Orange County Science Fiction Club Orange County Science Fiction Club

Past Meetings

---- 2010 ----

November 24, 2010

  • Guest/program: Wesley Kawato, author and publisher,

    Wesley is the publisher of NOVA SF which is a professional SF fiction magazine (pays for stories) which has published short stories by numerous authors including Brad Linaweaver, Don Kerr, David Baumann, Jeferson D'Ander, Robert Anderson, and Will Morton.

    Wesley has published over 15 short stories and published non-fiction as a member of the APA (Amateur Press Association). Much of his non-fiction and some fiction appears in the APA magazine "Point of Divergence" which is the publication of a select group of authors interested in alternate history ideas and fiction. This group, their magazine and this area of Science Fiction will be the subject of his presentation to the club.

    This month's book is "Master of Space and Time." by Rudy Rucker

    288 pages Pub. 1985.

    The real world is unbearable to madcap inventor Harry Gerber, so he uses his genius to twist the laws of physics and create his own universe.

    This book is available in librariies and cheap on Amazon Rudy Rucker was the guest of honor at Westercon; I attended several panels he was on, one of which dealt with Transrealism, his approach to writing. Rather than attempt to explain it myself I will quote the author's own word from his manifesto and the wikipeadia entry on Transrealism.

    A Transrealist Manifesto by Rudy Rucker

    In this piece I would like to advocate a style of SF-writing that I call Transrealism. Transrealism is not so much a type of SF as it is a type of avant-garde literature. I feel that Transrealism is the only valid approach to literature at this point in history. The Transrealist writes about immediate perceptions in a fantastic way. Any literature which is not about actual reality is weak and enervated. But the genre of straight realism is all burnt out. Who needs more straight novels? The tools of fantasy and SF offer a means to thicken and intensify realistic fiction. By using fantastic devices it is actually possible to manipulate subtext. The familiar tools of SF — time travel, antigravity, alternate worlds, telepathy, etc. — are in fact symbolic of archetypal modes of perception. Time travel is memory, flight is enlightenment, alternate worlds symbolize the great variety of individual world-views, and telepathy stands for the ability to communicate fully. This is the “Trans” aspect. The “realism” aspect has to do with the fact that a valid work of art should deal with the world the way it actually is. Transrealism tries to treat not only immediate reality, but also the higher reality in which life is embedded. The characters should be based on actual people. What makes standard genre fiction so insipid is that the characters are so obviously puppets of the author's will. Actions become predictable, and in dialogue it is difficult to tell which character is supposed to be talking. In real life, the people you meet almost never say what you want or expect them to. From long and bruising contact, you carry simulations of your acquaintances around in your head. These simulations are imposed on you from without; they do not react to imagined situations as you might desire. By letting these simulations run your characters, you can avoid turning out mechanical wish-fulfillments. It is essential that the characters be in some sense out of control, as are real people — for what can anyone learn by reading about made-up people? In a Transrealist novel, the author usually appears as an actual character, or his or her personality is divided among several characters. On the face of it, this sounds egotistical. But I would argue that to use oneself as a character is not really egotistical. It is a simple necessity. If, indeed, you are writing about immediate perceptions, then what point of view other than your own is possible? It is far more egotistical to use an idealized version of yourself, a fantasy-self, and have this para-self wreak its will on a pack of pliant slaves. The Transrealist protagonist is not presented as some super-person. A Transrealist protagonist is just as neurotic and ineffectual as we each know ourselves to be.

    Transrealism (science fiction)[1] is a literary mode that mixes the techniques of incorporating fantastic elements used in science fiction with the techniques of describing immediate perceptions from naturalistic realism. While combining the strengths of the two approaches, it is largely a reaction to their perceived weaknesses. Transrealism addresses the escapism and disconnect with reality of science fiction by providing for superior characterization through autobiographical features and simulation of the author's acquaintances. It addresses the tiredness and boundaries of realism by using fantastic elements to create new metaphors for psychological change and to incorporate the author's perception of a higher reality in which life is embedded.

    Judging this book by the author's standard, it does not hold up very well. The author mentioned Kurt Vonnegut as another Transrealist author, and if you think of Vonnegut's works, Slaughterhouse 5 and the Sirens of Titan, both discuss and illuminate the bigger picture that underlines our mundane perceptions much better than Master does.

    Most of the group found the work disjointed and lacking any thematic coherence. In fact they found it pretty pointless.

    That being said, parts of it were highly entertaining and those in the group that didn't know anything about Transrealism and took it at face value found it to be an entertaining read, a fantastical story that skipped along unimpeded by the need to explain itself.

    We will be deciding the upcoming years works in January, so submissions for consideration are welcome.


October 27, 2010

  • Guest/program: Author Cody Goodfellow
  • Cody was a wonderfully entertaining guest, telling us his path to becoming an an author and publisher which was somewhat different from any author we have previously had as guest. It was similiar in the general sense proving that talent is important along with having enough faith in ones writting to self publish and being prepared to find or make a break for oneself by putting the writting in front of the right person, often another author one respects. And then, have very good luck.

    Cody Goodfellow has written three novels and his numerous pieces of short fiction have been published in magazines and anthologies.

    Check out this nice interview published in the blog of David Wilson

    Cody's writing has won awards (2007) from the San Diejo Press Club.

    He mentions Lovecraft as a significant influence and seems to be an ideal guest for the spooky season.

    This month's book is "Hell House" by Richard Matheson

    288 pages Pub. 1971.

    Wikipedia Summary

    This is Richard Matheson's classic haunted house story,

    Dr. Lionel Barrett, a parapsychologist, under the inducement of $100,000 from a dying an eighty-seven-year-old millionaire named Rolph Rudolph Deutsch, is attempting to prove there is life after death. His best bet he feels is Hell House.

    Hell House was built in 1919 by an evil man named Emeric Belasco who created his own private Hell within its walls. Anything was considered acceptable. Nothing was too sick or depraved. People came and visited and never went home, becoming so accustomed to the animalistic way of life in Hell House they just didn't want to leave. By 1928 orgies of mutilation, murder, necrophilia and cannibalism were a part of everyday life. Finally, the worried relatives of some his guests have the authorities break into the house. There, they find everyone dead, but Belasco's body is never found.

    Two things were behind this month's pick. The first was that some members of our group suggested we read Richard Matheson as he is a popular writer and his work has an enduring legacy: witness the remake of "I am Legend." Secondly, October is our horror month, and this book sounded intriguing.

    The response of the group was in general split between the horror affectionardos and those that have not been attracted to the genera.

    Those who enjoy horror fiction liked the book but couldn't put their finger on anything outstanding. It just felt it was a good yarn.

    The novel is regarded as one of the great horror stories. Written in 1970, it forms a bridge between Shirley Jackson's 1958 masterpiece "The Haunting of Hill House" and later works. Both Clive Barker and Stephen King cite it as an influence. The story has held up well in part because it has a timeless quality. The depravity in it might be very 1970s but the house could be from Victorian times.

    Nobody could put their finger on what gives this story its strength, but after ready several reviews of it, a couple of items came to the fore: it's a fairly visceral story without being grotesque; and Matheson introduces into the haunted house genera an element of science to his story with Dr. Barrett's use of scientific apparatus. It's also considered to have well drawn characters for a horror story.

    For those of us not so enamored with horror, we found the characters fairly facile, and the workmanlike writing tended to telegraph the author's moves, which took a lot of the tension from of the story.

    November's book will be Rudy Rucker's "Master of Space and Time." 288 pages 1985 This book is available in libraries and is cheap on Amazon.

    The real world is unbearable to madcap inventor Harry Gerber, so he uses his genius to twist the laws of physics and create his own universe.

    The will be no December book, but we have picked "The Windup Girl" by Paolo Bacipagalupi for January. (2009, 300 pages.) Available for a moderate amount on Amazon. Also available from libraries.

    The 2009 Nebula award winner. This is a novel of a dystopian future of oil scarcity, global warming, bioterrorism and genetic engineering.


    This book is available cheap on Amazon.

September 29, 2010

  • Guest/program: Movie night. "The Black Sleep" courtesy of Eric Hoffman

  • Our old friend Eric Hoffman sent us a DVD of a delightfully horrifying movie staring Basil Rathbone, Akim Tamiroff, Lon Chaney, John Carradine, and Bela Lugosi


    After some minor technical problems we got the movie going and watched it all even though it took us past 9:30. We enjoyed the movie and Ralph gave us some later feed back on the club's mail-list about other related films of the era.

    From Ralph:

    Our examination of The Black Sleep (1956), with its overage of token horror film veterans, brought to my mind two films that were made soon after: The Unearthly (1957) and Revenge Of Frankenstein (1958).

    The Unearthly stared John Carradine as the mad scientist (he had a minor role in The Black Sleep as a crazed soothsayer, which foreshadowed his role in the TZ episode The Howling Man - 25 minutes of entertainment that is better then the combined hours of the movies I mention here). His mad scientist repeated the theme of an obsessed brain surgeon using human Guinea Pigs to conduct his research, and locking his failures in the jail cells of his basement. That film had Tor Johnson reprise his role of Lobo, the lobotomized hulk who first appeared in Bride Of The Monster (1955), and Marsha pointed him out to me in The Black Sleep, where he plays the same kind of role. The similar elements used in Revenge of Frankenstein are not so direct, but combined into a better script: A condemned man is secretly saved, when he was thought to be dead (a deliciously devious, and simple, opening to the film). An obsessed scientist acquires the resources for his experiments from living people. (a set-up that makes him a benevolent pillar in the town while he goes at it, which brings up the third similarity) The mad scientist is respected in his community (except by his medical colleagues, who are losing their best paying patients him). An amiable surgeon is recruited for his skills (but more eagerly and he stays with it, to the wonderful end). His female assistant reverses the scientist's plans (Peter Cushing bewails "These interfering women!" The actress was Eunice Gayson, would later become the very first of all Bond Girls) Also, in The Black Sleep, the people come out of the "sleep" with a convulsive trawl, and this is effectively used when Frankenstein brings his creation to life.

    Indeed, Revenge Of Frankenstein happens to be my favorite of the Hammer series (second to my favorite of all the Hammer horror films, Hound Of The Baskervilles), and the film actually works just as well to follow James Whales' 1936 Bride of Frankenstein as it does it's official precursor, The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957).

    As for The Black Sleep, it is an over-the-top monster mash that would work well at a Halloween party if it's one of a dozen or so such films showing simultaneously on screens set about the place to remind everyone the theme of the occasion. .

    Thanks Ralph

    This month's book was "Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said." by Philip K. Dick

    240 pages Pub. 1974.

    Wikipedia Summary

    On October 11 the television star Jason Taverner is so famous that 30 million viewers eagerly watch his prime-time show. On October 12 Jason Taverner is not a has-been but a never-was -- a man who has lost not only his audience but all proof of his existence. And in the claustrophobic betrayal state of Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, loss of proof is synonymous with loss of life.

    The definition of a "Pot Boiler" is an inferior grade work written quickly to pay the author's expenses. This could describe all of Philip K. Dick's work, but for "Flow My Tears ...", it is a more apt description that with some of his other works. While the story is very readable, well narrated and enjoyable, when you come to the end of it, you feel he hasn't really said anything.

    The author riffs on a several themes: the encroachment of a police state, identity, the nature of reality but never cohesively ties them together at the end of the story. And it is at its end that the story is the weakest. It doesn't so much leave you hanging, but then it doesn't come together either, collapsing into a rambling heap.

    If you like Philip K. Dick and put up with his foibles, then you will like this book. If you don't, it may prove to be an unsatisfying experience.

    This book is available cheap on Amazon and in most public libraries.

August 25, 2010

  • Guest/program:

    Space Historian, Dr. Jim Busby

  • Jim Busby is a founding member and Director of Media Relations of the Aerospace Legacy Foundation for the California National Space Society. He manages media relations at former Rockwell Downey historical aerospace site and operations at the City of Downey’s new Columbia Space Center museum and education center.

    Jim has been a long time supporter of space exploration actively working as a historian and educator of the public about the program. He helped design the California Museum of Science and Technology's Space Museum and worked there for 19 years beginning when it opened int 1984. He assisted on the Universal film "Apollo-13" and was Technical Advisor, historian, and actor for Tom Hanks HBO production "From the Earth to the Moon" appearing as "Spider" the "Lunar Module designer."

    From 1979, Jim was moderator for the "Rockwell Family Nights" at the Downey facility until it closed in 1999 having been recommended by Dick Bartlett, the face of North American- Rockwell since the X-15 days.

    Dr. Busby locates, obtains and manages aerospace artifacts for the foundation and the City of Downey. He Conducts history lectures and tours about historical nature of Downey site.


July 28, 2010

June 30, 2010

  • Guest/program:

    Author Sherwood Smith

  • NEW: Sherwood Smith will be signing at the Brea Borders Books from 6 to 7 before the meeting in the same center where the Denny's that we meet in is located (at the Imperial exit off the 57).

    Sherwood has been a published writer since 1986 with many novels and short stories to her credit. Her latest novels are the four book "Inda" series which will be concluded with the publication in September, 2010, of "Coronets and Steel"

    She has collaborated with Andre Norton on four novels and with Dave Trowbridge on the five novel Exordium Series.

    One of her books was an Anne Lindbergh Honor Book; she’s twice been a finalist for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and once a Nebula finalist.

    Also writing for young adults, her most popular book is "Crown Duel", from Firebirds. The e-book edition of its prequel, "Stranger to Command" will be her first offering through Book View Cafe.

    This month's book is "The Science Fiction of Edgar Allen Poe"

    We will look at some of Edgar Allen Poe's science fiction stories Dave picked the following stories

    The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall • (1835) • novelette

    Mesmeric Revelation

    Some Words with a Mummy

    The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether

    The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar

    Mellonta Tauta

    These may be found in copies of his complete collected works or in the collection: "The Science Fiction of Edgar Allen Poe" which is available cheap on Amazon and in some libraries.

May 26, 2010

  • Guest/program: We had an open meeting as our guest had a family emergency and was kind enough to reschedule for August.

    This month's book is "The Last Man" by Mary Shelley

    This is Mary Shelley's other science fiction novel.

    The Last Man is a story of friends whose bonds lead to their families intermarrying and after a certain number of ups and downs, they find themselves leading a satisfying life in a peaceful, prosperous England as it approaches the year 2100. Then a plague sweeps the land, culling the population over and over through the next few years, until the families, now among England's last survivors, flee to the continent. Alas, the plague and accidents continue to decimate the group until only the protagonist is left, wandering the land, wondering how he should spend his days.

    Reaction to the book was mixed, and I think your response to this book very much depends on your taste in reading matter. Some of the group thoroughly enjoyed the work. Most of us found the gothic sensibility of the novel tough going; however, while we can't say we enjoyed reading it, we did find the work insightful.

    To give you the point of view of someone who thoroughly enjoyed the word, here's Glenn's take on it:

    It strikes me as a perfect example of a novel whose concept and structure are totally in service to the theme.

    I don't read it as a thriller about a devastating plague.

    I don't read it as an imagining of a future society. (After all, people are still traveling by steamship and horse-drawn carriage. Newspapers still exist!)

    I believe Mary Shelley was writing a paean to man, England, classical learning, love and devotion and friendship, all the achievements of Western civilization and all the refinements of human society. Then she paints the loss of it. And all the care and attention and detail that she lavished on the depiction of it makes the reader acutely feel the loss. At the end, in the last page or two, she beautifully portrays the human spirit.

    Taking Glenn's comments as a starting point, I would agree that this is a novel about loss. Mary wrote this after she had lost her lover, the poet Shelley and her two children she had by him. It is heavily autobiographical. The main characters in the story were modeled after Shelley and Byron.

    But as Glenn points out the novel is more than that.

    Mary Shelley was no lightweight. Her father was a intellectual and her mother, who died shortly after Mary's birth, was one of the first to espouse the rights of women. Mary's household was a center of intellectual discussion as she grew up. She read Locke and Darwin as well as the work of other scientists of the time. This novel, like Frankenstein, has a very Scientific view of the world. It also comes with a philosophical depth that, even for those who are not fond of the story's style, provides a substance that makes reading it rewarding.

    In Mary's time Cholera was a very real threat. Plagues swept though the middle-east killing hundreds of thousands, so this story was not a fantasy, but like much modern science fiction, a transposition of reality. In fact, if you take off the novels romantic wrapping and look at the bare-bones plot, you have apocalyptic story that could have been done by J. G. Ballard in the sixties.

    With other stories of hers such as "The Transformation," which involves the mind-swap of its two main characters, also showing speculative elements, you get the impression that in more current times she could have easily been a modern science-fiction writer.

    This book is available cheap on amazon and is in some libraries.

April 28, 2010

  • Guest/program:

    Author Jefferson P. Swycaffer

  • Jefferson P. Swycaffer is a peripatetic mathematics student, computer professional, and pioneering fellow of furry fandom .

    He has published 9 novels , 7 science fiction and 2 fantasy including 2 based on the classic Traveller game. He is currently writing an urban fantasy.

    This month's book is "The Yiddish Policeman's Union"
    by Michael Chabon

    Michael Chabon's "The Yiddish Policeman's Union," is a noir, detective, alternative history story set in a world where Roosevelt allowed the persecuted Jews of Europe to settle in a special region in the Alaskan panhandle and the state of Israel never came into existence. For sixty years this special region has nurtured its Yiddish culture but this is coming to an end.

    Reactions to this book were mixed. Mr. Chabon has a very fine descriptive voice, but he is a little too fond of it, rounding off perfectly brilliant and complete descriptions with an unwarranted simile and going off on a tangent with some of the minor characters. All this slowed the story down to a point were some of the readers found wading through all the description to get to the end of what is a rather perfunctory plot an unfulfilling exercise.

    However, the plot, while relevant to the theme of the story, is not the object of the exercise. The book is not a noirish murder mystery but an examination of the nature of Jewishness through the vivid portrayal of characters and the setting and as such is most rewarding if read that way.

    Michael Chabon has done something very interesting here. He has used speculative fiction (and this is a work of speculative fiction: What if Roosevelt allowed the persecuted Jews of Europe to settle in a special region in the Alaskan panhandle?) and the tropes of noirish fiction to examine how the forces of their history have shaped the Jew's behavior. The society he looks at is not an Israeli/Hewbrew society, but a Yiddish, Jewish society: Brooklyn writ large.

    This is the sort of subject matter frequently dealt with in mainstream literature, but by turning to genera fiction Michael Chabon has given himself a lot more tools tell an interesting story. Science/Speculative Fiction is often talked about as being in a cut off and in a ghetto, and while the popular stories often adhere to a fairly narrow formula, there have always been those ready to import and try new techniques from mainstream literature. Mainstream literature, however, until quite recently, had disdained all things from genera fiction, refraining from using what the generas have to offer, so one wonders which field is really in a ghetto.

March 31, 2010

  • Guest/program:

    Author Shauna S. Roberts

  • Shauna is an Orange County author and has a new book out Like Mayflies in the Stream. her first novel published late last year.

    Shauna talked about what authors (and in many cases, artists and musicians) can do to promote their books, what she did, and how well she thought her promotion strategy worked.

    This month's book is "Like Mayflies in the Stream"
    by Shauna S. Roberts

    In the great city of Uruk, there is no peace when Gilgamesh is restless, and he is never at rest. Shamhat, a priestess of Inanna, goes into the wilderness to find and civilize a match for Uruk's violently active God-King.

    "Like Mayflies in a Stream" brings new life to the Epic of Gilgamesh, diving into one of the earliest conflicts between civilization and wilderness, civic order and freedom, romance and sexuality. A book of the Hadley Rille Books Archaeology Series.

    This Month's book was: Like Mayflies in a Stream, by Shauna Roberts.

    Like Mayflies in a Stream is a historical novel set 4,700 years ago in Sumer, in what is now southern Iraq and is based on part of the legends of Gilgamesh.

    Synopsis: Although the tall, strong, and handsome Gilgamesh epitomizes manly physical perfection, in other ways he falls far short. His subjects fear him, and for good reason, because he has become a bored and restless tyrant.

    The people cry out to the gods for relief. The elegant, sophisticated priestess Shamhat fears Gilgamesh's growing wildness will attract the wrath of the gods. She wants to protect Inanna and her temple, as well as free the people of Uruk from Gilgamesh's oppression, but she fears the repercussions for her and her son if she acts against the out-of-control king.

    Then word comes to Uruk of a wild man living in the desert, a man the equal of Gilgamesh in size and strength. The king thinks the wild man can relieve his boredom and restlessness and sends someone to bring him back to court. But the person he has chosen, Shamhat, has her own agenda: She believes the wild man can humble the arrogant king.

    Commentary: This story was a delightful surprise. With clear, spare and vigorous prose, Shauna tells a new fable woven around the legend Gilgamesh. Shauna has had an abiding interest in this place and period since she was a child and her broad background knowledge and love of the subject matter shows through in the well drawn characters, who act and feel in a manner genuine to the epoch as they struggle with the meaning of their lives.

    Most of the group enjoyed the story. We felt it had a rare thematic depth for a fantasy and were left wanting to know more about the characters. Shauna would have liked to oblige, but the editorial requirement was for a short book.

    I would particularly recommend the book for those who are fond of ancient fables. This story does not have the grand, heroic supernatural elements of a lot of mythology, being more prosaic in its approach. It is, however, part of a book series built around ancient archeology, so I think it would pa rticularly appeal to those with an Anthropological bent.



    You'll like the story. If you're unfamiliar with the source material (the legends surrounding King Gilgamesh), you'll find it fresh and appealing. You probably won't know what's coming next or how it's going to turn out.

    The story flows smoothly, the elements come together in a natural way, and nothing seems forced. The characters' motivations are clear and make sense.

    You'll like that the central characters are strong and strong-willed. You'll care about them. They have things to do, and they throw themselves into it. At more than one point you may have occasion to compare Zaidu, Shamhat, Enkidu, and Gilgamesh to four central characters of "Atlas Shrugged." That's coincidental, as the author says that she has not read "Atlas Shrugged," but you may find a "sense of life" there that you like a lot. You'll like the vitality and the passion of it all. It's life-affirming. You'll like that it plays out on a grand scale and that you're not reading about boring people with shallow lives and petty concerns.

    You'll like that the book, in a very natural way in the context of the story, brings up all sorts of issues and themes. What gives a person identity. The meaning of life. Dealing with mortality. Whether there are gods up there and what they heck they are doing.

    You'll appreciate the title. Shamhat says, "Enjoy life while you have it." For all the grand passion of it, life still comes down to something experienced by people with very, very brief lives in a moving stream of events and circumstances.

    The ending is satisfying. You won't be disappointed.

    Throughout, you'll like the writing. Very clean, very polished. Not way overboard on description. No parts that you'll think are off track or tedious.

    A very good read! The introduction says, "May you enjoy your visit to the exotic and wondrous city of Uruk." That's a great sentiment for the writer to convey to the reader, and you almost certainly will enjoy your visit.


Febrary 24, 2010

  • Guest/program:

    Author Leslie Ann Moore

  • Leslie Ann Moore was winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best First Book for her first book in the fantasy trilogy Griffin's Daughter.

    The second volume of her trilogy Griffin's Shadow was published last year.

    And, just out is her last volume wrapping up the trilogy Griffin's Destiny

    The trilogy is 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.

    This month's book is "Tea With the Black Dragon"
    by R. A. MacAvoy

    Tea with the Black Dragon is about a woman named Martha MacNamara who was brought west to San Francisco by her daughter Elizabeth's disappearance. Mayland Long, an Asian gentleman who happens to be a 2,000 year old Chinese dragon, aids Martha in her search for her daughter. As they search for any clues as to why Elizabeth disappeared they discover hints of Martha's daughter being possibly mixed up in something dangerous.

    This book is a finely crafted little gem. We all liked it, drawn in by its delightful prose characterization. The plot was a bit weak, but this wasn't enough to detract from the book's charm. The cutting-edge computing involved in the plot has now aged to a point of quaint clunkiness, so it's best to consider the book as a historical novel.

    Wikipedia Summary

January 27, 2010

  • Guest/program: Video of Neil deGrasse Tyson

  • The video was of Neil's speech to the Space Society celebrating NASA's 50th Anniversary.

    This month's book is "The Player of Games"
    by Iain M. Banks

    In an empire ruled by arcane conventions and sophisticated brutality an ambitious novel of gamesmanship and intrigue.

    Wikipedia Summary

Prior Years:

2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003

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