BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Harriet and David Lovatt deal with the birth of their son, Ben, who is monstrous in appearance and abnormally strong.
PROS: Stark portrayal of marital and parental relationships; successfully conveys a feeling of discomfort.
CONS: That same feeling of discomfort translated into a disconnected reading experience; The Lovatts are not very endearing people.
BOTTOM LINE: Deals with serious subjects and is downright depressing.
Doris Lessing is a writer who made her mark writing mainstream literature but who has also dabbled in science fiction. To my discredit, I had never heard of her until her name appeared in a Book Magazine poll for the greatest living British writer and it was pointed out to me that she was a genre writer. Well, this biblioholic needed no more prodding than that to pick up a book bearing her name when it happened to catch my eye at the bookstore.
Filed under: Book Review
Here are five science fiction stories that were recently (at least to my knowledge) made available on the InterTubes at ManyBooks.net, along with their opening passages:
“Space Prison” by Tom Godwin (a.k.a. “The Survivors”)
For seven weeks the Constellation had been plunging through hyperspace with her eight thousand colonists; fleeing like a hunted thing with her communicators silenced and her drives moaning and thundering. Up in the control room, Irene had been told, the needles of the dials danced against the red danger lines day and night.
“A World is Born” by Leigh Brackett:
Mel Gray flung down his hoe with a sudden tigerish fierceness and stood erect. Tom Ward, working beside him, glanced at Gray’s Indianesque profile, the youth of it hardened by war and the hells of the Eros prison blocks.
A quick flash of satisfaction crossed Ward’s dark eyes. Then he grinned and said mockingly.
“Hell of a place to spend the rest of your life, ain’t it?”
Filed under: Free Fiction
Over at Mondolithic Studio, they rightfully dismiss the silliness of the “Is science fiction dead?” question and ask perhaps a more pertinent one: “Is Science Fiction Still a Distinct Genre?” They then go on to answer that question…
I think what confuses some people is the fact that Science Fiction isn’t really a distinct genre unto itself anymore. It’s mutated into dozens of sub-genres and movements, liberally exchanged genetic material with Fantasy and social satirism and burrowed into the internet in the form of hundreds of thousands of scifi and fantasy-oriented blogs, galleries, fanzines , vlogs, podcasts and short story webzines.
I don’t believe this “mutation” into sub-genres is new – science fiction has always been a great platform for writers to present a vast number of stories, styles and themes – but I do agree that sf can be many things.
But isn’t this is just another spin on the even more popular “What is SF?” question? As enjoyable as it is to talk about the definitions of science fiction, I think that, from a reader’s point of view, the discussion is academic. “Science Fiction” is a convenient label for people to use to drive them to the right section of the bookstore. Whether or not something adheres to anyone’s particular definition of science fiction is much less important than whether they found it enjoyable. People are reading fiction as a form of entertainment and, in the end, that is what they care about.
What’s your opinion?
[via Posthuman Blues]
Filed under: Books
- David Eick is downplaying the departure of Bionic Woman‘s co-executive producer Glen Morgan. Behind-the-scenes problems and creative differences? Pah! The show hasn’t even aired yet and NBC may give the series a break to ‘refine’ its direction. That can’t be good.
- Has Heroes outgrown its fan base? From a lackluster Comic-Con appearance, outright ignoring smaller conventions filled with fans, an emphasis on product placement and a ‘disappointing’ finale are just some of the reason Buddy TV says Heroes may have outgrown its fans. All that won’t matter at all if the writing and stories are good.
- Doing what Heroes couldn’t, Battlestar Galactica pulled in a Creative Emmy for Outstanding Visual Effects For A Series for ‘Exodus, Part 2′. You have to wonder how any of the other nominees could complete with an in-atmo jump of the Galactica. That was awesome.
- From the ‘How Did I Miss This?’ department, Sci Fi has posted a video of a Comic Con panel with the women of Galactica where the answer fan questions about the show. Sadly, no Boomer. Sorry Tim.
Filed under: Tube Bits
First is Kindle, a new e-book reader from Amazon to be available in October at a price between $400 and $500. The main selling-point of this new device is that it will wirelessly connect to an e-book store on Amazon’s site. The surprising news is that the e-books are delivered in a proprietary format, not the format of Mobipocket which Amazon bought in 2005. The Kindle will also come with freebies like reference books and the ability to read RSS feeds. But early users complain about it limited web browser.
Call me skeptical, but this seems like a high price tag for an ebook reader…even one with wifi connectivity. And a butt-ugly one at that…check out the image at Engadget.
The second development comes from Google, who plans to leverage its Book Search feature to bring in some cash. Currently you only get snippets of most books through Book Search. A soon-to-be-released upgrade will allow you to access full versions of some books…for a fee. Publishers will set the prices for their own books and share the revenue with Google.
Now this will be interesting to watch…no new device to but, you only pay for the content which, hopefully, is in some already-established format.
Is this the start of the often-predicted Age of e-books?
Filed under: Books
- Subterranean Press offers a preview/excerpt from Pilot Light by Tim Powers and James P. Blaylock: An interview with the elusive William Ashbless.
- Galleycat and SF Scope report that the winners of the Quill Awards, selected by reader poll, include Cormac McCarthy for The Road and Patrick Rothfuss for The Name of the Wind.
- Steven Huff thinks he knows the true identity of John Twelve Hawks, author of The Traveler and The Dark River.
- Edward Champion responds to the hysteria surrounding “The Death of the Book Review”: A book review should be composed of one sentence; ideally, only a handful of words. He must love Book-a-Minute SF, then!
- Gotta hand it to Google for giving it the ol’ college try…It can take this French-language interview with Christopher Priest and translate it into instantly funny pseudo-English. “DC: Which was your implication in the adaptation of your novel for the screen? C.P.: Null. I left without states of hearts Christopher NOLAN and his Jonathan brother to make their job.”
- Rat’s reading goes to great lengths to talk about why he hates fantasy.
- Universe Today offers an Astronomy in Science Fiction podcast. [via BAUTForum]
- The trailer has been online for a few weeks now as a crappy copy taped from ComicCon, but now you can see the officially released trailer for Iron Man in all it’s retro-iron-suit glory.
- Neatorama points us to two tidbits today…a Yoda Scrap Metal Sculpture and a Star Trek back tattoo (among others).
- After a butt-load of Doctor-Who-related craft links, I would be remiss if I did not give equal time to a knitted Hellboy. [via Newsarama via ComicMix]
- Reason #1,001 to love William Shatner: His quote in a recent National Ledger interview when asked what he would like to see his Boston Legal Denny Crane character do in the coming season, Shat says: “I’d like to see him play Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek movie.” [via Drivers and Sundry]
- Star Wars Blog has some images of a teeny-tiny Star Wars novel, hand-crafted, no doubt, by a certain Sith Lord’s correspondingly tiny acting skills. HI-yo!
Filed under: Tidbits
We finally have a title for Indy IV, the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Unlike SciFi Scanner, I’m not put out by the name, although I find it to be a bit unwieldy. Shia LaBeouf announced the name at the MTV Music Awards. First of all, Shia? What the heck kind of name is that for a guy?
But what’s the movie about? The Wikipedia entry on Crystal Skulls might give some hints. Based on the supposed powers and the alleged discovery, I will go out on a limb and say Indy IV will deal with either Aztec or Mayans. I even seem to recall hearing that it may have a Chariot Of The Gods storyline. I don’t really care at this point. I’m just excited to see Harrison Ford play Indiana Jones again. Let’s hope that any more story leakage doesn’t spoil the good vibes.
Filed under: Movies
Like many, the folks here at SF Signal just want to be loved. As a result, we care about what our readers have to say and wonder about what they like. So, here is my call out to all of you to tell us what you like about SF Signal. What makes it worth your time to either read the feed or check it out the main page?
And before we come off as a group of optimists, what aspect of it annoys you? It is easy enough to ignore things you don’t find interesting, but are there aspects that actively detract from your enjoyment? Maybe there something about the RSS feed that could be improved? Maybe you have a pet peeve you’d like to share?
Filed under: Meta
I watched the premiere Torchwood episode (“Everything Changes”) on BBC America. Torchwood is the Doctor Who spin-off that features the character of Captain Jack Harkness.
The Short Version: Loved it! Those of you in the U.K. or elsewhere who have seen the subsequent shows, please tell me it stays this good!
The Long Version:
- I wasn’t sure what to expect. About all I had heard was that, unlike Doctor Who, this one was aimed at mature audiences. They got that part right: some of the scenes were a bit graphic and the language was not something I’d want my daughter hear. Any more than from her old man, anyway.
- I love the premise: super-secret organization that answers to no one defends the Earth from impending alien invasion.
- The creators made a good decision to make the premise separate from Doctor Who‘s story lines. It means you don’t have to be a Doctor Who fan to like this show. Hopefully this added accessibility will translate to longevity. If the quality stays high, that is.
- Nice touch: the idea of multiple Torchwoods. A rip-off of Stargate: SG-1 but still cool, especially the “We’re still looking for Torchwood 4″ part.
- The opening sequence – which featured a resurrection glove – was something I’ve seen before, but I can’t recall where. Can anyone help? Was it previewed on an episode of Doctor Who or the SciFi Channel?
- The episode had just the right amount of hand-holding; Gwen Cooper’s story served as a perfect introduction to the series. They don’t dumb it down, but they don’t leave you in the dark either. (I’m looking you, X-Files.)
- I remember Captain Jack from Doctor Who, of course. But I must admit that I did not care for the character much. He seemed to intrude on the Doctor/Rose relationship. But I do like him better in Torchwood. The other characters, what little I saw of them, seemed pretty decent as well.
- How about those Weevils? Aliens living in the sewers? Sweet!
- And all those cool alien gadgets. More, please.
Bottom Line: I’m digging this show and will definitely be tuning in. You should, too!
Side note: During Torchwood, BBC aired a commercial for The Graham Norton Show, with guest David Tennant. I watched it and found it to be freakin’ hilarious. The fake TARDIS bit…the Doctor Who personal ad…this is another show I’ll be watching.
Filed under: TV
- Heroes was shut out at the Creative Arts Emmys. It was up for 6 and received a big fat nothing. Can it beat The Sopranos for any awards at all? Should it win any?
- Michelle Ryan and David Eick talk about the upcoming Bionic Woman. I’m undecided on whether I’ll be watching this or not.
- Time Magazine lists their 100 Best TV Shows of All-Time. There are many SF shows here, including Galactica (the new one), LOST, MST3K, and Star Trek, among others.
- The Star-Telegram gives us their opinion on the upcoming Fall TV schedule. The verdict: nothing great, but nothing horrible. They seem to have missed Caveman.
Now and Forever by Ray Bradbury
For Fans of… The most mystical vignettes tattooes on Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man; particularly philosophical episodes of The Twilight Zone.
Bottom Line: Bradbury’s characters are frustratingly vague, but his prose remains transcendent.
Winterbirth by Brian Ruckley
For Fans of… Heroic fantasy spalshed with 300-style gore.
Bottom Line: An emphasis on racial division and religious fanatacism can feel heavy-handed, but Ruckley’s realistic characters and sparing use of magic breathe new life into well-trod epic territory.
The Elves of Cintra by Terry Brooks
For Fans of… Brooks’ 16 other Shannara books.
Bottom Line: The Karamazov-size cast and myriad cliff-hangers provide plenty of thrills, though the good-versus-evil trope could use a little Elfjuice.
Hero by Perry Moore
For Fans of… Marvel’s Generation X; coming-out tales.
Bottom Line: Moore, exec producer of The Chronicles of Narnia, gives his pulpy debut some KAPOW!
Filed under: Books
- Yatterings interviews author and critic John Clute about his book, Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror. Also: Clute reviews The Dog Said Bow-Wow by Michael Swanwick.
- Ben Alpi wonders…Is there is a market for real sci-fi? “I guess the bottom line is we have to figure out how to remind those in power (marketers) that thoughtful content makes money, too. And then we have to make sure they stay out of making creative decisions!”
- Meanwhile, Purplexity contemplates the The Human Condition and Sci Fi with respect to Star Trek and Babylon 5. “One explanation we can put forward for the crappiness of the Star Trek characters is that they are removed from the human condition. Although they are still mortal (though they often seem to act as though they are not), they live in a world where they do not have to fight for resources…”
- BoingBoing shows us a bookcase built into a chair.
- Gravity Lens points us to a bestiary of the wildlife of Venus.
- The Flickr series that starts here shows clay aliens made by 6th graders. I think I see a happy Cthulhu!
Filed under: Tidbits
Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.
Which novel should have won the 2007 Hugo Award?
|(72 total votes)|
I expected a lower voter turnout this week since I figured not everyone felt comfortable voting unless they had read all the books. I’m not sure if that’s what happened here, but most voters seem to think that Watts should have taken the prize. Still, I do wonder…how many actual Hugo voters have read all the nominated novels?
Comments this week:
“I dig the Sealab stuff, but you can’t beat big Vernor at the top of his game. Not with a dolphin girl, that’s for sure…” – platyjoe
“Both Glasshouse and Blindsight are SO much better than the sleep inducing Rainbows End, but Blindsight beats Glasshouse by a nose. It’s as good as SciFi gets.” – David
Filed under: Polls
- Seam Williams shows off the cool cover of Cenotaxis, his novella that fits between Saturn Returns and its sequel.
- Tor Podcasts concludes their Worldcon series with a Worldcon wrap-up featuring Tom Doherty and Patrick Nielsen Hayden.
- Here’s a gallery of artwork inspired by the work of Peter F. Hamilton.
- Starship Sofa podcast #56 profiles Clifford Simak.
- Free fiction from Helix: “Rod Rapid and His Electric Chair” by John Barnes.
- Subterranean #7, guest-edited by Ellen Datlow is now available and contains fiction from Lisa Tuttle, Rick Bowes, Jeffrey Ford, Joel Lane & John Pelan, M. Rickert, Anna Tambour, Terry Bisson and Lucius Shepard.
- The Clarion Foundation has announced the faculty for the 2008 Clarion Writers Workshop: Kelly Link, James Patrick Kelly, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Neil Gaiman with Nalo Hopkinson and Geoff Ryman team teaching the final two weeks.
- The Houston Chronicle interviews Michael Chabon, author of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, a “a mysterious blend of sci-fi, detective and history genres”.
- LibriVox has made freely available a 28-part audiobook version of Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. [via SFF Audio]
- Jeff VanderMeer is looking for your favorite Steampunk story.
Filed under: Tidbits
- At SciFi Wire, John Joseph Adams profiles Karl Schroeder, author of Queen of Candesce.
- MobileRead lists 10 Reasons Why Paper Books Suck.
- New SF/F Titles at ManyBooks.net: “Beyond the Vanishing Point” by Raymond King Cummings, “The Hunters” by William Douglas Morrison, and “Cubs of the Wolf” by Raymond F. Jones.
- Jonathan McCalmont wonders why he should care about women writers in science fiction. [via Sean Wallace]
- Here’s a work-in-progress list of Women eligible for 2008 SF Awards.
- Suite101 offers these tidbits for sf/f writers: The Dos and Don’ts of Battle Scenes (“Don’t. Please, oh please do not give your readers a dry, blow-by-blow account of the action. This approach is boring.”) and How To Write Character Backstory (“If you are a writer and have never gamed, it would be worth your while to check out how a character sheet is made and use some version of it in your character files.”).
- Chris Roberson continues his series of posts on dead proposals with this one for the Marvel Ultimate universe. “…all I wanted to do was write a Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD story, which is readily apparent to anyone who reads the pitch. This is a spy story in superhero drag, and the bad-ass ‘Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury’ is the pivot around which the plot turns.”
- Mister Roy provides a fascinating and very detailed account on his thought process used when purchasing a genre book, in this case Winterbirth by Brian Ruckley. [via Brian Ruckley, who also points us to an excerpt for Winterbirth]
- Here is Daneel Lynn’s essay for a Science Fiction Studies class: How to Understand Science Fiction in a Science Fiction Reader’s Way?. I love the quote from Edward James’s Science Fiction of the 20th Century (1994): “it is ultimately the [determined, not the occasional or accidental] reader who decides what belongs the genre [science fiction]‘”.
- Mike Brotherton points us to two galleries of crappy science fiction & fantasy book covers: The Best (Worst) Fantasy & Science Fiction Book Covers by Cracked magazine (or are they still doing that “mazagine” bit?) and this gallery Punk Rock Penguin.
- Neatorama shows how you get a monster in the mail.
- MonkeyFilter points us to this longish-but-cool article on the pre-digital era effects used in Star Wars and Close Encounters.
- Spiderman Tobey Maguire is interested in producing a film version of Robotech. [via SFX]
- SciFi Scanner has the scoop on Thomas Edison’s Frankenstein.
- Collider has the poster for Family Guy‘s take on Star Wars. [via TheForce.net]
Filed under: Tidbits
The first thing you notice about Bad Monkeys is the lurid yellow cover, the inkblot Mandrill logo and the funky size of the book, sort of a narrower but taller trade paperback. The second thing you notice is that it’s now 12am and you’ve just spent the entire evening reading and finishing Bad Monkeys in one go. Given the amount of time I have to actually read, I was astounded that I managed that feat. Bad Monkeys is that good. This is the first book in years that I just couldn’t put down. From the opening page, I was hooked on the story of Jane Charlotte and her work for the ‘Bad Monkeys’ department of a shadowy ‘organization’.
As you can imagine, the story moves very quickly. Jane is caught by the police for murdering a man because he was evil and now she has to explain herself to a police psychologist. Alternating between scenes of the past and scenes from the present, Ruff weaves an incredibly interesting, funny and clever story in about 240 pages. It seems that the ‘organization’ fights evil in the world, not crime. Their main foe currently is ‘The Troop’, whose logo is the Mandrill on the cover. The Troop seems dedicated to expanding evil in the world, while the organization fights against them, in a pseudo Cold Shadow War. These covert actions occur everywhere, but most people are oblivious to them as the people involved seem to have a knack for not being seen, even when death and destruction is raining down. If I were to ding the book on anything, it would be that there really is no backstory on the organization, how they came into being and why. Ruff does hint at what might be going on, but I won’t spoil that for you. In fact, I can’t really go into much detail without spoiling much of the book. The details are what make Bad Monkeys the best book I’ve read this year.
What I can say is that Bad Monkeys is really the story of Jane Charlotte and her life. And what an interesting story it is too. As a narrator, Jane is sarcastically funny, and her interactions with the psychologist are a hoot. Even when dealing with the most outrageous or macabre events, she tends to take everything in stride and little phases her. The revelations about Jane Charlotte and those around her take several sharp turns at the end and, depending on whether you’ve bought into the book or not, you’ll either like it or hate it. For me, everything fit right in with the Cold War espionage feel of the book. And, really, how can you not like a book about an organization with department names like: The Department of Ubiquitous Intermittent Surveillance (Panopticon), The Department for Optimal Utilization of Resources and Personnel (Cost-Benefits), The Department for Optimal Utilization of Resources and Personnel (Bad Monkeys), and The Scary Clowns. Yes, Scary Clowns. And you learn why. Awesome. The events are sometimes brutal, but its almost always funny in unusual ways. Ruff has a knack for making just about anything amusing.
If I were to say anything more it would be: Quit reading this and go get Bad Monkeys! But, if you’re still here, you can read the first chapter online at Matt Ruff’s website. Do so, you’re in for a treat.
Filed under: Book Review
Sad news from Publisher’s Weekly:
Author Madeleine L’Engle died last night in Connecticut, at the age of 89. Best known for her 1963 Newberry Award winner A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels, L’Engle was the author of more than 60 books for adults and young readers…
- Madeleine L’Engle website
- Madeleine L’Engle bibliography
- Madeleine L’Engle wikipedia entry
- Book trailers for A Wrinkle in Time
Filed under: Books
- Apparently, the DVD sales for Jericho are low. Maybe everyone is at home, trying to watch it when its broadcast, just like the network asked them to? I think CBS made the right decision in canceling the show to begin with, but a bunch of crazy fans convinced them there was a larger audience out there than there actually is. I don’t see this making it past its 7 episode trial. If you’re interested, there will be a live chat with executive producer Dan Shotz tonight 8pm EST on the show’s home page.
- Buddy TV speculates on how LOST will end. I’m sure the series will wrap everything up, but how nicely?
- In keeping with the Dr. Who theme around here, the Dr.’s assistant, Sarah Jane Smith, will get her own TV show, The Sarah Jane Adventures, Elisabeth Sladen will reprise her role as Sarah Jane in this series aimed at the younger set.
- Kevin Falls and Kevin McKidd, creator and star of Journeyman, held a press conference to discuss the show. We learn that the romantic dimensions of the show are the core of the story, and that any SF elements will be downplayed. Yeah, I’m out.
- NEXT.TV announced an agreement with HP for a ‘revolutionary new Internet television service’ that enables users to ‘enjoy hit TV shows, movies, music videos, shorts, documentaries and much more’. Initially, only HP Pavilion and Compaq Presario PCs and notebooks running Vista will be able to access this ‘revolutionary’ IPTV service. But you can sign up for the beta if you wish. I don’t know how revolutionary this really is, as services like Joost and Babelgum are already doing this, and not tied to any one brand of computer.