REVIEW: Fleet of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner

REVIEW SUMMARY: A great hard science fiction story that delivers more ideas in a single novel than most do in a series. Niven is a great writer, and this is a great collaboration.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Fleeing a chain-reaction supernovae in the galactic core, the Citizens (Puppeteers from Niven’s other books) take their planets and head out. This fleet of worlds comes across a human colony ship and turns the embryos they find into a race of slaves. Kirsten is one of the best and brightest and is eventually sent out to scout ahead of the fleet looking for danger. What she ends up discovering involves the history of her race and threatens to send the Citizen planets spinning out of control.


PROS: Niven and Lerner turn in a fantastic collaboration. Even if you haven’t read any of Niven’s known space novels you’ll find a lot to like here. Excellent set of ideas around the alternative evolution of life, exploiting teleportation, starship construction, and much more.

CONS: You really need to be a fan of science fiction to enjoy this book.

BOTTOM LINE: Set in the universe of the Ringworld novels, this book stands very well on its own and delivers a very strong hard science fiction experience. It is a great novel that is not to be missed.

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TOC: Seeds of Change edited by John Joseph Adams

John Joseph Adams has posted the Table of Contents of Seeds of Change, his upcoming anthogy of original fiction about world-changing events:

  1. Introduction by John Joseph Adams
  2. “N-Words” by Ted Kosmatka
  3. “The Future by Degrees” by Jay Lake
  4. “Drinking Problem” by K. D. Wentworth
  5. “Endosymbiont” by Blake Charlton
  6. “A Dance Called Armageddon” by Ken MacLeod
  7. “Arties Aren’t Stupid” by Jeremiah Tolbert
  8. “Faceless in Gethsemane” by Mark Budz
  9. “Spider the Artist” by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu
  10. “Resistance” by Tobias S. Buckell

The Religious Experience Of Philip K. Dick

In 1974 after having his wisdom teeth removed, Philip K. Dick experienced a profound religious experience. Pumped full of Sodium Pentathol, Dick answered the door to meet a girl from the pharmacy who was delivering his pain medications (if only they delivered now) and, upon seeing her golden fish pendant, experienced what he called ‘anamnesis’.

This experience led to his ‘discovery’ of the ‘Black Iron Prison’ and, slowly, Dick would believe that he was a Christian from Roman times. Often times assuming the personality of that person.

If you’ve ever wondered what that might be like, then look no further than The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick, as illustrated and written by R. Crumb. There’s something about reading this in comic form that works extremely well and gives us a great sense of what it must have been like to slowly loose touch with reality. Or did he?

LOST, The Best SF Show on TV

As I write this, I just finished watching the latest episode of LOST, called ‘The Constant’. To all those who poo-pooed the idea that LOST was not science fiction, watch this episode. After hinting and teasing, the writers finally pulled out the stops and gave us a full-bore science fiction episode.

‘The Constant’ is a Desmond-centric episode, which is great because Desmond is a great character, but what set it apart was that, depending on how you look at it, it was either a flash-forward episode, or a flash-back. Why? Because, due to forces only hinted at (of course), Desmond becomes unstuck in time, and oscillates between 1996 and 2004. He must find Penny in both periods (she is the constant) to ground him, or else he will die as his consciousness will be unable to handle the ever increasing time shifts. Yes, we get the paradoxical infomational loops, but they are handled pretty well, although there were a couple of areas that were glossed over. But that’s ok, because:

Not only do we get some heavy duty SF tossed into the show, it only took the writers 4 seasons to smack people over the head with it, we also got a terrific character story centered on Desmond and Penny. Now we see what prompted Penny to start, and continue, her search for Desmond. We see the lengths Desmond will go to try and reconnect with Penny, ultimately ending with a very emotional, and powerful, reunion. This was, by far, the best episode this season and might be the best overall. An awesome job by all those involved.

I won’t say much more then you simply have to watch it for yourself. If you gave up on LOST, I think you owe it to yourself to catch up (fulls eps available on ABC’s website). If you’ve never seen it, all seasons are online at ABC, what are you waiting for? It should be one incredible run to the series finale in 2010.

Friday YouTube: Arthur C. Clarke & The Sea Monsters

Arthur C. Clarke talks about sea monsters…

This video is from the 70’s. Compare and contrast that with this video from the 70’s kids’ show Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.

[via raincoaster]

More Free Stuff From Tor

Tor’s latest free eBook is the 2006 Hugo Award-winning Spin by Robert Charles Wilson.

Have you signed up yet?

They’ve also posted a couple of cool desktop wallpapers: Todd Lockwood‘s cover for To Light a Candle by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory, and Stephan Martiniere‘s cover for Escapement by Jay Lake. Get them quickly! They will be rotated out every week.

[via The Art Department]

SF Tidbits for 2/29/08

Tube Bits for 02/29/2008

  • Marc Wade, former director of production at, has landed a weekly column over at His first column takes a look at Star Trek: The Tour.
  • Cine Fantastique Online has a very long, in-depth interview with George Takei. The cover a wide range of topics including Star Trek, William Shatner, Heroes, Howard Stern and a lot more. Part 1 here. Part 2 here. This interview happened some time last year, but only recently posted, so some of the information is out of date.
  • At last week’s WonderCon, Chris Carter dropped some hints about the upcoming X-Files movie. It will be stand alone and won’t deal with the mythology of the show, instead it will focus on the scarier stories that peppered the show during its original run. Rumor has it there may be werewolves involved.
  • If you really can’t wait for the last season of Galactica and don’t mind being very spoiled, then head on over to IO9 ans see thier BG video clips for season 4.
  • In case you weren’t planning on playing the new video game, LOST: Via Domus, now you can watch TyndelM play through the entire game! In fact, it looks like he has several video walkthroughs. I find this, odd.
  • The fine folks over at RavenStake have released their second LOST parody video, using actual LOST action figures. Check it:

Michael Moorcock Named SFWA Grand Master

From the Science Fiction Writers of America:

The SFWA® Board of Directors and President Michael Capobianco are pleased to announce that writer and editor Michael Moorcock has been named Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master for 2008. The Grand Master represents SFWA’s highest accolade and recognizes excellence for a lifetime of contributions to the genres of science fiction and fantasy.

Mr. Moorcock is the twenty-fifth writer recognized by Science FIction and Fantasy Writers of America as a Grand Master. He joins Robert A. Heinlein (1974), Jack Williamson (1975), Clifford D. Simak (1976), L. Sprague de Camp (1978), Fritz Leiber(1981), Andre Norton (1983), Arthur C. Clarke (1985), Isaac Asimov (1986), Alfred Bester (1987), Ray Bradbury (1988), Lester del Rey (1990), Frederik Pohl (1992), Damon Knight (1994), A. E. van Vogt (1995), Jack Vance (1996), Poul Anderson (1997), Hal Clement (1998), Brian Aldiss (1999), Philip Jose Farmer (2000), Ursula K. LeGuin (2003), and Robert Silverberg (2004), Anne McCaffrey (2005), Harlan Ellison (2006), and James Gunn (2007).

The award is presented at Nebula Awards weekend, April 25-27.

Thursday YouTube: Starship Troopers 3

Call me silly, I liked the first movie. I never saw the supposed suckfest that was Starship Troopers 2. And now this? I dunno. Your thoughts?

SF Tidbits for 2/28/08

MIND MELD: Which SciFi Movie Ending Would You Change?

Common sense and statistics say that, even when you think you’re watching a decent SciFi film, you should refrain from celebration until after the end credits – because sometimes movie endings suck. We asked a host of luminaries the following question.

Q: Which SciFi movie ending do you wish you could change?


Some of these answers (and accompanying videos) contain spoilers. But in this case, the answers are more entertaining than the end of the movie anyway, so…spoiler warning redacted. :)

Mike Brotherton
Mike Brotherton is the author of the hard science fiction novels Spider Star (2008) and Star Dragon (2003), the latter being a finalist for the Campbell award. He’s also a professor of astronomy at the University of Wyoming, Clarion West graduate, and founder of the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop for Writers ( He blogs at

First, what makes for a good ending? The hallmark of a great movie ending is that it’s impossible to anticipate while watching it, but seems like the only ending possible in hindsight. It shouldn’t fall prey to sentimentality, at least not overly so, and should follow through with the power of the premise. Surprising, inevitable, memorable; some examples that come to mind include: A Boy and His Dog, 12 Monkeys, The Thing, Planet of the Apes (1968). I guess I like the shocking sci-fi horror ending! A lot of sf movies have conventional endings, a little too pat and expected, but not weird or ugly.

I decided to start with a list of movies I think have endings flawed one way or another, a list that includes a lot of movies I truly like. 2001 is pretty confusing. Contact is a bit of a let down and the government cover-up seemed unnecessary. AI goes for the weird alien happy ending. The Hulk ending is a dark mess. The finale of Sphere sucks. Changing the ending of Armageddon sure couldn’t hurt it. Return of the Jedi is full of Ewoks and happy happy joy joy Darth Vader. Ridley Scott himself has changed the ending of Blade Runner several times.

And then there’s the movie I finally settled on: Signs

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Wednesday YouTube: 1968 J.R.R. Tolkien Interview

MilkandCookies Middle-Unearths this 1968 interview with J.R.R. Tolkien and grandson Adam (2007).

SF Tidbits for 2/27/08

REVIEW: Deep Inside by Polly Frost

REVIEW SUMMARY: A collection of well-written erotic science fiction short stories.

MY RATING: See the text below.

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: 10 erotic science fiction short stories written by Polly Frost.


PROS: An interesting collection of stories that makes fun of science fiction tropes occasionally but also contains some interesting ideas. Most of the stories involve a last-minute twist (ironic or otherwise) that I enjoy most in short fiction.

CONS: Some stories are just strange as opposed to interesting.

BOTTOM LINE: If you find erotic fiction to be your cup of tea, I think you’ll enjoy this collection of stories that Polly has written.

Because I’m not sure how sensitive our readers are to this sort of thing, I’m putting the rest of my review and an analysis of each of the stories after the jump. Read on if you dare!

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John Jude Palencar Wins 2008 Spectrum Grand Master Award

John Jude Palencar has been presented with the 2008 Spectrum Grand Master Award.

From the press release:

Cathy and Arnie Fenner, the directors for Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, announced that this year’s Grand Master Award has been presented to John Jude Palencar. The Spectrum Advisory Board–consisting of Rick Berry, Brom, Mark Chiarello, Leo and Diane Dillon, Harlan Ellison, Irene Gallo, Bud Plant, Don Ivan Punchatz, Tim Underwood, and Michael Whelan–reviewed a list of eligible artists and reached a consensus to confer the honor.

The Spectrum Grand Master Award is presented annually to a living artist whose career has spanned at least twenty years, whose work has achieved and maintained a high-level of skill and imagination, and who has inspired others with their art and attitude.

Previous recipients of the award are Frank Frazetta, Don Ivan Punchatz, Leo and Diane Dillon, James E. Bama, John Berkey, Alan Lee, Jean Giraud, Kinuko Y. Craft, Michael William Kaluta, Michael Whelan, H.R. Giger, Jeffrey Jones, and Syd Mead.

Congratulation, John!

The Spectrum site has more winners of the Spectrum 15 Awards.

Daily Monster

Stefan G. Bucher’s Daily Monster website operates with a simple premise: every day he posts a short, high-speed video of him drawing a new monster.

A simple idea, yes, but the results are awesome.

The website has also spawned a book: 100 Days Of Monsters, which also comes with a DVD that features videos from the website. Now why didn’t I think of that? Oh yeah, no-talent @$$-clown. (With apologies to Michael Bolton…)

[via Boing^2]

Can You Name This Story? (Part 3)

Another reader writes in with a story description looking for a title. Do any of our readers out there know the title of this story?

When I was a kid in the 1970s, I read what was probably a short story (probably in an anthology for young readers) about a bunch of children who lived in a controlled environment with a minder looking after them from a voice in the wall. In fact that’s what they called this person, “Voice.” All the children have names like Emelen and Emanee (those are the two I can remember). One very bright child figures out that “Voice” is actually more than one person, as the personality changes over time, and this child eventually organises an escape, in which all the children discover a huge world outside their home and that they have been kept prisoners. They also learn that they are all mutations of some sort, with extra limbs or misshapen facial features, and that that was why they were separated from the rest of humanity. Their names turn out to be 3-letter codes, MLN and MNE, in the examples above, and the M stands for “monster.”

I remember this story hitting me very hard as a youngster and I’d like to reread it if anyone remembers it.

- Maria S.

Can you name this story?

SF Tidbits for 2/26/08

Flash Gordon Read-Along Books

Way back when I was a young geek, science fiction took many forms, one of which was a precursor to audio books: I’m talking about the 45 RPM Read-Along comic books. I personally owned my very own copy of a Spiderman read-along comic called Mark of the Werewolf, much to the endless amusement of my much-cooler imaginary friends.

Now you can once again experience the unique joy of reading along with these Flash Gordon read-along MP3s. Well, almost experience….you don’t actually get to see the books, they’re just MP3s. But you do get to hear the awesome “turn page now” chime. Man, that sends chills down the place where my spine used to be.

[Note: the download links for these MP3s use the MegaUpload website which makes you (1) type in a captcha code, and (2) wait 45 seconds for the “free” download. Very Lame.]

[via Cool-Mo-Dee]