Author Archives: debooker

About debooker

A brief (and somewhat ambiguous) biography. One hundred words, more or less, about David Booker might include the following: though lost in the cosmos without a compass, he has nonetheless managed to find his way into middle age. As to what he will do now that he is there is still a matter of speculation. He often seeks guidance from his youthful daughter as he alternately approaches and retreats from the slow expansion of his waistline and the slow collapse of Western Civilization as he knows it. He hopes the two will reach a libration (or libation) point and he will creep into old age with some dignity and clothes intact.

Haiku to you Thursday: “Nip”

The nip of winter /

a small feral animal /

happy to see you.

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‘It’s All One Case’ is a revealing look at detective master Ross Macdonald – The Washington Post

The sprawling book includes previously unpublished interviews and hundreds of photos.

Source: ‘It’s All One Case’ is a revealing look at detective master Ross Macdonald – The Washington Post

“It’s All One Case” is a book that any devotee of American detective fiction would kill for. For fans of Ross Macdonald, the finest American detective novelist of the 1950s and ’60s, it’s an absolute essential.

First off, this huge album contains the transcript of 47 hours of talk between Kenneth Millar — Macdonald’s real name — and Rolling Stone reporter Paul Nelson. The conversations, which took place in 1976, were intended for an article that never got written. Soon after the interviews were over, Millar began to exhibit symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and would never write another book. He died in 1983. Nelson’s life would gradually just fall apart. He died in 2006.

Largely because of Kevin Avery’s devotion and hard work this major work of mystery scholarship has finally appeared in print.

Yet there’s still another reason to covet this book — its pictures, hundreds of them. Virtually every page shows off Jeff Wong’s awe-inspiring collection of material relating to Millar.

Here one can see every Ross Macdonald novel in every hardcover and paperback edition and seemingly all the periodicals — from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine to Cosmopolitan and Gallery — in which Millar published a story or article; reproductions of the writer’s handwritten letters, spiral notebooks and typed manuscripts; pages from Knopf galleys; and even VHS tapes and DVDs of the movies and TV series based on private eye Lew Archer.

In addition, “It’s All One Case” includes dozens of photographs of Millar, as a boy in Canada, at his longtime home in Santa Barbara, and with his wife, the comparably gifted mystery writer Margaret Millar (whose works Soho Press has recently reissued in several omnibus volumes).

Nearly all Lew Archer’s cases — “The Zebra-Striped Hearse ,” “The Chill ” and a half dozen others — deal, more or less, with the sins of an earlier generation wreaking havoc in the present. In the interviews here, Millar admits that he consciously worked and reworked variations on this theme because of its personal relevance: His father walked out on his mother when he wasn’t quite 4, and little Ken grew up being shunted among various relatives, so much so that he had lived in 50 different houses or apartments by the time he was 16.

At an early age, Millar decided to become a writer. He tells Nelson that important influences included Poe and Twain but that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” was, for him, “the central novel of the century.” He reveres Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon” and deeply admires the early work of James M. Cain: “Nothing has ever been done in its field better than ‘Double Indemnity.’ ” Among favorite contemporary writers, Millar names Nabokov, “who doesn’t really make mistakes.” He regards Dostoevsky “as probably the greatest of all fiction writers.”

To write his detective novels, Millar says he spends months scribbling plot details in notebooks and that he deliberately uses symbolic imagery as a structural element. His books are, consequently, both complicated and precisely engineered: “I don’t aim at simplicity.” He also stresses that it’s “the stories of the other people” — Archer’s clients rather than the detective himself — “that really interest me more. Archer is just a means of getting to them and showing them as they are.” Indeed, some of his books, he would argue, “are tragedy or at least aim at it.”

Nonetheless, Millar explains, “I don’t start out with a character. I start out with an idea, which is generally a moral situation. . . . The characters are just notations which together form the book. They do represent energies of course, various kinds of imaginative energy going in different directions, and all that has to be orchestrated and unified. That’s what really is so difficult: to get it all in a proper balance so that each of these energies represented by the twenty or so characters in a book gets its proper place, its proper presentation, and its final place in the structure.” He emphasizes that structure is “the one thing I can do better than my competition, so I spend a lot of time on it.”

Clearly Millar, who earned a Ph.D in English from the University of Michigan, isn’t your average pulp mystery hack. Instead his books honor the hard-boiled tradition, even as they complicate and slightly soften it. These days, however, I suspect that Millar’s novels —despite being reprinted in the Library of America — have fallen into literary limbo, remembered but not much read. Yet his mysteries still pack a wallop, as I discovered when, after many years, I again picked up my copy of “The Galton Case.” From the start, Archer’s voice exhibits the laconic factuality and low-keyed wit we associate with Hammett and Raymond Chandler:

“The law offices of Wellesley and Sable were over a savings bank on the main street of Santa Teresa. Their private elevator lifted you from a bare little lobby into an atmosphere of elegant simplicity. It created the impression that after years of struggle you were rising effortlessly to your natural level, one of the chosen.”

As Millar talks about his life and work in “It’s All One Case,” he does repeat some of the same points again and again. Nonetheless, he absolutely refuses to discuss his daughter Linda, who accidentally killed a young boy when driving drunk at the age of 16 and later died at 31. While Millar admits that his fiction is replete with troubled adolescents, he contends that any personal or autobiographical material has been sublimated, shaped and refracted. He is an artist, after all, and that’s what artists do.

Michael Dirda reviews books on Thursdays in Style.

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17 Science Fiction Books That Forever Changed The Genre | Lifehacker Australia

Source: 17 Science Fiction Books That Forever Changed The Genre | Lifehacker Australia

Speculative fiction is the literature of change and discovery. But every now and then, a book comes along that changes the rules of science fiction for everybody. Certain great books inspire scores of authors to create something new. Here are 21 of the most influential science fiction and fantasy books.

These are books which clearly inspired a generation of authors, and made a huge splash either in publishing success or critical acclaim. Or both. And these are in no particular order.

#1 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (1979)

The first (maybe only) science-fiction-comedy-multimedia phenomenon, Hitchhiker’s was a radio drama before it was a book, and the book sold 250,000 copies in its first three months.The Guardian named it one of the 1000 novels everyone must read, and a BBC poll ranked it fourth, out of 200, in their Big Read poll.

Ted Gioia comments on Adams’ hilarious book about the trials and tribulations of Arthur Dent, the survivor of a destroyed Earth, across the universe:

“No book better epitomizes the post-heroic tone of sci-fi than Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. As the name indicates, a certain louche bohemianism permeates its pages. This is star-hopping on the cheap, pursued by those aiming not to conquer the universe, but merely sample its richeson fewer than thirty Altairian dollars per day. You can trace the lineage of many later science fictions books, with their hip and irreverent tone, back to this influential and much beloved predecessor.”

#2 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (1870)

Verne’s whole career is full of works that have inspired generations of authors — but this tale of the underwater adventure of Captain Nemo and the Nautilus has also had a profound effect on science, and inspired real scientific advancement.

In the introduction to William Butcher’s book Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Self Ray Bradbury wrote that, “We are all, in one way, children of Jules Verne. His name never stops. At aerospace or NASA gatherings, Verne is the verb that moves us to space.”

Verne translator and scholar F.P. Walter added:

“For many, then, this book has been a source of fascination, surely one of the most influential novels ever written, an inspiration for such scientists and discoverers as engineer Simon Lake, oceanographer William Beebe, polar traveller Sir Ernest Shackleton. Likewise Dr. Robert D. Ballard, finder of the sunken Titanic, confesses that this was his favourite book as a teenager, and Cousteau himself, most renowned of marine explorers, called it his shipboard bible.”

#3 Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney (1975)

Sam Anderson prefaced his interview with Samuel R. Delany with this praise for Dhalgren’s impact:

“In the 35 years since its publication, Dhalgren has been adored and reviled with roughly equal vigour. It has been cited as the downfall of science fiction (Philip K. Dick once called it “the worst trash I’ve ever read”), turned into a rock opera, dropped by its publisher, and reissued by others. These days, it seems to have settled into the groove of a cult classic. In a foreword in the current edition, William Gibson describes the book as “a literary singularity” and Jonathan Lethem called it “the secret masterpiece, the city-book-labyrinth that has swallowed astonished readers alive.”

Dhalgren has remained popular through the years, being reprinted 7 times since 1975. It was also dropped by Bantam, the original publisher, because of its willingness to tackle LGBT themes despite the fact that the Bantam version sold over a million copies and went through 19 printings.

#4 War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (1898)

In his book about The War of the Worlds, a seminal look at an invasion of Earth by Martians, author Brian Holmsten states:

“Since 1898 the War of the Worlds has been translated into countless languages, adapted by comic books, radio, film, stage, and even computer games, and has inspired a wide range of alien invasion tales in every medium. Few ideas have captured the imagination of so many people all over the world in the last century so well.

“It is a tribute to H.G. Wells that his story of alien conquest was not only the first of its kind, but remains one of the best.”

The 1927 American reprint, it can be argued, was one of the touching-off points for the Golden Age of science fiction. It inspired John W. Campbell to write and commission invasion stories — which also prompted authors like Arthur C. Clarke, Clifford Simak, Robert A. Heinlein and John Wyndham to do the same.

#5 Foundation by Isaac Asimov (1951)

Foundation is a sweeping tale of pyschohistory and the battle for the intellectual soul of a civilisation. and According to the BBC:

“The Foundation series helped to launch the careers of three notable science fiction authors of the succeeding generation. Janet Asimov sanctioned these novels, which were published in the late 1990s: Foundation’s Fear by Gregory Benford, Foundation and Chaos by Greg Bear, and Foundation’s Triumph by David Brin.” And without a doubt it launched the imaginations of countless other writers.”

It is also worth mentioning that the Foundation series won the 1966 Hugo for best all-time series. An award that has not been given out since.

And this book’s influence goes beyond science fiction: Artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky classified Asimov “among the finest of modern philosophers,” and Nobel-prize-winning economist Paul Krugman describesFoundation as his version of Atlas Shrugged, “I didn’t grow up wanting to be a square-jawed individualist or join a heroic quest; I grew up wanting to be Hari Seldon, using my understanding of the mathematics of human behaviour to save civilisation.”

#6 Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein (1961)

The first science-fiction work to enter the New York Times Book Review’s bestseller list, Stranger sold 100,000 copies in hardcover and over five million in paperback. This book’s influence can’t be overstated. Arthur D. Hlavaty refers to Heinlein as a prototypical science-fiction author, saying:

“One of the ways human beings organise the world is by prototypes. We define a set as a typical example and a bunch of other things that are like it. For instance, when I was growing up, the prototype Writer was Shakespeare, the Artist was Rembrandt, and the Composer was Beethoven. In that way, Robert A. Heinlein has often been taken as the prototype Science Fiction Writer, and as changes and new paradigms shake the field, he still sometimes represents the science fiction of the past.”

Writer Ted Gioia looks at Stranger in a Strange Land’s main character as a prototype for other similar characters in SF, saying: “Smith is more than a character. He is prototype of an alternative personality structure. The question of whether we can remake the human personality from the ground up.”

#7 Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison (1967)

This series helped launch the careers of almost every major author of the New Wave. The first volume included Samuel R. Delany, Philip K. Dick, and J.G. Ballard. In his introduction to the 2002 reissue of Ellison’s anthology, contributor Michael Moorcock wrote of Ellison’s collections:

“He changed our world forever. And ironically, it is usually the mark of a world so fundamentally altered — be it by Stokely Carmichael or Martin Luther King Jr. or Lyndon Johnson, or Kate Millet — that nobody remembers what it was like before things got better. That’s the real measure of Ellison’s success.”

“Gonna Roll the Bones” by Fritz Leiber won a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award for Best novelette. “Riders of the Purple Wage” a novella by Philip José Farmer tied for the Hugo Award. Samuel R. Delany got the Nebula for Best Short Story for “Aye, and Gomorrah…” Ellison was given a commendation at the 26th World SF Convention for editing “the most significant and controversial SF book” published in 1967.

#8 Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke (1953)

Arthur C. Clarke himself had reservations about this novel, yet it sold out its first printing, 200,000 copies, in just two months after publication. Author Jo Walton writes about the first book to feature benevolent aliens who try to help the human race evolve:

“Science fiction is a very broad genre, with lots of room for lots of kinds of stories, stories that go all over the place and do all kinds of things. One of the reasons for that is that early on there got to be a lot of wiggle room.

“Childhood’s End was one of those things that expanded the genre early and helped make it more open-ended and open to possibility.

“Clarke was an engineer and he was a solidly scientific writer, but he wasn’t a Campbellian writer. He brought his different experiences to his work, and the field is better for it.”

Childhood’s End was nominated for a retro Hugo award in 2004.

#9 Ringworld by Larry Niven (1970)

Sam Jordison of the Guardian had this to say about Ringworld, the masterpiece that is centered around around a theoretical ring-shaped space-habitat:

“Larry Niven’s 1970 Hugo award winner, Ringworld, is arguably one of the most influential science fiction novels of the past 50 years. As well as having had a huge impact on nearly all subsequent space operas (Iain M Banks’ Culture series and Alastair Reynolds’ House of Suns are just two), the book has helped generate a multi-billion-dollar industry.”

To add to this Jonathan Cowie, who wrote Essetial SF: A Concise Guide, called Ringworld “a landmark novel of planetary engineering (for want of a better term) that ranks alongside the late Bob Shaw’s Orbitsville.”

Niven later added four sequels and four prequels which tie into numerous other books set in Known Space; the fictional setting of about a dozen science fiction novels and several collections of short stories.

The other books are listed and discussed at:

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Haiku to you Thursday: “Pain”

Pain is a song /

whose melody is as true /

as its words are inadequate.

[Editor’s note: a modified haiku structure, varying a little from the 5 syllable, 7 syllable, 5 syllable structure. Still, I believe it carries the spirit of a haiku.]

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Getting to the point.

Getting to the point.

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Haiku to you Thursday: “Things”

My things talk to me. /

My fellow humans do not. /

“Beep,” I say to you.

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Monday morning writing joke: “Dueling puns, part 5”

Two writers who didn’t like each other met in a bar, as such writers often do. Each claimed it was his favorite bar and each claimed he had found it first. After several months of glowering at each other and bad mouthing each other, they agree to settle the matter with a duel of puns.

Since neither writer won the fourth round, a coin was tossed and the short writer was allowed to go first for round five. A set of cards was placed on the table between them, face down. On each card was a subject. The short writer flipped the card over and the subject was philosophy.

Props were allowed, and for each turn, each writer could make one phone call.
For round five, the rules were amended. Each writer had to say his pun and the audience would get to pick which one they preferred. The bartender, a waiter, and a waitress would be the judges as to who got the loudest groan.

After thinking a moment, the short writer asked, “I tried to think of philosophical pun, but I Kant.”

There was a slight groan from the patrons in the bar.

The tall writer waited until things were quiet, then he said, “A man walks into a crowded bar at a Philosophy convention. A woman at the bar looks him over, bats her eyes, and smiles. He buys her drink, then another, and another. Finally the guy between them leaves and he scoots over. She immediately gets up and starts to leave. ‘Hey,” he says, ‘what about the drinks I bought you?’ She turns back to him and says, ‘How you Spinoza time and money is not my concern.’ ‘Oh,’ he shouts, ‘You’re Socratease.’”
The crowd groaned, twice.

Round five went to the tall writer. The tall writer now had 2 wins, 1 loss, and 2 ties.” The short writer had 1 win, 2 losses, and 2 ties.

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