Ewan at Ewan’s Corner has posted a short review of The Road (SF Signal review). In it, Ewan states that the book isn’t science fiction because, “you never find out what caused the end of the world, no aliens and little science.”

To me, that is a very ‘mechanics’ focused view of what science fiction is. It’s too narrow, at least for my tastes. Looking at other post-apocalyptic novels, Earth Abides, Alas Babylon, Lucifer’s Hammer, we see that the above definition would rule out these books as science fiction, when they clearly are.

Moving to the realm of TV and film, the original Mad Max and Jericho also fit the above description, and I believe they, too, are science fiction, of varying degrees of quality, but still science fiction. Given all of the above, is the setting alone enough to make something science fiction? I’d have to say yes. And not just because of setting. Science fiction doesn’t have to be about the science or technology in a story. That sort of thing can exist and stay in the background and a story can still be science fiction, see Slaughterhouse Five or The Handmaid’s Tale or even Children Of Men, among others. I think people get hung up on the mechanical aspects of a story because of mistaken perceptions, as most people are going to see SF as being all about science, technology, aliens, and all the other tropes you see in SF movies.

But to answer the question in the title, yes, The Road is science fiction. McCarthy may be traveling a well worn path, but his book is still SF.

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 7/8/07

  • SF Scope is reporting that Daniel F. Galouye (Dark Universe) is the recipient of this year’s Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, awarded to SF and fantasy writers whose work “displays unusual originality, embodies the spirit of Cordwainer Smith’s fiction, and deserves renewed attention or ‘Rediscovery’.” See also: Past winners.
  • SF Canada interviews Bantam editor Anne Groell.
  • The July 5th issue of Nature feature article “The Biologists Strike Back” includes looks at science fictions treatment of the biological sciences and includes comments from authors Ken MacLeod (who has a masters in biomechanics), Joan Slonczewski (professor of biology at Kenyon College), Paul McAuley (formerly lecturer in botany at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland), and Peter Watts (who has done research in marine biology). Here’s the supplementary text in PDF. [via Biology in Science Fiction]
  • Create your very own Who Wants to be a Superhero comic book creation and you could win prizes, courtesy of a SciFi Channel promotion.
  • Quasar Dragon has the TV classic Space Patrol!

Filed under: Tidbits

This weekend is the Robert A. Heinlein Centennial celebrating 100 years since Heinlein’s birth on 7/7/07. Those of us who cannot attend the celebration, surf. To that end, here is a big-@$$ collection of Robert A. Heinlein links…

REFERENCE

FICTION

FICTION-RELATED

HEINLEIN SITES

ARTICLES/ESSAYS BY OR ABOUT HEINLEIN

Filed under: Books


“Science fiction has transformed modern culture on multiple occasions. Exploration and innovation are often driven by pop-cultural imagination.” – Ben Cerveny, original Flickr team member.

CNet has an interesting article that looks at the effect of science fiction on technology. Each named source is cited as the inspiration for some real-world science.

  1. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson – a fully realized 3D virtual world.
  2. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick – an early look at intelligent androids and the way they would interact with humans; large-scale projects in the virtual world, Second Life; generating endless mesmerizing fractals.
  3. “Minority Report” by Philip K. Dick – highly functional touch screens and sensor screens.
  4. Neuromancer by William Gibson – the concept of cyberpunk and of cyberspace; also touched on virtual reality, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering and ubiquitous technology.
  5. Distraction by Bruce Sterling – profile sniffers, software devices that scour the Internet for personality type patterns; relying heavily on “the nets” to compile psychological profiles of individuals who may be prone to violence before they actually commit a crime; ubiquitous computing.
  6. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein – the concept known as TANSTAAFL, or “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”.
  7. A 1945 letter to the editors of Wireless World magazine written by Arthur C. Clarke – geostationary satellite communications.
  8. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov – interaction between humans and robot; robot code of ethics.
  9. Star Trek – the flip phone.
  10. R.U.R. by Karel Capek – introduced the term “robot”.

Filed under: Science and Technology

SF Tidbits for 7/7/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Friday Video: Zombie-American

In Zombie-American, Ed Helms (The Office) shows us that Zombies are people, too.

Warning: Some NSFW language.

[via EW Pop Watch]

Filed under: Movies

A Look at Some Upcoming SF/F Films

SFF World has a list of SF/F/H films in the pipeline and, being the wishy-washy fanboy that I am, I am trying to decide whether these are worth the time by noting the pros and cons of each one.

Aliens vs. Predator – A sequel to the singular Alien vs. Predator.

PROS: Aliens was good. Predator was good.

CONS: The original Alien vs. Predator…not so much.

BOTTOM LINE: I’ll pass.

30 Days of Night – A vampire movie based on the graphic novel.

PROS: Produced by Sam Raimi.

CONS: The trapped-in-the-Arctic spin smacks of Carpenter’s The Thing.

BOTTOM LINE: Could be cool, but if I could see only one more vampire movie, it would have to be…

Bubba Nosferatu: Curse of the She Vampires – Bruce Campbell reprises his role as an elderly Elvis Presley in this sequel to Bubba Ho-Tep.

PROS: I liked Bubba Ho-Tep.

CONS: Nothing as far as I can tell.

BOTTOM LINE: They had me at “Bruce Campbell”. At “She Vampires” I was already packing a suitcase and moving into the multiplex.

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Filed under: Movies

SF Tidbits for 7/6/07

My, what a busy blogosphere its been!

Filed under: Tidbits

The Winter 1949 issue of The Arkham Sampler set out to find the list of essential science fiction books. They asked writers (Dr. David H. Keller, Lewis Padgett, P. Schuyler Miller, Theodore Sturgeon, A. E. Van Vogt, Donald Wandrei), Editors (Sam Merwin, Jr., John W. Campbell, Paul L. Payne, Raymond A. Palmer, Everett Bleiler) and fans (A. Langley Searles, Forrest J. Ackerman and Sam Moskowitz). All responded except for Campbell and Palmer.

Here’s the list that emerged:

  1. Seven Famous Novels by H. G. Wells
  2. Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon
  3. Brave New Worlds by Aldous Huxley
  4. The Short Stories of H. G. Wells by H. G. Wells
  5. Adventures In Time and Space edited by Healy and McComas
  6. Slan by A. E. Van Vogt
  7. The World Below by S. Fowler Wright
  8. Strange Ports Of Call edited by August Derleth
  9. To Walk The Night by William Sloane
  10. The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle
  11. Sirius by Olaf Stapledon
  12. Gladiator by Philip Wylie
  13. Before the Dawn by John Taine
  14. Who Goes There? and Other Stories by John W. Campbell
  15. The Best of Science Fiction edited by Groff Conklin
  16. Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon
  17. Out of the Silence by Earle Cox

[via It's a Pulp World]

Filed under: Books

Limited Preview of The Encyclopedia of Fantasy

Google Book Search is offering a limited preview of the wonderful reference book The Encyclopedia of Fantasy by John Clute and John Grant. The book was published in 1999 but is still fun to browse and read today.

Too bad Google doesn’t offer the same for The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, another excellent reference. Two years ago, Orbit announced a web-based version of that one. Still no word yet on when that will be ready…

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 7/5/07

Filed under: Tidbits

REVIEW: Schismatrix Plus by Bruce Sterling

REVIEW SUMMARY: Critically important book in the genre, this book contains more ideas that most authors have in a career. 

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In a future world split between humans who have chosen to enhance themselves genetically (the Shapers) and those who choose to enhance themselves mechanically (the Mechanists), Abelard Lindsay makes his way through 200 years of history.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Amazing collection of sci-fi ideas including genetics, cyborgs, politics, religion, sex, and more.  The characters are all deep and engaging.
CONS: The main novel reads like a collection short stories and lacks a driving plot.

BOTTOM LINE: Must read for any sci-fi fan, you’ll really regret not knowing about this universe otherwise.  Unless you just can’t stand any cyberpunk-style efforts, I’d recommend this to anybody.

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Filed under: Book Review

The passing of Fred Saberhagen got to me thinking about the stories of his that I had read. I read and enjoyed Empire Of The East and the first Swords Trilogy, the Lost Swords series wasn’t as good as the first trilogy but was still rather interesting, but I never read any of the Berserker novels. That lead to me wonder, in light of my recent reading of almost exclusively new novels, what I might be missing from the ‘back catalog’ of science fiction. One thing lead to another and I ended up at the Science Fiction Writers Of America’s web page covering the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master honorees.

First, take a look at that list. Of course, the usual suspects are there: Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov. But there are also many authors I have read little, if any, stories by: Bester, Clement, Knight, Ellison. And there is at least on notable exclusion, Sturgeon, and what about P.K. Dick? I’m now faced with two questions: How will I ever find the time to read the good new stuff and also catch up on the good old stuff by these authors? And, more interestingly, who, currently writing science fiction, is going to be a Grand Master in the future?

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Filed under: Meta

REVIEW: Interzone #209

As much as I like reading short fiction, I currently do not subscribe to any short fiction magazines. I’ve scooped up a bunch of old Asimov’s, F&SF and Analog issues that I’ve run across in used bookstores, but that’s about the whole of my experiences with magazine fiction. Thus the reaction to my first Interzone magazine (#209) was one of wide-eyed surprise. Full size! Full Color! Cool artwork!

OK, John. Settle down. Slowly flip through the pages…

Besides the short fiction (reviewed below), the features of the 25th Anniversary issue include interviews with Hal Duncan and Kim Stanley Robinson, book and movie reviews, David Langford’s Ansible Link column and memories of Interzone by well-known authors. All good features, to be sure, but here the focus is on the fiction.

So how were the stories? The issue is fantasy heavy (usually a hit-or-miss genre for me) and tended toward the literary end of the spectrum. Overall, the stories are good but a couple of them left a lukewarm impression. The strongest one here is “The Sledge-Maker’s Daughter” by Alastair Reynolds, one of my favorite authors (adjust for obvious bias) who provides the most SFnal story of all entries. But is this a representative sampling of fiction that is published by Interzone? Future issues will tell.

Reviews follow…

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Filed under: Book Review

SF Tidbits for 7/4/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Way back in April, we started this project with the aim of creating a listing of books that readers of Harry Potter might be interested in after finishing the last Potter book. I’ve finally gone through the posts here and on Geekend and I have compiled the books mentioned into lists. The first three in each list will make it onto the index card. The card itself will point back to the final post (to come) for a complete list of books. I’m still working on a PDF for the index card. I’ll post a link to it when its finished.

There were a lot of suggestions to go through and I think I got them all. If I didn’t, I can certainly add to the lists. The books with the most mentions were placed first, the rest are listed in no particular order. There will be one more post in this series containing the PDF for people to print out and take to their Harry Potter release festivities.

And so, onward to the lists!

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Filed under: Books

REVIEW: Transformers by Alan Dean Foster

REVIEW SUMMARY: A marginal media tie in book that had a lot more potential.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Big robots that can turn into cars and planes and stuff come to Earth in search of a mysterious object.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: The beginning of the book was well done

CONS: Military jargon without explanation; Introduction of at least one character near the end of the book.

BOTTOM LINE: If you really are a Transformer fanboy, then read this book. Otherwise, I would avoid it and the movie.

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Filed under: Book Review

Tuesday YouTube: Transformers Public Service Announcment

With the release of the new Transformers movie, we found this little YouTube video gem from the folks over at Robot Chicken. Enjoy!!!

Updated to a new link – darn you YouTube!!!

Filed under: Movies

SF Tidbits for 7/3/07

Filed under: Tidbits

RIP, Fred Saberhagen

Sad news…

I’ve heard through the grapevine that after a long illness, Fred Saberhagen passed away on Friday, June 29, 2007.

His long and distinguished career spanned the genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror with stories that included the characters Dracula, Sherlock Holmes and, perhaps his best known creation, the Berserkers.

See also:

Filed under: Books

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