REVIEW: A Thousand Deaths by George Alec Effinger

REVIEW SUMMARY: More good reading from Effinger.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A collection comprised of the novel The Wolves of Memory and seven stories. In the novel, Courane is unceremoniously exiled to a struggling colony planet by the somewhat flighty TECT computer.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Effinger’s writing style and storytelling; semi-autobiographical character lends the stories some poignancy and weight. Non-sequitur narrative made it more interesting.
CONS: The stories never quite reach the level of the novel.
BOTTOM LINE: An important collection, if only because the long-out-of-print novel deserves some notice.

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Filed under: Book Review

Are You a Superfan?

You might think you’re a big fan of science fiction or of a particular franchised universe, but are you in line with the folks who are actively demonstrating they are at the top of the heap?

This thought occurred to me as I watched a guy drive away from the parking lot at work with a license plate that read ‘DR WHO 4′ (and me without a camera!) Now, I’m not sure why he had the 4 in there – it could be he has 4 cars all with that plate, or it could be he’s the 4th person with a DR WHO plate here in Massachusetts. But regardless I started realizing that no matter how much I loved Dr Who there is little chance I’d get a license plate like that. But then I thought – what would I be willing to get a license plate for? Frankly, nothing sci fi. And that’s when I came to grips with the fact that I am not a superfan.

A few clicks of the mouse have turned up the real superfans. Let’s take a look at how far somebody is willing to geek out about a creative sci-fi property they love.

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Filed under: Humor

SF Tidbits for 6/11/07

  • Maurizio Manzieri shows off the awesome illustration appearing on the cover of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction for Marta Randall’s story “L├ízaro y Antonio”.
  • Free Speculative Fiction‘s latest batch of additions includes fiction from Forrest Aguirre, Tobias S. Buckell, A. Bertram Chandler, Paul Di Filippo, David Drake, Eileen Gunn, Michael Jasper & Tim Pratt & Greg van Eekhout, Marc Laidlaw, Jay Lake, Keith Laumer, Jack McDevitt, Gareth L. Powell, Robert Reed, Benjamin Rosenbaum, Rudy Rucker, Lucius Shepard, Charles Stross, Steve Rasnic Tem, Harry Turtledove, Steven Utley, Vernor Vinge, Jo Walton, Zoran Zivcovic and more.
  • New/Updated at Gutenberg: “The Yillian Way” by Keith Laumer.
  • OF Blog of the Fallen interviews Patrick Rothfuss (Part I).
  • Top 5 SciFi lists The Top 10 Changes in the New Bionic Woman.

Filed under: Tidbits

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

QUESTION
Battlestar Galactica is ending after one more season. Your reaction?

RESULTS

(85 total votes)

One comment this week:

“If ‘It’s gone downhill, but I will be sad to see it go’ were an option, I would vote for that. I still enjoy it in spite of the uneven quality of the past season.” – Bill

Be sure to visit our front page and vote in this week’s poll about your favorite zombie movie!

Filed under: Polls

Top 10 Songs from the Young Frankenstein Musical:

  1. My, That’s an Enormous Schwanzstucker!
  2. It’s Fronkensteen, Fronkensteen
  3. Roll in Ze Hay
  4. Hello, Blücher!
  5. Walk This Way (Aerosmith version)
  6. Where’s My Hump?
  7. There, I’ve Touched It
  8. Give Him a Seda-Give
  9. Destiny! Destiny!
  10. The Ballad of Abby Normal

Bonus Track: Damn Your Eyes! (Too Late)

Filed under: Movies

SF Tidbits for 6/9/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Young Frankenstein.jpg

If you’re like us, and you are reading this so you must be close, you likes you some Young Frankenstein. Well, if you happen to also like musical theater, you can know combine your two likes into one tasty Broadway treat, Young Frankenstein: The Musical.

Oh my. I guess the success of Spamalot (which is now playing in Houston till June 17th) will now lead to Broadway foregoing any original plays, and instead re-hashing old comedy movies into musicals. Which may not be a bad thing. YF is a funny movie, and Mel Brooks will be working on the production, although, not being a theater/musical person, I have no idea what a ‘book’ is in this context, analogous to a screenplay? Would that be a a playplay?

Anyway, there’s a lot of star power behind this production (well, Broadway star power) which may or may not be a bad thing. I hope its good, even though I’ll probably never see it.

Personally, I’m holding out for Schindler’s List: The Musical.

Filed under: Movies

I, Sequel

I thought I wouldn’t get another chance to munge the name “I, Robot” again. Hollywood is nothing if not a source of the unexpected…

Over at Collider, Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica) says in an interview that he is working on a script to a sequel to the 2004 Will Smith film I, Robot.

I can already hear the collective groan of the sci-fi community, but I liked I, Robot. No, it wasn’t a true adaptation of any of Asimov’s stories, but it was still a decent movie. I still haven’t read Harlan Ellison’s I, Robot: The Illustrated Screenplay, and I still suspect it would have made a better film adaptation of the book, but we have what we have. I hope Moore will be more faithful to the source material.

[via FirstShowing.net]

Filed under: Movies

Nice job on this fan film which is officially titled Batman: Dead End. See the Collora Studios site for a better quality version.

Filed under: Movies

SF Tidbits for 6/8/07

Filed under: Tidbits

The announcement last week of the creation of “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Resort” has created quite a stir in the Pottersphere. You can imagine the interest that exists as to what rides and attractions will be built for the park. Now, thanks to our inside man at Universal, we proudly bring you this soon to be released Press Release:

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Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 6/7/07

  • At SciFi Wire, John Joseph Adams profiles James Morrow, author of The Last Witchfinder, a finalist for both the Locus Award and John W. Campbell Memorial Award.
  • Phantastik-Couch interviews Ken MacLeod about The Execution Channel.
  • Slice of SciFi interviews Jim Butcher.
  • SFF Audio points to a trio of science fiction lectures: “The Craft of Science Fiction” by Joe Haldeman, “Nano-Ethics through the writing of Science Fiction” by Rosalyn W. Berne PhD., and four Tolkien Lectures by John G. West, Janet Blumberg, Peter Kreeft & Joseph Pearce.
  • New York magazine profiles Random House. Some factoids: They publish an average of 67 books every week and make 80% of their profit from a 33,000 title backlist. [via Abe Books Blog]
  • Check out this Flickr set of classic science fiction book covers.
  • The Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame will open an exhibition of 30+ costumes and objects from Star Wars, Blade Runner, The Terminator, Superman, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and other hit SF films and TV shows on June 16. If they have the uniforms from Star Trek II, someone check them out and tell me why the heck the front shoulder was always coming undone.

Filed under: Tidbits

The guys over at IGN have posted an exclusive interview with Summer Glau, who we all know as River Tam from Firelfly, about her role in the upcoming TV series, The Sarah Conner Chronicles.

I’m still leery about taking a successful movie franchise and then creating a TV spin-off from it. And I wasn’t too excited by the trailer. I said in our earlier post that I may tune in. That was before I read this:

IGN TV: So from the clips I saw, it looks like you have a fight scene while you’re naked?

Glau: [Laughs] Can you believe it was snowing outside too?! We were in Albuquerque and I’d never been so cold in my life. I had three different night shoots where I had to be naked.

Yes, it’s on Fox. So all you’ll be seeing are the pictures in your own imagination, but still, TSCC is now in the ‘somewhat more intriguing’ bin. And who knew Summer was also in The 4400? I didn’t. Does anyone watch that show?

Filed under: TV

The SFSignal Podcast Is Here!

Well, not so much a podcast as an inanecast, but you get the idea. This is something we put together to test the podcasting waters and to see just what it would take on the technical side to put one together. As a result, we have a short, jokey ‘cast for you, with the vague promise of possibly more to potentially come in the near, or far, future. You can download the ‘cast in a variety of flavors here, or you can listen using the Pickle Player below:

Cast

Intro and Narrator: JP Frantz

Henri zee Monkee: Tim Zinsky

Overexcited child’s voice at the end: Tim’s son

And for those of you wondering about the ‘emotion’ on display by Tim’s son, don’t worry. He’s taking lessons at the Keanu Reeves Method School Of Acting.

Update: For those of you wanting to subscribe to an RSS feed, I’ve moved the files over to Odeo, and you can subscribe here.

Filed under: Meta

Prompted by Jeff Vehige’s review of A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge, I dug out my copy of David Hartwell’s book Age of Wonders: Exploring the World of Science Fiction. Chapter 8, “Science Fiction Writers Can’t Write for Sour Apples”, lists Hartwell’s picks for “Literary” novels that would be loved by readers uninitiated in the wonders of science fiction:

  1. The Long Afternoon of Earth (1962, a.k.a. Hothouse) by Brian W. Aldiss
  2. The Caves of Steel (1953) by Isaac Asimov
  3. The Best of J.G. Ballard (1977) by J.G. Ballard
  4. Timescape (1980) by Gregory Benford
  5. The Stars My Destination (1956) by Alfred Bester
  6. * Ancient of Days (1985) by Michael Bishop
  7. A Case of Conscience (1959) by James Blish
  8. Rogue Moon (1960) by Algis Budrys
  9. Childhood’s End (1953) by Arthur C. Clarke
  10. * The Great Work of Time (1991) by John Crowley
  11. Dhalgren (1975) by Samuel R. Delany
  12. The Man in the High Castle (1962) by Philip K. Dick
  13. 334 (1972) by Thomas M. Disch
  14. Camp Concentration (1968) by Thomas M. Disch
  15. * Neuromancer (1984) by William Gibson
  16. * White Queen (1991) by Gwyneth Jones
  17. Flowers for Algernon (1966) by Daniel Keyes
  18. The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) by Ursula K. Le Guin
  19. The Dispossessed (1974) by Ursula K. Le Guin
  20. A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960) by Walter M. Miller, Jr
  21. A Mirror for Observers (1954) by Edgar Pangborn
  22. Davy (1964) by Edgar Pangborn
  23. The Female Man (1975) by Joanna Russ
  24. * The Child Garden (1989) by Geoff Ryman
  25. Dying Inside (1972) by Robert Silverberg
  26. More Than Human (1953) by Theodore Sturgeon
  27. The Shadow of the Torturer (1980) by Gene Wolfe
  28. The Claw of the Conciliator (1981) by Gene Wolfe
  29. The Sword of the Lictor (1981) by Gene Wolfe
  30. The Citadel of the Autarch (1982) by Gene Wolfe
  31. The Dream Master (1966) by Roger Zelazny
  32. Four for Tomorrow (1967) by Roger Zelazny

The titles marked with *asterisks* did not appear in the 1985 first edition of Age of Wonders, but did appear in the 1996 reprint. Linked titles lead to our reviews, which undoubtedly don’t do them justice.

Also: Here is the passage that precedes Hartwell’s list:

There is no doubt that a significant number of science fiction writers today consider themselves literary artists, and a large number consider themselves traditional paid entertainers. But because of the newer attitude, I believe that the likelihood that a work of SF may be a substantial work of literature has been greatly increased. It is not my place to declare who the real artists are and are not. But looking back over the past decades, it is evident that certain works are outstanding in their execution and will repay a reader who does not have an initiation into the special pleasures that come from long acquaintance with the SF field.

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 6/6/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Series Fatigue or Fantasy Fatigue?

So here I am, currently trying to read Midnight Tides, the fifth book in Steven Erickson’s epically sized Malazan fantasy series. Now, I’ve liked the first four, certainly well enough to wade through upwards of 2000 pages of story in a genre that I am not pre-disposed to enjoy. But, and you knew one was coming, for some reason, I just can’t seem to get into Midnight Tides. Maybe it’s because House Of Chains wrapped up a four book long story cycle, closing the book, as it were, on several characters, leaving Tides to pick up with completely new stories and characters.

The prospect of reading through 500+ more pages of new stuff, even if it does tie in to what has gone before, isn’t exactly filling me with excitement, even though I have enjoyed the other books. For some reason, I’m having issues getting into this new story. As an example, it took me roughly four days to read through 60 pages in Tides. I took a break around page 40 or so, and in another four days I started, and finished, Queen Of Candesce. I feel like I’m burned out already on the Malazan series, even though I know there is a lot more to come, and Erickson has done a stellar worldbuilding job with his setting. So, is this series fatigue? Have others reached this point with this, or any other series? To those who have read farther than me, is it worth it to keep going? Or is this a symptom of fantasy fatigue?

Maybe its just me. As you can see from my shelf, I also have Carnival in my queue. I’ve actually read about 20 pages in, and, while the setting has some promise, it hasn’t really grabbed me either. But! I just obtained from John two very interesting looking books. The awesome looking The Making Of Star Wars (see my shelf on the right) and 1945, by Robert Conroy, which combines two great tastes: science fiction (in the form of alternate history) and World War II. So I face the hard choice to figure out what I want to read now. I’ll probably go with the Star Wars book, being the fanboy that I am.

What do you think: Series or Fantasy fatigue, and can I cure it?

Filed under: Books

REVIEW: Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

MY RATING:

(For more Pratchett reviews, see The Great Pratchett Reading Project table.)

Wyrd Sisters is, perhaps, the best of the early Pratchett novels, and I think it ought to stand up with the best overall. In this book, ‘the play’s the thing’ for Pratchett, as Wyrd Sisters is basically a novel-length parody of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The old King of Lancre unfortunately falls on his dagger while falling down a flight stairs and the new King just can’t seem to get the stains off of his hands, even using steel pads. It’s up to Granny Weatherwax and company to set things right.

Most Pratchett novels have interesting characters, but Wyrd Sisters is different in that all characters involved are interesting. From the triumvirate of witches, to the new King (henpecked and insane) and Queen (powermad) , the Fool (very smart but hides it well), Tomjon (the lost heir), Greebo (the cat) and, of course, Death. Pratchett does a wonderful job of making each character unique and interesting, then blending them into a very funny story. Even Greebo, the oversized, aggressive feline gets a turn in the spotlight as he is captured in the castle, then set free by the Fool. I know I said in my review for Equal Rites that I wasn’t that fond of the witches as characters. Well, Pratchett remedies that issue in this book, making the witches a joy to read, especially the bickering and deliberate (or not?) misunderstanding of words that occurs between Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg. And who can forget Nanny singing the Hedgehog Song?

From a comedy standpoint, Wyrd Sisters is chock full of laugh out loud moments, puns, wordplay and funny footnotes. Combine this with Pratchett’s skewed take on all things Shakespearian and theatrical and you have a book that is fun to read from cover to cover. That the characters take all this in stride just adds to the humor of the story. Pratchett also manages to sneak in a bit of commentary on the power of words, as Tomjon is able to rouse not only theater goers, but also roadside bandits, to his side just by quoting lines from a play and projecting his voice. That is, until he meets a born critic. And the trip to the theater by Granny, Nanny and Magrat is one of the highlights of the book. Imagine viewing a play with two people who don’t have a grasp on things theatrical, and decide to take everything they see at face value. Very funny, especially the ‘corpse’ becoming embarassed at being dead.

If there is one thing that bothered me about the book, it was the length. At just over 300 pages, its one of the longer early Discworld novels. However, I felt that, even at that length, Pratchett was stretching the parody. There were a few spots in the middle where the story seemed to be treading water, waiting to get back into full comedic flow.

As knowledge of the other Discworld novels is not required to enjoy Wyrd Sisters, I think this novel fits in nicely with Guards! Guards! as a great entry point for someone looking to get into the Discworld. And its also a great story in its own right.

Filed under: Book Review

SF Tidbits for 6/5/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Monday YouTube: Family Guy / Star Wars Preview

A preview of the upcoming Family Guy parody of Star Wars, recorded from a video camera at Star Wars Celebration IV.

[via everywhere]

Filed under: HumorStar Wars

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