SF Tidbits for 8/21/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Tube Bits For 08/21/07

  • In case you’ve been under a rock, it seems that Veronica Mars‘ Kristen Bell is set to appear on Heroes. She’ll play a mysterious yet sexy stranger who commits a horrible crime in a multi-episode story arc. Image of Ms. Bell as Princess Leia (you’re welcome John) courtesy of GiveMeMyRemote.com.
  • BuddyTV analyzes Chuck‘s timeslot. As a lead in to Heroes, you’d think it would have an advantage. But its up against the Dancing With The Stars juggernaut, so its already fighting for ratings leftovers before it even starts. This is one show I’m looking forward to seeing. NBC can chalk up my infinitesimal rating point right now.
  • Following in the hallowed footsteps of the Sci Fi Channel, RHI Entertainment announced a slate of made for Video On Demand movies. Each movie will be made for about $3 million a piece, which is what Sci Fi strives for in its cinematic offerings. After their runs, the movies will be made available on iTunes at to cable channels like Sci Fi. But do we really need more Mansquito-quality movies, from providers not named Sci Fi?
  • 80′s Actual takes a look at the 1980′s version of Dr. Who, post Tom Baker. They call it an ‘unsettled time’ for Dr. Who. Never being into the show, I can’t say, but Colin Baker’s outfit is tasteless.
  • Brit_actors points us to the news that the David Tennant version of Dr. Who will be getting a comic book in 2008. The sketches actually look pretty good.
  • And the Dr. Who info keeps coming. (Spoiler alert for Series 4) How about a little Doctor on Doctor action? If Peter Jackson says it, it must be true! Thanks to Bill S. for the link.

Filed under: HeroesTube BitsTV

SFX #160 Roundup

I had a chance to look over the latest issue (September 2007) of SFX magazine and thought I’d share my thoughts. You know SFX…it’s that newsstands magazine that causes double-takes because there’s a running gag of having some foreground element blocking the lower part of the “F”, making it look like an “E”. SFX covers science fiction in all its forms: TV, film, books, DVD, audio books…even games and toys.

Being a U.S. resident reading a U.K. media magazine is always illuminating because it makes me keenly aware of my America-centric view of genre, even in this age of global InterTubes. Take television shows, for example. U.K. shows like Primeval, Hyperdrive and Jekyll fall below my radar, so it’s nice to learn about them. But I’m not a total TV noob, so it’s also nice to see coverage of shows I’m familiar with, too. One of those U.K./U.S. moments is with schedule-shifted shows; like Doctor Who, whose episodes run in the U.K. months before they do here in the States, or like Heroes whose airings lag behind the U.S. With the former, there is the mental wrestling between my desire to learn juicy morsels and my fear of spoilers. With the latter, it’s either a nice recap or a way to to catch up on missed episodes. Speaking of spoilers, the magazine comes with a sealed interior section called “Spoiler Zone” that offers 30 spoilery episode summaries/reviews for 9 different shows.

A big plus of SFX is that it does not gloss over science fiction in printed form. Twenty-two of the eighty-eight (!) reviews cover new book releases. Another eight reviews cover book re-issues. They are not in-depth critiques by any definition, but they do give you a feel for the book. The issue also features interviews with authros Stephen Baxter (author of Navigator and a frequent book reviewer for SFX), Brian Aldiss (HARM), Jasper Fforde (First Among Sequels)and Austin Grossman (Soon I Will Be Invincible). That’s above-average author coverage for a magazine that covers multiple media formats, methinks. (Other interview subjects in this issue include Nathan Filion (Firefly) and Adrian Pasdar (Heroes), among others.)

The issue really has lots of cool articles and information. Here are but some of the interesting tidbits:

Read the rest of this entry

Filed under: Books

God in the Machine

Pete Tzinski of Blood, Blade & Thruster magazine is embarking on an ambitious writing project. It’s an online fiction serial called God in the Machine and features cool illustrations (like the one shown here) by Christoffer Saar.

Season one is called “Cold Machines“. Here’s the synopsis:

A freak encounter with an electromagnetic storm shuts down all the ship systems of the starship Damocles, as well as the whole robotic crew. Everyone, that is, except for an engineering droid and a ‘Lifter, clinging to the outside of the ship. They’re still active. They’re awake…

The first episode is called “Awake” and it goes live today. New episodes are scheduled to appear on alternating Mondays. Head on over and check it out.

Filed under: Web Sites

POLL RESULTS: Why People Don’t Read Short Fiction

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

QUESTION
What is the primary reason you don’t spend money on short sf/f fiction?

RESULTS

(113 total votes)

Comments this week:

“…I get review copies…” – Frank

“I don’t spend money on short sf because it’s not a habit with me. I’m used to going to the bookstore and picking out books, not to getting journals in the mail and reading them. I didn’t even know magazines with sf & fantasy existed until I started college. Now I’m just leery to subscribe to a magazine when I’m not sure which would be the best fit for my reading tastes.” – Rachel

“I prefer to wait around until an editor I know and respect puts out an anthology, or to get a collection of shorts by one author that I can expect quality from than just getting the latest issue of Asimov who’s content I’ve found can sometimes be let down. I also read a lot of the free stuff online (or even blog posts) to get an idea about someone, which is what usually leads me to these judgments of which writers and editors I like.” – DJ

“Negative bias in the question….aagghh! Short stories are what the field is all about. The germ of an idea, a character, a world given life. Bountiful abundance is great, yet there is a tendancy, especially in fantasy/sf, to forget our foundations.” – Richard Novak

“Asimov’s are worth a purchase, and I’m always willing to check out year’s best anthologies from the library….” – platyjoe

“I’m not a big fan of short fiction. I prefer novels. More time for plot, character development etc… I’ve bought some collections of short fiction from a few of my favorite authors but I even have trouble getting into those. I like a long story.” – Eric

Be sure to visit our front page and vote in this week’s poll, which asks: How would you rate the new Flash Gordon so far?

Filed under: Polls

Two And Done: Flash Gordon

Even though I was in agreement with John’s review of Flash Gordon, I didn’t feel I could just give up on the show after one 90-minute episode. I decided to watch the second episode this past Friday night.

Yeah, I gave up 30-minutes in. I’m done, here’s why.

Read the rest of this entry

Filed under: TV

Tube Bits For 08/19/07

  • Buddy TV wonders if LOST will be spoiled again? If you remember, the season finale was leaked online, just waiting to spoil the unwary. Well this time, 10 or so episodes will be in the can before the season premier, and those who want to, can find the spoilers. Ultimately, its up to the fans to avoid them if they want. For me, I will definitely be steering clear of any.
  • The National Post online has a rundown of the pilots for the new TV season. Looks like NBC does well for itself. At least in Canada.
  • Sticking with NBC, they have struck a deal with most major cable providers to allow VOD viewing on Sept. 10th of Bionic Woman, Journeyman and Chuck. If you happen to have Comcast, Time Warner, Charter, Cox, DirecTV or Dish Network, you can see the pilots before they are broadcast. NBC seems to have its act together recently to use alternate viewing modes to increase the hype about its shows. Of course, I’m guessing you’ll be able to ‘find’ the episodes online before they air as well.
  • Trek Today has a boatload of info from the 6th annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas, with lots of alumn news.

Filed under: Tube Bits

EW Reviews SF/F

Issue #949/#950 (August 24, 2007) of Entertainment Weekly offers some brief reviews of science fiction and fantasy books. Here’s a snippet…

Sandworms of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

For Fans of… The original Dune novels by Herbert’s late father, Frank.

Bottom Line: After slogging through a desert’s worth of rote Star Warsisms and Sahrara-dry prose, you’ll wish Frank had been at the helm.

Grade: C+

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

For Fans of… Robin Hood; Oceans Eleven; Pirates of the Caribbean.

Bottom Line: In the second installment of the Gentlemen Bastards series, Lynch’s fast-paced storytelling is slightly stalled by a propensity for clumsy romance and action-flick banter.

Grade: B-

Spaceman Blues by Brian Francis Slattery

For Fans of… The surreal urban odyssey of Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man; Plan Nine From Outer Space.

Bottom Line: For all its colorful characters and gonzo thrills, Slattery’s debut is first and foremost a moving portrait of Wendell’s grief.

Grade: A-

The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman

For Fans of… Time travel, “hard SF,” and slacker antiheroes.

Bottom Line: The comparisons may be unfair, but this smart, brisk, and even charming tale has none of the emotional or philosophical heft of Haldeman’s Forever books.

Grade: B

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 8/19/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Elizabeth Moon on Literary Snobbery

We’ve talked about Literary Snobs before.

Here’s Elizabeth Moon’s take:

What literary snobbism does hurt is the public–people who are taken in by the ignorant assertions of “experts” who don’t even read what they claim to despise (or read it so carelessly that they might as well be reading a cereal box.) It hurts the students who think their natural taste for plots that are plots and characters who are interesting is the literary equivalent of original sin and must be excised before they’re fit to be called educated.

Anyone who thinks there’s no “complexity, depth, and originality” in commercial fiction needs an education. Anyone who thinks mysteries (or any other genre) are all “trashy” needs an education. (Start with Aristotle, whose _Poetics_ lay out the criteria. Continue through centuries of fiction that worked, up to the present day, being sure to take in multiple genres in each era.)

[via The Swivet]

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 8/18/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Tube Bits For 08/17/07

  • On December 4th, Universal Studios will release Battlestar on HD-DVD. You’ll get the usual extras, including a picture-in-picture behind the scenes look, perfect for those who want a more in-depth look at Grace Park’s scenes.
  • CHUD has a short article discussing the weakness of Peter and Hiro from Heroes.
  • The Gemini Division is a new Internet based SF series that will star Rosario Dawson. There will be 100 three-minute episodes produced, with a potential for a TV series later. No link to a site yet, but it sounds interesting.
  • Star Trek alumnus, Colm Meaney, is in final talks to star in David E. Kelley’s Americanized version of the BBC’s Life On Mars. I really liked the original British version, so I’ll definitely tune in to see how this show turns out.
  • And finally, NBC has posted their fall preview online, for all to see. Check it out for sneaks of Heroes, Journeyman, Chuck and Bionic Woman.

Filed under: Battlestar GalacticaTube Bits

Free Classic Fiction: Brain Twister

New at Project Gutenberg: Brain Twister by Gordon Randall Garrett and Laurence Mark Janifer.

In nineteen-fourteen, it was enemy aliens.

In nineteen-thirty, it was Wobblies.

In nineteen-fifty-seven, it was fellow-travelers.

And, in nineteen seventy-one, Kenneth J. Malone rolled wearily out of

bed wondering what the hell it was going to be now.

One thing, he told himself, was absolutely certain: it was going to be

terrible. It always was.

More formats are available at ManyBooks.net.

Filed under: Free Fiction

SF Tidbits for 8/17/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Do Movies Hurt People’s Understanding Of Science?

PhyOrg.com has an article entitled UCF physicist says Hollywood movies hurt students’ understanding of science. Basically, the professors who were interviewed take issue with the implausible physics scenarios we see in movies all the time. From there, they go on to say that many students who take physics classes in college are scared of the course, and are in dire need of re-medial classes just to come up to speed.

To help, Prof. Efthimiou created a class called “Physics in Film” to help alleviate the problems many students have. Not surprisingly, its one of the most popular courses on campus. Now all this is interesting in itself, but the fact that a course like this is needed at all is an indication of the serious lack of science education in pre-college schools today. As stated in the article, this lack of education leads people away from the sciences, and will result in America losing its technological leadership.

The headline really doesn’t capture the real message of the story, that America needs to get is science act together, but reaches for sensationalism, which is another problem in today’s society, but I digress. The upshot: we need better science education at the lower school levels. I’m pleased that my oldest son’s two favorite subjects are math and science. But we can’t expect the school’s to do it all for us. I think we, as parents, need to do more to encourage our kids’ interest in science. That’s where SF comes in.

Yes, SF stories don’t always hew rigorously to science fact. But, they are a gateway to the imagination. Many scientists today where influenced by the original Star Trek TV show and entered various technical fields. So we see that visual SF can have a positive effect on people. What would help would be for Hollywood to produce better, more accurate films and TV programs, but we also need better educational curricula and more engaged parents. I think we can, as a society, interest our kids in science, but it will take a lot of work on the part of a lot people to get there.

I think handing a child an appropriate SF book is a good place to start.

Filed under: Science and Technology

Since a few people out there love Land of the Lost so much – and who doesn’t? – here’s Robot Chicken‘s takes on the Sleestaks…

[via Milk and Cookies]

Filed under: HumorTV

Borders Launches Employee Author Program

Borders is holding a contest to turn one of their employees into a full-fledged, published author:

Borders Group, Inc. is offering its more than 30,000 employees nationwide the opportunity to become a published author under the company’s exclusive and proprietary publishing program. Borders Group is holding a fiction writing contest open to all employees in Borders and Waldenbooks stores, the distribution centers and the company’s corporate office. Employee authors are eligible to submit manuscripts appealing to readers in any of the fiction categories. At least one employee whose title is selected as the winner by a panel of judges at the corporate office will be awarded a book deal including the full support of Borders merchandising and marketing arsenal. This includes being featured in the Borders “Shortlist,” an e-mail promotion for Borders Rewards(R) members, which now number more than 19.5 million.

[via Nick Mamatas, who offers 12 responses ]

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 8/16/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Tube Bits For 08/16/07

  • In a move surprising to no one, Painkiller Jane received the axe from Sci Fi. I was never interested in it, did anyone else watch it?
  • Phantom Reflections suggests the reason The Dresden Files and Painkiller Jane failed was because they were adaptations of books, and doomed to disappoint the built-in fans, thus leading to poor ratings. He also suggests that there can never be a successful adaptation of a book to TV/film. I’m not ready to go that far, as The Lord Of The Rings shows it can be done for film. But I’m not ready to trust the wizards at Sci Fi with any adaptations. You have to actually like SF to be able to adapt properly.
  • The Daily POP has a nice article on Dr. Who, reminiscing about the good Doctor’s 45 year run(!) on TV. And for good measure, he as four YouTube links to a 1992 documentary of Dr. Who, called Resistance is Useless.
  • There’s a new Video On Demand channel on the block, and its all about SF&F. Called Illusion, it debuts in October and promises to have over 300 programming hours of TV when launched. I’ll be interested to see the lineup and if Comcast will carry it.
  • From SFX, Brannon Braga finally admits the last episode of Enterprise sucked rocks. Well, it didn’t fit ‘creatively’ with the rest of the season. I think the whole show didn’t fit ‘creatively’ with the rest of Trek, but that’s just me.
  • And finally, a little Cpt. Picard humor for you, from YouTube. Feast your eyes on the awesomeness that is The Picard Video. Who knew he could dance?

Neon Genesis Evangelion To Get The Reboot Treatment

Way back in 1995, Japanese animation studio GAINAX produced what may be the most influential anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion. NGE is the story of mankind’s struggle against invading alien entities called Angels. Aside from being chock full of giant mech fights, it was also an impressive feat of storytelling, alternately deep, complex and confusing. The ending of the original TV show was so completely unexpected and storyline free that GAINAX had to create a movie that actually covered what happened. Now, ripping a page from Hollywood’s recent re-imaging kick, GAINAX announced its Rebuild of Evangelion. The official site has more, but is, of course, in Japanese. Good luck.

Set to release in Japan this September, this rebuild will re-tell the story in a more accessible manner, make use of CG effects that weren’t available in 1995, and create a different ending (I think that’s 3 endings now for the story). And instead of being a TV series, it will be release as a set of four movies. Aside from making it more accessible, it shouldn’t come as a shock that NGE is being re-done. It’s one of the most successful series in anime history and, of course, there’s money to be made! The fact that NGE is ripe for a more accessible version is just icing.

NGE made my Top 10 Science Fiction Anime list, and is almost a required viewing for anime fans. I’m actually kind of excited to see this, as I enjoyed the TV series. And with the help of copious internet resources, I have a good grasp on just what the heck happened.

And for your viewing pleasure, the first trailer:

Now I just need my brother to acquire these for me…

Filed under: Anime

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