Here’s the trailer for I Remember the Future, an Australian film based on the short story of the same name written by Michael A. Burstein. The professionally-done student film is directed by Klayton Stainer and stars Reg Gorman, Tiffany Lyndall-Knight, Dean Kirkright Emily Coupe and others. The film is about an elderly writer who struggles with his fading mind and the future during a visit from his estranged daughter.

“I Remember The Future” and several other of Burstein’s award-nominated stories are collected in the collection I Remember the Future.

Here’s the trailer.
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MIND MELD: The New Future For Star Wars

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The big news from last week was the acquisition of LucasFilm by Disney, giving the Mouse control of Star Wars and many other properties. While fans everywhere cheer the idea of no more Lucas mucking about with the films, another bit of news dropped that doesn’t seem to be getting as much play. Several decades after Lucas first floated the idea, Disney will be making three more episodes in the Star Wars saga, with episode 7 slated to land in 2015. Since this is apparently going to happen, our question is:

Q: What do you want to see from the new Star Wars movies in terms of stories? Do you have anyone you’d like to direct the movies or star in them?

Here’s what they said…
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Every reader holds out for a hero, but be it movies or novels, its the antagonists, the villains, that often bring the heat, spice and power to a piece of work and make it sing.

So we asked this week’s panelists…

Q:Who are the most memorable villains and antagonists you’ve encountered in fantasy and science fiction? What make them stand out?

Here’s what they said…

Scott Lynch
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1978, Scott Lynch is the author of the Gentleman Bastard sequence of fantasy crime novels, which began with The Lies of Locke Lamora and continues with Red Seas Under Red Skies and the forthcoming The Republic of Thieves. His work has been published in more than fifteen languages and twenty countries, and he was a World Fantasy Award finalist in the Best Novel category in 2007. Scott currently lives in Wisconsin and has been a volunteer firefighter since 2005.

.I’ve always had a great admiration for the Lady, from Glen Cook’s Black Company series, with an honorable mention for all of the Ten Who Were Taken that serve her. She’s ruthless but multifaceted, a romantic and tragic figure as well as a provisioner of all the dark arts and fell deeds a reader could desire. As for the Ten, they’re just so fun and iconic, sort of more extroverted Nazgul.

If you’ll allow historical fiction as a cousin to fantasy, I’d also vote for Livia, from Robert Graves’ I, Claudius. Subtle, pitiless, and patient, the deadliest woman (hell, the deadliest person) in a deadly milieu.

Last but not least I’d bring up O’Brien, from George Orwell’s 1984, the chillingly contented ordinary man who patiently explains to Winston what it’s all about… that all the chanting and ideology is a fog, that the politics of Oceania are meaningless, the nature of its wars completely unimportant. The whole point of the crushing pyramid of human misery is to keep a tiny elite with their boots on the throats of the rest of humanity, forever and ever, amen. To conceive that sort of thing, to accept it, to rise and sleep as a happy part of such a brutal mechanism… now that’s villainy.

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A Modest Proposal for Eureka Fans

by Michael A. Burstein

Nomi and I have been enjoying the television show Eureka ever since it began its run on the Syfy Channel (back in 2006, when it was the Sci-Fi Channel). For those of you unfamiliar with the show, it’s about a secret town filled with scientific geniuses who develop advanced technology for the United States. We get to see the town through the eyes of Sheriff Jack Carter, an ordinary guy who often finds himself the only one who can figure out how to solve the problems created when scientific experimentation goes sideways and disaster looms.

I have to admit that the show felt like it was getting stale as the third season came to a close, but they kicked off the fourth season last year with a game-changing episode that made everything fresh again. I’ve really been enjoying watching the repercussions play out, and I was pleased when rumors indicated that the show would continue for a fifth and possibly sixth season.

But this week, the Syfy Channel announced that the sixth season will not happen and that the show will be cancelled after its fifth season in 2012. And, as often happens, fan reaction online ranged from the mildly disappointed to the startlingly vitriolic. I’m glad to see that most of the comments are of the former type, however.

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The ever quickening pace of science and technology makes today’s world vastly different from the era of ‘Golden Age Science Fiction’. Stories written back then assume a very different view of the world than what today’s readers have and may seem very out of date. Our question:

Q: Are ‘Golden Age’ stories too dated and is it worth it to recommend Heinlein, Asimov, etc. to the new SF reader?

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.

Asimov holds up better than Heinlein for me, honestly, although I do think Heinlein was the better writer in the sense of structure, story, and characterization. But I have a weakness for Asimovian puzzle-stories, and the Asimov I’d still not hesitate to recommend is his short fiction, especially the mysteries.

I think the average modern SF reader expects a stronger sense of story and character arc than the prototypical Campbellian reader, and I think if you can manage to read around Heinlein’s cultural assumptions, some of his work is still thought-provoking and worthwhile

There are a number of Golden Age SF writers, however, that I would recommend without hesitation, on the assumption that modern readers are not stupid, and are capable of filtering for the time in which the work was written. Id tend towards the stronger prose stylists for a modern audience, I think, as the New Wave raised the style bar pretty high. Among the writer’s I’d put in front of modern readers are Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, L. Sprague de Camp, H. Beam Piper, C.L. Moore, Alfred Bester, Hal Clement, and Poul Anderson.

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This week’s question was suggested by Electric Velocipede‘s John Klima, who suggested a seemingly simple question that’s quite challenging to answer.

Q: What Science Fiction Books Should Be in Every Fan’s Library? You may choose between 1 and 10 titles.

(Actually, I misinterpreted John’s original verbiage, as he explained in Part 1. So this questions isn’t quite what he was asking. Still, the response was high enough to warrant breaking this up into two part. Part 1 appeared last week. This is Part 2.)

Here’s what this week’s panelists said. Do you agree with their choices? What would you pick?

Laura Anne Gilman
Laura Anne Gilman is the Nebula-nominated author of Flesh and Fire, Book I of The Vineart War, in addition the Cosa Nostradamus novels, and close to thirty works of published short fiction. A former and occasional-freelance editor, she makes her home in New York City.

I’m going to go with three books that have been in my library since I was a fan (which means they predate 1990, when I turned pro, officially).

  • Hal Clement’s Needle – After I tried to read some SF titles too young (I was under ten) this book brought me back to the genre. The seemingly simple story of a boy encountering two aliens, both dangerous in their own way, is far more complex than you realize, and the experience of reading it stays with you long after you may have moved on to more overly complicated stories. Old-fashioned now, yes, but still worthy.
  • Joe Haldeman’s Mindbridge – The first book I ever read that combined so many different forms of storytelling (first person, third person, mission extract, musical notation, graphs, etc) into what was actually a cohesive whole. It made me realize that it was the story, not the format, that mattered, and probably blew a few other assumptions to hell as well. And that’s before you get to the actual story, which was my “Joe is God” revelatory moment.
  • Phil Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep – Not the movie. Nothing like the movie. Raised the question of what it meant to be human, the contrast between empathy and psycho/sociopathy, and an entire semester of Psych 102.. No easy answers or happy endings, just a lot of questions that still resonate. Exactly what I want my SF to do.

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MIND MELD: The Pros and Cons of eBooks

We asked this week’s panelists:

Q: Do you read eBooks? If not, why not? If so, what are the pros and cons of eBook reading? What device(s) do you use?

Read on to see their responses…

Rachel Swirsky
Rachel Swirsky‘s short fiction has appeared in Tor.com, Subterranean Magazine, Fantasy Magazine, Weird Tales, and a number of other magazines and anthologies. She also edits the audio fantasy magazine, PodCastle.

I don’t read e-books. As a writer, I do a lot of reading on screen. I compose my own stories; I workshop my colleagues’ stories; I research online; I conduct my correspondence online; I hold virtual office hours online; I waste time reading online blogs. Being an editor for a magazine that accepts e-submissions makes the situation worse. Consequently, one of the things I’m looking for in a novel, anthology, or collection that I’m reading for pleasure is its non-electronic, paper form. I want to be able to sit down with a traditional book.

If I were neither a writer nor an editor, I think I’d be an ideal candidate for e-book reading. I like gadgets and I like reading. If onscreen fiction reading weren’t such an integral part of my work, I’d be better able to appreciate it for recreation.

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Some of SF Signal’s readers are aspiring writers, so we thought we take this week to ask some published writers in the genre to dispense with some useful writerly advice. Here’s what we asked them:

Q: What’s the best writing advice you ever received and who gave it to you?

And here are their collective words of wisdom…

Robert Silverberg
Robert Silverberg started writing fiction in the 1950s and has since built a remarkable catalog of novels and short stories. He’s won several Hugo and Nebula Awards throughout his career, for both his writing and his editing of numerous anthologies. His entire bibliography is too long to mention, but some well-known titles include the Majipoor series, A Time of Changes, Nightwings, The Book of Skulls, Son of Man, Downward to the Earth, and Dying Inside. Some of his most famous pieces of short fiction include “Hawksbill Station”, “Born with the Dead”, “Sailing to Byzantium”, and “Passengers”. Robert Silverberg was also the recipient of the 2004 SFWA Grandmaster Award.

The best piece of advice I ever got came from Lester del Rey, the veteran writer and editor who, when I was in my twenties, had become a sort of Dutch uncle, or perhaps even a second father, to me. At the beginning of my career in the mid-1950s I had trouble selling my most ambitious stories, the ones that I thought were the best in me, whereas the minor, more conventional pieces sold quite easily to the magazines. There were several reasons for this. The main one was that I was competing for slots in those magazines with the likes of Theodore Sturgeon, Fritz Leiber, James Blish, Alfred Bester, Damon Knight, C.M. Kornbluth, and other greats of that golden era for the science-fiction short story. What I was writing, at the age of 21 or 22, might have been ambitious but it still wasn’t in a class with what those more mature writers were doing. On the other hand, all the magazines, even the top ones, were constantly in need of conventional 5000-worders for the back of the book. It seemed to make more sense to me to churn out competent potboilers for those magazine editors instead of trying to knock Sturgeon or Leiber or Knight out of the top place in the issue, and very shortly I was earning a nice living indeed writing formula fiction at a fast pace. (I was, in fact, earning more per year than any of my literary heroes by the third year of my career.) By playing it safe this way I was indeed able to pay the monthly rent, and then some. But I wasn’t contributing anything worthwhile to science fiction, and, though I didn’t realize it just yet, I wasn’t even acting in my own best interests.

It was Lester who pointed out to me that I was working from a false premise. “Even if all you’re concerned with is making money,” he said, “you’re going about it the wrong way. You’re knocking out penny-a-word stories as fast as you can, and, sure, you’re pulling in the quick bucks very nicely. But you’re shortchanging yourself, because all that you’ll ever make from what you’re writing now is the check you get for it today. Those stories will die the day they’re published. They won’t get into anthologies and won’t be bought for translation and nobody will want you to put together a collection of them. Whereas if you were writing at the level that I know you’re capable of, you’d be creating a body of work that will go on bringing in money for the rest of your life. So by going for the easy money you’re actually cutting your future income.”

I pointed out that when I wrote at the level I was capable of, I had trouble selling the stories. He laughed at that. It was a temporary phenomenon, he said. Now that my name was established — I had won a Hugo my second year as a writer, and my name was in all the magazines — the editors would pay more attention.

I began to upgrade the product. Everything sold; and, encouraged by the steady acceptance of what I thought of as my “real” science fiction, I moved quickly away from my hack markets, most of which had died off anyway. And, sure enough, I started to get my stories into anthologies, I sold them to British and French and German magazines, I got offers from publishers to do collections of my work. Lester had been right: the quick buck wasn’t the best buck. Simply in terms of a basic goal of making money from my writing, I had taken the wrong track, because junk was never reprinted, and good stories lived on and on. And, of course, even then I knew that I wanted more out of a career in science-fiction than just making money, because I had been a reader before I became a writer, and I had dreamed of writing the sort of work that had the same impact on readers that the work of my great predecessors had had on me. If I simply had wanted to be a hack, I would have done a lot better writing for True Confessions. So I shifted away from the kind of churn-‘em-out stuff I had done in my earlier years, and people began to notice the change. The Hugos and Nebulas and guest-of-honor invitations followed, and, many years later, the Grand Master award — and simply on the financial level I did a lot better than I would if I had, Gernsback forbid, spent my whole life writing potboilers. Probably I would have figured all that out on my own. But Lester del Rey’s blunt words, back there in 1957 or 1958, brought me to my senses a lot faster than would otherwise have been the case.

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This week’s question was suggested by Lou Anders, who not only received extra Mind Meld credit redeemable at imaginary nerd shops everywhere, but who also must serve penance by answering his own question:

Q: Two of the most highly regarded fantasy authors – Tolkien and Lewis – were also Christians, whereas the fathers of science fiction were atheists, and SF itself, it could be argued, grew out of Darwinism and other notions of deep time. Is science fiction antithetical to religion?
Mike Resnick
Mike Resnick is the author of 50 novels, 200 short stories, a pair of screenplays, and the editor of 50 anthologies, as well as the executive editor of Jim Baen’s Universe. According to Locus, he is the leading award winner, living or dead, of short fiction. His work has been translated into 22 languages.

You can’t generalize about this large a field. For every atheist or agnostic author you can name, I’ll name a religious one. For example: Gene Wolfe is a devout Catholic. Ray Lafferty was a devout Catholic. Avram Davidson was an Orthodox Jew. Michael A. Burstein is an Orthodox Jew. Etc, etc, etc.

In 1984 I wrote a very controversial novel titled The Branch, in which God and the true Jewish Messiah (not Jesus) were the two villains of the piece. The poor producer/director who optioned and made it got excommunicated from his church and thrown out of his country (Andorra)…and yet if you do not accept the existence of God and the truth of the Old Testament, there’s no story. So was it irreligious, or was it simply Politically Incorrect religion?

I am an atheist, yet I have given God speaking parts in four or five humorous stories, and have treated religion with respect in literally dozens of stories and novels. On the other hand, I know many devout Christian and Jewish science fiction writers whose religious beliefs are deeply personal, and who choose not to share them fictionally with their audience. Are they irreligious because they do not evangelize in print?

You can’t just a book by its cover…and you can’t necessarily judge an author’s (or a field’s) religious beliefs by that book’s contents.

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In our Mind Meld posts, we pose a single question to a slice of the sf/f community and, depending on the question, other folks as well.

This week, continuing the answers from part one, we asked a seemingly simple question about the definition of science fiction.

Everyone knows the “Old Guard” definitions of science fiction. As part of the “New Guard,” how would you define science fiction?
David Louis Edelman
David Louis Edelman‘s first novel, Infoquake, was called “the love child of Donald Trump and Vernor Vinge” by Barnes & Noble Explorations and “THE science fiction book of the year” by SFFWorld. It was also named Barnes & Noble’s SF Book of the Year in 2006 and nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best SF Novel. His next novel, MultiReal, will be released by Pyr in July 2006. Also watch for his short story “Mathralon” in The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Volume 2 this February.

You don’t need a lot of careful parsing to define what science fiction is. It’s very simple. Science fiction is fiction that has science as a central topic. It doesn’t necessarily have to be *the* central topic, but it’s *a* central topic.

This definition allows us to include lots of stuff that all SF geeks reflexively know to be science fiction (Neal Stephenson’s BAROQUE CYCLE) as well as lots of stuff that the mainstream refuses to recognize as science fiction (Audrey Niffenegger’s TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE). It even lets us include many works of alternate history (Philip K. Dick’s MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE), insofar as those works take a rational, scientific approach to understanding the effects of that changed history. As an added side benefit, it lets us put some distance on works that only use science in the most tangential way (STAR WARS).

Unfortunately that definition also pulls in some things that most SF folk would rather not see in our camp (Michael Crichton’s JURASSIC PARK). But as far as I’m concerned, the more inclusive the definition the better. Anything to get serious readers to wander down the aisle in the bookstore with the life-size cutout of Mace Windu standing at the end of it. And hopefully even — gasp! — spend some money there.

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