SF Tidbits for 7/17/07

  • Arrrrr! Andrew Wheeler reviews Pirate Freedom by Gene Wolfe.
  • Neil Walsh’s latest Books I’ve Been Avoiding: Overlooked or Over-hyped? column is up at SF Site: “Can there be such a thing as too many books? Lately I’ve been feeling I do indeed have too many books I haven’t read yet. But is that really too many books, or simply not enough time?”
  • Gail Martin shows off the cover of the next book in her Summoner series, The Blood King.
  • Washington Technology interviews John Scalzi. “One of the frequent complaints we hear about technology is that technology is isolating. I would argue the opposite. We are so connected now sometimes it’s hard to get away from each other.”
  • Scalzi, by the way, is giving free e-book copies of The Android’s Dream to overseas service people.
  • Tuesday YouTube: The original, pre-production trailer for Alien 3, which reflects the original William Gibson version (aliens on Earth). [via SciFi Scanner]
  • Here’s the transcript for NASA administrator Mike Griffin’s talk at the Heinlein Centennial. “So, a question that has often been asked and that I’ve asked myself is, ‘Was the growth of science fiction as a genre and hard science fiction in particular, a response to the cultural zeitgeist or was it a cause of it?'”
  • File under Things I Don’t Need But Want Anyway: An Alien Abduction Lamp.

Filed under: Tidbits

This Week On Sci Fi

Welcome to the first installment of ‘This Week On Sci Fi’ where we take a look at the shows on the SCI FI Channel during primetime. If this one goes well, I’ll do more in the future.

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Filed under: Star TrekTV

The Truth Is Out There? X-Files 2


David Duchovny let drop a big hint that the next X-Files movie is moving closer to production. Apparently, he is expecting to see a script next week and the movie will re-unite Mulder with Scully.

At this point, I have to ask: What can this movie possibly be about? Isn’t the whole alien invasion thing pretty much taken care of, if not by the series then by the whole ‘we have no idea where the hell we are going with this’ approach to the backstory?

Admittedly, I lost interest when T-1000 joined the cast and Fox ‘disappeared’, so I have no idea how the show ended. Frankly, with the writers botching the backstory so horribly, it was way past time for X-Files to end.

Is this an attempt to fix the legacy of X-Files? I don’t hold out much hope given the ‘recent’ track record. I think the truth points to more suckage, which is too bad as I really liked the earlier seasons of X-Files.

Filed under: Movies

Cory Doctorow on Futurism

Locus Online has posted Cory Doctorow’s bi-monthly Locus magazine article, this month titled The Progressive Apocalypse and Other Futurismic Delights. Cory talks about futurism, the Singularity, and the Apocalypse and also how the past and future is jaded by the present. Here’s a snippet:

There’s a lovely neologism to describe these visions: “futurismic.” Futurismic media is that which depicts futurism, not the future. It is often self-serving — think of the antigrav Nikes in Back to the Future III — and it generally doesn’t hold up well to scrutiny.

SF films and TV are great fonts of futurismic imagery: R2D2 is a fully conscious AI, can hack the firewall of the Death Star, and is equipped with a range of holographic projectors and antipersonnel devices — but no one has installed a $15 sound card and some text-to-speech software on him, so he has to whistle like Harpo Marx. Or take the Starship Enterprise, with a transporter capable of constituting matter from digitally stored plans, and radios that can breach the speed of light.

The non-futurismic version of NCC-1701 would be the size of a softball (or whatever the minimum size for a warp drive, transporter, and subspace radio would be). It would zip around the galaxy at FTL speeds under remote control. When it reached an interesting planet, it would beam a stored copy of a landing party onto the surface, and when their mission was over, it would beam them back into storage, annihilating their physical selves until they reached the next stopping point. If a member of the landing party were eaten by a green-skinned interspatial hippie or giant toga-wearing galactic tyrant, that member would be recovered from backup by the transporter beam. Hell, the entire landing party could consist of multiple copies of the most effective crewmember onboard: no redshirts, just a half-dozen instances of Kirk operating in clonal harmony.

Filed under: Science and Technology

(Here are the original post and the first update for more information.)

In less than a week, the last Harry Potter book will be released to the general public. Many bookstores (and other establishments) will be having midnight release parties. These gatherings will be filled with Harry Potter fans, many of them wondering what to read after they finish The Deathly Hallows. We here at SF Signal, and elsewhere, have put our heads together and come up with a list of recommended books for Potter fans.

I’ve placed some of that list in a PDF that can be downloaded, printed out, and taken with you if you are going to one of the release parties. Please hand out copies of the list to those who are waiting, then come back here to discuss the list and, hopefully, help Potter fans find more interesting reading. I was going to try and squeeze everything onto a 4×6 index card, but they didn’t work so well. Now it’s on a regular 8.5×11 sheet of paper. This will make it easier to print and read.

After the jump, the full list!

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Filed under: Books

REVIEW: We, Robots by Sue Lange

REVIEW SUMMARY: A well-written robot story of substance.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Avey the robot becomes more human while humans verge on becoming posthuman.


PROS: Sympathetic protagonist; interesting blend of old tropes and new; portrayal of mankind’s darker side adds depth; perfect amount of humor.

CONS: I was expecting more from the “robot uprising” aspect.

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended.

Sue Lange’s novella, We, Robots, refreshingly takes one of science fiction’s oldest tropes – the robot – and exposes it to one of science fictions newest: posthumanism.

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Filed under: Book Review

SF Tidbits for 7/16/07

Filed under: Tidbits

POLL RESULTS: Most Anticipated Sequel

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

There are lots of sequels on tap for moviegoers. Which of these sequels are you most excited about?


(149 total votes)

Comments this week:

“The ONLY one I am excited about is Indiana Jones IV, and that’s a mild excitement. I am shocked that they’re making a Jurassic Park IV. I don’t remember 3 and vaguely recall that 2 was very disappointing.” – Kristen


“Gah! Too many I’m looking forward to: AvP2, Narnia, Indy, Mummy, are the 4 from this list that I’m looking forward to.” – Kev

Be sure to visit our front page and vote in this week’s poll about quantity of reading!

Filed under: Polls

EW Reviews SF/F

Issue #944 (July 20, 2007) of Entertainment Weekly offers some brief reviews of science fiction and fantasy books. Here’s a snippet…

The Servants by Michael Marshall Smith

For Fans of… Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting.

Bottom Line: This moving parable delivers strong psychological insights into a child’s powerlessness and anger.

Grade: B+

Thirteen by Richard K. Morgan

For Fans of… Gattacca‘s DNA-driven dystopia; the subversive fury of Chester Himes’ If He Hollers Let Him Go.

Bottom Line: Morgan’s bare-knuckle procedural plot makes room for provocative takes on race, gender, and religion.

Grade: A-

Exposure by Kurt Wenzel

For Fans of… Philip K. Dick; Neil Postman.

Bottom Line: Lots of alarming ideas – some fresh, many stale – and too many late-game twists. Exposure is intriguing, but often as artless as the culture it decries.

Grade: B-

Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman

For Fans of… Adult Swim’s Venture Bros. cartoon.

Bottom Line: Although too affectionate to be an effective parody, Grossman’s book has it’s fun moments, as when Dr. Impossible bemoans, “Henchmen are no use in a situation like this. Don’t get me started about henchmen.”

Grade: B

Filed under: Books

REVIEW: Lords And Ladies by Terry Pratchett


(For more Pratchett reviews, see The Great Pratchett Reading Project Table)

After misfiring a bit in the previous Witches novel, Witches Abroad, Pratchett returns to form with Lords And Ladies, the story of the return of the Elves to the Discworld. Everyone thinks they know what elves are like. Sprightly, pointy ears, and prone to hug trees at any opportunity. The reality is, however, much different. The elves are self-absorbed bastards who love to torment humans and leave them with nothing. As the fabric between realities thins, the elves attempt to break out into Discworld and take over the kingdom of Lancre. Opposing them are the eponymous witches: Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlik, who is about to become Queen of Lancre.

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SF Tidbits for 7/14/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Friday YouTube: I Lived on the Moon

Here’s a musical video clip by Yannick Puig inspired by the The Kwoon song “I Lived on the Moon“, a song from their album Tales and Dreams.

[via Milk and Cookies]

Filed under: Music

SF Tidbits for 7/13/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Summer SF Escapism

Alan Boyle over at MSNBC’s CosmicLog offers his recommendations for summer science fiction escapist reading. Given the dust-up over falling readership numbers, I thought this might be an interesting article to look at.

First up, Alan recommends The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks (SF Signal review). Now, I haven’t read it yet, but I’m not sure that the term ‘escapist’ fits here. But then again, maybe I’m thinking of book two on the list.

Which is The Dark River, sequel to The Traveler. Boyle manages to use this book to plug the new Douglas Hofstadter book, I Am A Strange Loop and a book on biblical mysteries. Both sound interesting, but I had no idea Hofstadter had a new book. He has a way of making even difficult idea readable. See his awesome Goedel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.

Third on his list are two books by Heinlein: The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress and The Man Who Sold The Moon. Both are strong stories and show the power of early Heinlein.

Lastly, Boyle mentions the upcoming summer series, Masters Of Science Fiction, on ABC. Singled out is the episode, Jerry Was A Man, based on the Heinlein story of the same name.

So there you have, one columnists idea for escapist SF. Looking at the list, I think all of the items may actually be a bit deeper than just ‘escapist’, but that’s a good thing.

The comments are a different story. Dan Simmons as escapist SF? Yikes.

Filed under: BooksTV

Ragamuffin Giveaway: We have a Winner!

We have a winner for our giveaway

Ashley J. is the proud owner of a shiny, brand new, autographed copy of Ragamuffin by Tobias Buckell. Congratulations, Ashley!

Thanks to all those who entered.

Filed under: Contest

Readership Numbers…More or Less

According to the National Endowment for the Arts, there is a decline in reading despite the success of Harry Potter.

As The New York Times puts it in their article Harry Potter has a limited effect on reading habits:

…some researchers and educators say that the series, in the end, has not permanently tempted children to put down their Game Boys and curl up with a book instead. Some kids have found themselves daunted by the growing size of the books (“Sorcerer’s Stone” was 309 pages; “Deathly Hallows,” will be 784). Others say that Harry Potter does not have as much resonance as titles that more realistically reflect their daily lives. “The Harry Potter craze was a very positive thing for kids,” said Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, who has reviewed statistics from federal and private sources that consistently show that children read less as they age. “It got millions of kids to read a long and reasonably complex series of books. The trouble is that one Harry Potter novel every few years is not enough to reverse the decline in reading.”

David Mehegan at The Boston Globe also notes the NEA study:

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Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 7/12/07

Filed under: Tidbits

On last night’s Eureka, SciFi debut the teaser trailer for the upcoming Battlestar Galactica movie Razor. Razor details the story of the Pegasus shortly after the Cylon attack on the 12 colonies. Take a gander below:

Just watching that gets me excited about the movie. It reminds of the first, and best, season of BG. Razor looks to get back to what made BG great in the first place: humankind’s desperate fight for its very existence. Hopefully Razor will remove much of the politics and allegory that have entangled the later season, causing them to lose focus, and return to the raw emotions of desperate people doing desperate things to survive.

Razor debuts in November. The fourth, and last, season of Galactica starts in 2008.

Filed under: TV

Continuing our clearly groundbreaking series of chat-like reviews, John and JP discuss Karl Schroeder’s second Virga novel, Queen of Candesce.

Queen of Candesce is Karl Schroeder’s second Virga book and follows the hugely popular Sun of Suns. In it, Venera Fanning, last left sailing through the air-filled world of Virga, comes to Spyre, one of Virga’s oldest nations. Venera is fueled by revenge for the husband she presumes to be dead and with the powerful key of Candesce in her possession, she may just be powerful enough to change the face of Spyre forever.

John: Woo-hoo! Schroeder has finished the follow-up to his space pirate novel Sun of Suns. I was really looking forward to more space piracy in Queen of Candesce.

JP: Unfortunately for you, there is little space piracy here.

John: Agreed. It was off-putting that the story focused on Venera Fanning and only her.

JP: I didn’t mind it at all; I thought it was a nice change from the previous novel.

John: That was a real downer for me. I wanted to know about the other characters and the universe as well.

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Filed under: Book Review

SF Tidbits for 7/11/07

Filed under: Tidbits

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