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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).



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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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.


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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.

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Worf (Lieutenant)

Worf, Lieutenant Worf

Originally uploaded by patries71

Worf (Lieutenant)

A Klingon officer in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine played by actor Michael Dorn.

Unlike the hostile Klingons of the original Star Trek, Worf and his race are allied with the Federation of Planets, a federation that includes Earth.

Apparently Star Trek producer Gene Roddenberry initially didn’t envision Worf as a regular in the series because he didn’t want to rehash existing themes from the original TV series (i.e. the Klingons).

But Worf’s popularity was undeniable, and Roddenberry along with subsequent producers modified their outlook regarding the Star Trek mythos, embracing and adapting past episodes to further enhance the overall story, which in literary circles is recognized as a device called ‘retroactive continuity.’

» Star Trek: Enterprise, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: The Original Series

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Wells, H.G.

Steampunk (photo by vonslatt)

Originally uploaded by pashasha

Wells, H. G. (Herbert George, 1866-1946)

British author born in Bromley, Kent, who once taught at a Grammar School.

He went on to study biology and taught at the Universal Tutorial College while writing short stories on the side and dabbling in liberal-progressive politics and human rights issues.

The success of his short stories lead him to pursue a full-time writing career that produced over 100 books and articles.

Wells is regarded by many as the father of modern science fiction, a title also given to Jules Verne.

He is credited with authoring several 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.

Concerning religion, in one letter 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?’

Source »

Wells, however, did seem to have 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.

Source »

Among many other successful comedic and dramatic works, he additionally wrote an impressive two-volume Outline of History (1920).

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» Alien Possession Theory (APT)

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Originally uploaded by Grumpstone


A fictional team of mutant superheroes with special abilities created by Marvel Comics writers Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

The original comic series has been successfully translated into a film trilogy and an animated TV series.

There is also an American and Canadian science fiction television show called Mutant X that is based on the original Marvel comic strip.

The idea of X-Men compels us to remember that genetic mutation and recombination need not always be bad.

Society’s condemnation of the X-Men and their genetically enhanced abilities is unfounded, even paranoid, and might parallel present misunderstandings and tensions between those lying in the middle and at the extremes of the so-called normal bell curve.

Quite possibly some of today’s “freaks and geeks” represent a kind of precursor to the next stage of human evolution.

It has also been argued that X-Men is a symbolic protest against current forms of racism and discrimination that different religious, ethnic and status groups may hold toward one another. » Science Fiction

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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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