Retrospeculative View: 1961

Some of the short fiction:

Hothouse, Brian Aldiss (Hugo Award, Short Story 1962)

Monument, Lloyd Biggle, Jr.

The Dandelion Girl, Robert F. Young

The Moon Moth, Jack Vance

Mother Hitton’s Littul Kittons, Cordwainer Smith

Harrison Bergeron, Kurt Vonnegut

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Some of the movies:

The Absent-Minded Professor (based on A Situation of Gravity, by Samuel W. Taylor)

Mysterious Island (loosely based on The Mysterious Island (L’Île mystérieuse) by Jules Verne)

The Pit and the Pendulum, based on Edgar Allan Poe’s story.

Atlantis, the Lost Continent

Il Colosso di Rodi (The Colossus of Rhodes) an Italian sword-and-sandal film

The Curse of the Werewolf  (based on The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore)

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, the basis for the TV show that first aired in 1964

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And the speculative novels of 1961:

Catseye, Andre Norton. A YA novel about a young man who has the psychic ability to communicate with genetically engineered animals. Some interesting subject matter for a young audience: exploitation of the lower class, government corruption, and war crimes. This was the first of two ‘dipple’ (displaced people) books: the other was Night of Masks, 1964. The dipple books were connected to Norton’s Janus and Forerunner series.

The Secret World of Og, Pierre Berton (illustrated by his daughter, Patsy). A much beloved children’s fantasy, written by an author known for his non-fiction works of Canadiana and Canadian history. Apparently, the CBC (Canadian Braodcasting Corporation) adapted the book as an animated TV show in 2006, but I haven’t seen it.

A Fall of Moondust, Arthur C. Clarke. A disaster plot enacted on the moon. The disaster involves a  sightseeing ship — the Selene — that skims over the dust contained in a lunar sea (The Sea of Thirst); during one of Selene ‘s scenic tours there is a moonquake, and the ship sinks into the dust. The Selene has a limited air supply aboard, and there is is no way for heat to escape (it is blanketed by powdery sand particles), hence a gradual buildup of heat within the ship. The plot revolves around the passengers and crew of the Selene as well as the rescue team. Apparently, this novel has the dubiuous honour of becoming the first science fiction book to be chosen as a Readers Digest condensed novel.

James and the Giant Peach, one of Roald Dahl’s popular children’s books. It was adapted into an animated movie (live action/stop motion) in 1996 (produced by Tim Burton and Denise Di Novi). I’m not sure why, but neither of my daughters was enthralled with the movie: I thought it was quite well done.

Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein. I absolutely loved this book when I was a teenager, but it hasn’t aged well (or I’ve just gotten old, stuffy, and jaded). The set-up is quite good: the entire crew of a mission to Mars died, but a baby (born on the voyage) survived, and Martians raised the child. Many years later, the next mission to Mars brought the human back (the baby had grown and was, by then, a young man), the human/Martian becomes the center of a political conspiracy, a nurse ‘kidnaps’ the human/Martian to save him, and it turns out that the human/Martian has an intriguing philosophical outlook and some special abilities that were part of his Martian upbringing. So far, so good. But then the plot shifts gears, gets bogged down in Heinlein’s self-righteous prattle, and the story begins to fizzle out (there are still a few good moments, but they are few and far between). It doesn’t help that Heinlein’s sexual beliefs are a bit red-necked-wacko: one of the female characters declares that rape is almost always the woman’s fault (even as a teenager I was uncomfortable with that), and it is abundantly clear that Heinlein thinks that being gay is a ‘wrongness.’ This was an underground classic that I think gathered momentum because of scenes that concurred with the free-love theme of the 1960s, and also because of the far-out ESP concepts that permeated the book. There is some decent material, but the negative aspects, an inane, scattered plot in the novel’s second half, and Heinlein’s pedestrian prose left me flat when I re-read this ‘classic’ of science fiction: I no longer grok it.The more Heinlein I re-read, the less I respect his oeuvre; a sad thing, because he used to be one of my favourite authors.

Riders in the Chariot,  Patrick White. I haven’t read this novel, but Voss (also by Patrick White) was excellent, and Riders in the Chariot seems to explore some of the same themes (e.g.: shared visions). Patrick White received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1973, so it’s probably a good read.

And my pick for Retrospeculative novel of 1961 is…

tumblr_mdeikxUQWa1rjv4gro1_500Solaris, by Stanisław Lem. There are several books by Lem that I’ve enjoyed, but Solaris is possibly his most memorable novel (remarkably, two other Lem novels were published in 1961: Memoirs Found in a Bathtub, and Return From the Stars).  Solaris examines the possibility that humanity, in its zest to investigate space, might discover an intelligent being so alien that it displays no resemblance to our pre-conceived ideas of sentience. If we can’t understand it, how can we communicate, study, classify; and, ultimately, control it?

A research station orbits Solaris, a planet almost completly covered with water. The researchers are documenting the behavior of the planet’s waves, which transform into incredible patterns that defy scientific explanation. As they gather data, the researchers become haunted by enigmatic, impossible ‘visitations’ seemingly pulled out of their individual psyches. Is the ocean of Solaris attempting to communicate? If so, is humanity ready for the encounter?

There have been two movie versions of Solaris; one in 1972  (which was quite interesting), and another in 2002 (which was not very good), but I highly recommend reading the novel before digesting either film version.

Solaris is an extraordinary novel, first published in Polish in 1961, and published in English in 1970 (a Polish, to French, to English translation).

Light, by M. John Harrison

imagesCAROG3XDLight, a novel by M. John Harrison, unfolds in three loose threads.

In one thread, we follow the haunted life of Michael Kearney, a barely-working theoretical physicist, who also happens to be a serial murderer. Kearney has glimpsed the pattern that defines reality, and seems to have opened a crack in the universe that let a monster out; a Shrander, a being with a horse skull for a head. Kearney believes that the murders he commits will keep the horrifying monster at bay.

In another thread we meet Seria Mau Genlicher, the piolt of a K-ship called the White Cat (a white cat and a black cat are a running trope in the novel). K-ships wink in and out of existence, taking advantage of a multitude of dimensions, like a mass of linked virtual particles (there is a lot of physics terminology within the novel). The human, Seria Mau, has been torn apart and cybernetically connected to the White Cat and its computerized mathematics/navigation system. There are also ‘shadow operators’ who whisk their way through the ship. Seria Mau stalks other ships in a ‘naked singularity’, the Kefahuchi Track, which is an artifact left by an über-advanced species that is long gone.

In the third thread we are introduced to Ed Chianese, an ex-spacecraft pilot who has been living in a virtual reality ‘twink-tank.’ Ed is forcibly removed from the tank by various peoples who he owes money to; he escapes, and ends up working in a bizarre circus for an enigmatic woman with strange powers.

Harrison’s writing is, at times, quite elegant, but for most of the novel I felt disassociated from the story; I found it difficult to swim through the soup of ideas. It is equally difficult to find a sympathetic character: as mentioned, Kearney is a serial murderer; and Seria Mau kills at a moment’s whim. Strangely, I found myself eventually liking both characters: neither had a fair chance to grow up and there was something intrinsically sad about their pasts, but it is Ed Chianese who is the novel’s hero.

The three threads are satisfactorily tied together by the end of the novel, but the book ends with an opening for much more; and Harrison has written two sequels, Nova Swing (2007) and Empty Space (2012).

I can’t give a wholehearted recommendation, but there was enough in the novel to impel me to read the sequels.

Retrospeculative View: 1960

Some of the short fiction:

The Voices of Time, J.G. Ballard

Need, Theodore Sturgeon

The Prize of Peril, Robert Sheckley

Borges and I (Borges y Yo), Jorge Luis Borges

The Longest Voyage, Poul Anderson (Hugo Award for short story, 1961)

Some of the movies:

Psycho (based on the 1959 novel by Robert Block). Alfred Hitchcock’s famous psychological thriller, starring Anthony Perkins (who became typecast) and Janet Leigh. Near the end of the movie, the policeman guarding Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) is played by an uncredited Ted Knight (Ted Baxter in TV’s The Mary Tyler Moore Show).

The Time Machine (based on H.G. Well’s 1895 novel), starring Rod Taylor, Yvette Mimieux,  Alan Young (better known to me as Wilbur Post in the TV show Mr. Ed, the talking horse. Alan Young was also the voice of Disney’s Scrooge McDuck), and Sebastian Cabot (a.k.a. Mr. French on TV’s Family Affair).

Village of the Damned (based on John Wyndham’s 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos), starring George Sanders (Addison DeWitt in All About Eve), Barbara Shelley (a scream queen), and child actor Martin Stephens.

And the speculative novels of 1960:

The High Crusade, Poul Anderson. A pleasantly humorous novel about an alien starship that lands in medieval England. The aliens are attempting to ascertain the strength of Earth’s defenses. Things don’t quite turn out as the aliens planned and the consequences are improbable, but delightfully droll.

Venus Plus X, Theodore Sturgeon. I haven’t read the novel, but it sounds intriguing, and I’ve always enjoyed Sturgeon’s stories. Charlie Johns is transported to a utopian world where gender and sex do not exist. For some reason, the peoples of this world want Charlie’s approval. Amazon describes the book as a visionary work of wisdom and lyricism, offering insightful speculations on gender. I think I’ll have to read it.    

Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys. An alien artifact is discovered on the Moon; attempts are made to explore the artifact, ending in death. The investigations continue, and slowly, but surely, a path through the artifact’s maze is forged (the Strugatskys’ story Roadside Picnic (1971) echoes some of the atmosphere of Rogue Moon).  A shortened novella version was included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two B (Ed.: Ben Bova), but I prefer the full-length novel.

And my pick as Retrospeculative Novel of 1960 is…

A Canticle for LeibowitzA Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (Hugo, 1961). The only novel of his published in his lifetime (a sequel, Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman was completed by Terry Bisson and published in 1997). A Canticle for Leibowitz is one of the absolute classics of science fiction, lauded by literary critics (David N. Samuelson’s 1969 doctoral dissertation regarding the novel is apparently excellent (I haven’t read it)). The recurrence of the rise and fall of technological knowledge and the conflict between Church and State are the two main themes of the novel, which was built around three short stories he’d written from 1955 to 1957: A Canticle for Leibowitz (which he re-worked into the first part of the novel, Fiat Homo, Let There Be Man), And the Light is Risen (which he re-worked into the second part of the novel, Fiat Lux, Let There Be Light), and The Last Canticle (which became the third, and final, part of the novel, Fiat Voluntas Tua, Let Thy Will Be Done). It is a remarkable post-apocalyptic novel; literate, humorous, provocative, and a good science fiction book to share with mainstream fiction readers. Highly recommended.

Retrospeculative View: 1958

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SFFaudio.com

I seem to have skipped 1958 and did 1959 first; well, better late than never…

Some of the short stories:

The Big Front Yard, by Clifford D. Simak (Hugo: novelette 1959)

The Men Who Murdered Mohammed, by Alfred Bester

Or All the Seas with Oysters, by Avram Davidson (Hugo: short story 1958)

That Hell-Bound Train, by Robert Block (Hugo Award: short story 1959)

Track 12, by J.G. Ballard

The Edge of the Sea, by Algis Budrys

Nine Yards of Other Cloth, Manly Wade Wellmann

Some of the movies:

The Blob, starring Steve McQueen. Released as a double feature with I Married a Monster from Outer Space

The Fly, based on the 1957 short story by George Langelaan

The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad: the first of Columbia’s Sinbad movies, featuring Ray Harryhausen’s Dynamation stop-motion technique

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. Possibly  a message to The Amazing Colossal Man (1957): “Anything you can do I can do better; I can do anything better than you.”

And the speculative novels of 1958:

The Songs of Distant Earth, Arthur C. Clarke. I read somewhere that this was Clarke’s favourite of all his novels. The story takes place on a planet — Thalassa — that was populated by humans via an embryonic seed-ship that was sent (with others) when scientists discovered that Sol would go Nova (i.e.: the seed-ships were sent to preserve humanity). Centuries later, a colonizing ship filled with refugees from Earth reaches Thalassa, but it is only there for a stop-over on its way to a further destination. The novel is about the interaction of cultures, and a major subplot develops when some of the people in the spaceship would rather stay on Thalassa than continue on to their original destination. To thicken the plot slightly, there is another sentient species living in Thalassa’s ocean. I really wanted to like this book: the novel has some interesting ideas, but it didn’t hook me, partially because Clarke’s diatribes against religion are forced, awkward, and unnecessary.

The Big Time, Fritz Leiber (the Hugo winner for best novel, 1958). I haven’t read this novel, and must rectify that at some point. The story involves a time travel war that uses soldiers from various periods in humanity’s past. The soldiers and support personnel have no knowledge of how or why the war began, or what the two sides represent.

The Languages of Pao, by Jack Vance. I don’t recall reading this novel, which examines the ramifications of language and mind training on a society. To infiltrate a planet, three castes are created (Valiant (warrior), Technicant (technical), and Cogitant (mercantile); each cast uses a different language and receives independent, specialized training. As an entertaining exercise (which has wider ramifications), a separate group creates a Pastiche language that includes words from all three cast languages. The languages are critical to the plot. Jack Vance could write beautifully, but his novels are sometimes uneven (as I mentioned, I don’t recall this book, so I cannot comment further. If I see it in a bookstore I’ll pick it up and update this post).

A Case of Conscience, by James Blish (Hugo Award winner, 1959). This is the third notable novel of 1958 that I have not read! (It sounds interesting, and I very much enjoyed Blish’s Cities in Flight and some of his his short stories, including Surface Tension). From Wikipedia: “It is the story of a Jesuit who investigates an alien race that has no religion yet has a perfect, innate sense of morality, a situation which conflicts with Catholic teaching.”

My pick for Retrospeculative novel of 1958 is…

cover The Once and Future KingThe Once and Future King, by T.H. White: a reinterpretation of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. White’s version was meant to provide more significance to a post-World War II society. If it wasn’t for The Lord of the Rings, this book would get my nod as the best fantasy I’ve ever read. Arthur’s story is related in four parts; The Sword in the Stone, The Queen of Air and Darkness, The Ill-Made Knight, and The Candle in the Wind. The tone of the story matures as Arthur does, beginning with frivolous immaturity, moving through the meditative stages of middle age, and finally ending with Arthur’s ominous thoughts regarding death, how he will be remembered, and what mark he has made in history. Absolutely brilliant.

Riddley Walker, by Russell Hoban

Riddley WalkerRussell Hoban (1945 – 2011) made no secret of the fact that Riddley Walker was inspired by the painting of The Legend of Saint Eustace at Canterbury Cathedral. He began the novel the day he saw the painting, and completed it five and a half years later (he was able to maintain an income during that time by writing children’s books). He first wrote the story in ‘Standard’ English, but carefully worked out the Riddleyspeak that became the finished product and added layers of texture to the work. In Hoban’s Afterward  [SF Masterworks; Gollancz, 2012], he jokes: “I was a good speller before I wrote that book; I no longer am but can live with that.”

Riddley Walker is a tale of the fall of humanity, and echoes of humanity’s former technological heights are common; Riddley doesn’t ‘make plans’, he programs his actions; Pirntout (printout) means conclude; and glitch my cool (my personal favourite) means ‘upset me’. Riddley often mentions the Puter Leat (computer elite) who existed before the Bad Time. He also mentions a girt box of knowin (computer) that people hooked-up to via an iron hat, and they could programmit pas the sarvering gallack seas (past the sovereign galaxies). He talks about the many cools of the Addom (molecules of the atom, and an allusion to the biblical Adam), which they are the party cool of stone (particles of stone), he mentions the strong and the weak inner acting (the strong and weak forces interacting), and much more. Riddley bemoans what humanity once was, and how far they have fallen: O what we ben!

From the first sentence of the novel, the reader knows it will be a different experience:

On my namin day when I come 12 I gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben the las wyld pig on the Bundle Downs any how there hadnt ben none for a long time befor him nor I aint lookin to see none agen.

The sentence above isn’t a particularly difficult section of the novel, but it certainly sets the mood. Riddley Walker can be a struggle to read; some people find that reading sections out loud helps, and it was designed that way, written in phonetic vernacular, with a British accent in mind (and, to be specific, an accent from the county of Kent). Punctuation is ignored, with the exception of periods. There is a limited vocabulary; so, as the reader progresses through the novel, it becomes easier to decipher the text, a first-person narrative by the protagonist, Riddley Walker, who is considered a literate man of the world although he is only twelve years old.

The book is written in a manner that forces the reader to slow down in order to demystify the story; just as Riddley Walker must slowly puzzle things out for himself (by the way, the names of characters in the book are representations of their personalities: Riddley Walker, Fister Crunchman, Abel Goodparley, etcetera). I assume that the book was purposely written so that the reader is forced to sound some sections aloud in order to comprehend the meaning; in Riddley’s world, information is shared orally, and Riddley’s writings form the possibility of a re-invented media.

The reader soon realizes that the events take place in England (‘Inland’) sometime after an apocalyptic, nuclear event (it is stated in the novel that over 2,400 years have passed since the apocalypse, but that seems too long a time for the slight degradation in language; after all, it is still recognizable. There are many misguided ‘facts’ within the novel and I suspect that less time has passed than what is stated). Riddley’s world is slowly revealed through the mists of confusion: there are struggles between agricultural groups and hunter-gatherers, wild dog-packs terrorize the countryside, and the government distributes its politico-mythic messages using portable puppet theatres (politically revamped Punch and Judy shows).

There are many intriguing descriptive passages within the book; Riddley stretches his language, and a few times he becomes frustrated with the limitations of words as tools of expression. The language is rife with distorted technical and political terminology, and allusions to religions abound, especially St. Eustace, referred to as Eusa in the novel, which can be interpreted as St. Eustace, USA (the first country to use a nuclear weapon on an enemy), us, use, and possibly you.

And there are many humorously reinvented place names; Dover is Do It Over, Herne Bay is Horny Boy, and Sandwich is Sams Itch. I’ve never been to Kent, but I’m sure that knowing the area would add to the reading enjoyment (Note: the edition I read didn’t include a map, but I found one on the web that overlaid Riddley’s world on a map of Kent as it is now).

The plot is interesting, but much of the enjoyment comes from untangling the language; it immerses the reader, who must ‘riddle’ things out as s/he ‘walks’ through the story.

There is a short glossary at the end of the book, but if you’d like some further help while reading, the sites listed below are useful (I found that reading a chapter and then perusing the annotations, while flipping through the pages of the chapter again, solidified the story). The SF Masterworks edition I read (Gollancz, 2012) has a nice Introduction by Adam Roberts, and two Afterwards; one by Russell Hoban, and the other by David Mitchell.

Highly recommended; but be forewarned, it is probably not a novel to take for a casual read on the beach this summer.

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A couple of resources (that also contain links to other resources):

Riddley Walker Annotations : with chapter-by-chapter notes, images, a map, and much more.

Russell Hoban’s official website

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Retrospeculative View, 1959

Some of the short fiction published in 1959:

Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes (Hugo Award, short story 1960)

 CordwainerSmithNow: Zero, by J.G. Ballard

When the People Fell, Cordwainer Smith

The Man who Lost the Sea, Theodore Sturgeon

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Some of the movies/TV shows from 1959:

Plan 9 from Outer Space, a truly bad movie by Ed Wood

Sleeping Beauty, a minor Disney Classic (based on the fairy tale La Belle au bois dormant, by Charles Perrault).

On the Beach (based on the 1957 novel by Nevil Shute), directed by Stanley Kramer, with an all-star cast: Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins.

Journey to the Center of the Earth (based on Jules Verne’s 1864 novel), starring Pat Boone, James Mason and Arlene Dahl.

Sampo (Сампо), a joint Russian/Finnish film loosely based on The Kalevala, an epic Finnish poem. In North America, the original film was never released; instead, it was decided to offer a heavily edited version called The Day the Earth Froze.

The Twilight Zone first aired on television. As Rod Serling said, “There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.”

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And the speculative novels of 1959:

Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein. This novel is often cited in ‘best of’ lists; but, to me, it’s over the-top preachy and puerile. I read this novel about a year ago, and it is one of my least favourite Heinlein books. Enough said.

Time out of Joint, by Philip K. Dick. I haven’t read this particular novel, but I’ve had my fill of Philip Kindred Dick, and I don’t think I’ll bother reading any more of his stories. I thought The Man in the High Castle was brilliant, and I enjoyed A Scanner Darkly (which has a distinct personal quality), but the rest of his stories don’t work for me. There are some wonderful ideas in his novels, but his general prose style annoys me, and his ideas are quite similar from book to book (2013-08-14: after rereading this it occurs to me that I sound like a curmudgeon).

Alas, Babylon, Pat Frank. I read this a few months ago, and, although the story is related fairly well, it wasn’t strong enough to draw me in. It is a story about a community — lead by a strong-willed man — that survives a nuclear war: there is some good information in the novel, and I might just put it in my disaster kit. As a novel I thought it was okay, but not notable.

The Beast Master, By Andre Norton. This YA novel holds a special place in my heart; it was one of the first books to turn me on to science fiction (so pardon me if I get carried away here). It is the story of Hosteen Storm, a Navajo and former soldier in the war against the Xik, a malicious, alien species. Storm has empathic /telepathic connections with a team of four genetically enhanced animals (Surra, a dune cat; Baku, an African Black Eagle; and Hing and Ho, two meercats). Storm travels to Arzor with vengeance in his heart: he still harbors anger toward the Xik (who destroyed the Earth), and he has sworn revenge on a man named Quade for his father’s murder. He finds more than he could ever have anticipated on the outpost world of Arzor, which has human settlements, and also an indigenous, sentient species. I read many novels by Andre Norton when I was young, but this was my favourite (closely followed by its sequel, Lord of Thunder).

Immortality, Inc. Robert Sheckley. A short book (of novella length) with an intriguing concept — used often now — of transferring a consciousness into a donor body. The pilot episode of Futurama sites a scene from the book in which the protagonist, Tom Blaine, is transferred from 1958 to 2110 and ends up in line for a suicide booth. Sheckley’s wit is evident in the book, but I prefer his absurd, capricious short stories.

Titus Alone, by Mervyn Peake, the fourth work in his Gormenghast series. I haven’t read this book, but if it’s anything like the rest of the series, it is well worth the time invested in reading it.

Psycho, Robert Block. This is the novel that spawned Hitchcock’s famous horror-thriller. The movie was fairly faithful to the book, but there is more depth to the characters in the novel, and a few scenes are slightly different (e.g.: the infamous shower-scene: in the book, Mary Crane’s murder is a fair bit grizzlier). Psycho is not my preferred type of fiction, but the author certainly uses his craft skillfully.

The Investigation (Śledztwo), Stanislaw Lem. I really enjoyed this metaphysical murder-mystery, but it’s not the sort of thing for everyone. The story includes shades of Franz Kafka, mixed with epistemology (what is knowledge, and how can it be gathered to ensure the knowledge gained can be justified as true?). Initially, I found the book slow and plodding, but I was eventually pulled in and my mind was fully immersed in Lem’s thought-experiment. There were some truly remarkable, surreal, metaphysical sections.

And my pick for Retrospeculative novel of 1959 is…

The Sirens of Titan front coverThe Sirens of Titan, by Kurt Vonnegut. This is an early Vonnegut novel, but it’s one of my favourites, filled with the author’s wit, imagination, and sparse, effective prose. The protagonist, Malachi Constant, travels from Earth to Mars, to Mercury, back to Earth, to Titan, and finally, at the end of the novel, back to Earth; along the way, the novel nudges out themes of free-will, omniscience, and history, with a plot involving an invasion of Earth by Martians. There are other characters of note in the novel; in particular, Winston Niles Rummford, who at one point entered a chrono-synclastic infundibulum (where all the different kind of truths fit together) and Silo, a robotic, Tralfamadorian explorer with a spacecraft that is powered by the Universal Will to Become (UWTB, which causes matter and organization to want to appear from nothingness, and was responsible for the creation of the universe). I read somewhere that The Sirens of Titan was inspiration for Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and I can certainly see the conection.

Vonnegut’s best books are easy to read, but have surprising depth. Sometimes, when my mind is in neutral, I’ll hear the call of a snare-drum from Mars, demanding action from a soldier via a small antenna implanted in his head:tralfamadorian

Rented a tent, a tent, a tent;
Rented a tent, a tent.
Rented a tent!
Rented a tent!
Rented a rented a tent.

Kurt Vonnegut is not suited to all tastes, and some snooty people have informed me that he is juvenile and frivolous; a writer that is to be enjoyed while in college, but shunned by full-fledged adults. Apparently, I refuse to grow up (I’m somewhat mollified by the fact that one of the ‘adults’ that pooh-poohed Kurt Vonnegut thinks Dan Brown is a wonderful author). I do agree that Vonnegut is not as brilliant as I once thought he was, but he is clearly a more sophisticated writer than all but a very few of the science fiction writers of the same vintage (I suspect this is why his novels are catagorized as general fiction rather than science fiction).

Star Trek (TOS) meets Monty Python

My wife showed me the YouTube video below: the Camelot song from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, as performed via clips from original Star Trek episodes — It gave me quite a few chuckles…