Frederik Pohl, one of the grand masters of science fiction, has died

Frederik Pohl, winner of the trifecta of science fiction awards (Hugo, Nebula, and John W. Campbell awards), has died.

Pohl, born in New York City in 1919, was one of the most prolific writers of science fiction ever. In the 1930s, he belonged to a science fiction writers club, whose members called themselves the Futurians. Some of those in the group were C.M. Kornbluth, Isaac Asimov, and James Blish.

While he was writing in the 1940s and 1950s, he started a literary agency to put support his growing family. Some of the writers he represented were John Wyndham, Robert Sheckley, and Fritz Leiber. His first published effort, The Space Merchants, 1953), was the first of many collaborations with science fiction giant, C.M. Kornbluth (see above).

Pohl won multiple Nebulas, Hugos, and John W. Campbell awards, the three biggies in the science fiction world. His 1979 novel, Gateway, won all three.

His short story, Fermi and Frosty (1985), which appears in the anthology, Platinum Pohl: The Collected Stories (2005), won the 1986 Short Story Hugo.

Pohl's interests were not restricted to the science fiction world. He was passionate about politics and the environment. He and Asimov collaborated on Our Angry Earth in 1991. Nine years later, he published Chasing Science: Science as Spectator Sport.

Mr. Pohl, who was 93, died yesterday,

TV Time: Fringe

Fringe gets recommended to fans of science fiction, police procedural dramas, and The X-Files. At first I ignored the recommendations due to the fact that the main actors were also main actors in Dawson’s Creek (Pacey), Lord of the Rings (Denethor), and The Wire (Daniels) and my brain couldn't handle it. Or the comparisons to The X-Files, which I love. Once I got past all that I was deep into the series and couldn’t stop!

Set in Boston, the show follows members of the FBI’s “Fringe Division” who, under the supervision of Homeland Security, investigate unexplained events using “fringe” science and experimentation that usually leads back to the fact that there are parallel universes and many dire consequences to the science behind their possible destruction. The show focuses on agent Olivia Dunham, former psychiatric hospital resident/scientist Dr. Walter Bishop, and Walter’s genius son Peter Bishop.

The early seasons of Fringe were mystery-of-the-week style, while later seasons focused more on the overall mythology that continues through the final 5th season. It’s fun to watch the relationships among the main characters as they evolve—Everything from the father/son relationship between Walter and Peter to Walter’s obsession with licorice and all things sweet. The show is intense and addicting, and you will see things in a different light while watching, because after all there are two of everything.

The X-Files turns 20!

This year marks the 20th anniversary of a cult favorite, The X-Files. Can you believe it?! In the fall of 1993 TV viewers were introduced to FBI special agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully and Sci-Fi television was forever changed.

Scully is assigned to work with Mulder on the X-Files, which works on unsolvable cases involving unexplained phenomena. Scully is sent to partner up with Mulder and use her medical and scientific background to keep “Spooky” Mulder’s conspiracy theories in check. His sister was abducted when they were children, and his belief in extraterrestrial life and her abduction haunts Mulder as he obsessively works to find answers to what happened to her, while also trying to solve day-to-day unexplained events. Scully gets more than she bargained for once she too has trouble explaining what she and Mulder uncover while working X-Files cases.

Hideous beasts? Check. Aliens? Check. Shape shifters? Check. Government conspiracy? Check. One of the biggest will-they-won’t-they questions in TV history? Check.

The X-Files featured the typical “monster of the week” episodes, as well as an overall mythology of a larger conspiracy that spanned the entire run of the show and was woven into many episodes. The show aired for nine seasons for 202 episodes, and eventually two X-Files films as well.

Last weekend some of the cast, writers, producers, and the creator reunited at the San Diego Comic-Con, and discussed favorite episodes, monsters, and the future of Mulder and Scully at a 20th anniversary panel. Their discussion begs the question: Will there be a 3rd film?!

He is Legend

The world-renowned author and screenwriter, Richard Matheson died last week. He is remembered for having written numerous episodes for the legendary TV series, the Twilight Zone, but also for his science fiction novels , many of which were made into movies, such as I am Legend (made into 3 different movies: the Last Man on Earth; the Omega Man; and, most recently, I am Legend with Will Smith); the Shrinking Man (made into the 1957 classic movie, the Incredible Shrinking Man); Bid Time Return (made into the movie filmed at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Somewhere in Time); and Steel (most recently made into the movie, Real Steel). He has a long list of screenwriting credits to his name including the classic Edgar Allan Poe movie adaptations directed by Roger Corman like the Pit and the Pendulum. For me the most memorable piece he ever wrote was an episode of the Twilight Zone called Nightmare at 20,000 Feet with William Shatner as the airplane passenger who sees a monster tearing apart the plane’s wings as they are in flight. This was also remade in Twilight Zone: the Movie. He was creative all his life, having been first published at eight years old and writing through his 80’s. He was 87 when he died.

Locus Magazine announces the winners of the 2013 LOCUS Awards

Locus Magazine, the monthly magazine for the latest news and reviews in the world of science fiction, fantasy, and horror literature, has announced its 2013 winners.

John Scalzi received the Locus for Science Fiction Novel for Redshirts. At first, Ensign Andrew Dahl is enjoying serving aboard the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid until he realizes a horrifying pattern. All journeys involve deadly confrontations with aliens and its the lower ranking crew members who are at risk. Listen to Wil Wheaton read the audiobook version.

The Fantasy Novel award went to Charles Stross, for The Apocalypse Codex. The Laundry, Britain's highly secretive intelligence agency charged to protect the Queen and the realm from occult intrusions, employs the beautiful, volatile Persephone Hazard to investigate U.S. televangelist/healer, Ray Schiller. Gideon Emery narrates the audiobook.

The Young Adult award went to China Mieville for Railsea, a hugely imaginative mix of steampunk, cyberpunk, and a fantastical spin on Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Sham is an apprentice to the doctor serving the railsea train Medes. Sham is excited to be on his first hunt for moldywarpes, gigantic moles who live beneath the earth, erupting to the surface in life-and-death battles with all who track them down.

The Non-fiction award was given to William Gibson for his collection of essays in Distrust that Particular Flavor, 30 years of thoughtful pieces about the past, present, and future as influenced by technology.

The Art Book award was bestowed on Spectrum 19: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art. According to the publisher, "With exceptional images by extraordinary creators, this elegant full-color collection showcases an international cadre of creators working in every style and medium, both traditional and digital"

For a complete list of the winners, check out this link.

Jack Vance, science fiction writer, has died

Jack Vance, one of the most underappreciated masters of science fiction and fantasy and mystery, died Sunday at his Oakland, CA home.

The award-winning author (he won an Edgar, a Nebula, and a couple of Hugos, among others) got his start writing short fantasy stories for pulp magazines in the 1940s while serving in the merchant marine during WWII. In 1950, he published the first of his Dying Earth stories, which have since been collected in Tales of the Dying Earth (2000).

Vance had a unique, beautiful writing style that was described by fellow science fiction writer, Norman Spinrad as a "...baroque tapestry..." Vance was not much of a Gadget Guy. He found gadgets boring and said that his forte was telling "...a history of the human future."

Two of his closest chums, Frank Herbert and Poul Anderson built a houseboat together which they used on the Sacramento Delta.

Vance was 96 when he died on Sunday.

Star Wars: Scoundrels

Star Wars: Scoundrels is veteran Star Wars author Timothy Zahn's play on the crime novel, set in the Star Wars universe. Starring everybody's favorite smuggler, Han Solo (who did shoot first), Scoundrels follows an Ocean's Eleven formula to build a ragtag band of criminals plotting a daring heist under the nose of the ruthless Black Sun syndicate. Some old favorites show their face (Lando, Chewie, even the Organa-Solo clan's nanny Winter), and there is a suitably dramatic conclusion and plenty of Star Wars action. Hardcore Star Wars readers will enjoy learning more about a couple of established characters.

TinkerHub Webcast - Backyard Brains

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tinker6.mp4 110.02 MB

TinkerHub Webcast: Backyard Brains
TinkerHub is a webcast collaboration between Ann Arbor District Library and All Hands Active, Ann Arbor’s Makerspace. Recorded in Downtown Ann Arbor, TinkerHub webcasts connect learning, technology, and the Ann Arbor community.

In this episode of TinkerHub, Josh and Terence talk to Tim Marzullo about his company Backyard Brains. Co-founded here in Ann Arbor, Backyard Brains helps make tangible how electricity helps control the body, all using inventions that can then be carried around in their pockets! Tune in as Josh watches the messages that he sends to make his muscles twitch.

Links mentioned in the episode:

Library resources mentioned:

Past AADL-All Hands Active Events

2013 Hugo Award Nominees Announced

Nominees for the 2013 Hugo Awards, the most prestigious prize in science fiction, were announced Saturday afternoon via livestream. The announcement was also made simultaneously at four major science fiction conventions across the country.

The Hugos have been awarded since 1953, and are given to both written and dramatic works in over a dozen categories. Well-known previous winners include Frank Herbert's Dune, Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, and the Pixar film Wall-E. Check out all the great the nominated works in the AADL collection before this year's winners are announced on September 1st!

Nominees for best novel:

2312, Kim Stanley Robinson
Blackout, Mira Grant
Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Lois McMaster Bujold
Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas, John Scalzi
Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed

Nominees for best film:

The Avengers, Screenplay & Directed by Joss Whedon
The Cabin in the Woods, Screenplay by Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon; Directed by Drew Goddard
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro, Directed by Peter Jackson
The Hunger Games, Screenplay by Gary Ross & Suzanne Collins, Directed by Gary Ross
Looper, Screenplay and Directed by Rian Johnson

Episodes of Doctor Who, Fringe, and Game of Thrones were also nominated for awards in short-form dramatic presentation.

Click over to the Hugo Awards official site for a complete list of nominees, including graphic novels, short fiction, and fan authors and artists.

Voyage to Kazohinia


Finally seeing a wider publication, Voyage to Kazohinia by Sandor Szathmari, should be a highly revered classic but has never received its well-deserved due (at least in the English language) until now. It was originally published in Hungary in 1941, then in Esperanto in 1958, and had a very small, limited release in an English translation in the 1970s. But New Europe Books has given it a 4th life and a wider distribution, which I hope brings it more readers. Often compared to Gulliver’s Travels meets Brave New World with a touch of 1984 to boot, Voyage is the story of one, Gulliver, stranded on an island populated by two very different societies. The one he initially finds himself amongst are the Hins who, on the outset, seem to live in a utopia: no politics, no war, no starvation, and no disease. They enjoy a high standard of living for all, and no need for money since production is based on need. But there is a flip side: no art, no casual conversations (they only talk about rational needs), no sense of history (everything is about the here and now), no love, and no individuality (everyone wears the same style of dress for instance). It becomes unbearable as lack of conversation and loneliness take hold, so Gulliver decides to live with the Behins, who he has heard have feelings, in their walled off community. The Hins refer to them as “madmen” and he will soon discover why. This is satirical writing at its best. It will make you think about all the odd societal conventions as well as the political institutions that civilization hath wrought.

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