Transcriptase – A Home Away From Helix

In response to the recent controversy over Helix SF, several authors have created a new website, Transcriptase, to offer their stories and poems.

From the website:

In July 2008, Helix editor William Sanders stirred up controversy in the community with remarks that many found offensive. The blogosphere exploded with discussion. You can find a summary of the events here.

As the controversy continued, several Helix writers asked to remove their work from the magazine and were met with unprofessional treatment. This upset all of us. We agreed that we would not stand by in silence.

Transcriptase hosts reprints of our stories and poems originally published at Helix. During the controversy, some of us removed our work from Helix; others left it up. There are valid reasons to make either choice, and we hope you’ll respect that we had difficult decisions to make. We offer our stories and poems at Transcriptase so that you can enjoy our work away from Helix, if you choose.

It’s difficult to summarize how we feel about the incident, since each of us feels differently. Our reactions range from disappointed to sad to angry.

Thursday YouTube: Classic Authors Speak on The Value of Science Fiction

Fascinating stuff…

From the YouTube description:

Nine legendary authors present their ideas on why SF is important to readers and what it teaches them. These excerpts are from a series of interviews and lectures done from 1968-1978 by Prof. James Gunn at the University of Kansas. Full interviews are on the Literature of SF DVD. It’s brought to you by AboutSF and the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas.

[via Lou Anders]

SF Tidbits for 7/31/08

Caption Challenge #7: San Diego Comic-Con 2008 Edition

Comic-Con is one of those events that in recent years has grown to be much more than simply for comic book collectors. All sorts of folks show up these days to learn about new movies and games, and I know that it would have been great to attend. Namely in that it really gives us a chance to see cosplayers. They fill that need to emulate the image of their favorite comic book hero or character from a movie/video game, and they also give us an opportunity to have a little fun. With that preface out of the way, I have found this image over on Sebdal’s Flickr page, and felt that nothing screamed “Caption Challenge” like this one. As with others, remember this is all in good fun so lets not get too nasty…

MIND MELD: What are the Best Examples of SF/F Worldbuilding?

In keeping with our worldbuilding theme to help out the creative young minds of the Shared Worlds creative writing program, we asked this week’s esteemed panelists the following question:

Q: Which sf/f story is your favorite example of worldbuilding? Why?

Read their answers below…

Joe Abercrombie
Joe Abercrombie is a British film editor and author of the unheroic fantasy trilogy, The First Law. He is nominated for the John W. Campbell award for Best New Writer this year, which he firmly believes he will lose to Scott Lynch.

My own taste as a writer is for a light hand on the worldbuilding. In epic fantasy – where Tolkien and his mighty efforts of detailed world making still loom large – I feel that world can sometimes be emphasised at the expense of the characters, and it’s the characters that chiefly interest me. I like to keep the setting where I think it belongs, in the background. A detailed and convincing background, hopefully, but a background nonetheless, and one that contains relatively little of the fantastic. So it always seems like some kind of magic to me when a writer manages to have their cake and eat it, giving us tastes of the truly weird and wonderful without it getting in the way of people and story.

The best recent example I can think of is from Scott Lynch’s Lies of Locke Lamora. The city which is the central setting of the book is built around, inside, and on top of a much more ancient city made from glass. This beautiful and mysterious architecture shows through, and contrasts with, the ugly crust of human buildings on top and the often filthy lifestyles of the villains living in them. It’s a wonderfully simple idea, takes minimal time and effort to explain to the reader, requires no map and no glossary, but immediately gives a unique feel to pretty much every location in the book and allows for some great, vivid, descriptive writing. Sunset shining through the elderglass, sparkling on the water of the canals, I can see it now… The city truly becomes a character in its own right, and one with which the people in the novel all have their own relationship.

A fascinating, beautiful, and alien setting created without interrupting the flow of the story? That’s my idea of great worldbuilding.

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SF Tidbits for 7/30/08

REMINDER: Eureka Season 3 Starts Tonight

A reminder for Eureka fans out there…Season 3 begins tonight.

It wouldn’t be fair to slam the SciFi channel and not call attention to something they do right. This is one of the few shows I look forward to every week. The characters are fun… mostly (I’m looking at you, Dr. Nathan Stark); the storylines are good, if scientifically jargony; and it’s one of the few sci-fi shows that the wife can tolerate.

Tuesday YouTube: I Love Sarah Jane (A Zombie Film)

Via SuperPunch, who accurately describes it as 28 Days Later meets Lord of the Flies….

*** Warning *** NSFW…for language and violence.

REVIEW: Plague Year by Jeff Carlson

REVIEW SUMMARY: Good premise, plausible science, fast-moving plot, but characters that are hard to care about.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Survivors of a nanotech plague attempt to undo the apocalypse.


PROS: Bleak setting; story keeps moving; feels like two types of stories in one book.

CONS: Characters are not particularly endearing; despite penalty of death, one group in a community of relative safety pursues plans with little hope for success.

BOTTOM LINE: A good post-apocalyptic novel depicting some well thought-out events.

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SF Tidbits for 7/29/08

MOVIE REVIEW: The Beast with a Billion Backs

REVIEW SUMMARY: Oh how the mighty have fallen. The second ‘direct to DVD’ feature-length Futurama movie is a major letdown.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A tear in the fabric of space-time allows a creature from another universe to slip through and enslave our universe in order to mate with it. Meanwhile Bender breaks into a secret society of robots bent on destroying all humans.


PROS: It’s Futurama, and fans of the show will find something to like. There are lots of callbacks to earlier episodes and in-jokes for the hardcore fans. The actors do a great job with the characters as always.

CONS: Plot is all over the place. Subplot with Bender goes nowhere. Jokes are low-brow gross-outs that aren’t funny.

BOTTOM LINE: I suggest renting this one if you are a fan of the show. Everybody else can give this one a pass.

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Giveaway Reminders

Just a friendly reminder to everyone that we are currently running two contests where you can win some free swag.

First, we’re giving away 5 copies of Titan Books‘ newest offering, The Greatest SciFi Movies Never Made. You can find the rules here.

Second, we are also giving away 3 copies of the latest Stargate movie, Stargate – Continuum. The rules for this one are here.

Your odds of winning something from these two contests are orders of magnitude better than playing the lottery, plus you don’t have to wait in line behind ‘beer smell’ guy as he buys 10 scratch offs and proceeds to play each one without moving. So why not enter?

Books Received July 28, 2008

Here are the books we received this past week.

Thoughts on some these titles after the jump…

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SF Tidbits for 7/28/08

Tron 2 Trailer ‘Released’

As you might expect, when the Tron 2 trailer was show this past week at Comic Con, someone was there to record it. Someone who needs to learn how to use the record function on their phone better, and lay off the hooch. However, another enterprising someone managed to clean up the crappy original video and make a somewhat less crappy, full frame video, which is now taking the world by storm.

Check it:

I was, and still am, a huge fan of the original Tron. It’s one of the ‘defining’ SF movies from my childhood. I’m not sure a sequel is really necessary, but daym, those lightcycles sure look cool. If they were smart, these parts would be IMAX ready. Cookie tossing FTW! On the plus side, with today’s CGI technology, I’m guessing the world of Tron could be something totally awesome. Would they dare go in a cyberpunk direction?

In any case, whenever this is released, I’ll be there, if for no other reason than the visuals alone.

Sword and Sorceress #23 Cover Image Contest

Vera Nazarian asked us to pass along the following information about a cover contest at Norilana Books:

Here’s your chance to become a part of genre history!

Norilana Books is looking for a photo image of a warrior-like woman with a sword or other old-fashioned weapon, striking a martial arts pose, and dressed in an appropriate fantasy outfit (pre-industrial) to be used as part of a design for the cover of the upcoming volume of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress classic anthology series.

Get out those swords, go out there, get your friends to dress up in gorgeous costumes, strike up some fun warrior poses, and use your imagination! For best results photos should be full-body (as opposed to head shot or torso only), against a plain background (try to avoid too much background scenery).

Please submit your photos as a URL link via email to service AT norilana DOT com. DO NOT send attachments.

The winning photograph will be used as part of the cover image and you will receive credit in the book and a free contributor copy of the finished anthology.

Send in your entries now!

Deadline: August 10, 2008

Sunday Cinema: Quark

Waaaay back in 1977-78, Buck Henry, creator of Get Smart, created a science fiction comedy series called Quark. Richard Benjamin played Captain Quark (hmm, sounds like another captain I know), captain of a United Galaxies Sanitation Patrol Cruiser. It also starred the Doublemint Twins and a young Tom Thomerson.

I remember watching this on TV and, being 10, thinking it was not bad. I know better now. That laugh track is just painful to listen to. There’s some funny stuff in here, but just not enough to carry the show, which is why it was canned two months after it started it’s network run. We have the pilot episode for you below:

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SF Tidbits for 7/27/08

Phasma Ex Machina

The independent filmmakers of Phasma Ex Machina, currently in pre-production, are looking for feedback on the movie’s concept. Here’s info on the film:

The Title:

Pronounced Phasma Eks Mah-kuh-nuh, it’s latin for “Ghost from the Machine.”

About the movie:

An independent feature film to be shot in the Twin Cities in the fall of 2008.


An ambitious mystery, with strong elements of science fiction and the supernatural, Phasma Ex Machina follows the lives of two brothers and an electrical engineer trying to decipher a series of strange events. Everything changes when they discover that the distance between the living and the dead isn’t all that far.

Movie Poster: Red Sonja

Red Sonja is the new film from producer Robert Rodriguez, starring his is she/isn’t she girlfriend Rose McGowan as the titular hero (that’s either good or bad depending on your view of Rose. She’s no Brigitte Nielson). As with many things this week, Comic Con 2008 was a good time to debut two posters for the movie. Take a gander below:

redsonjaposter.jpg  red-sonja2.jpg

Well, wow, okay, red seems to be the operative word here. Let’s look at the first poster. Aside from the allure of ‘chicks in skimpy chain mail’, we have Sonja kneeling on top of a pile of skulls. Rather creepy I’d say. I’m not sure it generates much interest in the movie for me though.

The second post is just, disturbing. Licking blood off a sword? Thanks, but no. I’d rather not see that, even if it is in keeping with Red Sonja’s theme, and not being a Red Sonja fan, I don’t know one way or the other. Again, not piquing my interest in the movie.

Looking at both posters, I’d have to say the creators are aiming at the 15 – 25 year old male crowd, which these posters obviously cater to. Not that that’s a bad thing, necessarily, but not something that going to make me want to run out to the theater to see the movie. Which is the point of a poster, no?

And one more thing: Is McGowan physical enough to play a sword-wielding barbarian heroine?

What say you?