Archive for April, 2009

Batman is Hard…on His Luck

Will William Shatner be jealous if I tell the world how much I totally love Adam West right now?

‘Vinegar Peace’ by Michael Bishop

The StarShipSofa podcast is honored to present a reading of “Vinegar Peace“…a SF story written by Michael Bishop for his son Jamie Bishop who died two years ago at the Virginia Tech shooting. The story originally app;eared in the July 2008 issue of Asimov’s..

Michael Bishop says:

I wrote “Vinegar Peace” — in August of 2007 — because I had to. Our 35-year-old son, Jamie, died on the morning of April 16, 2007, as one of thirty-two victims of a disturbed shooter on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Jamie, an accomplished digital artist who did lovely covers for four or five of my books, was holding forth in Room 2007 of Norris Hall in his German class more than two hours after his eventual murderer had slain two students in a dormitory on another part of campus. The administration failed to issue a warning — a warning that might well have saved many lives — in a timely fashion. However, some of its members secured their own offices and notified their own family members of this initial event; and so the worst school shooting in the history of the United States claimed our son, four other faculty members (including a man, Dr Librescu, who had survived the Holocaust and who held a table against his classroom door until all own students could escape), four of Jamie’s students, and twenty-one other young people in Norris Hall, not to mention the first two victims in West Ambler-Johnston dorm. Another twenty-eight students were wounded by bullets or injured leaping from upper-story windows. Some of these young people will live with their injuries the rest of their lives.

All of the administrators, with the exception of a woman who later died of a stroke or a heart attack (a death that my wife and I can’t help but attribute partially to the stress of living with the mistakes of the President and the other Policy Group members), remain in their positions. So much for accountability, and so much for justice.

In any case, “Vinegar Peace” grew from this disaster and from a grief that I can’t imagine ever laying totally aside. Jeri and I mourn Jamie’s loss every day in some private way, and we think continually of all the other parents and loved ones of the slain and injured who will carry a similar burden with them until they die. We think, too, of the parents and loved ones of the dead and wounded from the United States’s optional war in Iraq, who long for their dead and who pray for their injured with an intensity not a whit different from our own. How ironic that our son died on American soil. How sad the wasted potential and disfigured lives resulting from violence everywhere. And forgive me the inadequacy of these remarks. Clearly, I wrote a story because I could not address either my outrage or my grief in any other way.

– Mike Bishop

WINNER: 2009 Arthur C. Clarke Award

Congratulations to Ian R. MacLeod, whoseSong of Time won the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

See also: Past Winners.

[via Science Fiction Awards Watch]


SF Tidbits for 4/30/09

MIND MELD: Gods by the Bushel

Where would Fantasy be without gods to bicker, argue, and meddle with the fate of mortals? We asked the following of this week’s panelists, who responded with less bickering and meddling.

Q: In a created fantasy world, gods can proliferate by the hundreds. When building religious systems for fantasies, what are the advantages/disadvantages of inventing pantheons vs. single gods, or having no religious component at all?
Marie Brennan
Marie Brennan holds a joint B.A. in anthropology (archaeology) and folklore & mythology from Harvard University. Her short story “Shadows’ Bride” appeared in the 2006 Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror anthology. Her novels include Warrior, Witch, Midnight Never Come, and the soon-to-be-released In Ashes Lie.

“No religious component at all” is an unlikely option, to my mind. Religion is, among other things, a way to explain the world around you, to render it comprehensible, and that’s a pretty fundamental human need. We see evidence of numinous explanations going back to the origins of writing and before; the purely mechanistic view of the universe is a fairly recent intellectual development. And — not to go off onto a tangent — but in certain senses, fantasy may be incompatible with a purely mechanistic cosmos. At that point everything’s science, not magic, no matter what costume you dress it up in, and magic is almost always a component of fantasy.

So let’s presume you’re going to have god(s). Which route is best? One of the advantages of polytheism is that it creates some flexibility. The Romans did this with conquered peoples; they assimilated local gods into their own pantheon, often by tagging them as aspects of whichever Roman deity they looked the most like. (Sure, that’s just . . . uh . . . Jupiter, by a different name!) Multiplicity allows for diversity, mutability, the representation of many different concepts and even contradictory perspectives. A single god is more totalizing, and also more abstract; he/she/it/whatever isn’t the god of anything, but rather the god of everything. Which has its own flexibility — there’s nothing in the cosmos your all-encompassing Creator doesn’t cover — but I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out that spawns some particular theological minefields, especially with regard to theodicy (aka “the problem of evil”).

From a writerly perspective, though, there’s one special appeal to having a pantheon, and that’s its narrative potential. Whether it’s weirdly symbolic tales of anthropomorphic forces, or the soap-opera dramatics of the Greek pantheon, you can make up lots of stories about the gods in conflict and cooperation. Monotheism isn’t story-less — the scriptures are full of stories — but those are all about humans interacting with God; polytheism gets to have those, plus a whole separate set about the gods interacting with each other. And you can stack the deck to suit your purposes, too, creating a situation or highlighting a theme that works with the story you’re going to tell.

Watch out how far you let your polytheism go, though — or you’ll end up like the Romans, with so many gods they start being assigned to things like door hinges.

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Star Trek Cast Members Talk About Body Parts

In this blatant promo for the Star Trek 1-6 DVD Box Set, several Trek cast members talk about Trek stradom. And body parts.

[via SciFi Now]

Book Trailer Theater: Who Goes There?, Beauty and Dynamite

More book trailers for your amusement…

Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell

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Nebula Awards weekend also saw another set of awards being given away: Analog Science Fiction and Fact‘s AnLab Awards and the Asimov’s Readers’ Awards: Here are the winners:

The winners of Analog’s Analytical Laboratory (AnLab) Awards are:

  • Best Novella: “Tenbrook of Mars” by Dean McLaughlin (July-August)
  • Best Novelette: “The Man in the Mirror” by Geoffrey A. Landis (January-February)
  • Best Short Story: “Starship Down” by Tracy Canfield (October)
  • Best Fact Article: “The World’s Simplest Fusion Reactor” by Tom Ligon (January-February)
  • Best Cover: April 2008 by Scott Grimando

The winners of Asimov’s Readers’ Awards are:

  • Best Novella: “The Room of Lost Souls” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (April-May)
  • Best Novelette: “The Ray-Gun: A Love Story” by James Alan Gardner (February)
  • Best Short Story: “26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss” by Kij Johnson (July)
  • Best Poem: “Deaths on Other Planets” by Joanne Merriam (April-May)
  • Best Cover Artist (tie): Tomasz Maronski (March)
  • Best Cover Artist (tie): John Picacio (September)

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees!

See also:

Analog Analytical Laboratory Winners By Year.

Asimov’s Reader Poll Winners By Year.

FINALISTS: 35th Annual Origins Awards

The finalists for the 35th Annual Origins Awards have been announced, here are the fiction nominees:

  • Hungerblade by Robin D Laws (Red Juggernaut Inc.)
  • Infernal Sorceress by Gary Gygax (Paizo Publishing)
  • The Killing Ground by Graham McNeill (Black Library)
  • The Pirate King by R.A. Salvatore (Wizards of the Coast)
  • Worlds of Dungeons & Dragons Volume 2, edited by James Lowder & Mike O’Sullivan (Devil’s Due)

I would be remiss if I didn’t note that our own Kevin Brusky, proprietor of APE Games, was nominated in the “Children’s, Family, and Party Games” category for his game duck! duck! Go!, the only game I know of where you can pit Pirate Ducks against Ninja Ducks, the way God intended. Congrats, Kevin!

SF Tidbits for 4/29/09

Tube Bits For 04/29/2009

  • The Star Trek hype train rams the station next week and Vince Horiuchi of The Salt Lake Tribune laments the lack of good movies made from TV shows. While Trek has had a lot of clunkers, I don’t think you can Wrath of Khan wasn’t good. Still, if you’re looking for original IP, Vince, wait for Cameron’s Avatar.
  • It seems that Paramount has already bought into their own hype as they have already given the go ahead for a sequel to Abrams’ Star Trek. I can imagine a new Star Trek on TV if the movie does gangbusters, which puts an interesting spin on the Vince Horiuchi article above, but also means no new IP on TV.
  • Buddy TV compares (spoilers!) the Heroes season finale with Whedon’s Dollhouse. Seeing what happened in the finale, I’m glad I haven’t been watching. And to think, season 4 is coming.
  • I’ve been waiting for the current best show on Sci Fi to return: Eureka. Well, it will air starting July 10th and it will take over Galactica‘s old timeslot, Fridays at 10/9pm. The new Warehouse 13 will take over Eureka‘s old slot on Tuesday. I’ll watch both, since the seem to have similar comedic vibes, but I’m not expecting much from 13.
  • Tonight LOST returns (damn you one week breaks!) with a brand spanking new episode. To celebrate, why not let TV Guide count down the 5 biggest “Thumps!” of this season. Too bad you don’t get to see how creepily awesome Ben Linus is.
  • Bonus Youtube! Disney characters explain copyright [H/T A Distant Soil]:

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Tell us which cover you like best and why. Go!

Books shown here:

NOTE: Click on the book images or title links to see bigger, better versions…

[7/10/09 Note The title of Berserker Lord has changed to Chaosbound]

Deep In The Lab by Walter Bishop

This is why Walter Bishop the most entertaining (in an insane, non sequitur way) character on TV. If you remember the Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy bits on Saturday Night Live, you know where this is going. Add some Walter from Fringe and you have the insane ramblings of a mad man.

Enjoy!

REVIEW SUMMARY: Fun, piecemeal excursions into what it might be like after you die.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Forty thought-experiments about what happens in the afterlife.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Interesting and imaginative speculations, sometimes with added life lessons; Short, contained chapters make it the perfect carry-along book to consume in life’s in-between moments (like waiting in line).

CONS: Does not lend itself well to long reading sessions.

BOTTOM LINE: Eagleman’s philosophical musings will keep your own mind speculating long after the short chapters have ended.

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Free Fiction for Tuesday 4/28/09

FINALISTS: 2009 Locus Award

The finalists for the 2009 Locus Award have been announced:

SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL
  • Matter, Iain M. Banks (Orbit UK) [See SF Signal reviews]
  • City at the End of Time, Greg Bear (Gollancz, Del Rey)
  • Marsbound, Joe Haldeman (Ace)
  • Anathem, Neal Stephenson (Atlantic UK, Morrow) [See SF Signal’s review]
  • Saturn’s Children, Charles Stross (Orbit, Ace)
FANTASY NOVEL

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SF Tidbits for 4/28/09

RIP :Tom Deitz

Sad news via SF Site

Author Tom Deitz has passed away.

Deitz was the author of the Soulsmith Trilogy (Soulsmith, Dreambuilder, and Wordwright) and also Windmaster’s Bane, Fireshaper’s Doom, Darkthunder’s Way, Sunshaker’s War, Stoneskin’s Revenge, and The Gryphon King. Deitz contributed to the fanzine Aphelion in the 1970s and to APA MOTiVE in the 1990s.

See also:

Wikipedia page

Suite 101 article on Tom Deitz

Tom Deitz page at Random House

Here’s a pre-muttonchops Isaac Asimov explaining his now-famous Three Laws of Robotics.

Recent SF Book Recommendations

Memesis Virtualis proprietor Frank Dudley recently asked me to participate in a meme he has going: What are your recent sf/f book recommendations?

Check out my response at Memesis Virtualis.

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