Book Review: The Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury

Several of the 22 stories in this collection had been previously published in such magazines as The New Yorker, Charm, American Mercury, Saturday Evening Post, The Reporter, Epoch, and others. Although there were a handful of tales that I found to be lackluster and anticlimactic (“I See You Never,” “The Wilderness,” “Invisible Boy,” “The Garbage Collector” and a few others), the sheer variety and breadth of topics covered clearly demonstrates Bradbury’s prowess as a master storyteller (as if we didn’t know this already!)

My favorites include:

“The Fog Horn” – Attracted year after year by the sound of a fog horn installed near a lighthouse, a legendary and elusive sea creature finally decides to attack.

“The April Witch” – A young witch with the ability to inhabit other creatures desperately wants to know what it’s like to fall in love.

“The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl” – After murdering a man in his home, the killer becomes obsessed with removing all trace of his presence—over every nook and cranny of the house.

“The Murderer” – An average man in search of peace and quiet destroys all of his electronic devices in a society where constant chatter from watches, radios, computers, phones, and TV have pervaded—nay, INVADED!—everyday life.

“A Sound of Thunder” – A travel company offers safaris to any year in the past, but disobeying the rules even slightly could be a mistake that follows you back to the future!

“Powerhouse” – A married couple traveling into town on horseback takes refuge against a storm in a powerhouse. Though she does not believe in God, the wife has an electrifying out of body experience.

“The Meadow” – A construction crew is ordered to tear down the backlot structures of a movie studio, where sets from every corner of the world have provided a second home to Smith, the night watchman. Determined to restore it all, Smith picks up a hammer and begins to rebuild it all, to the consternation of the wealthy investor who ordered the demolition.

“The Great Fire” – Marianne is visiting her uncle and aunt for the summer, upsetting her uncle’s peaceful existence. Every evening, Marianne dashes out of the house when her boyfriend arrives, giving her uncle hope that marriage is in the air and Marianne will soon move out—but Grandma knows the joke’s on him!

“Hail and Farewell” – A 43-year-old man, who appears no more than twelve, moves from town to town every few years masquerading as an orphan or a runaway in order to be adopted by childless couples.

 

The Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradury

Zippered Flesh 3: Body Enhancements Gone Bad!

Calling all horror and speculative fiction readers. Boosting the signal for a new Indiegogo campaign from Smart Rhino Publications.
 
Smart Rhino Publications began in 2012 with the horror anthology ZIPPERED FLESH: Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad! The book included stories by Graham Masterton, John Shirley, Lisa Mannetti, L.L. Soares, Scott Nicholson, and 15 other notable authors. The book was so well-received, we decided to do a second anthology with the same theme.
 
In 2013, Smart Rhino published ZIPPERED FLESH 2: More Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad! This anthology included two Bram Stoker Award nominees—”Primal Tongue” by Michael Bailey and “The Hunger Artist” by Lisa Mannetti—as well as 20 other stories. We’re incredibly proud of this anthology.
 
And now we are pulling together the third in the ZIPPERED FLESH series … and this time you can help with the project! Our main goal for this Kickstarter campaign is to increase our payments to our authors, aiming for professional rates. Our superb writers deserve it! As a small independent publisher, Smart Rhino Publications strives to publish quality books and provide venues for talented writers. Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated … and rewarded!
 
Check out the many great rewards we’re offering for your support! We’re sure you’ll find something of interest, especially if you love horror and suspense fiction.
Zippered Flesh 3 Cover

We Have Met the Borg and They are Us!

I’m currently reading Ray Bradbury’s terrific anthology from 1953, The Golden Apples of the Sun.  Among the many engThe Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Braduryaging tales is a prescient story called “The Murderer,” about a man who, in search of simple peace and quiet, destroys all of his electronic devices in a society where constant chatter from watches, radios, computers, phones, and TV has pervaded—nay, INVADED!—everyday life.

It was stunning to note just how accurate Bradbury was about a future still five decades away. Although the story did not deal with such devices pilfering our privacy, the parallel to society’s current condition was remarkable.

Then this morning, I find this article, from which I quote: “On Black Friday in 2015, hackers broke into the servers of Chinese toymaker VTech and lifted personal information on nearly 5 million parents and more than 6 million children. The data haul included home addresses, names, birth dates, email addresses and passwords. Worse still, it included photographs and chat logs between parents and their children. VTech paid no fine and changed its terms of service to require that customers acknowledge their private data “may be intercepted or later acquired by unauthorized parties.””

Read the entire article here: The Greatest Privacy Threat of All: Our Connected Devices by Vivek Wadhwa

I’ve been employed in the IT support and infrastructure field across several major companies for nearly 25 years. I’m also a die-hard science fiction fan. It’s logical to assume then, that I might be the kind of person who owns every device that hits the market and who spends hours gaming or keeping up with the latest VR tech.

You’d be wrong. In my personal life, I have a MacBook Pro laptop and an iPhone. For my job, I have an additional Dell laptop, HTC Windows phone, and a Surface Pro. Ask me anything about video games and I couldn’t tell you a damn thing. Virtual reality? Couldn’t care less. I’m still grappling with the physical reality of the world in which we live and breathe and eat and pay bills and maintain our homes and—at least for now—interact with the people around us without the “aid” of dehumanizing devices.

I manage my schedule with a day planner. You know, the kind with paper pages on which I write…with a PEN. Same with my novels and short stories. I save reams of scrap paper, printed on one side, that otherwise would have ended up in the trash or recycle. I turn these into notepads and write on them, later to be transcribed into Word or Scrivener.

Smart TV? Not in my house. Same with Alexa and all of these “home management” devices. Fuck them. I can manage my home, my life, and be entertained by my favorite shows without some electronic ear eavesdropping on my every conversation. I see families and friendships fracturing more and more as a result of people unable to peel their gazes and fingers away from their phones and tablets as if these devices have become an extension of their bodies.

You have been assimilated. Resistance wouldn’t be so futile if you actually tried.

Hell, I don’t even own an eReader device of any kind. I have the Kindle app on my laptop, that’s about it. I can count on three fingers how many ebooks I’ve read on it. Of course, I read many Word and PDF files when writers send me their ARCs to read for review, or when I’m critiquing/proofreading stories for writer friends, or accepting submissions to anthologies I’m editing. However, at the risk of sounding like a borderline Luddite, I minimize the use of tech in my personal life for the sake of my own privacy and peace of mind.

Get me outside! To the water with rod and reel, to a nature trail, to the beach where I can sit beneath a canopy on a blazing summer day with a cold drink and a good—physical—book.

OK, enough. Thanks for reading. Now, I’ll jump off the proverbial soap box, or wooden crate, or picnic table, and return to The Golden Apples of the Sun…in paperback…from 1953.

Farpoint 2017 After-Action Report

We’re home from yet another fantastic Farpoint where I finally had the honor of meeting someone I consider an inspiration as a writer and storyteller—Nicholas Meyer. Mr. Meyer’s directing and/or screenwriting credits include Time After Time, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered CountryThe Day After (TV movie), and much more including the new CBS series, Star Trek: Discovery. He also wrote the Sherlock Holmes novel and screenplay, The Seven-Percent Solution.

I wanna be THAT guy when I grow up! 😀

After a thoroughly enjoyable dinner at La Tolteca with Aaron Rosenberg, David Mack, Chris Kennedy, Glenn Hauman, and Eric Bakutis, it was time for the Friday night book fair, where I would have the opportunity to meet Nick Meyer.

Earlier in the day, I had purchased a replacement copy of The Seven-Percent Solution from a dealer. From my personal collection, I brought copies of the scripts for the aforementioned Star Trek movies while my wife, Evon, brought her hardback copy of A View from the Bridge, Mr. Meyer’s memoir of his time working on the Star Trek films.

As Mr. Meyer signed my items, I told him that he was one of my writing heroes, which actually brought him to a complete stop. He became momentarily verklempt, as did I.  He thanked me as he continued signing. Before having our photo taken together, I presented him with a copy of By Your Side, one of my paranormal mystery novels. He seemed genuinely grateful.

Phil with Nicholas Meyer

After that, I returned to my table where shenanigans ensued as Bob Greenberger began swapping name placards amongst nearby writers including myself, Aaron Rosenberg, Kelly Meding, Steve Wilson, and Lance Woods. Cameras, bottles, cans, even Steve Wilson’s  flask were not spared from the hide-and-seek hilarity. This added even more magic to the evening. You just can’t find a group of silly scribes like this anywhere else!

Phil and Evon at Farpoint 2017 Lance Woods and Steve Wilson at Farpoint 2017 Kelly Meding, Bob Greenberger, and Aaron Rosenberg Kelly Meding at Farpoint 2017 Bob Greenberger and Aaron Rosenberg at Farpoint 2017

My table was part of the Firebringer Press row that included Steven H. Wilson, Lance Woods, and debut author Diane Lee Baron with her novel, Gal WonderClick here for more info on Diane’s book!  By the end of the night, I sold a few books and signed one that a reader bought elsewhere (which is always a good feeling).

Gal Wonder by Diane Lee Baron

Saturday morning began with my wife and I taking our Star Trek II posters to Nicholas Meyer for yet more autographs and photo ops.

Evon with Nicholas Meyer Phil with Nicholas Meyer

My first panel of the day was Firebringer Press Presents at 11AM.  Diane Lee Baron chatted up Gal Wonder, which had a “soft” launch at Farpoint’s book fair, but will have a full premiere at Shore Leave in July along with the mass-market paperback collection of Steve Wilson’s Arbiter Chronicles SF novellas.

Firebringer Press Presents

I spoke about Like Mother, Like Daughters, my paranormal novella slated for release in October, as well as my second-place winning Rehoboth Beach contest story, “Tower Sixteen,” which was recently submitted (with its original ending) to a paranormal anthology slated for next year. If accepted, it would be my first story to be published in two different anthologies and with two different endings!

Firebringer Press Presents discussion panel

Michael Critzer chatted briefly about his upcoming non-fiction book, Heroic Inspirations, debuting this summer. Michael has taught courses on the mythology of superheroes and this book will represent a extension of that.

Afterward, Steve Wilson and I made our way to our scheduled readings at noon. Our audience consisted of Michael Critzer and my wife. Writer David Mack then arrived to finish the hour with his reading, but with such a small gathering, we simply yammered instead.

I was then free until 3PM when I shared a table with Peter David for our autograph hour. It was wonderful to spend time talking with him about his own work as well as the legendary Harlan Ellison, another writer who inspired me and has been close friends with Peter for decades. With no sales, and with Nick Meyer speaking at 4PM on the main stage, I packed up my books early, dropped them off in my room, and joined my wife who was saving a seat for me in the ballroom.

Mr. Meyer regaled an appreciative audience with stories of his first meeting with producer Harve Bennett about writing Star Trek II. A few drafts of the script (each a completely different story) had been written, from which Bennett and Meyer created a list of the best parts. From that list, Meyer wrote an entirely new script, but waived credit for it. This was after he had already signed on to direct.

Nick Meyer at Farpoint 2017 Nick Meyer at Farpoint 2017 Nick Meyer at Farpoint 2017

He also spoke about working with Ricardo Montalban (whose much-debated chest was actually his own, not a prosthetic), his vituperative relationship with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry (who balked at the story for Wrath of Khan), and touched on the film adaptation for The Seven-Percent Solution.

Mr. Meyer’s presentation ended with a skit in which linguist and Farpoint regular, Marc Okrand—who developed the Klingon language for the Star Trek movies—read a “communique” from the Klingon Empire, translated into English by Nick Meyer,  honoring Gene Roddenberry and all of the main Star Trek actors that we’ve lost over the past 25+ years including DeForest Kelley, Mark Lenard, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, James Doohan, Leonard Nimoy,  and Grace Lee Whitney.

At 6PM, I had the honor of moderating (somewhat nervously and perhaps ineptly) a discussion panel called “Avoiding Cliches in Your Writing” with panelists Lauren Harris, Peter David, and the reason for my jitters…Nicholas Meyer. However, the panel was entertaining and informative, but not without each of us veering off into tangents once in a while. Yet even as moderator, I would never have the temerity to interrupt Nicholas Meyer!

Avoiding Cliche in Your Writing discussion panel Avoiding Cliche in Your Writing discussion panel

My wife and I ended our evening with dinner at the Silver Spring Mining Company (love that place!) before calling it a night. Normally,  I would have stayed up late and joined my fellow con attendees at the Ten-Forward Dance Party in the atrium, but I was exhausted and wanted to get a few things done online.

Of course, in between the book fair, discussion panels, and autograph sessions, my wife and I caught up with old friends that we only see at the cons. This is an important reason why many of us attend. In fact, for some it is the only reason.

Since I was not scheduled for anything on Sunday, my wife and I departed by 9AM and made it home before noon to enjoy our first taste of spring weather. Sunshine and 65F degrees!

It should be noted that there was still a full day of programming on Sunday at Farpoint including a 2PM showing of Time After Time hosted by Nick Meyer.

Book Review: Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing

Through all ten essays and a brief collection of poems, the elation of master craftsman Ray Bradbury is infectious. Zen in the Art of Writing is pure joy; a celebration of the craft and labor of storytelling. There is not much in the way of writing advice here, but I was inspired nevertheless.

In the essay “The Joy of Writing,” Bradbury encourages writers to execute their craft with zest and gusto, with a sense of love and fun. For if you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, and without fun, you are only half a writer.

In “Run Fast, Stand Still,” he reveals one of his strategies for getting started as a writer—create a list of nouns. Specifically, things that interest you, exhilarate you, or scare you and then use them as story prompts. Some of Bradbury’s nouns included THE LAKE, THE NIGHT, THE CRICKETS, THE SCYTHE, THE CARNIVAL, THE SKELETON, THE MIRROR MAZE, and many more.

Bradbury relates how he reached back into his childhood memories from Illinois to create his famous novel, Dandelion Wine in the essay, “Just This Side of Byzantium: Dandelion Wine.”

In “The Secret Mind,” he reflects on his dreadful time in Ireland writing the screenplay for Moby Dick for director John Huston, only to later discover that his experiences in Ireland inspired several short stories and plays.

While writing a two-act drama based on his hit novel, Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury recalls when—unable to write at home due to the distraction of his children—he rented typewriters in the basement of the UCLA library at the rate of 10 cents for every 30 minutes in order to write the novel. All of this is told in the aptly titled essay, “Investing Dimes: Fahrenheit 451.”

No examination of Bradbury’s work would be complete without taking “The Long Road to Mars.” In June 1949, Bradbury was invited to New York City by writer Norman Corwin, who introduced him to Walter Bradbury (no relation) of Doubleday Books. During the conversation, the topic of Ray’s “Martian stories” came up and Walter suggested that he find a common theme among them to create a novel—and The Martian Chronicles was born.

These are but a few examples of the engaging essays that left me, a burgeoning speculative fiction writer, feeling renewed and reenergized toward my craft and possibilities that lay ahead.

Zen in the Art of Writing Cover

Book Review: If I Can’t Sleep, You Can’t Sleep by Christopher D. Ochs

If I Can’t Sleep, You Can’t Sleep is divided into two sections. The first section is comprised of five original fairy tales and the second, five speculative fiction short stories. All are splendidly written and demonstrate Chris Ochs’s breadth and range as a storyteller.

My favorites include:

The Woman in the Sand” – A Roman citizen, exiled to a remote island, discovers the broken stone statue of a beautiful woman buried in the sand. After finding her jaw, the man successfully reattaches it—and soon lives to regret it…

The Tower of the Moon” – Following a radiant white doe through a forest under a full moon, Hunter discovers a majestic tower in a clearing. Upon entering, he finds a series of doors, each one leading to bizarre and different world, but will one of them finally lead Hunter to the white doe?

The Troll of Helenbak” – A famished troll captures a fair maiden only to learn that she’s “not quite right in the head.” Both he, and the brave prince who vows to rescue her, get a bit more than they bargained for…

The Christmas Monster” – Three miscreant students are visited by the Archbishop during The Feast of St. Nicholas. He gives each of them a small, curious gift that turns out be far more nefarious than the usual lump of coal…

No Children Aloud” – In order to join a club, three junior high-school students must pass initiation by confronting a ghost in an abandoned sanatorium. Afterward, they find themselves with a slight communication problem…

 

If I Can't Sleep, You Can't Sleep Book Cover