Review Criteria

John has asked that I publish my review criteria, so here it is. Note that this only really counts for books I’ve read this year (2006) and beyond – in years past I wasn’t quite as critical as I am now.

I have to admit I’m seriously thinking of changing my rating to simply ‘Worth it’ or ‘Avoid it’ since that’s all I’m really trying to convey, but at least for now here is what my rating system is.

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Filed under: Meta

How to Become a Fanboy

The NY Daily News offers Fanboy 101 for would-be fanboys. They cover the essential comics, sci-fi movies, Hong Kong movies and horror movies one would need to consume to be considered a fanboy. (Anime, television series and sci-fi and fantasy books to come in a later article.)

Here’s the list of sci-fi movies:

  • The original Star Wars trilogy
  • Blade Runner
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Alien/Aliens
  • The Matrix
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • The Terminator
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Jurassic Park
  • Things to Come

Pop Quiz! How many were based on science fiction stories?

[link via Emerald City]

Filed under: Movies

NOMINEES: International Horror Guild Award

The nominees for the International Horror Guild Award, which recognizes achievement in the field of horror/dark fantasy during 2005, have been announced. Also, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro is recipient of its annual Living Legend Award. Awards are presented during the World Fantasy Convention in Austin, TX on July 31st.


  • Lunar Park by Brett Easton Ellis
  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
  • Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel
  • The Stone Ship by Peter Raftos
  • The Horrific Sufferings of the Mind-Reading Monster Hercules Barefoot, His Wonderful Love and His Terrible Hatred by Carl-Johan Vallgren (Translated by Paul Britten-Austin)
  • “Proboscis” by Laird Barron
  • “Boatman’s Holiday” by Jeffrey Ford
  • “My Father’s Mask” by Joe Hill
  • “La Peau Verte” by Caitlin Kiernan
  • “The Imago Sequence” by Laird Barron
  • “Kiss of the Mudman” by Gary Braunbeck
  • “Voluntary Committal” by Joe Hill
  • The Serial Murders” by Kim Newman
COLLECTION (Single Author)
  • Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham
  • 20th Century Ghostsby Joe Hill
  • To Charles Fort, with Love by Caitlin Kiernan
  • Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
  • No Award
Interesting. There’s some crossover for sf/f award nominees (“Invisible”, “Boatman’s Holiday”, “There’s a Hole in the City”, Magic for Beginners). Is it me or are genre lines becoming more and more blurred.

And no award for anthology? What’s up with that?

[Link via SFBC Blog]

Filed under: Awards

SF Tidbits for 6/8/06

Filed under: Tidbits

Wear Me You Will

I don’t know whether to be scared or not, but now you can buy your very own Jedi Master and re-create your own personal Dagobah with Think Geek’s Yoda Plush Backpack. This is perfect for the Star Wars Enthusiasts among us (you know who you are, ok, I’ll give you a hint, his initials are ‘Scott’) or perhaps even their kids.

No real info on how much crap you can stuff into Yoda’s stomach, or on how long it will take for you to start talking in Yoda-speak. About 5 seconds I’m guessing.

Filed under: Star Wars

REVIEW: Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds

REVIEW SUMMARY: Fine hard science fiction from a very capable author that could have been so much more.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Earth as been rendered devoid of life thanks to nanotech gone awry, and humankind has been split between those that eschew nanotech and hope to repopulate Earth the old fashion way (the Threshers or those who want to stand up to the threshold of nano use) and those who have embraced nanotech throughout their bodies and would like to terraform Earth with more nanos (the Slashers, named after those who use Slashdot – I’m not kidding.) An archaeologist from the Threshers Verity Auger becomes embroiled in interstellar intrigue when she discovers a duplicate Earth, held in stasis by alien technology, has become active and in fact can now be visited.


PROS: Great use of science fiction staples like nanotech, wormholes, and the unique concept of a giant sphere big enough to hold a copy of a world in quantum stasis.

CONS: Slow story in parts. Reynold’s characters seem cold and lifeless.

BOTTOM LINE: Still a good read, but I had expected more from Reynolds.

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Filed under: Book Review

SF Tidbits for 6/7/06

Filed under: Tidbits

Are Books Dying?

Over at the Guardian, Jeff Jarvis is contemplating the limited lifespan of the book in his article Books will disappear. Print is where words go to die. [Link via BookNinja]

The article gives a nice 50,000-foot view of the situation between the capabilities and pressure of The Digital Age vs. the limited vision of The Old Ways:

…[E]fforts to update the book are hampered because, culturally, we give extreme reverence to the form for the form’s sake. We hold books holy: children are taught there is no better use of time than reading a book. Academics perish if they do not publish. We tolerate censors regulating and snipping television but would never allow them to black out books. We even ignore the undeniable truth that too many books, and far too many bestsellers, are pap or crap. All this might seem to be the medium’s greatest advantage: respect. But that is what is holding books back from the progress that could save and spread the gospel of the written word.

This is an interesting observation: Respect for books – the very thing we have been taught and try to teach others – is what’s hindering its evolution. I’ll have to give that chewy morsel some more thought. At least Jeff agrees that there is value in holding a fiction book: “fiction, especially, is best delivered one-way and on portable paper.” That gives me something to hold onto before books go the way of the 8-Track tape.

I still wonder, though, is this an insightful prognostication, or just malarky?

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 6/6/06

Filed under: Tidbits

The Coode Street Podcast

Jonathan Strahan has launched The Coode Street Podcast to promote work that he feels is “worthwhile, noteworthy, or just neat in some way.”

The first podcast is “Stealing Free” by by Deborah Biancotti, winner of the Aurealis Award for Best Horror Story, the Ditmar Award for Best New Talent, and the Ditmar for Best Short Story, She describes “Stealing Free” thusly:

“This story is one of those, begun late at night, the broad brush stroked added over several days between work and Life and other projects, but the real guts of it, the meat of the tale, so to speak, requiring another late night to pull itself together. And here – for what it’s worth – is an unusual piece on the dutiful Salamander and his odd mixed bag of friends and enemies. Kingfisher. Pelicans. Empress. Monster. Sea Snake. And all their attendants.”

[via Locus Online]

Filed under: Web Sites

Confessions of a Biblioholic

Newer readers may be wondering what I mean when I drop occasional mentions of my biblioholism. Allow me to elaborate. But before you start with the ridicule, know that I am aware I am opening myself up to it by doing this. So, if you insist on poking fun, exceed my expectations, will ya’, and make it really funny. As defined by me.

I regularly visit used bookstores. They are the best places to browse out-of-print science fiction and fortunately (or unfortunately) for me, Houston has an inordinate number of them. It used to be just me but in the past couple of years, the family has taken a shining to it. (Red Rum!)

My collection already contains more books than I could possibly read in my lifetime unless I was, say, augmented with Klausner-like nanotech, which has yet to be invented (sadly). I am honestly not bragging here – this behavior is illogical and, some would say, on the wrong side of sane. I think the affliction is the result of growing up in Long Island which is essentially a 100-mile-long strip mall. (Note to self: add “strip mall’ to list of phrases that make me giggle.)

I was doing well for a while. I think I went three whole weeks without stepping foot inside a bookstore. My recent visit to the awesome Borderlands Bookstore in San Francisco put the kibosh on that dry spell. I dare anyone with even a remote fondness for science fiction to step into that store without wanting to walk out with oodles and caboodles of crunchy, sf goodness. I couldn’t do it.

Anywho, in recent weeks, I found some good (to me) treasures that, while they are things I wanted, were not really things I needed. These titles fall into distinct categories. (Like Jeff from Gravity Lens once said, sf fans love to categorize.)

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Filed under: Books

June IROSF Now Online

The June IROSF has been posted. Here’s the TOC:

  • Editorial: The Living and the Dead by Bluejack
  • Obituary: Robert Sheckley by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • Interview: An Interview with Lee Modesitt by Ken Rand
  • Features: Who Needs Feminist Science Fiction? by Ruth Nestvold, Jay Lake and The 2005 UK Small Press Review by Lavie Tidhar
  • Essays: The Wendigo by William I. Lengeman III and Hollywood Eats Its Own Brain! by MaryAnn Johanson
  • Reviews: NFSF: Wonders from Down Under; Beyond Singularity ed. Dann and Dozois; Trujillo by Lucius Shepard; Zanesvilleby Kris Saknussemm; May/June Short Fiction

Filed under: Web Sites

SF Tidbits for 6/5/06

Filed under: Tidbits

REVIEW: Worldwired by Elizabeth Bear

REVIEW SUMMARY: While the series does not end on a whimper, the bang is less noisy than before.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Former Canadian Special Forces operative Jenny Casey attempts to establish contact with the mysterious Benefactor aliens while the world engages in a superpower finger-pointing match after the cataclysmic events of Scardown.


PROS: The Benefactor thread evokes a sense of wonder; cool use of nanotech.

CONS: The second part of the book, which focused on the politics thread, was weaker than the rest of the series. Lack of drama.

BOTTOM LINE: Still a good read, but does not quite meet the achievements of the previous installments.

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Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

Pro Wrestling on the SciFi Channel. Will you watch?


(60 total votes)

I’m not sure where the SciFi Channel gets its marketing data, but clearly something is amiss!

Be sure to vote in this week’s poll on science fiction awards!

Filed under: Polls

Robert J. Sawyer has resurrected an old post citing a list of SF books that non sf readers would enjoy.

Sawyer’s picks:

  • The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
  • The Ghost from the Grand Banks by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson
  • Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress
  • Inferno by Mike Resnick
  • Manhattan Transfer by John E. Stith
  • Mysterium by Robert Charles Wilson

Filed under: Books

EW Reviews SF/F

The June 9th issue of Entertainment Weekly offers some brief reviews of science fiction and fantasy books. Here’s a snippet.

Everfree by Nick Sagan

Genre Mash: 28 Days Later meets The Matrix.

Lowdown: Everfree is smart and fast-moving but, like its protagonists, emotionally computerized.

Grade: B-

Black Powder War (Temeraire, Book 3) by Naomi Novik

Genre Mash: Lawrence of Arabia meets Dragonheart.

Lowdown: STill enjoyable, but this faithful reader wanted less travelogue and more of the intricately rendered life-of-an-aviator derring-do that shone in the first book.

Grade: B

Firebird by R. Garcia y Robertson

Genre Mash: Scheherazade meets Czar nicholas II.

Lowdown: Complete with iron forests, Mongolian shamans, rapacious Tartars, and lesbian nuns, Firebird has a skewering with that’s great fun to read; too bad the characters are made of cardboard. On the plus side, we learn that a properly trained nun should be fluent in the French kiss.

Grade: B+

The Greener Shore : A Novel of the Druids of Hibernia by Morgan Llywelyn

Genre Mash: A Wizard of Earthsea meets Siddhartha.

Lowdown: The wanderings of head druid Ainvar and his three wives as refugees in Hibernia (also known as Ireland) provide a deeply felt and at times lyrical meditation on exile and loss, but Shore lacks the oomph of the original tome.

Grade: B-

Filed under: Books

Spiderman 3 Villains

Spiderman 3 will have four villains. Three of them are confirmed: Venom, Sandman and the new Green Goblin (a.k.a. Hobgoblin). The last villain is rumored to be either The Lizard or Man-Wolf.

Holy flashback, Batman Spiderman! The Man-Wolf is lycanthropic alter-ego of John Jameson, J.Jonah Jameson’s astronaut son. I wouldn’t know this except that way back when I was but a wee lad, I had an audio Spiderman comic called Mark of the Werewolf. It was an abridged version of a Spiderman comic book and came with a 45 RPM record (what are those?) that contained voice actors acting out the comic. I’m not sure how I got this or why I would go the audio route as I was thoroughly entrenched in (DC) comics at the time. Still, the news of the new Spiderman movie bring back fond memories…

Filed under: Movies

17 Days of The Triffids

Beginning June 5th, the BBC Radio show 7th Dimension will be running a 17-part reading of John Wyndham’s classic The Day of the Triffids. Each part is about 30 minutes making the total piece about 8 hours. For folks outside the UK, the BBC makes the recordings available for 6 days after the broadcast at their Listen Again site.

I read this cozy-catastrophe story several years ago and loved, loved, loved it. Nothing at all like the cheesy movie I saw in my childhood. Thankfully. This is one of those books that you know you are going to read again. Luckily for me, I have since acquired the hardcover SF Masterworks edition of this.

[via SFF Audio]

Filed under: BooksWeb Sites

SF Tidbits for 6/3/06

Filed under: Tidbits

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