Science Fiction and the Red Planet

Today’s post is by our sci-fi-guy, Harold Kramer.

Mars, our nearest planetary neighbor, has always fascinated science fiction writers here on planet earth.  Science fiction about Mars began with Jules Verne and his 1865 novel From Earth to the Moon.  This novel, like many others by Verne, was accurate in concept, although technology in his day made many of his ideas impossible to execute.

During the first half of the 20th century, science fiction writers were obsessed with Martians. Belligerent Martians invaded earth in H. G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds. Orson Welles’s 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds even caused a nationwide panic.  Written in 1950, The Martian Chronicles, a collection of strange and haunting short stories by Ray Bradbury were about an expedition to the red planet. Another early Mars novel was A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs who was a master of fast-moving adventure stories, whether in the jungle with Tarzan or on the moon with the Princess.  I have recently re-read some of these early science fiction novels and, while definitely not scientifically accurate, they still are good reads.

Beginning in the 1970s, the first NASA and Russian probes and rovers obtained real scientific data about Mars. Once sci fi writers realized that there were no little green men on Mars, science fiction tackled more realistic Martian topics and focused on the challenges of human colonization on the red planet.  A major sci fi theme was terraforming Mars to make it into a self-sustaining environment that was fit for life that developed on earth. Another major theme was what type of society and governmental structure might exist in a Mars colony.

One of the first works that explored these ideas was The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. This series consists of three books:  Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars. Red Mars won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1993.  Blue Mars won the 1997 Hugo Award. The trilogy begins with Red Mars when the first colonists arrive on Mars and simply try to survive. Green Mars and Blue Mars and continue the story one hundred years in the future when Mars has been terraformed into a green and politically independent world. My favorite of the three is the first book, Red Mars.

Ben Bova has written four related novels about Mars: Mars, Return to Mars, Mars Inc. and Mars Life. The planet Mars is the fourth  stop on his Grand Tour – a series of related novels that take place in the 21st Century and that focus on exploration and colonization of every planet in our solar system.  I enjoy reading Ben Bova’s books because of his clear writing, scientific imagination, and expansive ideas.

The Martian by Andy Weir, written in 2011, is my favorite book about Mars.  I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it.   It won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Science Fiction in 2014 and the Audie Award in 2015 for best science fiction audio book. The Martian is a modern-day Robinson Crusoe story about an American astronaut who is presumed dead but who is actually alive and stranded on Mars. What makes it so interesting is that the technology is highly credible, and the writing is taut. It was made into a movie in 2015 that was directed by Ridley Scott and starred Matt Damon.

​Many other great science fiction novelists have written about Mars.  These include Greg Bear’s Moving Mars and Arthur C. Clarke’s The Sands of Mars. Also notable are Larry Niven’s Rainbow Mars and Robert Heinlein’s classic, Stranger in a Strange Land.

Although this is a science-fiction blog post, I would like to mention a non-fiction book about Mars and planetary exploration and colonization. It is called The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and our Destiny Beyond Earth, by physicist Michio Kaku.  This scientifically based work is an extraordinary projection of the future of humanity as it moves from earth to the stars.

What’s Happening at Cheshire Library in May

Some art, some history, some travel, and more is on the agenda for May – check out our Events Calendar for details on all the programs blooming this month! Here’s a preview:

SPRING BOOK SALE!

The Friends of the Cheshire Library are excited to announce their annual Spring Book Sale! The book sale features more than 15,000 books of every possible genre. Adult and children’s titles are available in both hard and soft cover editions and are priced from 50 cents to $2.

Preview Night!
Wednesday, May 1st, 6:30pm – 8pm
Preview night is for Friends members only.
Memberships may be purchased at the door.
Book Sale:
Thursday, May 2nd, 9am – 8pm
Friday, May 3rd, 9am – 4:30pm
Saturday, May 4th, 9am – 4:30pm
Bag of Books Sale:
Sunday, May 5th, 12pm – 3pm
Fill a bag with books and pay only $10.
A second bag is just $5!

 

Color and Form in Abstract Art

Wednesday, May 1, 2019, 6:00 – 8:15pm

Artist Elizabeth Gourlay discusses her use of the nuances of color and form in her abstract paintings and works on paper, which she compares to musical compositions. Gourlay incorporates  warmth and gesture into all of her works, whose layered vocabulary of abstract forms emerges from her thoughts, emotions and observations of the world. No registration required, sponsored by the Cheshire Art League.

Open Art Studio in the Library Loft

Fridays from 1:00 – 3:00pm

Bring your works in progress and supplies (no turpentine, please!) to this drop-in art program. This is an opportunity to create in a collaborative environment with other artists. No formal instruction will be provided, but informal critiquing for those who want it is encouraged. Table covers will be provided. There is a sink in the room for basic cleanup.

Terrific Tweens

Make a CD Hovercraft! Wednesday, May 8, 2019, 4:00 – 4:45pm

Lemon Power! Wednesday May 22, 2019, 4:00 – 4:45pm

Kids are invited for fun with art, science, technology, and games. We’ll assemble robots & contraptions, play with our food, create fun works of art, and bring video games to life! For grades 5-8, no registration required.

New Movie Thursday: Welcome to Marwen

Thursday, May 9, 2019, 6:00 – 8:00pm

Did you miss the screening of a film you wanted to see in theatres?  Join us for the first Thursday of the month for a screening of a recently released film. May’s movie is Welcome to Marwen starring Steve Carrell. A victim of a brutal attack finds a unique and beautiful therapeutic outlet to help him through his recovery process. Rated PG-13. Registration is appreciated.

Author Talk:  Soldiers of a Foreign War

Tuesday, May 14, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Vietnam Veteran, Dr. Charles McNair, shares his novel that presents the Vietnam War in all its conflicted complexity. It is told from the enlisted soldiers’ perspective and deals with the American and Vietnamese’s, North and South, all teenagers, experiences as they leave their families and enter their countries’ respective armies. Registration is required.

Armchair Traveling

Discovering France: Wednesday, May 15, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Mexico and Central America: Wednesday, May 29, 2019,  6:30 – 8:00pm

Come and join us on the journey to different parts of these magnificent regions. During our journey through France, we will visit Paris, the Palace of Versailles, Giverny, Normandy, the Loire Valley and the Southern region.  For our look at Mexico and Central America, we will look at photos of traditional landscapes and architecture of the Aztecs and Mayans and then look at contemporary tourism landscapes. Please register separately for each program.

Katharine Hepburn: From Hartford to Hollywood

Thursday, May 16, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Born and raised in Connecticut, Katherine Hepburn had a career in stage, film and television that reflected the changing role of women in broader society.  The story of her life-long ties to Connecticut offers a complete picture of how Hepburn became the woman and the star she was. Registration is required.

Improving Your Life Through Meditation

Monday, May 20, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Meditation can bring about a sense of calm and balance that benefits both your emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. Join Clare Vidich for this enjoyable and informative meditation workshop for new or experienced meditators. Registration is required.

Crafting for a Cause

Wednesday, May 22, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Unleash your artistic side while making your community a better place! Come and decorate canvas totes to be donated to the Cheshire Food Pantry. The Library will supply the totes and art supplies, but feel free to bring art materials from home! This program is open to adults and children of all ages. Please register in advance so we can provide enough supplies. Please register in advance.

Books Over Coffee: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Wednesday, May 29, 2019, 12:00 – 1:30pm

Want to engage in great discussions about books? Meet new people? Eat lunch with friends? Join us for an adult monthly book club program called “Books Over Coffee.”  Books are available each month ahead of time, and will be available in audio & ebook format.  Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple is our May selection. You bring your lunch, we’ll provide the coffee and tea! Registration is required.

Author Talk: The Dogs of Camelot: Stories of the Kennedy Canines

Thursday, May 30, 2019, 6:00 – 8:00pm

Join us as Joan Lownds talks about her book  The Dogs of Camelot: Stories of the Kennedy Canines, which illuminates the inside story of the Kennedys’ lifelong love of dogs and the unparalleled canine corps they brought to the White House. Through cooperation with the Kennedy Library, the authors have access to rare and previously unpublished photos and stories that present a fascinating angle about the Kennedys that is deeply revealing about their character and compassion. Books will be available for purchase and signing after the talk. Registration is required.

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Don’t forget, May is Food for Fines Month!

Clear your fines! The Library is accepting donations of food and toiletries to benefit the Cheshire Food Pantry. Donations will clear fines on materials that have been
returned. Click here for details.

 

Screen-Free Week is coming – can you go a week without screens?

Today’s post is by Children’s Librarian Lauren:

“Have I told you all about the time that I got sucked into a hole through a handheld device?” So goes a lyric on the Arctic Monkeys’ technologically ambivalent album Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino. This line repeats in my head every time I find an hour of my life has been lost to compulsively scrolling through Instagram or following clickbait articles. So much of our lives is mediated through screens, and the side effects aren’t always as light as lost time and an earworm. Night-time screen use has been linked to insomnia, and studies are linking excessive social media use to anxiety and depression.

For kids too young for Snapchat, studies have tied screen use to developmental delays. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for kids under 18 months and 1 hour max for kids under 5 years old. The more time toddlers spend silently watching screens, the less time they spend talking, playing, moving, and learning. Likewise, the more time parents and caregivers spend with screens, the less time we have to facilitate those crucial experiences for our kids.

To combat the negative effects of screen-based entertainment, some folks came up with Screen-Free Week, an annual week of unplugging and re-discovering the joys of real life fun. From Monday, April 29 to Sunday, May 5, families and individuals will be closeting the iPads and shutting off the backseat DVD players. Sound like something your family could try? Here’s some ideas on how to amuse yourselves while the screens are away:

Be bored! Boredom provides kids with an opportunity to get creative. Lin-Manuel Miranda – the creator of Hamilton and one of the most creative folks around – fondly recalls being left to his own non-screen devices. If you’re not up to writing an award-winning musical, though, provide your family with open-ended materials like art supplies, the contents of the junk drawer, and your backyard. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Clash your clans in a fantasy book! Look in the kids section for the blue sticker with a unicorn. Magic Tree House and Percy Jackson are classics that work as family read-alouds, or check out a new book like The Cryptid Catcher. We also love us some Neil Gaiman, especially Coraline, a delightfully creepy tale that begins with a super-bored girl who, to put it mildly, finds a way to amuse herself.

Go outside for a walk! This is one of the best times of year to hang out around the canal trail, when birds who migrated south are coming back and starting to make nests for the spring. You can see turtles, beavers, and snakes at Lock 12, and in the last couple weeks I saw diving kingfishers, big herons, and colorful wood ducks in the new section of trail north of West Main Street. Sleeping Giant State Park is still closed from tornado damage, but nearby Brooksvale Park has salamanders, frogs, and even farm animals, as well as easy hiking trails. The library has free maps of local trails, as well as wildlife guides for kids and adults to borrow.

Take advantage of the spring birds & blooms that are popping up all over this time of year, as close as your own back yard! Ask little kids to point out colors, compare sizes, and count petals on flowers. Explain pollination and photosynthesis to big kids – or, better yet, let them explain it to you. See how many different kinds of birds you can spot.

Take a break from Allrecipes and Epicurious, and follow a recipe from a book! Whether tacos or teiglach are more your speed, you can find a ton of family-friendly recipes in cookbooks designed especially for kids. Some cookbooks specialize in classics and others offer a history of food. Wherever your interests lie, head to the 641s for your cooking needs.

After you’ve cleaned up the kitchen and the kids are busy writing their own history-based raps, you might have a few minutes during Screen-Free Week for some adults-only reading:

Will you be participating in screen-free week from April 29 to May 5?

Magnificent Magazines @CPL

Today’s post comes to us from Cheshire Library’s Deputy Director, Deb Rutter:

Magazines are popular with our readers at  Cheshire Library and there are more ways than ever to access them!

Prefer traditional paper? The last decade or so has been tough on print magazines.  Favorites such as Newsweek, Glamour, Cooking Light, Vegetarian Times, Redbook, and the Ladies’ Home Journal have ceased publication or switched to a newsstand-only or digital-only format.  Others have reduced the number of issues per year.  But even with the decline in print magazines, there are still great new titles popping up.  We’ve just added 3 new magazines to our collection: Cowboys and Indians, which highlights the life and style of the modern American West, The Magnolia Journal, created by popular HGTV hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines, and Pioneer Woman, created by author and TV personality Ree Drummond.  We have over 130 other magazine titles on the lower level adjacent to our new quiet reading area.   Enjoy reading the latest issue of your favorites in the library in our new quiet reading lounge, or check out previous issues to take home.

Downloadable magazines are a great option as you can read them on your tablet, phone or computer.  We have two magazine platforms available to our CPL cardholders, RBdigital and Overdrive/Libby (non-CPL cardholders, check with your local library to find out what digital platforms are available there).  RBdigital features 34 magazine titles, including The Economist (which we do not offer in paper format), Eating Well, Discover, Better Homes and Gardens and more.  One of my personal favorites is National Geographic, which includes additional video content and is absolutely glorious on an IPad—so glorious that one of my neighbors purchased an IPad after seeing the National Geographic on mine!  You can “subscribe” to as many magazines as you would like and receive an email notifying you when the newest issue is ready to be read or downloaded to your device of choice.  It really doesn’t get much easier. Overdrive/Libby offers about 50 magazine titles including Cosmopolitan, Car & Driver, Esquire, and TV Guide.  There is some overlap in content between the 2 platforms, (for example, you can access Newsweek and Popular Science through both platforms) but the subscription feature is available only through RBdigital.

Are we missing some of your favorites?  Email us and let us know what they are.  No promises, but we may be able to add some of them to our collection!

Earth Day and the Environment

Today’s post is by Bill, Head of Adult Services.

The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970, with the intention of bringing awareness to environmental issues.  The first Earth Day events drew millions of participants across the U.S. and around the world.  This was the scene in New York City. Since 1970, celebrations have grown, with Earth Day becoming a global event in 1990.

2019 marks the 10th year that Cheshire Public Library has commemorated Earth Day by offering programs on the environment, outdoor activities, gardening, wildlife and more.  This year we offer six programs in April, among them, speakers who are highly esteemed in their fields – from butterflies to birds to “gardening as if the world depends on us.”

The library is a vital place for citizens to become educated and informed about environmental issues, from fracking, to plastic bags and straws, to carbon emissions, so that that they may approach their elected representatives with their concerns.  The environmental impact of plastic straws is a topic that has been in the news a lot recently: The Last Plastic Straw websiteShoreline Town to Consider Banning Plastic Bags, Straws, State of Connecticut Research Report ‘Banning Plastic Straws.

Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, published in 1962 and available in multiple formats at Cheshire Library,  expressed her passionate concern with the future of the planet and all life on Earth, and inspired the modern environmental movement.  In addition, CPL also offers many other materials for those interested in learning more about taking care of our environment:

 

We’ll end this post with an audio link to Before the Deluge by Jackson Browne.  The song was released 45 years ago and remains relevant today.