SF Tidbits for 11/13/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Tube Bits For 11/13/07

  • The Boston Herald reviews Battlestar Galactica: Razor and is somewhat nonplussed, giving it a C+. I disagree that the plot is convoluted. On the contrary, it’s rather simple. The problem is it isn’t told very well, with too much jumping back and forth and liberally sprinkled with unexplained behavior by Admiral Cain. That said, it does return to the ‘survival’ mode that made the first season so good.
  • NBC launched their new video download service, NBC Direct, and it’s getting a ton of negative reviews. IE/Windows only, shows only available for 1 week after air date, and once you start watching a show, you only have 48 hours to watch it. Is NBC trying to push people to alternate methods of obtaining its shows? Way to screw over you faithful viewers NBC, and good luck on trying to get new ones for your serialized shows. Hulu was a decent move, but this one blows.
  • Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis won’t just be the only things in the Stargate universe much longer (oh, add the original movie too). Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment is currently working on a MMORPG (think World of Warcraft, Tim’s favoritist game) set in the Stargate universe. It’s called Stargate Worlds, and MMORPG.COM has a chat transcript with the development team available. I like the art concepts and the idea could be cool too, but I don’t really see anything strikingly different for this game than others. Still, it’s a rare SF themed MMO so I’ll be keeping an eye on it.
  • Star Trek‘s episode, ‘The Menagerie’, is being screened across the country at select theaters starting today. Eugene Roddenberry will be on hand at two events to personally introduce the screening. Sy Fy Portal has a nice interviewish article with Eugene where he discusses all things Trek.
  • Speaking of Star Trek, the rumors surrounding the plot (I won’t give anything away here, but the link may contain MAJOR SPOILERS! In fact, just reading the rest of this sentence may spoil things…) have reached Harlan Ellison, and he is none too pleased. I’m sorry Harlan, but I don’t think locations or characters are copywritable. You just may be SOL here, no matter how curmudgeonly you act.

Filed under: Tube Bits

SFWA Supports WGA Strike…Do You?

Michael Capobianco, President of the Science Fiction Writers of America, has announced the SFWA’s support of the WGA strike:

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) stands solidly in support of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike in seeking appropriate compensation for writers when their work is distributed digitally, either in DVD form or through Internet downloads.

Contrary to prevailing wisdom, the future is not here yet. As science fiction writers, we’re perhaps in a better position to see that than others. Society is in a transitional phase, as physical entertainment media slowly give way to their digital equivalents. Physical distribution, cumbersome and expensive, is going the way of the buggy whip and rotary phone dial. The change has already started with the distribution of films and TV shows.

During this phase, writers and other creators are having their work distributed digitally without seeing any benefit at all. The excuse given is that this distribution is for promotional purposes only, but, in fact, the powers that be are using this transitional period to establish unfair precedents. It’s the camel’s nose. These precedents will hurt creators as digital distribution becomes the predominant method of distributing and accessing content. It’s as if book publishers of the early twentieth century had told authors that movies would be made out of their books, but they shouldn’t get any money because the movies wouldn’t be profitable and were being made just to promote the sale of books.

SFWA believes that writers should be paid a fair amount for each DVD and for each download of their work. If the work is used on the Internet in any way, the writer should be fairly compensated. This is a fundamental writers’ right, and it’s worth fighting for. WGA is staking its claim on the future, and SFWA supports it wholeheartedly.

Lots of folks support the WGA, but I’m starting to see some anti-WGA backlash.

Do you support the WGA? Do you care?

(Be sure to vote on this topic in this week’s poll, accessed from the SF Signal main page.)

Filed under: Books

Tube Bits For 11/12/07

  • Good, or bad, news for LOST fans. ABC is apparently going to show the 8 episodes they have completed, instead of waiting for all 16 to be done. LOST will probably air sometime around February sweeps. This whole strike thing is annoying me no end, and I don’t even watch that much TV!
  • Was Star Trek successful because it was Wagon Train in space, or because of something else? Phyllis Schelmer contends she helped Gene Roddenberry tap “into the an ancient source of enlightened consciousness”, and this led to the success of Star Trek. There’s even a streaming audio with Ms. Schlemer about her involvement with Roddenberry. Hmm, wonder why she isn’t prominently discussed as a source of inspiration? As a psychic, you’d think she would have known she would be relegated to obscurity.
  • Macleans.CA looks at fantasy in TV. Where once networks want police procedurals, now they want fantasy-themed shows. By asking for these shows to be set in today’s world, but with fantastical elements, they are keeping SFX, and costs, to a minimum. Of course, all this is for naught if the stories aren’t good. Reaper and Pushing Daisies are examples.
  • PC World reviews NBC’s new Hulu video service. They find that the content is impressive and the site is easy to use. However, NBC still doesn’t understand the shift in it’s viewers habits and places stupidly restrictive conditions on where and how long a show is available. While a step in the right direction, forcing shows off after several weeks is just plain dumb. You may as well point people to the the Bittorrent trackers. How can you expect people to catch up on a show if you won’t let them watch?
  • Sy Fy Portal wonders, now that the strike is on, what’s a Sci-Fi TV addict to do? Not surprisingly, it involves watching a lot of DVDs. While that is all well and good, why not pick up a book? There’s a ton of good written SF out there, give it a try Wayne. At the very least, you could toss the book at the legions of LOST you’ve upset over your LOST comments.

Filed under: Tube Bits

SF Tidbits for 11/12/07

Filed under: Tidbits

POLL RESULTS: Rating Heroes Season 2 So Far

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

QUESTION
How would you rate Heroes Season 2 so far?

RESULTS

(132 total votes)

A few comments this week:

“It’s still good, but does seem to be wandering a little aimlessly, as though it’s lost its way. Hopefully things will improve. ‘Faith Manages’ as some hack once wrote!” – Paul Harper

“This season has mostly sucked but the most recent episode was pretty good.” – David

“I don’t think it’s that great, but I didn’t think Season 1 was anything to write home about either. Apart from the awful Irish accents, I don’t think it’s much worse than Season 1.” – Gabriel Mckee

Be sure to visit our front page and vote in this week’s poll about The WGA Writers’ Strike!

Filed under: Polls

Cory Doctorow and Creative Commons

Locus online has posted Cory Doctorow’s commentary on Creative Commons from the latest issue of Locus magazine:

It would be nice if our lawmakers would go back to the drawing board and write a new copyright that made sense in the era of the Internet, but all efforts to “fix” copyright since the passage of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in 1998 have only made things worse, granting more unenforceable exclusive rights to an ever-increasing pool of “authors” who have no need or desire to sue the people with whom they are engaged in the business of “culture” — holding conversations, publicly re-imagining the stories that make up their lives.

Creative Commons aims to do what Congress won’t or can’t do — offer an approach to copyright that helps those of us who don’t want deal that Disney and their pals have insisted on for every snatch of creativity. Creative Commons achieves this through a set of licenses, legal notices that set out permitted uses for creative works.

Filed under: Books

Saturday YouTube: Star Trek doing Holy Grail

OK, we’ve linked to this in the past, but the video got removed and I stumbled upon its replacement and decided it was good enough to repeat.

Filed under: Star Trek

Saturday Cinema: Gene Autry Does Science Fiction

We all know Gene Autry as ‘The Signing Cowboy’. but did you know that his first starring role on film was in the Mascot Serial The Phantom Empire. The really interesting thing about this serial is the plot is very science fictional. From Wikipedia:

A chance to be real heroes occurs when Betsy, Frankie and Gene are kidnapped by the real Thunder Riders, from the super-scientific underground empire of Murania, complete with towering skyscrapers, robots, rayguns, elevators that extend miles from the surface, and an icy, evil blonde Queen, Tika.

Super scientific undeground cities with Ice Queens as leaders? What’s not to like? And in a Western no less! Who knew Autry was such a visionary? Thanks to the magic of YouTube, I was able to find the first two reels of Chapter 2 of The Phantom Empire. Enjoy!


Filed under: Web Sites

SF Tidbits for 11/10/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Book Bump

Book Bump is a new online book manager you can use to catalog your books. But how is it?

I like the mostly-intuitive Web 2.0 user interface. The site allows you to add/remove books fairly easily, by ISBN, author, title or keyword. Yet there was no indication that I could see to indicate which books in the search results were in which format (hardcover, mmpb, etc.) or edition. Once books are added, they can be sorted any which way. The site provides lots of information about each book in the list including: general book info (publisher, format, number of pages), reviews, price comparisons (new and used), and a host of attributes. These attributes include whether the book has been read (or which page you are currently on), date started/finished, number of copies owned (the biblioholic inside of me is smiling), whether it’s signed, rating, and more.

It’s an interesting site, particularly for those who are looking for an online book list, but I just don’t see myself using it. For one thing, there seems to be no way to print the book list. That’s would be my main usage of the darn thing. Also, I just don’t see myself adding the tons of books I own into the website. Oh well.

Filed under: Web Sites

Friday YouTube: Death Star Canteen

Eddie Izzard + Star Wars + Legos = Hilarity

[Language warning!!!]

[via The Swivet]

Filed under: HumorStar Wars

PS Publishing has posted the table of contents for their upcoming anthology, Passing for Human edited by Michael Bishop and Steven Utley, due in early 2008.

Check out this juicy and mighty line-up:

  1. “The Other Celia” by Theodore Sturgeon
  2. “Mimic” by Donald A. Wollheim
  3. “The Man Upstairs” by Ray Bradbury
  4. “Neutrino Drag” by Paul DiFilippo
  5. “Nights at the Crimea” by Jessica Reisman
  6. “The Reality Trip” by Robert Silverberg
  7. “Once” by Jack Slay, Jr
  8. “Linkage” by Barry N. Malzberg
  9. “Apprenticeship” by Howard Waldrop
  10. “Cooking Creole” by A. M. Dellamonica
  11. “Under the Hollywood Sign” by Tom Reamy
  12. “All the Kinds of Yes” by James Tiptree, Jr.
  13. “Judgment Call” by John Kessel
  14. “A Spaceship Built of Stone” by Lisa Tuttle
  15. “Detectives and Cadavers” by Jeff VanderMeer
  16. “Sex and/or Mr. Morrison” by Carol Emshwiller

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 11/9/07

  • TeenReads interviews Scott Westerfeld. Scott talks about the latest book in his Uglies series, Extras, and also teases and taunts us with word of his upcoming semi-graphic-novel trilogy called Leviathan, set during World War I and featuring living airships and walking mechanical war machines. Sweet.
  • Matthew Jarpe rants against The Mundanes. “I’ve got to say, I feel the same way about the Mundane Manifesto as I do about all manifesti. It’s a pointless waste of time and energy, and all responses to the manifesto are likewise pointless wastes of time an energy. This being a blog, pointless wastes of time and energy are my meat and potatoes, so here we go…” A cracking read wight up to the killer pirate robots ending.
  • At Baen, Jim Minz interviews Lois McMaster Bujold. “I will say, at no time past age 12 have I ever believed in the idea of a wild west in space. Any culture critically dependent for people’s lives on complicated technology needs to be more controlled and rule-abiding, not less.” Hmmmm…wonder how she feels about Firefly, then? :) [via Fred K.]
  • At SciFi Wire, John Joseph Adams profiles Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, author of Shadow Speaker, described as “African fantasy with elements of science fiction.”
  • Guardian lists favorite books to re-read.
  • GalleyCat is following the latest in the Digital vs. Paper debate: Christian Science Monitor reporter Clayton Collins talks about the survival of the printed page at AlterNet (“…books exhibit a remarkable resilience to the forces of technology”). Survival of the Book responds to the article: “The e-book is no more a threat, ultimately, than audio books…”
  • The Atlantic article How Hollywood Saved God discusses religion (or anti-religion) and the upcoming release of The Golden Compass. You need a subscription to read it in its entirety, but Bridge to the Stars has a nice summary.
  • Optical Popitude points us to this neat set of action figures: Doctor Who Cybercontroller with Guards.
  • Regarding the recent TV writers’ strike, Ray Richmond of Past Deadline says that Harlan Ellison Could Teach the WGA a Thing or Two About Negotiation.
  • StarWars.com lists 10 Star Wars Rip-Off Posters.
  • Discover magazine lists The 5 Best and Worst Science Based Movies of All Time. (Shameless plug: This is not to be confused with the completely different “Movies with Bad Science” list I recently posted at SciFi Scanner.)

Filed under: Tidbits

Tube Bits For 11/09/07

  • The classic ’80s TV show Knight Rider is getting the re-boot treatment and what better way to get in the mood than to play with a radio controlled KITT? This beauty comes complete with turbo sounds, the voice of KITT and the awesome ‘Cylon’ eye. What more could you ask for? Aside from actually being in stock that is.
  • As if the poor showing by Heroes wasn’t enough, NBC’s much hyped show, Bionic Woman has seen its ratings decling by 50% since its debut. It seems that the show just isn’t resonating with people, and the current writer’s strike just might kill the show completely. I know I haven’t been watching it and I’m not upset about that.
  • Raise your hand if you remember the cult British SF TV show The Champions. That’s what I thought, all 3 of you. Well, Guillermo del Toro has signed on to write and direct a feature film based on the short-lived show. Sounds like a cross between Heroes and The Greatest American Hero, which goes to show there’s nothing new under the sun. Including short lived shows.
  • Remember when Sci Fi released the webisodes of Battlestar Galactica leading up to the third season? Ronald Moore gave E! Online the scoop on how Sci Fi was trying to screw over cast and crew on the webisodes by not wanting to pay them for the work, or credit them from the writing. That’s just wrong. Suddenly torrenting Razor doesn’t feel as bad anymore.
  • If you’re looking for a new anime fix, ADV Films has released, for free, the first episode of Venus versus Virus on their website. Looks like something about demons and demon hunters.
  • It seems that Fox was either very smart, or very lucky, concerning the writer’s strike. Apparently, The Sarah Conner Chronicles is still set to air starting in January, which means Fox thinks they have enough episodes in the can to go forward. And, luckily, pseudo-canceled show New Amsterdam gets a new lease on life, premiering in February. I’m going to go with the ‘luck’ theory.
  • Planet Of The Apes wasn’t just a hit movie franchise, it was also a short-lived TV show. A short-lived TV show with it’s own action figure line! And of course there were commercials hocking them and of course, YouTube has them. Awesome! Although I have to take issue with the term ‘action’ regarding these toys.

Filed under: Tube Bits

Battlestar Galactica: Razor – To Watch Or Not?

The internets are notorious for obtaining pre-release copies of movies and TV shows. Case in point: the new Battlestar Galactica: Razor movie can be found on the various Bittorrent networks (see the post directly below). It seems that interest in the show is high, judging by the numbers: thousands of seeders and tens of thousands of leechers. Obviously people want to know what happens, even if this version is a screener and may not be the final version show on Sci Fi. Indeed, the DVD version will contain more scenes not in the version to be aired.

John Brownlee at Sci Fi Scanner is, (WARNING, spoilers a plenty at the following link), tempted to download it, but is holding out for the moment. As we have many BG fans here, I thought I’d ask your views on this.

If you could, would/will you download Razor before it airs on Sci Fi? Why or why not? Do you think this will help the ratings when it does air in November?

I’m interested to see what everyone thinks. I’ll attempt to add some tech perspective here. I only see this type of thing happening more often in the future. With the availability of the Internet and cheap technology to copy and distribute digital media, the studios are in an arms race they can’t win. Some smart and creative types should figure out a way to use this type of thing as a means of generating more interest in their shows and movies.

I’m not saying they should be glad that wholesale pirating of their wares is occurring, but it’s going to happen regardless. Finding a way to turn it to their advantage would be a good idea.

Filed under: Battlestar GalacticaTV

Tube Bits For 11/08/07

  • It seems there is one very naughty reviewer out there as Battlestar Galactica: Razor seems to have made an appearance on the bittorrent networks. Um, I just remembered I have, uh, stuff to do…
  • It seems that even though several episodes are in the can, the writer’s strike will still hurt LOST quite a bit. SciFi Scanner speculates on various outcomes the strike could have on LOST. None of them are very appealing. I say this to everyone involved: If you mess with LOST, you’re messing with me. You don’t want that! Strong words I know, but someone had to say them.
  • We’ve mentioned the insanely huge The X-Files: The Complete Collector’s Edition several times. Maybe you want it but you don’t have the $$ the shell out for your very own copy. Perhaps you’d like to win one? BuddyTV is running a contest to win your very own copy. Sweet.
  • The Freakonomics Blog wonders is web video really hurting TV? The answer, of course, and much like online music, is: not really. Done right, web video will increase viewership. And in this day of serial TV shows, web video is a great way to get and retain viewers. Now the networks just need to figure out how to use it correctly. Hint: Sending take down notices to YouTube because of a fan’s mashup video is not the answer.
  • Earlier we mentioned that TV Guide was release 4 special edition covers commemorating Heroes. Today they have released pictures of those covers. If you like them, you can buy all 4 for $15. I think you get the actual physical magazines and not digital reproductions. Quantity is limited so if you’re interested, you know what to do. As for me, I like Hiro’s cover.

Filed under: Tube Bits

Is Heroes Primed for a Comeback?

In a recent Entertainment Weekly article, Heroes creator Tim Kring admitted the show is broken. He critiques the show and cites many of the same problems fans did, including: the slow pace, lack of drama, rookie handling, Hiro’s too-long sidetrack and Claire’s stilted romance story line. (See my gripes.)

After openly saying the show sucks, I have to give credit to the November 5th episode. While not perfect (I still think the writers make plot choices solely the purpose of drama with no regard to believability and consistency) it did show some of the magic that kept me watching in season 1.

Could this be the turnaround for the show? Is Heroes back on track?

EW says the next two episodes maintain that same quality. That’s a good sign. There is also, of course, the writers’ strike to consider, but I’m hopeful that the show will someday reclaim its former status (overrated as it was). My fingers remain crossed…this show has so much potential…

Filed under: HeroesTV

SF Tidbits for 11/8/07

  • SF author Matthew Jarpe is giving away a free copy of his book Radio Freefall. (See SF Signal Review.)
  • James Patrick Kelly has finished podcasting his novel Look Into the Sun.
  • Over at Texas Best Grok, “Planet Stories” has a renewed appreciation for Clark Ashton Smith.
  • S. Andrew Swann responds to L.E. Modesitt’s recent singularity article. Says Swann: “But my main problem with Modesitt’s argument is that it is primarily an economic one, based on the assumption that the basic economic rules are somehow set in stone and aren’t manipulated by technological change.”
  • Rolling Stone interviews William Gibson. “People worry about the loss of individual privacy, but that comes with a new kind of unavoidable transparency.” [via Core Dump ]
  • The Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas are talking about Ringworld by Larry Niven.
  • Bibliophile Stalker looks at the science fiction in Frank Herbert’s Dune and concludes that it’s more fantasy than science fiction.
  • Ellen Datlow and by Scott Edelman share their photos from the World Fantasy Convention. [via Locus Online]
  • Locus magazine’s Gary Westfahl reviews Martian Child. “While watching the first half of the film, with the novel very much on my mind, I was irritated by apparent efforts to dumb down and prettify Gerrold’s story in order to appeal to the masses; but gradually, I was able to accept the film on its own terms as effective entertainment, even if it did not conform to my expectations.”
  • According to the LA Times, the recent writers’ strike may impact book-to-movie deals too. “If the writers strike continues for a long period, some book agents fear that many option deals will be nixed, causing major disruptions in the business.”
  • Slice of SciFi interviews TV writer, Jane Espenson
  • A mere $59,000 will get you a cool-looking steampunk watch.
  • Cool Tools throws us a nice link with Book Darts. little reusable markers you can put in your books without damaging the book. For those obsessive compulsives who wince when cracking a binding. Whistles and looks up…]
  • Kevin Maher’s latest video post looks at why Netflix doesn’t carry some sci-fi classics.
  • Cracked lists 5 Awesome Sci-Fi Inventions That Would Actually Suck. Jet Pack fans should look away.

Filed under: Tidbits

SF Tidbits for 11/7/07

Filed under: Tidbits

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