Military SF: Fighting a Losing Battle

Military history has long demonstrated that militaries are often matched against a known threat, built up and trained accordingly on the part of an organized, political entity, such as a nation or nation-state. When it comes to military science fiction, the same can be said for a number of works (even if a bit tangentially), and something struck me the other day as I was watching Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and Avatar over the course of the afternoon and evening: both contained excellent examples of where militaries or armed forces fail spectacularly.

Taking the two films with a grain of salt — they are movies, after all — they are actually two very good examples of where militaries fail because they have prepared for precisely the wrong contingencies: insurgency-based warfare.

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REVIEW: 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson

REVIEW SUMMARY: Brilliantly written fantasy in the tradition of Madeline L’Engle, to be read by young adults of all ages.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Henry York goes to stay in Henry, Kansas, with his Aunt’s family. While adjusting to the new life, he discovers that behind the plaster of his bedroom wall are dozens and dozens of cupboards. 99 of them. When opened, they all seem to go to other worlds far beyond Kansas.


PROS: Strong and beautiful language; an intriguing premise which takes it’s time, to good effect; wonderful dialog and characterization.

CONS: The slow pace might put some readers off, those who are expecting a fast-past fantasy novel.

BOTTOM LINE: This is such a good book, I think it’s a shame it’s ONLY in the young-adult sections. There should be copies everywhere, so everyone reads it.

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Trailer: Thundercats On Cartoon Network

Thundercats was a Rankin/Bass produced, mid-80s cartoon featuring a cast of feline appearing humanoids. It ran for several years on TV and a feature film of the series is currently in development hell. However, Cartoon Network has tasked Studio 4C (there’s a degree sign in there somewhere that I can’t add) to create a new series, a rebooted Thundercats for the network. This past weekend the trailer for the new series debuted:

What do you think?

[H/T Bleedingcool]

Can You Name This Story? (Part 23)

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?

Back in the 80’s I remember reading in Analog or Asimov a series of short stories about a world with plant based wormholes, known as syntei or synthei. This completely reshaped the world in terms of evolution. There were carnivorous plants that had their roots and guts safely underground while their mobile predators stalked the world. Add to this a lost human colony that settled the world hundreds or thousands of years ago, and rediscovery by an expedition from the greater universe that promptly underestimates the locals and gets in trouble. One of the stories involved the local equivalent to the circus, the other a great escape from slavery enforced by the use of little wormholes.

Can anyone help me identify the stories and their author?

Thanks in advance.

- Trey

Can you name this story?

The SF Signal Podcast (Episode 030): Cat Valente, Chris Roberson, Allison Baker & Alan Beatts on What the Borders Bankruptcy Means for Brick and Mortar Bookstores

Episode 30 of the SF Signal Podcast features the 2nd of our new, monthly mega-panels. We’ve invited some very special guests to weigh in on the state of the brick and mortar bookstores in the wake of the Borders bankruptcy and their scheduled closings of 200 stores nationwide.

Additionally, we ask:

  • Is the emerging ebook market the final death toll to the local bookstore?
  • As more people adopt ereaders, what can booksellers do to encourage traffic into book stores to purchase physical copies?

Our virtual convention panel includes:

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Daily Science Fiction Roster of Stories for March 2011

Daily Science Fiction has announced its March 2011 line-up of free stories:

  • March 1: “Snowfall” by Jennifer Mason-Black
  • March 2: “I is for Inertia” by Tim Pratt, Jenn Reese, Heather Shaw, Greg van Eekhout
  • March 3: “Surface” by Thomas F. Jolly
  • March 4: “Epinikion” by Desmond Warzel
  • March 7: “God’s Gift to Women” by Barbara A. Barnett
  • March 8: “Song of the Laughing Hyena” by David G. Blake
  • March 9: “J is for Junk” by Tim Pratt, Jenn Reese, Heather Shaw, Greg van Eekhout
  • March 10: “Tuna Fish” by Andrew Kaye
  • March 11: “Shark’s Teeth” by Tim Pratt
  • March 14: “The Cloud Dragon Ate Red Balloons” by Tom Cardamone
  • March 15: “Skin of Steel” by Siobhan Shier
  • March 16: “K is for Kinky” by Tim Pratt, Jenn Reese, Heather Shaw, Greg van Eekhout
  • March 17: “Self and Self” by Jacob A. Boyd
  • March 18: “Newfangled” by Kevin G. Jewell
  • March 21: “That’s Show Business” by Bruce Boston
  • March 22: “Iron Oxide Red” by Gwendolyn Clare Williams
  • March 23: “L is for Luminous” by Tim Pratt, Jenn Reese, Heather Shaw, Greg van Eekhout
  • March 24: “Girl Who Asks too Much” by Eric James Stone
  • March 25: “Trust” by David D. Levine
  • March 28: “Words on a Page” by Allison Starkweather
  • March 29: “Written Out” by Terra LeMay
  • March 30: “M is for Mall” by Tim Pratt, Jenn Reese, Heather Shaw, Greg van Eekhout
  • March 31: “The Modern Prometheus” by Ed Wyrd

Books Received: February 27, 2011

In the interest of full disclosure (because we all know how painful semi-disclosure can be), here are the items we received this week.

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SF Tidbits for 2/28/11






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MOVIE REVIEW: Drive Angry (2011)

REVIEW SUMMARY: A Cormanesque ripoff so laughably bad that it becomes enjoyable.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Milton breaks out of Hell to find a murderous cult responsible for murdering his daughter to stop them from sacrificing his infant granddaughter.


PROS: Over-the-top performance by Nicolas Cage; tongue in cheek direction by Patrick Lussier (who co-wrote the screenplay); fast paced, often silly action sequences that never stop being enjoyable; and (surprise) the 3D effects are actually pretty good; and how long has it been since we’ve seen gratuitous nudity on a movie screen?

CONS: For all of its fun, it’s just not very good, and never transcends being an ersatz grindhouse B-movie.

How much you enjoy Drive Angry will depend a great deal on how much you enjoy Roger Corman. Or maybe not. Granted, this high octane mélange of The Dunwich Horror, The Fast and the Furious and The Wild Angels never achieves the sublime B-movie pleasures of its obvious inspirations nor salvages the reputation of Nicolas Cage. Even when you realize how cheesy it is, you cannot help but realize that it’s the kind cheese that comes out of a can: highly processed, bright yellow, tasting of something grown in a vat rather than having ever seen the innards of a cow, and with absolutely no nutritional value. If the movie posed an original thought, I missed it. Say what you will of Corman’s ouvre, but they had a degree of vigor and sleazy charm that, even at its best Drive Angry only wishes it could manage.

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SUNDAY CINEMA: The 3rd Letter

Here’s an interesting short film directed by Grzegorz Jonkajtys.

[via It’s Art]

Free Fiction for 2/27/11

This week’s batch of free fiction is dedicated to pie.

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Book Cover Smackdown! ‘Blackveil’ vs. ‘The Inheritance’ vs. ‘The Floating Islands’

Curl up with your kittens, folks! It’s time for another Book Cover Smackdown!

Here are the contenders…

Your Mission (should you choose to accept it): Tell us which cover you like best and why.

Books shown here:

NOTE: Bigger, better cover art images are available by clicking the images or title links.

Quick Meme: What’s the Last Book You Read?

As blogging consumes my life more and more, and subsequently steals time away from reading, I find myself thinking about books a lot more. As silly as it may sound, I feel something akin to pain when I hear about other people reading the books that I so want to read and haven’t gotten to yet.

Today is your chance to hurt me like the whiner I am. Tell me:

Q: What’s the Last Book You Read? Was it good or bad? Why?

Leave your response below!

SF Tidbits for 2/26/11

Interviews & Profiles



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[GUEST POST] J.M. McDermott, a Candidate for a Masters of Fine Arts in Popular Fiction, Would Like to Whisper With You

J.M. McDermott is scheduled to graduate from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast Program with an MFA in Popular Fiction. He has five novels out or forthcoming, including a reprint of his critically-acclaimed first novel, Last Dragon, from Apex books, and Never Knew Another, the first book of the Dogsland Trilogy.

1. Be a Fungus or a Vulture, or Else You Starve

I’ve been suspicious of the academic system most of my adult life. You see, some of the dumbest people I ever met in life had Ph. D’s, and some of the smartest people I ever met in life never seemed to need much in the way of education. I don’t think I’m alone in this, either. Stupid comes in all shapes and sizes, as does brilliant. I’ve met janitors who could debate complex philosophical concepts, who lived quiet lives assertively saving and investing for retirement with their library card in hand. I’ve met security guards who could enter easily into rigorous debate with art historians about the nuances of different brush strokes and biographic details gleaned from obscure letters. I’ve met professors of humanities that could barely string together three sentences coherently, in three languages, and wealthy business-leaders who made their fortune not on skill but on narcissism and talking loudly. Naturally, I’ve also met dumb janitors, brilliant professors, and everything in between. Especially in our current economy these last ten years, education beyond high school is almost completely decoupled from our actual employment in all but a few select fields. Most of our advanced degrees exist for the sole economic sake of producing professors to teach advanced degrees in that field. It seems amazing to me, sometimes, that anyone would pursue an advanced degree in anything useful, let alone something relatively useless in the current economy, like a master’s degree in the fine art of writing fiction. Better to just find work that suits your social and mental preferences to keep the lights on with a little money left over, invest your savings, raise a family, and try not to make too much noise until retirement. Lots of folks figured the whole system out, and it’s working great for them.

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As a reminder, this week’s Mind Meld asked the following question:

Q: What books/stories do you feel are just as good now as they were when you first read them?
Daryl Gregory
Daryl Gregory lives in Pennsylvania, and he’s tired of shoveling. When not clearing his driveway, he writes books and comics. He’s the author of the novels Pandemonium, The Devil’s Alphabet, and the forthcoming Raising Stony Mayhall (June 2011), and writes the comics Dracula: Company of Monsters and Planet of the Apes for BOOM! Studios. His first short story collection, Unpossible and Other Stories, will be out from Fairwood Press in fall 2011. He’s online at

One great thing about having children — you have an excuse to revisit favorite books. I think I’ve read The Phantom Tollbooth four times now, and it’s been a pleasure each time. But it can just as easily swing the other way. A few years ago I tried to reread one of Lester Dent’s Doc Savage books, a series I loved growing up, and the attempt was punishing. It would have been much better to leave the memory unsullied.

Oh, but you’re asking about books read as an adult. Well then. The list is small, because I’m so far behind on books that I should have read, but here are my top three:

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. I first read this book in college, and I come back to it every ten years. It’s still one of the most relentlessly odd and inventive books I’ve ever read. It feels very science fictional, in that reality-disrupting way, without being science fiction at all.

Valis by Philip K Dick. I’ve read it three times all the way through, and re-read sections of it a dozen times. The book had a huge influence on my first novel, and on a few short stories I’ve written. I love the games he plays with narrative. Phil the narrator tells you that he is Horselover Fat, but then he seems to forget it, and the reader forgets it too. Masterful.

Half credit: Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany. I have to admit that I’ve never re-read Dhalgren from start to finish. Rather, I dip into it when I need inspiration. My fellow Clarion classmate Andrew Tisbert once said that you can open that book to any page and be pulled in by its beauty. I’ve tested that claim many times, and damn it if Andy isn’t right.

Coming Soon: A Documentary About Andre Norton

The Motion Picture Company has announced development of a tribute and biography of famed science fiction and fantasy author Andre Norton in collaboration with Sue Stewart, literary executor of the Andre Norton Estate.

Andre Norton published her first novel in 1934. She was the first woman to receive the Gandalf Grand Master Award from the World Science Fiction Society in 1977, and she won the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award from the SFWA in 1983. Her numerous works include the Witch World series, Beast Master, Star Guard, Sargasso of Space, The Time Traders, and many more.

More from the press release…:

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New Author Spotlight: Stoney Compton

Author Spotlight is a series designed to introduce authors with 3 books or less in the different SF/F subgenres.

Today’s spotlight shines on Stoney Compton.

Stoney Compton’s books include:

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Friday YouTube: Predator – The Musical

Because if there’s any film that deserves to be put to music…

[via Forces of Geek]

SF Tidbits for 2/25/11

Interviews & Profiles





More Fun Stuff

Want More? See SF Signal’s Twitter and Facebook pages for additional tidbits not posted here!