Name the Next Sith Lord

LucasFilm and Del Rey publishing are hosting a contest to name the latest Star Wars Sith Lord.

What’s in a name? A great deal, indeed, for those who choose to take that final, fateful step and join the dark side. Each Dark Lord of the Sith must leave behind their old identity — and old name — in order to assume a moniker befitting their fearsome new status. As it was for Darth Bane, Darth Sidious, Darth Maul, Darth Vader, and a long line of dark disciples before them…so it is now, for Jacen Solo. But what name shall he take to seal his allegiance to the dark side? How shall he be hailed by those who honor, respect, and fear him? Now, YOU have a chance to be part of Star Wars history. Because this time, this privilege of naming the newest Sith Lord…is YOURS.

One Grand Prize winner will have his or her Sith name featured as the official character name in Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Sacrifice by Karen Traviss. The Grand Prize Winner will be recognized on the acknowledgement page of the aforementioned book.

I call dibbs on Darth Surly, Darth Testy, Darth Cantankerous, Darth Passive-Aggressive, Darth Unethical, Darth Highly-Strung, Darth Malnourished, Darth ReallyBadHeadache and Most Evil Darth Evah.

[via Club Jade]

Filed under: Star Wars

SF Tidbits for 10/3/06

Filed under: Tidbits

SF Tidbits for 10/2/06

Filed under: Tidbits

Pollus Interruptus

Well, the poll site was down for the last few days. I mostly remember the counts we had before it went down, but I’ll let it ride another week and give it time to come back up. If not, I’ll post the numbers I remember and move the poll. Again.

Filed under: Polls

SF Tidbits for 10/1/06

Filed under: Tidbits

This is the September 2006 update of my New Year’s Resolution to (almost) read a short story a day. I met my goal this month. Yay me.

QUICK STATS:
   STARTING SF-POINTS©: 338
   SF-POINTS© EARNED THIS MONTH: 38 (QUOTA: 30)
   YEAR-TO-DATE SF-POINTS©: 376 (YTD QUOTA: 273)

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Filed under: Books

Xombie

Xombie is a cool animated web cartoon about….zombies. (I knew you weren’t thrown off by the X.)

The production value is pretty darned good. I like the style, technique and storytelling. Seven episodes are currently available online. Back in March, Slice of SciFI interviewed the creator, James Farr. (Not to be confused with Jamie Farr.)

Check it out.

Filed under: Web Sites

The Literary Ghetto of Science Fiction

Following up his recent “Beer-Money SF vs. Literary SF” post – and Velcro City’s thoughtful response – Andrew Wheeler has posted “Beer-Money SF Redux“. In it, he tries to pin down why science fiction is in, and will most likely remain in, a literary ghetto.

My general theory here is that most readers are primarily interested in books that are described in words they already understand. There will be exceptions, but, for most people, being told that a book is about something incomprehensible (in a more convoluted way than that) will not be a point in its favor. If someone tells me that some great novel is about the inevitability of frammis, and that it distims the doshes in a way no gostak can, I’m probably not going to be interested. If the same person tells me it’s a great new First Contact book with a neat new idea about picotech and a different take on “The Cold Equations,” then I’ll probably look for that book. You have to have some handle on why you might like a book before you can even decide you want it.

In a similar vein comes thos article from the satirical site The Toque, “Science Fiction and Fantasy Don’t Mix“.

Those science fiction fans were one weird crowd. Everything needed an explanation. Space ships had to have a logical means of propulsion, and there always needed to be schematic drawings. Strange new worlds had to be described in great detail, right down to the composition of the atmosphere. And the physics of time travel always had to be explained. Nothing was ever accepted as is. There was certainly no room for staff-carrying magicians with long flowing robes.

Brian, on the other hand, read fantasy fiction–sensible magical stories about dungeons & dragons, swords & sorcery, elves, goblins, and trolls. With fantasy the impossible was plausible, and worlds could be saved with the wave of a crystal-wearing hand. Science never interfered.

Brian didn’t need rational explanations for unexplained phenomena; he read for pleasure and a simple “it’s magic” was just fine by him. Anyways, it was all about the “quest”. But for some reason, the sci-fi reader had some obsessive need to rationalize. He needed to know how hyperspace works, and why a pulse rifle is able to both stun and kill.

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 9/30/06

Filed under: Tidbits

Doctor Who, Series 2

The SciFI Channel aired the first two episodes of Doctor Who series two tonight. I like the show. It has a nice mix of adult “nudge-nudge, wink-wink” humor and good ol’ fashioned camp, which the kids seem to like. The new Doctor seems to be good fit. (And I still think he has a bit of a Davy Jones thing going on.)

As per usual, I watched with my daughter, who loves it. On one of the episodes, one of the characters loses a hand in a swordfight, to which my apparently geek-in-training daughter replied, “That’s just like Star Wars. I think the people that made this saw Star Wars.”

Could I be more proud? I think not. :)

Filed under: Doctor Who

Has Science Ruined Science Fiction?

Genre pulp writer Emerson LaSalle is not a fan of science. Or, at least, according to his blog Count Pulpula, he’s not happy with How Science Ruined Science Fiction.

The biggest problem with science is that it eventually undermines sci-fi staples. Take Mars for example. Thanks to that useless tax drain NASA, we now know Mars to be a lifeless rock which may or may not have had water on it at one time. Gee, thanks, science.

While it’s true that many science fiction novels have been shown to scientifically false in restrospect, I still find classic sf quite appealing. I find it interesting to see how yesteryear’s visionaries envisioned the world we see today.

But I gotta wonder about the Mars comment. Has the recent Mars exploration doomed the Mars story? Has science really ruined sf?

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 9/29/06

Filed under: Tidbits

Star Trek Away Team

The familiar crew of the Enterprise face another certain doom scenario.

Fortunately, five members can transport to the planet below.

[also via Milk and Cookies]

Filed under: TV

SF coming to life

More in the category of ‘sci-fi coming to life’ is a Philips technology that allows for true fiber optics – in this case, fabric fibers. The technology called Lumalive puts an array of LEDs into the fabric itself and thus allowing you to have moving graphical images presented from your clothing. I can only imagine the potential uses for such technology – jackets for use while jogging at night that warn vehicles of your location, shirts that allow you to promote the latest craze (your favorite blog maybe), and underwear that … well … perhaps that’s best left to the imagination.

Can the world envisioned by the movie Blade Runner be that far away?

Filed under: Science and Technology

SF Tidbits for 9/28/06

Filed under: Tidbits

Authors Name Their Favorite Books

From 2002 P.B. (Pre-Blog), there’s a Washington Post article in which authors name some favorite books. The short version:

  • Michael Chabon: R Is for Rocket by Ray Bradbury.
  • Thomas M. Disch: Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Maturin.
  • Neil Gaiman: Nine Hundred Grandmothers by R.A. Lafferty.
  • Ellen Datlow: Dangerous Visions edited by Harlan Ellison and The Playboy Book of Horror and the Supernatural.
  • James Hynes: Chronopolis and Other Stories by J.G. Ballard.
  • Sheila Williams: What Mad Universe by Fredric Brown.
  • Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket): Weird Women, Wired Women by Kit Reed.
  • Peter Straub: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.
  • Terry Pratchett: The Evolution Man by Roy Lewis.
  • Nancy Kress: The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin.
  • John Clute: Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by James Tiptree Jr.
  • Gordon van Gelder: In Signs of Life, Course of the Heart by M. John Harrison.
  • Daniel Pinkwater: Mount Analogue by René Daumal.
  • Diana Wynne Jones: Sing the Four Quarters by Tanya Huff.
  • Poppy Z. Brite: Love Ain’t Nothing But Sex Misspelled by Harlan Ellison.
  • Kelly Link: The Wolves of WilloughbyChase by Joan Aiken.
  • John Crowley: The Priest by Thomas M. Disch and Being Dead by Jim Crace.

Filed under: Books

REVIEW: Crossover by Joel Shepherd

REVIEW SUMMARY: It’s important to be able to relate to the main character in a character-driven novel.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Military android goes AWOL and tries to live a normal life among the enemy.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Well-written action scenes; avoids “robot wants to be human” cliché.

CONS: Little reason to care about main character; poor pacing; somewhat mired down in politics.

BOTTOM LINE: Shows signs of being a first novel.

Read the rest of this entry

Filed under: Book Review

SF Tidbits for 9/27/06

UPDATED: WIth link to EW BG Story.

Filed under: Tidbits

Robotic Tractors & more…

Not to be confused with robots on TV or in the movies, these robots are real. John Deere has instigated a research program designing fully unmanned robotic farm tractors. And by tractor, I don’t mean the tiny 4-cylinder device you might use around the house. In this case, I’m talking about about the big farm tractors that roam the acres of commercial farmland in middle-America.

Completely automatic driving systems already exist – and in fact are already being used today. But today the operator has to hang out in the cab ready to control the more esoteric aspects of farming. A farmer today can start up his tractor and get in some reading (sci-fi no doubt) while the computer in the cab drives whatever machine he’s got to either sow or reap. And the systems can automatically switch between crops depending on what field you’re on – doing the right thing for soybeans and a different thing for corn. Again, while the driver barely has to look up. The researcher at Deere are unashamed of promoting the fact that eventually they will get the farmer out of the silo entirely. Luckily I don’t fear a War Games scenario with this like I might with missile launch systems.

Second, at the recent Big Iron farm show in North Dakota, total-farm WiFi systems were pitched. Not designed to allow the farmer surf the web, but instead being utilized for remotely operated watering, feeding, and other systems used today on a farm.

Eventually our farmers will merely sit down at the operations center inside their massive farmhouse and direct the operation of the farm, much like a power planet operator or network administrator does today.

Filed under: Science and Technology

It’s that time again boys and girls, time for another, patented, SF Signal Reader Challenge! This time, the challenge will be broken into two separate challenges, with associated polls (although John doesn’t know that yet, though, it will make the next few polls easy for him…). This time, I’m looking for your coolest/favorite science fiction setting in the written form. The rules:

  1. List up to 3 settings in the comments below.
  2. Please restrict your settings to those in written form. In this case, novels, novellas, novelettes, short stories, poems and the like, in short, anything published in writing. Screenplays do not count.
  3. For those settings that have cross-pollinated between the visual and written media, only those settings whose original story was in written form should be considered and listed. For instance, the film 2001 won’t be accepted, but the short story “The Sentinel” will be. Star Wars and Star Trek are right out, this time.

I’ll collate the answers, then we may have a poll to see which setting is the coolest or the most favorite of the SF Signal readers. I’ll run this challenge through this coming Sunday (10/1) and then make John put up a poll starting next Monday, and then another challenge covering the visual media.

My coolest settings? Glad you asked:

  • The Culture from the mind of Iain (The M Stands for SF) M. Banks. Eccentric, overprotective AIs, ginormous ships, immortality (if careful), and Special Circumstances. What’s not to like?
  • Alastair Reynold’s Revelation Space universe. Sure, FTL is more trouble than its worth, but the society mankind has made is really cool.
  • David Brin’s Uplift series. Just plain cool. If only he’d finish the story of the Streaker.

Now it’s your turn!

Filed under: Books

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