SF Tidbits for 5/27/07

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EW Reviews SF/F

Issue #936 (June 1, 2007) of Entertainment Weekly offers some brief reviews of science fiction and fantasy books. Here’s a snippet…

Harm by Brian W. Aldiss

For Fans of… 1984; A Bug’s Life.

Bottom Line: Aldiss’ dystopian chops – his 1969 story “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long” – inspired Steven Spielberg’s A.I. – falter in this unsubtle vision of a paranoid West that persecutes Muslim minorities and anthropods alike.

Grade: B-

Flesh and Spirit by Carol Berg

For Fans of… George R.R. Martin; Anne Bishop.

Bottom Line: Moments of colorful intensity highlight the workmanlike coming-of-age adventure.

Grade: B

Brasyl by Ian McDonald

For Fans of… Philip K. Dick’s paranoid philosophizing; City of God‘s urban squalor.

Bottom Line: Packing his pages with local color and big-picture speculation, McDonald conjures three equally vivid worlds.

Grade: B+

In War Times by Kathleen Ann Goonan

For Fans of… Dick’s Man in the High Castle; Quantum Leap.

Bottom Line: Goonan weaves experimental jazz, particle physics, and biochemistry into a compelling adventure through alternate universes. But her interdisciplinary mystery unravels as theory gives way to sentimentality and antiwar hokum.

Grade: B-

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SF Tidbits for 5/26/07

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A bonus on this Star Wars anniversary…

Filed under: HumorStar Wars

REVIEW: Mass Effect: Revelation by Drew Karpyshyn


It’s been awhile since I’ve read a media tie-in novel, the last being the horrible first book in the Babylon 5 series of novels. However, Mass Effect: Revelation is based upon the upcoming Bioware game for the Xbox 360 called, oddly enough, Mass Effect. The book promises to illuminate some of the backstory to the game, and takes place roughly 10 years previous to the game.

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Babylon 5: The Lost Tales Clips

I hate to break up the Star Wars love fest we are having today, but this is too cool to pass up. Ain’t It Cool News points us to some footage released by Warner Bros. about the shooting of The Lost Tales.

I likes me some B5, I’ll definitely be picking this one up on DVD. I’m still sad that there is no Garibaldi and that Andreas Katsulas has passed. G’Kar is one of the best characters I’ve ever seen in not just science fiction TV, but TV period.

Filed under: TV

Interzone Issue #209

Interzone #209 is my very first issue of Interzone to read and it also happens to be the 25th Anniversary Issue. And since it also contains a short story by SF Signal favorite Alastair Reynolds, you can imagine my excitement over obtaining a copy.

First, I have to say that I like the three-column layout of the magazine, which they use throughout. It makes the stories and columns very easy to read and they can pack in a bit more stuff into the same page count. This being the 25th Anniversary issue, the first few pages are authors and other field related people’s reminisces about their involvment with IZ. Not having read IZ before, this was a nice way to get some flavor of the history behind IZ. The next section, 25 TV, is Stephen Volk’s listing of the top 10 TV shows from last 25 years. Since IZ is based in the UK, you can imagine why this list has several shows I’ve never seen, which makes it hard for me to argue against the list (Ultraviolet is #1?, no Babylon 5? Shudder).

Next up is an interview with Hal Duncan, author of Vellum, wherein Hal discusses many things authorial and otherwise, including comparing writers to musicians. Which seems appropriate since the first short story in this issue is “The Whenever At The City’s Heart”, by Hal. In it, we return to the city at the center of the Vellum and we see the effects the rebellious tome Book Of All Hours has on the Vellum. Not so much a story as a tone poem, Hal uses an incredible mastery of language to paint a picture of chaos slowly encroaching on the Vellum. Relatively short, but striking.

The other standout shorts here are “Winter” by Jamie Barras and “The Sledge-Maker’s Daughter” by Alastair Reynolds. Both stuck with me and I think there is enough in Reynold’s setting to make a stand-alone novel.

An interview with Kim Stanley Robinson and the obligatory book, film and manga reviews round out the rest of the issue. Oh, and my mailperson doesn’t seem to know what Interzone is, as I have no issues receiving it…

All in all, a very enjoyable experience, and I’d like to thank Andy Cox for making it possible! I just received issue 210 and I will be reading through that shortly.

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Since today is the 30th anniversary of the release of Star Wars, we’d thought we’d celebrate by giving you, our loyal readers, recycled content! And if we’re going to recycle content, what better way than to dig up one of our most popular past posts: the Conan O’Brien skit in which Triumph the Wonder Dog rails against a bunch of Star Wars fans.

Filed under: HumorStar Wars

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of Star Wars, we present this special edition of SF tidbits!

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Happy Star Wars Day! Tell us Your Story!

On May 25th, 1977, the science fiction movie landscape changed forever. It’s hard to believe that a movie that opened in only 32 theaters (I said it was hard to believe) would end up being one of the most influential movies of all time. It’s just icing that it happened to be a science fiction movie.

This is how we remember it…

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Star Wars celebrates the 30th anniversary of its release tomorrow.

To commemorate the event – besides the plethora of specials and promotional campaignsthe official Star Wars website will re-launch with a new design.

Part of this includes adding a library of hundreds of photos Star Wars-related photos and video clips for sand to use in their own mashups. More evidence that Lucas is loosening his grip on the copyrights…

Yay, George!

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(Note: Consider this whole post as a spoiler. If you haven’t seen the finale yet, read no further. You will be spoiled worse than John.)

With all due respect to Heroes, whose season finale was underwhelming, LOST‘s finale pretty much shows how its done. While we didn’t learn a lot mythology-wise, we did get some stuff. Like, Penny Widmore isn’t behind the ‘rescue’ ship from where Naomi came, the Others (and the island) are fighting another group of people who are behind the ‘rescue’ ship (DHARMA? Someone else?), the island has chosen Locke to help and we see Locke is a mean shot at knife throwing. Ouch.

We get the resolution of the Other storyline that’s been running throughout this season. We see Ben’s plans slowly fall apart as the situation spins out of his control, but we also learn that Ben is doing everything he does in the belief that he is protecting the island. He’s still a lying, manipulative bastard which leads to the long awaited and much warranted pwning at the hands of Jack, and we see that he is not infallible. This is spectacularly illustrated in Ben’s failed bluff to get Jack to destroy the satellite phone by having his cohorts on the beach pretend to kill Sayid, Bernard and Jin. Ben obviously felt Jack would cave and all would be alright. The obvious flaw in Ben’s plan is what happened after Jack, finally becoming a real leader and sticking to his guns come thick or thin, calls Ben’s bluff. Again, ouch. And, really, the way the Others come out of this episode being devastated was something I wasn’t expecting. Now it looks like Ben’s power is gone and the anti-Ben faction will be able to openly move against him. I also liked Hurley’s heroics to save Juliette and Sawyer. You can’t help but feel good for Hurley who finally got a chance to be a hero. Nicely done by the writers.

The second storyline about the Looking Glass I felt was well done as well. The mind games being played between Mikhail, Ben and the babes in the hatch was well done. Ben being forced to admit lying to Mikhail only highlighted how much things had gone out his control, and yet, Mikhail is still loyal enough to do what Ben asked. The claustrophobia induced by being in a small hatch 60 feet or so underwater certainly helped add to the tension of the situation as Charlie, Mikhail, Desmond and two other Others maneuvered for control of the situation. And who didn’t know that Mikhail wasn’t really dead even after taking a harpoon to the chest? And I hope all you Charlie haters are happy now. Charlie did everything he did with the full expectation of dying, which happened, just as Desmond predicted, but not as we were lead to assume. Again, a nice mis-direction by the writers which added even more poignancy to Charlie’s death. I was sad to see Charlie go, especially since his actions may not have the happy outcome he expected. And now Desmond has take take the news back to Claire. Sad.

The only thing I thought was just OK was Jack’s ‘flashback’. Aside from the twist at the end of it, we pretty much see Jack being a drunken, drugged-out loser. A far cry from the man we see who, apparently, has lead his charges to rescue. He’s pretty messed up, and we only learn why when we discover it’s not a flashback at all, but a ‘flashforward’, and his ‘It wasn’t supposed to happen this way’ line paints the actions on the island in a new light. Is this truly the future? Ben said if the rescue helicopter came, then Jack and his friends would all die. According to the flashforward, they don’t but are given ‘Golden Passes’ on Oceanic Air. Which is odd. Doesn’t the world think they are all dead? That one scene with Kate opens up a slew of new questions as to the nature of the island and the hell is actually going on.

Which leads me to the one question that was never asked, with one exception. That being ‘Why?’. Alex actually asked Ben, as they were trying to intercept Jack and the Losties, ‘Why don’t you just let them leave?” Yes! Finally, someone asking the right question. Ben’s non-answer answer: “I can’t, Alex”. This should have been the time Alex asked a two-year old’s favorite question: “Why?” But she didn’t. I would have kept on asking why until Ben couldn’t take it anymore. They had time during their walk to explain why, but Alex just accepted the answer and moved on. Later, when Locke shows up to confront Jack of the satellite phone, he says: “This isn’t supposed to happen this way.” Did Jack bother to ask “why?” or “What isn’t supposed to happen this way?” No! He just called Locke’s bluff and answered the sat phone. Gah. Come on, ask the damn question.

Of course, the ‘why’ of the situation will be explained over the coming 48 episodes, so we’ll just have to wait (until 2008!) to start learning why. Still, I felt this was a finale that lived up to expectations and the stellar writing that we’ve seen in the second half of season 3. It’s a long haul till January of next year, I’m sure there will be much gnashing of teeth over the wait and there will be even more theories as to the what is going on. Hopefully, the writers will begin to give us more answers starting next year. I can’t wait.

Filed under: TV

Jonathan Strahan has the scoop on the unfortunate events happening at the Science Fiction Book Club.

On Monday Publishers Weekly reported that Bertelsmann would overhaul its Book Club business, restructuring a number of specialty book clubs and eliminating 280 jobs. It also announced that it would close Madison Park Press, its 18-month-old original publishing arm, to focus on its book club business.

The impact of these decisions on the science fiction community was immediate. While there have been no official announcements, it appears that both long-serving Science Fiction Book Club Editor-in-Chief Ellen Asher and Senior Editor Andrew Wheeler have lost their positions with the company. Given that they were the only editors working for the fifty-four-year-old SFBC, it seems likely that Bertelsmann will ultimately combine the SFBC with its main Doubleday Book Club.

Strahan also says “it seems certain that the books currently under contract will be the final original books to be published by the SFBC for the foreseeable future.” That is very unfortunate. The SFBC has produced many fine original anthologies over the last few years, some of which brought us award winning stories.

But more importantly, the SF community is sure to be adversely affected by the loss of these two influential Editors. We wish them both the best of luck in their future endeavors and are confident that they will excel at whatever they choose to do.

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Finalists have been announced for this year’s Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, given annually to the best science fiction short story, novelette or novella of the year.

The nominees (and available online versions) are:

See also: Past winners

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Wil Wheaton on Sci-Fi

Wil Wheaton visited the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle as part of an extra he’s working on for and upcoming Star Trek DVD box set celebrating its 20th year. Read his report in his Geek in Review column, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Science Fiction, which also talks about the science fiction genre itself.

Sez Wil:

These are but a few examples of the real power that science fiction has to address current events in a context that’s safe and acceptable for most audiences, while speaking very seriously about them to others. They illustrate why SF endures and resonates with casual and hardcore fans. Whether it was written one hundred years ago, or just published last month, SF can give us warnings about the future, hope for the future, or just blissful escape from the present, into fantastic worlds that are light years away – but as close as our bookshelves.

Not that I troll Wil Wheaton’s blog or anything…

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Subterranean Press Winter 2007 Issue

Subterranean Press has begun posting the 2007 Summer issue of Subterranean Online. Here’s what’s available so far:

  • Audio: “Wax” by Elizabeth Bear
  • Column: Bears Examining #4 by Elizabeth Bear
  • Column: The Life and Work of Godfrey Winton: A Panel Discussion on One of Science Fiction’s Lost Masters
  • Fiction: “Coat” by Joe R. Lansdale

This also means that the previous issue (Spring 2007) has been completely posted with an audiobook version by Kage Baker; columns by Elizabeth Bear, Norman Partridge and Mike Resnick; fiction by Bruce Sterling, Caitlin R Kiernan, Joe R. Lansdale, Neal Barrett, Jr., Joe Hill, Charles Stross, John Scalzi, Jay Lake and Mike Resnick; and a whole bunch of reviews.

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SF Tidbits for 5/24/07

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Darth Vader Was a Loon!

According to professionals, Darth Vader was a bit…unbalanced:

Experts from the psychiatric department at France’s University Hospital of Toulouse told the APA’s annual meeting that Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader could “clearly” be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

The French psychiatrists — who included Laurent Schmitt, M.D. — based their diagnosis on original Star Wars film scripts.

Schmitt’s team describes Skywalker’s symptoms, including problems with controlling anger and impulsivity, temporary stress-related paranoia, “frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment (when trying to save his wife at all costs), and a pattern of unstable and intense personal relationships,” including his relationships with his Jedi masters.

Changing his name and turning into “Darth Vader” is a red flag of Skywalker’s disturbed identity…

A report was also released by the Screen Actors Guild whose studies show that Hayden Christensen’s acting was so bad, he actually sucked the acting skills out of fellow cast members like Samuel Jackson.

Filed under: Star Wars

The Dubai Deathstar


Dubai is know for its off the wall architecture, but check out architect Rem Koolhaas’ latest proposal for Dubai’s new convention and exhibition center. I can hear Admiral Ackbar now: “We can’t stand up to conventions of that magnitude!”

Koolhaas (cool name) says he modeled this building on an old Panasonic radio from 1972. Whatever dude. You’ll get more geek cred by saying you’ve always wanted to build the Death Star, and now you have the chance to. Unfortunately, the convention center won’t be life size, or come equipped with planet busting weaponry. And I have to wonder how useful the space inside will actually be.

Still, a cool idea though.

Filed under: Science and Technology

REVIEW: Ragamuffin by Tobias S. Buckell

Continuing our clearly groundbreaking series of chat-like reviews, John and JP discuss Tobias Buckell’s sophomore novel, Ragamuffin.

Tobias Buckell’s Ragamuffin is set in the same universe as his first novel, Crystal Rain and looks at life outside the planet Nanagada. Humanity, which is technologically and geographically repressed by the supposedly benevolent Satrapy, has suddenly become marked for extinction. This should be easy since the inhabitable forty-eight worlds are connected by wormholes under the Satrapy’s control. However, an augmented warrior named Natasha who holds the key to saving mankind has other plans. Meanwhile, back on Nanagada, John DeBrun and his friend Pepper face the return of the vicious Teotl, only to learn that they are also in the crosshairs of the Satrapy. An uneasy alliance may be their only hope…

John: Woot! Finally, the sequel to Crystal Rain. And Ragamuffin‘s not a direct rip-off of the prequel. I applaud Buckell’s decision to write a sequel that breaks the format of a successful first novel. It’s a daring move to make changes to an already-established world, especially for a new author who had a successful first novel. Buckell is obviously not afraid to disrupt the fictional status quo, and even to make some major changes of direction with the plot.

JP: I think Buckell has taken a risk by moving from a planetary adventure story to a more traditional space opera setting. Part of the success of Crystal Rain, I think, can be attributed to its unique and interesting setting. Moving to space opera places Ragamuffin in a more conventional SF setting. I think Buckell succeeds with this change, as he has his own unique take on a space opera setting. Also, taking a wider view of the setting allows Buckell to expand on events alluded to in Crystal Rain (the destruction of the wormholes leading to human worlds) and also what the role of humanity happens to be in the Satrapy. He also gives us some rip-roaring set pieces, one of which is depicted on the cover. Lot’s of fun. The other interesting aspect of the setting is the wormhole transit system, which feels like a cross between a subway and a river.

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