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…

Filed under: BooksTV

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.

Filed under: Web Sites

SF Tidbits for 5/24/07

Filed under: Tidbits

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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Filed under: Book Review

Locus Subscription Monitor

For those keeping track, it took the U.S. Post Office 21 days (!) to deliver the May issue of Locus magazine.

It’s a normal sized magazine, not some giant magazine that clowns might use in a circus, so I don’t know why it would take so long. The answer is obvious: someone between Locus and my mailbox is reading it and taking their sweet old time doing it. The magazine, which is mailed with a sealed overlay page, is always delivered with those seals opened, without fail. Additionally, there have occasionally been dog-eared pages as if someone wanted to save their spot because they were interrupted with…oh, I don’t know…some actual work activity like delivering the mail.

My last attempt to find out what the hell is going on was met with:

  • Denial (Me: “My magazine has been arriving late for more than a year, even worse these last few months.” Them: “We deliver magazines as soon as we get them.”)
  • Finger-pointing (Them: “Maybe the publisher is sending it out late.” Me: “I verified that they send it out the last say of the previous month. Plus others people have gotten theirs within days.”)
  • Finger-pointing at inanimate objects (Me: “I know someone is reading it because the seals are broken.” Them: “The sorting machine can do that.” Me: “Occasionally, there are dog-eared pages.” Them: “Oh…the machine does that, too.” )
  • The Big Blow-Off (Me: “What can I do to resolve this?” Them: “The best we can do is put a trace on it.” Me: “Great. Let’s do that. How soon before I know?” Them: “You have to wait until next month’s issue is delivered.” Me: [Fuming])

The post lady who delivers my mail swears it’s not her. Apparently she’s feeling the heat. But I don’t believe it’s her; she’s the one who suggested complaining to the central post office in the first place. But Jeez, enough is enough. If this happens again – especially after this tracker placebo – I swear I’m gonna go all them on them.

It’s not libelous to call the U.S. Post Office as bunch of Jack@sses, is it? I mean, technically, to prove me wrong they’d have to prove they aren’t Jack@sses, right. And, just in case I need more evidence

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 5/23/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Sarah Connah?

Feast your eyes on the trailer for Fox’s upcoming SF TV show, The Sarah Conner Chronicles.

Yes, that is Summer Glau. In Firefly, she played a girl conditioned to be an inhuman, ninja killing machine. In TSCC, she’s plays an inhuman, ninja killing machine. Typecast much?

I’m not sure about this. No Ahnold, no Cameron. It doesn’t feel the same. And I keep waiting to see Claire from Heroes to show up and act as the guy from Heroes (err, John Conner’s) crack suicide defense squad. But I guess Summer will have to do. I may tune in. Of course, if Fox terminates the show after about 5 episodes, I’ll be first in line to rent the DVD set of one of the finest SF TV shows ever, briefly, on TV…

Filed under: TV

Last night was the season 1 finale of Heroes, probably the best show of what little TV I watch these days…besides channel surfing for Girls Gone Wild commercials…you know, for the research. This will be a quick one because the #comments blog echoes most of my thoughts on the matter.

Simply put: I like the show but fear the finale suffered for the same reasons that have bothered me all along with the show. The events exhibit total disregard for common sense given the character’s abilities.


Read the rest of this entry

Filed under: Heroes

SF Tidbits for 5/22/07

Filed under: Tidbits

When in Rome…Do as Elitists Do?

So Many Books points to the short PDF e-book ROMAN Reading: 5 Practical Skill for Transforming Life Through Literature by Nick Senger. His 5-step method of reading uses the acronym ROMAN, as in: Read the book, Outline the book, Mark the pages, Ask the right questions and Name your experiences. (Mark the book? Gasp!)

Senger is a schoolteacher who developed the ROMAN reading idea to help his students become better readers. Specifically, he teaches by encouraging the reading of classic literature, the best of which he determines by collating data from 13 “best of literature” lists. (Topping the list with 12 citations: Don Quixote by Cervantes, Iliad by Homer and Aeneid by Virgil.)

Encouraging reading is a good thing, but I detect a smack of reading elitism here, particularly in this passage:

Books are like neighbors, and your personal library is your neighborhood. Take a look at your bookshelves. What kind of neighborhood are you living in? Are you in a slum or in the suburbs? Who are your neighbors? Are they trash talkers or shrewd sages? If you live next door to Socrates, then invite him to dinner every night. If you live next to Dan Brown, then put your house on the market.

An interesting analogy, to be sure. My own taste in reading spans both the “lower” and “upper” ends of the literary spectrum, even if I do tend to spend more time at the “lower” end. (This even applies specifically within the band of science fiction itself, which some would consider wholly existing within the “lower” end — but that’s another story…) Sometimes I like reading Literature with a capital L. Other times I like reading a good yarn. Basically, I go wherever the whims of my mood take me.

And yet…

I sometimes hear people speak as if (or say outright that) reading is not a worthwhile activity unless you are reading Literature with a capital L. Enter self-doubt. Am I wasting my time by reading anything else? Am I denying myself the true value of reading? Am I becoming a literary snob? Is this self-doubt the beginning of a midlife crisis?

Filed under: Books

Literary Compass has compiled a list of 30 Must-Read Classics for Teenage Boys. Making the cut is a nice selection of 16 genre fiction titles:

  1. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
  2. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
  3. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  4. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  5. The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
  6. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  7. The Belgariad by David Eddings
  8. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  9. The Once and Future King by T.H. White
  10. The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin, Jr.
  11. Flatland by Edwin Abbott
  12. The Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov
  13. The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
  14. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  15. The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  16. Time and Again by Jack Finney

Check out the original post for explanations and the complete list.

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 5/21/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

Which of these is the coolest scene in film/TV?


(280 total votes)

The Firefly fans have spoken! As mentioned previously, they flocked to this poll like there was no tomorrow. So with this week’s poll, we’re gonna give them some love.

But first, some comments this week:

“Scene from Chronicles of Riddick (2nd movie title?) where he is introduced into the death ship..very gothic/cyberpunk… the movie stank, but this was a groovy scene.” – Doug

“No fair pitting poor Tron against the Matrix, they were both revolutionary in their time. It seems I picked the underdog in Tron. I even had the Intellivision games. Good times.” – Richard

“Star Wars Episode V: Darth Vader revealing himself as Luke’s father.” – Martin T.

“From Alien: the scene of finding the pods; creeping around in that green-lit foggy space in an alien vessel, building up to the initial opening of the egg. The stomach bursting scene was just shock value.” – Bluejack

“The final chase and fight in Blade Runner is disturbingly intense and more weighted with both suspense and significance–both moral and dramatic–than those other sequences. Ford and Hauer give desperate performances.” – Bill P.

“1984. opening scene when winston smith is writing in his diary a letter to the future. (the version made in the 80’s)…” – Steve

“Adama jumping Galactica into the stratosphere and launching all the vipers to save the slaves in Battlestar Galactica season 3. Didn’t see it coming, and it was a very tense moment.” – Dale

“These are all lame. Deckard meeting Rachel for the first time in Blade Runner beats them to paste.” – J.H. Woodyatt

Be sure to visit our front page and vote in this week’s poll about your favorite Firefly episode!

Filed under: Polls


If the participation levels of this week’s poll are any indication, the fanbase of Joss Whedon’s space western Firefly is still going strong.

Most of the votes resulted from this thread on the fan site FireflyFans.net. Fans came out in force to voice their opinion. Given that only one of this week’s poll’s choices was Firefly-related, their decision was quite easy. :)

This week, we’ll be making it a bit harder for them with a Favorite Firefly Episode poll. Watch for it beginning tomorrow!

In the meantime, check out FireflyFans.net and revel in all the shiny goodness.

Filed under: FireflyWeb Sites

Your task: Count the number of times someone says “Engage.”

Filed under: TV

A Science Fiction Odyssey

The website A Science Fiction Odyssey chronicles the ambitious reading project of Jeff Vehige to read the novels that won the Hugo and/or Nebula Awards.

I’m envious! I’ve thought of doing a reading project like this for some time but the idea of forcing myself to read from a set list always makes me back away like the commitment-phobe that I am. I choose books to fit my reading mood and like the ability to go wherever that takes me. (Which is usually to the used bookstore. :)) Jeff also mentions he will be reading other books, too, but it sounds like he’s more dedicated to the award winners than I would be. More power to him! Good luck, Jeff!

I should note also that the thing that caught my eye was the huge cover graphic for Joe Haldeman’s Camouflage by Joe Haldeman — mainly because it’s on my to-read pile. No, not that one…another one. What, you don’t have multiple to-read piles?

Filed under: Web Sites

SF Tidbits for 5/19/07

Filed under: Tidbits

New Heroes Coming To Heroes

A couple of weeks ago, John was all atwitter when he thought that a new hero was being introduced on Heroes to help fight Sylar (turns out it was an old hero, Molly Walker). I wonder how he’ll react to the news that new heroes will be introduced in the season finale?

Apparently, as Tim Kring has said before, each season is like a volume, telling one story. The next season, called Heroes: Generations (no word on whether Kirk dies in this season too), will focus more on the newcomer’s story. As a result, new characters will be added, and some old ones will be, uh, ‘removed’ (my word, not theirs). The rational is actually quite a good one, as Kring says:

The idea was that we wanted to make it easy for viewers to be able to come on in the second season. And we thought if we wrapped the show too tightly around itself so that you had to watch 23 episodes before, I would be harder for new viewer to find the show. And we always want to be a show that has the barrier of entry low enough so that new viewers can join if they want.

In other words, how to do a serialized show without being completely serial. I kinda like this idea as it makes it easier for the new viewers to get into the show without having to slog through the previous season(s). This was the crux of Scott’s comment on my previous LOST post: How do you get back into it? With Heroes, its not a big deal. In theory anyway, we’ll see how it actually works.

With that in mind, we get a glimpse that the season ending cliffhanger my be a bit different too. Rather than a ‘OMG! Who’s going to live???’ ending, I bet we get more of a ‘Where do they go from here?’ type. I’m interested to see how they do this and I hope season 2 does go down the toilet.

And it’s nice to see the ratings tick upwards a bit too, although they are down from the initial episodes. What confuses me are the people who want to watch Dancing With The Stars over other, better shows. Heck, The Bachelor beat out Heroes. What?

Filed under: Heroes

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