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.

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!

SF Tidbits for 11/10/07

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.

Friday YouTube: Death Star Canteen

Eddie Izzard + Star Wars + Legos = Hilarity

[Language warning!!!]

[via The Swivet]

TOC: Passing for Human edited by Michael Bishop and Steven Utley

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

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.
  • 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.)

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.

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.

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.

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…

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.

SF Tidbits for 11/7/07

Amazon’s Top 10 SF/F Books of 2007

Amazon Editors have chosen their Top 10 Science Fiction & Fantay Books of 2007.

  • The Terror: A Novel by Dan Simmons
  • Brasyl by Ian McDonald
  • Territory by Emma Bull
  • The Traitor by Michael Cisco
  • Spaceman Blues: A Love Song by Brian Francis Slattery
  • Shelter by Susan Palwick
  • The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, Day 1) by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Thirteen by Richard K. Morgan
  • Tin House: Fantastic Women by Aimee Bender
  • The Coyote Road by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

[via John Joseph Adams]

Tube Bits For 11/07/07

  • If you’re in Arizona and happen to be near the campus of Arizona State University on Nov. 8th, why not stop by ASU for their first annual science behind science fiction event. Titled “Beyond the Star Trek Universe”, the hosts are physicist Lawrence Krauss and actor Armin Shimerman, Quark to Star Trek fans, it promises to “guide audience members on a warp speed journey through the fantasies of science fiction via the “Star Trek” universe and the exciting possibilities of the real universe…” Visit their website for more info. If this were around here, I’d think about attending.
  • SciFi Scanner opines on how the writer’s strike will affect SF on TV. In short, not good. Since almost all TV SF is currently episodic, the strike will delay or end early most of our favorite shows. That leaves us with SF on film and the Sci Fi Channel. Anyone for more Flash Gordon or Mansquito?
  • For more information about the strike, you can listen to Geekerati’s latest podcast where they interview television writer/producer Rob Long (Cheers) about the current strike. Since the strike appears to be headed for a long stand-off, you’ll probably have many more chances to listen to podcasts instead of watch TV.
  • The Daily Galaxy has an interesting editorial on the apparent lack of pop culture in the Star Trek universe. They put forward several reasons, copyright being on of them, in this interesting essay. But really, how easy is it to create a future pop culture? And will the rock music scene of the late 20th Century really still be popular in the 23rd Century?
  • E Online’s Watch With Kristin blog tackles last night’s episode of Heroes. She also takes a look at what’s ahead for the next episode and kills the rumor that Tim Kring has left the show.

Heroes Season 2 Predictions

With the writers strike in full force now, it looks like Heroes will be forced to make episode 11 the season finale. Last night’s episode. ‘Out Of Time’, finally put all the major players into motion for the inevitable showdown. With that in mind, here are some predictions for the rest of Season .

Continue reading

REVIEW: Science Fiction: The Best of the Year, 2007 Edition edited by Rich Horton

REVIEW SUMMARY: A refreshing selection of science fiction stories.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: 12 works of short fiction originally published in 2006.


PROS: Nine good stories, three of them outstanding.

CONS: Two stories hovering in the mediocre range; the book’s cover incorrectly cites story authors.

BOTTOM LINE: A worthwhile survey of 2006 fiction.

I’ve been reading a lot of short fiction lately, much of it compiled in various “Year’s Best” anthologies and award nomination reading lists. The latest anthology is Science Fiction: The Best of the Year, 2007 Edition edited by Rich Horton, which serves up twelve pieces of short fiction that were first seen in 2006.

Horton offers up a nice selection of stories. His introduction, which serves as both short fiction survey and explanation selection choices, explains that he was not directly aiming for any given theme, but does admit that the final selections do seem to have a recurring religious theme. It should be noted that Horton’s choices sit comfortably (and refreshingly) within any given definition of science fiction; which is to say that none of these selections would be considered fantasy or mainstream, as might occur in other anthologies. SF fans need not be bothered on that score.

Given the nice selection of stories, it would have been nice if the authors got more cover publicity out of it: there is a glaring error on the book’s cover which cites authors included in last year’s edition. Besides extra proofreading, I might also recommend that the page headers list the story titles and authors instead of the book’s title and editor. Doing so would make stories easier to find.

One of the side effects of multiple “Best of” anthologies is that reading them eventually gets quicker, provided that there is the usual overlap of selections between anthologies. This was the case in the Horton anthology; I had already read eight of the twelve stories earlier this year. That left a measly four stories for me to consume, an appealing task size since life seems to be getting busier lately. (It still took me a week to do it.)

The three standout stories in this anthology are “The Cartesian Theater” by Robert Charles Wilson, “Hesperia and Glory” by Ann Leckie and “Exit Before Saving” by Ruth Nestvold.

Individual story reviews appear after the jump…

Continue reading

SF Tidbits for 11/6/07

  • Finding Wonderland interviews Connie Willis, author of D.A. and The Winds of Marble Arch. “I love science fiction, and I can’t imagine calling myself anything but a science fiction writer, but I know people sometimes have a very odd idea of what it is. ‘Oh, you write science fiction,’ they say, sort of wrinkling up their nose as if they smelled something bad, laugh nervously, and ask, ‘So, have you ever been abducted by aliens?'” [via Edward Champion]
  • SFX interviews Stephen R. Donaldson (The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant). “…I did not intend my work as polemics. I believe that as a story teller, it’s my job to serve the story. It’s not the story’s job to serve me.”
  • John Joseph Adams profiles David Moles. “It’s true that a woman in the developed world today has many more opportunities than she would have had a hundred years ago, or even fifty, but I also think that in American society particularly, we — men and women both — lie to ourselves about how much freedom and opportunity we have”
  • Free reads: Speculative fiction e-zine Heliotrope issue #3 has been posted with fiction by Brendan Connell, Tina Connolly and Rob Vagle; and articles by Jeffrey Ford, Michael Moorcock and Jeff Vandermeer.
  • More free fiction: Subterranean Online is serializing Daniel Abraham’s “The Support Technician Tango“.
  • At Information Week, Cory Doctorow explains why artists should worry less about piracy and more about how much it costs to publish online. “Artists are in the free expression business, and technology that helps free expression helps artists. When lowering the cost of copyright enforcement raises the cost of free speech, every artist has a duty to speak out.”
  • James Nicoll lists the complete catalog of the Pocketbooks Timescape line of books.
  • Make Me The King lists 10 things Science Fiction got wrong.
  • Cynical-C points us to a a bunch of Star Wars geeks who made their own life-sized version of Jabba the Hutt.

Publishers Weekly Names the 7 Best SF/F/H Books of 2007

Publishers Weekly, apparently not content to wait until the end of the actual calendar year to call a close to 2007, has just named its Best Books of the Year. Here is their selection in the science fiction/fantasy/horror category, with apologies to those poor authors who might have a book seeing publication in the next eight weeks.

  • Inferno edited by Ellen Datlow (Tor)
  • Acacia by David Anthony Durham (Doubleday)
  • Ilario: The Lion’s Eye by Mary Gentle (Eos)
  • In War Times by Kathleen Ann Goonan (Tor)
  • Bright of the Sky: Book One of Entire and the Rose by Kay Kenyon (Pyr)
  • The Name of the Wind: Book One by Patrick Rothfuss (DAW)
  • The Winds of Marble Arch by Connie Willis (Subterranean)

Other notable entries of interest to genre fans are:

  • Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (Morrow)
  • Jamestown by Matthew Sharpe (Soft Skull)
  • The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio by Lloyd Alexander (Holt)
  • Red Spikes by Margo Lanagan (Knopf)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic/Levine)
  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan (Scholastic/Levine)
  • Robot Dreams by Sara Varon (Roaring Brook/First Second)

[via Asking the Wrong Questions]

Tube Bits For 11/06/07

  • Borehamwood Times has a short article detailing the puppetry genius of Gerry Anderson. Oddly, even though they mention Fireball XL5 and Thunderbirds, the article spends more time on UFO than anything else, including Space 1999. Out of all the Anderson TV shows out there, it was Space 1999 that caught my attention. Especially the crap inducing (to a 10 year) episode with the space octopus inside an Eagle. Yikes!
  • Montykins at LiveJournal wonders if its time to move on for MST3K and its fans. We now have several MST3K-like products available and he (she?) wonders if there’s too much now. Never I say! You can’t have too much of a good thing. So the question becomes: Are any of the projects a ‘good’ thing? I’ll have to check out RiffTrax now.
  • Rocky Mountain News interview Masi Oka about his role in Heroes and the upcoming Get Smart (!) remake. They also touch a bit on the writers strike and on how the death of his mother affected him.
  • Speaking of the writers strike, we have some competing views on how it will affect one of my favorite shows, LOST. Sy Fy Portal says LOST could lose big, as it only has a couple of episodes in the can and delaying the show till after the strike could cause viewer hemorrhaging. But wait! The LA Times states: “‘Lost’ producers will have finished half of the 16 episodes ABC ordered.” I’m assuming that means that more have been written, but not finished. Maybe not. In any case, a strike that pushed LOST back or splits it in half will make me angry, at both sides. But on the positive side, BuddyTV suggests the strike might actually be a good thing for LOST, if ABC plays their cards right.
  • And remember, today is the day the ginormous 61 DVD, all nine seasons set of The X Files is available for purchase! All 201 episodes, a comic book, an entire DVD just for exploring the conspiracies and the theatrical film The X Files: Fight The Future. Now that is some set, but it’s only a limited issue, so if you’re interested, better go ahead a get it now. To whet your appetite, enjoy the short clip below.

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