SF Tidbits for 9/11/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

We finally have a title for Indy IV, the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Unlike SciFi Scanner, I’m not put out by the name, although I find it to be a bit unwieldy. Shia LaBeouf announced the name at the MTV Music Awards. First of all, Shia? What the heck kind of name is that for a guy?

But what’s the movie about? The Wikipedia entry on Crystal Skulls might give some hints. Based on the supposed powers and the alleged discovery, I will go out on a limb and say Indy IV will deal with either Aztec or Mayans. I even seem to recall hearing that it may have a Chariot Of The Gods storyline. I don’t really care at this point. I’m just excited to see Harrison Ford play Indiana Jones again. Let’s hope that any more story leakage doesn’t spoil the good vibes.

Filed under: Movies

SF Signal: What works for you?

Like many, the folks here at SF Signal just want to be loved.  As a result, we care about what our readers have to say and wonder about what they like.  So, here is my call out to all of you to tell us what you like about SF Signal.  What makes it worth your time to either read the feed or check it out the main page? 

And before we come off as a group of optimists, what aspect of it annoys you?  It is easy enough to ignore things you don’t find interesting, but are there aspects that actively detract from your enjoyment?  Maybe there something about the RSS feed that could be improved?  Maybe you have a pet peeve you’d like to share?

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Filed under: Meta

First Impressions: Torchwood

I watched the premiere Torchwood episode (“Everything Changes”) on BBC America. Torchwood is the Doctor Who spin-off that features the character of Captain Jack Harkness.

The Short Version: Loved it! Those of you in the U.K. or elsewhere who have seen the subsequent shows, please tell me it stays this good!

The Long Version:

  • I wasn’t sure what to expect. About all I had heard was that, unlike Doctor Who, this one was aimed at mature audiences. They got that part right: some of the scenes were a bit graphic and the language was not something I’d want my daughter hear. Any more than from her old man, anyway.
  • I love the premise: super-secret organization that answers to no one defends the Earth from impending alien invasion.
  • The creators made a good decision to make the premise separate from Doctor Who‘s story lines. It means you don’t have to be a Doctor Who fan to like this show. Hopefully this added accessibility will translate to longevity. If the quality stays high, that is.
  • Nice touch: the idea of multiple Torchwoods. A rip-off of Stargate: SG-1 but still cool, especially the “We’re still looking for Torchwood 4″ part.
  • The opening sequence – which featured a resurrection glove – was something I’ve seen before, but I can’t recall where. Can anyone help? Was it previewed on an episode of Doctor Who or the SciFi Channel?
  • The episode had just the right amount of hand-holding; Gwen Cooper’s story served as a perfect introduction to the series. They don’t dumb it down, but they don’t leave you in the dark either. (I’m looking you, X-Files.)
  • I remember Captain Jack from Doctor Who, of course. But I must admit that I did not care for the character much. He seemed to intrude on the Doctor/Rose relationship. But I do like him better in Torchwood. The other characters, what little I saw of them, seemed pretty decent as well.
  • How about those Weevils? Aliens living in the sewers? Sweet!
  • And all those cool alien gadgets. More, please.

Bottom Line: I’m digging this show and will definitely be tuning in. You should, too!

Side note: During Torchwood, BBC aired a commercial for The Graham Norton Show, with guest David Tennant. I watched it and found it to be freakin’ hilarious. The fake TARDIS bit…the Doctor Who personal ad…this is another show I’ll be watching.

Filed under: TV

Tube Bits For 09/10/07

  • Heroes was shut out at the Creative Arts Emmys. It was up for 6 and received a big fat nothing. Can it beat The Sopranos for any awards at all? Should it win any?
  • Michelle Ryan and David Eick talk about the upcoming Bionic Woman. I’m undecided on whether I’ll be watching this or not.
  • Time Magazine lists their 100 Best TV Shows of All-Time. There are many SF shows here, including Galactica (the new one), LOST, MST3K, and Star Trek, among others.
  • The Star-Telegram gives us their opinion on the upcoming Fall TV schedule. The verdict: nothing great, but nothing horrible. They seem to have missed Caveman.

Filed under: HeroesTube BitsTV

EW Reviews SF/F

Issue #953/#954 (September 14, 2007) of Entertainment Weekly offers some brief reviews of science fiction and fantasy books. Here’s a snippet…

Now and Forever by Ray Bradbury

For Fans of… The most mystical vignettes tattooes on Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man; particularly philosophical episodes of The Twilight Zone.

Bottom Line: Bradbury’s characters are frustratingly vague, but his prose remains transcendent.

Grade: B+

Winterbirth by Brian Ruckley

For Fans of… Heroic fantasy spalshed with 300-style gore.

Bottom Line: An emphasis on racial division and religious fanatacism can feel heavy-handed, but Ruckley’s realistic characters and sparing use of magic breathe new life into well-trod epic territory.

Grade: B+

The Elves of Cintra by Terry Brooks

For Fans of… Brooks’ 16 other Shannara books.

Bottom Line: The Karamazov-size cast and myriad cliff-hangers provide plenty of thrills, though the good-versus-evil trope could use a little Elfjuice.

Grade: B

Hero by Perry Moore

For Fans of… Marvel’s Generation X; coming-out tales.

Bottom Line: Moore, exec producer of The Chronicles of Narnia, gives his pulpy debut some KAPOW!

Grade: A-

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 9/10/07

  • Yatterings interviews author and critic John Clute about his book, Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror. Also: Clute reviews The Dog Said Bow-Wow by Michael Swanwick.
  • Ben Alpi wonders…Is there is a market for real sci-fi? “I guess the bottom line is we have to figure out how to remind those in power (marketers) that thoughtful content makes money, too. And then we have to make sure they stay out of making creative decisions!”
  • Meanwhile, Purplexity contemplates the The Human Condition and Sci Fi with respect to Star Trek and Babylon 5. “One explanation we can put forward for the crappiness of the Star Trek characters is that they are removed from the human condition. Although they are still mortal (though they often seem to act as though they are not), they live in a world where they do not have to fight for resources…”
  • BoingBoing shows us a bookcase built into a chair.
  • Gravity Lens points us to a bestiary of the wildlife of Venus.
  • The Flickr series that starts here shows clay aliens made by 6th graders. I think I see a happy Cthulhu!

Filed under: Tidbits

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

QUESTION
Which novel should have won the 2007 Hugo Award?

RESULTS

(72 total votes)

I expected a lower voter turnout this week since I figured not everyone felt comfortable voting unless they had read all the books. I’m not sure if that’s what happened here, but most voters seem to think that Watts should have taken the prize. Still, I do wonder…how many actual Hugo voters have read all the nominated novels?

Comments this week:

“I dig the Sealab stuff, but you can’t beat big Vernor at the top of his game. Not with a dolphin girl, that’s for sure…” – platyjoe

“Both Glasshouse and Blindsight are SO much better than the sleep inducing Rainbows End, but Blindsight beats Glasshouse by a nose. It’s as good as SciFi gets.” – David

Be sure to visit our front page and vote in this week’s poll on new Fall TV shows you are most anticipating!

Filed under: Polls

SF Tidbits for 9/9/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Sunday YouTube: BBC’s Profile of J.G. Ballard

J.G. Ballard site The Ballardian has created a comprehensive YouTube Outpost for Ballard-related videos. Here’s a video of the BBC’s profile on Ballard…

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 9/8/07

Filed under: Tidbits

REVIEW: Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff

MY RATING:

The first thing you notice about Bad Monkeys is the lurid yellow cover, the inkblot Mandrill logo and the funky size of the book, sort of a narrower but taller trade paperback. The second thing you notice is that it’s now 12am and you’ve just spent the entire evening reading and finishing Bad Monkeys in one go. Given the amount of time I have to actually read, I was astounded that I managed that feat. Bad Monkeys is that good. This is the first book in years that I just couldn’t put down. From the opening page, I was hooked on the story of Jane Charlotte and her work for the ‘Bad Monkeys’ department of a shadowy ‘organization’.

As you can imagine, the story moves very quickly. Jane is caught by the police for murdering a man because he was evil and now she has to explain herself to a police psychologist. Alternating between scenes of the past and scenes from the present, Ruff weaves an incredibly interesting, funny and clever story in about 240 pages. It seems that the ‘organization’ fights evil in the world, not crime. Their main foe currently is ‘The Troop’, whose logo is the Mandrill on the cover. The Troop seems dedicated to expanding evil in the world, while the organization fights against them, in a pseudo Cold Shadow War. These covert actions occur everywhere, but most people are oblivious to them as the people involved seem to have a knack for not being seen, even when death and destruction is raining down. If I were to ding the book on anything, it would be that there really is no backstory on the organization, how they came into being and why. Ruff does hint at what might be going on, but I won’t spoil that for you. In fact, I can’t really go into much detail without spoiling much of the book. The details are what make Bad Monkeys the best book I’ve read this year.

What I can say is that Bad Monkeys is really the story of Jane Charlotte and her life. And what an interesting story it is too. As a narrator, Jane is sarcastically funny, and her interactions with the psychologist are a hoot. Even when dealing with the most outrageous or macabre events, she tends to take everything in stride and little phases her. The revelations about Jane Charlotte and those around her take several sharp turns at the end and, depending on whether you’ve bought into the book or not, you’ll either like it or hate it. For me, everything fit right in with the Cold War espionage feel of the book. And, really, how can you not like a book about an organization with department names like: The Department of Ubiquitous Intermittent Surveillance (Panopticon), The Department for Optimal Utilization of Resources and Personnel (Cost-Benefits), The Department for Optimal Utilization of Resources and Personnel (Bad Monkeys), and The Scary Clowns. Yes, Scary Clowns. And you learn why. Awesome. The events are sometimes brutal, but its almost always funny in unusual ways. Ruff has a knack for making just about anything amusing.

If I were to say anything more it would be: Quit reading this and go get Bad Monkeys! But, if you’re still here, you can read the first chapter online at Matt Ruff’s website. Do so, you’re in for a treat.

Filed under: Book Review

RIP: Madeleine L’Engle

Sad news from Publisher’s Weekly:

Author Madeleine L’Engle died last night in Connecticut, at the age of 89. Best known for her 1963 Newberry Award winner A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels, L’Engle was the author of more than 60 books for adults and young readers…

More info:

[via Michael A. Burstein; Image credit: http://www.awrinkleintime.net]

Filed under: Books

Tube Bits For 09/07/07

  • Apparently, the DVD sales for Jericho are low. Maybe everyone is at home, trying to watch it when its broadcast, just like the network asked them to? I think CBS made the right decision in canceling the show to begin with, but a bunch of crazy fans convinced them there was a larger audience out there than there actually is. I don’t see this making it past its 7 episode trial. If you’re interested, there will be a live chat with executive producer Dan Shotz tonight 8pm EST on the show’s home page.
  • Buddy TV speculates on how LOST will end. I’m sure the series will wrap everything up, but how nicely?
  • In keeping with the Dr. Who theme around here, the Dr.’s assistant, Sarah Jane Smith, will get her own TV show, The Sarah Jane Adventures, Elisabeth Sladen will reprise her role as Sarah Jane in this series aimed at the younger set.
  • Kevin Falls and Kevin McKidd, creator and star of Journeyman, held a press conference to discuss the show. We learn that the romantic dimensions of the show are the core of the story, and that any SF elements will be downplayed. Yeah, I’m out.
  • NEXT.TV announced an agreement with HP for a ‘revolutionary new Internet television service’ that enables users to ‘enjoy hit TV shows, movies, music videos, shorts, documentaries and much more’. Initially, only HP Pavilion and Compaq Presario PCs and notebooks running Vista will be able to access this ‘revolutionary’ IPTV service. But you can sign up for the beta if you wish. I don’t know how revolutionary this really is, as services like Joost and Babelgum are already doing this, and not tied to any one brand of computer.

Filed under: LOSTTube BitsTV

Friday YouTube: Chewbacca Sucks

Actually, it’s the vacuum cleaner that sucks. It also happens to sound like a Wookie.

[via Neatorama]

Filed under: Humor

Weekend Doctor Who Projects

DIY Life profiles Doctor Who and, besides unloading a butt-load of links about Doctor Who’s scarves, also points us to a bunch of Doctor Who craft projects.

So what’s a Who-fan to do on a rainy day or free weekend?

[via Optical Popitude]

Filed under: Doctor Who

SF Tidbits for 9/7/07

Filed under: Tidbits

REVIEW: A Betrayal in Winter by Daniel Abraham

REVIEW SUMMARY: The Long Price Quartet continues in an elegant style.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The cities of the Kaiehm are under siege from elements who wish to deprive them of their power – the natural spirits they control that aid in both commerce and war. Caught up in more politics and drama, the man named Otah finds he can’t escape his past and instead has to confront a family that disowned him when he was a small child.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Direct and sharp prose that uses few words to convey meaning; characters who are realistic and complicated; fantasy elements stay mostly in the background

CONS: Not as unique a setting as the first book; very much a sequel.

BOTTOM LINE: An excellent sequel to A Shadow in Summer that should be read by those who liked the first book.

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Filed under: Book Review

REVIEW: Shift by Chris Dolley

MY RATING:

Shift is Chris Dolley’s second published novel, but his first written story. After publishing his first book, Resonance, Baen also asked if Dolley had any more SF stories. After considerable re-work, Shift is the result. While it still has some of that first novel feel, Shift is still a fine science fiction novel, with a lot of interesting scientific ideas surrounding the human brain and higher dimensions.

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Filed under: Book Review

Caption Challenge #5: Poothulu Edition

My last caption challenge involving Mr. Scalzi just did not seem to have the appeal that some of our previous ones have. While I am saddened by this lack of response, I am not unwilling to continue the effort. This all brings us to a discussion we were having regarding the upcoming Kingdom Hearts CCG from Fantasy Flight Games. Some felt that the game really needed a little H. P. Lovecraft to really make the game accessible, and we bantered about possible characters. Poothulu was one that came up and our resident artist, Trent, took that job to task to create our newest entry. I am sure the emotions generated by this will include shock, outrage, humor, and disdain, but alas I am only the messenger of the great unnamed bear….

Filed under: Humor

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