Tag Archives: Gregory Benford

A breeding ground for great science fiction authors?

Is there something in the water at the University of California at San Diego that helps turn the students into great sci-fi writers? That’s one of the questions explored in the video below, a fantastic panel discussion featuring some of those UCSD alumni who have gone on to become successful sf authors. I believe this event occurred in 2002.

The panel participants: Gregory Benford (!), David Brin (!), Kim Stanley Robinson (!), Vernor Vinge (!), and Nancy Holder (ok, never heard of her before, I admit). These are all UCSD alumni, and all extremely intelligent and entertaining panelists. The discussion begins around the question of why that particular campus produced so many great writers, and then moves on to other topics such as the “two cultures” (science vs. the humanities), politics and society, the themes and strengths of science fiction, predicting the future, dumb movies, etc. They also talk here and there about some of their work, about various books or stories. And there’s plenty of laughter to go around! These panelists really enjoy themselves here, and so will you.

By the way, a couple other UCSD alumni are also mentioned, who were unable to attend: Suzette Hayden Elgin and Raymond Feist. Wow, they really turn out the authors there in southern CA, huh?

The video is around an hour and a half long, but well worth that much of your time. So…. here’s your video:

More dream makers (addendum to a previous review)

dreammakerspb1A while back I did a review of Charles Platt’s Dream Makers: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers at Work, a collection of interviews he conducted with numerous famous authors. The particular item I was reviewing was a 1987 hardcover edition that was, I stated at the time, a merger of two previous paperback volumes by the same title. It turns out that description was not quite accurate, because I just picked up the first of those paperbacks — Dream Makers: the Uncommon People Who Write Science Fiction, published in 1980 — and found out that not all of the profiles made it into the later hardcover. It seems the hardcover edition took only about half of the profiles from each of the paperbacks, so anyone looking to get the maximum benefit would be well advised to seek out the original two volumes, rather than the later hardcover.

The 15 profiles that appear both here and in the hardcover are: Isaac Asimov, Thomas Disch, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Frederik Pohl, Alfred Bester, Algis Budrys, Philip Jose Farmer, A.E. van Vogt, Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradybury, Frank Herbert, Michael Moorcock, J.G. Ballard, and Brian Aldiss.

The 14 profiles appearing only in this first paperback edition are: Robert Sheckley, Hank Stine, Norman Spinrad, Samuel R. Delany, Barry Malzberg, Edward Bryant, C.M. Kornbluth (the interview was actually with his wife, since he died in 1958), Damon Knight, Kate Wilhelm, E.C. Tubb, Ian Watson, John Brunner, Gregory Benford, and Robert Silverberg.

I’m not going to delve into this and do any specific quoting; I’ll just say that everything in my previous review applies here as well. There’s a lot of good material here giving a glimpse into the lives and writing of some of the field’s top authors — lots of intriguing little tidbits of information here. I especially enjoyed the interviews with Norman Spinrad, Samuel Delany, and Robert Silverberg. On the other hand, there are some real downers in this bunch. Particularly depressing is Malzberg, who says he gets nothing from seeing his work in print and that he hates his career.

It’s also interesting to read what sf authors have to say about other sf authors. In some cases, the various authors included in this book have criticisms to level at each other, as well as at others. Two of these authors, for instance, state their belief that Heinlein is totally unreadable. And E.C. Tubb offers a strongly negative opinion of ANY new wave or “literary” writer, such as Delany (he calls Dhalgren a “monument of unreadability”). Some of these authors also share their criticism of the genre as a whole, or its fans.

I don’t know about you, but I find this kind of stuff fascinating, and I quickly zipped through the profiles here that were new to me. I can’t wait to find the second paperback volume to finish off Platt’s wonderful interview project.