Posts Tagged ‘science fiction’

Throwback Thursdays: A Conversation with Richard Matheson

October 3, 2013 3 comments

Welcome to Throwback Thursdays on the Tor/Forge blog! Every other week, we’re delving into our newsletter archives and sharing some of our favorite posts.

Earlier this year, the legendary author Richard Matheson passed away at age 87. We were lucky enough to get a chance to chat with Mr. Matheson in December 2007, as he was getting ready for the premier of the movie I Am Legend. Enjoy this blast from the past, and be sure to check back every other Thursday for more!

“Maybe now that I’m in my eighties, people will discover me…”

How did you get the idea for I Am Legend?

As a teen, I saw Bela Lugosi’s Dracula. It occurred to me that if one vampire was scary, then if the whole world was filled with vampires and there was only one normal person left, than that would be even scarier.

Do you like Will Smith playing Richard Neville?

I like him very much. I’ve always enjoyed his performances. They sent me a book of art from the movie and I’ve seen photographs of [Will Smith] as Neville and he looks like he really immersed himself into the part.

How do you feel about the previous film versions of I Am Legend: The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price and The Omega Man with Charlton Heston?

The Vincent Price [movie] came closer to the book but I didn’t care for it too much. I wrote quite a few pictures for Vincent and he was marvelous in all of them but I think he was miscast in I Am Legend. And it was done in Italy…it’s not as bad as I thought, I saw it recently again. But it certainly didn’t capture the book all that well. I didn’t care for the Heston movie [The Omega Man]. It was so far removed from the book, though, it didn’t bother me.

Why do you think I Am Legend has remained so popular after more than fifty years?

Apparently, it’s the most popular book I ever wrote. I wrote it over fifty years ago and it’s still selling. I thought I only had a small legion of fans…I guess I have quite a few.

Indeed – Stephen King has said you were one of his main influences in writing…

Yes, Stephen King has said that I Am Legend was one of his main influences – it got him thinking the way he does: for instance, my idea of the vampires using freezer boxes in supermarkets instead of down at the graveyard – it could happen in your own neighborhood.

Do you see yourself as a horror writer?

I hate that word [horror]. I prefer to think of myself as an off-beat writer. I’ve written 5-6 western novels, a war novel, and a love story (Somewhere In Time). I guess you could call me an off-beat fantasy writer. I do write scary stories, but I think of terror, not horror. I’m a neighborhood terrorizer. I’m incapable – or don’t want to even try – to write a Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter or something set in a complete other world. I just can’t get interested if it’s not someplace that seems real.

How did you research the science in the book? Was that in your background?

No, I have no background in science. [I did] research, and then I had a doctor check it and it all adds up scientifically — from a biological standpoint. It is a vampire novel, it’s just my “scientific explanation of vampires”. To me, I Am Legend is the only science fiction I ever wrote.

Have you seen the movie?

No, I haven’t seen it yet – but I think they’re going to do a great job. The writer-producer and director are all very talented, and Will Smith is very talented. From what I have seen, they have done an outstanding job.

Will you attend the premiere? Are you doing any events?

I may attend the premiere in California. I’m also hopefully going to be signing at Dark Delicacies in Burbank [scheduled for Dec 2 at 2:30pm]. People often come in with a truckload of my books to sign, but I’ll be signing the movie edition of I Am Legend, and then one other book for each person. If they want more, they have to go to the end of the line and start all over again.

Many of your books and stories have been made into movies. Which are some of your favorites?

Somewhere in Time — I think that’s the best written of all my books. What Dreams May Come is not bad either.

Do you have any new projects in the works?

There’s a new movie version of my story Button, Button coming out. That should be exciting. Somewhere in Time is about to be a musical on Broadway. Ken Davenport is producing it – he had written telling me that he was thinking of using some of my major ideas for the show. I wrote him a song for it. I took [music] courses in college, but though I never really understood harmony, I can work out an arrangement on the piano by ear. I wrote many songs (years ago). I don’t know if it’s always true, but it seems like the author gets more power/influence over their stories on the stage than with movies/cinema — though the motion picture people have been very nice to me and I’m happy to be identified with I Am Legend.

This article is originally from the December 2007 Tor/Forge newsletter. Sign up for the Tor/Forge newsletter now, and get similar content in your inbox twice a month!

The Week in Review

September 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Welcome to the week in review! Every Friday, we comb through the links and images we found and shared this week, and pull the very best for this post. Consider it concentrated genre goodness from all around the web.

  • MIT and Harvard have made a real life lightsaber. I want one. Immediately. I promise not to point it at my eyes first thing.
  • Want to see a bit more of the Formics from Ender’s Game? Check out the new TV spot! Not long until November 1st now…
  • Over at, The Cure author Douglas E. Richards has taken a two part look at science fiction’s greatest movie villains, asking whether or not they’re psychopaths. It’s a great, fun read. Check out Part One and Part Two.
  • And finally, the full video of Flight From Shadow, a fan-made short film set in the world of The Wheel of Time, has arrived!

The Tor/Forge newsletter went out this week! Check out these fascinating articles from our authors:

And, just to make Friday that much sweeter, here’s a list of sweepstakes and sales we have going on!

The Week in Review

September 20, 2013 1 comment

Welcome to the week in review! Every Friday, we comb through the links and images we found and shared this week, and pull the very best for this post. Consider it concentrated genre goodness from all around the web.

  • Have you been on a literary pub crawl? What do you think of events that combine books and booze? I think they could be a lot of fun. Would you prefer something like this, or a more traditional bookstore event?
  • My favorite science awards happened not too long ago: the Ig Nobel awards!

And, just to make Friday that much sweeter, here’s a list of sweepstakes and sales we have going on!

Alien Ecology as Character?

September 9, 2013 10 comments

Written by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

Novels where the ecology plays a central role in not just the setting, but in the resolution of the plot, are rare. Novels that do this well are even rarer, and novels that do both accurately, in conjunction and in conflict with a functioning society, are even rarer. Accomplishing all those was certainly in my mind when I wrote The One-Eyed Man, in addition, of course, to writing a novel based on John Jude Palencar’s gorgeous cover painting.

Part of the difficulty in creating a workable alien ecology is that everything in an ecosystem interacts with everything else, and that in some fashion or another, there will be a food chain, meaning that there will always be more small creatures and plants than large omnivores or carnivores, another fact often overlooked by more than a few writers for the sake of drama and action. The other problem is that it’s highly unlikely that any ecosystem in which human beings can survive without the use of high technology will be other than carbon-based (a point explained at some length years ago by Isaac Asimov, a writer far more accomplished in biochemistry than me). These factors and others make creating a truly alien but workable carbon-based system a bit of a challenge.

Then comes the question of intelligence in such a system. Even if the parameters an author sets up allow for recognizable intelligence, would the ecological conditions actually allow the evolution of intelligence, and if that intelligence does develop, will it develop in ways that are recognizable to humans. And…even if that is possible, will any sort of meaningful communication be possible? These may seem like obvious questions, and they are, but after more than fifty years of reading science fiction, I’ve found that most authors who create aliens avoid the ecological background of their aliens and the implications of that background, as if the aliens existed in almost a vacuum. Either that, or there is irreconcilable conflict or the aliens are more like humans with different bodies.

In The One-Eyed Man, events take place on Stittara, a world generally hospitable to humans, with the notable exception of an ecologically influenced weather pattern that results in winds that make the most violent earthly tornadoes and hurricanes seem mild by comparison. There are no large animal species and all recognizable animal species rely on burrowing or marine habitats. There are few analogues to terrestrial trees, again for multiple ecological reasons, and, because of the winds, the terrain is, in general, far less overtly rugged. What makes Stittara valuable are derivative anti-aging pharmaceuticals developed from Stittaran plants and animals, possible only because of the unique ecology.

The Stittaran ecology and even the geology are far more stable than they should be, given the position of the planet in its solar system and the planetary composition. These factors have not escaped the human inhabitants, who have also adapted over the generations, although they appear essentially unchanged. They are in many ways as much Stittaran as human, so much so that when Dr. Paulo Verano arrives to conduct an ecological assessment, prompted by concerns of the distant legislature that governs the Ceylesian Arm, he finds far more difference between what has been reported and what exists than he ever anticipated. These differences appear not only in the ecology, but in the local socio-political system as a result of the changes in human biology created by Stittara itself, not to mention potential disasters being created as a result of misapplication of high technology to the planet.

In the end, Verano must find a solution that balances two differing ecologies, multiple levels of political systems, all of which view him as a threat, and his own conscience, a difficult proposition considering that he is a hired ecological consultant with no real power.


From the Tor/Forge September 9th newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.


More from the September 9th Tor/Forge newsletter:

Throwback Thursdays: Creating a New World of Magic and Mystery

September 5, 2013 1 comment

Welcome to Throwback Thursdays on the Tor/Forge blog! Every other week, we’re delving into our newsletter archives and sharing some of our favorite posts.

On September 17, L. E. Modesitt, Jr. returns to science fiction with his new novel, The One-Eyed Man. To celebrate, we thought we’d dip into the newsletter archives and pull an article he wrote for us in April of 2009, about Imager, the first volume in The Imager Portfolia fantasy series. Enjoy this blast from the past, and be sure to check back every other Thursday for more!

Creating a New World of Magic and Mystery with Imager

Written by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

A combination of steampunk, political, semi-thriller, and romantic fantasy? That’s about as close a one-line description as is possible to the books of the Imager Portfolio, which opens with Imager. Rhenn is a journeyman portraiturist on his way to becoming a master painter who discovers, with fatal consequences, that he is one of the few imagers in the city of L’Excelsis, capital of the continent nation of Solidar. Imagers are feared, valued, and vulnerable, and must live separately on the river isle in the middle of the river that divides the capital city, while providing services and skills to the ruling Council.

As a late-developing imager, Rhenn finds himself under the tutelage of one of the most powerful imagers — who forces the equivalent of a university education on Rhenn in months, before dispatching him to serve as a security assistant to the Council. Along the way, Rhenn makes enemies he shouldn’t, falls in love with the beautiful daughter of a family with connections in the underworld, and becomes a target for both the enemies of Solidar and a powerful High Holder.

One of the challenges of writing the Imager Portfolio was to realistically depict a different and sophisticated culture of a capital city. In my own experience of close to twenty years in politics, most of it in Washington, D.C., I found that there was a minimal amount of actual violence, but an enormous amount of pressure and indifference, great superficial charm, and continual indirect jockeying for power, with very little real concern for people as people. I’ve attempted to convey some of those dynamics, as they are expressed in a steam-and-coal-powered society that has the added benefit of some “imaging” magic. One of the key elements that illustrates the difference of this fantasy-steampunk culture is the religion. Because the deity cannot be named, there’s an underlying cultural skepticism and worry about emphasis on the importance of names, memorials, and the like, as well as a distrust of other cultures that exalt names and fame.

Because Rhenn has come to the Collegium Imago in his early twenties, having just begun to achieve a certain recognition as a portrait painter, he’s neither a youth learning the ropes nor a person of fully defined talents. Instead, he is essentially an adult faced with a mandatory career change, and one that could be fatal if he fails to make the transition from portraiturist to imager.

This article is originally from the April 2009 Tor/Forge newsletter. Sign up for the Tor/Forge newsletter now, and get similar content in your inbox twice a month!

Starred Review: Transcendental by James Gunn

August 13, 2013 Leave a comment

“Impeccably plotted, with absorbing human and alien characters and back stories, Gunn’s narrative expertly cranks up the tension and paranoia as, piece by piece, answers emerge…Gunn’s best in years—quite possibly his best ever.”

James Gunn’s Transcendental got a starred review in Kirkus Reviews!*

Here’s the full review, from the August 1st issue:

 First novel in quite a while (Gift from the Stars, 2005, etc.) from writer/anthologist Gunn.

A galactic civilization, weary of centuries of war—the latest caused by upstart humans intruding on space occupied by other alien races—tries to get on with business despite the stultifying bureaucracy that seems to run things. War veteran Riley, at loose ends following the conflict, accepts a job offer from powerful and mysterious employers—who implant in his head a know-it-all artificial intelligence which he cannot remove and which has the means to force him to obey instructions. He will join beings from many different worlds aboard a ship guided by an unknown prophet who can help them achieve transcendence. Riley’s orders, however, are to kill the prophet rather than permit aliens to transcend. Deadly violence flares among the travelers, however, before the ship even departs. The captain, Hamilton Jones, with whom Riley served during the war, admits he doesn’t know their destination and periodically receives new coordinates from somebody aboard. Among Riley’s fellow travelers are Tordor, a massive, heavy-planet alien; the weasellike Xi; an intelligent plant known as 4107; and Asha, a human female who needs no sleep and has other strange capabilities. As the ship heads for the Great Gulf between the galaxy’s spiral arms, the travelers—like Riley, most, if not all, have hidden agendas—relate tales of themselves and their races. But violence is a constant threat; the tales may be simple truth, calculated disinformation or anything in between. And why are Riley’s employers so intent on stopping the prophet? Impeccably plotted, with absorbing human and alien characters and back stories, Gunn’s narrative expertly cranks up the tension and paranoia as, piece by piece, answers emerge.

Gunn’s best in years—quite possibly his best ever.

Transcendental will be published on August 27.

*Kirkus is a subscription-only website.

Goodreads Sweepstakes: The One-Eyed Man by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

July 25, 2013 Leave a comment

About The One-Eyed Man: A Fugue, With Winds and Accompaniment: The colony world of Stittara is no ordinary planet. For the interstellar Unity of the Ceylesian Arm, Stittara is the primary source of anagathics: drugs that have more than doubled the human life span. But the ecological balance that makes anagathics possible on Stittara is fragile, and the Unity government has a vital interest in making sure the flow of longevity drugs remains uninterrupted, even if it means uprooting the human settlements.

Offered the job of assessing the ecological impact of the human presence on Stittara, freelance consultant Dr. Paulo Verano jumps at the chance to escape the ruin of his personal life. He gets far more than he bargained for: Stittara’s atmosphere is populated with skytubes—gigantic, mysterious airborne organisms that drift like clouds above the surface of the planet. Their exact nature has eluded humanity for centuries, but Verano believes his conclusions about Stittara may hinge on understanding the skytubes’ role in the planet’s ecology—if he survives the hurricane winds, distrustful settlers, and secret agendas that impede his investigation at every turn.

Enter for a chance to win here!

(Ends August 22)

Also, don’t forget to check out our other sweepstakes!