Imagination has no boundaries on National Science Fiction Day

by G. Robert Frazier

Back in the day, writers could “invent” any idea and make it happen with little regard for scientific accuracy or plausibility. If they could dream it up, they would write about it.

Doctor Who’s sonic screwdriver comes to mind. What can’t it do, for instance? It seems like the Doctor, whenever he’s in a crutch, has only to pull it out and adjust a setting and “bingo,” it somehow helps bail him and the universe out of certain doom. No explanations offered or needed.

communicator-840x637Gadgets like the communicators on Star Trek  may have seemed far-fetched at the time, but are no longer science fiction. Just look at that smart phone in your pocket.

Heck, they even have hoverboards now.

Today is National Science Fiction Day, created to honor the great Isaac Asimov on his birthday. Asimov created some of the most thought-provoking fiction with such classics as the iRobot and Foundation series.

frankensteinThe best science fiction tales can make you wonder about your place in the universe. 2001: A Space Odyssey and the new movie Arrival both work by creating a sense of awe and wonder. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein may be regarded as a horror story by many, but has long explored the issue of creationism.

Science fiction also offers writers an opportunity to convey social warnings and commentary in the guise of fiction. Just how far should man push the envelope?

But it’s also a fun medium. Where else can you thrill to epic space battles ala Star Wars or Heinlein’s Starship Troopers or the previously mentioned crazy antics of that beloved Gallifrean timelord?

In celebration of National Science Fiction Day, I’ve compiled some of my favorite movies, authors and more.

Favorite science fiction movies:

  • 2001 A Space Odyssey
  • Star Wars
  • Star Trek
  • ET the Extraterrestrial
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Contact and Arrival
  • Planet of the Apes
  • Alien
  • Frankenstein
  • War of the Worlds
  • The Matrix trilogy
  • Superman and Superman II

Favorite SciFi TV

  • Star Trek
  • The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits
  • Babylon 5
  • Doctor Who
  • SyFy Channel – The Expanse (renowned for things like Sharknado)
  • UFO
  • The X-Files
  • Stargate

Favorite Sci-Fi Authors

  • H.G. Wells
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Isaac Asimov
  • Alan Dean Foster
  • Arthur C. Clarke
  • Rod Serling
  • Frank Herbert’s Dune
  • Ben Bova
  • HP Lovecraft

Science Fiction Magazines

  • Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine
  • Clarkesworld
  • Apex Magazine
  • Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

Other cool Sci-Fi links:

Don’t see your favorites? Add them to the Comments box below!

Review: Fourth Doctor romps in wild, fun adventure of The Drosten’s Curse

Thanks to the proliferation of Doctor Who novels on the market, old school fans of early doctors like Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, and Peter Davison are still able to revel in new adventures. The Drosten’s Curse by A.L. Kennedy (Broadway Books, $9.99) captures the zany fun of Tom Baker’s Doctor to perfection.

the Drosten's CurseBaker’s Doctor—he of the floppy fedora, multi-colored be-careful-you-don’t-trip-over-it scarf, and long overcoat whose pockets are stuffed with jelly babies—is often regarded by legions of fans as the best Doctor for his fun, over-the-top adventures. And with The Drosten’s Curse, Kennedy takes readers back to that sense of fun and adventure. The end result is a novel that plays like a four-part Baker episode in your mind.

The adventure begins when golfers at a country club start disappearing, thanks to an unseen beasty that has made its home under the greens and the sandpits. It doesn’t take long before The Doctor, who is attracted to unusual events, happens upon the scene. Along with new companions Byrony Mailer, the golf spa’s junior receptionist, and Putta Pattershaun 5, a rather inept bounty hunter, the Doctor is promptly sucked into the madcap melee besetting the club and surrounding town of Arbroath.

Unlike the more commonplace Daleks, Cybermen, and Sontarans in the Who rogue’s gallery, the beasty responsible for the Doctor’s latest woes is a more difficult to define entity. Eventually exposed as a Bah-Sokhar, the creature thrives on the emotions of its victims, especially fear, hate, and depression. Even the Doctor and his companions are lost, their minds hopelessly adrift in negative emotions when the Bah-Sokhar sucks them into its psychological maelstrom.

The Doctor ultimately recognizes things for what they are and rebounds in his usual hyperactive way, babbling nonstop to anyone who will listen—in particular Byrony, who plays a key role in helping aid in the Doctor’s escape from the Bah-Sokhar’s clutches. Putta, meanwhile, provides the comic relief as he stumbles and trips into one misadventure after another while trying to avoid the Bah-Sokhar’s minions, a pair of spooky twins and a twisted grandma who owns the golf course.

The adventure soars from outright humor to startling peril, and Kennedy’s writing style perfectly captures the chaotic action of any Tom Baker Who episode.

Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Book review: Sci-fi premise of The Fold fizzles into horror movie mayhem

I don’t read a lot of sci-fi, but The Fold by Peter Clines looked like an interesting read, and it was – though not in the way I expected.

The FoldThe novel details a unique program in which scientists have created a new mode of transportation, dubbed the Albuquerque Door, in which people can cover long distances by simply stepping through the doorway. Unlike a transporter on Star Trek in which a person is disassembled down to the very molecules that make them up and then reassembled on the other end, the door simply folds great distances together, like points on a piece of paper. You step through one door and come out the other, miles away.

Mike Erikson, a teacher with an annoying eidetic memory, is recruited to report on the project’s viability in the face of pending budget cuts. He’s immediately regarded as an outsider and a spy by the scientists working closest to the project and, as a result, begins to suspect they are hiding some big secret about its inner workings. Of course, as the story progresses, he’s proven right.

None of the scientists can actually pinpoint how or why the fold works, they’re just elated that it does. There’s some mumbo-jumbo about how the idea was fueled by some nonsensical equations in an old 1880s text written by a man named Aleksander Koturovic. The scientists were all drunk at the time, but they didn’t let that stop them from running the numbers anyway. Then they turned on the device and, voila, it worked.

“And to this day we don’t know how,” one of the scientists boasts.

So much for a solid sci-fi story. Instead, the reader is suddenly thrust into a realm of pure fantasy make-believe bullshit. And, sadly, the plausibility of the story just goes downhill from there.

To his credit, Clines slowly builds the mystery and intrigue surrounding the doorway. There is a palpable sense of awe and wonder about the ramifications of such a machine could mean, as well as its unintended consequences.

Unfortunately, Clines is unable to sustain the scientific part of the novel, casting away intriguing scientific theory in exchange for big guns, C4 explosives, creepy crab people and Cthulhu’s multi-tentacled flying cousin. It’s an unexpected turn of events, and one that will keep you reading, but it’s an unsatisfying freefall from the scientific possibilities the story first mines.

As a horror fan, I loved the chaotic conclusion, but sci-fi fans will justly groan about the lost opportunities.

Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.