// archives

Archive for September, 2013

Interview with James Gunn, Grand Master of Science Fiction

Interview with James Gunn, Grand Master of Science Fiction

My interview with James Gunn, recipient of the Damon Knight Grand Master of Science Fiction award, was posted on the Hugo award winning SFSignal. It was also picked up by io9 where a nice discussion has ensued.

An excerpt:
LARRY: Your novel THE LISTENERS (1972) is an excellent example of that feeling you describe as “unity of goal and effort, and mutual sacrifice, and a feeling that we were all in this great enterprise together.” Robert MacDonald, the protagonist, keeps the band of searchers together for several decades in spite of political and religious opposition to their “great enterprise”, with the goal of finding evidence of alien life. The SETI Institute parallels (and was no doubt inspired by) your novel; founded in 1984, nearly three decades later they are still searching, and others have been searching longer. There have been scientists modifying the Drake equation to make it more optimistic (including this interesting one from Sara Seager at MIT that revamps it from radio aware life to focusing on the presence of alien life), and some that make it more pessimistic (as I was getting a Physics degree one of my professors was Dr. Michael Hart, who co-edited Extra-Terrestrials, Where Are They? In 1982). That is a long-winded way of asking: are you optimistic? Pessimistic? Are they out there? Or are we alone?

JAMES GUNN: Story premises require different states of mind.  When I read Walter Sullivan’s WE ARE NOT ALONE in the last 1960s (I think I got it from the Science Book Club), the thought that inspired THE LISTENERS was how humanity could sustain an effort for a century without results, and for that purpose it was necessary to assume that the only contact with aliens that was possible was through messages propagated by something like radio waves.  But I do believeand have been convinced by powerful voices like Carl Sagan’sthat there are intelligent aliens out there and maybe even intelligent aliens with technology, but that the difficulties and costs and lack of compensation for interstellar travel are such that we are unlikely to ever come into contact.  But we can still share the intelligent beings burden of understanding the universe and our place in it by means of some such means as I describe inTHE LISTENERS, and that would be a shattering accomplishment that would change us and our world-view, and would be quite enough.

But that doesn’t keep me from writing about interstellar travel as I have in GIFT FROM THE STARS and TRANSCENDENTAL, in the furtherance of larger goals.

So, in spite of everything, I’m an optimist.  I believe in what William Faulkner said in his Nobel acceptance speech, that humanity not only will survive but will prevail.

And I hope science fiction will be a tool in that.

LARRY: It would be interesting to see a timeline of waves of optimism, pessimism and other historical movements, juxtaposed with science fiction novels from those times…a project for another day.

JAMES GUNN: It was hard for optimism to survive the brutality of two world wars.


WorldCon 71 / LoneStarCon 3

I only had a half-a-con, spending the mornings at the conference and the afternoons/evenings with family in San Antonio. But even a half-a-con was full

  1. SFSignal, which I occasionally post an article here and a review there, won its second Hugo for Best Fanzine. John DeNardo, the hardest working man in the blogverse, won his second…showing that sometimes these popularity award are actually given to those that deserve it. Hats off to JP and Patrick for their first Hugos.
  2. SFSignal is a group blog, as JD describes it. And, thanks to his efforts, I got to meet several of the SFSignal irregulars in person whom I’d only emailed, commented or heard on Podcasts. Derek, Jeff, Stina, Karen, Matthew, Josh, Jaime…enjoyed seeing the faces. It is always better to connect in person.
  3. Joe Lansdale did a demo and discussion of Shen Chuan, the martial art he created. Master Lansdale is deservedly in the Martial Arts Hall of Fame, and he asked me to be one of his demo boys. Always better to learn up close and personal, and a hard reminder of how much I’ve let my own martial arts training slack off.
  4. I am interviewing Grand Master of Science Fiction James Gunn for SFSignal, and stalked him throughout the conference. At age 90, his memory is better than mine at 30..and he is gracious and polite. I look forward to more questions, and learning through the interview process. And I found some excellent out-of-print Gunn books on sale in the dealer room and got them before DeNardo. Fred Pohl was on of Professor Gunn’s first agents, and it was very sad to hear of Mr. Pohl’s passing just as WorldCon was ending.
  5. The “what happened to the boom in Spanish language books” panel had only two participants, and one of them was Norman Spinrad. I wasn’t sure why, until he went through the tale of his publishing of his book Mexica with a Mexican publisher.
  6. As I was carousing the dealer room, looking at books, this taller grey bearded gent was following me…except he was pulling out books to sign. I had the pleasure of asking Harry Turtledove if he was practicing for his upcoming autograph session, and he replied “Practice helps me remember my name.” I briefly accused him of stalking me.
  7. Hogg Shedd. Saturday night Rock and Roll. It has nothing to do with WorldCon, but everything to do with my past, present and future in San Antonio. If you haven’t seen Louis, Danny, Darryl and Craig rock it, what are you waiting for?
  8. The Legacy of Omni magazine panel was entertaining, with Ben Bova, Bob Silverberg and Ellen Datlow doing most of the reminiscing about the Bob Guccione slick that merged Science Fact with Science Fiction. I still have a collection of many of the original Omnis. Rumors of a reboot persist, but I would rather see the legend remain a legend.
  9. The Doc Savage panel, on his 80th anniversary, was missing Will Murray (who is no doubt hard at work on the latest Doc Savage novel).
  10. The Thursday evening Ghost Tour was hot and humid (expected in San Antonio) and, though I’d heard many of the stories before, the tour guides did an excellent job. We visited the Menger, the Emily Morgan, the San Fernando Cathedral (which looked great at night) and the old Bexar County Jail, which is now a Holiday Inn Express. The tour guides said room 305 was where the gallows used to be, and that the pool was the location of the crematorium. Enjoy your next stay.
  11. I also managed to hang a drapery valance for my mom, do multiple virus clean-ups for my step-dad, set up mom’s new email…and fall a bit more for my beautiful wife, which happens most days.


Re-reading MSandT

Re-reading Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

click on the image for more info and to support this blog

Dusk Before the Dawn

Dusk Before the Dawn

Software By the Kilo

Software by the Kilo


%d bloggers like this: