SF Mag Circulation Declining

Warren Ellis looks at the sad state of science fiction magazines. Cory Doctorow responds with potential solutions:

If I were running the mags, I’d pick a bunch of sfnal bloggers and offer them advance looks at the mag, get them to vote on a favorite story to blog and put it online the week before the issue hits the stands. I’d podcast a second story, and run excerpts from the remaining stories in podcast. I’d get Evo Terra to interview the author of a third story for The Dragon Page. I’d make every issue of every magazine into an event that thousands of people talked about, sending them to the bookstores to demand copies — and I’d offer commissions, bonuses, and recognition to bloggers who sold super-cheap-ass subscriptions to the print editions.

Sure it’s lot of work, and a huge shift in the way the mags do business. But hell, how many more years’ worth of 13 percent declines can the magazines hack?

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 10/23/07

Filed under: Tidbits

EW Reviews SF/F

Issue #961 (October 26, 2007) of Entertainment Weekly offers some brief reviews of science fiction and fantasy books.

Here’s a snippet…

Nova Swing by M. John Harrison

For Fans of… A noirish, Bukowskian Matrix.

Lowdown: Harrison’s futuristic universe feels both foreign and eerily familiar. Despite his out-there imagination, he never overlooks his characters’ humanity.

Grade: A-

In the Cities of Coin and Spice by Catherynne Valente

For Fans of… Smart, surrealistic fairy tales steepen in Arabian Nights lore and the gnarled fables of Hans Christian Andersen.

Lowdown: The dense imagery and heavy use of metaphor can overwhelm, but the overall effect is intoxicating.

Grade: B+

Devices and Desires by K.J. Parker

For Fans of… Provocative Hard SF.

Lowdown: Parker’s intricately plotted and meticulously detailed book – the first in a projected trilogy – moves as deliberately and precisely as an antique watch.

Grade: B

Halting State by Charles Stross

For Fans of… Neuromancer and Scottish noir.

Lowdown: Three separate, second-person story lines make for more confusion than necessary. But the richly drawn characters, imaginative use of virtual and enhanced reality, and the genuine plot surprises more than repay the effort of keeping up.

Grade: B+

Filed under: Books

Tube Bits For 10/23/2007

  • The Anime Blog reviews the new Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex- The Laughing Man DVD. As GitS is one of my top 10 SF anime series, I’ll have to pick this one up. And, since I’ve never seen it, Solid State Society as well. And I have to agree with Rachel, GitS is one of the best ‘near future’ SF settings, ever.
  • The Idaho Statesman profiles 21-year old Lance Meenach. Lance is an avid SF fanatic, who is attempting to find and restore missing episodes of old SF TV shows, particularly Dr. Who. It seems the BBC back in the day was, well, cavalier about archiving their shows. Something to do with saving money. Ah, the joys of working for a state run network in the ’60s.
  • AnimeYourLife has a short article supposedly telling how Battlestar Galactica saved science fiction. However, the article really doesn’t make that point at all. Indeed, you could say that: 1. SF didn’t need saving, and if it did, the original BG wasn’t the show to do it; 2. SF on TV today isn’t overtly SF, especially on network TV, so you can’t say the new BG is responsible for that either. The SF shows we do have nowadays is a result of LOST‘s success, not BG’s.
  • Andrew at Carry You Away reviews the soundtrack for season 3 of Battlestar Galactica. As much as I like the show, I’ve never really been a big fan of the music. I’d be hard pressed to hum a few bars of anything other than the opening. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.
  • I saw an commercial for NBC’s new show, Phenomenon, recently and thought, “Uri Geller? Isn’t he dead?” No, no he isn’t and now he’s starring with Criss Angel in this new ‘reality’ show, trying to find the next great mentalist. I’d say ‘first great mentalist’, but that’s just me. How about a ‘reality’ show where people vie to make the next great TV show pilot? That I might watch.

Filed under: Tube Bits

Free Fiction from Forbes

Forbes magazine (!) recently asked five authors to tackle this scenario:

“It’s the year 2027, and the world is undergoing a global financial crisis. The scene is an American workplace.”

Here are the responses:

  • Abstract” by Michael Bagnulo: “This paper argues that at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a ‘posthuman’ stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.”
  • Springtide” by Max Barry: “‘This is it, baby,’ he said, easing his hands inside her shirt. ‘End of the world.'”
  • Other People’s Money” by Cory Doctorow: “Gretl’s stall in the dead WalMart off the I-5 in Pico Rivera was not the busiest spot in the place, but that was how she liked it.”
  • The Position” by Warren Ellis: “‘We can’t possibly send that man on to the floor of the Stock Exchange. He’s got no clothes on.'”
  • Factory” by Lowell Yaeger: “I got my pink slip last week. It wasn’t pink, but bright orange, and it didn’t say anything but to report to my supervisor at the end of the shift.”

[via secritcrush]

Filed under: Free Fiction

SF Tidbits for 10/22/07

Filed under: Tidbits

POLL RESULTS: The Death of the Used Bookstore

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

Do you think the used bookstore is dying?


(116 total votes)

Several comments this week:

“Trawling through used bookstores used to be lots of fun. The first SF I was able to read were my elder brother picked up from a UBS. And who could not love the Strand in NYC? However, as bookselling on the internet has risen, and the interest in reading in general declined, I’ve noticed the slow decline of used bookstores. I was even bitten by the death of a UBS. A UBS my friends and I favored here first moved to a spot miles away from its former, close, location, and then quickly folded. I lost a fair amount of store credit, and a source of reading pleasure.” – Paul

“They are the Goodwill store for the reader. As long as people buy books there will always be a place to turn them in and pick up new ones…” – Bryan

“The used bookstores that adopt new methods (e.g., joining in ABEBooks, finding new ways of reaching clients) will survive. Others will fail. Just as it always has been, there will be turnover.” – Fred Kiesche

“I learned to read at age 3. Some of my happiest childhood memories are going to a used bookstore with my family, and finding “buried treasure” at the back of the store. I visit my local used bookstore as often as I can. I’ve completed my collections of Agatha Christie, Ed McBain, John D. McDonald and Star Trek: TOS pro novels and more. I think the world without used bookstore will just be colder.” – Morjana Coffman

“Although the used bookstore as a brick-and-mortar shop is dying, the existence of the Internet has allowed us to find used books that used to take much longer to locate. It’s a balancing act; I’ll miss the thrill of the in-store browse, but when I can find a specific book I know I want with a few mouse clicks, it seems a fair tradeoff.” – Michael A. Burstein

“Used bookstores will never die, but I am seeing more stores who sell new and used books. These are my favorites and the first ones I got to when I want a book.” – Rachel

“Most of the used bookstores will close, but not all. The same for the new bookstores.” – Carles G.

Be sure to visit our front page and vote in this week’s poll about the books of Doris Lessing!

Filed under: Polls

Science Fiction and Heart of Darkness

Jim Van Pelt shares the outline of a speech he in planning to make at the Colorado Readers Conference. The speech, entitled Science Fiction and Heart of Darkness, explains what makes science fiction tick. He uses Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as a bridge to explain science fiction to the non-sf crowd.

There are lots of great sf-defining comments he makes…here’s the final money quote:

Science fiction explores humanity, what it is and what it might be. It also tells me that the world I live in isn’t the only one there is. When the universe feels small, science fiction tells me it’s not. When life has the bland taste of the mundane, science fiction brings to me a sense of wonder. Sometimes the wonder is dark. Sometimes the wonder is light. Sometimes the wonder cautions, or criticizes or satirizes or humors or frightens or thrills. It doesn’t matter, as long as I remember that the key word in it all is “wonder.”

I find the use of the word “mundane” kinda humorous in light of the the recent flap with (Capital “M”) Mundane sf, but that’s just me.

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 10/21/07

Filed under: Tidbits

SF Tidbits for 10/20/07

  • Locus Online has posted Graham Sleight’s Yesterday’s Tomorrows column from the April 2007 issue of Locus magazine which looks at the work of Cordwainer Smith. “Smith was extraordinarily uninterested in what the future might actually be like, but he was devoted to creating narratives that recreated the things that mattered to him.”
  • Adventures in Scifi Publishing podcasts Tim Pratt, author of Blood Engines.
  • At SciFi Wire, John Joseph Adams profiles C.J. Ryan, author of Burdens of Empire.
  • Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist interviews Katherine Kurtz, author of King Kelson’s Bride. “It’s astonishing to me that so many aspiring writers think they have to write a trilogy.”
  • Ben Jeapes shows off the cover of of hos book Time’s Chariot.
  • In response to George Mann’s Marrying Authors to their Market: A Genre Perspective, post, Lou Anders shows off a gaggle of cool covers in his post The Big Book Cover Post: Wizards & Spaceships.
  • Free fiction: Nina Munteanu has posted her story “Angel’s Promises“, which she describes as “a love story set in a time when AI and humans have settled on an uneasy truce of cooperation.”
  • Free science fiction movies for the watching over can be found at BMovies.com. [via MonkyFilter]
  • Matthew Sanborn Smith confesses his love of Caveman.
  • Top5 Lists The Top 6 Cases on Sci-Fi Court TV: “Robinson Family vs. Smith: Dr. Zachary Smith charged with Unlawful Exploitation and Inappropriate Contact with a Minor, Robot Tampering and general ninny-ness.”
  • Here’s a video of William Shatner responding to talk of his cameo in the upcoming Star Trek reboot: INTERVIEWER: “You’re supposed to be dead.” SHATNER: “Yeah, but it’s science fiction.”

Filed under: Tidbits

Tube Bits For 10/20/2007

  • If you’re in the market for an Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive, why not go to Best Buy tomorrow? If you buy a 360 HD-DVD drive, you’ll get the Heroes Season 1 HD-DVD set free! At an MSRP of $100, that’s not a bad deal. If you have a 360. And it doesn’t have the red ring of death, to which 3 of mine have succumbed. But I’m not bitter.
  • In an earlier Tube Bits, we had Karen Cliche from Flash Gordon defending the show from bad press. Today executive produce Peter Hume says the second half of this season will impress SF fans. He goes on to say, “The show just gets…a little bit darker, and it’s still fun and rompy…” He actually said ‘fun and rompy’, which calls into question his earlier statement about impressing SF fans. Is he talking about the same show?
  • The SciFi Channel has greenlit the production of a pilot for a new TV series called Revolution. It will detail the struggle of New America, a colony world 50 light-years from Earth, as it tries to gain independence from Earth. If done right, this could be good and very SF. I’m guessing we’ll get another show that looks like the back lot of Stargate SG-1 and with little or no SFX. In other words, aside from the premise, we won’t really see much in the way of SF goodness. Yes I know, I’m judging before I see it. I argue that SciFi’s track record is not good and justifies my skepticism. I’ll still keep an eye on it though.
  • Heroes’s Tim Kring talks about the Company photo and the people in it. Regarding the woman in the photo who looks like Joanna Cassidy, “t did look an awful lot like Joanna Cassidy in there.” That would be neat if it was, as everyone in that photo should have some role to play in this season. Additionally, Kring said, ” So the audience should fully expect to see characters leaving in the near future.” This was regarding the potential for the deaths of major characters. Hmm, who votes for Nikki?
  • Speaking of Heroes and speaking of speaking, Henry at Crooked Timber takes issue with the supposed Irish accents of the gang Peter has fallen in with, harshing on all the actors. And here I thought those scenes were out takes from yet another time travel episode of Enterprise. Anyone care to comment on the accents? Not being Irish, or even British, I can’t tell a bad accent from a good one.
  • Finally, if you’re interested, Sci Fi Wire has a video of the cast of Jericho teasing the upcoming second season. I’m non-plussed about Jericho.SPOILER I may tune in, just to find out why nuking their own country was deemed to be a good idea for the people who did it. Otherwise, I was losing interest in the show.

Filed under: Tube Bits

Space Nazis!

In 1945 the Nazis went to the moon. In 2018 they are coming back.

So goes the tag line of Iron Sky, an as-yet-unreleased feature-length science fiction comedy, from the creators of Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning. The story is described on the site (which also has a MySpace page):

Towards the end of World War II, in 1945, the SS officer Hans Kammler’s staff made a significant breakthrough in anti-gravity research. From a secret base built in the Antarctic, the first Nazi spaceships were launched in late ’45, and they founded the military base Schwarze Sonne (Black Sun) on the so-called dark side of the Moon. The purpose of this base was to build a powerful invasion fleet and return to take over the Earth once the time was right.

It is the year 2018. The Nazis are about to return to an unsuspecting Earth – but the homeworld has problems of its own. Frustrated people hunger for anything inspiring, shocking, strange or surprising, like a lightning bolt out of the blue. They’re going to get it – more so than they’ve ever hoped! And they’re going to love it!

Mmmm…space Nazis…. If we could just slam time-traveling zombies in there, it’d be a certified hit.

Filed under: Movies

Tube Bits For 10/19/2007

  • We know that George Lucas has been working on a TV series set in the Star Wars universe. Know we know a bit more about what the show will look like: no major characters and a story that is ‘taking chances’. Hopefully that doesn’t mean Jar Jar is the focus.
  • Richard and Pluperfection discusses the character of Sylar on Heroes. I agree if they ‘recycle’ his character into what it was last season, it will be a huge letdown. I have an idea on what I’d like to see from him, but little to back it up.
  • SciFi Chick brings us the premier date for The Sarah Conner Chronicles: January 14th at 8PM ET. And in case you missed it, Angela visited the set of TSCC, which included meeting Summer Glau.
  • I bet you didn’t know that IGN just started a new site dedicated to anime. To celebrate, IGN is offering up the first episode of Pumpkin Scissors for your enjoyment.
  • How do you know when your TV show is ‘bad’? When it’s canceled before it evens airs an episode! Fox has canned New Amsterdam before its revised premier date in January. Since this is Fox, I’m assuming Amsterdam has the potential to be the best show ever if it gets canceled without ever being seen on the air.
  • For your viewing pleasure: EW brings us the 24 Butt-Kicking Babes from TV and Film. Several TV babes make the cut, including Kate from LOST and Sarah from Chuck. But it’s hard to argue with their number 1.

Filed under: Tube Bits

Friday YouTube: Kuato Sings Chocolate Rain

Filed under: Music

SF Tidbits for 10/19/07

Filed under: Tidbits

And no, I’m talking about hitting the Bittorrent networks and downloading a pirated copy, or even a theater copy with Elaine dancing over the credits. I’m talking about getting Silver Surfer from Bittorrent.com for very low price of 99 cents.

See? Bittorrent can be used for good instead of evil. And speaking of evil, I hear the Silver Surfer is evil, but I wouldn’t know since I’ve never read any of his comics or even seen the movie. But for 99 cents, I’m sorely tempted. Plus you get Jessica Alba. I’m unsure on the technical details of the video, whether your renting it or actually get to keep the download, but for that cheap, even a rental is good.

If you’re at all interested, you’ll want to act fast as this offer expires on Oct. 23rd. Thank you to Bittorrent.com for extending this offer to our readers!

Filed under: Movies

Targeting Readers Through Book Covers

Solaris Books has posted an interesting article at their webiste concerning the packagaing of genre fiction. Go read Marrying Authors to their Market: A Genre Perspective for interesting insight into the issues publishers face when selling books. An exceprt:

Publishing a successful SF/F novel is not something you can easily do to a formula, and indeed, the measures of what make a novel a success are as varied as the houses that publish them. So how, then, do you go about finding this elusive success and packaging a novel in a way that will maximise its potential in the market?

As I see it, there are currently two schools of thought – to package your SF/F novel to appeal to as wide a readership as possible, in the hope of enticing readers from other areas of the bookstore to pick it up on a whim; or to package your SF/F novel to appeal to the perceived core readership of the genre, or indeed, fans of Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who, people who want a book with a spaceship or a wizard on the front of it.

For even more insight into the matter, check out Ariel’s assessment of the matter over at The Genre Files.

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 10/18/07

  • J.K. Rowling opens up about Christian imagery in Harry Potter. [via Claw of the Conciliator]
  • Fantasy Book Critic interviews J.V. Jones, author of A Sword from Red Ice. “For me, the only thing worth writing about is people and their personal conflicts.”
  • Effective January 1, 2008, Jeff VanderMeer’s Ministry of Whimsy Press will come out of hibernation as an imprint of Wyrm Publishing. VanderMeer will work as a creative consultant and publicist for the Ministry’s books.
  • James Patrick Kelly is podcasting his novel Look Into the Sun. Here’s Part 31.
  • Guardian Book Blog explains why real-life encounters with authors fall flat. “I don’t think it’s fair to condemn writers who aren’t utterly warm and loving when coping with fans: the skill sets associated with sitting in a room on your own writing a book and being a celebrity don’t have a lot of overlap, do they?”
  • The BBC lists 10 ways to get you to read a book.
  • New/Updated at Gutenberg: “Second Sight” by Alan E. Nourse.
  • Filed under: Tidbits

REVIEW: The Execution Channel by Ken Macleod


My previous Ken Macleod reading experiences haven’t lived up to the hype surrounding Macleod as a writer. I tried reading his Engines of Light series, but wasn’t interested in finishing. I read Learning the World, but was disappointed. There’s something about his writing style that is offputting to me. So, while the synopsis of The Execution Channel sounded cool, I knew other Macleod books had sounded cool too, but ultimately didn’t follow through. I’m happy to say that The Execution Channel not only lives up to it’s hype, it’s also Macleod’s best book to date.

Read the rest of this entry

Filed under: Book Review

I can’t believe William Shatner “sings” a song and I actually like it. Joe Jackson helps. I think I need help.

Filed under: Music

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