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.

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.

 

5 Legit Ways to Download Free eBooks & Audiobooks

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a reader in possession of a good book, must be in want of another good book. And books are expensive to buy, especially if you burn through them quickly like many of us do. So how can you (legally) keep yourself in reading material without spending a crazy amount of money?

Well, since this is a Library Blog, the #1 answer is obvious: use your public library card! But there are even more ways to get your hands (eyes) on free reading material. In this blog post I’m going to focus on downloadables (ebooks and audiobooks), and ways to legitimately get your electronic reading devices chock full of free stuff.  So many freebies, it’s easy to make “read more” one of your New Year’s resolutions. Thrifty readers rejoice!

1. Use Your Library’s Digital Collection. Free stuff is what libraries all about, and most have at least one e-book borrowing platform that their cardholders can access. At CPL, we have 3 (because we’re awesome like that): OverDrive, RBdigital, and hoopla. Each platform has slightly different borrowing rules, and a different collection of ebooks & audiobooks to choose from.  All you need is a library card and you can start downloading tons of free titles tonight!

2. Check out Open Library and Librivox.  Open Library features hundreds of thousands of scanned books, courtesy of the Internet Archive, offering classic literature, out-of-copyright, public domain works, and many modern titles.  eBooks can either be read page-by-page in a browser (requiring an internet connection), or downloaded to your device and read via the Overdrive Media Console app or a PDF reader. Librivox audiobooks are public domain works read by volunteers from all over the world. They are free for anyone to listen to on a computer, mobile device, or even to burn onto CDs.

3. Become a Reviewer with NetGalley and Edelweiss. Netgalley and Edelweiss  make digital ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) of upcoming books available in exchange for honest reviews. In order to gain access to their catalogs of available ebooks, you may be expected to publish regular reviews of what you read, but hey, that’s a small price to pay for free advance copies of books!

4. Promotional Offers & Sales from Major Retailers. Retail sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Google Play all offer free ebooks,  some are permanent freebies and some are for a limited time.  There’s lots of fiction and non-fiction titles, everything from new authors looking to get a sales boost, to established authors promoting their backlists. Check these sites regularly to grab some great deals.

5. And Speaking of Amazon…  Did you know Amazon Prime members have access to a bunch of free ebooks and audiobooks? If you’ve got Prime membership, you can take advantage of a lot of freebies through their Prime Reading program. Most are Kindle ebooks, but there are some audiobooks available through Audible.com, too,  including lots of podcasts from Audible Channels.

Summers of Scandal

astonished faceIf you’re like me, you’re cringing every time you turn on the news, open a newspaper, or stare at the tabloids in the checkout line. No matter which side of the political spectrum you fall on, this country’s politics are a mess. While we keep reminding ourselves this isn’t normal, scandal IS more normal to the office of the president than we think.

Remember Watergate?

Sure, if you didn’t suffer living through NixonAll the President's Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward and Watergate, you at least have heard the story (or seen the movies) of the break-in at the DNC headquarters at the Watergate Hotel, how cash was traced to the Committee to Re-elect the President (Nixon), and how President Nixon was caught lying about the fact he knew about it. A president lying under oath was grounds for impeachment, but Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974, before he could be impeached, giving us the never-elected Gerald Ford. That’s the biggest official Presidential Scandal to date, but by far it’s not the only one.

SMarilyn Monroe with John F. Kennedyure, Clinton’s affair caused a major row, but flings among presidents are almost as common as presidents eating cheeseburgers. John F. Kennedy’s affairs were kept out of the press, but half the country was winking at his activities.  Harding, FDR, Eisenhower, Jefferson, and Lyndon B. Johnson were all known to have had affairs of heart while in office, and not one of them was ever brought up on charges. Cleveland, however, had not only one but two scandals that caused an uproar.

Yes, But Did You Hear About That Cad Cleveland?

The first was a secret surgery to remove a cancerous growth on the roof of his mouth.Grover Cleveland political cartoon America in 1893 was caught in a severe Panic – the pre-1930 name for a Depression. Cleveland felt that a president with a potentially life-threatening issue could further destabilize the people and the economy, so he chose to have the surgery in secret – on a boat traveling the shores of Long Island! Because it caused a bit of disfigurement, he attributed it to having two bad teeth removed (I saw a display on it at the Mutter Museum once). That wasn’t the worst though.

Cleveland was president during the Victorian era, whose straight-laced propriety and denial of anything related to sex, including body parts, haunts us in a weird duality to this day. And in that era of moral decorum, Cleveland was routed out as having had a love child in 1874, before he married his wife. Not only an illegitimate child, but he had the mother locked up in an insane asylum, and farmed the baby out to another couple! Even though it made a huge scandal at the time, he freely admitted it, and it didn’t stop him from being elected not just once, but twice, proving that moral flexibility is nothing new, either.

Abraham Lincoln quote: "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."Men of power get to the top position by wielding their power, and the office of the president is no different (I suppose we could let Jimmy Carter off the hook. He’s an anomaly to the rule, and no doubt why he was a somewhat wishy-washy President and often considered not strong enough during the Hostage Crisis. People just wanted to get away from Watergate). It doesn’t matter what party platform you’re running on, mainstream or not, chances are somebody somewhere is going to dig up a scandal on someone, and if not, the elected just might create one of their own (such as Reagan and Iran-Contra). It’s nothing new, and it’s not likely to go away again in the future. So grab some popcorn, and school yourself on these hot-button scandals of the day (Check out the movies of All the President’s Men, Frost/Nixon,  Argo, and Mark Felt ) :

 

Library Services Online

In our 24/7 society, life moves pretty fast. You meant to stop by the library on your way into work, or perhaps on your way home, but…

Yeah, we’ve all been there. Too much to do and not enough time to do it. But, never fear! The Cheshire Public Library is here to help. Many library services are now available online 24/7.

That means you can renew your books while staying at home in your pajamas. You can download and watch a movie from hoopla rather than having to go out on a dark and stormy night (with a nod to Edward Bulwer-Lytton) to borrow one. You can place holds, listen to music, or download an audiobook. Research your family tree on HeritageQuest. Scope out the ratings of your next new car from the comfort of your bed by browsing Consumer Reports Online. Refresh your resume with tips from JobNow. Put up your feet and browse through your favorite magazine with RBdigital‘s online magazines.

The great thing about online resources is that they are never late! They auto-return so you never accrue fines, and in the case of digital magazines, they remain on your device for you to enjoy.

Finding these resources is easy.

All downloadable content (ebooks, audiobooks, movies, magazines, music, and comics) are available from links right on the library homepage at cheshirelibrary.com.

All databases (Consumer Reports, JobNow, HeritageQuest and many, many more) are accessed simply by clicking the eResources link on our website.

Renew your books, place holds and even pay your account balance by clicking the Your Account button at the top of our website.

So, relax! You have all day and all night, too, to get to the library.

(Image source: Anchor Point Animation)