Archive for December, 2005

We’re Back! From Spaaaaaaace! (Updated!)

If you can read this, then the newly ported SF Signal is working. Yay us!

We now continue with our regularly scheduled program…

UPDATE: There is still some space dust settling as we snuggle ouselves into the warm, cozy cushion that is our new host. And there is still the matter of eye-pleasing domain name issues to be resolved.

Don’t Go Away…We’ll Be Right Back…In Spaaaace!

SF Signal will be doing a little renovating over the next couple of days…we’re changing web hosts and updating our blog software. While this is happening, the blog will be closed for comments and no new posts will appear. [Insert sound of crowd gasping in panic.]

Have a great holiday, but check back with us soon!

In 2006 (hopefully sooner) we’ll unveil the new, improved SF Signal with 100% more vitamins and irony. And, as if that weren’t enough, there will be a brand new spin-off blog! [Insert sound of crowd squealing.]

In the meantime, might I suggest you revel in the glory that is Dan’s Big ASCII head?

SF Tidbits Part LVIII

BG Recap

Ready for the second half of Battlestar Galactica Season 2 on January 9th?

(What’s up with series-splitting, anyway? Where are the days when TV seasons started in September and ended in June? Now series go on hiatus for months in between so a scaled down 18-epsiode season is supposed to feel like, what, a 10 month outing! Heck, 24 doesn’t even start its season until January. Bah! )

Anyway, if you’re not ready for BG Season 2.5, here’s a 22-minute recap of the series so far.

Let me know if the recap is good. It requires iTunes v6 which installed with DLL registartion error messages. It seemed to work anyway, but it required credit card info which seems silly to provide gievn that I only want to watch a commercial.

[link via TV Squad]

It’s That TIME Again, Galactica Named Best TV Show Of 2005

Everyone’s favorite, vacuous pop culture mag, TIME, has named their Best of 2005: Television shows, and Galactica came out on top. Which goes to show that SciFi can make a decent show. Now if only SciFi would apply that ability to original movies, and they’d really have something, although I did enjoy Triangle, for what that’s worth. At least there were no rubber monsters or ecological catastrophies in it…

Cyberia

Douglas Rushkoff has made available hos 1994 book Cyberia: Life in the Trenches of Hyperspace available online. Publishers Weekly describes it thusly:

This heady report takes readers on a dizzying and dangerous guided tour through “cyberspace,” an unfolding terrain of digital information that, according to Rushkoff, is being tapped by a “cyberian counterculture” bent on redefining reality. In “Cyberia,” artists, scientists and hackers explore virtual reality using prototype computers with 3-D goggles, headphones and a tracking ball to move through real or fictional space without commands, text or symbols; Silicon Valley engineers and mathematicians attempt to unlock creativity via psychedelic drugs or fractal graphics mirroring our irregular world; urban neopagans access information networks and use witchcraft to promote planetary survival. Computer bulletin boards, cyberpunk comic books, interactive videos, cyber-rock dance clubs and the acts of eco-terrorists and of employees who use computers to subvert the workplace are part of a cyberian universe whose gurus, interviewed here by Rushkoff, include Terence McKenna, Timothy Leary and R. U. Sirius, editor of Mondo 2000 magazine. Souped-up prose marks this exploration of cyberpunk culture.

REVIEW: World of Warcraft

While the World of Warcraft (WoW) servers are down for schedule maintenance, I’ll take this short break to write up my thoughts about this game. I know WoW has been out for a while now but I’ve finally gotten around to playing it.

REVIEW SUMMARY: The “short version” is that “I like it,” for now. Feel free to read my extended comments.

Read the rest of this entry

POLL RESULTS: Upcoming SciFi Channel Movies

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

QUESTION
Which of these upcoming SciFi Channel movies sounds the most promising?

RESULTS

(37 total votes)

Splurging For the Holidays

The holidays can be a stressful time of the year what with all the holiday shopping, the crowds, the family arguments, renewals of restraining orders… When I went shopping this year, I splurged on a couple of extravagances for myself – which is nothing but a gentle way of saying I caved into some impulse buying.

I was at a bookstore a couple of weeks ago and found a nice, hefty science fiction cover art coffee table book: Art of Imagination: 20th Century Visions of Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy by Frank M. Robinson, et. al. I had been eying this for a while, but even at the discount price of $30, I was having a hard time convincing myself I needed it. When I saw it for $10, I caved. The book is a collection of the previously-sold-separate Science Fiction of the 20th Century, Fantasy of the 20th Century and Horror of the 20th Century. Fun to read, fun to thumb through.

Another splurge occurred just last week. I was at Annoying Book Guy’s bookstore (note to self: tell some of the fabled stories of ABG.) as he was having his annual December hardback sale (50% the already-halved (or less) price). On his 3-for-a-dollar rack, he had reams of old Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazines from the 80’s and 90’s. I started hand-picking a few choice ones until I realized that I was passing none of them by. I walked out of there with about 54 of them. I probably never get around to reading them, but they’re mine, mine mine! What’s the point of buying on impulse if it’s going to be something you’d actually use, anyway?

On final impulse buy two nights ago: In the “nostalgia” section (translation: the place where old books are marked up way higher than their worth), I ran across a copy of Pel Torro’s Galaxy 666. You remember this one.. .with the U.S.S. Enterprise ripoff cover? At the very least, I’m thinking that it will provide humorous blog content for weeks to come.

Nickelodeon Interviews Young Adult Fantasy Authors

The November 2005 issue of Nickelodeon Magazine (what, you don’t read Nick Magazine on Christmas Eve?) features a set of short interviews with young adult fantasy authors. Here are some excerpts:

Nick: What kind of fantasy stories do you like to read?

Kate DiCamillo (author of The Tale of Despereaux): What interests me as a reader and as a writer is how people – or mice or rats, as the case may be – interact. Relationships interest me. I don’t have patience for full-blown battles and all that kind of stuff.

Nick: What’s your favorite fantasy creature?

Eoin Coifer (author of the Artemis Fowl series): Vampires. Someday I’m definitely going to have a go at a vampire story.

Nick: Is there anything you try to avoid in your fantasy stories?

Cornelia Funke (author of Inkspell): One idea that I don’t like at all is when nobles and kings are everywhere, bit the normal people don’t play a part in the story. I have much more sympathy for the weak and the poor than for the strong and ruling.

Nick: WHat do you stay away from when writing fantasy?

Christopher Paolini (author of Eldest): I try to avoid having too many fantasy elements in the story. If you have too many invented creatures, too many pieces of magic, too many fantasy names, it’s hard for the reader to relate to it all.

Another tidbit gained from Nick mag: Henry Winkler (yes, Fonzie) is writing children’s books – the Hank Zipzer series.

A Holiday Tale From Jeff VanderMeer

Author Jeff VanderMeer has posted his story Experiment #25 From The Book Of Winter: The Croc And You on his weblog. A ‘sort of’ holiday tale that is.

Read and enjoy!

Contemplating Another New Year’s Resolution

It’s that time of year again where I usually resolve not to make any more New Year’s resolutions. But I keep thinking back to my 2004 resolution to read 366 SF-POINTS©-worth of short stories, novelettes and novellas. I met my goal by year’s end (earlier, actually) and I found the whole experience to be rewarding overall. So, I’m thinking of doing it again in 2006. I’m having reservations and trying to figure out why. Commitment? Time? Fear of failure? Maybe a combination?

Hmmm. Let me compare a year with (2004) and without (2005) the short-story-a-day experiment.

2004

Total Books Read: 50

Anthologies/Collections read: 12

Pages read: 18,299 (yes, I keep track and it’s sad)

2005

Total Books Read: 54

Anthologies/Collections read: 9

Pages read: 18,744

I remember saying at the end of 2004 that it was my “reading year”: the year I read the most. It surprises me to know I read even more in 2005, even if it’s only about 450 pages more. I read some shorter novels in 2005 which increased the number of titles read by 4. But I read fewer anthologies overall. Also, it should be noted, that some of the stories read in 2004 were from online sources, which do not figure into the page and title counts. So, maybe I’m reading the same from year-to-year after all.

Where does this leave me with a new year’s resolution for 2006? I’m not sure yet. I’m leaning towards yes. Today.

Anyone care to lend an opinion?

REVIEW: Hammered by Elizabeth Bear

REVIEW SUMMARY: Complex plotting and characters expertly handled.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Former Canadian Special Forces operative Jenny Casey hunts for a murderer and the source of the street drug Hammer.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Fast-paced; immersive; page-turning; 3D characters.

CONS: Characters motives questionable at times; distracting use of French;

BOTTOM LINE: A worthwhile and accessible read resting midway between hard and soft sf.

Read the rest of this entry

REVIEW: When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger

REVIEW SUMMARY: Fun, exciting read : a thriller masquerading as a sci-fi book.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Marid Audran is the typical gumshoe caught up in matters well above his station – a plot involving corrupt police, merciless crime lords and a series of gruesome murders.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Quick read, fun, exciting prose – the story moves along quickly throughout.

CONS: Few characters are sympathetic (well, except the poor strippers)

BOTTOM LINE: A fun book – a great way to spend a day sick at home during the holidays.

Read the rest of this entry

REVIEW: Designated Targets by John Birmingham

REVIEW SUMMARY: A much better effort than the previous book in the series, Birmingham delivers with this well-connected story.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The task force from the future introduced in the previous work Weapons of Choice, continues wrangling with the social and political impact of its arrival all while continuing to fight World War 2. The Axis powers have managed to snag future technology too and aren’t going down without a fight.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Studying the politics and social implications of the future warriors on America is great fodder for a story – the mixed-race, mixed-gender force plays havoc with 1942 American sensibilities. It points out how far we have come as a nation in the last 60 years.

CONS: There isn’t much to dislike here – but nobody will confuse Birmingham with Gene Wolfe.

BOTTOM LINE: Definitely worth reading if you managed to make it through the previous book.

ASIDE: John includes a female marine turned covert operative in a minor role with the name Harriet “the Chariot” Klausner. She has little dialog, but what she does say is fit for a sailor, if you catch my drift.

REVIEW: Weapons of Choice

REVIEW SUMMARY: Almost two separate books: the first part is gratuitous and hard to follow but the second is very solid.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In a reprise of other works such as The Final Countdown Birmingham spins a story about warships from 2021 being sent to 1942. The book then explores the outcome of this transition.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Second half of the book is solid, with the social and political aspects of ‘men from the future’ showing up in the middle of World War II.

CONS: The 2021 technology seems gratuitous: why not just send 2005’s military technology into the past? The first part of the book detailing the actions around Midway right after the transition (with Americans firing on Americans) seems rushed and not as well written as the second half. The books was either split of planned to be part of a series from day one – it ends abruptly.

BOTTOM LINE: Because it is the beginning to a series, if you’re interested in the series, you pretty much have to read this one. The follow-on is good, so it is probably best to slog through this one quickly and get on to the better work.

It’s Nick Burns, Your Company’s Computer Guy!

Saturday Night Live has been hit and miss (mostly miss) for years. But this set of SNL bits, Nick Burns: Your Company’s Computer Guy, is a hoot. It’s funny to me bacause I tend to get impatient when explaining luddites…like my family. (Although I don’t insult them like Nick does.) Sometimes the computer facts are just wrong, but I love the running bit where he gets impatient with the person at the keyboard at interrupts them with, “Move.” Heh-heh.

Do You Have Reading Stamina?

From a BBC article, Teenagers ‘Lack Reading Stamina’:

A lack of exposure to novels at school is leaving teenagers with little “reading stamina”, a report says.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority found this was “limiting pupils’ experience of pre-20th Century literature in particular”.

Some 14 to 16-year-olds in England did not have “a sufficiently varied or demanding reading diet”, with schools relying on extracts and short stories.

Sad news indeed. maybe the solution is to assign children one of the door-stopping tomes of today. If you can get through Quicksilver, you can get through anything!

[link via CoolSciFi]

Ursula K. LeGuin on Fantasy

Ursula LeGuin is profiled at The Guardian where she talks about Harry Potter, the scifi Channel adaptation of Earthsea, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, gender and race in her fiction and on writing fantasy in general:

“Writing fantasy isn’t writing for children, but it erases the distinctions; it’s inherently a crossover genre,” she says. Much of fantasy writing, she adds, is “about power – just look at Tolkien. It’s a means to examine what it does to the person who has it, and to others.” A believer, with Shelley, that “the great instrument of moral good is the imagination”, she says: “If you cannot or will not imagine the results of your actions, there’s no way you can act morally or responsibly. Little kids can’t do it; babies are morally monsters – completely greedy. Their imagination has to be trained into foresight and empathy.” No easy task. As she once wrote in exasperation, “Sure, it’s simple, writing for kids. Just as simple as bringing them up.”

[Link via Locus Online]

SF Tidbits Part LVII

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