April 2018

Larry Niven in 2010 (photo ©Ceridwen)

Laurence van Cott Niven was born on April 30, 1938 in Los Angeles, California, USA. In 1962 Larry Niven earned a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics from Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas. In 1964 he decided to become a writer and published the first story, “The Coldest Place”. It also begins the Tales of Known Space, a future history that covers about a millennium of history from the human beings’ first attempts of expansion into the solar system.

In addition to continuing that cycle, Larry Niven began various collaborations with some of his fellow writers, in some cases to write novels set in his Known Space. The most important collaboration is with Jerry Pournelle, with whom Larry Niven has written several novels including the two of the Motie mini-cycle “The Mote in God’s Eye” (1974) and “The Gripping Hand”, also known as “The Moat Around Murcheson’s Eye” (1993).

Larry Niven continues his work as a writer so we can expect new works, written on his own or in collaboration. When he wrote his first science fiction stories, many fellow writers were moving towards new trends such as the new wave movement but he preferred more traditional themes, which at the time seemed obsolete to many people. Niven developed them in a solid way, basing his stories on plausible scientific and technological premises, eventually influencing writers of the next generations.

Portrait of Jack Williamson in Air Wonder Stories in 1929

John Stewart Williamson was born on April 29, 1908 in Brisbee, in what was then called the Arizona territory, in the USA. At the beginning of his career, Jack Williamson was influenced mainly by Abraham Merritt but was also impressed by the works of Miles J. Breuer and decided to contact him. The two of them ended up collaborating and published together works such as “The Girl from Mars” in 1929 and “Birth of a New Republic” in 1931.

In 1947 Jack Williamson published the novelette “With Folded Hands”. The concepts were expanded and developed somewhat differently in the novel “The Humanoids” (1949). The author wrote another sequel many years later, “The Humanoid Touch” (1980).

In the 1950s, Jack Williamson began a collaboration with his fellow writer Frederik Pohl. The two of them published several novels, in particular the Starchild trilogy: “The Reefs of Space” (1964), “Starchild” (1965) and “Rogue Star” (1969).

In 2001 Jack Williamson published the novella “The Ultimate Earth”, winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards. He’s the oldest writer to win those awards in any category. His last novel, “The Stonehenge Gate”, was published in 2005.

Jack Williamson died on November 10, 2006. In almost 80 years of activity he went through many phases of the evolution of science fiction, adapting to new things and managing to maintain a freshness in his works. He was a truly prolific and long-lived author who marked decades of science fiction.

Terry Pratchett in 2012 (photo ©Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons)

Terence David John Pratchett was born on April 28, 1948 in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England. Almost accidentally, during an interview with a publisher, Terry Pratchett said he had written a novel and in 1971 it was published as “The Carpet People”. It’s a comic fantasy novel that contains some elements that later became typical of the author’s works. The novel was substantially revised and published in a new edition in 1992.

In 1983 he published the first Discworld novel, “The Color of Magic”, whose fame was increased by a radio adaptation broadcast by the BBC. Pratchett wrote more novels set in the same fictional universe and after a few years decided to pursue a career as a full-time writer.

Writing Discworld novels became Terry Pratchett’s main occupation. That fictional universe is common to all the books and various characters appear in several novels in a series that can be divided into several cycles: Rincewind, Death, Witches, City Watch, Wizards, Tiffany Aching and Moist von Lipwig. Some other novels in the series are not included in any particular cycle.

Terry Pratchett’s work continued almost to the end of his life, dictating texts to his assistant or using a speech recognition system. In recent years he returned to science fiction in a collaboration with Stephen Baxter in the Long Earth series, which began with “The Long Earth”, the first of five novels of which two were published after Pratchett’s death, which occurred March 12, 2015. The writer had a humanist funeral.

Doctor Who - The Ark

“The Ark” is an adventure of the third season of “Doctor Who” classic series, which aired in 1965. It’s a four parts adventure written by Paul Erickson e Lesley Scott and directed by Michael Imison.

The Tardis materializes in what looks like a jungle and Dodo (Jackie Lane) thinks she’s at the zoo outside London thinking that some trick was used to transport her from where she left. The First Doctor (William Hartnell) tries to convince her that they and Steven (Peter Purves) have traveled in space and time arriving who knows where and when but Dodo starts believing him only with the arrival of strange one-eyed aliens.

When the travelers are brought into the presence of the Guardians, who are human, they are told that this is an ark that is traveling to another planet in order to save humanity and other Earth’s species. The human passengers and the Monoid aliens are peaceful but when Dodo starts infecting them with her cold the consequences could be catastrophic with patients who have no immune defense against that disease.

Dr. Stephan Stanley (Alistair Petrie) in A Mercy (Image courtesy AMC Studios / Amazon. All rights reserved)

“A Mercy” is the sixth episode of the TV show “The Terror”, an adapatation of a novel by Dan Simmons with the same title, and follows “First Shot a Winner, Lads”.

Note. This article contains spoilers about “A Mercy”.

Captain James Fitzjames (Tobias Menzies) wants to abandon the Erebus and Terror with all the survivors to try to walk to safety. To try to improve the men’s morale, he decides to have a masked party on ice. Dr. Henry Goodsir (Paul Ready) finds further evidence that they all risk lead poisoning but Dr. Stephan Stanley (Alistair Petrie) doesn’t seem to pay any attention to him.