to other major conflicts in the region as it continues to stabilize after the Arab Spring a decade earlier. The US will be composed of a far different ethnic makeup, and there’ll likely be some grumbling about that. I’m guessing that women will become a more dominant part of the workplace, while transgendered and non-CIS folks will be far more accepted than they are now. The 99942 Apophis will pass by us, but won’t impact. I’ll be 38.

Bram will be 20 in 2032. The world population will be at least 8 billion people. io9 predicts that we’ll have some form of AI, computers everywhere, major effects from climate change (and mitigation projects), 3D printed organs, and more space travel and settlement. Bram will probably be in college or about to leave. His job likely doesn’t and can’t exist right now. 99942 Apophis could impact the planet. I’ll be 48. The last remaining World War II veterans will have died.

Bram will be 30 in 2043. Bram will have some form of job that’s unheard of now. Global climate change will bring up major storms, and will likely be the cause of conflicts as the global population shifts around. Africa will see some major growth, if not before. I’ll be 58, and maybe, I’ll be a grandfather.

Bram will be 40 in 2053. The world’s population will be at least 9 billion people, putting a huge strain on resources, provided that economics and infrastructure are insufficient. We might very well see the construction of a space elevator. I’ll be 68 – Maybe I’ll be retired, if such a thing still exists.

Bram will be 50 in 2063. Lunar mining operations might be around, and a good chunk of our energy will come from renewable energy. I’ll be 78, my projected life-span, if nothing else changes. Megan will probably outlive me.

Bram will be 60 in 2073. Space and international travel might be pretty easy to go do, but still expensive. I could be 88.

Bram will be 70 in 2083. China will likely be the major global power on the planet. We might be able to live on the Moon. I could be 98.

Bram will be 80 in 2093, the end of his projected lifespan – he might go far past that. The planet might be completely converted to renewable energy by this point. The world will be completely different from now, ecologically, politically, socially. The last veterans of the Iraq / Afghanistan wars will be few in number. I’ll be 108. Who knows what science fiction will bring at that point?

The point to all of this isn’t to be predictive: it’s to think about how much things will have changed. It’s easy to imagine our lives right now with things like space travel, 3D printed organs and computers controlling everything, but the ramifications on how that affects everything is much harder to predict. Very few people in the 1800s had any idea of what the world a century later would look like, and the same is exactly the same now. It’s a nebulous point in time, but there’s one major point to keep in mind: things will change, and we can’t – and shouldn’t – expect to build a world that’s a mirror of our own. My world isn’t and never will be Bram’s – he’ll have is own.

One of the major takeaways from this is that he’s likely going to lead a very different life from the one I’ve lived, something that’s relatively new in human history: up through the industrial revolution and even deep into the 20th Century, families often followed similar paths: sons would take their occupation from that of their father, and so forth. The shift is even more jarring when it comes to female employment. My father works in business and geology; I work as a freelance writer and educational administrator for a job that simply didn’t exist when I was born, or largely in the last two decades (online education is still a young field). Bram will probably do something completely different, and in a field that simply doesn’t exist yet. More than just employment, though; the lessons, habits and personality that he picks up from Megan and myself will come with him, and it’s something that remains at the back of my mind. Hopefully, we’ll impart habits of generosity, friendliness and curiosity to him, and hopefully, those will be traits that will aid him throughout his life.

If things go well, Bram might be among the first generations of people who could easily leave the planet and go somewhere else. He’ll be the recipient of technologies that will fundamentally change how humans live and interact with one another, and will continue to accelerate our development moving forward. Interestingly, while we can make some scientific predictions (I’d bet that most of them will come faster than we expect), I can’t get a good idea of most of the geopolitical ones.

These are all guesses. Looking at science fiction, it’s clear that their guesses for the future were sometimes correct, but more often wildly off target. There’s things that we know, barring something major and unforeseen: global climate change will be a factor in life. The prevalence of technology will continue. People will act like jerks to one another, and there’ll be a lot more of us.

I hope that we’ll see some of those things come to fruition, and that we’ll be fortunate enough to live to see them. Those predictions? Science fiction, especially as you get further and further away. Looking back at the past, they’ll likely marvel at just how much they’ve changed in their own generation.

Hugo Nominations Period

The nominations period for the Hugo Awards are now open! This year’s World Science Fiction convention will be held in London. Nominations are open through March 31st.

If anyone’s so inclined to nominate my column for Kirkus Reviews, you’re welcome to do so – the posts can be considered for Best Related Work. I’m very proud of the work I did this year, covering an interesting range of science fiction, fantasy and horror authors. For reference, here’s the segment of columns eligible this year:

In the meantime, there’s a couple of books that I really want to recommend for Best Novel:

  • Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie: I’m confident that this one will end up on the final ballot, and I really hope that it wins. It’s a stunning book, my favorite of the year.
  • The Violent Century, Lavie Tidhar: Tidhar’s latest is another stunning novel, one that’s an excellent story in and of itself, but also a fantastic, critical look at our own culture.
  • The Shining Girls, Lauren Beukes: Beukes novel is a great, engaging read. Great characters, wonderful time travel narrative.
  • NOS4A2, Joe Hill: Hill’s latest reminds me of Beukes in a lot of ways. This one is masterfully written.
  • Love Minus Eighty, Will McIntosh: I’m a huge fan of McIntosh’s books, and this is certainly an interesting and emotional take on technology.
  • Abaddon’s Gate, James S.A. Corey: It’s an Expanse novel: that means awesome. The first missed out on a Hugo, but this one should be considered.
  • You, Austin Grossman: Like Tidhar, Grossman’s fantastic at penning a great tale while looking deeply at our own culture.
  • The Golem & the Jinn, Helene Wecker: Currently reading this one. Wonderfully written, great characters and story.

For Best Semiprozine, I’d highly recommend Lightspeed Magazine, where I work, as well as John Joseph Adams for Best Editor, Short Form.

So, go, nominate!

2013

2013 was a rush. So many things happened that have never happened to me before, all positive.

Bram was born in May, and his entry into our family is one of those things that I can’t quite describe. He’s a beautiful, wonderful child. He’s happy, and lights up whenever one of us enter the room. He’s clocked in at 7 months already (where does the time go?), and one of the delights has been watching him unpack from day 1. It’s a cliché to say that they do something new every day, and it’s largely true. He’s gone from a small, helpless human to a larger, slightly less helpless human in that time. He’s curious, excited, constantly learning and changing. It’s been an adventure, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

War Stories was signed and announced in May, and successfully Kickstarted in October-November. That was a nail-biting rush. We’ve got an outstanding group of authors, some brilliant stories, and quite a bit of work ahead of us. Fortunately, it’s exciting work, and I’m looking forward to seeing this hit bookshelves in the near future.

I made my first professional short fiction sale in September – Fragmented, to Galaxy’s Edge Magazine. This was a huge milestone for me, something that I’ve wanted to do since high school. Every author makes their first sale, and my head still reels when I realize I made that step. Now, I need to make it happen again.

My column for Kirkus has been going strong, and I’m far happier with the work that I did in 2013 than I did in 2012 (not that there was anything wrong with 2012′s columns – I just found my footing, background and gained some experience). I found some outstanding people to write about, discovered a number of excellent stories. Even cooler, there’s a publisher, Jurassic London, who’s excited enough about the column (they called it essential reading!) to turn it into a proper book, which I’m beyond excited about.

On top of all that, I read a number of outstanding books. Ancillary Justice, The Violent Century, In Meat We Trust, The Shining Girls, Love Minus Eighty, Abaddon’s Gate, NOS4A2, Ocean at the End of the Laneand a couple of others. It was a good year to loose one’s self in a book.

On the other hand, it’s been an interesting year for being in the SF/F community – lots of drama. I found that it’s too easy to get outraged at what others are doing and how easy it is to be pushed along by others. I found it equally easy to cut and limit their influence into my thinking. My twitter feed is much quieter, and I’m less stressed about the things I enjoy. There’s still issues in various places, and I’m making some changes for 2014, but I feel like I’ll be happier for them.

What’s coming in 2014? War Stories drops (hopefully in May/June). My story will be published somewhere. I’m going to try and spend more time writing and less time worrying what others think of what’s going on. And, enjoying spending time with a growing infant/toddler.

Reading up on SF History

Jo Walton What Makes This Book So Great

While I’m working on plotting out the rest of the year for this column, I figured it would be interesting to look at a small portion of the books that I use to support this column. There’s a lot out there, and if you look at back entries, you’ll see that I do a more comprehensive bibliography for each post here.

My habits for supporting this column involve a small research library at my home, one that’s continually growing. It started with a couple of books before I started – biographies and a couple of others – and I’ve since quickly run out of space on one shelf (I need a new one soon) to house it. I also utilize my local university library’s own collection (which is pretty extensive), and their connections to the Interlibrary Loan network.

But, I do like to have my own copies of the ones that I use the most. Inevitably, the ILL system takes a couple of days or weeks to get books in, and I’m somewhat impatient when I’m researching, especially when I’m stuck waiting for a volume.

This coming year, I have a feeling that I’ll be doing more interviews – I’ve got one out right now – as I move into eras where there’s more people who are still alive. Predominantly, I’ve been researching the pulps and early golden age. It’ll be an exciting new thing to do.

Go read Reading up on SF History on Kirkus Reviews.

The Influential Pulp Career of Francis Stevens

Over the course of writing this column for Kirkus Reviews, I’ve found that the early women authors writing in the genre were some of the most influential, producing some incredible stories over their careers. I’ve looked at quite a few who were incredibly influential: Margaret St. Clair, Judith Merrill, Leigh Brackett, C.L. Moore, and Mary Shelley. This week, we finally get to the woman who was considered one of the very first professionals in the pulp field: Gertrude Barrows Bennett, who wrote under the name Francis Stevens. She only wrote for a couple of years, but proved to be an incredible influence on the authors who followed her.

Go read The Influential Pulp Career of Francis Stevens over on Kirkus Reviews.

Sources:

Partners in Wonder: Women and the Birth of Science Fiction, 1926-1965, Eric Leif Davin – Stevens’ active publishing period falls before this time, but she does get some good mentions throughout this book, which poists that discrimination in the SF world wasn’t entirely accurate on an industry level, which runs counter to current perceptions of SF’s roots. It’s an interesting theory, one which he breaks down quite a bit.
Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of the “Science Romance in the Munsey Magazines, 1912-1920, Sam Moskowitz – This is a fantastic hybrid of anthology and history. Moskowitz is to be handled with care, but in this instance, he seems to be mostly accurate (he does continue the idea that Augusust Swift was H.P. Lovecraft – he wasn’t), but presents a nice history of the Munsey Magazines along with some solid biographical information on Stevens.
American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from Poe to the Pulps, edited by Peter Straub – Like all other Library of America volumes, this contains a short, updated biography, alongside her story Unseen-Unfeared.
The Nightmare, and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy, edited by Francis Stevens, Gary Hoppenstand – You can read the introduction here, and it’s an interesting read with some good biographical points about Bennett/Stevens and her life that don’t show up in many other places.
Stevens, Francis, SF Encyclopedia – There’s a short entry on Stevens here, with some notes about her impact.

The Unauthorized Lord of the Rings

I bought my first copy of The Hobbit at a library sale in Quechee, VT when I was a kid. At the time, I remember noticing that the cover was graced with an ‘The Authorized Edition’, and it’s been something that I’ve noticed over the years. A couple of months ago, I wrote a column on Ace Books and their double novels, and came across the reason for the words: Ace had published an unauthorized version of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, citing a publishing loophole and sparking a publishing row that had some pretty profound implications on the fantasy publishing field.

There’s the common narrative that the book was stolen outright, but digging a little deeper finds that there’s quite a bit more to the story than Ace’s edition.

Go read The Unauthorized Lord of the Rings over on Kirkus Reviews.

  • Trillion Year Spree, Brian W. Aldiss – Aldiss recounts this incident briefly, and notes that the impact that it had on fantasy: that it generally heightened the profile of the fantasy trilogy.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, Humphrey Carpenter – Carpenter’s biography comes out of Tolkien’s camp, and it’s understandably tilted more towards Tolkien’s views of how this happened, but it does provide some good details as to what his reactions and motivations where here.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography, Wayne Hammond and Douglas A. Anderson – This book is a detailed look at the publication history of Tolkien’s works, and they provide a good look at the Ace and Ballantine editions.
  • The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien – My recent copy of Fellowship of the Ring (the hardcover boxed set with art from Alan Lee) contains a note that talks a bit about the text of the books, including (but not naming Ace) and their editions.
  • The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien – My 1966 edition of the Hobbit features the ‘Authorized Edition’ and a note from Tolkien in the back of the book.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Tale of a Text, Pat Reynolds – This site has some good additional information on the incident.
  • Betsy Wollheim: The Family Trade, Locus – Wollheim’s daughter, Betsy, now the president of DAW books has a couple of good quotes on just how her father came to the decision to publish his own version of Lord of the Rings.
  • Donald Wollheim, Betsy Wollheim – Betsy was an invaluable help here, pointing me to her father’s side of the argument, which was largely overlooked. She provided me with a copy of her essay about her father that provided some very helpful insights into his character and personality.
  • Eisen, Durwood & Co., Inc. v. Tolkien: This is the 1993 court ruling that ruled on the legality of Wollheim’s actions many years after this happened.
  • ISFDB Bibliography – The Internet Speculative Fiction Database provides a comprehensive listing of the releases for Tolkien’s books, along with dates, which was very helpful.

Book Sale: History of SF to Jurassic London

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I’m very happy to announce that I’ve sold the rights to a book on SF History to British publisher Jurassic London! Since April 2012, I’ve been writing a column on the subject for Kirkus Reviews, which has been a fantastic experience thus far. Since starting with them, my end goal has always been to collect the columns together into a larger work, and Jared has been a vocal and enthusiastic proponent for it. (Seriously, he calls it required reading!)

I’m pretty thrilled to have this land here. I’m a big fan of the books that Jurassic London has put out, especially their short fiction anthologies: The Lowest Heaven was a fantastic read, and I’m eagerly getting ready to read their latest, Book of the Dead.

This book isn’t going to be a collection of the columns, but they are going to form a bit of the backbone. My aim here is to look at the history of the genre and its relationship with the readers and authors, but also the relationship between society and technology. In my work with Kirkus, I’ve been trying to emphasize some of the important, but lesser known authors and editors working within the genre, and I’m hoping that it’ll be a nice addition to some of the other popular works on SF history.

This is going to be Jurassic London’s first foray into original non-fiction, and while we don’t have a title for this book yet, we are aiming for an early 2015 release. Read their release here.

Tom Swift and the Stratemeyer Syndicate

I never read the Tom Swift novels as a kid; I was always more obsessed with the Hardy Boys series. Over the years, I’ve read bits and pieces about Edward Stratemeyer, the man who was behind the long-running book series, as well as those of Nancy Drew, the Bobbsey Twins (a favorite of my mother’s), The Rover Boys and Tom Swift. He conceived of a character, put together a formula, and had a freelancer ghost write the novel before editing it. The process has always fascinated me, but when it came to looking into his background, an entire segment of early science fiction comes to light: the Dime Store novels, which created entire subgenres in their own right. More than that, they carried with them some real kernels of thematic material which have since propagated far into the future, which surprised and delighted me.

Another fun fact? TASER isn’t a word: it’s an acronym that stands for Tom A Swift’s Electric Rifle.

Go read Tom Swift and the Stratemeyer Syndicate over on Kirkus Reviews.

Here’s the sources that I used:

  • Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction, Brian Aldiss – Aldiss talks about the edisonade stories briefly, noting the larger movement and announcing it as the first real American SF.
  • Science Fiction: The Early Years, Richard Bleiler – This book contains some biographical information on Victor Appleton (Howard R. Garis), as well as plot summaries of a number of the Tom Swift books.
  • Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction, James Gunn – Gunn provides some small bits about Tom Swift here and there, which helped me connect the dots, but what’s more interesting is how the character and juvenile fiction is largely overlooked.
  • Science Fiction after 1900: From the Steam Man to the Stars, Brooks Landon – This was a very interesting book that talked quite a bit about the early SF, especially when it comes to Dime novels and where Tom Swift fits into all this.
  • Cultural History of Literature: Science Fiction, Robert Luckhurst – Luckhurst has some good contextual information on Tom Swift, mainly backing up Aldiss and Landon’s texts.
  • Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, Melanie Rehak – This was a particularly good read when it came to Stratemeyer himself, recounting his early life and how he came to become a major publisher.
  • Edisonade, John Clute – this article on the SF Encyclopedia is a good summary of Edisonade and an overview of some of its history.