Review: Saturn Returns by Sean Williams

Saturn Returns is the first book in Sean Williams’ new space opera series, Astropolis. It has all the things you’d expect from New Space Opera: postumans, galaxy spanning cultures, conspiracies and imminent threat to humanity. The setting has some of the feel of Alastair Reynolds’ Inhibitor series, but with Williams’ own additions to space opera.

The back cover blurb says: “Dark experiments, dangerous ruins, fleeting ghosts and deadly conspiracies…” That’s enough to get me interested, and thanks to John, I had the opportunity to read it. The verdict: Saturn Returns has some good points and some bad points, but overall it’s a good space opera story that falls just short of being great.

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Filed under: Book Review

Wizards of the Coast will launch a new line of adult speculative fiction books in January 2008 under the imprint Wizards of the Coast Discoveries. The original titles under the new imprint will offer a variety of themes and genres that are not part of the shared worlds of WotC’s current books.

Inaugural titles include:

  • Firefly Rain by Richard Dansky – a Southern gothic ghost story about “one man’s struggle to honor the past without being destroyed by it, and finding the courage to face the future.”
  • Last Dragon by J.M. Mcdermott – A literary fantasy “in the tradition of Gene Wolfe and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.”
  • The Man on the Ceiling by Steve Rasnic Tem and Melanie Tem (cover art not yet available) – A horror story based on the novella that won the Bram Stoker Award, the International Horror Guild Award, and the World Fantasy Award – the only work ever to win all three.
  • Devil’s Cape by Rob Rogers – A gritty, noir-ish story of believable superheroes.

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 11/15/07

  • SciFi Chick interviews Eric Brown, author of Helix and the upcoming Kéthani. “I write – I like to think – SF for people who don’t read much SF. It’s character-driven, eventful, economical – certainly not hard SF, which I don’t care for. I’m not bothered about explanations of science and technology in SF, nor about predictions; I like to empathise with human beings, and a good story.”
  • Fantasy Book Critic interviews Joel Shepherd, author of Killswitch. “I think the trend of human progress has been generally to the positive, with some nasty hiccups, and I don’t expect that to change. I also think some of the attraction of dystopian worlds is that a lot of writers either aren’t interested in politics, or can’t see a way to use it excitingly in their plots. Dystopian worlds usually preclude politics as we understand it…so it’s a bit of a cop out.”
  • SFFWorld interviews Hal Duncan (Vellum and Ink). “I’m Scottish, so socialism is in my blood.”
  • Cinematical interviews the Producers and Directors of the Futurama movie. “Ultimately, Futurama relies on a fair amount of sci-fi conventions. From the beginning, we knew space, the ships, and the battles had to look awesome — or suffer the fans’ wrath.”
  • Comic book publishers Dabel Brothers Publishing (The Hedge Knight) is teaming up with Del Rey to distribute graphic-novel editions of the Dabel Brothers’ comics. The first three projects to be announced are full-color comic adaptations of Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files, Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein: Prodigal Son, and Wild Cards, edited by George R.R. Martin.
  • Ellen Datlow writes in to tell us that The Horror Writers Association supports the Writers Guild of America strike.
  • Daniel Keys Moran has been added to the list of sf/f authors who blog. See also: his free fiction. [via Fred K.]
  • PS Publishing has extended their 50% Discount Sale through December 31st 2007.
  • SF Diplomat looks at Mundane Vs. Hard SF. “Mudane SF is [fueled] by the aspects of science that are all about empirical adequacy. It’s about only saying things that are strictly likely to be true. Hard SF, on the other hand, is [fueled] by the parts of the scientific process that are all about the beauty of a scientific concept. Hard SF is about picking up a scientific idea and playing with it purely for the pleasure of thinking about the universe in that way.”
  • Blue Sun Corp (heh-heh) lists its Top Ten Science Fiction Novels using the criteria of good ideas, good characters and good writing.
  • Jay G. at Geekend asks: When did Star Trek jump the shark?
  • Genre characters overwhelm this list of Top 10 Evil Movie Villains.
  • SciFi Scanner lists some Sci-Fi Geek Pick Up Lines. “Why don’t we head to my bedroom, peel back my Star Wars sheets, and discover what a true Jedi can do with his light saber?” I’m thinking the clincher to that line would be if this velvet painting of Admiral Ackbar was hanging on the wall of the bedroom in the geek’s mother’s basement.

Filed under: Tidbits

Review: Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett

Pratchett hits another homer with Carpe Jugulumhis parody of all things vampire (or vampyre). When King Verence willingly invites the vampire rulers of Uberwald to his daughter’s naming ceremony, the vampires take the opportunity to enthrall the people of the Kingdom of Lancre and turn them into another source of food. Standing against them are Agnes Nitt, Reverend Mighty Oats, and a seriously perturbed Granny Weatherwax. The vampires, of course, don’t stand a chance.

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Has Heroes Redeemed Itself?

After whining about how much Heroes season 2 sucks, I think it’s only fair that I give credit where credit is due. This week’s episode, “Four Months Ago,” saw Heroes in (mostly) fine form; a rarity this season. Maybe the show is primed for a comeback after all.

Or maybe not. It’s not all good news. Here are some quick thoughts on the episode and season:

*** Thar be spoilers ahead ***

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Filed under: HeroesTV

Tube Bits For 11/14/07

  • Holy Super MegaFast Batman! It’s Adam West and Burt Ward together again for Boston’s Super MegaFest. Let’s hope the uniforms are no longer form fitting. Yikes. Julie Newmar and Lee Merriweather will also attend. Sounds Batriffic.
  • Over on, well we’ll call them The Scoundrels blog for short, they have compiled a list of shows that were canceled prematurely. Most of them are SF shows, but why does Firefly only rate a ‘deserving mention’? That should be number 1.
  • Screenrant has a nice article covering the redesign of the Enterprise for the new movie. James Cawley, of New Voyages, claims to have seen the new ship and he isn’t happy. All I can say is I hope it’s more like classic Trek than TNG. Although I think my favorite version is the one from the films, aka NCC 1701-A. I’m not sure I really care about how it looks, although I won’t like it if it looks like the whale shaped bathroom toy from TNG.
  • Eclipse Magazine interviews Jamie Bamber about Razor and science fiction in general. Some interesting tidbits on how Jamie had to re-visit Apollo for the movie.
  • Speaking of the new Star Trek movie, Sci Fi Scanner has spy photo of Zachary Quinto as Spock. Wow, the resemblance is uncanny.
  • Michael Wentz wonders if Journeyman is the only true SF show on American TV right now. I guess, but only if you think Quantum Leap was SF! Seriously, I think you can’t dismiss Eureka just because it’s campy, or Flash Gordon just because it’s bad. Unless true science fiction only includes good science fiction.

Filed under: Tube Bits

SF Tidbits for 11/14/07

Filed under: Tidbits

REVIEW: War Machine by Andy Remic

REVIEW SUMMARY: An action-packed start to a new action/adventure series.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Combat-K, an illegally reformed military unit, takes on a revenge mission to recover the Fractured Emerald in exchange for the identity of the murderer of one ex-soldier’s family.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Relentlessly paced; non-stop action; nice plot twists near the end.

CONS: The action sometimes occurs at the expense of believability; main characterizations seem thrown in as an afterthought.

BOTTOM LINE: Carry a small support to bolster your suspension of disbelief and enjoy the fun, fast-paced, butt-kicking action.

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Texas Best Grok has posted a comprehensive list of long overdue science fiction books. Here, “long overdue” means it was promised and/or announced a really long time ago, but has yet to see publication.

Here’s the abbreviated list, minus the ones that have seen publication since originally posted in 2005. Do check out the original post for the latest updated information and details.

  • The Star Conquerors by Ben Bova
  • Cyteen II by C.J. Cherryh
  • Mars Brat by Arthur C. Clarke
  • The Last Theorem by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Childe Cycle by Gordon R. Dickson
  • Demon With a Glass Hand by Harlan Ellison
  • Blood and Vic by Harlan Ellison
  • Space Pirates by Gentry Lee
  • Unnamed Novel by Gentry Lee and Arthur C. Clarke
  • The Ghost Ships by Larry Niven
  • Inferno (updated version) by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
  • Purgatorio by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
  • The Moon Bowl/Moonmites by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Michael Flynn
  • Solar Queen II omnibus by Andre Norton
  • Falkenberg on Kennicott by Jerry Pournelle
  • Mamelukes by Jerry Pournelle
  • Spartan Hegemony by Jerry Pournelle
  • The Return of the Space Viking by Jerry Pournelle
  • Unamed Novel by E.E. “Doc” Smith
  • Irontown Blues by John Varley
  • Heaven Chronicles by Joan Vinge
  • Sector General omnibus (title uknown) by James White
  • Seed Ship by Jack Williamson
  • The Stellar Convergence by Jack Williamson

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 11/13/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Tube Bits For 11/13/07

  • The Boston Herald reviews Battlestar Galactica: Razor and is somewhat nonplussed, giving it a C+. I disagree that the plot is convoluted. On the contrary, it’s rather simple. The problem is it isn’t told very well, with too much jumping back and forth and liberally sprinkled with unexplained behavior by Admiral Cain. That said, it does return to the ‘survival’ mode that made the first season so good.
  • NBC launched their new video download service, NBC Direct, and it’s getting a ton of negative reviews. IE/Windows only, shows only available for 1 week after air date, and once you start watching a show, you only have 48 hours to watch it. Is NBC trying to push people to alternate methods of obtaining its shows? Way to screw over you faithful viewers NBC, and good luck on trying to get new ones for your serialized shows. Hulu was a decent move, but this one blows.
  • Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis won’t just be the only things in the Stargate universe much longer (oh, add the original movie too). Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment is currently working on a MMORPG (think World of Warcraft, Tim’s favoritist game) set in the Stargate universe. It’s called Stargate Worlds, and MMORPG.COM has a chat transcript with the development team available. I like the art concepts and the idea could be cool too, but I don’t really see anything strikingly different for this game than others. Still, it’s a rare SF themed MMO so I’ll be keeping an eye on it.
  • Star Trek‘s episode, ‘The Menagerie’, is being screened across the country at select theaters starting today. Eugene Roddenberry will be on hand at two events to personally introduce the screening. Sy Fy Portal has a nice interviewish article with Eugene where he discusses all things Trek.
  • Speaking of Star Trek, the rumors surrounding the plot (I won’t give anything away here, but the link may contain MAJOR SPOILERS! In fact, just reading the rest of this sentence may spoil things…) have reached Harlan Ellison, and he is none too pleased. I’m sorry Harlan, but I don’t think locations or characters are copywritable. You just may be SOL here, no matter how curmudgeonly you act.

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SFWA Supports WGA Strike…Do You?

Michael Capobianco, President of the Science Fiction Writers of America, has announced the SFWA’s support of the WGA strike:

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) stands solidly in support of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike in seeking appropriate compensation for writers when their work is distributed digitally, either in DVD form or through Internet downloads.

Contrary to prevailing wisdom, the future is not here yet. As science fiction writers, we’re perhaps in a better position to see that than others. Society is in a transitional phase, as physical entertainment media slowly give way to their digital equivalents. Physical distribution, cumbersome and expensive, is going the way of the buggy whip and rotary phone dial. The change has already started with the distribution of films and TV shows.

During this phase, writers and other creators are having their work distributed digitally without seeing any benefit at all. The excuse given is that this distribution is for promotional purposes only, but, in fact, the powers that be are using this transitional period to establish unfair precedents. It’s the camel’s nose. These precedents will hurt creators as digital distribution becomes the predominant method of distributing and accessing content. It’s as if book publishers of the early twentieth century had told authors that movies would be made out of their books, but they shouldn’t get any money because the movies wouldn’t be profitable and were being made just to promote the sale of books.

SFWA believes that writers should be paid a fair amount for each DVD and for each download of their work. If the work is used on the Internet in any way, the writer should be fairly compensated. This is a fundamental writers’ right, and it’s worth fighting for. WGA is staking its claim on the future, and SFWA supports it wholeheartedly.

Lots of folks support the WGA, but I’m starting to see some anti-WGA backlash.

Do you support the WGA? Do you care?

(Be sure to vote on this topic in this week’s poll, accessed from the SF Signal main page.)

Filed under: Books

Tube Bits For 11/12/07

  • Good, or bad, news for LOST fans. ABC is apparently going to show the 8 episodes they have completed, instead of waiting for all 16 to be done. LOST will probably air sometime around February sweeps. This whole strike thing is annoying me no end, and I don’t even watch that much TV!
  • Was Star Trek successful because it was Wagon Train in space, or because of something else? Phyllis Schelmer contends she helped Gene Roddenberry tap “into the an ancient source of enlightened consciousness”, and this led to the success of Star Trek. There’s even a streaming audio with Ms. Schlemer about her involvement with Roddenberry. Hmm, wonder why she isn’t prominently discussed as a source of inspiration? As a psychic, you’d think she would have known she would be relegated to obscurity.
  • Macleans.CA looks at fantasy in TV. Where once networks want police procedurals, now they want fantasy-themed shows. By asking for these shows to be set in today’s world, but with fantastical elements, they are keeping SFX, and costs, to a minimum. Of course, all this is for naught if the stories aren’t good. Reaper and Pushing Daisies are examples.
  • PC World reviews NBC’s new Hulu video service. They find that the content is impressive and the site is easy to use. However, NBC still doesn’t understand the shift in it’s viewers habits and places stupidly restrictive conditions on where and how long a show is available. While a step in the right direction, forcing shows off after several weeks is just plain dumb. You may as well point people to the the Bittorrent trackers. How can you expect people to catch up on a show if you won’t let them watch?
  • Sy Fy Portal wonders, now that the strike is on, what’s a Sci-Fi TV addict to do? Not surprisingly, it involves watching a lot of DVDs. While that is all well and good, why not pick up a book? There’s a ton of good written SF out there, give it a try Wayne. At the very least, you could toss the book at the legions of LOST you’ve upset over your LOST comments.

Filed under: Tube Bits

SF Tidbits for 11/12/07

Filed under: Tidbits

POLL RESULTS: Rating Heroes Season 2 So Far

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

QUESTION
How would you rate Heroes Season 2 so far?

RESULTS

(132 total votes)

A few comments this week:

“It’s still good, but does seem to be wandering a little aimlessly, as though it’s lost its way. Hopefully things will improve. ‘Faith Manages’ as some hack once wrote!” – Paul Harper

“This season has mostly sucked but the most recent episode was pretty good.” – David

“I don’t think it’s that great, but I didn’t think Season 1 was anything to write home about either. Apart from the awful Irish accents, I don’t think it’s much worse than Season 1.” – Gabriel Mckee

Be sure to visit our front page and vote in this week’s poll about The WGA Writers’ Strike!

Filed under: Polls

Cory Doctorow and Creative Commons

Locus online has posted Cory Doctorow’s commentary on Creative Commons from the latest issue of Locus magazine:

It would be nice if our lawmakers would go back to the drawing board and write a new copyright that made sense in the era of the Internet, but all efforts to “fix” copyright since the passage of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in 1998 have only made things worse, granting more unenforceable exclusive rights to an ever-increasing pool of “authors” who have no need or desire to sue the people with whom they are engaged in the business of “culture” — holding conversations, publicly re-imagining the stories that make up their lives.

Creative Commons aims to do what Congress won’t or can’t do — offer an approach to copyright that helps those of us who don’t want deal that Disney and their pals have insisted on for every snatch of creativity. Creative Commons achieves this through a set of licenses, legal notices that set out permitted uses for creative works.

Filed under: Books

Saturday YouTube: Star Trek doing Holy Grail

OK, we’ve linked to this in the past, but the video got removed and I stumbled upon its replacement and decided it was good enough to repeat.

Filed under: Star Trek

Saturday Cinema: Gene Autry Does Science Fiction

We all know Gene Autry as ‘The Signing Cowboy’. but did you know that his first starring role on film was in the Mascot Serial The Phantom Empire. The really interesting thing about this serial is the plot is very science fictional. From Wikipedia:

A chance to be real heroes occurs when Betsy, Frankie and Gene are kidnapped by the real Thunder Riders, from the super-scientific underground empire of Murania, complete with towering skyscrapers, robots, rayguns, elevators that extend miles from the surface, and an icy, evil blonde Queen, Tika.

Super scientific undeground cities with Ice Queens as leaders? What’s not to like? And in a Western no less! Who knew Autry was such a visionary? Thanks to the magic of YouTube, I was able to find the first two reels of Chapter 2 of The Phantom Empire. Enjoy!


Filed under: Web Sites

SF Tidbits for 11/10/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Book Bump

Book Bump is a new online book manager you can use to catalog your books. But how is it?

I like the mostly-intuitive Web 2.0 user interface. The site allows you to add/remove books fairly easily, by ISBN, author, title or keyword. Yet there was no indication that I could see to indicate which books in the search results were in which format (hardcover, mmpb, etc.) or edition. Once books are added, they can be sorted any which way. The site provides lots of information about each book in the list including: general book info (publisher, format, number of pages), reviews, price comparisons (new and used), and a host of attributes. These attributes include whether the book has been read (or which page you are currently on), date started/finished, number of copies owned (the biblioholic inside of me is smiling), whether it’s signed, rating, and more.

It’s an interesting site, particularly for those who are looking for an online book list, but I just don’t see myself using it. For one thing, there seems to be no way to print the book list. That’s would be my main usage of the darn thing. Also, I just don’t see myself adding the tons of books I own into the website. Oh well.

Filed under: Web Sites

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