Levardis Robert Martyn Burton, Jr., professionally known as LeVar Burton, is an American actor, director, producer and, author. Burton first came to prominence portraying Kunta Kinte in the 1977 award-winning ABC television miniseries Roots, based on the novel by Alex Haley. He is also well known for his role as Lt. Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation as well as the host of the PBS children’s program Reading Rainbow. In 1986, Gene Roddenberry approached him with the role of the then Lieutenant Junior Grade Geordi La Forge in the Star Trek: The Next Generation television series. La Forge is blind, but is granted “sight” through the use of a prosthetic device called a VISOR, which is worn over his eyes. La Forge is the USS Enterprise’s helmsman, and as of the show’s second season, its Chief Engineer. At the time, Burton was considerably better known than Patrick Stewart in the United States, due to the fame he gained from starring in Roots. The Associated Press stated that Burton’s role was essentially the “new Spock.”
Jules Gabriel Verne was a French author who pioneered the science fiction genre. He is best known for his novels Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873). Verne wrote about space, air, and underwater travel before air travel and practical submarines were invented, and before practical means of space travel had been devised. He is the second most translated author in the world (after Agatha Christie). Some of his books have also been made into live-action and animated films and television shows. Verne is often referred to as the “Father of Science Fiction”, a title sometimes shared with Hugo Gernsback and H. G. Wells.
William Seward Burroughs II (also known by his pen name William Lee) was an American novelist, poet, essayist and spoken word performer. A primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author, he is considered to be “one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the 20th century.” His influence is considered to have affected a range of popular culture as well as literature. Burroughs wrote 18 novels and novellas, six collections of short stories and four collections of essays. Five books have been published of his interviews and correspondences. He also collaborated on projects and recordings with numerous performers and musicians, and made many appearances in films.
Ayn Rand was a Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter. She is known for her two best-selling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism. Born and educated in Russia, Rand moved to the United States in 1926. She worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood and had a play produced on Broadway in 1935–1936. After two initially unsuccessful early novels, she achieved fame with her 1943 novel The Fountainhead. In 1957, she published her best-known work, the philosophical novel Atlas Shrugged. Afterward she turned to nonfiction to promote her philosophy, publishing her own magazines and releasing several collections of essays until her death in 1982. Rand advocated reason as the only means of acquiring knowledge and rejected all forms of faith and religion. She supported rational egoism and rejected ethical altruism. In politics, she condemned the initiation of force as immoral and opposed all forms of collectivism and statism, instead supporting laissez-faire capitalism, which she believed was the only social system that protected individual rights. She promoted romantic realism in art. She was sharply critical of most other philosophers and philosophical traditions. The reception for Rand’s fiction from literary critics has historically been mixed and polarizing, with extreme opinions both for and against her work commonly being expressed. Nonetheless, she continues to have a popular following, as well as a growing influence among scholars and academics. Rand’s political ideas have been influential among libertarians and conservatives. The Objectivist movement attempts to spread her ideas, both to the public and in academic settings.
Gregory Benford is an American science fiction author and astrophysicist who is on the faculty of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California, Irvine. He is also a contributing editor of Reason magazine. As a science fiction author, Benford is perhaps best known for the Galactic Center Saga novels, beginning with In the Ocean of Night (1977). This series postulates a galaxy in which sentient organic life is in constant warfare with sentient mechanical life. Benford tends to write hard science fiction which incorporates the research he is doing as a practical scientist. He has worked on several collaborations with authors including William Rotsler, David Brin and Gordon Eklund. His time-travel novel Timescape (1980) won both the Nebula Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. A scientific procedural, the novel eventually loaned its title to a line of science fiction published by Pocket Books. In the late 1990s, he wrote Foundation’s Fear, one of an authorized sequel trilogy to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. Other novels published in that period include several near-future science thrillers: Cosm (1998), The Martian Race (1999) and Eater (2000).
Philip José Farmer was an American author, principally known for his award-winning science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories. Farmer is best known for his sequences of novels, especially the World of Tiers (1965–93) and Riverworld (1971–83) series. He is noted for the pioneering use of sexual and religious themes in his work, his fascination for, and reworking of, the lore of celebrated pulp heroes, and occasional tongue-in-cheek pseudonymous works written as if by fictional characters. Farmer often mixed real and classic fictional characters and worlds and real and fake authors as epitomized by his Wold Newton family group of books. These tie all classic fictional characters together as real people and blood relatives resulting from an alien conspiracy. Such works as The Other Log of Phileas Fogg (1973) and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (1973) are early examples of literary mashup. Literary critic Leslie Fiedler compared Farmer to Ray Bradbury as both being “provincial American eccentrics” … who… “strain at the classic limits of the [science fiction] form”, but found Farmer distinctive in that he “manages to be at once naive and sophisticated in his odd blending of theology, pornography, and adventure”.
John Howard Carpenter is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, editor, composer, and occasional actor. Although Carpenter has worked in numerous film genres in his four-decade career, his name is most commonly associated with horror and science fiction. Carpenter was born in Carthage, New York, the son of Milton Jean (née Carter) and Howard Ralph Carpenter, a music professor. He and his family moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky in 1953. He was captivated by movies from an early age, particularly the westerns of Howard Hawks and John Ford, as well as 1950s low budget horror and science fiction films, such as Forbidden Planet and The Thing from Another World and began filming horror shorts on 8 mm film even before entering high school. He attended Western Kentucky University where his father chaired the music department, then transferred to the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts in 1968, but later dropped out to make his first feature.