[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

When Mark London Williams and I decided to move our long running SF Site column Nexus Graphica to SF Signal, we decided that we needed to announce our presence with a bang. Hence, this Mind Meld was born, in which we asked our esteemed panelists this question:

Q: What graphic novels are part of your desert island collection?

The only caveat we gave the contributors that their selections could not include the obvious books such as Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Maus, and their ilk.

I’ll return next month with the first installment of the new Nexus Graphica and Mark issues his first SF Signal contribution in March. We’ll alternated columns every other month, culminating with a special two parter in December, featuring our annual best of the year lists. But more on this in February.

For now, enjoy the confab.
(And be sure to check out Part 1!)

Joe R. Lansdale
Mojo Storyteller Joe R. Lansdale is the author of over thirty novels and numerous short stories. His work has appeared in national anthologies, magazines, and collections, as well as numerous foreign publications. He has written for comics, television, film, newspapers, and Internet sites. His work has been collected in eighteen short-story collections, and he has edited or co-edited over a dozen anthologies. He has received the Edgar Award, eight Bram Stoker Awards, the Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the British Fantasy Award, and many others. His novella Bubba Hotep was adapted to film by Don Coscarelli, starring Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis. He is currently co-producing several films, among them The Bottoms, based on his Edgar Award-winning novel, with Bill Paxton and Brad Wyman, and The Drive-In, with Greg Nicotero.

DC archives. All of them. Dell and Gold Key archives. End of story

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MIND MELD: Current SF/F TV Shows We Are Watching

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This week we asked our panelists the following questions:

Q: What SF/F shows are you currently watching? Is there a show, or shows, that you think more people should watch and why?

Several people bowed out citing the fact they don’t watch TV, or even have a TV (which is laudable yet amazing). I think that’s an indictment on the current state of SF/F on TV…

Here is what they said:

Terry Weyna
Terry Weyna blogs for Fantasy Literature, and is particularly engaged with her Magazine Monday column there, in which she reviews short fiction.

I’m enjoying Once Upon a Time. I do wish ABC weren’t using so much of the Disneyfied characters, though; when Mulan showed up recently, I groaned. I’ve also been known to watch Grimm, though I still have a bunch of episodes from last season on my DVR, waiting for me to get to them. I’m tempted to give 666 Park Avenue a try as well.
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MIND MELD: A Look at Genre Reviews

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Book reviews have been as contentious since the days of mimeographed fanzines. In the age of the Internet and an explosion of blogs, Amazon, and more, reviews are more important than ever. But what makes reading and trusting a review worth it?

So we asked this week’s panelists…

Q: What does a good review of a piece of genre work do well? Where do reviewers fall down on the job? How can reviewers improve their craft for the benefit of readers, writers and fans?

Here’s what they said…

Rachel Caine
Rachel Caine is the author of more than twenty novels, including the Weather Warden series. She was born at White Sands Missile Range, which people who know her say explains a lot. She has been an accountant, a professional musician, and an insurance investigator, and still carries on a secret identity in the corporate world. She and her husband, fantasy artist R. Cat Conrad, live in Texas with their iguanas, Popeye and Darwin; a mali uromastyx named (appropriately) O’Malley; and a leopard tortoise named Shelley (for the poet, of course).

Most often where reviewers go astray for me is when they forget their core mission. I’ve read a lot of reviews that were more about the reviewer’s wickedly sharp language skills than about what they were critiquing … it becomes form over substance, and while it may be entertaining, it isn’t informative, and it doesn’t help the reader decide whether or not the book (or film, or music) would be right for their needs.

Every book (or film, or concert, or album) is a personal experience, so it’s fine to talk about how the work moved you, and why. But please, reviewers, if you consistently have a burning, fiery hatred for what you’re seeing in the genre (or medium) you’re reviewing, maybe you’re just burned out, or the style has moved past you …(it does this for writers, too, you’re hardly alone). Rather than just become the surly curmudgeon, find another thing to be passionate about — in another genre maybe. You’ll feel better, and so will your readers.

And on the flip side, if you love everything you read/see/hear, maybe you’re not quite critical *enough.* Being a critic isn’t about making friends, it’s about telling the truth even when it’s a harsh truth. Don’t be faint-hearted. You won’t last long if you are.

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Very rarely does a short fiction anthology score a home run with every single story it contains. Tastes differ from reader to reader. We asked this week’s participants to play the role of Editor:

Q: If you could publish a short fiction anthology containing up to 25 previously-published sf/f/h stories, which stories would it include and why?

Here’s what they said:

Nancy Kress
Nancy Kress is the author of 26 books of SF, fantasy, and writing advice. Her most recent novel is Steal Across the Sky (Tor, 2009), an SF novel about a crime committed by aliens against humanity 10,000 years ago – for which they would now like to atone. Her fiction has won multiple Nebula and Hugo awards, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

I teach SF often and have never been able to find the exact anthology I want to teach! This would be it. I know there are many wonderful stories I left out either because I had no room (you limited me to 25) or haven’t read them. There are also great writers whose novels I prefer to their short fiction. But this anthology would be a joy to teach.

  1. “Sandkings” by George R.R. Martin
  2. “Nine Lives” by Ursula K. LeGuin
  3. “Houston, Houston, Do You Read” by James Tiptree, Jr.
  4. “Morning Child” by Gardner Dozois
  5. “Johnny Mnemonic” by William Gibson
  6. “A Braver Thing” by Charles Sheffield
  7. “We See Things Differently” by Bruce Sterling
  8. “Firewatch” by Connie Willis
  9. “The Faithful Companion at Forty” by Karen Joy Fowler
  10. “Baby Makes Three” by Theodore Sturgeon
  11. “Continued on the Next Rock” by R.A. Lafferty
  12. “When It Changed” by Joanna Russ
  13. “For I Have Touched the Sky” by Mike Resnick
  14. “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang
  15. “Dead Worlds” by Jack Skillingstead
  16. “Divining Light” by Ted Kosmatka
  17. “Blood Music” by Greg Bear
  18. “The Undiscovered” by William Sanders
  19. “The Stars My Destination” by Alfred Bester
  20. “The Star” by Arthur Clarke
  21. “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” by Neil Gaiman
  22. “Daddy’s World” by Walter Jon Williams
  23. “The People of Sand and Slag” by Paolo Bacigalupi
  24. “Lincoln Train” by Maureen McHugh
  25. “Aye, and Gomorrah” by Samuel L. Delaney

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“Best of the Year” lists start appearing as early as November, so we are perhaps a little late in asking folks around the community:

Q: What were the best genre-related books, movies and/or shows you consumed in 2009?

[Also added was this note: They don't have to have been released in 2009. Feel free to choose any combination of genres (science fiction/fantasy/horror) and media (books/movies/shows) you wish to include.]

Read on to see their picks (and also check out Part 1)…

Jack McDevitt
Jack McDevitt is the author of fifteen novels including The Devil’s Eye and Time Travelers Never Die, both from Ace. McDevitt has been a frequent Nebula finalist. He won for his 2006 novel, Seeker.

Books I most enjoyed:

  • WWW:Wake, Robert Sawyer
  • Mars Life, Ben Bova
  • Plague Zone, Jeff Carlson
  • Overthrowing Heaven, Mark Van Name
  • Rift in the Sky, Julie Czerneda

I’ve just started Galileo’s Dream, by Kim Stanley Robinson. Am hooked already.

We haven’t seen any SF films I can recall. A TV series that stands out: FlashForward.

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SF Signal Welcomes Scott A. Cupp!

We’re growing larger — and I’m not talking about our middles as a result of copious amounts of bagel-eating.

We’re pleased to tell you that San Antonian author Scott A. Cupp is joining our ranks of esteemed Irregulars. As is tradition around here, we asked Scott to talk about himself in the third person. This is what he came up with:

Scott A. Cupp started collecting books in 1967 when he moved to San Antonio with three paperbacks. He still has one of those initial three volumes. Along the way he has had thousands of titles and volumes, many of them signed. He has purged and bought again, more times than he can remember. He once was even a co-owner of a specialty bookstore, Adventures in Crime and Space, where he placed more money than was good for him and took home way too many books. He counts many writers as close personal friends (which means he cannot knowingly sell their books). He has also been a writer of mystery, fantasy, western, and other stuff, non-fiction, comic books, and other ephemera over the last 20 years. He co-edited Cross Plains Universe: Texans Celebrate Robert E. Howard with Joe R. Lansdale (his ownself) which earned a World Fantasy nomination for Best Original Anthology. He likes books. A lot. You can see some of his fiction and an old photo on his website www.scottacupp.com.

We’re happy to have him on board. Welcome, Scott! Now that you’re on the prestigious SF Signal team, it’s time to let you in on one of the worst-kept secrets of our humble corner of the web: New Guy buys everyone else bagels!

While Scott is trying to figure out exactly how he got tricked into buying us tasty hunks of boiled dough (some of them with blueberries…hint-hint…), read the first installment of his new book-related column Geeks (With Lots) of Book.