Tag Archives: phil giunta

Time Shadows: Second Nature

Time Shadows-Second NatureCongratulations to writer pal, Stuart S. Roth on the release of his latest Doctor Who story, “The Siege of Orléans” in Pseudoscope Publishing’s Doctor Who anthology, TIME SHADOWS: SECOND NATURE

The anthology features 23 stories with a foreword by John Peel. All proceeds from the sale of Pseudoscope’s Doctor Who anthologies are donated to CODE, Canada’s leading international development agency focused on advancing literacy and education in some of the world’s underserved regions.

Time Shadows Anniversary Edition

Stuart’s first published Doctor Who tale, “Circular Logic,” can be found in Pseudoscope’s original Doctor Who anthology, TIME SHADOWS. The Anniversary Edition features 25 stories, 12 illustrations, a foreword by Gary Russell, and in-depth author interviews.

 

Book Review: Great Science Fiction Stories edited by Cordelia Titcomb Smith

Great SF StoriesWith few exceptions, most of my 2017 reading consisted of classic SF and speculative fiction primarily from Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke with a dash of Rod Serling, Alfred Hitchcock, A.E. Van Vogt, and H.G. Wells.

It stands to reason that if you read enough vintage genre anthologies, some will overlap and offer one or two stories in common. Such was the case with Great Science Fiction Stories compiled by Cordelia Titcomb Smith.

In  this case, I had previously read “The Stolen Bacillus” by H.G. Wells (about an anarchist who pilfers a vial of cholera bacillus from a bacteriologist, initiating a frantic taxi chase through London) and “History Lesson” by Arthur C. Clarke (after an ice age has wiped out humanity, Venusians land on Earth and discover artifacts of our civilization, including a strip of film that they believe accurately depicts human culture).

It was a pleasure to finally read Isaac Asimov’s legendary short story, “Nightfall,” wherein a civilization that lives in constant daylight provided by three suns nervously anticipates an eclipse that will shroud their planet in complete darkness for the first time in 500 years… and possibly throw society into madness.

When the Martian crown jewels are stolen from a robotic space craft sent from Earth to Phobos, Inspector Gregg questions everyone involved. Before the case explodes into an interstellar scandal, Gregg travels to Mars to request the help of Martian’s famous private detective, Syaloch, in Poul Anderson’s “The Martian
Crown Jewels.”

In “The Sands of Time,” P. Schuyler Miller channels H.G. Wells and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. When a young man named Donovan presents a paleontologist with photographic and physical evidence of his
encounter with dinosaurs, the scientist rebuffs him—until Donovan asks for his help in launching his one-man time machine back to rescue an alien woman he encountered in a prehistoric age.

Money is no barrier when a wealthy businessman decides to be the first man in space. He hires engineers to construct a vessel, but they still require a propulsion system. The businessman takes out ads in
newspapers offering millions to anyone who can design and create a means of propelling the vessel beyond Earth’s atmosphere. After being presented with proposals from the ludicrous to the insane, the
businessman meets an unassuming young man who might just have the answer… but he wants more than money. We find out what that is in Nelson Bond’s “Vital Factor.”

In a future where city streets are massive conveyor belts that transport people and vehicles at varying speeds, the mechanics decide to strike under the leadership of Deputy Chief Engineer Van Kleeck. To emphasize their power and ensure their demands are met, they stop the machinery beneath one of the streets—with fatal consequences. It’s up to Chief Engineer Larry Gaines to negotiate with Van Kleeck, because as Robert Heinlein tell us, “The Roads Must Roll.”

A teacher rethinks her decision to quit the profession, but the only available position is in a one-room schoolhouse in a remote rural town called Bendo where the reclusive inhabitants have no sense of humor and no interest in music or art. It is not long before the teacher uncovers the astounding otherworldly secrets of Bendo and the dark history that forced them into seclusion in this beautifully crafted tale called “Pottage” by Zenna Henderson.

Jules Verne provides a brief glimpse into man’s first attempt to reach the moon as three men volunteer to venture “Into Space” inside a giant aluminum capsule shot from a 900-foot gun. Although they survive the shock of launch and enjoy a view of Earth from beyond the atmosphere, it’s unclear whether they survived
the journey—or how they plan to return.

A new star appears in the vicinity of Neptune, disrupting the planet’s orbit. As this new star’s light intensifies in the sky each day—blotting out the moon and rivaling the sun—it isn’t long before astronomers
realize that it’s on a direct course for Earth in “The Star” by H.G. Wells.

A 13-year-old student named Timothy is sent to school psychologist Dr. Welles. At first, it’s clear that Timothy is nervous,  uncommunicative, and possibly holding something back. As trust grows between the young man and his counselor, it becomes apparent that the boy is a prodigy… and he may not be alone in Wilmar H. Shiras’s “In Hiding.”

Overall, this was an entertaining anthology with tales from writers I had not heard of previously (Zenna Henderson, Wilmar Shiras, P. Schuyler Miller, and Nelson Bond). My favorites included “Nightfall,” “Pottage,” “The Martian Crown Jewels,” and “The Roads Must Roll.”

Celebrating Milestones…

2018 marks two milestones for two of my favorite annual science fiction conventions in Hunt Valley, Maryland and the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, my second favorite Trek series.

Next month, Farpoint celebrates its 25th anniversary with celebrity guests Matt Frewer (Max Headroom, Orphan Black, Eureka, Timeless), Nana Visitor (Deep Space Nine), Nora McLellan (Killjoys), and Hugo award-winning author Timothy Zahn.

Additional writer guests include Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, Howard Weinstein, Robert Greenberger, Aaron Rosenberg, David Mack, Keith RA DeCandido, Heather Hutsell, Dave Galanter, Steven H. Wilson, Mary Fan, Phil Giunta (hey, that’s me!) and more…

In July, Shore Leave celebrates 40 years with the return of William Shatner as well as Deep Space Nine cast members Chase Masterson and Aron Eisenberg. From Dark Matter, Melissa O’Neil and Alex Mallari, Jr. will also join us.

Writer guests include many of the same from Farpoint including Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, Howard Weinstein, Robert Greenberger, Aaron Rosenberg, David Mack, Keith RA DeCandido, Heather Hutsell, Steven H. Wilson, Mary Fan, Dave Galanter, Phil Giunta (hey, that’s me again!) as well as Dayton Ward, Lorraine Anderson, Scott Pearson and more.

So far, 2018 is shaping up to be a great year! Keep an eye on my Upcoming Events page for updates on these and other conventions and author events.

Free Stories on Wattpad

If you’re unfamiliar with Wattpad, it is a website where writers post stories of all lengths and genres for your free reading pleasure.

I currently have four complete speculative fiction short stories posted there as samples from the first two volumes of my Middle of Eternity anthology series.

In the coming weeks, I will post one or two new stories. For now, happy reading!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Once was Enough

Finally saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi today. Although I have been an ardent Star Wars fan and collector for decades, I have come to abhor crowds in my middle age and decided to wait a few weeks to catch a matinee. The Last Jedi Poster
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While I now understand why many in fandom would be disturbed by certain aspects of the story, I see no reason for the outrage and divisiveness that The Last Jedi has triggered.
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Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill were wonderful. I like Laura Dern, but she reminds me of a soccer mom and I didn’t completely buy into her character of Admiral Holdo.
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I was relieved that they dialed back the petulant, callow juvenile that was Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) in The Force Awakens. His repeated temper tantrums and outbursts made him a weak and laughable villain in that film, hardly the intimidating Sith Lord he aspired to be. In the The Last Jedi, Kylo begins that way, but quickly learns to govern his anger during his dealings with Rey (the effervescent Daisy Ridley).
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Rose Tico, portrayed by Kelly Marie Tran, was an immediately likable character with heart and determination. Shame they wasted her potential, as well as that of Finn (John Boyega) and DJ (Benicio del Toro). More on that below.
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It seemed like they were trying to make Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) fill the void left by Han Solo. The brash man of action. It did not entirely succeed. His insubordination went too far. It wasn’t until the end when he realized that cowboy heroism was not going to win the battle. Otherwise, Poe was also a figure of courage and heart like Rose.
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Now we come to the heart of the story. Luke Skywalker (Hamill) is now a different man who seems to have turned his back on the Jedi after years of training and dedication, and after telling Emperor Palpatine decades before, “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.”
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In The Last Jedi, we have a disheartened, bitter—and fearful—Jedi master who wants nothing more than to die alone because he failed as a teacher. Obi-Wan also failed (and lived as a recluse as a result), but rather than turn his back when called upon, Obi-Wan immediately answered the call, knowing all too well that it would be his end. Here, Luke does just the opposite. He tells Rey to leave him alone and repeatedly refuses to return to the fight. It takes R2-D2 to break Luke’s resolve by showing him the old hologram of Princess Leia pleading to Obi-Wan for help. That was excellent nostalgia, but should not have been necessary.  Were this my story to tell, I would not have taken Luke in this direction… but this was not my story.
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It also seemed the goal of this film to tear down much of the esteem and awe granted to the Jedi in previous films and to tarnish their legacy. Yoda so blithely destroys the ancient Jedi texts and makes a flippant comment about them not being page turners. If they’re so irrelevant, then why were they preserved for so long? Why even include them in the story? That entire sequence seemed pointless. It served no purpose in the plot.
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Rather, I was taken by Luke’s lightsaber breaking in half during the Force struggle between Kylo and Rey. That was a brilliant foreshadowing of Luke’s death (and foreshadowing is a familiar tool in the writer’s toolbox).
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The lightsaber, once Anakin Skywalker’s, had been with Luke since it was given to him by Obi-Wan in A New Hope and was familiar to the audience. It meant more to us than a set of books that we never heard about or saw before until this film.
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Also, Rey barely had any training compared to Luke, yet Yoda feels that she knows all she needs to. Really? It’s that simple? We were given the impression that it took a bit more. Apparently not. Is she a Jedi Knight or a Master now? Do those ranks even exist anymore?
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And here we go again with young Jedi willingly surrendering to Sith Lord because young Jedi feels the conflict within said Sith Lord and thinks Sith Lord can be turned to the Light. So Young Jedi willingly surrenders to Terrible Baddies. Together, young Jedi and Sith Lord take the elevator up to face the Evil Uberlord (previously Emperor Palpatine, now Supreme Leader Snoke). Evil Uberlord takes possession of young Jedi’s lightsaber and taunts/threatens young Jedi. Young Jedi tries to cut down Evil Uberlord, but is prevented from doing so until, in the end, Evil Uberlord’s own Sith pupil kills him. Oh, and the Evil Uberlord’s personal guards wear monotone red outfits. Even that detail is unoriginal.
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Yeah, we saw this before. Rian Johnson just put his own spin on it. I fully support paying homage (as with the old hologram of Leia), but while The Force Awakens ripped off A New Hope, The Last Jedi pilfered that throne room sequence straight from Return of the Jedi.  As for Snoke himself, he has no backstory and no depth whatsoever. He is a shallow duplicate of Palpatine, at times regurgitating the former Emperor’s lines verbatim.
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As for the rest, the First Order’s General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) is far too young, stupid, and incompetent to lead and his dialogue was frequently sophomoric. While Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2 had a few humorous and/or poignant moments in the film, they were mostly relegated to the background. The entire sequence at the casino was a waste. It added nothing to the story, and while Benicio del Toro is cool, he ultimately served no purpose? By the time Finn and Rose crashed into the old Rebel base, I felt their entire subplot was fluff. They did nothing for the story at all.
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Overall, I consider The Last Jedi to be adequate, but not as inspired as it’s purported to be by many in fandom. Seeing it once was enough, which is precisely how I felt about The Force Awakens.
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Rogue One, on the other hand, was excellent. I watched that again about three weeks ago and enjoyed just as much as the first time I saw it last year. Just didn’t want you to think I was an old, cantankerous purist hating on the new Star Wars films.
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It’s only the prequel trilogy I can’t stand, and I’m far from alone in that.
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ADDENDUM: A friend of mine brought up a few excellent points in an email exchange earlier this evening…
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Whatever happened to the Knights of Ren as seen in The Force Awakens?

Why all the mystery surrounding Rey’s parents if they were nothing but junk dealers?

Why bother showing Luke’s X-Wing submerged beneath the water as if foreshadowing and then never follow through?

Why not allow a classic character like Admiral Ackbar crash the Rebel cruiser into the First Order ship instead of unknown Admiral Holdo? Let Ackbar go out a hero.

When confronting Kylo Ren, why would Luke bother to say: “If you strike me down, I will always be with you.”? Luke was not even physically present! He was merely projecting his image across the cosmos to trick Kylo so there was no way for Luke’s nephew to strike him down. Again, it’s a nice homage to Obi-Wan’s words to Darth Vader in A New Hope, but it no made sense this time around.

Book Review: Science Fiction Omnibus edited by Groff Conklin

This collection of 11 reprinted tales edited by Groff Conklin features some of the most skilled storytellers in vintage SF including Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, H.P. Lovecraft, Lester Del Rey, Ray Bradbury, Frederic Brown, and more. There were at least three entries that I recalled reading in other collections as recently as a few months ago, but they were absolutely worth a second pass.Science Fiction Omnibus

In A.J. Deutsch’s “A Subway Named Mobius,” an entire passenger train is lost for months in a closed rail system. When transportation officials and a local mathematician with a theory attempt to locate the train, they discover that they can hear it—in multiple locations—but cannot see it since it has passed into another dimension. Will the train ever reemerge and if so, how can this be prevented from happening again?

In one of H.P. Lovecraft’s most popular stories, a meteorite crashes into a field of crops where it begins to poison both soil and water, driving the farmer and his family insane. It’s soon discovered that the vile, luminous substance that infected the area might be intelligent. How will the locals rid themselves of “The Colour Out of Space”?

When alien psychologists learn that Earth has finally achieved interstellar travel, the decision is made to invite them into the Federation of Planets, an honor which no race has ever turned down… until now.  Discover why in Isaac Asimov’s “Homo Sol.”

Anthony Boucher brings us hapless ventriloquist Paul Peters who encounters a benevolent extraterrestrial creature at a local zoo. The alien, relieved to finally find someone with whom he can communicate, enlists Paul’s help in finding his long lost love. At first, the pair is undecided on a strategy until Paul comes up with a new routine known as “The Star Dummy.”

A spaceship explodes ejecting its helpless crew into space. Fortunately, they’d had just enough time to don their spacesuits—but not their personal propulsion systems. As a result, each man is hurled on an uncontrollable trajectory with just enough time to settle their differences and make peace with their collective fate in Ray Bradbury’s “Kaleidoscope.”

When an Earth naval vessel lands on the alien world Shaksembender, the crew of three is greeted by a party of wary copper-skinned humanoids who had been expecting their arrival based on the prophesy of Fraser, the first human space explorer to visit their planet 300 years ago. Using a hidden mind-reading device against the alien emissary, the pilot of the Earth ship discovers that Fraser warned the aliens to be circumspect if the next human explorers utter two specific words… but will we ever learn those words in Eric Frank Russell’s “Test Piece”?

The incompetence of bureaucracy at a Galactic level is showcased in Murray Leinster’s “Plague.”  When all the women of the planet Pharona are consumed and killed by a bizarre luminescent organism, the planet is placed in quarantine and Space Navy reservist Ben Sholto is dispatched in his private vessel to ensure no one escapes. When a ship, piloted by Ben’s lost love Sally, emerges from Pharona, he takes her aboard in an attempt to cure her, making them both fugitives.

In John D. MacDonald’s “Spectator Sport,” a scientist travels into the future only to find society under control of a government that does not take kindly to independent thinking and prefers its citizens to be docile zombies.

In Arthur C. Clarke’s much reprinted “History Lesson,” five thousand years after an ice age has claimed all human life on Earth, Venusians arrive and uncover relics left in a vault—one of which is a roll of 35mm film that they believe depicts typical human behavior… or not.

A concerned citizen confronts physicist John Graham about the doomsday weapon Graham is developing and leaves him with a frightening metaphor that strikes close to the heart in Fredric Brown’s “The Weapon.”

Long after mankind has gone extinct, a race of heuristic automatons have taken over the Earth. A group of robotic biologists undertake experiments to reboot the human race in order to learn more about the concept of “Instinct,” which is also the name of this classic tale by Lester Del Rey.