2050: The Year of the Brain Download

Maybe we’re not too far off from the future imagined by Altered Carbon and Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. From CNN:

By the middle of the 21st century it will be possible to download your brain to a supercomputer, according to a leading thinker on the future.

Ian Pearson, head of British Telecom’s futurology unit, told the UK’s Observer newspaper that the rapid advances in computing power would make cyber-immortality a reality within 50 years.

I suddenly have this impending inferiority complex that my brain can be captured on a 5.25″ floppy disk.

A Feast For Crows is Done! Really this Time!

George R.R. Martin has completed the much-anticipated and oft-delayed next installment in his Song of Ice & Fire sequence, called A Feast for Crows. His website goes into the gory details of how the book has grown beyond original expectations.

In a nutshell, the the whole story originally intended for A Feast For Crows has been split into two parts. Rather than the normal booksplitting practice of breaking the story in the middle, Martin insisted that the the two parts each tell a complete, simultaneously-occurring tale. So the suddenly-complete book titled A Feast For Crows will focus on “Westeros, King’s Landing, the riverlands, Dorne, and the Iron Islands.” Meanwhile, the stuff ripped out of the original manuscript will now be part of the soon-to-be-finished A Dance With Dragons and will focus on “events in the east and north”.

This most likeley means the the series may now stretch out to seven books instead of the intended six.

[Link via Locus Online]

Another Firefly Fan

Longtime SF Signal groupie James of Big Dumb Object has finally gotten around to watching Firefly. And he likes it! Even if it took him a seven-part review to realize it. Welcome aboard, James!

The Important Films

Matthew M. Foster, freelance film critic and film historian, offers up a list of The Important Films. Even better us sf fans, he gives a closer look at important science fiction films. One will note that Foster does not fear the inclusion of Star Wars on the list. That’s good. Because we all know where fear leads

A SF Fan and His Parents

Daniel M. Kimmel, a Boston-based film critic, has an article over at Emerald City about how he bacame a science fiction fan even without direct encouragement from his parents.

REVIEW: Counterfeit Kings by Adam Connell

REVIEW SUMMARY: Refreshingly gritty story in which I could not get fully immersed.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: After a failed assassination attempt, the King goes into hiding and is sought after by his ex-bodyguard and a host of bad guys.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Wonderfully gritty feel; detailed and memorable characterizations.

CONS: Imbalanced pacing and writing style; suspension of disbelief wavered.

BOTTOM LINE: Meh. Hard to get immersed in the story.

Continue reading

POLL RESULTS: 2005 Summer Movies

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

QUESTION
Which of the following upcoming summer movies are you most eagerly anticipating?

RESULTS

(39 total votes)

What’s Your Guilty Pleasure?

I’m not a reading snob.

I’ve talked before about the guilty pleasures of reading:

I do enjoy the guilty pleasures of reading. While reading literary works make me feel virtuous, other writing often re-injects the fun back into sf. In the end, it’s the reading experience that is paramount, of which the book’s writing style is only a part. (It’s the same guilty pleasure I derive from Star Wars. It’s not Shakespeare, but it’s fun.)

Besides The Executioner series and Star Wars, I might also add to my list of guilty pleasures the Perry Rhodan series. I haven’t read any in while, but I remember these being fun in a corny, how-will-they-top-themselves-next kind of way. I like to think that their literary value was lost somewhere in the translation from their original German, but in the back of my mind, I know it’s a dignity-preserving lie.

I hope I’m not the only one who’s not afraid to fess up! C’mon, share you guilty pleasure. Any Pel Toro fans out there?

Is Listening to an Audiobook the Same as Reading the Book?

So asks this New York Times article. This was a funny bit:

The comedian Jon Stewart, an author of the mock history textbook “America (The Book),” opens the audio version by lampooning the format. “Welcome, nonreader,” he intones. Listeners are advised that the listening experience “should not be considered a replacement for watching television.”

The Unfortunate Fate of eBooks

Check out this PDF Zone article called Book Publishing Is Foundering for Good Reason which talks about the doom of eBooks. With 2 pros and 8 cons, the bottom line opinion is:

There’s potential there, but it’s waiting for the right combination of hardware, software and content to unlock it. Oh, yes, and human behavior and preferences need to change, too.

I’ve talked about eBooks before, first as an opponent then as a semi-convert. I’ve grown more used to reading on my PDA, but I still prefer a book. I rely on PDA reading only when it’s convenient. I’ll load up a couple of short stories (converted to MS Reader format courtesy of the handy MS Word add-in) so I have something to read when I find myself with some spare time while I’m away from my bookshelf.

More Info on Serenity Comic

Here’s some behind-the-scenes info on tha making of the Serenity comic available in July. The link also has a sneak preview.

The Future of TV

Conan O’Brien has written a humorous preview into the future of television. An excerpt:

TiVo, the digital recorder with a brain, will continue to evolve with alarming speed. Super-TiVos will arrange marriages between like-minded viewers and will persuade mismatched couples to throw in the towel and start seeing other people. Tough-talking TiVos will even confront viewers, saying, “You’ve watched 40 straight hours of ‘Sponge- Bob’-get off the weed!” One of TiVo’s best loved features-its ability to provide viewers with commercial-free television-will inevitably force TV advertising to go extinct. As a result, celebrities will be forced to find new and creative ways to compromise their integrity. (At this moment, the writer pauses to slake his thirst with a delicious Diet Peach Snapple… now with less aspartame!) The sudden loss of ads on television will push many companies to stage their pitches live on Broadway, revitalizing the theater in America and garnering Patti LuPone a Tony award for her work with Geico.

Meanwhile, computers will continue to be used more and more to watch digital streaming video, eventually turning them into televisions. With no computers available to solve complex math problems, people will have no choice but to return to the abacus. Within a few months, this ancient device will be abandoned when it’s realized that there is no good way to make “abacus porn.”

Robert A. Heinlein Centennial

July 7, 2007 will be 100 years since the birth of Robert A. Heinlein. Let’s Party!

Heinlein Continental, Inc., a non-profit organization, is organizing the Robert A. Heinlein Centennial. For more information, see there press release (PDF).

[Link via Truefen.net, which also list some more details from the site.]

Bit Torrent Users Beware

A Wired article details some legal action taken against Bit Torrent site administrators and users.

Acting on detailed information provided by the motion picture industry, federal agents descended on administrators and users of a popular pirate-friendly file-sharing site Wednesday in what the government is calling the first criminal law enforcement action against BitTorrent users.

The Laws of Science Fiction Writing

BoingBoing posted a link to stencils of famous science fiction authors. Ho-hum.

More interesting to me was the website’s pointer to The Laws of Science Fiction Writing. To summarize:

  1. No Nazis.
  2. Aliens should be ALIEN.
  3. Good Science Fiction is Good Science.
  4. Given Something an Alien Name Doesn’t Make it Alien.
  5. Never kill off your main character.
  6. It takes two to tangle.
  7. A story should contain descriptions involving all 5 senses.
  8. No Unicorns!
  9. No Star Trek or Star Wars References
  10. No Dreams
  11. No Supermen

Rule #1 means no stories about time-travelling Nazi Zombies. Damn.

The Science Fiction Renaissance

A new FelixOnline article, The Science Fiction Renaissance, referring to the plethora of science fiction movies asks, “Why are we seeing this new wave of science fiction?”

Some excerpts:

Sci-fi movies are all about suspending the audience’s disbelief. A science fiction film with obviously fake special effects quickly finds itself relegated to the ‘B-movie’ category. Recent advances in Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) have made it cheaper to make convincing alternate universes.

But a criticism that has often been levelled at science fiction is that usually the characters are very poorly developed and unrealistic. This may be true – from Blade Runner to Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, dialogue and characterisation have always been weak points with sci-fi movies.

However, what science fiction lacks in characterisation, it makes up for in ideas. We live in a world when advances in technology are beginning to outpace our ability to keep up with them. We live in a technological culture.Although recent films such as I, Robot and Minority Report are entertaining, they also provide social commentary about the nature of our technological culture that other genres of film are unable to make. Another recent example is Gattaca, in which social issues about genetic engineering are addressed.

But some sci-fi purists remain sceptical: “Big budget ‘sci-fi’ films have always been popular and tend to come in waves,” says Michael Wright of Imperial’s Science Fiction society. “I’m not sure science fiction as a genre is getting more popular. Many of the people who will see Revenge of the Sith in the cinema wouldn’t touch a sci-fi book, and many of the best sci-fi TV series have been cancelled.”

One for Bruce Campbell Fans

As reported in the Houston Chronicle, Bruce Campbell is promoting a book, Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way. His promotional tour stops in Houston on July 6.

In addition to his first novel, Campbell will be promoting the first feature film he has directed, Man With the Screaming Brain. Part 1 of Dark Horse Comics’ four-part comic book adaptation of the film went on sale earlier this month.

On Reviewing Science Fiction

Since I’ve been reviewing books for some time, I think it’s long overdue that I let people know (1) exactly what criteria are used to get a book’s rating, and (2) what are my likes and dislikes that will affect my enjoyment of a book. I think something like that is necessary to put a reviewer’s opinion in perspective for the reader. It helps them figure out how much weight they should attach to that reviewer based on their own likes and dislikes and it gives an explanation as to why a book might succeed or fail.

I could go on forever talking about reviewing so I thought that I’d try to reel myself in (and make this an easier read) if I used a FAQ-like format.

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Now With More Girl Genius

Fans of Phil abd Kaja Foglio (as seen in Dragon Magazine’s What’s New? comic) can now rejoice as their Girl Genius comic is now online. It looks like they are releasing pages from the existing books (3 currently), one a day on MWF. In addition, new material is also posted in the Advanced Class. Sweet.

I’ve always like the look and humor of the Foglio’s work. This will have to become a ‘must read’.

Book Publishing Stats

SF/BoingBoing author Cory Doctorow talks a bit about the state of the publishing industry based on same statistics from the Book Industry Study Group.

The number of books sold dropped by nearly 44 million from 2003 to 2004, even as the annual number of books published approaches 175,000.

”People are reading less, so what you’re seeing is the same phenomenon that has hit magazines and newspapers, a massive shift toward home video, DVD, internet and cable,” said Albert N. Greco, an industry consultant and a professor of business at the graduate school of Fordham University.

The Book Industry Study Group, a nonprofit research organization, reported estimated sales of 2.295 billion books in 2004, compared to an estimated 2.339 billion the previous year. Higher prices enabled net revenues to increase 2.8 percent, to $28.6 billion, but also drove many readers, especially students, to buy used books, Greco said.