MIND MELD: Books We’ve Worn Out Re-Reading

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There are books we read once. There are books we re-read. And then there are the books that we wear out because we devour it again and again. These are the books for which we have to buy ourselves another copy immediately upon lending out because we’re sure we will never see it again — or just want to make sure we have it on hand.

Q: What are some of these genre books for you? Why do you go back to them again and again?

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This week’s short and sweet question:

Q: What book(s) in your ‘to read’ pile are you most interested in reading? Why?

Here’s what our panelists said…

Patrick Hester
Patrick Hester is an author, blogger and Hugo-nominated Podcast producer/host who lives in Colorado, writes science fiction and fantasy, and can usually be found hanging out on his Twitter feed. His Functional Nerds and SF Signal weekly podcasts have both been nominated for Parsec awards, and the SF Signal podcast is nominated for a 2012 Hugo Award. He writes for atfmb.com, SF Signal, KirkusReviews and Functional Nerds.


This one is easy. Doctor Who: Shada: The Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams (novelized by Gareth Roberts). There is an old saying; you never forget your first Doctor. For me, that Doctor was Tom Baker, good ol’ Number Four. Once described by Number Two (or Three, I forget) as ‘curly hair and teeth’, the Fourth Doctor was the first for me. I watched episodes of Doctor Who on the local PBS station. Despite bad special effects that turned most of my friends off immediately, I quickly became hooked on this TimeLord from the planet Galifrey who traveled in a blue box with a robot dog who called him ‘Master’ and sported a multi-colored collar matching the Doctor’s own ridiculously long scarf. (I still want one of those scarves…)

It wasn’t until I moved deeper into fandom, attending conventions where people were selling Japanese Anime (I’d never seen the likes of before!), VHS copies of shows from over seas (like Doctor Who, UFO, The Avengers), and bootleg copies of STUFF (I SWEAR I DIDN’T INHALE!), that I became aware of certain things regarding the good Doctor. (this was before the Interwebz.) Things like: many episodes were lost to time when the BBC ‘cleaned house’ destroying video tapes and film libraries. And, there was a ‘lost episode’ from the Tom Baker years. Written by Douglas The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Adams himself, no less.

The story went that they began filming Shada, meant to be the final serial of the 1979-80 season, when a strike hit the BBC. That strike killed production and they never finished filming. There was an attempt to revisit the script and complete the filming, but it never came to fruition. Why? No idea. The producer, John Nathan-Turner, did manage to release a version of it on VHS a decade later, but never as part of the televised series.

Side Note: for the anniversary special The Five Doctors, Tom Baker declined to participate, so footage of the Fourth Doctor and Romana II from the Shada episode, were used (you might remember the Doctor and Romana boarding a gondola and becoming ‘stuck’ out of time).

Side Note 2: In the Key to Time DVD’s (I think), there’s a bonus feature – an episode of Blue Peter (BBC children’s show) shot on the sets of Doctor Who. They were forced to shoot the show there due to yet another strike affecting the BBC. Given the set they were using, they had a very Doctor Who-centric episode.

A few years back, another version of the story was done, this time an animated Flash serial with Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor in the lead (yes, the guy from the Fox version/movie). I watched the 1st episode. Meh.

But now, Ace has released a novelization putting Shada squarely back into the Fourth’s Doctor’s Continuity. 400 pages of Classic Who goodness…
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A lot of recent science fiction appears to take place on Earth, and only a minority of space-based science fiction taking place outside the solar system. Novels and stories involving travel to the stars and interstellar travel seems to be out-of-date or out-of-fashion, and even Hard SF treatments of interstellar travel seem as realistic as Star Wars.

We asked this week’s panelists:

Q: Is interstellar travel (and space empires, etc.) now considered Science Fantasy? What does that say for the state of the genre?

Here’s what they said…

Elizabeth Bear
Elizabeth Bear was born on the same day as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, but in a different year. This, coupled with a childhood tendency to read the dictionary for fun, led her inevitably to penury, intransigence, the mispronunciation of common English words, and the writing of speculative fiction.

I think that like everything else, fads in science fiction run in cycles, and lately there’s been a big ol’ dystopian wave going on. But it’s not as if deep space science fiction, or SF featuring far-flung space civilizations isn’t still being written. Charlie Stross, Iain Banks, Dan Simmons, Greg Bear, Chris Moriarty, C.J. Cherryh–heck, I’ve written a couple of books dealing with far-flung space travel myself.

If you were to nudge the focus of the question over to whether near-future and near-earth SF has been getting more *awards* attention lately, I think you’d be more accurate.

But there are fads in criticism the same as everything else.

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MIND MELD: Our Favorite SF/F Movie and TV Soundtracks

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We’ve covered a lot of topics in our Mind Meld series, from books, to cover art and lots of stuff in between. But we haven’t touched on the topic of music. We attempt to fix that oversight with this week’s question. We asked our panelists:

Q: What are some of your favorite SF/F movie and TV soundtracks/scores?

Here’s what they said…

Andrew Liptak
Andrew Liptak is a freelance writer and science fiction fan, and writes regularly at Words in a Grain of Sand on speculative fiction and history, and has written for sites such as SF Signal, io9 and Tor.com. He currently holds a degree in History and a master’s degree in Military History from Norwich University, and resides in the green mountains of Vermont with a growing library of books.

There’s a couple of science fiction soundtracks that I listen to constantly, and they’ve held up well over the years:

Battlestar Galactica: Seasons 1-4 (Original Television Soundtrack), Bear McCreary: When the show first came out, I loved the unconventional nature of how everything was set up, from the ship all the way to the music used. The soundtrack is a stunning one, and very different from what’s typical in science fiction.

Contagion: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, Cliff Martinez: This borders on the line between science fiction and thriller, but I’ll include it. I love Cliff’s music, and this entire soundtrack has an excellent opening theme, with a great sound throughout the rest of the album.
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This week’s Mind Meld topic was suggested by John Klima. We asked this week’s panelists (including John):

Q: Which SF/F/H book do you love that everyone else hates? Which SF/F/H book do you hate that everyone else loves?

Here’s what they said…

Farah Mendlesohn
Farah Mendlesohn used to edit Foundation, the International Review of Science Fiction, is the President of the International Association of the Fantastic of the Arts, and is about to send McFarland a Manuscript about Children’s and Teen science fiction. She has read around 400 of these books so you don’t have to.

Gene Wolfe’s Wizard-Knight. As far as I am concerned this was like reading C.S.Lewis writing Conan the Barbarian. I was mostly repulsed by the ethics, and while I quite understand that this was meant to be a juvenile wet dream of muscular morality, that doesn’t mean I need to read it. The frightening thing was that when I presented this analysis to several well known critics, they agreed with me, and then went on to explain why it was a work of genius.

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