Who Are Some Of Your Favorite Speculative Writers?

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I thought it would be interesting to hear who are some of your favorite writers of speculative fiction, which can include fantasy, science-fiction, and horror. Of course, other genres might be included.

For me, I think my favorites are

Stephen King

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

Among his novels are The Stand, The Shining, and Hearts In Atlantis.

 

Neil Gaiman

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Some of his books are American Gods, Neverwhere, and Coraline.

and

Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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(https://de.wikipedia.org)

Among his novels are The Shadow Of The Wind, The Prisoner of Heaven, and The Angel’s Game.

So, I ask you: who are some of your favorite speculative writers?

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The U.L.S. The Underground Library Society Guest Post by Amanda Cade!

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I want to thank Amanda Cade for her wonderful guest post for the ULS, The Underground Library Society. She has an excellent blog, and I hope you take the time to visit her site: Amanda Cade

Underground Library Society: The Martian Chronicles

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is, without question, one of the most captivating and disturbing books I’ve ever read. I was an early reader, and by the time I was five or six years old I was spending hours each day lost in the fascinating worlds of fiction. I received books for birthdays and Christmas, made weekly trips to the school and county libraries, and was the only kid I knew who was grounded from reading instead of television when I got in trouble at home. I still read every day, and in any given week I’ll finish between two and six books, depending on how busy my life is. So the picture of a world without books was, and still is, a deeply upsetting image.

When Dr. French extended his invitation to join the Underground Library Society, I knew I had to accept immediately. There was no question that I would, in this scenario, happily memorize and preserve a book. The difficulty was in choosing one of the thousands I have read in my lifetime, one of the hundreds that have played an important part in who am and how I see the world. At first, that decision was almost paralyzing, but when the answer came, it was so obvious I couldn’t believe it hadn’t immediately occurred to me. The book I can’t imagine being lost to the world is another work by Bradbury himself: The Martian Chronicles.

When I was in junior high school, one of my English teachers selected a short story or poem every week to read aloud to the class and form the basis for discussion. Her selections varied widely in tone, content, and genre, and looking back I realize that she must have been deliberately giving us a “tasting menu” of literature, hoping we would discover something that truly captured our interest. One week, her selection was Bradbury’s story “There Will Come Soft Rains”.

I think it’s important to emphasize once more exactly how much I had read at this point in my life. I was the stereotypical bookworm, with some (well, to be honest, a lot) of difficulty on the social scene, so for years I had spent most of my spare time reading. I was already reading on a high school level, and would finish most books in a day. On a weekend, I might read five. My point is that I was very familiar with the power of a good story, and if I had been self-aware enough to wonder if one of my teacher’s stories was going to create the transcendent moment she was hoping for, I would have been skeptical at best.

So I was unprepared for the impact of this particular story. If you haven’t read it, it’s set in Bradbury’s image of a smart house, a concept that is familiar today but was a pure dream when Bradbury wrote the story in 1950. It was still a dream when I heard the story in a 1980s classroom. As my teacher read, the picture of the house, with its cheerful robot voices and pampering machines, gripped my imagination more strongly than anything I had read in a long time. You see, for all of my years of nearly obsessive reading, I had yet to explore science fiction.

Shortly into the tale, my fascination with the setting was overcome with the uneasy realization that this magical house was empty. Now there was a mystery, and as Bradbury continued to describe the house’s routine and weave in clues, the unease gave way to understanding, and then to horror. The final image was so profoundly sad and disturbing that I found myself crying…and desperate to hear the story again.

I’ve searched my memory while writing this post, and while I can recall many times since then that I have had such a profound reaction to a story, I can’t think of one prior to that Friday afternoon class. That was the day that I began to move beyond reading for pleasure and started to read for theme, for understanding, for that so often elusive emotional resonance that Stephen King describe as something that “will recur. And recur. And recur…Until it shines”.

At the end of class, I asked my teacher where I could find the story, and she simply handed me a copy of The Martian Chronicles. I started reading as soon as I got home, and finished the entire collection that same evening. I could speak at length about every story in the book, but let me simply say this: in addition to adding to my newly kindled desire for more science fiction, every story pulsed with deeper meaning. Through stories of technology, telepathy, exploration, and so on Bradbury prompted his readers to think deeply about jealousy, loneliness, relationships, bigotry, fear, perception, and so many other essential elements of the human condition.

I was enthralled. I was confused. I was disturbed, and shattered, and exhilarated, and desperate not only to read more but to understand, because for the first time in my reading experience I also truly grasped that there were messages and ideas here that were still out of my reach…and I wanted them.

The following Monday, my teacher was ready with a copy of The Martian Chronicles and a collection of stories by Edgar Allan Poe, because she had guessed (correctly) that I might want to understand the context of “Usher II”. By Wednesday, I was in the library checking out every Bradbury book they had. They would take me weeks to read, and years to fully understand, but I was ready for the challenge. Within a month, I was pestering librarians to point me to more science fiction, and then to other books, in any genre, that meant something.

For me, that search for meaning and resonance continues to this day, and so The Martian Chronicles is a book that I believe we simply cannot afford to lose.

 

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Quotations by Rod Serling

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“All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes -all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the earth into a graveyard, into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance. Then we become the grave diggers.”

 

“It has forever been thus: So long as men write what they think, then all of the other freedoms – all of them – may remain intact. And it is then that writing becomes a weapon of truth, an article of faith, an act of courage.”

 

“The writer’s role is to menace the public’s conscience. He must have a position, a point of view. He must see the arts as a vehicle of social criticism and he must focus on the issues of his time.”

 

 

Science-Fiction Films of the 1930s: Frankenstein

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The movie that I will discuss in this installment is Frankenstein.  This 1931 film was directed by James Whale and produced by Carl Laemelle, Jr. Universal Studios was following up its huge success with Dracula earlier in the year, so this film seemed like a natural choice to make. I have posted on Frankenstein before in my series on horror films, but like its namesake novel, it can also been seen as early science-fiction.

While the title and characters come from the 1818 Mary Shelley novel, it is a loose adaptation of the text.  Interestingly, the sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein, is a much more faithful treatment of the novel than this first film. This movie, one of the most important in horror film history, introduces Boris Karloff as the Creature. Karloff gives an impressive performance as the lost and lonely being who is unsure of who he is and his place in the world.  This sounds like so many teenagers and young people, and while frightening, Karloff also gathered empathy from viewers in his nuanced performance.

Bela Lugosi had been offered the part of the creature but apparently turned it down because of its lack of speaking lines.  Lugosi made a terrible career choice, because Karloff would supplant him after this film’s success as the top box office star and would continue to dominate Lugosi’s subsequent film career.

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The movie is powerful and atmospheric and is highly influenced by the artistic movement German Expressionism that had a stylistic impact on cinema especially in the 1920s and 1930s. Whale used large Gothic structures in the set and deep slashing shadows in creating the atmosphere of the film.

Jack Pierce designed the Creature’s distinctive makeup, which was an ordeal to apply and remove from Boris Karloff each day before and after filming. It is a work of design masterpiece, but it is completely different from the Creature’s appearance in the novel.

For those familiar with the novel, it is significant that not only the Creature’s appearance but also his personality and level of intelligence are vastly different from that of the character from the book. In Mary Shelley’s work, the creature is one of the narrators and is both intelligent and self-educated.  Both of those characteristics are missing from the inarticulate and not very bright film Creature. This kind of vastly different portrayal of characters and themes is something that is, unfortunately, typical of many horror films, or should I say, many film adaptations of books. That, however, should be the topic of another post.

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This movie incorporates the stuff of science-fiction, and we see Dr. Frankenstein and his then advanced technological equipment as he attempts to capture the essence of life. In fact, there is more such machinery in the film than exists in the book. So, is Frankenstein horror or science-fiction? I argue it is both.

The film was very successful financially for Universal Studios.  It is also considered by many cinema historians and critics to be one of the most important films made. It spawned numerous sequels and parodies, not limited to movies.  From Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein to the character of Herman Munster in The Munsters to Young Frankenstein, the story of Victor Frankenstein and his creation have been fertile ground for satire and spoofing.

 

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Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

Gallows Hill in paperback can be found here.

An interview about Gallows Hill can be found here.

 

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

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The book trailer:

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My radio interview:

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Favorite Science-Fiction Films of the 1920s: Metropolis

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Metropolis is a brilliant science-fiction film (1927) directed by Fritz Lang. This movie, recently restored to its entirety, is a disturbing look at the world of the future through  the eyes of visionaries in the 1920s. It is based on the novel of the same name by Thea von Harbou (1925). The book deals with a city created on the backs of exploited workers and run by the capitalist upper-class. It is also a love story, and it is set in the year 2026.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

Metropolis offers a powerful and damning social commentary on the effects of the ruling class, the capitalist industrialists who rule the world by using and crushing the ordinary people who build and fuel their wonderland. While the workers live underground in squalor and destitution, the upper-class live literally in palaces high above the ground. There they explore and indulge in numerous amusements including those sexual and athletic. This film is not a simple polemic but drives its message through a compelling story that shows the love between the Master of Metropolis’ son Freder and Maria, who lives in the underworld and serves as a kind of saint to the oppressed.

Frankenstein, 1931, owes a cinematic debt to the mad scientist in Metropolis, Rotwang, and his equipment. There he creates a robot woman, using the life force of Maria. Clearly the novelist, Mary Shelley and her book, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, first influenced this movie.

Lang’s cinematic vision is exquisite and deeply influential to filmmakers who followed him in exploring the idea of future cites. His soaring towers and buildings, high bridges with fast cars, and aircraft flying near the buildings are based on the designs of the modernists and futurists, and this concept is a clear model for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Certainly an argument can be made that Metropolis is a foundation for many other science-fiction movies.

This film is extraordinary, and the full version is now available on DVD. It is an important piece of cinematic history, and I give it my highest recommendation.

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Favorite Science-Fiction Films: A Trip to the Moon (1902)

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I teach a course for the Wescoe School at Muhlenberg College: English 255 Literature & Film, which makes me very happy, because I am able to look at both literature and film, both media which I love. In one of the lectures for the class on film history, I speak to the earliest examples of cinema.

One of the first movies is also a science-fiction film: A Trip to the Moon (La Voyage Dans La Lune). Georges Méliès, one of the innovators of cinema, was the director, and he based the film, at least loosely, on Jules Verne’s novel From The Earth To The Moon (1865).

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This movie is revolutionary not only in its being an early example of cinema but also in the treatment of science-fiction. Human beings have been explorers for the entirety of our existence, and this movie suggests that it was possible to move our journeys from the Earth to other worlds, a concept that informs our science-fiction cinema from the beginnings to our current films.

The plot shows scientists explaining how to get to the moon, the trip there, including a spaceship being shot out of a cannon, landing on the moon, being chased by inhabitants of the moon, and finally escaping back to Earth. This film explores adventure, imagination, advances in technology, and human potential.

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This movie is usually considered by critics to be one of the most important in film history. It can be seen at https://archive.org/details/ATripToTheMoon1902 . If you are interested in the history of film and science-fiction, you should see this important historic and artistic film artifact.

The film runs, depending on the print from about 10-15 minutes.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

 

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

Favorite Horror Films of the 1940s: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

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This film might seem like an unusual choice for my series on horror films, especially since it is primarily a comedy, but I do have a fond place for this movie in my heart for several reasons.

As a youngster, I loved the hosted horror films shows that often appeared on Saturday afternoon, and I saw most of the Universal Studios horror films on those shows.  Also, I heard several times from my parents that they saw this movie when they were on their honeymoon in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, it is an extremely funny movie.

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This film, made in 1948, was the completion of the Universal classic horror movie cycle, and it included the big three monsters of the Universal pantheon: The Frankenstein Monster, Dracula, and the Wolfman.  One of the signals of the end of a film genre cycle is when it reaches parody, and this film qualifies.  Horror very often is a reflection of the concerns of the larger world, and with World War Two completed, the fears of the world had changed and would be seen more in new science fiction films. (I examine some of these movies in my series on Science-Fiction films.)

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

The premise is silly and features Dracula attempting to revive the Frankenstein Creature, and Larry Talbot, the wolfman, trying to find a cure for his lycanthropic infection. I should add that this is one of the finest performances by Lon Chaney Jr. despite the comedic tone of the movie.  Of course, Abbott and Costello are brilliant in their comedic routines. This movie never fails to make me laugh, no matter how many times I have seen it. Bela Lugosi plays Dracula for the last time, and Glenn Strange takes his turn as the Creature.

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If you have not seen this movie and you enjoy the classic Universal Studios horror films and you love slapstick 1940s comedy, then you should watch it! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

 

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview