Archive for the ‘Science Fiction’ Category

The play is part of the Indiana University Arts and Humanities Council celebration, Granfalloon:  A Kurt Vonnegut Convergence (see also below, May 11 2018), “Vonnegut On Stage: War, Technology and Unintended Consequences” presented this afternoon and tomorrow evening by Cardinal Stage at the downtown Bloomington John Waldron Arts Center Auditorium.  Cardinal Stage presents an evening of dramatic adaptations of Kurt Vonnegut’s short stories from WELCOME TO THE MONKEY HOUSE in partnership with the 2019 Granfalloon Festival presented by the IU Arts & Humanities Council.  Staged readings will include “Epicac” (adapted by Vonnegut) and “Report on the Barnhouse Effect” (adapted by Claris A. Ross for NBC radio), which speak to Vonnegut’s wariness of the military industrial complex and the unintended consequences of technological advancement.  A second performance will be tomorrow (Saturday) night at 7 p.m., today’s being a 3 p.m. matinee more convenient, as it happens, for me to get to as well as (Friday being a work day) more likely to have tickets still available when I showed up at the door.

The readings themselves were presented in radio theatre format, the first in fact, according to the blurb above, adapted by the author himself, with performers in chairs stepping up to the mike to speak their parts accompanied by a variety of audio special effects.  I thought it worked well.  The first, “Epicac,” was about a newly invented supercomputer of special interest to the Navy for use in battles, but which, due to a lovesick programmer, became more interested in poetry and love itself, transferring its own affection to the programmer’s fiancee.  Then the second, “Report on the Barnhouse Effect,” from Vonnegut’s first published short story, has to do with a civilian professor developing what we might now call teleportation — an ability to manipulate solid objects with his mind — and his subsequent revolt against the military’s interest in using this in warfare, having become as he puts it himself the world’s “first weapon with a conscience.”

I had reread “Barnhouse Effect” fairly recently and, as I remember it, think the adaption did a good job of presenting the essence of the story.  In any event, I’ve dug out my old copy of WELCOME TO THE MONKEY HOUSE and plan to take another look at both stories tonight.

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It’s a bit low key in its way, with only this the description on Amazon:  BÊTE NOIRE brings you the best in dark fiction.  In this issue we bring you William Delman, James Dorr, Kevin Hartack, Abhishek Sengupta, Bruce Boston, Pauline Yates, John Grey, Ken Goldman, Marge Simon, Alice Andersen, Bill Thomas, Ronald A. Busse, and Luke Chapman.  Marked as published on April 14 (the news travels slowly to match a late-coming spring) it’s a rather slim volume at 46 pages, but these containing some heavy hitters, Boston, Grey, Simon. . . .  My part in the patch is called “Even Odds,” a quietly apocalyptic speculation which (one hopes) will match the issue itself in being a long time coming (see February 26 2019; December 11 2017).

From my earlier post, BÊTE NOIRE specializes in fiction and poems that are (quoting the guidelines) well written, character driven and have a dark bent to them.  We are open to most genres as long as they have a dark side. This includes horror, dark sci-fi, dark fantasy, crime, mystery or dark humor.  For more on which, or to order a copy one can press here.

This one’s been predicted often enough, actually, that it seems more like a joke than news — and as for the news part it’s really not actually being planned . . . yet.  But the power of advertising is great and, as a background detail when, say, those romantic sexbots of the previous post gaze out of their window to see the moon, well light pollution could also be a factor and who’s to say smog won’t obscure it all?  As for the joke part, this did come to my attention courtesy of Michael Parisi on Facebook’s FANTASY/SCIENCE/FICTION NEWS AND HUMOR site.  The article itself, by Anthony Cuthbertson on WWW.INDEPENDENT.CO.UK, is titled “Pepsi Considers Space Billboards to Project Logo Across Night Sky Using Satellites” and can be seen by pressing here.

But then as the article itself states:  It is not the first time extra terrestrial advertising has been proposed, with one Japanese startup aiming to place billboards on the surface of the moon by 2020.  Tokyo-based Ispace raised $90 million in 2017 to kickstart what it calls the “lunar economy”, which involves – at least in part – setting up small advertising hoards on the moon that can be viewed from Earth.

Well, some of us writers and other artists are introspective or introverted, maybe not always socialized to the highest degree, but let us not think only of ourselves.  Or perhaps not at all about ourselves, but of all humanity in a possibly frighteningly near future.  As Bernard Marr has it on LINKEDIN.COM:  While some might not protest smart sex toys and what adults choose to do behind closed doors, there’s a bit more controversy and consideration when contemplating if humanoid anatomically correct sexbots are good or bad for society.  That doesn’t stop nearly half of Americans from believing that having sex with robots will be a common practice within 50 years.  Bots such as Realbotix’s Harmony and Synthea Amatus’s Samantha are quite realistic and are adaptable because one robot can assume several different characters and personalities.  They can talk, show expression and respond to touch and pleasure in a similar way humans do.  Since they are learning machines, sexbots are also very attentive to their partner as they listen to learn and become better in conversation.

The article is “How Robots, IoT And Artificial Intelligence Are Changing How Humans Have Sex” and may portend a future trend that will need to be dealt with, at least as background, in our own fiction.  Smart sex toys, sex bots, virtual reality porn, to reference three sub-heads in Marr’s report, but what of government regulations?  There has been at least some discussion in Congress.  Or simply regulation in general — or possibly threats.  Japan may be a leader in humanoid anatomically correct robots, but also is a nation where the birth rate is declining.  Links in Barr’s article lead to a number of interesting side topics, both pro and con — all of which may be checked out (you know you want to!) by pressing here.

Well, first of all they aren’t all stories, “The Balloon Hoax” for instance first published as a genuine news account while POLITIAN is a never-completed play.  Nevertheless, I am a Poe fan — THE TEARS OF ISIS in fact is dedicated to Poe — and anyway who wants to quibble?  Thus when I ran across “13 True Stories Behind Edgar Allan Poe’s Terror Tales” by Christopher P. Semtner, Curator of Richmond Virginia’s Edgar Allan Poe Museum, on BIOGRAPHY.COM via Scott M. Goriscak on Facebook’s THE HORROR SOCIETY, I knew this was one I had to share.

But first a bit of an introduction by Curator Semtner:  Regrettably, the focus on Poe as counter-culture hero, cautionary example of the dangers of substance abuse, and grandfather of Goth may have obscured the reality of this immensely talented and versatile author.  This was true even during his lifetime when the controversial editor and critic appeared as a character in other authors’ novels, poems, and short stories, blurring the line between Poe’s legend and his real life.  Poe actively promoted his own legend by spreading rumors that he had fought in the Greek War of Independence and was held prisoner in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  Poe’s reputation has kept him in the public eye, but it has also obscured the true significance.  This then is followed by a quick, but interesting biography plus some notes on the Richmond museum.

And then to the main event, thirteen tales including the above perhaps non-tales, plus others both familiar and possibly some somewhat less so.  “The Pit and the Pendulum.”  “The Fall of the House of Usher” (an illustration for which appears here).  “The Masque of the Red Death.”  “The Tell-Tale Heart.”  But also “The Mystery of Marie Roget.”  “Some Words With a Mummy.”  “Berenice.”  Others, the origins of some a bit speculative maybe, and some more convincing, my favorite being that of “A Cask of Amontillado” born from a feud between the author and one Thomas Dunn English.

To see all, press here.

I probably shouldn’t single out any of the stories, because all of them are excellent, but I have to mention that “Aquarium Dreams” by Gary Budgen, “Crow and Rat” by James Dorr, “Rut” by Ian Steadman, “Dewclaw” by Ian Kappos, “Her Audience Shall Stand in Ovation” by Jason Gould are among the best stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.  I also greatly enjoyed “Susheela” by Bindia Persaud, because it reads like a fairy tale for adults, and I loved “Ouroboros” by Douglas Thompson, because it’s something mesmerisingly different.  These stories alone make this anthology worth owning and reading.

So begins the conclusion of a review from March 29 in RISING SHADOW, e-pointed out to me by HUMANAGERIE Editor (with Sarah Doyle) Allen Ashley:  Just in case you haven’t seen this on Facebook, we have had another fabulous review, this time by the respected review website RISING SHADOW.  I am attaching a copy for you.  Everybody gets a positive mention.  And positive these mentions are indeed!  Earlier, reviewer Seregil of Rhiminee comments on each item in the contents, saying this of lowest-of-low ne’er-do-wells Crow and Rat (cf. January 13, et al.):

Crow and Rat – James Dorr:

– An excellent story about Crow and Rat who are beggars in the New City.
– The author’s vision of the world where the sun has become hotter is fascinating and satisfyingly dark.
– This is a bit different kind of a love story, because it has a dark and epic feel to it.  It’s almost like a dark and romantic fairy tale for adults.
– I consider James Dorr to be an author to watch, because this story is amazing.  (When I read this story, I said to myself that I must read more stories by the author, because what I’ve just read is something special.)

The New City, I should point out, is one of the settings in my mosaic novel TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, although Crow and Rat’s story itself doesn’t appear in it.  But let it not go to these miscreants’ heads, but they seem to be doing quite well enough just from their appearance in HUMANAGERIE.  While as for RISING SHADOW’s review, to read it in full for yourself press here.

Or at least sometimes their stories do as blogger Carrie Ann Golden points out in “10 Films Based on Short Stories, on A WRITER & HER SENTIMENTAL MUSE, who asks [a]re all movies produced from screenplays only?  Her answer:  Nope. Many have been inspired by novels.  Think Harry Potter and Twilight.  But, did you know that there are a large number inspired by short stories?  She then proceeds to list ten as examples, starting with two that may be obvious, SLEEPY HOLLOW and THE BIRDS, followed by some that might less quickly come to mind like THE CANDYMAN (based on a series of stories by Clive Barker) or DARK WATER, SCREAMERS, and THE THING, with titles that differ from those of the original stories.  If interested one may press here, or simply take heart that there may be more to short story writing than occasional one dollar (or one cent) royalties.

But also an extra! Scroll down beyond the tenth movie title, beyond the article itself, and one of two links to other blog topics includes an interview, going back all the way to November 14 2016, of . . . me (see also post on the same date, below).  Herewith, for the curious, added to comments on characterization and theme are two questions on a then not-quite-yet-published work in progress, TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH.

Hark us back to March 12, a mere sixteen days ago, and the post titled “Goodreads 384 Best Horror Anthos (First 100) Plus Post Death Review” concerning Goodreads’ LISTOPIA BEST HORROR ANTHOLOGIES listing.  As I said at the time, 384 is a pretty big number, but I did skim through the first one hundred and, the news of the day, I have work in at least three titles, numbers 24, 50, and 97.  More specifically these are THE BEST OF CEMETERY DANCE VOLUME 1 & 2 OMNIBUS (CD Publications, 1998) with “A Christmas Story,” SLICES OF FLESH (Dark Moon Books, 2012) with “Bones, Bones, the Musical Fruit,” and AFTER DEATH (Dark Moon Books, 2013) with “Mall Rats,” the first two of these reprints and the third an original publication.  And that was that.

But that also means there are 284 titles I did not skim through and so, in a moment of relatively idle time earlier this afternoon, I glanced through the next 100 where two more books popped up with stories by me:  in a five-way tie for number 130, UNCOMMON ASSASSINS with “The Wellmaster’s Daughter,” and by itself at number 155, THE CHILDREN OF CTHULHU with “Dark of the Moon.”  To see for oneself one may press here.  And, as with the first one hundred titles, the entries are “live” in that one can click on them to go to their Goodreads pages, and from there to Amazon and other vendors should one have a desire to.  (In fact, in going through the list myself I came upon several other anthologies, including a tribute to Robert W. Chambers’ “The King in Yellow,” A SEASON IN CARCOSA, that seemed worth ordering for myself.)

Then one mini-oddity, as it happens both of my stories in the second 100 have strong science fiction aspects to them as well as horror, “Dark of the Moon” being, in fact, about a lunar expedition and “The Wellmasters Daughter” a very environmentally based introduction to the Sahara desert.

This is a British thing that I don’t really know a lot about, but I understand from Editors Sarah Doyle and Allen Ashley that HUMANAGERIE (see March 18, et al.) is eligible for nomination for a Saboteur Award for Best Anthology of 2018, as well as Eibonvale Press for Most Innovative Publisher.  As Sarah puts it:  I know there have been some amazing anthologies out in the past year (in which some of you may have appeared), but if you wanted to vote for “Humanagerie” in the Best Anthology category (and/or wanted to share the link with friends/family or via social media), that would be very welcome.  But no worries if not, of course!  As I understand it, the awards are sponsored by SABOTAGE REVIEWS and supported by a “Grant for the Arts” from Arts Council England.

For more information on the awards (with last year’s winners) one can press here while, if so moved, to make nominations press here.

Also today marks the second royalty statement for this month, this for substantially more than the last, actually topping $1.00!  I won’t say by how much nor will I mention the publisher’s name, but in full disclosure, royalties received for short stories in anthologies (that is, sharing the take with all other authors) are generally not going to be very great.  Moreover this particular one is for a series of four books published more than ten years ago, which have continued to produce sales every year from the earliest, in 2001 — and indeed, added up especially in the earliest years, have paid totals which had they been paid all at once would be fairly impressive.  (Of course — even fuller disclosure — these are a particularly bright exception, most anthologies doing well perhaps in their first year, but not having nearly that much staying power).

This just struck me as interesting as an idea for future stories or, rather, an element of future stories:  what attractions might future amusement parks offer that differ from today’s?  Well as it happens, short film maker Till Nowak created such an idea, based on a fictional scientific experiment concerning the effects of thrill rides on human learning, and part of which apparently has been taken by some people to be true.  Hence it migrated to SNOPES.COM with a need for debunking in “Does This Video Show an Extreme Theme Park Thrill Ride?”

To quote the SNOPES article, of Nowak’s film:  [t]he film is narrated by “Dr. Nick Laslowicz” (as portrayed by Leslie Barany), who has picked up on a project to “study the effects of kindergarten rides on the learning curve of 4-year-old children” that has been extended to “building larger, stronger devices to examine the effects also on adults.”

Dr. Laslowicz leads the viewing audience through a succession of increasingly bizarre amusement rides conceived and created to further his study — including one lasting a whopping 14 hours on which, the researcher laments, “some people fell asleep and missed their stops and had another 14 hours, and you can imagine the problems that entailed.”

And the fun thing is, not only is the video in question shown, but the entire 6 minute and 35 second film can be seen for as well by pressing here, then scrolling down to the end of the SNOPES piece and THE CENTRIFUGE BRAIN PROJECT:  A SHORT FILM.  The original video comes about a minute before the end of the film.

Now the next question to ask: in that most of these still rely on gravity for their effects, what modifications can we make for amusement park rides for use in space?




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