Author Archive

Venturing out of the soaking rain and bitter cold of March in which they spent more time hibernating than podcasting, John E. O. Stevens, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson add a fourth saddle to their April episode. Paul Weimer, who has commented at every genre blog possible and who has appeared in more podcasts than you can listen to comfortably in one sitting, joins the Three Hoarsemen for this episode.

While hibernating, we spent much time reading, and now gather around the communal fire pit to discuss the works of the late Charles Sheffield, their reactions to Ann Leckie’s Nebula-nominated novel Ancillary Justice, as well as the bits and pieces of the genre that we consumed since last time.

Approx. 1 Hour 25 Minutes

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Kara Vallow has been a producer on Seth MacFarlane’s slate of animated shows such as Family Guy and American Dad, as well as Dilbert, Johnny Bravo, and Drawn Together. So when MacFarlane invited her to take charge of the animated segments for Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, she was uncertain if she could do justice to the material. The result was stunning narratives about historical figures such as Giordano Bruno, William Herschel, and Isaac Newton.

In this interview we discuss how her animation team developed the unique style for the segments, the lasting impact of Carl Sagan, working with Ann Druyan and Neil deGrasse Tyson, bringing the Flammarion woodcut to life, Isaac Asimov’s The Last Question, and the Family Guy Star Wars specials.

Running time: 41 minutes

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As Winter once again brings snowy doom of the East Coast, John E. O. Stevens, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson huddle within a makeshift shelter made of long boxes to discuss the Science Fiction works of comic book writer Warren Ellis.

Since the 90s Ellis has been producing singularly recognizable work, including superhero titles for DC, Marvel, and Image. He has dabbled in horror, crime fiction, and dark comedy. But he has also written many standalone Science Fiction tales encompassing pulp, cyberpunk, space opera, and alternate history. Some are speculative ruminations on the future or technology, some are absurdist eye-candy, others are adventurous romps. His significant body of SF work delivers modern genre sensibilities to the sometimes myopic landscape of comics.

The Hoarsemen also discuss reading comics digitally, their opinions on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as what they have read recently. Be warned: This episode runs over 90 minutes!

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Rising from their nightmare-ridden winter slumber, John E. O. Stevens, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson convene around the fire to discuss the works of Catherine Lucille Moore.

Moore penned the Northwest of Earth and Jirel of Joiry series, as well as many collaborations with husband Henry Kuttner, who first wrote her a fan letter thinking that “C.L. Moore” was a man. She propelled the still-fledgling genre of “sword and sorcery” into strange new territories full of horrors and wonders, building on the foundations laid by Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith, and lighting the way for Vance, Brackett, Bradbury and Zelazny.

The Hoarsemen also discuss the fiction, non-fiction, dreary Russian movies (and their remakes), and comics they have consumed since the start of the year. Hold on to your wallets.

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The Three Hoarsemen: Holiday Gift Guide!

The dreaded Holiday season, with its attendant joys and anxieties, seems to fall upon us earlier with each advancing year. Once again we hear the fretful murmurs that Science Fiction and Fantasy fans are notoriously difficult to buy presents for.
Fear not, for the venerable John E. O. Stevens, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson have compiled hefty lists of fiction, non-fiction, art, and other sundry morsels suitable as gifts (or wish list items). Behold treasures, from the sublime to obscure, fit to sate the desires of nerds, fans, and aficionados of the fantastic, as well as the more adventurous mundanes.
Also: a remembrance of Doris Lessing, Fred gives his report from HonorCon, and the gentlemen chime in on the culture they have been consuming. As an extra holiday treat, not all the culture consumed is genre related!

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The Three Hoarsemen Discuss NOVA by Samuel R. Delany

It is an allegorical tale of interstellar adventure, a quest that is part Moby Dick and part revolutionary act. It is about confluence, archetypes, obsession, seeking the future, and the creative process itself. It is the story that marked the transition from Delany’s more straightforward genre explorations to the maturation of his career when he returned to the field with Dhalgren. It is the book that critic Algis Budrys said “…right now, as of this book…not as of some future book or some accumulated body of work, [Delany] is the best science-fiction writer in the world, at a time when competition for that status is intense.”
In this installment of The Three Hoarsemen John E. O. Stevens, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson discuss Nova by Samuel R. Delany, including their first encounter with the book, how subsequent readings have altered their views, and the continuing strength of the story after four and a half decades.

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As Summer is relegated to the vaults of imperfect memory, the occasionally venerable John E. O. Stevens, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson pull their cloaks tight against the mounting Autumn chill. Listen as they gather around the flame, pass the jug and Ibuprofen, and speak of a road trip through the American South, LoneStarCon, revisiting reviews of old, reading with one’s daughter, the books that sustain them, and other mortal matters.

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The Three Hoarsemen Ride!

And so, having proven their mettle in the harsh environs of podcastery, John E. O. Stevens, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson were cast out from the shelter of the venerable SF Signal Podcast, armed only with wit, canes, and beta blockers, to forge their own path. Here they discussed the utility and relevance of awards, the return of the dreaded online SF books list, how no reading plan survives contact with the enemy, and the culture they have recently consumed.

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And so it was that, during the brutal heatwave of July 2013, Fred Kiesche, John Stevens, and Jeff Patterson did re-convene to swelter and bemoan the state of things. Thrill as they endure cicadas and noisy fans! Listen to them discuss Readercon, the irrelevance of poorly-researched reviews, comic books, noir, specious definitions of the “canon,” and other sundry subjects. It’s like visiting three cranky uncles in a run down retirement home…

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In the long and storied history of the SF Signal Podcast, never had the powers-that-be deigned it safe to allow John H. Stevens, Fred Kiesche, and Jeff Patterson to appear on the same panel discussion. “It would be like crossing the streams,” they said. “Violent weather would sweep the land, and cicadas emerge from the depths!”

Ah, well…

In this inaugural episode of The Three Hoarsemen we discuss Iain M. Banks, how our book format preferences dictate our reading (and buying) habits, and recommend some books and stories we’ve recently enjoyed.
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Marvel has historically been the more grounded of the Big Two comic book companies. Its world (commonly called Earth 616) was, by original editorial fiat, our world. There were few fictional settings, with most of the action taking place in an NYC identical to ours save the Baxter Building and Avengers Mansion.

The extra abstraction layer in the Marvel world (as well as DC and other comic book universes) is that SF and fantasy tropes exist in almost equal measure, and in vast numbers. Aside from comic books, such a robust slathering of concepts from both SF and fantasy (not to mention a dollop of horror) is exceedingly rare. The mystic and the mechanical seldom intermingle on such a grand scale successfully. This is especially true in fictional universes that have well-established sandboxes. Miles Vorkosigan will never discover he’s destined to become the next High Mage. Westeros will never encounter a rogue berserker probe.
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COMIC BOOK REVIEW: Star Wars #1 by Brian Wood and Carlos D’Anda

REVIEW SUMMARY: The first issue of Dark Horse Comics latest Star Wars offering, returning to the characters from the original film.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Shortly after the battle at Yavin IV, both the rebellion and the empire struggle to recover from their losses and make headway in their campaigns. A rebel scouting party is ambushed, leading to the conclusion that something threatens the rebellion from within.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: An interesting glimpse at our heroes, and some great scenes communicating just what a galactic rebellion entails.
CONS: Uneven pacing, with a lot of soul-searching and catch-up information interrupting the narrative and sapping the story of momentum. By issue’s end the story has barely started. It fails to feel like a continuation of the movie.
BOTTOM LINE: An imperfect first issue showing hints of promise, but its too early to judge. Not quite up to the standards Dark Horse has maintained with the property.

Warning: spoilers ahead.
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In a recent Twitter exchange the subject of Banacek came up.

For those too young to remember, Banacek was an NBC series starring George Peppard as a suave Polish investigator assigned to uncover the mystery of objects and people that went missing under seemingly impossible circumstances. It struck me that you could not pitch a character like Banacek today; He was a womanizer (the first episode features the ever-yummy Anitra Ford serving him champagne while he watches TV), smoked cigars, and his job was to help insurance companies avoid paying claims. You might pitch it as a period piece, a la Mad Men, as a window to a less-enlightened time, but never as a modern show, at least not without significant modifications. It got me thinking about what SF/F TV characters would fail as new creations today.

To be clear, I do not mean reboots or reimaginings. I mean characters existing as they did when they were originally portrayed on TV, with their personality traits and behaviors intact, and pitching them in today’s social and political climate. We’ve come quite a distance from couples sleeping in separate beds, but there are things considered taboo today that were rampant on TV past.

Here are few that came to mind…
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Alas, Poor Yorick…

Last week brought us Christian Cardona’s excellent fan film based on the opening chapter of the comic book Y: The Last Man.

Y: The Last Man was a 60 issue comic by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra beginning in 2002. It starts with every male mammal on Earth dying horribly, all at once, and without explanation. All except two.

Yorick Brown is an aspiring escape artist with a Capuchin monkey named Ampersand. He’s in the middle of proposing to his girlfriend Beth over the phone (she’s in Australia) when the event happens. Yorick’s mother is a congresswoman, who now has an even more urgent interest in the well-being of her son. So under the protection of the lethal Agent 355, Yorick sets out to find cloning expert Dr. Alison Mann, who may be the world’s only hope. But all Yorick wants to do is get back together with Beth.

The series had a rather wide scope as it explored the misadventures of Yorick and his impact on the world at large. Some social-political realities of a unisex world were explored, such as the fact that majority of the surviving US lawmakers are Democrats, or that the only country with a functioning military is Israel. There are also a ninja, Cosmonauts stranded in orbit, religious fanatics and (in one memorable storyline) a dominatrix. Conspiracies and hidden agendas abound. Every character has a back-story rife with secrets. There were plotlines about what happens to male-dominated religions when the females remain true to their faith, how the transgendered adapt to cope with the new world, and what art might look like in a female-only society. It was a truly compelling series, with a unique set of characters and a staggering spectrum of motivations. Not exactly post-apocalyptic, and not exactly dystopian (depending on your definition of both), it was in turns heartbreaking, hilarious, thought-provoking, and terrifying.

And, I say again, it has a monkey.
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We’re a quarter of the way through 2012 and the Science Fiction/Fantasy comic book landscape has certainly changed since last year. While long-form mainstays like Fables, Elephantmen, Hellboy/BPRD, and Conan continue in peak form, there are a number of quality genre books out that do not require knowledge of baggage-laden continuities. There are also genuine SF titles coming into their own, and some well-handled licensed properties currently gracing the comics racks.

Last year saw the incredibly talented Nate Simpson release Nonplayer #1, a beautifully drawn book about augmented reality and MMORPGs. It made such an impact that the film rights were optioned almost immediately. Unfortunately we have yet to see a second issue, but in recent weeks a couple books have make a similar splash…
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‘Tis the Season

It is Christmas, Hanukkah, Mithras, Festivus, and Solstice Week…and that means it’s time for the 2011 Bad Day Studio Holiday Card.

This one’s a 5500 word beast of a tale about power outages, podcasting, and time travel called Candle Gardens.

It is dedicated to two friends of mine who died this year, but it goes out to anyone who found themselves in the path of nature, misfortune, or any force outside their control.

Happy Holidays to all the SF Signal readers and irregulars!

[Editors note: You, too, Jeff! Folks should also check out Jeff's holiday greetings from 2009 and 2010.]

Twelve Years Ago Today: The Moon Blew Out of Orbit

On September 13, 1999, a nuclear explosion hurled the moon out of orbit, taking with it a lunar base and a handful of really neat ships. In the years that followed the inhabitants met Joan Collins, Christoper Lee, Brian Blessed, and whip-wielding chicks in catsuits.

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Adventures in Audio: Guided by Voices

Has this ever happened to you?

An armored figure gazes out the viewport as an induced wormhole blossoms open, disgorging a swarm of war-mecha towards his fortress habitat. Ten thousand coordinated targeting masers paint the slowly spinning hull. The figure smiles at his attackers, then transmits a signal. Suddenly, the strange-matter tentacles of an ancient AI construct thought lost for millennia emerge from the darkness. Within moments the entity begins burning through the swarm, its insane mathematical laughter shrieking across the radio spectrum. The armored figure trains the fortress weapons on the remaining war-mecha, and, just before he speaks, the SUV with a “COEXIST” bumper sticker that you’re about to pass swerves into your lane without signaling for no good reason.

I have an hour-plus one-way commute to work. These hefty slices of confinement and solitude have one benefit: they allow me time to catch up on podcasts (such as Nerdist and another one who’s name escapes me) and radio shows (Stephen Fry’s English Delight and The Infinite Monkey Cage are favorites) but the bulk of the time is taken up with audio books.

Last year I listened to over 500 hours of science fiction audio, far outstripping the number of meatspace books I read. I’ve become cognizant of two things: First, nothing breaks dramatic tension and rips you back into the real world like idiot drivers; second, much of my relationship with the story is shaped by the narrator of the audio book. Over the week or two it takes me to listen to a book I become accustomed to the style of the reader. They become a traveling companion, and a reader/listener dynamic inexorably asserts itself chapter by chapter. By the time we approach the story’s climax I find myself identifying shifts in tone or delivery as portents that things are about to happen.

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‘Tis the Season for Free Holiday Fiction

It’s Christmas Week, and that means it’s time for the 2010 Bad Day Studio Holiday Card. It’s a little tale of bad behavior, a strange visitation, and what happens to pain during the holidays. I give you “Roadside Epiphanies“!

May your Holidays be merry ones!

The sky is downright Jovian.

I’m driving up Route 95. The audiobook of Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl is playing. His description of the humid climate of Thailand seems to be in combat with the air conditioning. The windshield fogs up more than once.

Most Readercon weekends it is either oppressively hot or unnaturally stormy, as if the weather of some inhospitable world has taken up residence. This year the heat wave which has dominated the northeast for the past week is past its peak but still present. Livid cumulonimbi hold court over Burlington, Massachusetts, creating inverted canyons almost too big for the sky to hold.

My printout of the program grid sits on the passenger seat, with panels and events already highlighted. Part of my pre-con prep. This year is Readercon 21. Damn. I’ve been attending since number 2 when I was in my mid-twenties. Some years it’s just a day-trip for me, but I get there. I assume some strange time-contraction is in play because, considering that the convention skipped a couple years, this inexplicable passage of time means I am getting older, a fact that is simply unacceptable.

That faint reminder of mortality lightly permeates the weekend for me, as last year Charles N. Brown passed away while returning home from Readercon. As I walk the halls and peruse the Bookstore I catch glimpses of so many writers who have been regulars at the con, whom I’ve gotten the chance to speak to, hear them read their stories and discuss their origins. Recalling the accumulation of experience also reminds just how much this mid-year exploration of the literature of ideas has been a constant in my adult life.

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