SF Tidbits for 9/6/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Premiere’s 20 Big-Time Plot Twists

Premiere magazine lists 20 Big-Time Plot Twists. (WARNING: Spoilers abound!) Several genre films made the cut…here’s the abbreviated list — without the actual spoilers. If you saw the movie, you’ll know what it is. If you haven’t, you don’t want to know. So there.

  1. Planet of the Apes (1968)
  2. Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  3. Fight Club (1999)
  4. Psycho (1960)
  5. Citizen Kane (1941)
  6. Soylent Green (1973)
  7. The Usual Suspects (1995)
  8. Oldboy (2003)
  9. Mission: Impossible (1996)
  10. Friday the 13th (1980)
  11. Chinatown (1974)
  12. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919)
  13. The Wicker Man (1973)
  14. 12 Monkeys (1995)
  15. Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
  16. Eddie & the Cruisers (1983)
  17. Angel Heart (1987)
  18. The Game (1997)
  19. The Sixth Sense (1999)
  20. The Crying Game (1992)

Filed under: Movies

REVIEW: A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham

REVIEW SUMMARY: An intriguing story that is short on fantasty elements and long on characters who are complex and real.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The summer cities along the coast are rich and powerful because of the magical spirits they control. That doesn’t stop the rest of the world from plotting against them, and several young people find themselves caught up in the drama, politics, and violence that erupts.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Character-driven story with characters who grow and learn; state politics made realistic; fantasy elements stay very much in the background; not an elf in sight

CONS: Sometimes the characters seem too heroic and selfless

BOTTOM LINE: A tremendous first novel by Abraham that rises above most fantasy written recently that I have read.

Read the rest of this entry

Filed under: Book Review

Wednesday YouTube: Doctor Who Teaches English

Here’s David Tennant in a Comic Relief sketch.

By the way, this is way better than the David Tennant in Drag sketch.

Filed under: Humor

SF Tidbits for 9/5/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Tube Bits For 09/05/07

  • The Saucer News tells us that

    SF is alive and well… just not on the SF channel. Well, we knew that about the Sci Fi Channel. But where does it live on? Why on Discovery and Animal Planet. After reading his thoughts, I tend to agree. They are doing lots of fascinating science shows that can be construed as having some sort of SF element to bring them to us.

  • And now for some good news for Sci Fi: A Think Tank Of One watched Sci Fi’s original movie, Black Hole and decided it was actually pretty good. I never saw it so I can’t comment, other than to say, whenever I see Judd Nelson, I think of Barry Manilow.
  • Over at TV Jab, they have posted their Top 10 SF Shows of All Time. Wow, that is heavily populated with recent SF shows. Heroes better than Babylon 5? Um, no. Wait, who even knew that Heroes, or LOST were even SF?? And ST:TNG is NOT the best SF of all time.
  • The Modesto Bee gives us their take on the new Fall schedule. Looks like Chuck might be pretty good after all.
  • Screen Head wonders if ABC is deliberately trying to kill Pushing Daisies. Saying that full episodes won’t be placed on the web for later viewing tells me ABC doesn’t ‘get’ the Internet, or the people who use it. The idea is to build interest. How can you do that if people can’t even see the show? Once again, stupid decisions by a network is bittorrent’s gain, even if it kills the show.

Filed under: Battlestar GalacticaFireflyHeroesLOSTStar TrekTube BitsTV

New Hard Sci Fi?

While I enjoy all types of fiction, I’ve always enjoyed hard science fiction a little more than other most. I define hard science fiction as one where despite a certain amount of fiction, there is an attempt to keep the laws of physics and other key scientific principles stable. There is something about knowing that the science is somewhat rigorous that allows me to suspend my disbelief a little easier.

My youth was filled with the writings of Poul Anderson, Stephen Baxter, Frederik Pohl, Larry Niven, and Ben Bova. Talk of Dyson spheres, ring worlds, wormhole time travel, and other fantastic ideas presented in context with the best science made me feel as if there wasn’t anything that man couldn’t eventually achieve. It also seems that most of the works feature human struggle without the dystopias I found so numbing in other works.

But who are the writers of hard science fiction today? Is anybody out there following in these footsteps?

Filed under: Books

Tube Bits For 09/04/07

  • Buddy TV has a rumor that Sci Fi plans to split Battlestar Galactica‘s final season into two, 10 episode mini-season, one to air in 2008, the other in 2009. Hopefully this won’t be the case, but being the network that brings you wrestling on a SF channel, you never know. Much hate will ensue if true. Well, more hate.
  • Henry Ian Cusick, Desmond on LOST, may be set to star as Mandy Patinkin’s replacement in the upcoming direct to DVD Dead Like Me movie.
  • Revelations has a differing Christian take on Firefly/Serenity. Far from being put out as a previous blogger, Father Oakley finds much to like about it. Who knew?
  • Did you know that Doctor Who has been scheduled through 2010? Now you do! Good news for Who fans.
  • Cinema Blend gives us their preview of NBC’s Journeyman. They aren’t excited. We’ll have to wait and see.

Filed under: Battlestar GalacticaFireflyLOSTTube BitsTV

REVIEW: Jim Baen’s Universe #8

MY RATING:

The August 2007 issue of Jim Baen’s Universe (Issue #8, also known as Volume 2, Number 2) contains 12 pieces of short fiction and 6 non-fiction articles. As with my experience last issue, I am still loving the delivery mechanism as it makes for convenient, read-anywhere portability.

Overall the issue was a little better than good, with the usual explanation of editor vs. reader tastes. Besides the fiction stories reviewed below, this issue contains Rudyard Kipling’s classic “The Mark of the Beast”, and part 8 of the serial started with issue #1, “Fish Story”. Not having read any of the previous parts steered me away from the serial and at 8 installments so far, I do wonder if there is a master plan for the plot or this is just something to exercise the authors’ creative minds. Until I finally take the plunge, I can only guess. (Anyone have an opinion here? Is it worth jumping in mid-series?)

A surprisingly enjoyable (to me) story was “The Lord-Protector’s Daughter” by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. – surprising because my usual detachment to fantasy was nowhere to be found. This is fortunate for the issue overall because that story is by far the longest and carries the most weight. That said, the two standouts in this issue are science fiction stories: “Concentration of Dogs” by Carl Frederick and “Free Space” by Carrie Vaughn.

Here are the individual story reviews…

Read the rest of this entry

Filed under: Book Review

SF Tidbits for 9/4/07

Filed under: Tidbits

SF Tidbits for 9/3/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Top 10 SF Signal Posts for August 2007

As per Google Analytics, here are The Top 10 SF Signal Posts for August 2007:

  1. The Problem With Mundane-SF
  2. First (and Last) Impressions of Flash Gordon
  3. Are There Any SF/F Books You Could Not Finish?
  4. Short Fiction: Why Aren’t You Buying It?
  5. 21 SF/F Books Whose Titles Would Be Funnier if They Used the Word “Pants”
  6. REVIEW: The Year’s Best Science Fiction #24 edited by Gardner Dozois
  7. Are Sci-Fi Films are as Dead as Westerns?
  8. Masters of Science Fiction: What Went Wrong?
  9. Stephen King Rails Against Deathly Hallows Reviewers
  10. Two And Done: Flash Gordon

Looking at the top overall hits, while ignoring those listed above, we get these stats for older posts that were popular in August…

  1. Reader Challenge #6 – The Harry Potter Outreach Program Final Update
  2. SF/F Writers Who Blog
  3. Solve Rubik’s Cube
  4. POLL: Hottest SciFi/Fantasy Babe NOT of Yesteryear
  5. REVIEW: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
  6. Top 10 Star Wars Spoofs
  7. Foundation: The Movie
  8. Free SciFi Movies
  9. Top 10 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Movies Lists
  10. Here’s a shocker… (The Klausner Post)

Filed under: Meta

Tube Bits For 09/03/07

  • Hell In A Handbasket continues their look at the guns of Battlestar Galactica. This time covering the long guns.
  • The fallout between NBC and iTunes continues. Apple has now announced that iTunes will no longer sell new episodes of NBC shows. Even though the contract ends in December, Apple has decided to take this step, most likely in an effort to get NBC talking again. Too bad for you, the consumer, who likes to watch NBC shows from iTunes.
  • SyFy Portal will be producing video logs (vlogs) for the upcoming American season of the BBC’s Torchwood. Each vlog will appear the Monday after each episode airs, will run about 15 minutes, and will be hosted on the AfterElton web site. I’ll leave it to you to discover the link between AfterElton and Torchwood.
  • The Anime News Network’s The Click column looks at this weeks lineup of anime on TV.

Filed under: AnimeBattlestar GalacticaTube BitsTV

POLL RESULTS: Rendezvous With Rama Heads to Film

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

QUESTION
The film adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama…Good idea or bad idea?

RESULTS

(94 total votes)

Comments this week:

“As for “Didn’t we already see the space cylinder thing in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home?”, Yes, but they never went inside the thing.” = hugh57

“The book is interesting, but hugely anti-climactic, and, as I recall, lacks compelling characters. The visuals would be interesting to convey, but not the story.” – Bill Preston

“Rama’d be better as a tv show where it could expand out and really say something. Much like Cherryh’s Foreigner books, Rama is not much of a slam bam space opera, but the attention to characterization and interaction is perfectly suited to an hour-long tv drama.” – platyjoe

“If there’s any truth to the rumor that David Fincher is directing it, that significantly increases its chances of not sucking.” – Gabriel Mckee

“‘Here’s what we’ll do! It’ll be that thingie, that Arthur C. Clarke book, Rama 1/2 or whatever, with the cigar in space….buuuut, we’re gonna throw KEANU REAVES at it, with BRUCE WILLIS as a bad guy in a CAPE…and we’re going to have MICHAEL BAY direct! It’ll be gold! The kids love this kind of crap! Let’s make it!’ — Hollywood.” – Pete Tz.

Be sure to visit our front page and vote in this week’s poll on which novel should have won the Hugo!

Filed under: Polls

TOC: Eclipse

Jonathan Strahan shows off the cover of his upcoming original fiction anthology, Eclipse.

And check out the lineup:

  1. “The Last and Only, or Mr Moscowitz Becomes French” by Peter S. Beagle
  2. “The Transformation of Targ” by Jack Dann & Paul Brandon
  3. “Toother” by Terry Dowling
  4. “Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse” by Andy Duncan
  5. “The Drowned Life” by Jeffrey Ford
  6. “Electric Rains” by Kathleen Ann Goonan
  7. “Up the Fire Road” by Eileen Gunn
  8. “In The Forest Of The Queen” by Gwyneth Jones
  9. “Mrs Zeno’s Paradox” by Ellen Klages
  10. “She-Creatures” by Margo Lanagan
  11. “The Lost Boy: A Reporter At Large” by Maureen F. McHugh
  12. “Bad Luck, Trouble, Death and Vampire Sex” by Garth Nix
  13. “Larissa Miusov” by Lucius Shepard
  14. “The Lustration” by Bruce Sterling
  15. “Quartermaster Returns” by Ysabeau S. Wilce

Filed under: Books

Indexing Dozois

SF Site has been busy indexing Gardner Dozois’ Year’s Best Science Fiction anthology series, now in its 24th edition. All the stories are listed and sortable by volume, author, and title.

This is cool. But it could have been cooler. It would have been nice if they allowed users to see some stats like author with the most stories, stories that won awards, etc. It also would have been nice to list what universe, if any, to which the story belongs. Mike Resnick, for example, has more than one Kirinyaga story listed.

[via Big Dumb Object]

Filed under: Books

WINNERS: 2007 Hugo Award

The winners of the 2007 Hugo Award….

NOVEL: Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge [see SF Signal review]

NOVELLA: “A Billion Eves” by Robert Reed [see SF Signal review]

NOVELETTE: “The Djinn’s Wife” by Ian McDonald [see SF Signal review]

SHORT STORY: “Impossible Dreams” by Tim Pratt [see SF Signal review]

RELATED BOOK: James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice Sheldon by Julie Phillips [see SF Signal review]

DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM: Pan’s Labyrinth – Guillermo del Toro

DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, SHORT FORM: Doctor Who, “Girl in the Fireplace”

EDITOR, SHORT FORM: Gordon Van Gelder

EDITOR, LONG FORM: Patrick Nielsen Hayden

PROFESSIONAL ARTIST: Donato Giancola

SEMIPROZINE: Locus

FANZINE: Science-Fiction Five-Yearly

FAN WRITER: Dave Langford

FAN ARTIST: Frank Wu

JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER (not a Hugo): Naomi Novik

Congratulations to all the winners!

See also: Past Winners.

[via SF Awards Watch who also offers this analysis]

Filed under: Awards

SF Tidbits for 9/1/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Tube Bits For 09/01/07

  • Accordian Guy points us to Shaenon Garrity’s interpretation of “The Trouble With Tribbles”, done in the style of illustrator Edward Gorey.
  • It seems that the love affair between Heroes and Nissan will continue in season 2. Nissan will again be the sole automotive advertiser as they try to hawk their new mini-SUV, the Rogue.
  • From a survey, 55% of America’s South Asian population prefers to get their entertainment online than from anywhere else. This is a trend that I see continuing and spreading to include everyone. Sadly, the media companies today are not ready for this.
  • A new online broadcast channel launched yesterday, and will focus on science fiction and fantasy films. You can find them at Sci-Fi-London. You will need the Adobe Flash player installed to watch the films. Their awesome exclusive for this month? Done The Impossible, the documentary about Firefly fans. Sweet!
  • Speaking of Firefly, you can find a gallery of super cutie Jewel Staite here. Almost certainly SFW.

Filed under: FireflyHeroesLOSTStar TrekTube BitsTV

The internet is aflame with the news that NBC won’t be renewing its iTunes contract with Apple. As NBC accounts for 40% of the videos downloaded from iTunes, this seems like a bad development for Apple. However, Silicon Alley Insider does some quick calculating and discovers that the amount of money invovled really isn’t that much, considering. So what’s this all about?

It’a about control. NBC isn’t happy with the piracy controls on iTunes, and NBC wants to be able to set the price of its videos. With the news that NBC will be jointly launching the YouTube like Hulu, is it hard to imagine NBC using that service to sell its own video dowloads? The prevailing theory is that Apple needs NBC more than the reverse. I’m not sure that is case.

iTunes is the 800 lb. gorilla of media downloading. It accounts for the lion’s share of music downloads, and it sells a lot of video dowloads as well. For NBC to just up and leave that means they are leaving millions of downloads, and dollars, on the table. They don’t have any service they can turn to that has anywhere near the amount of credibility or mindshare as iTunes. In other words, where ever they decide to sell their videos, many people won’t know about it. That’s lost eyeballs and revenue. It will cost NBC a fortune to promote any new venture in an attempt to gain consumers, costing them even more money.

Even Hulu has its own war to wage against YouTube. Ask anyone who isn’t a tech geek if they’ve even heard of Hulu. I bet the answer will be ‘no’. Hulu may be a great service, but NBC and News Corp. have an uphill battle for recognition, which will cost them viewers in the short run, and potentially in the long run. If Hulu is a YouTube clone, then it won’t really be a good place to purchase video downloads anyway. Which leaves NBC with nothing that even comes close to iTunes’ reach.

But let’s say NBC is able to get a download service up and running. If they think they will be able to charge more per episode while saddling each episode with more DRM, causing more of a headache for the viewers, they are in for a rude awakening. iTunes, as the market leader, has set the cost of a download at $2/episode. While I’m not happy that you are purchasing DRM-riddled video, I do know that for most people, that isn’t an issue as they can watch it with no problems. This ease of use will make it difficult for NBC to convince iTunes users to switch to their service to get NBC programs, especially if they charge more per show. Heck, even if they charge the same, people aren’t going to switch because I can guarantee NBC’s offering will be harder to use than iTunes, and people hate to switch from what they know.

This whole thing smacks of the ‘old’ media not ‘getting’ the new media, or its consumers. I don’t see this move as being a smart one on NBC’s part, and I’m thinking that Steve Jobs has similar thoughts.This move will do nothing other than annoy many NBC/iTunes customers when the December deadline passes.

Maybe NBC will surprise us. Maybe they will actually take a risk and attempt to reach as many people as possible for their videos. They could follow the lead of several of the music companies and offer DRM free videos, this ensuring their videos will play on almost any device, be it PCs, iPods, PSPs or any other video device. Make the downloading of shows simple and reasonably priced and they would have a winner. And, they would have the tech community firmly on their side, acting as free evangelists. But that would require some flexible thinking on their part. Something I don’t see happening. I think the big winners with this move will be the torrent sites. Ironic. As NBC tries to gain more control over their videos, they will actually lose it. This is a battle they, or any media comany, simply can’t win.

What does this have to do with science fiction you may ask? Well, NBC provides video downloads for a little show called Heroes, as well as for Galactica. There’s no telling how much iTunes sales impact the popularity of these shows, but I have seen people on the ‘net refer to downloading the shows and then writing about them. That will stop after December. And with new shows like Chuck and Bionic Woman, it seems like NBC is cutting its nose to spite its face.

[Update 1 (09/01/07)]: It gets better! Apparently, NBC wanted Apple to charge $5 per episode for NBC content. And here I was, thinking NBC understood the net better than the other broadcast networks, then they pull this stunt. Good luck charging $5 a pop, $110 for a 22 episode season. I don’t need to shell out $5 for low res versions of your episode through iTunes. I’m guessing many people will now discover they can find episodes for a lot less then $5 elsewhere, commercial free and in HD no less. Nice job NBC.

Filed under: TV

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