Archive for the ‘Science Fiction’ Category


(Across the Void, by S.K. Vaughan. Skybound Books/Simon & Schuster, 2019, $27.00, 371 pp.)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

The Library Journal review of Across the Void reveals that the author is “a pseudonym for an accredited film writer and director.” This explains why Across the Void reads like an expanded screenplay, and why it serves as an excellent illustration in printed form of the contempt with which Hollywood holds science fiction fans.

Vaughn’s novel is a decently written if cliched damsel-in-distress sci-fi thriller/mystery — injured astronaut with no memory of what happened to her awakens on a crippled space ship — that’s marred by, among other things, scientific illiteracy. Two examples: 1) the crew supposedly spent a week on the surface of Europa, an intensely radioactive environment, where an hour’s exposure would be extremely dangerous and a day’s exposure would cause severe radiation sickness and death; and 2) howlers such as, “Unfortunately, the star fields 621,000 miles in all directions are unidentifiable, . . .” a statement so nonsensical that it’s not even wrong.

(Why the odd figure 621,000? The author evidently realizes that a million kilometers equals 621,000 miles, and probably thinks American readers are too dumb to know that. Never mind that “621,000 miles” makes no sense at all in regard to “star fields.”)

There’s also an unnecessary flashback to open the book, a bit of bathos (in the relationship of the astronaut and her estranged husband — who of course comes to her rescue), and some heavy-handed passages designed to reveal character and/or wow the reader, none of which helps. Nor does the author having nothing of interest to say about damn near anything.

I only read the first 50 pages or so of this one, so the remaining 300+ pages might comprise a sci-fi masterpiece. But somehow I doubt it.

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Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (large pdf sample here). He’s currently if sporadically working on the sequel to Free Radicals, an unrelated sci-fi novel, and a nonfiction book on the seamier sides of Christianity (24 Reasons to Abandon Christianity, which will appear in 2020).

Free Radicals, by Zeke Teflon front cover


“The truth is, almost all end-of-the-world stories are at some level Adam-and-Eve stories. That may be why they enjoy such popularity. In the interests of total disclosure, I will admit that in fallow periods of my own sex life — and, alas, those periods have been more frequent than I’d care to admit — I’ve often found Adam-and-Eve fantasies strangely comforting. Being the only man alive significantly reduces the potential for rejection in my view. And it cuts performance anxiety to nothing.”

–Dale Brown in “The End of the World as We Know It” in The End Times: Classic Tales of the Apocalypse anthology edited by Robert Silverberg


“[E]ven in a world where the facts don’t matter anymore, even in a world where progressive values have been co-opted as corporate speak, even in a world where people with disgusting amounts of wealth can do suspect or even terrible things and face little to no consequences, holding those in power accountable is still a fight worth having.”

–ShutUpWesley in McCovey Chronicles’ “The Zaidi Era is Officially Here

(For non-sci-fi fans, the weird pseudonym refers to the intensely annoying Wesley Crusher character — who you felt like smacking around on general principles — in Star Trek: The Next Generation.)

 


It’s been a while since we’ve posted one of these, so this’ll be a bit longer than usual. Given these dark times and the need for comic relief, we’re mostly featuring Funny Internet Crap this time around. We’ve found some choice items so, as always, hang onto your hats and enjoy.

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  • Deadstate is always good for a few laughs amidst the political and religious horrors it tends to cover. Our current favorite story is “University psychiatrist: Saying Trump is mentally ill is a ‘terrible insult to the mentally ill.'”
  • Rudy Rucker’s Juicy Ghost is a  “a political sci-fi story,” that the standard sci-fi magazines thought was too hot to handle. (Rucker is a very well established sci-fi author — normally the mags would gobble up any short story he submitted.) So, because none of the magazines would publish it, Rucker put it up in its entirety on his own blog. It’s short, but highly enjoyable.
  • Everyone loves a good prank, and for some fun examples see this story about Jeff Wysaski’s “obvious plants.” They good, but not as good as the following fake poster plastered all over Santa Cruz a couple of years ago:

  • And everyone loves to indulge in schadenfreude (feeling joy at another’s misfortune). And it’d be hard to top the amount of pure joy one feels when viewing this video taken inside a restaurant in China by a live-streamer who filmed herself trying to eat a live octopus. By far the best thing about this is that she did everything from planning this animal-abuse atrocity to attempting to execute it herself. Bon appetit!
  • Speaking of animals and sheer nuttiness all wrapped up in a conspiracy theory, check out this story about the Birds Aren’t Real campaign. (Yes, birds have all been replaced by surveillance drones.)
  • If you think most modern pop music utterly sucks, you’re right. For an entertaining exposition on just how and why so much of it does, check out Axis of Awesome’s “How to Write a Love Song.”
  • And what better to finish with than what might be the funniest short video ever posted on Youtube dealing with fishing, rednecks, and beer. You’ve gotta love this guy.

And as we’ve said before . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . That’s all folks!

Porky Pig


(The Quanderhorn Xperimentations, by Rob Grant and Andrew Marshall. London: Gallancz, 2019, 16.99 pounds, 464 pp.)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

(First, a cautionary note: Don’t expect an overly discerning review; I read this book in the wee hours of several mornings while in a semi-zombified state due to ongoing insomnia. Those not blessed with that affliction can achieve a similar state through ingestion of too many IPAs, through smoking copious amounts of Humboldt Paralysis Weed or, preferably, through combining the two approaches.)

When I saw this book, I said to myself, “Self, ya gotta read this thing!” There were two immediate attractions: the name of the book, an obvious reference to the early Quatermass sci-fi films (derived from the BBC TV series), the first of which (1955) is titled The Quartermass Xperiment; and the name of one of the co-authors, Rob Grant, co-creator with Doug Naylor of what is, hands down, the funniest sci-fi comedy series ever produced, Red Dwarf. (If you’ve never seen it, the first six series are gems, as is series 8.)

The promo copy on the back cover of The Quanderhorn Xperimentations gives a good indication of its contents: “Adapted backwards from the future from the Radio 4 series before it was made.” In other words, the book’s interior — I hesitate to call it a novel — consists primarily of absurdist humor.

In this it somewhat resembles Red Dwarf, as it does in other respects: it treats some similar sci-fi tropes (e.g., time travel, polymorphic life forms); has frequent one-liners; running gags; character-based and oftentimes crude humor; and uses humorous organizational names and their consequent acronyms. (My favorite from Red Dwarf is the Committee for the Liberation and Integration of Terrifying Organisms and their Rehabilitation Into Society — you can work that one out for yourselves.) One other similarity is that Quanderhorn lifts at least one joke — concerning the disposal of human remains — almost word for word from Red Dwarf (S1E1); there might be others, but I didn’t spot them.

Quanderhorn Xperimentations does, however, differ significantly from Red Dwarf in four ways: the characters in Red Dwarf are much stronger; the Red Dwarf episodes are much more coherent than any portion, let alone the whole, of Quanderhorn; as a result of those two things it’s almost always possible to suspend disbelief while viewing Red Dwarf, no matter how funny or how absurd the situation, and it’s simply not possible to do that with The Quanderhorn Xperimentations; and a lot of the humor in Red Dwarf is quite witty, something largely lacking in Quanderhorn.

As for the differences between Quanderhorn Xperimentations and the Quatermass films, there are several, the primary ones being: the Quatermass films were straight-up sci-fi, while The Quanderhorn Xperimentations is a work of absurdist humor with a sci-fi background; the Quatermass films featured a superhero-like primary character, Bernard Quatermass, who was both brilliant and ethical, while the corresponding character in The Quanderhorn Xperimentations, Darius Quanderhorn, is a callous, narcissistic evil genius.

Still, while The Quanderhorn Xperimentations falls short of both Red Dwarf and the Quatermass films, there’s enough humor in it to make it worth reading if you’re in the mood for an exceedingly light, undemanding read.

Recommended for Red Dwarf aficionados, fans of absurdist humor, insomniacs, zombies, and those who like to read after quaffing too many IPAs and inhaling the combustion products of burning Paralysis Weed.

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Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (large pdf sample here). His latest book is the compilation Godless: 150 Years of Disbelief, published by PM Press, and when the insomnia let’s up and he’s relatively coherent, Zeke is working on the sequel to Free Radicals, an unrelated sci-fi novel, a nonfiction book on the seamier sides of Christianity, and an anarchist compilation for PM.

Free Radicals front cover

 

 


Here, at minimum, are the posts that we’ll put up over the next month or so:

  • A review of Neal Stephenson’s masterful, very thought-provoking new near-future sci-fi novel Fall, or Dodge in Hell, that’s in many ways is reminiscent of his near-future political thriller Reamde;
  • Quite possibly one or two other sci-fi book reviews (we tend to review only books that we love or those that particularly irritate us);
  • A long look at the reasons why the USA has ended up with a grotesque authoritarian as president, and who and what’s to blame;
  • Excerpts from both of our upcoming nonfiction titles, Death Wins All Wars: A Memoir of Draft Resistance in the 1960s, by Daniel Holland (September 2019), and The Great Evil: Christianity, The Bible, and the Native American Genocide, by Chris Mato Nunpa (October 2019);
  • A long look at economic inequality in the USA, and how those who do useful work are systematically screwed;
  • A good-sized excerpt from Zeke Teflon’s sci-fi sequel to Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia;
  • Anything else we find both funny and/or insightful (preferably both).

Stay tuned.


“You stand at the threshold of the Temple of Mota, Lord of Lords . . .

“He could not recall such a god, but it did not matter. These sallow creatures had a thousand strange gods. Three things only do slaves require, food, work, and their gods, and of the three, their gods must never be touched, else they grow troublesome. So said the Precepts for Ruling.”

–Robert Heinlein, The Day After Tomorrow (1949)

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Amusingly, “mota” is border Spanish for marijuana.

The quote itself is quite reminiscent of Edward Gibbon’s comment in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:

“The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosopher as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful.”