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H. G. Wells

H. G. Wells – Retouched from original at Wikipedia

H. G. Wells (Herbert George, 1866-1946) was a British author born in Bromley, Kent. After teaching at a Grammar School, Wells studied biology and taught at the Universal Tutorial College.

During this time he wrote short stories and dabbled in liberal-progressive politics. His short stories gained popular acclaim. So he decided to pursue a full-time writing career that, altogether, reaped over 100 books and articles.

Wells is seen by many as the father of modern science fiction, a title also given to Jules Verne. He authored several sci-fi classics, such as The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898), The First Men in the Moon (1901), Men Like Gods (1923) and The Shape of Things to Come (1933).

Wells enjoyed immense popularity during his lifetime, although this began to diminish somewhat during his final years, a time when he became increasingly critical of Catholicism.

English: First edition (in London by Heinemann...

First edition (in London by Heinemann in 1896) cover of The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Concerning religion as a whole, in a letter to his lover and intellectual sparring partner, Rebecca West, he wrote:

I can’t – in my present state anyhow – bank on religion. God has no thighs and no life. When one calls to him in the silence of the night he doesn’t turn over and say, ‘What is the trouble, Dear?’¹

But Wells also had something of a mystical side:

At times, in the lonely silence of the night and in rare, lonely moments, I come upon a sort of communion of myself with something great that is not myself.²

If anything, it seems that he didn’t connect with Christianity or, for that matter, organized religion but realized that some people could.

Of Christianity he has this to say: “… it is not now true for me … Every believing Christian is, I am sure, my spiritual brother … but if systemically I called myself a Christian I feel that to most men I should imply too much and so tell a lie.” Of other world religions he writes: “All these religions are true for me as Canterbury Cathedral is a true thing and as a Swiss chalet is a true thing. There they are, and they have served a purpose, they have worked. Only they are not true for me to live in them … They do not work for me.”³

English: Alien tripod illustration by Alvim Co...

Alien tripod illustration by Alvim Corréa, from the 1906 French edition of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Among many other successful comedic and dramatic works, Wells also penned a two-volume Outline of History (1920), which is hardly surprising since he was interested in the idea of time travel.

¹ http://www.libidomag.com/nakedbrunch/archive/sexbiowells.html This link is great for more info on Wells’ many romantic affairs, and his views on the liberation of women and birth control.

² http://ext.sagepub.com/cgi/pdf_extract/103/2/45

³ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._G._Wells Wells’ views about organized religion remind me a bit of David Bowie. Both men are incredibly talented at their far-out endeavors, yet ironically, seem to actually know very little about the spiritual life. It seems some of us are inspired to create bona fide works of genius, but in the process, don’t really gain any kind of advanced knowledge about God and God’s workings.

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Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov Quote

Isaac Asimov Quote (Photo credit: Psychology Pictures)

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) was a Russian-born scientist and science fiction writer. Asimov’s family emigrated to the U.S. In 1923 and he was granted citizenship in 1928.

He taught at Boston University from 1949, to become a Professor of Biochemistry (1979-92). After that he moved to Manhattan when he divorced is first wife. He quickly remarried and remained there for the rest of his life.

Among many other sci-fi stories and novels, Asimov was the author of I Robot (1950), a novel containing a formal code of ethics for artificial intelligence (AI). But here’s the catch. The ethical code wasn’t-for users of AI, but for AI itself.  This code was presented way before many people started seriously asking if AI could possibly possess consciousness, a question now common among philosophers and geeks, alike.

Other commercially successful works include Pebble in the Sky (1950), The Caves of Steel (1954) and The Foundation Trilogy (1963).


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Frankenstein

Steel engraving (993 x 71mm) for frontispiece ...

Steel engraving (993 x 71mm) for frontispiece to the revised edition of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, published by Colburn and Bentley, London 1831. The novel was first published in 1818. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Frankenstein (Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus) is Mary Shelley‘s novel of 1818 in which a Baron Frankenstein creates a horrible monster by reassembling and electrifying body parts from exhumed cadavers. The monster is never called ‘Frankenstein’ in the book but the idea stuck.

Apparently Mary Shelley, the wife of the poet Percy Shelley, awoke one morning after dreaming of the unwritten novel. She quickly wrote the plot and opening pages. The story has been set to several films, the most notable starring Boris Karloff in Frankenstein (1931).

Ultimately Frankenstein is a tragedy as the monster eventually destroys its creator. Symbolically, the Frankenstein monster represents anyone who, for all intents and purposes, seems ‘dead,’ callous and uncaring.

Like all archetypal images, however, we’d do well to remember that, in most cases, they represent aspects of real people. As such most people are far more complicated, valuable, and redeemable than a mere caricature. They may seem to be totally evil, but in some instances they can still behave ethically. In a few instances of psychopathology (and evil), however, some individuals appear to become totally engulfed by archetypal forces (or demons).

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Faeries

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing via Wikipedia

Faeries are said to be supernatural beings that can appear and disappear at will. Usually smaller than human beings, Faeries may be helpful or malicious.

They are generally portrayed as living underwater (e.g. mermaids), underground (e.g. gnomes), in a magical forest region or in some far away land.

Some faeries enter into physical, enchanted or possibly mystical love and ethereal sex relations with human beings.

Various legends and theories try to account for their origin. Some say that fairies derive from animistic beliefs in which objects are said to contain spirits. Others see fairies as emerging from a belief in spirits of the dead residing in the underworld. The Celts, especially, saw Faeries as beings who fled from invading humans, taking refuge in the underworld.

Fairies have also been suggested to derive from the Furies of Greek and Roman myth.

Prince Arthur and the Fairy Queen.

Prince Arthur and the Fairy Queen via Wikipedia

Christians have seen Faeries as the unbaptized. Taking many forms worldwide, the actual term faery – indistinguishable from fairy – comes from  “fay-erie”, originally an enchanted land.

In Victorian England there’s a rich body of faerie art and literature—this unique style of Victorian art is still popular today, cropping up in illustrated books,  relaxation cd’s and many new age and holistic health products. And a more updated Faerie look appears in a good deal of fantasy fiction and movies.

Some scholars say the term “fairy tale” is misleading because the beings involved are often not fairies, per se. Meanwhile, the psychiatrist Carl Jung and Jungians like Marie-Louse Von Franz believe that the mythic structure of these stories reflects the archetypal nature of the individuation process—that is, the quest for ‘wholeness’ as Jung sees it.

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Holy Grail

"How at the Castle of Corbin a maiden bar...

"How at the Castle of Corbin a maiden bare in the Sangreal and foretold the achievements of Galahad via Wikipedia

The Holy Grail is the chalice that, according to legend, Christ and his disciplines drank from at the Last Supper. Joseph of Arimathea is said to have placed drops of Christ’s blood in the Grail before taking it to Glastonbury.

In Arthurian legend the cup is named Sangreal and was pursued by the Knights of the Round Table after it miraculously appeared at Pentecost, just above King Arthur’s famous Round Table.

Some scholars believe that the archetypal “Holy Cup” may have appeared in pre-Christian Celtic myth but by the 12th century the Grail was well established in medieval romantic literature. The most popular of these is Chrétien de Troyes and Robert de Boron’s Joseph d’Arimathie. But the idea first emerged in Perceval, le Conte du Graal (The Story of the Grail) by Chrétien de Troyes.

The Grail is first featured in Perceval, le Conte du Graal (The Story of the Grail) by Chrétien de Troyes, who claims he was working from a source book given to him by his patron, Count Philip of Flanders. In this incomplete poem, dated sometime between 1180 and 1191, the object has not yet acquired the implications of holiness it would have in later works. While dining in the magical abode of the Fisher King, Perceval witnesses a wondrous procession in which youths carry magnificent objects from one chamber to another, passing before him at each course of the meal. First comes a young man carrying a bleeding lance, then two boys carrying candelabras. Finally, a beautiful young girl emerges bearing an elaborately decorated graal, or “grail.”¹

The depth psychiatrist Carl Jung saw the Grail as a symbol of the eternal self, and other Jungians have gone into an elaborate archetypal analysis of the Grail story, conforming their interpretations to Jung’s theories.

More recently some treat the Holy Grail as historical fact instead of fiction or psychological fact. And new legends have arisen from that. But to most, complicated metaphysical Holy Grail theories, old and new, are at best legends intended to inspire. The more recent of these could also be calculated attempts to sell books to gullible consumers always on the watch for some ephemeral fascination.

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Grail#Beginnings_in_literature

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Perceval, le Conte du Graal (The Story of the Grail) by Chrétien de Troyes


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Star Trek: Enterprise

Star Trek: The Tour Beamed up in the Transporter: Conrad Quilty-Harper

Star Trek: The Tour Beamed up in the Transporter: Conrad Quilty-Harper

Star Trek: Enterprise

The most recent incarnation in the Star Trek TV series, running for four seasons from 2001-2005.

The action is set in the future but before the time of Captain Kirk (of the original series).

This is the story of the very first U.S.S. Enterprise, equipped with new warp drive technology, all set to leave Earth and our solar system for deep space exploration.

The alien, technologically superior and emotionless Vulcan race has been present on Earth for a while, holding back the Earth space program because the apparently ‘overly emotional’ human race wasn’t ready for extended inter-species contact.

Captain Jonathan Archer doesn’t like how the Vulcans have been stalling humanity for years, but initial tensions between Archer and his Vulcan Science Officer, T’Pol, gradually resolve into mutual respect.

At first, the series received encouraging reviews but soon after its fan base dwindled and, despite attempts at innovation, the show became increasingly juvenile and Enterprise eventually ‘fell out of warp’ in the TV ratings.

However, Enterprise did have its bright moments amidst the steady decline, especially when dealing with the topic of time travel. And the cultural and mythic importance of the entire Star Trek franchise is hard to overlook. The Oxford English Dictionary, for instance, now includes the word Klingon.

» Abyss, Angels, Borg, Chakotay (Commander), Chekov (Pavol), Data (Commander), Dax, Jadzia, Dreamtime, Janeway (Captain Katherine), Kardasians, Kirk (James T.), Klingons, Odo, Prime Directive, Q, Relations of Production, Roberts (Jane), Roddenberry (Gene),Romulans, Sargon, Science Fiction, Seven of Nine, Sisko (Commander Benjamin), Siva, Spock, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: Voyager, Sulu, Tek War, Temporal Paradox, Third Eye, T’Pol, Trickster, Uhura (Lieutenant), Vulcan, Worf

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2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Science-fiction novel by Arthur C. Clarke, as well as a film with screenplay by Clarke and Stanley Kubrick, starring Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood.

While the novel helps to flesh out the enigmatic film, it’s a bit pedantic. The film, on the other hand, is regarded as a cinematic classic.

In the film two interconnected themes are explored with a bare minimum of dialogue: (1) Mankind vs. Machine, and (2) Mankind in Evolution.

The machine, a HAL 9000 computer, malfunctions and murders astronaut Frank Pool and several others traveling in suspended animation en route to Jupiter (Saturn in the novel). The lone survivor, Dave Bowman, disconnects HAL’s higher processing modules, despite HAL’s advice to “take a stress pill, relax, and think it over.”

Bowman is then transported through an alien gateway to a distant world. Dying, he is reborn a Star Child.

In Clarke’s original story the child-god returns to Earth to safely detonate an orbiting hydrogen bomb. Unsure what to do next, he will “think of something.”

The catalyst for the Jupiter mission (and eventual transformation of Bowman) is a strange signal emanating from an anomalous, rectangular object discovered just underneath the Moon’s surface.

The film tells us that another, identical object was present on Earth at the dawn of mankind. The novel explains that the object, often called the monolith, was planted by aliens in order to guide the evolution of mankind.

The screenplay is far more open-ended than the novel. But both portray astronaut Dave Bowman’s metamorphosis in a way consistent with various mythic cycles relating to the theme of death and transformation.

Subsequent novels like 2010 (also a film), 2064 and 3001 use the literary device of retroactive continuity. That is, certain plot and setting details are modified by Clarke but not at the expense of a greater, more holistic sense of coherence. For instance, in the sequel film 2010 we learn that the HAL 9000 was told to lie by Washington, which was incompatible with HAL’s programming. So the computer’s somewhat sinister ‘malfunction’ of 2001 becomes something more of an unavoidable and forgivable psychosis ultimately caused by human error, as HAL ironically indicated in the original film.  

3001 explores an intriguing idea where consciousness of human origin (Dave Bowman) unites with a computer program (HAL) to create a new kind of hybrid named Halman. » Cylons

Official 2001: A Space Odyssey Trailer

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