Journeyman Pilot Revists Past

There is one thing I can say about Journeyman, the new fall show on NBC about a man who travels back in the past without his control. The show is certainly revisiting the past. In fact, you might say you’ve seen this show before…when it was called Quantum Leap

I checked out the pilot tonight, and my impressions are below. Once again, avoid reading if you want to watch the show when it airs on broadcast TV and don’t want to have something spoiled for you.

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Filed under: TV

Can The Sci Fi Channel Be Saved?

In today’s Tube Bit post, we pointed to an article over on the Sy Fy Portal about how SF fans are being too complacent about the current state of SF on TV. Author Wayne Hall takes fans to task for being negative about SF on TV, especially the Sci Fi Channel, and says we should support SF TV regardless of a show’s quality. Indeed, he says this:

If you want science-fiction on television, you have to make it worthwhile for the people who bring it to you. It’s as simple as that.

I have to disagree. It is not up to us, the fans, to make it worthwhile for TV networks to bring us shows. It is their

job to bring us shows that we want to see. Blasting the fans for not supporting crap is, well, rather silly. And no where is that more obvious than on the Sci Fi Channel. Science fiction, as a genre, has a much smaller viewer base than other types of shows, for various reasons we don’t need to go into here. So it makes sense that a cable network dedicated to SF can be successful while drawing fewer viewers. SF fans should be flocking to the Sci Fi Channel. But they aren’t. And it’s not the fans’ fault.

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Filed under: TV

Here’s one for genre-definition curmudgeons…it’s a quote by Michael Crichton in his review of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five:

“As a category, the borders of science fiction have always been poorly defined, and they are getting worse. The old distinction between science fiction and fantasy – that science fiction went from the known to the probable, and fantasy dealt with the impossible – is now wholly ignored. The new writing is heavily and unabashedly fantastical.”

“The breakdown is also seen in the authors themselves, who now cross the border, back and forth, with impunity. At one time this was dangerous and heretical; the only person who could consistently get away with it was Ray Bradbury. Science fiction addicts politely looked the other way when he did books such as Dandelion Wine and the screenplay for John Huston’s Moby Dick. It was assumed he needed the money.”

[via One-Minute Book Reviews]

Filed under: Books

TOC: The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Editor Ellen Datlow has posted the table of contents for her upcoming anthology, The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy:

  1. “The Elephant Ironclads” by Jason Stoddard
  2. “Ardent Clouds” by Lucy Sussex
  3. “Gather” by Christopher Rowe
  4. “Sonny Liston Takes the Fall” by Elizabeth Bear
  5. “North American Lake Monsters” by Nathan Ballingrud
  6. “All Washed Up While Looking for a Better World” by Carol Emshwiller
  7. “Special Economics” by Maureen McHugh
  8. “Aka Saint Marks Place” by Richard Bowes
  9. “The Goosle” by Margo Lanagan
  10. “Shira” by Lavie Tidhar
  11. “The Passion of Azazel” by Barry N. Malzberg
  12. “The Lagerstätte” by Laird Barron
  13. “Gladiolus Exposed” by Anna Tambour
  14. “Daltharee” by Jeffrey Ford
  15. “Jimmy” by Pat Cadigan
  16. “Prisoners of the Action” by Paul McAuley and Kim Newman

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 9/13/07

  • Mike Brotherton shows off the cool cover for Spider Star.
  • Matt Jarpe recalls Radio Freefall‘s 20 year odyssey from Brain to Bookshelf.
  • Gardner Dozois and George R.R. Martin are co-editing Songs of the Dying Earth, an anthology of stories set in Jack Vance’s Dying Earth universe. [via SF Canada via Matt Hughes]
  • Tor has part 1 of a lunch with Larry Niven podcast.
  • Jay Lake is now podcasting.
  • Over at The Guardian, sf writer Adam Roberts explains how something got lost along the way in the translation of Jules Verne’s works. Roberts’ novel, Splinter, is based on Verne’s Hector Servadac (a.k.a. Off on a Comet). Roberts proposes that we “agitate for a mass-translation of the whole of Verne into English, perhaps for e-publication – to make his whole body of work available to English speakers as it actually is.” Meanwhile, the Guardian also profiles Verne’s lesser-known novels.
  • EcoGeek interviews Karl Schroeder, author of Queen of Candesce. “…you shouldn’t distinguish the idea of technological innovation from the idea of social activism. The two are inextricably linked, but technology has the greater power to effect social change because we have essentially no societal mechanisms in place to refuse new technologies.”
  • Neth Space interviews Brian Ruckley, author of Winterbirth. “If read backwards, very slowly and with just the right accent, certain sections of it are liable to summon the Great Old Ones from the vastly deeps or wherever they’re hanging out at the moment.”
  • Fantasy Book Critic interviews David Gunn, author of Death’s Head. “One thing is changing. Combat’s going commercial. War’s gone back to being the business it always was. Only these day’s you’re not a mercenary, you’re a contractor and you’re sub-contracted through a holding company and your ultimate employer has complete deniability.”
  • Crazy on Tap is looking for recommendations on science fiction books about cloning.
  • Real Science: Physicist Stephen Wolfram likes hunting for the fundamental laws of physics. “There’s not just our own physical universe to think about, but the whole universe of possible universes.” [via Kathryn Cramer]
  • Rod Rodenberry is “concerned” about the Trek prequel. Sez junior: “…I would have kept Enterprise on for a couple more seasons because it was doing better. But then after that was over I probably would have let the franchise rest for 5, 10 and maybe even 15 years because there’s enough Star Trek in circulation to go round and round. ” [via SyFy Portal]
  • New at ThinkGeek: Star Trek Retro Action Figures! Klingons before they wore prosthetics!

Filed under: Tidbits

Even More Free Fiction, with Excerpts

…and the freebies from ManyBooks.net continues…

Empire by Clifford D. Simak. (1951)

Spencer Chambers frowned at the space gram on the desk before him. John Moore Mallory. That was the man who had caused so much trouble in the Jovian elections. The trouble maker who had shouted for an investigation of Interplanetary Power. The man who had said that Spencer Chambers and Interplanetary Power were waging economic war against the people of the Solar System.

Bread Overhead” by Fritz Leiber (1958)

As a blisteringly hot but guaranteed weather-controlled future summer

day dawned on the Mississippi Valley, the walking mills of Puffy Products (“Spike to Loaf in One Operation!”) began to tread delicately on their centipede legs across the wheat fields of Kansas.

Filed under: Free Fiction

Tube Bits For 09/13/07

  • According to Filmstalker, Erin Gray is floating a rumor that Buck Rogers may be in for a ‘re-imagining’. Galactica shows, given the right people, that campy 70′s SF TV can be made good again. Of course, Rogers has a lot more history than just the TV show. Should ‘they’ even try to make it serious? Do you even want to see Twiki without the voice of Mel Blanc? And, the most serious question of all, who would play Wilma?
  • The Daily Texan claims that shows like Caveman make the new fall TV lineup look ‘promising’. If they keep this kind of thing up, the alumni association will hear from me!
  • NBC has just released the official episode descriptions for Heroes. Set your DVRs as Heroes returns September 24th at 9pm EST.
  • Sy Fy Portal looks at science fiction on TV and doesn’t like what’s happening. He’s has some interesting points here. Definitely worth a read.
  • Many of us remember the great Japanese superhero Ultraman, but did you know there was a contemporary figure called Ultra Seven? Well, there was and this year is his 40th anniversary. To celebrate, Tsuburaya Productions is creating a new series called UltraSeven X, the X makes it cooler I guess. The show is about an alien invasion whose goal is to exterminate mankind. Hmm, V anyone? There will be 12 episodes and it will be broadcast on three different stations. Anyway, check out the nice pics on the site and I’ll be adding SciFiJapan to my feed list. Now, if I only knew someone who lives in Japan who could record these for me…

EDIT UPDATE: Pointed broken UltraSeven X link to SciFiJapan’s page. JP, I hope that’s what you meant…

Filed under: Tube Bits

Bionic Woman Pilot Delivers

Thanks to NBC, Tivo and Amazon, the pilot episodes of NBCs fall shows are available now for free download. After entering too many passwords and being forced to enter a credit card for $0.00 purchase, I got it downloaded last night and watched it with my wife.

It has promise, but the pilot also shows how bad it can be. The acting is relatively good (with Miguel Ferrer a notable standout) despite dialog that is often atrocious. The special effects are very poor, and the formula they will follow for the weekly show isn’t clear. But the plot has some exteremly cool elements that might pay off big.

If you don’t wish to know anything about it until it airs in a couple of weeks, then stop reading now. I’m going to reveal some spoilers as I explain more about this remake.

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Filed under: TV

New Fall TV Shows: The Deadpool

The new Fall TV schedule is fast approaching, and the networks have been busy adding genre shows to their scheduled to capture Heroes lightning in a bottle again. We’ve covered the new shows earlier and our feelings haven’t changed: most of these shows are destined for the cancellation bin. But which ones and, more importantly, who will be first?

That’s where you come in. I’ve listed the new shows premiering in the next couple of weeks on the big broadcast networks (I’ve given The CW the benefit of the doubt). Your job is to decide which of these 6 shows will get the axe first and when. So a typical comment would be: Moonlight – 1 episode (09/29). Feel free to tell us why and, yes, I know none of these shows have premiered yet, although you can get the NBC ones on Amazon’s Unbox service. I’m asking you to put your prognostication powers to the test and wow us with your predictive abilities.

The nominees:

Pushing Daisies (Oct. 3, ABC)

Moonlight (09/28, CBS)

Reaper (09/25, The CW)

Bionic Woman (09/26, NBC)

Chuck (09/26, NBC)

Journeyman (09/26, NBC)

The winner will receive the respect and admiration of the SF Signal reader community. Surely a prize worth more than mere money or material wealth.

Filed under: TV

The Return of Tron

There’s a Tron remake in the works. :

Commercial director Joseph Kosinski is in final negotiations to develop and direct Tron, described as “the next chapter” of Disney’s 1982 cult SF classic, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Sean Bailey is producing via the Live Planet banner, as is Steven Lisberger, who co-wrote and directed the original film.

Kosinski, who last month signed on to helm the remake of Logan’s Run for Warner Brothers, will oversee the visual development of the project and have input on the script, which is being written by Lost writers Eddie Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. Story details are being kept secret.

This is all well and good. But what the world really wants to know is what Tron Guy thinks.

Note: Giving Tron Guy link love is the least I could do after he so expertly put me in my place a couple of years ago. Here’s to you, Tron Guy!

Filed under: Movies

SF Tidbits for 9/12/07

Filed under: Tidbits

More Free Fiction, with Excerpts

ManyBooks.net has released a whole new slew of free science fiction stories. Here they are, with excerpts:

The Day of the Boomer Dukes” by Frederik Pohl (1956)

First you must know how I am called. My “name” is Foraminifera 9-Hart Bailey’s Beam, and I am of adequate age and size. (If you doubt this, I am prepared to fight.) Once the–the tediety of life, as you might say, had made itself clear to me, there were, of course, only two alternatives. I do not like to die, so that possibility was out; and the remaining alternative was flight.

The Worshippers” by Damon Knight (1953)

The star had planets. He noted their passage in the telescreen, marked their apparent courses, and blithely set himself to land on the one that seemed to be nearest. He was totally ignorant of orbits; he simply centered his planet on the screen as he had done with the star, found that it was receding from him, and began to run it down.

The Burning Bridge” by Poul Anderson (1960)

The message was an electronic shout, the most powerful and tightly-beamed short-wave transmission which men could generate, directed with all the precision which mathematics and engineering could offer. Nevertheless that pencil must scrawl broadly over the sky, and for a long time, merely hoping to write on its target. For when distances are measured in light-weeks, the smallest errors grow monstrous.

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Filed under: Free Fiction

Tube Bits For 09/12/07

  • Amazon Unbox and NBC have teamed up to bring you free pilot episodes of Bionic Woman, Chuck and Journeyman. You’ll also get a tast of Amazon’s Unbox service. I know I’ll be trying it out, even if they don’t offer HD. Heck they’re free, why not try it?
  • The latest Amazon Wire podcast is an interview with Joss Whedon. They cover the usual stuff, but also manage to discuss women in SF and some Galactica. Good stuff.
  • Last November, Microsoft launched its video download service for the Xbox 360. While I’ve look at the content (surprisingly broad), I haven’t actually downloaded anything yet. Well, Microsoft is in talks with the BBC to provide programming for the service. This would mean shows like Dr. Who, Torchwood and Hyperdrive might become available for our European friends.
  • Did you know that Cartoon Network will be airing new, animated Transformers episodes? (See the trailers here.) Toys R Evil has a ridiculously long look at the toys that will be produced to go along with the new show. Wow. Just, wow.
  • Pink Ray Gun gives us the Top 100 Fictional Femmes Of Genre Film And Television. Did I miss something or is #1 a comic book character and not from film or TV? Otherwise, a very nice list indeed.

Filed under: Tube Bits

What Do You Want To See From: Galactica’s Final Season

We all know that the upcoming fourth season of Battlestar Galactica will be it’s last. We know that the Galactica will finally make it to Earth, but beyond that, we don’t know much (which is as it should be). But the question for you, our loyal readers, is:

What do you want to see happen in the final season?

Should they find Earth as it is today or a future Earth? Will Earth be able to help Galactica fight the Cylons? Tell us your thoughts.

For me, I’m more interested in just what, exactly, the ‘plan’ the Cylons have is. Heck, I’m interested in whether the writers know what the plan is. I’d like to know how Col. Tigh can be a Cylon when he fought in the first war against the toaster looking Cylons.

I want to see what happened to Starbuck and I’d like to know why she happened to be the ‘chosen’ one to see Earth first.

But what I’d really like to see is the show return to the close, taut storylines from the first season. I’d really like for it to go out with a bang, and end on an optimistic note. That would be a nice contrast to the shows constant dark tone.

Filed under: Battlestar GalacticaTV

Until Morgan Freeman invites us inside Rama, we have this awesome student film to whet our appetites. This was directed and animated by Aaron Ross of the Tisch School of the Arts, at NYU in 2001. Excellent job!

[via Jay Lake]

Filed under: Movies

REVIEW: The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing

REVIEW SUMMARY: Read this is you are in the mood for something realistic and dark.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Harriet and David Lovatt deal with the birth of their son, Ben, who is monstrous in appearance and abnormally strong.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Stark portrayal of marital and parental relationships; successfully conveys a feeling of discomfort.

CONS: That same feeling of discomfort translated into a disconnected reading experience; The Lovatts are not very endearing people.

BOTTOM LINE: Deals with serious subjects and is downright depressing.

Doris Lessing is a writer who made her mark writing mainstream literature but who has also dabbled in science fiction. To my discredit, I had never heard of her until her name appeared in a Book Magazine poll for the greatest living British writer and it was pointed out to me that she was a genre writer. Well, this biblioholic needed no more prodding than that to pick up a book bearing her name when it happened to catch my eye at the bookstore.

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Filed under: Book Review

5 Recently-Free Science Fiction Reads

Here are five science fiction stories that were recently (at least to my knowledge) made available on the InterTubes at ManyBooks.net, along with their opening passages:

Space Prison” by Tom Godwin (a.k.a. “The Survivors”)

For seven weeks the Constellation had been plunging through hyperspace with her eight thousand colonists; fleeing like a hunted thing with her communicators silenced and her drives moaning and thundering. Up in the control room, Irene had been told, the needles of the dials danced against the red danger lines day and night.

A World is Born” by Leigh Brackett:

Mel Gray flung down his hoe with a sudden tigerish fierceness and stood erect. Tom Ward, working beside him, glanced at Gray’s Indianesque profile, the youth of it hardened by war and the hells of the Eros prison blocks.

A quick flash of satisfaction crossed Ward’s dark eyes. Then he grinned and said mockingly.

“Hell of a place to spend the rest of your life, ain’t it?”

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Filed under: Free Fiction

Is Science Fiction Still a Distinct Genre?

Over at Mondolithic Studio, they rightfully dismiss the silliness of the “Is science fiction dead?” question and ask perhaps a more pertinent one: “Is Science Fiction Still a Distinct Genre?” They then go on to answer that question…

I think what confuses some people is the fact that Science Fiction isn’t really a distinct genre unto itself anymore. It’s mutated into dozens of sub-genres and movements, liberally exchanged genetic material with Fantasy and social satirism and burrowed into the internet in the form of hundreds of thousands of scifi and fantasy-oriented blogs, galleries, fanzines , vlogs, podcasts and short story webzines.

I don’t believe this “mutation” into sub-genres is new – science fiction has always been a great platform for writers to present a vast number of stories, styles and themes – but I do agree that sf can be many things.

But isn’t this is just another spin on the even more popular “What is SF?” question? As enjoyable as it is to talk about the definitions of science fiction, I think that, from a reader’s point of view, the discussion is academic. “Science Fiction” is a convenient label for people to use to drive them to the right section of the bookstore. Whether or not something adheres to anyone’s particular definition of science fiction is much less important than whether they found it enjoyable. People are reading fiction as a form of entertainment and, in the end, that is what they care about.

What’s your opinion?

[via Posthuman Blues]

Filed under: Books

Tube Bits For 09/11/07

  • David Eick is downplaying the departure of Bionic Woman‘s co-executive producer Glen Morgan. Behind-the-scenes problems and creative differences? Pah! The show hasn’t even aired yet and NBC may give the series a break to ‘refine’ its direction. That can’t be good.
  • Has Heroes outgrown its fan base? From a lackluster Comic-Con appearance, outright ignoring smaller conventions filled with fans, an emphasis on product placement and a ‘disappointing’ finale are just some of the reason Buddy TV says Heroes may have outgrown its fans. All that won’t matter at all if the writing and stories are good.
  • Doing what Heroes couldn’t, Battlestar Galactica pulled in a Creative Emmy for Outstanding Visual Effects For A Series for ‘Exodus, Part 2′. You have to wonder how any of the other nominees could complete with an in-atmo jump of the Galactica. That was awesome.
  • From the ‘How Did I Miss This?’ department, Sci Fi has posted a video of a Comic Con panel with the women of Galactica where the answer fan questions about the show. Sadly, no Boomer. Sorry Tim.

Filed under: Tube Bits

Download Squad points out (as per the NYT) that there are two major developments coming on the e-book front, both serving as a test to see whether books can make it in electronic format.

First is Kindle, a new e-book reader from Amazon to be available in October at a price between $400 and $500. The main selling-point of this new device is that it will wirelessly connect to an e-book store on Amazon’s site. The surprising news is that the e-books are delivered in a proprietary format, not the format of Mobipocket which Amazon bought in 2005. The Kindle will also come with freebies like reference books and the ability to read RSS feeds. But early users complain about it limited web browser.

Call me skeptical, but this seems like a high price tag for an ebook reader…even one with wifi connectivity. And a butt-ugly one at that…check out the image at Engadget.

The second development comes from Google, who plans to leverage its Book Search feature to bring in some cash. Currently you only get snippets of most books through Book Search. A soon-to-be-released upgrade will allow you to access full versions of some books…for a fee. Publishers will set the prices for their own books and share the revenue with Google.

Now this will be interesting to watch…no new device to but, you only pay for the content which, hopefully, is in some already-established format.

Is this the start of the often-predicted Age of e-books?

Filed under: Books

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