Archive for the ‘books’ Category

Forty years ago today: Columbia junior gunned down walking home in Queens

Virginia Voskerichian, a junior at Barnard College, was shot in the face and killed while walking home in Forest Hills Gardens, Queens. She’d raised her textbooks to her face to try to protect herself. Over the next two days, ballistics would link her murder to the killings of two other women dating back to July 1976. The gun was a Charter Arms Bulldog .44-caliber pistol.
–Brought to you by LIGHTS OUT SUMMER, set in 1977, coming Oct. 1.

Forty years ago today: 4 Watergate burglars collect settlement from Nixon campaign

Forty years ago today, Four of the men arrested for the break-in at the Watergate agreed to a $200,000 out-of-court settlement to be paid by former President Nixon’s campaign fund. The men, members of the anti-Castro community in Miami, had charged in a suit they were conned into believing the burglary was sanctioned by the CIA or some other government agency.
–Brought to you by LIGHTS OUT SUMMER, set in 1977, coming Oct. 1.

Cover reveal for the next Coleridge Taylor Mystery

Here they are, the title and cover of Coleridge Taylor Mystery book 4. Out Oct. 1.

No spoilers…but LIGHTS OUT SUMMER is set during six months in 1977 when two major crime stories dominated the front pages of New York’s papers. Son of Sam was halfway through his yearlong killing spree. And the 25-hour blackout in mid-July resulted in 1,000 businesses damaged or destroyed and more than 3,000 arrested.

Forty years ago today…

Frederick Cowan, who idolized Adolph Hitler, opened fire inside Neptune Moving in New Rochelle, killing five people and wounding five others with a semi-automatic rifle.
–Brought to you by LIGHTS OUT SUMMER, set in 1977, coming this October.

Forty years ago today…

Carmen Romano Lopez Portillo, wife of the President of Mexico, concluded a White House state dinner honoring the visit of her husband to the U.S. by playing a piano piece.
–Brought to you by LIGHTS OUT SUMMER, set in 1977, coming this October.

Them, Robots

Morgan is a great airplane movie. I had no plans to see it when it came out. My expectations were set quite low on a flight last week. It jumped that low bar and gave me some things to think about. Before the thinking, the movie: things are going mighty wrong in the effort to create a fake human (synth, android, robot, pick your poison). Right at the beginning, synthetic human Morgan, looking about 15, but real age five (she’s a fast grower), stabs a caretaker in the eye.

Things are going to get worse. You can tell. Particularly once we figure out this is a movie trotting out the old trope (or cliche, you choose) about building fake humans (synths, robots) to be soldiers. More precisely, weapons. I won’t ruin the end, in case you’re on plane sometime soon.

My thinking:

  1. An entire category of movies and TV shows would disappear if the imaginary robot/android/synth/fake-life manufacturing industry followed Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. I mean, why would you not put in Law 1? “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” The Amazon series “Humans” nods at the law, then walks around it. A character talks about overriding the Asimov protocols in a synth. That. Should. Not. Be. Possible. For a safe society, at least, though boring robot movies.
  2. My next thought, as the movie ground toward its pretty inevitable conclusion, was about how indignant Isaac Asimov was when his laws were not programmed into Hal 9000, the computer aboard the ship in 2001: A Space Odyssey. There was a great exchange between Asimov and 2001 author Arthur C. Clarke, but I can’t find it anywhere on my interwebs. Suffice it to say, Clarke felt he could do what he wanted in his universe. I’ve not read that Asimov protested the hundreds of TV shows and movies after that ignored his Three Laws of Robotics–probably realizing it would do little good. Thus was born a mighty industry making  filmed entertainment about deadly robot-android-synths.
  3. But really, why bother making the movie Morgan when the best film about synthetic human soldiers, Blade Runner, has been around for decades. The banal Morgan dialogue was replaced in my head by Rutger Hauer as Roy, speaking his dying words. “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”
  4. Credits rolled at the end Morgan, and I got an answer to No. 3.  The director of the film was Todd Scott. I start wondering. Up comes the executive producer, Ridley Scott. Interweb confirms Todd’s the son of the director of Blade Runner. Not only are deadly robot-android-synth movies and shows an industry, they’re a family business.

Ursula gets noticed

awizardofearthsea1stedWithin the past two weeks, The New Yorker and The Nation have published long features on Ursula K. Le Guin. They’re following the New York Times back in the summer. One wonders why the house organs of the chattering classes picked now. She’s 87, after all. She’s been published since the early sixties. It may be because the Library of America put out a collection of her work. That’s happened to extremely few living authors. Philip Roth is the only other one alive right now.

The magazines waited this long, I’m sure, because Le Guin’s body of work includes much imaginative fiction (or science fiction and fantasy, if you will). That may be, but The Left Hand of DarknessA Wizard of Earthsea and The Lathe of Heaven are stamped with greatness. They are NOT stamped “literary,” however. Rather they carry the taint of genre. You can even read in the New Yorker’s subhead—”The literary mainstream once relegated her work to the margins. Then she transformed the mainstream”—as an attempt to cover tracks. If she did transform the mainstream, she started doing it waaaaay back in 1968. In our present, I watch as literary fiction continues to swallow itself, searching for, if I understand the purpose of the exercise, the meaning of meaning becoming the meaning. Not the story. Not life lived.

Our grandest publications have finally noticed Ursula in her ninth decade. Her books will be here long after the sum total of all the novels reviewed by the Times and The New Yorker and The Nation this year.