I apologize for the campaign-esque sound of the title. I’m still trying to get 2016 out of my head. Anyway, I said yesterday at Adventures Fantastic that I’m going to be reading more of the classics of the field. Furthermore I specifically named Asimov’s robot stories as one of the things I’ll be reading.
It’s Asimov’s 97th birthday today. He was born January 2, 1920, in Russia. I first read the robot stories in 7th grade. It’s been more than a decade (going on two decades now) since I last read one of them. I’ve read a few Asimov stories over the past year; I’m about a third of the way through The Winds of Change right now.
The robot stories have all been collected in The Complete Robot. I’ve got a copy around somewhere, if I an ever find the darn thing. I’m looking forward to diving into them. Robots used to be pretty ubiquitous in science fiction, but you don’t see them that much these days. They’ve been supplanted by AIs. Still, I like the old-fashioned robots, and Asimov did them better than anyone.
Alfred Bester was born on this date (December 28) in 1913 in New York City. He was in many ways one of the most brilliant and innovative science fiction writers of the 20th Century, having an influence that was disproportionate to his output. His novel The Demolished Man won the first Hugo Award for Best Novel. Dealing with telepathy, it was a wild and stylistically innovative book. The Psy-Corps in Babylon 5 was modeled after portions of this novel, and Walter Koenig’s character in the show was named Alfred Bester, an obvious homage. Continue reading
This is going to be a quick post, because the second summer term starts in the morning, and I’m teaching an 8:00 AM class I’m still doing last minute preparations for. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger, who wrote science fiction under the pen name of Cordwainer Smith.
If you haven’t read him, you’ve missed one of the most unique voices the field has ever seen. Much like Avram Davidson and R. A. Lafferty, no one has ever really written like him. (Although the first part of Robert Silverberg’s Nightwings comes close.) And he is nothing like Lafferty or Davidson.
Born in 1913, he was an expert on East Asia and psychological warfare and spoke at least six languages. His future history, The Instrumentality of Mankind, contains a number of unique terms Linebarger created just for his fiction. His works contain a greater depth than most fiction of the 1950s and early 1960s. Many of his stories have religious overtones, and he’s been compared to Tolkien and Lewis.
Linebarger/Smith suffered a fatal heart attack in 1966. His daughter maintains a detailed webpage about him here.
Harlan Ellison was born today in Cleveland, Ohio on this day in 1934. I’d like to wish him a Happy Birthday.
Ellison is a writer’s writer. He’s best known as a science fiction writer (although fantasist is a better term), but he’s written in multiple genres. His works include mystery, mainstream, screenplays, teleplays, and essays. It’s hard to point to something representative of his work because is oeuvre is so varied. There are the classic stories such as “The Deathbird”, “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”, “Jeffty is Five”, and so many more. There are the essays in The Glass Teat, The Other Glass Teat, and Harlan Ellison’s Watching.
If you’ve not read him, give him a try. Then give him another try, because chances are good that the second thing you read by him won’t be anything like the first.
Anyway, Happy Birthday, Harlan!