Archive | December, 2013

Pulp (Science) Fiction

20 Dec

Yeah. So. I might have been a little hasty in my prediction that all 30’s pulp sci fi would be melodramatic. Too much (over)exposure to Captain Proton. That said, the sci-fi of the 1930’s still seems to have an earnest straight-forwardness to it. That is, with the exception of minor details, it does not read as particularly revolutionary to the contemporary eye. But you know, neither does a Mondrian abstract painting.

Looked at from a purely 21st century perspective, your gut reaction to such paintings (or such short stories) is “So what? Lots of stuff looks like that.” Yes. These days. But then you glance at the year the painting or the story came out and contrast it with what passed as popular design or entertainment in its day, and the work is friggin’ revolutionary. Indeed, any one of these stories can be classed as a primordial example of what is now a common sci-fi trope. If H. G. Wells is the grandfather of modern science fiction, these writers are his sons:

Continue reading

Things

11 Dec

I am looking forward to some parts of Christmas–spending time with my family, eating good food. But the gift-giving parts, not so much. Not that I have a problem spending a little dough on my loved ones. But this year especially, I am not looking forward to being on the receiving end.

Back in January, I made a New Year’s resolution to declutter one item a day for the entire year of 2013, and I am pleased to say I’ve kept that resolution. A lot of it was finding ten things to tie me over for the next ten days, then ignoring the resolution for a week and half. And sometimes, I would count four identical items as one day’s item, while other times, I’d put the multiple identical items I wanted to ditch on different days, depending on how likely it was I’d fall behind in my resolution.

But yeah, December is a third over, and I’m finished for the year. You wouldn’t know it to look at my place. I kept all my crap tucked away where no one could see it, so visually it hasn’t changed all that much. But if you were to walk into the Good Will down the street from my place? It would be, like, House of Me.

What really has changed is my feeling about “stuff.” I don’t want “stuff” for Christmas. The thought of it just viscerally turns me off. I want tickets to a show, or a gift card to a spa, or something else experiential. Enrich my life, don’t clutter my house. My sister-in-law, bless her heart, got me some random stuff for my birthday that sad to say is going to end up in the Good Will box. I just have no use for it whatsoever, but I don’t want to insult her by saying so. If I must have stuff, the annual trading-of-the-Amazon-gift-cards is A-Okay with me. I will purchase eBooks.

This may suck some of the fun out of Christmas. The Sculptor and I always play Santa for each other and fill each others’ stockings. How many of her stocking stuffers ended up in the GW box after last Christimas and/or on the kitchen counter at work for other people to eat so I could maintain my girlish figure? Yeah, I’m kind of Scroogey that way now.

Not sure I will play 365 things next year. I was actually stunned I could always find stuff if I looked hard enough this year. I probably could find 365 more things if I put my mind to it, but it can be exhausting at times. What it did do was change the way I look at the importance of “gotta keep this in case I need it” and “gotta buy this!” And it makes me value the stuff I hung on to all that much more. So I’ll carry one thing into 2014: a new attitude.

The short story of science fiction

9 Dec

In the past couple weeks, I have been reading science fiction short stories. In typical fashion, I have this need to be systematic and thorough, so I am choosing my stories in a chronological fashion. Obviously, I am not reading all of them, just a smattering, but here is the reading list so far:

Poe, Edgar Allen. “The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall”, 1835
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Rappaccini’s Daughter”, 1844
Wells, H.G. “The Star”, 1897
Hamilton, Edmond. “The Man Who Evolved”, 1931
Robert Heinlein. “–All You Zombies–” 1959

My descriptions/reviews below are somewhat spoilery in terms of premise and tone, although I don’t out and out describe how the stories end.

The first two stories have been dubbed ‘proto science fiction’ in that they were written well before there was any such genre as science fiction, and were labeled in hindsight as “science fiction-like.” H. G. Wells is the first of this batch to be truly a “science fiction” writer, although he would not have used that term, since it was not invented until the mid-twentieth century.

Continue reading

Girl, Interrupted

1 Dec

Girl, InterruptedGirl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book never quite takes a stand on anything. On the one hand, the author implies she was institutionalized for very little reason, then we slowly learn she really did have symptoms of borderline personality disorder, at least as they were understood in 1967. She shows the repeated incompetence of the hospital structure of the time, but this does not seem to be an expose of that. It seems to be a moment-in-time memoir cast with colorful characters, never quite sad enough, or angry enough, or satisfied enough, or anything enough.

View all my reviews