Archive for April, 2004

Review: Redemption Ark by Alastair Reynolds

REVIEW SUMMARY: An excellent addition to the Revelation Space universe.

MY RATING: rating

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A deadly race of sentient machines, the Inhibitors, is fast approaching human space with the intention of exterminating mankind. The renegade Conjoiner, Clavain, races to recover a cache of super-weapons that may be humanities only hope to stop them.

MY REVIEW: Excellent story set in a very hard-SF universe.

PROS: Well executed story of humanity’s fight for survival. Strong SF concepts, sympathetic characters and ton of “sense o’ wonder” complement the story.

CONS: This is a large book and, consequently, bogs down in the middle. Some of the action takes place “off stage”.

BOTTOM LINE: A must read for fans of Alastair Reynolds.

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Stephen Baxter on Writing

From Big Dumb Object comes the link to a BBC article from Stephen Baxter on the craft of writing sf. The article covers:

  • Finding inspiration
  • Developing your ideas
  • World-building
  • Future and alternate histories
  • How to inspire a sense of wonder
  • Plus his top ten SF short stories

This is a good read and, for fans as well as writers, offers insight into Baxter’s own Xeelee Universe and the making of his first short story Xeelee Flower. This turned out to be the first in a series of stories and novels comprising the future history known as the Xeelee Sequence. I read all of these books and stories some time ago and remember enjoying them very much. Baxter excels at creating a sense of wonder.

New And Notable Books for May 2004

LocusMag’s picks some new and notable books. for May 2004.

LOTR on TV?

SFCrowsest reports a rumor of a proposed television series set in Middle Earth. The events of TOME (“Tales of Middle Earth”) are set between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Highlander Freebie for Me

My free DVDs of Highlander Season III arrived yesterday. Thanks sfSite! Now…if only I was a fan…Or, had Seasons I and II…

KotOR II Coming…

I don’t know if anyone knew this, but I certainly didn’t… until I opened up my new issue of Computer Gaming World. According to the article, it is not being developed by BioWare but instead by Osidian Entertainment (which consists of the remnants of Black Isle Studios). It will sport the same engine as in the original KotOr with tweaks. You can read more about it here and here but surprisingly, not here.

REVIEW: The Genocides by Thomas M. Disch

REVIEW SUMMARY: A captivating classic.

MY RATING: rating

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Post-apocalyptic novel showing the decline of mankind amidst giant alien plants.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Excellently conveys a dark mood; engrossing tale; well-told and well-paced;

CONS: The last page or two was a little too religious – but so what.

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended.

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An Introduction to SF via the Movies

The demise of SF on television started me thinking about SF in general and its place in todays society. Now, I won’t go into a long discussion here about why SF is where it is and why people feel they way the do about it. Instead, I’m wondering, if you wanted to get people interested in SF, how would you do that? Looking at how popular SF movies are, why don’t we start with those.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is simple:

What movies would you show to someone to get them interested (excited, fired-up, etc) in SF?



Basically, I’m looking for a list of movies that every SF (wannabe)fan should see. I’ll start with a few.

1. 2001 – Yes its slow. Yes the ending is…..confusing. But it arguably started the modern era of SF in film. A must see.

2. Star Wars – Did as much to promote SF in film as it did to constrain it. Greatly influenced an entire generation.

3. The Matrix – Exposed people to the philosophical side of SF in a big way. Of course, the guns and martial arts didn’t hurt….

I know there’s more. I’m looking to get roughly 10 – 15 movies (if that many) that someone simply must see to be versed in SF in the movies.

List away! Oh, and discuss!

Futurama Review

It seems odd that LOCUS Online has just posted a review of Futurama , but its a combined review of the three released DVD sets. Well, the three in the US that is.

I agree with most of the sentiments expressed in the review and I think its ultimate demise was, in part, that it was too SF. In other words, the general public, those who aren’t SF fans, might feel they were left out of some of the jokes, and they would be right. I think this also contributed to the Hollywood types not “getting the show” (along with a complete lack of imagination), which is what led to the cancellation. I do think this show has a lot to offer everyone, and it should be a candidate to bring back to the small screen, over other “lesser” shows like, oh, Family Guy….

NASA & The Day After Tomorrow

Has anyone been following this? Apparently, NASA employees at Maryland’s Goddard Space Flight Center were directed to not give any interviews about the upocoming disaster flick The Day After Tomorrow. The thought is that the movie would cause a backlash against President Bush for poor environmentalist policies. Later, NASA said they would make scientisits available to discuss climate change with the media.

Ummm..OK. Since when did every piece of fiction automatically become a political or social statement? True, some authors write stories with social commentary in mind. Still, I long for the days when a story was just that.

EverQuest II

EverQuest II Beta is coming in June. They seem to be pulling that scam where they let people who throws tons of money at them (i.e. the Legends servers and Lords of Everquest players) gets in first. So I guess it’s not really a public beta. Nonetheless, they say they will accept additional beta testers and you just have to sign up. So I guess that will be our very own Mr. Vegas (read: Scott) who will probably win an entry…

Crusher? I Hardly Know Her!

Wil Wheaton DOT Net is the SciFiWeekly Sci-Fi Site of the Week and receives a pretty favorable review. Finally…others will learn about the time “Uncle Willy went to Bootytown“. I hate to say I told you so.

FFG Cthulhu Playtest to Open

Fantasy Flight Games’ Call of Cthulhu TCG is ramping up to release in July. Their website sez they’re opening up a beta for playtesters sometime ‘later this week’.

I’m all over that, baby!

Happy Birthday D&D!

An article on Dungeons and Dragons turning 30. I started playing in ’79, I think, with the blue book, that I still have!

Another fine Wisconsin product.

What You Like is in the Limo

David Bowie cordially invites you to re-mix his songs. Winner gets the “aurally photoshopped” piece formally released as an MP3 single….and a brand new Audi.

Guardian SF

I ran across this review of Stories of Your Life by Ted Chiang. The review is written by by China Miéville, author of Perdido Street Station and The Scar. So I browsed around the site and found some more ditties.

Lot’s to explore and read. Have at it.

Speaking of Star Trek

The Wrath of Khan was on AMC today and it makes you realize just how lame the other ST movies are. Including the other even numbered ones. Its got it all: action, drama, character interaction/development, death, pathos and the only cool movie rendition of Amazing Grace using bagpipes (which, as any Scottsman will tell you, is the only way to play it). So, in one of those serendipitous events that the internet makes easy to achieve, I ran across this web site today.

Sorta says it all, doesn’t it?

My home internet (and digital cable) access has been only sporadically available since last week. I got a Roadrunner tech coming out this week. I wish they could have sent someone over immediately. I feel hobbled. You really don’t appreciate your internet access until it goes bye-bye. I realize how much I take for granted the ability to purchase airline tickets, or blog, or send photos to the family, or surf por-, ummm…, I mean, search for worthy charities where I can donate my spare time helping others. They better get her soon.

I hardly know her!

We all know that searching the web can be more challenging than trying to hit the 50 hole while playing “Dyson Sphere skee ball“, especially if you’re looking for a topic that returns millions of results like ipod, or Iraq, or recombinant lexography. Wouldn’t it be interesting if you could see the results of your search visually? And what if the results were themselves organized by general topic – allowing you to further refine that ipod search into things like product reviews or merchants selling accessories?

Well, if that sounds intriguing to you, check out Grokker. This uniqe little Java application shows you the search results from Google in a way that just has to be seen to be appreciated. It organizes the search results visually so you can pick through just the things you really wanted to see. It’s free for 30 days, after that there is a $50 license fee. While it is cool, I’m not sure its quite $50 cool. It might be a harbinger of the future in the wild world of high-stakes search engines, though, and so it’s worth a look.

Trek XI?

Berman is hinting at a new Trek movie in the early, early stages of development. This would make 11 films in all. Could this be the oft-talked-about Starfleet Academy movie?

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