Archive for October, 2005

Baen to Publish Online SF Magazine

Baen Books, home of the famous Baen Free Library, will be publishing an online science fiction magazine in 2006. The magazine’s editor is SF author Eric Flint, who makes no bones about trying to revive an economically stagnant short fiction market. He hopes to increase the amount of “popular” science fiction being written, by which (I think) he means sf/f adventure stories written by popular writers.

I’m not sure I agree with this seemingly controversial implication that science fiction has been steadily producing ever-increasingly “unpopular” (or does he mean low quality?) science fiction. There have been many outstanding stories just last year alone. But, hey, any new venue for short fiction is a good thing. I suspect, given the increasing popularity of online fiction, especially over the last couple of years, that the online magazine will see the birth of many great pieces of short fiction.

SF Tidbits Part XXIV

POLL RESULTS: Star Wars Episode III on DVD

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

QUESTION
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith will be released on DVD on November 1st. Do you plan on buying it?

RESULTS

(37 total votes)

Looks like our readership is about equally divided on getting the DVD. Even more encouraging to me is that nobody is holding out for the inevitable mashup re-re-re-release. That’s right, people, send a message to The Man (that would be the movie studio Marketing Man) that we’re not going to stand for multiple versions of these movies! Give us our original versions! Han shot first, dammit!

Ahem. Sorry, I was momentarily possessed by JP for a second. ;-)

Do Writers Bug You?

CoolSciFi links to an article at Holt Uncensored that lists Ten Mistakes Writers Don’t See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do). Without reiterating it here, I do notice when writers make some of these mistakes and sometimes it just bugs me.

Asimov had the crutch prase “to be sure” which, as much as I love his work, used to annoy the heck out of me. Some writers (I cannot recall which ones) occasionally have their characters spew phony dialogue purely for the sake of the reader’s benefit (obvious handholding). A better example of the “Lists” offense than cited in the article comes from Pel Torro. It’s worth repeating here – it’s so darned funny.

“The things were odd, weird, grotesque. There was something horribly uncustomary and unwonted about them. There were completely unfamiliar. Their appearance was outlandish and extraordinary. There was something quite phenomenal about them. They were supernormal; they were unparalleled; they were unexampled. The shape of the aliens was singular in every sense. They were curious, odd, queer, peculiar and fantastic, and yet when every adjective had been used on them, when every preternatural epithet had been applied to their aberrant and freakish appearance, when everything that could be said about such eccentric, exceptional, anomalous creatures had been said, they still remained indescribable in any concrete terms.”

Somebody call the Thesaurus Police!

SF Tidbits Part XXIII

[All links via Locus Online]

How Do You Decide What Book to Read?

A recent Book Standard article Anatomy of a Buzz: Does Getting Your Book on TV for a Few Seconds Boost Sales (If It’s on ‘Lost’)? asks whether TV advertising for books works. When a copy of Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman appeared on an episode of Lost (season 2, episode 3 which had 22 million viewers according to Nielson), there was a sales surge. This may be a little misleading, though, as the appearance of the book was foretold in a Chicago Tribune article (and syndicated in other papers). The article had a Lost writer saying that reading The Third Policeman would be invaluable to fans seeking to unravel the island’s mystery. So, factor in the obsessive fan effect.

Still, it got me wondering, not so much about how to sell books but about what makes people decide to read one book over another. (And by “people” I mean “me” because, as we all know, it’s all about me!) I’m pretty firmly entrenched in the science fiction genre but even within that niche, how is it I decide what to read?

I’m just talking about choosing what to read not necessarily what to buy. Given my backlog of books (Hello, my name is John and I’m a biblioholic.) it’s a pretty good bet that I already own something I want to read. So, what makes me pick one book over another from my abnormally large pile of biblio goodness? Setting aside book suggestion sites for a moment, how do I pick?

Read the rest of this entry

One must understand…

how they work for you really to put a zombie in its place. Lets face it, zombies are darned terrifying critters, and if you get one of them time travelling nazi ones, you may as well scoop out your own brain matter for them. But just in time for Halloween, our friends at How Stuff Works have come to our rescue with a crash course in How Zombies work. And now you know.

REVIEW: Eldest by Christopher Paolini

REVIEW SUMMARY: A much weaker book than Eragon.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: An inexperienced dragon-rider must train to become the warrior who will save all the land from an Evil Emperor.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: The thread involving Eragon’s cousin was entertaining. The last 10% of the book was the best part.

CONS: The other 90% was slow-moving, boring and lacked many qualities which would have otherwise immersed the reader.

BOTTOM LINE: Maybe this is a classic case of middle book syndrome?

Read the rest of this entry

More of the Worst Jobs in Science

Do you still not like your current job? It could still be worse. Popular Science has listed the third annual list of The Worst Jobs in Science. [via SlashDot]

The Man Who Fell to Earth…Again

SciFiWire is reporting that there will be a remake of the 1977 David Bowie film The Man Who Fell to Earth.

What the article does not say is that the movies are based on the fantastic book of the same name written by Walter Tevis. The book was outstanding. Maybe the remake is a good reason to re-read this classic as I always promised myself I would. I have only a vague recollection of the 1977 movie. I had a chance to see it a couple of years after its theatrical release but the character study aspect, if I recall, did not appeal to the false depiction of what I thought science fiction should be. (Thanks for nothing, George Lucas.) When I got older and wiser (I know I am getting older. I hope I am getting wiser.) I gave the original Tevis work a chance and absolutely loved it.

SF Tidbits Part XXII

  • Check out the Yoda Dance video which will be appearing as an Easter Egg on the Revenge of the Sith DVD. [via]
  • The December release of Peter Jackson’s King Kong will be 3 hours long.
  • There are plans to make a film version of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust.
  • There’a a new online RPG in town called The Red Sun which is based on Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series. [via]
  • From 1994: A collection of bad lines from science fiction. [via]

In Your Face, Blade Runner!

From Yahoo:

Sci-fi buffs from around the world have voted cult TV series, “Firefly,” the world’s best space science fiction work ever in an international poll conducted by NewScientistSpace.com, the space news website from New Scientist magazine.

Serenity, the successful movie spin-off from the “Firefly” TV series, finished second with 17 percent of the votes. It marks a clean sweep for Joss Whedon, the creator of both stories who is best known as the man behind “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

You’ll note that Blade Runner is not listed at all as it was on another list by…old scientists, I suppose. I’m just sayin’… :)

Complete survey results are available at New Scientist, but here’s the skinny:

Read the rest of this entry

I’m still abuzz with the proliferation of web applications based on Google Maps.

One such application, Frappr, tracks the geographic location of things. So I thought it would be fun to track where our readers reside. I created a Frappr page for SF Signal. I’ve also added a “Show us where you are!” link on the main page in the Meta-Signal widget.

Head on over and tell us where you’re from!

A Long Time Ago in a Museum Far, Far Away

George Lucas is opening the doors to Star Wars paraphernalia by providing sets, costumes and props from all six Star Wars movies to Boston’s Museum of Science. Pieces include Luke’s speeder, the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, androids, and Anakin’s prosthetic hand. (No mention was made as to the whereabouts of Anakin’s acting skills. Ba-dum crash!)

Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination opens Thursday to “give some scientific basis to the fantasy of the films.” There is apparently an emphasis on education and technology, the article says:

The museum’s president and director, Ioannis Miaoulis, said he feared that U.S. schools are failing to produce enough future engineers to meet competition from Asia, putting pressure on museums like his to play a more influential role. “We are producing generations of people that have no understanding about how most of the things they interact with in their day-to-day life work,” he said.

Film’s Most Shocking Moments

Premiere Magazine has posted their 25 Most Shocking Moments in Movie History. Moments of note include the movies:

25. Jaws

22. The Sixth Sense – “I see dead people.”

18. Planet of the Apes (original…sorry Tim B.) – “You maniacs!”

17. Star Wars Episode IV – “Luke, I am Your Father!”

12. Texas Chainsaw Massacre

9. The Exorcist – Pea soup, anyone?

8. Carrie

3. Alien – with a scene that has lost all of its charm since Mel Brooks ruined it for me with Spaceballs.

[Link via ClubJade]

As the Ghibli Turns

Turner Classic Movies will be airing nine anime films from Hayao Miyazaki in January 2006. The Studio Ghibli productions include Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind, Castle in the Sky, Porco Rosso and Whisper of the Heart.

[via ELN]

Steam Wars

No, not another Star Wars parody. Steam Wars is a site that showcases some artwork depicting steam-driven robots. And who doesn’t like steam-driven robots? Seeing this makes me want to watch Sky Captain and Iron Giant again.

[via Planet Magazine]

Yet Another Bohemian Rhapsody Mashup

This time telling the story of Zero Wing sung to the tune of Queen’s ubiquitous hit.

Zig! For great justice!

SF Tidbits Part XXI

I Just Don’t Get Poetry

Will someone please tell me what the deal is with poetry? I just don’t get it. It always seems like poets just take a long sentence, write the words on different lines and call it poetry. And the more vague the sentences are , the “better” the poem. At least rhyming poets make an effort.

Take, for example, this poem written by Kurt Vonnegut about Isaac Asimov, or any sf poetry for that matter. Vonnegut is a good author but a lousy poet.

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