SF Tidbits for 9/4/06

Filed under: Tidbits

POLL RESULTS: James Cameron’s Best Film

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

QUESTION
Which of the following is the best movie that James Cameron directed?

RESULTS

(76 total votes)



Be sure to vote in this week’s poll on Your Favorite Robot from Literature!

Filed under: Polls

BiblioRoll

A while back I was adamantly opposed to reading devices. I preferred the experience of reading a physical book over a digital counterpart. When I started my 2004 short story reading project, I became something of a convert. While I generally do not read novels on the PDA, I’m OK (and sometimes prefer) reading short stories on the PDA. There are many features that mobile reading offers.

But I have to draw the line somewhere.

There’s a prototype of a new device called BiblioRoll that is meant to enhance the reading experience by simulating picking up a book off a shelf and reading it. It looks like one of those drive-thru bank pneumatic tube carriers and it works by twisting it and pressing buttons.

While I applaud the intention of finding new ways to make digital reading more usable, I gotta say my impression of this device is far from “Hey, that’s cool!” This device looks to be cumbersome and too large. Check out the video and you’ll see what I mean. Does this thing look like must-have device to you?

[via MobileRead]

Filed under: Science and Technology

SF Tidbits for 9/3/06

Filed under: Tidbits

Free B SF Movies!

Public Domain Torrents is a site that hosts torrent files for many feature films that are now in the public domain. They have a decent SF section with over 150 movies available. Of course, you don’t get Forbidden Planet, but you do get Teenagers From Outer Space (“The high court may very well sentence you to TORTURE!!!!”). In fact, I see several movies that have been featured on Myster Science Theater 3000. They PDA, iPod and PSP versions available, and some movies are even hosted on Google Video for those of you without bittorrent or one of the above listed playback devices.

Happy hunting!

Filed under: Movies

SF Tidbits for 9/2/06

Filed under: Tidbits

REVIEW: Infoquake by David Louis Edelman

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In the far future, small corporations, called Fiefecorps, battle between one another to win the hearts and bodies, almost literally, of consumers. They produce the software products that control the OCHRES (nano-bots) present in every living human. Fiefecorp master Natch has raised his fiefecorp’s rating faster than any other in history, using a mix of products and shady marketing. It is Natch who is selected by Margaret Surina to help bring her revolutionary product, MultiReal to market.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Impressively detailed future society, well thought-out consequences of future software development, makes the boardroom an interesting place to read about.

CONS: Aside from Natch, the other characters aren’t really well developed, I didn’t really buy in what MultiReal is.

BOTTOM LINE: A very strong debut novel mixing a historically detailed timeline with an intriguing technological future. David Louis Edelman makes reading about corporate shenanigans fun.

Read the rest of this entry

Filed under: Book Review

Star Trek Gets the CGI Treatment

Star Trek (the original series) will be getting a Lucas-like CGI makeover.

Updates include a computer-generated Enterprise; CGI upgrades for battle sequences, ship exteriors, galaxy shots and landscapes; and a re-recorded opening score with a remastered voice-over. Each episode is also being converted to high-deinition format for those who wish to broadcast in HD. [TVology 101 has more.]

All I know is that if Paramount goes all Lucas on it and they make it so that Evil Kirk shoots first, JP is gonna be really pissed off. On the bright side, at least now he’ll be able to see “Spock’s Brain” in HD, the way it was meant to be seen.

Edit: fixed broken link to TVology101.

Filed under: TV

SF Tidbits for 9/1/06

Filed under: Tidbits

8/06 UPDATE: My New Year’s Resolution

This is the August 2006 update of my New Year’s Resolution to (almost) read a short story a day.

QUICK STATS:
   STARTING SF-POINTS©: 276
   SF-POINTS© EARNED THIS MONTH: 62 (QUOTA: 31)
   YEAR-TO-DATE SF-POINTS©: 338 (YTD QUOTA: 243)

Read the rest of this entry

Filed under: Books

REVIEW: The Crooked Letter by Sean Williams

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The death of Seth Castillo, and his separation from his twin brother Hadrian, sets into motion a terrible cataclysm on Earth.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Non-standard fantasy setting, loads of different deity figures, interesting premise.

CONS: Middle section bogged a bit, the ending left me a bit puzzled.

BOTTOM LINE:If you’re looking for a good fantasy read that is part of the FWtE (fantasy without the elves) genre, check this one out.

Read the rest of this entry

Filed under: Book Review

SF Tidbits for 8/31/06

  • Tobias Buckell shows off the cool Todd Lockwood cover of Ragamuffin, sequel to his debut novel Crystal Rain.
  • MetaxuCafe examines the work of Paolo Bacigalupi.
  • David Louis Edeman represents his novel Infoquake at mySpace.
  • L. Lee Lowe is serializing his young adult sf/f novel, Mortal Ghost. NOTE: May not be suitable for the younger set due to some strong language.
  • SteveReads hates the dumb genre writing of Stoopid SciFI.
  • SciFi Wire profiles Mike Resnick and his limited-edition anthology Space Cadets which features stories by Kevin J. Anderson, David Brin, Gregory Benford, Mercedes Lackey, Nancy Kress, Catherine Asaro, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Barry Malzberg, Larry Niven and David Gerrold, among others.
  • The 44 minute recap episode of Battlestar Galactica, called ‘The Story So Far’, is now available for free on Xbox Live Marketplace. Sadly, its only standard def. Come on SciFi, get it together!
  • Ron Moore recently stated that one or more of the current cast won’t make it to next season. For Tim’s sake, let’s hope he isn’t referring to Boomer…
  • Dr. Djoymi Baker’s PhD thesis, Broadcast Space: TV Culture, Myth and Star Trek, has won a University of Melbourne Chancellor’s Prize for Excellence. She watched all of Star Trek’s incarnations, totalling over 700 episodes and 624 hours. Yikes. And to think, Star Trek: The Next Generation wasn’t even on the air yet when I first went to college, and now someone has a PhD for studying Star Trek.

Update 1: Added BG and Star Trek bits. — Ed.

Filed under: Tidbits

Of SF, Kids And Outreach

Thanks to Harlan Ellison, the SF blogosphere is awash with reactions to the Harlan Ellison Grope. It seems that almost everyone has something to say about Ellison, with reactions to the actual WorldCon panels being quite muted. However, David Brin has an interesting post about how the Con panel deliberately (I’m not sure how he knows that) chose to eviscerate nearly all panels about SF education or outreach to new generations. In fact, Brin is the only person I’ve seen that had that reaction, no one else even mentioned this. Brin goes on to castigate the fan organizations for failing to do much, if any, actual outreach to the younger set. Now, I know this has been talked about somewhat in the recent past. In fact, I see Scalzi jumping up and down (keeping one hand on his tiara lest it fly off and lodge itself in Cthulhu’s maw, causing He Who Must Not Be Named to choke horribly and possible rend the very fabric of space and time) screaming: “Me! Me! I wrote about it in December!”. To which I say, pipe down and keep your shirt on, we’ll get to you in a minute! Brin goes on to present some anecdotal, but I believe accurate, evidence concerning the number of elderly attendees being equal to or greater than the number of kids at the con.

First, a personal note. My oldest son (just now 10), loves to play video games. He’ll sit in front of the TV and play games for hours, all day if we’d let him. Among his favorite games are Star Wars Battlefront I and II, various Starfox games and Knights Of The Old Republic II. Seeing has how he is a Star Wars game fanboy, I thought I’d try to interest him in watching the original trilogy. He was not interested! He said he’d rather play the games and take part in the story (OK, he didn’t say it like that, but that was the gist of it) than be a passive observer of a movie. Of course, he loves the animated Clone Wars DVDs. So much for the intellectual consistency of a 10 year old. Anyway, at least he’s interested in the SF games, but I suspect it just part of his overall fondness for games in general. But, being 10 years old, he is in that age category where kids are most likely, so its been said, to become hooked on reading SF, the 10 – 12 year olds.

The funny thing is, my son is a good reader, he just doesn’t like to do it for fun. If he does pick up a book, its usually an astronomy or science related book (which is good!), but I want him to learn that reading can be just as enjoyable as any game, and maybe even better. And while non-fiction science books are great, reading can be more than that. Now, we just moved into a bigger house and this necessitated a move into a new school district. This district, Tomball ISD, has an Advanced Reading program throughout all its schools. This AR program assigns a difficulty level and points to books, based on their subject matter, writing style, etc. The kids get to pick which books they want to read, and when finished, take a 10 question test about that book. They get a percentage of the books points based on how well they do on the test. If the book is work 10 points, and they get 80% of the questions right, they get 8 points. At the end of each nine-weeks, the points are added up and a letter grade is assigned for the AR portion. Now, on first blush, this sounds like a great way to get kids to read. But, there was a reason I went into the gory details. Not only are the kids forced to read, its a grade after all, but they have to take a test after they finish each book. This isn’t fun, its work. During the meet the teacher night, I looked at the AR books in my son’s class. There were about 15 or so bins of books, labelled as to type. There several ‘general fiction’, ‘non-fiction’ and ‘fantasy’ bins. How many ‘science fiction’? One. I didn’t get a chance to poke through it, but from what I could see, there were no SF books that I recognized. Now, to be fair, there is a giant AR list of books, and there are several Heinlein and Card books on it, but those weren’t evident in my son’s 5th grade classroom.

‘That’s interesting and all, but whats your point?’, I hear you ask. Well, remember the Scalzi post from above? In it, he makes some good points, among them being that SF needs authors who are unapologetic about writing SF for non-SF readers and how the SF community needs to reach out to the general reader populace. He then follows that post up with another post about Gateway SF Books. But look at condition #2: ‘While I love Young Adult books, focus on SF marketed to adults’. Then go back and read Brin’s comments about the aging of SF. Then re-read Scalzi’s post on outreach. whats missing? SF for kids. To me, the best way to grow SF and SF readers, is to get kids hooked on SF. While I applaud the attempt at a Gateway SF list (I’ve toyed with doing the same thing here, but Scalzi has done a much better job), I don’t think aiming for the adults is the best way to go. While you may convert a few adults, I doubt you will make rabid SF readers out of them. Not so with kids. lets face it, one of the cool aspects of SF is the sense of wonder inherent in most stories, the ability of SF to make you look at something in a new and different manner, or to encounter something you might have otherwise. In effect, to be a kid again and to experience something for the first time, and to be affected by it, to be moved by it, to be awed by it. SF is a much harder sell to adults who are set in their ways and are used to looking at the world in a certain manner. Kids don’t have that problem. They haven’t formed a worldview yet. They are experiencing something new every day. I believe there is no better time to reach someone than when they are a child. This is where the outreach programs should be focusing. I’d love to see someone, anyone, trolling the SF community, asking for book donations, then donating those books to school libraries. I’d like to see some organization make a concerted effort to actually reach the kids in schools, and not just through books. Why not a 30 minute tour of SF, showing film clips and reading excerpts from books? At the very least, its something different from regular school work and an attempt to equate SF with fun, not work. And I think that is the key. If we can make SF fun to read, the rest will take care of itself. So, I would add a codicil to Scalzi’s statement that reads: “We need SF authors who are unapologetic about writing kid accessible SF’. And by kid accessible I mean lose the sex and drug references. That stuff can come later. First and foremost, kids SF should be fun to read. This will make outreach that much easier to accomplish.

Is there anyone out there trying to do any of this, because SF, if we want to grow the genre’s base, needs this to happen.

Filed under: Meta

Final 2006 WorldCon Updates…Part 4

OK, the remaining WorldCon driblets will soon fall beneath my radar from sheer overexposure.

But! There are still worthwhile reflections from sf/f author Steven Brust and literary agent Jenny Rappaport. Also, Escape Pod offers an audio sampling of people answering the question “What first inspired you to become passionate about science fiction?”

But the Best WorldCon Report Award has to go to William Lexner who gives a scathing-but-honest report. This is a must-read, folks.

Filed under: Events

Do You Read Young Adult Fiction?

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer: Teen books can be great reading for adults, too. [via The Journal of a Writer]

Quoth the article:

“Young adult” is the name of the relatively young and fast-growing genre of books that are geared to readers ages 12-18 or 14-18. But the readership of YA may have less to do with age than the name suggests.

“I personally think there’s a fine line between YA and adult fiction,” said Cindy Egan, an editorial director at Little, Brown. “I’m 37, and all my friends read YA books.”

As I’ve previously noted, especially when reading David Gerrold excellent Dingillian Family series, the young adult fiction of today contains many more mature themes than the YA fiction of yesteryear. This is also mentioned in the Inquirer piece:

[Bookstore owner Jan] Orts said the discussion about what makes a book YA is always controversial for booksellers. “It used to be content. Sex, incest, drugs, abuse, all used to be adult themes only – but that’s no longer true.”

Yep, I think young adult is something more of a marketing term these days than an accurate reflection of content. From that perspective, buyer beware.

But I also think this raises the age-old issue of “Art vs. Entertainment”. Some people dismiss YA fiction as not worth their time. Perhaps they think it’s not “literary” enough. Perhaps it’s not “challenging”. (See our discussion on literary snobs.) I say “Bah!” Dismissing books as drivel is different than choosing not to read something not suited to your tastes. Personally, I enjoy reading the occasional young adult novel. (I am currently reading Scott Westerfeld’s Midnighters #1: The Secret Hour and liking it.) The “YA” label may not guarantee literary and challenging – although that’s becoming less the case these days and, the flip side, who says all non-YA fiction is always challenging? – but it still fun. Remember that, folks? When reading used to be fun?

How ’bout you? Do you read young adult fiction or avoid it like the plague?

Filed under: Books

Final 2006 WorldCon Updates…Part 3

Hey, can I help it if interesting commentary keeps trickling in?

Check out these by Lou Anders, Mark Kelly, George R.R. Martin and John Picacio.

Also, John Joseph Adams has posted a WorldCon Flickr Gallery. Want more? How about a WorldCon 2006 Photo Gallery [via VCTB]?

Filed under: Events

SF Tidbits for 8/30/06

  • Cynical-C has the YouTube videos of The Stars Wars Holiday Special featuring Bea Arthur (Of course!), Art Carney (Naturally!) and, inevitably, Harvey Korman. Perhaps it’s better referred to as The Stars Wars Horrible Special?
  • StarWars.com interviews Karen Traviss, author of Star Wars: Legacy of the Force – Bloodlines. [via Club Jade]
  • SciFi Weekly reviews Merlin’s Apprentice, sequel to the 1998 miniseries Merlin, bot starring Sam Neill. Final Grade: C-.
  • SF Author and professor James Gunn was interviewed by NPR, to be aired Saturday, 26 August 2006.
  • John C. Wright continues his Heinlein tour with a review for Citizen of the Galaxy.

Filed under: Tidbits

Variable Star Website

Variable Star, the science fiction novel conceived by Robert A. Heinlein and completed by Spider Robinson, has its own website.

The site offers excerpts – 2 chapters right now, a third added on August 31. Also available, book info, review quotes, author bios, a DVD-extra-like making-of afterword and promotional information like author tour info and a David Crosby song.

The book will be available on September 19th, 2006.

[via Core Dump]

Filed under: BooksWeb Sites

UPDATE: Added link to Ellison fan reactions.

What I thought would be the last batch of WorldCon updates wasn’t. As attendees and winners have returned home, they have more musings and more comments on the now-infamous Harlan Ellison® Grope (including some from fans).

Some of the better commentaries include those of Gwenda Bond, David Brin, Edward Champion, Alan DeNiro, David Louis Edelman, Greg van Eekhout (more on the Ellison groping), Jane Espenson, Patrick Nielson Hayden, John Scalzi (more on the tiara) and Jeff VanderMeer.

Filed under: Events

SF Tidbits for 8/29/06

Filed under: Tidbits

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