Wednesday, December 7, 2016

This Week on Rare Book Cafe-

This Week on Rare Book Cafe: December 10, 2016


Rare Book Cafe’s second-show guest in our new series is another prominent Florida author, Rick Wilber. He’ll be joining the RBC team on a visit December 10, 2016, from 2.30 to 3.30 pm EST.

Sponsored by the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair, Rare Book Cafe can be seen on the Book Fair blog and on the Cafe’s Facebook page.

If you’d like to join us in the virtual studio audience on Google Hangouts, email us at rarebookcafe@gmail for an entry code!

Wilber sat down with co-host Lindsay Thompson at Rare Book Cafe’s Facebook page a couple of weeks ago to give us a preview of his visit to the show. Among other things, he reassured us that all the hardships of interplanetary travel, and colonizing other worlds, will be as nothing because, when we get there, there will be baseball.

Wilber’s work covers way more than interstellar grandslams and alien free-agency deals, though, as his website reveals:

Rick Wilber is an award-winning writer, editor and teacher who has published more than forty short stories, several novels and short-story collections, two edited anthologies, a memoir, and a half-dozen college textbooks on writing and the mass media.

Alien Morning, his new novel for Tor Books, is the first of a trilogy based on his long-running S’hudonni Empire series of stories, featuring a jovial but deadly alien named Twoclicks, his shape-changing sidekick, and an all-too human journalist from Earth, Peter Holman, a one-time professional athlete turned celebrity journo who goes to work for the S’hudonni as their media interface with Earth. Of the novel, award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Julie Czerneda says, “Brilliantly crafted, fiercely real, Alien Morning is first contact as it may very well happen: experienced by one, shared by all who subscribe. Relentless and original, this is science fiction that matters now. Highly Recommended.”

Wilber’s most recent fiction is the short story, “Rambunctious” in the June 2016 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine, and the novelette “Walking to Boston” in the October/November issue of the same magazine. He is also notable as an award-winning and prolific writer in the field of baseball fantasy, with some fifteen baseball-themed stories published in Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Elysian Fields Quarterly, Spitball and elsewhere. He is the editor of the recent anthology Field of Fantasies: Baseball Stories of the Strange and Supernatural (Night Shade/Skyhorse, 2014), featuring nearly two-dozen classic baseball fantasy stories by writers ranging from Stephen King and Stewart O’Nan to Karen Joy Fowler, Jack Kerouac, Rod Serling, John Kessel, Harry Turtledove, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Robert Coover, Kim Stanley Robinson, Louise Marley, Ron Carlson, W.P. Kinsella, and many others. Wilber’s series of alternate-history stories about famous World War II baseball player and spy, Moe Berg, have been appearing in Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine and include the novelette “Something Real,” which won the Sidewise Award for Best Alternate History—Short Form, in 2012. His baseball mystery novel, Rum Point (McFarland, 2009) won the Paparazzi Small Press Award for Best Sports Novel—Baseball. He is also the author of a memoir, My Father’s Game: Life, Death, Baseball (McFarland, 2007) about the caregiving role and about his father’s career in baseball. Broad Street Review said it’s a book “about the mythology of baseball … written with fine observation and wry understatement, and may well become a classic in the literature.”

Wilber lives in the St. Petersburg, Florida area of the West Coast of Florida and that area’s barrier islands have often figured into his stories and novels. Alien Morning is set primarily on one of those islands. Important parts of the novel also take place in Ireland, where Wilber led college students on for-credit study tours every summer. He has been to Ireland more than two-dozen times, often for lengthy stays.

A longtime journalism and mass-media professor, Wilber is administrator and co-founder with Sheila Williams, editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine, of the Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing, awarded annually at the Conference on the Fantastic in Orlando, Florida. He is married and has two adult children.


During the show, cohost Thorne Donnelley will show us a fine copy of Edward Bellamy’s scifi novel, Looking Backward. Now largely forgotten, though still in print, the book was the third-best-selling book in 19th century America, and spawned dozens of rebuttal and fan fiction sequels well into the 20th century.

Bellamy's novel tells the story of a hero figure named Julian West, a young American who, towards the end of the 19th century, falls into a deep, hypnosis-induced sleep and wakes up one hundred and thirteen years later. He finds himself in the same location (Boston, Massachusetts), but in a totally changed world: It is the year 2000 and, while he was sleeping, the United States has been transformed into a socialist utopia.

The remainder of the book outlines Bellamy's thoughts about improving the future. The major themes include problems associated with capitalism, a proposed socialist solution of a nationalization of all industry, the use of an "industrial army" to organize production and distribution, as well as how to ensure free cultural production under such conditions.
The young man readily finds a guide, Doctor Leete, who shows him around and explains all the advances of this new age; including drastically reduced working hours for people performing menial jobs and almost instantaneous, Internet-like delivery of goods.

Everyone retires with full benefits at age 45, and may eat in any of the public kitchens. The productive capacity of the United States is nationally owned, and the goods of society are equally distributed to its citizens. A considerable portion of the book is dialogue between Leete and West wherein West expresses his confusion about how the future society works and Leete explains the answers using various methods, such as metaphors or direct comparisons with 19th-century society.

Although Bellamy's novel did not discuss technology or the economy in detail, commentators frequently compare Looking Backward with actual economic and technological developments. For example, Julian West is taken to a store which (with its descriptions of cutting out the middleman to cut down on waste in a similar way to the consumers' cooperatives of his own day based on the Rochdale Principles of 1844) somewhat resembles a modern warehouse club like BJ's, Costco, or Sam's Club.

He additionally introduces a concept of "credit" cards in chapters 9, 10, 11, 13, 25, and 26, but these actually function like modern debit cards. All citizens receive an equal amount of "credit." Those with more difficult, specialized, dangerous or unpleasant jobs work fewer hours (in contrast to the real-world practice of paying them more for their efforts of, presumably, the same hours). Bellamy also predicts both sermons and music being available in the home through cable "telephone" (already demonstrated but commercialized only in 1890 as Th√©√Ętrophone in France). Bellamy labeled the philosophy behind the vision "nationalism", and his work inspired the formation of more than 160 Nationalist Clubs to propagate his ideas.

Despite the "ethical" character of his socialism (though he was initially reluctant to use the term "socialism"), Bellamy's ideas somewhat reflect classical Marxism. In Chapter 19, for example, he has the new legal system explained. Most civil suits have ended in socialism, while crime has become a medical issue. The idea of atavism, then current, is employed to explain crimes not related to inequality (which Bellamy thinks will vanish with socialism). Remaining criminals are medically treated. One professional judge presides, appointing two colleagues to state the prosecution and defense cases. If all do not agree on the verdict, then it must be tried over. Chapter 15 and 16 have an explanation of how free, independent public art and news outlets could be provided in a more libertarian socialist system. In one case Bellamy even writes "the nation is the sole employer and capitalist"...

Here’s some of what’s going on in the world of books:

  • It’s 136 days until the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair begins its three-day 2017 run.

  • It’s been a big week for literary birthdays:

12/4 Thomas Carlyle (1795), Samuel Butler (1835) and Rilke (1875); 12/5 Joan Didion (1934) and John Berendt (1939); 12/6 Mary Barnard (1909) and Sylvia Townsend Warner (1893); 12/7 Willa Cather (1873) and Robert Graves (1895); 12/8 Horace (65 BC); Amanda McKittrick Ros (1860); James Thurber (1894) and Delmore Schwartz (1913); 12/9 Milton (1609); and Joel Chandler Harris (1848).

  • December 7 marked the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and America’ entry into World War II. Four years of diamond anniversaries await observation.

  • Actor Kirk Douglas celebrated his one hundredth birthday December 9. His nineteenth book is set for publication next May.

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