Orange County Science Fiction Club Orange County Science Fiction Club

Past Meetings

---- 2009 ----

November 25, 2009

  • Guest/program: Author John DeChancie

  • John DeChancie is a author of comic fantasy and Science Fiction with more than 24 books published including the Castle and Skyway series.

    This month's book is "The Separation"
    by Christopher Priest

    The story is an alternative history novel of W.W.II. The actions of twin brothers, one a bomber pilot, the other a pacifist in two different realities lead to two different outcomes of W.W.II, one in which we defeat Germany and the other in which leads to a truce between Britain and Germany in 1941.

    The basic consensus of the group was that it was much ado about very little. The author goes on in great detail and length about the alternative histories and alternate lives of the main characters. He also muddies the waters by apparently introducing other lines of events that fit into neither time line and ending the book with the protagonist waking up so that one of the histories is all a dream. If the point of these goings on is to examine the morality of warfare by looking at the different possibilities of history, then whatever points were made were done with great obscurity and at great length.

    We also felt that some of the character's motivations were hard to swallow.

    Wikipedia Summary

October 28, 2009

  • Guest/program: Elvira's TV Pilot Video

    This was a cult delight, a sit-com with Elvira and Kathrine Hellman about witches of course with a talking cat (as seen on Sabrina) and a close call with suspicious police.

    This month's book is "Three Days to Never" 420 pages Pub. 2006
    by Tim Powers

    Frank Marrity and his young daughter, Daphne, visit the home of Frank's deceased grandmother, unaware that she had been the secret daughter of Albert Einstein and they are being monitored by the Mossad and an occult European cabal.

    Tim Powers collects a melange of ideas, in this case remote viewing, Albert Einstein's daughter, and Charlie Chaplin's unreleased film to name a few, and from their connections and coincidences, he weaves a Metaphysical thriller.

    The group, generally, enjoyed the book; although, some found the multiply threads too convoluted for their taste. (The book did have a long set up.) The group, overall though, would recommend the book as a good, well paced read. However, this is not a light "beach thriller" as it has too much esoteric convolution for that. It's a book that could well be reread to catch and explore its finer detail.

    For those of you who want to do that, Ralph put considerable effort into researching the many esoteric organizations and key historical moments mentioned in the novel, and he produced a large packet of the info, which fleshes out some of the points Power's used. (Thanks for that.)

    Wikipedia Summary
    Availability: local libraries, very cheap amazon

September 30, 2009

  • Guest/program: Author Laurel Anne Hill

    Laurel Anne Hill is a Bay Area writer who grew up in San Francisco. Her book Heroes Arise (Oct.2007) caused one reviewer to say, "There's definitely a highly unusual talent at work here with regards to the world-building and the unusual ecology and biology elements." and "...this is good; the unusual biology elements, for example, can be pretty fascinating."

    Heroes Arise received a ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award for 2007 (bronze award, science fiction category) and was a finalist in the young adult category.

    Her shorter fiction and creative non-fiction has appeared a number of publications. and she has received numerous writing awards.

    This month's book is "The Road" (241 pages) Pub. 2006
    by Cormac McCarthy

    America is a barren landscape of smoldering ashes, devoid of life except for those people still struggling to scratch out some type of existence. Amidst the destruction, a father and his young son walk, always toward the coast, but with no real understanding that circumstances will improve once they arrive. Still they persevere.

    Opinions on "The Road" (soon to be released as a major movie) ranged from feeling it was brilliant to not liking it.

    The story is of the relationship between a man and his son struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, a grim, tense tale that is universally downbeat except for its redemptive ending.

    Your reaction to this work will depend on what aspects of a story appeal to you. If you like the poetic prose drawing a picture of the relationship of a man and his son with great finesse, then you will like this book. If you are put off by such things as nonstandard punctuation, improbable factual elements such the complete lack of life, except for humans, and the story not addressing the bigger picture of how mankind was going to survive and rebuild from the apocalypse then you will not find this story very satisfying.

    I, personally, was ambivalent about it. I was moved by the story's ending but found the first half of the book dreary. My take on it is that this work would have been better done as a novelette. The plot is simple, the sort of thing usually done as a short story or novelette, and less of the elements not central to the story would have made the point of the story clearer.

    Whatever the books failings though, it did have the thematic depth to give us plenty of material for a good discussion.

    Wikipedia Summary Possibly more than you want to know before reading.

    Availability: Local libraries including audio, Cheap amazon

August 26, 2009

  • Guest/program: Author Steven Barnes

    Steven Barnes is a well know Science Fiction author with more than twenty novels published. The quality of his writing is a reason he has collaborated with Larry Niven on eight novels including one, The Legacy of Heorot, which was also with Jerry Pournelle who is likely the only author who has collaborated with Niven more. Steven is also the author of screen plays for episodes of Outer Limits, Twilight Zone, and Bay Watch. He has published a number of short stores and non-fiction books and articles.

    He is also the creator of a writing course named Lifewriting which is part of his contribution to Human Potential technology called The Five Minute Miracle

    Steven is also well known in the martial arts achieving high ranking in each of a broad range of disciplines.

    Steven was an excellent, entertaining, guest sharing many interesting things with us. He told why he moved north for his family and then how he has had a difficult time returning to the LA area after being away. Being out of the area made it difficult to pursue his writing career with his major market being down here.

    But, he's back now and is developing projects with his wife Tananarive Due who will share with Steven the honor of being Writer Guest of Honor at this year's LOSCON.

    This month's book was "Charisma" 464 pages
    by Steven_Barnes

    Charisma: In an attempt to empower low-income youth, more than a thousand children are raised to become miniature copies of popular rags-to-riches politician Alexander Marcus, but they end up acquiring his bloodthirsty depravities as well as the brilliance and cunning he used to hide them.

    We picked this book for two reasons: i) to coincide with Steven being a guest speaker at our club, and ii) Steven has co-written a lot of books and written books with deliberately mainstream content to improve the prospect of his sales, but we wanted something that was closer to his heart, a book that spoke about what he considered was important.

    Unfortunately, we found the novel disappointing. The book was a barely disguised thriller; the elements of science fiction were marginal. It never examined in any depth the book's idea that you could inculcate disadvantaged children so they would develop the habits of those who successfully raised themselves up.

    Instead, it functioned mainly as a thriller, but lacked the pacing for one, taking 400 pages to do what could have been done in 200. Aside from the lack of density to the writing, we also found the plot forced and arbitrary at points and the motivation of the characters suffered from a similar deficiency, making some of them unbelievable.

    The author did manage to draw me in by capturing a sense of childhood adventure though.

    This is a book that tried to be three things: a Science Fiction tale, a thriller, and a children's adventure story. It didn't fully succeed at being any of them.

    Cheap at Amazon. May have trouble finding it in libraries.

July 29, 2009

  • Guest/program: Sheila Finch, author.

    Sheila has published eight science fiction novels, more than thirty short stories, and a number of articles about science fiction and writing.

    Her novel, Infinity's Web, received the Compton Crook award and her YA book, Tiger in the Sky, won the 1999 San Diego Book award for best juvenile fiction.

    In 1998, she won the coveted Nebula Award for her novella, Reading The Bones.

    Her years of experience teaching creative writing at El Camino College have spread her influence through new writers as did her stint at Clarion West in 2006.

    This was her second time as our guest and those who saw her last time were very happy to have her back. While those seeing her for the first time found her the warm and thoughful author we remembered. Sheila shared with us her exciting moment watching the latest Star Trek movie when Uhuru said she was a Xenolinquist. Look it up in Wikipedia CLICK HERE and see that Sheila was the first in SF to use the word in the May 1988, AMAZING STORIES, in
    "Berlitz in Space: How Alien Communication Just Might Work," That led to a discussion about the problems of communication with alien species which revealed how much research and thought Sheila has invested in developing the ideas in her series about the Xenolinguists' Guild.

    She spent some time talking about how other authors had helped her early in and throughout her career, especially Greg Benford and Ursula K. LeGuin. She credited Benford with taking the time to show her what a real physics lab is like and how the working physicist is not found in the cliche white lab coat. Sheila tries hard to get it right and once got it done so well that a theoretical physicist talked a some length with Sheila about "her" interesting theories. Now THAT is creating durable verisimilitude.

    This month's book is "Lord of Light" 300 pages
    by Roger Zelazny

    Lord of Light, his third novel, is his finest book: a science fantasy in which the intricate, colorful mechanisms of Hindu religion, capricious gods, and repeated reincarnations are wittily underpinned by technology. On a colony planet, a band of men has gained control of technology, made themselves immortal, and now rules their world as the gods of the Hindu pantheon. Only one dares oppose them: he who was once Siddhartha and is now Mahasamatman Binder of Demons. Lord of Light.

    This month's book "Lord of Light" by Roger Zelazny was not appreciated by most of the group. Set in the very distant future, it is the tale of set of human colonists on a planet who have used the technology available to them to assume godlike powers and rule over the rest of mankind. "Only one dares oppose them: he who was once Siddhartha and is now Mahasamatman. Binder of Demons. Lord of Light." Zelazny wrote a series of stories converting various mythologies into speculative fantasies. In this case, he uses Budda's opposition to the Hindu pantheon of gods.

    To carry the story's mythological style, Zelazny uses the parable form and drops us in the story without introduction, making the story difficult to penetrate. The story also jumps around in time and unloads a pantheon of characters along with a protagonist that is called by half a dozen different names. This the group found off-putting. Considerable advanced technology in introduced in the course of the story, and by not following up on its implications, the author again disappoints the reading further obscuring the point of the story, which is the study of human nature and the corruption of power.

    While the above points are valid, I did enjoy the story. I like parables and myths. The sly humor caught my fancy. And I found the setting interesting. It reminded me of Phillip Hose Farmer's Riverworld series. I also felt that the story's deep thematic underpinnings derived from Zelazny's Form and Chaos theory, in which the conflict between the constructive tendencies in man and the universe vs. the destructive tendencies of chaos and entropy drive change, helped hold the story together and gave it a depth that a simple story of a battle between the gods would not have.

June 24, 2009

  • Guest/program: Chris Butler, artist, lecturer, media producer

    Chris Butler is a first class space artist who shares our interests in space and space travel creating many works of astronomical art. He has made significant contributions to the renovation of the Griffith Observatory and space museum. His entertaining lectures have been an attraction of the Orange County Astronomers' monthly meetings where he frequently does the "What's Up" presentation as an entertaining stellar humorous educational experience. This talent led to the selection of Chris as lecturer and planetarium presenter on voyages of the Queen Mary II.

    Dr. Krupp Director of the Griffith Observatory says of Chris:

    "Chris Butler's speaking performances combine rich personal knowledge of whatever subject has engaged his attention with showmanship and professionalism that satisfies crowds with substance and style. He leverages his information with humor, and his personality on stage persuades his audiences they can't afford to miss what he has to say."

    This month he presented his animated video lecture called "Our Little Corner of the Gallaxy" and blew us away (about 30 light years).

    This month's book is "We" 225 pages.
    by Yevgeny Zamayatin

    This novel, first published in 1922, is a dystopian classic that left its mark on the twentieth century from films like Terry Giliam's "Brazil" to books such as George Orwell's "1984" Audous Huxley's "Brave New World" Kurt Vonegurt's "Player Piano" and even Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow."

    In a glass-enclosed city of absolute straight lines, ruled over by the all-powerful 'Benefactor,' the citizens of the totalitarian society of OneState live out lives devoid of passion and creativity.

    The story is the confessional diary of one D-503, a mathematician who dreams in numbers, chief engineer if The Integral a vast space ship designed to bring the "blessings" of the Onestate to other planets. He is seduced by a mysterious woman, I-330 who brings him into a plot to hijack The Integral. The plot fails and D-503 volunteers to return to normal by having his imagination excised.

    Why have I given the plot away? Well, you don't read this book for the plot. In fact this is not really a book to read but a book to study. I would recommend reading as much commentary and explanation of this book before you tackle it. To quote Bruce Sterling: "Written with radical invention, deliberate verbal obscurity and cunning political intent, 'We' is a rather hard book to read or translate." Zamayatin's attempt to produce a style in keeping with how a citizen of the Onestate would write produces something one would expect from a neurotic 16 year-old who suffers from attention deficit disorder.

    Once you get past the stylistic barriers though, this book can be rewarding to those interested in studying the field of Science Fiction as a literature. Zamayatin's satire of the authoritarian and mechanistic tendencies of the early Russian revolution holds a unique place in the pantheon of SF. It is the original authoritarian, technological dystopia and connects H. G. Wells (whom Zamayatin read) with George Orwell and other later writers of dystopias.

    Cheap at Amazon; may be difficult to get elsewhere.
May 27, 2009

  • Guest/program: Poets from the Science Fiction Poetry Association

    Deborah P Kolodji, President of SFPA, and Samantha Henderson, Treasurer, were our guest speakers. They told us about the SFPA and did some readings of representative poems published in the SFPA's major publication, The Annual Rhysling Anthology of poetry. They read some of their own poems and some others of note. By my request they read the Rhysling Award winning poem "Hubble" by Jonathan Vos Post.

    They shared their passions for creating the poetry of Science Fiction by inviting club members to participate in an Iron Poet slam. They gave us three prompts to use in and inspire as well as constrain a fifteen minute poetry writing event. After the time was up, almost everyone had tried this and completed a poem. Each of us read our poem and most were good on one or more parameters.

    That Deborah and Samantha were successful evangelists for the art of SF poetry was shown when at least two OCSFC members signed up with the SFPA.

    Visit SFPA's web site and get your own copy of the a href="">Rhysling Anthology of SF poetry.

    The Rhysling Awards are given annually by SFPA for excellence in SF Poetry.

    This month we read a collection of classic short stories

    • The Longest Voyage (1960) Poul Anderson
    • Gonna Roll the Bones (1967) Fritz Leiber
    • Time Considered as a Helix of Semiprecious Stones (1968) Samuel R. Delany
    • Surface Tension (1952) James Blish
    • Fondly Fahrenheit (1954) Alfred Bester
    • The Cold Equations (1954) Tom Gordon

    Report of the Reading Orbits discussions in the rough order of their popularity.

    • The most popular story of the collection was The Cold Equations by Tom Gordon. Although the story is written in a pedestrian style, it still retains its power and relevance some 55 years after it was written. A quick precis of the story is a young lady stows away on a small ship containing vital supplies. The fuel reserve is so narrow that the only way to get the supplies to their destination is to eject the excess mass out the airlock. The story concerns the young lady's coming to terms with the realization that some mistakes cannot be made right. The story was ground breaking in that it challenged the "and with a mighty leap" the hero produced a happy ending mythos that was standard for the day. As a shot across the bow of stupidity, it also makes a timely comment on Hollywood's current mode of adventure telling, which the hero/heroine does a succession of reckless and impulsive things and miraculously survives.

    • The second most popular story was James Blish's, Surface Tension.

      A colonizing ship crashes on an unsuitable planet of limited land, and the crew decides that the only way for their descendants to survive is to genetically engineer them down to microscopic size so they will fit in the puddles around the crash site.

    • This story is best read as a fantasy as the science -- especially in today's light -- is ludicrous. If you treat the story as a fantasy, then the result is a tale that catches your imagination with its unique setting and classic adventure elements, such as that of the young hero finding a new world, rescuing a damsel in distress, and cowboys and rotifers.

    • The Longest Voyage, by Poul Anderson A bit of a mixed review on this one. The high quality of the writing carried the story. Most liked it because of that, but the setting and circumstance have shown their age and now feel fairly pedestrian and clitched to the extent that for some of the group the story no longer rung true.

    • Gonna Roll the Bones, by Fritz Leiber

      As a man play's dice with the devil story, this tale has nice atmospherics, but the point of the exercise eluded us.

    • Fondly Fahrenheit, by Alfred Bester

      This story is considered a technical tour-de-force of writing, but when you take that away the underlying story is rather lame. It also disappoints the reader by playing a game of bait a switch. We are lead to believe this is the a story of a man who has a murderous robot that is too valuable to give up. When the robots kills, he flees to a new location rather than loose the robot. The robot realizing how much his master values him starts blackmailing him -- but that's not what the story is about. So, you will end up at least subliminally disappointed.

    • Time Considered as a Helix of Semiprecious Stones, by Samuel R. Delany

      If this story had a point, none of the group could divine it. After doing some research on the web, I concluded that story recapitulated themes Delany had dealt with in his other stories, which is fine, but I still have no idea what it was about. Maybe it was a metaphor for the rising of the African-American middle class in the '60's but your guess is as good as mine. It may just be about the first guy to open an ice cream parlor on Triton.

    These stories are available in numerous collections but not all the same one.

    Ralph has a list of the collections they appear in. I suggest you look through your various best of collects to see if they are there.

2009 Eaton Conference UCR April 30 - May 3

  • See pictures and short story contest winners on web site.

    The winning stories are available for reading for a limited time,

    The 2010 conference has been cancelled due to funding shortage. Back in 2011 hopefully.

April 29, 2009  NEW LOCATION

  • Guest/program: Open meeting

    Several topics were discussed,

    Janet spoke about a book she has been reading with geo-political rational for certain predictions about the future decades. This spawned further discussion as diverse as comments on the Chinese discovery of the new world decades before Columbus.

    There was a unanimous vote to engage Chris Butler to show his "Our Little Corner of the Galaxy" video in June.

    The bad news about Paul Williams serious illness and dire need for aid was brought to the attention of the membership.

    Website with news and where donations can be made:

    There was some discussion of NASA and problems & cutbacks the ARES program.

    A picture of a new page for the web-site renovation was circulated.

    The upcoming Eaton Conference was mentioned as a reminder

    This month's book is "Light"
    by M. John Harrison

    This is space opera for the intelligentsia, as Harrison tweaks aspects of astrophysics, fantasy and humanism to hum right along with the blinking holograms.

    "Light," is the story of three characters: one is a serial killer who suffers from ennui, while working at his day job which is the discovery of a quantum, fractal way of breaching time and space, the other two exist in the far future where mankind has used this technology to spread through a space that is dominated by the disused technology of ancient civilizations.

    This was not one of our more inspired selections. One of our readers did, however, think it was mildly interesting. The rest of us thought is was a self-indulgent "wank".

    I will agree with the glowing testimonials on the back cover of the book in that the man can write. He strings together excellent prose to produce beautiful, flowing paragraphs -- too many colons for my taste -- paragraphs describing all sorts of things and highly imaginative places. Unfortunately, he can't string together an interesting story. His characters are unsympathetic, narcissists suffering from ennui who drift through the story to a pointless ending. Concepts are introduced but not developed, and many spectacular places and ideas are thrown up in the air, serving as scenery but nothing more.

    If, however, you like beautiful, literate paragraphs (with lots of colons) describing the dissolute and angst-ridden, who drift around the place killing people and wondering about the meaning of life, then this is the book for you.

    The blurb on the cover says it all: beyond science, beyond reason.

    Dave Moore for the Reading Orbit reader's group.

    Availability: There are masses of them for a $1.00 at ABE
    (shipping will run about $3.00 for a pb).

    It's also available very cheaply from Amazon.

March 25, 2009  NEW LOCATION

  • Guest/program: Mind Meld Video

    William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy discuss the impact of the original Star Trek on their lives in
    "Mind Meld - Secrets Behind the Voyage of a Lifetime"
    This video was very interesting (fly on the wall views) with Shatner and Nimoy sharing some revealing recollections of the original Star Trek series. They seemed to have been closer than I imagined. Near the end they went into Nimoy's house and looked at some of his memorabilia from the show.

    This month's book was Clans of the Alphane Moon
    by Phillip K. Dick, 250 pages.

    On a small habitable moon, the abandon inmates of an insane asylum have formed a society, which has become a bizarre parody of our own. Now Earth and the alien Alpannes vie for the places resources. In this novel, Dick poses the question of where sanity ends and madness begins (something he was well qualified to do).

    Reader's Orbit report:

    Reaction was split on this month's book: "Clans of the Alphane Moon" by Philip K. Dick. Half the group enjoyed it. The other half didn't.

    The plotting of the novel was unusually strong for Dick. The story even had a coherent wrap-up and ending in contrast to most of Dick's works, which usually get an "and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after" wrap-up chapter tacked onto the end of them when the word count reaches his contractual obligation.

    Unfortunately, the story contained an unworked out mix of ideas and felt very much like a rough first draft. Dick dabbled lightly with the idea of what sort of society you would get if you allowed the various types of clinically insane people to form their own societies. Onto this he added some surreal elements like the giant telepathic Ganymedian Slime Mold, which are reminiscent of Kurt Voneget's "Sirens of Titan." Onto all this, he included a lot of plotting that worked out the frustrations of his bitter divorce that he was going through at the time (probably something we could have done without).

    I would say that this is one of his more readable novels -- if you can get past the boggy middle chapters -- enjoyable to those who like schlocky entertainment.

    Dave Moore

    Wikipedia Summary

  • Literary Orange April 4

February 25, 2009  NEW LOCATION

  • Guest/program: Author and Futurist Tad Daley, J.D. Ph.D.

    Tad, a frequent panelest at LOSCON, recently on panels on H.G. Wells and Asimov's Foundation series, spoke to us on HG Wells, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Heinlein's ideas about abolishing war through world government. His well prepared talk was very interesting and well received engendering much discussion. Books mentioned by Tad which are of interest regarding the subject of his talk are The New World Order by H G Wells
    The Open Conspiracy: What Are We To Do With Our Lives? by HG Wells
    THE OUTLINE OF HISTORY, Volumes I & II - H.G. Wells, 1949
    Anticipations by HG Wells
    Expanded Universe by Robert A. Heinlein (essays in it)
    Requiem by Robert A. Heinlein and others (his GOH speeches)
    Foundation (Foundation Novels) by Isaac Asimov

    World Federalist Movement Interests spread to other topics as he stayed well after the time we normally adjourn for the readers group.

    Click to see pictures of meeting.

    Tad is Writing Fellow, for International Physicians Preventing Nuclear War
    (a Nobel Peace Laureate Organization) and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

    He was a policy aide to Senator Alan Cranston and Policy Director for presidential candidate Congressman Dennis Kucinich
    He is author of the forthcoming book APOCALYPSE NEVER: The Road to Abolishing Nuclear Weapons Forever from Rutgers University Press in 2009. Tad's has also published articles in The Futurist, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and Sojourners

    This month's book is Watchman - Graphic Novel
    by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

    The story concerns a group called the Crimebusters and a plot to kill and discredit them. Moore's characterization is as sophisticated as any novel's. Importantly the costumes do not get in the way of the storytelling; rather they allow Moore to investigate issues of power and control--

    Availability: It's reasonably priced on Amazon. Listed as in libraries (though frequently stolen) 416 pages.

    Reader's Orbit discussion report:
    This month's book was Alan Moore's Graphic Novel "Watchmen." When it came out in 1986, it was regarded as a monumental and groundbreaking work, and shortly, a cinematic version of its story will be released.

    Alan Moore deconstructs the Superhero mythos with a unique hybrid of graphic strip interspersed with written chapters that involve personal reminiscences and thoughts, background information, and interviews to produce a dense multithreaded story that could not be done any other way.

    By adopting this form Moore overcomes the deficiencies of comics to produce a rich and captivating story. We all enjoyed it, but the ultimate satisfaction one gets from this work depends on how enamored you are with the Superhero genera.

    Despite all its thought and complexity, its examination of Superhero mythos, this novel ultimately sticks to the tropes of Superherodom, which basically revolve around settling things by personal violence, and this limits what the story can do.

    If you can swallow the fallacies of Superherodom, you will think this is a truly enthralling work. If you can't, you'll will find it interesting. Either way its worth reading.
    Reported by Dave Moore

January 26, 2009

  • Guest/program: Open meeting

    The new meeting place was decided/finalized.
    In February we will begin meeting at the Dennys in Brea at the Imperial Exit from the 57 freeway. See the LOCATION/MAP

    A facelift, upgrading, and expansion of the web-site was discussed. A project to be done over this year with more input from the general membership and more things of use to all visitors interested in Science, Science Fiction and Fantasy.

    This month's book is "Mirrored Heavens" by David J. Williams

    his first book. Most of the group found it disappointing. While it had plenty of action, it lacked explanation or illustration of the political situation behind the scenario. We also found his characters nearly indistinguishable.

Prior Years:

2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003

Email for more information or call Greg at (949) 552-4925.