REVIEW: Three Days To Never by Tim Powers

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: I don’t think you can write a brief synopsis of this book. You might as well try to summarize Proust.

PROS: The Tim Powers skewed view of fantasy, Einstein, Charlie Chaplin, the Mossad, time travel and more.

CONS: Somewhat convoluted plot, feels a lot like Expiration Date.

BOTTOM LINE: Not as inventive as Declare, but still worth a read if you’re a Tim Powers fan.

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Filed under: Book Review

James Patrick Kelly Returns to Podcasting

James Patrick Kelly is back from a summer vacation and has started podcasting again. A new feature of his Free Reads podcast is to read his On The Net columns from Asimov’s Science Fiction starting with On The Net: FTL.

I’m patiently waiting for the Breathing the Blogosphere and Bring on the Digital Hugos columns. You know…the ones where a certain sf blog was mentioned. Maybe Jim will at least speak my name correctly since he seems to have spelled it incorrectly. [Winks at Jim ;-)]

Heh-heh.

[via SFF Audio]

Filed under: Web Sites

SF Tidbits for 11/16/06

Filed under: Tidbits

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The continuing adventures of Chicago’s only openly practicing wizard P.I.

PROS: Non-stop action, smooth prose, interesting characters, unique setting, a page-turner.

CONS: Quite often Harry extricates himself from dire situations via the plot and not his own initiative, not much character development, more convoluted plots.

BOTTOM LINE: A very entertaining and enjoyable read. This combination of fantasy/supernatural and P.I. genres works very well. A must read for fantasy fans.

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How High-Definition Is Bad News for SF Flicks

Cory Doctorow’s latest Locus Magazine is at Locus Online: How High-Definition Is Bad News for SF Flicks. An excerpt:

[The longevity of a film's profitability] is now threatened by an unlikely menace: the high-definition screen. And no genre is more imperiled than science fiction/fantasy.

HD is poison for special-effects movies. Whatever sins are hidden in a standard-definition 12-inch TV set are thrown into stark relief by big, crisp displays. Whatever longevity can be wrung from a movie by releasing it to smaller, more forgiving screens is cut short by the living-room behemoths that are being pushed on us today.

Filed under: Movies

SF Tidbits for 11/15/06

Filed under: Tidbits

A Couple Of Non-Spoilery Annoyances About Heroes

Don’t get me wrong, I really like Heroes, and what I am about to outline doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of the show one bit. In fact, its really just me ranting a bit about the show and NBC.

  1. This one really bugs me to no end and I don’t know whose fault it is. Time Warner’s for having crappy time servers feeding time to the set-top boxes, or NBC for running Heroes long, but the last three episodes I’ve recorded have all ended with at least one minute left, if not more. As it is, not only do I miss the ending monologue by Mohinder, I also miss the teaser trailer for next week. WTF? And no, watching it live is not an option. There is no way I will have Heroes on TV when there is any possibility my kids will be around. As it stands now, it looks like I’ll have to go and bittorrent the show over-night just so I can watch the last couple of minutes the next day. Insane. The other thought is that I record the show in HD, and I’ve noticed that the HD feeds tend to lag the regular feeds by a second or so for no discernible reason. But its only a second lag, not a minute or more. As I don’t know who to blame, I will place it equally on the media whore corporations of NBC and AOL/Time Warner. A pox on you!
  2. And now the non-serious one. I realize they are probably shooting the different ‘settings’ in close proximity to one another, but the Odessa setting really bugs me, cause, well, it isn’t really Odessa. For one thing, there are too many trees, way too much grass and not to mention the existence of large hills. There is no hint of the car-eating tumbleweeds, bone dry environment, or vast fields of oil wells. Yes, yes, its just a show, but it still bugs me. And being out in the middle of BFWest Texas, Odessa isn’t the most connected of places. I have to assume that Claire’s dad is using the company jet to galavant around the country, because he sure isn’t flying in and out of the Midland/Odessa airport in a timely fashion. But then again, the fairly remote location, yet within easy reach of most of modern life’s amenities, is a selling point if your going to be running a secret government facility masquerading as a paper products manufacturer.

Again, nothing Earth shattering here, just a couple of annoyances and I’m really curious to see if others have the same issue recording the show that I do, especially other Time Warner customers in Houston (looks at John and/or Trent). Now I’m off to bittorrent land so I can see the last couple of minutes of last night’s episode. Oh, and for those of you who still have it recorded, go back and look at Charlie’s birthday pictures. Notice something different in the second one?

Filed under: Heroes

Science fiction is often said to be best when the story is character-driven. That must mean there are some pretty cool characters in sf/f. So, who are your favorites?

Maybe it’s Rick Deckard from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. Or maybe you prefer the hardboiled attitude of Marîd Audran from George Alec Effinger’s When Gravity Fails. Maybe you like the heroic nature of John Carter from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars books or the time traveler from H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine?

Your favorite character could be alien, like Pip the minidrag from Alan Dean Foster’s Humanx Commonwealth books or the Kzin Speaker-to-Animals from Larry Niven’s Ringworld.

The character doesn’t even have to be biological! How about HAL 9000 (from 2001: A Space Odyssey), Marvin the Paranoid Android (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams) or R. Daneel Olivaw (Isaac Asimov’s Caves of Steel and other robot novels)?

Don’t forget, bad Guys make great characters too! Maybe Baron Vladimir Harkonnen from Frank Herbert’s Dune or Quinn Dexter from Peter F. Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn trilogy?

Some rules:

  1. You must name characters originating from a book or short story. No media tie-ins, please. And no comics/graphic novels – that’s a whole other ball of wax. A follow on post will address TV/film.
  2. Cite the character and the source, including author.
  3. Must be a single character, no groups or species. Sorry, you cannot pick the sandworms from Dune.)
  4. Name as many single characters as you’d like.

If you need help, wikipedia has a handy inventory of characters from written science fiction as well as a list of sf/f detectives.

Your turn! Who are your favorite literary science fiction characters?

Filed under: Books

[UPDATED] Free Download: Subterranean #4

Subterranean Press has made the John Scalzi guest-edited issue of Subterranean available as a free PDF download. Here’s what’s in it:

Subterranean #4

  • “Scene from a Dystopia” by Rachel Swirsky
  • “The Third Brain” by Charles Coleman Finlay and James Allison
  • “It Came from the Slush Pile” by John Joseph Adams
  • “A Finite Number of Typewriters” by Stuart MacBride
  • “Cliche Haiku” by Scott Westerfeld
  • “Horrible Historians” by Gillian Polack
  • “Hesperia and Glory” by Ann Leckie
  • “What a Piece of Work” by Jo Walton
  • “Remarks on Some Cliches I Have (By Definition) Known Too Well” by Teresa Nielsen Hayden
  • “The Last Science Fiction Writer” by Allen M. Steele
  • “Shoah Sry” by Tobias S. Buckell and Ilsa J. Bick
  • “Labyrinth’s Heart” by Bruce Arthurs
  • “The NOMAD Gambit” by Dean Cochrane
  • “In Search Of…Eileen Siriosa” by Ron Hogan
  • “Tees and Sympathy” by Nick Sagan
  • “Last” by Chris Roberson
  • “Refuge” by David Klecha
  • “The Inevitable Heat Death of the Universe” by Elizabeth Bear
  • “Editor’s Afterword” by John Scalzi

[UPDATED with new link]

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 11/14/06

Filed under: Tidbits

How to Fix the TV Show Lost

New York Magazine says the solution to the problem with never-ending shows like Lost is to craft the TV equivalent of a novella: the limited-run show.

Now let’s imagine an alternate reality in which, say, Lost was designed to run for only two seasons. Rather than getting an increasingly tedious shaggy-dog story, we’d get 48 episodes of tightly plotted, expertly interwoven suspense. Viewers would be both more willing to sign on at the beginning (knowing their investment will pay off) and more inclined to buy DVDs later (either as catch-up for newbies or as a satisfying boxed set). Sure, the show won’t syndicate well, but shows like Lost don’t syndicate well anyway. And the series finale would be huge–the kind of event TV network executives drool over.

I think this is a great idea. I also think that this will never happen for the reasons the article states. Too bad.

[via Backwards City]

Filed under: TV

POLL RESULTS: Our Favorites from Heroes

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

QUESTION
Which of the following characters from Heroes is your favorite?

RESULTS

(137 total votes)

As could have been predicted, everyone loves Hiro. But poor Nathan, eh? Does the lonely “other” voter care to name names?

There was one noteworthy comment on this week’s poll:

“While Hiro is the best character, Claire is the hottest.” – Kev

Be sure to vote in this week’s poll on the re-mastered Star Trek!

Filed under: Polls

Fantastic Fiction Mailing List

There’s a new email list in town and it’s called Fantastic Fiction. Here is the info sent to me from the list’s creator:

I’ve started a new mailing list, dedicated to fantasy and science fiction. Rather than being exclusive, I’m trying to be inclusive. Discussions will range, I hope, all over. From (Clark Ashton) Smith to (E.E.

“Doc”) Smith. From Heinlein to Howard. From Leiber to Lovecraft and beyond.

This list is a spinoff of another list I’ve been a member of for a few years now, ERB-List, dedicated to the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Oftentimes we’ll wander off from the subject matter (the works of

Burroughs) and have to be gently moved back on course.

I suggested this list because many of these authors are interconnected due to friendships and associations, so why not discuss them in a similar fashion.

This list is not connected with Yahoo or Yahoo Groups. In fact, I am putting up my own funds to help run the list, a measure of my dedication and interest. So, I hope you will consider joining.

I hope to see this as an extension of my blogging, and my site (The Eternal Golden Braid). I often write about science fiction there, and I’m hoping to have a discussion on this list that helps inspire me to write more for the blog.

To join the list, Fantastic Fiction, send an e-mail (no subject line needed) to:

MAJORDOMO AT ERBLIST DOT COM [Replace the "AT" with @ and the "DOT" with "."]

…and have the body of the message be…

subscribe fantasticfiction (YOUR MAILING ADDRESS) end

The second line should be “end” because some mailers, like Yahoo, add advertising and the like at the end.

Having “end” on the second line tells Majordomo to ignore anything after that and only execute the command “subscribe fantasticfiction yourmailingaddress”.

Hope to see you there.

- Fred Kiesche

Filed under: Web Sites

REVIEW: Runner by William C. Dietz

REVIEW SUMMARY: Interesting action-packed book that explores the collapse of a technological society.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Jak is a delivery man (or runner in this time) who is asked to deliver a very interesting package – a boy believed to be the reincarnated spiritual leader of the predominant religion. In addition to dodging a rival sect who wants to eliminate the boy, he also runs into a woman capable of reading thoughts who is occasionally possessed by the spirit of the former ruler of the 1000 planet empire.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Excellent action sequences, the exploration of a space-faring society dealing with technological collapse is well done, most characters are complex.

CONS: Ending seems very rushed, and the plot stalls out right near the climax.

BOTTOM LINE: This is a fun book that offers a decent read, if not much to savor afterwards.

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REVIEW: Escape From Earth edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois

REVIEW SUMMARY: A sure-fire way to get teenage readers hooked on science fiction.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Anthology of seven original young-adult novellas designed to get kids hooked on science fiction.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Filled with sense of wonder; strong, positive role-models.

CONS: One story less effective than the others.

BOTTOM LINE: This is simply a very good collection of science fiction stories, for teenagers and adults alike.

This week my daughter’s elementary school had a book fair and I was once again amazed at how many more fantasy titles there are for kids than there are science fiction titles. I could count the number of sf books they offered on one hand and still have enough fingers left over to poke Scholastic in the eyes. To be fair, there is a much higher demand for fantasy these days thanks to books and films like Harry Potter. And, of course, we are happy that kids are reading anything! But that doesn’t stop us here at SF Signal from opining about the lack of science fiction for kids. (Not for the least of reasons which include being able to use a form of the word “opine”.)

Imagine, then, how high my hopes were when I heard about the new young adult sf anthology Escape From Earth edited by well-respected and capable editors Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois. The book is designed to be a gateway to science fiction for younger readers.

It succeeds in a big way…with one caveat. Parents may feel that some of the language (s**t, b***h,) and situations (talk of sex) presented herein might be unsuitable for younger readers but they may decide it’s OK for teenagers. This exemplifies the difference I see between “young adult” and “juvenile” books. The good news is that all the stories have positive messages for young readers, something that, as a parent, I find particularly encouraging and commendable.

While all the stories are good (with one borderline case), the standout ones for me were “Derelict” by Geoffrey A. Landis, “Combat Shopping” by Elizabeth Moon and “The Mars Girl” by Joe Haldeman. Each one of these not only provided the requisite sense of wonder that drew me to the genre in my formative years, but they also contain characters who exhibit positive qualities without being phony.

Reviewlettes of the stories follow.

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Help Put Ripley on a Calendar

Borderlands Bookstore wants you to suggest stuff to put on their mascot, Ripley the hairless cat. From this month’s newsletter:

Help us put stuff on Ripley! Thanks to Susan Tunis for telling us about this contest. Chronicle Books is sponsoring a “Stuff on My Bookstore Cat” contest, as a tie-in to the release of the book Stuff on My Cat. Please email office AT borderlands-books DOT com with your suggestions for stuff we might put on Ripley! And, yeah, we already thought of a toupee, you wisecrackers.

When we interviewed Alan Beatts, proprietor of Borderlands Books, he gave us Ripley’s back story. I would think Ripley deserves something more spectacular than, say, John Scalzi’s bacon-laden cat.

Filed under: Web Sites

SF Tidbits for 11/11/06

Filed under: Tidbits

RIP: Jack Williamson

From Locus Online:

SF Grand Master Jack Williamson, born 1908, died this afternoon at his home in Portales, New Mexico, at the age of 98. His first published story was “The Metal Man” in Amazing Stories in 1928, the beginning of a writing career that spanned nine decades. His work ranged from early space opera series The Legion of Space (beginning 1934), werewolf SF/fantasy Darker Than You Think (1940), thoughtful SF classic The Humanoids (1948), Golden Age antimatter tale Seetee Ship (1951 as by Will Stewart), and time travel series Legion of Time (1952). Later works included Hugo and Nebula Award winning novella “The Ultimate Earth” (2000) and its novel expansion Terraforming Earth (2001), winner of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. He won a Hugo Award in 1985 for autobiography Wonder’s Child, and his career honors included a Pilgrim Award for his nonfiction work including H.G. Wells: Critic of Progress (1973), Life Achievement World Fantasy and Bram Stoker awards, SFWA’s 2nd Grand Master Award in 1976, induction in the SF Hall of Fame in 1996, and Grandmaster of the World Horror Convention in 2004. The Jack Williamson Science Fiction Library was established in 1982 at Eastern New Mexico University, which for 30 years has hosted an annual Lectureship in honor of the writer. Williamson’s last novel was The Stonehenge Gate (2005).

See also:

Filed under: Books

Editor Jonathan Strahan has posted the table of contents for next year’s anthology The Best Science Fiction And Fantasy Of The Year Volume 1 (the year being 2006), published by Night Shade.

  1. “How To Talk To Girls At Parties” by Neil Gaiman
  2. “El Regalo” by Peter S. Beagle
  3. “I, Row-Boat” by Cory Doctorow
  4. “In The House Of The Seven Librarians” by Ellen Klages
  5. “Another Word For Map Is Faith” by Christopher Rowe
  6. “Under Hell, Over Heaven” by Margo Lanagan
  7. “Incarnation Day” by Walter Jon Williams
  8. “The Night Whiskey” by Jeffrey Ford
  9. “A Siege Of Cranes” by Benjamin Rosenbaum
  10. “Halfway House” by Frances Hardinge
  11. “The Bible Repairman” by Tim Powers
  12. “Yellow Card Man” by Paolo Bacigalupi
  13. “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter (Fantasy)” by Geoff Ryman
  14. “The American Dead” by Jay Lake
  15. “The Cartesian Theater” by Robert Charles Wilson
  16. “Journey Into The Kingdom” by M Rickert
  17. “Eight Episodes” by Robert Reed
  18. “The Wizards Of Perfil” by Kelly Link
  19. “The Saffron Gatherers” by Elizabeth Hand
  20. “D.A.” by Connie Willis
  21. “Femaville 29″ by Paul Di Filippo
  22. “Sob In The Silence” by Gene Wolfe
  23. “The House Beyond Your Sky” by Benjamin Rosenbaum
  24. “The Djinn’s Wife” by Ian McDonald

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Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 11/10/06

Filed under: Tidbits

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