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Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

Archive for the ‘Sci-fi/Horror’ Category

Ray Bradbury/Science Fiction Great

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

August 22 is the birthday of science fiction and fantasy writer Ray Bradbury , born in 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois. He spent a lot of his childhood in the Waukegan library, where he fell in love with L. Frank Baum, Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells. One summer he went to see a local carnival act named Mr. Electrico, a man who sat in an electrical chair and knighted audience members with a sword while electricity flowed through his body. When he reached Bradbury, he put the sword on his head and shouted at him, “Live Forever!” Bradbury couldn’t get that out of his head, and the next day he made his father drive him to the carnival again, even though his uncle had just died and he was supposed to be at the wake. Mr. Electrico introduced the boy to all the carnival performers and then sat with him on a sand dune and told Bradbury that the boy was the reincarnation of Mr. Electrico’s best friend, a man who had died in his arms during World War I. Ray Bradbury said that Mr. Electrico “gave me a future and in doing so, gave me a past.” The next day his family moved cross-country, and as soon as they got to their new house, Ray Bradbury got out a piece of butcher paper and started to write. That was 1932, when Bradbury was 12 years old, and he said that he wrote every single day of his life from then on. His books include The Martian Chronicles (1950), Fahrenheit 451 (1953), and Farewell Summer (2006).

Ray Bradbury, who said: “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”

And: “I don’t try to describe the future. I try to prevent it.”

And: “Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.”

H.P. Lovecraft/Genius of Horror

Thursday, October 25th, 2018

Perhaps the most prolific writer of pure horror, H.P. Lovecraft Is still recognized not only for his imagination, but also for the elegance of his prose. He is a cult hero of the many writers in this genre.

August 20 was the birthday of H.P. Lovecraft , born Howard Phillips Lovecraft in Providence, Rhode Island (1890). He wrote science fiction, fantasy, and horror, a genre that during his life was called “weird fiction.” He was an only child, and when he was three years old, his father had a nervous breakdown and spent five years in a hospital before he died; he probably had a psychotic disease caused by syphilis. So Lovecraft was raised by his mother, two aunts, and his grandfather, who all lived together.

Lovecraft wrote hundreds of poems and short stories, but they were scattered throughout various pulp magazines and publications. It was only after his death that some of the people he had corresponded with in letters were determined to share his work with the public, so they formed a press called Arkham House specifically as a way to publish Lovecraft’s work. They issued The Outsider and Others in 1939, and his books are still widely available — books like The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories (1932). Fantasy and horror writers like Stephen King and Neil Gaiman consider Lovecraft one of their major influences, and Jorge Luis Borges wrote a story, “There Are More Things,” in memory of Lovecraft.

Lovecraft said: “I never ask a man what his business is, for it never interests me. What I ask him about are his thoughts and dreams.”

 

George Orwell/Great English Writer/20th Century

Monday, June 25th, 2018

Today, June 25, 2018, is the birthday of the man who wrote, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” That’s George Orwell , born Eric Blair in Motihari, India (1903).

 

He wrote his first poem — which he dictated to his mother — at the age of four or five. He was 11 when he wrote a patriotic poem after World War I broke out. It was published in the newspaper. He wrote a short story that he described as “a ghastly failure,” and a rhyming play, and helped edit the school’s newspaper. He was also constantly narrating his own actions in a writerly way, in his head. “I had the lonely child’s habit of making up stories and holding conversations with imaginary persons,” he later wrote, “and I think from the very start my literary ambitions were mixed up with the feeling of being isolated and undervalued.”

 

His father was a civil servant, and the family was, in Orwell’s words, “lower-upper-middle class.” Orwell received a scholarship to Eton, the prestigious boys’ school, but he felt alienated from his wealthy classmates. He opted not to go on to Oxford or Cambridge, but served as a military policeman in Burma instead. His essay “A Hanging,” which he published in 1931, is about his time there; it describes his role in the execution of a prisoner.

 

He believed there were four great motives for writing prose: sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose. By “political,” he meant in the widest sense of the word: “Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.” His writing was pushed even more toward the political after Hitler’s rise to power, and the Spanish civil war. He said, “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.” In the early 1940s, he began work on a novella about a group of farm animals that decide to stage an uprising against their tyrannical farmer. Orwell called it Animal Farm (1945), and often described it as a satirical tale against Stalin and the Soviet Union.

 

“What I have most wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art,” he wrote in his essay “Why I Write” (1946). “My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice. When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing. But I could not do the work of writing a book, or even a long magazine article, if it were not also an aesthetic experience. […] Animal Farm was the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole. I have not written a novel for seven years, but I hope to write another fairly soon. It is bound to be a failure, every book is a failure, but I do know with some clarity what kind of book I want to write.”

 

His next — and final — novel was Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), about a future in which England has become a totalitarian state run by an anonymous presence known only as Big Brother. Orwell died of tuberculosis just a few months after it was published. Far from being a failure, Nineteen Eighty-Four has been translated into 62 languages, has sold millions of copies, and just this past January it was No. 1 on Amazon.com’s best-seller list.

 

Garrison Keiller/Writers Almanac, June, 2017

An Unusual, But Fitting Ending

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Antimatter/ Carl Anderson

Physicists began speculating in the late 19th century that there may exist particles and matter that are exact opposites of the matter that surrounds us, mirror-image anti-atoms and perhaps even whole anti-solar systems where matter and antimatter might meet and annihilate one another. But in 1932, American physicist Carl Anderson discovered the first physical evidence that antimatter was more than just an idea.

Anderson was photographing and tracking the passage of cosmic rays through a cloud chamber, a cylindrical container filled with dense water vapor, lit from the outside, and built with a viewing window for observers. When individual particles passed through the sides of the container and into the saturated air, they would leave spiderweb tracks of condensation, like the vapor trails of miniscule airplanes, each type of particle forming a uniquely shaped trail. Anderson noticed a curious pattern – a trail like that of an electron, with an exactly identical, but opposite curve – an electron’s mirror image and evidence of an anti-electron. Anderson named the antimatter particle the positron and won a Nobel Prize for his discovery four years later.

Around 1940, biochemist and science fiction writer Isaac Asimov took up the newly discovered particle, using it as the basis for his fictional “positronic brain,” a structure made of platinum and iridium and his means for imparting humanlike consciousness to the robots in his story collection I, Robot.

The fictional uses of antimatter and the positronic brain have since spread throughout literature and popular entertainment, from the writing of Robert Heinlein to the classic British television series Doctor Who to propulsion systems and the sentient android, Data, in the American science fiction series Star Trek – even to Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, the sequel to his wildly popular DaVinci Code, in which the Illuminati intend to destroy Vatican City using the explosive power of a canister of pure antimatter.
NB: Perhaps this is the way our universe will end, i.e. a sudden flood of positrons from a nearby mirror universe, meeting up with all our negative electrons, which will blow blow up both of them. Certainly a neat way to end everything. See my short story: “What in the World Matters.”

NET NEUTRALITY or OBAMANET

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Well, here he goes again. Obama attempting to destroy something that works well and benefits millions. His outrageous new act can be called “Net Neutrality” or more aptly “Obamanet.”

Obamanet is set to fix an Internet that isn’t broken. The present Internet, which allows anyone to introduce a website, app or device without government review ends this week. Tomorrow, 2/26/2015, the three Democrats among the five commissioners on the Federal Communications Commission will vote to regulate the Internet under rules written for monopoly utilities. The over 300 pages of new regulations are secret, no one has seen them, and the commissioners will likely vote before THEY see them, and certainly before the public sees them and comments on them as required. The chairman of the FCC says they will subject the Internet to the key provisions of Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 under which the FCC oversaw the Bell Company.

This week, Mr. Obama’s will give us the new regulated Internet he wants to control us even more completely. Unless Congress or the courts block Obamanet, it will be the end of the Internet as we know it––– more expensive, less rapid, and bogged down with thousands of new regulations.

Thanks again, President (?) Barack Obama.


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