Writer, Broadcaster

Tag: science fiction (Page 2 of 8)

City on the Edge of Forever

Photo from Memory Alpha

Once upon a time I tried to make a radio play version of the Star Trek episode City on the Edge of Forever, by science fiction writer Harlan Ellison. The Powers That Be at CBC Radio at the time were in favour of the idea. The Business Rights people contacted Harlan and attempted to negotiate with him. I can’t quite recall how it came about, but I wound up calling him.

I’d been a big fan of his work ever since reading his short story I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, which blew my mind (I actually wrote a version it for radio, since lost to time). I don’t think I even knew then that he’d written City on the Edge of Forever. Much later I discovered that he is considered by many to be, shall we say, problematic. Anyway, being a fan at the time, I was tickled at the opportunity to talk to him. We had a short conversation which focussed mostly on how much the rights to City on the Edge of Forever would cost. I informed him that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was a public broadcaster and we’d pay what we could. Needless to say, it wasn’t enough for Harlan, so the project never happened.

If you’re wondering how we could ever even have conceived such a thing, here’s my original pitch, which lays it all out. The thing is, as far as I know, it all stills hold true today. You could not produce a version of Gene Roddenberry’s City on the Edge of Forever, but you COULD produce a version of Harlan Ellison’s. If you really wanted to, and if you had enough money to purchase the rights. And maybe changed the characters’ names.

The City on the Edge of Forever Pitch

There was a time when if you were a Star Trek fan then you were a member of a relatively small club.  This is no longer the case.  Now, just about everyone is familiar with Star Trek – it’s a cultural phenomenon. 

Arguably the best Star Trek episode ever made – in any of the ubiquitous franchise’s many incarnations – is City on the Edge of Forever.  City on the Edge of Forever features the original and most beloved characters in the Star Trek pantheon: Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, “Bones” McCoy, and so on.  The story is simple and poignant: Kirk travels back in time to 1930’s New York to prevent a shipmate from altering time.  There, he falls in love, but to fulfill his mission, he must allow the woman he has fallen in love with to die.

The episode spawned a famous feud between the episode’s original writer, Harlan Ellison, and Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry.  Citing cost overruns and other difficulties, Roddenberry and his staff (Gene L. Coon and D.C. Fontana, mainly) completely rewrote Ellison’s version of the episode before shooting it.  The two versions are quite a bit different, yet both have demonstrable merit.  Roddenberry’s went on to win a Hugo; Ellison’s won the Writer’s Guild of America’s Award for Most Outstanding Teleplay.  Just about everyone has seen Roddenberry’s version of City on the Edge of Forever — Ellison’s version has never been produced for film, televison or radio.

Harlan Ellison owns the rights to his original, award-winning version of the most famous Star Trek episode ever to air.  Paramount Studios owns the rights to the Star Trek franchise; they do not own the rights to Harlan’s script. What this means is that CBC Radio can produce a radio play version of City on the Edge of Forever simply by changing the names of the characters. 

The free publicity for CBC Radio likely to be generated by mounting a radio version of Ellison’s City on the Edge of Forever, coupled with the intrinsic entertainment value of the piece itself, is probably reason enough to produce the property.  Couching the production within the context of the issue of creative ownership (conversations with Harlan Ellison and other artists who perceive their work to have been mishandled by others) might justify the production further.

I believe this to be quite an opportunity.  Given Star Trek’s place in popular culture, it is possible – perhaps even likely – that a CBC Radio production of Harlan Ellison’s City on the Edge of Forever could be nothing less than a cultural event.

Wildebear and the Necronian

Jacques the Necronian

Writers just love it when fans of their work create works of art based on that work. I’m no exception. One of my fans created clay versions of two of my main characters in A Time and a Place. To the left there you’ll see a good likeness of Jacques the Necronian.

And below, yes, there he is, the one and only Barnabus Jehosophys Wildebear! (As an aside, I’ll mention I didn’t choose the name Jehosophys randomly… it has to do with the whole Akasha subplot. I like little bits that resonate.) Not sure what happened to Wildebear’s left eyebrow… must have fallen off. That sort of thing will happen when you’re gallivanting around the universe. And I do believe that is Sebastian on his left wrist.

Now, I should point out that the “fan” in question here is actually my daughter Keira. And the truth is I’m MUCH more a fan of hers (and her sister Erin, who also creates much fine art) than the other way around.

As it should be.

Barnabus Jehosophys Wildebear

Other Times and Places Now Available!

My collection of (mostly) previously published short fiction now available

I’m excited to announce that my short story collection Other Times and Places is now available!

Other Times and Places is a collection of seven of my short stories, six of which have been previously published in various magazines in Canada, Australia and Greece (one piece is new to this collection).

The blurb on the back says:

What do a thief, wizards, a platypus, ghosts, soft drink salesmen, God, the devil, and a spaceman all have in common? Together they will make you laugh, think, sleep better, open your mind, spark your imagination, and quite possibly improve your complexion* as Joe Mahoney brings them all vividly to life in this humorous and thoughtful collection of seven tales of the fantastic.

*Individual results may vary

I’m pleased that the collection was edited by, and includes a forward by, Dr. Robert Runté, a towering figure in Canadian speculative fiction (maybe all speculative fiction, as far as I’m concerned). Dr. Runté is himself the author of many excellent short stories, as well as the editor of many fine books, including several by best-selling fantasy author Dave Duncan (who once called him “the best editor I’ve ever worked with”), and my previous effort A Time and a Place.

Because I’m a lousy salesman, I like to make it clear to folks that no one is obligated to purchase or read my work. I will still be your friend, your colleague, your brother, your son, your nephew, whatever it is that we are to one another.

I just won’t talk to you anymore.

Kidding! Of course I’ll continue to talk to you if you don’t purchase or read my work (I’ll just pepper our conversation with more expletives than usual).

But seriously.

Should you actually be interested in purchasing a copy of Other Times and Places, you have several options. If you like e-books, you can get this Kindle version.

If you prefer print, right now you have two options. You can order it online here for $7.00 plus shipping (don’t worry, shipping is only about one hundred bucks or so). Or if you know me personally I’ll have copies available which will also go for $7.00 (Canadian).

It’s also available on Amazon.com and hopefully soon from Amazon.ca (for some reason it hasn’t shown up there yet).

As always, anything you can do to help spread the word is appreciated. Add it to your To Read lists on Goodreads, publish reviews, talk about it, blog about it, hire planes to skywrite about it, make television and radio shows about it, hey, I’ll leave that part up to you and your eminently good judgement.

I hope you like it.

Harbord House Science Fiction Book Club

With members of the Harbord House SF Book Club, the “drinking club with a book problem”

Warning: spoiler alert if you haven’t already read A Time and a Place and plan to…

This past Thursday I had the honour of attending the Harbord House Science Fiction Book Club as their guest author. They’d selected my debut novel A Time and a Place as their book selection of the month. Or more precisely, member Dana Silnicki had selected it.

It’s my understanding that at about forty members the Harbord House SF Book Club is one of (if not the) largest SF book clubs in the nation. I’m still flabbergasted that they chose my book; doubly so that they asked me to attend so that they could discuss the book with me.

This was the second time I’d been invited to discuss A Time and a Place at a book club. The first time was quite a pleasant experience so I was quite looking forward to this one. I felt like I’d made a bit of a mistake at the first book club, though. I’d been so excited to talk about my book, and there had been so many questions, that once primed I had difficulty NOT talking about it. Afterward I felt like I’d talked too much. I definitely didn’t want to make the same mistake this time.

My friend Fergus and his partner Donna happen to be members of the club. They graciously allowed me to crash at their place that night, so we attended together. As we stood talking in the early moments, Fergus happened to mention that he belonged to another book club. I forget what he called it exactly, but it was something like “The Horribly Awful” or “Embarrassingly Bad” science fiction book club. Briefly, I wondered if perhaps I’d misunderstood and had actually been invited to that one. Fergus assured me that wasn’t the case.

We sat upstairs at Harbord House, a lovely environment in which to drink, dine, and discuss books (the club advertises itself as “a drinking club with a book problem”). Dana introduced my book and me and invited me to say a few words. Because she had stood while talking, I did as well and thanked everyone for the invitation and murmured some other inanities. The group started asking questions. Protocol was such that you were only allowed to speak if you held the ceremonial conch shell. Someone passed it to me and I did my best to answer the questions. Unsure whether to remain standing or sit down, I remained standing for the first couple of answers until someone kindly suggested that I could sit down if I wanted to. Sheepishly, I sat down, wondering if anyone was starting to clue in that I may resemble in more ways than one the slightly bewildered protagonist of A Time and a Place.

Dana Silnicki, to whom I am indebted for having selected my book

Speaking of which, much initial discussion centred around the now familiar question of Wildebear’s like-ability (or lack thereof). Some in the group seemed to like his down-to-earth nature while others just wanted to give him a smack. I confessed that I did not know that I had written an anti-hero, someone potentially unlikable. I was just trying to make him real. I listened as Fergus described Wildebear as “bewildered” and saw the light go on in his eyes as he made the connection between the name Barnabus Wildebear and the word bewildered. I had to confess (for the second time) that it was not deliberate (the group advised me to take credit anyway, but I cannot tell a lie). I suppose it’s possible that my subconscious had something to do with it… yeah, let’s go with that. 🙂

The question of the immutability of time came up. That is, the notion that in the universe of the book you cannot change the past. Twice now it’s been suggested to me (online and in person) that in A Time and a Place I create a universe in which neither Wildebear nor anyone else can change the past only to negate that concept later in the book. I tell you now that is not the case. I think the misunderstanding may arise from the number of times Wildebear visits the past. But each time he does so he changes nothing. He is incapable of changing anything because the past (in the book, at least) is immutable. I humbly suggest that if the reader thinks otherwise, they are misunderstanding the events in the book (I fully accept responsibility for perhaps not making this sufficiently clear in the book itself).

That being said, it was clear to me that the book club members had not only read the book but read it carefully. What a treat for any author, particularly one just starting out, like me. It makes all the effort of having written the novel so worthwhile. If only I could go back in time and tell the version of myself that was writing A Time and a Place that one day I would enjoy a night surrounded by people who had read my book and were there for the express purpose of discussing it. I suspect I would make that version of myself tear up.

Heartfelt thanks to Dana for selecting my book, and for the members of the Harbord House Science Fiction Book Club for their warm welcome and friendly camaraderie.

Other Times and Places

Cover of my new collection of short stories, Other Times and Places

High time I got another book out there. So hey, here’s one: Other Times and Places, an anthology of some of my favourite short stories, all but one of which have been published in Canada, Australia, and Greece over the last twenty years.

It’s a slim collection, comprised of just seven tales. Dr. Robert Runte, who edited the collection, was kind enough to provide a Forward as well.

The cover art is courtesy of my daughter Erin Mahoney and graphic artist Jeff Minkevics. Erin drew the platypus and Jeff took care of the rest. Éric Desmarais crafted the interior design.

Other Times and Places is being published by Donovan Street Press. It will be available shortly in all the usual places online, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and so on.

It’s been a fun little project. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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