Tag: science fiction

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Planetary Agent X and False Democracy

At first, the survey of political systems in Mack Reynolds‘ interstellar spy novel, Planetary Agent X, seems quite whimisical and superficial. There are planets full of anarchists, and planets crawling with feudalism, nihilism, socialism, and what have you. There are some playful jabs at democracy, individualism, and even the tyranny of the uninformed voters (a la John Stuart Mill). The tone is not as playful as Ron Goulart, but definitely not very serious either. So it came as a pleasant surprise when the protagonist, Ronny Bronston, is given a sarcastic lecture by his handler, the mysterious Tog Lee Chang Chu, on the disasters brought about by “industrial feudalism.” How strangely familiar!

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Surreal SF art of Carlos Ochagavia

This beautiful illustration for the cover of Daughter of IS (1978), by Michael Davidson, is a wonderful example of the science fiction art of Carlos Ochagavia. The background is rendered in a light,

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Chicken Little Protein: Space Merchants Radio Play

One of the great satirical classics of Science Fiction is surely “Space Merchants,” by Fred Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth, which skewers the American traditions of corporate greed, deceptive advertising, and the treatment of consumers as stooges, suckers, retarded fools, and miserable cattle. The story accomplishes this in a slick, almost effortless Science Fiction setting, which is fast-paced and chock full of sadistic irony. It’s important to remember the context of American society at the time of publication — 1953 — when the Cold War was in full swing, and the complete subservience to the Capitalist credo was not only the mood of the times, but was enforced by psychological warfare, not the least of which were accusations, blacklists, and finally the foaming-mouthed lunacy of McCarthyism.

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Philip Jose Farmer and the Weird Beard

Philip Jose Farmer, one of the great SF minds of our times, passed away in his Peoria, Illinois home. The tributes and obits are flowing in from all corners of society. SF Site has posted a great 1975 interview conducted in Minneaopolis by Dave Truesdale, (editor of Tangent fanzine), which primarily deals with the identity of Kilgore Trout.

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Psyched for Boskone 2009 Art Show

This will be my first time to participate in the Boskone Art Show, woot! I’m having fun getting some prints mounted and ready for the show. There will be four 8×10 prints available for the th

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Secret Societies Converge to Get their Freak On: Arisia 2009 con report

My first impression of Arisia was one of sartorial richness, stirred together with equal parts of humor, history, literary allusion, and performing arts. The non-stop schedule of movies, panels, gaming sessions, readings, parties and demonstrations got lost in the spectacle of costumed attendees swarming randomly around three levels of the hotel, and visible from any number of perspectives along the balustrades of the atrium. Out of this dizzying scene the iconic image of this con, for me, was that of a black-clad woman with blonde dreadlocks, jacked up on really tall stilts, and moving hazily across the rippling lobby carpet while slashing playfully at people with her foot-long razor nails. There were plenty of other costumes…indeed far to many to describe, except to say that the standard for corsets, ray-guns, battle-armor, cloaks, boots, scabbards, gowns, ragged wings, top hats, gloves, goggles, spats, walking sticks, holsters, capes, chain mail, and hardened-leather bustiere was conspicuously high! This managed to fit in with some of the subtexts running through the con, such as hentai anime, freemasonry, and steam punk vs. cyberpunk. And you could follow some of those threads on the con Twitter feed.

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Visual Trope: the Alien Encounter

On this snowbound Solstice weekend in New England, I happened to be reading reviews of The Day The Earth Stood Still remake, and pondering the ways in which humans have envisioned our first contact with alien life forms. Without going too heavily into the subject, I pondered the range of human-alien frission typically presented in SF, from the over-hyped assumption of instant warfare, or the however improbable love at first site, to the more nuanced anthropological approaches of Chad Oliver and the intensely portrayed psychological gestalts of Theodore Sturgeon. At that point Sturgeon’s amazing story To Marry Medusa (aka _The Cosmic Rape_) popped into my mind, and in particular the lush red cover image for the 1968 paperback by Paul Lehr. This image, so typical of Lehr (with a mountainous half-organic construction looming in the center, while miniscule beings flit around it like so many fleas,) represents the contact between human and alien minds in the realm of abstraction and metaphor. In that sense it fascinates more than the familiar image of some athletic dork with a ray gun zapping the tentacles off of a bug-eyed wierdo.

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How to envision Lem?

An interesting problem: illustrate a cover for the fiction of Stanislaw Lem. How would you do it? Here is a nice little gallery of rarely seen Lem covers, collected by one of the very best tribu