Videotaped at the 1992 WorldCon Science Fiction Convention in Orlando, Florida, this 72 minute video is a who’s who of the friends and colleagues of Isaac Asimov. Most of the stories are humorous.
Among the speakers are Arthur C. Clarke (by tape), Harlan Ellison (by phone), Robert Silverberg, Ben Bova, Frederik Pohl, Sheila Williams, Julius Schwartz, Hal Clement, Kelly Freas, Janet Asimov, David A. Kyle, and Al Capp.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
Astounding April-July 1953, 1954, interviews, an expected book, the flyers, up the slope, how Larry Niven borrowed some of this, Meskalanite co-travelers, nothing this heavy, a hard book to read?, stopping to do math, that’s the game, “the game”, an intellectual exercise, the essay: Whilygig World, starting with the world, we’re in a much more character driven era of Science Fiction, a story will emerge, hard SF is out of fashion, Analog is the torchbearer for hard SF, the field has shifted, the post-Campbell era, Prisoners Of Gravity, a dying Frankenstein, an interview with Hal Clement, Benford and such, a TVO thing, Teddog, somewhere in Toronto, thanks Prisoners Of Gravity, much more like a YouTube show than anything on television at that time, a pretty clever trick, Commander Rick, Rick Green, Enrico Gruen, pirate broadcasts, why aliens are in humanoid form, Daniel Richler, the opposite and appropriate angle, a zany talking head show, trying to change the world through Science Fiction, that’s Kim Stanley Robinson, hey that’s Larry Niven, Harlan Ellison, Isaac Asimov, Garth Ennis, Neil Gaiman, escaping the mundane reality of this show, Rick is the humans looking down on the Earth, the people who don’t understand the shape of their world properly, an elongated sphere, the conquistadors landing on the shore, first contact stories, juiced up in Astounding, what about the “prime directive”?, a 2000-year crash course in science, a pirate!, just to get to this probe, uplift, L. Sprague de Camp’s stories set on Krishna, how to overcome problems, pirates of the galaxy!, our worlds are too hot for them, this is the kind of book you’re reading, a creative commons license before there was such a thing, methane seas, Titan’s methane seas, Saturn, TV Tropes, the first novel set on a world outside the solar system that actually is a planet, exoplanets, first exoplanet discovered during WWII, an exercise in answering that question, rafts instead of one big keel, “worldbuilding”, a great novel with a crappy story, basic, heavy handed, damn man, hat’s off, afraid of things above your head, biology, why intelligence would develop, a minimal ecosystem, physics vignettes, so much against what people are reading science fiction for now, The Fifth Season, wouldn’t it be cool if, forcing it in the other way, showing all the implications, the rules, as early as possible, “I always feel cheated when…”, we get a false picture of Science Fiction because of Astounding, the conventions, the premiere magazing, Horace Gold’s Galaxy, the gold standard, game fiction, Sherlock Holmes fiction, you’re a bad writer if you cheat the reader, almost nobody plays this game, so sexist and racist, even when he does a fantasy novel it’s hard, The Fifth Season, a cost to using a magic system, I’m starting with this crazy premise, Barlenon vs. Dondragmir, not one girl in the book!, what about your sex lives?, a million sailors frozen at the bottom of the sea, at an extreme of hard SF, the window of science fiction, shifted in other ways, a New England Yankee trader, building trade routes, a relatable mindset, Lackland, amazingly human, Star Trek aliens, he made them Hal Clements, looking at the Larry Niven and Hal Clement affect, emotionally oblate, the outer edges, the peak of characterization: “I couldn’t quite nip it.”, quick-witted students, Cortez, the natives should have a lot of their own shit going on, wrapped up in their own problems, a smooth and peaceful first contact, in real life when first contact happens bad things usually happen, it depends on who is coming, the gravity of this mission, the cost, in Chapter 19, the character names, in the pre-negotiations, Tolkien does the same thing (but with language), a richer tapestry, that’s not what this is for, the sequel: Starlight, all the little touches, the Bree is steering itself, how glaciers work, lubrication, steering glaciers, friction, when friction is an important part of a book, Douglas Adams’ game vs. the rules of chess, a good analogy, PhDs, genius, fostering reading activity, comicon, the importance of having ideas at the forefront, racism, intelligence, first contact, Asimov, sitting around talking about his story with Isaac Asimov, “Pancake In The Sky” and “Gravy Planet”, a pleasant evening spent talking materials science, an acquired taste, the great game, prime directives, not all historical first contacts, first contact between the Americans and the Japanese (1792), angry sticks, pre-admiral Perry, genocide in Central and South America, overturning governments, a more modest foreign policy, the history of British Columbia, super-peaceful, residential schools, land theft, first contact need not be terrible, the rock rollers, the spear throwers, never pay tolls again, a benevolent scientific dictator, Star Trek as a medicine for American imperialism, sharing knowledge, Jerry Pournelle’s Empire Of Man series, a daisy chain of influence, Needle, a peaceful alien lifeform that can live inside a human body, Jinx (Larry Niven), World Of Pattavs, Neutron Star, a game of gravity, General Products Hull #1, Beowulf Shaeffer, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, spagettification, Inconstant Moon, a love story about the moon, the reflected light of a nova (or a massive solar flare), it’s only the apocalypse, I’ll lasso the moon for you, an Adam and Eve sort of thing, What Can You Say About Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers?, Man Of Steel, Woman Of Kleenex, Kryptonian refugees, Superdog
Posted by Jesse Willis
talked about on today’s show:
1965, 1966, Worlds Of Tomorrow, Project Plowshare, 1967, the original outline, greedy copyright reasons, Pyramid Books, an awful name, expecting less, anger, making fun of itself, if you don’t have a love in your heart for Science Fiction…, the subtitle:
“Being that Most Excellent Account of Travails and Contayning Many Pretie Hystories By Him Set Foorth in Comely Colours and Most Delightfully Discoursed Upon as Beautified and Well Furnished Divers Good and Commendable in the Gesiht of Men of That Most Lamentable Wepens Fasoun Designer Lars Powderdry and What Nearly Became of Him Due to Certain Most Dreadful Forces.”
Jack Vance, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative Of A. Gordon Pym Of Nantucket, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, a pretty good satire, the Cold War, time travel, slaver aliens from Sirius, more than one naked boob is illegal, the most analog for Dick is the cartoonist, a pretty terrible plot, the book is a “turkey”, making the novel work somehow, the book Dick would want to survive WWIII, a very Dickian perspective, an apology as to why scholars should ignore certain Dick comments, self-parody, confabulation, a drug trance half-dream state, Dick is an emotional sponge, emotionally engaging, disintegration of the mind, a person becomes so involved in an artificial world they get sucked into it, Don Packard, fake weapons, would-be fascist, Surly, F for fungus, very Swiftian, 18th and 19th century roman à cleff, Dick isn’t at his best when Dick is talking about people with real power, presidents and councils vs. drinking coffee at home and sitting on park benches, the Park Bench action aspect of Philip K. Dick novels, a book about politics, the subtitle helps the reader, the cogs and the pursaps (the cognoscenti and the “pure saps”), Dick’s take on George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty Four, collaboration with the enemy, a three-sided conflict, the inner party, the outer part, self-delusion, more traditional Dickian themes, a lot of acronyms, how to look at it, Was Philip K. Dick A Bad Writer? article
Febbs was that unhampered, unbureaucratically restricted, elected leader. Of their clandestine political revolutionary-type organization which (after long debate) had titled itself, menacingly, the BOCFDUTCRBASEBFIN, The Benefactors of Constitutional Freedoms Denied Under the Contemporary Rule By a Small Elite By Force If Necessary. Cell One.
the acronym explosion after WWII, BATF, NATO, MAD, you’re a cog if you know all of these acronyms, the reins of power, being man-in-the-mazed (verb), Lars Powderdry, Victor Klug, mind disintegration, a lot of etymology in this book
“Do you know what the English word ‘to care’ comes from?” he said, as he poured her coffee for her from the obedient gadget wired to the stove.
“No.” She seated herself at the table, looked gravely at the ashtray with its moribund remains of yesterday’s discarded cigars and winced.
“The Latin word caritas. Which means love or esteem.” ‘
“St. Jerome,” he said, “used it as a translation of the Greek world agape which means even more.”
Lilo drank her coffee, silently.
was Marissa aware of herself as a being in the 1980s?, when Gorbachev had meeting with Reagan…, the Evil Empire, Tear Down This Wall, they were get along pretty well on TV, they like coffee and golfing too, relations with Putin (except for Trump), that’s a strongman, Hitler admiring Mussolini, the Russian weapons haven’t been plowshared, childrens toys, advice givings owls, brazen heads, weapons were fashion in the 1960s, celebrating new developments in weapons technology, the first Iron Man movie, Tony Stark’s dad, Captain America: Civil War, Iron Man is a weapon to powerful to give to the military, War-Machine is tony stark with camouflage-on, the suit and I are one, where comics tie-into it, comics at the forefront, for every super-powered hero you create you need a super-powered villain, after the KKK who is left?, SPECTRE and SMERSH, the North Koreans, Julian Assange, without a villain it wont work, the Sirians, no screen time from the aliens from Sirius, one trick Dick missed, the old what-we-need-to-unite-the-world-is-an-alien-invasion ploy, Cuba!, the Iranians!, ISIS!, Russia is less of a worry (seemingly), NATO expansion, Ukraine, don’t forget to nuke Marissa in Los Angeles, gone are the friendly meetings and handshakes, when Snowden first appeared on the news, when Glenn Greenwald went on TV, the machine of outrage in Washington (D.C.), that’s not really what’s going on behind the scenes, the Surly F. Febbs, we need to get into these councils to join the ranks of those in the know, more tanks, more tank funding, Desert Storm, T-90s aren’t rolling up, the Battle of Kursk, the war economy turned into fashion, if you squint in the right way, the Hummer was plowshared, the real Hummer vs. the second generation, the H2 and the H3, or do all the other cars look like the, a giant owls that tells you about your life and holds your cigarettes, a bit of Penultimate Truth, Three Stigmata, inside-out, we have to create M.A.D., if you treat Russia disdainfully…, fake reality, put the population in danger, everything is good and light and nothing can hurt you, a real sense of reality, being less consumer oriented, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, turning people into rugs, the de-evolution gun, that’s another book, Colony by Philip K. Dick, humans from Earth, we’re going to ruin this place, beer cans and cigarette butts, shape-shifters, “I trusted the rug completely” by Robert Silverberg, I trust my bed not to strangle me, your boss’ phone is out to get you, The Twilight Zone (1985), stories can’t happen any more, Richard Matheson, so many Twilight Zones, the last chapter, am I going to kill myself?, Paul didn’t like chapter 32, conversations Philip K. Dick has with his wife, Iceland, his main girl was kind of awesome, super-smart and loving, falling in love with this teenager, the suicide ideation and discussion, you know there are advantages…, PKD books are almost all dialogue, talking about Bach, how would you rank The Zap Gun?, pretty high?, one of Marissa’s favourites, in the top half for Paul too, pot-boilers, The Man Who Japed, Clans Of The Alphane Moon, don’t you denigrate Martian Time-Slip!, big ones coming, Deus Irae is a muddled-mess (with redeeming features), more coherent, the narrator, don’t blame the narrator, this book doesn’t translate into audio that well, The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester, hitting x2, Dick doesn’t put in filler (generally), digression and set-up, beautiful and funny, reading-along, sooo funny, sticking with choices, con-comedy, keeping your powder-dry, be reasonable, have your weapons ready, “If you want peace, prepare for war”, slow paper reading for this one, not having the subtitle is mistake, lazy-ass fucks, what the hell are they thinking?, so stupid, it’s in there for a reason, nobody else wrote that for him, rent-seeking lazy ass fucks, the PKD estate just got offended, obfuscating what the book is doing, a cover that looks like nothing, the whole premise of this book, the lurid ACE Books, even more lurid, purple and yellow, super lurid, a dude pointing the zap gun at the next book over on the shelf, my people want to read a book like this, dis-owning every idea Dick had by deleting the meaning for the art, we hit the Jesse button, obfuscating the artists intent leads to consumer unhappiness, wub-fur, wub-like, wubs are from Venus, wubs are hiding in every PKD universe (even when they’re not in the text), getting sucked into the experience, how Philip K. Dick gets obsessed with games, The Game Players Of Titan, dinner’s ready!, the little man never able to escape, trying to be a big success, still running around that maze, a metaphor for Dick’s own career, his whole job is to make you empathize, trying to trap your mind, Dick is disintegrating our minds with his inconsistencies
Packard wound up: “S. G. Febbs fell victim to the Empathic-Telepathic whatever-it’s-called Maze and shortly succumbed-in fact in record time, beating the smallest period established by voluntary prisoners from the Wes-bloc federal pen on Callisto.
“S. G. Febbs,” he declared into the mike in conclusion, “is now at Wallingford Clinic, where he will remain indefinitely.”
after Dick committed his wife, who is Surly G. Febs based on?, why you need a key, Tuckerising, there are these books: Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, de-Tuikerized, Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, that’s Heinlein that’s Le Guin, what you lose over time with an old book, seeing the Trump-analog, before or after JFK or RFK, acreeted material, Murder At the ABA by Isaac Asimov, Darius Dust = dry as dust = Isaac Asimov, the analog for Harlan Ellison, really old paperbooks, notes by previous owners, a lot of readers seem to be insane, easy to do with a Dick novel, making those connections is hard, The Search For Philip K. Dick by Anne R. Dick.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
1951, the really annoying way Heinlein does things, Paul’s main Heinlein phase (in the late 1980s), when Paul was ten, Time Enough For Love, Expanded Universe, the basic parts of a Heinlein novel (in terms of characters), the Heinleinian triad, the young talented protagonist, the older wise crotchety man, and the red headed woman character, who The Man In The High Castle was, when Dick writes a novel…, when Heinlein writes a novel…, methamphetamine is 100% non-habit forming (?!), Jesse is uncomfortable with surety, Heinlein exudes surety from every pore of his body, orbital mechanics, what women want, Bruce Jenner’s gender switch, Heinlein’s politics, black people, women should be raised up in society, homophobia, Mary’s super-power is gaydar, homosexuality, asexuality, marriage, men and women are identical, “of course husband”, the alien is the husband, the structure, the final chapter, in case the mission to Titan fails, message in a bottle storytelling, first person perspective, surety undercuts it, has Dick ever written in first person?, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, The Hanging Stranger, identical paranoia, how much he hates the Soviets, Heinlein was rabidly anti-communist, in the commissar’s office, WorldCon, God help us all, he was right but…, imagine if this novel is a metaphor for communism, the Second Red Scare, Soviet and Chinese communism, WWWII, Manhattan crater and Washington crater, projecting brawn, getting tanks to North America, the evil of the puppet master aliens, orgies on TV is bad, also gladiatorial combat, they kill cats!, no effect on Soviet Russia, hygiene, scabies and lice, parasitism, cranked up to 13, Saddam Hussein, U.S. politics, if it were re-written today…, core fears, 24 was that, looking at the structure, avenging the cats and dogs, a master of the craft, Luke Burrage, that is good writing, so different from Philip K. Dick’s books, a straight line vs. how did I get here, all the sins that Time Enough For Love, naked people standing around in cushioned apartments talking about legal matters regarding the decanting of babies while a cat walks into the room, get passed the cat, Pirate the cat, casual nudity, Eric S. Rabkin, making it absolutely necessary that the society go nudist (and never go back), Hyperpilosity by L. Sprague de Camp, combs, even in Heinlein’s kids books, in their dome homes the heat is cranked up, was Heinlein a nudist?, Hollywood, downhill after The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, I Will Fear No Evil, an old white guy living in the body of a young black woman, the US Navy, hate and love for the military, this weird guy from Missouri writes his consciousness into his books, Job: A Comedy Of Justice, Friday, rape, when Heinlein talks about rape…, an artificial person, an inferiority complex, a fascinating society, the movie of The Puppet Masters, the fun stuff, the cat, the alien was kissing, being devoured by a woman, Eric Thal opens his mouth whenever possible, Sam, Mary, why does everyone hate this movie so much, Donald Sutherland, Keith David is always fun, unlike every X-Files this was competent, yeah look it’s a fake, the slugs are really smart, were they smart?, the sequence where Sam first gets a slug on his back is one of the best bits of Science Fiction, its almost as if he doesn’t know, more insidious and more scary, tying it all together, helicopter vs. skycar, Heinlein loves incest, they do juice you up, the addiction metaphor, had Dick developed it…, an Olympic athlete, what’s undercooked, who is in charge of their own minds, choices under some conditions but not under others, if we all had slugs on our backs…, getting married to Mary, love of a good woman ends addiction, black and white, Joe Cinidella is actually Italian until he becomes a Nazi, a flipped switch, turning on the waterworks, operating as a slug, Glory Road, set in fairlyand, Nebraska, all about the contract, an ambivalent relationship with marriage and law, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, alpha husbands and beta wives, primae noctis, you get into their psychology, really weird people, WWII and methamphetamines, go pills, tempus fugit, chasing the cat, is Heinlein challenging us?, Star Trek: Operation: Annihilate (aka Planet of the Pancakes), Maissa Bessada, resetting the show at the end of the episode, another point of Vulcan physiology, Kirk’s brother is named “Sam”, Mary is the vessel for world piece, Heinlein sued the makers of The Brain Eaters, Star Trek: The Next Generation, there’s no money until the Ferengi show up, Gene Roddenberry’s philosophy of the post scarcity economy, maybe women did act that way in the 1950s, a sequel in which Mary is saved from her marriage, 1980s tropes, sex scenes, Mission Impossible movies, developing out of taboos, the PG-13 effect, “they’re boffing, ok”, Alien, giant penis monster, Aliens, James Cameron’s problems with Harlan Ellison and The Terminator, The Outer Limits, The Brain Eaters, lifting things out of literary SF, Avatar is very good lifting, redoes the the first movie and the first, Luc Besson, The Professional, adding a baby doesn’t make things better, Ellen Ripley, the corporate military mission, Newt (from Aliens) is Mary (from The Puppet Masters), garbage bunk vs. good orbital mechanics, feral child, the structure is the same, spacesuit -> fighting suit, ejecting from the ship -> ejecting from the planet, a powerful story, Alien 3, Paul fulminates, the nine day fever (Venusian Jungle Fever), encephalitis, The Puppet Masters is a retelling of H.G. Wells’ The War Of The Worlds, here’s how I would do it, H.G. Wells was a cynical asshole, monstrous, liars, jerks, and racists, our CIA operatives know what they’re doing, the NSA, “you just killed a guy for no reason”, it isn’t uncaring wisdom that save humanity it’s man’s ingenuity, root em out and kill em all, it’s the end of Starship Troopers, the Elves of Titan, Independence Day aliens, Welcome to Earth scene, Have Space Suit, Will Travel, Willy Wonka-style, a space alien cop (the Mother Thing), “who lives like that?”, if Heinlein had had a kid, the serial was slightly rewritten by Horace Gold, the unexpurgated version, 1980s movie style, a hook-up with an anonymous blonde from a bar, the trope for James Bond, Virginia Heinlein, Stranger In A Strange Land, it is not better, weird names, Biblical names, Mary’s real name, Sam’s real name is Elihu, in the Book of Job, Elihu’s big speech
Elihu states that suffering may be decreed for the righteous as a protection against greater sin, for moral betterment and warning, and to elicit greater trust and dependence on a merciful, compassionate God in the midst of adversity.
putting us on the right path, x is so bad that we have to put all our trust in…., our precious bodily fluids, if Heinlein were alive today…, Ray Bradbury, the NSA, anarchism, Mary’s backstory, the Whitmanites, an explicit mention of the Doukhobors, Heinlein just likes nudity, Heinlein likes his women to older or a lot younger, physically young but actually older, a young secretary with an old man’s brain, The Cat Who Walked Through Walls, lots of surgeries or whatever, shrugging it off, a different experience than back in the day, you must read ancient authors, for another podcast, you don’t know SFF if you don’t read…, shame at not reading The War Of The Worlds, can you find Heinlein books at new bookstores?, Alfred Bester is great but he wrote two books, genre defining or pioneering, well-written idea SF, almost no science, a bit of politics, marriage, you don’t know SFF if you havent read a Heinlein novel, a long discussion for another time.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
When did Luke record The Man Who Japed?, a spate of Dicks, a good six months, generic knowledge, Dick’s writing is like Jack Kerouac’s, Now Wait For Last Year, Dick’s favorite The Man Who Japed, not Marissa’s favorite The Man Who Japed, post nuclear war, censorship and morality, the three-way war before Earth the Starmen and the Reegs, JJ-180, swimming through time, Eric Sweetscent, Alan Purcell, minor-Dick, it’s a big jape, the novels blend together, classic Dick, Allen’s ambivalence, it feels long for a short book, the corporate stuff, Dick’s women are never “flat” they are either “dumpy or perky”, girls and gals, full present or drugged up there’s always a wife, they love each other, loyal and sweet, home development, something pedantic and yet timely, something you’ve never seen, what’s happening in China at the time, living in a condo…, when I first moved into my conapt, a note under the door, “you have ruined my marriage”, using new found powers to search for nude women, you teach a man how to fish he has sex with that fish, council meetings, gossip, condominium apartments, how do people live together, overpopulation world, his bedroom turns into a kitchen, she’s putting her clothes in the oven, Billenium by J.G. Ballard, Make Room Make Room by Harry Harrison, Hokkaido is a radioactive wasteland, Newer York vs. New New York, drugs, how Dick writes the book, undercooked, free will, “it just happened”, a former NHL enforcer, the psychiatrist, memory, A Scanner Darkly, his propaganda job, the juveniles (the robots), “inDickitave”, a society running on fumes, extra-Solar colonies, you don’t want to stand all the way do you?, the big jape, how Dick’s vocab works, the title if it was written today “The Man Who Punked”, the alternate reality, Talking Heads’ Once In A Lifetime, the consequences here, the ending, the faces of the teenagers, as a narrator, what is Allen seeing in the faces of those teenagers?, Allen was always trying to protect people, immigration to Canada in 1988, how harsh the immigration officials were, skimming off the cream, oh you’re an audiobook narrator… ok, a couple Brit narrators are up in the seed vault in Svalbard, The Prisoner episode “A Change Of Mind”, unmutual, conforming drugs, writhing, adultery can get you kicked out of your lease, Mao as Major Streiter, The Three Body Problem, The Red Violin, juveniles -> Juvenal (the Roman satirist), teenagers as opposed to juveniles, the Cultural Revolution was pushed by kids, everything pulling toward the center, The Americans, the world “soviet” means committee, the cohorts (are kids), how Nazi Germany worked, Nazi youth in The Netherlands, kids acting like little-SS, witch hunts, more American than Dick admits, V, a very soft version, no-death camps, slave labour, nobody watches TV in the colony worlds, the spire and the statue of Major Streiter, Colonel Gaddafi character, General Washington and the Washington Monument, can you imagine state TV making fun of Ronald Regan, humour vs. the dictatorship, every authoritarian government, Mr. Whales is rewarded with another apartment, oomphalos, the center, the more morec you are, anti-morec, in anticipation of the big jape…, Dick japes the reader, active assimilation, the cultural revolution, like evil-BBC, the poll, this is the emperor’s new clothes, Jonathan Swift, it’s something Ronald Regan would do!, if it was good enough for the founding fathers…, if John Adams and the founding fathers were all cannibals, it was a different time, he was really good to his slaves (food), turning it into a joke, society is obsessed with propriety, is this the start of the fall of this society, dystopia, optimistic ending, when the cohorts arrived their reaction was to laugh, “Repent Harlequin!” Said The Tick-Tock Man by Harlan Ellison, like Metropolis, infected with laughter, this happens all the time in SF, science fiction like satire, Dick was going on and on about not being a Marxist, timelessness, a crapsack world, a tiller, The Space Merchants, that’s Madison Avenue taking over society, food isn’t really food anymore, the food is always in quotation marks, simulated “baked Alaskan”, we have all the things he was writing about, an artificial meat, tofu has long been with us, simulant meat, Secret Army, ‘Allo ‘Allo!, this isn’t real coffee, WWII is the really big start of all artificial foods, chicory coffee, after WWII Korea and Japan get Spam, Spam restaurants, Minnesota is the home of Spam, it reminds you of your youth, coming to love the crappy stuff that you have, we come to love the crappy worlds Dick creates, the radioactive island, Hokkaido is full of ideas, where’s the government?, society is just kind of null, not total totalitarianism (bottom up), there isn’t a death in the book, a surprisingly soft dystopia, busy-bodied woman, anything over 20mph is terrifying, milquetoast, The Coming Of The Quantum Cats by Frederik Pohl, a pro-Muslim Christian American theocracy, a prim 38mph, the Harvard Law review (on the Black Market), I The Jury by Mickey Spillane, “I Shot Her In The Uterus”, The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson, Guy de Maupassant, “breasts like two cones of white marble”, James Joyce, $10,000 for Ulysses, the sickness, The Grifters, Donald Westlake, how to advance your career in business by killing people, the mental health planet, an alternate world that’s not real, “but I only have $50!”, the missing 15,000 words, getting stuck in debt is a kind of dystopia, Mavis, taking care of cows, clean activities, soul sucking grinding horrible, the interrogation that happens there…, full of resentment, anonymous accusers, an open marriage, a c-class Dick novel, needs a little more spiced, not fully poached,
It is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant
of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself…
Pathic men that pretend to be moral exemplars are much worse than those who are open about their proclivities.
he’s talking about Republicans, the “wide stance”, puritanism, strider -> Streiter, making choices, that’s what this book is about, just wing it, self-assured hubris, “he’s an idea, not a man”.
Posted by Jesse Willis
I think The Terminator may be the best Science Fiction film ever made. And I think that no one person, credited or uncredited, can take all the credit for it.
In the video below, edited from an episode of Prisoners Of Gravity, Harlan Ellison explains how he got his screen credit in The Terminator:
Soldier is the first episode of Season 2 of The Outer Limits (the original series). It’s plot features a futuristic time traveling soldier who, after a thunder crack, appears in a then modern urban alley. The soldier is nearly indestructible, and is incredibly strong. Later, he breaks into a gun shop. In the ultimate scene he confronts his (also) futuristic enemy and they are both destroyed. Those are the basic plot commonalities between Soldier and The Terminator. There are many, many differences. Visually though, there are some striking similarities. These are nicely documented here and here.
That all said, Soldier‘s story plays out very differently from The Terminator, you can see a lot more connections, if you squint really hard.
For example, the solider is scarred like Kyle Reese and is sometimes unintelligible like Schwarzenegger’s T-800 – but ultimately the two, the TV episode and the feature film, are radically different in both scale and scope.
Interestingly, Demon With A Glass Hand the fifth episode of the second season of the original The Outer Limits television series, also written by Ellison, has similarities to both The Terminator and another film.
Like Soldier and The Terminator, Demon With A Glass Hand features a protagonist sent from the future into the past. But in this case, unlike in the title character in Soldier, the time travel was done quite deliberately – and done by humans in order to save mankind – more like The Terminator right?
Also similar, our hero in Demon With A Glass Hand, is nearly indestructible, can survive being shot over and over, feels no need to sleep, is being hunted by enemies also sent from the future, and he is programmed! Those are the basic plot commonalities between Soldier and The Terminator. More on that other movie a little later.
In the Starlog article (December 1984) there is no mention of The Outer Limits or Ellison. But, in it James Cameron does say: “I read all the classics, all the old Ace paperback novels.”
I do not expect that Cameron read all of the following stories. In fact I don’t think it is even necessary to know, and it isn’t crucial to my argument. Indeed, only one of the following stories was actually published in an “old Ace paperback”, (Second Variety was published in The Variable Man and Other Stories, Ace D-261).
My argument is that the story ideas and story points, even more than visuals, from the The Terminator, came very much out of 1950s science fiction.
Now before we get to the meat of my argument I’ll do a little sidestep towards another film, just to make it all the more confusing… its actually laying the groundwork for something, trust me.
Look at these images:
As you can see Demon With A Glass Hand shares something in common with Blade Runner, as much Id say as Soldier does with The Terminator.
The baddies in Demon With A Glass Hand, seen above, have racoon style eye makeup, like Blade Runner‘s Pris. Our hero in Demon With A Glass Hand, as it turns out, is an android that didn’t know he was one, just like in Blade Runner (and Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?). Blade Runner was also shot in the same stylish office building in Los Angeles (the Bradbury Building*). And, the final fight of both stories ends in the same way, out the window and onto the roof of the Bradbury!
The “cybernetic organism” of The Terminator is in essence an android, a robot that looks like a human being, specifically a male human being if you want to get all technical.
Now even more than Ellison, who does have an android in Trent, the hero of Demon In A Glass Hand it is Philip K. Dick who is best known for his androids. Though robots that look like, think they are, or can pass for human aren’t unique or original to Dick, they are something he kind of specialized in. Stories like Imposter and The Electric Ant have androids and of course there is Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?.
Now practically everyone knows that Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? was adapted into a 1982 film called Blade Runner.
But do these folks know that the title of the Blade Runner was licensed from a book by a different author and entirely unrelated to Dick’s?
Ridley Scott acquired the rights to the title of a script based on an unrelated 1974 Science Fiction novel entitled The Bladerunner.
Why did he do this?
He didn’t have to, nobody has the legal right to claim exclusivity on book and movie titles – but as a matter of smart practice, when millions and millions of dollars are at stake, they often do such crazy things.
Now back to Philip K. Dick. He could, had he been alive in 1984, argued that his stories could have inspired The Terminator or even Demon With A Glass Hand!
Ellisons 1958 script for Demon With A Glass Hand has a “time mirror” – a device related to time travel – and so does a Philip K. Dick story.
For example, Dick uses what he calls a “time scoop” and a “time mirror” in a story called Paycheck (Imagination, June 1953). A time “Dip” turns up in a story named Meddler and in his novel Dr. Futurity (itself an expansion of a novella, Time Pawn) has a time “dredge.”
Here’s a snippet from Paycheck:
“It’s developed a time scoop.”
“A time scoop. It’s been theoretically possible for several years. But it’s illegal to experiment with time scoops and mirrors. It’s a felony, and if you’re caught, all your equipment and data becomes the property of the Government.” Jennings smiled crookedly. “No wonder the Government’s interested. If they can catch Rethrick with the goods –”
“A time scoop. It’s hard to believe.”
But Dick didn’t invent the idea either, a story from Amazing Stories, December 1942, has the same tech, its actually in the title!
Another story that could have inspired The Terminator is The Skull. This 1952 story was published in If: Worlds Of Science Fiction. In it the protagonist is sent back in time in order to kill a man who can’t be allowed to live. He doesn’t know the man’s identity, but the clue lies within his own head, kind of like The Terminator.
Now to get out of time travel, let me ask you, where is Skynet, the evil A.I. in either of those Ellison stories? They are absent. But, he has evil computers, ones that want to destroy humanity even, for example there’s AM, the evil A.I. from I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream. But that story is from 1967, and is not Skynet, exactly…
Well, let me tell you about The Great C, first published in Cosmos Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine, September 1953. This story is set in a Fallout-style post apocalyptic wasteland. Straight away we learn that a band of humans have survived underground after a global nuclear war. The plot consists of following:
One of their number as he sets off with three questions to visit what the reader infers to be a great oracle. The oracle is the titular “Great C” with “C” being short for “Computer”. But unlike the Colossus supercomputer (from Colossus: The Forbin Project) that merely threatens nuclear war, this supercomputer pulled a full-Skynet and actually used the offensive nuclear capability on it’s creators, man.
Now Second Variety, first appeared in Space Science Fiction, May 1953. And it was later adapted to film as Screamers. It is set in a post-WWIII world where killer robots, known as “Claws”, are developing newer and newer models of killer robot for human infiltration.
Check out these two illustrations from the story:
So, why did Cameron’s The Terminator have to give credit to Harlan Ellison if Scott didn’t have to give it to Blade Runner?
I suspect it all happened pretty much as Ellison said it did. That in the unpublished interview notes for that Starlog interview Cameron actually said that he “ripped-off a couple of Outer Limits segments” and perhaps even “a couple of Harlan Ellison stories.”
But it doesn’t matter to me. Credits or dollars, the only thing I really care at all about the story, and I think that The Terminator builds on great SF stories by the likes of Philip K. Dick and Harlan Ellison and Isaac Asimov and H.G. Wells, and some Outer Limits TV episodes, and maybe some other movies too.
Humans do this and it is a good thing. I’m glad so many humans had a hand in making it.
By listening to stories, and by retelling them we continue the process of story refinement. The Terminator wasn’t a “rip-off” it was a tribute, it stands alone, and it stands tall and proud next to the great SF stories that came before it, in 1950s TV, 1950s books and 1950s magazines and probably to the decades before it too.
As for the James Cameron Harlan Ellison dispute, well, Cameron may have had a “huge ego”, as Harlan Ellison put it, or maybe he didn’t – who knows – Ellison had “never met the man” – it may just have been a self-deprecating statement. We can all use a little of that, and a lot more Philip K. Dick.
Posted by Jesse Willis
*The “Bradbury” in the Bradbury Building is no relation to Ray Bradbury … or is it?