SF Tidbits for 12/23/07

Book Trailer: Sly Mongoose

Once again showing his web savvy, Tobias Buckell has put together a trailer for his upcoming book, Sly Mongoose. He’s running a contest for a soundtrack to the trailer, so give it a view and have a go . Oh, and I might add, like the two books set in the same universe that came before this, this one also has a cover made from 100% awesome.

SF Tidbits for 12/22/07

  • Del Rey has an interview Josh Conviser, author of Empyre . “Empyre is spy-fi — cyberpunk spiced with Bourne Identity-style intrigue. “
  • At SciFi Wire, John Joseph Adams profiles Joel Shepherd, author of Killswitch.
  • Wired Science interviews Greg Bear.
  • John Dalmas has been added to the list of sf/f authors who blog. (Thanks, Fred!)
  • Recently free fiction at ManyBooks.net: “Instinct” (1959) by George O. Smith, “Unborn Tomorrow” (1969) and “Revolution” (1960) by Mack Reynolds, “The Short Life” (1955) by Francis Donovan, and “Beyond Pandora” (1962) by Robert J. Martin.
  • Let’s hope that this article on homeopathy is the last time that science fiction and America’s Funniest Home Videos are used together: “And yet, we really like science fiction. We like to believe in magical solutions and discoveries that break the mold – that there could be something out there that we find that no one else has thought of yet, or observed, or harnessed. This drive to discover is a wonderful force for investigation and scientific advancement, but it is a double edged sword. The other side can result in irrational beliefs, magical thinking, and snake oil science.”
  • Here is a list of 10 Science Fiction Clichés to Avoid.
  • Larry at OF Blog of the Fallen rounds up a collection of “Best of the year” lists. This is the only time of the year that I am an optimist. Under the false impression that the holidays will leave me enough time to read, I plan on posting my Best Reads of the Year in early January.
  • Artist John Picacio shows off his cover for Jeffrey Ford’s Memoranda, part of his Well-Built City trilogy. When all three covers (The Physiognomy, Memoranda, & The Beyond) are placed side-by-side-by-side, it creates a larger image, which Picacio and Ford will post soon. Cool.

Heroes Season 3 Sneak Peek

Did you know there was a Jules Verne Adventures Film Festival? Well there was, from Dec. 5 – 15 in Los Angeles. Aside from screening many films and appearances by several notable genre figures, there was also a panel on Heroes. Tim Kring, Jeph Loeb and several of the cast members where on stage to talk all things Heroes. But the most interesting thing they did was to screen a teaser for season 3, called “Villains”. Someone in the audience managed to capture the promo on video. See it below (hurry before YouTube yanks it!):

Looks like Sylar is back and just as bad as ever, but, I don’t know. This really doesn’t do a lot for me. At least there’s no evidence of a Nikki revival.

Friday YouTube: Galaxy Beat

Here’s part one of the 1994 sci-fi comedy pilot Galaxy Beat starring Gregory Harrison, Tracy Scoggins, Roddy McDowall as “Voice of Cod” and Michael Dorn as “Voice of The Chief”. Follow the YouTube links for the remaining parts. Or not.

SF Tidbits for 12/21/07

  • Sean Williams shows off the cover of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. Is there a special term we give to media tie-in novels based on a games that are based on movies?
  • Lou Anders, meanwhile, shows off the cover of his upcoming anthology Sideways in Crime.
  • Dark Roasted Blend interviews John C. Wright: “I would venture to say that if you are reading a yarn where there are no space-pirates and no space-princesses, if the Dinosaurs of Mars never make an appearance, if no space-marine shoots through the core of the planet with a hand-weapon in order to kill an enemy standing on another continent, if no ancient alien artifacts larger than worlds stir into life after a million years of dormancy, and if not a single planet is blasted into molten asteroids, no star into a nova star, no galaxy into a Seyfert galaxy, no universe into a new Big Bang, then what you are reading might not be space opera. Space opera should contain at least one of these elements.”
  • Bldg Blog interviews Kim Stanley Robinson about climate change, the influence of Greek island villages on his descriptions of Martian base camps, about life as a 21st century primate in the 24/7 “techno-surround”, how we must rethink utopia as we approach an age without oil, whether “sustainability” is really the proper thing to be striving for, and what a future archaeology of the space age might find. Mundane SF responds: “So pay attention all you Science Fiction writers of the future. This is the future, so put aside your time machines, talking robots, and so forth, and tell us what it’s really going to be like.” [via Futurismic]
  • The Ballardian offers the 2-part essay Waste in the Fiction of J.G. Ballard: “For Ballard, waste registers a process, a cycle, a movement, and system in transition: durability and permanence have no place in a fictional world that revels in the power of waste to negotiate and renegotiate value.”
  • Dragon Page podcast-interviews Karen Miller (The Innocent Mage and The Awakened Mage).
  • Here’s a very brief article on How to Write Alternate History.
  • Forbes lists Cory Doctorow among their list of web celebrities. [via SF Scope]
  • Over at the Guardian, Gemma Malley lists Top 10 Dystopian Novels for Teenagers. (Short version: 1984 by George Orwell, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, The Children of Men by PD James, The Chrysalids by John Wyndam, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, The Children’s Story by James Clavell, and The Diary of Anne Frank.) [via Libertas]
  • Ellen Datlow has posted pictures of the December 19th KGB reading with Naomi Novik and Christopher Barzak.
  • Roddenberry.com will be posting an online comic strip illustrated by David Reddick. It’s called “Gene’s Journal” and debuts in January.

Tube Bits For 12/21/2007

  • The writers’ strike has caused many shows to end early. Heroes managed to make their last episode a season ender. But what’s in store for the third season? The Stark Gossip Blog let’s us know whats in store. Apparently, it will be a season full of villains. Which could be good, or bad.
  • Speaking of Heroes, their ARG continues apace, expanding the storyline even as the writers are taking their break. To catch up, there is an Evolutions walkthrough to get you up to speed. Additionally, the 2nd volume of the Heroes online magazine has gone live.
  • Season two of Torchwood is approachin and SF Universe has cast photos. Well, season 2 in America anyway, which starts on January 26th.
  • If that doesn’t get you excited, maybe this will. Illusion TV, the on demand science fiction channel, will be bringing back classic Dr. Who, starting in January ’08. They will start with the series “Tomb of the Cybermen”. Good news for Who fans.

REVIEW: Jim Baen’s Universe #10

MY RATING:

The December 2007 issue of Jim Baen’s Universe (Issue #10, also known as Volume 2, Number 4) contains 13 pieces of short fiction and 7 non-fiction articles. Eleven of the stories are reviewed below. (I did not partake of the classic reprint “A Holy Terror” by Ambrose Bierce and the “Fish Story” serial by Dave Freer, Eric Flint and Andrew Dennis, now in its tenth episode.)

The issue was good overall, despite the poor impression left by the longest story. This speaks highly of the other stories, I think. That said, the only standout story was “Darwin’s Suitcase,” perhaps because time travel is a favorite sub-genre of mine and Elizabeth Malartre does it well.

Rounding out the issue were several articles including one by Mike Resnick wondering if there aren’t too many Hugo categories, especially when relatively few awards are given to writers, the people for whom the award was created. There’s also another “free fiction” article by Eric Flint, who makes a strong case against the naysayers of making science fiction freely available online.

Individual story reviews follow…

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Behind The Scenes: I Am Legend

If you’re like me, then you’re curious as to how film makers actually shoot the scenes that end up on the big screen. I find it fascinating all the mundane hard work that goes into making memorable scenes. Scenes like the opening to I Am Legend, where Will Smith is traipsing around a deserted New York in search of some venison on the hoof.

After seeing just how desolate the New York streets looked, I wondered how they managed to make them look that way. Along comes the New York Times’ review of I Am Legend. If you look on the left hand side, about midway down, you’ll see a section called ‘Multimedia’, with an ‘interactive’ video covering the opening sequence. Or, you can click here to launch the feature. Two tabs allow you to switch between the ‘Video’ of the scene, and the ‘Commentary’ by the director, Francis Lawrence. Lawrence goes into some detail on how they achieved the deserted look, which involved CGI and good old fashioned street closings. I can only imagine the traffic nightmare that caused in New York.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this look behind the scenes. Hopefully the DVD will go into more detail.

SF Tidbits for 12/20/07

REVIEW: 2012: The War for Souls by Whitley Strieber

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a guest review by Larry Ketchersid, CEO of a security software and services company and the author of the novel Dusk Before the Dawn. He plays rugby, does martial arts, writes tech articles for The Global Intelligencer, reads a lot, and has degrees in Math, Physics and Computer Science. In other words, he still hasn’t decided what he wants to do and is in no hurry to do so. His career includes 15 years at Compaq, the greatest computer company that used to be.]

REVIEW SUMMARY: A schizophrenic, somewhat self-parodying story of parallel worlds, apocalypse and ancient civilizations.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The Earth of Martin Winters is invaded by an alien species, an ancient civilization from a parallel world entering through gates opened during the 2012 age change, while Wylie Dale in a third parallel world tries to understand how he can know and write about these events without being there.

MY REVIEW

PROS: Imaginative apocalypse; action picks up the pace in the middle and end.

CONS: Starts slow, uneven beginning; little to no science explanations of many phenomena; somewhat contrived ending (could be related to ‘no science’)

BOTTOM LINE: An intriguing hypothesis of a possible apocalypse at year 2012, slowed down by jumps in point of view, characters that are difficult to care about and lack of hard science.

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SF Tidbits for 12/19/07

  • Acacia by David Anthony Durham has been named one of the 10 Best fiction books of 2007. Kirkus also has a SF/F special section (PDF Link).
  • At SciFi Wire, John Joseph Adams profiles Brandon Sanderson, author of A Memory of Light, the final installment in the late Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga.
  • Phillip Pullman is writing a new novel set in the world of His Dark Materials. [via The Swivet]
  • At Omnivoracious, Jeff VanderMeer lists Four Great SF/F Gifts for readers.
  • Recently free fiction at ManyBooks.net: “History Repeats” by George O. Smith and “Gold in the Sky” by Alan Nourse.
  • More free fiction! Jeff Patterson continues his tradition of Christmas stories with “The Harbinger of All Things Glorious“. If you like this, you’ll like his Solstice Chronicles collection.
  • It’s the twilight of the books…The New Yorker comments on the National Endowment for the Arts statistic that people are reading less: “There’s no reason to think that reading and writing are about to become extinct, but some sociologists speculate that reading books for pleasure will one day be the province of a special “reading class,” much as it was before the arrival of mass literacy, in the second half of the nineteenth century.”
  • Dave at Dave’s Long Box explains why he hates Star Trek Gold Key comics. “Gold Key’s Star Trek comics seemed like they were produced by bored hacks who had very little interest in the actual source material…Is that bearded guy slapping Spock’s ass while he dances like a Russian? What the hell?”
  • Good News! Peter Jackson will direct The Hobbit after all. Bad news: There’s a sequel…filling in the time between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. No word yet on whether Tolkien has stopped rolling over in his grave.
  • First Showing rounds up a host of 2008 movies, including several genre films.
  • Stale Popcorn is counting down the 100 Best Movie Posters, which include Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Carpenter’s The Thing.
  • Wired explains the origins of Futurama‘s Zoidberg.
  • I would be remiss in my supermodel-related duties is I did not point out this Flickr gallery: The Galactically Hot Women of Star Trek TOS. [via Boing^2]

Tube Bits For 12/19/2007

  • You know you want one. You know you need one. Fred Barton Productions will build you your very own celebrity robot, for a price. Not only can you purchase Robby the Robot, you can also obtain R2-D2, two flavors of Cylons, and Gort.
  • John Kenneth Muir takes a long look back at the pilot episode of Planet of the Apes. Called “Escape from Tomorrow”, we see that this series uses the age old storyline of a quest, as the astronauts search in each episode for technology to help them return to the past. I vaguely remember this one on TV.
  • Stargate SG-1 may be over, but that doesn’t mean it’s stories aren’t finished. Visimag has a short article with Ben Browder about the direct to DVD movie The Ark of Truth, the first of two movies to be released on DVD. Good news for fans, I’m sure.
  • Take a gander, on the Forbidden Planet blog, at the sabre-toothed tiger that will be featured in the new season of ITV’s Primeval. Can any of our British readers tell us whether this series is worth a view? The cat certainly looks good.

At The Trailer Park: Prince Caspian, 10,000 B.C., Dante 01, The Dark Knight

Here’s yet another look at some of the trailers I’ve encountered on these here intertubes.

First up, we have the trailer for Prince Caspian, the second movie in the Narnia franchise. I’ve always felt that the Narnia books aren’t really ‘widescreen’ fantasy, but smaller, more personal stories. So it’s interesting to see how the filmmakers are trying to make them epic in look and feel. I saw the first movie with my kids, and I know they’ll want to see this one too.

Next up, a movie I had no idea was being made, 10000 B.C.

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MIND MELD: How has the Internet impacted book selling?

It’s Tuesday, so that means it’s time for another Mind Meld question, where we grill those in the science fiction community on a question of interest. This time, a we ask a cross section of authors and editors our question.

Recently, Reuters ran a story (article here) about the internet and traditional book publishers. This gist being that, despite the easy availability of used books, the internet has actually helped publishers sell more new books.

How has the internet impacted your ability to sell books and what impact do you see it having in the future?

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Tube Bits For 12/18/2007

  • Not content to let sleeping TV series lie, NBC is joining the media tie-in train and will be releasing the Heroes tie-in book, Heroes: Saving Charlie. As you might suspect, this book will tell the story of the six months Hiro spent trying to save Charlie from Sylar. Whether the book is any good is something even Isaac can’t tell.
  • It’s a sad day in Star Trek land. Even though rumors of its demise have circulated for awhile now, the staff of STARTREK.COM have been let go by CBS Interactive. The ultimate fate of the website is unknown, but fans are asked to continue to use the forums. This seems like a boneheaded move on CBS’ part. It’s not like there’s a movie coming up that could make use of a Star Trek website or anything.
  • For those of you who were lucky enough to see the Korean horror flick The Host, good news for you. Sci Fi Japan reports The Host 2 is currently being written. A few details are spilled, with the most notable being that the new movie is actually set before the first film. Let’s hope that they don’t fall prey to George Lucas disease.
  • And now for the musical portion of our show. We present to you, via our very own Fred K., the following video mashup of Heroes, set to the tune of ‘Not Dead Yet’ from the play ‘Spamalot’. Enjoy!

Tuesday YouTube: ‘The Dark Knight’ Trailer

I saw this trailer on the big screen when I saw I Am Legend. I’m kinda stoked to see it. Heath Ledger’s Joker looks cool.

Anyone else think that instead of saying “Then you’re gonna love me”, Batman should have said “Wait’ll you get a load of me” as a nod to Jack Nicholson’s Joker?

SF Tidbits for 12/18/07

  • The Leaky Cauldron podcast-interviews J.K. Rowling today. [via EW]
  • SFX has posted reviews of The Family Trade by Charles Stross and The Escapement by K.J. Parker.
  • Go, go gadget free fiction: Free Speculative Fiction Online has new additions from John W. Campbell, Colin P. Davies, G. C. Edmondson, Randall Garrett & Laurence M. Janifer, Tom Godwin, Frank Herbert, Dean Ing, R. A. Lafferty, Fritz Leiber, Murray Leinster, Andre Norton, Frederik Pohl, Mack Reynolds, George O. Smith, Walter Tevis, Stanley G. Weinbaum and more.
  • Tired of anthologies with only a handful of stories you want to read? Here’s an interesting concept: Build Your Own Anthology. The website lets you pick stories by criteria like author of genre (including sf) and purchase a custom anthology of up to 350 pages for just under $15. Now…if they only offered the stories I assembled for my own custom dream anthology… [via Jim Hines]
  • Miniature Brainwave has a pic of a Yoda pizza. “Mmmm…gas, pepperonis give me…”

Eating and Watching Movies at the Same Time (The “I Am Legend” Not-Review)

I got a chance to see I Am Legend on opening day. It was a work event that took place at Movie Tavern, one of those places where they serve you a meal while you’re watching the movie.

Before I talk about the movie, I thought I’d talk about the venue because, well, it took away from the movie-going experience. I like to watch movies with no interruptions. (That’s right guy-who-forgets-to-turn-off-cell-phone…I’m talking to you, too.) It’s all about the immersion and I can’t do that when I’m giving my order, keep looking at my plate, worrying about cutting my grilled chicken (tasty though it may be), looking for refills (stop watching the movie, hand the cup to the waiter, tell him what I’m drinking), etc. “Wait, did I just miss something on screen? Bah!” The reverse is also true – it’s hard to appreciate a meal when you’re trying to blindly shovel it in so you don’t miss the movie. The bottom line, I suppose, is that meals are much more complicated than popcorn! Each experience (eating a meal, watching a movie) takes away from the other. You would think that the two experiences would complement one another, but it turns out they don’t.

This is not a formal review of I Am Legend. There are a bazillion of those already. However, taking a cue from Peter Watts, I did think it was worthwhile to list my impressions.

*** SPOILER WARNING ***

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SF Tidbits for 12/17/07

A science fiction blog featuring science fiction book reviews and with frequent ramblings on fantasy, computers and the web.