{Book} The City on the Edge of Forever Teleplay

The City on the Edge of Forever Teleplay

The City on the Edge of Forever Teleplay by Harlan Ellison

The controversy has raged for almost 30 years–now readers can judge for themselves. Harlan Ellison wrote the original award-winning teleplay for “The City on the Edge of Forever, ” which was rewritten and became the most-loved Star Trek episode of all time. Ellison sued Paramount in protest and won. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Choose This Book?
Was wanting an audio book to listen to while playing Minecraft. Saw this on hoopla, checked it out. I actually own this book in paperback form too, but it was nice to hear the teleplay as a full cast recording with Ellison reading the introduction.

What Did I Think?
The differences between the beloved Star Trek episode and the award-winning teleplay are interesting, worth your time if you like to examine different versions/translations of media. There’s also dirt on the beef Ellison had with Gene Roddenberry, which again, if you’re into that kind of thing… Ellison bolsters his arguments with testimonies from many people involved with Star Trek and Star Trek fandom, including original cast members. Including Walter Koenig (Chekov) whom Ellison had a contentious frenemy-ship with.

And I have stories about both Walter Koenig and Harlan Ellison.

In 1989, I went to a science fiction convention with my mom. It was the local Omaha convention, probably smaller than it is now. All of geekdom has become more mainstream. The big media guest was Walter Koenig. He did a short talk and took audience questions. I don’t remember much of the talk, it was pretty standard Trek stuff. Walter Koenig seemed like a pleasant, nice gentleman. After the talk, he hustled from the stage up the side aisle of the auditorium to get to the autograph table at the back. And he passed our row just as I was leaving. And I tripped Walter Koenig. It was pretty much a nonevent, but still…

In 2006, I attended the Nebula Award weekend here in Tempe. The grand master award that year went to Harlan Ellison. As part of the programming, Harlan Ellison gave a talk in ballroom. (He did not take audience questions.) I was sitting in an end chair along the center aisle. I remember it being late in the day, I was tired and I am short so I was sitting sort of crossways, leaning into the aisle. (No, I did not trip Harlan Ellison.) Ellison was introduced and started in on his schitck, then he stopped. “Are you alright?” he asked. “You know, they’re not going to put you in jail if you moved that chair two feet to the right.” I assured him I was fine.

I didn’t get either’s autograph.

Original Publishing info: White Wolf Publishing, 1996
My Copy: audio, Skyboat Media, 2016
Genre: science fiction, nonfiction

{Books} by Helene Hanff

84, Charing Cross Road
So, this is how I remember becoming acquainted with the works of Helene Hanff:

In 1991, the movie The Silence of the Lambs came out. I immediately became a fan of Anthony Hopkins. He went on my watch-everything list (along with Jeremy Irons, Peter O’ Toole, and Anthony Perkins). Now, this was the early 90s. I couldn’t just search for Hopkins on Just Watch and find which streaming service are showing any particular movie of his. No. I had to scour through the satellite TV guide and plan my weekly movie watching/taping. One of those movie I managed to catch was 84, Charing Cross Road (1987, dir. David Jones). It was a lovely movie about one of my favorite things, books. And I discovered that it was in fact based on a book, which I promptly put on my must-read list. Now, again, this was the early 90s and I couldn’t go to Amazon and just order it. No. I pestered my mom to take me to bookstores. (These were my high school years, but I don’t drive.) I finally found a copy at Combs & Combs in the swanky area of Omaha known as Rockbrook. And then, I found out that Helene Hanff wrote other books… Lather, rinse, repeat.

(Funny, I’d never thought to look for Helene Hanff on You Tube. She is here pretty much exactly as I imagined.)

The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street Underfoot in Show Business
Apple of My Eye Q's Legacy

Over the years, I collected more of Helene Hanff’s books. The are comfort reading for me, and beginning in mid-December, I needed some comfort reading. All five books are short and I read through them over the last three months. Underfoot in Show Business is chronologically the first Hanff published, pre-84, Charing Cross Road. It tells of her early years as a struggling playwright in New York in the 1930s and 40s. If you’ve already read Charing Cross, you will recognize some of the events and people from the letters in that book. They overlap. All of these books overlap as a sort of biography mosaic.

84, Charing Cross Road is a narrative told in letters between Hanff and a Frank Doel, a bookseller in England. Again in the background are Hanff’s money and employment woes as she writes plays, telescripts, and short histories for children. The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street and Q’s Legacy are what happened after 84, Charing Cross Road is a hit. Hanff finally visits London and surrounding England for the book’s release and later for the BBC’s TV adaptation. Apple of My Eye is sort of the odd book out, but not really. In it, Hanff showcases her other favorite city, New York City. These three books are travelogue heavy, but that’s okay. Hanff balances her experience of places with their histories.

I love Helene Hanff’s voice. She’s smart, opinionated, and funny, though occasionally a little unkind. She is eternally befuddled by how success came to her, however fleeting or conversely enduring. May we all be so lucky.

{Book} The Long Winter

The Long Winter

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

On the empty winter prairie, gray clouds to the northwest meant only one thing: a blizzard was seconds away. The first blizzard came in October. It snowed almost without stopping until April. The temperature dropped to forty below. Snow reached the roof-tops. And no trains could get through with food and coal. The townspeople began to starve. The Ingalls family barely lived through that winter. And Almanzo Wilder knew he would have to risk his life to save the town. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Choose This Book?
I joined the Unread Shelf Project at the beginning of March. The month’s challenge was to read the book that’s been on my shelf the longest. The Long Winter is part of a box-set of Laura Ingalls Wilder books given to me when I was in grade school. So, I figure it pretty much counts.

What Did I Think?
Little House on the Prairie (the TV series, 1974-1983) was staple viewing at my grandparent’s house. My grandpa grew up in northern Minnesota; cabins, farms, and all. I am fairly certain it was one of my aunts and uncles from Minnesota that sent me the set for Christmas. At least the first couple of books were read aloud in grade school as well. I grew up in Nebraska and, even though I’m from Omaha, the prairie and its dangers were never far away. Personally, I didn’t care for the show or the books. I was and ever shall be a city girl and I have never really like kid protagonists, a trait I didn’t really put my finger on until I was an adult. I never quite got into Anne Shirley, or Heidi, or Pippi Longstocking, or even Nancy Drew. I wanted adult adventures, thank you very much. So, I never jived with Laura Ingalls.

Which means that it comes as a bit of a surprise to me that I enjoyed The Long Winter as much as I did. I think the key here is that The Long Winter is the start of a slightly more grown-up Laura, a character with more understanding about her place in the world. She is often melancholy, but consciously sets her feeling aside for the good of her family, especially her younger sisters. I’m looking forward to the next few books in the series in order to see Laura grow. I doubt I would have appreciated this as much when I was younger.

There is a repetitive quality to the narrative. A blizzard blows in, the family ekes through, repeat. It is what it says on the tin: a long winter. I have some patience for such things, but Wilder is a deft writer too. A detail like the frost on the heads of the roof nails is beautiful and strange enough that it weathers repetition well.

In context of the world at the moment, I can’t ignore some of the messaging in the book. Hardships pass and joy can be taken in little things. I’m not eating brown bread twice daily because that’s all there is and glad the snow has covered the building because at least now the wind can’t get in. I don’t want to pretend that the “olden days” were better (or that the story isn’t lightened for the young readership Wilder was writing for), but there is something nice about the concept of life being a little less extravagant; about enjoying a surprise of Christmas candies and really looking forward to reading the newspaper. Just something to keep in mind during these days of isolation and uncertainty.

Original Publishing info: Harper & Brothers, 1940
My Copy: Trade Paperback, Harper & Row, 1971

Unread Shelf Project

{Book} Taaqtumi

This book was provided to me by Myrick Marketing & Media, LLC via NetGalley for review consideration.

Taaqtumi: An Anthology of Arctic Horror Stories

Taaqtumi: An Anthology of Arctic Horror Stories, compiled by Neil Christopher

“Taaqtumi” is an Inuktitut word that means “in the dark”—and these spine-tingling horror stories by Northern writers show just how dangerous darkness can be. A family clinging to survival out on the tundra after a vicious zombie virus. A door that beckons, waiting to unleash the terror behind it. A post-apocalyptic community in the far North where things aren’t quite what they seem. With chilling tales from award-winning authors Richard Van Camp, Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, Aviaq Johnston, and others, this collection will thrill and entertain even the most seasoned horror fan. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Choose This Book?
I’m always on the lookout for stories set in places that are far from my usual. Arctic horror stories sounded like a great concept.

What Did I Think?
According to the summary taaqtumi means “in the dark.” And, man, these stories are dark. Maybe I just haven’t read horror in a while, but I wasn’t quite prepared for this level of nihilism. If you want happy endings, you’re not going to find many here.

In the realm of horror sub-genres, Taaqtumi has a little of everything. Ghosts, cosmic horrors, zombies, folk horror, natural horrors, post-apocolyptic, and even a science-fiction/horror mashup—Sean and Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley’s “Lounge,” which I found to be one of the standouts of the anthology.

On the whole, I really enjoyed these stories. I wanted to read this analogy for the setting, and Taaqtumi delivers. The writers are all from northern Canada, many are indigenous people and the stories include a tapestry of Inuit lore and legends.  “Wheetago War II: Summoners” by Richard Van Camp is one of the more “modern” tales of horror in terms, well, weaponry, but its told in the style of recorded oral tradition and has excellent voice. The cold, the extremes of daylight and nighttime, the push and pull between modern and traditional are all present in each story.

Original Publishing info: Published September 10th 2019 by Inhabit Media
My Copy: Adobe Digital Edition via NetGalley
Genre: horror

{Book} Bad Blood

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup “unicorn” promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood tests significantly faster and easier. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at $9 billion, putting Holmes’s worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn’t work.

For years, Holmes had been misleading investors, FDA officials, and her own employees. When Carreyrou, working at The Wall Street Journal, got a tip from a former Theranos employee and started asking questions, both Carreyrou and the Journal were threatened with lawsuits. Undaunted, the newspaper ran the first of dozens of Theranos articles in late 2015. By early 2017, the company’s value was zero and Holmes faced potential legal action from the government and her investors. Here is the riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a disturbing cautionary tale set amid the bold promises and gold-rush frenzy of Silicon Valley. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Choose This Book?
I’m not sure how many Nonfiction November lists Bad Blood has been on since it came out in 2018. This was also my Moby-Dick rebound book. I needed a palate cleanser. I intended to read a magic-related book, but I decided instead to read a book about deception.

What Did I Think?
Wow.

Okay, first of all, despite my husband’s occasional mention of the company and seeing Bad Blood on many Nonfic November lists, I really had no ideas about Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes. My husband follows tech and financial news and had commented on several occasions before and after the scandal broke that the company’s promised products seemed unlikely. He has degrees in computer engineering and computational biosciences, so he knows a few relevant things.

But I didn’t take an immediate interest in this story. I was worried that, well, occasionally, as much as we like to see women succeed, we also seem to revel in their failures. I didn’t really want to participate in reading a pile-on. But Bad Blood isn’t that. This story would still be a story if it were a 20-something Standford dropout guy behind it.

The level of deception perpetrated by Holmes and her partner Sunny Balwani is pretty staggering. Employees who asked questions were dismissed. Investors who asked questions were dazzled with (truth adjacent) tales. What’s the recipe for a decade-long con? Start with a charismatic spokesperson. Add an idea that everyone wants to believe in. To the true believer-ship, add one part of fear of missing out. Stir in millions of dollars until bubbling with a healthy head of sunk cost fallacy. Unfortunately, there was only a rock in the bottom of the pot…

I am an optimistic person; I like to think the best of others. I don’t think Holmes was ever entirely altruistic about Theranos, but I don’t think Theranos started as an utter scam either. The technology that Holmes originally patented is…science fiction. It was shooting for the stars. That doesn’t mean the company couldn’t have honestly pivoted its resources toward an innovation that was more down-to-earth. As I said, I started Bad Blood the day after finishing Moby-Dick. I can’t help but seeing some Ahab in Elizabeth Holmes. Her obsession, whether with being the next Steve Jobs or with a not-quite (or at least not-yet) possible technology sunk her and took a lot of people with her.

Fascinating tale, told well enough.

Original Publishing info: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2018
My Copy: Tempe Overdrive Digital Collection, Kindle & Browser
Genre: nonfiction, science & technology

Deal Me In, Week 9 ~ “Paladin of the Lost Hour”

DealMeIn

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Paladin of the Lost Hour” by Harlan Ellison

Card picked: A
Found in: Angry Candy, but also online at Ellison Webderland

And then the pillager’s fist came loose, and he was clutching for an instant a gorgeous pocket watch.

What used to be called a turnip watch.

The dial face was cloisonné, exquisite beyond the telling.

The case was of silver, so bright it seemed blue.

The hands, cast as arrows of time, were gold. They formed a shallow V at precisely eleven o’clock. This was happening at 3:45 in the afternoon, with rain and wind.

The timepiece made no sound, no sound at all.

The Story
This is my favorite short story.

When I decided on Angry Candy for Deal Me In, I debated whether to include “Paladin of the Lost Hour” because I’ve read it so many times in the past, but I couldn’t leave it out either. I read it (or rather listened to it) the day after Leap Day.

The story is about Gaspar, an old man who is the keeper of a watch that mystically holds the last hour of existence. It is also the story of a young veteran, Billie, who is not living, but simply marking time after returning from war. Their lives intersect and each are given friendship and grace. “Paladin of the Lost Hour” never fails to make me cry, though always enough time passes between my readings that I don’t quite remember what touches me and I’m therefore always taken by surprise too.

Some of Harlan Ellison’s stories are…oblique. Maybe they are satire anchored in a certain place and time (a problem I generally have with satire and allegory), or maybe they require a certain state of Ellison-ness to make as much sense as they should. “Paladin of the Lost Hour” isn’t one of those stories. Ellison won a Hugo for the novelette and a Writer’s Guild Award for the script adaptation that was an episode of 1985 Twilight Zone revival.

Pick a Card, Any Card

Endless Time playing cards are an apt fit for “Paladin of the Lost Hour,” clean and  cleverly designed. You can find out more about them at Kardify.

{Book} Moby-Dick

Moby-Dick; or, the Whale

Moby-Dick; or, the Whale by Herman Melville

A sailor called Ishmael narrates the obsessive quest of Ahab, captain of the whaler Pequod, for revenge on Moby Dick, a white whale which on a previous voyage destroyed Ahab’s ship and severed his leg at the knee. (via Goodreads)

I’ve become one of those people.

I first read Moby-Dick in January of 2017. I knew I would read it again one day, but I didn’t expect it to be so relatively soon. I wasn’t immediately on-board (*cough*) when Brona announced a readalong. But the idea grew on me and I decided, why not?

And I’ve come to realize that Moby-Dick is going to be a book I reread often throughout the rest of my life.

Michael Chabon has a theory about fandom that I will clumsily paraphrase from Maps and Legends: fandom is created in the cracks of fiction. His example is Sherlock Holmes. Those Doyle stories have become an enduring institution, continually adapted and rebooted, because there are so many inconsistencies and alluded to stories within the cannon. Fans want to know, what they can’t know they’ll interpret and fill-in.

And I can see that in Moby-Dick. The people who read this weird novel over and over again (and I’m one of them) want to know more of what’s going on. We want to know more about the character’s intentions, but also Melville’s.

This time around, I really enjoyed some of my fellow reader’s thoughts as well has keeping a Twitter thread of things that stood out to me:

I also read Dive Deeper: Journeys with Moby-Dick by George Cotkin.

Dive Deeper: Journeys with Moby-Dick

Cotkin provides some interesting tangents, chapter for chapter. Sometimes these tangents were literary criticism, sometimes historical context, sometimes cultural context. Yes, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is covered. As well as the dubious Emoji Dick.

“What next?” Brona asks.

A book hangover! Actually, I attempted another book-at-sea, but it didn’t work out. Instead, I’m enthralled by the nonfiction book Bad Blood. But then, it’s sort of about an Ahab running a biomedical start-up. But I found my copy of Green Shadows, White Whale, Ray Bradbury’s story of writing the screenplay to John Huston’s Moby-Dick. I’ll reread it in a month or two, I think.

Green Shadows, White Whale