Monday, August 30, 2010

Philip K. Dick & Rudy Rucker's Warez

I've been reading Philip K. Dick's stories and novels ever since I learned to read and think at the same time. Seriously, I've been reading (and collecting) PKD's work for many years. On my bookshelves, I have all of his more esoteric "mainstream" novels, including Confessions of a Crap Artist (Entwhistle Books, 1975), The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike (Mark V. Ziesing, 1984), In Milton Lumpky Territory (Dragon Press, 1985), Puttering About in a Small Land (Academy Chicago, 1985), Humpty Dumpty in Oakland (Victor Gollancz, 1986), as well as a few others, in addition to the 5-volume Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, edited by Paul Williams1 and published by Underwood-Miller in 1987.

I was a member of the PKD Society beginning in the mid-1980s, and as I wrote in a previous blog post, I used to help out at the newsletter mailing parties at Paul Williams' San Francisco home. And it was this involvement with PKD and the PKD Society that led me to attend my first Armadillocon in Austin, Texas: Armadillocon 10 in October 1988. K. W. Jeter was the Guest of Honor, and when I learned that James P. Blaylock and Tim Powers were also scheduled to attend -- all three former members of the "Thursday Night Gang"2 -- then I knew this was one convention that I simply could not miss.

During that convention, Jeter, Blaylock, and Powers held a panel discussion entitled "Memories of Philip K. Dick;" the panel met at midnight, but I don't recall on which night, Friday or Saturday. I recorded the entire discussion on a mini-cassette recorder, obtained the three panelists' permission to reprint the content in the PKD Society's newsletter, and then sent the tapes to Paul. He transcribed the tapes himself, and the highly edited panel discussion3 was included in issue #20 of the newsletter, April 1989, under the title "The Phil Wars."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Facebook "Like" Button

After quite a bit of code crunching, I've added a Facebook "Like" button to this blog; the button will appear after the header on each individual blog post. So if you like what you read, I'd appreciate it if you would click on the button. The "Like" should then appear on your FB page (assuming, of course, that you have an FB account and are currently logged in). I was hoping that I could add it to only future posts, but alas, this is the only way that I, at least, have figured out how to have the button automatically appear on each post. And I'll be the first to test this post!

A Philip K. Dick Quote

While working on my new blog post, which covers some Philip K. Dick territory, I came upon this quote by the man, and just had to post it here. Given the political times in which we now live, this is probably one of the most apropos quotes I have ever seen, especially when one considers that it had to have been spoken, or written, prior to March 2, 1982, when PKD passed away.

"The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words." ―Philip K. Dick

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Is Anybody Out There? plus more on SETI

Professor Stephen Hawking

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, this year marks the 50th Anniversary of the SETI program -- the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. This is why we've seen far more than the usual number of articles, interviews, and new books and their corresponding reviews on the subject.

In fact, not too many months ago -- April 25, to be exact -- the UK's Sunday Times Online ran an article on Stephen W. Hawking's (pictured above) new Discovery Channel documentary, with the following quote from the physicist: "The aliens are out there, and Earth had better watch out." Now, in a new audio recording with Big Think, Professor Hawking warns us that humanity's survival depends on inhabiting the stars: "I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn't have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. Let's hope we can avoid dropping the basket until we have spread the load." And, of course, while we're at it, we need to be wary of ET! The Big Think piece is quite compelling; Hawking states that he is an optimist, but his outlook for the human race is very bleak. And there are more than 50 Comments to the article, some as intriguing as (if not more so than) the article itself.

This past weekend, the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, hosted SETIcon, a convention that brought together representatives from science and research (Frank Drake), space exploration (Astronaut Rusty Schweickart), television & media (producer Andre Bormanis, actor John Billingsley), literature (authors Mary Roach & Robert J. Sawyer), music (Mickey Hart), and many others, and was open to the public. Speaking at the convention, Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, said: "I actually think the chances that we'll find ET are pretty good....Young people in the audience, I think there's a really good chance you're going to see this happen." (quote courtesy of

Of course the big questions continue to be: "How will we discover ET?" and/or "In what form(s) will we discover ET?" -- which was touched on in my previous blog on "50 Years of SETI" -- but if you haven't figured out where I'm headed with this then you haven't been reading my blog regularly.

Monday, August 2, 2010

July Links & Things

I've lost a week of work this month with a trip to Southern Cal to visit the mum in hospital rehab. She entered the hospital the morning of Friday, July 9 (about the time I arrived in Boston for Readercon), and she should be home, finally, by the end of this week. Then we'll have to see how she does on her own, though I suspect she'll have some in-home care for at least the first week.

Thus my recap of July's Links & Things will have less entries than normal due to time constraints. I do want you to know that I review all the links I pass on to ensure that they will be worth the time spent to read them (or in the case of video, to view them); if my readers aren't going to gain something that I feel is of value, then I don't include the link. It's as simple as that. Of course, I do have my own personal preferences and prejudices, but then who doesn't?

So, here are my links and such for the month of July. I've listed them here, with a bit of additional detail and comment. You can receive these links in real time by following me on Twitter: @martyhalpern.

  • reviews Hespira, the third volume in Matthew Hughes' Henghis Hapthorn series, which I edited for Night Shade Books; the first two volumes in the series are Majestrum (2006) and The Spiral Labyrinth (2007). In his review, John DeNardo writes: "...Hughes' writing style is the real star, using a pitch-perfect delivery of stylistic prose that sets the mood and dry humor that is sure to elicit a few smiles.... The usual caveat of a latter-series novel applies here: you do not need to read the previous Henghis Hapthorn stories to enjoy Hespira, but you will gain even more enjoyment out of it if you do."
  • Of all the books that I've edited over the years, the most-reviewed are undoubtedly the Laundry Files titles by Charles Stross: The Atrocity Archives (2004) and The Jennifer Morgue (2006), both from Golden Gryphon Press, and the recently published The Fuller Memorandum from Ace Books. I could fill an entire blog post with blurbs from all the TFM reviews I've read over the past two or so weeks, but for the sake of brevity, I'll only refer you to one of those reviews, which I felt was especially astute and articulate -- and that would be the review by Russell Letson, posted on Locus online on July 16, 2010. I've linked to the review for your reading pleasure, but what I wanted to do here was include a quote from the novel itself that Russell quoted in his review. Here are geekish demonology hacker extraordinaire Bob Howard's thoughts on the iPhone: "About the only smart phone that doesn’t stink like goose shit is the JesusPhone. But I've steadfastly refused to join the Cult of Jobs ever since I saw the happy-clappy revival tent launch." Unfortunately, before too long, Bob succumbs to the shiny. [I've written a lengthy blog post about my working with Charlie Stross on this series.]
  • New eBook publisher Weightless Books (catch phrase: Books That Don't Weigh You Down) -- a branch, or subsidiary, or imprint, or whatever of Small Beer Press -- has published an eBook of the definitive edition of Judith Moffett's first novel Pennterra. This is the edition of Pennterra that Judith and I worked on over a period of weeks last year (published in a trade paperback edition in 2009 by Fantastic Books) to ensure that it was indeed the definitive version. And while you're at it, you may as well snag the eBook edition of her latest novel, The Bird Shaman, volume three in her Holy Ground Trilogy; but as with volume three of the Hughes trilogy above, you do not need to read the previous two volumes to enjoy The Bird Shaman.

    If you're into physical books, you can also purchase a signed (or signed and inscribed) copy of The Bird Shaman direct from the author's website. [And last, but certainly not least, you can read my earlier blog post on Judith Moffett and her various books and stories.]
  • As long-time readers here know, I'm a fan of the axed-by-Fox-before-its-time TV series Firefly. Well, (@io9) felt that the introductory credits sequence that opened Firefly needed a bit of sprucing up. To use io9's words: the intro needed "a kick-ass, old-school, synth-happy, guitar-solo" and "Spaceships, 1980s-style." So, click the io9 link above, click the vid, sit back, and enjoy. Oh, and turn the sound up on your monitor! (via @charliejane)