Take Me To Your Leader

The psychedelic aliens on this book cover just scream campy. Which is a shame since many of the short stories in Creatures from Beyond are wonderfully written and inducted me into the science fiction fan club.  Terry Carr collected and published these nine tales in 1975.  While that easily qualifies them as retro sci-fi, their original publication dates reveal them as positively vintage.  The oldest was written in 1927!

Creatures From Beyond, edited by Terry Carr, 1975
Creatures From Beyond, edited by Terry Carr, 1975

Post Format:  Blast from the Past…or is it?

To be sure, Mystery Science Theater 3000 would have a field day with some of these tales.  But more than a few represent great storytelling.

The Mimic by Donald Wolheim, 1942: This story takes real science and puts it on steroids. (I’ll take this kind of sci-fi any day over dueling space ships and galactic intrigue.) The narrator is a young man who works in a natural history museum classifying and mounting insects.  Through him, we get a fascinating science lesson on nature’s survivalist skills of camouflage and mimicry. Examples include one beetle species whose false markings and erratic speed allow it to live unnoticed and unharmed among predatory army ants. He goes on to describe man

Popular culture many have overlooked Clifford C. Simak (1904-1988). But this science fiction author is a superstar to many for the humanicty and subtle humor found in his storeis. One German fan even operates a Simak website devoted to keeping this author's memory alive! I sure plan on reading more from writer.
Popular culture  has overlooked Clifford D. Simak (1904-1988). But this science fiction author is a superstar to many for the humanity and subtle humor found in his stories. One German fan even operates a Simak website devoted to keeping his memory alive! I sure plan on reading more from this writer.

as the “greatest killer, the greatest hunter of them all.” Could there be mimics surviving unnoticed among humans?  This clever, horrific story answers that very question.

The Street that Wasn’t There by Clifford D. Simak and Carl Jacobi, 1941: An old professor takes the same walk every evening but discovers one day that a whole street has simply disappeared!  This is a beautifully written, convincing story that had me wondering what is real and what isn’t.

Dear Devil by Eric Frank Russell, 1950: Okay, so the hero of this tale is a blue alien who communicates through tentacles.  But you’ll fall genuinely in love with him anyway.  The setting is a familiar one in sci-fi, a post-apocalyptic world with a handful of human survivors.  But the ending is anything but bleak thanks in large part to this generous, intelligent Martian.  Dear Devil closes out Carr’s collection and is easily my favorite.

Bonus Bit: Got a long, sit-down task ahead of you? For entertainment, play this 35-minute YouTube clip of Peter Yearsley reading The Street That Wasn’t There.

QUESTION: Do you have any great sci-fi writer/story recommendations?

*Please click on the comment button at the top of this post to share.

 

Author Loves Being Called a Copycat

America's Most Wanted Recipes Kids Menu by Ron Douglass, 2015
America’s Most Wanted Recipes Kids’ Menu by Ron Douglas, 2015

Eating out is fun, but not budget friendly. Enter cookbook author Ron Douglas.  He has spent the past 12 years developing recipes of favorite restaurant dishes for the home cook.  His cookbook line of copycat recipes have sold 1.2 million copies worldwide. His latest, America’s Most Wanted Recipes Kids’ Menu, features dishes kids love to order.  Some of the offerings include Cracker Barrel’s peach cobbler, Panera Bread’s Mac and Cheese and Ruby Tuesday’s chicken quesadillas.

Cookbook author Ron Douglass. Cl;ick here for an interview with Douglass on his creative process.
Cookbook author Ron Douglas. Click here for an interview with Douglas on his creative process.

Post Format: TRIVIA

Douglas’ route to cookbook stardom was not typical.  If you read the book’s introduction (like any self-respecting book nerd, I did) you learn Douglas had a good job on Wall Street.  But the 60 to 80 work weeks left little time for family.  So in 2004, he chose to pursue his love of cooking full time.  That’s impressive enough.  But I also learned that both of his parents were heroin addicts.  His father actually died from an overdose before he was born.

“Statistically, I had a slim chance of succeeding in life.  Neither genetics nor environment was on my side,” Douglas says.

Bonus Bit: Starbucks’ Vanilla Scones are a rare treat for my son and me.  So we just had to try making them ourselves using this copycat recipe.

Here’s how it went:

1. We gathered our ingredients.
1. We gathered our ingredients.
2. We mixed them together.
2. We mixed them together.
3. We baked them.
3. We baked them.
4. We tasted them. They were cakier than Starbuck's sconces and my son felt that the icing could have been thicker and whiter. But they were delicious!
4. We tasted them. They were cakier than Starbucks’ scones and my son felt that the icing could have been thicker and whiter. But they really were delicious!