The Amazing Short Stories of Ted Chiang
FEBRUARY 18, 2020 / CHESHIRELIB / LEAVE A COMMENT
Our sci-fi guy, Harold, has an author recommendation for you:
If I could only recommend one science fiction author to read this year, it would be Ted Chiang. Though Chiang has written only 14 of short stories and one novella, his works have been critically acclaimed. His short story collections are Exhalation and Stories of Your Life.
Chiang has been the recipent of four Nebula awards, four Hugo awards, and won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (for his short story, “Babylon”). His short story, “Story of Your Life,” was the basis of the film Arrival (2016). Exhalation was a Goodreads Choice Award in 2019. The New York Times named Exhalation one of the 10 Best Books of 2019. That’s a lot of awards that are, in my opinion, well deserved!
Chiang’s works are hard to describe since they are not conventional science fiction, per se. It’s a subtle distinction, but they are more fiction based on science than science fiction. President Obama, via Facebook, said that they are “a collection of short stories that will make you think, grapple with big questions, and feel more human. The best kind of science fiction.”
These are precisely articulated, well-crafted and thought-provoking stories. There are no rocket ships or cosmic battles. Instead, they expand upon and extend science, and technology that exists today. Two of my favorites from Exhalation are “Babylon”, a re-work of the Tower of Babel story, and “Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate”, about a merchant in ancient Persia who can travel through time to correct past mistakes.
Exhalation and Stories of Your Life are available at the Cheshire Public Library as printed books. Exhalation is also available as an ebook, and Stories of Your Life is also available as a downloadable audiobook. They are well worth reading. The film, Arrival, based on Chang’s “Story of Your Life”, is available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Sci-Fi at the Movies
NOVEMBER 19, 2019 / CHESHIRELIB / LEAVE A COMMENT
Harold our sci-fi-guy is going to the movies in today’s blog post!
Science fiction is an extremely popular film and video genre and the Library has a sizeable collection of sci-fi movies, videos, and television programs.
If the Force is with you, you can check out a film from the most successful film series of all times: George Lucas’ Star Wars. The library has every Star Wars movie on DVD. My favorite is: Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back. The library also has a collection of Star Wars novels that have spun off from the films.
You can share in the voyages of the Starship Enterprise with Star Trek. The library has many of the Star Trek movies and television shows in their catalog including one of the most acclaimed Star Trek films: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I enjoy all of them, but one of my favorites is Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The library also has the complete first season of the new Star Trek Discovery Series along with a great collection of Star Trek books that span all the Star Trek television series and movies.
If more contemporary science fiction movies are more your style, there are some great ones on the shelves at the Cheshire Public Library. Some favorites:
Arrival debuted in 2016. It stars Amy Adams as a linguistic professor recruited by the U.S. Army to figure out how to communicate with intelligent aliens who have landed on earth. It is based on the 1998 short story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang that is available from the Library as a downloadable audio book. His book of short stories, Exhalation, is also well worth reading.
Ex Machina is a 2014 British science fiction film. IMDB.com says that it is about “A young programmer [who] is selected to participate in a ground-breaking experiment in synthetic intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a highly advanced humanoid A.I.”
Gravity – This 2013 critically acclaimed film stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as American astronauts who are stranded in space because of a Shuttle accident and their attempt to return to Earth. It received 10 Oscar nominations and the Golden Globe Award for Best Director along with the 2013 Ray Bradbury Award.
The Martian – This 2015 film one of my favorites. Directed by Ridley Scott, it is a modern-day Robinson Crusoe story about an astronaut, played by Matt Damon, who is stranded on Mars and his efforts to survive. It is based on the book by Andy Weir that is also and available in print and as an audiobook at the library.
Here are some other great science fiction movies that are available at the CPL:
Originally published on the Cheshire Democratic Town Committee website.
Next Tuesday, we have municipal elections here in Cheshire. I hope that you are registered to vote. Even if you are registered to vote this fall, but there may be other actions that you need to take to make sure you can vote. As an election official, I’ve seen problems that delay people from voting that could have been easily solved beforehand. important that your voter registration information is correct.
The first principle for us poll workers is not to deny anyone the their right to vote. However, some voters may be denied this right because their information is incorrect. To be able to vote, your name and address should be on the official voter roll that is generated by the Cheshire Registrar of Voters. So, if you have moved into Cheshire from another town, if you have changed your address, or if you have changed your name, make sure that you have made these changes with the Registrar of Voters. Usually when someone is not able to vote, it is because of these registration inconsistencies. We can usually correct these at the polls, but we need to contact the Registrar to determine the best course of action. This causes needless delays for you, for us and for other voters.
We always have a few voters who go to the wrong polling site. Sometimes people have moved and not realized that they need to vote at a different location. Some types of elections are not held in your usual polling place, so be sure to check beforehand. You can always check with the Registrar’s office or go to the their web pages to determine where you should vote. https://www.cheshirect.org/voting-and-elections/voter-registration/ . Finally, don’t forget to have proper personal identification, such as your driver’s license, when you vote.
Cheshire is fortunate to have two excellent Registrars, Tom Smith, and Susan Pappas. Tom and Susan, along with their staff, are always helpful and knowledgeable about voting rules and regulations. If you have any questions about your current voting eligibility status, polling place, party affiliation, or other matters relating to your right to vote, contact their office at 203-271-6680.
Here's some additional voting information on this website.
by Harold Kramer, 2019 Assistant Registrar at Dodd Middle School
Originally published by the Cheshire Public Library August 13, 2019
Ursula K. Le Guin
The world of science fiction and fantasy lost two of its best writers in recent years: Ursula K. Le Guin and Vonda McIntyre. Ursula K. Le Guin, who I consider one of the greatest science fiction and fantasy writers of the 20th century, died in 2018. She published over twenty-two novels, children’s books, and volumes of poetry and essays. Her works received many awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, and National Book Award.
Her novels centered around two main themes: gender and political systems. Her 1969 novel, The Left Hand of Darkness is about the effect of gender on culture and society, It won both the Hugo andNebula Awards for Best Novel. An example of novel based onpolitical themes is The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia, also a winner of both a Hugo and a Nebula Award. It is about two planets orbiting next to each other – that have almost no contact between them and that have totally different economic and political systems – and thescientist who tries to unite the two worlds. I recently re-read The Dispossessed and it is still relevant today, particularly in our current political environment.
The Dispossessed is the first of six books in Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle. These novels are loosely connected by a people called the Hainish, who colonized earth and other planets hundreds of thousands of years ago. The Left Hand of Darkness is a Hainish novel along with Rocannon’s World and Planet of Exile.
Le Guin also wrote The Books of Earthsea, a series that isdecidedly more fantasy than science fiction. It full of magical events and it is the story of a young wizard – a sort of precursor to Harry Potter. The first book in the series, A Wizard of Earthsea, is still a great read. The Earthsea collection of novels and short stories won the National Book Award, a Newbery Honor, the Nebula Award, and many other honors.
Vonda McIntyre passed away in 2019. She was a prolific writer of science fiction novels, novelizations, screenplays and short stories and she was an acclaimed teacher of writing.
She was well known for her Star Trek novels that include The Entropy Effect and Enterprise: The First Adventure. She also wrote the novelizations of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
Most readers agree that Dreamsnake is McIntyre’s greatest noveland it is based on her earlier novelette, Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand. It is about Snake, a female healer who possesses miraculous powers and a magical Dreamsnake.
My final recommendation is Kindred by Octavia Butler. Kindredhas been acknowledged as the first widely known novel by a black, woman science fiction writer. It is a time travel story about Dana, a black woman, who in 1976 is abruptly transported back and forth, from her home in California to antebellum Maryland,where she encounters her ancestors and becomes enslaved. At its core, Kindred is about white supremacy, slavery, and, ultimately, survival. Butler is also the author of Lilith’s Brood, a collection of three works: Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago. These dystopian novels were previously published in one volume called Xenogenesis. The New York Times said that“The complete series is about an alien species that could save humanity after nuclear apocalypse—or destroy it”—from “one of science fiction’s finest writers.”
My Science Fiction Book Blog
Originally Published by the Cheshire Public Library
Cheshire Library Blogs
Science Fiction and the Red Planet MAY 7, 2019 /
Today’s post is by our sci-fi-guy, Harold Kramer.
Mars, our nearest planetary neighbor, has always fascinated science fiction writers here on planet earth. Science fiction about Mars began with Jules Verne and his 1865 novel From Earth to the Moon. This novel, like many others by Verne, was accurate in concept, although technology in his day made many of his ideas impossible to execute.
During the first half of the 20th century, science fiction writers were obsessed with Martians. Belligerent Martians invaded earth in H. G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds. Orson Welles’s 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds even caused a nationwide panic. Written in 1950, The Martian Chronicles, a collection of strange and haunting short stories by Ray Bradbury were about an expedition to the red planet. Another early Mars novel was A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs who was a master of fast-moving adventure stories, whether in the jungle with Tarzan or on the moon with the Princess. I have recently re-read some of these early science fiction novels and, while definitely not scientifically accurate, they still are good reads.
Beginning in the 1970s, the first NASA and Russian probes and rovers obtained real scientific data about Mars. Once sci fi writers realized that there were no little green men on Mars, science fiction tackled more realistic Martian topics and focused on the challenges of human colonization on the red planet. A major sci fi theme was terraforming Mars to make it into a self-sustaining environment that was fit for life that developed on earth. Another major theme was what type of society and governmental structure might exist in a Mars colony.
One of the first works that explored these ideas was The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. This series consists of three books: Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars. Red Mars won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1993. Blue Mars won the 1997 Hugo Award. The trilogy begins with Red Mars when the first colonists arrive on Mars and simply try to survive. Green Mars and Blue Mars and continue the story one hundred years in the future when Mars has been terraformed into a green and politically independent world. My favorite of the three is the first book, Red Mars.
Ben Bova has written four related novels about Mars: Mars,Return to Mars, Mars Inc. and Mars Life. The planet Mars is the fourth stop on his Grand Tour – a series of related novels that take place in the 21st Century and that focus on exploration and colonization of every planet in our solar system. I enjoy reading Ben Bova’s books because of his clear writing, scientific imagination, and expansive ideas.
The Martian by Andy Weir, written in 2011, is my favorite book about Mars. I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it. It won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Science Fiction in 2014 and the Audie Award in 2015 for best science fiction audio book. The Martian is a modern-day Robinson Crusoe story about an American astronaut who is presumed dead but who is actually alive and stranded on Mars. What makes it so interesting is that the technology is highly credible, and the writing is taut. It was made into a movie in 2015 that was directed by Ridley Scott and starred Matt Damon.
Many other great science fiction novelists have written about Mars. These include Greg Bear’s Moving Mars and Arthur C. Clarke’s The Sands of Mars. Also notable are Larry Niven’s Rainbow Mars and Robert Heinlein’s classic, Stranger in a Strange Land.
Although this is a science-fiction blog post, I would like to mention a non-fiction book about Mars and planetary exploration and colonization. It is called The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and our Destiny Beyond Earth, by physicist Michio Kaku. This scientifically based work is an extraordinary projection of the future of humanity as it moves from earth to the stars.
Authors Neal Stephenson & Emily St. John Mandel: different visions for the future of mankind
Feb 5, 2019. Today’s guest post is by Harold Kramer, our go-to sci-fi guy!
While his works are usually categorized as science fiction, author Neal Stephenson’s novels span many genres, since they interweave politics, religion, archaeology, philosophy, technology, computer programming, and cryptography. His novels take place the past, present, and future and often include actual historical characters. His early, innovative cyberpunk novel, Snow Crash was named one of Time magazine’s 100 best English-language novels.
My favorite Neal Stephenson book is Cryptonomicon. It takes place during two distinct periods, World War II and 1997. The main characters are from the same family, but they are from different generations. It’s a novel for people who like science-based, thought-provoking, fiction.The plot focuses on the British government’s efforts at code breaking during World War II. If you are familiar with the movie The Imitation Game, many of the real-life characters in that film appear in this work of fiction.
I recently read Stephenson’s latest novel Seveneves. In this book, Earth becomes uninhabitable when an unidentified object strikes the moon that bursts into fragments. These fragments eventually surround and smother the earth. Humans survive by migrating to “space arks” where they must live for thousands of years. Through various circumstances, political squabbles, and other unforeseen events, seven women, the seven Eves, are left to re-populate mankind. However, five thousand years later, humans have been discovered still living on earth resulting in complications between those who are earthbound and those who are space- bound. While this topic has been covered by many other science fiction novels, Stephenson’s book has a unique perspective and it is based on hard scientific facts that make it stand out from the usual “earthlings migrate to space” novels.
Another dystopian novel, with a radically different point of view is Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. It was a National Book Award Finalist and won the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Award. In this book, the earth is ravaged by a mysterious plague that wipes out much of mankind. Earth has become a world with no technology – not even electricity. The story focuses on a group of survivors who are musicians and actors and are called The Traveling Symphony. They travel from town to town performing works of art from the past. The book concerns their amazing journey and is full of colorful characters who end up at an abandoned airport called “The Museum.” There is a villainous “prophet” who provides an interesting plot element.
Thanks to the readers who responded to my first blog post with some suggestions for authors worth considering. I’m happy to mention Larry Niven, author of The Ringworld series, a classic work of science fiction and Anne McCaffrey, author of the Dragonriders Series and the first woman to win both a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award. Let me know if you have more science fiction or fantasy authors worth noting.
Some of My Personal Favorites:
NOVEMBER 20, 2018
Today’s guest post was written by Harold Kramer.
In this blog post, I’m going to discuss some of my favorite science fiction (sci-fi) books and authors. If you are interested in sci-fi, a good place to find some of the best science fiction are the Hugo and Nebula Awards. These annual awards constitute a list of outstanding sci-fi literature and drama. They also provide an international platform that showcases both established and new sci-fi authors in a broad range of genres and sub-genres.
Contemporary sci-fi has split into many sub-genres, such as dystopia (think Red Rising), alien invasion (like Ender’s Game), cyberpunk (like Neuromancer), and sci-fi/fantasy (Dune, for example). The common thread, that makes any literary or dramatic work science fiction, is that it deals with scientific topics such as life on other planets, space flight, time travel and life in the future. In fact, the library has recently merged its sci-fi collection into the fiction collection since it is has become difficult to distinguish “regular” fiction from science fiction.
For starters, here are two of my favorite authors:
Jack McDevitt is a master writer of classic sci fi. He has been compared to Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov, two legendary sci-fi authors. He has been nominated for the Nebula Award sixteen times. His two ongoing series of novels are the Alex Benedict series and the Academy or “Hutch” (Priscilla Hutchins) series. Both series have definitive timelines, so you should really start at the beginning of each series. However, each novel can stand on its own. My favorite Alex Benedict novels are Coming Home and Seeker. Seeker won the 2006 Nebula Award for Best Novel. Two of my other favorites are his first novel, The Hercules Text a story about mankind’s reaction to receiving an intelligent signal from space, and Omega, a Priscilla Hutchins novel about mysterious energy clouds in space. It was nominated for the Nebula Award in 2004.
Connie Willis is an American writer who has won more Hugo and Nebula awards than any other science fiction author ever. My favorites books by her are her trilogy of time travel novels. These include Doomsday Book that is an account of time travel to the 14th Century by a female heroine who is a historian from Oxford University sometime in the late 21st Century. It is moving story of human frailty and courage during a time of great devastation. It’s as much historical fiction as it is sci-fi. Blackout and its sequel All Clear also feature female historians from Oxford University. These books are detailed, compelling novels about the courage of the British people during World War II. These novels won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards.
Let me know about some of your favorite sci-fi authors and novels and I will feature them in future blogs.
My Science Fiction Blog written for the Cheshire (CT) Public Library and a few other blogs that I have written.