Archive for November, 2006

Philip K. Dick Goes Mainstream

In 2007 The Library of America will be publishing a collection of four Philip K. Dick stories from the 1960’s: The Man in the High Castle, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Ubik. The book will be edited by Jonathan Lethem.

Related: GalleyCat has responses from various genre authors about what other writers besides PKD they’d install in the Library’s canon of great American literature.

SF Tidbits for 11/30/06

The Best Time-Travelling Movies

Yahoo India (yes, we outsource our news sources. Ba-dum, crash! :)) lists the outcome of an online-poll to select The Best Time-Travelling Movie. The results:

  1. Time After Time
  2. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  3. Back To The Future Trilogy
  4. The Time Machine
  5. 12 Monkeys
  6. Planet Of The Apes (Nice spoiler!)
  7. Army Of Darkness
  8. The Final Countdown
  9. Bill + Ted’s Excellent Adventure
  10. Somewhere In Time

Thoughts on the Children of Men Movie

I recently read P.D. James’ The Children of Men and found it to be hugely entertaining and I would love to go see the upcoming movie version. But a recent SCI FI Wire article almost made me change my mind. In a discussion with the film’s director, Alfonso Cuarón, we learn he wanted to depart from the science-fiction aspects from the start. “I loved the world she created in the book, but it was not something I could see myself doing,” he said. “I used the book as a jumping-off point.”

OK, well, I understand Hollywood and the Recycled Idea and that film is a different medium than books. I know there must be some differences: characters change, events may be condensed, etc. But how can you possibly depart from a sf-nal dystopian setting in a last-generation future where children can no longer be born? My initial reaction was worry, since that was the major appeal of the book to me. It set this beautifully bleak mood that I hoped would remain in the film. Upon reflection of Cuarón’s comments, I just think we have a case of a director who is trying to make a film more marketable. Sci Fi still has somewhat of a stigma in Hollywood. If he liked the movie enough to direct it (as if Hollywood is all about art and not money), then he should embrace the science fiction. Maybe this could be a “socially-relevant SF film” as cited in the USA Today article “Science fiction gets real“. We shall see…

SF Tidbits for 11/29/06

The 33% Rule

[UPDATE: Wordsmithed the rule to read better and corrected a spelling mistake. I seriously need to get a proofreader.]

A recent post by Michael May (“I Give Up: A Game of Thrones“) talks about not finishing books. He mentions a rule he got from Bookgasm…The 100-Page Rule: “If it’s not good by page 100, quit reading.”

A couple of months ago, I asked Do You Know When to Stop Reading? After that post, I thought I did. But I might have benefited from knowing The 100-Page Rule one month later when I was midway through Blindsight before I finally gave it up. I just wasn’t getting into it and I’m not entirely sure why. It has been getting very positive reviews everywhere I see it mentioned.

Halfway through a book is probably the longest I’ve lasted through an unfinished book. I’m not sure 100 pages is enough to determine likability. It really depends on the book’s size. I seem to remember Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn trilogy taking a while to get started as he took the time to spin up all the different story threads. Maybe a Percentage Rule would be better. Hmm…The 33% Rule sounds about right. For a 300-page book you get your 100-page acid test.

Officially stated, then:

The 33% Rule: If the first one-third of a book is not good, stop reading it.

REVIEW: The Witling by Vernor Vinge

REVIEW SUMMARY: Decent adventure, sound science and, perchance, a preview of The Singularity?

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Stranded on an alien planet of teleports and used as pawns of warring kingdoms, an archaeologist and a pilot try to find a way home before the local food finally poisons them.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Well-thought-out culture based on alien abilities; uses physics to frame alien mind powers; the emphasis on this sf/fantasy hybrid is on the science fiction.

CONS: Mind powers are not fully explained; the large majority of the characters are two dimensional.

BOTTOM LINE: A quick and entertaining read.

Read the rest of this entry

SF Tidbits for 11/28/06

REVIEW: Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Three strangers are brought together by an unusual murder. What they find sends them on an incredible journey to save the world.

PROS: A fun adventure aimed at young adult readers, lots of allusions and references to the fantasy genre, a breeze to read.

CONS: Plot driven story, paper thin characters.

BOTTOM LINE: Here, There Be Dragons is a terrific first novel by James A. Owen. Anyone who likes earlier works of fantasy will have a field day decoding the allusions liberally sprinkled throughout the book. This is also a great novel to introduce the younger readers to the world of fantasy.

Read the rest of this entry

SF Tidbits for 11/27/06

New Mass Market Book Format?

I was in Walmart this weekend and two of the titles in their woefully science-fictionless mass market paperback section caught my eye. One was a Tom Clancy franchise book-of-the-week, the other was Dark Demon by Christine Feehan. The reason they caught my eye was because they were of odd dimension. The height and width of the cover was bizarre. They were skinnier but taller. It was weird. (Check out the Amazon image and browse inside to see a sample of the printing.)

I didn’t get get a chance to sample the format by reading it, but it now occurs to me that being more like a newspaper column might lend itself to faster reading since your eyes need less left/right scanning. Of course, I’m sure it has something to do with fitting more books on a shelf rather than something as profitless as reading speed. But the fact that I saw two of them makes me wonder if this is going to be a new publishing format on par with – or even replacing – mass-market paperback.

POLL RESULTS: The Coolest Movie Spaceship

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

QUESTION
Which of these is the coolest movie spaceship?

RESULTS

(108 total votes)

So many to choose from, yet twenty-five percent of the voters liked something not on this list. A few left comments…

“Who makes up these lists? No BSG, no Serenity?”
– Tim Morris

“What?! No Lexx? :-)”
– Paul Harper

“The Mothership from Close Encounters is by far the most spectacular movie spaceship.”
– Derek

Ooooh…good call on the Close Encounters Mothership! Personally, I voted for the Enterprise (any version). Even after 40 years it still looks way cool.

Be sure to vote in this week’s poll on picking a new director for The Hobbit!

Lost Action Figures

Now you can act out your favorite conspiracy theory with these Lost action figures. (They’re called “action figures” because Adults simply don’t play with dolls.)

See Hurley play golf! See Kate walking among bamboo! See Shannon…sunbathe!

How much of a hardcore fan do you have to be to buy one of these things? The more casual fan will probably be satisfied with the Hurley action figure wallpaper. Or better yet, the Shannon wallpaper

SF Tidbits for 11/25/06

  • SF über-fan Forrest J Ackerman celebrated his 90th birthday this past weekend.
  • SyFy Portal explains how having genre shows like Battlestar Galactica, Lost and Heroes move into the mainstream might have a negative effect on web site ratings.
  • Furinkan High School Kendo Club lists The 20 Sexiest Sci-Fi Babes, Part 1 and Part 2.
  • Also worthy reads by FHSKC, Tired Sci-Fi Tropes That Must Be Retired! Part 1 and Part 2.
  • Locus Online has posted an exceprt from the November 2006 China Miéville interview.

Astounding’s Brush with “The Man”

An Orlando Sentinel article has Ramsey Campbell reminiscing about how the government almost took down Analog magazine in 1944 (when it was still called Astounding Science Fiction) because of a short story it published (“Deadline” by Cleve Cartmill) that gave a few too many details about atomic bombs.

When intelligence agents came calling, Cartmill blamed it all on Campbell, who had provided him with all the technical details he used in the story. Campbell, who had studied physics at MIT in the early 1930s, told investigators he learned it all in college. However, he had flunked out his sophomore year, according to a recent article by Robert Silverberg. But Campbell liked to keep up on the latest science journals as part of his job, it seems. The military wanted the magazine shut down, but cooler heads prevailed.

The Office of Censorship ultimately concluded the details in the story could have been “produced by any person with a smattering of science plus a fertile imagination,” according to an article on the incident on the Popular Science Web site.

For another eyewitness account, see Robert Silverberg’s two part Asimov’s “Reflections” columns. Boing Boing also has coverage of the incident.

SF Tidbits for 11/24/06

The Dark

The Dark is a serial web movie whose first two episodes are offered free as a promotion to get subscribers. They describe themselves as “the new high definition digital edge in space fiction.” Is this the future of science fiction?

It’s written by Steven Erikson (Malazan Empire fantasy series), David Keck (Eye of Heaven) and Mark Paxton-MacRae. More info:

Welcome to a new horizon in real science…fiction.

THE DARK is unlike anything you’ve seen before. It is a leading wave on the new tide of webcasting.

THE DARK is a three-year journey into uncharted territory. It will be available online in weekly, 12-minute episodes (and soon, in daily 1 minute and 45 second clips on your pda or cell phone), and in print as a bi-monthly, full color comic book by Alchemical Press.

THE DARK follows the adventures of the crew of the Recluse as they fight to take back their corner of the universe from aliens and worse — designer humanity.

THE DARK keeps physics in mind at all times…no transporters, no artificial gravity. Space is stress, tactics, and tension – battleships bending long arcs of momentum, testing the limits of ship and crew…though the ship is eel slick and nearly invisible, the crew of the Recluse live among the pipes and cables of a spacecraft as cramped as a submarine. For them, each brush with the aliens costs a week of white knuckles and a month of flashbacks.

Through my cursory glance, I will say there seems to be a higher-than-expected production value, but it comes at the expense of sitting through a series of F-bombs.

[via SFBC Blog and Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist]

SF Tidbits for 11/22/06

In a two-part post, SF Bookworm lists these 20 Collectible Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Authors…authors who are deemed to be “highly influential and therefore worthy of collecting”:

  • Isaac Asimov
  • Robert Bloch
  • John Brunner
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • C.J. Cherryh
  • Glen Cook
  • Philip K. Dick
  • Harlan Ellison
  • Robert Heinlein
  • William Gibson
  • Fritz Leiber
  • Michael Moorcock
  • Andre Norton
  • Frederik Pohl
  • Terry Pratchett
  • Theodore Sturgeon
  • Jack Vance
  • Roger Zelazny

A nice list, to be sure, but as a confessed biblioholic I find it way too short. :)

Subjective lists also lead me to ask the inevitably pointless ranking-related questions… No Brian Aldiss? No Iain Banks? No Campbell; John for sf, Ramsey for horror? No Lester del Rey or C.M. Kornbluth? No Ursula K. Le Guin, C.S. Lewis or C.L. Moore? How about Smiths Cordwainer and E.E. “Doc”? No Tiptree, Tolkien or Wolfe?

As a follow-on to the Who are Your Favorite Literary Science Fiction Characters? post, it seems natural to do the TV/Film version:

Who are Your Favorite Science Fiction Characters From TV/Film?

Some of my favorites:

  • Mal from Firefly/Serenity – For obvious reasons. (Hah! I called him first! Feel free to echo your own Mal-love.) River and Wash come in a very close second.
  • Just about any character in The Fifth Element – All of them were so wonderfully over-the-top, it made the film all the more enjoyable.
  • Jack O’Neill in Stargate-SG1 – A rare find…well-placed and perfectly timed comedy in a serious show.
  • Darth Vader (Episode IV – VI version) – Han Solo was good, but not nearly as cool as Vader. Sadly, I could not think of any other Star Wars characters even though it spawned hundreds of them. This is most likely the result of Lucas’ writing. Star Wars, in fact, probably has the highest number of under-used characters – Boba Fett (not nearly enough screen time), Darth Maul (one of the coolest-looking characters and a double-saber to kick some serious Jedi butt), and, call me sentimental, but I love the look of the Gamorrean Guard (not nearly enough of them on screen).

How about your favorites TV/Film characters? Max Headroom? Bender from Futurama? Doctor McCoy? T2? The new Boomer? The old Boomer? Dr. Zaius? Anybody out there from the Jar-Jar Binks / Wesley Crusher fan club?

(For the celluloid-impaired, feel free to consult Wikipedia’s pages of Science fiction film characters and Science fiction television characters.)

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