Archive for December, 2006

SF Tidbits for 12/31/06

REVIEW SUMMARY: A must-read for anyone who is a fan of “A Boy and His Dog” and a should-read for anyone else.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Graphic novel of three Ellison adaptations (plus Ellison’s original short stories) in which Vic and his telepathic dog named Blood travel a post-apocalyptic landscape in search of food and sex.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Excellent stories; graphic adaptations faithful to original material; high production value.

CONS: Visual adaptations appear before the source material.

BOTTOM LINE: A fine addition to the library of any sf fan.

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Paul Levinson’s 7 Best Recent First Novels

Author Paul Levinson is asking for your picks to the best recent “first” science fiction novels – authors’ first written novels, that is. Click over to his Squidoo Lens to participate.

In the meantime, here are Levinson’s picks (ported from his Amazon List):

  1. Dusk Before the Dawn by Larry Ketchersid
  2. The Silk Code (Phil D’Amato series) by Paul Levinson [A suspicious inclusion, eh? :)]
  3. Red Moon by David S. Michaels
  4. Edward Maret: A Novel of the Future by Robert I. Katz
  5. Counting Heads by David Marusek
  6. Dykstra’s War by Jeffery D. Kooistra
  7. Alien Taste (Ukiah Oregon series) by Wen Spencer

REVIEW: Mathematicians in Love by Rudy Rucker

REVIEW SUMMARY: The cover blurb caused me to expect something more.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Two mathematicians devise a way to predict the future and hop to parallel worlds in hopes of wooing the same girl and depose a tyrannical president.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Cool premise; clear language allows Inner Geek to enjoy advanced math concepts.

CONS: The promise of alternate-realities doesn’t come to fruition until the second half of the book and even then it’s downplayed in favor of political satire; Surfer-Dude dialogue can become annoying.

BOTTOM LINE: A mediocre reading experience.

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Gallery of 2006 Book Covers

I still love science fiction/fantasy/horror artwork. Mark Kelly at Locus Online has put together this year’s gallery of genre book and magazine covers that made their first appearance in 2006. The 2006 Cover Art Gallery currently shows 493 book and magazine covers sorted by the artist’s last name. Similar galleries exist for 2005 and 2004.

SF Tidbits for 12/30/06

Catch Up On Heroes

Have you heard the hype but haven’t been able to check Heroes out yet? Perhaps you want to, but you can’t because they are on mid-season break and you hate the thought of braving the torrent networks. Well, you are in luck! NBC has made all 11 episodes online for free! Normally NBC posts one episode at a time, but for right now, you can catch up on all the episodes, in one convenient place, and with no waiting. Major props to NBC for doing this (here’s to hoping that ABC will do this for the un-aired episodes of Daybreak (they killed Taye, you bastards!)).

In another interesting move, NBC has teamed up with Netflix to release a ‘Season To Date’ DVD, available to rent on January 9th. This is interesting, but if you can watch all the episodes online, what’s the point?

Hat tip to Hacking Netflix for the link.

UPDATED: David Tennant Leaving Doctor Who?

It’s hard to find a reliable Time Lord these days…

The Sun is reporting that the second actor to play Doctor Who in the new series, David Tennant, will be following in the footsteps of the former Doctor and will be leaving the show. Apparently Tennant has been bombarded with film offers after appearing in the last Harry Potter movie and will be leaving Doctor Who in the middle of season 3 of the new series.

[via Geek Monthly]

UPDATE: As mentioned by commenters, the BBC is denying this.

SF Signal Nominated for Digital Hugo (Audio Reprise)

James Patrick Kelly has been converting his past Asimov’s Science Fiction “On the Net” columns to podcasts. He has recently posted an audio version of his Bring On The Digital Hugos! column from March 2005.

Why is this so special? Thanks for asking! This is the column in which SF Signal (the blog recommended by 4 out of 5 undead, time-traveling Nazi zombies) was nominated for a proposed digital Hugo award. This was hot on the heels of Kelly’s inclusion of SF Signal in the list of top 40 blogs. Not that we like to toot our own horn or anything. (Toot-toot!)

Bonus! The podcast version of Bring On The Digital Hugos! is dedicated to SF Signal. A special shout-out goes to yours truly in particular for Janes Patrik Kellee’s past misspelling of my name. Jim, to make it easy for the “entire Free Reads research staff”, the correct spelling of my name can be found on our About Us page. :)

SF Tidbits for 12/28/06

Entertainment Weekly’s Best of 2006

Entertainment Weekly‘s Best of 2006 issue is out. Here is the smattering of genre-related tidbits it contains:

PEOPLE

  • Amongst the Greatest Performances: James Callis (Gaius Baltar) of Battlestar Galactica and Jonny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.
  • Breakouts (Brightest stars) of 2006 include Michael Emerson (Ben Linus) of Lost and Masi Oka (Hiro Nakumura) of Heroes.

MOVIES

  • Lisa Schwarzbaum’s Best Movies of 2006 includes Pan’s Labyrinth.
  • Readers voted Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest as their second favorite movie of 2006 (behind The Departed).
  • In a reader-voted face-off, X-Men earned 59% of the votes and Superman had 49% of the votes.

DVD

  • The DVD of The Greatest American Hero received the Dorkiest Packaging award.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest was voted by readers as the DVD with the best extras (35% of votes). Superman: Ultimate Collector’s Edition was second (23%).
  • The Chroncles of Narnia was voted by readers as best kids’ DVD release (35% of the votes).
  • In a reader-voted face-off, Lost, Season 2 earned 47% of the votes and 24, Season 5 had 53% of the votes.
  • King Kong (Deluxe Extended Edition) was listed as the worst DVD release (way too long already, no need for extra footage).

TV

  • Battlestar Galactica was #3 on the list of top TV series of the year. Heroes made #10.
  • Heroes was voted by readers as the best new show of the year with 45% of the votes.
  • Lost was voted by readers as the #2 returning show in the biggest creative slump.
  • In a reader-voted face-off, Lost gained 49% of the votes and Heroes had 51% of the votes.

BOOKS

SF Tidbits for 12/27/06

Quick Thoughts on Doctor Who, Season 2 Finale

I know we are behind the UK on this one, but the U.S. only aired the season 2 finale of Doctor Who this week with the episodes “Army of Ghosts” and “Doomsday“. Here are my quick thoughts…

SHORT VERSION:

It rocked. The story was solid and offered several surprises. In the true spirit space opera there was action out the wazoo. They even managed to combine past storylines. Well done.

LONGER VERSION: (**** SPOILER WARNING!!! ****)

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[In the spirit of re-gifting, I am recycling this old post on Cthulhu & Christmas and updating it with new links. - John]

Thanks to Gravity Lens, we have another reason to start a new Cthulhu category. There are no less than nine websites that combine Christmas & Cthulhu.

I’m really gonna have to break down and read a few of these stories. Darn you, HPL!

POLL RESULTS: Animating Star Trek

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

QUESTION
Is the proposed animated Star Trek series a good idea?

RESULTS

(80 total votes)

Wow, talk about evenly matched!

A couple of comments this week:

“I do think it’s a good idea. I think it’ll help remove some of the pomp which surrounded Star Trek in its latter days, before it collapsed on itself. The Original Series had not only very good writing, but a sense of fun as well. I think the cartoon, done well, could revive that.” – Pete Tzinski

“Wesley rocks! Well, Wil Wheaton rocks, and that’s good enough for me. We need to start a netroots campaign for Wil to play the young Kirk in the upcoming ST XI. Now that would _REALLY_ rock.” – Tim Morris

Be sure to vote in this week’s poll about buying a book fom a vending machine!

SF Tidbits for 12/24/06

When Authors Don’t Attack

Not all authors attack critics. Infamous NYT science fition critic Dave Izkoff has this to say about John Scalzi’s books:

The Ghost Brigades has its minor, forgivable flaws — sitcom-like dialogue that’s meant to read like clever banter, and a few adolescent jokes about bodily functions — but what I can’t completely overlook is an unusual swipe it takes at Heinlein himself. During their training, Dirac and his company are made to read Starship Troopers, which they collectively decide “had some good action scenes but required too much unpacking of philosophical ideas.” Heinlein may have cultivated a philosophy that now seems distasteful bordering on appalling, but it is unfair to criticize him for simply having a philosophy. At a time when endless war is not just a nightmarish fictional scenario but a real and looming possibility, there is still a position less commendable than having dangerous ideas, and that is having no position at all.

That is the unfortunate lesson of Scalzi’s new novel, The Android’s Dream…There are also signs that his writing style is succumbing to the impulsive, first-draft ethos of the blogosphere, with infelicitous phrases like “well nigh,” “be that as it may” and “that’s the corporate world for you” turning up throughout the text. The novel is merely sarcastic when it should be satirical, and apolitical at a most inopportune moment. It’s as if Rudyard Kipling woke up one morning and decided he wanted to be Benny Hill.

Scalzi has a pleasantly upbeat response that addresses four of Itzkoff’s points:

I just had a full page devoted to me in the New York Times Sunday Book Review. This is the part where I hop, jump and skip.

I’m sad Itzkoff didn’t like The Android’s Dream at all, but, you know. If you write a book that starts off with a chapter-long fart joke, you go in knowing not everyone’s going to follow where you lead. I’m not going to fault Itzkoff for deciding that it’s not his thing.

So no, I’m not actually whacking on Heinlein. However, that part where I give the Special Forces a wish death on the Ewoks? That’s all me, baby.

I understand where Itzkoff is coming from, but if I’m reading him correctly, I going to have to disagree with him about the need to change my rhetorical tactics. I think they’re working fine; I just don’t think they’re the usual tactics.

Andrew Wheeler (an editor), on the other hand, does have something to say about it.

[via Gwenda Bond]

How Bookstores Die

Shedding light on the question “How do bookstores survive?” might be an explanation of How Bookstores Die…

According to one source in the Guardian article Price wars come at a cost, independent booksellers suffer at the hands of supermarket-style stores and book lovers may end up paying the price.

The problem, independent booksellers claim, is that publishers accord huge discounts to bulk buyers such as Amazon and Tesco, but not to anything like the same degree to smaller outlets. So a two-tier system is created, where independents charge more for many titles – they cannot compete with the aggressive price wars engaged in by the giants, and risk going to the wall. And, as the supermarkets increase their market share – from 9% of the book market in 2004 to 12% in 2006, according to the Book Marketing Society – the problem looks likely to grow.

While the savings look good for the consumer, the benefits of these price wars may be short-term at best, according to Jonathan Spencer-Payne, who runs the Peak Bookshop. Independents carry a much greater range of titles, he says, so a greater diversity of authors and books are represented, including traditionally hard-to-shift first novels. “We support publishers with other titles, with the backlist,” he says. “The feeling in the independent sector is that publishers aren’t thinking about tomorrow. If independent bookshops disappeared, where would they sell the full range of their books? It would be a terrible indictment on society if one or two sellers sold a limited range of books and they basically picked and chose what people read.”

First Peek at Silver Surfer…and I Am Unimpressed

Here’s a pic of the CGI Silver Surfer from the Fantastic Four sequel. (Also here.)

Now, I’m no FF fanboy by any means. I never read the comic and saw the first movie. My brother-in-law was saying for years that they could make a decent Human Torch. (I think the only basis for this claim was that CGI commercial for athlete’s foot cream that featured some poor bastage’s foot on fire.) Maybe because of that I at least thought the CGI of the first FF movie looked kinda cool. In the trailer at least.

But this? This looks kinda lame. It looks amateurish. Granted, there is only so much realism you can give to a being made of chrome, but still. Maybe in motion it becomes cooler, I don’t know. Hopefully the animation will be good enough to overcome the flat computer-generated look of the thing.

Expresso – not just a drink anymore…

Books on Demand is one of those things that is often discussed around these parts due to our general love of brick and mortar book sellers. In most cases, the ability to publish this way has not done well in the retail environment, and in many cases it was a way for authors to sell books without actually having to publish copies up front, but that may all be changing in the coming year. The Expresso POD machine is slated to show up in select libraries (including the New York Public Library) and stores starting next year. The claim is that it can produce two books simultaneously in seven minutes including printing, cutting, and binding. This is all done at a production cost of 5 cents a page, but the final cost of the book is dependent upon the copyright holder and store the service is offered at. Anyways, this may actually usher in the concept of stores enabling you to purchase the book you want when you want it, and this will save those hunters the trouble of dealing with some store staff.

From those guys and gals at Engadget.

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