Author Archive

We at SF Signal were thrilled by the news that this little site had secured not one but 2 Hugo Award nominations. So thrilled, in fact, that once we had finished happy dancing, we took a close look at the fascinating history of the award. Its story has been one of change, evolving with the genre from the days of pulp, through the golden age, and finally into the mainstream. So many personalities, great books and memories are associated with the award, it seemed only natural that we take time here to reflect on its influence.

So here it is, everything you need to know about the Hugo Award in 3,672,420 specially selected pixels.

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REVIEW: Zone One by Colson Whitehead

REVIEW SUMMARY: A literary take on the zombie apocalypse with some intriguing set pieces.

MY RATING

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A group of survivors sweep through New York City cleaning up the straggling undead and trying to restart civilization after an apocalyptic plague.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Zombie fiction with ideas; Whitehead brings literary weight to a stagnant genre.
CONS: Sometimes inconsistent in the tone of its philosophies.
BOTTOM LINE: An enjoyable if heavy-handed read; a refreshing and challenging entry into the zombie genre.

Colson Whitehead isn’t accustomed to receiving reviews on speculative fiction blogs. His oeuvre is decidedly high-brow literary (his debut The Intuitionist was reviewed by Updike in The New Yorker). He’s a Harvard grad and a McArthur Fellow. And he can now add to that resume: horror novelist.
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If you’ve made it through Black Friday and Cyber Monday without buying for everyone on your holiday gift list, it’s probably because (a) you’re doing some extra searching to find the perfect gift, (b) your giftee isn’t someone who is satisfied with something just because it’s on sale, (c) you’re disturbed by the implications of retailers manipulating consumers into a herd mentality, (d) you’re lazy, or (e) you hand-fashion all of your gifts by whittling blocks of balsa wood into sculptures of the Pokémon that best match your giftee’s personality.

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Over the summer, NPR solicited the input of its listeners to rank the top science fiction and fantasy books of all time. Over 60,000 people voted for the top picks which were then compiled into a list by their panel of experts. The result? This list of 100 books with a wide range of styles, little context, and absolutely no pithy commentary to help readers actually choose something to read from it.

We at SF Signal have, once again, come to the rescue. This flowchart is designed to help you follow your tastes, provide context, and fulfill (indeed exceed!) any need for pithy commentary you might harbor.

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REVIEW: Embassytown by China Miéville

REVIEW SUMMARY: A book full of great ideas and world-building but lacks intriguing characters.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The distant space colony Embassytown is threatened by war when a new Ambassador arrives with a new take on an alien language.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: The world building and creativity that we’ve come to expect of Miéville.

CONS: Characters are thin; sometimes gives too much of a good thing.

BOTTOM LINE: Miéville’s first foray into science fiction is a mixed bag, full of wonderful ideas but a bit to chilly to allow the reader to fully invest.

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Summer is coming. And if you’re a fan of unscripted reality shows or singing and dance competitions, you’re TV schedule is probably full. For the rest of us, it can be a struggle to find something on the tube worth watching. Thankfully, Netflix has come to the rescue of the discriminating SF/F fan, carrying a wide array of past series on both its streaming platform and DVD deliveries.

The only problem that remains is what to watch. For the chronically indecisive we have developed this handy flowchart to help you narrow it down.

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10 Literary Novels for Genre Readers

Every so often a debate breaks out across the blogosphere about the comparative merits of literary versus genre literature, usually sparked by some comment advocating one of the two with some supercilious tone. The topic brings out heated rhetoric, often times boiling down to one’s personal views on the shape of fiction as a whole. One thing is for sure, the debate is unsettled.

There need not be a chasm between movements, however, as genre and literary fiction can be quite complementary to one another. Certainly no one aspect of literature can lay claim to a higher standard of quality. While literary fiction can be a window into the human condition, it can also be pretentious and overbearing. Genre fiction can be full of inspiring ideas but it can also be wooden and derivative. The opportunity for a book to be crap isn’t limited by the bookstore shelf it lands on.

There are plenty of guides to gateway books for literary readers to discover SF/F, but very few to introduce primarily genre readers to literary works they would find enjoyable. And so, in the spirit of reconciliation, I’ve compiled this short list of books that fill the gap between speculative and so called realistic fiction. It is by no means comprehensive but should serve as a decent introduction for genre readers to see how the other half lives.

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Genre Publishing as a Light in the Dark

If 2010 was a year to bemoan the status of print publishing, 2011 is shaping up to be a disaster. In the early days of January, book superstore Borders has made moves that may mean a bankruptcy is in the cards. Agents, publishers, and authors alike are reporting lower advances, fewer sales, and overall, a poorer market for anything but celebrity books, many from decidedly unliterary backgrounds such as the new book from Jersey Shore airhead Snookie.

But if the future of the publishing industry is so dour, somebody forgot to tell genre publishers, as their spirits don’t appear to be dampened much by the perceived downturn.

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