The Science of Aliens

Check out this ForteanTimes article The Science of Aliens. (Register or use BugmeNot.) It’s based on an exhibit from London’s Science Museum and talks about the cool stuff that’s scientifically possible with some hat tips to aliens from our own culture.

BTW, check out the exhibit’s game page where you can see What Type of Alien You Are. (My results: “You’re a hyper-intelligent alien. You would sooner gnaw off your own arm than miss an opportunity to swing your vast intellect around. Immense, sarcastic and fluent in Klingon, you’re a big hit with the opposite sex…but only on-line.”)

SF Tidbits Part XLI

Gardner Dozois’ Future Projects

SF author and editor Gardner Dozois is not resting on his laurels since stepping down as editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. As SciFiWire reports, in addition to writing some more of his own fiction, he will be editing several upcoming anthologies in addition to his annual Year’s Best Science Fiction anthology series.

The upcoming titles include:

  • One Million A.D. – a Science Fiction Book Club exclusive showcasing original far-future stories. (Perhaps a companion to his Furthest Horizon anthology of already-published fiction?)
  • Escape From Earth – Another SFBC exclusive, this co-edited with longtime collaborator Jack Dann and collecting young adult science fiction.
  • Wizards – co-editing with Dann again, this one focuses on original young adult fantasy.
  • The New Space Opera – co-edited with Jonathan Strahan and showcasing space opera sf.
  • Changing Worlds and Dangerous Games – Two more fantasy anthologies with co-editor Jack Dann (via Dann’s website…Beware of flying JavaScript! :))

It’s nice to see a little emphasis on young adult science fiction to even out the weight placed on the shoulders of YA fantasy. From the SciFiWire article:

“I think it’s extremely important to generate good new YA SF,” Dozois said. “The fantasy genre has maintained a tradition of good YA fantasy throughout the last few decades (just think Harry Potter), and I think it’s hurt science fiction as a field that we’ve neglected it. It means that new readers don’t have a place to start, but must jump instead directly into reading adult SF, and I think that it may be too difficult a jump for some of them.”

New Ways of Selling TV and Books?

There’s a well-written New York Magazine piece on how the face of network television is changing which has this to say about Firefly:

All of which leads to an enticing possibility: Let’s say that Joss Whedon, creator of Firefly, wanted to bring the series back to air. (Though “back to air” is a TV phrase now as anachronistically quaint as “switching the dial.”) Let’s say he found a million Firefly fans online—and, trust me, they’re not hiding—who were willing to pay, say, $39.99 each for a sixteen-episode season of Firefly. (Not an unreasonable price, given how many people pay about that amount for full seasons on DVD.) Suddenly, Joss Whedon’s got roughly $40 million to play with—and he doesn’t need a network. Or a time slot. Or advertisers. He can beam the damn shows right to your computer if he wants to. There’s even a mini-precedent for this: The online phenomenon of “ransom games,” in which a board-game developer sets a price (usually something minuscule, like $1,000), then, once he’s received that amount in pledges from strangers, creates the game and releases it for free.

I’m not sure how realistic this is, but as a Firefly fan I’d love to see it return.

Bill Adams at Idler Yet sees another revolution on the horizon: the death of the book publishers.

Realistic? I don’t know but his point is taken: if selling directly, authors need sell much fewer books to reap a huge profit. Author Tobias S. Buckell’s post Alternate Income Streams does some quick math regarding Bruce Holland Rogers’ short story subscription service in which he appears to making twice the dollar-per-word average. Not a bad system.

Lewis Opposed Live-Action Narnia

Did you know C.S. Lewis opposed a live action version of Narnia?

In a newly published letter written in 1959 to BBC producer Lance Sieveking, Lewis says:

“Anthropomorphic animals, when taken out of narrative into actual visibility, always turn into buffoonery or nightmare — at least with photography. Cartoons (if only Disney did not combine so much vulgarity with his genius!) wld. be another matter. A human, pantomime, Aslan wld. be to me blasphemy.”

I find it interesting that an author would reject a film adaptation of his work; certainly uncommon by today’s standards, I think. Authors would love to sell their books to Hollywood. The money Hollywood has to spend is far greater than the money publishers have. And after all, writers hope to make a living with their written work. Artistic integrity might be an issue for some, but a million buck is a million bucks.

It almost sounds like Lewis doubted the capability of the technology which, in 1959, was way,way less than what could be done today. I wonder how he’d feel if he had seen Lord of the Rings and had witnessed what could be done. Would he change his tune?

Cthulhu Family Circus

Not that BoingBoing needs any more repeaters, but when they posted something that fits perfectly in our Cthulhu category, like a link to the Cthulhu Family Circus, it’s too hard to avoid otherwise.

Head on over and feel the dread of thge Nameless One.

[Note to self: I really must read some Cthulhu stories. Really.]

POLL RESULTS: Cancelled TV Shows

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

Of the following cancelled TV shows, which is your favorite?


(77 total votes)

SF Tidbits Part XL

Does Your Taste in Fiction Change with the Popular Vote?

A recent SF tidbit linked to a USA Today article showing and increase in Fantasy book sales. This should come as no surprise given the recent successes of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.

More interesting to me is the pendulum-like popularity between science fiction and fantasy. Several years ago, it seemed like science fiction was the big thing, now it is fantasy.

I wonder…are the people buying the current trend doing so out of love for the genre or just its popularity? Or is it just that the popular books are more readily available (like in WalMart book aisle).

Being mainly a science fiction reader, I find that when the trend is on the Fantasy side, there seems to be less sf to choose from on the book shelves. Not a problem for online stores where the virtual shelves are infinite, but it sure makes it more difficult to find science fiction title I might enjoy.

One Reason Why Film Adaptations of Books Can Be Good

Many people are quick to whine about the poor quality of film adaptations of books; oftentimes before they see even one frame of film. SF/F fans are a fickle and hard to please bunch and, true, many adaptations are not true to the original work for reasons Michael Cassutt explains quite nicely. But I’m coming to realize there’s at least one benefit of movie adaptations: promoting reading in children.

Over the last year or so, there have been several movie adaptations that my daughter has seen and liked enough to spark interest in the source material. (While her reading level isn’t quite up to the book, her old man is more than happy to spend the time and read it to her – yet another positive effect.) It started with The Iron Giant and continued with Kiki’s Delivery Service and Holes. Both the films and the books for these stories were fantastic. We enjoyed both versions very much.

It would be nice, of course, if the love of the book could come first. Last week was the first step in that direction. We read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Needless to say, she’s excited about the release of the movie in two weeks. We just finished watching the 10 minute trailer that Tivo caught for us. (We love you, Tivo!)

SF Tidbits Part XXXIX

REVIEW: King Kong is Back edited by David Brin

REVIEW SUMMARY: A fun book for fans, both casual and diehard.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: 20 essays exploring the mythology of King Kong.


PROS: Often humorous; almost always entertaining.

CONS: Some material valuable only to diehard fans.

BOTTOM LINE: Fun, thoughtful, educational and humorous looks at Hollywood’s most famous ape.

Continue reading

Locus Magazine Subscriptions: Get One!

I’m not sure of a simpler way to say this: if you like reading science fiction or fantasy, you will like Locus Magazine.

I’ve been a subscriber for a little over a year and I recently renewed for two more. It truly is a “sf/f newspaper” – they have interesting news; thoughtful, detailed reviews; and (my favorite part) interviews with the big names in science fiction and fantasy. Well, not interviews, exactly. There’s no Q&A, per se. It’s more like an autobiographical essay by each article subject. And two in every issue! (See samples.) Whatever you call them, they are always excellent reads and are alone worth the cover price ($52 USD will get you 12 issues. But hurry! Their rates are going up at the beginning of the new year!)

Suggestion: if you do subscribe, Google for special offers to get an extra back issue with an author you like. Some authors are offering links to get a free back issue with their own “interview” piece. (I grabbed the Alastair Reynolds issue.)

SF Tidbits Part XXXVIII

  • John C. Wright is working on Null-A Continuum, a sequel to A.E. van Vogt’s The Players of Null-A.
  • Jonathan Strahan wonders if the future of short fiction begins with Bruce Holland Rogers’ offerings of short-short fiction.
  • Boston Globe Article: Back to Utopia, mentions works by Edward Bellamy, Samuel Delany, Ursula K. LeGuin, Philip K. Dick and John Brunner.
  • Altered Carbon author Richard K. Morgan just signed a five-book deal with Del Rey, which will include a sword-and-sorcery trilogy.
  • Attention Firefly fans with at least $1500: Own Mal’s browncoat! [via TV Squad]

Amazon Offering Wiki Functionality

Amazon now offers the ability of customers to add content about the purchased product. A new ProductWiki link appears on each product page allowing customers to collaborate on product-related information. And yes, there’s even one for the $220 frying pan.

As sf author Tobias Buckell points out, this is pretty cool, even in its early stages. For books, this could be the “bonus material” culled by hordes of ravaging fans, espousing the behind-the-scenes look at the making of the book. Even better if authors contributed. Of course, to do so, the authors would have to purchase their own book. Heh.

SF Tidbits Part XXXVII

And the 2006 Science Fiction Grand Master is…

The SFWA has announced that the 2006 Science Fiction Grand Master will be Harlan Ellison. The award will be presented at the Nebula Awards weekend.

See a list of all SFWA Grand Masters.

[Link via Michael A. Burstein]

15 Most Frequently Quoted Authors in Gary Westfahl’s Science Fiction Quotations Book

Gary Westfahl has posted an interesting behind-the-scenes look at the creation of his latest book Science Fiction Quotations: From the Inner Mind to the Outer Limits, a collection of quotations on the genre. He compiled various statistics about the quotations, incuding a list of the 15 Most Frequently Quoted Authors:

1 Robert A. Heinlein (171)

2. Ursula K. Le Guin (164)

3. Philip K. Dick (126)

4. Terry Pratchett (88)

5. William Gibson (79)

6. Douglas Adams (78)

7. Arthur C. Clarke (52)

8. H.G. Wells (49)

9. Kim Stanley Robinson (40)

10. Ray Bradbury (39)

11. Frank Herbert (34, tie)

11. George Turner (34, tie)

11. Yevgeny Zamiatin (34, tie)

12. Stanislaw Lem (32, tie)

12. Walter M. Miller Jr. (32, tie)

SF Tidbits Part XXXVI

Personalized Library Services or Big Brother Buffet?

At least one library (at North Carolina State University) is taking its cue from Internet services like Amazon and NetFlix. They aim to keep customer information in an effort to suggest new books and periodicals that are related to previous borrowings.

This is just like Amazon’s suggestions feature which, admittedly, has gotten better over the years but used to have a tendency to offer hardcore frying pans. I imagine the library’s suggestions will have a similar period of maturation to go through.

As usual, privacy issues are raised. Under the Patriot Act, the U.S. government may obtain this information from libraries. (Activate Colonel Klink voice: “I zee you haf checked out Mein Kempf last Hanukkah. Very interestink!”) Yet, proponents say the use of such technology can increase the customer experience. Personally, I’d rather not have the library offering half-assed suggestions for me because I checked out If You Give a Mouse a Cookie for my daughter, but that’s just me. (Humor me and assume that I actually go to the library instead of dipping into one of my boxes of obsessive-compulsively purchased books. :))