Science Fiction Brewed Fresh Daily

Harry Harrison named Grand Master by SFWA

::: sing-song voice :::

~/o I’m going to the Nebulas, I’m going to the Nebulas o/~

From SFWA:

Harry Harrison, creator of The Stainless Steel Rat and author of the novel that inspired the movie Soylent Green, will be honored as the next Damon Knight Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America during the 2009 Nebula Award Weekend® in Los Angeles, Calif.

Harrison’s selection was announced by SFWA President Russell Davis after consulting with the Board of Directors and participating past presidents. The Nebula Awards Weekend will be held April 24-26 in Los Angeles, Calif., with the awards presentation banquet to be held on the UCLA campus to tie in with the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Past SFWA President and Grand Master (2004) Robert Silverberg will be presenting.

“There are few moments in life that can be taken out and savored in memory.  One happened today,” Harrison said. “A phone call from our President Russell Davis with the startling news that I was to be the 2009 Grand Master nearly led to the collapse of a stout writer!

“It’s still soaking in,” he said. “But may I express my fervent thanks to all involved for this signal honor.”

Already an established illustrator and freelance non-fiction writer, Harrison published his first science fiction story, “Rock Diver,” in the August 1951 issue of Worlds Beyond. From that point he went on to produce more than 62 novels, eight short fiction collections, six non-fiction books and countless short stories.  He also found the time to edit 35 anthologies over the span of his career.

His active involvement in the science fiction community throughout the 1950s led to his becoming a charter member of SFWA.

“Why, I can recall with a tear in one rheumy eye, when SFWA was a just a wild idea put forward by Damon Knight,” Harrison said. “A few of us nodded and agreed with him and thus, with great hope and no money, this organization was born.  I won’t dwell on the fact that this was over 50 years ago…

“Enough!  Let’s look to the future not the past as we go from strength to strength and march—banners flapping—into the SF future,” he said.

Harrison was born in 1925 and served in the U.S. Army during World War II, an experience that made a strong negative impression on him and inspired his satirical Bill, the Galactic Hero novel series. A regular contributor to the legendary John W. Campbell’s Astounding, Harrison’s work often reflected his interest in environmental issues and non-violent resolutions to conflict. His best-known creations are The Stainless Steel Rat and Make Room! Make Room! on which the film Soylent Green was based. His more recent works include best-selling alternate world trilogies West of Eden and Stars and Stripes Forever!

Harrison is the 26th writer recognized by SFWA as a Grand Master. He joins Robert A. Heinlein (1974), Jack Williamson (1975), Clifford D. Simak (1976), L. Sprague de Camp (1978), Fritz Leiber (1981), Andre Norton (1983), Arthur C. Clarke (1985), Isaac Asimov (1986), Alfred Bester (1987), Ray Bradbury (1988), Lester del Rey (1990), Frederik Pohl (1992), Damon Knight (1994), A. E. van Vogt (1995), Jack Vance (1996), Poul Anderson (1997), Hal Clement (1998), Brian Aldiss (1999), Philip Jose Farmer (2000), Ursula K. Le Guin (2003), Robert Silverberg (2004), Anne McCaffrey (2005), Harlan Ellison (2006), James Gunn (2007) and Michael Moorcock (2008).

Until 2002 the title was simply “Grand Master.” In 2002 it was renamed in honor of SFWA’s founder, Damon Knight, who died that year.

More details about the Nebula Awards Weekend are available at

Posted in Books & Authors, Conventions & Fandom July 17th, 2008 by Gandalara
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I Do Feel More Grateful

Basic Instructions

(From Basic Instructions)

Posted in Humor, Movies & TV July 17th, 2008 by Chip
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SF That Inspires/Hinders Real Science

In a recent interview, Buzz Aldrin said that science fiction was partially responsible for public apathy toward the space program (saying, in essence, if you see enough fictional tricorders, advances in CAT scan technology don’t seem very interesting any more).

io9–which does love its lists–has responded with SF books and movies that particularly inspire (or hinder) real scientific research.

Hindering: Blood Music
One of the earliest novels about nanotechnology and the dreaded “gray goo” scenario, Greg Bear’s book is about nanotech that goes awry, becomes sentient, and eats the entire world. Consumed by the nano, humans enter a kind of transcendent “noosphere” while their bodies become the raw materials of a new world. While this is a cool idea, it’s led to the myth that the outcome of nanotech is inevitably the (literal) breakdown of society.

Inspiring: The Diamond Age
Neal Stephenson’s gorgeous and complex novel The Diamond Age is set in a nano-enabled world where human minds are used for distributed computing and electronic children’s books are so close to being sentient that they can raise children without the help of human adults. A young woman raised by one such book grows up to become a wise and brilliant leader. You can find a similar scenario in Linda Nagata’s nanotech novel The Bohr Maker, where an impoverished woman discovers a nanofabricator and uses it to transform the developing world.

It’s interesting to see the juxtaposition of positive and negative works for a particular branch of technology.


Posted in Books & Authors July 16th, 2008 by Chip
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Sci Fi Lists

One day, science fiction fan Peter Sykes went looking for a list of books. “I wanted to buy the top 100 scifi books and couldn’t find a list I thought was statistically accurate, so I made one. I was so happy with the result that I decided to post it on the net as a public service to people in the same predicament.”

Then he made another list. And another one. And now he has an insane number of lists covering everything from books about the apocalypse to movies that feature robots. This is a pretty neat site, and it’s nice that someone’s taken the time to compile and post something so useful.

Link (via SciFi Scanner)

(p.s. – Although not nearly so obsessive comprehensive, the O*W*C has a modest list of lists, too.

Posted in Computers & Internet July 15th, 2008 by Chip
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Mundane SF

Here’s an SF subgenre of which I was previously unaware, although it certainly fits into my “FTL ain’t gonna happen, get over it” philosophy.

The central idea of Mundane Science Fiction is that we’re stuck here: Warp drives, wormholes, and other forms of interstellar travel are unlikely at best. There may be habitable worlds outside of the solar system, but we’re never going to reach them. If there are alien intelligences out there somewhere, they’re no more likely to be able to master travel amongst the stars than we are.

This seems like a rather bleak future, but the argument goes that if we spend too much time expecting to move off of this planet we might wind up squandering its resources. If we instead assume that we’re stuck here, we might be a bit more careful at husbanding our environment.

I suppose it’s possible–just–to argue that SF which takes it for granted that we’ll eventually get off this rock might influence public opinion away from long-term solutions for staying put, but you have to admit that there isn’t a whole lot of cachet in, “Major Tom got in his hybrid car and drove to his job at the solar-panel factory.”

There’s more about this movement in the Wikipedia entry here.

Posted in Books & Authors July 14th, 2008 by Chip
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All Locus Awards Voters Are Not Created Equal

This is just plain wrong. Seems the ballot box was hit with a lot of Cory Doctorow’s online fans. Why change the rules after the vote? And are subscribers better than me?


Remember how we called the Locus Awards “possibly the most democratic” of the science fiction awards? Well, uh, never mind. The Locus Awards changed their rules after everyone had already voted, making Locus Magazine subscriber votes count twice as much as other votes…

Posted in Books & Authors, News July 13th, 2008 by Gandalara
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Universe Sandbox

Videogame programmer Dan Dixon has created an interactive space simulator which lets you play dice with the universe. Even better, it’s free.

Smash planets together, introduce rogue stars, and build new worlds from spinning discs of debris. Fire a moon into a planet or destroy everything you’ve created with a super massive black hole.

You can simulate and interact with:

  • Our solar system: the 8 planets,160+ moons, and hundereds of asteroids

  • Nearest 1000 stars to our Sun

  • Our local group of galaxies

  • An unlimited number of fictional scenarios

This would be a great educational tool for teaching kids about astrophysics. Or just use it to smash asteroids into planets. You know you want to.

Link (via Daily Grail)

Posted in Computers & Internet, Space July 11th, 2008 by Chip
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Job Opening at SF Museum

The Science Fiction Museum in Seattle has a job opening for an Experience and Education Coordinator.

This position supports the Manager of Interpretation and Educator resources by coordinating the training and efforts of the part-time gallery guides and floor volunteers. The guides and volunteers will provide excellent museum experiences for guided group visits to the exhibitions and interactive galleries such as Sound Lab; as well as visitors participating in public programs and All Access Nights. Working closely with other EMP|SFM staff, especially the Visitor Experience and Public Programming Managers, this position will coordinate recruiting, training, and the day-to-day supervision required to produce lively and engaging interpretive staff and knowledgeable floor volunteers.

This sounds like a dream job for fannish types.

Link (via BoingBoing)

Posted in News July 10th, 2008 by Chip
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If Star Wars was Real

ElvisYou know those sites that occasionally make you go, “Wait…what?” Well, this is one of them.

The premise is that many elements of Star Wars actually existed in real life and influenced the films, but George Lucas has engaged in a massive cover-up to make his movies seem more original and imaginative.*

Anyway, the point of the site is to unearth the “proof” that Lucas overlooked: The photographs and other documents which clearly show aliens, spaceships, and droids have walked amongst us. In addition to this rare photo of Elvis with his bodyguards, there’s evidence that Frank Sinatra sang with the Modal Nodes, that Van Gogh was related to Yoda, and that Bigfoot is just a Wookiee.

The overall effect is sort of what you’d get if Erich von Däniken had had access to Photoshop and was possessed of more of a sense of whimsy.

They readily accept user submissions, so if you’ve got a photo of Hitler conferring with Grand Moff Tarkin or if your great-grandmother’s diary mentions a fling with the captain of the Millennium Falcon, I’m sure they’d love to hear from you.

Link (via Dark Roasted Blend)

*He could have accomplished this simply by having somebody else write the scripts for Episodes 1-3.

Posted in Ephemera July 9th, 2008 by Chip
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Disaster Averted

Here I’ve been griping about all of the scraping-the-bottom-of-the-barrel SF/fantasy remakes coming down the pike (like, f’rinstance, Escape from New York and Red Sonja, oh my head), and it turns out that things could have been much, much worse.

Cracked Magazine has a list of the worst movies that Hollywood almost made, including a remake of Westworld starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

How the hell were they planning to explain a robotic Wild West villain with an Austrian accent? A malfunction in the voice programming? Some kind of practical joke from the maintenance guys?



Posted in Movies & TV July 8th, 2008 by Chip
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