Posts tagged ‘Media’

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.

 

Detail: Cover by Ean Taylor for 'The Way the Future Was' (1983 Granada edition)

 

Fred’s death was reported and mourned all over the world. Here are excerpts from just a small selection of the remembrances from fans, friends and the media.

  • “Grand master passes through the final Gateway.” —Simon Sharwood, The Register.

  • “On Monday, September 2nd, 2013, one of the last remaining great figures in the science fiction genre passed away. Frederik Pohl was 93 years old, with a long and distinguished career writing, selling and editing science-fiction stories.” —Andrew Liptak, Kirkus Reviews.

  • “Like some magnificent sequoia, he was both a vibrant, majestic, respirating presence and a token of a distant, almost unimaginable past. He was given a Grandmaster Award by the Science Fiction Writers of America twenty years ago, but that tribute hardly begins to do justice to his immense accomplishments.” —Paul Di Filippo, Barnes and Noble Review.

  • “Frederik George Pohl, Jr. (Nov. 26, 1919 – Sept. 2, 2013) was almost a living artifact of a bygone era in science fiction, as well as one of the genre’s most fertile and perennially refreshed talents. Born in the immediate aftermath of World War I, he died in the epoch of Google Glass and the Large Hadron Collider, without ever losing his imaginative spontaneity or intellectual curiosity, or his ability to upset and disturb the genre consensus.” —Paul St John Mackintosh, TeleRead.

  • “弗雷德里克·波尔是为数不多的可以担当起“科幻小说大师”头衔的科幻作家.” —The Beijing News.

  • “Frederik Pohl was a science-fiction author of extraordinary longevity and accomplishment. In hundreds of stories between 1940 and 2010, and dozens of longer works from 1953, he became the sharpest and most precise satirist in the science-fiction world. Kurt Vonnegut may have created greater myths of the awfulness of America, and Philip K Dick may have had a profounder understanding of the human costs of living in a unreal world; but Pohl — from experience garnered in the field of advertising — knew exactly how to describe the consumerist world that began to come into being after the Second World War.” —John Clute, The Independent (UK).

  • “In all, he published more than 60 novels. His most lauded effort was Jem: The Making of a Utopia (1979), which remains the only science fiction title to have won the National Book Award.” —The Independent (Eire).

  • “La ciencia ficción tiene nombres que cualquier que se diga fanático tiene que saber. Uno de ellos es Frederik Pohl, y si su nombre no te suena, en este artículo te contamos por qué este hombre que acaba de pasar a la inmortalidad a los 93 años contribuyó a que cientos de miles se hagan fanáticos de este género.” —Nico Varonas, Neoteo.

  • “Described as prickly and stubborn (he was married five times and divorced four), Pohl resisted the Internet for years, according to family and friends, but in 2009 launched a blog called ‘The Way the Future Blogs.’ Like much of his writing throughout his life, it was funny, skeptical and perceptive and it won a Hugo Award.” —Ben Steelman, Star News Online.

  • “科幻黄金时代硕果仅存的科幻大师之一的Frederik Pohl于9月2日因呼吸困难(respiratory distress)去世,享年93岁。Frederik Pohl以科幻期刊编辑和作家的双重身份闻名,他在60年代作为科幻期刊的编辑连续多年获得雨果奖,之后又以作家身份获得了多次雨果奖和星云奖。” —Chinese Writers Network.

  • “A stickler for detail, Pohl was determined to get as much science correct as possible in his books. His research took him all over the world and he was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2004, when he published the final novel in the Heechee saga, he apologised to his readers for having suggested, in Gateway, that aliens might have taken refuge in a black hole. With the physics of black holes having been more fully understood in the intervening years, Pohl acknowledged that nothing and no one could exist within a black hole.” —The Telegraph.

  • “Avec un coup d’avance et l’humour noir qui caractérise son style, son œuvre dé voile , pour l’humanité, un avenir inquiétant en partie advenu: omniprésence de l’informatique, montée du terrorisme, raréfaction des ressources, pollution, surpopulation, crise du logement, fanatisme religieux. . . . Après Jack Vance et Richard Matheson , c’est la troisième figure majeure de la SF américaine qui s’éteint cette année.” —Macha Séry, Le Monde.

  • “Despite being 93, he worked to ‘Safeguard Humanity’ to the end.” —Eric Klien, Lifeboat Foundation.

  • Continue reading ‘Obituaries and Tributes to Frederik Pohl’ »

Harry Harrison in 1990 (Photo by Frank Olynyk).

Harry Harrison in 1990.
(Photo by Frank Olynyk.)
 

That’s the headline we should have run days ago. I started to write something at the time, but it kept getting longer and longer and isn’t finished yet. I hope to post it tomorrow

Meanwhile, the New York Times published an even longer obit. (It looks like it began on Page 1, although when you read your morning paper on a Kindle, it’s not easy to be sure.) The story was by staff Times writer Douglas Martin, who couldn’t help poking a little fun at the deceased in his opening paragraphs:

“‘Incompetent, unlettered, unskilled writers sell to unexacting editors. All of this is going completely unnoticed by an incompetent readership.’

“So wrote Harry Harrison in a 1990 essay that described science fiction, the genre in which he wrote more than 60 novels, as ‘rubbish.’ Some critics thought his work helped prove the point. Charles Platt, writing in the Washington Post in 1984, said that Mr. Harrison was better at ‘evoking the personalities of lizards than of people.'”

(Thereafter, however, Martin got down to a lengthy and quite well reported account of Harry’s work.)

More to come.

 
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The Strip by Brian McFadden

I’ve been reading the New York Times, on and off, since I was maybe twelve years old, when the major attraction was ads showing models in their underwear, and I have long been aware of some puzzling facts about the paper. The first of those facts was historical: Way back in the 19th century, the Times had been the first newspaper in America to publish a comic strip — followed by Fact No. 2: After a few weeks the paper canceled the strip and never again sullied its reportage of facts, not funnies —

Until this year of 2012, that is. Then without warning it began running, on Sundays only, a strip written and drawn by Brian McFadden. It’s not just a comic, it’s a political comic; and it’s not just politics, it’s often my kind of politics. The first week’s subject was “Religious Exemptions for Fun and Profit,” and then it was “Campaign Comeback Advice for Mitt Romney.” One piece of advice: “Apply Vaseline to your teeth if you plan on mentioning Massachusetts. Smiles tend to be more convincing than looking like you just sucked on a lemon.”

Of course you won’t find this strip in the comics section, because there isn’t any comics section. It shows up on Page 2 of “The Sunday Review.” (You can also see it online at The Daily Kos.)

(And One of the Smartest)

Kathy Keeton

Kathy Keeton

In the spring of 1978, I was doing a book-promotion tour in the general area of Boston, Massachusetts. That sort of thing was usually scheduled to take advantage of the fact that I would be in that area anyway, for some other commitment such as a lecture date. The rest of that sort of tour is drudgery. Did you ever see the old TV comedy series, “WKRP in Cincinnati”? That’s it, one WKRP after another, cabbing all over some unattractive neighborhoods of Boston or Chicago or Philadelphia or Detroit or — well, any big, or formerly big, city in the USA. I guess the worst of it is that when those little stations want a five-minute guest to drag in their listeners, it’s most likely to be in drive time— 7 to 9 AM or 5 to 7 PM, when the commuters will flick on their car radios, hungry for anything to take their minds off the job.

And what I particularly noticed about that morning tour was an extraordinarily good-looking blonde woman who always seemed to be coming out of a studio as I was going in. or the reverse. And that evening as I got to my 5:30 she was waiting for her turn to go on and she looked up from what she was pecking at in her lap and said, “We have to quit meeting like this. You’re Frederik Pohl, the receptionist told me. I’m Kathy Keeton, and I’m editing the new science and sf magazine, Nova.”

Well, actually she wasn’t. PBS had a lock on that title, and rather than go through a lawsuit they decided at the last minute to change their title to another four-letter word, Omni, and it was as Omni that their first issue came a few weeks later.

It wasn’t exactly a fact that that was a good year for popular-scientific magazines to come out. Half a dozen of them had already popped up, like mushrooms after a rain. A few years later, most of them had vanished, because although it was true that the American consumer had become more interested in science than before, that didn’t mean they were interested in buying magazines about it. Omni survived a few years longer than the others, though I don’t think it ever turned a profit.

It didn’t have to. Bob Guccione, the magazine’s publisher as well as Kathy’s boyfriend, and later husband, didn’t know what to do with all the money that was pouring in from his magazine Penthouse described as a magazine like Hugh Hefner’s Playboy, but just a tad dirtier. Things went sour for him a few years later, but he had no trouble diverting some of the earnings from Penthouse into subsidizing Omni.

Bachmann-Newsweek

 

It isn’t a real time machine. It’s just a tattered copy of the August 18, 2011, Newsweek, but it’s almost as good. What it did for me just this morning was take me back to those scary days when the race for delegates in the Republican Presidential nomination was poised to begin with the Iowa caucus, and who knew what it was going to come up with?

There was the Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, for instance. The Tea Party was riding high in those days, just before that test of strength that was the Iowa caucus, and Bachmann was something close to their poster politician for her take-no-prisoners rabble-rousing speeches. Newsweek gave Bachmann its front cover with the caption “The Queen of Rage” for an article that summarized her strengths. Strong Tea Party support. Strong religious favor for her born-again Christianity in a state loaded with evangelical Christians, and besides, she herself was a native Iowan. What then was she doing as a Congresswoman from Minnesota? Why, her husband’s career had taken him there, and as a good, God-fearing wife she had gone where her husband chose to go.

She looked to Newsweek like a strong contender But, the editors cautioned, she was up against some other strong contenders, like former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who was already in the race, and the even stronger opponent, Texas Governor Rick Perry, who seemed about to declare. Would one of those be our next President?

Not very likely. You see, that was then.

This is now, and six months have brought changes. Bachmann, Pawlenty, Perry. Mention any of those names in conversation these days. and the response you get is furrowed eyebrows and the question. “Who?” And so I return my Newsweek time machine to the recycle bin I pulled it out of.

How quickly things do change.