Space Opera at WorldCon

Mark Kelly, editor of Locus Online, has posted a WorldCon Day 2 Report in which he said, among other things, the following about Space Opera:

The next panel was a debate about the ‘Space Opera Renaissance’, subject of a recent anthology by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, with panelists Hartwell, Charles Brown, Wil McCarthy, Mike Shepherd [Mike Moscoe], Gardner Dozois, Al Reynolds, and Toni Weiskopf. There was less dissension among panelists than I expected, though the result was like the joke about blind men describing an elephant; each panelist talking about the same ostensible subject, but each saying something completely different from what the others said. Brown established that ‘space opera’ has to have spaceships and be in space (as opposed to ‘planetary romance’), and described its history as rooted in the manifest destiny theme of US history; Dozois discussed its origin in the ‘super science’ stories of the 1930s and ’40s, with pendulum swings since then on the acceptability among young writers of writing in the form, and the quality of flamboyance that’s essential to make something space opera; McCarthy claimed the ‘renaissance’ has involved traditional space opera’s incorporation of first relativity, then chaos theory, biotech, and all the rest; Reynolds noted that this ‘renaissance’ actually began 10 years ago, and cited Cordwainer Smith as the earliest of the new space opera writers; Weiskopf talked about sincerity and Honor Harrington; Shepherd talked about space opera’s renaissance as the corrective to all those downer ’70s stories, and stressed that space opera should by fun, fast-paced adventures with happy endings, as his own (prominently displayed) books are; and Hartwell explored the distinctions between space opera and hard SF and the evident overlap of the two from writers like McCarthy, Reynolds, and Stephen Baxter. Other writers mentioned were Scott Westerfeld, John C. Wright, Iain M. Banks, Walter Jon Williams, Vernor Vinge, John Clute, and M. John Harrison. If there was a consensus among the panelists, it might have been that the coolness of space opera has waxed and waned over the decades, but the form hasn’t gone away, nor will it in the future.

This peaked my interest quite a bit because I am currently in the middle of reading the HUGE anthology The Space Opera Renaissance edited by Hartwell and Cramer. It occurs to me that space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that is about as hard to define as sf itself. TSOR includes much discussion on the history of space opera (including a super-size version of their space opera essay from 2003) that comes across as pedantic but doesn’t quite nail down the definition. Perhaps that’s the point; that space opera is a fusion of many other subgenres. (Indeed, there is a David Drake military sf story contained within it that is only marginally associated with traditional space opera characteristics, and then only at the very end of the story.) I guess like Mark observed through the varied definitions at WorldCon this week, Space Opera has many facets.

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 8/26/06

Filed under: Tidbits

Free Golden Age Science Fiction

Now arriving at Project Gutenberg: Golden Age Science Fiction!

As tidbit readers are aware, many of the golden age science fiction classics are falling out of copyright and starting to show up on Project Gutenberg. Can you say “free science fiction”? I knew you could.

The Thunder Child has begun compiling a list of free science fiction classics including work by the likes of Victor Appleton (the Tom Swift books), Edgar Rice Burroughs, Terry Carr, Lester Del Rey, Murray Leinster, David Lindsay, A.E. Merritt, Andre Norton, Alan E. Nourse and H. Beam Piper.

[link via MobileRead via TeleRead ]

Filed under: Free FictionWeb Sites

SF Tidbits for 8/25/06

Filed under: Tidbits

WorldCon 64

WorldCon #64 started this week. This is the convention where the Hugo Awards are presented.

Many folks in the blogosphere are attending and posting reports on their blogs. Folks like Andrew Wheeler, Jay Lake, Mark Kelly, Robert J. Sawyer, Cheryl Morgan, Michael L. Wentz and Bad Astronomy (Phil Plait).

There’s also more official writeups in Wired Magazine and The Guardian.

Filed under: Web Sites

An Updated List: SF/F Authors Who Blog

Just a note that the list of SF/F Authors Who Blog is often being updated. I made a bunch of updates today. Also note that the link has recently moved to the home page’s top left widget.

If you know of any sf/f genre authors who are missing from the list, drop me a note.

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 8/24/06

UPDATED:Link fixed. (Thanks, Jose!)

  • While SciFi Wire covers the latest Dune novel by Kevin J. Anderson, John Joseph Adams offers up some extra material from the piece.
  • Mech Muse‘s first issue is now available for free as an 12-hour, ad supported podcast. [via SFF Audio]
  • Subterranean Press is publishing a “Lost” version of The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle.
  • Cinema Blend has the poster for the upcoming adaptation of Eragon.
  • Locus Online has posted the cover of the September 2006 issue os Locus Magazine which features interviews with James Patrick Kelly and Ken MacLeod, remembrances of David Gemmell and forthcoming book listings through June 2007. (I’ll let you know how it is when my postman is done with it.)
  • Mark Kelly has posted an interesting analysis of the 2006 Locus Poll. He also has posted the comments from the poll. (Bonus Points: Can you find my comment?)

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You may be wondering what, exactly, I mean by ‘threat’. Simply put, it’s anything that imperils either the characters in a story, a planetary system, the galaxy, or any combination of those three. I’m assuming that most of the ‘threats’ people will remember will be from the space opera sub-genre, but that doesn’t have to be the case, as more personal threats can be cool too.

A word about cool. Cool is defined here as: ‘Any situation, being, technology or potential action that makes you, the reader, sit up and take note. Lot’s of notes’. In other words, things that tickled your intellectual fancy and made you say: ‘Cool!’

I’ll give you a sample of mine.

  • The planet Endurium in the classic PC game, Starflight.
  • The dead returning to ‘life’ in Peter F. Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn trilogy.
  • The melding plague and Inhibitors from Alastair Reynolds’ Revelation Space books.
  • The planet eating space worm from Star Trek’s The Doomsday Machine.
  • A marauding superstring left over from the Big Bang wanders through space, causing nearby stars to go supernova, from Stellvia Of The Universe.
  • A rogue AI takes over a planet, a la Scott Westerfeld in his Risen Empire series.

I could go on, but you get the idea. I know there are a ton more cool ideas out there and more books than I can possibly read. So, go ahead and list your best, coolest SF threats (up to 5!) that you have encountered. It can be from a book, short story, move, game, anything. I’ll collate them and post the results next week.

Filed under: Books

REVIEW SUMMARY: 5 standouts + 17 good stories – 8 less-than-stellar = a very good anthology.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Anthology of 30 sf stories from the year 2005

MY REVIEW:

PROS: 22 stories good or better, 5 of them outstanding.

CONS: 8 stories mediocre or worse.

BOTTOM LINE: Another good collection of stories on par with the past few volumes.

Continuing the much-loved, annual tradition of picking the top short sf stories of the year, author/editor Gardner Dozois’ presents the twenty-third volume of The Year’s Best Science Fiction, an anthology containing 30 stories from 2005 and spanning 800 pages. The anthology has much of what we come to expect from the series – a representative sample of science fiction that showcases the breadth of the genre. There is also the voluminous summation of the science fiction year. As comprehensive as the series’ summations are, I can’t help but think that they get even better as time goes on. Looking back at early editions in the series (yes, I have most of them and no, I have not read most of them) proves that the summations increase in nostalgic value with each passing year.

Overall, this anthology is on par with the other volumes I’ve read, which sits at a very comfortable “very good”. (See the reviews for #19, #20, #21 and #22.) By my tally, 22 of the 30 stories were good or better with 5 of those rising to the outstanding level. That means that eight of the stories were mediocre or worse. This can be expected as the tastes of editor and reader are sure to differ. It should be noted that there are two stories this year by Alastair Reynolds, whose fiction tends to agree with me. Perhaps, then, it’s no wonder that’s why he snagged two of the top five ratings.

The five standout stories were “Beyond The Aquila Rift” and “Zima Blue” by Alastair Reynolds, “Second Person, Present Tense” by Daryl Gregory, “The Canadian Who Came Almost All The Way Home From The Stars ” by Jay Lake And Ruth Nestvold and “Burn” by James Patrick Kelly.

As noted below, twelve of the stories contained in this volume have been previously reviewed by me. Also, stories available online are linked.

Reviewlettes follow…

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Filed under: Book Review

Why Booksellers Are Going Belly Up

AlterNet.org explains Why Booksellers Are Going Belly Up. One cited reason: The book is dying…

“Perhaps the hardest cut to endure is that books as we know them are fading, bit by bit, from ubiquity. We can no longer presume they’ll always be here. Actual books, with covers and pages and bindings and type, are increasingly artifacts, relics — old school, silverfish food, without hyperlinks. How long before that $24.95 best-seller, bought on Amazon yesterday, is displayed in a museum alongside rotary phones, cyclamates, and bustles? That’s why the death of Cody’s hurts: For all those who used to sneak-read as children under the covers with flashlights and books, it presages our own obsolescence.”

[Link via A Progressive on the Prairie]

Filed under: Books

Rudy Rucker Announces Flurb

Rudy Rucker has announced the launch of a new webzine called Flurb, which boasts some major sf talent. Issue #1′s TOC:

Filed under: Web Sites

SF Tidbits for 8/23/06

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INTERVIEW: Lou Anders

Lou Anders wears more hats than most. He is an accomplished author (The Making of Star Trek: First Contact) and journalist, with over 500 published articles in such magazines as The Believer, Publishers Weekly, Dreamwatch, Star Trek Monthly, Star Wars Monthly, Babylon 5 Magazine, Sci Fi Universe, Doctor Who Magazine, and Manga Max and on websites such as SF Site, Revolution SF and Infinity Plus as well as a recent string of essays for BenBella’s Smart Pop series. He is a successful anthologist with books such as Outside the Box (Wildside Press, 2001), Live Without a Net (Roc, 2003), Projections: Science Fiction in Literature & Film (MonkeyBrain, December 2004), FutureShocks (Roc, January 2006) and the upcoming Fast Forward (Pyr, February 2007). In 2000, he served as the Executive Editor of Bookface, and before that he worked as the Los Angeles Liaison for Titan Publishing Group. He also served as the senior editor for Argosy magazine in 2003 and 2004. Lou’s current role is as editorial director of Prometheus Books’ science fiction imprint Pyr.

SF Signal had the opportunity to ask Lou about the publishing, the appeal of the fantasy genre, the purpose of book cover art and the science fiction genre in general…


SF SIGNAL: Hi, Lou. In your anthology Live without a Net, you challenged big-name authors to imagine an unwired future. Where do you really see us headed in the future, particularly with regards to publishing?

LOU ANDERS: If you are asking a future of publishing question, then I’d say we are poised right now to see where new convergence technologies take us. Certainly both eBook and audio book content delivered to hand held devices, especially mobile phones, will play a much larger role in entertainment habits than ever conceived. The generation that is growing up with the phone as their primary means of net interaction – listening to music and podcasts, text messaging and picture taking all with their “communicator” – is only going to be reached by media as antiquated as “books” if we can find a way to deliver the content to where they are. The aggregator that figures out how best to get the book or at least the knowledge of the book into the palm device will have done something.

As to the future in general – I don’t think enough people stop and take stock of what a singularity we are living through. I still remember when, if I needed to know the answer to a question, I had to get in a car and travel physically to a library and then invest time in a search that might or might not answer my question. The paradigm shift from that, to being about to Google anything in the world and receive a plethora of answers within seconds, is unbelievable. My son, now 14 months, will never know what it means to say “What is the name of that? It’s on the tip of my tongue.” There has never been a shift in all of history so profound. The future then – the ubiquity of knowledge.

SFS: Are you saying, then, that electronic book formats are viable and if not, when do you think they might become so? Do current DRM efforts hurt or help this?

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Which Authors Are You Neglecting?

The Boston Globe‘s James Sallis has an essay on Great Unknowns where he talks about personally neglected authors – those writers whose sork work you have yet to read. (Sallis’ list mentions sf authors Robert Sheckley and Edgar Pangborn.) This reminds me that there are a handful of sf authors I’ve been really, really wanting to read but never seem to get around to.

Since I sample many authors through short fiction reading, I tend to my split my own list of personally neglected authors into two categories. There is the shorter list of writers whose work I have not read at all and the longer list of writers whose work I have read only through their short fiction.

I have yet to read any fiction (long or short) by:

  • J.G. Ballard
  • William Gibson
  • Walter M. Miller, Jr.
  • Charles Sheffield
  • E. E. “Doc” Smith
  • Olaf Stapledon

The longer list? I have yet to read novels by any the following, though I have read some of their short fiction:

  • Alfred Bester
  • Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Gordon R. Dickson
  • David Drake
  • George R.R. Martin
  • Andre Norton
  • Mike Resnick
  • Dan Simmons
  • Brian Stableford
  • Jack Vance
  • Gene Wolfe

Fess up! Which authors do you really want to read that you have been neglecting?

Filed under: Books

Having recently aired the 200th episode of Stargate SG-1 amidst much hoopla, one might think that the SciFi Channel has a certifiable hit. Not so, apparently. The SciFi Channel has just decided to cancel the series while renewing another season of Stargate:Atlantis.

“SCI FI Channel is proud to be the network that brought Stargate SG-1 to its record-breaking 10th season. Ten seasons and 215 episodes is an astounding, Guinness World Record-setting accomplishment. Stargate is a worldwide phenomenon. Having achieved so much over the course of the past 10 years, SCI FI believes that the time is right to make this season their last on the channel. SCI FI is honored to have been part of the Stargate legacy for five years, and we look forward to continuing to explore the Stargate universe with our partners at MGM through a new season of Stargate Atlantis.”

Perhaps this answers JP’s question, eh?

UPDATE: Oh, and it also makes this week’s poll quite timely!

Filed under: TV

SF Tidbits for 8/22/06

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The Eye on James Patrick Kelly

John Herman wrote in to tell us that his video blog, The Eye, begins a two-part interview this week with James Patrick Kelly. In this week’s episode JPK explains how podcasting enabled a small press book (the Hugo-nominated Burn) to gain notoriety.

James Patrick Kelly seems like a pretty bright guy, you know, considering he misspelled my 4-letter name. I’m just sayin’. :)

Filed under: Web Sites

The Top 26 SF Books You’ve Never Read

As discussed and selected by our loyal SF Signal readers. Without further adieu, the list:

I’ve actually read a couple of these, aside from the ones I started the original post with. Dinner At Deviant’s Palace, while a decent book, isn’t up to par with Powers’ later works. However, it still contains his signature style of unusual fantastical elements. I’d recommend it. As for Neverness, I remember reading it and thinking it was really slow. As for Dead Heat, read our review! And yes, it was post #4 on our site. So, lots of good stuff here. Space opera, adventure, mystery, time travel and, of course, zombies.  This might be a good list for someone to work through and maybe even review. I bet John has most of these books squirreled away somewhere in a box in his house…

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 8/21/06

Filed under: Tidbits

POLL RESULTS: Reading Media Tie-in Novels

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

QUESTION
How often do you read media tie-in novels?

RESULTS

(64 total votes)



Be sure to vote in this week’s poll on Rating Stargate SG-1!

Filed under: Polls

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