SF Tidbits for 2/28/06

SF Tidbits for 2/27/06

Is Film a Poor Medium for Science Fiction?

In his Wired article Forget Film, Games Do Sci-Fi Best, Clive Thompson claims that the Star Wars universe is better realized in games than in the movies. I tend to agree with that statement and would also include (from what I hear) the Star Wars books as well. There is much more room for exploration in games and books than in the few Star Wars movies that exist.

But then Thompson goes a step further and claims that all science fiction is better realized in games than in film.

Why were the games so comparatively good? A cynic would say it’s because Lucas probably isn’t as closely involved in the games, so his young designers aren’t hampered by his inane creative decisions. But I actually suspect it’s deeper than that. I think it’s because games are beginning to rival film — and even eclipse it — as the prime vehicle for sci-fi and fantasy.

An interesting observation, to be sure. It doesn’t help that a large majority of sci-fi films aren’t very good.

Thompson doesn’t mention the book medium much. I suspect he’s more of a gamer than a reader, whereas I am the opposite. Personally, I prefer the world-building of books better than movies. I find it exercises my imagination more than the lazy “here-you-go” visuals of movies. That said, I do enjoy the eye-candy of movies like Star Wars and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

All of which raises the question that asks if film is somehow just a poor medium altogether for science fiction concepts. Is this an explanation of all the poor sci-fi films out there?

I say “No” is the answer. There are some really great sci-fi films out there which dispel that belief – enough of them that it cannot be a fluke. True, the good movies are few and far between. But I think that rather than this being the result of film being a poor medium, it’s just a plethora of bad filmmaking.

What do you think? Is film a poor medium for science fiction?

REVIEW: Treason by Orson Scott Card

[Editor’s Note: The following review is by guest reviewer Chris Hibbard.]

REVIEW SUMMARY: The new material in this reprint does not add anything significant to the story but this is still an engaging read.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Re-release of Orson Scott Card’s 1979 “classic”: a tale of a radical regenerative running amok on an imprisoned planet, collecting super powers along the way and searching for redemption and significance.


PROS: Interesting plot that moves along nicely; like the movies X-Men or Spiderman, part of the draw is the character learning new powers.

CONS: This re-release was advertised to have 10% new material but doesn’t add much to the story.

BOTTOM LINE: An engaging read whether you buy the original or the reprint.

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POLL RESULTS: The Coolest Starship Crew

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

Forgetting what some quiz says, to which starship crew do you want to belong?


(55 total votes)

Be sure to vote in this week’s SF in School crew poll.

SF Tidbits for 2/26/06

REVIEW: 253 – The Print Remix by Geoff Ryman

REVIEW SUMMARY: Another literary experiment that failed to impress.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Brief portraits of 253 train passengers.


PROS: Intriguing concept; easy to read piecemeal.

CONS: Not very interesting.

BOTTOM LINE: More literary experiment than entertainment.

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SF Tidbits for 2/24/06

SFWA Nebula Awards Final Ballot

The final ballot for the SFWA Nebula Awards has been posted. (And I am confused. The post says they are the 2005 Nebulas. Is this a typo? Last year’s awards, held in 2005, were called the 2005 Nebula awards even though they awarded works from 2004. Shouldn’t this year be the 2006 Nebula Awards?) Anyway, here are the nominees:


  • Air by Geoff Ryman
  • Camouflage by Joe Haldeman
  • Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke [SF Signal review]
  • Polaris by Jack McDevitt
  • Orphans of Chaos by John C. Wright [SF Signal review]



Short Stories


  • “Act of Contrition/You Can’t Go Home Again” (Battlestar Galactica)
  • Serenity by Joss Whedon [SF Signal review]

Andre Norton Award

  • The Amethyst Road by Louise Spiegler
  • Siberia by Ann Halam
  • Stormwitch by Susan Vaught
  • Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie by Holly Black

Awards will be announced at the Nebula Awards Banquet in Tempe, Arizona on Saturday, May 6 2006.

Top 10 Total Books Published by SF Imprint in 2005

I’m finally (don’t get me started) getting around to reading the February 2006 “Year in Review” issue of Locus Magazine. The many perspectives of the Recommended Reading sections are fun because they point out all the cool science fiction published last year. It’s nice to see books I’ve read. It’s not so nice to see all the books I want to read but don’t have time for.

The 2005 Books Summary article is, as usual, comprehensive, interesting and full of fun figures, like the Total Books Published by SF Imprint in 2005. (The “by SF Imprint” table is more telling about SF than the “by Publisher” table since it focuses on the SF.) Here are the Top 10 with their respective book count totals.

Top 10 Total Books Published by SF Imprint in 2005

  1. Tor (218)
  2. Science Fiction Book Club (202)
  3. Ace (102)
  4. Del Rey (85)
  5. Black Library US (73)
  6. Baen (72)
  7. Wizards of the Coast (65)
  8. Daw (61)
  9. Eos (55)
  10. Roc (51)

These numbers include both new books and reprints in all formats (hardcover, trade paperback and and mass-market paperback)

To add data to last year’s post which asked if too many books were being published, in 2005 there were 2,516 genre books published. In 2004, there 2550 – that’s the first decline in 4 years.

SF Tidbits for 2/23/06

Free Fiction From Cosmos

Australian magazine Cosmos is making its science fiction stories available online. Titles up so far:

[via Emerald City]

Top 10 Things I’d Like to See on Battlestar Galactica

While I still like the new Battlestar Galactica, I must admit that some of the more recent episodes have, well, kind of sucked. As a public service to BG fans, I’d like to offer my suggestions to Ronald D. Moore on the:

Top 10 Things I’d Like to See on Battlestar Galactica

  1. Guest appearance by Dirk Benedict as Kara Thrace’s long-lost father, who gets into a heated argument with Tom Zarek that ends with both of them being sucked out of the nearest airlock.
  2. The creation of a new Viper model nicknamed Galactica 1980 that, by the grace of God (Cylon or otherwise), never sees the light of day.
  3. A crossover episode where the crew from Firefly appears amidst the Colonial Fleet and River gets to kick some toaster a@@.
  4. My face carved into a moon.
  5. The all-Boomer episode. (Oh, I’m sorry. I thought this was “The One and Only Thing Tim Would Like to See on Battlestar Galactica” list.)
  6. Baltar doing the Riverdance. With Richard Simmons.
  7. The creation of a new Military Morale team whose job it is to visit random crew members and delight them with show tunes.
  8. A “very special” episode in which, much to joy of the relieved crew, Colonel Tigh realizes the true meaning of leadership and responsibility. Then he coughs up blood and dies.
  9. Number 6 meets up with 68 other versions of herself, if you know what I mean. (If the CGI for that one too costly, I’ll settle for Number 6 meets Number 9.)
  10. Undead time-traveling Nazi Cylons.

Does anyone else have their own suggestions?

Masters of Science Fiction on Network TV!

Cinescape and Scifi.com are reporting that ABC has given the go ahead for a new anthology series called Masters of Science Fiction. The show will feature stories based on the works of “well-known authors” like Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Harlan Ellison. Source works cited are Ellison’s “The Discarded” and Asimov’s “The Last Question.” The order is for four episodes, though six will likely be filmed. Michael Tolkin is set to direct.

Sweet! I guess the Showtime production of this that was reported back in August 2005 never came to pass. I’m glad to see this has the go-ahead. Even better: it’s on a channel I get!

iBooks Goes Belly-Up

It looks like ibooks, publisher of genre fiction (among other things) has filed for bankruptcy. This is troublesome for many reasons, mostly dealing with one less avenue of genre fiction, but two other (admittedly selfish) reasons spring immediately to my mind.

First and foremost, the fate of the Science Fiction: Best of 2005 and Fantasy: Best of 2005 anthologies edited by Jonathan Strahan and Karen Haber are up in the air, even though I have no doubt they will eventually see publication. I liked the 2003 and 2004 versions and think it’s a worthwhile series among the plethora of Year’s Best anthologies. (Another selfish reason: more stories for my short-story-a-day project.)

From a book-cover-loving fanboy perspective, this is a bummer because ibooks’ covers always caught my attention. It was iBooks attractive cover that brought Robert Silverberg’s outstanding book Nightwings to the top of my reading pile not too long ago. (Not that I judge a book by its cover or anything…)

[Via Strahan’s Notes from Coode Street]

SF Tidbits for 2/21/06

Science Fiction Politics – Podcasting from the Classroom

Sometimes I feel like I missed the boat on all the cool stuff life has to offer. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say I’m behind the wave. Many colleges today offer courses in science fiction. Imagine that! Getting to discuss and learn about science fiction while earning college credit! That sure beats the lame electives from which I was forced to choose.

Professor Courtney Brown PhD of Georgia’s Emory University is offering a Political Science course entitled Science Fiction and Politics and he’s making the lectures available as a podcast. Available lectures ready for download include Foundation (parts 1 and 2), Foundation And Empire and Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov , Brave New World (parts 1 and 2) by Aldous Huxley (parts 1 and 2) and The Left Hand Of Darkness (part 1) by Ursula K. Le Guin.

[via SFF Audio]

REVIEW: Judas Unchained by Peter F. Hamilton

REVIEW SUMMARY: Not bad, but did not meet my high expectations.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The Commonwealth defends itself against the hostile alien Primes and looks for the mysterious Starflyer alien that started the war.


PROS: Distinct characterizations; exciting action sequences and climaxes.

CONS: Slow start; weaker first half; unnecessary world building.

BOTTOM LINE: Worth the read if you liked the awesome Pandora’s Star but don’t expect the same caliber of story.

The dangerous part about liking a book so much is that its sequel has much to live up to. After reading Peter F. Hamilton’s awesome Pandora’s Star, my expectations were set fairly high for Judas Unchained and while the book had its moments, it failed to meet the previously-set high standards.

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SF Tidbits for 2/20/06

Book Length: The Long and Short of It

I find that length is a book characteristic whose variety keeps interest levels up. Or, put another way, I like to switch between reading shorter stories or books with longer works.

I am currently reading Peter F. Hamilton’s Judas Unchained which is as just about long as its predecessor, Pandora’s Star. Clocking in at 800+ pages, it’s one of those books that take longer to read than your average science fiction book. (Fantasy books, of course, are a different matter. The law requires fantasy books, especially quest fantasies, to be a minimum of 800 pages. Violation of this law results in much finger-pointing and ridicule.)

It may be partly because of my experience with Judas Unchained (more on that when I post my review), but I find myself (as I often do when reading longer works) wanting to read something shorter next time. In fact, I’ve even gone so far as to pull out a few shorter books from the “archives” (which I sometimes refer to as “the boxes that litter my home”). I’m acquiring the taste for the short, sharp shock of, say, Clifford Simak’s The Trouble with Tycho, his novella packaged in an easily-digestible book form. I also have Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Beyond the Farthest Star on tap, a collection of two serialized novels. It’s not that I’m trying to keep my book count high, but I do find that consuming shorter works more frequently means there are more places I can visit with my imagination.