Archive for June, 2008

ApolloCon 2008 Trip Report

ApolloCon was loads of fun. The panels I attended were truly interesting. Topics ranged from sf trends, to sf in various media, to YA books to steampunk. Discussions were usually lively and the panelists offered significant contributions. I also attended readings by Rosemary Clement-Moore, whose Prom Dates from Hell series is accurately described as “Nancy Drew meets Kolchak“, and Chris Roberson who read from his cool upcoming YA book, Iron Jaw and Hummingbird.

As fun as the panels were, the highlight for me is getting to spend some face-time with so many people. Some I’ve met before, others I knew only through email, and still others I met for the first time. This personal interaction is one of the benefits of ApolloCon which is relatively small by con standards (400+ attendees vs. thousands at larger conventions). Some of the people I got to hang with included Lou Anders, Allison Baker, Matthew Bey, Jayme Lynn Blaschke, Steven Brandt, Steven Brust, Scott Cupp, Alexis Glynn Latner, A. Lee Martinez, J.M. McDermott, Maureen McHugh, John Moore, Lawrence Person, K. Hutson Price, John Picacio, Chris Roberson, Patrice Sarath, Allen Steele, Mikal Trimm and others who I hope won’t kill me for neglecting to list them. Discussions ranged across a wide variety of topics but one thing that stands out is their common passion for all things sf and fantasy.

I was mostly able to control my insatiable appetite for books in the dealer’s room, though I did walk away from the Edge Books table with two books: Neal Barret, Jr.’s Golden Gryphon collection, Perpetuity Blues, and the shared-world anthology Liavek edited by Will Shetterly and Emma Bull. I also met Allan Kaster, proprietor of the audiobook company Infinivox, who bestowed upon me a review copy of the Mini-Masterpieces of Science Fiction CD. Thanks, Allan!

Other notes and highlights:

  • Pyr‘s upcoming lineup looks really, really good. I regret not being able to read some of their past/current titles, particularly InfoQuake, Brasyl, The Blade Itself, and Resnick’s Starship series [looks at JP and Tim, who did read these titles.] It’s clear to me that Pyr is first and foremost focused on quality – not just in their book selection but also in their production.
  • I really enjoyed an intimate (and too brief) sit-down discussion with Allen Steele in which he talked about his first meeting with Robert A. Heinlein. Hilarious!
  • Trolling the con parties with John P., Lou and Jayme was fun. Bathroom cheese is not as bad as it sounds (don’t ask).
  • JP was there for some of the time as well. We captured a few new Mind Meld ideas and even pestered a few folks who graciously agreed to participate in future ones.
  • The Twitter experiment was a failure. I suppose it’s my own fault as I wasn’t updating it all that often. I was having too much fun. Sorry, I just don’t see the appeal with Twitter.

All in all, a great con and a fun weekend!

From the YouTube contributor: “The most ridiculous 5 minutes of Moroder’s 1984 restoration of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis – taken from the Laserdisc release.”

Bizarre.

[via Poe TV]

Tube Bits for 06/30/2008

  • Eoghann over at Solar Flare wonders whether J.J. Abrams can successfully reboot Star Trek. Sure, Galactica was rebooted successfully, but it didn’t have the entrenched fanbase of Trek. Let’s say Abrams makes Trek XI into a really good film. Will the Trekies/Trekers embrace it? Can you have a successful reboot if the the fanbase doesn’t go along?
  • Doc Artz fills us in on potential LOST events at the upcoming ComiCon in San Diego. One of these day’s I’d like to attend, it seems to have become a big place for TV fall season news.
  • SF Universe says the Save Jericho site is ‘burning up the web‘ because it has had over 9000 visits in just over two weeks. Now, for a new web site to grab 9000 in two weeks is impressive, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not really a lot. I’d expect the furor to die down and only the die hard fans still clicking on over.
  • For those of you still keen on Heroes, Tim Kring fills you in on what you can expect for season 3. Nowhere does he mention ‘better writing’.
  • Darth Mojo has some awesome, high-res Voyager eye candy on display over at his blog. I never really liked Voyager, but these stills are impressive, and background worthy.
  • If you’re a writer, what do you do during a writer’s strike? If you’re Joss Whedon, you write an internet video musical! Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog will debut on July 15th and will star Mal and Doogie Howser. How could you not want to see this? If you’re still on the fence, watch the trailer:

SF Tidbits for 6/30/08

I did, indeed, attend this weekend’s ApolloCon, along with our own John D. On Saturday I managed to attend one panel, this one about steampunk. During the discussion, Lawrence Person (who I see is part of the Austin Cabal with Chris Roberson) named a proto-steampunk movie that most people have never seen, let alone even heard of. That movie was the 1958 film, The Fabulous World of Jules Verne. I was intrigued enough to try and track down this movie, which is supposedly in the public domain. Sadly, I have been unable to find the full movie. However, I did find this trailer on YouTube. Yes, the SFX is poor by today’s standards, but this was a 1958 foreign film so I’m going to cut it some slack. Now I’d really like to find the full version…

SF Tidbits for 6/29/08

Saturday YouTube: Star Cops

Posting will probably be light this weekend since some of us are at ApolloCon. I’m learning some interesting things…like Allen Steele and Chris Roberson are SciFi TV trivia Gods. For example, I hadn’t heard of the BBC show Star Cops until Allen mentioned it. Here’s a clip from the very first episode:

SF Tidbits for 6/28/08

This Week’s Free Tor Book: Battlestar Galactica by Jeffrey A. Carver

Tor‘s latest batch of freebies includes:

Twittering ApolloCon

As mentioned previously, I will be going to the Houston ApolloCon convention this weekend, starting today through Sunday. JP will also be making an appearance on Saturday (at least).

Like I did at the Nebula Awards, I will be Twittering the event. (Check for the widget on the home page or browse to the SF Signal Twitter page.) I don’t use the Twitter for much else – I might as well us it for this.

So, tune in to see if I can catch Steven Brust eating a sandwich again!

Friday YouTube: Buck Rogers and the Tranny

SF Tidbits for 6/27/08

MIND MELD: Interesting Areas of Scientific Research

For many of us, one of the main interests of science fiction is it’s use of science as part of the story. There’s nothing quite like reading about a cool idea that is based on current scientific thought and then going back and finding out more. We asked our respondents this question:

Q: There is a lot of scientific research being performed across a wide array of disciplines. So much that it can be difficult to keep up with it all. What current avenue of scientific inquiry do you believe people should be paying attention to, and why?

Kathleen Ann Goonan
Kathleen Ann Goonan is a science fiction writer with several Nebula Award nominated books. Her debut novel, Queen City Jazz was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and her most recent novel, In War Times, was chosen by the American Library Association as Best Science Fiction Novel for their 2008 reading list.

There are several reasons for this. The first is that our system of education needs to have a scientific basis. It does not now. It is so dreadful because it was created to ready immigrant children for factory work. Be on time, follow directions, don’t talk, do what we tell you to do. One obvious negative outcome is that we do not begin to teach reading until children are far older than the optimal age for doing so. I taught preschoolers for fifteen years, and all of my four-year-olds could read with comprehension and with joy. Easily. No pain. Same with numeracy. There is no reason why they can’t grasp addition, multiplication, and subtraction by age four, and division by five.

This is because the young child’s brain is extremely plastic is ready to respond to various aspects of the environment at very specific stages of development. But the same thing is true through the early twenties; the entire educational system needs to be revamped in order to afford children the opportunity to contribute in meaningful ways to science, literature, or anything they choose to do.

More research on the brain is needed, and many more studies need to be done in order to fully support this thesis in ways that will make people want to spend their money on education. If you don’t care about children, consider that it is their world in which you will be living when you are old.

And, when you are old, your experience can be much richer if you avail yourself of the continuing plasticity of the brain–particularly if you have a stroke. I’ve lately read My Stroke Of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey (Jill Bolte Taylor, Viking), The Brain That Changes Itself (Norman Doidge, Viking), and many other more complex books about neuroplasticity. Although it looks like work, brains can and do change, and recover many skills lost through a traumatic event.

My interest in memory is for many of the same reasons, but also because memory is all we are. I want to understand the source of all this richness. With various memory drugs in the pipeline, we need to understand what their use might mean for society at large, not just for the Alzheimer’s patients who will be the first users. For two concepts about how memory works, read In Search Of Memory by Eric Kandel, a Nobel Prize Laureate. For the anti-Kandel view, read In The Places Of Memory by George Johnson. And anything by V. S. Ramachandran. Those are just for starters.

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SF Tidbits for 6/26/08

Quick Meme: What Was the Last Book You Bought?

In lieu of any real content, here’s a quick meme: What was the last book you bought?

The last book I bought was the short story collection Galactic North by Alastair Reynolds. I probably did not maximize by book-buying dollar here since (A) I bought it in a supermarket, and (B) I’ve already read many of the stories in it. But I enjoy his stories so much I couldn’t pass it up. Especially when I saw it in a supermarket…it was like a message from the sf gods.

Your turn: What was the last book you bought?

Some new trailers for your viewing pleasure, all via Filmonic.

First up, the latest The Dark Knight TV spot:

Next up, the Marvel produced animated show for Nicktoons, Wolverine and the X-Men:

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SF Tidbits for 6/25/08

A few months ago, I embarked on a mission to read all of Chris Roberson’s Celestial Empire stories that were readily available to me – this after thoroughly enjoying The Dragon’s Nine Sons. Some of the stories are available online, others appear in anthologies I own. This is by no means a complete list of Celestial Empire stories, just a fun project I undertook because, you know, reading is supposed to be fun.

The Celestial Empire is one of better future histories I’ve read. Here, the Chinese (of The Middle Kingdom) and Aztecs (The Mexic Dominion) are the dominant, space-faring superpowers and they are at war with one another. The setting is well imaged and steeped in their respective cultures. The world building is interesting. There is space travel, sure, but otherwise the future is, in many stories, low tech. The Middle Kingdom strives for low tech solutions because of personal fear while the Aztecs remain low-tech out of religious belief. What you wind up with is imaginative solutions to some advanced problems, lending much to the overall flavor of the stories.

As intriguing as that backdrop is, it is upstaged by the intimate nature of the stories that play out within it. These are not military sf stories (per se) about missions that will decide the fate of the war, they are personal stories about realistic characters. They do not suffer from over-the-top action sequences that defy belief; they are (mostly) quiet stories about people, their choices and their actions.

Here are my thoughts on those stories that I’ve read so far, roughly in the order they occur in the history of the Celestial Empire…

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TOC: Postscripts #15

PS Publishing has posted the table of contents for Postscripts #15, the special WorldCon issue devoted entirely to science fiction:

  • Guest Editorial — Arthur C. Clarke
  • “Fandom At The Palace” – Brian Aldiss
  • “A Very Private Tour Of A Very Public Museum” – Scott Edelman
  • “The Man Who Built Heaven” – Keith Brooke
  • “Atlantic Crossing” – Garry Kilworth
  • “Thy Saffron Wings” – Chris Roberson
  • “Variant” – Steven Utley
  • “Shad”s Mess” – Alex Irvine
  • “Under The Shadow Of Jonah” – Jack Dann
  • “The Eye Of Vann” – Matthew Hughes
  • “Juggernaut” – Ray Bradbury
  • “The Best Of Both Worlds” – Brian Stableford
  • “State Secret” – Eric Brown
  • “Test Subject” – James Lovegrove
  • “Let Their People Go: The Left Left Behind” – Terry Bisson
  • “The Men Who Live In Trees” – Kelly Barnhill
  • “Eagle Song” – Stephen Baxter
  • “The Golden Octopus” – Beth Bernobich
  • “Professor Fluvius”s Palace Of Many Waters” – Paul Di Filippo
  • “Six Foot Easy” – Robert Reed
  • “Skinhorse Goes To Mars” – Jay Lake
  • “[A Ghost Samba]” – Ian Mcdonald
  • “An Article Of Faith” – Mike Resnick
  • “Legolas Does The Dishes” – Justina Robson
  • “Sumptuous Dress: A Question Of Size At The End Of Time” – Michael Moorcock
  • How Was The Future For You? – Paul McAuley (essay)
  • “Excerpt From The Quiet War” – Paul McAuley
  • “A Brief Guide To Other Histories” – Paul McAuley
  • “Searching For Van Gogh At The End Of The World” – Paul McAuley
  • “The Thought War” – Paul McAuley
  • “City Of The Dead” – Paul McAuley

Tube Bits for 06/24/2008

  • Some crunchy Stargate tidbits this time:
    • What’s a Stargate aficionado to do to make their house more Stargate friendly? Build a Stargate home theater of course! Although I’m not sure a round screen is the best for watching TV.
    • With a home theater comes the opportunity to listen to music. Thanks to the fine peeps working on the Stargate Worlds MMO, you too can listen to a few sample tracks from the game.
    • And finally, with a big screen like that, you’ll want to watch the Stargate Continuum trailer over and over:
  • 2 Guys Talking has a nice, humorous interview with actor Terry O’Quinn, who plays John Locke on LOST.
  • NJ.com has a cool interview with Michael Giacchino and Bear McCreary about their work on the soundtracks for LOST and Galactica, respectively. I have to say that I find the music on LOST to be stellar. Galactica doesn’t seem to stick with me as much.
  • I’m sure you remember the ‘Yip Yip’ monsters from Sesame Street. You know the ones who could only say ‘yip yip yip’ or ‘nope nope nope’. Well, now you can make your very ‘Yip Yip’ costume! Awesome!
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