Orange County Science Fiction Club Orange County Science Fiction Club

Past Meetings

---- 2017 ----

  • MAY 10, 2017 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:



    May's book was The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov

    Suggested by Jamie

    Attending: Chris Fanning, Jamie Cassidy-Curtis, Dave Moore, Catherine Curley, Ralph Cox, John Bowen, Sandi Callas, Rob Escalante

    A landmark of science fiction's "Golden Age," Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy - which comprises the novels Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation - has long been regarded a visionary masterpiece whose astonishing historical scope perfectly conveys science fiction's sense of wonder. First published as a cycle of stories in the 1940s, Asimov's iconic trilogy has endured to become, like the author himself, a legend of science fiction.

    Set in the far future, Foundation envisions a Galactic Empire that has thrived for 12,000 years, but whose decline into an age of barbarism lasting some thirty millennia is imminent - if the predictions of renegade psycho-historian Hari Seldon are accurate. Hoping to shorten the interval of this impending new Dark Age, Seldon convinces the Empire's Commission of Public Safety to allow him to enact a diversionary plan - one full of surprising subterfuges and intrigues intended to create and protect a Foundation on which the future Empire will be erected.

    Isaac Asimov (born Isaak Yudovich Ozimov; circa January 2, 1920 - April 6, 1992) was an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. Asimov was prolific and wrote or edited more than 500 books and is generally considered to be one of the three greatest writers of science fiction during the 1940's and 1950's.

    Chris opened the session by remarking that he had read the book previously and found its most impressive part to be the concept of psychohistory. Jamie said this was the second time around for her also (as was true for nearly all of us). She enjoyed the book both times and was also taken with the idea of psychohistory. She felt the writing held up very well considering how long ago it had been written - though she noted that everything was driven by "atomic" motors, a trope of the late 1940's. She considered the characters to be well-drawn and particularly liked the depiction of Arkady. She had a good laugh out of the futuristic essay printer and Arkady's errors. Jamie recommends the book to all for historic reasons.

    Sandi was an exception as she was reading it for the first time. She said she had some issues with the fragmented storyline, too much reliance on dialog, the lack of more than perfunctory descriptions, the "handwavium" FTL drive and the understated significance of the "galaxy-wide" empire which the Mule is able to conquer in a matter of months. The story was very male- dominated, with the exceptions of Bayta and Arkady. Sandi was disturbed by the depiction of a man wanting to marry 14-year-old Arkady. The book was an ok read but she won't re-read it.

    Rob read the book as a teenager also, and has noted the extensive influence the book has had on subsequent movies and stories. John found the first book the easiest to read but was significantly bored by the middle of the second book. It didn't help that he figured out the meaning and identity of the Mule almost as soon as the character appeared, and had also doped out the location of the Second Foundation long before it was revealed. He agreed with Sandi that the timescale and size of the galaxy received no respect from the author. He wondered if Arkady was the inspiration for Heinlein's Podkayne as the characters seemed quite similar. The psychohistoric premise fitted in well with other grand concepts of the mid- to late-1940's, such as Esperanto, General Semantics, and Dianetics.

    Ralph read the books originally when he was 14, but found rereading the trilogy to be new to him except for the Mule and the Second Foundation location. The stories in the first book showed Asimov in early stages of learning to write. By the time the Mule appeared the stories were more interesting. Most of the stories also worked as mysteries. The Second Foundation seemed to represent the next stage of evolution, stillborn in the Mule.

    Dave found the book a mixed bag with the later stories less interesting than the earlier ones. He felt the series featured very shallow characters and plotting. He did note that Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman claims the series as his inspiration and that the beginning stories were modeled after The History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire by Edward Gibbons, as Asimov admitted in the introduction found in some of the editions of the Trilogy.

    Catherine said she read the book long ago and listened to the audiotape recently. According to the introduction, she said that Asimov's editor, John W. Campbell, Jr., did not want long descriptions or action onstage in the stories he bought. She also said there were no women of substance in the Trilogy.

    John pointed out that Campbell, as editor of Astounding Science Fiction had a limited amount of space in which to work, and therefore serialized any stories longer than about 35 pages. This created limitations on excessive description and action in order to fit in the story. Campbell, who had an engineering background, had at one time been a very popular writer of stories of super-science which featured substantial action sequences, and his stories written under the pseudonym of Don A. Stuart were moody stories with long descriptive passages. By the time he became editor, though, he wanted more adult stories stressing plot over style, especially as there were a number of competing magazines that continued to publish space opera.

    Availability: Braille AnaPL FulPL LACPL LAPL OCPL AMZ-used $2 Kindle $24 Nook $24

    679 pages
    Pub. 1951-1953



  • REGULAR MEETING, APRIL 26, 2017

    GUEST/PROGRAM:


    Krys Sapp

    Assemblage artist Krystopher Sapp likes to stay locked up in his studio and create highly detailed, dark and twisted worlds in the form of mixed media assemblage. Inspired by his favorite horror and sci-fi movies, war history books and intense nightmares, his works are cultivated from fear and molded into beauty. Sapp uses found objects and items purchased at Home Depot - the place he calls his "art supply store."

    By day, Sapp is a commercial artist and has created album cover, t-shirt and poster art for bands such as Demented Are Go, Meteors, Necromantics, Tiger Army, 45 Grave, Penis Flytrap, Zombie Ghost Train and many others.

  • APRIL 12, 2017 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:



    April's book was The Girl With All The Gifts
    by M. R. Carey

    Suggested by Sandi

    Twenty years ago humanity was infected by a fungus. The infected, referred to as "hungries", quickly lose their mental powers and feed on the flesh of healthy humans. In England, the few surviving uninfected humans either live in heavily-guarded areas such as the Beacon, or roam in packs of hostile, scavenging "junkers". At the Beacon, head scientist Caroline Caldwell believes she is close to a cure, and wants to dissect Melanie, a child hungry who has retained her mental powers.

    M.R. "Mike" Carey is a pen name for an established British writer of prose fiction and comic books. He has written for both DC and Marvel, including critically acclaimed runs on X-Men and Fantastic Four, Marvel's flagship superhero titles. His creator-owned books regularly appear in the New York Times graphic fiction bestseller list. He also has several previous novels and one Hollywood movie screenplay to his credit.

    Availability:
    Braille-DB AnaPL FulPL LACPL OCPL AMZ-used $4 Kindle & Nook $5

    460 pages
    Pub. 2014

  • REGULAR MEETING, MARCH 29, 2017

    GUEST/PROGRAM:


    Dan Parsons

    Dan Parsons has produced sf and fantasy-oriented art for Marvel, DC and Dark Horse Comics, and is best known for his inking on the continuing Dark Horse Star Wars series of comic books. Additionally, he has created definitive renditions of several characters for the dvd of HBO's Game Of Thrones series. Harpy and Savage Planet are two of Dan's well-received self-published creations.

  • MARCH 2017 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:



    March's book was Jurgen: A Comedy Of Justice
    by James Branch Cabell

    Suggested by John

    Cabell's most famous novel tells the story of a middle-aged man on a journey through fantastic realms, where he meets and seduces beautiful women of fiction and myth - including the Devil's wife. It is a humorous romp through a mediaeval cosmos, including a send-up of Arthurian legend and excursions to heaven and hell as in The Divine Comedy. Cabell's work is recognized as a landmark in the creation of the comic fantasy novel, influencing Terry Prachett and many others. The book garnered attention as it was charged with obscenity in a case that reached the New York Supreme Court. Cabell and his publisher won the case, and the author was deemed a literary avant garde, who tested conventional social boundaries and opposed the forces of puritanical repression.

    Availability:
    Braille-a LACPL AMZ-u cheap Kindle & Gutenberg free Nook $1

    369 pages
    Pub. 1919

  • REGULAR MEETING, FEBRUARY 22, 2017

    GUEST/PROGRAM:


    Mark Jiro Okui

    Mark is of Japanese descent but he does not speak Japanese. Both his mother and grandmother were artists and he has been drawing since he was a little kid. Monsters such as King Kong and Godzilla caught his imagination at a young age, and he remains fascinated by them to this day. He received his degree in illustration from CSU Long Beach, and has done storyboards for the movies “Terrorgram” and “Desert of Death.” He has received awards from the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles and G-Fest. Among his commercial work he has done cover drawings for “Mad Scientist” #14 and “Asian Cult Cinema” #14, and his illustrations have appeared in the pages of G-Fan, Manga Muerto, Threat N Ink, Ben is Dead, Scarlet Letters, Kaiju Fan, Scary Monsters and Kaiju Review.

    For the club, Mark displayed a number of his drawings and discussed his involvement with the monster film oriented magazine Calling Monster Island, which he has been publishing since 1998. The magazine features articles on collecting memorabilia from the movies, movie summaries, and other related items.

  • FEBRUARY 2017 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:



    February's book was Hospital Station
    by James White

    Suggested by Jamie

    The 'Hospital Station' of the title is Sector Twelve General Hospital, a multi-species, multi-enviroment hive that hangs "like a misshappen christmas tree" far out on the Galactic Rim. Originally a series of short stories the first, Medic, is a sort of prologue set during the Hospital Station's construction. In it a surly construction worker named O'Mara finds himself treating the Hospital's very first patient. 'Sector General' introduces Dr. Conway, a young, idealistic and rather naive junior physician who has a lot to learn about how the Galactic Federation and the Hospital really function. In 'The Trouble With Emily' Conway is assigned to assist a visiting VIP, Dr. Arretapec, a "levitating ball of goo" with advanced psi powers who refuses to tell Conway exactly what he is trying to accomplish with their 'patient' a perfectly healthy brontosaurian being - nicknamed Emily. In 'Visitor At Large' Conway is in charge of a pediatrics ward and has an assistant of his own; a frail, spiderlike, empathic sensitive called Prilicla. In another ward an exotic being, capable of changing form at will, is dying of an undiagnosed, untreatable condition. The usual rule against visitors is relaxed to allow the entity's child to make a farewell visit to its parent. Unfortunately the welcoming committee of strange looking aliens, including Conway and Prilicla, frightens the youngster into headlong flight. A terrified, immature being, capable of assuming any shape, lost in the multiple levels of Sector General, unable to communicate and worst of all - getting hungry... In 'Out Patient' Conway is promoted to Senior Physician and presented with a new patient; a being of unknown race that is apparently being eaten alive by some kind of cancerous growth.

    The first three Sector General novels make up the omnibus edition Beginning Operations. Hospital Station is the first book in White's "Sector General" series.

    Availability:
    In Beginning Operations Braille-a Kindle & Nook $8 as Hospital Station AMZ-u cheap

    191 pages
    Pub. 1962



  • REGULAR MEETING, JANUARY 25, 2017

    January's meeting was our annual "taking care of business" meeting and there was no guest program.

  • JANUARY 2017 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:



    January's book was Seveneves
    by Neal Stephenson

    Suggested by John

    Five thousand years after a catastropic event rendered the Earth a ticking time bomb, the progeny of a handful of outer space explorers -- seven distinct races now three billion strong -- embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown...to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth!

    Availability:
    Braille-DB AnaPL FulPL LACPL OCPL AMZ-u $3 Kindle & Nook $13

    880 pages
    Pub. 2015

  • ---- 2016 ----

  • WEDNESDAY, November 30, 2016 (7:00 p.m.)

    GUEST/PROGRAM:


    Keith Fulmis

    "I am a professional illustrator and cartoonist. I create art for companies like Disney, Hard Rock, and Sea World. I also design and make custom toys on the side. I am a professional illustrator/graphic designer and cartoonist. I have created pins and branding products for companies like Disney, Hard Rock, and Sea World. I also design and make custom toys, skateboards, and apparel on the side. I'm currently a product designer at Disney Consumer Products, designing PVC figure sets and Christmas ornaments for the Disney Stores."

  • NOVEMBER 2016 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:



    November's book was The Fifth Season
    by N. K. Jemisin

    Suggested by Sandi

    A season of endings has begun. It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, from which enough ash spews to darken the sky for years. Or centuries. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester. And it ends with you. You are the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where orogenes wield the power of the earth as a weapon and are feared far more than the long cold night. And you will have no mercy.

    Winner of the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novel. Book One of The Broken Earth.

    Availability:
    Braille-a AnaPL LACPL OCPL AMZ-u $2 Kindle & Nook $10

    512 pages
    Pub. 2015

  • WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2016

    GUEST/PROGRAM:

    Ralph Cox

    Longtime member Ralph Cox filled in with a discussion of time dilation when our scheduled guest was not able to make the meeting.

  • OCTOBER 2016 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:



    October's book was Heart-Shaped Box
    by Joe Hill [Joseph Hillstrom King]

    Suggested by Sandi

    Attending: Ralph Cox, Frank Mayfield, Catherine Curley, John Bowen, Sandi Kallas, (Jamie Cassidy-Curtis)

    An aging rock star, buys himself a dead man's suit. He acquires it online, lured by the promise that the dead man's ghost will be included in his purchase.

    Availability: Braille-a AnaPL FullPL LACPL LAPL OCPL AMZ-U & B&N-U $2, Kindle & Nook $10.50

    400 pages
    Pub. 2009

  • WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

    GUEST/PROGRAM:



    Our guests were The Heinlein Society. In a well-received third engagement, Society members Mike Sheffield and Keith Kato presented further material from their files.


  • SEPTEMBER 2016 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:





  • September's book was The Dancer From Atlantis
    by Poul Anderson

    Suggested by Jamie

    Attending: Catherine Curley, Frank Mayfield, John Bowen, Sandi Kallas, Jamie Cassidy-Curtis, Ralph Cox, Glenn Osborne

    American architect Duncan Reid is suddenly caught up in an inexplicable event—and when he awakens he is somewhere . . . different. Duncan has inadvertently fallen victim to a fatally malfunctioning time machine from the future, along with three equally startled companions from vastly different epochs and civilizations, and now he stands with them on the rocky Mediterranean coast of Egypt in the year 4000 BCE.

    Braille-a LAPL AMZ-U cheap, B&N-U $4, Kindle $6, Nook $6.50

    221 pages
    Pub. 1971

  • WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 30, 2016

    GUEST/PROGRAM:


    Steven Barnes

    Science fiction writer Steven Barnes, several times nominated for a Hugo Award, makes a return appearance after a number of years. Steven first appeared on the scene in 1979 and his latest novel, a fantasy epic co-written with Larry Niven, went on sale in June.

  • AUGUST 2016 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:



    August's book was Playing God
    by Sarah Zettel

    Suggested by Jamie

    Attended by: Jamie Cassidy-Curtis, GG, Catherine Curley, Greg Funke, John Bowen

    The fierce Dedelphi have unleashed a biological weapon that has poisoned the planet. Now, Lynn Nussbaumer and her Bioverse company have been hired to clean up the ecosystem. But some groups want to use the humans and their advanced technology to exterminate their enemies...

    Availability: Braille-a AnaPL LACPL LAPL OCPL, AMZ-U & B&N-U cheap, Kindle $8, Nook $7.50

    464 pages
    Pub. 1998

  • WEDNESDAY, JULY 26, 2016

    GUEST/PROGRAM:


    Craig Miller

    Guest Craig Miller was the Publicist and Director of Fan Relations for Lucasfilm from 1977 to 1980, and for numerous fantastic series and movies since then. Currently he is serving as the story editor for the series Majid, and he has written episodes of various cartoons including Stargate Universe, Godzilla, and Curious George.

  • JULY 2016 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:



    July's book was Bones Of The Moon
    by Jonathan Carroll

    Suggested by John

    Attending: Aaron Pilgrim, Catherine Curley, Sandi Kallas, John Bowen, Dave Moore, Ralph Cox, (Jamie Cassidy-Curtis)

    Cullen James is a young woman dwelling in two worlds. A happy housewife by day, by dream she is one of several questers after the Bones of the Moon. Somehow, though, one of these worlds is starting to carry over into the other, in frightening ways.

    Neil Gaiman cites Carroll as one of his major influences. The black-covered edition is slightly revised from the original. The book is Part One of the Answered Prayers series.

    Jamie reported by email that she found the book a boring attempt to be some kind of Oz. The story lacks versimilitude - you only see the journey.

    Aaron found the quest narrative to overcome psychological issues an interesting premise and he was blown away by the endings - especially that of Eliot's death. He said the book was ok and felt like a book of philosophy adapted to fantasy. He wondered if the sleazy director was written about someone Carroll knew. Other unsolved questions include what the point of the axe boy was; the purpose of Cullen's life in Greece and Italy; the meaning of the bones of the moon. Components such as Danny, the land of Rondua, the loss of control after the purple fire and the confusing ending left him wondering if there is an unrevealed backstory.

    Catherine claimed the story read like two or three novels mashed together, and was obviously by a man writing about a woman. The story was not told well, with Cullen telling rather than showing. Mr. Tracy revels in no rules and doing stupid stuff. She knew Pepsi was the aborted fetus long before Cullen did. She found the concept of writing to a homicidal mental patient a highly unlikely treatment.

    Sandi felt the writing stressed style over substance, full of the symbolism that she hated when doing her lit studies classes. Sort of an anti-abortion novel. As Pepsi appears while she is pregnant with Mae, Sandi wonders if the story is of Cullen's own insanity. And was Jack Chill representative of Alvin, the axe murderer?

    Ralph found the experience of reading the book unpleasant due to the writing style and the preponderance of dreams. The writing was in day-to-day language with no flair, featuring poor dialog conducted all in the same voice with a number of childish cheap shots. He felt unengaged by the dream world as it slipped into psychosis at the end, and he questioned the reliability of the narrator.

    Dave was not impressed as he felt the novel was not about anything. Rondua felt very arbitrary and the menace was thus pretty insipid. The writing was readable but left him with no feeling of accomplishment when he finished. The late appearance of the axe boy left him feeling swindled.

    John had suggested the author's Land Of Laughs but this book was chosen instead due to the unavailability of the earlier work in Braille. He had enjoyed the first book, finding its flavor a bit similar to John Crowley's Little, Big. This book was more of a challenge to get through as he doesn't like novels set in non-rational worlds. The obscure symbolism also made for somewhat tedious reading. He found the book oddly affecting, despite the fact that at no time did he feel like he truly understood what was going on. He would recommend the book to puzzle fanatics, but maybe not to the general reader.

    Availability: Braille-a FullPL LAPL AMZ-U & B&N-U cheap, Kindle & Nook $8

    224 pages
    Pub. 1987

  • WEDNESDAY, JUNE 29, 2016

    GUEST/PROGRAM:

    Tim Powers and James Blaylock



    Longtime pals (and OCSFC friends) Tim Powers & Jim Blaylock were welcome returning guests at the June meeting. Among other topics, they discussed the role an editor has had in the evolution of their writing abilities. New books this year from each are pictured above.

  • JUNE 2016 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:



    June's book was Leviathan Wakes
    by James S. A. Corey [Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck]

    Suggested by Catherine

    Attending: Jamie Cassidy-Curtis, Sandi Kallas, Aaron Pilgrim, Dave Moore, Catherine Curley, John Bowen

    Two hundred years after migrating into space, mankind is in turmoil. When a reluctant ship's captain and washed-up detective find themselves involved in the case of a missing girl, what they discover brings our solar system to the brink of civil war, and exposes the greatest conspiracy in human history. 2012 Hugo Award nominee. The series has been adapted for television by the Syfy Network.

    Sandi led off the discussion by remarking that this was a very male-centric book with no good female characters (only a token fantasy girl). This was an old-fashioned space opera, set in the Solar System, with straight-forward plotting, but a little preachy. Jim Holden and Detective Joe Miller are good characterrs symbolizing the conflict between idealism vs. realism. This was the second time she had read the book, which she enjoyed, but she was now more aware of its flaws. She felt a bit iffy about the evil corporation, but loved the vomit zombies.

    Jamie thought the writing was a pretty good handling of multiple science fictional clichés (space pirates, asteroids vs. planets). The story moved well, but did not leave her panting for the next installment.

    Aaron weighed in, commenting that he was more inspired by the television series than by the books. He found the series reminiscent of the movie Aliens 2 and the Japanese manga Akira. Although he felt the book featured poor dialog, and would have been better at a shorter length - say, 200 pages - he nonetheless found a number of scenes were too short. On the plus side he said the g-forces were well-described and the battles were good. On the downside, Julie deserved more time as the ending with her as mother of a new race was unsatisfying. The story was a space opera lacking the super scientist and any real bad guy. Overall, ok, but lacking in depth.

    Dave had also seen the series and felt the book started well. He lost interest when the book changed gears halfway through and switched into heroic mode. He found many holes in the science, including an unrealistic compression of travel times. He felt the writing was a bit perfunctory and lacked energy.

    Catherine remarked that there were a lot of characters to remember, and she had difficulty following the plot of the second half of the story. She stated that Miller and Holden had equal weight, morality and flaws in the story until the second half. She thought the ending seemed rushed, and she stated the ship was named after a Staten Island politician.

    John agreed with the others that the book was a bit lightweight and overlong, but he enjoyed it anyway. The scenes with jeopardy attached maintained suspense well and developed into believable escapes for the characters. The main characters were likeable, with adequate dialog and motivations. He said it would probably be a while before he read the next in the series as he had a long list of "to be read nexts", but he was interested enough to give the series a try.

    Volume I of a projected 9 book series "The Expanse", which also has a number of shorter works published as e-books.


    Availability: Braille-a FullPL LAPL LACPL OCPL AMZ-u $5 Kindle $10

    592 pages
    Pub. 2011

  • WEDNESDAY, MAY 25, 2016

    GUEST/PROGRAM:


    Scott Tracy Griffin

    Scott Tracy Griffin is the author of Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration. Print publications for which Griffin has written include Cinefantastique, FilmFax, Femme Fatale, The Burroughs Bulletin, Mississippi Magazine, and AlterEgo. His online editorial contributions have been featured in the Huffington Post, Amazon’s Hollywonk, Aintitcool.com, MTV Geek, Flavor Wire, Man of La Book, and List.co.uk. Griffin scripted a 13-week arc for United Feature’s Tarzan Sunday comic strip in 1996, and the forward to Tarzan in the City of Gold (Titan Books, 2014). He’s been the moderator for the annual Edgar Rice Burroughs panel at Comic Con International in San Diego since 2012.

  • MAY 2016 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:



    May's book was City Of Stairs
    by Robert Jackson Bennett

    Suggested by Jamie

    Attending: Greg Funke, Sandi Kallas, Jamie Cassidy-Curtis, Dave Moore, John Bowen

    An atmospheric and intrigue-filled novel of dead gods, buried histories, and a mysterious, protean city. The city of Bulikov once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millions—until its divine protectors were killed. Now Bulikov has become just another colonial outpost of the world's new geopolitical power, but the surreal landscape of the city itself—first shaped, now shattered, by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it—stands as a constant, haunting reminder of its former supremacy.

    Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov's oppressors. Unofficially, she is one of her country's most accomplished spies, dispatched to catch a murderer. But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seem—and that Bulikov's cruel reign may not yet be over.

    Greg said he didn't like the book at first but found he couldn't stop reading it. It was the mystery that drew him in and the prolific ideas that unfolded that kept him involved. He still remembers the book long after reading it, and is glad we picked it for our group to read.

    Sandi has now read it twice and also liked the slow reveals. She found the city of Bulikov to be almost a character in itself (a comment shared by many of the group). She enjoyed the secondary characters better than Shara, whom she found to be a bit flat, but she liked the conversation between Shara and the Divinity Olvos. Sigrud was "cool", Col. Mulaghesh was very appealing and doesn't need a love interest, Pitry should have had a bigger role, and Vo's speech at the end was quite good. Overall, a terrific book.

    Jamie also was fond of Sigrud, and found Shara to be a sort of female 007, but that was OK. She liked the setting, which reminded her of Mieville's The City & The City, and also enjoyed the pacing and slow release of background information, which she said was made available as needed for understanding. The rich setting and multiplicity of characters, especially the gods, has left her wanting to reread the book, and she is looking forward to the sequels.

    Dave likes the novel and wants more of the warehouse. He also liked the epigraphs and the lack of "data dumps", Shara and Auntie Vinya, but was less impressed by Sigrud, who was "too good as a badass." He also didn't care much for Vo, who was too high on himself, but he did find the relationship between Vo and Shara to be interesting. Overall, he gave the book a 50% rating, listing a lack of tension due to no limits on the magic as the main detraction. He liked the beginning of this complex novel but found the ending to be too simplistic, wanting something more nuanced.

    John was totally entranced by this novel - he loved the complex background, the mishmash of faintly Hindu gods, the warehouse reminiscent of the tv show Warehouse 13, the political tensions, etc. Like Dave he was not overly impressed with Sigrud, who was something of a deus ex machina character for him. He also felt the murder mystery kind of got sidelined and was more of a minor subplot than he expected. He does not particularly want to read any sequels (but probably will) as he feels the story is better as a standalone novel.

    A sequel was published in 2016: City Of Blades, and a third book is planned.

    Availability: Braille Audio AnaPL LAPL LACPL OCPL AMZ-u $6 Kindle $10

    464 pages
    Pub. 2014



  • WEDNESDAY, APRIL 27, 2016

    GUEST/PROGRAM:


    E.J. De la Peña

    E.J. De la Peña is an American Filmmaker and CEO of the entertainment production company Cowboy Errant. E.J. was one of the youngest members of SAG (Screen Actors Guild) at the age of 4, and has worked with various legends of film, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, Walter Koenig, and Julia Roberts. E.J. is Creator and Executive Producer for multiple film and television projects, including Nobility: The Series. An avid humanitarian, E.J. uses his projects to motivate and support philanthropic efforts in the sectors of medical research, green technology, and education.

  • APRIL 2016 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:



    April's book was Fahrenheit 451
    by Ray Bradbury

    Suggested by Ralph Cox

    Attending: Catherine Curley, Sandi Kallas, Jamie Cassidy-Curtis, Will & Yvonne Morton, Ralph Cox, GG and John Bowen

    Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.

    Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.

    When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known. He starts hiding books in his home, and when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life.

    The book is considered a classic and is often used in schools. Most of us had previously read the book, some more than once. Will and Yvonne listened to the audio book read by Bradbury. Will had trouble separating his impressions from the Truffault movie version. He found the story somewhat dated, concerned and inspired by the events of the Joe McCarthy era, but still appropriate for today's readers. He said the book should be read and taken to heart. Yvonne said the author's vision of the 1950's was still valid.

    GG agreed about the movie, particularly the ending and the training scene. He felt Bradbury succeeded in his goal to present a warning regarding the effect of mass media taking the place of family and religion. He found the city in the air scene to be quite powerful, and he noted that the book has no "hard" sf, no feminine books are mentioned, and the story is essentially a one gimmick concept.

    Sandi listened to the Tim Robbins audiobook for her third go at this book, and found him to express more emotion than is contained in the print version. She characterized Bradbury as a kind of Luddite, warning of technology taking over; a man who resisted e-books to the end. She considered the book to be beautifully written. She said his lyricism made his writing memorable, vivid and poetic.

    Dave found the book to be still relevant - a good dystopian novel with an interesting society. He singled out the character of Mildred, Morag's wife, as memorable, and was impressed by Bradbury's replacement of human neighbors with TV neighbors. On the other hand, Jamie found the characterization to be poorly drawn. The characters' souls were being leached by their society, left just barely alive. Montag was "kind of a wimp." She did feel that it was legitimately a classic, and agreed with Sandi about the lyricism in the writing, pointing out that the ending was happier than in Orwell's 1984. She said that Bradbury was better at writing fantasy than science fiction.

    Catherine said that for her the book started off with a bang that didn't last, with the lyricism becoming pedestrian and the story lacking focus and containing too much exposition. She noted that the women were all "ditzheads" and stereotypes, generally found all in the background. The wife only came alive when she attempted suicide. Bradbury was a short story writer that had trouble maintaining reader interest in longer lengths.

    John stated that this was not one of his favorite Bradbury works, and that the author, despite his reputation, always seemed uncomfortable when writing science fiction. His most memorable stories were the fantasies. He also felt the book was a product of its times and was inferior to Orwell's 1984.

    Ralph, who suggested the book, enjoyed both it and the Orwell when he discovered them while he was in high school. The metaphoric writing filled out the philosophic storyline and drew him on. He noted there had been several changes through the years, improving things and changing the sequence of events. He said the burning woman knows what will happen in the novel only. The movie had an outstanding ending. He reported that Bradbury was urged by editor Horace Gold to write the story as he wanted to publish reactions to McCarthyism. Bradbury's tombstone reads "Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451." He wonders whether or not Bradbury ever read 1984.

    Availability: Braille Audio AnaPL FullPL LAPL LACPL OCPL AMZ-u cheap Kindle $12

    159 pages
    Pub. 1953



  • WEDNESDAY, MARCH 30, 2016

    GUEST/PROGRAM:


    Dr. David Sandner

    David Sandner is a writer and professor at California State University Fullerton, where he teaches nineteenth-century British Literature, children’s literature, gothic, science fiction, and fantastic literature. A story is up at PodCastle. Another recently appeared in Field of Fantasies: Baseball Stories of the Fantastic and Supernatural. His work has appeared in Clockwork Phoenix, Tails of Wonder and Imagination, The Mammoth Book of Sorcerers' Tales and The Mammoth Book of Black Magic, Asimov's, Realms of Fantasy, Weird Tales, and others, including pop-up zine Philip K. Dick in the OC. He is a 2014 Finalist for the Mythopoeic Award for Critical Discourses of the Fantastic, 1712-1831. He edited Fantastic Literature A Critical Reader and The Treasury of the Fantastic and wrote The Fantastic Sublime. He is Chair of the 2016 Philip K. Dick Conference at CSU, Fullerton, to be held April 29-30.

    During the discussion before the guest presentation, Tim Cassidy-Curtis provided the link for the Nobility pilot for which he served as technical consultant.

  • MARCH 2016 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:



    March's book was The Martian
    by Andy Weir

    Suggested by Catherine

    Attending: Jamie Cassidy-Curtis, Ralph Cox, Dave Moore, Sandi Kallas, Catherine Curley, Will & Yvonne Morton and John Bowen

    Six days after becoming the first man to walk on Mars, astronaut Mark Watney is caught in a windstorm. Though his support crew thinks he died, Mark survived and now faces abandonment, failed machinery, and a hostile environment.

    This book was well-liked by all of the Orbit members. Jamie noted that the book had no evil NASA personnel, with only a reporter asking if the mission was worth the loss of the astronaut Mark. She liked the believable problem-solving involved with each crisis - nothing from left field, just God laughing frequently. She also had a good time reading Mark's comments about 70's television shows.

    Catherine did not expect to enjoy the book, but she surprised herself, due to the great characterization and clever plotting. The author delivered a relatable character defined with irrepressible black humor, in a mostly linear story. She noted this was the author's fourth novel, and that he was famous for his short stories, especially "The Egg."

    Sandi listened to the audio book (as did Catherine), and found the story very believable, the science correct, and the narration very good. She provided the information that the astrophysicist author is self-published and that the Kindle edition had a different ending.

    Ralph, Will & Yvonne had only seen the movie, although Ralph was part way through reading the book. Will thought that Matt Damon had provided a realistic portrait of a NASA astronaut; Yvonne found the movie compelling even in mundane things. Ralph commented that despite the heavy use of acronyms, they are explained as you go along. Also, that the television provided Mark with this only companionship, and that the disco music provided "negative energy."

    John had a good time with the book, and read it in only two sittings, something that is very rare for him these days. As an aficianado of hard science fiction, this book was right up his alley, reminiscent of a number of works by authors like Arthur C. Clarke and Hal Clement. He did feel that the ending nearly jumped the shark.

    Dave found himself asking the question of why the character is so likeable, and what makes the book grab you? Perhaps it is the anti-heroic character, competent, unable to take himself completely seriously, more real than an archetype. He doesn't moan. The story celebrates triumph over adversity featuring intelligent characters cooperating. The story is upbeat - not a dystopic novel at all. The book may prove to be a groundbreaker, changing the direction of future science fiction.

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    387 pages
    Pub. 2011/2014



  • WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2016

    GUEST/PROGRAM:


    David Mitchell

    David Mitchell is a NASA award-winning author who has published numerous articles and textbook chapters on the Internet, space, virtual reality and telepresence.

    David is a past member of the Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy with a lifetime of experience in private space development, emergency preparedness, advanced wireless communications systems and video surveillance technology.

    In Laguna Beach, David has been a past chairman of the City's Technology & Communications Committee, a tech-talk show host on Laguna's FM radio station, a member of the Greater Laguna Coast FireSafe Council and a founder of Stasis Vault.

    He is also known for having the world's worst puns...

  • FEBRUARY 2016 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:



    February's book was Diving Into The Wreck
    by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

    Suggested by Jamie

    Attending: Dave Moore, Sandi Kallas, Jamie Cassidy-Curtis, Ralph Cox, John Bowen

    Boss loves to dive historical ships, derelict spacecraft found adrift in the blackness between the stars. Sometimes she salvages for money, but mostly she’s an active historian. She wants to know about the past—to experience it firsthand. Once she’s dived the ship, she’ll either leave it for others to find or file a claim so that she can bring tourists to dive it as well. It’s a good life for a tough loner, with more interest in artifacts than people. Then one day, Boss finds the claim of a lifetime: an enormous spacecraft, incredibly old, and apparently Earth-made. It’s impossible for something so old, built in the days before Faster Than Light travel, to have journeyed this far from Earth. It shouldn’t be here. It can’t be here. And yet, it is. Boss’s curiosity is up, and she’s determined to investigate. She hires a group of divers to explore the wreck with her, the best team she can assemble. But some secrets are best kept hidden, and the past won’t give up its treasures without exacting a price in blood.

    Most of the group enjoyed the book, with Dave the lone dissenting voice, citing difficulties accepting the emotionalism of the characters in an adventure story setting. He felt the book was about changes in Boss's attitude and feelings, which slowed the story down too much. Also, the author had not presented a well thought-out exotic background for the adventure, and did too much interrupting of the story with explanations and lumps of information. Dave also felt the language was too passive for an adventure story, the characters were too cautious, and that part one should have been done as a flashback.

    Sandi also had difficulties with the transition from part one to part two, calling it confusing. She had read other works by the author with enjoyment, liking her style and finding the characters engaging, but she had not completed her reading of the subject book at the time of our discussion and could not provide a more thorough analysis. She intends to finish reading the book shortly.

    Ralph also had not finished but fully intends to continue as he is enjoying the book. He noted the author is popular but hard to find in bookstores, and he had not previously read anything by her. He found the mental voices indicative of transplanting modern characterization into the future setting, which he called unusual but down-to-earth. On the downside, he was a bit thrown by the present tense storytelling and described the part one payoff as "lacklustre".

    Jamie liked the author's softer touch and the theme of Boss being forced to come out of her shell. She did find the explanation of the MacGuffin a bit sketchy, and noted the spacesuits seemed awfully fragile. She intends to continue with the author.

    John also had a good time reading the book, but probably won't continue with the character as there are many other higher priority books on his must read next list. Previously only familiar with the author's short stories, John was strongly reminded of Andre Norton while reading the book. He did find disconcerting the lack of a real name for Boss, which he felt was a bit pretentious. Overall, lightweight but enjoyable.

    Book One of the Diving Universe series. This story has also been published in a shorter form under the same title, which is also available on Kindle. There are three novel-length sequels: City Of Ruins, Boneyards and Skirmishes.

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    269 pages
    Pub. 2009



  • WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 27, 2016

    GUEST/PROGRAM:

    The Club's annual business meeting took place, followed by an open discussion period. No special guest was planned for this meeting.

  • JANUARY 2016 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:



    January's book was The Three-Body Problem (2007/2014)
    by Cixin Liu

    Suggested by John & Catherine

    Attending: Dave Moore, Catherine Curley, Sandi Kallas, Jamie Cassidy-Curtis, Tamara Chambliss, Will Morton, Yvonne Morton, John Bowen

    Cixin Liu is the most prolific and popular science fiction writer in the People's Republic of China. Liu is an eight-time winner of the Galaxy Award (the Chinese Hugo) and a winner of the Nebula Award. Prior to becoming a writer, he worked as an engineer in a power plant in Yangquan, Shanxi.

    Set against the backdrop of China's Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion.

    Dave began the discussion by providing a bit of background to the development of modern Chinese science fiction. From the early 1900's to the 1930's, it existed primarily in translation. After World War II science fiction began to appear again, still mostly in translation, but there was some original work produced. During the Cultural Revolution period (1966-1976), and again during the Anti-Spiritual Pollution period (1983-1990) science fiction virtually disappeared. A science fiction convention and the founding of the magazine Science Fiction World heralded the revival of science fiction in the PRC, which has continued to this date. Dave thinks current Chinese SF is too anthropocentric, and the 1977-1982 period to be too juvenile with its preponderance of space opera and non-serious works. Cixin Liu, whose father was a scientist during the Cultural Revolution, is one of the most highly regarded authors of the modern period.

    Dave believes a theme central to the book at hand is "How can humans survive in a universe of zero morality?" The question is unanswered in this first part of a trilogy. He said the book was reminiscent of the work of Stanislaw Lem and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. - whimsical and off-the-wall. For him it corresponded to the early 1960's period of American sf and was not particularly ground-breaking. He liked the cop, who seemed more Chinese than American in portrayal. He felt the first part was the most successful. Overall, he found the book interesting but not dazzling.

    Jamie enjoyed the book and plans to read the sequels when they become available. She felt the characterization was a bit muffled with some characters not fully drawn. She noted "There's a lot of female murderers!" Yvonne liked the technology, especially the proton, but was put off by the characters. She had hoped for a more Asian feel to the book.

    Sandi, who along with Will, Yvonne & Catherine, listened to the audio book, also felt the book was more American in style than Chinese. She noted the audio rendition, while good, used only American accents without any Chinese inflections. She was interested by many of the concepts, particularly the countdown (which she would have liked to have had more fully developed rather than being dropped). She figured out the game was a real world, but felt the ending was explained rather than described. She felt the book was fairly generic, and would have benefitted from a more sequential telling.

    Catherine also felt the countdown was not fully explained, and that the book needed more doing instead of telling, and a less fragmented narrative. She noted a Big, Bloody start that too soon devolved into an American spy novel interrupted by interminable video games and chunks of exposition. Using Mikhail Bulgakov as a Russian example of a novel that expresses an idiomatic worldview, she felt this book suffered by failing to provide a Chinese view. Catherine prefers social sf to the tecnhologically oriented type, and wanted more of the Cultural Revolution segment, but ultimately found nothing new in the book's depiction of that period.

    Tamara noted that the Cultural Revolution turned ordinary people into government-sponsored sociopaths. She enjoyed the novel, particularly the "American" police officer, but did not find it revolutionary - just a fun read. She liked the dehydration of the Trisolarians, and wants a proton of her own. John more or less echoed these feelings, but wasn't convinced that the proton technology made any sense other than as a cheap way to move the novel forward. He also would like to have experienced a more Chinese worldview, though he's not sure what exactly that would look like, not ever having been there.

    Will summarized the book as typical of Chinese sf. Characters are deliberately drawn cold, brutal and without mercy. The books are written for a Chinese audience, not an American one. He notes that the Cultural Revolution is a major literary topic there, and recommends the book Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China for further information on the Cultural Revolution and its impact.

    In summary, the book is recommended as an interesting but not earth-shaking read, a bit dry and light on characterization, but worth the time of the average hard sf enthusiast. Most of the group plans to read the sequels.

    The two sequels are: The Dark Forest and Death's End.

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    400 pages
    Pub. 2014



---- 2015 ----

  • WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2015

    GUEST/PROGRAM:


    Robb Yanagihara, Light Saber Expert



    The Light Saber Guild


    Robb Yanagihara and another member of the Light Saber Guild joined us with a discussion of their group, including charities they are involved with, and a thrilling (close-quarters) demonstration of one of their choreographed light saber battles!

  • NOVEMBER 2015 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:



    November's book was The Ocean At The End Of The Lane (2013)
    by Neil Gaiman

    Suggested by Catherine

    Attending: Dave, Sandi, Catherine, Ralph, Jamie, John Bowen

    The never-named fiftyish narrator is back in his childhood homeland, rural Sussex, England, where he’s just delivered the eulogy at a funeral. With “an hour or so to kill” afterward, he drives about—aimlessly, he thinks—until he’s at the crucible of his consciousness: a farmhouse with a duck pond. There, when he was seven, lived the Hempstocks, a crone, a housewife, and an 11-year-old girl, who said they were grandmother, mother, and daughter. Now, he finds the crone and, eventually, the housewife—the same ones, unchanged—while the girl is still gone, just as she was at the end of the childhood adventure he recalls in a reverie that lasts all afternoon. He remembers how he became the vector for a malign force attempting to invade and waste our world.

    Generally, this book did not meet with much approval from the Orbit. Catherine apologized for suggesting it, saying she didn't know it would be written on the level of the Bobbsey Twins books. Ralph stated he was sorry he stuck with the book to the end, as he felt that the ending was unclear and that the witch takes up too much of the story. The story had a lack of continuity, and read like a psychotic remembering his past.

    Sandi said she finds Gaiman to be something of a hit-or-miss author without much depth, and the story made for only a so-so book. She characterized the three women on the farm as derivative of the Three Fates (something John missed). The story felt like it was not meant for children, but was written as if it was. She also said the book had an identity issue: What is the book supposed to be?

    Dave agreed with Sandi, finding the book very readable but unable to identify what the book was about. Things happen for no reason, assumed to be profound. Although he found the book disappointing, he was not one hundred percent unhappy as the writing carried him along (but doesn't add up to anything). He thought the book might be improved if the narrator's adult life was expanded.

    Jamie found the book okay, nice and short, readable, and reminiscent of the works of Alan Garner. She found nothing particularly original in the tale, consisting of more atmosphere than story. The narrator as a child was a boring kid who had things happen to him instead of because of him.

    John was entertained by the book but agreed that it wasn't top of the list. He disagreed with Jamie, as he felt that things do happen without cause, and a story can be about how a child can be affected. The narrator is supposed to be seven years old at the time of these events, and the narration, while a bit uneven, did seem to accurately reflect a seven-year-old's abilities to understand and react to the supernatural phenomena presented. The ending seemed quite clear, if a bit unsatisfying, as Lottie's fate remains unresolved. The writing seemed to be appropriate for a comic book or graphic novel, unsurprising due to Gaiman's past with that industry.

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    181 pages
    Pub. 2013

  • WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2015

    GUEST/PROGRAM:


    Mel Gilden, Science Fiction and Fantasy Author



    Veteran fantasy & sf author Mel Gilden disclosed some of his secrets to writing stimulating fantastic fiction for preteen to adult readers. Much of the night's discussion revolved around Mel's involvement in writing books in the Star Trek universe.

  • OCTOBER 2015 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:



    October's book was Carrion Comfort (1989)
    by Dan Simmons

    Suggested by Catherine

    Attending: Dave, Sandi, Catherine, Jamie, John Bowen

    THE PAST... Caught behind the lines of Hitler’s Final Solution, Saul Laski is one of the multitudes destined to die in the notorious Chelmno extermination camp. Until he rises to meet his fate and finds himself face to face with an evil far older, and far greater, than the Nazi’s themselves… THE PRESENT... Compelled by the encounter to survive at all costs, so begins a journey that for Saul will span decades and cross continents, plunging into the darkest corners of 20th century history to reveal a secret society of beings who may often exist behind the world's most horrible and violent events. Killing from a distance, and by darkly manipulative proxy, they are people with the psychic ability to 'use' humans: read their minds, subjugate them to their wills, experience through their senses, feed off their emotions, force them to acts of unspeakable aggression. Each year, three of the most powerful of this hidden order meet to discuss their ongoing campaign of induced bloodshed and deliberate destruction. But this reunion, something will go terribly wrong. Saul’s quest is about to reach its elusive object, drawing hunter and hunted alike into a struggle that will plumb the depths of mankind’s attraction to violence, and determine the future of the world itself…

    Winner of the 1989 Bram Stoker Award.

    Interestingly, the group divided on gender lines for this book. Catherine, who listened to the audio version, felt the book had a lot of problems. Unresolved for her was whether or not the book met the criteria to be considered horror. For that matter, what is horror? She said she was sorry she recommended the book, that she did so because the title was part of a poem by "the patron poet of depressives" (Gerard Manley Hopkins), and because Stephen King had hailed the book as one of the greatest horror novels ever written. She particularly felt the book "wallowed in doodoo", killed characters she found herself attached to, was disturbed by the deaths of children, and the ending was a ripoff of Richard Connell's story "The Most Dangerous Game." On the other hand, she felt the description of Germantown was quite good.

    Jamie found the book overlong and highly repetitious - so much so that she speed-read the last two thirds. The character of the sheriff did not work for her, and the improper use of the dialect word "y'all" jarred her. She liked the overall idea, and felt the story was handled well at first, but was annoyed that the book ended, as most modern horror novels do, with the most powerful antagonist escaping.

    Sandi also listened to the audio version, and thought the story was too long with half its length consisting of padding. All the tension was dissipated due to its length. Like Jamie and Catherine, she liked the character touches in the first part, and didn't like Sheriff Rob's death. She found the book to be too racist and filled with stereotyped characters, such as a black gang member named Marvin Gayle(!) This is the ninth Simmons book she has read, and it didn't work for her on any level. She cited Simmons' The Terror as one of the best horror novels she has read.

    Dave liked the book and found it very readable. He felt the complex setup required a lengthy treatment, although the novel became more of a conventional action story in the second half with the horror returning only in the last chapter. He characterized the writing after the Mossad incident as "a bit arbitrary." He felt the definition of "feeding" to be very loose. Some of the characters were a bit forced, but he did like Tony, whom he found humorous. He enjoyed the internecine fighting, and found the book good but not great.

    John enjoyed the book, finding the 800 pages went by very quickly. Later Simmons books are much more complex - this book was easy to understand. It did seem to be more of an action novel rather than a conventional horror story. He felt that comparing the action in the latter half to Connell's story was a bit unfair, and it is not a ripoff to loosely duplicate a storyline so long as the development and resolution are original. Additionally, there was much else going on at this stage of the book other than just a manhunt.

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    800 pages
    Pub. 1989

  • WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2015

    GUEST/PROGRAM:



    Ian McAllister

    September's guest was our first speaker from overseas. Ian McAllister talked to us about Hal Clement, winner of the 1999 SFWA Grand Master Award, noted for his world-building novels, and famous author of Mission Of Gravity.



    Ian Hugh McAllister was born in Wallasey, Merseyside in November 1960. If he had come from just across the River Mersey he would be a "Scouse", but as a Wallasean he is a "Wooly". At seventeen he was introduced to Simone on a blind date with friends, and they have been married since 1982. They have one son, Stuart, who arrived as a bit of a surprise in 1993. They have lived near The Jurassic Coast in Dorset since 1985.

    Ian has enjoyed a lifelong passion for aviation, especially airliners. A keen plane spotter, he fulfilled his childhood ambition by joining the UK Civil Aviation Authority in July 1980 as an Air Traffic Control Assistant. Prior to early retirement in September 2014, his day (and night) job was that of Flight Information Service Officer, one of a close-knit team providing the on-demand "London Information" service to aircraft flying outside the UK airways controlled airspace system. Over a 35 year ATC career he managed to widen his experience to include recruitment, training at every level, project management and extensive line management. He is also trained as a Critical Incident Stress Management Defuser, or psychological first responder.

    After a 30 year on/off research project about the life and times of his remarkable grandmother Hilda James, Ian finally began writing in earnest during late 2011. The resulting book "Lost Olympics" was the long-awaited family history. Along the way he was to learn that Hilda was even more of a character than the determined old lady he had known as a child. He would also unearth some dark and sometimes controversial family secrets that needed to be aired as part of the narrative.

    His sci-fi fan Dad gave him the book Earth Abides by George R. Stewart when he was fourteen. The McAllister parents kept a large number of pulp magazines collected during their university years (Astounding etc.) and Ian set to and read them all. Ever since then Ian has been an avid science fiction reader, preferring the so-called "hard sci-fi" genre of books based in possible science, over those dealing in pure fantasy. He is currently engaged in writing the second draft of his own book in the genre, based on an original idea which he says has been kicking around in his head for twenty years. To Visit Earth will hopefully be ready for publication in the autumn of 2015.

    Aside from reading, writing and travelling the world in search of interesting and vintage airliners, Ian is a certified petrol head. He currently drives a V8 Chrysler 300C and a keeps a classic 1987 Mercedes for show days and sunshine.

  • SEPTEMBER 2015 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:



    September's book was Needle (1949, 1950)
    by Hal Clement

    Suggested by John Bowen

    Attending: Dave, Sandi, Catherine, Ralph, Glenn, Jamie, John Bowen

    An alien detective on the trail of a malevolent murderer of the same species as himself crash lands on Earth near an isolated island. Not possessing bodies as such, both must find host bodies, such as the body of a young boy living on the island.

    A short one, as October's award-winning and highly acclaimed book is rather lengthy. The novel was reissued under the title From Outer Space and it also appears in the omnibus volume The Essential Hal Clement. Volume 1, Trio For Slide Rule And Typewriter A sequel, Through The Eye Of A Needle (1978) is also available but was not planned to be part of the discussion.

    A rare unanimous approval was given to this book, despite minor faults. We all felt that the book, partly due to its remote setting, was essentially timeless in nature, and could have been set in almost any decade of the 20th Century. It could not, of course, be mistaken for a modern work of science fiction, but there were no overt references to time or place. Everyone enjoyed the story Clement had to tell, though several felt it dragged a bit in the middle.

    Dave pointed out that the private school setting was not usual in American sf but was forgiveable as the author was himself a teacher at a private school for boys. He also noted the "boys' adventure" quality to the novel ("boys mucking around" as he put it). Others also noted this quality, citing the Hardy Boys and other books oriented towards young teenage boys. For many, it gave a comfortable feeling of reliving a long-past period in their reading lives. On the dis side, Dave did feel that the book had only weak characterization (hard to tell the boys apart), had an abrupt ending, and, of course, was structurally weak. But he enjoyed it nonetheless.

    Catherine noted the lack of native names and that all the boys were "white" in characterization. She deduced the murderer's hiding place long before it was revealed.

    Jamie read the book twice and was pleased to find that the storytelling was not dry (for her, a rarity in a hard sf book). Enjoyable as the book was, she did note that the action is over a severely limited area which fostered convenient coincidences in the plotting. Particularly convenient was the luck the Hunter had in finding such an amenable and competent host. She noted that this is one of the rare (if not unique) occurrences of alien possession that was symbiotic in nature, not parasitic.

    Sandi echoed much of the above, and found the Hunter's personality to be a bit too human in nature to be fully believable. She noted that there is a later alien symbiotic relationship in the character of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's portrayal of Jadzia Dax. Sandi listened to the audio book as no e-book was available. A feature of the book she noted was that the Hunter could not communicate telepathically with its host but had to resort to more mundane methods.

    John read the story in the omnibus Trio For Slide Rule And Typewriter, which also contained the novels Iceworld and Close To Critical. Much as he enjoyed Needle, he found the other two to be even more interesting, finding them to be wonderful exercises in worldbuilding. He had no particular comments to add to what had been said, but did note the oddity of the setting being in Tahiti rather than Samoa, as the latter speaks English and the former French. John stated the novel would be a good entry for someone who professes to hate sf.

    Ralph noted that the doctor accepts Hunter as intrinsically "good" without question, something he felt a doctor would not accept without proof. He also would have liked a fuller discussion of Hunter's homeworld and the society it had evolved using hosts. The lack of a greater explanation of the murderer's crime was also a weakness. He identified Clement as a good writer, and wondered if the work was the first instance of a "good" alien possession.

    Glenn's summation pretty well matched the group's feelings: "The author is creating an alien contact story that doesn't center around fear, panic, menace to the planet, warfare, population slaughter, etc., and in the story line is promoting the values of trust, cooperation for mutual benefit, clear communication, and especially important, liking. The entities here are human and alien, but the theme applies universally to all of us. Individuals can interact in positive ways. Conflict need not be the norm and need not be inevitable. In my opinion, the author conveys his points very well throughout, right up to the very good ending. He's consistent. The characters are likable and well-intentioned. The kids are mature and good-hearted. The Hunter is noble. There aren't any villains! The criminal alien has no importance beyond being a plot device. His own actions, motives, and intentions are not at all the focus of the story. Even the voice of the omniscient narrator has a kindly, sometimes whimsical, tone...This is not a story of menace...

    "Well, you do have to accept a whopper of a premise - that his type of alien life form is not only believable but can pour itself into a little vehicle and travel through interstellar space as though going from one county to the next. I'm pretty okay with it; you don't have a story without it. The narrative could probably have been fine-tuned a little. In particular, I never could get a clear idea of the layout of the island...And while the story was mostly fast-paced, the pacing seemed just a bit uneven to me. Overall, I thought it was well-constructed and well-written. Any quibbles I may have are very minor. It was a good read. It held my interest and attention. It was positive and uplifting. I liked it."

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    222 pages
    Pub. 1949, 1950

  • Wednesday, August 26, 2015 (7:30 p.m.)

    GUEST/PROGRAM:



    Elizabeth Watasin is the author of the gothic steampunk series "The Dark Victorian", "The Elle Black Penny Dreads", the forthcoming paranormal sci-fi noir series "Darquepunk", and the creator/artist of the indie comics series "Charm School", which was nominated for a Gaylactic Spectrum Award. A twenty year veteran of animation and comics, her screen credits include thirteen feature films, such as Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, and The Princess and the Frog, and she's written for Disney Adventures magazine. Particularly fascinating was her account of how she got the striking covers for her Dark Victorian series. She designed the costume, selected the model and got a professional photo shoot. She lives in Los Angeles with Draw, her black cat, busily bringing readers uncanny heroines in shilling shockers, historical fantasy adventures, and paranormal detective tales.

    Follow the news of her latest projects at A-Girl Studio.

  • AUGUST 2015 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:



    August's book was Ancillary Justice [Imperial Radch #1] (2013)
    by Ann Leckie

    Suggested by Catherine Curley and Dave Moore

    Attending: Dave, Sandi, Catherine, Jamie, John Bowen

    On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Once, she was the Justice of Toren - a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.

    Winner of the 2014 Hugo and Nebula Awards. There are two sequels.

    Dave was the only reader of this book who disliked it, the rest would recommend the book to others. He felt the story was structurally unsound, with the switching back and forth between a tightly-focussed personal story to the story of a planetary conquest working against reader involvement with either segment. He found the writing to be a slow starter, with a number of data dumps early on slowing the pacing, and he also felt that the feminine emotionality was the wrong way to tell this type of space opera. Breq, the protagonist, was not to him a very sympathetic character. He felt the first half of the book was a bit muddy, but once the action of the story began the book improved and was more readable.

    Two of the readers found the story dense enough to reward at least a partial rereading. We were all quite impressed by the huge number of post-it notes Jamie had placed in her copy! She noted that the author's use of gender confusion on the part of Breq (only she refers to male characters as she, and she lives in fear of misidentifying the gender of the touchy inhabitants of the planet she is on), was a subtly effective device of the author to remind us that Breq was an artificial intelligence and not a real person. She liked the book a great deal, and felt that the novel's treatment of moral questions, such as One Esk's orders to shoot her friend, to be thoughtful and involving.

    Catherine also noted the author's use of "she" as a neutral gender in the book worked well at keeping us just a little bit off-center while reading the story. She felt the author's handling of the shifting viewpoints and time frames to be done quite well. She especially liked the almost Dickensian flavor to the disparity between the poor and the wealthy (who have no understanding or sympathy for the poor). She is interested enough to consider reading the sequel.

    Sandi, who had read the book some time ago, felt she gained quite a bit of insight by re-reading it. She felt rather the reverse of Dave, finding the ending a bit rushed after so much wonderful development and detail. She noted that the ancillary revived from cold storage in Chapter 12 may be Breq, as Breq acted in a way that none of the ancillaries around since the start of the book could have done. An early mention in the book about the rather arbitrary selection process for who would be assigned to the trash and who would have their memories erased to become an ancillary, evoked memories of scenes of Nazi camp personnel choosing who would be gassed and who would be put to work as a slave. Both were a decision between a worker and a corpse. Ultimately, Sandi came to the conclusion the basic theme of the book was "what does it mean to be human?" She noted that Breq never quite accepts her own humanity. Sandi has already read the sequel and is impatiently awaiting the conclusion to the trilogy.

    John found the book quite enjoyable, a kind of thought-provoking space opera. Since the characters themselves didn't seem to notice the seemingly arbitrary usage of personal pronouns, he ignored the discrepancies as irrelevancies. Although written by a woman, he did not find the emotions, where they appeared, to be out of place. Initially he found the "Breq on the ice planet" the more interesting section, with the Radch planetary conquest picking up steam later. Unlike Dave, John found the book to be well-written and did not find the contrast between the personal and the larger frame of reference to be a failure. He noted that the method used to convey multiple viewpoints of a single personality seemed to work quite well, as One Esk was simultaneously an individual and a wide-area network of sensory input. Also clever, he thought, was the depiction of the Radch as fierce, rather paranoid, conquerors with a hidden homeworld that the Radch soldiers had never and would never see. The only part of the book that he felt jumped the shark a bit was Breq's fall from the bridge. This seemed to be a rather clunky plot device compared to the sophistication of the rest of the writing. John declared the book had earned its trophies, and he would definitely follow up by reading the sequels.

    Availability: Braille OCPL LACPL AMZ-u $9 Kindle $10

    416 pages
    Pub. 2013

Wednesday, July 29, 2015 (7:30 p.m.)

  • GUEST/PROGRAM:


    Bridget Landry

    provided attendees with the fascinating and inspiring Cassini Mission tour of Saturn and its system, including close-ups of several moons and the famous rings.

    Ms. Landry holds degrees in chemistry (BA, UCSD, 1984) and planetary science (MS, Caltech, 1986) and works as an engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. She has worked on the Hubble Space Telescope and the joint US-French oceanographic Earth orbiter Topex, where she was a Sequencing Engineer. (Sequencing involves building sets of commands that are stored on the spacecraft, to be executed over some period of time, with no further intervention from the ground.) Ms. Landry’s favorite position so far has been on the Mars Pathfinder project, where she did a variety of jobs, from adapting software packages to the Pathfinder command set, to preparing and verifying most of the imaging commands and panoramas. She worked for a dozen years on the Cassini Mission to Saturn, where she was once again in sequencing, though with a great deal more complexity and much more authority than on Topex. Ms. Landry has done several shorter stints since then, including two years on the Dawn mission, during it's Vesta approach, orbit, and departure phases, and two more on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, coinciding with the landing and main mission of Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory, for which MRO was the primary relay provider. Shortly, she will be transitioning to the Mars Odyssey mission, where she will again be in sequencing.

    Ms. Landry also takes great interest in the advancement of women in technical fields, and the helps and bars to their progress, as well as in the problem of sparking and maintaining girls’ early interest in science and math.

  • JULY 2015 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:



    July's book was Star Soldiers (omnibus of Star Rangers and Star Guard) (2001)
    by Andre Norton

    Suggested by Catherine

    Attending: Jamie, John Bowen, Catherine, Dave Moore, Ralph, Gordon, Sandi, Greg Funke and 3 others new to the Club. (Drop John a line at pulpfan00@hotmail.com to identify yourselves, please.)

    Star Rangers (also published as The Last Planet) (1953): A starship from a decaying galactic empire, with a mixed human-alien crew, is exploring the outer fringes of the Milky Way. A crash-landing on an apparently empty planet marks the end of the voyage. With no hope of repairing the vessel, the surviving crewmen must plan their future, allot their resources, and explore all avenues for a new life on this world.

    Star Guard (1955): In A.D. 4000 humans are valued by Central Control as mercenaries, but otherwise are at the bottom of the galactic hierarchy. Kana Karr, a young swordsman investigating the mysterious deaths of some of his comrades, stumbles on a conspiracy that endangers Central Control and the human race alike.

    Many of us in the reader's group cut our Science Fictional teeth on Andre Norton and have fond memories of her stories, so this month we decided to revisit this notable author to see if our childhood memories held up. The result, however, was one of disappointment, at least with this book. Those who read both of the novels contained in this omnibus generally felt that Star Guard was the lesser work, though written later. Several readers noted that Star Guard felt uneven, largely due to the unlikelihood of the premise (swords indeed!) and several sudden time and locale jumps. Some felt the author may have lost interest in the story as the ending felt rushed. Some readers noted they felt cheated by the ending, as there was no direct sequel.

    Star Rangers/The Last Planet fared a bit better in readers' estimation, though some were misled into thinking that the story was intended to be a sequel to Star Guard. In fact, the two books are for the most part unconnected; the juxtaposition of the two stories in the same volume was due to financial considerations, not literary ones. Readers enjoyed the exploratory nature of the storyline, though some were a bit amused by the author's failure to call a spade a spade (visibility lenses instead of binoculars, safe-bar instead of handcuffs, etc.). No one was really surprised by the ending - we are a jaded bunch!

    Dave asked the members of the group two questions: first, would you recommend these two novels to a general Science Fiction reader who has mainly read modern SF; second, would you recommend these stories to an aficionado of 1950's style SF who has read Andre Norton.

    The answer to the first question was no. The deficiencies of the writing and story telling were such that this book would not appeal to the general reader. John did not feel that her writing was deficient for the times in which she wrote and for her intended audience (both novels were originally marketed as juveniles), but that the art of writing cutting edge science fiction has evolved beyond the plain, transparent writing styles of the 1940's and 1950's. He remarked that her style appeared to be modeled on pulp magazine stories of the 1940's, particularly Planet Stories.

    On the second question, even then, there was reluctance to endorse the works. Those that had an affection for Andre Norton could only rate these stories as OK, and those that had read her extensively felt that if you were going to introduce someone to Andre Norton, other books, such as the Witch World, Forerunner, or Janus series, would do it a lot better.

    Various members of the group pointed out that her writing was weak and sometimes plodding, the characterization thin, and the set up arbitrary and hard to swallow. The plot was full of holes and didn't connect well to the setup - and some found her spatial descriptions difficult to understand.

    But most of the group did not dismiss her or feel reading the stories a complete waste of time. Her writing, even in her less auspicious works, has certain strengths. Dave (who read Star Guard only), called her writing "clunky, but quite charming. It has readability. There is an originality to her set ups. Humans are low man on the totem pole, serving as mercenaries because that's all they are allowed to do. Her main characters aren't WASPs, something that would have stood out in the time they were written. Also, her stories have aged quite well, mainly due to avoiding much in the way of tech description and her crafty use of generalized terms for these descriptions."

    There are reasons why so many people like her. Many of her novels (though not these) use young protagonists that are from the wrong side of the tracks, or have been victimized for their ancestry or situation. Her deft characterization makes identification easy and she maintains a fast pace as she unfolds her plots. Unusual for authors of the 50's and 60's, Norton does not wrap up every plot point, leaving readers with a feeling of having experienced a truly strange, perhaps not completely knowable, world.

    Availability: Braille AnaPL OCPL LAPL Amazon cheap Kindle free

    480 pages
    Pub. 1953, 1955, 2001

Wednesday, June 24, 2015
  • GUEST/PROGRAM:



    Our guest was Madeleine Holly-Rosing, author and artist of The Boston Metaphysical Society, a steampunk-flavored series of comic books, short stories and novels. Madeleine holds an MFA (UCLA) in screenwriting and has been an internationally ranked epée fencer.

  • JUNE 2015 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:



    June's book was Sharra's Exile [Darkover] (1981)
    by Marion Zimmer Bradley

    Suggested by John Bowen

    Attended by Wendy, Dave Moore, Catherine, John Bowen, GG, Bea, Sandi

    "The most dangerous matrix on all Darkover was the legendary Sharra. Embodied in the image of a chained woman, wreathed in flames, it was the last remaining weapon of the Ages of Chaos that had almost destroyed civilization on the planet of the Bloody Sun. The Sharra had been exiled off-planet among the far stars of the Terran Empire in the custody of Lew Alton... until he found himself called back to his homeworld to contest his rights. But once the Sharra was back, the flaming image spread wide - and set in motion events that were to change the land, the domains, and the future of Darkover forever." - Fabrice Rossi (Sequel to The Heritage Of Hastur.) Included in the omnibus volumes Heritage And Exile and Children Of Hastur. The book is an expansion and rewrite of her 1962 novel, The Sword Of Aldones.

    GG felt the book featured strong writing, deconstructing the Compact featured in the previous book. He enjoyed the two books well enough to continue on to read The Shattered Chain. Bea was so interested by our conversation regarding the book that she has decided to go out and buy the book and read it. Wendy found the book to have a different feel from Heritage, with more action, "Transformers in the Overworld", and good characterization displayed in Regis' ability to grow.

    Sandi liked this book better than the previous one, with more interesting character growth. She found the Dio section to be a little long, and the Linnell/Kathie plotline to be implausible. She liked Prince Derik and how Regis grows into the role of prince. She felt Bradley "wussed out" on the homosexuality theme of the first novel. She didn't want the details, but she didn't buy Regis looking for love with a woman.

    Dave said he was not impressed by the book, finding it unfocussed and impossible to summarize what it is about in one sentence. He found too many major characters for it to be about power, and the vast amount of people talking buries the themes, with the action sequences just sort of sprung on you. He found the first part (the Dio storyline) to be the best, with better characterization, but that the incessant conversation failed to feed both theme and plot.

    Catherine also remarked on the repetitive conversations and the lack of a through-line to the story. Something felt missing and unfulfilled. The Merryl/Callina relationship could have been better, and the Kathie plotline was simply not believable. The author seems to have her characters break the rules without blinking, but she does handle the death scenes well.

    John read both the original story, The Sword Of Aldones, as well as Sharra's Exile. Sword begins when Lou Alton returns to Darkover, and does not contain the Dio storyline at all, simply making a brief reference to it. In general, the further one goes into the books, the closer they dovetail. The endings are almost identical. John found both stories entertaining, though the Kathie plotline was definitely the weak point of the books. Perhaps because he read the story twice, he did not find a feeling of dissatisfaction upon completion. He felt the second book benefited from the addition of the Dio section, and that it was the best part of the book. He noted that the storyline is continued in three lengthy books co-written with Deborah Ross, which, while entertaining, don't really add much to the series within a series.

    Availability: LAPL LACPL Amazon cheap Kindle $7.69

    368 pages
    Pub. 1981

Wednesday, May 27, 2015
  • Guest/program:



    Our guest was Randall Chambers. For the past four years Randall has taught traditional and digital photographic techniques at California State University Fullerton, El Camino College, Irvine College, the Huntington Beach Art Museum, the Muckenthaler Cultural Center and several workshops in Orange County. Not only has he taught in the field of photography, Randall is the founder of Great-Depth Productions, which has produced a local cable show entitled Turning the Verge, a talk show about artists.

  • MAY 2015 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:



    May's book was The Heritage Of Hastur [Darkover] (1975)
    by Marion Zimmer Bradley

    Suggested by John Bowen

    Attended by Sandi, Gordon, John Bowen, Dave Moore, Wendy, Jamie, Catherine, GG (some of the comments on this book occurred during the June meeting)

    "... the pivotal event in the strange love-hate relationship between the Terran worlds and the semi-alien offspring of the forgotten peoples. This is the novel of the Hastur tradition and the showdown between those who would bargain away their world for the glories of the star-borne science and those who would preserve the special "matrix" power that was at once the prize and the burden of ruddy-sunned Darkover." - Fabrice Rossi Included in the omnibus volumes Heritage And Exile and Children Of Hastur.

    Sandi was surprised by the homosexual plot appearing in so early a work of science fiction. Ultimately she was bothered by the ending wherein Danilo allows himself to be adopted by his persecutor, Dyan. Dave felt the story had a slow start, though richly told. He found the book readable with a nice setup but no real payoff. Gordon remarked that the book had a precedent in history, and Dave agreed, saying this is basically a colonizer's story.

    Wendy found too much of the book occupied with politics, to the point where much of it was repetitive. She found the use of languages interesting, as well as the chieri source of the laran powers, but overall felt the book dragged a bit. Jamie noted the book was ambivalent with no clear heroes or villains. John found the early section of the book, containing the abuse of Danilo by Dyan, to be both disturbing and boring at the same time. He found that the moral ambiguity of the author did not seem to affect his enjoyment of her work. Once past the early section he found the book more interesting, and very much enjoyed the major plotline and its resolution. He had read most of the Bradley oeuvre and found, even as a re-read, the book was one of the best in the series.

    Catherine says the series is a go-to for her, a kind of comfort food for the brain. She has read and listened to the book several times. Nonetheless, this book is not among her favorites due to poor writing leaving her wanting more. It's a good job of creation but she doesn't tie up the plot threads well, and there's too much teenage-styled guilt with bad internal dialog.

    GG says this is the better book of the two. It was his first exposure to the work of Bradley, and he was fascinated by the brilliant legal mind displayed in the arguments based on legal principles and honor. He felt she was a great author. Her writing was less character-driven than argument-driven, featuring an anachronistic antagonism between self-regulation vs. the state.

    Availability: LAPL LACPL Amazon cheap Kindle $7.69

    381 pages
    Pub. 1975

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
  • Guest/program:



    Our guest was Dr. Gregory Benford, author of more than fifty novels, collections, anthologies and non-fiction books. His work has received multiple Hugo and Nebula Award nominations, and he is a two-time winner of the Nebula Award. Dr. Benford has visited our club several times in the past and has always sparked lively discussions. He discussed his involvement with Lifecode and its products, and the writing and publication of two of his latest novels and his upcoming (July 31, 2015) collection of short stories.

  • APRIL 2015 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:



    April's book was Etiquette & Espionage [Finishing School #1] (2013)
    by Gail Carriger [Tofa Borregaard]

    Suggested by Jamie Cassidy-Curtis

    Attended by Ralph, Jamie, John Bowen, Catherine, Dave Moore

    In an alternate England of 1851, spirited fourteen-year-old Sophronia is enrolled in a finishing school where, she is suprised to learn, lessons include not only the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also diversion, deceit, and espionage. Young Adult, Steampunk.

    Quite a range of reactions to this month's book. Dave said only that he did not enjoy what he read, and stopped after a few chapters. Ralph started the book, but felt that, as there were several previous books written in this "world", that he felt unable to participate in the world-building process. Of the portion he did read, he found the writing style to be fragmented and convoluted, but that it did feature strong characterization. He switched to the book Soulless instead, which he said he did enjoy.

    Of those who read the book, Catherine listened to the audio version, which featured a British actress, whom she enjoyed - particularly finding that the many asides flowed well. She found the book to have a slow start, and felt a bit jarred by the appearance of a werewolf and a vampire in a steampunk novel. Ultimately, she found the book okay, but not outstanding.

    Jamie said she found the book's style to be inspired by the works of Jane Austen. The book has a number of pratfalls early on in order to involve younger readers in the storyline. Her favorite scene was when Lenette tells Sophronia she's not obeying curfew. She met the author when she was Guest of Honor at ConDor.

    John stated that he quite enjoyed the book from beginning to end, and read it pretty much in a single sitting. As with Catherine, he found the sudden introduction of the supernatural to be a bit too late in the novel for easy assimilation, especially as it seemed to dilute the light-hearted adventure of the steampunk elements. For readers who have encountered the earlier novels, perhaps these elements are anticipated or expected. Nonetheless, John liked it enough that he might well give the sequel a try.

    Availability: Braille AnaPL FullPL OCPL LAPL LACPL Amazon $2 Kindle $2.99

    336 pages
    Pub. 2013

Wednesday, March 25, 2015
  • Guest/program:



    Our guest was Tom Khamis, a past assistant to famed SciFi fan Forrest J. Ackerman.

    Tom was associate producer on the DVD documentary "Uncle Forry's AckerMansions".

  • MARCH 2015 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:

    March's book was Earth Abides (1949)
    by George R. Stewart

    Suggested by Ralph Cox

    Attended by Glenn, Ralph, Catherine, Jamie, Dave Moore, John Bowen

    A disease of unparalleled destructive force has sprung up almost simultaneously in every corner of the globe, all but destroying the human race. One survivor, strangely immune to the effects of the epidemic, ventures forward to experience a world without man. What he ultimately discovers will prove far more astonishing than anything he'd either dreaded or hoped for.

    Winner of the 1951 International Fantasy Award.

    Glenn found the book ambitious, with an intelligent philosophy and a broad scope. Although he had minor quibbles, he liked it and found it an excellent read. He found it the saddest book, with a definite point of view at the end. He felt the theme could be summed up "Life without caution is ok." He noted that the NPR play changed the ending and condensed the characters of Jack & Joey.

    Ralph said the book had been on his list for some time. He found the storytelling pedantic, with vivid microscopic detail leaving nothing left to the imagination. The story was relentless, with no short route to anything. Although he liked the novel, he didn't much care for Ish, the self-ordained leader. Although Charlie appears only for a small part, he felt that Charlie's actions and resulting execution were the real story.

    Catherine found the writing to be elegiac and poetic in style, and she enjoyed the mood but not the story. Interesting to her were the theme of science being suspect, the way the author shows the language drifting over time, and she felt the descriptions of Ish's journey very true. She questioned the idea of New York as a destination for the journey, noted no efforts at conservation, and felt uneasy about the overall laziness of the characters.

    Jamie found the book a fairly good job, but noted that the author seems incapable of writing emotion, and too many important events take place offstage. She noted that women in general are basically missing from the story, and she found Ish to be a wishy-washy observer and a failure as a leader, with a skill set not really useful in the situation. A general lack of organization on the part of the characters results in the inability to restart or even maintain modern society - humans survive, but not civilization. Overall, she found the descriptive passages to be fairly realistic.

    Dave found the writing to be antiseptic, with no charisma or energy. He liked the book, found it very satisfying, and gave it 5 stars for its writing, which he found technically very good. He agreed with Jamie that the female viewpoint was not well represented. He thought the lack of curiosity on the part of the characters produced a very civil apocalypse, and echoed T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland" ("Not with a bang..."). The de-evolution of civilization into a hunter-gatherer culture displayed the immense effort it takes to maintain civilization, and made other post-apocalyptic books seem amateurish.

    John found the book less than compelling, but quite readable. He felt the journey to New York both the most interesting and least realistic parts of the book as it contained almost the only action, but it was action that was clearly manipulated by the author and did not seem to germinate from the character's personality. He would have preferred more proactive characters as a feeling of ennui seemed to pervade the book, and caused him to doze off a few times.

    Overall, the readers recommend the book, especially for people who are too happy with their life.

    Availability: Braille OCPL FullPL LAPL LACPL Amazon cheap Kindle $7.29

    345 pages
    Pub. 1949, 2006

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

  • Guest/program:



    Our guest was Mike Sheffield, President of The Heinlein Society.

    Mike returned with Dr. Bob James in order to show films of Robert A. Heinlein discussing his work and other topics. Filmed interviews included Walter Cronkite interviewing Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke on the occasion of the first mission to land on the Moon. Another film portrayed Heinlein's speech at the Kansas City WorldCon.

  • FEBRUARY 2015 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:

    February's book was Sparrow Hill Road (2014)
    by Seanan McGuire

    Suggested by Jamie Cassidy-Curtis

    They have names for her all over the country: The Girl in the Diner. The Phantom Prom Date. The Girl in the Green Silk Gown. Mostly she just goes by “Rose,” a hitchhiking ghost girl with her thumb out and her eyes fixed on the horizon, trying to outrace a man who never sleeps, never stops, and never gives up on the idea of claiming what’s his.

    The author received five Hugo nominations in 2013 (some as "Mira Grant").

    Attending: Jamie, John Bowen, Catherine Curley, Dave Moore

    From the ISFDB: "According to the author's web site this novel is a fix-up of the following stories: "Good Girls Go to Heaven." (January 2010) "Dead Man's Party." (February 2010) "Tell Laura I Love Her." (March 2010) "Building A Mystery." (April 2010) "El Viento del Diablo." (May 2010) "Last Dance With Mary Jane." (June 2010) "Do You Want to Dance?" (July 2010) "Dead Man's Curve." (August 2010) "Last Train." (September 2010) "Faithfully." (November 2010) "Thunder Road." (December 2010). All stories originally appeared in The Edge of Propinquity which ran from 2006 until 2011." The story "Bad Moon Rising" (October 2010) also features Rose Marshall but was not included in the novelization.

    Reaction to this book was mixed, primarily over two points. John sensed the book was a selection of short stories (determined to be true later), and felt that as a novel the episodic character robbed the book of much of its focus and force. Individually, he liked some of the stories and didn't like some of the others. Overall, he felt the ending was weak, leaving the story open for a sequel. He admits that he is biased against stories that take a well known subject (such as ghosts) and adds all sorts of other types, some made up, as the story progresses (a la tv series Grimm & True Blood). John felt that too much tension is released by a deus ex machina effect when this is true. John would have enjoyed the book more if the pivotal event in the life/death of the lead character had been portrayed in real time as opposed to a flashback.

    That being said, John stated that he did enjoy the prose and much of the book. He suspected that the idea to turn the stories into a novel may have come from the author's editor as books of short stories don't sell well. Faced with such a task, and with most of the book already written, she did a pretty good job of connecting the stories and maintaining a reasonably high level of interest from one episode to the next.

    On the other side of the table, Jamie said the many layers of character types and powers were one of the main reasons she enjoyed the book as much as she did. Recommendation of this specific book came about because she enjoys the author but most of her work is in series, and this was a stand-alone work unconnected to her other work. Jamie enjoys urban fantasy, which she feels the author excels at writing. She agreed that the ending was a little bit weak due to the unconcluded fight between Rose and her murderer.

    Opinions from Dave and Catherine lay in between the opposing reviews above. Dave, who ran out of time and had to skim part of the book, felt that the book lacked focus but that the character of Rose was intelligently drawn. Catherine was excited by the prospect of reading an author new to her, but worried that the probably one-note character of the well-known "teenager hitchhiking ghost story" couldn't be expanded to novel length, and her worries turned out to be true for her. She said "perhaps if I'd known it was actually a linked series of previously published short stories, I'd have been predisposed to like it more. But due to these things, for me it was repetitive. Yes, it was filled with good descriptions of character and setting but lacking in action, and when the pay-off action finally started at the end, there wasn't enough time left to get a good bang for the buck from what had been a passive look at the main character's world and worries. On the plus side, the author's skill in writing did come through and I plan to read her various series based on her good writing. And a high-five to Jamie for introducing 'urban fantasy' to the group, a sub-genre I hadn't known about before she first recommended this book to us, which is part of the reason for having the reading group: expanding our knowledge of new authors and new sub-genres."

    Overall, the book is recommended for fans of ghost stories and/or urban fantasy.

    Availability: OCPL, LAPL, Amazon $7.52, Kindle: $7.99

    320 pages
    Pub. 2014

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

  • Guest/program:

    This was a business meeting followed by open discussion. No guest was scheduled. A vote was proposed and approved to join Meet-Up for twelve months in order to attract new members. Continuing dues at the present rate was also approved.

  • JANUARY 2015 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:

    January's book will be Anathem (2008)
    by Neal Stephenson

    Suggested by Glenn Osborne & Catherine Curley

    Discussion attended by Catherine, Dave, Jamie and John (Reviewed by Dave, supplemented by John)

    In the thirty-seventh century, mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers are cloistered in sanctuaries to nurture and safeguard knowledge from the corrupting forces of the Sæcular realm outside. When catastrophe looms, young scholar Erasmas and his highly intelligent friends are called upon to save their world.

    This is not a book for people who like lots of plot, action and characters. If you like a rambling dissertation on philosophy, logical conundrums and linguistic gymnastics, then this book may appeal to you. The group members either disliked this novel or were lukewarm to it at best, but it does have a certain strange appeal similar to watching the live feed of an outdoor camera pointed at an office block. You can see the people inside going about their business, meeting and talking to each other, and the mystery as to what they are doing keeps you speculating and interested. Then someone breaks the tedium by entering or exiting the building.

    The setting is described with great depth and detail, and readers may find it useful to read the extensive glossary first as coined words are freely distributed throughout the text. If you persevere and immerse yourself in this world a plot appears at about page 250. It's not a particularly inspiring plot -- it is complex, full of hanging threads and arbitrary shifts, and the ending seems pointless. But the story does tend to grow on you.

    It is not a book you read for the ending, but for the journey.

    Availability: Braille audio, AnaPL, OCPL, FullPL, LAPL, LACPL, AMZ-U, Kindle: $6.69

    981 pages
    Pub. 2008

---- 2014 ----

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

  • Guest/program:

    Due to the continuing remodeling of our meeting room, the scheduled guest was cancelled. Instead, we had a general discussion meeting in the main restaurant portion. We hope to be able to reschedule Ms. Landry sometime in 2015.

  • NOVEMBER 2014 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:

    In addition to hashing over the current book, the schedule for future Orbits through October was decided.

    November's book was Among Others (2011)
    by Jo Walton

    Suggested by Jamie Cassidy-Curtis

    Discussion attended by Catherine, Dave, Jamie and John B.

    Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled – and her twin sister dead.

    Fleeing to her father, whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England – a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off…

    Hugo and Nebula Award winner.

    This wasn't a very good story yet most of the group liked the book. The novel is, at least, a semi-autobiographical telling of Jo Walton's teenage years. Then, to qualify it as a fantasy, a few fairies were stuffed in. Most of the novel consists of the diary of a bookish girl who loves SF. Her life at an English boarding school doesn't give her many friends. Most of the entries consist of the latest SF she has read and her opinion of it. Jo Walton is a good wordsmith, and if you are a bookish person who loves SF the first half of the novel is a delight.

    However, if that part of the the book doesn't enthrall you, the novel is disappointing. The other thread of the story; the one with the spirits and the conflict with her mad mother is thinly developed with little characterization and most of the action taking place off stage.

    Availability: Braille audio, AnaPL, LAPL, LACPL, AMZ-U, Kindle: $7.99

    304 pages
    Pub. 2011

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

  • Guest/program:

    Due to remodelling of our meeting room at Denny's, the meeting took place in the main eating area, with no special guest. We discussed the status of our table at Loscon, which we're good to go on. Also discussed was the ongoing search for a venue for our New Year's Eve party. Denny's is available, but we would prefer another location for the party as we traditionally do potluck rather than restaurant food.


  • OCTOBER 2014 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:

    October's book was A Stir Of Echoes (1958)
    by Richard Matheson

    Suggested by Ralph Cox, discussion attended by Ralph Cox, Dave Moore and Jamie Cassidy-Curtis.

    A man who is the unwilling recipient of the thoughts of people around him receives a message from beyond the grave...

    Review by Ralph Cox (slightly edited):

    It seems I'm the only reader who liked A Stir Of Echoes.

    Jamie said it was too dated for her, but did see it as a good source for someone who was wondering what life and attitudes were like in that period. While the book may be an early example, she felt that the story of a ghost haunting someone to make known their murderer was a tired premise.

    I commented that it was unique in that the ghost wasn't even sure who had murdered her.

    Jamie found the scene where the baby-sitter had tried to kidnap the boy and then was returned home without involving the police unbelievable, or just stupid. She found the protagonist's wife's behavior unnerving, with her leaving him twice in the midst of his predicament. (Dave also agreed with that.)

    Dave said the story never grabbed him. He knew quite early on that the body of the ghost was going to be under the house or nearby. He pointed out that Matheson overused "I" in his writing, rather than constructing sentences that allowed less dependency on it. The moment he said that I opened my copy, and the letter "I" peppered the pages. Funny that it never appeared that way while reading it. I had brought three other books I have enjoyed over the month to share and compare, all of which were written in the first person, and not one of them had this obvious problem.

    Dave pressed me to say why I liked it. This was the sixth novel by Matheson that I have read in the last seven years, and I do not return to authors who disappoint me. In this book, he took me deep into the protagonist, and I interpreted the reading as a participation in the man's psychosis, rather then being only an observer of the reported events. His novels Earthbound and I Am Legend also read this way for me. The setting of the neighborhood reminded me of where I grew up (North Santa Ana, bordering Orange), so I was able to picture everything. Jamie commented that Matheson compared the neighborhood to Peyton Place, and that it seemed to her the story was more about the neighborhood than the ghost.

    Additional comments from JB, who was unable to attend the meeting:

    I enjoyed the novel despite its faults. I also found the wife's seesawing emotions unbelievable and an irritation. Like Dave, I also figured out early on what was really happening, though I don't think the author was particularly trying to disguise it. I agree with Ralph that the author was primarily attempting to show the effects on the protagonist of all this spooky stuff which he is powerless to control (at first). Read as a typical 1950's supernatural novel (a period in which the supernatural was not welcome to fiction publishers), I felt the writing was adequate, and about par compared to other genre writers of that time. I do think Matheson is better at short stories than he is at novels.

    Availability: LAPL, LACPL, OCPL, Kindle: $8.89

    224 pages
    Pub. 1958

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

  • Guest/program:



    Our guest was Julie Szczesny-Potocka, known for her art both in and out of the comic book world. Julie, as Julie Sczesny, has performed coloring artistry for several comic series, including First Comics' The Chronicles of Corum #10, Ken Steacy's Star Blazers and Phil Foglio's Buck Godot, Zap-Gun For Hire.

    Julie's autobio (lightly edited, Julie often refers to herself in the third person):

    "Countess Julie Ann Szczésny-Potocka. Family name, Potocki. Name used: Julie Ann Sczesny (Shchesney). [Julie is distantly related to country star Kenny Chesney.]

    "Julie was welcomed to the Happiest Place on Earth, just in time to watch the fireworks at Disneyland in her mother's arms on August 3, 1962 in Anaheim. Raised upper class, struggled to have a normal childhood, which wasn't easy when your dad helped to create the Apollo Space & Space Shuttle Programs. Julie was handed the title of Countess (eldest child; only title women can inherit), her father confirmed the family history he'd spoken of a few weeks before his death in 1990. Only then did she discover that the creativity, both writing & art, finally made sense - the Potocki family is prolific with writers and artists.

    "Freelance Creator. Creative Consultant for movies, animation. She walked the Red Carpet lat year for BiBee, an animated project for which she's co-producer [with David Seuss], and of which she's confident everyone will fall in love with.

    "Notorious prankster: no one's been out of bounds, from Billionaires to you & I. Only when the ending of the puzzle delights, makes you smile at the end, is the hard work worth it all to her.

    "Julie has both inked & painted well over 12 graphic novels. With Hugo Award winner Phil Foglio, both Myth Adventures, Buck Godot, Zap-Gun For Hire, both A Distant Soil volumes with Colleen Doran. Also, Robotech Art Volume 2 etc.

    "Her first unknown writing debut? Writing the ending to the Myth Adventures Two graphic novel. Bob Asprin & Phil Foglio had an argument over whether Istvan lived or died. Phil said he must die; Bob said 'No, he's my character, he lives!' Julie piped up, 'So, kill him; but he cannot die. He's cursed to be immortal. Does that solve the issue?' It's gone down in history.

    "With Grim Jack: Demon Wars by John Ostrander & Mandrake, she won a Fan Favorite Award for her innovative water colour psychological approach, which would make you feel uncomfortable just at the right places. She's won many awards, including Best of Show at World Con for her published cover art.

    "Julie has freelanced for DC Comics, Warner Bros., Marvel Animation, Disney, Nickelodeon, Topps, etc. She's written various stories based upon beloved characters for Warner Bros. (such as Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, Looney Tunes). She's also written magazine articles for Xena: Warrior Princess. Additionally, assorted storyboards for Marvel, Disney, Graz, the most famous being X-Men: The Phoenix Saga; Biker Mice From Mars, Gargoyles etc. Of note: Julie worked on the storyboards of the only FEMALE Biker Mouse in the history of the show! She also created the Evil Falkenar for the Conan The Adventurer cartoon show. She was so confident her design would be chosen, she tossed her design, mixed it with everyone else's. When asked why? "It's easy to animate, compared to everyone else's. In animation, you must match the style, not put your ego into it." When the show aired? Out of four submissions, it was her design used for the episode.

    "Julie helped to start Blast! Comics in Chicago, which launched many careers. She was asked to launch another comic company in Anaheim, but using her own protocols, she walked.

    "She's also pitched tv projects to: In Living Color, the Sci-Fi Channel and Showtime and was the Co-Producer for the 2013 Red Carpet Walk."

    Julie listed her current projects:
    BiBee Animated Movie (character designs and script synopsis)
    Angel And The Rockstar (graphic novel)

  • SEPTEMBER 2014 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:

    September's book was 2312 (2012)
    by Kim Stanley Robinson

    Suggested by Will Morton

    Earth is no longer humanity's only home; new habitats have been created throughout the solar system on moons, planets, and in between. A sequence of events will force humanity to confront its past, its present, and its future. The first event takes place on Mercury, on the city of Terminator, itself a miracle of engineering on an unprecedented scale. It is an unexpected death, but one that might have been foreseen. For Swan Er Hong, it is an event that will change her life. Swan was once a woman who designed worlds. Now she will be led into a plot to destroy them. 2012 Nebula Award winner.

    The group was not impressed with this book. At best, it was praised with faint damnation. In fact, I would say the book demonstrates how not to write science fiction.

    Firstly, the author attempts to take on everything. Just about every intellectual and pseudo-intellectual field is discussed, along with how every planet in our solar system was terraformed and all the different propulsions systems the spaceships use. The characters are weak, buffeted by events as they meander all over the solar system in a manner that suggests you are reading a tourist brochure rather than a novel. All this data dumping almost completely buries the thin story of crime-solving. [One reader found the terraforming more interesting than the featured storyline. -JB]

    The author inserts even more data by adopting the Innes Mode, previously used by John Brunner in Stand On Zanzibar. This is the addition of short chapters containing snippets of information. However, unlike Brunner who uses the snippets to add context to the story, enriching his world's background, and generally improving the pacing of his novel, Robinson sprays out stuff in a disconnected stream of consciousness. As Jamie noted, "You are not supposed to put every stray thought you come up with into your novel!"

    Our conclusion is that in his haste to meet his deadline, Robinson, instead of sending his novel to the publisher, accidentally attached his research notes to the e-mail, and the whole publishing process got too far along before the error was found out.

    Attending: Ralph, Catherine, Dave, John B., Jamie

    Availability: Braille audio, AnaPL, FullPL, OCPL, LAPL, LACPL, AMZ-U, Kindle: $8.99

    640 pages
    Pub. 2012

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

  • Guest/program:



    Our guest was Anastasia Hunter, who spoke about all things Steampunk and the annual convention her group puts on.

    Anastasia Hunter is a lover of books, movies, costuming, lively discussions about fandom, and craft beer. A voracious reader and movie lover from her earliest years, she attended her first convention in 1991 and has never looked back. Anastasia is currently the Chair and Director of Programming for Gaslight Gathering, the annual Steampunk convention located in San Diego, CA; the Director of Programming for Conjecture 2014 (a San Diego SF/F convention); on the Board of Directors of Comic-Con International, and President of SansFis Inc., the non-profit corporation overseeing the WesterCon 68 convention in San Diego in 2015.



  • AUGUST 2014 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:

    August's book was
    The Dervish House (2010)
    by Ian McDonald

    Suggested by Will Morton

    2027 Istanbul and Turkey is about to celebrate the fifth anniversary of its accession to the European Union . Another day, another bus bomb. Everyone, it seems, is after a piece of Turkey. Is this just a random act of 21st Century pandemic terrorism? Welcome to the world of The Dervish House—the great, ancient, paradoxical city of Istanbul, divided like a human brain in the great, ancient, equally paradoxical nation of Turkey. Six characters, five days, three interconnected story strands, one central common core—the eponymous dervish house, a character in itself—that spins all these players together in a weave of intrigue, conflict, drama, and a ticking clock of a thriller.

    This novel novel was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2011, and won the BSFA Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award in the same year. It was a nominee for the 2011 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

    Most of the group were not happy with this book. One reader was so unhappy with the opening of the book that no further reading was deemed desirable. Another gave up after a few pages, preferring to start next month's book. A third did not finish the book until after the meeting, and a fourth skipped past much of the latter part of the novel. So most of this commentary is Dave's opinion, though John does not disagree strongly with it.

    The author jumps fairly randomly between six characters in three story strands, and their segments are all quite short. It's written in the present tense. The reader also has to derive the meaning of many Turkish words and learn Turkish spelling and pronunciation (there's a pronunciation guide at the beginning of the book) while keeping track of the plot and characters. He apparently doesn't believe in making it easy for his readers. There are compensations, however. The writing is excellent. It's rich, dense descriptions transport the reader into the Istanbul of the future.

    You can get too much of a good thing. Particularly in the first eighty pages, the endless descriptive detail drowns the plot and obscures the characterization, mellifying* the story to the point of inertia. The pace picks up in the second half of the book when the story struggles free of all the description's sticky clutches, and from then on it becomes engrossing.

    I have a couple of other little niggles. The characters come over as generic. The book reminds me (structurally) of an Arther Hailey novel in that author uses a variety of characters and points of view to illustrate the theme: timeless Istanbul, with its juxtoposition of the ancient and the hypermodern; but I don't think the author quite brought it off. This lack of lucidity is probably due to the mellification of the story with too much description.

    The book is rich and original, so both John and I would recommend it providing you are prepared for a challenging read. On rereading, the story becomes a lot easier to follow, making it more fun to read. Ultimately, John felt that the actual plotline, however smothered, concerning a new and frightening form of terrorism, was well worth the effort.

    * Catherine came up with that one.

    Attending: Catherine, Dave, Jamie, John B., Ralph

    Availability: Braille audio, AMZ-U, AnaPL, LAPL, LACPL, OCPL, Kindle: $8.69

    359 pages
    Pub. 2010



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

  • Announcements:

    Catherine Curley gave a brief resume of the memorial service held for longtime member Chuck Fete.

    Tim Cassidy-Curtis announced the upcoming "Nobility" webtv show (for which he is Science Advisor) has gone into production. His non-disclosure agreement prevents him from discussing his contributions, but he admits that he has made several recommendations. Maybe once it's over with he will be able to give us the skinny.

  • Guest/program:

    Our guest was David Silva, an original member of OCSFC. He spoke on Science Fiction Utopias.

    David has provided a brief autobio:

    "I joined the Orange County Science Fiction club on their 2nd meeting and rarely missed a meeting for the next 20 years. In the late 1980's I edited the club's first newsletter, The Orange Pulp for its first six years until Jeff Stein took over. During the time I was a club member I went to 12 WorlCons and numerous WesterCons. By the time I stopped collecting science fiction I had about 9,000 hardcover first editions, magazines and paperbacks.

    "After I retired from the post office in 1994 I spent two years teaching chess to 3rd and 4th graders in La Habra. I had been a tournament chess player for about ten years at that point. In 1998 I joined the Orange County Humanists and edited their newsletter for five years and have often been the featured speaker at their monthly meetings..

    "In October 1999 I moved to Leisure World in Seal Beach and became President of the Democratic Club which is one of the largest Democratic clubs in the state. In 2003 I was asked by the Orange County Democratic Party to run for State Assembly, which I did in 2004. I also served on the County Central Comittee and the County Executive Board. Other activities included being President of the Leisure World Chess Club, the Pool and Billiard Club and the Bowling League.

    "Earlier this year I volunteered to teach an eight week class at Long Beach State on 'A Brief History of Science Fiction' that included many of the important books, films and artists, and touched on science fiction as a social movement. It was when I was teaching about utopias and dystopias that the idea for a power point presentation on utopias came to me. Being interested in politics, I believe that even though we will never achieve perfection we should actively strive to build a society that is better than what we now have."



  • JULY 2014 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:

    July's book was Sister Alice (2003)
    by Robert Reed

    Suggested by John Bowen

    Some 10 million years in the future, in a galaxy heavily populated by humans and other advanced species, a thousand trustworthy humans and their cloned offspring have been granted an incredible power that they may preserve a peace that has endured for eons. They can build worlds wherever they wish and can terraform any wasteland. But the arrival of a woman as old as the great peace itself brings uncertainty and fear. For she brings with her a warning: the tale of an ancient crime that threatens to destroy the peace that has been so carefully crafted.

    Catherine, who did not have Braille access to the book, read the author's earlier work Marrow, which she found confusing but interesting. She felt that the author failed to justify some of the actions and motivations of the characters, who seemed to be a bit arbitrarily drawn. Of the other four reviewers, only one had finished the book by review time. One other finished afterwards, and two gave up soon after beginning it.

    Those that decided not to finish the book were put off by what was perceived as a violent analog of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. Those that went on to complete the book found the comparison to be inapt, but the violence was a bit offputting. The author uses the violence to show that the beings involved are capable of withstanding extreme violence, and with their ability to repair even their own crushed skulls, are virtually godlike. The problem with this is that any empathy created for the victim is negated, and the reader is unable to connect to the characters in any significant way.

    Combined with enormous gaps in time (millions of years go by between chapters, but the characters are still reacting to events in the preceding pages) and, as in Marrow, the arbitrariness of the characters' motivations and actions, the effect on the reader is similar to that of reading a parable, where no real reader involvement is produced. Effectively, the reader is left reading about gods and their powers facing a series of ill-defined super-human threats, each of a greater magnitude than that faced before, with super-powers that are suddenly introduced and only loosely described. It's like reading a Doc Smith book, or a Tom Swift! Ultimately, the experience becomes one of turning pages to tediously read words on paper. The author does eventually wrap up the storyline with an explanation of Alice and her motivations, though the final words leave some questions unanswered.

    Overall, not recommended.

    Attending: Catherine, Dave, Jamie, John B., Ralph

    Availability: AMZ-U, AnaPL, LAPL, LACPL, Kindle: $8.00

    416 pages
    Pub. 2003

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

  • Guest/program:



    Our guest was Don Glut, Star Wars author, filmmaker, and comic book scripter and creator.

    In a mostly question and answer session, Don discussed his early history making movies (over a dozen of them!), his transition into writing scripts for James Warren's Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella and his occasional involvement with some of the outstanding illustrators that worked there, assignments he originally got through his agent, Forry Ackerman. Don described how Forry kept losing pages from his submissions, and how the Ackermansion was so crowded that Forry had to work with a stack of stuff on his lap because there was nowhere else to put it!

    Don also described his comic book work for Gold Key, including the creation of The Occult Files Of Dr. Spektor, Dagar The Invincible and Tragg And The Sky Gods. During this time he was also given the assignment of writing the film novelization of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Don described his difficulties with the many script changes and the secrecy surrounding the film that gave him only one hour to review the film artwork.

    In recent years, Don has gone back to his first love: writing and producing (and sometimes directing) for the screen. A number of his films are available on the internet through Amazon.com. Don is also an authority on dinosaurs, and has written extensive reference works regarding them.

  • JUNE 2014 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
    June's book was The Quantum Rose (2001)
    by Catherine Asaro

    Suggested by John Bowen

    Kamoj Argali is the young ruler of an impoverished province on a backward planet. To keep her people from starving, she has agreed to marry Jax Ironbridge, the boorish and brutal ruler of a prosperous province. But before Argali and Ironbridge are wed, a mysterious stranger from a distant planet sweeps in and forces Kamoj into marriage, throwing her world into utter chaos. Nebula award winner.

    After getting to the end of this book, you come across a chapter describing its raison d'etre. Apparently, the novel was an attempt to apply quantum mechanical inelastic scattering in a metaphorical manner to the romance novel. Points for bravery I suppose, but the group was not impressed with the result.

    The main characters came over as weak, passive and unbelievable. Even when they were supposed to be smart they seemed stupid. The narrative ground to a halt frequently under the weight of scenic description and data dumps. It really could have done with some heavy editing to pick up the pace. There was also an ad hoc quality to the elements of the story, which are often arbitrarily introduced, then discarded. For a quantum mechanical novel, it lacks coherence.

    The prose is, however, very readable. It is not a "hard read."

    Of course, if we discarded all SF novels for mediocre story telling, the resulting pile would be thin, and many of our favorite books would be passed over, but evaluating this story as a science fictional novel, we find there is not a lot new here. So the strength of its ideas is not its saving grace.

    None of our group has much interest or experience at reading romance novels, so we cannot make a judgement of how it fares as a member of that genre, but from what we can tell, taken that way, it's considered quite a good read.

    One reader commented that the experience of reading the book is a combination of Andre Norton and Marion Zimmer Bradley, though Norton would never have condoned the sex in the book. Attending: Catherine, Dave, Jamie, John B.

    Availability: AMZ-U AnaPL FullPL LAPL OCPL, Kindle: $8.00

    432 pages
    Pub. 2001

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

  • Guest/program:



    Our guests were The Heinlein Society. Mike Sheffield (president of the society), Dr. Keith Kato (v.p./secretary) and Dr. Robert James (call him "Bob") discussed the work of the Heinlein Society in continuing the blood drives started by Heinlein, as well as educational programs and scholarships. In addition, much background to the work and life of the famous author was discussed.

    A very enjoyable and educational experience! (They have agreed to come back at some point in the future to play video and audio clips of Heinlein through the years.)

  • MAY 2014 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
    May's book was Star Maker (1937)
    by Olaf Stapledon

    Suggested by Catherine Curley

    Star Maker tackles philosophical themes such as the essence of life, of birth, decay and death, and the relationship between creation and creator. A pervading theme is that of progressive unity within and between different civilizations. Some of the elements and themes in Star Maker prefigure later fiction concerning genetic engineering and alien life forms. Arthur C. Clarke considered Star Maker to be one of the finest works of science fiction ever written.

    Ralph nailed this book when he called it a compendium of ideas. When this book came out in 1937, it was truly awesome in both meanings of the word. It brought forth and explored a wealth of new ideas, many of which have subsequently been taken up and developed by other authors. And for this reason, it is considered one of the definitive works of Science Fiction. However, there is very little plot or characterization to this book, and the writing is often fuzzy, lacking definite description. In the years since, other authors have developed the book's ideas, so its main attraction, its awesomeness, has diminished.

    Most of the group were not impressed with this novel; although one enjoyed it as a visionary, spiritual treatise. And that: treating it as a treatise, is probably the best way to approach this work.

    Attending: Ralph, Catherine, Dave, GG, John B., Will By e-mail: Jamie

    Availability: AMZ-U ($5) LAPL, Kindle: $7.00

    196 pages
    Pub. 1937

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

  • Guest/program:



    Joe Ochman and R. Martin Klein have acted in films, television, theater, commercials, animation, anime, video games and recorded books for over thirty years.

    On TV, Joe recently guest starred on "House of Lies." He is a recurring guest star on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation", and as well as on the acclaimed Showtime series "Sleeper Cell." He’s shown up on "Weeds", "House, M.D.", "Desperate Housewives", "The West Wing", "Will & Grace", "NYPD Blue", "Seinfeld", and many more. On film, he recently appeared in "The Purge: Anarchy", the historical drama "Saving Lincoln", and vocally (opposite Forest Whitaker and Lauren Bacall) in the Oscar-nominated "Ernest & Celestine". Joe appeared in "Officer Down" for Lifetime, and many recent indie films, including "House of the Rising Sun", "Snail", "Arc", "The Dead Game", and "Repo." Speaking of historical, in the comedy "How High?" he played the ghost of Benjamin Franklin - whom he also played in "The Franklin Spirit", the multi-media centerpiece of the US Pavilion at the 2005 World Expo in Aichi, Japan. He has had major roles in a slew of games, including the groundbreaking western-themed "Red Dead Redemption." The stage has always been his first love, though, and he has fulfilled that romance in dozens of plays, from Shakespeare to Simon to Pinter to Miller. Joe is also an award-winning stage director, whose recent production "Who Lives?" was nominated for 5 Ovation Awards.

    Joe's close friend Bob Klein has also been heavily involved in animation, particularly Japanese anime, voicing numerous roles (sometimes as "Bob Marx"), as well as taking an occasional live role on series television.

    A very enjoyable meeting was had by all with two interesting and personable television professionals.

  • APRIL 2014 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
    April's book was The Lost World (1912)
    by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

    Suggested by Jamie Cassidy-Curtis

    A classic in the tradition of the scientific romance, in which Sir Arthur introduces the irascible Professor Challenger, discoverer of a plateau of ancient flora and fauna, living fossils.

    In general, the group enjoyed the book and would recommend it. Ralph provided background on the mesa in Colombia that may have inspired the book. Catherine felt the subplot of Edward and his girlfriend Gladys was trite and chauvenistic, John felt it was unneccesary. John noted that a book on similar themes published five years later, Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Land That Time Forgot, was both better written and more entertaining.

    Attending: Ralph, Catherine, Dave, GG, Jamie, Wendy, John B.

    Availability: AMZ-U Braille AnaPL FullPL LAPL OCPL, Kindle: $1.00

    224 pages
    Pub. 1912

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

  • Guest/program:

    The guest was

    John Hertz
    , longtime SF fan and member of LASFA, and three-time Hugo nominee for Best Fan Writer. A frequent moderator of panels (especially at LOSCON), John reputedly turned fandom onto Regency dancing (and wears the best beanie around).

  • March 2014 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
    This month's book was Player Piano (1952)
    by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

    Suggested by Dave Moore

    Vonnegut's first novel spins the chilling tale of engineer Paul Proteus, who must find a way to live in a world dominated by a super computer and run completely by machines. His rebellion is a wildly funny, darkly satirical look at modern society

    No one was particularly enthusiastic about this novel. We found the characters two-dimensional - you could see the hand of the author pushing them around - the satire flat, the jokes feeble, the plot disconnected and talky: there was not a lot of action. And it had the clunky feel of much mediocre 1950's SF.

    And yet, there are people who love this novel, so I turned to Goodreads to see what they saw in it. They liked the book because its theme was relevant to today's world, and I can certainly see that the book's dealing with lack of employment and opportunity to contribute to society as having resonance. Mainly though, they loved it because they found its dystopian future satire fascinating. This is where the disconnect comes with the reader's group. Kurt Vonnegut cheerfully admitted he had ripped off Huxley's Brave New World, which in turn was derived from We by Yevgeny Zamyatin. If you have read both, if you have read many SF stories dealing with this subject and these themes, then this book has not aged well. The subject has been done better elsewhere, so the book's flaws come to the fore.

    What interested me most about the book was not its depiction of the future. By satirizing the attitudes and aspirations of the time it was written in, it captured the mindset of a place and time in history. It now strikes me as an historical novel more than anything now.

    Availability: AMZ-U Braille-RC AnaPL LAPL-e OCPL, Kindle: $4.00

    352 pages
    Pub. 1952

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

  • Announcements:

    Tim Cassidy-Curtis announced he had been tasked as Science Advisor for the upcoming "Nobility" webtv show.

    The Orange Empire Railway Museum has announced a steampunk carnivale to be held March 15-16, 2014 in Perris. Visit the museum



  • Guest/program:

    Steven W. Booth of Genius Book Company


    The guest for our February 26th meeting was Steven W. Booth, author, book designer and publisher of Genius Book Company, which publishes non-fiction and "Dark Fiction, Wickedly Entertaining". Steven has written 10 books, many in collaboration with Harry Shannon, including the popular "Sheriff Penny Miller" series of humorous zombie adventures. Steven gave us a very professional rundown of various aspects of his life as a writer/publisher.


    Sheriff Penny Miller of Flat Rock, Nevada, has always done her duty. On the first night of the zombie apocalypse, she swore an oath to protect her friends from the ravenous hordes. However, now that the virus is rapidly spreading to the rest of the country it has become clear that Miller and her friends, Scratch, Sheppard, and Rat, are winning battles but losing the war. And that’s just not good enough for Penny. Too many people have already died.

    Determined to stop the maniacs who have been funding the research that created the undead, and with the key to stopping the virus in hand, Miller and crew embark on a long and dangerous journey north. Their route cuts through the very heart of zombie occupied territory, but this time they are out to end the apocalypse once and for all. Unfortunately, the elite committee of government officials who control the Super Soldier program knows exactly where Miller and her friends are headed, and they are determined to capture or kill them at any cost.

    Sheriff Miller doesn’t stand a chance. Of course, lousy odds never stopped her before. She gives the order to move out.

    And that’s when all hell breaks loose.

    “Zombie thrillers loaded with sex and smarts.” —Jonathan Maberry, NY Times best-selling author
    “A good-looking, foul-mouthed female Sheriff, and she’s packin’. Four stars.” —SF Signal
    “The dialogue and narrative crackle. Great combination of action, gore, horror and humor.’ —Dana Fredsi, author of Plague Nation.
    “Penny Miller brings something new to the game, something that we’ve all been craving.” —Joe McKinney, author of Dead City
    “Defines laugh out loud funny.” —Bookish Brunette


  • February 2014 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
    This month's book is Anvil of Stars (1992)
    by Greg Bear

    Suggested by John Bowen

    A Ship of the Law travels the infinite enormity of space, carrying 82 young people: fighters, strategists, scientists; the Children. They work with sophisticated non-human technologies that need new thinking to comprehend them. They are cut off forever from the people they left behind. Denied information, they live within a complex system that is both obedient and beyond their control. They are frightened. And they are making war against entities whose technologies are so advanced, so vast, as to dwarf them. Against something whose psychology is ultimately, unknowably alien.

    Anvil of Stars is the sequel to The Forge of God. The Forge of God had its flaws, but its strengths provided a balance to these. In Anvil of Stars, the flaws are more glaring and the story telling weaker. Only two persons in the group was prepared to recommend the book (one to her enemies). The writing was mushy with long stretches of stuff happening, but the plot barely moving. Most of the group felt cutting the story length by half would improve it immensely.

    To delve much further into the books deficiencies, I am going to have to go into spoiler territory.

    The book starts out with the awakening of the children on the starship given to them by the benefactors. After centuries of sublight travel in suspended animation, they are approaching the first possible target system that may contain those who were responsible for destroying Earth. There is a lot of military style drills. And in between, emoting and sex, with a strong whiff of Ender's Game about the whole set up. The name of the ship is Dawn Treader, a reference to Narnia. The children are called Wendies and Pans--all way too twee for a hard SF novel.

    Lets look at the set up. An alien race gives a group of teenagers the power and the requirement to destroy an entire civilization; it's their decision alone. And these are supposedly advanced and intelligent beings. The children are not superhuman; they're volunteers. It's not a winnowing process for genius like Ender's Game. And then they go blundering into a star systems in a way the makes Bush Jr's Iraqi expedition a model of cautious probity.

    Now, the science. This book aspires to be a hard SF novel. Many so-called hard SF novels have unrealistic physics (hyperdrive is a favorite), but physicists still enjoy them because there is a consistency to them. Anvil's physics is arbitrary and very powerful. What you basically have is a wand that can change matter in any way, including turning it into antimatter so you can blow things up. You can also pretty much make anything with a wave of your wand. This gives the story a deus ex machina quality to it that sucks the life out of the tension. And when our intrepid heroes get into a tight spot at the end of the story, they rejig the tech to make it even more powerful. In Star Trek, they have a name for this. It's called tech-teching the tech-tech, or lazy writing.

    Some badly flawed books have heart. Not this one. This book felt hurriedly written with a lack of attention to detail, a soulless concoction for a paycheck that insults your intelligence.

    To sum it up: Emo teenagers blow up planets then go back to having sex.

    Availability: Amazon: cheap, Kindle: $8.00

    448 pages
    Pub. 1992


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

  • Guest/program:

    Business Meeting. A good time was had by all.


  • January 2014 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
    This month's book is The Forge of God (1987)
    by Greg Bear

    Suggested by John Bowen

    The disappearance of one of Jupiter's moons, the appearance of "little green men" in Australia and the American Southwest, and the sudden presence of unidentifiable objects on a collision course inside the Earth's core add up to the inescapable conclusion that the Earth has been invaded by an enemy it cannot fight.

    Again a mixed review and again the reasons on whether you liked it or didn't depended very much on which elements of a story you most value. (Note: spoilers ahead.)

    The entire group though the basic idea was interesting and that the story took a refreshing approach to the old idea of an alien invasion. Those who enjoyed the book admired it for its strong and realistic characterization. (In a way the characterization reminded me of those sweeping multi-character dramas by James Clavell or Leon Uris.) The book also opened with a good mystery: two sets of aliens had landed and delivered incompatible messages. So, which one of them was lying?

    On the down side, all those characters slowed the pace down, and some of them, particularly the US president, were hard to believe. The novel seemed to lack focus: Story lines were abandoned. New elements were introduced in an ad hoc way. And some were superfluous. Also, the two main elements of the story: the mystery of the aliens, and the apocalyptic end of the world scenario didn't really jell.

    Most of the group would recommend the book, but there were dissenters.

    Availability: Amazon: cheap, Kindle: $8.00

    474 pages
    Pub. 1987

---- 2013 ----

November 27, 2013

  • Guest/program: No guest that evening so we watched the film "Chrysalis", an obscure release from 2008 that is based on a Ray Bradbury short story.

    Dave's review: This film was so tedious, nonsensical and pretentious that I thought it had been made in the 70’s. It was paced at a rate that made "Silent Running" look like an action movie. There were excuses for bad 70’s movies: we were trying new things, we had an over-inflated sense of our own importance; but how can anybody in this video literate age make something with such clunky dialog?


  • November 2013 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:

    This month's book was Night Train To Rigel (2005)
    by Timothy Zahn

    Suggested by Jamie Cassidy-Curtis

    The myriad worlds hosting intelligent life are tied together by the Quadrail, an interstellar transport system run by the enigmatic Spiders. Transport of weapons or military equipment isn't allowed, but someone, somewhere, appears to have found a way around the prohibition. The Spiders hire cashiered government investigator Frank Compton to discover how and what threat it constitutes.

    The group liked the book to varying degrees. It's strengths were that it had a good mystery, interesting aliens and exotic locals, and moved at a steady clip. It's demerits were a certain laziness in execution. While the major ideas were interesting, there was a blandness to the details and a surprising degree of anachronism for a 2005 novel.

    Good Space Opera. It's an easy read; the sort of book that's good for filling in the blank spots in an airline flight. Those of you who read Star Wars novels would be familiar with the style of writing. The author has produced a number in the series.

    Availability: Amazon: cheap, Kindle: $7.60

    352 pages
    Pub. 2005



October 30, 2013

  • Guest/program:



    Dante Renta, a collector of monster masks, shared his passion with us. He had a row of them displayed across the front of the room, attracting a great deal of attention from the waitresses, and talked about how his passion evolved from his first fascination with them as a boy, how he went on to collect them and even commission new ones. It seems a lot of his desire came from not being able to afford the good ones he saw as a boy.


  • October 2013 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
    This month's book was 'Salem's Lot (1975)
    by Stephen King

    Suggested by Catherine Curley

    Ben Mears has returned to Jerusalem's Lot in the hopes that living in an old mansion, long the subject of town lore, will help him cast out his own devils and provide inspiration for his new book. But when two young boys venture into the woods and only one comes out alive, Mears begins to realize that there may be something sinister at work and that his hometown is under siege by forces of darkness far beyond his control.

    The group's affection for this book ranged from mild to intense, but even the person who liked it the most felt will never be the classic that Anne Rice's Interview With a Vampire will be.

    While the rest of us enjoyed the book (Steven King's great strength is the readability of his prose), we found parts annoying. There are plot holes. Some of the character's actions we had trouble believing, and some scenes felt contrived.

    The structure also did not seem to work well. The book starts off with an omniscient look at the lives of characters in a small Maine town. In Steven King's hands, this is an engaging exercise, but it does not seem to have much to do with the later half of the book, which is the story of the spread of vampirism. Most of these characters finish up as vampires, but aside from getting fanged, they don't contribute much more to the story.

    The book then goes into tighter focus as Ben Mears fights the vampires, so it almost feels as if there are two books grafted onto each other.

    Some of our group also found the ending unsatisfactory.

    Availability: Braille AnaPL OCPL FullPL LAPL Amazon-u $4.00

    672 pages
    Pub. 1975



September 25, 2013

  • Guest/program: We had an open OCSF meeting mainly discussing how we were going to fill Dick’s shoes.


  • September 2013 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:

    This month's book was The Fixed Period (1882)
    by Anthony Trollope

    Suggested by Catherine Curley

    Published just before his death, this satirical dystopia, set in the 1980's, postulates an independent country off the coast of New Zealand called Britannula. In Britannula a law has been passed decreeing that all citizens who reach the age of 67 must undergo euthanasia for the good of society. What happens when the first and oldest man reaches the end of his "Fixed Period" and must prepare for his "humane" death is a fascinating study in social and moral impossibility.

    Yes, Anthony Trollope wrote a Science Fiction novel; although, the trappings of science fiction should not be taken too seriously. 1980, the year in which the book is 1880 with the addition of steam tricycles, hair phones and bigger guns.

    The book is a social satire along the lines of Johnathan Swift's A Modest Proposal. Trollop was 67 at the time at the book incorporates his thinking on old-age and death. With his sharp observations of social mores, he shows the inherent madness of Social Darwinism taken to its logical conclusion, how greed and self interest distort any proposal, no matter how well meaning.

    Dave found the best discussion of the book online at Strange Horizons.

    So how did the group like it. Is this book more than a historical curiosity? Well, reaction was mixed, and whether you would considered reading would depend on the relative weighing you give it pluses and minuses.

    On the plus side, it has delicious moments of dark, deadpan, satire. This reaches its height in the cricket match chapter with its steam bowlers and 1000 run innings. Unfortunately, to get the most out of it, you have to know cricket. But the foibles of human nature and Victorian society are on full display for your amusement.

    Much of the enjoyment of the story was destroyed by its long-winded nature, long winded even by the Victorian age's leisure pace of storyteller. There was one part near the end where the author promises to give a brief description of a character. One page later I'm glad he didn't give a full description. The basic story is that of a short story or novella expanded with great repetition. Part of this is because it was originally published in installments in Blackwood's Magazine in 1881-82, so a certain amount of recapitulation was necessary to help the reader; however, read as one, this results in tedium.

    The story's great strength though is in showing how a series of logical assumptions can lead to a ridiculous and even evil conclusion, so this still gives it much relevance to today's world.

    Availability: Amazon: $8.00, Kindle: free. Nook: $2.99

    Also free online at:

    Project Gutenberg and

    Forgotten Books

    150 pages
    Pub. 1882



August 28, 2013

  • Guest/program:



    Tim Kirk
    a famous award winning broad-spectrum Media Designer/Artist with extensive experience in a broad media spectrum, from book and magazine illustrations to theme park and museum exhibit designs.

    Tim’s paintings based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy The Lord of the Rings appeared in the 1975 Tolkien Calendar, published by Ballantine Books. His illustrations have appeared in a wide variety of books, magazines and fanzines; he has produced artwork for greeting cards, comics, web sites, jigsaw puzzles, costume design and character concepts for fantasy role playing games.

    Tim is a five-time winner of the prestigious Hugo Award for science fiction illustration.

    For 22 years, Tim was employed as an Imagineer by the Walt Disney Company. He contributed significantly to several major Disney theme park projects, including Epcot Center, Pleasure Island and the Disney-MGM Studio Tour (Florida), Disneyland (Anaheim) and Tokyo DisneySea , the second gated theme park for the Tokyo Disney Resort—which opened in 2001.

    Tim was a concept artist on The Haunted Mansion (2003), a Disney feature film based on the theme park attraction of the same name.

    In partnership with his brother and sister-in-law (also Disney veterans), Tim created Kirk Design Incorporated in 2002. specializing in themed concept and exhibit design for museums, theme parks, restaurants and retail, with a strong emphasis on immersive, innovative storytelling; recently completed projects include the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle (2004), the Parsonage of Aimee Semple McPherson in Los Angeles (April, 2006), and the Center for Water Education in Hemet, California (2007). Other clients include Walt Disney Imagineering (Tim has recently done work for the new Disney theme park in Shanghai and new concepts for Tokyo Disneyland), Thinkwell Design and Production, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the Aquarium of the Pacific (Long Beach, California), and Ghirardelli Chocolate.

    Tim’s work is included in the new Greisinger Museum in Switzerland dedicated to J.R.R. Tolkien.

    Tim Kirk is a third generation Southern California native. He is a graduate of California State University at Long Beach, with a master’s degree in illustration.


  • August 2013 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:

    This month's book was How To Live Safely In A Science Fictional Universe (2010)
    by Charles Yu

    Suggested by Dave Moore

    Every day in Minor Universe 31 people get into time machines and try to change the past. That's where Charles Yu, time travel technician, steps in. He helps save people from themselves. Literally. When he's not taking client calls, Yu visits his mother and searches for his father, who invented time travel and then vanished. The key to locating his father may be found in a book. It's called How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, and somewhere inside it is information that will help him. It may even save his life.

    In his first novel, Charles Yu uses Science Fiction metaphors to talk about life. The result is entertaining, in a twisted sort of way, humorous, and well written, but it doesn't have much of a plot, and the the main character is self-involved and whiny. The group's reaction was mixed depending on the weight they gave to its strengths and weaknesses. Those that liked the satire and the marvelous way the author conflated story theory and characters with Science Fiction tropes, in a way similar to Jasper Fforde tales, liked the book. Those who put more weight on plot and character found the story sterile, the main character weak, and description wordy and pretentious.

    Availability: Braille AnaPL OCPL FullPL LAPL Amazon $1.25

    256 pages
    Pub. 2010



July 31, 2013

  • Guest/program:



    Midge Ordonez

    (Dave reporting) We had an interesting guest at our OCSF club meeting. I didn't take any notes - too fascinated with Midge's account of her work. She was a representative of the Cinema Makeup School, an outfit in Hollywood that trains make-up artists. Artist is a valid name for these people. They not only have the craft-like skills of coloring to transform people for the camera, but they have to create masks for monsters and zombies and their like as well as digital designs for motion-capture creatures.

    Make-up artistry is a small and tightly knit community. Reputations and tales of pranks circulate world wide. (She described make-up artists as a group of people who have failed to grow up.) Her talk wasn’t structured: it covered a mixture of the school’s course curriculum, what the work is like, tricks of the trade, and on-set high-jinks.

    There are two main types of prosthetics: foam latex and silicone. Latex is lighter but soaks up moisture; silicone is heavier but is translucent and water resistant. There are different types of glue. You have to worry about allergies, and there are severe limitations to the use of prosthetics on children and animals. After the talk, I took a look at her kit. She carries a large shoulder bag of gear: a cloth roll with pockets for brushes, smaller ones for painting, large ones for blush and powder, pots of make-up paint (there’s a set for bruise colors), and spray bottles, one with 99% propanol and the others with lotion in them.


  • July 2013 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
    This month's book was The Demolished Man (1953)
    by Alfred Bester

    Suggested by Jamie Cassidy-Curtis

    In a world policed by telepaths, Ben Reich plans to commit a crime that hasn't been heard of in 70 years: murder. That's the only option left for Reich, whose company is losing a 10-year death struggle with rival D'Courtney Enterprises. Terrorized in his dreams by The Man With No Face and driven to the edge after D'Courtney refuses a merger offer, Reich murders his rival and bribes a high-ranking telepath to help him cover his tracks. But while police prefect Lincoln Powell knows Reich is guilty, his telepath's knowledge is a far cry from admissible evidence. 1953 Hugo award.

    When this book came out it was regarded as a masterwork. Aside from a solid treatment of telepathy, such themes as all powerful corporations, drug use to relieve psychological strain, AIs are woven together to produce a dystopian future in a world building that was head and shoulders above most its contemporaries. Many of the book's themes and techniques had influenced later works, which built on Bester's ideas.

    The problem is that the reader of today is not coming to these ideas fresh, so the novelty of them has worn off; they've be done better elsewhere.

    Bester also bought to this story a play with typographic layout and a hip, punchy dialog. This would have been dazzling when it came out, but such things seem pretentious now and give it a dated feel. Also from the period is a thoroughly Freudian cast to the characters' motivation, which makes them unbelievable now.

    All of this did not enamor the book to our reader's group. The story has aged to become an acquired taste. If you are a fan of “Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?” then this book will appeal to you. If you are not, then the book should be read as an historical and literary study.

    Availability: Braille AnaPL OCPL LAPL Amazon $3

    256 pages
    Pub. 1953

June 26, 2013

  • Guest/program: Open Meeting, no guest. (Tim Kirk will come at a later date.)



  • READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
    This month's book is Inherit the Earth (Future History) by Brian Stableford

    Brian Stableford is a prolific and highly regarded British SF writer so we'd thought we'd give him a go.

    Suggested by John Bowen

    All Damon Hart wanted was to be his own man. Being the son of Conrad "Savior of Humanity" Helier didn't leave a lot of room for Hart's own life, so he abandoned his family, his heritage, and his money. But when the past starts catching up with him, and the people he loves start getting hurt, Hart has no alternative but to accept the responsibility of his ancestry.

    Was his father, the inventor of the artificial womb, a savior or an evil madman? And who is the self-appointed judge executing retribution on everyone related to Helier?

    Availability: Braille AnaPL LAPL Amazon cheap

    320 pages
    Pub. 1998.

May 29, 2013

  • Guest/program: Author Tessa Dick




    Tessa B. Dick, has been selling and publishing her stories, poems, articles, photographs and novels since 1969.

    Her book The Owl In Daylight


    is a rare and notable collectable inspired by the last book Philip was working on.

    Her book
    Origins, Part One: Thor's Hammer was nominated for the Philip K. Dick award.

    She has a BA in Communications and an MA in English Lit. from Chapman.

    Tessa taught English for 12 years and was the fifth wife of Philip K. Dick.




  • READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
    This month's book is The Masque Of Mañana by Robert Sheckley

    Suggested by Jamie Cassidy-Curtis & Will Morton

    This collection of Sheckley's short stories was brought out the year of his death, and although it includes some sober entries (e.g., "A Wind Is Rising"), it is clear that Sheckley is one of sf's all-time masters of the humorous or satirical short story. "The Lifeboat Mutiny" represents Sheckley's classic Triple A Ace Interplanetary Decontamination Agency at its risible best (all the other stories of that agency are here, too). "Pilgrimage to Earth" presents an edgy version of the farm-boy-(from a far colony)-in-the-big-city (a decadent Earth) scenario, and "Skulking Permit," "Gray Flannel Armor," "Fool's Mate" are excellent places to begin an acquaintance with Sheckley.

    Availability: OCPL LAPL Amazon $5

    576 pages
    Pub. 2005.

April 24, 2013

  • Guest/program: Open meeting with the short videos of "Huell Howser Visits Forrey's Ackermansion" and the rocket launch of the NASA Aeres.



  • APRIL 2013 READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:

    April's book is Holy Fire by Bruce Sterling

    Suggested by Dave Moore

    In an era when life expectancies stretch 100 years or more and adhering to healthy habits is the only way to earn better medical treatments, ancient "post humans" dominate society with their ubiquitous wealth and power. By embracing the safe and secure, 94-year-old Mia Ziemann has lived a long and quiet life. Too quiet, as she comes to realize, for Mia has lost the creative drive and ability to love--the holy fire--of the young.

    Availability: Braille AnaPL OCPL FullPL LAPL Amazon cheap

    368 pages
    Pub. 1997.

March 27, 2013

  • Guest/program: Videos to be announced

    We didn't have a guest speaker for our March meeting. We had a bit more talk and then selected a video, Invaders From Mars, to watch.

  • READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
    This month's book is Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison

    Suggested by Dave Moore

    The world is crowded. Far too crowded. Its starving billions live on lentils, moya beans, and "if they’re lucky"the odd starving rat. In a New York City groaning under the burden of 35 million inhabitants, detective Andy Rusch is engaged in a desperate and lonely hunt for a killer everyone has forgotten. For even in a world such as this, a policeman can find himself utterly alone..

    Availability: Braille AnaPL LAPL Amazon $4.47

    288 pages
    Pub. 1966

February 27, 2013

  • Guest/program: Author, Publisher, Book Seller James Van Hise


    James from 1989 when he attended a talk by Stephen King.



    James Van Hise has written many books on Star Trek, from Classic to Enterprise for Star Trek fandom. He also writes about Science Fiction in film, television, and comic history.

    He created and edited the Star Trek fan magazine Enterprise Incidents during the 70s and in the 80s and 90s, he published a number of popular reference guides..

    Van Hise also submitted "Deadworld", a script idea for Star Trek: The Next Generation .

    Van Hise:

    "I wrote the story in 1987 at the behest of a mutual friend of Gerd Oswald. Oswald had directed a couple of Star Trek episodes in the sixties and I'd spoken to him while he was directing an episode of the new Twilight Zone for CBS when I visited that studio in 1986. Oswald was looking for a story he could take to Paramount for The Next Generation which he could attach himself to as the director. He read this outline but rejected it as being 'too depressing.' I told my friend that Gerd, who was then in his seventies, was obviously a man who had never come to terms with his own mortality. Gerd Oswald died two years later of cancer."

    James is also a publisher and book seller.

    Click Here to visit his web-site



  • READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
    This month's book is Barefoot in the Head by Brian W Aldiss

    Suggested by John Bowen

    A tale of a future world recovering from a holocaust of hallucinogenic chemical weapons. For the victims, reality is a fluid mixture of the real the imaginary and the nightmarish, the past, present and future.

    Colin Charteris, the hero and anti-hero on this continually disintegrating stage, has not himself survived the cataclysm unscathed, and his gradual descent into fantastic and paranoid visions will have drastic consequences for civilization.

    Perhaps Aldiss's most experimental work, this first appeared in several parts as the 'Acid Head War' series in New Worlds. Set in a Europe some years after a flare-up in the Middle East led to Europe being attacked with bombs releasing huge quantities of long-lived hallucinogenic drugs. Into an England with a population barely maintaining a grip on reality comes a young Serb, who himself starts coming under the influence of the ambient aerosols, and finds himself leading a messianic crusade.

    The narration and dialogue reflects the shattering of language under the influence of the drugs, in mutating phrases and puns and allusions, in a deliberate echo of Finnegans Wake

    Availability:LAPL Amazon cheap

    236 pages
    Pub. 1969.

January 30, 2013

  • Guest/program: Michael Kogge and Daniel Keys Moran


    Michael Kogge


    Daniel Keys Moran




    Michael put together a short story collection of new stories about Barsoom, Edgar Rice Burroughs' version of Mars.
    Michael and Daniel both have a stories in it.


    Michael Kogge's TV pilot ‘Hunt’, about a San Antonio bondsman and Salvadoran police officer, recently placed in the top ten of the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards out of 5,000 submitted scripts. He has written for Lucasfilm, Blizzard, Studio 407, and Topps, has a comic book series being published in 2013, and has placed in the Nicholls Screenwriting Fellowships. His writing combines history, adventure, and culture to reflect the interests and dynamics of a diverse America.

    Daniel wrote 7 + books about 15 years ago and then dropped out to raise a family. He is really a computer guy. Says he is back to writing now.



  • READING ORBIT- OCSFC Book Club:
    This month's book is SPIN by Robert Charles Wilson

    Suggested by Dave Moore

    One night in October when he was ten years old, Tyler Dupree stood in his back yard and watched the stars go out. They all flared into brilliance at once, then disappeared, replaced by a flat, empty black barrier.

    He and his best friends, Jason and Diane Lawton, had seen what became known as the Big Blackout. It would shape their lives. The effect is worldwide. The sun is now a featureless disk--a heat source, rather than an astronomical object. The moon is gone, but tides remain. Not only have the world's artificial satellites fallen out of orbit, their recovered remains are pitted and aged, as though they'd been in space far longer than their known lifespans.

    As Tyler, Jason, and Diane grow up, a space probe reveals a bizarre truth: The barrier is artificial, generated by huge alien artifacts. Time is passing faster outside the barrier than inside--more than a hundred million years per year on Earth. At this rate, the death throes of the sun are only about forty years in our future.

    Availability: Braille AnaPL LAPL Amazon cheap

    464 pages
    Pub. 2006.



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