Are Books Just Too Darn Long?

Guardian Book Blog asks: Can the novella save literature?

And then I had an epiphany: could it be that we should look to classics like Ethan Frome to find the key to saving fiction from the worrisome tides of publishing sturm and drang, the statistics that indicate that people distracted by the trillions of choices provided by digital media are giving up on fiction? Might the way to stop our atrophied attention spans becoming terminally distracted be to simply publish more short books?

And best all, an upswing in the publication of novellas would not confirm the prejudices of those who rail against the dumbing-down of literature: novellas require an intelligent author and an intelligent reader to appreciate the power of brevity. Without exacting quite the level of austerity presented by the task of writing a good short story, novellas challenge writers to use words like wartime rations: with care and thought and the extra level of creative gusto required to ensure that they stretch to make a miniature read that is just as satisfying as something more substantial.

Robert Silverberg also echoes the virtues of the novella and I tend to agree with these sentiments. Short fiction can provide just a good a sci-fi jolt as a book can. But, geez, is literature really doomed if we continue book-length stories?

[via Likely Stories]

SF Tidbits for 1/31/08

What Do You Want To See From: LOST Season 4

It seems like forever since LOST was last on the air, but that’s about to change in a hurry as season 4 starts tomorrow night, at 9pm ET. When we last left our survivors, rescue seemed immanent, thanks to Charlie disabling the Looking Glass hatch, allowing communications with the outside. Of course, being LOST things aren’t what they seem, and the ‘rescuers’ may not be looking for the Losties at all. Cue end of season 3. So that brings us to season 4. There is a wealth of unanswered questions out there. But we’d like to know what you want to see from Season 4. Keep in mind that, with only 16 episodes this season (if we’re lucky) you can’t get all the answers. And just for Trent, I’ll go ahead and place ‘less clothes‘ (see accompanying picture) on his list.

Some of the things I want to see are:

  • Why is the island hidden from the outside world and how is that accomplished?
  • Where did the ‘native’ others come from and who don’t they appear to age?
  • Who, exactly, is Jacob?
  • What is the smoke monster?

I know theres a lot more, but these are the ones foremost in my mind. Although, from what I’ve read, the smoke monster may remain a mystery for awhile longer. What say you?

MIND MELD: Which Predictions Did Golden Age Science Fiction Get Right & Wrong?

Although science fiction fans know better, the general populace likes to think of sf as being written with the express purpose of predicting the future. So we posed the following question to a bunch of people in the since fiction community:

Science fiction is often accused of being The Great Predictor. Which predictions did Golden Age science fiction get right? Which ones were way off the mark?
James Gunn
James Gunn, Emeritus Professor of English at K.U., has published a dozen novels and half a dozen collections of stories, and has edited a dozen and a half books. His best-known novels are The Immortals, The Dreamers, The Listeners, Kampus, and The Joy Makers. The Immortals was filmed as The Immortal and became a TV series. He published The Science of Science-Fiction Writing in 2002 and edited Speculations on Speculation: Theories of Science Fiction in 2005. He has been president of the Science Fiction Writers of America and the Science Fiction Research Association. His most recent publications are Gift from the Stars and the reprint edition of The Listeners, both available from BenBella Books. In 2007 he was named a Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master by SFWA.

Science fiction has included a lot of speculations that look like predictions, and some of them have come to pass, most spectacularly spaceships and atomic power and bombs, but prediction is a side effect of creating plausible scenarios about future change, not its intent. SF has been more important as a means of persuading readers to think about issues and the ways in which they might develop and how that might affect the human condition. As Isaac Asimov said in 1973, “We live in a science-fiction world, a world very much like the one we were writing about in 1939.” It is a world that might well have been significantly different if science-fiction writers had not imagined it in detail. More specifically, to quote Isaac again, “Science-fiction writers and readers didn’t put a man on the moon all by themselves, but they created a climate in which the goal of putting a man on the moon became acceptable.” The same process is at work on other potential changes, in which, as John Campbell put it, futures are tested for human habitability. Or, as he went on, science-fiction is a way of practicing in a no-practice area. Some changes, like a parachute jump, have to be perfect the first time.

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Tube Bits for 01/30/2008

  • Sci Fi Wire recently visited the set of the new Knight Rider movie, and came away with some behind the scenes interviews with the cast and crew. The movie will air Feb. 17th at 9pm ET, scant three weeks away.
  • Sam Raimi will be dabbling in television, tentatively scheduled for this fall, with a show called Wizards First Rule, based on the The Sword Of Truth series by Terry Goodkind. It’s a live action version of the story, although there is little detail on how Raimi will structure the series. I’d like to see something, and by ‘like’ I mean I think it would be neat, that is akin to the proposed live action version of Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, where each book is a season. That could work, I think. Of course, I think that Wizards First Rule is the best of the bunch, so maybe they should just stick with that.
  • The Jim Henson Company and Apple iTunes have reached an agreement to bring Farscape and one of my favorite shows as a kid, Fraggle Rock, to iTunes. The shows went live last Monday (1/28/08) and episodes from the respective series first season are available. Although, I find it odd, reading the press release, that the half-hour Fraggle Rock episodes will cost the same as the hour-long Farscape ones.
  • The long and eagerly awaited season 4 of LOST is almost here. Buddy TV shows us the new faces who will be appearing this season. Of course, if you can’t wait, you can find out what happens next below (created by the Fine Brothers).
  • Did you ever wonder what happened to the crew of Moonbase Alpha after the series ended? TVSeriesFinale has the scoop. Video below:

SF Tidbits for 1/30/08

SF Tidbits for 1/29/08

Tube Bits for 01/29/2008

  • The cool DaVinci’s Automata blog points us to this really cool Japanese anime anthology, Robot Carnival. It contains nine shorts, set mostly to music, directed by several different people. It sounds rather cool.
  • You say you’ve always wanted your own, full-size replica of the the robot from Lost in Space? You’re in luck! The team at B9Creations has created a line of replica robots that you can purchase. Check out the pics, they look great. And all for a paltry $24.5K. Danger Will Robinson, indeed. But, you do get an internal 240 watt sound system and over 500 voice tracks by Richard Tyrfeld, the voice of the original robot. Now how does that $24.5k sound?
  • Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be awesome? All the time? Then this interview with Ryan McPartlin, Captain Awesome on Chuck, is for you. He talks about what it’s like to be known as ‘Awesome’ instead of Ryan. I have to say, I find his character to be funny, a bit blind to the obvious, but still a lovable goof. He steals the scenes he’s in. Watch Chuck.
  • The new History Channel series, UFO Hunters, has been moved up. It’s new premier date is now January 30th at 9pm ET. That’s tomorrow, at 9PM ET. Set your DVRs. I know my kids have.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles: More is revealed

After finally getting to watch the first 3 episodes, I think we can safely start to see a few things about the show that wasn’t apparent from just the pilot. Spoiler alert – I’m going to discuss a few things from the plot if you haven’t seen it.

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GIVEAWAY: Win a Chronicles of The Necromancer Mega-Pack!

Here’s your chance to win some bling!

One lucky SF Signal reader, chosen at random, will win a Chronicles of The Necromancer Mega-Pack, courtesy of author Gail Martin and Solaris Books. The Mega-Pack contains:

  • 1 signed limited edition advance review copy of The Summoner
  • 1 signed limited edition advance review copy of The Blood King
  • 1 signed final copy of The Blood King (which has about 20,000 words of new material from the ARC)
  • 1 red crystal ball “Soulcatcher”


To enter, send an email from a valid email account to [contest at sfsignal dot com] with your real name and full mailing address. We hate spam, too, so your information will only be used for this contest. Only one email per address will be accepted, others will be discarded. The contest is open to anyone, anywhere. One winner will be chosen at random from all entries submitted before Saturday February 2nd, 2008 11:59 PM CT (GMT-6). The winner will be notified by email.

REVIEW: The Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton

REVIEW SUMMARY: Fans of Hamilton’s galaxy-spanning space operas will not be disappointed.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Various players and factions move about the galaxy, trying to decide what to do about the Void, a planet-eating region of space from which dreams emanate.


PROS: Excellent world building; cool tech; some tense, page-turning moments.

CONS: Takes a while to get this behemoth moving along.

BOTTOM LINE: Solid SF Space Opera.

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SF Tidbits for 1/28/08

POLL RESULTS: Where Surveillance Technology is Taking Us

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

Where do you think surveillance technology will take us?


(88 total votes)

Comments this week:

“The multis are already much more efficient mining our biometric and geographic data. They’ll only get better… ’till the hackers strike back.” – Jeff

“‘Will’ take us? We’re already there!” – Paul Harper

“They’re gonna put a little camera in toilet bowls to see what kind of tp we use. Assign each brand a numeric value and plug it into a logarythmic formula along with the results from the breakfast cereal camera, the gas cap camera and the lead paint camera, and send me a 10% off coupon for Long John Silvers…” – platyjoe

Be sure to visit our front page and vote in this week’s poll about The Books of Philip José Farmer!

Sunday Cinema: Firefly – “Our Mrs. Reynolds”

Today we have very interesting episode, “Our Mrs. Reynolds”, wherein Mal winds up getting married to a mystery woman. Hilarity and angst ensue! Of course, this entire episode is just a setup for seeing a nekkid Mal in a later episode.

Science Fiction & Fantasy Books That Make You Dumb

The Books That Make You Dumb website correlates the most-read books by college students with the average SAT/ACT scores listed for that college. The result is a pretty chart that shows books (color coded by genre) on a “dumb/smart” scale.

I’ve taken the science fiction & Fantasy results from the sorted graph and show them here. Perpetuating the unscientific method that the website uses, the resulting list of science fiction books, from “Dumb” to “Not-so-Dumb”, are:

  1. Wicked by Gregory Maguire.
  2. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.
  3. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.
  4. Dune by Frank Herbert.
  5. Eragon by Christopher Paolini.
  6. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
  7. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling.
  8. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
  9. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut.
  10. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.
  11. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

[via O’Reilly Radar]

SF Tidbits for 1/27/08

Free Audio Fiction and More at Starship Sofa

Starship Sofa is a science fiction audio podcast that offers up lots of free stories and in-depth profiles. Check out their latest offerings, “The Crystal Spheres” by David Brin and a profile of L. Sprague De Camp.

Tony writes in to let us know that upcoming audio renditions include fiction from Ian Watson, Pat Cadigan, Peter Watts, Harry Harrison, Joe Haldeman, Joan D Vinge, Norman Spinrad, Michael Moorcock, Ian MacDonald, J D Nordley, Bruce Sterling, Gweneth Jones, David Brin, Alastair Reynolds, Jerry Pournelle, Landon Jones, John Varley, Pat Murphy, John Kessel, Laurel Winter, Jeff Vanermeer, Kevin J Anderson, Jonathan Carroll, Bradley Denton, and Matthew Hughes.

Also coming up is a video documentary with Michael Moorcock.

There’s a lot going on, so keep an ear out!

WINNERS: 2007 Aurealis Awards

The winners of the 2007 Aurealis Awards (given to works of SF, fantasy, and horror by Australians) have been announced:

  • BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL: David Kowalski, The Company of the Dead, Pan Macmillan
  • BEST SCIENCE FICTION SHORT STORY: Cat Sparks, ‘Hollywood Roadkill’, On Spec, #69
  • BEST FANTASY NOVEL: Lian Hearn, Heaven’s Net is Wide, Tales of the Otori The First Book, Hachette Livre
  • BEST FANTASY SHORT STORY: Garth Nix, ‘Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz go to War Again’, Jim Baen’s Universe, April 2007
  • BEST HORROR NOVEL: Susan Parisi, Blood of Dreams, Penguin Group (Australia)
  • BEST HORROR SHORT STORY: Anna Tambour, ‘The Jeweller of Second-Hand Roe’, Subterranean, #7
  • BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL: Anthony Eaton, Skyfall, UQP
  • BEST YOUNG ADULT SHORT STORY: Deborah Biancotti, ‘A Scar for Leida’, Fantastic Wonder Stories, Ticonderoga Publications
    • Kate Forsyth, The Silver Horse, The Chain of Charms 2, Pan Macmillan
    • Kate Forsyth, The Herb of Grace, The Chain of Charms 3, Pan Macmillan
    • Kate Forsyth, The Cat’s Eye Shell, The Chain of Charms 4, Pan Macmillan
    • Kate Forsyth, The Lightning Bolt, The Chain of Charms 5, Pan Macmillan
    • Kate Forsyth, The Butterfly in Amber, The Chain of Charms 6, Pan Macmillan
  • BEST CHILDREN’S (8-12 YEARS) SHORT FICTION (tie): Marc McBride, World of Monsters, Scholastic Australia
  • BEST CHILDREN’S (8-12 YEARS) SHORT FICTION (tie): Briony Stewart, Kumiko and the Dragon, UQP
  • PETER MCNAMARA CONVENORS’ AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE: Terry Dowling, Rynemonn, Coeur de Lion Publications
  • GOLDEN AUREALIS (Novel): David Kowalski fir The Company of the Dead, Pan Macmillan
  • GOLDEN AUREALIS (Short Story): Cat Sparks, ‘Hollywood Roadkill’, On Spec, #69

Philip K. Dick: A Day in the Afterlife

PKD: A Day in the Afterlife, directed by Nicola Roberts, is an hour-long documentary about SF Author Philip K. Dick.

[via Milk & Cookies]

Tube Bits for 01/26/2008

  • TheNewsTribune has asked a bunch of people to hypothesize on the upcoming season of LOST. You can find their answers here. We are now less then a week away from the premier (Jan. 31st, 9ET) and you can just feel the anticipation building. Or it could be dinner.
  • Are you a Trek fan but have to work in a suit and tie? Never fear! The TieGuys have you covered with these cool Star Trek themed ties. I don’t know about you, but I’d spring for the Enterprise tie myself. Wearing someone else’s face on my chest seems wrong.
  • All you Dead Like Me fans can start speculating. After the release of the movie, the show itself my be resurrected. And Brian Fuller, the creator, also created Pushing Daisies, which every one of you should watch, if for no other reason than to listen to the silky smooth, dulcet tones of Jim Dale, the narrator.
  • InZero is an independent SF series being filmed in Detroit. It’s only a matter of time before one of these independent shows breaks out.
  • Just when you thought you could avoid MySpace completely, the BBC has launched a video channel on MySpace TV. You can watch clips of Torchwood, Dr. Who (new and classic) and Red Dwarf.