An experiment in reading

In 1966, I attended a school called “New Experimental College” in Denmark, just north of the Limfjord.

One evening, bored, empty, with nothing better to do, I looked over the school library. Did I mention the school was a remodeled farmhouse surrounded by like working structures that dotted the bucolic northern landscape? Neighboring barns, unlike the renovated one where I was standing, housed animals more likely to regurgitate meals to multiple stomachs, while in our’s we retched and digested ideas. Nightlife and escape were not a temptation, because they were not a possibility. The library consisted of some very nice wooden shelves along a portion of a whitewashed wall. In the lower left corner, I noticed two or three books of SF.
There was a Frank Herbert – I believe it was “The Dragon in the Sea.” Ubiquitous and lovely Bradbury’s “Martian Chronicles” and several other minor titles. It is probable the books were left on the shelves by other students or visitors who frequently found themselves at the school for several days of the experiment. Despite the fact I had been reading science fiction for most of my life, I had forsaken SF for a time for the literature of Modern Europe. Joyce, Mann and Proust won out over Verne and Wells. The last book on the sparse shelf caught my eye. E.E. “Doc” Smith’s “The Gray Lensman”

a_04_graylensman_pyramid_x1245_1965_gaughan_cvI started reading. The Gray Lensman is either the third or the fourth novel of the series. (Depends your acceptance of the prequel Triplanetary as the first.) I was dropped dead middle in the strife between Arisians and Eddorians, familiar enough territory. Acknowledge it or not “Doc” Smith influenced many SF writers who followed. Part of his literary imagination remains today in a renewed longing for “space opera.” I was both charmed and disturbed by the paper thin characterizations of the Samms and the Kinnisons. But, oh my, the scope of the imagined cosmos. My feelings about the clumsy application of the words on the page were insignificant compared to the vast vision laid before me.

When I returned home to America, I read, in order, the whole of the Lensman Series. Continued on to the Skylark Series. Some would label the two sequences “primitive” SF and ask me to call my enjoyment of them a guilty pleasure. I try not to feel “guilty” about my pleasures, however they become manifest. I am aware of every fault you can point out in the work of “Doc” Smith. Throw every epithet about “purile entertainment” or “low-brow even for pop culture” or “non-existent literary quality.” I’ve heard and thought them all myself. In the end, I think the criticisms are wrong-headed. Show a lack of empathy and a lack of historical context. The truth is the novels of “Doc” Smith are reborn and reimagined every time they are read.

Oct 17 Lecture by Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater will visit CMU for a free lecture on Oct 17 from 2-3 pm. She writes young adult fiction, notably the 2010 New York Times Bestseller, Linger , and the 2011 Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book The Scorpio Races. She worked for some time as a portrait artist and is a race car and race car driving enthusiast. She was a competitive bagpipe player in college while studying at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She lives in Shenandoah Valley in Virginia with her husband, two children, three dogs, and one cat.

Want to learn writing from one of the best? Rachel Grinti was an Alpha student and then became staff. She published books with her husband Mike (who she met her first year at Alpha). Register and come, 11 – 1 on Oct. 17 at the University Center at CMU to learn about voice in genre fiction.

Announcing a new podcast from Josh Raulerson, one of our guest speakers at the Oct 3, 2015 Meeting


Nanograms ( is a podcast about technoculture, created by Josh Raulerson and produced at 90.5 WESA in Pittsburgh. The pilot season, ‘Borg in the USA, will launch on September 24, 2015.

Technology is changing fast, and reshaping the human experience along with it – transforming the economy, the environment and the way society is organized. But explosive technological growth isn’t just changing our world. It’s changing us. How we think of ourselves. How we relate to one other. How we imagine our future.

Nanograms is a limited-series dispatch from the front lines of technoculture, where weird and surprising things are happening at the intersection of human and machine, of science and the arts, of technology and… everything else. It’s a dumpster-dive into big ideas and complex problems, a serialized feast served in bite-size chunks for those of us who are already living with one foot in the future, but still figuring out what that means.

Reference works from the September 12, 2015 Presentation

Some members asked me to list the books I used for reference at this month’s Parsec meeting presentation. The History of Science Fiction Part 1 – The Long View.

Marjorie Hope Nicholson
Voyages to the Moon
Science and Imagination
The Breaking of the Circle
Newton Demands the Muse
Mountain Gloom and Mountain Glory

Stephen Toulmin and June Goodfield
The Fabric of the Heavens
The Architecture of Matter
The Discovery of Time

Thomas S Kuhn
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

J.O. Bailey
Pilgrims Through Time and Space

Sam Moskowitz
Explorers of the Infinite

Scott L Montgomery
The Moon and Western Imagination

David Seed ed.

Robert Crossley
Imagining Mars

Brett M Rogers & Benjamn Eldon Stevens ed.
Classical Traditions in Science Fiction

Arthur B Evans ed.
Vintage Visions

James Gunn ed.
The Road to Science Fiction Vol 1

Faith K Vizor & T Allen Comp ed
The Man in the Moone and Other Lunar Fantasies

Ron Miller
Classics of Science Fiction
Bundle 1 through Bundle 8
Available at
Many of these works have not been available for years
I believe this series is only available digitally

Hope you enjoy them as much as I do
Thanks,  Joe Coluccio

Upcoming Parsec Events – FYI

Saturday August 29, 2015 1:00PM to Dusk – Parsec Picnic
Dormont Park, Dormont PA
Hotdogs hamburgers filking and fun
Conversation readings and games
Please join us!

Saturday September 12, 2015 1:30 PM – 4:30PM
Monthly Parsec Meeting
History of Science Fiction Part 1 – The Long View
Presented by Joe Coluccio

Saturday October 3, 2015 2:00 PM – 4:30PM
Monthly Parsec Meeting
Change at the Speed of Thought
A Forum with Josh Raulerson, Thomas Sweterlitsch and Lawrence C Connolly

Room change for YA Writing Workshop

The 11am-1pm YA writing workshop with Geoffrey Landis and Mary Turzillo has been moved from the Danforth Lounge to the Alumni Lounge in the Cohon University Center at CMU. The main entrance is closed by the construction so you need to use the campus-side entrance farthest from Forbes Ave.

Please bring an original genre opening if you don’t mind your work to be discussed. They will be signing their books after the 2pm-3pm lecture by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman in 2315 Doherty Hall.

About the judges of the short story contest

Gregory Feeley

Gregory Feeley

Kentauros by Gregory Feeley


Gregory Feeley writes science fiction and about science fiction. His first novel, The Oxygen Barons, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award. His stories have been finalists for the Nebula Award and published in various Year’s Best anthologies, and his essays and reviews have appeared in a variety of publications, including The Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post Book World, and USA Today. His most recent novel is Kentauros.

J.L. Gribble

J.L. Gribble


Steel Victory

By day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. Her debut novel, Steel Victory, was her thesis novel for Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction graduate program in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Previously, she was one of the co-editors for Far Worlds, a speculative fiction anthology. She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. Find her online: J.L. Gribble, on Facebook (, and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits). She is currently working on more tales set in the world of Limani.

Mike Allen Photo by Anita

Mike Allen
Photo by Anita



Mike Allen is the author of Unseaming, a 2014 Shirley Jackson Award finalist for best story collection, and editor and publisher of the magazine Mythic Delirium and the critically-acclaimed anthology series Clockwork Phoenix. His horror tale “The Button Bin” was a Nebula Award finalist for best short story. He lives in Roanoke, VA, with his wife and creative partner Anita, two loquacious cats and a comical dog. You can follow his exploits as an editor at Mythic Delirium, as a writer at Descent into Light and as both on Twitter at @mythicdelirium.