Uncanny Valley: Science Fiction Summer Reading Group

If you buy one book this summer...Science fiction lovers, attend! Summer is smiling upon us, and the weather is balmy in the Uncanny Valley. Who needs Virgil when you’ve got Total Dick-Head David Gill and sci-fi author Suhail Rafidi to guide you through the storied landscape of shadows and wonders, crafted by some of science fiction’s best writers, past and present.

This summer, we’re reading one novel and six short stories over the course of six Monday evening gatherings. For those who traversed the Valley with us last summer, good news! All of the short stories are selected from same anthology we used last year, The Big Book Of Science Fiction, edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer. So if you bought that prodigious doorstop of a book, crack it open – time to go again!

Where & When? (IRL and Online)
Six Monday night discussions, 6:00 PM Pacific (6/25, 7/2, 7/9, 7/16, 7/23, & 7/30)
If you’re in the Bay Area and can make it live, contact us for the address.
Otherwise, the Google Hangout link:


What Are We Reading?
The novel first. In honor of the 70mm re-release of Kubrick’s classic, we’re reading Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. This novel was simultaneously written as a screenplay, forged in collaboration between author and director, as the film was being produced. Much like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.H.G. Wells, care of Tantor Media

June 25th: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – Arthur C. Clarke

July 2: “The Star” (1897) – H.G. Wells

July 9: “Sultana’s Dream” (1905) – Rokheya Shekhawat Hossain 

July 16:“The Triumph of Mechanics” (1907) – Karl Hans Strobl (Gio Clairval 1st English translation, 2016)"Violence cannot destroy the body of the Goddess, for Her body is the world itself." - Rachel Pollack

July 23: “Burning Sky” (1989) – Rachel Pollack
“Remnants of the Virago Crypto-System” (1995) – Geoffrey Maloney

July 30: “The Poetry Cloud” – Cixin Liu (1997)

BONUS NIGHT (TBA): In honor of this year’s Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odysseyre-release of the groundbreaking film, we will be hosting a Sunday screening of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Stay tuned, and get reading!

Mark your calendars. Start reading 2001: A Space Odyssey, and join us for the first meet on Monday June, 25th. From David and myself, see you Monday evenings this summer.

With The Total Dick Head Himself!

Keep track on our Facebook Page:

Thank you for reading. Reading rules!

Posted in Books, Movies, Science Fiction, Short Stories, summer reading, uncanny valley | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lure Of The Silver Screen

Redacted...!As my writing career matures, I luckily get involved in more interesting ways to utilize my talents. For example, during this past year, I’ve finally taken the plunge and surmounted the screenwriting learning curve. It took a couple of weeks and several 3 AM nights digging into the Celtx software and pushing on. With the guiding spark of an old friend and inspired collaborator, Dominick Jerry, the two of us have produced 3 screen plays in the 8 months. Really excellent synergy.

Dom and I are old friends, with a remarkable working vitality. Getting together to write with an express purpose adds a whole extra dimension of satisfaction, instead of just meeting up for a pint. He’s a genius of visual story, whether it is westerns, television sci-fi gangster drama, or professional wrestling rivalries.

A rare sighting of the man.When I get hung up on some conflict in a scene and wonder what the characters will do, I get stuck thinking in prosey terms, indirect even at its most direct. Dom just gets it, “Sam hits him over the head with a shovel. Cut scene.” Yes! Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? Because I’m all prosed out. Screen writing is bare bones visual instructions. Stay out of the director’s way, give over the essence of the characters and the story, and keep your voice out of it. It is an interesting paring away of style, to reveal the substance beneath.

Another interesting thing about screenwriting is that it is only the earliest glimmer of the movie-making process, with an emphasis on process. Coming from a book publishing standpoint, I am accustomed to a long, solitary labor with culminates in one impeccable document. When that document is done, I’m done with the task.

But screenplays are like collaborative notepads, they are constantly being reworked and rethought and tinkered with. Also, screenplays are never written for a large audience, especially at the early stages, you are never writing for more than 20 or 30 people, max.

As utilitarian as screenwriting is, the strict parameters force room for art. But you’ve got to be creative, to squeak it in past all of the necessaries. A creativity within the creativity, to make the screen writing prose, scant as it is, lean and engaging as possible. Tiny, apt descriptions, a few drops of art, and move on. That part is fun. Also, unlike a book, you’re not writing to the audience; you’re writing to about 20 or 30 filmmaker people, most you haven’t met yet. If they buy it, they can do whatever they want.

But the process is interminable. You don’t publish a screenplay. If anyone is going to read yours, it’s because you’ve persuaded them to read it. Pavement must be pounded, relentlessly. That bit gets exhausting, and really lowers the odds that I’m actually going to get something I wrote produced. I’m not committed to the follow through, that’s more Dom’s realm. I can crank on the story factory, but the industry footwork is more his realm. 8 months and 3 screenplays later (one television season and two feature films), I hit a wall. Mostly because I was neglecting my own projects and needed to get back in the salad. But we’ve got our factory set up now, and will resume seasonally to fill our screenplay stable.

Now that's a pitch, Ed!


The beauty of the experience is that now I can write screenplays. I enjoyed learning something. And we’ve gotten unsolicited, professional Hollywood feedback that our screenplays are good, and improving.

During the process of writing these screenplays, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with people of different levels of accomplishment in Hollywood film production, from a careerist TV actor, to an ILM visual effects producer, and to others with more near-miss experiences (which teach a lot).

One perspective it gave me on the current state of the film industry is that directors and producers are more interested in books than screenplays. If they’re a big outfit, they’ve got a whole stable of screenwriters who are practiced hands at adapting any book to the screen. I’m probably have a better chance of getting through to a film maker by writing a book they hear about, rather than try to peddle them my own screenplay.

If I consider the film business seriously, it is laughable that I will suddenly storm the scene with a blockbuster when there are 100,000 other writers in Hollywood who have been in line for 20 years, writing screenplays the whole time. Even if my shit were that good, their dibs on the scene would elbow me out of the way. But as I said, process, process, process.

For me, the time spent with Dom is the most rewarding part. Onward and upward, my man!

Thank you for reading. Reading Rules!

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An Author Abroad

The world at your fingertipsLots of firsts this year. There are lots of places I have never been; most, in fact. And two of those places, until this past spring, were Dublin, Ireland, and Paris, France. Yes, what a fairy tale, to visit both, back to back, over the course of a month.

It was a dream come true and I lived it this year, with my starshine wife Lucie as my traveling companion. We took a month off and traveled abroad, arm in arm. It was romantic, enriching, rewarding, and a wicked dose of tons of fun.

On the road again...I have much to say about each place, as you can imagine, but I can’t say it all here. Dublin was like a home away from home, and Paris was a place beyond imagining; I only thought I’d been to cities until I’d been to Paris. My travels to these municipal homes of venerable beauty and culture produced a great deal of writing, and that is part of an exciting announcement.

Before setting out on my European travels, I was chatting with my editor Ryan, who at the time was reading Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley, and fully enamored with the master writer. “You’ve got to write a travel journal,” he urged. “People love travel journals.” “You’re right. That’s a good idea.” I took three blank journals with me, and a sketch book.I come stacked!On the trip I wrote nearly every night before bed. During the day, I carried around my sketch book and captured the world around me in small visual intervals, seldom giving myself more than 20 minutes to draw a scene. As for the journals, I wrote at night, usually before bed and filled all three of them. Hundreds of pages, and it was a pure joy.And a sketch book...As the weeks progressed I built up stamina and found that I was able to produce as many as 20 or 25 pages a night at the height of it. (Here, I give another thankful nod to those NaNoWriMos I trooped through. They really helped raise my threshold for how much I could write in a day, once I committed to it.)

The good news is, the announcement is: two new books! Imagine a writer’s first impression of two of the most beautiful and beloved cities in Europe. The raw beauty embedded in them; I was writing during the first time I’d ever been to either of these iconic places. A traveler only ever gets to do it for the first time once. There’s nothing I could miss, or should have seen, or need not see, because I was awash in all of it; a fresh dunk head first into Dublin, then Paris.Never get used to being alive.These delightful and unprecedented experiences have produced two new travel books, chock full of photographs and sketches. The Dublin and Paris travel journals are currently in the formatting mill, and due for release soon.  Stay tuned for dates.

Ah, Paris...

Thank you for reading. Reading rules!

Posted in Authors and Writing, Books, Reflection and Personal Knowledge, Ryan Hurtgen, Sociey and Culture, The Writing Profession, Travel Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment