Monday, February 21, 2011

Farscape Season 1: Episode 1: Pilot

I have heard a lot of good things about Farscape but never watched it on a regular basis.  I was only able to see an occasional episode when it was being broadcast.  I finally picked up the DVD sets of the entire series.  Now it is time to watch the series from the beginning.

Written by Rockne S. O'Bannon
From the Henson website...

Astronaut John Crichton's experimental Farscape module is swallowed by a wormhole and spat out on the other side of the universe - in the middle of a pitched space battle. Taken on board Moya - a huge bio-mechanoid "living ship" desperately trying to escape captivity - Crichton is confronted by alien life forms: Ka D'Argo, the fierce Luxan warrior; Rygel XVI, the sluglike Dominar of the Hynerian Empire; Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan, the serene blue Delvian priestess; Pilot, a four-armed creature physically and neurally bonded to Moya, and Oficer Aeryn Sun, an enemy Peacekeeper. In order to repair Moya, Zhaan, D'Argo and Rygel are forced to a Commerce Planet. Pursued by the ruthless Captain Crais, Crichton must use his primitive earth science to devise a means for Moya to slingshot out of range of Crais' ship and into the Uncharted Territories.

I can see why this series was a hit with the fans.  The action is fast paced, the story keeps moving, the aliens (such as Moya, Rygel, and Pilot) are extremely alien, the ships are fascinating, and hints are dropped that the crew has secrets.  

One of my favorite things was the way everyone on the ship knew how things operated except for the newcomer.  Crichton finds things that he does not understand while the others assume he should already know.  It gives him the "man out of his element" aura that he should have.  At times his Earth background gives him insights and tactics that the others are not familiar with.  The roguish, loveable, Crichton sells this series.  A less energetic actor would have been a disaster for Farscape.

Another interesting part of the series is the living ship Moya and the very alien Pilot.  Both remain a mystery that will be explored in the future.

The main story arc for this part of the series is Crichton on the run from Crais.  The Peacekeepers do not believe that the death of Crais' brother was an accident.  Like many groups in the past, the name does not reflect the true nature of the group.  "Peacekeepers" appear to have more in common with the Nazis than any force for peace.  It seems that their version of peace means they have absolute control. 

The writer reveals enough about the characters to let you sympathize with them without telling all of their secrets.  From what I understand, secrets will be uncovered as the series progresses.

Based on just watching the pilot episode, I would consider this on a par with Star Trek and Babylon 5.  I hope it will continue to grow like those series did. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Art of Science Fiction: Frank Kelly Freas

The Art of Science Fiction will be a semi-regular feature.  Each time I will showcase some of my favorite covers.  This time I am looking at a couple of Frank Kelly Freas' work.

"Starmasters' Gambit" is one of my favorite Freas covers.  The image of the astronaut in the traditional Freas spacesuit looks like it came from the pulp magazines.  Gray Morrow would use similar designs when he painted the Perry Rhodan covers.

I always liked the "starburst effects".  Freas does a good job of giving the impression that a whole galaxy of stars is appearing on the cover.

The giant sized figure, which one can only assume is one of the Starmasters, reaching down to grab the hapless astronaut tops off this classic cover.  

Freas has always been a classic science fiction artist.  The reader was always sure that they were looking at a science fiction cover when he was doing the painting.

"The Mind Net" is another classic Freas cover.  Is the main image the wreckage of an alien city or spaceship?  Or is it some weird alien fauna?  It is definitely not of Earth origin.

The astronauts appear to be human but with the reader cannot see through the helmets to confirm their appearance.  The silver helmets are a traditional classical science fiction design.

The spaceship design gives away the artist.  Freas uses a similar style of ship on numerous covers without copying the previous ones.

Another unique cover from the great Frank Kelly Freas.

I am sure I will be visiting this artist again in future installments.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

John Carter of Mars

Some of the most striking covers by the legendary Michael Whelan were the ones he did for the John Carter of Mars series.  Even if you don't care for the books, they are worth collecting for the covers.

Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars books have been around longer than I have been alive.  Over the years, different companies have adapted the books into comic form.

Dynamite Entertainment is the latest company to try.  What are they offering to make their book different?  Writer Arvid Nelson has developed a back story that leads into the first novel.  He does a believable job of filling in the back story based on Burrough's stories.  If you liked the originals, I would recommend picking up this series.

For my review of the first issue, click here.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Short Story Sunday - Feb.. 13, 2011

 With Valentine's Day being tomorrow, I thought I would devote today's short story reviews to ones dealing with love.

The two stories I am reviewing today are similar in many ways.  The authors are experts when it comes to crafting stories about love, loss, loneliness, death, and the thin line between science and fantasy.  Roger Zelazny and George R. R. Martin have written some of my all time favorite stories.  The two I am reviewing today are good examples of why I like both authors.

1.  "The Man Who Loved the Faoli" by Roger Zelazny
First Printing:  Galaxy, June 1967

It is the story of John Auden and the Faioli, and no one knows it better than I. Listen -- 

It happened on that evening, as he strolled (for there was no reason not to stroll) in his favorite places in the whole world, that he saw the Faioli near the Canyon of the Dead, seated on a rock, her wings of light flickering, flickering, flickering and then gone, until it appeared that a human girl was sitting there, dressed all in white and weeping, with long black tresses coiled about her waist. 

He approached her through the terrible light from the dying, half-dead sun, in which human eyes could not distinguish distances nor grasp perspectives properly (though his could), and he lay his right hand upon her shoulder and spoke a word of greeting and of comfort. 

It was as if he did not exist, however. She continued to weep, streaking with silver her cheeks the color of snow or a bone. Her almond eyes looked forward as though they saw through him, and her long fingernails dug into the flesh of her palms, though no blood was drawn. 

Then he knew that it was true, the things that are said of the Faioli -- that they see only the living and never the dead, and that they are formed into the loveliest women in the entire universe. Being dead himself, John Auden debated the consequences of becoming a living man once again, for a time. 

The Faioli were known to come to a man the month before his death -- those rare men who still died -- and to live with such a man for that final month of his existence, rendering to him every pleasure that it is possible for a human being to know, so that on the day when the kiss of death is delivered, which sucks the remaining life from his body, that man accepts it -- no, seeks it! -- with desire and with grace. For such is the power of the Faioli among all creatures that there is nothing more to be desired after such knowledge.

Once again, Zelazny proves to be a master story teller.  "The Man Who Loved the Faoli" is one of many examples why Galaxy was one of my favorite magazines.  The same issue also had stories by Poul Anderson, R. A. Lafferty, and Larry Niven.

Zelazny gives an answer to the question of what would a man give up for love and knowledge.  It seems like they would have different answers but read this story before you answer.

Now for another look at a similar theme...

2.  "The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr" by George R. R. Martin
First Printing:  Fantastic, May 1976

 There is a girl who goes between worlds.

She is grey-eyed and pale of skin, or so the story goes, and her hair is a coal-black waterfall with half-seen hints of red.  She wears about her brow a circlet of burnished metal, a dark crown that holds her hair in place and sometimes puts shadows in her eyes.  Her name is Sharra:  she knows the gates.  

The beginning of her story is lost to us, with the memory of the world from which she sprang.  The end?  The end is not yet, and when it comes we shall not know it.

We have only the middle, or rather a piece of that middle, the smallest part of the legend, a mere fragment of the quest.  A small tale within the greater, of one world where Sharra paused, and of the lonely singer Laren Dorr and how they briefly touched.

Another classic Martin short story.  A guardian awaits Sharra at each of the worlds she travels to.  At each one they try to keep her from moving on.  This stop along the way is different in that she finds the minstrel-Laren Dorr.  This short story tells about their time together.

Once again, Martin deals with loneliness and loss set against the background of a castle.  Martin loves writing about ancient places.  Fortunately he is a master at creating mood and establishing an atmosphere with his style of writing.  

If you have not read this story, what are you waiting for?  Rush out and buy it.

Both stories get a high recommendation.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Weekend Update

This Week's Comic Book Reviews

The Flash #9 in Comcs!  A Personal Journal

Tomb of Dracula Vol. 1 in Comic Book Shelf Review.  Fans of classic horror or gothic stories will enjoy this series that was illustrated by the great Gene Colan.

Television Viewing
My science fiction viewing this week involved starting to watch "Farscape" for the first time.  I will put up reviews at a later date.  So far I am impressed.

New Additions to the Library

 The Ace Science Fiction Specials appeared on my radar this week.  I had an almost complete collection of the last Terry Carr Specials when I had to thin down my original library.  So expect to see a group of them this week and next as I start to rebuild this series.

Green Eyes by Lucius Shepard

Shepard's first novel sounds very interesting.  It deals with a mix of voodoo and biology that is used to resuscitate corpses.  The procedure is used to heal the living.  It all leads into a search for answers on another world.

The Tides of God by Ted Reynolds

Earth has become a perfect world in the 33rd century.  An ancient enemy returns to bring death and devastation back to the world.  Mankind launches a spaceship to destroy the enemies plans.  What waits for Mankind in space?  Some think it will be god.

Black Snow Days by Claudia O'Keefe

From the back cover blurb "Eric Pope crashed into a wall... Twelve years later, he wakes from a coma to find the world destroyed by war -- and his body and mind rebuilt into something more and less than human. Eric is now the only man who can survive in the deadly black snow outside the Tank. The half-mad survivors of the war see him as their promised savior: And what's been done to his mind is even more alarming; another personality lives withing him, an independent intelligence that is his own female self..."

The Best of Margaret St. Clair

Another addition to my "Best of..." collection.

Analog Science Fiction

March 1968

Sometimes you stumble on to a treasure in the old magazines.  The line up for this issue consists of stories by Piers Anthony, Christopher Anvil, Poul Anderson, James Tiptree Jr., and Harry Harrison.

March 1970

Stories in this issue by Richard and Nancy Carrigan, Harry Harrison, and Jack Wodhams.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lloyd Biggle Jr. Profile

 Remembering Lloyd Biggle Jr.

I have a confession to make.  Before this week I never read any of Biggle's stories.  I am now reading "Monument" for the Classic Science Fiction group.

In the area I grew up in, Biggle's books did not appear on the book racks.  I was fascinated by this author but at that time I did not have the option of buying the books online.  The titles of his novels sounded different from other writers' books.  "The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets", "All the Colors of Darkness", "Silence is Deadly".  The names alone evoke exotic sounding tales.  What are "All the Colors of Darkness"?  I know that I am anxious to find out.  

From what I have heard, "Monument" is a good place to start reading the Biggle novels.  It is a stand alone novel that some consider to be his best work.  I am finding it very interesting.  A space bum crash lands on a backwards planet, lives peacefully with the natives (descendents of an earlier ship), realizes he is dying and proceeds to prepare them for the inevitable efforts of mankind to turn their planet into a resort.  The writing is easy to read while introducing more complex thoughts that are not apparent until later.

I will be adding more Biggle books in the future.


 Follow this link to the Wikipedia biography.  While serving in World War II he was wounded twice.  The second time left him disabled for life.  In his civilian life he became known, in addition to being an author, as a musician and as the founder of the Science Fiction Oral History Association.  The association maintains an archive of video and audio recordings of people involved in science fiction.

He published two dozen mystery books and numerous short stories.


    Jan Darzek

  • “Whom the Gods Love” (1971)
  • All the Colors of Darkness (1963)
  • Watchers of the Dark (1966)
  • This Darkening Universe (1975)
  • Silence is Deadly (1977)
  • The Whirligig of Time (1979)

  Cultural Survey
  • ·         “The King Who Wasn’t” (2001)
  • ·         “Perchance to Dream” (2002)
  • ·         “The Pristine Planet” (2003)
  • ·         “Off the Zomler, By the Zomler” (2003)
  • ·         “The Problem of the Gourmet Planet” (2003)
  • ·         The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets (1968).
  • ·         The World Menders (1971) Serialized in three parts in Analog

Other Novels

    * Hornet's Nest (1959)
    * The Angry Espers (1961)
    * A Taste of Fire (1959)
    * The Fury Out of Time (1965)
    * The Light that Never Was (1972)
    * Monument (1974)
    * Alien Main (1985), with T. L. Sherred
    * Interface for Murder (1987)
    * The Quallsford Inheritance (1987)
    * The Glendower Conspiracy (1990); see camera obscura
    * Where Dead Soldiers Walk (1994)


    * The Rule of the Door and Other Fanciful Regulations (1967)
    * The Metallic Muse (1972)
    * A Galaxy of Strangers (1976)

Monday, February 7, 2011


What can I expect from Profiles?

Profiles is a new feature here at Science Fiction Times.  

1.   Each one will focus on a writer, artist, or editor involved in science fiction or fantasy.
2.   My personal recollections of the person.  For an example see my Donald A. Wollheim article.  

3.   A partial bibliography.  In most cases it will not be a complete list.  The books I list will be the ones that I think are the “big” books or ones that I found especially interesting.  I will include a link to the Internet Science Fiction Data Base for a complete listing.
4.  Links to any interesting articles and websites about the person.

I think this will be helpful for a couple of reasons.  One is to remind readers of someone they might have forgotten.  Another is for the reader who wants to learn about a writer they are not familiar with and see what would be a good place to start with their fiction.

The first “Profile” will be about Lloyd Biggle Jr.  The Classic Science Fiction Club, in Yahoo groups, selected Biggle’s novel “Monument” as the book for February.  If you are a fan of  classic science fiction, I would recommend joining the group.  Carl, at Stainless Steel Droppings, posted about the group and next thing I knew, I was a member.  Each month a classic and a modern science fiction book is featured. 

Here is the list for 2011:

Classic Schedule

  • Jan: Midnight at the Well of Souls - Jack Chalker
  • Feb: Monument - Lloyd Biggle Jr
  • Mar: Brain Wave - Poul Anderson
  • Apr: Rite of Passage - Alexei Panshin
  • May: Restoree - Anne McCaffrey
  • Jun: The Mote in God's Eye - Niven and Pournelle
  • Jul: The Cosmic Puppets - Philip K. Dick
  • Aug: Earthlight - Arthur C. Clarke
  • Sep: The Man Who Folded Himself - David Gerrold
  • Oct: Tau Zero - Poul Anderson
  • Nov: Galactic Patrol - E.E. Smith
  • Dec: Empire Star - Samuel R. Delany

Modern Schedule

  • Jan: Earth - David Brin
  • Feb: Flashforward - Robert J. Sawyer
  • Mar: Brasyl - Ian McDonald
  • Apr: Beggars in Spain - Nancy Kress
  • May: Primary Inversion - Catherine Asaro
  • Jun: Risen Empire - Scott Westerfield
  • Jul: Calculating God - Robert J. Sawyer
  • Aug: The Life of Pi - Yann Martel
  • Sep: Barsoom Project - Niven and Barnes
  • Oct: Replay - Ken Grimwood
  • Nov: Spin - Robert Charles Wilson
  • Dec: On Basilisk Station - David Weber

Friday, February 4, 2011

Weekend Update 2/5/2011

This was a week where real life interfered with my blogging time.  Sometimes situations at work keep me from writing.  Next week I will be back to a regular schedule and the blog posts will return.

New Additions to My Library

The Best of Pamela Sargent
 Pamela Sargent is one of the authors who I do not remember reading.  I have definitely heard of her but somehow missed out on her stories.  This looked like a good place to start.  And the fact that Michael Bishop did the foreward did not hurt.  The stories appeared from 1971 through 1984.
Chrysalis #1 edited by Roy Torgeson
 The first volume in one of my favorite anthology series.  It includes stories by Harlan Ellison, Theodore Sturgeon, Spider Robinson, Richard A. Lupoff, Elizabeth A. Lynn, Charles L. Grant, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and Thomas F. Monteleone.

The cover for this collection is by Thomas Barber.  The style and design of the ship reminds me of the art of John Schoenherr. 

Worlds of If

Various issues of Worlds of If arrived this week.

February 1974
Authors this issue are Leigh Brackett, Hal Clement, Norman Spinrad, Christopher Priest, Gordon Eklund, and Pamela Sargent.

March/April 1974
Authors are Fred Saberhagen, James H. Schmitz, Raymond F. Jones, Randall Garrett, Leigh Brackett, and others.

May/June 1974
Stories by Isaac Asimov, Fred Saberhagen, Robert Silverberg, Christopher Anvil, James H. Schmitz, Mack Reynolds, and others.  This issue has the distinction of being the introduction to James Baen as editor.

October 1974
Authors include Poul Anderson (with A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows), Colin Kapp, and others.  The cover for the Poul Anderson story is by Wendy Pini.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Short, Sharp Shock by Kim Stanley Robinson

This is one of the hardest books I have read and reviewed.  I have not read much of Kim Stanley Robinson's work.  A friend (I might as well list him as "creative consultant"-Terry Kissinger) is a big fan of Robinson's Mars books.    I did not want to start another series until I finished one that I already started. So I thought this short book would be a good one to try.  Normally, Terry and I have similar tastes in science fiction and comic books.  Imagine my surprise when I did not like this book.

It started good enough with a man with no memores waking up on a beach.  The language and style of writing reminded me of Roger Zelazny's writing.  Starting a story with the protagonist having no memories is very similar to Zelazny's "Nine Prnces in Amber".

The main character goes with the flow. He rarely makes decisions.  Most of the chances in the book are forced on him or just happen and he goes along with them.  In Zelazny's book, the character made choices and tried to accomplish goals.  Robinson's protagonist seems to have no ambition.  He is perfectly content just letting things happen to him.  This does serious damage to the story.

Is the story all bad?  No.  Robinson shows off his vivid imagination and descriptive skills.  He just needed to work out a story to go with the basic idea he set up.  With a solid story being the frame work, this could have been a very good book.

Based on other reviews I have seen, this is a style that Robinson only used on this story.  I will be reading more Robinson in the future to see if I like his regular style.

I would recommend skipping this one.