Remembering Ben Bova (1932-2020)

Ben Bova was one of my entry points to broader science fiction. I found out about his passing last night. I was struck by the loss, because he was an author who’d had a massive impact on my life and enjoyment of reading. I want to tell my story of how I discovered Bova and how his works continued to guide my enjoyment of science fiction.

As a kid, my family would frequent a Hallmark store where my mom and sister would look at the greeting cards and gifts. This Hallmark, however, was remarkable: it had a bookstore at the back. I still don’t know if it was a fluke of the way Hallmark does licensing or what, but there was just this awesome bookstore at the back of a greeting card and gift shop. The owner/franchisee clearly loved science fiction, fantasy, and heavy metal. It was where, in my teens, I would buy magazines featuring the latest pull out posters of the nu metal bands I got into. I bought bookmarks there with dragons and other fantastic creatures on them (I still own a couple!). And, I walked the stacks. The science fiction & fantasy section was huge, too. There was one set of shelves that covered about a third of this warehouse-sized Hallmark. It was filled with speculative fiction. It had a facing set of shelves also filled with more stories of spaceships, dragons, heroes, and heroines.

It was here that I discovered Ben Bova. A book on the shelf, simply titled Moonwar, called to me with its cover (pictured above). It said something about the author winning a Hugo Award. I had no idea what that was, but I knew that I had enjoyed some Newbery Medal winners (a prominent award for children’s literature). Awards were clearly A Good Thing. (At the time, and for many years after, I had no idea that his Hugos were all for his editorial work. My experience with him was–and mostly is–exclusively based on his novels.) I begged my mom to buy the book for me, and she, always supportive of my reading addiction, did so.

I devoured it. I had no idea that the book was the second in a series. It didn’t impact my enjoyment of it at all. Up to this point, the only adult science fiction I’d read was Star Wars novels and some additional Timothy Zahn books I’d grabbed at the library (I was very confused those weren’t also Star Wars novels–I didn’t know authors would write their own books and Star Wars books–but I did love them.) Bova’s imagination of the future of human society branching out from Earth and fighting a war over the Moon was vivid and captivating. I couldn’t help but think about current astronauts and how they might help set us up for a moon base that could help us get new resources and explore new horizons.

Every time I visited that Hallmark from then on, I scoured the shelves to see if there were any new books by this Ben Bova guy. Then, one day, there was! A bright red-orange cover showing me a sunrise on Mars with the title of the book, simply called Mars splashed across its cover. And there was the name I’d been waiting for–Ben Bova. I didn’t even bother to read the blurb on the back cover, I ran it over to my mom, who once again indulged my reading. As she shopped the shelves, I dove in. When I got home, I kept going, and going, until it was done.

Mars awakened me to even greater possibilities of the future of humanity. It was a humanity in which we still had major problems–tokenizing minorities was just one of them–but it was one that was also hopeful and capable of greatness. And it was a humanity capable of discovery on the grandest scale. When a major plot point revealed a monumental revelation, I felt my heart bursting with pride and joy. Bova had awakened in me a deep love for science fiction and the possible. More than that, reading Bova spurred me to read at higher levels, learn bigger words, and learn about new ideas.

From then on, I read anything I could from Bova. It continued into my college years, when I read his Asteroid Wars books. Once again, I was blown away by his use of science in the novels, and it had never occurred to me how many problems there could be attempting to get rights and wage wars for those rights in space. It was a new awakening for me in college. I hadn’t been reading much of anything apart from books for school, and reading Bova again made me realize how much I still loved science fiction. It was in those years when I began to start truly branching out and finding how much I loved the genre. And, as it had been years before, part of that beginning was due to Ben Bova.

I continued to keep up with his Grand Tour novels as an adult. After some time away from them, I saw one on the shelf at the local book store and grabbed it. The book was New Earth and I was deeply moved by it. It depicted humanity going far afield from our own solar system and discovering the unexpected, along with the discovery of a great terror out in the cosmos. It moved me so much that I even wrote three blog posts about the book on my main blog dedicated to theology and philosophy (see, for example, this post about humanity on the brink). It had been a few years, but Bova once again struck a cord in me as a reader.

I have spent more than 20 years in the universe Bova made. I have learned about the planets from him, as his books sent me online and to libraries to read about the planets he discovered. He was a great light in the world of science fiction, and he will be deeply missed.

(All links to Amazon are Affiliates.)

Links

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Humanity on the Brink in Ben Bova’s “New Earth”- I write about Ben Bova’s New Earth and what it says about humanity’s future.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

“To Sleep in a Sea of Stars” by Christopher Paolini- An epic space opera that feels fresh

I mean, who wouldn’t love this cover?

I have some confessions to make as I start this review. First, I tend to scorn hype for books, afraid that I’ll be disappointed by them. Second, I didn’t really enjoy Eragon all that much. Third, I was mostly excited about this book because of the cover art. There, did I confess enough crimes against general readership? (I have many more.) All of that said, I absolutely adored To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini. I’ll try to avoid them, but fair warning for SPOILERS in this review.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this novel, but I can fairly say that it subverted basically every expectation I ended up having as the novel went along. Each time I thought I’d figured out the next twist or the next turn in the story, I was surprised anew. And none of these were in ways that were annoying or contrived. Paolini has created a stunning space opera that constantly delights.

Perhaps the best part of the book is how frequently Paolini uses what seems a trope or theme from science fiction and then brings it to a surprising conclusion. Early on, when our protagonist Kira Navárez is living on a colony in love, I thought this might be a simple work of exploration and colony life. Wrong. I thought that the alien artifact discovered had many similarities to, say, the film “Life,” Wrong. Time and again, I saw inspirations from many sources of science fiction, even explicit references (a character named Ivanova as a nod to Babylon 5? I’ll take it!). Other references aren’t so explicit, but may still be there (is Kira Navárez perhaps a nod to Kira Nerys?). Despite all of these inspirations, the book never beigns to feel derivative Paolini handled them deftly and created his own huge narrative that never seems to drag despite approaching 900 pages in hardcover.

It is hard to avoid simply comparing the book to so many science fiction inspirations, because it does draw on them so frequently. A major part of the book features Kira with the crew of the Wallfish, a delightful collection of personalities and inside jokes that cannot help but bring to mind the delightful “Firefly.” But, again, it’s not as though that television series is the first or only to have an intrepid crew taking on somewhat shady jobs in space. Writing a review, though, how do I avoid making so many references? I can’t. In fact, part of the delight of the book is seeking out some of those references and debating whether they are intentional or not.

Paolini, though, is not content to give readers the warm fuzzy feelings of recognizing implicit or explicit references to other works of science fiction. No, there’s an incredible tale in this novel that continues to throw plot twists at the reader each time one gets settled in. Think that a major revelation wraps up most of the conflict in the book? Think again! What’s astonishing to me, though, is that none of these major twists reads in a way that is unbelievable or contrived. No, they make sense within the overall flow of the novel, and continue to drive the reader on. I was amazed as I read the book (and then immediately listened to it on audiobook afterwards) that I never felt the plot meandered or had pacing issues. It’s a huge book, and some lulls are inevitable, but none of these made me want Paolini to pick up the pace. The lulls were welcome respites in between the heady, galaxy-defining events happening.

The novel is also chock full of themes worth exploring. What does it mean to be a self? A certain alien species surprises when they reveal that they don’t mind their “selves” going off and dying, because an original copy exists back home. Once again, a subversion of a somewhat common sci-fi theme, but it also begs the question: how would the sense of self change if we could extend ourselves through the stars? Or, what if we could extend our physical bodies in new ways? What about moving on from significant loss? When and how is it okay to do so?

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is a magnificent achievement. Paolini has created a space opera worthy of any fan of the genre reading. For readers just wanting to enjoy the ride, the impressive cast of characters, inspiration from other science fiction works, and timely injections of humor will continually delight. For those looking more deeply, there are enough themes to keep one entertained for hours afterwards. I highly recommend it.

(All Amazon Links are Affiliates Links.)

Links

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

My Read-Through of the Hugos: 1969

I’m a huge science fiction fan, and, having read a list of what are alleged to be the top 200 science fiction novels, I decided to next tackle a read-through of all the Hugo Award winners and nominees for best novel. Let me know your thoughts and favorites. Here are the nominees and the winner of the 1969 Hugo Awards. I’ve marked the winner as well as my own choice for which novel would win, had I the choice among the nominees. I’ve also dropped a short reflection on the year’s Hugo list at the beginning.

1969- Ever see your own opinion on books and think you were wrong? I suspect if I re-read some books I’d have an entirely different opinion on them. One thing I wanted to talk about from the 1969 Hugos is the winner of best novella, “Nightwings” by Robert Silverberg. It’s pretty fantastic, and a superb example of New Wave science fiction. In a far future Earth the main character is assigned to watch for alien invasions while accompanied by a Changeling and a fairy-like woman. Silverberg wrote two sequel novellas, which he humorously points out Frederik Pohl, the editor of the magazine to which he submitted them, did not like. But I loved them as much or more than “Nightwings.” Together, they make a novel-length book which wouldn’t unseat Past Master as my favorite this year (see my gushing below), but would give it a run. The Goblin Reservation was a somewhat disappointing Simak book to me. But even if he’s not at his best, I enjoy Simak. Stand on Zanzibar was clearly worthy of a classic, though parts of it are nearly unreadable, and it is so heavy. Rite of Passage was forgettable. Past Master–well, you’ll see what I think below and in my extended review, but I adored it.

Past Master by R.A. Lafferty (My Winner)- Grade: A+
I’ve never read a work by Lafferty before this one, and I have to say I was absolutely blown away. He’d been recommended by a number of different people to me, and with this Hugo read-through I finally picked up Past Master to check him out. I wish I’d done so earlier. This novel is dense. Though it’s short, I could hardly believe it only weighed in around 190 pages when I looked it up online. The book took me as long to read as most 400+ page novels do, largely because I found myself so drawn into the premise, prose, and symbolism found throughout. There’s no question here that Lafferty has steeped this book in layers upon layers of meaning, to the point that unpacking it all would take quite a bit of study. Whether it’s the play upon “Evita” (Lilith? Eve? Someone else?), the way Lafferty interconnects discussions of Utopia with questions about the soul, or any number of other major themes in the book, it’s a fascinating, fantastic ride. Longer review/overview that I wrote here.

The Goblin Reservation by Clifford Simak- Grade: C-
A strange, mashup book of time travel, goblins, ghosts, dimensions, dragons, and more (robots, of course!) while still maintaining a Simak-esque pastoral plot. Something about this one didn’t click for me. It was almost like a travelogue with all the strangeness of the different creatures/species being lost in the mire of normalcy that permeates even Simak’s strangest writing. It didn’t all work together as some of his other works have. The setting just never made sense in a way that was cohesive. Having these different mythical creatures all jumbled together can work, and sometimes does so beautifully. But here, Simak just seemed to be piling on the creatures for no clear reason. There wasn’t much direction to what was happening, either. It’s an okay read, but not a very good one.

Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner (Winner)- Grade: B+
A phenomenally difficult and dense read. The style is particularly interesting, though I read that it was largely modeled after a work Brunner admired. Basically, some chapters are kind of info-dumps giving background on the setting, other chapters are more extensive background information, and still others follow a narrative. It makes the whole thing a bit of a chore to read through, and I can’t help but think that it seems a bit forced. However, the central narrative and the background context are each intriguing, and the dystopic future it envisions are, in some ways, chillingly accurate (though in others laughably quaint). In the time of COVID and other things happening, it seems increasingly, eerily prophetic. But I’m not convinced that’s the point of the story. It seems more a warning than a prophecy, and perhaps we should be concerned that the warning seems to be turning into reality. Also, I tried to re-read this book as an audiobook, and it was awful. The reader was fine–good, even–but this book is not meant to be listened to. It’s impossible to follow.

Rite of Passage by Alexei Panshin- Grade: C
Panshin’s book is one of those that left me with an intense feeling of “oh well.” Nothing was terribly wrong with this coming-of-age story set aboard a ship, but nothing is terribly striking about it either. It just feels like a milquetoast read. There’s nothing striking about it any more, which is probably based upon reading it more than 50 years after it was written. Based on looking at its reception overall, it was apparently striking for having such a personal perspective, particularly for featuring a young girl in that role. But looking back on it, the claims that it portrays so well what “being a girl” is like seems absurd, and the plot is, frankly, boring. It’s somewhat lazy to say of a book that it shows its age, but I have to use that phrase here. This book shows its age. It may have been innovative and thought-provoking at the time it was written, but it is a chore to read today.

Nova by Samuel R. Delany- Grade: C-
It wasn’t the disaster that was Dhalgren, but it still wasn’t great. I think this book is an example of an idea that was so fresh and exciting at the time that it stuck with people, but it seems overdone and rather dry in hindsight. Well done on Delany for tackling this hard sci-fi topic ahead of most (or any) other authors. But I just didn’t think it was as engaging as I’d hoped it would be. None of the characters grabbed my interest. The center of the plot was basically just a set up for talking about science in the mouths of the characters. It wasn’t awful, but it also doesn’t stand up well with time.

Links

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 9: “Mechanicum”

I know I’m late to the party, but I finally decided to start reading the “Horus Heresy,” a huge series of novels set in the universe of Warhammer 40,000 (though it is set much earlier than the year 40,000). I thought it would be awesome to blog the series as I go. With more than 50 novels and many, many short stories, there will be a lot of posts in this series (I doubt I’ll get to all the short stories). I’m reading the series in publication order unless otherwise noted. There will be SPOILERS from the books discussed as well as previous books in the series. Please DO NOT SPOIL later books in the series.

Mechanicum by Graham McNeill

Mechanicum is the novel of the Horus Heresy I was perhaps most looking forward to, because I love the Mechanicum. Many books related to the Mechanicum rank among my favorites in the whole Black Library. I also greatly enjoyed “The Kaban Project” (my review in link) as an earlier work in the series, so I expected to love this one. Overall, though, I thought it was okay.

The biggest problem with Mechanicum is, like most of the books in the series so far, it seems like the plot would have been better suited as a short story than as a several hundred page novel. The core of the novel is just a coup attempt on Mars that splits the Mechanicum. That’s a great seed for a story, and certainly a novel or even several, but to support that many pages, there need to be compelling characters. In this book, there are either too many or too few characters, I can’t really pin it down. None of the characters stuck with me in any way.

The worst part was the “normal” folk, an aspect that has shown up several times in the series at this point. The thing about having “normals” in the Warhammer universe is that you have to make them really compelling, because otherwise it just feels like “Why am I reading about this guy who’s working at his shop instead of the CULT PRIEST DRIVING A TITAN!?” I mean, that is why we read Warhammer books, right? As someone I know well would say, “It needs more dakka.” And yes, this book needs more dakka. Mountains of Dakka. SO MUCH more Dakka. Because there’s not enough, and there’s far too much of us learning from the people low on the totem pole and not really knowing or caring what’s happening.

I loved the parts of the book that dealt with the machine cult, and it was interesting seeing how different ideas about the same might expand into a broader conflict like the Horus Heresy. Look, there are Titans in this book, but it never felt like I felt the scale of them as I did in Titanicus, one of my favorite WH40K novels. Maybe it was just me, but the whole time I read the novel, I felt there was something just slightly off.

Mechanicum is a decent novel, but not one that I’d rank among my favorites in the Black Library. It fits well with the Horus Heresy and shows the range of the conflict, but it doesn’t feel like it ever really breaks out from its shell.

Links

Horus Heresy and Warhammer/40K Hub– All my posts on the Horus Heresy, as well as books throughout the Warhammer and 40K universe can be found here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Watching Babylon 5 for the first time- Season 3: Episodes 9-12

I am very late to the Babylon 5 party. As it came out, I was a bit young for the show and the few times we tried to watch as a family, it was clear we had no idea what was going on. After several people bugged me, telling me it was the show I needed to watch, I grabbed the whole series around Christmas last year on a great sale. I’ve been watching it since, sneaking it in between the many things going on in my life. It quickly became apparent that I’d want to discuss the episodes with others, so I began this series of posts. Please don’t spoil anything from later seasons or episodes for me! 

Season 3: Episodes 9-12

9: Point of No Return
A huge amount of plot happens in this episode. Reflecting on it after the fact, I am honestly surprised this much fit into approximately 42-44 minutes. Yet, as has happened consistently so far, at no point did the plot feel horribly rushed or bloated. It worked extremely well. Anyway, to the episode. First, we have Mollari editing what Vir is saying about his visit to the Minbari. I loved this little portrait scene, because it shows the contrast in their characters quite well. Then, we get the Night Watch is being authorized to take over Babylon 5. I know that “this is like the Nazis” gets thrown around a lot, but this is actually extremely similar to how the Nazis took over Germany, utilizing tragedies and misinformation to continue to seize more and more power. I’m sure this is intentional, as well. I read quite a bit of history of WW2 due to a deep interest in the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was executed at Hitler’s specific orders. I couldn’t help but see many parallels here, and the closeness of the ties suggests at least some research went in to paralleling some aspects of the rise of the Nazis. It’s a fascinating, sci-fi portrayal of how power can go wrong so quickly.

Can we pause for a moment and think about the number of people from Star Trek on this show? We’ve got Bester, played by Walter Koenig. It was a bit jarring to be like: “Hey, is that Chekov?” when he first showed up, but he nails his role here so far. Now, we have Lady Morella, some kind of Centauri Prophet, who is Lwaxana Troi–Majel Barrett. Side note: as a kid, I could not stand Lwaxana Troi, but when I re-watched TNG/DS9 in order as an adult she grew on me. Majel Barrett had more dimension acting than I picked up as a kid, and she shows it here. Side note 2, I love that Bester is Afred Bester and is clearly named after the science fiction author of the same name and spelling. I haven’t read a ton of Bester (I think The Demolished Man might be the only book I’ve read of his, but I want to read more now.

Anyway, I adored the part of this episode where Girabaldi absolutely lost it on the Night Watch, literally flipping tables and getting arrested. It’s a great scene that’s absolutely on point for his character, and the actor they chose has grown on me with scenes like this. G’Kar’s realization that working with the humans seemed like a major point, but we already get the payoff in this episode as the Narn are brought in to combat the Night Watch. Zack Allan hits a turning point in this episode, and I loved that he went with the good guys. I also liked how much ambiguity there was until we finally saw which side he picked. I hope he continues to get developed. I’m not a huge fan of him, but I think there’s room for dynamic growth. 

Morella reveals some kind of prophecy that Mollari will be Emperor, but that Vir will also be Emperor once Mollari dies. I’m not sure how to take this because so far prophetic type things have been basic certainties on the show. But Vir? Really? We’ll see. 

Anyway, ultimately the good guys take the station back after some early morning antics trapping the Night Watch, but this will surely have broader implications for Earth-B5 relations. This episode has way more in it, but I think I hit the major points I wanted to discuss. I loved this one. Heck, I love them all, but this one was particularly great.

10: Severed Dreams
The opener for this one has Mollari complaining loudly about the Narn as security and then having to wait hours because of a “technical difficulty” due to the “inefficient” Narn. I loved it. Good humor, and continues to show Mollari as a jerk. I truly hope he gets a redemptive arc of some sort, because I adored him in season 1. Some Minbari person brings a bunch more info about how the Shadows are making war happen far away. I’m sure that will become important probably but for now it seemed  a sidenote because EARTH FORCE IS BOMBING MARS! Yeah, so I guess I did not anticipate at all the huge amount of political intrigue this show would have. Early on in the show when Earth was mentioned I kind of just wrote it off as background noise, but now we see how important that was. It’s great to see the development here, and the rumblings we’ve seen made it so it wasn’t totally suspension of disbelief-defying. Also, the interrupted news broadcast was a great way to do this as a reveal. Time and again the right choices were made by whoever was running the show to make it dramatic and impactful.

Okay, so now we already have Earth Force showing up to challenge Babylon 5 with some rebellious ships assisting B5, and this battle scene was totally awesome. There’s a huge contrast in special effects with similar shows at the time, with the obvious comparison being Star Trek Deep Space Nine (which I love). These haven’t dated super great, but the excitement is all still there, and this was a fantastic, dramatic, huge epic space battle, which we almost never get to see in cinema or TV. Huge kudos for this great scene. 

Oh yeah, and the Minbari show up to save the day. No biggy. I’m sure that won’t be important (he says sarcastically). Loved it.

11: Ceremonies of Light and Dark
Deporting Night Watch! *Metal music plays in background because this scene is totally awesome.*

We have some assassination attempts, some kidnapping, and some intrigue for the main plot as Delenn gets captured. Lennier and Delenn have an interesting conversation about prophecy given my thoughts on prophecy with Vir above. We’ll see how this all plays out. Mollari has a good line in this episode too, as he plays with Centauri politics: “Why should I listen to you?” asks Refa. “Because I have poisoned your drink!” says Mollari. Loved this moment. I want to see Mollari develop more, and this may be the start of something for him. 

Night Watch people who stayed behind have kidnapped Delenn and it is time to UNLEASH MARCUS, possibly my new favorite character. I basically love everything about him, especially his accent. No, but seriously, he delivers one of the best one-liners in the show so far: “They [the Minbari who trained Marcus] said I was carrying around a lot of repressed anger.”
“And?” asks Lennier.
Raising hands to scene of violence, Marcus says, “I’m not repressed any more.”
It’s a laugh out loud moment for me, but it shows some possibility for more background on Marcus as well. I hope he stays around the rest of the series, because he’s awesome in every way. Anyway, they rescue Delenn. New uniforms for the crew. Marcus/10. 

12: Sic Transit Vir
In which we discover Vir is a great human being… well, a great person, anyway. So in his travels, he’s been apparently diverting Narn who were going to be killed through forced labor in order to save them by hiding them as “dead.” This was revealed as Mollari was in the process of praising him for mass murder. Is Mollari truly this despicable, or is he playing a long game? Time will tell! Mollari also set up an arranged marriage for Vir to Drusella, who is… something else. She fights a Narn and ties him up for Vir to kill at one point. I wonder how her character is going to shape Vir. Overall, this episode seemed like a drawn out way to give Vir a plot arc. It was okay, but it dragged at points. 

Links

Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Sci-Fi Hub: Vintage Sci-Fi, Hugo Awards, British SF Awards, and more!

Here, I’ve collected my links to all the various series of reviews (and other hubs) related to science fiction. Here, you can explore vintage science fiction, Star Wars related novels, recent works that I enjoyed enough to review, many Award winners and my own opinions on which should have won, Babylon 5, and more! Some are links to other Hubs (like the Babylon 5 Hub) so you can use this post as your launching point for many, many reviews of books, television shows, and movies. 

Contemporary Science Fiction Reviews 

“Space Unicorn Blues” and “The Stars Now Unclaimed” – Two Recent Debut Science Fiction Novels Worth Noting– I highlight two science fiction works that I read recently and adored. There’s a space unicorn! There are Stars… that aren’t claimed! 

A Masterpiece of Science Fiction: “Days” by James Lovegrove– It’s pretty rare that a book nails the feel of reality so well while also painting a thin layer of unreality over it. Lovegrove’s simply phenomenal acerbic critique of unfettered capitalism is set within a Gigastore, and it just gets better from there. It helped keep me sane during peak shopping season. 

“Gate Crashers” and “Space Opera” – Two wild first contact novels– I love when things get goofy, though I have to be in the mood for it. Each of these hit me in the right mood, and they’re gloriously witty science fiction reading. 

A Stunning Epic – “Empire of Silence” by Christopher Ruocchio– Books get compared to each other all the time–it’s a way for fans to easily recommend works to others. Here, the book is often compared to Dune, and it’s one of those rare times the comparison sticks. Ruocchio’s worldbuilding is as complex and epic as that comparison demands, though he takes it in a different direction. The good news is it’s a series and Ruocchio continues to reliably deliver them! 

“The Guns Above” by Robyn Bennis- A Steampunk Delight– Steampunk is one of my favorite subgenres, but I find it’s rare that I find books in that subgenre that I enjoy. I don’t know if it’s that my taste is off, or that maybe I just like the genre due to video games, but that’s what it is. Anyway, I adored this book by Robyn Bennis. It had great characters, superb action, and steampunk goodness.

Remembering Ben Bova (1932-2020)– Bova’s passing impacted me deeply when I read about it. I’d been reading his books for more than 20 years, and his impact on my life as a reader went back into my childhood. I wrote a bit about my own journey reading his novels and the impact they had on me.

Vintage Sci-Fi

I read and review individual Vintage Science Fiction Novels

The Book of Skulls by Robert Silverberg– I can’t stop thinking about this haunting road trip horror/fantasy novel.

The Year of the Quiet Sun by Wilson Tucker– A haunting, poignant look at time travel that is a must-read for sci-fi fans.  

The Haunted Stars by Edmond Hamilton– I’m a sucker for space archaeology, and this book with shades of red scare, Star Trek, and more drew me in.

Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold– The start of the Vorkorsigan Saga is a rip-roaring adventure that I love even after multiple reads.

Cobra by Timothy Zahn- A surprisingly thoughtful look at combat, PTSD, and more.

The Squares of the City by John Brunner- A novel I adored but probably didn’t understand as a child has even more meaning when reading it as an adult. And what could have been a gimmick is actually a fun way to organize a book. 

Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov- Asimov can (kind of) write characters! I enjoyed this one pretty well. 

Past Master by R.A. Lafferty- One of those novels that makes you sit back and think on every page. It’s a phenomenal read that has a central plot with a surprising premise. 

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sing by Kate Wilhelm- A surprising, quiet novel that will keep you thinking long after you finish it. Certainly one of the more surprising Hugo winners. 

The Stochastic Man by Robert Silverberg- What if the same problems facing time travel also faced predictions of the future? Silverberg twists the time travel formula by… not time traveling. 

Dragonflight by Anne McAffrey- The worldbuilding of McAffrey shines as the major star in this novel of science fantasy

“The Dead Lady of Clown Town” by Cordwainer Smith- Love as Resistance– I wrote a post about how a short story from Cordwainer Smith shows how activism can work through love. 

Two “First Contact” series you should read (and probably haven’t)–  I wrote introductions to a pair of series that relate the first contact of humanity to various aliens. I think you should read both of these series! 

“We the Underpeople” by Cordwainer Smith– Actually a review of a modern collection of Smith’s stories and the novel Norstrilia. This post actually predates my “Vintage Sci-Fi” post format, and I’m hoping to eventually update it. For now, enjoy this review of this spectacular collection.

My Read-Through of the Hugos

These posts are a series in which I read through and review every single Hugo Award Winner and Nominee. I also pick my own winner out of the batch, which doesn’t always align. 

1953– There’s only one book, so is it a surprise that I picked it for my winner?

1954- No winner for Best Novel.

1955– This year’s winner is widely considered the worst book to ever win a Hugo. 

1956– Red scare of the best kind.

1957- No Winner for Best Novel.

1958– Only once choice again, but this one was great.

1959– A few contenders, but I picked one that got me thinking.

1960– How could anyone have picked anything but space pirates? I mean really.

1961– The voters got it right on a fantastic novel this year.

1962– The rise of Heinlein. Also, Plato’s Cave.

1963– I dusted off a classic here. (Sorry.)

1964– Easy to pick a winner this go-round.

1965– The voters were perhaps most wrong this year of all the years so far. My goodness, they voted for a yawner over an intense, wild classic.

1966– It’s not fair that these other books had to compete against Dune, because there were some good’ns. 

1967– I cried a lot over my choice of winner here.

1968– Space poetry written by Zelazny. 

1969– I get hooked on Lafferty.

1970– Not the strongest year, but it does feature an all-time classic.

1971– A strong demonstration of why I choose to read lists, as I discover a mostly-forgotten classic!

1972– Yet another year Silverberg should have won the Hugo.

2020– A fantastic mix of genres and authors. 

Reading the British Science Fiction Association Awards

I randomly pick some BSFA Winners to read and review. 

The Night Sessions by Ken MacLeod (2008)– This book was essentially written for me. I love it so so much. 

Indie Fiction

These reviews are largely of indie or self-published books that I thought were worth your attention.

Indie April Highlight: “The Sword of Kaigen” by M.L. Wang– Need some steampunk wuxia in your life? Have I got a book for you!

Indie April Highlight: “Awaken Online: Catharsis” by Travis Bagwell– My introduction to LitRPG happened through this thrilling combination of gaming, AI, and real life. 

Indie Highlight: “The Wings of War” by Bryce O’Connor and “The Ixan Prophecies” by Scott Bartlett– I review a pair of indie works that will give you your money’s worth. 

TV

“Invincible” – Getting Hooked on a new superhero show (Episode 1)– Superheroes are all the rage but this first episode blew up my expectations in a big way.

Star Trek posts (I have not yet created a Hub for Star Trek)- I’ve reviewed many episodes of Star Trek TNG and DS9, and this link will let you explore those.

Babylon 5 Hub– My links to all my reviews related to the world of Babylon 5. I started with the television show and plan to work through all the novels and comics as well. 

Other Hubs

Horus Heresy and Warhammer/40K Hub– All my reviews related to Warhammer/40K/Horus Heresy fiction can be found here. Read grimdark to your heart’s content!

Babylon 5 Hub– My links to all my reviews related to the world of Babylon 5. I started with the television show and plan to work through all the novels and comics as well. 

Star Wars Hub– Reviews of many Star Wars: Expanded Universe novels are here, along with a few reviews of the new “canon” novels.

Star Trek posts (I have not yet created a Hub for Star Trek)- I’ve reviewed many episodes of Star Trek TNG and DS9, and this link will let you explore those.

Watching Babylon 5 for the first time- Season 3: Episodes 1-4

A fragile human moment.

I am very late to the Babylon 5 party. As it came out, I was a bit young for the show and the few times we tried to watch as a family, it was clear we had no idea what was going on. After several people bugged me, telling me it was the show I needed to watch, I grabbed the whole series around Christmas last year on a great sale. I’ve been watching it since, sneaking it in between the many things going on in my life. It quickly became apparent that I’d want to discuss the episodes with others, so I began this series of posts. Please don’t spoil anything from later seasons or episodes for me! 

Season 3: Episodes 1-4

Matters of Honor
I loved the new intro but I stopped looking at it because it looked spoiler-filled to me for the season. The Vorlon ambassador remains delightfully aloof. Mollari trying to be rid of the guy who’s so closely tied to the Shadows is interesting. I wonder how that will play out. I loved Mollari in the first season, but he became a heel in the second. How will he ultimately turn out? I don’t know, but I cant wait to find out. I especially liked the part of the episode where Mollari and Morden–that’s the guy’s name!–split up the galaxy. That random planet is totally not going to be important, right? Mollari also says he’s seen the Shadow type ship when asked about it, and he appears almost haunted by a dreamlike vision of them over his homeworld. I loved when G’Kar is finally asked by the Earth intelligence guy about the Shadows, and he just opens his holy book, eager to finally have someone to listen: Yes, let me tell you about the coming evils! It’s chilling and a great character moment for G’Kar all at once.

Convictions
Some random bombings are occurring all over the station, and as the crew races to stop them, G’Kar and Mollari get stuck in an elevator after one of the bombs traps them. Their air is running out, and we finally see a serious face-to-face with these two. G’Kar has the perfect opportunity to kill Mollari, and I was initially shocked he didn’t do it and try to frame it on the bombing. But, the depth of this show goes much farther than you might think, and I’d forgotten they’d already given an answer for why G’Kar wouldn’t do that: G’Kar himself reasons that 500 of his people would be killed, including his relatives, should he even be suspected of harming Mollari. Instead, he laughs, delighted that the bomber will kill Mollari for him as they run out of air. It’s a poignant scene that reveals the intensity of G’Kar’s hatred, the way Mollari is conflicted himself, and the thoughtfulness of G’Kar all at once. It’s so good. The only downside for me is the slang thrown in there from the time of the show, when G’Kar says ‘”up yours!” to Mollari. It’s funny, but a comedic moment that wasn’t hugely necessary. Anyway, Sheridan goes in and saves the day, of course, with the help of several others. This episode felt like a building one but had enough action and intensity in it to not drag at any point.

A Day in the Strife
I hadn’t realized until this episode how refreshing it can be to not have to deal with anything even approximating a “Prime Directive” type of orders in Babylon 5. There’s not concern here from humanity about how they might impact other species across the galaxy. This is the real world, not some idealistic fantasy-land. I love Star Trek, so I’m mostly saying that previous bit tongue-in-cheek. One can only hope that by the time humanity encounters other intelligent life, we will have learned not to destroy everything we touch. But Babylon 5’s vision of future humanity is unrelenting in an almost cynical way: humanity would put its own interests first, and people would not magically stop yearning for power. Anyway, the thing that brought this up for me was Sheridan basically flat out saying “no” to G’Kar being recalled. In Star Trek, there’d be some huge sequence about the Prime Directive, etc. Here, Sheridan just denies the request. “Nah.” It’s a cool moment, though we later see Sheridan makes it conditioned upon G’Kar’s own desires. And those desires are placed at the center of this episode, along with a second plot featuring some probe that comes offering humanity all its desires if it can pass an intelligence test. Anyway, G’Kar ultimately decides to stay after many of his people come to him basically saying he must stay and continue his resistance. The moment that convinced him: when he asked whether anything is more important than their families’ safety, and his people responded: “Yes, our freedom!” The probe–I loved how this hearkened to being a Berserker type entity and that the writer(s) specifically put that in the episode by using the word. The Berserkers I’m referring to are the pretty fantastic series of short stories and books by Fred Saberhagen (I linked the first book there) which feature Berserkers as the main antagonist–some awful AI things going out and clearing all intelligent life from the universe. It’s a cool nod to older sci-fi in the show. I definitely distrusted the probe immediately, but I thought it might have been sent to steal intelligence. I hadn’t thought of it as a way to destroy competition, and I absolutely loved that twist. 

Passing Through Gethsemane
There are moments when you’re watching something on TV or a movie when you realize it’s a transcendent time. Something about what’s happening on the show clicked; one of those moments where everything aligned. And “Passing Through Gethsemane” was one of those episodes for me. Look, I already love this show. It’s my first time through and I’ve already gone looking for novels, companion books, etc. to read for the second time. But this episode had so much that I love. Near the beginning when we see Brother Edward talking about the Garden of Gethsemane. He says that there, Jesus could have chosen to leave, postponing the inevitable. It was a “very fragile human moment” that resonates so deeply with Brother Edward. But then we see Edward has been mind wiped and is, in fact, a notorious killer. He himself starts to discover this as a telepath reawakens his memories, apparently as a step of a plot to get revenge from families of the victims. Edward finds himself in a kind of broken psyche, realizing who he was, but also that his entire life and outlook on the universe has changed. He asks whether there is “enough forgiveness for what I’ve done” and the answer, provided by Brother Theo of the Trappist Monks, is simple: “Always. Always.” He’s killed by the families of his victims, but he chooses to go to his death, knowing what they will do. He sees it as his own “passing through Gethsemane” and the fragility of the human condition one finds there. He apparently saw justice and forgiveness align and chose that path.
Theo and Sheridan have a conversation about “Where does revenge end and justice begin?” and Sheridan makes a point that forgiveness is a “hard thing”–likely himself thinking about his wife. But then, we discover one of his killers has also been mind wiped, and now Malcolm–one of the men who committed the vigilante act against Edward–is mind wiped and himself one of the Trappists. And Theo turns Sheridan’s words back on him. Knowing Sheridan is enraged by this vigilante killing, Brother Theo says that Sheridan himself just made a comment about forgiveness being a hard thing. Sheridan pauses in his rage and shock, and finally shakes the new Brother Malcolm’s hand. 
Wow. I loved everything about this, and I didn’t even mention bringing back the rogue Psi person. This is a fantastic piece of television storytelling, one that will be bouncing around in my head for quite a while. I liked it so much that I even wrote an extended review and look at the themes in the episode.

Links

Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

“Passing Through Gethsemane”- Babylon 5 and the Fragility of Humanity– I discuss the episode in much more detail. Needless to say, I loved it. 

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Vintage Sci-Fi: “The Book of Skulls” by Robert Silverberg

Vintage Sci-Fi Month is over (it’s in January), but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop reading vintage sci-fi. After great response to my posts during January, I’ve decided to make it an ongoing feature to read and review individual vintage sci-fi books. As I recall, the rule for calling something “Vintage” is that it was written before you were born, but feel free to adjust that as you like.

The Book of Skulls by Robert Silverberg

I can’t stop thinking about The Book of Skulls. It haunts me at the strangest times, but especially when I’m driving (more on that later). Silverberg is at his best in this novel, but is he also at his worst? I don’t know. 

At its core, The Book of Skulls is a kind of coming-of-age story of four young men who found a manuscript that they believe–maybe–will unlock immortality to them. All they have to do is travel across the country and join a murderous gang of cultists and have two of their number die–one through sacrifice and the other through murder. No big deal, right? It’s a strange setup for what seems almost like some B-list spring break movie where the plot is simply a vehicle for getting titillating scenes on the screen. And make no mistake, the book has lots of sex. I can’t help but think about the strange, disturbing sexualization that Silverberg put forward in the driving scenes; the way the car interacted with the road, and the language Silverberg used to describe it. But it’s not just the car assaulting the road as a (very strange) metaphor. There are liaisons with prostitutes, sex cultists, there sexual encounters of all kinds all along the road trip. That B-list titillation is all over the place. 

But The Book of Skulls is a lot more than that. It’s a haunting tale of humanity gone wrong in so many ways. Its main cast doesn’t really feature a single likable character, but that somehow works, because you don’t want to care about these young men, but you do! And you find yourself caring what happens and wondering what’s going to happen and whether the ‘real’ Book of Skulls in the characters’ minds is going to give them immortality. Is this a fantasy novel? Is it sci-fi? Is it just a strange thriller where the main characters go off and kill each other after a series of orgies? 

Why is it so compelling?

Silverberg is an immensely talented author. And it shows here in this almost annoyingly spellbinding book. I feel as though I ought to hate it. I can’t tell if Silverberg’s put his own views into the minds of his characters or not. If so, there’s a lot to call out as awful here. Self-hating characters–one that is Jewish and one that is homosexual–each could be called out for promoting hatred of the same in some ways. His comments about disabled persons are detestable, but again occur in the mind of a character whose viewpoint we can’t trust. Racism, sexism–it’s there. But is it what Silverberg is promoting, or is it simply more characterization of these four messed up, generally terrible men? Silverberg has mastered the art of an unreliable narrator, and we have four in this book. 

Like the characters in the novel, I can’t stop thinking about The Book of Skulls. I bet you would think about it if you read it, too. Would you hate it? Would you love it? Or would you feel as I do–stuck wondering exactly what it means and why it is so gripping?

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Vintage Sci-Fi– Click the link and scroll down to read more vintage sci-fi posts! I love hearing about your own responses and favorites!

My Read-Through of the Hugos– Check out all my posts on reading through the Hugo Award winners and nominees. Tons of sci-fi fantasy discussion throughout.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Ken Scholes’s “Psalms of Isaak” – A Haunting Science Fantasy

Inevitably, when you read a lot of sci-fi fantasy, you discover works that you find to be absolutely marvelous but that go by relatively unnoticed by many other readers. Books that you feel deserve awards and widespread sales disappear from publication and booksellers’ shelves. There are several series or standalone books that fall into that space for me. Ken Scholes’s genre-defying “Psalms of Isaak,” a five book series filled with horror, wonder, and hope ranks very highly among them. There will be light SPOILERS for the series in what follows.

My Journey to Reading the Series

I bought Lamentation, the first book in the series, when it first came out in paperback. It languished on my shelf, showing off its beautiful cover art (are those… cowboys in front of a ruin? or warriors riding around?). I lost it in a move but couldn’t shake the image of the cover from my mind. I grabbed it in paperback again, but it was purged when I was getting ready for another move–after all, why keep just the first book in a series I wasn’t sure I’d even like? Finally, as I browsed for audiobooks available through the library, I saw that alluring cover once again. Knowing I like listening to books, and that this one in particular seemed to be haunting me, I dove in.

I was in for an absolute treat. Lamentation has nearly everything I could want in a science fantasy. It has an awesome sense of vastness of the world, both in space and time. There are ruins and mysteries lost to the past. There are subtle hints of technology that may be recovered. There are mysterious steampunk vibes mixed with those of fantasy. Truly wicked villains populate the whole series, while interesting main characters manage to keep hope alive in the darkest of times. The book was brilliant! I immediately grabbed the next one on audio and went through them all. I rarely read series back-to-back, enjoying a break in between with other books, but I couldn’t stop with the Psalms of Isaak and continued all the way through.

What Genre is it?

One of the many things that makes this series so excellent is its ability to defy genres. At its core, it’s a kind of epic fantasy, with some feeling of the hero’s journey happening throughout. But it also has clear elements of science fantasy, with some fantastical elements scattered throughout seemingly explainable with scientific means and in-world rules. Additionally, there is a helping of steampunk swirled in. Ancient artifacts are scattered throughout, as well–one of my favorite sci-fi/fantasy tropes. Each time I started a new book in the series I struggled with which genre to file it under, and I ultimately just piled on the labels so that I could find the books if friends asked for recommendations.

On top of all of that, though, there is an evocative sense of religious crisis. I read some autobiographical stuff from Scholes as I read through the series and it appears he has had his own crisis of doubt–I’m unsure where he came out of it. That sense is mixed throughout this series as religion plays a major pot in many of the plot threads. It adds yet another layer of both hope and dread.

Read It!

I hope I’ve sold you on the Psalms of Isaak, because it is a series that is well-worth your time. I’m nabbing the audiobooks on Audible as I get credits. It’s a wonderful journey through a fantastic world, filled with so many vibes and ideas that you might think it’s overwhelming. But it’s not. Scholes does a great job grounding readers in this haunting place, and his storytelling will make you want to stay there forever.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

My Read-Through of the Hugos: 1967

I’ve almost completed my read-through of the top science fiction books of all time and was casting about for something else to do. I decided that reading through the list of Hugo award winners and nominees wasn’t a bad way to spend my time. Here are the nominees and the winner of the 1967 Hugo Awards. I’ve marked the winner as well as my own choice for which novel would win, had I the choice among the nominees. I included a brief overview discussion of the year’s nominees at the beginning.

1967- I think this year’s nominees were one of the best so far. Whether we’re talking about the absolutely heart-rending Flowers for Algernon or the familiar-yet-otherworldly Day of the Minotaur, this was a great year. Even The Witches of Karres at least has value as understanding where later ideas developed from. Babel-17 made me realize I should go back and re-read some Delany novels, perhaps finding more enjoyment the second go-round. I liked Babel so much that I’m convinced I may have missed something. Somehow Heinlein gets another year of eligibility for The Moon… and wins? I don’t understand. It’s a fine novel, but I don’t think it needed to be brought in to compete with the others this year, and certainly some of the competition was better. Which did you like?

Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany- Grade: A
Babel-17 is through-and-through a concept novel. I don’t know if that’s a real term, but its how I refer to books that have an idea that they’re about more than characters or a main plot. To be fair, Delany makes some interesting characters in this book, but they’re not what it’s about. What it’s about is language and how it may shape the way we think and act. Indeed, if we have no word for something like a computer or any of its components, how could we even begin to understand it? More abstractly, what if something like “nationalism” was an unknown term or concept? How would we relate to others and the space in which we live? These are some of the types of questions Delany asks in this fascinating piece of science fiction. I liked it enough I may actually go back for another try at his alleged magnum opus, Dhalgren, which I initially abandoned fairly early on. This is first rate idea-driven sci-fi.

Day of the Minotaur by Thomas Burnett Swann- Grade: B
Impressive for its prose, especially for its time, this novel is one of the earliest attempts (I read a few places it might be the earliest) to re-tell Greek myth for the modern audience. The downside to the novel is found in the times when a few anachronisms from the time in which it was written sneak in–yes, there are a few clear “flower child” type scenes, as well as a few cringe-worthy comments about women. On the flip side, it seems Thomas Burnett Swann was trying to subvert some of the latter through the narrative, which has women acting independently and with authority at times. Day of the Minotaur is also nearly lyrical in its prose, something that was not often attempted, to my knowledge, at the time. It’s a quick read that’s worth looking into for readers interested in mythical re-tellings.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (My Winner)- Grade: A
Heart-rending and poignant, Keyes has created an enduring masterpiece. Yes, some aspects of it haven’t aged well (such as outdated psychological theories), but it’s the kind of science fiction that could be set in the past as something that has happened, so that doesn’t matter. It’s got one of the best aspects of science fiction storytelling, namely that it asks us to look at ourselves as humans and see what we are more fully. I readily admit I did not think I’d enjoy this one going in. It had all the makings of one of those books that is more literary than it is plot, but it is not that at all. I wept bitterly at more than one point in this haunting work. It’s a beautiful book.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein (Winner)- Grade: B-
I wanted to enjoy this book more than I did. It was enjoyable, but the style dragged it down somewhat. It felt very matter-of-fact about even the most intense moments of the book. It’s not as beautiful as Stranger in a Strange Land nor as challenging as Starship Troopers. It’s still enjoyable, but the whole plot felt predictable. It lacked the excitement that comes with many other science fiction books. Not bad, certainly, but neither is it spectacular. Also, apparently it was eligible both in 1966 and in 1967?

The Witches of Karres by James M. Schmitz- Grade: C
How do you fairly evaluate a novel that seems like a possible precursor for many other ideas? The Witches of Karres has many of the elements later space operas would absorb, and the breadth of some of it is surprising. But it’s also… not very good. The ideas are there, but the execution is not. It reads about like what you would expect from an antiquated sci-fi adventure trying to grow beyond the bonds of the usual simplistic narrative. It’s admirable that the concept was developed here, but reading it for reasons other than history is not highly recommended.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

My Read-Through of the Hugos– Read more posts in this series and follow me on the journey! Let me know your own thoughts on the books.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.