The Golden Age of Science Fiction Still Lives

Ray Bradbury as a young man

Ray Bradbury

August 22, 1920 – June 6, 2012

Critics  say the Golden Age of Science Fiction was from 1938-1946. Readers have often said the golden age of science fiction was when you ‘re twelve. That seems right to me, and that’s when I discovered Ray Bradbury. As news of his passing spread, other writers posted their touching tributes  (Neil Gaiman for one). Others may have know him more or better but nobody loved his stories more.

I discovered him in the public library, something he would have enjoyed, being a lifelong supporter of libraries. I couldn’t tell you the first story I read, it may have been “The Swan,” later a chapter in Dandelion Wine (and first published in “Cosmopolitan”, of all places). It may have been “The Veldt” his masterpiece that shocked me with it’s brutal ending. It may have been “The Fog Horn” the story of a lonesome sea monster doomed by passion (a favorite of Christopher Moore’s too) I know by 15 I’d forever fallen in love with carnivals because of Something Wicked this Way Comes:  and I had  stumbled onto “The Scythe” (from October Country)and carried it in a dark corner of my heart ever since.  The truth is, I could go on and on listing Ray Bradbury stories I loved as others have done since his passing. But you owe it to yourself to discover your own favorites. The Martian Chronicles has been read by many precocious 8 year olds, but really you can start anywhere. My advice? Read it all.

Critics have said that his stories are sentimental and nostalgic, and I would agree. But having sentiment is not something I would condemn; Bradbury’s stories may seemingly be about aliens and ghosts, robots and dinosaurs, but mostly their about people (and others) struggling to find their place in the world. Bradbury stories are not meant to be coldly analyzed or over-critically reviewed. They are meant to be lived. They are meant to get under your skin, to shake you up and open your eyes. If given a chance, they live with you forever.  As for nostalgia, as a teenager I didn’t notice and as an adult I am now at that age where I walk with one foot in the past.

In recent interviews he had become increasingly cranky and conservative, which is why when I heard about his death, I warily picked up a copy of Dandelion Wine. I had not looked at it in at least 10 years; it had been one of my favorites once upon a time; what if it wasn’t what I remembered?

Cover of Dandelion Wine

The cover opens and I am instantly 12 again. My grandparents are still alive, in fact I’m at their house. It’s late, the house is still,  the only noise is the creaking of my old chair and the occasional rumbling of a passing train. I am hunched up in the chair, telling myself that to read just one more chapter, just one more. But Lavina Nebbs is crossing through the Ravine, with the Lonely One somewhere out there in the darkness. How can I sleep until she’s home safe?

What happens next?

Ray Bradbury once said that if he had not discovered writing, he would have become a magician; to me he was both. As someone who lives in both worlds, I think I can say (as so many others have) that he was a genre unto himself. So while the golden age of science fiction may have passed, and the age of Bradbury may have passed, he has left behind for us a gift.

A box.  Open it, but carefully, it’s dangerous. It is a magic box, filled with detectives and ghosts, robots and banshees, astronauts and explorers. There are mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, sea monsters and Martians.  It is a box filled with dreams. And every time I open it, I am twelve again.

Advertisements

Translated Literature from Around the World

At some point in the future, I hope to include an annotated list on children’s books that have been translated into English; that is they were originally in some other language. However in the meantime here is one for adults: for one of my classes this semester I chose to write up a Genre Study on Translated Literature. This is a pretty broad list, and it includes:

  • Literary Fiction
  • Graphic Novels
  • Science Fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Mysteries
  • And some crazy awesome writers.

Initially I’m just pointing the list, and slowly working in the annotations. So check back and see how things shape up.

(and next week, we should be back to our regular schedule).

The List

GenreLiterature in Translation

  • Abouet, Marguerite & Ouberie, Clemente.  Aya Series (books 1-4)(2005-2012). Translated from the original French by Dag Dasher.
Cover of Aya
              -Graphic novel: coming-of-age story. Marguerite Abouet set out to show a happier side of her country, one  far removed from the the war torn stories of Africa the media often reports. Set in the sunny 1970’s, Anya lives on the Ivory Coast and spends her days with her best friends Adjoua and Bintou in the working class city of Yopoogon, aka “Yop City.” The everyday  joys and sorrows of life in Yop city are observed and experienced by Anya, our 19 year old protagonist. The simple stories are supported by Clemente Oubrie’s (her husband’s) warm and evocative drawings.
  •  Allende, Isabel.    Island Beneath the Sea. (2010). Translated from the original Spanish by Margaret Sayers Pedan
               -Literary Fiction
  • Bronsky, Alina. The Hottest Dishes of the Tatar Regime (2010). Translated from the original Russian by Tim Mohr.
              -Literary Fiction
  • Catel (Mueller) & Bocquet, Jose-Luis. (2012). Kiki de Montparnasse. Translated from the original French by Nora Mahoney.
               -Graphic Novel/Biography
  • Eco, Umberto.  The Prague Cemetary. Translated from the original Italian by Richard Dixon.
              -Literary Fiction
  • Evans, Brecht.  The Wrong Place. Translated from the original Dutch by Rhian Heppleston, Michele Hutchison, & Laura Watkinson. **
             -Literary Fiction
  • Lackberg, Camilla. The Drowning (2012). Translated from the original Swedish by Tina Nunnaly
               -Mystery
  • Linke, Yann. Dream of Ding Vilaage (2011). Translated from the original Chinese by Cindy Carter.
              -Literary Fiction
  •  Luiselli, Valeria.  Faces in the Crowd (2012). Translated from the original Spanish by Christina McSweeney.
               -Literary Fiction
  • Mizuki, Shigeru. Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths (2012).  Translated from the original Japanese by Jocelynne Allen. **
              -Manga, semi-biography, WW II
  • Murikami, Haruki. (2011). IQ84. Translated from the original Japanese by Jay Rubin & Phil Gabriel.
              -Literary Fiction
  • Mysliwski, Wieslaw. Stone Upon Stone. (2010). Translated from the Polish by Bill Johnson. *
              -Literary Fiction
  • Neuman, Andres. (2012). Traveler of the Century.(2012). Translated from the original Spanish by Nick Caistor & Lorenz Garcia.
            – Literary Fiction
  • Oz, Amos. Scenes from a Village Life (2011). Translated from the original Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange.
              -Literary Fiction
  • Palma, Felix J. (2011). A Map of Time (2011). Translated from the original Spanish by Nick Caisto

              -Science Fiction 

  • Perez-Reverte, Arturo. Pirates of the Levant (Captain Alatriste, Book 6). (2010). Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jill Costa.
              -Action-Adventure/Historical Fiction
  • Pehov, Aleksey. Shadow Prowler. (2010). Translated from the original Russian by Aleksey Pehov.

             -Fantasy

  • Potzsch, Oliver. The Hangman’s Daughter (2011). Translated from the original German by Lee Chadeayne. (AmazonCrossing).
              -Literary Fiction
  • Rodari, Gianni. Lamberto Lamberto Lamberto! (2011). Translated from the Italian by Antony Shugar.
             -Children’s book
  • Siguradottir, Yrsa. Ashes to Dust (2012). Translated from the original Icelandic by Philip Roughton
              -Mystery
  • Sjon. From the Mouth of the Whale (2011). Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb.
             -Literary Fiction
  • Ugresic, Dubravka. Baba Yaga Laid an Egg (2010). Translated from the original Croatian by Ellen Elias-Bursac, Celia Hawkesworth, & Mark Thompson.
             -Literary Fiction
  • Valenzuela, Luisa. Dark Desires and Others (2011).Translated from the original Spanish by Susan E. Clark.
               -Literary Fiction

* Best Translated Book Award 3%, 2011.

**  Graphic Novel

He’s Gone to Look for the Wild Things

RIP

June 10, 1928-May 8, 2012.

     I’m not sure how old I was when I first came across Where the Wild Things Are . More than likely my mother checked it out from the library and read it to us, but it could have been an early teacher. I do know I was young, and it’s been a part of my DNA for as long as I remember.  As I grew older I learned how much respect Sendak had from anyone, including critics. I had the opportunity to briefly talk with Dr. Perry Nodelman as part of my coursework. When he was asked what the greatest picture book was, I think the class expected him to protest, or hem-and-haw about choosing one. Instead he said “there was no doubt the greatest picture book was Where the Wild Thins Are”.  Who am I to disagree?

There have already been several tributes and memorials, by adults and children, critics and fans. Although honestly EVERYONE seemed to become a fan around Sendak. So for my personal memorial, I will share two quick stories; one of my own and one of another’s.

The first comes from a story author Jonathan Carroll. (It may well be apocryphal, but I like to believe it is true):

Sendak has said readers often ask what he thinks happened to Max when he grew up. One night years ago the author was at a dinner party in New York. Seated next to him was the actress Sigourney Weaver. It turned out the glamorous Weaver was a big fan of his work and they chatted throughout the meal. Later she pointed to a man sitting across the table. She said he was her husband and one of the reasons why she fell in love with him was he reminded her so much of Max in WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. Delighted, Sendak said he finally knew what happened to his famous character: Max grew up and married Sigourney Weaver.
And that’s what he tells anyone now when they ask what happened to the boy.

http://www.jonathancarroll.com/blog1/2009/09/carrollblog_923_4.html

The other story is mine. Wild Things was one of the first books I remember reading my son. By the time his sister was there and ready, we had already established the pattern of pausing in the middle to put down the book, put our hands in the air, and LET THE WILD RUMPUS BEGIN! We would then dance around like lunatics yelling “RUMPUS”.

So today in honor of the brilliant Maurice Sendak, let’s pause. Put our books down. Remember.

AND THAN LET THE WILD RUMPUS BEGIN!!!

Barnes and Noble will save us all? A rant.

Last weekend the New York Times ran a long article by Julie Bowman (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/29/business/barnes-noble-taking-on-amazon-in-the-fight-of-its-life.html?pagewanted=all) about the future of Barnes and Noble, an article that argued the future of publishing depended on Barnes and Noble staying afloat. The author noted the irony of rooting for B & N, as just a few years ago it was seen main reason that many small, independent chains were driven out of business (which probably hurt the publishers as well). Now publishers need the giant, as many in the industry believe that without B & N, publishers will not be able to reach the audience’s they need to survive. There seems to be a great fear that this is already happening; anyone who’s been inside one of the stores over the last year would have noticed the steady increase in “non-book items” (i.e. toys, games, and Nooks). Fewer space for books means fewer dollars for publishers, possibly crippling an already struggling industry. As Ms. Bowman points out, no one is worried that the store will fold up over night, rather that they will slowly “wither” away, with books losing more and more ground  After all, one reason they’ve been able to stay in the game this long is due to the popularity of the Nook, but even there they face stiff competition.

What book publishers seem to fear most is the loss of the”browsing factor:” that is customers entering the bookstore for one book leave with three others. There is simply no better way (apparently) than browsing in a bookstore for encouraging customers to buy. Of course the main drive of the article is to point out how Amazon is now the Goliath in this war. They’ve recently begun a highly publicized publishing venture, luring some big name authors into their fold, while encouraging new ones to apply. This does not sit well with the big publishing houses.

How can Barnes and Noble, the behemoth that represents the “best-seller” be the great savior of all readers (as one executive claimed?)  Why is it so bad for authors to explore new ways of distributing their content? Say what you want against Amazon (seriously, go on), but there’s little doubt that if it’s the quick, efficient distribution of content, than Amazon simply does it much better. Would it be terrible if traditional publishing houses went away? People wouldn’t stop writing books, new ways could be found to distribute them. Would all this be such a bad thing?

Yes. And no. While there is no doubt B & N has their own incentives for combatting Amazon, the fact remains any institution that supports a wide variety of voices to be heard is essential for the creation of community. Yes, there are other places for alternative voices to be heard (independent stores, libraries, etc.), but not enough. Say what you want against the publishers (again: seriously, go ahead), but the domino effect that  “could” happen would almost certainly ensure that the entire industry would crumble. Fewer publishing houses will in the end mean one thing, fewer choices in what we get to read. And those choices that do remain would be controlled by one company, Amazon.

I don’t like to be told what to do. I don’t like to be told what I can read. Or see. Or think. Thank you very much Amazon,but no.

Am I overstating the case? I don’t think so. The future may be impossible to predict, but it’s pretty clear even without a crystal ball that Amazon wants to own everything (including as much information about you as they possible can). I don’t think we need or should shop Barnes and Noble every day. But we do need to start thinking about what we want our future reading life to be like. Customizable content, delivered to the door at our convenience is without a doubt an incredible thing (even if that “door” is metaphorical; today it’s more than likely our computer, perhaps tomorrow it will be directly into our brain). Except. . .discovering what I want to read is at least half the fun. There’s nothing like browsing in a bookstore. Or a library.

The Bookstore’s Last Stand? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Whether you support Barnes and Noble is your call. But if not Barnes & Noble, than what? Amazon? Both? Neither? Something new? If so, than what? What do you want the future of your reading life to look like?

Next week we’ll be back with a new author and post. Who it will be? As of midnight tonight I have no idea, but I do know this great place to go browsing for books. . .

PS: And if you want a tour of perhaps the world’s most Beautiful Bookstore…