Tuesday, July 23, 2019

THE BARE-CHESTED PHYSICIST AND THE DEEP-CLEAVAGED MICROBIOLOGIST




INTRODUCING MY LATEST NOVEL
A CONTEMPORARY SCIENTIFIC ROMANCE






My latest novel, Journey to Where, is now available from Third Street Press at all your favorite online bookstores in both ebook and print editions. And while I am thrilled about that—and would be thrilled if you were thrilled—it seems I need to apologize like an ill-spoken politician for having confused people by labeling the novel as a Contemporary Scientific Romance.



No, folks, the cover of my book does not feature a handsome and hunky bare-chested physicist with his strong arms wrapped around a deep-cleavaged and wasp-waisted gorgeous microbiologist. As you can plainly see above.


Nor is it the story of two PhDs in science making quantum leaps while cavorting in the groves of academe leading to passionate-down-to-their-particles coitus under peer review. A story featuring such dialog as, “Why, Dr. Johnson...you’re beautiful when you put your glasses on!” Or, “You make me so uncertain, Dr. Heisenberg. I can either accept the position of your love, or it’s velocity, but I can’t do both!”


So what the hell do I mean by a contemporary scientific romance? Well, I would hope most fans of science fiction would know that scientific romance is a term that was (and is) applied to early versions of science fiction from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. You know, the grand visions of the likes of H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his Professor Challenger stories, and even Edgar Rice Burroughs in his Mars and Pellucidar novels. Those stories that often took scientists and/or adventurers to strange other worlds far into the future, or deep into the unfathomable oceans or unknown interiors of the Earth, or to lost worlds and civilizations that skipped History, or to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.



















































Now the scientific part of the term is understandable, although many of these works feature more fanciful scientific speculation than hard science, especially from today’s perspective. But what about the romance part? Like many words, romance has several definitions. The pertinent one here is A fictitious tale of wonderful and extraordinary events, characterized by a nonrealistic and idealizing use of the imagination. 





But whatever the derivation of the term is, what really matters to my novel, is that the term harkens back to those grand amazing and fantastic stories written in the decades around the turn from the 19th to the 20th century that had an impact on a certain young boy in the 1950s and 60s either in their original prose form



or in their exciting film adaptations




















that made him all wide-eyed and dreaming of realms—not beyond the imagination, because, obviously, somebody imagined them—but certainly beyond the not-fantastic-at-all and too-easily-imagined Southern California suburb he grew up in.




And so, in Journey to Where, I wanted to harken back to those works of scientific romance. But I did not want to write a pastiche. That is, a near copy of a Victorian/Edwardian scientific romance written in Victorian/Edwardian prose taking place in Victorian/Edwardian times. This is where the contemporary part of my label comes in. 


Here’s the Third Street Press summary of Journey to Where.


When a radical experiment into the nature of time is sabotaged, the scientific team finds themselves in an alternate universe, where humans never became the dominant life force. Instead, dinosaurs evolved into intelligent bipeds, developing language and societal structures. 


The scientists have to learn to communicate with this alien species, who view them as unusual pets, and figure out how to recreate the original experiment in a non-industrialized world, so they can go back home—assuming there’s a home, or even a universe, to return to. 


But the scientist who sabotaged them is trapped in this new world with them. And he’s looking to rise to power, even if his quest means the death of his traveling companions.


The story starts in the near future, maybe twenty or thirty years from now. As to Where it exactly goes from there? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find that out. 


Where it goes thematically from there is another matter. Of all the writers of scientific romances, I most related to H.G. Wells. I mean, I would have been a Fabian if I hadn't preferred Frankie Avalon.

(If you get that joke you are either well-versed in 20th Century social and pop-culture history—or you're just old)


Wells was a scientist who definitely tried to predict the impact of technology on human society. But his main interest was not the technology but our society. Although I have a deep respect for scientists, I am not one. When I work in this genre now loosely called science fiction, do not expect any hard scientific speculation from me. As with my novel, Traveling in Space, it is more the—to borrow a term from film studies—Mise-en-scène of science fictions I adopt than any hard scientific concepts. And I always have an ulterior motive in doing so, namely to portray some possible truths about us, we two-leggers, we humans of both creative and destructive intelligence. In Journey to Where I take the reader on a fantastic journey far from home to speak about something far too close to home. How close? Well, let’s just say that although this story was conceived first written as a screenplay years ago, it is now contemporary in its relevance to the world’s current dark political clouds. 


But that's not to say that it's not also a fun read!

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If you would like to take the Journey to Where you can find it on Amazon HERE, and other online bookstores.

And you can check out my other books, and what a few kind people have said about them, HERE

For more information on scientific romances, you can turn to the ever-popular Wikipedia HERE.     



Monday, July 15, 2019

MOON MAD







This is the week of celebrating the 50th anniversary of humankind’s (well, it wasn’t going to be in other kind’s, was it?) first landing and walking on the moon (July 20, 1969). And I am allowing myself to feel the twitter-like vibrations of thrill.




Those who know me well know that I have been moon mad from a very young age. It’s not quite been full lunacy, I don't quite wear my moon madness on my sleeve, but I have been known to wear it on my chest.








And it did lead me to write my play, Made on the Moon, which had its world premiere at the 1996 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.






The play was staged by a young company of actors from London and ran for the three weeks of the festival. It received a fairly positive four-star review from The Scotsman, which I don’t remember in full, but I do remember that the review said that the play “...would not be dismissed from the stage.” Which meant, I think, that the reviewer appreciated it as a fully theatrical work of art.




Despite that assessment, I dismissed Made on the Moon from the stage a couple of years back and adapted it as a novella, which has been published by Crossroad Press.





It received some positive reaction as well, and these I remember.


"With just enough satirical elements to emphasize the blurred line between logic and insanity, true fans of Science Fiction will find a kindred attachment with the Stanley Lewis character. It is a hero's journey, a relentless determination to dream the impossible. Made on the Moon by Steven Paul Leiva shows us that reaching for the stars is not just a dream, for some, it is a way of life." -- Ricky L. Brown, Amazing Stories Magazine


“Leiva has crafted a satire – perhaps a self-satire – with a very warm heart. If you’ve ever dreamed of flying in space or walking on the Moon, you’ll get the point of this story and you’ll love every page.” -- Russell Blackford, author of Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination.


In both versions, the first half of Made on the Moon has very definite autobiographical elements. The second half most definitely does not! And in writing it I learned that I was, without a doubt, a writer. And I learned what it means to fashion fiction that, it is hoped, resonates beyond just the twitter-like vibrations of thrill. For the piece started out, many years ago, as a simple polemic in support of the space program, but became something much more complex than that. Something that allowed me to explore myself with a cold eye, and society with an even colder one. All while having a few laughs along the way.


But, still, it’s genesis was my fascination and love of the moon and of our successful effort to reach it—even if our motivation to do so was not as pure as I would have liked. 




At the wrap party for the Edinburgh run, the cast and crew presented me with our poster all signed by themand a title page from my playscript autographed by Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon!

How the hell did they pull that off?

While the company was rehearsing Made on the Moon in London they heard that Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, was on a UK book tour for his novel, Encounter at Tiber (co-authored with John Barnes), was now in London. Tom Knight, who played Stanley Lewis, the protagonist of the play went to one of Aldrin’s book signings and asked him to autograph the title page. It was pretty gutsy of them, asking an author to autograph someone else’s work. But it was certainly appropriate as Aldrin has a few lines heard offstage in Made on the Moon. Being both gutsy and appropriate, I was deeply moved by the gift and damn appreciative. 





And it has remained a prized possession.

















Later that year back in Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to meet Aldrin during his American book signing tour. I accompanied my good friend, producer and manager Ken Kragen (The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour; the Kenny Rogers “Gambler” movies) to the headquarters of The Planetary Society where Aldrin was having a special book signing for members. Ken is a lover of astronomy and the space program and had bought at an auction one of Aldrin’s flight suits, which adorned a mannequin in his office for years. 





I thanked Aldrin for signing my play and, of course, now had the pleasure to have him sign a copy of his book. After all, it was only fair. 







I had another opportunity to meet and speak with Aldrin when we were both attending an awards banquet at which Ken Kragen was being honored as a “Father of the Year.” Which, by the way, was well-deserved. Aldrin was gracious and we briefly talked about going to Mars. Not he and I in particular, of course, but good old humankind in general.

The last time I saw Aldrin was during a special screening of François Truffaut's film version of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 during Ray Bradbury Week in Los Angeles which I created and produced in 2010 in honor of Ray's 90th birthday. The screening was sponsored by Hugh Hefner and the Playboy Foundation and took place at the Writers Guild Theatre in Beverly Hills. Aldrin came to the event and I took him into the green room to see Ray before the screening. It was rather grand to see the great space dreamer in conversation with a great space doer.




I intend to have a lovely week of remembering watching live on television Aldrin and Armstrong walking on the moon and feeling again what I felt then. And reliving the thrill of being able to meet live-in-person a man who had been to the moon. After all, Stanley Lewis's first line of dialog in Made on the Moon is, "I had wanted to go to the moon from the time I was an infant."
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Made on the Moon, the novella is available as an ebook on Amazon. Crossroad Press has discounted it to 99 cents. Hey, that’s nowhere near what it cost to go to the moon! Check it out.