Sunday, May 29, 2011

Isaac Asimov’s Niece Covers the Rapture

religiondispatch.org: Isaac Asimov’s Niece Covers the Rapture
It’s fitting that Nanette Asimov, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter and Isaac Asimov’s niece, covered the failing of the Rapture for her newspaper. She details the story of a man who drove across the country with his family from Maryland to celebrate the event in the empty parking lot of the Family Radio station in Oakland, California, where this whole ridiculousness began.

There is no gloating, or smugness in Asimov’s words, only a simple recounting of the disappointment of a road-weary man.

“I was hoping. I think heaven will be a lot better than this earth," the 36-year-old trucker told a knot of reporters who outnumbered visitors at the grimy hub of worldwide speculation about the world's end at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Neither radio employees nor radio minister Harold Camping were in evidence Saturday morning in the station parking lot on Hegenberger Road near the Oakland Airport.

In the meantime, CNNMoney reports that Family Radio, which has a total worth of $72 million, received $18 million in contributions just in 2009, according to its latest IRS filing.


Interesting bit of news...not a very long article. I would have liked her to interview Nanette Asimov!

As for the truck driver...well, we certainly do live in a hell on earth - and yet this is the world "God" created, eh? Why would heaven be any better?

Here's an article from The New York Times in 2003:
WEDDINGS/CELEBRATIONS; Nanette Asimov, Hugh Byrne
Published: October 12, 2003

Nanette Asimov and Hugh Drennan Byrne are to be married this evening in San Francisco. Their friend Michael Moradzadeh, who has been named a temporary deputy marriage commissioner by Marin County, Calif., is to officiate at the San Francisco Maritime Museum.

The bride, 44, is a reporter on The San Francisco Chronicle. She graduated from Queens College and received a master's degree in journalism from Columbia. She is the daughter of Ruth Asimov of Roslyn Heights, N.Y., and the late Stanley Asimov, who was the vice president for editorial administration at Newsday in Melville, N.Y.

The bridegroom, 41, is the publisher of Equipment Watch, a San Jose-based unit of Primedia, which publishes directories for the construction trades. He graduated from San Francisco State University. He is a son of Sally Byrne of Palo Alto, Calif., and the late Jack Byrne, who was an editor of reports published by SRI International, the consulting and research organization in Menlo Park, Calif.

The bridegroom's previous marriage ended in divorce.



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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

OT: The Coldest Equations

My latest book published for the Kindle is now available for purchase. (And within a couple of days, should be available for Barnes&Nobles Nook as well.)

It's science fiction.

Tracy Karlovassi, actress, is the star of the science fiction TV series The Coldest Equations, in which she plays Miranda Rainbird, security team leader for a corporation that deals in space travel. It is the near future, and these civilian corporations devoted to space travel have become little worlds of their own, with security agents protecting their own engineers and scientists from kidnap or spying, while at the same time spying on other corporations and attempting to kidnap their scientists and engineers.

Whenever a TV series on our earth is committed to celluloid, it is immediately created as an alternate earth, that exists just as much as our own does. And there are watchers -out there- who have devised a way to transport the actors from the TV series to their real life counterparts on the alternate earth, and vice versa.

In the TV series (and on the alternate earth) Miranda Rainbird has been framed for a crime she did not commit, and is on the run from both friend and foe. If it *were* Miranda Rainbird on the run, she could doubtless solve all her problems, skilled agent that she is. But Tracy Karlovassi has been transferred into her body...and what can a mere actress do?

It's fun, it's suspenseful, if you like classic science fiction TV and books, you'll like it. And best of all, it's only $2.99!

Available now. Go to the Kindle store via your kindle and search for The Coldest Equations, or follow this link:

http://www.amazon.com/Coldest-Equations-People-There-ebook/dp/B0052NSRKK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=digital-text&qid=1306369228&sr=1-1

Time goes by fast

Just a quick post to apologize for the lack of posts recently, and in a couple of hours this blog will be back up to snuff...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Asimov in Science Magazines: Speaking of robots

Cosmos Magazine: Speaking of robots

Isaac Asimov predicted humanoid robots by 2010, but even getting robots to speak like humans do is a major challenge, says Jonathan Lowe.

NO DOUBT YOU'VE seen talking or singing robots, mainly from Japan, where development into robotic speech has been ongoing for over a decade.

Yet surprisingly, the recreation of human speech is more complex than most people realise. Coming up with a robotic voice that is indistinguishable from human in expression may still be some time off. What complicates the problem is the variety of vocal qualities that we generate when we talk.

It is not merely that human vocal cords lend vibration to a stream of air from the lungs, and then shape these vibrations within the voice box. The entire throat cavity, including the larynx, mouth, tongue as well as the nasal cavity and lips, assist forming words and sounds, taking cues from aural feedback processed by the brain.

"Consider how we are able to speak in the first place," says Sayoko Takano, an expert in bio-mechanics who worked in robotic speech research a decade ago in Japan, and is now doing research into magnetically-controlled, tongue-operated wheelchairs for paraplegics at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

"Not only do we have to control respiration, the vibration of our vocal folds, plus our tongue and lip and velum motion, but also the tension of the larynx, the motion of the tongue, and the shape of the vocal tract itself. No computer voice synthesiser can yet match this complexity without coming off sounding artificial," she says.

ROBOTICIST HIDEYUKI SAWADA of Kagawa University in Takamatsu, Japan, agrees. "Voice quality depends not only on control and learning techniques, but also on the materials, which should be very close to the human anatomy.

"The dampness and viscosity of the organs have influence on the quality of generated sounds, like what you experience when you have a sore throat," he says.

The typical method for generating human-like voices in robots was by using software algorithms - in the same way that computer speech is simulated. "But we now try to generate human-like voices by the mechanical way, as humans themselves do," says Sawada.

"The goal is to totally reconstruct the human vocal system mechanically, with learning ability for autonomous acquisition of vocalisation skills."

In short, what scientists in Japan are doing are creating robots which mimic the way humans actually speak, which is the only way to obtain the qualities that would make you believe a human is speaking.

Of course one might think that building a tongue and larynx robot would be relatively easy, given today's engineering technology. But again, speech organs are very different from limbs like the leg or arm.

"The tongue is a bundle of muscle assemblages composed of seven main tongue muscles, and there are also lip and jaw muscles adding up to more than 30 combinations in controlling the speech organs," says Takano. "Each muscle moves by activity innovated in the brain."

The tongue and lip have both voluntary and involuntary muscles, and also fast-weak and slow-strong controls. So the complex relationship between speech-related air flows from tongue, muscle activation, muscle character, and vibration of the vocal fold mean that a non-sentient computer with replicated and motorised parts is still at a disadvantage to a human, Takano says, who was lucky enough to obtain these through evolution.

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Hugo Gernsback and the 1st All-Science Fiction publication


Sam Moskowitz begins The Immortal Storm at the beginning, with Hugo Gernsback.

Publisher/editor Hugo Gernsback's first magazine was Modern Electrics, followed by Electrical Experimenter. Next came Science and Invention. There was also Radio News. All of these were published in the early 1920s.

Then GErnsback brought out Amazing Stories. (Moskowitz isn't clearm but seems to be saying it came out in 1924. However, the first issue was not published until April 1926 by Gernsback's Experimenter Publishing.

(Although it was the first magazine devoted solely to science fiction, it had been preceded by Weird Tales , which dealt with science fiction and fantasy, and made its debut in March 1923.)

According to Moskowitz, "The appearance of reader's letters in the "Discussions" column of Amazing Stories marked the beginning of science fiction fandom as we know it today."

The most famous fans of these early Amazing Stories magazines were Jerome Siegel and Joseph Schuster, who would eventually create the character(s) of Clark Kent and Superman.

Then, Gernsback was forced into bankruptcy, and lost his magazines and radio station. Moskowitz says: "Though many have speculated on the causes of his financial crisis, naming frozen assets, family hardships and dishonest employees as the core of the trouble, the complete story has never been made clear.

By early 1929 Gernsback's finances had recovered - though not to their earlier extent.

Amazing Stories had been taken over by Teck Publications.

Gernsback brought out Science Wonder Stories, Air Wonder Stories and Scientific Detective Stories, all in 1929. (They would be short-lived.)

Clayton Publications, a riival, brought out Astounding Stories in 1929.






Bibliography
The Immortal Storm, by Sam Moskowitz

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation: The little idea that became science fiction’s biggest series

I'm a little late with this, this actually happened last week.

I09: Blogging the Hugos: Isaac Asimov’s Foundation: The little idea that became science fiction’s biggest series
Josh Wimmer and Alasdair Wilkins — On the planet Terminus, a group of academics struggles to survive as the Galactic Empire crumbles. With no weapons, all they can rely on are the predictions of a dead genius named Hari Seldon. That's right - it's time to discuss Isaac Asimov's Foundation!

Welcome to Foundation Week, a Blogging the Hugos special event. In 1983, Isaac Asimov won the Hugo Award for Best Novel for Foundation's Edge, in which he revisited his groundbreaking Foundation mythos for the first time in over thirty years. Because the Foundation series is such classic, quintessential, and beloved science fiction — the original stories won their own unique Hugo for Best All-Time Series in 1966, and influenced artists from Douglas Adams to George Lucas — Josh Wimmer and Alasdair Wilkins will be discussing each of the seven books between today and Sunday. We begin with Foundation, published in 1951.

(Spoilers follow.)

JW: For starters: Asimov wrote the first Foundation story when he was 21. And eventually, of course, the original Foundation Trilogy would win a special Hugo for Best All-Time Series, beating out supposed shoo-in The Lord of the Rings. Man, when I was 21, I hadn't even been promoted from waiter to bartender at Carlos O'Kelly's Mexican Cafe.

Anyway, if anyone reading this hasn't read the Foundation books (at least the first three), I feel pretty strongly that they should immediately stop whatever they're doing and rectify that. But on the off chance that some our you reading this aren't going to do that, I'll quickly summarize: The Foundation series began as a set of short stories Asimov wrote under the guidance of legendary Astounding Science Fiction editor John W. Campbell. The stories were inspired by Asimov's reading of Edward Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and their premise is so simple, it feels almost inevitable:

There is a Galactic Empire, consisting of countless planets spread across millions of light-years. The brilliant Hari Seldon has used a science of his own invention, called psychohistory, to determine that the Empire is near collapse. Psychohistory is a blend of crowd psychology and high-level math. An able psychohistorian can predict the long-term aggregate behavior of billions of people many, many years in the future. (However, it only works with large groups: Psychohistory is almost useless for predicting the behavior of an individual. Also, it's no good if the group being analyzed is aware it's being analyzed — because if it's aware, the group changes its behavior.)

Read the entire blog entry at this link:
I09: Blogging the Hugos: Isaac Asimov’s Foundation: The little idea that became science fiction’s biggest series

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

I Asimov Index continued

47. The Big Three
Heinlein, Robert (namecheck) pg 140
van Vogt, AE (namecheck) pg 140
Hubbard, L. Ron and Dianetics og 140
Clarke, Arthur C. 140

48. Arthur Charles Clarke
Clarke, Arthur C. pg 141-143
Treaty of Park Avenue pg 142
"Childhood's End" namecheck pg 142
Simak, Clifford namecheck pg 142
"Loophole," April 1946 ASF, first Clarke story published in US pg 142
Del Rey, Lester
Ellison, Harlan, both namechecked pg 143
2001: A Space Odysse namechecked pg 143

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Friday, May 13, 2011

No, you're not losing your mind

If there were posts here yesterday that you read, which are not here today, it's because...they're not here.

Blogger.com, the platform that hosts this blog, was down for much of yesterday afternoon and all night...just coming up now (11 am mountain time.) And all posts made yesterday have disappeared.

Supposedly, those posts will be restored. I'll give them a day to do so, and if not, will re-post them tomorrow.

Sorry for the inconvenience!

I Asimov Index Continued

44. PhD and Public Speaking
Columbia University, pg 132, 135
Dawson, Professor pg 132, 134
Pauling, Linus pg 132
Catechol pg 135
"Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline," March 1948 ASF pg 135 (genesis of)
Campbell, John 135
Halford, Professor Ralph pg 135

45. Postdoctorate
Dawson, Professor pg 136
antimilarial drug research pg 137
effect of government grants on scientific research pg 137

46. Job Hunting
Charles Pfizer pg 138-139

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I Asimov Index Continued

41. Games
Asimov, Marcia pg 124
Asimov, Stanley, pg 124
Kasparov, Gary pg 124

42. Acrophobia
NAES pg 125-126
dye markers pg 125-126
Asimov, Janet, and Robyn pg 126 namechecks, 127, 128
del Rey, Lester pg 126
New York World's Fair, 1939 pg 126
Patti, niece of Janet Asimov pg 127, 128

43. Claustrophilia
Asimov, Gertrude (Asimov's first wife) pg 129
The Caves of Steel, Doubleday 1954 pg 131
Heinlein, Robert 131
"Dreaming is a Private Thing" December 1955 F&SF pg 131






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Monday, May 9, 2011

I Asimov Index Continued

38. In-Laws
Blugerman, Henry (Gertrude's father) pg 110-113
Blugerman, Mary (Gertrude's mother) pg 110-113
cliche of Jewish husband pg 110
Blugerman, John (Gertrude's brother) pg 111-112

39. NAES (Naval Air Experimental Station)
Heinlein, Robert pg 113
de Camp, L. Sprague pg 113
Blugerman, Gertrude pg 114
Allaben Acres, Catskills, pg 114
"Foundation" May 1942 ASD pg 116
"Bridle and Saddle" pg 116
"The Big and the Little," "The Wedge", "The Dead Hand," "The Mule" namechecks pg 116
Stapledon, Olaf pg 116
First and Last Men, The Star Makers pg 116
"Pilgrimage" aka "Black Friar of the Flame" pg 116
Planet Stories pg 117
Gibbons, Edward, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire pg 117
Campbell, John 117

40. Life at War's End
Asimov drafted, 5 daysafter VJ Day! pg 118
Camp Lee, Virginia pg 119
Bikini pg 119
"Evidence," robot story, September 1946 ASF pg 122
Blugerman, GErtrude pg 122


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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sam Moskowitz's The Immortal Storm pt 1

Sam Moskowitz's book The Immortal Storm, a history of science fiction fandom, was published in 1954.

Table of Contents
Preface
List of photographs
1. Introduction
2. Gernsback and the first all-science fiction publication
3. The beginning of organized fandom
4. The emergence of the first true fan magazine
5. The Fantasy Fan
6. William H. Crawford aand his contemporaries
7. Secondary fan publications: The TFG and its followers
8. The Science Fiction League
9. The New ISA and The International Observer
10. Other Happenings of 1935
11. The SFL-ISA Showdown
12. The Decline of the SFL and the ISA's Bid for Power
13. The Science Fiction Advancement Association
14. Other local groups of the time
15. The last days of Fantasy Magazine
16. Further clubs and projects of 1936
17. The first convention and the death of the ISA
18. The Dark Ages of Fandom
19. The Rise of British Fandom
20. Renaissance
21. The New Order Progresses
22. The Fantasy Amateur Press Association
23. The Third Convention and Michelism
24. The Aftermath
25. The Wollheim-Moskowitz FEud
26. The Background in Early 1938
27. The Factions Align Themselves
28. The First National Science Fiction Convention
29. The FAPA Elections of 1938
30. The Development of Michelism
31. The Greater New York Science Fiction League
32. Fantasy News and New Fandom
33. New Fandom's Rise to Power
34. The Opposition Crumbles
35. The New Fantasy Magazines and their Influence on Fandom
36. The Role of the Queens SFL
37. Amateur Magazines of the Period
38. Minor Dissensions
39. The Great Drive Toward the Convention
40. The Character of the Opposition
41. The First World Science Fiction Convention
42. Opinion Rallies
43. Breasting the Undertow
44. The Second Philadelphia Conference
45. The Illini Fantasy Fictioneers
46. The Futurian Comeback
Epilogue
Index

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Asimov in the News: Letters for a New Library

Seattle PI: Letters for a New Library

To commemorate, celebrate and promote the opening of the new public library in Troy, Michigan in 1971 children's librarian Marguerite Hart sent letters to a slew of notable figures asking them to "write a letter to the children of Troy about the importance of libraries, and their memories of reading and of books."

Hart received 97 letters in return "from individuals who spanned the arts, sciences, and politics across the50 states, Canada, the United Kingdom, India, the Mariana Islands, and American Samoa." From Saul Alinsky to Vincent Price, from Isaac Asimov to the Pope, the letters provide a cultural snapshot of the early 1970's and convey the essence of the value of libraries.



The Troy Public Library has archived all 97 letters here.

Sadly, the Troy Public Library, like many public libraries across the country, is fighting for its very life. Originally slated to close on May 1st due to budget woes, the city council voted in mid-April to keep it open temporarily.

Perhaps the current librarian can replicate Hart's achievement by sending letters to today's cultural leaders, asking them to write letters to the city council on what it might mean to live in a community without a library.
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I Asimov index continued

34. As World War II Begins
WWII (1940) - pg 100-101
Asimov, Robyn (broken ankle) pg 100-101
"Nightfall" pg 101

35. Master of Arts
staying in school rather than finding a job pg 102
Roosevelt, Franklin pg 102
Thomas, Professor Arthur W. pg 102, 103
Dawson, Charles REginald pg 103-104

36. Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor and the US entry into the wae pg 104

37. Marriage and Problems
Brooklyn Authors Club pg 105
Goldberger, Joseph pg 105
Lee (Goldberger's girlfriend) pg 105, 109
Blugerman, Gertrudge (Asimov's future wife) pg 105-109
Captain Blood pg 106, Olivia deHavilland and Errol Flyn pg 106
Asimov and smoking pg 106
Asimov, Stanly pg 107
AGCT - pg 109
Pohl, Fred pg 109


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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Alfred Bester

Alfred "Alfie" Bester (December 18, 1913 – September 30, 1987) was an American science fiction author, TV and radio scriptwriter, magazine editor and scripter for comic strips and comic books. Though successful in all these fields, he is probably best remembered today for his work as a science fiction author, and as the winner of the first Hugo Award in 1953 for his novel The Demolished Man.

Biography
Alfred Bester was born in Manhattan, New York City, on December 18, 1913. His father James owned a shoe store, and was a first-generation American whose parents were both Austrian. Alfred's mother, Belle, was born in Russia and spoke Yiddish as her first language before coming to America as a youth. Alfred was James and Belle's second and final child, and only son. (Their first child, Rita, was born in 1908.) Though his father was of Jewish background, and his mother became a Christian Scientist, Alfred Bester himself wasn't raised within any religious traditions.

Bester attended the University of Pennsylvania where he was a member of the Philomathean Society. He went on to Columbia Law School, but tired of it and dropped out. Bester and Rolly Goulko married in 1936. Rolly Bester had a successful career as a Broadway, radio and television actress before changing careers to become an advertising executive during the 1960s. The Besters remained married for 48 years until her death on January 12, 1984. Bester was very nearly a lifelong New Yorker, although he lived in Europe for a little over a year in the mid-1950s and moved to Pennsylvania with Rolly in the early 1980s. Once settled there, they lived on Geigel Hill Road in Ottsville, Pennsylvania.

Writing career
Early SF career, comic books, radio (1939–50)

After his university career, 25-year-old Alfred Bester was working in public relations when he turned to writing science fiction. Bester's first published short story, "The Broken Axiom," was published in Thrilling Wonder Stories (April 1939) after winning an amateur story competition. Reputedly, this competition was arranged by editors who knew Bester and were favorably inclined toward his early work as a way of giving him a break into the field. This contest, incidentally, was also the same amateur story contest that Robert A. Heinlein famously opted not to enter — the prize was only $50, and Heinlein realized that he could do better by selling his 7,000-word unpublished story to Astounding Science Fiction for a penny a word, or $70. Bester and Heinlein later became friends and joked about the incident.

For the next few years, Bester continued to publish short fiction, most notably in John W. Campbell's Astounding Science Fiction (ASF) . In 1942, two of his science fiction editors got work at DC Comics, and invited Bester to contribute to various DC titles. Consequently, Bester left the field of short story writing and began working for DC Comics as a writer on Superman, Green Lantern and other titles. It is popularly believed that Bester wrote the version of the Green Lantern Oath: "In brightest day, In blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil's might, beware my power, green latern's light".

Bester was also the writer for Lee Falk's comic strips The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician while their creator served in World War II. It is widely speculated how much influence Bester had on these comics. One theory claims that Bester was responsible for giving the Phantom his surname, "Walker".

After four years in the comics industry, in 1946 Bester turned his attention to radio scripts, after wife Rolly (a busy radio actress) told him that the show Nick Carter, Master Detective was looking for story submissions. Over the next few years, Bester wrote for Nick Carter, as well as The Shadow, Charlie Chan, Nero Wolfe and other shows. He later wrote for The CBS Radio Mystery Theater.

With the advent of American network television in 1948, Bester also began writing for television, although most of these projects were lesser-known.

In early 1950, after eight years away from the field, Bester resumed writing science fiction short stories. However, after an initial return to Astounding with the story "The Devil's Invention" (aka "Oddy and Id"), he stopped writing for the magazine in mid-1950 when editor John Campbell became preoccupied with L. Ron Hubbard and Dianetics, the forerunner to Scientology. Bester then turned to Galaxy Science Fiction, where he found in H. L. Gold another exceptional editor as well as a good friend.

The classic period: 1951–57
In his first period of writing science fiction (1939–1942), Bester had been establishing a reputation as a short story writer in science fiction circles with stories such as "Adam and No Eve". However, Bester gained his greatest renown for the work he wrote and published in the 1950s, including The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination (also known as Tiger! Tiger!).

The Demolished Man (1953)
The Demolished Man, recipient of the first Hugo Award for best Science Fiction novel, is a police procedural that takes place in a future world in which telepathy is relatively common. Bester creates a harshly capitalistic, hierarchical and competitive social world that exists without deceit: a society where the right person with some skill (or money) and curiosity can access your memories, secrets, fears and past misdeeds more swiftly and with greater alacrity than even you.

Originally published in three parts in Galaxy, beginning in January 1952, The Demolished Man appeared in book form in 1953. It was dedicated to Gold, who made a number of suggestions during its writing. Originally, Bester wanted the title to be Demolition!, but Gold talked him out of it.

Who He? aka The Rat Race (1953)
Bester's 1953 novel Who He? concerned a TV game show host who wakes up after an alcoholic blackout and discovers that someone is out to destroy his life. A contemporary novel with no science-fiction elements, it did not receive wide attention. It did, however, earn Bester a fair amount of money from the sale of the paperback reprint rights (the book appeared in paperback as The Rat Race). As well, Bester received a substantial sum of money from a movie studio for the film option to the book. Purportedly, Jackie Gleason was interested in starring as the game show host; however no movie was ever made of Who He? Still, the payout from the film option was large enough that Alfred and Rolly Bester decided they could afford to travel to Europe for the next few years. They lived mainly in Italy and England during this period.

The Stars My Destination (1956)
Bester's next novel was outlined while he was living in England and mostly written when he was living in Rome. The Stars My Destination (aka Tiger, Tiger) had its origins in a newspaper clipping that Bester found about Poon Lim, a shipwrecked World War II sailor on a raft, who had drifted unrescued in the Pacific for a world record 133 days because passing ships thought he was a lure to bring them within torpedo range of a hidden submarine. From that germ grew the story of Gully Foyle, seeking revenge for his abandonment and causing havoc all about him: a science fiction re-telling of Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo with teleportation added to the mix. It has been described as an ancestor of cyberpunk.

As had occurred with The Demolished Man, The Stars My Destination was originally serialized in Galaxy. It ran in four parts (October 1956 through January 1957) and the book was published later in 1957. Though repeatedly voted in polls the "Best Science Fiction Novel of All Time', The Stars My Destination would prove to be Bester's last novel for 19 years. A radio adaptation was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1991.

Magazine fiction and non-fiction: 1959–62
While on his European trip, Bester began selling non-fiction pieces about various European locations to the mainstream travel/lifestyle magazine Holiday. The Holiday editors, impressed with his work, invited Bester back to their headquarters in New York and began commissioning him to write travel articles about various far-flung locales, as well as doing interviews with such stars as Sophia Loren and Anthony Quinn. As a result of steady work with Holiday, Bester's science fiction output dropped precipitously in the years following the publication of The Stars My Destination.

Bester published three short stories each in 1958 and 1959, including 1958's "The Men Who Murdered Mohammed" and 1959's "The Pi Man", both of which were nominated for Hugo Awards. However, for a four-year period from October 1959 to October 1963, he published no fiction at all. Instead, he concentrated on his work at Holiday (where he was made a senior editor), reviewed books for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (from 1960 to 1962) and returned to television scripting.

Television: 1959–62
In 1959, Bester adapted his 1954 story "Fondly Fahrenheit" to television as Murder and the Android. Telecast in color on October 18, 1959, the hour-long drama took place in the year 2359 amid futuristic sets designed by Ted Cooper. This NBC Sunday Showcase production, produced by Robert Alan Aurthur with a cast of Kevin McCarthy, Rip Torn, Suzanne Pleshette and Telly Savalas, was reviewed by syndicated radio-television critic John Crosby:

Despite the fact that the androids refer contemptuously to human beings as people who suffer from glandular disorders called emotions, Torn wants very much to suffer from these disorders himself. Eventually, he does. I have no intention of unraveling the whole plot which was not so much complicated as psychologically dense. If I understand him correctly, Mr. Bester is trying to say that having androids to free us of mundane preoccupations like work is by no means good for us. His humans are pretty close to being bums.

Murder and the Android was nominated for a 1960 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and was given a repeat on September 5, 1960, the Labor Day weekend in which that Hugo Award was presented (to The Twilight Zone) at the World Science Fiction Convention in Pittsburgh. Bester returned to Sunday Showcase March 5, 1960 with an original teleplay, Turn the Key Deftly. Telecast in color, that mystery, set in a traveling circus, starred Julie Harris, Maximilian Schell and Francis Lederer.

For Alcoa Premiere, hosted by Fred Astaire, he wrote Mr. Lucifer, which aired November 1, 1962 with Astaire in the title role opposite Elizabeth Montgomery.

[edit] Senior editor of Holiday: 1963–71After a four year layoff, Bester published a handful of science-fiction short stories in 1963 and 1964. However, writing science-fiction was at this stage in Bester's life clearly more of a sideline than the focus of his career. As a result, from 1964 until the original version of Holiday folded in 1971, Bester published only one science-fiction short story, a 700-word science fiction spoof in the upscale mainstream magazine Status.

Still, as senior editor of Holiday, Bester was able to introduce occasional science-fiction elements into the non-fiction magazine. On one occasion, he commissioned and published an article by Arthur C. Clarke describing a tourist flight to the Moon. Bester himself, though, never published any science fiction in Holiday, which was a mainstream travel/lifestyle magazine marketed to upscale readers during an era when science fiction was largely dismissed as juvenilia.

Later career: 1972–87
Holiday magazine ceased publication in 1971, although it was later revived and reformatted by other hands, without Bester's involvement. For the first time in nearly 15 years, Bester did not have full-time employment.

After a long layoff from writing science fiction, Bester returned to the field in 1972. His 1974 short story "The Four-Hour Fugue" was nominated for a Hugo Award, and Bester received Hugo and Nebula Award nominations for his 1975 novel The Computer Connection (titled The Indian Giver as a magazine serial and later reprinted as Extro). Despite these nominations, Bester's work of this era generally failed to receive the critical or commercial success of his earlier period.

Bester's eyesight began failing in the mid-1970s, making writing increasingly difficult, and another layoff from published writing took place between early 1975 and early 1979. It is alleged during this period that the producer of the 1978 Superman movie sent his son off to search for a writer. The name Alfred Bester came up, but Bester wanted to focus the story on Clark Kent as the real hero, while Superman was only "his gun." The producers instead hired Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather, to write the film.

Bester published two short stories in 1979 and rang in the 1980s with the publication of two new novels: Golem100 (1980), and The Deceivers (1981). In addition to his failing eyesight, other health issues began to affect him, and Bester produced no new published work after 1981. His wife Rolly died in 1984.

In 1985, it was announced that Bester would be Guest of Honor at the 1987 World Science Fiction Convention, to be held in Brighton. As the event neared, however, Bester fell and broke his hip. With his worsening overall health, he was plainly too ill to attend. Doris Lessing stepped in as a last-minute replacement.

Bester died less than a month after the convention from complications related to his broken hip. However, shortly before his death he learned that the Science Fiction Writers of America would honor him with their Grand Master Nebula award at their 1988 convention.

Two works by Bester were issued posthumously. The first, Tender Loving Rage (1991), was a mainstream (i.e., non-science fiction) novel that was probably written in the late 1950s or early 1960s. The second, Psychoshop (1998), was based on an incomplete 92-page story fragment. It was completed by Roger Zelazny and remained unpublished until three years after Zelazny's death. When issued, it was credited as a collaborative work.

Alfred Bester had no children, and according to legend, left everything to his bartender, Joe Suder. That much is, in fact, true. However, the claim that Suder didn't know or remember Bester is legend rather than fact; Bester stopped by Suder's bar every morning on his way to get his mail, and the two men were friends.




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I Asimov Index Continued

31. Women
Sex, Teaching in schools pg 93-94
Boys High School (name check) 94
Seth Low College (namecheck) pg 94
Columbia College (namecheck) pg 94

32. Heartbreak
1940 World's Fair pg 96

33. "Nightfall"
ASF pg 97
Story namechecks:
"Strange Playfellow", (later retitled "Robbie") Sept 1940 Super Science
"Reason" (April 1941 ASF)
"Liar!" (May 1941 ASF)
Ralph Waldo Emerson pg 98
John Campbell 98
Panshin, Alex (science fiction historian) pg 98
Del REy, Lester and Sturgeon, TEd pg 98 namecheck
"Nightfall" September 1941 ASF
"Analytical Laboratory" established by Campbell, pg 99
"Adam and No Eve," by Alfred Bester, namecheck pg 99
Heinlein, Robert pg 99
van Vogt, AE, 99 (both name chwcks)


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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I. Asimov Index continued

29. Theodore Sturgeon
Sturgeon, Theodore - 87-89
Waldo, Edward Hamilton (Sturgeon's real name)
"Ether Breathers", Sep 1939 ASF. Sturgeon's first published story.
Braddbury, Ray - 87
On lending money - 88-89

30. Graduate School
Herodotus - namecheck pg 89
Gibbon, Edward namecheck pg 89
going to graduate school to avoid getting a job pg 89, 92
Asimov, Stan - 90
Asimov, Eric - Asimov's nephew - pg 90
Hammett, louis P. - Columbia chemistry professor - 91

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Monday, May 2, 2011

Asimov in the News: The Cost of Living Forever

Asimo is mentioned in the fourth or fifth paragraph from the bottom. The author claims that Asimov believed in Time Travel - which he manifestly did not. I shall be emailing this author and telling him to get his facts straight!

MoneyTalksNews: The Cost of Living Forever
Remember in Star Wars when Han Solo was frozen in carbonite? That’s a form of cryonics, the practice of preserving people – or just their brain – then reanimating them at some future date when there’s a cure for whatever killed them. And it’s not just science fiction.

“It’s taking your whole body or brain and storing it at low temperatures with the idea that eventually you might be able to be revived and restored to health and youth,” says Catherine Baldwin, a scientist with advanced degrees in microbiology who studies cryonics: the study of freezing organisms with the goal of stopping tissues from decomposing, then reviving them in the future.

More than 2,000 bodies worldwide have been preserved after death this way since 1967, by companies like Alcor and the Cryonics Institute. Why so few? Well, besides being kind of eerie, unproven scientifically, and not well publicized, it’s expensive.

We talked about the price tag, the process, and the popularity with Baldwin, who is general manager of Suspended Animation in Boynton Beach, Fla. Her company handles the first step of cryo-preservation: replacing bodily fluids with what’s essentially an “anti-freeze” solution so the tissues can be safely frozen without creating damaging ice crystals.

Watch the video below, and then read on for more…


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There are a lot of variables when it comes to the price of cryonics. As Baldwin said in the video, “The fees can range from $30,000 total to about $200,000 total. It’s quite a range depending on where and how you receive care.”

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Here’s how it breaks down…

Deathbed care
This is the service offered by Baldwin’s company, Suspended Animation. A team of medical professionals is on hand when you’re declared legally dead. Their job is act quickly to prevent tissue degeneration after you’re declared legally dead.

“They replace all of your body fluids with an organ preservation solution and get you as cold as possible as quickly as possible without freezing you,” Baldwin says.

It’s important that you don’t freeze. Baldwin says, “If you flash froze human cells like a steak, ice would shred your cells from the inside, and then there’s nothing worth saving.” But keeping the body around zero degrees Fahrenheit (about your kitchen freezer’s temperature) protects cells from damage while the body is transported to a storage location for further preparation and long-term storage in much colder temperatures.

After this team is done, the body is shipped off to a facility by private jet, commercial airliner or, if you’re close enough, by car for the next step.

Cost: $30,000 to $60,000, depending on the method of conveyance used to transport your body. Some of those who have signed up for cryonics actually move closer to a storage facility to help defray transportation costs.

Permanent preservation
Once at the storage facility, a second team receives the body, and the first chemical perfusion is replaced with a different “cryo-protectant.” Basically, the tissues are flooded with an even more efficient human antifreeze, “a specialized solution that prevents ice formation when you’re below minus 160 degrees Celsius,” Baldwin says. That’s almost twice as cold as the coldest natural temperatures on Earth.

Cost: $10,000 to $15,000.

Storage
“The third phase is long-term storage, and who knows how long that will be,” Baldwin says. Once your cells are safe from frost, your body is laid on dry ice to drop its temperature further, then placed in a container that’s dunked head-first into liquid nitrogen, where it will remain until medical technology advances to the degree that your body (or brain) can be reanimated. How long that will be, of course, depends on how rapidly science advances, but Baldwin’s guess is that it will be at least 50 years and quite possibly longer.

Cost: Varies by provider. Some organizations charge annual fees of hundreds of dollars until you die. Others have flat “lifetime” fees.

While there are several cryogenic organizations worldwide, there are currently only three storage facilities in the U.S. Probably the best known is Alcor, located in Scottsdale, Ariz. Another, the Cryonics Institute, is northeast of Detroit in Clinton Township, Mich. A third is TansTime, located in San Leandro, Calif.. All have been around since the 1970s.

For a more detailed breakdown of cryonics prices and policies, check out the Cryonics Institute’s comparison page. Baldwin calls CI “kind of the ‘budget’ model.” Their least expensive program is $28,000 up front, followed by $120 in yearly fees.

Some also save by skipping the deathbed preparation offered by Suspended Animation entirely. “Some people don’t believe they need my team’s services,” Baldwin says. “So they die in a hospital or hospice, and somebody hopefully packs them in ice and gets them cool, and a funeral director will eventually come and pick them up and ship them on ice to the Cryonics Institute. CI does a kind of perfusion and puts them in storage – it’s very no-frills.”

If that sounds kind of risky, there’s one other way to head off the high price of cryonics, literally. Rather than storing your entire body, you can opt to store just your head for a lower price. What happens when you wake up, though?

“Your body will have to be replaced in some form. It might not be the same form you have now, or it might be a replicate. Maybe silicon-based?” Baldwin speculates.

Among the many complications of cryogenics is the process of paying for it. Baldwin said it’s not uncommon for the beneficiaries of the estate of the preserved to dispute the will. In addition, if you’re ultimately reanimated, you might wake up broke. People declared legally dead have virtually no rights, so keeping money out of the hands of your heirs and set aside for your future use becomes problematic.

Who wants to live forever?
Since the practice began in the 1960s, roughly 2,000 people have signed up and paid for preservation. That’s not many, but Baldwin says, “A lot of people are not early adopters, they want to see proof. What cryonics lacks is a lot of publicized scientifically published proof that it works.”

While scientists have been able to recover entire animal organs with this process – a rabbit kidney was cryonically preserved and later successfully transplanted into a live rabbit – there’s been no full-body success stories yet. “We’ve never recovered a whole person, or even a whole animal from this,” Baldwin says. “We’re getting there but not yet.”

Another reason it may not be more popular is that few people have heard of it. “It’s not very sexy science,” Baldwin says.

It also sounds like science fiction. It probably doesn’t help that one of the early advocates of cryonics was legendary sci-fi author Isaac Asimov, who also believed in the possibility of time travel.

“By preserving as many cells as possible, you can essentially create a kind of time travel for yourself,” Baldwin says. “The idea is at some point, technology will catch up to whatever took you away and be able to cure what killed you.”

Some people take this very seriously. “There are people who have their entire families cryo-preserved,” Baldwin says. “Pets, wives, mom, dad.”

Alcor, the single largest current provider of cryonics, maintains a list of its nearly 1,000 patients by date. Many names aren’t listed, including one of the company’s most famous residents: A-1949, also known as baseball great Ted Williams.

And although it was too early for him, Benjamin Franklin – known for saying that “only death and taxes are certain” – would have been an early adopter. He once wrote, “I wish it were possible to invent a method of embalming drowned persons, in such a manner that they might be recalled to life at any period, however distant.”

Many scientists do believe it’s possible. Here’s a list of supporters [PDF]. And in just a few weeks, there’s a cryonics conference in Boynton Beach, Fla. [PDF]. (It’s May 20-22 and costs $250 to attend.)

But nobody claims it’s guaranteed to work. “It’s the longest shot you’ll ever take, and I think that’s part of a drawback and the appeal,” Baldwin says. “We can’t promise anything. We’re all pretty clear it’s a grand experiment.”

And although it sounds far-fetched now, cryonics experts like Baldwin point out that CPR was once a radical technique that brought back people once thought dead.

“The things we used to be unable to recover from, we now recover from every day. We have hand transplants and finger transplants and heart transplants and we’re like, ‘Yeah, whatever,’” Baldwin says. “The notion of death, the line is moving all the time. I expect this kind of procedure, although maybe not what it looks like today, may someday be part of the continuum of [hospital] care.”




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Asimov in the News: Astronaut alumna reflects on era of space shuttles

The Purdue Exponent: Astronaut alumna reflects on era of space shuttles

BY FAISAL GHIAS | Online Editor Purdue Exponent

A Purdue graduate was reading an Isaac Asimov novel by earthlight during her first spaceflight when she realized that, like the characters in the novel, she had made it to space.

"Here I am, back in my science fiction reading - and I made it," Janice Voss, a Purdue alumna and veteran of five shuttle flights, said.

Voss first became interested in space after reading the book "A Wrinkle in Time" when she was in sixth grade.

"I've been reading science fiction ever since and that led me to science non-fiction and space, and I never looked back," she said.

As she continues her career with NASA, Voss is working at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where she helps make improvements to various aspects of missions to space. One project Voss described was optimizing a keyboard for use in a zero-gravity environment. The layout of the keyboards onboard the shuttle were changed after it was discovered that certain key combinations were hard to input with one hand.

Voss strongly believes in the idea of taking the knowledge learned from something and moving on to apply it to something newer and better. She said that although it may be sad to see something go, it shouldn't be sad, because the knowledge that can be taken away from it will help build something even better.

Voss described the basic experience of going into space as similar to visiting a national park for the first time.

"You see the mountains, the rainbows, the bushes and trees; you see nothing around you but forest, that experience of ‘Wow, what a gorgeous planet we live on.' You can have that experience here on Earth."

Voss said she doesn't see the shuttle program ending as a negative.

"Things are continually changing and improving. We learned an enormous amount from flying the shuttle; it's time to take that knowledge and move on. I'm very excited that the shuttle is ending on a strong note ... the program has accomplished amazing things. I mean, how much better does it get than that for a program?"

With the shuttle program ending, and NASA having no immediate replacing the shuttle, many are expecting the commercial market to fill the space travel and exploration void. Although other astronauts are worried about the commercial market taking over, Voss views this as a great opportunity.

"I think commercial crew is a great thing and we're ready for that.

"The space program has gotten to the point where small companies can afford to get into the game, and I think that's exciting," Voss said. "They can take the lessons which the government money paid for - which is what government money is for - to do things which are important to this country, that the private sector can't risk for some reason or another."

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