(With a tip of the hat to the Inside the Actor’s Studio)
First Name: Sarah
Age Range: 21-40
Occupation: peer tutor at the JCCC Writing Center
What occupation (other than yours) would you like to try? Fiction and poetry writer
What sound or noise do you love? Purring cat
What sound or noise do you hate? Insistent meowing of cat wanting to go outside
What is your favorite word? Bizarre
Fiction or Nonfiction? Fiction
Genre? Speculative fiction, but paranormal urban fantasy is a particular favorite.
Ebook, audio book, or physical book? Physical book unless I can’t get it that way.
What makes you choose a book to read? Author? Cover? Blurb? It has to look and sound entertaining. Being an author I’ve already read helps, but if the concept is intriguing that’ll do.
Recommendation(s)? Laurell K Hamilton, Kim Harrison, Writing the Other by Nisi Shawl, Fast Girl by Suzy Favor Hamilton, Impossible Things by Connie Willis, Troublemaker by Leah Remini.
What makes you put down a book? Boredom or slogging through a book like it’s a chore.
What are you reading now? Just finished Dancing and Wounded by Laurell K. Hamilton, which are only available as ebooks.
Do you re-read books? Yes, frequently. The more stressed I am, the more likely I am to be re-reading instead of reading a new book.
All time favorite book?Rilla of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery.
If heaven exists, what would you want St. Peter to say? Glad you’re here or it’s good to finally meet you. Something along those lines would be nice : )
Sarah Worrel completed her associate’s degree at Johnson County Community College. She graduated from the University of Kansas, where Sarah enjoyed her job at the KU Writing Center. Sarah loves working at the JCCC Writing Center and also takes Digital Media classes at JCCC. Her short stories have appeared in Coal City Review and Ad Astra, while her poetry has appeared in 365 Days: A Poetry Anthologyand at 150kansaspoems.
Thank you, Sarah! I know I’ve added several titles to my TBR list. How about you?
First Name: Rob
Age Range: 61+
Occupation: Retired (very tiring)
What occupation (other than yours) would you like to try? Never gave anything but writing a thought, past the age of say 7
What sound or noise do you love? Many-many. Rain after drought. The onset of a thunderstorm in hot summer weather. The laughter of children.
What sound or noise do you hate? Whining, especially of children, but even of cats
What is your favorite word? Too many to list, I love words. Easier to list least favorite, but I can’t think what would be worst.
Fiction or Nonfiction? That I read? Both.
Genre? Usually SF/fantasy in fiction, sometimes a mystery; history, bio, autobio, and recent events in nonfiction
Ebook, audio book, or physical book? I still prefer a physical book, partly because my Kindle’s index is messed up. It only lists half a dozen books, though if I remember title or author I can pull up the others. But who can remember them all? Also, the physical book will still be readable, whereas magnetic memories are very frail.
What makes you choose a book to read? Author? Cover? Blurb? Any or all of the foregoing, and other things as well: reviews, recommendations, etc.
Recommendation? Anything by James Schmitz. I also like Jack McDevitt, Jack Vance, Matthew Hughes, and a whole bunch of classics, Heinlein and all that.
What makes you put down a book? Bad writing, lack of logic, inaccurate characterization or observation. If’s well-written but merely dull, I’ll probably go on, but I’ll never re-read it. A good book bears re-reading.
What are you reading now? Currently re-reading C. J. Cherryh’s “Chanur” series.
Do you re-read books? The good ones, yes.
All time favorite book? Too many to list. There are a hundred in the top ten, even.
If heaven exists, what would you want St. Peter to say? “Welcome! The library’s that way.”
Hi! This is Lynette again.
I love that last answer, don’t you?
Now I have to confess, Rob Chilson is my co-author and a dear friend. He and I wrote three White Box novellas, two of which were published in Analog Science Fiction, Science Fact Magazine. He graciously agreed to take my little questionnaire. Here’s a photo of us from a few years back.
Want to know a little more about Rob? Here’s a portion of his bio:
I was born at home in Oklahoma, after my mother spent part of the morning hoeing in the garden. It was a pretty old-fashioned family even for that time (1945) and place. My father was a scarecrow. We subsequently moved to California, where my memories begin. I remember the first flake of snow I ever saw. (It disappeared before I got a good look at it.) Since then I’ve lost track of snowflakes; we moved back to Missouri (my mother’s natal state) when I was eight, and I have been a confirmed Midwesterner ever since.
I decided, about age six, that I wanted to be a writer. I even wrote a couple of stories. I concluded that I was not yet ready to be a writer, so postponed it until I was grown up. At age eleven, I concluded that I now knew enough to be a writer; for instance, I now understood improper fractions.
The next stop on our Going to Mars, Word-by-Word tour is the Nebula award winning novel, Man Plus by Fredrik Pohl, published in 1976. By the mid seventies Pohl had been writing and publishing stories for almost 40 years. The writing reflects that. It’s smoothly written; a quick and entertaining read.
In reality the early 1970’s were a time of disco dances like the hustle, world wide unrest and fear of terrorist bombings, hijackings, kidnappings, and assassinations. There were economic worries and hardships and a huge energy crisis. The United States, USSR, and France were doing nuclear tests on their own soil. Space Mountain opened at Disneyland and Jaws by Steven Spielberg had its premier. The television show The Bionic Man was popular. Apollo 18 and Soyuz 19 rendezvoused in space. And the Viking 2 Mars probe was launched.
Man Plus takes place in the not-too-distant future when the overpopulated earth is on the brink a world war battling over the few remaining natural resources on the planet. The fate of humanity rests on the people and the project inside a building in Tonka, Oklahoma.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
When former astronaut Col. Roger Torraway volunteered to be the understudy for astronaut Willy Hartnett, Roger never thought he’d actually be called upon. After Willy’s death, the President of the United States urged the team at the project to meet their deadline because computer projections predicted the world would soon be at war. Roger was mankind’s last hope. He was to become Man Plus, a cyborg engineered to survive and thrive in the harsh conditions on Mars.
Heavily sedated, Roger did not know when his nervous system, his eyes, lungs, heart, ears, nose, and skin were replaced or supplemented. To solve the power problem, they gave him wings of solar panels. When the surgeries were finally over, Roger had to learn to use his new senses. His large, multifaceted eyes could distinguish everything from infrared to UV light. With his bat-like ears he could hear all of life’s most minute sounds and easily heard conversations in the corridors outside his pressurized room. Roger also had to come to terms with who he was, was he still human? Would his wife still love him? Was his wife having an affair with his best friend, Brad, who was also the scientist responsible for much of Roger’s new body?
The remaining two thirds of the book are about Roger adapting to his new, alien self, to the planet Mars, and finding a way to be human despite everything. The computers now predict humanity will survive on Mars and are pleased they have been successful in their mission to save the humans as well as themselves.
The story is told from a kind of limited omniscient viewpoint with sentient computers as the ‘surprise’ narrator. The reader of today is not surprised. And on reflection, there are plot holes, inconsistencies, and questionable motivations throughout the story. So yes, the story has some flaws. But it was a story that captured many readers imaginations at the time it was first published. And, it may not be as far-fetched as it seems on first glance. Do you remember these stories that made the news?
The descriptions of Mars in Man Plus are minimal, but not inaccurate visually. There are mentions of various metals and elements that I’m not versed well enough in the composition of Mars to recognize as correct or incorrect. The human characters erect tents for shelter and begin performing scientific studies and tests one would expect the first persons on Mars to do.
Roger’s reaction to being on Mars is delightful. “To Roger, looking out on the bright, jewel-like colors of the planet he was meant to live on, it was a fairyland, beautiful and inviting.” And a little later. “First he walked, then trotted, then he began to run. If he had sped through the streets of Tonka, here he was a blur. He laughed out loud.” He is so eager to explore Mars that he gets himself into trouble with his power supply. This is what I read books about Mars for, that sense of wonder and excitement.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born in 1919, Frederik George Pohl, Jr. has been a high school drop-out, an American soldier (during WWII), and has had nearly every possible role in science fiction. He has been a fan, poet, critic, literary agent, teacher, book and magazine editor, and a writer. “Elegy to a Dead Planet” was his first published story and appeared in Amazing Stories in 1937. His volume of writing is phenomenal and he has won every major science fiction award and then some.
When asked about his process, Pohl has had this to say, “People ask me how I do research for my science fiction. The answer is, I never do any research. I just enjoy reading the stuff, and some of it sticks in my mind and fits into the stories. Maybe that’s the best way to do it.” from Locus Online
Between the duration of his career and the breadth of his career, there is no way to do him justice in this post. Please visit the resources listed below. Be sure to visit his blog, The Way The Future Blogs, in which he discusses his travels (all over the world), sf writers he has known (there’s a lot of those!), and things that interest him (the list is endless).
I believe that Man Plus deserves it’s place in science fiction history. It deserved a Nebula at the time and it deserves being read today. It challenges you to think about what it is to be human, how we humans are going to deal with our burgeoning population and consumption of natural resources, and it questions our reliance on computers. Finally, it’s one more way that Man might go to Mars.