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Category: science fiction

Ray Bradbury's 'Fahrenheit 451' is released as e-book

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Simon & Schuster released an e-book edition of Ray Bradbury's science fiction classic "Fahrenheit 451" on Tuesday. First published in 1953, "Fahrenheit 451" is a dystopia in which reading is banned and it is the job of firefighters to burn books. 451 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature at which paper burns.

The irony of releasing an e-book edition of a novel built around the death of print books was not lost on Bradbury, which is why he resisted the e-book idea. The Associated Press reports that the author was dismissive of the form, saying that e-books "smell like burned fuel." Bradbury, a noted futurist who at one time was a consultant for NASA, told the New York Times in 2009 that the Internet is "meaningless; it's not real.... It's in the air somewhere." 

But the 91-year-old author has since changed his mind -- about e-books, at least. Hence "451" is available to digital readership.

“It’s a rare and wonderful opportunity to continue our relationship with this beloved and canonical author and to bring his works to new a generation of readers and in new formats,” Simon & Schuster publisher Jonathan Karp said in an announcement.

"Fahrenheit 451" has sold more than 10 million copies. It has been published in 33 languages in 38 countries and has never gone out of print. Simon & Schuster will also release a new paperback version of the novel in January, followed by new paperback editions of Bradbury's short story collections "The Marian Chronicles" and "The Illustrated Man" in March. “We are honored to be the champion of these classic works,” Karp said.

The e-book edition of "Fahrenheit 451" is now on sale for $9.99 from all major e-book retailers. It may be the perfect book to read on your Kindle Fire.

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Photo: Ray Bradbury in 1997. Credit: Steve Castillo / Associated Press Photos

Not Just for Kids: Author Tahereh Mafi discusses 'Shatter Me'

Shatter MeIn Tahereh Mafi's young-adult debut, "Shatter Me," a young woman is jailed for something she has no ability to control. Whomever she touches, she kills. Whether that's a gift or a curse she discovers over time -- and with the help of an attractive cellmate. We caught up with the Orange County author to talk about the kickoff to her much-talked-about trilogy.

Jacket Copy: One of the more intriguing aspects about your book is your decision to strike out sections of text and let the reader see the words the main character is contemplating but ultimately rejects. Why did you use this technique?

Tahereh Mafi: I never made a conscious decision to use strikethroughs in the novel; they just became an organic way to express the chaos and turmoil in Juliette's mind. When we first meet her, she's been in isolation for 264 days; she hasn't spoken a single word in just as long. She's struggling with reality, too petrified to speak, not even trusting the things she writes down in her journal. But as her character develops -- and the story progresses -- the strikethroughs lessen as well.

JC: Some readers consider "Shatter Me" a dystopian fantasy because it takes place in an environmentally degraded landscape with an oppressive government, while others view it as a paranormal romance due to Juliette's "gift" and romantic liaisons. Do you think one is more accurate than the other?

TM: It’s more of a dystopian novel with paranormal elements even though the romance is a central theme in the story. Juliette has this lethal touch, so it’s considered paranormal in our world, but in her world it isn't.

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A baffling work from Philip K. Dick discussed at ALOUD

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Jonathan Lethem and Pamela Jackson, the two editors of the new 976-page book "The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick," were joined by Dick's eldest daughter Laura and writer Steve Erickson Monday night at the L.A. Public Library's ALOUD series to talk about the book and the writer, who died in 1982 at age 53.

Dick, who has entered the pantheon of great American science fiction novelists, was massively prolific, occasionally paranoid, somewhat nuts and/or brilliantly visionary. Between 1951 and 1982 he published 121 short stories and 36 novels; in 1966, he wrote three books, including "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep," the story upon which the film "Blade Runner" was based, and "Ubik," which was included in Time magazine's list of the 100 greatest modern American novels. In the last eight years of his life, while Dick was writing stories and novels at his regular pace, he worked on his Exegesis, too; when he died, it was 8,000 pages long.

"It's as if the novels themselves were visions," Lethem said Monday night. "He was preparing to be the writer of the Exegesis from the very beginning."

So if it's not a novel and it's not a collection of short stories, what is it, exactly? That's what moderator David L. Ulin asked about a third of the way into the conversation.

Nobody could sum it up quickly, but the impression they left was that it's a philosophical, spiritual, religious exploration; it's inconsistent, contradictory; it's a restless, impossible exploration of the boundaries of perception and reality and time. Lethem explained that Dick "has a rupture with reality, then he spends 8,000 pages trying to describe it."

There have been various hypotheses that the rupture was physical. "The earliest and most common was that he had temporal lobe epilepsy," Laura said. "He was also clearly manic depressive. And I became fairly certain that he was having a series of small strokes." She acknowledged that he was a frequent user of amphetamines. Yet, she added, "Whatever it was, it was also a legitimate mystical experience."

"This is a guy who argued, again and again, that time was round, and his novels were round," Steve Erickson added. He wrote an important piece for the LA Weekly in 1990 that shone a new critical light on Dick's work. Erickson said Dick's writing, centered around three themes: What is reality? What is memory? What is God?

"The quip is," Lethem said, "He became a character in a Philip K. Dick novel."

Laura said the family was initially reluctant to find a way to publish the Exegesis because it would confirm the suspicions of people who dismissed her father as "crazy as a loon." Now, after 30 acclaim-filled years, during which Dick's reputation has grown and he became the first science fiction writer to be published by the Library of America, Laura said, "they won't think he's crazy."

" 'Crazy writer' is a redundancy," Erickson assured her.

Whatever it is, "The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick" is an important, fascinating, and baffling addition to his legacy.

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Photo: Philip K. Dick in the 1970s. Credit: Isa Dick Hackett

Mysterious Galaxy Books opens in Redondo Beach today

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If you're in Redondo Beach, step into Mysterious Galaxy Books, which threws its doors open for the first time Tuesday morning. Mysterious Galaxy, which focuses on the genres of mystery and science fiction and their nearby constellations, has been operating in San Diego since 1993; the Redondo Beach location is its second store.

While the bookstore promises a monthlong grand opening this fall, Tuesday is full of celebratory events, including food trucks in the parking lot and a signing at 7:30 p.m. by Denise Hamilton, author of the Eve Diamond series. Her new book is the surf noir "Damage Control."

"We gutted a building and completely 100% renovated it," owner Terry Louchheim Gilman said Tuesday. Located at 2810 Artesia Avenue, the new Mysterious Galaxy occupies about 4,000 square feet; a cafe is coming soon.

It's no timid undertaking in a climate that seems inhospitable to bookstores. Borders is in the process of closing the last of its hundreds of stores nationwide. On the store's blog, Gilman writes:

Almost every day people ask us how we can possibly open a bookstore in the current climate, with bookstores closing and eBooks catching on in such a big way. Our answer is that we think this is exactly the right time to open an independent bookstore. We think that people treasure their communities and especially bookstores, because they bring them together and introduce them to new reading experiences and the authors that write the books that they love.

Gilman had an inside track on the new location. The building was built by her grandfather and is still in  her family.

The grand opening starts Oct. 9 and lasts for weeks, featuring almost daily events with some big bestsellers. Orson Scott Card, Larry Block and Charlaine Harris, author of the popular Sooky Stackhouse novels, will all be signing books in Redondo Beach.

Apart from special events, Mysterious Galaxy Books is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. It inherited those hours from the San Diego store -- if the Redondo Beach community clamors for something different, it plans to adjust accordingly.

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ALOUD's 2011 schedule selling out fast

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A highlight of this fall's ALOUD series from the Los Angeles Public Library will be Joan Didion's appearance, discussing her new memoir, "Blue Nights." She'll be at St. Vibiana's Cathedral in conversation with Times book critic David L. Ulin; tickets are sold out, but there will be some for sale at the door.

Some ALOUD events, such as Didion's appearance, include a ticket fee; others are free. One free event that's already completely booked is rapper Common's appearance Sept. 16 at the Central Library in conversation with television journalist Kevin Frazier. Standby tickets may become available.

However, there are plenty of events for which you can still make reservations. Karl Marlantes, author of "Matterhorn," will appear in November to discuss his memoir of Vietnam. That month, there will also be a discussion on Philip K. Dick with his daughters Ilsa Dick Hackett, Laura Leslie and Jonathan Lethem, co-editor of the forthcoming "The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick."

September appearances include those by Adam Winkler, discussing his nonfiction book "Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America"; memoirist Alexandra Fuller; and author Diana Reiss on her work with dolphins.

In October, Liberian political activist Leymah Roberta Gbowee will discuss her book "Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War"; David M. Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, will talk about his book "Don't Shoot" with LAPD chief Charlie Beck; and Ariel Dorfman will discuss Chile, his friend Salvador Allende and his new memoir, "Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile."

There will also be a dose of fiction in October from Irish novelist Anne Enright and MacArthur "genius" fellow Colson Whitehead, who takes on zombies in his upcoming novel, "Zone One."

See the complete list of ALOUD fall events here.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Joan Didion in 1996. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Weird Tales editor Ann VanderMeer exits

Weirdtales Ann VanderMeer will be leaving Weird Tales magazine, where she has been editor since early 2010. Before that, she was the magazine's fiction editor.

VanderMeer has been a key figure in promoting dark, strange fiction that operates on the boundaries of fantasy and history, of science fiction, literary fiction and horror. A little steampunk, a little new weird. While VanderMeer was at Weird Tales it won its first Hugo Award, for best semiprozine.

In her goodbye, Vandermeer lists some of the authors she's been proud to publish: Kathe Koja, Jeffrey Ford, Michael Bishop, Norman Spinrad, J. Robert Lennon, Ian MacLeod, Felix Gilman, Sarah Monette, Conrad Williams, Joel Lane and Stephen Graham Jones. Some of those will appear in an upcoming issue of Weird Tales, a roughly quarterly publication. The issue scheduled for February 2012 will be VanderMeer's last.

The magazine has been bought by writer and editor Marvin Kaye, who says he'll be taking over the editing reins himself. VanderMeer has a number of projects already in the works:

My current plans include final work on THE WEIRD: A Compendium of Dark and Strange Stories out from Atlantic in October. This huge reprint anthology, perhaps the largest ever published for this kind of fiction, includes 116 stories from the last one hundred years and totals 750,000 words. I will also be shepherding the anthology ODD? to completion through my and my husband’s e-book imprint Cheeky Frawg, along with completing several other anthology projects. In addition, I will continue to talk about and promote weird fiction through a new blog associated with THE WEIRD that will act as a repository of information and features, as well as providing a home for a new slate of “one-minute Weird Tales,” although they will of course be called something else. Beyond that I am considering this a chance to explore new and exciting opportunities.

VanderMeer's husband and sometime collaborator is the writer Jeff VanderMeer, who has contributed to the L.A. Times book section. 

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Image: Weird Tales issue No. 358. Credit: Weird Tales

NASA teaming up with Tor/Forge for spacey novels

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NASA is teaming up with publisher Tor/Forge to help create what sounds a little like an oxymoron: science-based science fiction. But getting the science wrong can make a science-fiction novel fall flat on its face. Now, novelists in the Tor/Forge stable will have access to NASA scientists to get the facts of their fiction right.

In a press release, Tor/Forge explains:

Tor/Forge and NASA hope that pairing scientists and engineers with the imprints’ award-winning roster of writers will raise awareness and inspire the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), in line with the President’s Technology Agenda.  They also hope to contribute towards the goal of attracting and retaining students in the above fields, thereby strengthening NASA and the nation's future workforce in a compelling manner....

GSFC’s Innovative Partnerships Program (IPP) Office will host a select group of Tor/Forge authors -- some of whom already write science based fiction -- to learn more about science and space exploration. Authors will visit GSFC for a two day workshop in November consisting of presentations, facility tours and one-on-one sessions with SMEs. NASA contributions to the project will also provide access to their data, facilities, and educational design and evaluation experts.

While space exploration and astrophysics may not be the easiest topics to understand, getting to learn about space projects from NASA scientists is pretty cool.

Then again, scientists can sometimes be buzzkill for imaginative novelists -- like in July, when they decided that time travel was impossible.

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Photo: Two galaxies colliding. Credit: NASA

Happy 91st birthday, Ray Bradbury!

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Ray Bradbury celebrates his 91st birthday today. The author of "The Martian Chronicles," "Dandelion Wine," "Something Wicked This Way Comes" and "Fahrenheit 451," who makes his home in Los Angeles, has had a wide cultural influence, consulting with the likes of both Disney and NASA.

Bradbury is the author of more than 30 books, hundreds of short stories, plus poetry, plays and books for children. He is credited as a writer on dozens of movie and television projects; he worked with John Huston on the screenplay of the 1956 film version of "Moby-Dick." He has recieved a National Medal of Arts, a special citation from the Pulitzer board, a medal for distinguished contribution to American letters from the National Book Foundation. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and an asteroid named in his honor.

Ray Bradbury has frequently made appearances at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and other literary events around the Southland. Last year, his 90th birthday was celebrated during the officially declared Ray Bradbury Week.

This year, he's taking it easy, but there is equal cause to celebrate the visionary science-fiction writer and his work. Happy birthday, Ray Bradbury!

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Photo: Ray Bradbury in 2000. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Did the 'Machine Man' book trailer cost an arm and a leg? [video]

Australian author Max Barry is figuring out how to promote his book "Machine Man" in America, because his publisher, Vintage Contemporaries, isn't sending him here on book tour.

He's giving away a galley. He's got magnets. He's willing to Skype you and talk about whatever you want (you can show him your cat), as long as you purchase three copies of his book. And the book trailer above shows to exactly what lengths an author will go to promote his work.

"Machine Man" is about a man who loses a leg and goes looking for a replacement, and the prostheticist/cyberticist who he comes to know.  A version of it was posted in serial format on Barry's website, but the very savvy Charlie Jane Anders at io9 says the book version is "much, much better," proclaiming, "'Machine Man' is the cyborg novel you've been waiting for."

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Rainn Wilson's 10 favorite science fiction books

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What do Ray Bradbury, John Norman and Jack Vance have in common? They've all written some of actor Rainn Wilson's favorite science fiction books. Best known for playing geeky guy Dwight on "The Office," Wilson was a secret science fiction and fantasy geek growing up in the '70s.

"My dad was an aspiring sci-fi author and we used to go every year to NorWesCon,the sci-fi and fantasy convention of Seattle," Wilson writes on Hero Complex, our excellent sibling blog.

The most bizarre, mossy, unwashed nerds of the northwest would crawl out of their caves and cabins and caverns and descend upon the Ramada Inn at Sea-Tac airport for a weekend of lectures, book signings and Dungeons & Dragons gaming.

My parents were a couple of odd bohemians living in suburban Seattle. We didn’t have much money but my dad had an awesome rule: As many books as I wanted, he would buy me.

What did they buy? "Stormbringer," "Swords Against Death," "Kull: the Fabulous Warrior King" and more. Get the whole story at Hero Complex, which includes photos of the fantastical paperbacks' covers.

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Cover of "Kull: The Fabulous Warrior King." Credit: Rainn Wilson

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