George Takei Has Somthing To Say

If you know science fiction, you know George Takei–Sulu from Star Trek. Of course, no one is more than their job. The man has lived a fascinating life both on-screen and off, and I do consider him one of my personal heroes (fanboy much? Maybe).

Well, apparently, Mr. Takei also had an interesting and extremely difficult childhood. No, not like a lot of us who struggled with less than first-rate parents. In fact, Takei describes his parents as nothing if not loving and supportive. Sadly, it was his country that made little George’s childhood such a struggle. Born in the USA to US citizens, he was classified as an “enemy alien” just after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

At five years old, along with his entire family, George was sent to live in a concentration camp right here in America.

Now, let me be clear, American concentration camps were not death camps. It was never the intention of the US government to exterminate Japanese people at home. However, when the British Army set up the world’s first concentration camps during the Boer War of 1899 to 1902, it was not their intention to exterminate the Boers either. Nevertheless, to deprive a group of people of their freedom due strictly to their ethnicity is the central idea behind any concentration camp and that definition describes the Japanese American “Internment” to a T.

Now, Mr. Tekei has just released a graphic novel about his childhood/wartime experiences titled, They Called Us Enemy. It is a gripping story and one that must be listened to. The compulsions that drove Americans to allow our own government to lock up human beings out of fear of what they may do rather than for things they had done are not unique to that period in history. Sadly, we have acted this way before and if left uneducated can and are acting this way again!

This book was written as a graphic novel to make it as accessible as possible. And I applaud Mr. Takei for that decision.  I will also say that the book is well written and well illustrated. It makes for a compelling read and does not try to sensationalize the experience of internment. Little George had good days and bad behind the barbed wire and I’m glad he told the whole story. I highly recommend you add this book to your library as an important part of any book collection whether you’re a fan of science fiction or not.

By Clayton J. Callahan

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Rest in Peace Mr. Hauer

Image result for rutger hauer

I often lament that it’s the good people who are always passing away, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, and now Rutger Hauer, while Vladimir Putin and his ilk seem to live forever. Today, I learned that Rutger Hauer passed away at age 75.

Hauer was a staple of 1980s entertainment. Blade Runner, of course, was his break out film where he played Roy Batty, the fugitive replicant trying to evade Rick Deckard. Frankly, I always found Deckard to be a rather flat and unsympathetic character and felt that the story would have been a lot better if told from Batty’s point of view.

Actually, that was always the appeal of Hauer’s performances. He always played the tough guy, but a humble kind of tough that made you sympathetic for his character even when he played the villain.

Goodbye, Mr. Hauer. You will be missed.

By Clayton J. Callahan

Wanted:

I recently re-acquired this GameLords classic. I bought my original copy back in the 1980s (yes, I’m that old) and kept it for decades. Why? Because it’s one of the best damn game supplements ever written!

When I first started gaming, I’d buy a rule set, roll up a great looking character and then twiddle my thumbs while waiting for someone to run a game. Call it dungeon mastering, referring, or storytelling, the person who runs the game is the one guy who you can’t do without. And when nobody else stepped up, I was often that guy.

But you know what? It can be a real pain in the butt to come up with new material week after week. Oftentimes, I struggled to keep the game exciting for myself and my players. I mostly ran Traveller games back then using GDWs original system and thus, would often peruse the science fiction shelves at The Black Forest Hobby Shop–my teenage home away from home. And that’s where I discovered Wanted: Adventurers by John Marshal.

Basically, the book starts with a page torn from the want ads of a starport newspaper (yes, a newspaper–it was the 80s remember?). Players can read the ads and then discuss which job they want to apply for. Opportunities range from mercenary contracts, to search and rescue work. Once the players decide what kind of adventure they want to have, the game runner simply turns to a two or three page summary of the scenario and runs the game from there. Simple right?

I can’t tell you how many science fiction conventions I’ve attended where I just plopped this little gem in the middle of the table and told the assembled players to “go for it,” in true 1980s fashion. If you run any kind of SF-RPG and are looking for ideas, I highly recommend you acquire yourself a copy at:

https://www.diffworlds.com/gamelords_traveller.htm

Or, for more ideas, simply read some adventure-oriented science fiction short stories, right?

By Clayton J. Callahan

 

 

What is Science Fiction Pulp Anyway?

Pulp originally referred to the cheap paper once used for disposable magazines that were often sold at subway stations or bus stops and only intended to last one or two reads before being tossed. And magazines such as Wierd Tales, Astounding Science Fiction, Super Science, and If Magazine were a good way for a new writer to cut his or her teeth in the trade. Many, like Hineline and Asimov, later climbed up the literary ladder to publish novels based on the short stories that they originally sold to the magazine trade.

But pulp has become much more than the quality of the paper it’s printed on. It’s a style of writing that many people still find appealing. Imagine yourself a writer who needs to make a buck; your reader is a passenger on a train car and they want to read something exciting and fun on the way home, and your publisher pays by the word. Suddenly everything becomes amazing, thrilling and astounding! Your heroes ripple with well-sculpted muscles as they battle sinister, fearsome, and devious foes. Everything is cranked up to eleven as your story thunders across the page to its thrilling climax. The reader is enthralled as they turn page after page to see what happens next, and the editor writes you a check for every adjective you used. That is the essence of pulp.

It is also, to be fair, the essence of cheese. Characters in pulp can be so overblown as to be corny, and the plots are often extremely basic. For this reason, pulp is usually excluded from the term “literature.” In fact, the anti-pulp stigma is so bad that authors usually write under assumed names so as not to ruin their chances in the “real” fiction market. For example, I once met the author of the book you see me holding in the picture above (Spaceways: of Alien Bondage). His name wasn’t John Cleve but Andrew J. Offutt and he was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.

Still, as much as the “literary” crowd hates to admit it, pulp has been a huge influence on our culture; Conan the Barbarian–pulp, Buck Rodgers–pulp, The Cathulu mythos–pulp, and on and on. Pulp has also inspired many “serious” writers with its pow! zap! style. Stephen King is a great example, and he bravely admits that his style of writing is often influenced by the pulp he read as a kid.

Now, I freely admit that a lot of the pulp written in the long ago past has sexist and racist overtones. Shamefully, that was so commonly accepted at the time that many people were unconscious of it (which does not excuse it). However, I must note that a lot of non-pulp of that same era had sexist and racist overtones so I don’t blame pulp as a genre for the sins of the era that birthed it. And I’m happy to say that modern pulp seldom if ever contains those sorry elements.

That’s right, there is modern pulp. Authors are still churning out that fast paced, action packed, double hyperbole styled fiction. Face it, some times we just aren’t in the mood for philosophical tales and simply want a straight forward story with ray guns that go zap! and spaceships that go woosh! If you’ve never read pulp science fiction, I recommend you give it a try. You may thrill to the adventure, or you may laugh at the cheese (or both), but either way, you’re sure to have fun.

Clayton J. Callahan

Wilamette Writers

Just got my membership card for the Willamette Writers! I’ve been going to the meetings for a while now in Portland.

I’ve got to say, it’s good to be in fellowship with other writers and I’m learning a lot. They have seminars on the business of writing, how to do a public reading, what makes good characterization, ect. No matter how much you think you know, there is always a new wrinkle to be picked up. Besides, they’re good people and it’s fun.

By Clayton J. Callahan

Dark Stars and Good Times

Have you ever watched a movie so bad it’s good?

My answer is, “yes,” and I’m not too proud to admit it. And of all the bad movies I’ve seen, one will always have a special place in my heart, John Carpenter’s Dark Star. Yes…that John Carpenter. The guy who gave us Halloween, The Thing, and Escape From New York was once a lowly film student, and back in the ancient days of 1974, he made Dark Star as a student film project.

The story revolves around a half dozen hippie astronauts on a never-ending journey, not to explore space and discover its mysteries. Nope. Their job is to seek out “unstable planets” and blow them the hell up. To do this they have a hyperspace capable ship called the Dark Star with a bomb bay full of self-aware planet-busting bombs.

Fun right?

I first encountered this little gem of a film on late-night TV back in the early 1980s. This was back in the days when local stations would shut down for the day at about 3:00am, play the national anthem, and then go dark until 6:00am. Dark Star, if it showed at all, would always be shown just before the anthem.

Later, I re-discovered it at science fiction conventions in the late 80s and earily90s. In those days, conventions always featured a “movie room” where classic SF films would be shown round the clock. I always found the movie rooms to be a great retreat from the hustle and bustle of the con. Tired of your friend’s drama? Kick back in the movie room for a few hours and eat some popcorn. I often found myself doing just that after midnight, and Dark Star was always shown after midnight.

I suppose lawsuits ended the movie room tradition as I haven’t seen a con feature one in decades. For this reason, I doubt if many young fans have ever heard of Dark Star. Still, it’s a movie that deserves to be remembered.

For a student film it was pretty darn good and for that reason, Carpenter managed to get it distributed professionally. Upon release, it mostly was shown at second run theaters and at drive-ins. Considering its shoestring budget, I’m pretty sure it made a profit after the first hundred or so ticket sales. I highly recommend it for your late night viewing. It’s silly, stupid, irreverent and has one of the best endings I’ve ever seen. No really, when your film’s climax is an astronaut debating phenomenology with an artificially intelligent, planet-destroying bomb you just can’t lose.

Besides, whoever said science fiction was supposed to be serious anyway?