Orange County Science Fiction Club Orange County Science Fiction Club

Past Meetings

---- 2008 ----

November 26, 2008

  • Guest/program: Author Shauna Roberts

    Shauna has published Fantasy, Science Fiction and non-fiction science.

    Shauna, one of our own Orange County writers, grew up with a passion for reading and inspired by an aunt who wrote romance novels. She has become a passionate writer with short stories appearing in a number of anthologies.

    Shauna talked on myth and folk-tales in Science Fiction and Fantasy. As we are all readers and some writers her talk was very well received and the amount of her background research much appreciated for its effort and results. She gave many examples of how the myths and folktales become models and source for notable modern and classic writers of the literature we love.

    This month's book is "The Android's Dream" by John Scalzi

    Published 2007, 400 pages

    John Scalzi is going to been guest of honor at Loscon so we thought we'd sample his wares.

    Most of Scalzi's books are Heinleinian adventure saga's. The Android's Dream is different in that it is a satirical adventure romp.

    An interstellar scandal explodes when a human diplomat assassinates an alien diplomat by farting at him, albeit using a scent-emitting communicator. To forestall interspecies war, the government enlists former war hero and current uberhacker Harry Creek. His mission: to placate the aliens by finding a unique form of sheep used in the aliens' upcoming coronation ritual. The sheep, in this case, turns out to be unassuming pet-store owner Robin Baker, whose genes improbably incorporate ovine DNA. Before Baker can be secured and summarily dispatched, however, Creek must contend with a succession of meddlesome adversaries ranging from a cult of sheep worshippers to alien thugs itching for interstellar war.

    Availability: Amazon paperback,
    In libraries.

October 29, 2008

  • Guest/program: Author Leslie Ann Moore

    Leslie Ann Moore has published her first novel Griffin's Daughter. Winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best First Book (Fiction), it is book one of a fantasy trilogy about a human/elven woman shunned because of her mixed blood who discovers her gifts of magic and more as she travels towards her epic destiny.

    Leslie read a selection from her novel revealing her characters' personalities and her handling of a tense action sequence.

    By day a full time veterinarian, Lesie, "a voracious reader," met Terry Brooks at the LA Times Festsival of Books and decided to "pursue my life-long dream of becoming a fiction writer." She is now achieving that dream and will share her passion for writing with us.

    This month's book is "Children of the Night" by Dan Simmons

    Published 1993, 464 pages

    While studying diseases of the blood in present-day Romania, hematologist Kate Neuman adopts an orphaned infant with an unusual immune system. Upon her return to the States, the baby is kidnapped and returned to its homeland. Aided by an American priest and a Romanian medical student, each with his own interest in the child, Kate traces it to a mysterious group linked to the legendary Dracula. Simmons gives a chilling description of post-Ceausescu Romania and neatly ties the vampire legend into political history to create a new and clever twist to the idea of the vampire's craving for blood.

    Most of the group was not impressed by this book (Will Morton, the exception.) While the story started out quite brilliantly conveying the corrupt and seedy and poverty stricken state of post-Ceausescu Romania, place were desperate people will sell their souls and great evil can easily lurk and operate with impunity, it failed to keep that tone. When the story shifts to the States, we get a long and turgid explain of how vampirism could be caused by certain types of DNA mutations. Then, as the story shifts back to Romania as Kate tries rescue her adopted orphan, the novel turns into a thriller.

    Dan Simmons writes in wide variety of fields in addition to Horror, including Science Fiction and the Thriller. In this particular case, he appears to have attempted to do all three in the same book. Aside from the wild shifts in tone, the book also suffers from character inconsistencies. One gets the impression the author was exploring the possibilities of his idea but had not found the point of the story.

    Availability: Amazon paperback,

September 24, 2008

  • Guest/program: Author Kathy Porter

    Kathy Porter after growing up in up-state New York watching science-fiction movies and TV shows has published her first novel Gray/Guardians. Kathy talked about her experiences writing and her new novel. She shared several interesting anecdotes about agents and publishers she encountered on the path to using POD for her novel. She is clearly an author equally capable on both the creative and business sides of writing. Currently her first novel is being considered for optioning by several studios.

    We very much enjoyed her time with us and look forward to her return when her next novel hits the book racks.

    This month's book is "Nightwings" by Robert Silverberg (240 pages)

    This novel is the compilation of three novelettes published over 1968-69 for which the first part won a Hugo. This is a classic Silverberg fantasy, considered his best work.

    Reaction to this book varied from those who rate it very highly, considering it one of the great works of science fiction to those who found it abysmal. This, I think, can be attributed to the work having both great strengths and serious flaws.

    The novel's lyrical, almost poetic, writing drives a vivid vision of a distant future where science is so advanced it is almost mystical compared to our own. The deep characterization also maintains the narrative. (In both these areas, this book is far superior to "Stations of the Tide, by Michael Swanwick, which it bears some resemblance to.) This futuristic vision was groundbreaking at the time and his been emulated since in such works as Gene Wolf's "Shadow of the Torturer" series.

    If you approach this story as that of a redemptive fantasy tale then you would have no problem with its flaws. If however you have trouble swallowing science that was patently bogus even back when it was written and cannot overlook the story's structural weaknesses and general lack of focus, then this is not the book for you.

    To go into anymore detail on this I am going to have to delve into the story so at this point I'm posting a SPOILER ALERT until the end of the review.

    A character called the Watcher is tasked with surveying the universe to be on the look out for an alien invasion. Earth has fallen from its mighty heights and those it arrogantly offended in the past are on the outlook for revenge. The Watcher spots the invasion fleet while in Rome and signals the alarm, but it does no good. Earth's feeble defenses collapse after a day. The Watcher, now out of work, travels to Paris to apply for a job as a Rememberer with the Prince of Rome, blinded by an alien spy and now on the run. The Prince and the Watcher are taken in by the Rememberers, but the prince, still arrogant though powerless and blinded, abuses his hospitality and is turned over to the alien authorities. In order to save him, the Watcher reveals to aliens where the buried records, the justification for their invasion, are. His attempt to save the asshole prince does no good, however, as the prince is killed by a Rememberer. So the Watcher sets out on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, looking for redemption for his betrayal of Earth, and to get renewal, which is both a physical and spiritual process.

    The story deals with the redemption for past arrogant behavior, change and renewal. In Earth's case its renewal is under the tutelage of the alien race (in what seems to be a parallel to the American occupation of Japan). In the personal case, it is the Watcher who asks for redemption, but the Watcher seems to be a pretty stand-up sort of guy. If any character needed redemption, it was the prince. The history and back story of the cause of the invasion is dealt with in a rather inelegant expository lump in the middle of the story, and the societal structure, obviously based on medieval, Christian Europe, feels somewhat derivative.


    That been said, I personally found the book very readable and memorable in places.

    Availability: Amazon paperback, ICurrent paperback, may have trouble finding it in libraries.

August 27, 2008

  • Guest/program: author Gregory Urbach

    Gregory is the author of the Waters of the Moon series, the first of which Waters of the Moon: Book One: Tranquility's Child published in hardback in 2001.

    Per Gregory: Seems like it should be for kids but actually good for anybody, like Tom Sawyer on the moon. The author (that's me)has used a variation of Tarzan of the Apes to tell a compelling story about growing up under difficult circumstances.

    This month's book is Nebula Award winner "Stations of the Tide" by Michael Swanwick

    As the planet Miranda slowly drowns under the weight of its own tides, a bureaucrat from the Division of Technology Transfer conducts an investigation into the life of a local celebrity, a "magician" who possesses proscribed technology and whose personal powers hold much of the dying planet in thrall. Swanwick demonstrates his mastery of understated drama in a novel that brings a surrealistic approach to "hard" sf.

    Availability: Amazon paperback, In libraries 252 pages Published 1991

July 30, 2008

  • Guest/program: author David J. Williams

    David has just published his first novel The Mirrored Heavens

    From one of the reviews on "A crackling cyberthriller. This is Tom Clancy interfacing Bruce Sterling. David Williams has hacked into the future." - Stephen Baxter, author of the Manifold series

    David is coming in from the east coast and we look forward to hearing from him.

    This month's book is "The Anubis Gates" by Tim Powers (400 pages)

    Author Tim Powers evokes 17th-century England with a combination of meticulously researched historic detail and imaginative flights in this sci-fi tale of time travel. Winner of the 1984 Philip K. Dick Award. Steeping together in this time-warp stew are such characters as an unassuming Coleridge scholar, ancient gods, wizards, the Knights Templar, werewolves, and other quasi-mortals, all wrapped in the organizing fabric of Egyptian mythology.

    Availability: Amazon $13.95, paperback, may have trouble finding a library

June 25, 2008

  • Guest/program: Open Meeting

    Ralph Cox put together a nice display and bibliography of Algis.Budrys works.

    Those who had not heard before learned of our great loss in the unexpected passing of Elise Edgell on June 11. Elise was one of the first club members and a long time SF fan. She attended many World SF Conventions and nearly every LOSCON for years.
    For a many years Elise and Jim have been the gracious hosts of a wonderful New Years Eve party for the club members.

    We send our sympathy to Jim as we all feel deeply saddened by our loss.

    There was some discussion of our upcoming guest David J. Williams,
    Also, there was some talk about the potential use of sulfur dioxide dispersal in the upper atmosphere to combat globlal warming after someone mentioned about the strange behavior of the Sun which is staying spot free when it should be going into an activity maximum.

    This month's book is "Paris in the Twentieth Century" by Jules Verne

    In 1863, Jules Verne was a young writer with one published novel under his belt and a new multibook contract with a prominent French publisher in hand. The publisher, however, rejected Verne's second manuscript, opting to bring out his Journey to the Center of the Earth instead. That manuscript apparently disappeared into a drawer, not to see the light of day again until it was rediscovered and published in 1994. Now it has been rendered into English by the eminent poet and translator Richard Howard. Verne's early books tend to feature adventure plots and a positive attitude towards technology. This novel, however, shows Verne in a darker, frankly dystopian mood. His mid-20th century Paris is an enormously wealthy society, a place of technological wonders, but, like Huxley's Brave New World, it is also a society without meaningful art.

    Availability: Amazon $10.00, paperback, In libraries.

May 28, 2008

  • Guest/program: Author Stephen Woodworth

    Stephen was the 1st Place winner of the "Writers if the Future Contest" in 1992.
    His publications include a dozen short stories, two novellas, and four novels.

    His most recent novel is "From Black Roooms" released on Halloween of 2006 by Bantam Books.

    Stephen was a wonderful guest sharing a lot of his experience and ideas from a life long passion for writing. He told us about early publications and winning in the Writers of the Future Contest. He shared his thoughts behind the development of his Violet Eyes series and read the opening of one of his novels. It was a delight to hear from him and we look forward to his return in the future with later books.

    Visit his MySpace web-site for more current information.

    This month's book is Nebula Award winner "Stories of Your Life" by Ted_Chiang

    Collected here for the first time, Ted Chiang's award-winning stories--recipients of the Nebula, Sturgeon, Campbell, and Asimov awards--offer a feast of science, speculation, humanity, and lyricism. Chiang has the gift that lies at the heart of good science fiction: a human story, beautifully told, in which the science is an expression of the deeper issues that the characters must confront.

    Availability: Cheap Amazon, paperback, may have difficulty finding it in libraries.

April 30, 2008

  • Guest/program: Author Jude-Marie Green

    Jude-Marie Green has been an astronaut**, plumber**, show-horse trainer*, PTA mother*, recognized fabrics artist*, marathoner*, sky-jumper**, and astronomer**. Still she manages to write fiction that is even more fantastic than her life.

    Living in Southern California with her cats and books, she watches too many movies and reads too many books, resulting in stronger eyeglass prescriptions every year. She is considered an emerging fantasist, with short-fiction sales to
    'Say, Why Aren't We Crying?',Abyss & Apex,
    Ideomancer, Visual Journeys,
    Legends of the Mountain State, and Desolate Places.
    She longs to be Stephen King when she grows up.*

    *Very true. **Not so true.

    This month's book is "Songs of Distant Earth" by Arthur C. Clarke

    Published 1986 (241 pages) When asked for his favorite work, Arthur mentioned this book.

    It is the story of the last ship to leave a doomed earth making a pit stop for some water on the previously colonized ocean world of Thalassa, before heading on further to the barren world of Sagan 2.

    Availability: Cheap Amazon, Local Library

March 26, 2008

  • Guest/program: Remembering Arthur C. Clarke

    We had no guest at March's club meeting but spent the time in remembrance of Arthur C. Clarke.

    Ralph put together a really great display of Clark covers.

    Ralph also bought along and read an E-mail from author William Tenn telling how he and Arthur meet back when they were both starting out, and how Arthur's stories did eclipse his own.

    A Clarke annecdote from William Tenn -
    Copyright (c) 2008 by Philip Klass All Rights Reserved
    Printed with permission.

    "I havenít much to contribute to my great sorrow.
    I met and spoke with Arthur Clarke only once, at a con I think in the fifties, about a month or two before his Prelude to Space was published. He was not a great influence on me or my written science fiction:®I was pretty much, when it came to sf, a Heinlein or a Kutttner man. I did respect him, though, and considered his first story in Astounding, "Rescue Party," far superior to my own, "Alexander the Bait."

    We also shared an agent then, Scott Meredith, with whom I had become very unhappy (and about whom, since Scott had recently won a Book-of-the-Month advance sale for him, he was almost ecstatic) While we were waiting for the panel we were both on to begin, we argued most gently about Scottís merits and demerits as an agent. And then Arthur reminded me that we both had stories in another and more recent magazine, one edited by Sol Bloom that featured a built-in comic section.

    Again I was forced to run down my story, "The Puzzle of Priipiirii," in favor of his, "The Sentinel" (which was eventually to become the root narrative of the film, 2001). I told him that "The Sentinel" was an excellent piece of science fiction and deserved publication in a much better magazine, while "Priipiirii" had been written after a horrible love affair had fizzled out--as I had, too--and was typed quickly in one afternoon just to pay the long overdue rent.

    He told me he appreciated the compliment I had paid to what he and Scott felt was a relatively minor work but there was something about my story that had bothered him when he first read it and still bothered hi now as he remembered it.

    "Itís a fantasy embedded in science fiction," he said. "I might go so far as to call it something in the direction of mysticism. Are you a mystic, Phil, disguised, for the purpose of magazine sales, as a humorous science fiction writer?"

    I told him that the residue left in my soul by extensive reading of Thomas Mann had always been a single hard lump of mysticism that I had never been able to excrete.

    "ĎA single hard lump," he repeated. "And what would you say that lump consists of?"

    I thought a bit, a bit unsuccessfully, and came up with what was at best only a kind of a reply. "Oh," I stuttered, "Call it a feeling, a belief, goddammit a hope, that somewhere out there there is an answser, a reason."

    "An answer to what?" he asked "A reason for what?"

    I felt I was in great difficulty. "Ń reason for all the shit," I said. "For everything, from death and taxes and everything in between and afterwards. For why light is a constant and why space is essentially a vacuum. For the planets and the stars and --and---and-everything. From love and hate on out."

    I blew out a gust of air and sat back, completely deflated.

    "Interesting," he said. "Most interesting. Ńnd feeling that, you came to write science fiction."

    I was about to say something-I cannot imagine what-but then the moderator of the panel came in to tell us that we were wanted next door, at the table.

    And after the panel, Arthur had his great mob of fans, and I had my own smaller one. And someone took me out for drinks, and Arthur went off somewhere, eventually to Sri Lanka, and we never spoke to each other again.

    But I kept reading his stuff. SON OF A BITCH-And he wanted to know what kind of a mystic I was! And how come I was in science fiction!

    We discussed our experiences with this great SF author.


    Most of us related how Arthur C. Clarke touched our lives. He had introduced some of us the Science Fiction.

    Dick bought copies to share of the obits from the BBC and The New York Times with a photo of Arthur on the cover.

    Concluding the meeting, Dick read an obituary Greg Benford had written for Nature, to be published in the magazine's next issue. Greg might have come to share his reminiscences of Arthur with us, but circumstance prevented it so he gave us a copy his obituary instead.

    This month's book was "Davy," by Edgar Pangborn.

    Edgar Pangborn (1909-76) turned to writing SF after WWII after writing for pulp novels in other genres before his military service. Davy is considered one of the best post-holocast novels from the 1960s. Set in the Northeast of the former United States, it tells the story of the enlightenment of an orphan boy caught in a church-dominated feudal society.

    I'm sorry the report is late as I wanted to finish this month's book before writing up the group's thoughts on the volume.

    The group's response to this book varied from mixed to very positive, reflecting the relative weight they placed on the various parts of a work that was both rich and flawed.

    Davy is part of a series of stories covering the apocalyptic collapse and subsequent slow rise of civilization, a future history that in all its parts would easily rival "A Canticle for Lebowitz." The author's lifetime devotion to constructing this future history show's in "Davy's" richness of setting with its complex and well integrated religiously dominated "mediaeval" society. This richness of the setting also extends to the author's wonderful use and play on the New England dialect. The story's satiric take on human foibles and religious organization along with roguishly likable and well drawn characters can make the story a delightful romp to some.

    However, the novel has it's flaws, the main one being a curious plotlessness where the thematic climax -- the battle between our hero's forces, hoping to bring enlightenment, and the religious power structure, determined to keep its dominance through the maintenance of ignorance -- happens off stage. The story also suffers from some rather annoying and self indulgent Heinleinesque asides. The novel can't make up its mind whether it is a coming of age story or an episodic quest.

    Perhaps it is best thought of as a chapter in a much larger work (certainly it felt as if some chapters were missing), and that if you like the idea of a richly drawn future history, you should read not just "Davy" but Pangborn's entire "Tales of a Darkening World" series of short stories and novels. Their length would probably not even match one volume of one of today's fantastical history series.

    The entire timeline with all its stories can be found at

February 27, 2008

  • Guest/program: Old Time SF Radio

    Thanks to Gordin Levin,we had a large selection of great X Minus One and Dimension X old radio programs to choose from.
    We selected two to enjoy:

    "Universe" from a story by Robert Heinlein
    Synopsis - This is a big space ship. Big. I mean so big that there a floors on which some people have never been. And they've been out in space so long that some people don't believe in who put them on the ship and why they're there.

    The Defenders from a story by Philip K. Dick
    Synopsis - Mankind has retreated underground to escape the horrors of a surface decimated by World War Three, leaving the machines to continue the fighting.

    "The Scar" by China Mieville. (2004, 608 pages)

    This stand-alone novel is set in the same monster-haunted universe as his previous book Perdido Street Station. Armada, a floating city made up of the hulls of thousands of captured vessels, travels slowly across the world of Bas-Lag, sending out its pirate ships to prey on the unwary, gradually assembling the supplies and captive personnel it needs to create a stupendous work of dark magic. Bellis Coldwine, one of the characters from Perdido St. Station, is exiled from the great city of New Crobuzon, and now finds herself as one of many people accidentally trapped in Armada's far-flung net. Soon however, she finds herself playing a vital role in the Byzantine plans of the city's half-mad rulers.

    Availability: Cheap Amazon. It's a recent paperback issue so it should be in secondhand book stores. Available at some libraries

    This months book,"The Scar," by China Mieville was rolled over from the previous month. . Generally, the group wasn't impressed. Those who hadn't read his first novel, "Perdido Street Station," were impressed by the unique setting of the story. Those of us who had read China's first novel thought it was a much stronger work and found The Scar somewhat rambling and pointless

January 30, 2008
  • Guest/program: No guest - Open Meeting

    Mostly, the discussions centered around recent and upcoming movies and the Star Trek Tour in Long Beach.

    "The Scar" by China Mieville. (2004, 608 pages)

    This stand-alone novel is set in the same monster-haunted universe as his previous book Perdido Street Station. Armada, a floating city made up of the hulls of thousands of captured vessels, travels slowly across the world of Bas-Lag, sending out its pirate ships to prey on the unwary, gradually assembling the supplies and captive personnel it needs to create a stupendous work of dark magic. Bellis Coldwine, one of the characters from Perdido St. Station, is exiled from the great city of New Crobuzon, and now finds herself as one of many people accidentally trapped in Armada's far-flung net. Soon however, she finds herself playing a vital role in the Byzantine plans of the city's half-mad rulers.

    Availability: Cheap Amazon. It's a recent paperback issue so it should be in secondhand book stores. Available at some libraries.

Prior Years:

2007 2006 2005 2004 2003

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