Archive for October, 2007

REVIEW: Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder

REVIEW SUMMARY: Schroeder delivers an action-packed hard science fiction story that isn’t afraid to go as deep with the characters as it is with ideas.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Hayden Griffen lives in the world of Virga – a balloon of air supported by artificial suns. He is out to avenge the death of his parents and ends up working for his sworn enemy. What follows is a romp through the world-let of Virga complete with pirates, intrigue, and a quasi-steam punk world.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Characters evolve and grow, the science is interesting but not overwhelming, excellent wold-building ideas

CONS: The only thing I can think of is that it probably isn’t a book for those who don’t enjoy science fiction. It isn’t universally accessible, maybe.

BOTTOM LINE: Excellent hard science fiction that any fan of the genre would enjoy.

The Return Of MST3K?

OK, so not really the return of everyone’s favorite mock a movie program. But if, like me, you miss the comedy gold only a bad movie can bring, you’ll be happy to know that former MST3K cast members are working on several MST3K-like projects.

Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu and TV’s Frank, among others, are starting a movie riffing company called Cinematic Titanic! That is good news indeed. They are in the process of riffing on a bad movie right now, and will release it before Christmas. Now word on the title, but Joel says “it makes “Manos the Hands of Fate” look like “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” in a car wreck with “Eegah!””. Sounds horribly bad, but good.

This may be a good time to point out that Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy have their own website, RiffTrax, where they produce audio files meant to be played instead of your movie’s or TV show’s soundtrack, where they mercilessly lampoon the thing in MST3K style. And just look at all the SF goodness they make fun of: Spider Man, Heroes episodes 1 and 2, Revenge of the Sith and the Fantastic 4 among many, many others. Watch the previews to decide if you want to download, and if you do, each trax is only a few dollars. Bravo!

If you’d rather get your MST3K-type fix on a DVD, we can accommodate you there as well! Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy have also created 4 DVDs as The Film Crew Online, where they take really bad movies and, well, you know the rest. Killers From Space looks really, really bad.

As much as I liked Mike Nelson in control of the Satellite of Love, I’ll always have a soft spot for Joel. I’m glad to see him back in action, so to speak.

SF Tidbits for 10/31/07

Happy Halloween!

It’s October 31st, and all the little ghosts and goblins will be out tonight, looking for candy. Parents across the world cringe in anticipation of sugar fueled behavior and combative bedtimes, much like dealing with John on a daily basis. Not one to skip ‘the next big holiday’, SF Signal has scoured the web for Halloween items of interest for our loyal readers. Consider this our sugar free treat to you. (Note the completely gratuitous picture of zombie John Scalzi, because we can.)

I’m assuming most of us here have seen, and really liked, Ghostbusters. Well, CIO online has a neat article covering the technology of paranormal investigations. OK, so not real Ghostbusters, but more like the guys on Sci Fi’s Ghost Hunters show. Still, who knew you could hunt ghosts with a mylar blimp? Read on for other interesting uses of technology and how it’s used to ascertain the environmental reasons for hauntings. Or does it?

Sticking with ‘science’, Cracked.com gives us 5 scientific reasons a zombie apocalypse could actually happen. Mmm, brain parasites. Actually, quite an interesting list, and based on actual science, however far fetched the ‘human turning into zombie’ step may be. So if you see a zombie tonight, you can ask them which of the 5 reasons turned them into a zombie. Don’t be surprised if they answer: “Braiiiiiiiiins!” Zombies aren’t verbose.

Perhaps you’re thinking of taking a vacation to get away from all the door knocking and bell ringing on Halloween. If so, Concierge.com has compiled a list of the world’s creepiest places. Sadly (or luckily?), John’s house isn’t listed. Instead you get more mundane places, such as Easter Island and the Paris Catacombs. Good stuff here.

But let’s face it, you’re looking for Halloween items you can make. Out of paper. If this is you, then look no further than our link filled list of Halloween items:

  • Skull A Day offers us a papercraft skull, with articulated jaw. You could put it on your hand and pretend to be a ventriloquist! “Learn to throw your voice! Fool your friends! Fun at parties!”
  • Daniel from Steam Crow Press has several free paper masks for you to download and wear. I like the Frankenstein mask the best, but they are all cool and, well different. Did I mention ‘free’ as well?
  • And a little something something for the Star Wars fans. Now you too can re-create Anakin’s tragic descent to the Dark Side with your very own Anakin/Darth Vader pop-up mask. That’s right, the only mask that allows you to be either Darth or Anakin with the flick of a wrist. Now you can experiment and see which ‘face’ gets you the most candy.

And lastly, what’s Halloween without pumpkins? Lame, that’s what! You could, of course, search yourself and see all the themed pumpkins around, but you’d probably miss the weighted companion cube pumpkin, starring in the best short game of the year, Portal. Oh waited companion cube, your untimely demise was heart breaking, yet mitigated by your selflessness in helping me get past the puzzles. I’ll miss you, companion cube.

So, as night falls, we wish you a happy and safe Halloween, whatever you decide to do this evening. Just remember, stay away from John’s house and you’ll be alright.

Tube Bits For 10/31/2007

  • Many people have been, um, disappointed with Heroes thus far, mostly agreeing that the stories have been sub-par. AdRants has a new take, ranting that the in-program ad for American Gangsta was over the top intrusive, and aimed at those people who watch Heroes on DVRs. Actually, I can’t remember seeing the ad when I watched, but point taken.
  • SyFy Portal looks at Chuck and deems it ‘just OK’, citing several problems that I had noticed as well. Still, for me, I like Chuck. I find it funny and how many other shows would work a Dune reference into its Halloween show? (Shai Hulud FTW!).
  • And the bad ratings news for NBC continues, as all of it’s Monday night shows have shown a steady drop in ratings. While Heroes appears safe for now, it would appear that Chuck and Journeyman are destined for an early retirement and quick release on DVD.
  • You’ve probably heard of the fan run Star Trek: New Voyages series. Thanks to VeriSign and Dragonfly, you can watch the new episode ‘World Enough And Time’ online. You’ll need Flash Player, but this is a nice idea. No longer will you have to wait to download it.
  • From the ‘did you know’ department: The Science Channel is running a new series called Mars Rising. This series, produced by James Cameron and narrated by William Shatner, will explore the difficulties mankind faces in an effort to physically reach Mars. It premiered last night, but new episodes will run for the next several weeks. I caught a few minutes and it seemed very interesting, it’s now on my DVR list.

The Best Show On The Sci Fi Channel

Since Battlestar Galactica and Eureka are on season breaks, the best show on Sci Fi just might be the upcoming Mass Effect special!

“What’s that?”, you ask. Well, Mass Effect is only the most anticipated science fiction RPG console game (Xbox 360 only, sorry PS3) ever! Well, ok, maybe not ever, but at least this year, and definitely for me. Bioware has produced some awesome games in the past, and Mass Effect is their attempt to bring a new science fiction setting to the gaming public. I like games + I like science fiction + I like Bioware = fanboy in the making.

Mass Effect has gone gold and will be in retailers on Nov. 28th. In celebration of it’s release, Sci Fi, Bioware and Microsoft have gotten together to produce a ‘first look’ at the game, airing on Nov. 20th. If you continually troll the Sci Fi link, you could win a Limited Edition of the game with all kinds of extras.

Mass Effect looks like it will set the bar for SF RPGs for a long time to come, the ‘prequel’ book not withstanding. Bearing this in mind, and considering that Razor doesn’t air until Nov. 24th, this special may just be the best thing on Sci Fi.

But I have to ask, aside from those of us here at SF Signal who are gamers (me, Tim, Scott, Trent and Kevin), who else out there likes games, especially of the SF variety?

In a Rocky Mountain News profile of Connie Willis, the article mentions that the author has the distinction of being the writer with most Hugo and Nebula award wins.

I though it might be fun (because this is how science fiction geeks have fun) to see who followed her, based on this handy data from Locus Online. I found 15 other writers who received more than 5 wins.

Listed below are the 16 writers, the total number of Hugo and Nebula award wins they’ve earned, and the total number of Hugo and Nebula award nominations they’ve received.

  1. Connie Willis (15 wins, 36 nominations)
  2. Poul Anderson (10 wins, 27 nominations)
  3. Harlan Ellison (10 wins, 33 nominations)
  4. Joe Haldeman (10 wins, 16 nominations)
  5. Ursula K. Le Guin (10 wins, 37 nominations)
  6. Fritz Leiber (9 wins, 24 nominations)
  7. Robert Silverberg (9 wins, 46 nominations)
  8. Roger Zelazny (9 wins, 28 nominations)
  9. Lois McMaster Bujold (8 wins, 18 nominations)
  10. Isaac Asimov (7 wins, 14 nominations)
  11. Greg Bear (7 wins, 17 nominations)
  12. Arthur C. Clarke (6 wins, 9 nominations)
  13. George R. R. Martin (6 wins, 29 nominations)
  14. Larry Niven (6 wins, 27 nominations)
  15. Mike Resnick (6 wins, 35 nominations)
  16. Michael Swanwick (6 wins, 35 nominations)

Tube Bits For 10/30/2007

  • Dan at Dopplegangland goes off on a rant about how The Sci Fi Channel doesn’t understand quality SF TV. He cites the games Sci Fi is playing with Galactica‘s fourth season, and the much maligned Mansquito as proof positive. I have to disagree a bit. Sci Fi doesn’t appear to be about producing quality SF TV. It’s about produce SF(ish) programming that turns a profit. If they get a hit, so much the better. Sad, really.
  • Pop Matters has a very long and interesting expose on Darin Morgan, a writer for The X-Files. It’s amazing that Darin had such an impact on fans while writing only four episodes for the show, including one of my favorites “Humbug”, about a string of murders of circus ‘freaks’. He should have stayed around to help the show during its waning years…
  • World Screen has a short interview with David Eick. David discusses Bionic Woman and ending Galactica after four seasons.
  • Ed Green blasts William Shatner for wanting to be in the new Trek movie. Ed attributes all of Shatner’s current popularity to Shatner’s willingness to parody himself. Possibly, but he’s also won an Emmy for a role where he doesn’t parody himself.

SF Tidbits for 10/30/07

  • Solaris Books plans to serialize Three Unbroken (Chris Roberson‘s second novel in his Celestial Empire sequence, after The Dragon’s Nine Sons) on their website for free, at a rate of two chapters per week. Three Unbroken is based on the sixty-four elements of the I-Ching, and “follows the lives of three soldiers from their induction into the armed forces to their eventual fight for survival on the frontline.”
  • David Louis Edelman shows off the cool cover of Multireal, the sequel to Infoquake.
  • SciFi Wire profiles Brandon Sanderson, author of Mistborn: The Well of Ascension.
  • Jeff VanderMeer talks with George R.R. Martin (Dreamsongs). “Like any writer, I’d like to think I’ve gotten better. I know I’ve gotten longer.”
  • Neth Space has 5 questions each for Michael Moorcock (The Metatemporal Detective) and Joe Abercrombie (The Blade Itself).
  • John Joseph Adams has guest-edited the Pirate issue of Shimmer magazine.
  • The blog LiveJournal community for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America asks: Which short fiction magazines do you read?
  • John Ringo is quoted in the article Science Fiction: How the Cult Became Mainstream, which says that it’s because sf “predicts the future of today’s hot-button issues.”
  • The Guild Cafe has the Charlie Stross article Life’s a Game and them You Die, which attempts to explain how online games will affect our culture over the next couple of decades.
  • L.E. Modesitt, Jr. explains why the singularity won’t happen. “It won’t happen. Not even close. Why not? First, because such visions are based on technology, not on humanity. Second, they’re based on a western European/North American cultural chauvinism.”

REVIEW SUMMARY: A fine collection of stories that showcase a variety of writing styles and genre leanings.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: 24 loosely categorized science fiction and fantasy stories originally published in 2006.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Eighteen stories good or better, with four excellent standouts.

CONS: Six stories mediocre or worse.

BOTTOM LINE: This is about what you’d expect from a “best of” anthology: a selection of mostly good stories of varying style.

Jonathan Strahan serves up a good mix of genre offerings with The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Of The Year Volume 1. If it’s any barometer of quality, there is a relatively high concentration of Hugo and Nebula Award nominees in this volume; seven out of the twenty-four selections. Finalists for the Hugo Award include “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” by Neil Gaiman, “Yellow Card Man” by Paolo Bacigalupi, “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter” by Geoff Ryman, “Eight Episodes” by Robert Reed, “The House Beyond the Sky” by Benjamin Rosenbaum and “The Djinn’s Wife” by Ian McDonald. M. Rickert’s “Journey into the Kingdom” was a finalist for the Nebula Award.

My own tastes usually seem to differ from awards committees, but I had already read several of these stories and it seemed like a good mix. But was it?

Read the rest of this entry

SF Tidbits for 10/29/07

POLL RESULTS: Doris Lessing

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

QUESTION
Have you read any books written by Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing?

RESULTS

(112 total votes)

A few comments this week:

“I picked up ‘Shikasta’ a couple months ago, and it’s been hovering at the top of my reading list since then… I plan to read it by the end of the year.” – Gabriel Mckee

“I read ‘The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five’ and ‘Shikasta’ when I was in college and trying to be intensely literary. I couldn’t tell you now what they were about. Or maybe my memory was affected by all the sloe gin I was drinking at the time. Ah, college. :)” – Misty

“Let us face it, if I want a good time I am not reading a Nobel Prize Winner. It is all too political. Also when I think of the SF greats Lessing does not rate all that high. Am I a Philistine?” – General X

“Wake me when Bradbury wins one…” – Mark Stephenson

Be sure to visit our front page and vote in this week’s poll about turning your favorite book into a movie!

SF Tidbits for 10/28/07

  • Here’s a 70-minute video of Charles Stross reading Halting State from a recent appearance in San Francisco.
  • The Dead Robots’ Society podcast-interviews A. Lee Martinez (In the Company of Ogres).
  • New/Updated at ManyBooks.net: “With No Strings Attached” by Gordon Randall Garrett, “No Great Magic” by Fritz Leiber and “Subversive” by Mack Reynolds.
  • More free fiction: Free Speculative Fiction Online has a whole slew of new additions from James Blish, Algis Budrys, Greg Egan, Eric Flint & Dave Freer, Jeffrey Ford, Theodora Goss, Harry Harrison, Jay Lake, Claude Lalumière, Jack McDevitt, Alan E. Nourse, Mike Resnick, John Ringo & Linda Evans, Chris Roberson, Bruce Sterling, Lavie Tidhar and Stanley G. Weinbaum.
  • Entertainment Weekly #962 lists Reaper and The Bionic Woman as two of 5 new shows to watch. They also list Heroes and one of 4 shows worth fixing. (Speaking of EW and Heroes, they’ve posted a dead-on review of Heroes season 2.
  • Yes But No But Yes asks “Where Are They Now?” in regards to the warriors from the Road Warrior films. My favorite: Bruce Spence…the Gyro Captain who became Tion Medon in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.

MSN’s 10 SF/F Books That Should Be Movies

MSN offers suggestions for science fiction and books that should jump to the big screen. Here’s the short version:

  • The Dark Tower by Stephen King
  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson
  • A Song of Fire and Ice by George R. R. Martin
  • Hyperion by Dan Simmons
  • The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
  • Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
  • The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny
  • Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock
  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

SF Tidbits for 10/27/07

Dumbledore’s Venn Diagram

By the ingenious blog, Indexed.

Friday YouTube: Zombies in Plain English

“Remember…zombies don’t eat candy…only brains.”

[via OpticalPopitude]

SF Tidbits for 10/26/07

  • Orbit Books has posted the first chapter of Devices and Desires by K.J. Parker.
  • At SciFi Wire, John Joseph Adams profiles Kristine Smith, author of Endgame, the latest and final book in the series that began with Code of Conduct.
  • Stanislaw Lem calls Philip K. Dick A Visionary Among the Charlatans: “…fans are attracted by the worst in Dick–the typical dash of American SF, reaching to the stars, and the headlong pace of action moving from one surprise to the next–but they hold it against him that, instead of unraveling puzzles, he leaves the reader at the end on the battlefield, enveloped in the aura of a mystery as grotesque as it is strange.”
  • Locus Online has excerpts from Locus magazine’s October Issue interviews with Bruce Sterling (“These days I’m like a gypsy scholar figure.”) and Walter Jon Williams (“SF has changed dramatically in the last half-century.”)
  • The Guardian Book Blog has an appreciation of J.G. Ballard. “To put it simply: Ballard understands that modernity has left us to our own basal needs – and we’re not coping too well.”
  • Jed Hartman is talking about anti-technological sf. “I’m sometimes surprised by how often sf stories are all about the evils of technology, and how much better unmodified humans are than technologically aided humans.”
  • Anyone else getting stoked over the new I Am Legend trailer? I loved the book and although this seems to differ greatly from that, the core concept is there. And it looks cool.
  • New at ThinkGeek: Battling Remote Control Daleks!
  • Star Wars humor: Optical Popitude points us to a deleted dinner scene from The Empire Strikes Back.

Tube Bits For 10/26/2007

  • If you’re a Stargate: Atlantis or Eureka fan, SciFi has renewed both shows for another full season. Since I’m a Eureka fan, I’m happy.
  • If you’re a Pushing Daisies fan, then ABC has ordered a full season! I watched the pilot and thought it was pretty good, but the best part was Jim Dale as the narrator. Yes, the same Jim Dale who narrates the Harry Potter audiobooks. I’m a fanboy.
  • Good news for SF fans, especially Pete, Sci Fi Channel and WWE have agreed to extend ECW through 2008! That is truly a SF story if there ever was one.
  • Coming summer 2008 to SciFi Channel, it’s Warehouse 13, from Farscape Rockne O’Bannon. Billed as part X-Files, part Raiders and part Moonlighting. Which begs the question: Which part of Moonlighting? The cool detective story part or the mushy mushy, Mark Harmon parts? Anyway, this actually sounds cool. Hopefully, there will be no muppets.
  • In a move that really confuses me, MOJO TV is now the exclusive cable HD home of Heroes re-runs. Starting Nov. 1st, MOJO will air that week’s episode at 8pm EST. In case you missed it on NBC’s HD feed, you can turn to the wildly ‘popular’ MOJO network. I’m thinking Heroes gets more torrent downloads each week than MOJO has viewers. Who’s going to turn into MOJO for this?
  • Cinemax has announced a SF movie of the week series, called DCV Chronicles. DCV is the story of 5 aliens who crash to Earth in 1863 and how they have influenced humanity’s development since then. Sounds Dark Sky-ish to me, minus the conspiracy overtones. Could be interesting, but as I don’t get Cinemax, I won’t be able to see it ‘live’, whenever it starts to air.

According to SyFy Portal, Sci Fi’s mini-movie Razor will be coming to the big screen, but only if you live in “one of the largest cities in the nation”. Let’s see: NY? Check. LA? Check. Chicago? Check. Houston?

Screwed.

First we’re hosed over on the book signing train, now Sci Fi screws us when it comes to showing Razor on the big screen. Perhaps they don’t realize Houston is the 4th largest city in the U.S.? Perhaps they don’t realize Houston has a very cool group SF blog who would love to go see the movie? And we’re skipped over for Dallas??

Hey Sci Fi, the 80’s called, they want J.R. back, and they don’t even care who shot him. If you want to see if Razor will be in your city, you can go the special screening website, starting tomorrow, Oct. 26th and register for tickets. Thanks Sci Fi for giving us even more reason to hate on you.

But on more positive news, the special showing is sponsored by the Xbox 360 and the sure to be a massive hit science fiction game: Mass Effect. The 360 and Mass Effect, two great tastes that taste great together!

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