The internet is abuzz with the possible news that J.J. Abrams will be directing the newly announced Star Wars Episode VII. Ever since the announcement that Disney had acquired LucasFilm Limited, a parade of potential contenders have surfaced among fansites: Matthew Vaughn, Steven Spielberg, Neill Blomkamp, Alfonso Cuarón, Darren Aronofsky, Joss Whedon, Jon Favreau, Joseph Kosinski, Colin Trevorrow, J. J. Abrams, Brad Bird and Rian Johnson. Out of that list, there are some who are better candidates than others – and Abrams is in the top tier, and appears to be the one.

Consider his resume: He’s managed several highly successful television shows: LOST, Alias, Fringe, and Felicity (the first two of which belonged to ABC, which is in turn owned by Disney), and a number of highly successful films: Mission Impossible III, Super 8, and Star Trek (with the second Star Trek: Into Darkness, coming out this year). His name is invariably attached to a huge list of other projects at any given time.

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In December 2011, we had a week where three movie trailers hit the web: The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit and Prometheus. They looked stunning: these were perfectly crafted marketing tools from films with slick visuals, a promising story, and an unheard of amount of hype around their production. 2012 was shaping up to be an incredible movie year. The Avengers looked quite good good, although it’s trailer was released at a different point in time.

The thing is, in my opinion, none of these movies really held up to the hype. I liked them okay: The Dark Knight Rises was good, but not as good as The Dark Knight (my all-time favorite comic book film), The Hobbit was quite good, but it lingered in almost every scene when it didn’t need to, and Prometheus, well. I liked Prometheus for all the wrong reasons: it’s execution was pretty bad, even as it looked wonderful. The Avengers was the best of the lot, even if it felt like every moment was designed by committee. I fell to the trap of the film’s marketing departments, who knew just what worked to draw audiences to the theaters.

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The Hobbit is upon us. The deluge of marketing was compounded by word that Peter Jackson managed to work out a third film, turning the Hobbit into the Lord of the Rings Prequel Trilogy. If there’s anything that I’ve learned this year, it’s that the SF movie world is turning me more cynical, especially when one is at the receiving end of marketing that really has a disconnect from the finished product.
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I was very pleased to learn that yet another extrasolar planet has been discovered, this time closer to Earth than ever before. It turns out that Alpha Centauri, our closest neighboring star system, has an Earth-like planet. Yay! However, this sort of news never manages to totally counteract the conflicted feelings I have about our prospects for deep space exploration.

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…And Another Thing: Let’s Talk About eBooks

I work for an eBook publishing company based in the Philippines, so last week’s announcements regarding eBooks piqued my curiosity.

Everyone is probably concerned about the iPad Mini, but I first want to talk about iBooks 3. Or rather, the ecosystem that surrounds it. Many Americans take for granted that they can purchase eBooks from most major online retailers; people outside of the US and the UK, however, don’t have that luxury; Kobo’s the most reasonable alternative (and supports PayPal), while Amazon charges $2.00 extra in a lot of countries. Purchasing eBooks in iTunes can be a farce depending on which country you’re in. In the Philippines for example, only Public Domain books are available. If you want to buy eBooks in iTunes, you need to be in one of the 50 countries (previously 32) being supported by Apple. The announcement that eBooks can now be purchased in Latin America expands the readership outside of the typical US/UK sphere (assuming, of course, the publisher allows their eBooks to be sold in those territories).

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Don’t Panic!

Hyperion is sponsoring a giveaway to promote the recent release of And Another Thing… by Eoin Colfer. 10 Lucky SF Signal readers located in the U.S. have a chance to win a signed copy of Colfer’s latest addition to Douglas Adams’ hugely popular Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series (the 6th in the trilogy, since you asked) and a handy “Don’t Panic” towel to go with it.

Here’s more about the book:

An Englishman’s continuing search through space and time for a decent cup of tea…

Arthur Dent’s accidental association with that wholly remarkable book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, has not been entirely without incident.

Arthur has traveled the length, breadth, and depth of known, and unknown, space. He has stumbled forward and backward through time. He has been blown up, reassembled, cruelly imprisoned, horribly released, and colorfully insulted more than is strictly necessary. And of course Arthur Dent has comprehensively failed to grasp the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.

Arthur has finally made it home to Earth, but that does not mean he has escaped his fate.

Arthur’s chances of getting his hands on a decent cuppa have evaporated rapidly, along with all the world’s oceans. For no sooner has he touched down on the planet Earth than he finds out that it is about to be blown up . . . again.

And Another Thing . . . is the rather unexpected, but very welcome, sixth installment of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. It features a pantheon of unemployed gods, everyone’s favorite renegade Galactic President, a lovestruck green alien, an irritating computer, and at least one very large slab of cheese.

Enough about the prize, here’s how to enter…

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