Archive for September, 2011

Isaac Asimov…Brilliant and Entertaining

His Road to Greatness

by Joanne Elder, author of SPECTRA

With the multitudes of authors trying to get their names known in the incredibly competitive publishing industry, what can be more inspiring than looking back at the road to stardom of some of the world’s literary greats. As a fan and author of Science Fiction, the first person who comes to mind is none other than the brilliant Isaac Asimov who during his career authored nearly five hundred books.

Asimov was born in Russian with the birth name Isaak Ozimov. At the age of three, the Ozimov family immigrated to the United States, settling in Brooklyn, New York. It was at that time, their family name was changed to Asimov. In Brooklyn, the Asimov’s owned and operated a candy store.

It was at the news stand in the family candy store where Asimov’s interest in Science Fiction took root. He became an avid reader of the magazine, Science Wonder Stories, and took the time to write letters to the editor commenting on stories and went on to attempt to write stories of his own. At the age of seventeen, Asimov penned a story entitled Cosmic Corkscrew and decided to submit it in person to John W Campbell, the editor of Astounding Science Fiction. It was at that time Asimov got his first taste of something all authors are more than familiar with—rejection.

Fortunately for Asimov, Campbell saw promise in Asimov as a science fiction writer and encouraged him to keep trying. Several years later in 1939, Asimov’s first story, Marooned off Vesta, was published in Amazing Stories.

Asimov went on to earn a doctorate in chemistry, and served as a chemist at the Naval Air Experimental Station during WWII. From there he went on to become a professor at Boston University School of Medicine. With all his success, he never lost his passion for writing. In 1941, Asimov’s story Nightfall gained recognition as one of the best science fiction stories ever written. His writing career was launched and he went on to write brilliant works such as I, Robot and the Foundation series. He also founded Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, a timeless science fiction icon to this day.

On April 6, 1992, Asimov passed away after contracting AIDS from a contaminated blood transfusion. As much as he is missed, his imagination will live on in the world of science fiction. He is an inspiration to writers of every genre, not just science fiction.


Alzheimer’s Awareness

 by Joanne Elder

In addition to promoting Science Fiction Thrillers, including my recently released Science Fiction Thriller, SPECTRA, I’ve made it my mandate to build awareness for Alzheimer’s Disease. Half of the author ebook royalties for SPECTRA are being donated to Alzheimer’s research.

My father, William Cavendish Macneill, was diagnosed with this ruthless and cruel disease several years before he passed away. Upon his diagnosis, I looked into his eyes and saw the man who raised me, the man who was a WWII pilot, the man who was a successful engineer, the husband to my mother. I also saw confusion and fear. Shortly before he passed away, I looked into those same eyes and saw something I’d never seen before: his spark for life was gone. The disease had extinguished it.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. People with Alzheimer’s experience a reduction in cognitive function as a result of two changes in the brain: the build-up of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. The plaques are dense deposits of protein and cellular material outside the brain’s nerve cells. Tangles are twisted fibres that build up inside the nerve cells. As the disease progresses, nerve cells shrink and die. Ultimately, the brain itself shrinks. The person afflicted is left with their memories and personality stripped from them and is barely able to recognize the people they love. They ultimately require full time care in order to live.

Over 5 million people in the United States have received this heart wrenching diagnosis. One in eleven people over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s. More frightening is the fact that 14% of Alzheimer’s sufferers are under the age of 65. It costs money to care for those with Alzheimer’s. The economic burden of dementia in Canada alone is $15 billion annually. As the baby boomers reach their golden years this dollar figure is expected to rise to $153 billion by 2038. In the United States it is expected that by 2050, 19 million people will have Alzheimer’s.

We are in troubled economic times and the effect of the aging population will only add to the problems. There are increasing lifespans and slumping birthrates. In the coming years, the population in the workforce will drop significantly. The surge of people over 65 will create a huge draw on pensions. Add to this the cost of dementia. Today money for donations is scarce. At least we can build awareness for this terrible disease that could afflict any of us in our later years.



Book Reviews –

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

by Joanne Elder

Book reviews are for the reader—right? No one wants to sit down and read a bad book. Just finding some R&R time to read a good book these days is painstaking enough. I love Science Fiction Thrillers (thus the name of this website). I write them and I read them, but how do I find a good one to pick up on a stormy night…I check out the reviews!

There are numerous excellent review sites for science fiction, some of which have direct links from this site. The problem is by the time you read the lengthy line-up of the good, the bad, and the ugly reviews, you’re eyelids are falling closed. Never mind starting to read the book you finally selected. Lucky for that awesome star indicator system, but even those can be deceiving: people have different tastes. So how do we find a great read?

For those of you who love Science Fiction Thrillers (and I mean thrillers—not just books where one character says BOO to another somewhere in Chapter 10), I intend to scour the reviews looking for the great ones that are true to this genre (suspense, murder, betrayal and…the harrowing chase). It will take time to build a stockpile of reviews, but I promise this—I will leave out the bad ones to save you time. If I review a bad book, I will not post it.

So why does anyone post bad reviews? If you read a one star book, why not toss it in the fire and say nothing? I’ve thought long and hard about this and here’s my take on the bad review:

Firstly, as I mentioned, everyone has different tastes. A dear friend of mine would sooner watch reruns of Masterpiece Theatre than a season of the recently retired 24. I’m the complete opposite. Unfortunately, reviews written by someone who doesn’t share your taste in a book can be virtually useless. Accordingly, you have to find a reviewer whose opinion you can rely on.

Secondly, I think bad reviews are as much for the author as the reader. As an author I cringe at the thought of a bad review, but if I do receive one, perhaps I can learn from it and use it hone my skills as a writer. In our lives, we must take criticism constructively. Having said this, I’ve read the odd book review that is just cruel and menacing, to the point that the reviewer loses their professionalism. Perhaps, these sorts of reviews get a chuckle. As for the author who spent several years writing and editing their book, they’ll have to have a thick skin and, above all, keep a sense of humour. Everyone has a right to an opinion and we must respect that.

In the meanwhile, keep reading! Hopefully the next book you pull off the shelf or download will be a good one. One final word: don’t discredit reviews from the reading population. Check out Amazon and Barnes & Noble and see what others have to say. The popular vote counts for a lot.