Archive for January, 2009

Hyperion Film Gets A Director

Last April we noted that Dan Simmons’ awesome Hyperion Cantos had been optioned by Warner Bros. to be brought to the big screen. Things must be moving behind the scenes as Warner Bros. has tapped Scott Derrickson to direct. Derrickson’s last film was the forgettable The Day The Earth Stood Still. Having not seen that movie, I can’t comment on whether Derrickson is a good director or not. But damn, this will be a hard one to direct.

The writer will be Trevor Sands, who will be adapting both Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion all into one movie. Good luck with that. The sheer breadth and scope of the books cannot possibly be handled by any movie that is roughly 2, or even 2 1/2 hours long. It’s just not going to happen. Inevitably, something will have to go. I’m guessing characters will be dropped or condensed and all the stories from the first book will be either axed or only referenced in passing. Then, the conflict with the Ousters will be blow up (heh) into a summer, science fiction SFX extravaganza! You could say I’m skeptical. I see Sands has written a movie I’ve never seen, but more interesting is that he has worked on the adaptations for Six Million Dollar Man and Startide Rising (which is another of my top 10 SF books, something I’d love to see on the big screen and probably not possible to do the book justice). Sands looks to have some SF pedigree, but the lack of his screenplays actually being made into movies isn’t reassuring.

I’ll stay skeptical, but I will continue to watch this. For something fun, let’s resurrect the casting game from the original post! Who do you think should play:

The Consul

Brawne Lamia

Sol Weintraub and his daughter Rachel

Marting Silenus

Colonel Kassad

Father Hoyt

The Shrike (I’m guessing CGI Andy Serkis again. He certainly has a face for CGI! J/K Andy!)

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as an Italian Opera

Two things the world needs more of: The Wrath of Khan and Robot Chicken.

[via Neatorama]

SF Tidbits for 1/31/09

He starts off okay, but his finish is way off the mark.

[via Poe TV]

SF Tidbits for 1/30/09

Are Book Awards Useless?

At Futurismic, Adam Roberts accuses Science Fiction book awards of being rubbish, arguing that only the distance of time can indicate the best:

But awards lists and best-ofs are rubbish [...] The problem is timescale.

It is a convention, no less foolish for being deeply rooted, that the proper prominence from which to pause, look back and make value judgments, is at the end of the year in question. This is wrongheaded in a number of reasons. One has to do with the brittleness of snap-judgments (why else do you think they’re called snap?). Take those fans and [awards-panelists] of the 1960s and 1970s who really really thought that the crucial figures of the genre were the often-garlanded Spider Robinson or Mack Reynolds rather than the rarely noticed Philip K Dick. They weren’t corrupt; they just spoke too soon.

He also indicates that you cannot indicate the “best” unless you have comprehensively read all books. Furthermore, to read many books in succession is to dilute the effect of all of them:

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Tube Bits for 01/29/2009

  • ABC seems to be going gaga for genre. On the heels of greenlighting a pilot for a re-make of V, ABC has also given the go ahead for another TV adaption of the John Updike novel, The Witches of Eastwick, which many people will remember was also a big screen movie starring Jack Nicholson. I actually saw that movie in the theater (why? I wonder now), and so I’d have to give this news a big ‘meh’, even if it is a genre show.
  • NBC appears to be getting into the genre pilot act as well, giving the nod to Day One, a post-apocalyptic drama from Jesse Alexander, writer for Heroes. Post-apocalyptic is good (especially if they can make it as memorable as Fallout 3), writer for Heroes is sending up a red flag. I’m not sure what episodes Jesse has been involved in, so it’s possible he’s only worked on the ‘good’ ones. I’m still interested to see this, though I’d really like to see Niven’s Lucifer’s Hammer on the small screen.
  • Cast your mind back (if you’re old enough) to that golden era known as early 1980′s TV and to one show in particular: The A-Team. Never has there been a show with so much ammo expended with so little actual on target hits, though the brass manufacturers got a boost. Now Warner Bros. is going ahead with a big screen adaptation of The A-Team, with Ridley Scott (yes, Ridley Scott) set to produce and his brother, Tony Scott set to exec produce.They will keep the original template of the show, 4 Vietnam vets escape from a military prison to become do-gooder mercenaries, as the basis for an action film. Let’s hope these new actors are better shots. But my goodness, who in the heck could ever replace Mr. T? Here’s the intro, with one of my all time favorite TV show theme music:
  • Many former fans of Battlestar Galactica would mark the reveal of the ‘Secret Cylon Society’ and the use of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” as the catalyst for the reveal, as the moment when Galactica finally reached the other side of the shark. But! Those crazy kids over in the game EVE Online, took the music by Bear McCreary and created this really cool machinima that shows some of the battles that make up the backstory of EVE. Well played gentlemen. Now if only EVE didn’t have a learning cliff involved, and be friendly to non-hardcore types, I might play it. Note to the BG producers: This is how you use the song correctly, as a backdrop to all out war and not for amnesiac Cylons. (Watch the HD version if you can)

SF Tidbits for 1/29/09

Some of SF Signal’s readers are aspiring writers, so we thought we take this week to ask some published writers in the genre to dispense with some useful writerly advice. Here’s what we asked them:

Q: What’s the best writing advice you ever received and who gave it to you?

And here are their collective words of wisdom…

Robert Silverberg
Robert Silverberg started writing fiction in the 1950s and has since built a remarkable catalog of novels and short stories. He’s won several Hugo and Nebula Awards throughout his career, for both his writing and his editing of numerous anthologies. His entire bibliography is too long to mention, but some well-known titles include the Majipoor series, A Time of Changes, Nightwings, The Book of Skulls, Son of Man, Downward to the Earth, and Dying Inside. Some of his most famous pieces of short fiction include “Hawksbill Station”, “Born with the Dead”, “Sailing to Byzantium”, and “Passengers”. Robert Silverberg was also the recipient of the 2004 SFWA Grandmaster Award.

The best piece of advice I ever got came from Lester del Rey, the veteran writer and editor who, when I was in my twenties, had become a sort of Dutch uncle, or perhaps even a second father, to me. At the beginning of my career in the mid-1950s I had trouble selling my most ambitious stories, the ones that I thought were the best in me, whereas the minor, more conventional pieces sold quite easily to the magazines. There were several reasons for this. The main one was that I was competing for slots in those magazines with the likes of Theodore Sturgeon, Fritz Leiber, James Blish, Alfred Bester, Damon Knight, C.M. Kornbluth, and other greats of that golden era for the science-fiction short story. What I was writing, at the age of 21 or 22, might have been ambitious but it still wasn’t in a class with what those more mature writers were doing. On the other hand, all the magazines, even the top ones, were constantly in need of conventional 5000-worders for the back of the book. It seemed to make more sense to me to churn out competent potboilers for those magazine editors instead of trying to knock Sturgeon or Leiber or Knight out of the top place in the issue, and very shortly I was earning a nice living indeed writing formula fiction at a fast pace. (I was, in fact, earning more per year than any of my literary heroes by the third year of my career.) By playing it safe this way I was indeed able to pay the monthly rent, and then some. But I wasn’t contributing anything worthwhile to science fiction, and, though I didn’t realize it just yet, I wasn’t even acting in my own best interests.

It was Lester who pointed out to me that I was working from a false premise. “Even if all you’re concerned with is making money,” he said, “you’re going about it the wrong way. You’re knocking out penny-a-word stories as fast as you can, and, sure, you’re pulling in the quick bucks very nicely. But you’re shortchanging yourself, because all that you’ll ever make from what you’re writing now is the check you get for it today. Those stories will die the day they’re published. They won’t get into anthologies and won’t be bought for translation and nobody will want you to put together a collection of them. Whereas if you were writing at the level that I know you’re capable of, you’d be creating a body of work that will go on bringing in money for the rest of your life. So by going for the easy money you’re actually cutting your future income.”

I pointed out that when I wrote at the level I was capable of, I had trouble selling the stories. He laughed at that. It was a temporary phenomenon, he said. Now that my name was established — I had won a Hugo my second year as a writer, and my name was in all the magazines — the editors would pay more attention.

I began to upgrade the product. Everything sold; and, encouraged by the steady acceptance of what I thought of as my “real” science fiction, I moved quickly away from my hack markets, most of which had died off anyway. And, sure enough, I started to get my stories into anthologies, I sold them to British and French and German magazines, I got offers from publishers to do collections of my work. Lester had been right: the quick buck wasn’t the best buck. Simply in terms of a basic goal of making money from my writing, I had taken the wrong track, because junk was never reprinted, and good stories lived on and on. And, of course, even then I knew that I wanted more out of a career in science-fiction than just making money, because I had been a reader before I became a writer, and I had dreamed of writing the sort of work that had the same impact on readers that the work of my great predecessors had had on me. If I simply had wanted to be a hack, I would have done a lot better writing for True Confessions. So I shifted away from the kind of churn-’em-out stuff I had done in my earlier years, and people began to notice the change. The Hugos and Nebulas and guest-of-honor invitations followed, and, many years later, the Grand Master award — and simply on the financial level I did a lot better than I would if I had, Gernsback forbid, spent my whole life writing potboilers. Probably I would have figured all that out on my own. But Lester del Rey’s blunt words, back there in 1957 or 1958, brought me to my senses a lot faster than would otherwise have been the case.

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FREE EXCERPT: Hater by David Moody (Chapter 1)

Several weeks back, I read and enjoyed Hater by David Moody, a tense thriller with science fictional leanings.

St Martin’s is allowing us to offer the first four chapters right here on SF Signal. Read Chapter 1 below. The next chapter will appear next week.

HATER

by David Moody

Chapter 1

THURSDAY

SIMMONS, REGIONAL MANAGER FOR a chain of main street discount stores, slipped his change into his pocket then neatly folded his newspaper in half and tucked it under his arm. He quickly glanced at his watch before leaving the shop and rejoining the faceless mass of shoppers and office workers crowding the city center sidewalks outside. He checked through his date book in his head as he walked. Weekly sales meeting at ten, business review with Jack Staynes at eleven, lunch with a supplier at one-thirty…

He stopped walking when he saw her. At first she was just another face on the street, nondescript and unimposing and as irrelevant to him as the rest of them were. But there was something different about this particular woman, something which made him feel uneasy. In a split second she was gone again, swallowed up by the crowds. He looked around for her anxiously, desperate to find her among the constantly weaving mass of figures which scurried busily around him. There she was. Through a momentary gap in the bodies he could see her coming toward him. No more than five feet tall, hunched forward and wearing a faded red raincoat. Her wiry gray-white hair was held in place under a clear plastic rain hood and she stared ahead through the thick lenses of her wide-rimmed glasses. She had to be eighty if she was a day, he thought as he looked into her wrinkled, liver-spotted face, so why was she such a threat? He had to act quickly before she disappeared again. He couldn’t risk losing her. For the first time he made direct eye contact with her and he knew immediately that he had to do it. He had no choice. He had to do it and he had to do it right now.

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Free eBook: Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson has released his newest novel Warbreaker under a Creative Commons License. The book will officially be released by Tor Books in June 2009.

Get it while it’s hot!

[via Grasping for the Wind]

TRAILER: Coraline Video Game

Somehow, the game based on the Coraline movie doesn’t quite capture the look of the film.

[via Robots and Vamps]

SF Tidbits for 1/28/09

Tube Bits for 01/28/2009

sfshows.jpg
    Artist Dusty Abell has created that awesome SF TV Shows of the 70′s picture you see above. See his Deviant Art post for larger versions. Simply amazing, as is how many of the shows referenced in this picture I’ve seen, as a kid (a complete list can be found here, in the comments). In case you were wondering where the Saturday morning shows are, they are over here, also in a sweet picture. Of course, for the most part, the remembrances from childhood are actually cooler, and better, than the actual shows were. Still, nice job Dusty!
  • Popular Mechanics got a hold of Unofficial SF Signal Theoretical Physicist Michio Kaku an discussed time travel, wormholes and exotic matter. All in the name of LOST of course! Because really, who would talk about that stuff if it weren’t on the best SF show currently on TV?
  • In an effort to combat sagging ratings, NBC is trying to court viewers for Heroes in the online world at Habbo.com. Habbo is aimed at 13-18 year olds and NBC will create a Heroes avatar in game that will invite others to play a Heroes themed game on both the NBC site an in Habbo.I’m thinking this is a very lame attempt. Why not try to write better stories and characters?
  • You may have missed it, but last week marked the 25th anniversary of one of the most iconic TV commercials ever. During Super Bowl XVIII (remember when the Super Bowl was actually in January?), the Ridley Scott directed commercial for the Apple Macintosh created huge buzz for the then new computer. With it’s 1984 stylings, it became an instant classic. See for yourself:

REVIEW: Gunpowder by Joe Hill

REVIEW SUMMARY: A worthwhile story with interesting themes.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Children endowed with godlike powers for the purposes of terraforming a planet decide that they know better ways of using them.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Great premise; continued sense of foreboding; Evokes lingering emotions.

CONS: Somewhat predictable; the technology behind psyforming is never clearly explained.

BOTTOM LINE: A contemplative story that dwells in your mind after you are done reading it.

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Tube Bits for 01/27/2009

  • Everything else has received the ‘steampunk’ treatment, and now it’s time for Galactica to do the same. Sci Fi’s DVICE site is running a design your own steampunk Cylon through March 20th. Winners will receive various Galactica merchandise. In retrospect, a steampunk Cylon sounds only natural.
  • Sci Fi Wire speaks with Ron Moore about the upcoming Caprica series that will probably air next year. Moore explains just how Caprica will be like Galactica, and what will be different. Let’s hope the tone is lighter than what BG has become, which is pretty much a fleet in search of Zoloft, the antidepressant planet.
  • Those kooky execs over at ABC loves them some SF: LOST, Eli Stone (-ish, SF-ish), Life on Mars Jimmy Kimmel Live! (Kimmel has a show as a ‘comedian’, how is that not SF?). Now you can add the cheesy, but fun, ’80′s series, V, as ABC has just greenlit a pilot for the remake. I think this is a sure fire hit as there is a distinct lack of rodent chomping aliens looking to steal our water on TV right now. They’ll probably find some way to try and force current politics into it. Anyone else rather see Footfall on TV? It’s got elephants!
  • One non-SF fan’s take on the time travel in LOST: As long as there’s no paradoxes, it’s good. Oh, and nice one tricking me into watching a SF show by not pimping the SF hard till season 5. Remember kids, there’s more to time travel than just your average Star Trek romp through time, throwing caution to the causality police.
  • In the past I’ve criticized Legend of the Seeker for making it difficult for new fans to find and watch the show. Well, they must be doing something right, because the show has been re-newed for a second season. At the very least, they took my advice and episodes are now online at Hulu for one and all to see, and as a bonus the first episode is in HD. Nice. See what happens when you follow our advice? You get renewed!

Watchmen Kubricks

Not that I needed another reason to vent my excitement for the upcoming movie by writing another post about Watchmen, but Newsarama gives me good reason to. They have the skinny on the latest Watchmen fanboy [looks at self] must-have…this set of Watchmen Kubricks!

For those who may not know who is whom: from left to right, top-to-bottom we have The Comedian, Nite Owl II, Ozymandias, Doctor Manhattan (the blue guy!), Rorschach and Silk Spectre II.

Sadly, these figures are only planned for release in Japan. Too bad…they’re way cooler than Star Trek dolls. Take it from me: a grown man would know.

SF Tidbits for 1/27/09

Science Fiction To Look Forward To In 2009 – Movies

Summer 2008 was a banner time for science fiction on the big screen, even if you don’t consider The Dark Knight to be SF. 2009 has a slew of interesting looking SF movies scheduled to release, I’m going to take a look at those that have caught my interest. Hold on, ’cause there are a bunch of them.

Watchmen (03/06/09)

Synopsis: Seriously, you need a synopsis? Ok then: Watchmen is set in an alternate 1985 America in which costumed superheroes are part of the fabric of everyday society, and the “Doomsday Clock” – which charts the USA’s tension with the Soviet Union – is permanently set at five minutes to midnight. When one of his former colleagues is murdered, the washed-up but no less determined masked vigilante Rorschach sets out to uncover a plot to kill and discredit all past and present superheroes.

Why It’s Interesting: I have yet to read the graphic novel, but I’ve heard an incredible amount of good things about it. Even John liked it. Even so, the trailers I’ve seen just look incredible and the promise of the story makes this a ‘must see’. The only issue is can Snyder adapt the novel for the big screen? Will it live up to the hype? My feeling is that this will be huge opening day, with all the fans attending. Follow on success will depend heavily on how good the story is and word of mouth to pull in the non-fans. We’ll find out soon.

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Books Received: January 26, 2009

Here are the books and magazines we received this past week.

Q: If you could only read one of these titles, which would it be and why?

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