Ray Guns, Robots and Spaceships, Oh My! The Birth of Science Fiction Toys

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 164 – May 2020

When we think of archaeological digs, most of us picture Indiana Jones in search of ancient civilizations, but just as often, they are conducted on far more modern sites to learn how people lived in the recent past. Not long ago they conducted a dig in the Shenandoah National Park. Back in the twenties and […]

A Machine for Telling Stories: Tarot and Speculative Fiction

NON-FICTION by Carrie Sessarego in Issue 163 – April 2020

In his book The Castle of Crossed Destinies, Italo Calvino refers to tarot as “a machine for telling stories.” Writers have been using tarot cards as a storytelling device since the Italian and European Renaissance. Tarot appears in fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and speculative fiction works, including The Castle of Crossed Destinies. “Tarot” refers to […]

Separated at Birth? Occultism, Science Fiction, and Why People Can't Tell Them Apart

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 162 – March 2020

Things are not always what they appear to be. For example, take The Suns of Easter Island (1972), a film by French New Wave director Pierre Kast. The basic premise is familiar. So familiar, in fact, that one has to keep reminding oneself that it was made several years before a certain far better-known film. […]

Jules Verne and a Journey Through Genre

NON-FICTION by Carrie Sessarego in Issue 161 – February 2020

Before science fiction was called science fiction, a hybrid category existed called scientific romance. Combining elements of fantasy, realism, and futuristic or alternative technologies, this genre formed a bridge between the medieval and the modern. In this essay we’ll explore the role that French author Jules Verne played in scientific romance and in the development […]

Reshuffling Evolution

NON-FICTION by Douglas F. Dluzen in Issue 160 – January 2020

In February 2001, a draft version of the human genomic sequence, over three billion DNA base pairs in length, was completed. Knowing the sequence of the human genome encouraged the development of biotechnology that has advanced personalized medicine, biomedical research, and catalyzed provocative discoveries in human evolution and migration. Yet, perhaps the most fascinating discovery […]

But Is It Art? Science Fiction that Isn't Really Science Fiction

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 159 – December 2019

It sounds familiar. A tough, intergalactic private eye goes to a city enslaved by a giant supercomputer, to arrest or kill its creator and shut down the computer. But somehow it isn’t familiar—or perhaps too familiar, as Alphaville is just bits of the real Paris. Then, there are the truly strange parts: the bizarre swimming […]

Dracula and Modern Anxiety

NON-FICTION by Carrie Sessarego in Issue 158 – November 2019

The Victorian era, which lasted from 1837 to 1901, saw the rise of many iconic monsters in literature. One of the most enduring was Count Dracula, the villain of Dracula by Bram Stoker. The novel, published in 1882, was an immediate success in England and America. However, Stoker had no idea that the novel would […]

Destination: Luna

NON-FICTION by Andrew Liptak in Issue 157 – October 2019

Throughout history, humans have been entranced by our closest celestial neighbor, the Moon. It provided the inspiration for countless stories over time, but it wasn’t until 1969 when a pair of astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted the first footsteps on its surface. The last Apollo mission took off from the Moon in 1972, […]

Staying with the End of the World: SF Futures of Hope during Ecological Devastation

NON-FICTION by Eleanna Castroianni in Issue 156 – September 2019

By the end of the twenty-first century we might lose the majority of all species. Worse, this widely read academic paper claims that we have only about a decade left before facing irreparable consequences of climate change (that is, before everyone faces them. The underprivileged already do). Landscapes of ruination constitute the effects of what […]

It Came From the Garage! Technology, Film, and the Guy Next Door

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 155 – August 2019

“Who is this guy?” There in the midst of Amazon’s suggested list of horror and science fiction films was a series of what appeared to be lost Fifties films. Except that they were new, and the work of someone named Christopher R. Mihm. “Who is this guy?” This time it was lurid covers promising octopus […]

Carbon Planets

NON-FICTION by Tomas Petrasek in Issue 155 – August 2019

Imagine standing on a beach of diamonds. You can see the crystals glittering against the backdrop of a black, sticky goo. The waves washing ashore are oily, pitch-black, coming across a sea of tar, without a single drop of water. A scorching desert of sootlike dust stretches inland, toward the horizon where it meets the […]

Tolkien and World War I

NON-FICTION by Carrie Sessarego in Issue 154 – July 2019

Critics and readers are always fascinated by the intersection of life and art. When analyzing author J. R. R. Tolkien, who is most famous for The Lord of the Rings, he is no exception. For instance, the recent film Tolkien sought to link the writer’s experiences in World War I with his work. During his […]

Love at Stake

NON-FICTION by Carrie Sessarego in Issue 153 – June 2019

It’s been twenty years since Buffy Summers won the “Class Protector” award at Senior Prom, but her legacy never even slows down. Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiered in 1997. Every week for the first two seasons the show opened with the words, “In every generation there is a Chosen One. She alone will stand against […]

Supernatural Brontës

NON-FICTION by Carrie Sessarego in Issue 152 – May 2019

Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are classic novels that can be reasonably placed in many different areas of the library. They contain within their pages romance, mystery, coming of age stories, and morality tales. They could also belong in the speculative fiction section, due to their reliance on supernatural elements in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre […]

Talking Cells: Deciphering the Messages in Our Blood

NON-FICTION by Douglas F. Dluzen in Issue 151 – April 2019

The average human has between 4.7 to 5.7 liters of blood, all traveling throughout nearly 100,000 kilometers (approximately 60,000 miles) of arteries, veins, and capillaries that form the circulatory system. We’re quite familiar with the functions and purposes of many of the larger biological components found in our blood. Recently, scientists have discovered that our […]

The Magician's Garden

NON-FICTION by Paul Riddell in Issue 150 – March 2019

It’s a very old trope in fantasy stories and games: the wizard or healer who needs an incredibly rare, delicate, or deadly flower, leaf, root, or bark for a critical bit of magic, and the plant from which it grows may only be found an inconvenient distance away. It may be that the spell is so rarely […]

The Mighty Feats of the Everyday Microbe

NON-FICTION by Douglas F. Dluzen in Issue 149 – February 2019

“The Martians—dead! . . . slain, after all man’s devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth.” —The War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells, 1897 Just about everywhere you look an invisible (and humble) presence lurks, a horde of single-cellular organisms that is found on every surface of […]

Eros, Phileo, Agape, Storge: Love and Romance in Science Fiction

NON-FICTION by Carrie Sessarego in Issue 148 – January 2019

The romance and science fiction genres have often been at odds, yet science fiction, on page and on screen, has given us some of the most iconic love stories of all time. Romance serves many purposes in fiction in general, and these functions certainly apply to science fiction. Additionally, romance in science fiction helps us […]

The Modern Search for the Fountain of Youth

NON-FICTION by Douglas F. Dluzen, PhD in Issue 147 – December 2018

Please forgive Juan Ponce de Leon, but the secrets to human immortality don’t reside in Florida. He should have traveled west to Southern California, near present day Loma Linda, or south to the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica. Or, instead of crossing the Atlantic altogether, he could have set sail to the more familiar Mediterranean […]

Melon Farmers! Science Fiction Stumbles on the Way to the Theater

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 146 – November 2018

There’s an old saying about five-star restaurants: you do not want to see the kitchen. Let’s face it: sometimes you are better off not knowing how things get made. That certainly applies to movies. Film is a big business, which devours vast quantities of money and talent—and too often, the talent finds itself at the […]

Endless Forms Most Horrible: Parasites and SF

NON-FICTION by Julie Nováková in Issue 145 – October 2018

“Certain wasp-like insects, which construct in the corners of the verandahs clay cells for their larvae, are very numerous in the neighbourhood of Rio. These cells they stuff full of half-dead spiders and caterpillars, which they seem wonderfully to know how to sting to that degree as to leave them paralysed but alive, until their […]

How and Why CRISPR Will Change the World

NON-FICTION by Doug Dluzen in Issue 144 – September 2018

There is a silent war that is waging on every surface of the planet, in every droplet of water, and on the skin and within the bodies of everyone you know. It’s hypothesized by some that this war began near the dawn of life on Earth. Almost certainly, we have that war to thank for […]

Mary and the Monster: The Life of Mary Godwin Shelley

NON-FICTION by Carrie Sessarego in Issue 143 – August 2018

This year is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Often considered to be the first science fiction novel, this book tells the story of mad scientist Victor Frankenstein and the creature that he creates and then rejects, with disastrous consequences. Rejection, loss, and the destruction of families were ever-present in […]

The Monster at the Movies: Film Adaptations of Frankenstein

NON-FICTION by Carrie Sessarego in Issue 142 – July 2018

Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein is 200 years old this year. First published in 1818, the story tells of a scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who becomes obsessed with reanimating the dead. Victor creates a monster who is never named. In the book, the Monster is also called “the creature,” “the devil,” and “the daemon.” In most movies, […]

The Effects of Space and Other Worlds on the Human Body

NON-FICTION by Douglas F. Dluzen, PhD in Issue 141 – June 2018

Our success at establishing a permanent Moon colony or brushing gloved fingertips through Martian soil is intimately tied with how our bodies handle extended periods of living in non-Earth gravitational environments. If the human body can’t adapt to these conditions, it will be impossible to further explore the heavens until our spaceships can support sustained […]

Metallic Mayhem in the Movies: Giant Mecha, Then and Now

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 140 – May 2018

It’s hard to explain that moment . . . Something moved in the hazy distance of a vast white plain, and an army of machines emerged from the mist. And for an instant, it was no longer The Last Jedi. It was 1981 and the Imperial Walkers had begun their assault on Hoth. It was—and years later, still […]

Inspiring Writers with Four Scientific Breakthroughs

NON-FICTION by Lucas Rosa in Issue 139 – April 2018

One of the key features of science fiction is the speculation about the future of human technology and its relationship with our kind. Thus, keeping up-to-date with scientific advancements is an important activity for writers of the genre. In the laboratories of research institutes all around the world, true magic is being made right now, […]

Aliens Among Us: Cephalopods in Science Fiction and Fantasy

NON-FICTION by Carrie Sessarego in Issue 138 – March 2018

In 2015, the news briefly and erroneously lit up with the announcement that science had revealed that octopuses are actually aliens. The misunderstanding stemmed from a quote from Nature: “It’s the first sequenced genome from something like an alien,” jokes neurobiologist Clifton Ragsdale of the University of Chicago in Illinois, who co-led the genetic analysis […]

The Undiscovered Country: Planets of Dead Stars

NON-FICTION by Julie Nováková in Issue 137 – February 2018

The solar system is dying. It’s happening slowly, but inevitably. In approximately six billion years, the Sun will become a red giant: a bloated star burning up hydrogen in its outer shell. It will have engulfed Mercury and Venus and, possibly, Earth. While our beloved planet may survive the event, it would do so as […]

Why Science Fiction Detective Stories Aren't Impossible

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 136 – January 2018

Perhaps it wouldn’t have been as bad without all the buildup. Episode after episode, Doctor Who regaled us with stories about Madame Vastra, a reptilian Silurian living in Victorian England, and her prodigious detective skills: The police always went to her with their difficult cases. She was the basis for all those stories about Sherlock […]
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