Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

 

 

 
If you’re on Facebook, you’ve doubtless seen the meme that asks you to list books that have resonated with you.

A few years ago, Suvudo asked Fred about his favorite books.

Fred mentioned several works that had stayed with him throughout his life, including Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, but then went on to write at length about L. Sprague de Camp’s alternate history Lest Darkness Fall and how it influenced him.

We recommend both Fred’s review and de Camp’s novel.
 

The blog team

Frederik Pohl

Frederik Pohl


“The thing about science fiction is that we don’t write about THE future. Every story is about a possible future, exploring the things that MAY happen fifty, a hundred or a thousand years from now. I think the world described in Man Plus is possible, but if some events go one way rather than another we may be, equally possibly, stuck with the world written about in All the Lives He Led.”

—Frederik Pohl

Quoted in an interview with Fred and Betty at Litstack.com that we haven’t linked before.

The Circle

The Circle by Dave Eggers, previous American Book Award winner, Knopf, New York/McSweeney’s Books, San Francisco, 2013 (ISBN 978-0-385-35139-3 (It’s available on line, in bookstores in print and e-book form and at most libraries in large print too.)

 
By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull

Blogger/writer Rudy Rucker called Dave Eggers The Circle “a page-turner,” explaining, “I plowed through it in two days, thinking a lot about the characters and the ideas, and when it was done, I missed having it to read.” When I read the novel last spring, my reaction my reaction was almost exactly the same, although my feelings were more complex. Other critics have called it a dystopian novel. It centers on a company called the Circle, a Twitter / Google / Amazon /Microsoft / Apple / Facebook / LinkedIn / YouTube mash-up, a company hell-bent on making us all one people, like it or not.

The protagonist, Mae Holland, lands her dream job at a relatively new and small but potentially powerful Southern California tech company and becomes an expert at her job of finding out what other people want and giving 100-percent satisfaction to them. Her transformation over the space of more than 400 pages is compelling.

Pleasing customers is only the beginning of what she must learn; she also must become a transparent member of the company and give up any other competing interests or obligations, including family, friendships, and even romantic entanglements. Sounds like a cult? She is, in fact, transformed into Everywoman for the 21st century. I don’t know whether you’ll find her sympathetic or not, but her journey is fascinating to watch and her decision at the end is thought-provoking..

The Circle raises questions about keeping up with the latest in technology as well as the issues of privacy, vulnerability, transparency, being in control of one’s destiny, our social and moral responsibility to others, and the blessing/curse of the permanence of the Cloud, and facing the consequences of decisions we make all too innocently, all of which are now in the news. These are all women’s issues, but they are more than that: they are human concerns.

Gateway

 

From the blog team:

We’re thrilled to tell you that Fred’s novel Gateway may soon be on your TV screen.

Entertainment One Television (Hell on Wheels) in collaboration with De Laurentiis Co. (Dune< and Hannibal) plan to develop and produce a TV drama series adapted from the book, which was one of Fred’s favorites, and a winner of the 1978 Hugo Award for Best Novel, the 1978 Locus Award for Best Novel, the 1977 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and the 1978 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best science-fiction novel.

The two companies were the winners of an auction with a number of producers bidding on the the screen rights to the novel. Martha De Laurentiis and Lorenzo De Maio of De Laurentiis will be the executive producers, along with eOne TV’s John Morayniss, CEO; Michael Rosenberg, executive VP of U.S. scripted TV; and Benedict Carver, senior VP of filmed entertainment. They’re now looking for a writer to do the screenplay adaptation, so interested sf writers with TV experience should contact them.

Some of you will wonder — yes, Fred knew this was coming together before he died.

Bill Gates predicts an end to  poor countries by 2035.

An optimistic Bill Gates predicts an end to poor countries by 2035. Pessimists fear the U.S. will be one before then.

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull. Photo by Barb Knoff.


Elizabeth
Anne Hull

Billionaire Bill Gates‘ recent prediction that by 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world caught my eye. I can’t help wondering how much attention Mr. Gates has paid to theshrinking middle class in the United States, let alone how much understanding he has about what it’s like to be a member of a family with greatly diminished expectations, or that’s slid into poverty within the last five years.

Mr. Gates has every right to be an optimist. He’s taken great risks and, against the odds, come out a winner, at least financially. Throughout my lifetime I believed that most Americans were optimists, having faith in a better future. I’m not so sure a majority still feels that way, considering the state of the economy, our political paralysis, the proliferation of weapons in private hands in the U.S., shootings, and violence at home and abroad. For a number of reasons, we do not seem to be growing safer or more secure.

I once made a similar assumption for a story, “Standard Deviation” (originally titled “The Midler,” and dramatized for radio in Germany but never published in the U.S.). It was based on a December 1978 Analog science-fact article by John Gribbin, “Science Fiction is Too Gloomy,” which asserted that in 200 years we’d no longer have any of the problems we worried about at the time. Gribbin qualified his claim by assuring us that we’d have problems galore in 2178, they just wouldn’t be the same ones we fretted about then. All those problems would have come to a crisis and been solved, assuming the human race had survived at all.

So, for the purposes of my story, I waved the writer’s magic wand and assumed that major issues like global warming, pollution, overpopulation, food shortages and distribution, nutrition, access to education and technology, diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer, all had been solved. What remained as a major problem in the story was the need all human beings seem to have to feel “special.” I might take a different tack if I were doing the story today, Although I’m still into food issues, these days I’m far more interested in feminism, human cultures, economics, politics, etc.

Pessimists worry that we won’t solve our problems and it will be the end of us, at least as we know human civilization and culture. Kurt Vonnegut wrote a comic novel, Galapagos, about human survival in a physically devolved state, wherein we had lost our big brains that had given us so many problems, and our progeny were now happily frolicking like porpoises in the water. It’s every bit as funny as Cat’s Cradle or Slaughterhouse-Five. We have to laugh so we don’t cry.

Gateway by Frederik Pohl

 

Q: “In your novel Gateway how much of the character Robinette Broadhead is autobiographical and how much is therapeutic?”

A: Well, in a sense every character in every story I ever wrote is autobiographical. That is, every character is basically what I think I would care about, do, and wish for if I were that creature, with that creature’s makeup and history.

That’s not hard for me to do when the character is human, like Robinette. I know what kind of a world he lives in, that he’s been raised by his mother (autobiographical? maybe), what his hopes are for the future (not much, until the chance to go to Gateway comes along for him) and so on, and I can pretty much imagine what my feelings would be like if those things were true of me.

When the character isn’t human, and sometimes isn’t even organic, like Wan-To in The World at the End of Time, it’s harder. Wan To is a ball of energy living in the core of a star. But still he has feelings — like self-survival, maybe jealousy, probably vanity, probably curiosity and so on — enough to make him a character instead of a prop.

(That’s a distinction all we sf writers owe to Stanley G. Weinbaum. Almost every alien creature in every science-fiction story written before the creature named Tweel in his “A Martian Odysseyin 1934, from H.G. Wells’s invading Martians on, was a prop. Only Weinbaum’s Tweel was a character.)

At least I think that’s about what I would be like if I happened to be a ball of radiant energy instead of a human being.