REVIEW: Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi

REVIEW SUMMARY: A great showcase of Bacigalupi’s unique style and his mastery of short fiction.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A collection of ten stories written by Paolo Bacigalupi. (A limited edition contains an additional story.)


PROS: Nine of the ten stories were good; three of those were outstanding.

CONS: One story dangerously close to being mediocre.

BOTTOM LINE: Clear evidence of Bacigalupi’s control over the form of short fiction.

Paolo Bacigalupi is rapidly the ranks of short fiction stardom, collecting accolades and critical acclaim at nearly every turn. Evidence supporting this can be found in his recent ten-story collection, Pump Six and Other Stories, which almost includes his entire short fiction output to date. (Night Shade Books also publishes a limited edition that contains the missing eleventh story, “Small Offerings”, which I reviewed in Fast Forward 1.)

One thing is clear: Bacigalupi does not write fiction just for the sake of it. Each story is rooted in one social issue or another. The backdrops he paints are mostly bleak, making the overall collection a tasty smorgasbord of Dystopias. He shows us eco-ravaged futures and technologies that create unique circumstances for the protagonists. While I’m not usually interested in science fiction as social commentary, Bacigalupi writes with a thankfully subtle hand, allowing the reader the take in as much – or as little – as he or she wishes. Furthermore, each of his stories explores a “single conceit”, the hallmark of classic short fiction, only as seen through the modern eyes of the socially conscious. The overall quality of the collection is thus fairly strong, with some of these stories garnering Hugo and Nebula nominations.

Reviewlettes of each story follow…

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Filed under: Book Review

First Impressions: The Sarah Jane Adventures

With bowls of popcorn in our laps, my daughter and I sat down to watch the premiere episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures, the spin-off of Doctor Who. Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) was the sidekick of the third and forth Doctors back in the 70’s, way before I was ever introduced to the show. The character also made an appearance in the 2006 episode “School Reunion”, at the end of which she sauntered happily off with the robotic dog called K-9.

Here are my initial impressions of the show.

(Cue Leslie Nielson: “I’m sorry…I don’t do impressions.”)

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Filed under: TV

Tube Bits for 04/14/2008

  • All right all you young whippersnappers, listen up. You may be wondering what all the fuss is over the upcoming Speed Racer movie (aside from the unique visuals and car fu). Well, Sci Fi Japan is doing a huge service for those of you who are not familiar with Speed and crew. They’ve running a series of post, looking at the original Speed Racer anime in all its glory. Marvel you will, especially when you realize there is oh so much more to come.
  • Minister Faust offers us his predictions about Galactica‘s final season. I’m not sure I agree, or disagree really, with any of them. They’re just food for thought right now, although I would say the ‘time-travel Kobold’ theory could be cool, or suck eggs. It would certainly fit into the whole ‘all this has happened before’ schtick if there are in some sort of closed time loop.
  • Apparently cutting records isn’t just for the the original Star Trek crew. Chase Masterson, Leeta from DS9, talks about her singing and her second album (among other stuff), to Robo Japan. And just so you know, Brent Spiner has a couple of albums under his belt too.
  • Thanks to the afore mentioned Robo Japan, we learn that Privateer Press is developing a collectible miniatures kaiju (that sorta means ‘giant monster’) game called Monsterpocalypse!. You can follow along at the developer’s blog. Please, please, please be like Crush, Crumble and Chomp! (How I miss thee my old Apple ][+ for you had the best games eva: Bilestoad, Choplifter, Karatake)
  • Who says nepotism is a bad thing? Not J.J. Abrams, that’s for sure. Abrams has tapped LOST producer Jeff Pinkner to be the show runner for his new SF, X-files-ish show Fringe. And what else do we learn? The pilot episode has a $10 million dollar budget (!), and it will be on Fox, which means it will either end after three episodes, or last three seasons too long.
  • There was, for a tiny fraction of time, a leaked trailer for the new The Clone Wars movie. Well, Gizmodo, in their quest for all things sensationalistic, found a version with Polish subtitles. Take a look and tell us what you think: good, bad, indifferent?

Filed under: Tube Bits

SF Tidbits for 4/14/08

Filed under: Tidbits

POLL RESULTS: Hyperion Goes Hollywood

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

Dan Simmons’ Hyperion is headed for the big screen. Is this a good idea?


(101 total votes)

I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s buying lunch in the cafeteria of sf shame for not having read this sf classic.

A few comments this week:

“I can’t see how you can do Hyperion in a single movie and wind up with anything much better than the mess that the DUNE movie turned out to be.” – Paul Weimer

“I would be afraid that they would turn this into a straight ‘horror flick’. Horrible monster goes around killing people on by one. Way too deep a novel to make into a movie.” – Cash

“Is Sean Connery available?” – platyjoe

“I hated that half of a book. I presume they will film Hyperion and the sequel since Hyperion is a completely incomplete story. BTW… Your polls are a lot less obvious on the left side of your web page. I’ve been missing a lot of them since you moved them.” – SF Fangirl
[John sez: Yeah…we know…and you’re not the only one. Our response numbers have been down ever since. This will be addressed soon.]

Be sure to check out this week’s poll – inconveniently located on our front page. If you find it, you can vote on your favorite book from the “Perfect Library”!

Filed under: Polls

SF Tidbits for 4/13/08

  • Free Fiction: Space Platform by Murray Leinster (a.k.a. William F. Jenkins, 1953)
  • Nancy Kress considers the craft or writing and art vs. new SF-nal ideas: “I don’t have the dazzling ideas of a Bruce Sterling or Charles Stross, and that aspect of SF has never been important to me. How characters interact with the future, what a radical change in setting or technology does to the fabric of human interaction and to a person’s sense of his or her place in the universe — this is what I’ve always loved best about all literature.”
  • Our good friend Matt Jarpe (Radio Freefall) is talking crazy-talk, listing 5 reasons why he hates time travel, which is one of my favorite sf tropes. Why, I’ve got half a mind to whack him upside the head with David Gerrold’s time belt. Or, should I have stopped at “I’ve got half a mind”? Yeah, probably that second one. :)
  • In his Naples Daily News column, Ben Bova talks about science-fiction fans, a breed unto themselves: “Why are science-fiction conventions so popular among the fans? I think it’s because science-fiction fans often find themselves regarded by the ‘mundane’ world as oddballs, nerds, weirdos.”
  • Subterranean Press is publishing a new novel by William Browning Spencer tentatively titled My Sister Natalie: Snake Goddess of the Amazon. If this is anywhere near as good as his short story “Downloading Midnight,” then sign me up.
  • The Science Fiction and Fantasy discussion group, Beyond_Reality, nabbed Richard Morgan and Kaza Kingsley to talk about their respective books Thirteen (a.k.a. Black Man in the U.K.) and Erec Rex: The Dragon’s Eye.
  • Sci-Fi Fan Letter lists SF/F stories that begin with characters on a farm, wishing for better things. Bonus points for creating a list with perhaps the most unique topic ever.

Filed under: Tidbits

Sunday YouTube: Joe Haldeman reads from The Accidental Time Machine

Hugo-winner Joe Haldeman reads from The Accidental Time Machine as part of the Authors@Google series.

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 4/12/08

Filed under: Tidbits

Tonight, the U.S. SciFI Channel is premiering the Doctor Who spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures. Unlike the adult-targeted Torchwood spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures is aimed at kids.

The Sarah Jane character (played by Elisabeth Sladen) was last seen by U.S. audiences in the 2006 Doctor Who episode “School Reunion” which also featured the robotic dog, K-9. But longtime Who fans will know her as the Doctor’s sidekick between 1973 and 1976, alongside John Pertwee and Tom Baker.

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Variety is reporting that Tim Kring, creator of Heroes, will be co-authoring an alternative history thriller trilogy to be published by Random House. The Flag of Orpheus trilogy will be co-written with Dale Peck for $3 million, Variety says. The story is about “the abuses of power and moral obligation to resist it” and “revolves around key turning points in late 20th century, including early 1960s drug culture.”

The first book in the trilogy, Shift, is due in the Fall of 2009. In a cross-marketing frenzy, each book will be also co-launched with an alternate reality game.

Filed under: Books

The fifth and final Hugo-nominated novella, Connie Willis’ “All Seated on the Ground” has been posted at Asimov’s website.

The list of Free Hugo-Nominated Short Fiction has been updated.

Only two-stories remain unavailable for free reading:

  1. The novelette “The Cambist and Lord Iron: a Fairytale of Economics” by Daniel Abraham, originally published in John Klima’s Logorrhea.
  2. The short story “Last Contact” by Stephen Baxter, which appeared in The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Volume I, edited by George Mann.

I’m just sayin’…

[via Science Fiction Awards Watch]

Filed under: Awards

[via John Scalzi]

Filed under: Star Wars

Tube Bits for 04/11/2008

  • In case any of you were waiting, both Witchblade and Birds of Prey are about to be released on DVD. I never really got into Witchblade, partly because Yancy Butler just kind of annoys me for some reason. And Birds of Prey was here, then gone so I never saw it.
  • The writers’ strike forced the cancelation of at least 3 hours of this season’s LOST. Lindeloff and Cuse have stated they will find ways to spread that missing three hours out over the next few season. Now there is a rumor the ABC may order an additional hour for this season, which I am all for. With only 5 new episodes this season (starting up again April 24th), I’m dreading the long, dark interregnum between the end of this season, and the start of the next. Anything they can do to shorten that is alright with me.
  • Amazon’s Screening Room Blog has a nice interview with Michael Shanks, Dr. Daniel Jackson from Stargate: SG-1, about the new Stargate: The Ark of Truth movie. (If Stargate is so popular, why did they make a direct to DVD movie again? Heck, even Firefly got a feature film…) There’s even a clip!
  • In case anyone cares, NBC will be cranking out new Heroes comics, starting April 15th, to celebrate tax filing deadline day! Hooray!
  • We now have yet another MMO (massively multiplayer online) game joing that crowded market: Battlestar Galactica! Sadly, you can’t play as a Cylon. What’s the point to that? This version is being developed by Auran Games, who brought us the harshly criticized MMO Fury. On the other hand, my son loves their Trainz simulator, despite the misspelling.
  • And finally, Fantasy Flight Games announced they will be adapting Galactica into a board game. That’s right, apparently Sci Fi’s threat to move into the gaming space meant both computer/video games and boardgames. I’ve heard they are planning to turn this into a bits (tons of little plastic pieces) game. Let’s hope it’s a lot faster than the rules fest that is Twilight Imperium, which is fun even if it took 6 hours to play. Winning makes everything better as they say!
  • Here is a cool piece of info from Sci Fi: All season long, each new episode of Galactica will air first, online at Sci So if you just can’t wait, you can watch it over lunch. Cool!

Filed under: Tube Bits

SF Tidbits for 4/11/08

Filed under: Tidbits

Well, “singing” isn’t exactly the word I should use…

[via Neatorama]

Filed under: Music

SF Tidbits for 4/10/08

Filed under: Tidbits

INTERVIEW: Dr. Michio Kaku

Michio Kaku, commonly referred to as a “popularizer of science”, is the Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the co-founder of string field theory. He has written several books, including Parallel Worlds and Beyond Einstein, and his bestseller, Hyperspace, was voted one of the best science books of the year by the New York Times and the Washington Post. He is a frequent guest on national TV, and his nationally syndicated radio program is heard in 130 cities. He lives in New York City.

SF Signal had the opportunity to ask Dr. Kaku some questions about his work, science fiction, and his latest book, Physics of the Impossible

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Filed under: Interviews

Tube Bits for 04/09/2008

  • The Comics TV blog watches Serenity and Babylon 5: The Lost Tales. He wonders about the ‘certain death’ sequence in Serenity where, (SPOILERS!) aside from one totally lame death, all the cast walks away.(/SPOILERS) He also comments on the low budget look of B5. I haven’t seen it, but it doesn’t surprise me. No one ever gave the show what it deserved in the budget department.
  • Is Firefly coming to Blu-Ray? You’d think so after the death of HD DVD. Anyone out there interested in owning 4 different versions?
  • Filmonic provides us with a first look at the upcoming supermodel superhero mini-series Scarlett starring Natassia Malthe. I’m sorry, I lost my train of thought. Where was I?
  • Sci Fi Cool dishes out some more info on the new Stargate: Universe TV series. It seems that the show will take place on one of the Ancients’ ships that is roaming the galaxy, following a second ship that is seeding the galaxy with gates. Sounds kind of Star Trek-ish, but still rather interesting. I may have found a Stargate series that actually interests me.
  • Speaking of Stargate, Amazon has three of their favorite episodes available for free, via their Unbox service. You can’t beat free (for a short time), and you get to try out the Unbox service to boot. Sorry Mac users, no vids for you.
  • MSNBC says that Galactica gets their robots right. According to the experts interviewed, we should expect any aliens we find to be mechanical (So? It’s mechanical!) and not the soft, squishy kind of E.T.
  • And hoo boy, who cares if they’re mechanical, if they all look like the babes of Galactica decked out like Barbarella. You are very welcome Tim.
  • The premier episode of Galactica‘s season 4 achieved some really good ratings, breaking the 2 million viewer mark for the first time in a long time. And they hit their demographic, almost all of the viewers being between 18 and 49. Hey! That includes me!
  • Read Express profiles writer Marc Guggenheim (Eli Stone) and delves into his comics background. Guggenheim a creator-owned comic entitled Resurrection about an alien invasion. Sweet.
  • Will Comcast save Jericho? As odd as that sounds, it’s a possibility, if not likely. Is it even worth saving?
  • Is this the worst fight scene ever on TV? I agree it is rather lame…

Filed under: Tube Bits

SF Tidbits for 4/9/08

  • At B&N Review, Paul DiFilippo looks at the history of space opera through four novels: Space Vulture by Gary K. Wolf and John J. Myers, Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov, Earthblood by Keith Laumer, and The Ruby Dice the latest book in Catherine Asaro’s Skolian Empire series. [via Locus Online]
  • Publishers Weekly has articles on alternate history, military SF, and Baen Books. [via Locus Online]
  • Free Fiction:
  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch posts her 1994 essay Confessions of an Editor. “I believe in the power of Fiction the way some people believe in the power of God.”
  • Salon sheds some light on how Slaughterhouse Five was born, gleaned from Vonnegut’s posthumous collection , Armageddon in Retrospect. [via Cynical-C Blog]
  • Here’s Rolling Stone‘s 40th Anniversary interview with William Gibson. “I find myself less pessimistic than I sometimes imagine I should be.”
  • Feminist SF rounds a nice collection of feminist sf links.
  • File 770 reminds Hugo voters that online voting will be available this year.
  • The latest edition of Stephen Euin Cobb’s The Future And You podcast features Greg Bear, who talks about “nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, technological immortality, mind uploading, and why he disagrees with some of the expectations of Transhumanists, and most of the expectations of Singularitarians.” But wait! There’s more! Greag also discusses physics, string theory, life on extrasolar planets, the celebration of Yuri Gagarin’s first human flight into space, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, how technology will change future battlefields, and how Russia seems to be heading back into the cold war.

Filed under: Tidbits

Tuesday YouTube: The Hulk Cartoon Theme Song

Ah, the memories….

Filed under: TV

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