FATHERS OF SCIENCE FICTION

 

 

 

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THE FATHERS OF SCIENCE FICTION: JULES VERNE

When we think of science fiction, we think of futuristic settings, exotic alien creatures and robots.  Long before this vision, science fiction was defined as any type of literature that used science and advanced ideas in the story.  One of the first writers to use this concept was Jules Verne, but he was far from a visionary.  Verne, and others like him, merely used concepts by scientists that were ahead of their time and were explained in common science periodicals. Submarines were around, but they were primitive compared to the Nautilus in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.

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Verne was born on Feb.8, 1828(which happens to also be my mother’s birthday) and was a French novelist, poet and playwright, and is known for his adventure novels.  Born on Loire River, in the town of Nantes, he had a brother named Paul, and three sisters, Anna, Mathille, and Marie.   Verne’s father was a lawyer, but Jules didn’t want to continue in the same work, so early in life he turned to write for magazines and the stage. It is rumored that he became a cabin boy at age 11 for a three mast ship, called the Coralie, and was ordered off when if his father discovered he had done so.

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He began writing at age 19, during the time his father, Pierre, sent him to law school.  He is most famous for the creation of “The Voyage Extraordinaires”, a widely popular series of adventure novels, Including Journey To The Center of The Earth, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, and Around The World In 80 Days.  He is the most translated author in the world since 1977, ranking between Agatha Christie and William Shakespeare.

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20,000 Leagues Under The Sea was written in 1870, tells the story of Captain Nemo and the submarine Nautilus, as seen y the perspective of Professor Pierre Aronmax. A Disney film adaption, with Kirk Douglas, was also made with marginal success.   He also wrote a sequel to it called Mysterious Island in 1874, which concludes the Nemo tale.

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Previously, he had written Journey To The Center of The Earth, as a magazine series in 1864, which focused on German professor Otto Lidenbrock, who believes there are volcanic tubes going towards the center of the earth.  On their journey, they encounter prehistoric animals, natural disasters, and a race of lost people.  Several television and movie versions have been made, most recently with Brendan Fraiser in the starring role.

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80 Days Around The World, written in 1872, is officially an adventure novel, but the idea at the time seemed impossible, thus lending it to be futuristic.  It is the tale of Phileas Fogg of London, and his newly employed French valet Passepartout attest to circumnavigate the world in 80 days on a £20,000 wager set by his friends at the Reform Club.

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Some of the places in his books are named after real places, and some are fictional.  JRR Tolkien was greatly inspired by his works, and there are similarities between The Lord of the Rings and Journey to The Center of The Earth, as well as The Adventures of Captain Hatteras, a short story he wrote later.  Others influenced by his work include Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury.

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I, myself, read these books as a child, and was greatly inspired by them.  Verne is one of the greatest adventure writers of all time, and one of the early fathers of science fiction.  When I think of him, a giant squid comes to mind, which was also once believed to be a myth.  Ocean stories have always intrigued me; I wrote one as a child that I hope to finish one day.  Tomorrow, we will explore the world of HG Wells, who was also years ahead of his time with his ideas.  Until then, here are the links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jules_Verne

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twenty_Thousand_Leagues_Under_the_Sea

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journey_to_the_Center_of_the_Earth

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Around_the_World_in_Eighty_Days

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                   HG WELLS: FATHER OF MODERN SCIENCE FICTION

Most modern science fiction writers today have either been influenced by him, or have adapted some of their ideas from him.  He is the original creator of the “scientific romances”, the predecessor of science fiction.   He is most noted for The War of The Worlds, a turn of the century novel of a world invaded by Martians.  As were many of the writers of the time, his novels were loosely based on common science, political, and socialistic topics of era.  A non religious, self-proclaimed socialist, himself, he possessed pacifist views towards war, and wrote of many of the physiological and sociological problems of the time.

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He was born on Sept. 21(my birthday), 1866, as Herbert George Wells, and was a prolific English writer in many genres, including history, politics, social commentaries, and textbooks on rules of war.  His father, Joseph Wells, owned a small shop in Kent, England, that sold china and sporting goods, which was unsuccessful, and also was a professional cricket player for the Kent County team.  Due to an accident in 1874, Wells began to read excessively, and had a great desire to write.  In 1879, his parents separated, but never divorced, and remained faithful to one another nonetheless.

In Oslo, in 1879, his mother arranged him to join the National School of Wookey as a pupil-teacher, and eventually took a position at the Milhurst Grammar School, but he admitted he hated the job.  We won a scholarship to the National School of Science in London, and studied Biology under Thomas Henry Huxley, a well-known advocated of Darwin.  In 1890, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from the University of London External Program.

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In 1891, Wells married his cousin, Isabel Mary Wells, and the marriage only lasted three years, when Wells fells in love with one of his students.  Catherine Robbins, who he married in 1895, had two children from Wells, George Philip and Frank Richard.  He also had several affairs; with his wife’s consent, and fathered a daughter, Anne-Jane, from a writer named Amber Reeves and a son, Anthony West, by novelist Rebecca West.

Wells also provided much of his own artwork in his stories, such as sketches and drawings.  He was nominated for the Nobel prize in Literature in 1921,1932, 1935, and 1946.  His first notable science fiction novel was The Time Machine, published in 1895.  It has been adapted into two feature films, and two television series.  The story reflects his own socialist political views on life and abundance.  It tells of a tale of a man who invents a machine capable of traveling forward and back in time.  As he travels to 800,000 years from now, he finds humanity has developed into two races; a peaceful, simple society called the Eloi, and a war-like mutant race called the Morlocks, who live underground.  Although the central character is never named himself, there are theories that it was HG Wells himself.  In the movie version, his name is given as George, his middle name.

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In 1896, he wrote The Island of Dr. Moreau, a morbid tale about a shipwrecked man, Edward Penrick, left on the island of a bio-scientist named Dr. Moreau, who creates human-like beings from animals using vivisection.   The novel focuses on pain, cruelty, moral responsibility, human identity, and human’s interference with nature.  It has been made in several adaptations; three on the big screen, The Island of Lost Souls,(1932), with Bela Logosi, The Island of Dr. Moreau, (1977), with Burt Lancaster and Michael York, and another version with the same name, starring Marlon Brando, Val Kilmner,  and Ron Pearlman in 1996.

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In 1897, he wrote a novella named The Invisible Man.  Griffin, the main character and biographer, has devoted himself to research into optics and invents a way to change a body’s refractive index to that of air so that it absorbs and reflects no light to become invisible.  He is successful, buts finds that the process is irreversible.  There are too many versions of this story to list, but the first started with Claude Rains starring in the title role.  This is one of the most amusing old movies that I’ve ever seen, but the real story was not meant to be a comedy.

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In 1998, Wells wrote his most famous work, The War of The Worlds.  As with other books at the time, Wells tale was focused on scientific viewpoint of the era, when the discovery of “canals” on Mars through telescope lead astronomers to believe the possibility of life there.  It was one of the earliest pieces of fiction dealing with extraterrestrials.  This pivotal point in fiction would lead to a whole new revolution in this field of literature, as we will see later in the series.  The first world war was just around the corner as well, and living in England gave Wells vision of what was to pass in the future.

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The narrator in the story is unknown, but we know he is trying to get to his wife, when a Martian pod lands, and alien killing machines ascend from it.  His brother is also a central part of the story as well, but mainly in  the first part of the novel.  The Martians are eventually killed from a simple virus, which is obviously attributed to Wells’ biology study roots.   

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Before films. there was a radio version, with Orson Wells as narrator, which caused a raucous, when some people believed the play was a report of real events.  There were two film versions made, one starring Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning, and the other was a 50’s version.  There was also a television series as well.  The 50’s version looks primitive compared to the newer one, but it was deemed state of the art at the time, and the only movie coming close to the special effects was Forbidden Planet.

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I, myself, am fascinated by Wells’ vision of the red planet, and have developed my own vision of it as well, in my novel Dimension Lapse.   For some reason, Mars has that effect on writers, as we have seen in Wells, and our next father of science fiction, Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of the Tarzan series.  Until tomorrow, here are the links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._G._Wells

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Invisible_Man

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Time_Machine

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Island_of_Doctor_Moreau

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_War_of_the_Worlds

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ADVENTURE, ROMANCE & SCIENCE FICTION:                                                   THE WORLD OF EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS

Edgar Rice Burroughs is best known for his Tarzan series, but did you know he also wrote science fiction?  His first sci-fi novel was written in 1911, The Princess of Mars, and was the first of eleven of the Barsoom series, a fictional name for the planet Mars.

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He was born on Sept. 1, 1875 in Chicago, Illinois, and the first in our series to be an American.  He was the fourth son of the businessman and civil war veteran, Major George Tyler Burroughs.  He attended several schools, including the Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and the Michigan Military Academy.  In 1895, he enlisted as a soldier in the 7th US Calvary in Fort Grant, in Arizona territory.  He was discharged with a heart problem in 1897.

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He worked for his father’s firm in 1899, and married his childhood sweetheart, Emma Hulbert.  By 1911, he began to write fiction in his spare time.  By then, he had two children, Joan, who later married Tarzan film actor, James Pierce, and Hulbert.   In the 1920’s, he became a pilot, and bought his own plane.  He divorced Emma in 1934, and married former actress, Florence Gillert Deuyhold, in 1935, only to divorce her in 1942.

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Many of his stories were published in the Argossy magazine.  Full of swordplay and amazing feats, his work is a classic example of 20th century pulp fiction and planetary romance, which became very popular after his series was published. He based his vision of Mars by astronomer Perevial Lowell’s observations of the surface of Mars, revealing what appeared to once be canals, or a water system.

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The Barsoom series begins with The Princess of Mars, which tells the story of John Carter, a confederate veteran of the civil war, who goes prospecting in Arizona, and is chased by Apaches.  He seeks refuge in a secret cavern, and is mysteriously transported to Mars.  Once on the red planet, Carter discovers he has great  strength and agility in an environment of lesser gravity and air pressure.  He falls in with a tribe of green Martians that are 12 feet tall, known as Tharks.  He earns respect from the tribe.

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He meets Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, a member of the red Martian race, which is at war with the Tharks.  He gets involved with the politics of the planet, marries Dejah, and saves the planet by stopping the atmospheric plant which provides the world’s air from shutting down.  He passes out, and finds himself back in the cave.

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I have to admit, although I read this one and have seen Disney’s version of the book, I have never read this series in its entirety.  Who knows, after this, maybe I’ll put it on my list of must reads.  It was popular enough of a series to earn him an induction into The Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2003.  Burroughs died on March 19, 1950, after suffering a heart attack, just before his genre became extremely popular, and the UFO phenomena took off.

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Tomorrow, we will conclude the first part of our series with a prolific short story writer, Robert Hienlein, who is one of many who paved the way for current science fiction.  Until then, here are today’s links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Rice_Burroughs

http://www.johncarterofmars.ca/

https://www.edgarriceburroughs.com/

 

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One of The Masters of Modern Science Fiction:  Robert  Anson Heinlein

In yesterday’s blog, I spoke of pulp fiction.  Robert A. Heinlein was one of the first science fiction writers to break the pulp fiction mold, and move into mainstream magazines, such as The Saturday Evening Post and Astounding Science Fiction magazine.  He has been called “The Dean of Science Fiction”, and one of the many who came under the editorship of John W. Campbell Jr.  He repeatedly addressed social themes within his stories, such as: the importance of individual liberty, self reliance, the obligations individuals owe to society, religious influence, and suppression of nonconformist thought.

Heinlein was named the first Science Fiction Grand Master in 1974, and won 4 HUGO awards for his novels.  In his stories, he has described a modern waterbed and a version of a cell phone, 35 years before Motorola developed the first one.  He and his second wife, Virginia redesigned their house to be more automated, creating one of the first of its kind.

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He was born on July 7th, 1907, in Butler, Missouri, and his parents were Rex Ivan Heinlein, an accountant, and Bam Lyle Heinlein.  He spent his childhood in Kansas City, Missouri in the bible belt.  This influenced much of his later works , such as Time Enough For Love, and To Sail Beyond the Sunset.  He often broke many bible belt values, especially in regard to religion and sexual morality.

He served in the US Navy, graduating from the US Naval Academy in Andover, Maryland.  He earned a B.S. degree in Naval Engineering in 1929, and served aboard the first aircraft carrier, the USS Lexington in 1931, under Captain Ernest J. King.  He was discharged medically in 1934 for pulmonary tuberculosis, and ran for the California State Assembly unsuccessfully in 1938.

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In the 40’s and 50’s, he began to write for magazines, until he wrote his first serial novel, Starship Troopers.  The story was about a militaristic society and a young soldier named Juan “Johnny” Rico’s exploits in a mobile infantry.  The soldiers are pitted against the backdrop of an interstellar war against arachnid-like creatures called “bugs.”  A movie was made of this, but in my opinion, it was a disgrace to his work.  It was a cheezy, cheap imitation of what the story was really about.  Read it, and you’ll know what I mean.

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In 1961, Stranger In A Strange Land,  came out.  Again, a Martian story about a man named Valentine Michael Smith, who is born under a generation of settlers on the red planet.  He returns to Earth in his early adulthood only to find the customs of his home planet are surprisingly different to his own.  He received a HUGO award for this one, and it is still one of the most read and best pieces of science fiction to this day.  I’m just waiting for them to make the movie?

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In 1966, he came out with The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, a tale about a lunar colony’s revolt against Earth rule.  Set in 2075, underground colonies are scattered, and the population is 3 million.  The “Loonies”, as they are called by Earthlings are a free willed society with their own set of rules.  Bryan Singer(X-Men series) is said to be director of a film version called Uprising, which is due out next year.

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Heinlein is also known for his Lazurus Long series, and various other short stories.  NASA has named an asteroid after him, as well as a crater on Mars.  He died from emphysema in his sleep on May 8, 1988.

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Monday we will continue the series, as we move on to a great legend and Odyssey, with Arthur C. Clarke.  Until then, have a great weekend.  I have a team karaoke contest to win Friday and Saturday with three other teammates.  Here are today’s links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_A._Heinlein

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starship_Troopers

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stranger_in_a_Strange_Land

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moon_Is_a_Harsh_Mistress

 

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ARTHUR C. CLARKE:  WRITER, FUTURIST & TECHNICAL VISIONARY

He is considered one of the great three of the science fiction masters, along with Robert Heinlein and Issac Asimov, and one of the most influential writers of the genre.  His knack for the technical aspects involved in space travel made him one of the hard science gurus, in and out of the literary field.  He is most famous for taking us beyond the imagination of our own world, and into the world of alien influenced evolution, in 2001: A Space Odyssey.   He also gave us the world of the Overlords in Childhood’s End, and possible alien contact in the Rendezvous With Rama series.  He wrote over a dozen novels, and many stories and essays in magazines.  He eventually earned the title “Prophet of The Space Age” for his highly technical knowledge of mathematics and physics.

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He was born on December 16th, 1917, in Minehead, Somerset, England, and grew up on a farm in nearby Bishops Lyleard, where he enjoyed stargazing. When he was a teenager,in 1934, he joined the British Interplanetary Society.  Some years later, in 1945, he proposed a satellite communication system, and he won him the Franklin Institute’s Stuart Ballantine Medal,  He became chairman from 1946-1947, and again in 1951-53.

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During WWII, he served from 1941-1946 in the Royal Air Force as a radar specialist, involved in an early warning defense system, as documented in his non fiction semi-autobiographical book Glide Path.  He was promoted to Flying Office in 1943, and was appointed Chief Training Instructor at RAF Hansley in Warwickshire.  After the war, he received a Ist Class Degree in Mathematics and Physics from King’s College London.  After college, he worked as an Assistant Editor at Physics Abstracts.  In 1953, he married Marilyn Mayfield, who had a young son.  The marriage was a brief one, six months, and it was later said that he was a homosexual, a rumor he neither confirms or denies.

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He emigrated to Sri Lanka in 1956 to pursue his interest in scuba diving.  He was knighted there in 1998, and awarded the country’s highest civil honor, Sri Lankabhimanga in 2005.  In 1986, he was named Grand Master of the Science Fiction Writers of America.  He was confined to a wheelchair in 1988, due to polio he had contracted earlier in life.  Robert Heinlein and him were close friends, up until a falling out over political opinions in 1984.  He later went on to produce three television series, including Mysterious World.

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Childhood’s End was one of the first science fiction books I read as a boy.  It is a novel about a peaceful invasion by the mysterious overlords, a race of beings which hope to change the future of mankind into a Utopian world.  The main character discovers all too late that they are really there to force mankind into an extinction rather than a preservation.  It is probably one of the least appreciated pieces of the genre, and has never been brought together as a film.  There is talk of a possible mini-series this year on the SCI-FY channel, which would be a much needed relief from the blood and gore of werewolf and vampire shows that are inundated on a supposedly “science fiction” channel.  Besides, isn’t this story what sci-fi is all about?

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In 1964, Stanley Kubrick approached Clarke about a project he would like to do using a couple of Clarke’s magazine stories.  He suggested on making a film, but having him write it in the form of a novel.  Although Kubrick liked his novel, he thought that it needed to be more visual, instead of explaining the technical aspects.  This led to two versions of the story, the screen version, and the printed version, which is much more detailed in its explanation of evolution and physics.  Thus, we were exposed to the 2001: A Space Odyssey series.  If you’ve never read the book, or saw the movie, it’s about an ancient alien race that uses a device called “the monolith” to advance the human race to the next stage of evolution.  It’s a tale about ourselves as a race, and our technical advances and pitfalls, including a computer named HAL, an artificial intelligence that ends up defying the crew’s orders, and locking an astronaut outside that suffocates.

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This is one of my favorite films, even though some consider it boring.  The special effects were way ahead of their time, as well as the story, and although we still haven’t reached the time frame of the film,( the proposed technology, not the actual time), we aren’t far from it becoming reality.  Clarke is correct in the assumption of a rotating space station controlling gravity, and the time it would take a fusion or rocket powered craft to reach their destination.  At current date, we have seen a space station, but not a moon base; but it’s not that far away, maybe twenty or thirty years.

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He later helped with the production of 2010.  The other two novels, 2061 and 3001 have yet to become films.  The only other film or novel that I can think of that even comes close to the experience of these works is Interstellar, which is also an amazing piece of science fiction in its own right.

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Finally, he also wrote the Rama series, starting with Rendezvous With Rama, the tale of the presence of a 31 mile alien ship at the edge of the solar system.  The story is told from the point of the explorers who investigate it.  It won a HUGO and Nebula award for best novel of 2004, for its accurate interpretation of space travel and physics.

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Tomorrow, we will look at the work of another member of big three, and probably one of the most prolific, Issac Asimov.  His work has been the subject of many movies, and he is probably one of the best loved in the genre.  Until then, here are today’s links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_C._Clarke

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Childhood%27s_End

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2001:_A_Space_Odyssey_(novel)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rendezvous_with_Rama

 

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A LIFE TIME ACHIEVER AND KNOW IT ALL: ISAAC ASIMOV

He is considered the most prolific writer on the planet, having written  or edited more than 500 books and articles, and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards to his fans. He has been a longtime member of Mensa International, and considered one of the most knowledgable people in his topics, ranging from science and physics, to interpersonal relationships.  He has an asteroid, a crater on Mars, a Brooklyn elementary school, and a literary award named in  his honor.

He is considered a master of hard science fiction, and is also known as the third of the big three in the genre.  He is most famous for his Foundation series, as well as his I, Robot series, and his Galactic Empire series.  He is also the writer of The Gods Themselves, which he published in 1972, and won a HUGO and Nebula award within the same year.  He was voted in 1964 by The Science Fiction Writers of America to have the best science fiction short story of all time, Nightfall.  He also wrote mysteries and fantasy novels, as well as non fiction books and periodicals.  John W. Campbell had a strong influence on his work, and the two eventually became very close friends.

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Isaac Asimov was born on Jan 2nd, 1920, in the former Soviet Union, and emigrated to the United States when he was three years old.  His family, Anna Rachel Berman Asimov, and Judah Asimov were Jewish millers.  In America, his parents owned a small chain of candy stores.  He had two younger sisters and a brother.

He taught himself to read at age five, and began with science fiction pulp magazines at a very young age.  He began to write his own stories by age 11, and began selling them by 19 to science fiction magazines.  He attended the Boys High School in Brooklyn, graduated at 15, and then went to Seth Low Junior College, a branch of Columbia University.  He received his BS degree in 1939, completed his MA in chemistry in 1941, and earned a PhD in biochemistry in 1948.  He spent three years during WWII working as a civilian at Philadelphia Navy Yard’s Air Experimental Station, and served in the army for only nine months,but rose to the rank of corporal.  After completing his Doctorate, he joined the Boston University School of Medicine as an associate professor.

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He married Gertrude Blugerman on July 26, 1942, and had two children; David and Robyn Joann.  In 1973, they divorced, and just two weeks after, he married Janet O. Jeppson.  Asimov liked closed in spaces, and had a fear of flying.  I n later years, he traveled on cruise ships, and became part of the entertainment, providing talks on board to eager audiences.  He was also a good friend of Kurt Vonnegut and Gene Roddenberry.

In 1977, he lent his name to a science fiction magazine.  He was once asked by Kurt Vonnegut what it felt like to know everything.  He answered by saying,  “uneasy”.  Asimov later collaborated with the Star Trek  television series producer, Roddenberry, as an advisor on technical aspects.  He suffered a heart attack in 1977, had a bypass in 1983, and eventually succumbed to heart complications, which caused his death on April 6th, 1992.

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His career is quite complex, and can be divided into several periods.  From 1939 to 1958, he wrote strictly science fiction stories and fantasy novels.  From 1952 to 1982, he wrote non fiction articles and books, and only finished four novels.  In 1982, he began Foundation’s Edge, and from that point on, he wrote several sequels and prequels to existing novels, and mystery novels.  He is considered the only science fiction writer to link three separate series; the Foundation, Robot, and Galactic series together.

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He invented the three laws of robotics, and coined the phrases, positronic, psychohistory, and robotics.  Some of his robot series include I, Robot and Bicentennial Man, both of which movies have been made, starring respectively Will Smith and Robin Williams.  His three laws of robotics are:

1. A robot cannot harm or injure a human being.

2. A robot must obey the orders given by a human being, except in conflict with rule number one.

3. A robot must protect itself as long as it doesn’t conflict with the first two laws.

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He also wrote a novel in 1972 titled The Gods Themselves, which was a story about aliens from a parallel universe(Hmm, why does that sound familiar to me?) with different physical laws.  To provide an alternate energy for their own dying universe, they precede to exploit the laws of physics, using the Earth’s sun as a source, exploding into a supernova, and turning much of the Milky Way galaxy.

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I’ve read I, Robot, and The Gods Themselves, and some of his short stories.  I found his writing unique and prophetical, a guide of what was or will someday come.  There are purposely parallels in my own book his stories, mainly because he was one of my influences as a teenager.  His basis for robots is the standard in today’s technology, and much of the devices in his books have become realities today.

Tomorrow, we will continue our series with another one of my influences, Ray Bradbury.  Though not considered one of the big three, he has undeniably been one of the strongest science fiction writers in history.  Until then, here are today’s links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Asimov

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I,_Robot

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gods_Themselves

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundation_series

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RAY BRADBURY:  THE VERSATILE AUTHOR & PLAYRIGHT

When we think of him, we think of many different genres; such as science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mystery.  Many of his short stories are a staple of entertainment; adapted for television or as movies.  Works such as Farhenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and The Illustrated Man have all found their way onto the screen, as well as countless shorts used for various shows, including his own, The Ray Bradbury Theater.

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Born on August 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Illinois to Ester(nei˜ Molery) Bradbury, a Swedish woman, and Leonard Spaulding Bradbury, who was a British born power and telephone lineman.  Ray’s home town of Waukegan has been weaved into his stories under the name “Green Town.”  The family moved to Los Angeles, CA in 1934.

At age 11, he began to write his own stories, after reading dozens of pulp fiction magazines. Some of his influences included Edgar Alan Poe, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.G. Wells, and Jules Verne.  In Beverly Hills, he often visited science fiction writer Bob Olsen for mentorship.  He was also an avid cartoonist, and loved to illustrate his own stories.

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He attended Los Angeles High School, and was active in the drama club.  He would rollerskate around Hollywood to meet celebrities.  He met George Burns, who gave him a job as writer for the Burns and Allen show.  He met Robert Heinlein shortly after graduation, and became close friends.  During WWII, he was rejected for the draft due to poor eyesight.  In 1938, he began to publish several science fiction stories for fanzines.  In 1939, he joined the Laraine Day’s Wilshire Players Guild, where he wrote and acted in several plays, which he later deemed “the worst trash I ever wrote.”

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He became a full time writer by the end of 1942, and his first collection of stories was published in 1947, as Dark Carnival.  Several comic book stories have been written based on them, and later he worked out an agreement with publishers for a percentage of the royalties.  He was married in 1947 as well, to Margaritte McClure, and remained with her until her death.  They had four daughters; Susan,Romona, Bettina, and Alexandra.  Ray never owned a driver’s license, relying on public transportation, and lived at home until he was 27 years old.  His best man was Ray Harryhausen, of special effects fame.

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In 1949, he took his collection of short stories to Doubleday, and the editor suggested putting them into a novel, calling it The Martian Chronicles.  It was a collection of science fiction stories set on Mars, about settlers who encounter the aborginal inhabitants.  It was adapted into a television mini-series in 1980, starring Rock Hudson, Darren McGavin, Rowdy McDowell, and several other famous actors.  Bradbury himself was unimpressed, and called it “boring television.”

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In 1969, the film version of another collection, entitled The Illustrated Man, was produced, starring Rod Steiger.  It contained three of the original eighteen stories in the collection.  Several screenplays for television shows, such as I Sing The Body Electric of The Twilight Zone were adapted from his stories, as well as movies such  It Came From Outer Space, which is an adaption from his Atomic Monster.  Although he was close friends with Gene Roddenberry, and was asked to write for the Star Trek series, he never did.  From 1985 to 1992, he hosted his own Ray Bradbury Theater, which adapted 65 of his stories for television.

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He has received several awards, and even has one named after him, and was presented the National Medal of Arts, presented by former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura.  He has received the Fantasy Award for Life Time Acheivment and was the 10th SFWA Grand Master.  The Curiousity Rover landing site on Mars is also named after him.  In 1999, he suffered a stroke that left him partially dependent on a wheelchair.  He continued to write and appear at conventions until 1999, when he retired.  On June 5th, 2012, he passed away, due to a long illness.

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Again, Bradbury is another writer who left an impression on me.  His Faharenheit 451 was a rather unusual story about the suppression of free speech in a futuristic society, where firemen were used not to put out fires, but to start fires by burning books that were unacceptable to the state.  It sounded a lot like Germany during WWII to me.  Again, another example of life dictates art.

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Tomorrow, we will look a more modern era icon, but still one of my favorites; Frank Herbert.  Known for his Dune series, his tale of spice and conspiracy is still one of the most read in science fiction.  Until then, here are today’s links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Bradbury

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ray_Bradbury_Theater

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Martian_Chronicles

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fahrenheit_451

 

 

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FRANK PATRICK HERBERT JR.: SPICE, SAVAGERY, AND SANDWORMS

He is best known for his science fiction series Dune and its sequels, the best selling science fiction novel of all time.  He also has worked as a newspaper journalist, photographer, short story writer, and lecturer.

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Born on Oct. 8th, 1920, in Tacoma, Washington, to Frank Patrick  Herbert, Sr., and Eileen(McCarthy) Herbert.  After unsettling living conditions, he ran away at age 18 to live with his aunt and uncle in Salem, Oregon.  He enrolled at Salem High School, where he graduated the next year.  From 1939 to 1940, he worked for several newspapers doing various jobs, including photographer.  He served in the US Navy as a photographer for six months during WWII, and then was given a medical discharge.  He married Flora Parkinson in San Pedro, CA, in 1940, they had a daughter named Penny, and divorced in 1945.

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After the war, Herbert attended the University of Washington, and took creative writing classes in 1946.  He met Beverly Ann Stuart there, and they were married in Seattle, Washington, on June 20, 1946.  They had two sons; Brian Patrick Herbert, and Bruce Calvin Herbert, who was a gay rights activist, who died of aids in 1993.  Herbert didn’t graduate, he wanted to study only what interested him.  He returned to journalism after college, working for The Seattle Star and The Oregon Statesman.  When he began his first novel, The Dragon of The Sea, he also worked as a speechwriter for Republican senator Guy Cordon.

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Herbert began researching for Dune in 1959.  It took six years of writing and research to complete, and was much longer than the average commercial science fiction of the time.  After a rewrite for editor Sterling E. Lanier, of the Chilton Book Company, it was first published in 1965, and won a Nebula Award in 1965, and a HUGO Award in 1966.  It was considered the first ecological science fiction novel.  He got the idea for Dune while working on an article, which he never finished, about the Oregon Dunes.

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Herbert retired from the newspaper business in 1972, and became a full time writer.  By then, he had a home in Hawaii, and his main home in Port Townsend, Washington.  Other novels he has written are The Dosadi Experiment, The Godmakers, and The White Plague.  He co-wrote novels with Bill Ranson, such as The Jesus Incident, The Lazarus Effect, and The Ascension Factor.  His wife passed away in 1984 of cancer, and he succumbed to pancreatic cancer himself on Feb. 11th, 1986 in Madison, Wisconsin at age 65.  He was raised Catholic, but later converted to Buddhism.

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Dune is set 21,000 years in the future, and tells the story of Paul Atreides, whose royal family accepts the stewardship of the desert planet Arrakis.  The desert world is the only source of spice, which a most important and valuable substance in the universe.  It is a society without artificial  intelligence and advance computers, but does contain freighter and passenger spacecraft that exceed the speed of light.  Humans have adapted their minds for complex tasks and mental computing.  The planet itself is a hostile environment, sparsely populated by native Fremen, ferocious fighters who also know how to ride the hideous and terrifying giant sandworms that inhabit the planet.

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The movie version was made in 1984, and stars Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides, and Sting from Police fame as Feyd Rautha.  Also in the film are Virginia Madsen, Patrick Stewart, Jose‘ Ferrar as the Emperor, and Dean  Stockwell.  Although the novel is an all time best seller, the movie did not do as well as expected, and sales were only marginal at best.  Personally, I felt the movie didn’t do the novel justice, which is so true with so many novels.  Novels usually go into more detail and are less sensationalized than movies; special effects are the big thing.  He explored many themes in his novels, including; concerns for leadership, ecology, religion, politics, power, human survival and evolution, the potential of humans, and sociobiology.

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Brian Patrick Herbert has continued his father’s legacy, creating thirteen more books to the six that his father already wrote about the worlds of Dune.  It has become one of the largest science fiction series ever. Tomorrow, we will conclude our series with some notable writers who didn’t make the list, such as Frederick Pohl, Orson Scott Card, and others.  Until then, here are today’s links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dune_(novel)

http://www.dunenovels.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dune_(film)

 

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

There are so many wonderful science fiction writers that it’s hard to talk about them all.  I’ve tried to stick to the ones that I have felt most influenced my own writing, and the ones that were the pioneers of the field.  I will complete this series with a few that didn’t make my main list, but are still in my list of must reads.

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Frederick Pohl was born on Nov. 26, 1919 and is best known for his 1977 novel Gateway, which won him four years consecutive best novel awards, and his other science fiction novel Jem,which he published in 1979, and won the National book award for that year.  From 1959-1969, Pohl edited Galaxy Magazine, which he won three HUGO awards for, featuring his own short stories as well as others.   He also won the 1984 Campbell Memorial Award, and was inducted into The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1998.  He was also a very close friend of Robert Heinlein.  He died on Sept. 2, 2013 from natural causes.

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Orson Scott Card was born on Aug. 24, 1951, and is the only living writer on our list.  He is best known for Ender’s Game, a story about kids who are trained to be soldiers against an unseen alien race light years away, using a simulation game.  This story won him both a HUGO and Nebula award two years in a row, which hasn’t been done by any other writer before or since.  The movie version, released on Nov. 1st, 2013, stars Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield as Ender, and Ben Kingsley.

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He is a professor of English at Southern Virginia University.  He has written two books on the subject of creative writing, one of them I known, and is sort of a bible for sci-fi writers, called How To Write Science Fiction And Fantasy.  He also hosts writing workshops, and serves as a judge in the Writers of The Future contest.

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He is the great grandson of Brigham Young, one of the founders of the Mormon religion, and himself is a Mormon.  He is married, and has five children.

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Michael Crichton was born on Oct. 23, 1942, and is best known for his techno-thrillers, that are borderline between science fiction and reality, such as; The Adromemena Strain(1969), Westworld ( 1972), Congo(1980), Sphere(1987), Jurassic Park(1990), Prey(2002), and Timeline(1999).  Most of his novels have been made into major motion pictures, under his production.

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He studied medicine at Harvard Medical School, graduated in 1969,and later worked at Boston City Hospital, even though he never received a medical license.  His work has been categorized by critics as comparable to the works of Jules Verne, and Edgar Rice Burroughs.  Westworld was the first film using 2D computer generated imagery, better known as CGI.  He has been married five times, the most of any of our writers, and has one son from his last wife, who gave birth just six months after his death on Nov. 4, 2008 from cancer.  He was unusually tall, at a height of 6 feet nine inches.

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Douglas Adams was born on March 11th, 1952, and is generally not considered a science fiction writer, but a satirist.  He delved in the world of science fiction with his infamous Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy series, which originated in 1978 as a BBC radio comedy.  The series became a “trilogy” of five novels, and has sold more than fifteen million copies, generated a television series, several plays, comics, a computer game, and in 2005 became a film.

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Who could forget the question,”What is the answer to the secret of the universe and everything?”  And the reply,”42.”  I also love the part when he shows the main character how planets are made, and he finds out God has nothing to do with it.  Adams was a staunch Atheist, and thought religion was a waste of time, but he was a strong advocate for environmentalism and conservation, realizing the Earth was a precious resource we couldn’t afford to ignore.  He was also a lover of fast cars, cameras, technological innovation, and the Apple Macintosh.  He died of a heart attack on May 11th, 2001, after a daily workout.

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These are the great authors who started the world of science fiction; a diverse group of men who saw beyond their present day and into the future.  Their insight and vision have forever changed the literary world, and taught us to reach beyond our imagination.  Tuesday I will be back with a new series.  Until then, have a great Memorial Day weekend.  Here are today’s links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederik_Pohl

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orson_Scott_Card

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Crichton

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Adams

 

 

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SCIENCE FICTION AND SCIENCE REALITY

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