Over the past year Off World meetings have talked science fiction in general, the authors Off World Mystery GuestsNeal Stephenson  and Philip K. Dick (in general), and sponsored book signings and panel discussions. But on May 8 we will meet to discuss The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick. There is still plenty of time to read this 240 page novel, although if you have read it in the past or just want to absorb some good PKD weirdness, please join us at 7:00 pm at the WordSpace World Headquarters, 415 North Tyler Street, Dallas 75208.

Find out more about this and other WordSpace events at our website.

For a more on The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and a clue to why this blog post is illustrated with a picture of Barbie and Ken, read a review of the book on Potato Weather.

WordSpace Welcomes Robert Jackson Bennett to Dallas — He writes very strange books

This 27-year-old novelist from Austin has won three awards for his first two novels. Mr. RobertJacksonBennettShivers won the Shirley Jackson Award, a relatively new honor now given annually to the best work of literary horror. Bennett’s tale of a serial killer working his way through the hobo camps of Depression era America has been referred to as “John Steinbeck meets Stephen King.” That description may either intrigue or repel you, but let me assure you that Bennett’s creepy little novel delivered the horror-goods in a realistic setting of the 1930’s American Southwest.

His second novel was The Company Man, an alternate history tale where a single scientific discovery made in the early twentieth century has created a world we can partially recognize and for the course of the novel never feel safe in. The Company Man won a special citation from both The Philip K. Dick Award and the Edgar Awards.

So wait a minute. Mr. Bennett, at the age of 27, has won awards from organizations that honor horror, science fiction, and mystery. So just what does he write?

In a recent long profile in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Amy Gentry wondered that as well and had this to say, “… I have read all of his books. They are inventive, strangely passionate tales populated with loners on the wrong side of the American dream who are trying to understand their place in the universe. Also, there are monsters, aliens, detectives, and gods.”

On March 13, Bennett will be in Dallas reading from his new novel, American Elsewhere, at  american elsewhere the Barnes and Noble in Lincoln Park on Northwest Hwy. What is American Elsewhere about. Well, it’s like Amy Gentry says. Only I would add that it takes place in Wink, New Mexico, where the moon is pink, the lawns are perfect, and the smart people stay home after dark.

More information about the event is on the WordSpace website.

You can read Amy Gentry’s full profile of Andrew Jackson Bennett at the Los Angeles Review of Books.


After spending several sessions on the works of Neal Stephenson, Off World, the science

PKD loved cats, jazz, classical music, short brunettes with really nice breasts, and amphetmines

PKD loved cats, jazz, classical music, short brunettes with really nice breasts, and amphetmines

fiction discussion group sponsored by WordSpace, has decided to take the plunge into the paranoid and weirdly wonderful world of Philip K. Dick.

If you are not familiar with Dick beyond having seen Blade Runner or any of the other much less successful films of his work, here is a quick sampling of the predicaments PKD’s characters are likely to face.

1) The Allies lost WW II and Japan rules the western United States while Germany rules the Eastern seaboard. The Midwest remains a free zone. Make that, a relatively free zone.

2) The newest psychedelic drug on the market turns out to cause actual time travel, and you find yourself stuck in the past before the fuel that powers your flying taxi has been invented.

3) Perhaps dogs barking at garbage trucks are all that stand between earth and alien invasion.

4) As part of your undercover work for the Drug Enforcement Agency you have been asked to spy on yourself.

5) You must play a life-or-death game of bluffing with beings from Titan, all of whom can read your mind.

This list could go on and on. Dick wrote around 30 novels and 100 short stories. In a two year period in the mid 1960, he turned out 11 novels. Yes, drugs were a factor, and some of the novels were not very good.

OffWorld plans two sessions on PKD. On Wednesday, February 13, we will share what we know about Dick’s life and writings, and the high points and low points of each. We have filmed interviews with PKD — filmed rants would be more to the point. If you know a little or a lot or nothing at all about PKD, feel free to join in. Pizza will be served. Visit the WordSpace events calendars for location.

three stigmataOffWorld sessions in March and April will involve special author readings and panel discussions. More on that later. But for the May event we do have a reading assignment. (OffWorld is, after all, a kind of book club.) The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch may not be PKD’s most famous book but it has a lot to recommend it. It is supremely weird, very funny, relatively comprehensible, and short. And available free online.

To really get you in the mood for Wednesday, Feb 13, take this fun true and false test on PKD’s life, based on Divine Invasions, A Life of Philip K. Dick by Lawrence Sutin.

Fun true and false test here.


The next gathering of OffWorlders will be at 7:00 PM on December 11, at the WordSpace World Headquarters, 415 North Tyler Street.

Author Neal Stephenson continues to be our focus, but any one interested in science fiction is invited. This session we will watch a couple of short interviews with Stephenson and discuss, among other things,  his concern that science fiction has abandoned optimism for increasingly dystopian visions of the future. We will also take a few passages from his novel Anathem as starting points for discussion.

Yes, Anathem is a 900 page novel, but don’t be put off. You will not be the only person in the room to have not read it, or for that matter to have not even opened it. But a single sentence from the book could keep us immersed for the entire session. As Mr. Stephenson says, “Science Fiction is idea porn.”

Let us know if you plan to attend by going to the OffWorld event listing on the WordSpace Facebook page. Or just show up around 7:00 on Dec 11th.

For a preview, here is the video of Stephenson on Optimism


Here is


“Science Fiction is idea porn.” Neal Stephenson

Off World, the science fiction reading group sponsored by WordSpace, will hold its second session on Tuesday, November 13, at the WordSpace world headquarters, 415 North Tyler Street, Dallas, Texas 75208.

Author Neal Stephenson remains our topic of discussion, and I am certain that in the month that has passed since our initial meeting all participants have read at least one of his 1000 page novels.

Or not.

Some Offworlders have already read several of his books, some of us are reading them now, and other attendees have as much as said they have no intention of reading one but want to come back for the conversation and the pizza.

Yes, pizza.

Last month, along with Phillip Washington’s introduction to Stephenson, we watched a short video of Neal reflecting on why Americans have lost the ability to “think big;” we ranked film adaptations of Philip K Dick novels from best to worst; we got off on the role of architecture in science fiction; and, we said mostly disparaging things about the Santiago Calatrava bridge and the Trinity River Project. It was fun.

So don’t stay away because you think you will be “behind” on anything. On Tuesday, November 13, those who have read or are in the midst of reading Stephenson will have a chance to weigh in on what they are reading . So far my favorite quote from Snow Crash:

Hiro puts his head in his hands…”This Snow Crash thing– is it a virus, a drug, or a religion?”

Juanita shrugs. “What’s the difference?”

And we encourage attendees to read this interview Neal Stephenson gave the website Slashdot in 2004. (Slashdot appears to be a website aimed at serious computer geeks which may account for its being one of the ugliest sites I’ve encountered since 1997.) But conversation will be wide-ranging, lively, and over by 9:00 PM. And it is free.

Here is the video we watched last month




Beginner’s Guide to Neal Stephenson

Since the OffWorld group will be reading Neal Stephenson novels over the next three months. we thought it a good idea to provide some brief descriptions of a few of the more popular ones.

These come courtesy of Phillip Washington:


Snow Crash follows the story of a man named Hiro Protaganist, a half-black, half-asian computer programmer and samurai prince of the Metaverse. The Metaverse is a virtual reality construct where people come to interact and stage heroic battles and build entire worlds of their own. It has been said that the Metaverse, as  Neal Stephenson wrote about it, was the inspiration for the popular game Second Life. As a computer virus begins to disrupt the entire Metaverse, and affect real-world events as well, Hiro teams up with a rebellious, foul-mouthed, roller-blading 15 year old girl named YT to investigate. What follows is an adventure from Land, Sea and Virtual Worlds involving samurais, religious cults, Sumerian mythology and pizza delivery. Did I mention that this book is fucking hilarious?

ZODIAC (1988)

Zodiac is a story about Sangammon Taylor – a chemist, employee of G.E.E (Group of Environmental Extremists), and an overall fierce proponent of ecological “do-goodery”. He is also the type of guy you might find huffing nitrous oxide in his free time. Working as a professional headache for industrial polluters, Sangammon unexpectedly finds large amounts of incredibly toxic materials in Boston Harbor. Just as soon as he discovers these poisons, they magically disappear , violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Then people start trying to kill him. Zodiac is a fast-paced eco-thriller. It is hilarious, informative, and you will more than likely think twice before drinking tap water ever again after reading it.

ANATHEM (2008)

Anathem could easily be mistakem for the Bible, if not for the appearance of monks and hooded, robed figures on the cover, then for its sheer size. It is a near thousand-page novel geared towards the purest incarnation of nerd energies; the men and women you might engage in conversation about philosophy, geometry, space travel, multiverse theory and quantum physics all in one evening. Neal Stephenson himself has said that this book is more of a work of “speculative fiction” than “science fiction” , but once you have made it halfway through this spellbinding novel I doubt you will be able to classify it at all. The main character is a beer-drinking, star-gazing proto-nerd named Erasmus who lives within the confines of a secular order of monks on a planet named Arbre. Strange astronomical events lead Erasmus’ teacher and mentor to take measures into his own hands for the sake of the planet. This involves using technology, which for reasons I shan’t spoil for you, has been completely outlawed by the government. When you find out why, you will see why Anathem is such an unclassifiable novel. A supremely rewarding read, and personally my favorite book ever.

From Dee Mitchell:

Since Stephenson has written thirteen novels I thought I was going to quickly write up something of three or four more. Not going to happen. Each of his novels merits a long article with many cross-references on Wikipedia. You can access all those from the bibliography on his own Wikipedia entry.




A message from your leader, Phillip Washington:

Reading Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game as a teenager convinced me that science fiction is the most entertaining and thought provoking genre in literature. Fantasy, historical fiction, and political thrillers didn’t capture the sense of wonder available at the edge of the human imagination.

It is only in science fiction that we get what author Neal Stephenson describes as “idea porn”. It is in science fiction that the human imagination amalgamates all of human history, its past and its possible futures, its technologies and ideologies and wraps them all up into one glowing, futuristic theme park. It rolls you through a land of possibilities.

Neal Stephenson will be the first author that we celebrate in Offworld: The science fiction reading club sponsored by WordSpace. Stephenson is one of my favorite science fiction writers. He is the author of thirteen novels as well as collections of short fiction and essays. Each novel captures images from the cultural retina and displays his interpretation on the screen of the reader.(He does this in a funny, sometimes strange, yet always satisfying way. I have never read a Neal Stephenson book and not learned a wealth of information about the world around me, whether it was about the way things used to be, how things got to be the way they are now, or how things could possibly be in the future. And all of these things are wrapped in the implications of ideas and themes brought to us by technology, science, mathematics, the internet, and modern culture.

If you are already a Neal Stephenson fan or have never read one of his books, please join up. Members may choose which of Neal’s books they want to read. Our blog postings will direct members to online sources on Neal Stephenson. Our forums, hosted by the website Worlds Without End, will provide a place for ongoing discussions of individual books and general topics. Our meetings will include group discussion and guest speakers from the fields of science, philosophy, and literature.

To join up or ask questions email

Watch this blog for a guide to Neal Stephenson’s more popular novels as well as other info on Offworld.