Top SF/F Sidekicks

Entertainment Weekly #887 has a list of the 50 Greatest Sidekicks of All Time. Some sidekicks of note for genre fans (listed with their frontmen):

  1. Robin/Batman
  2. Chewbacca/Han Solo
  3. Samwise Gamgee/Frodo Baggins
  4. Ron Weasley & Hermione Granger/Harry Potter
  5. Donkey/Shrek
  6. Willow Rosenberg/Buffy Summers
  7. Gromit/Wallace
  8. Ford Prefect/Arthur Dent
  9. Jimmy Olsen/Superman
  10. Igor/Young Frankenstein
  11. Bender/Fry

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Jonathan Strahan will be editing a new anthology for Night Shade Books that collects both science fiction and fantasy stories:

Night Shade have agreed to let me edit the book I’ve long wanted to: a single year’s best volume that will collect the best science fiction and fantasy stories in a single volume. I’ve always believed that readers have broader tastes than they’re given credit for and that science fiction and fantasy overlap far more than people want to believe. So, in March 2007 Night Shade will publish The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, a suitably enormous and gorgeous trade paperback. I can’t wait to see it. I’ve been reading like crazy, and think it’s going to be something really special.

Throw another anthology onto the pile of books I want to read…

I gotta wonder, though, when is enough enough? Sure, each editor has their own opinion of what’s best, but between the Dozois, the Hartwell/Cramer, the Horton, the other Strahan, the other other Strahan and all the rest (not to mention the fantasy anthologies) – will the market support all of these? Pfff…and people tell me there’s no room for an anthology of award nominees!

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SF Tidbits for 7/17/06

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POLL RESULTS: Reading Short Fiction

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

QUESTION
Do you regularly read short fiction?

RESULTS

(45 total votes)




Be sure to vote in this week’s poll on your favorite Heinlein novel!

Filed under: Polls

REVIEW SUMMARY: A first-rate story with widespread appeal.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Jake Sullivan uploads his mind into a new, artificial body.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Gives rise to thought-provoking issues; never a dull moment; compelling and page-turning; offers something for casual and hardcore sf fans alike.

CONS: The multiple references to twentieth-century pop icons were distracting.

BOTTOM LINE: A thought-provoking, page-turning book.

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SF Tidbits for 7/15/06

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SF Tidbits for 7/14/06

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The SciFi Channel is making available the first-ever online pilot for their new series The Amazing Screw-On Head, which they describe like this:

In this hilarious send-up of Lovecraftian horror and steampunk adventure, President Abraham Lincoln’s top spy is a bodyless head known only as Screw-On Head.

When arch-fiend Emperor Zombie steals an artifact that will enable him to threaten all life on Earth, the task of stopping him is assigned to Screw-on Head. Fortunately, Screw-On Head is not alone on this perilous quest. He is aided by his multitalented manservant, Mr. Groin, and by his talking canine cohort, Mr. Dog.

Can this unorthodox trio stop Emperor Zombie in time? Does Screw-On Head have a body awesome enough to stop the horrors that have been unleashed? Where can we get a talking dog?

All these questions (O.K., maybe not that last one) will be answered when you watch the thrilling tale of The Amazing Screw-On Head!

I’m about halfway through it right now. Not bad! It’s interesting in a undead steampunk kind of way.

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SF Tidbits for 7/13/06

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Happy Birthday to Us, Part III

Today is SF Signal’s 3rd birthday! Yay us! If we could make only a single birthday wish, it would be for eternal peace, true love and extreme joy for all our readers across this great, big, wonderful globe. But only for those who are on our Frappr map, of course. There’s only so much peace, love and joy to go around, you know.

In the grand tradition of birthday posts, this recap will be filled with action-adventure, drama and sex. It’ll sort of be like one of those self-absorbed pulp-fiction books except without the action-adventure, drama and sex; which pretty much leaves self-absorbed.

Our third year was memorable for several reasons. Oh wait – I’m thinking of some other blog. Our blog was preoccupied with no less than three web host changes. On the “bright” side, we managed not to lose the readership of our favorite whipping boy, Pete. No matter how much we moved. Three times, people! (I kid!) Actually, Pete provided one of the best bits of in-comedy with his SF Signal poem, for which we will extend both his Maxim and FHM subscriptions – but only in his imagination. Also of note, Pete channeled his supermodel obsession from past years into actual blog content, but only because it involved Kate Beckinsale. We take what we can get, folks.

This past year saw the launch of a spinoff blog, Gaming Signal, a move which mostly ended the non-sf game posts in SF Signal’s gaming category. This, in turn, led to a less diluted, more focused science fiction blog. Maybe that’s what helped us get mentioned in SciFi magazine. Or the bribe money. Probably the bribe money.

Our impression of television sci-fi has notably improved. In the absence of Firefly, which we discovered post-mortem and so dearly miss, we had Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who to fill the void. And while we discussed – JP opined, the rest of us discussed – the Top 50 SciFi Shows and new TV sci-fi, we took matters into our own hands with our Studio President for a Day posts. And to show we cared about our readers (and by “show” I mean “make it look like”), we also asked you. We might even have been listening. I’m not sure – I was just skimming over the post looking for my name.

Movie-related posts this past year were mostly us fawning over Serenity. We asked if film was a poor medium for science fiction and we gave you list after list after list after list after list after list after list after list after list after list after list after list. What can we say? We likes the lists, we do.

Reading, as always, played a prominent role in our lives. We challenged our readership to name the top sf books, which resulted in many answers and a poll. Our second Reader Challenge was less popular thanks to my own poorlyized wordimications. Better was when we asked why you read/watch science fiction, a post in which Tim has the final clap of approval. We also asked about your own reading habits. Are you a literary snob and do your reading follow the popular vote?

Other popular matters of reading included reading/publication order, deciding what to read next, the last good book you read, declining book readership and overseas book-buying. At least that’s what I think was happening. I was kinda busy complaining about my postman, repeating a reading project, listing my top 7 external impediments to reading (did I mention we likes the lists?) and fleeing.

Reading inevitably turns into reviewing. Our new book review index is a good starting point to see if you think we are objective reviewers. (You do.) Which is not to say that the authors themselves are happy with our reviews. One personal note of accomplishment: this was the first year I read all the short fiction nominees for the most recent Hugo and Nebula awards. (I still think those stories would make a good anthology, if not a profitable one.) JP’s Orphans of Chaos review turned into a relatively popular post since John C. Wright, the book’s author and accused SF Signal fanboy, gave it the personal touch. Which is exactly what George Kennedy would do. JP, on the other hand, has since moved on to post more about Legos. Other review bits: Scott posted his review criteria and one of Tim’s reviews earned him a fan this year; two if you count her other personality!

After reading and reviewing, what’s left but publishing? This past year saw the rise (Bean online, Orson Scott Card’s web mag) and fall (iBooks, SciFictionsave it while you still can) of publishing outlets. We talked bloated books, media tie-ins, book remainders, and innovative authors. As a way to generate some intellectual property revenue for the blog (cheap bastages that we are), we even created the never-before-seen subgenre of undead time-traveling nazis/facists/pirates/ninjas/1972 Green Bay Packers. Hmmmm…maybe there’s a reason that was never seen before.

The sf/f genres in general were also topics of discussion. (Again, we discussed while JP opined.) We asked if science fiction was too geeky and whether Golden Age sf sucked. We mulled over military sf and once again talked about the definition of sf. As if that weren’t enough, we had a SF vs. Fantasy world-building smackdown. Last year’s list of sf/f authors who blog is still fairly popular. This year’s post on authors who should blog? Not so much.

Anywho, thanks to all the loyal readers for sticking around and thanks to all the new readers and authors for giving us a try. We may be a bunch of contentious boobs, we might make mistakes both grammatical and politically incorrect, we may not strive for excellence, we may not have any goals, we might be lazy and smell a little ripe, we might have issues with our irrespective mothers, we may be egotistical, selfish and mean, but darn it we…we…ummm…where was I going with this?

Oh well, happy birthday to us!

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SF Tidbits for 7/12/06

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The Internet Review of Science Fiction has posted an article by author/editor Gary Westfahl titled How to Make Big Money Writing Science Fiction, and Other Dangerous Delusions. In it, he cites Locus magazine as perpetuating the idea that science fiction writing is a lucrative business for authors.

…at times, it read like a sort of Lifestyles of the Science Fiction Rich and Famous, with photographs of millionaire authors smiling at conventions, brief reports of authors receiving six-figure advances or huge sums for movie rights, news items about noteworthy authors receiving high honors or making lucrative deals. And the recent changes in the magazine’s format-more and more glossy pages, more and more color photographs, a higher price-further suggested an impulse to provide science fiction with more and more of an upscale image.

Hmmm. As a Locus subscriber, I’m not sure I ever got that impression from the magazine. While I would prefer more news or articles rather than the pictures, I still think there is a good blend of both. It’s always nice to put a face to an author, lest you mistakenly think he looks like George Kennedy. :) The interviews – the subjects of which are both famous and not so famous – are always enjoyable to read as each person brings a different perspective to the field.

Emerald City’s Cheryl Morgan also reacts to the article.

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Contest Winner

The SF Signal contest, in which we asked you to answer 10 sf-related trivia question, is over and the winner is…Julia! Congratulations, Julia!

Julia was one of the ones who answered all 10 questions correctly. Here are the trivia answers…

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SF Tidbits for 7/11/06

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Enhancing Star Trek

Taking a page from George Lucas’ book, Daren Dochterman took a few minutes from the original Star Trek episode, “The Doomsday Machine”, and enhanced it. Basically, he re-did all the SFX shots he could and composited them into the old show’s footage. The result looks quite impressive, especially considering this was done by one person. One guy did the work of the entire SFX crew (well, models and exterior shots mostly) of the original series.

The brings up an interesting question. Aside from the fiasco of Greedo shooting first, I think the Star Wars updates were alright to useful. But Star Wars wasn’t as dated looking as Star Trek. Would Star Trek benefit from an enhancement effort of this sort or is the look of the old show part of the charm? Personally, I like the updated SFX as they aren’t in your face different and hew to the look and feel of the original, while adding some flair. Apparently Paramount had already been approached to do something like this and had passed on it. I’m not sure doing this for a DVD release would be practical, but could there be a deal worked out with a cable network to split the cost and re-air the old shows with the enhancement? (I’m looking at Spike TV here. Them and their Star Trek 2.0 nonsense.) I think it could breathe some life back into the old show.

Filed under: TV

Recent Blog Updates: Bending Over Backward to Serve You Better!

Some recent SF Signal updates worth mentioning…

First, we now provide a recent comments feed so you can keep in tune with all the drive-by lovuhs, hatahs and smiley abuse. If history is any indication, that feed is sure to be home to some lively discussion. All SF Signal news feeds can be found in the News Feeds widget on the front page.

Second, by user request, we now provide a Book Review Index which is an abbreviated for the Book Review category archives. The link to the Index can be found next to the Book Review archive link in the Categories widget on the front page.

Still to come: Entry-specific comment feeds.

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REVIEW: Of Fire And Night by Kevin J. Anderson

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The Terran Hanseatic League is falling apart and with it, the sanity of its Chairman, Basil Wenceslas. King Peter and his Queen attempt to escape Earth to protect their unborn child from the erratic Chairman. The Ildiran Empire strikes an accord with the Hydrogues to save itself, at the expense of betraying Earth. The Klikiss robots, allies of the Hydrogues, begin their final attack on Earth to eradicate humanity. The other sentient elemental entities, the Verdani and the Wentals, join forces to attack the Hydrogues. And some other stuff happens too.

PROS: Interesting far future galactic setting, intriguing aliens, cool SF ideas abound.

CONS: Workman-like writing, illogical happenings and plot contrivances.

BOTTOM LINE: Anderson has warmed up his characters for this, the fifth volume in his The Sage Of Seven Suns series, but overall it is still a competent space opera that doesn’t rise above its parts.

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SF Tidbits for 7/10/06

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REVIEW SUMMARY: Lots of gems, only a few misses.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Anthology of thirty one science fiction stories that first appeared in 2005.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Twenty seven stories that are good or better; eight of those are exceptionally well done.

CONS: Four stories mediocre or worse; a bit heavy on the posthumanism theme.

BOTTOM LINE: A fine collection bursting with lots of cool science fiction ideas.

David G. Hartwell’s and Kathryn Cramer’s annual Year’s Best SF series makes it to number eleven this year. While other annuals play with the definition of the genre, this series strives to collect stories that clearly lie within the science fiction domain. Thus, science fiction fans will not feel cheated that this series offers a diluted selection. Instead, all the stories are clearly sf.

The only factor that could possibly limit the series’ range is that it is constrained to the mass-market paperback format. (I think that hardback editions eventually appear later through the Science Fiction Book Club, but the target format is MMP.) Because of the smaller form factor, you won’t find the 60+ pages of introduction that you would find in the Dozois anthologies. Nor will you find a large number of novella-sized short fiction. In fact, the story length tally for Year’s Best SF 11 comes in at zero novellas, 9 novelettes, 12 short stories and 10 vignettes. That’s a whopping 31 stories of varying length. That’s a fairly decent story count.

There was one noticeably recurring theme throughout the anthology: posthumanism. (Oddly, there were also a couple of stories where rats played a prominent role.) Before I read this anthology, I had no idea that posthumanism was so prominent in 2005. Actually, it almost got to the level of annoyance as it put a slight damper on the variety that I look for in an anthology. While it’s true that even the posthuman-themed stories provided some diversity amongst themselves, perhaps the story selection could have been chosen to provide more variety overall. Just my 2 cents.

As expected in any anthology, the quality of the stories is not entirely consistent. A small handful of the stories failed to entertain. But the good news is that the large majority of the stories were good or better.

Standout stories in Year’s Best SF 11 are “Second Person, Present Tense” by Daryl Gregory, “Mason’s Rats” by Neal Asher, “The Forever Kitten” by Peter F. Hamilton, “City of Reason” by Matthew Jarpe, “What’s Expected of Us” by Ted Chiang, “Bright Red Star” by Bud Sparhawk, “Beyond the Aquila Rift” by Alastair Reynolds and “I, Robot” by Cory Doctorow.

Reviewlettes follow…

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POLL RESULTS: Rating the Spiderman 3 Trailer

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

QUESTION
How would you rate the Spiderman 3 trailer?

RESULTS

(20 total votes)




Yikes! Poor turnout this week. Too complex a question? :)

Be sure to vote in this week’s poll on reading short fiction!

Filed under: Polls

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