Science Fiction (SF) is a genre often used to explore how scientists and science are a source of evil, potentially leading to the demise of civilization. Works such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus (1818) have well established the trope of the mad scientist who focuses on unnatural or evil experiments. Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s … Continue reading “Cat’s Cradle: The Sin of Scientists and Systems” by Ben Berman Ghan
Walking into Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Eric Heisserer, I only knew a little about the movie. I knew that it was based on the short story “Story of Your Life” by author Ted Chiang which I have not read (it’s on the shelf). I knew that it was starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. I was pleasantly surprised to see Forest Whitaker around the ten minute mark. I knew this was going to be a movie about first contact with aliens. And yet as the movie began, I couldn’t help but feel I’d seen this all before. I mean that as the highest of praise, incidentally.
Twelve alien space ships land on Earth. Nobody knows why. Professor of linguistics “Louise Banks” (Amy Adams) is recruited by the US government and sent to the alien arrival sight in Montana, where she is partnered with “Ian…
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It's hard to say where the expression Ink-Stained-Wretch originates. Though I have found almost no reliable sources, at least one researcher told me in passing that the phrase comes from Canadian novelist Hugh Garner. Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Deadeye Dick attributes it to Alexander Woollcott, but this is probably wrong as well. To great alarm, I … Continue reading The Ink-Stained-Wretch
Hello writers and readers. As this is written, it is the end of November. While most people know November as that month where basically nothing happens, other than American Thanksgiving, some of you know it as Nanowrimo! (For those not in the know, that’s National Novel Writing Month) This is the month where all around … Continue reading Nanowrimo, or how I learned to stop word-counting and love the bomb
“Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time.”
These are the words that begin Kurt Vonnegut’s great 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five, also known as The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death. This is not Vonnegut’s only work of science fiction; indeed, it is not even his only good one. But of all his novels, Slaughterhouse-Five has perhaps best stood the test of time.
This is a book about a man named Billy Pilgrim, a soldier in World War II, who is time-traveling up and down his own personal timeline, from his childhood to his old age and his time as an optometrist; from being a soldier in the Second World War to his kidnapping by aliens. But even with all this mayhem of time travel and aliens, Slaughterhouse-Five never loses sight of what it is truly about: the firebombing of the city of Dresden in WWII.
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“I rejoice in accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who’ve been excluded from literature for so long—my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction, writers of the imagination, who for fifty years have watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.”
Ursula K. Le Guin
These were a few of the words spoken by long-time science fiction and fantasy writer Ursula K. Le Guin upon accepting the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
It was a throwaway opening to an acceptance speech that was ultimately about the battle of art and literature against consumerism and capitalism. It was an admirable, moving speech. But what truly struck me was this opening line.
I saw it as a rallying cry, a summons to battle against those who would deny the importance of science fiction as literature. Because the sad truth is, those people…
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