Trope List

Cyberpunk authors Lewis Shiner and Bruce Sterling produced a primer for science fiction writer workshops called Turkey City Lexicon. It’s essentially a list of commonly used tropes in sf, grouped into categories. When something is not quite right with a story you are reading, this may help pinpoint the flaw.

Filed under: Books

The University of Minnesota has made available 20 half-hour Independent and Distance Learning (that is, MP3) lectures for Studies in Narrative: Science Fiction and Fantasy as taught by author P. C. Hodgell.

Download. Listen. Enjoy.

[Link via tingilinde]

Filed under: Meta

And Now For Something Completely Not SF

This week, Entertainment Weekly is running a piece on Monty Python. (See, they are good for an occasional something or other ;-))

Here’s their take on The 20 Funniest Monty Python Sketches.

Filed under: Humor

Into the Pixel

Into the Pixel is an exhibition of video game art. Check out their cool gallery.

Filed under: Web Sites

I’ve been toying with an idea for the next reading project. It would be a recommend-to-a-friend thing where you would recommend a book to someone that you think they would like based on their own personal taste. For example, I think zombie-lover Kevin would love to read Dead Heat by Del Stone, Jr. if he could find the time.

Anywho, I thought a good choice for a book might be one that you’ve read that has gone largely unnoticed or was, at least, underrated.

So, what are some sf books (or heck, even fantasy books) that you think are underrated?

Filed under: Books

Happy Shatday!

Today is William Shatner‘s birthday, which can only mean one thing: a plethora of embarrasing links presented in the form of a birthday song!

D’oh! Foiled again!

Filed under: Meta

SF Tidbits

…from around the web:

  • The next Spider-Man villain has been cast. Thomas Hayden Church is on board to play the as-yet-unnamed villain. [Link]
  • Joss Whedon, creator of Firefly, will be writing the script for the upcoming Wonder Woman movie. [Link]
  • Star Wars will live on after Episode III. Besides the computer games, there are a few TV projects in the works – both animated an live action. [Link]
  • has a new interview with horror author Brian Lumley.
  • New free fiction:
  • Adam Roberts reviews the nominees for the Arthur C Clarke award which includes
    • River of Gods by Ian McDonald
    • Iron Council by China Miéville
    • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell,
    • Market Forces by Richard Morgan
    • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
    • The System of the World: Volume Three of the Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson

Filed under: BooksMoviesStar WarsTV

More Firefly & Serenity

One the perils of being a lazy contributor to a group blog: I’m not sure if we posted this or not and I don’t feel like searching. Ah well, just in case, I’ll have to sprinkle in some actual new content here and there.

The canceled series Firefly has been on my mind of late. So when blind web surfing led me to the website for the Serenity movie (opening September 30th), I was pleased…then disappointed. The site has a blog and an RSS feed (:D Yay!) but the are poorly updated ((6) Grrr!), which is unfortunate as the entries that do exist are humorous. The browncoat section of the website looks more promising, content-wise, than the rest. It will at least please the uber-fanboys who need an excuse to dress up like a Browncoat and earn faux space credits.

More interesting is the site. It features things like episode guides, a fan community, fan fiction, 200MB video downloads of convention sightings and other minutia like timelines, character lists, reference material on technology and locations and, for the true completist, a pretty bad collection of homemade Firefly graphics.

Filed under: Web Sites

Firefox on a Stick

This one for Firefox fanboys…

When you just can’t be without your favorite browser, try Portable Firefox. It is designed to run on a USB drive.

Columnist Jeremy Wagstaff (pause for non-compliant effect) list other USB-drive-friendly software as well.

Filed under: Computers

Asimov on Writing

Link of the Day: Pearls of wisdom from Isaac Asimov, culled from some recently found notes, discussing the difference between a good writer and a prolific one.


Filed under: Books

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

How many of the 40 Nebula Award winning novels have you read?


(21 total votes)

Filed under: Polls

A recent post prompted me to pull out this review from June 2003. Here’s what I said then.

REVIEW SUMMARY: Good collection of related stories


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Snapshots of the future history of Man and dogs.


PROS: Epic quality since related stories span thousands of years; a nostalgic “classic sci-fi” feel

CONS: One or two stories were a bit slow-moving

BOTTOM LINE: An entertaining collection and worthwhile diversion.

Read the rest of this entry

Filed under: Book Review

Moscow That Never Was

Unrealised Moscow is a web site devoted to architectural drawings, created in the early 20th century, of buildings to be built in Moscow, glorifying the first Soviet state. Some of these buildings are really impressive looking, in a heavy handed, industrial way. The Soviet architects obviously loved arches, right angles, and heavy straight lines. That said, these drawings do look interesting. I especially like the Palace of Technology.

I may get asked: “Is this science fiction?”.

Maybe, maybe not. But it certainly is cool.

Filed under: Web Sites

eBooks on your phone?

John has previously discussed reading eBooks on his PDA here, and I’ve spent some time with them as well. Overall, I’ve found reading short stories or smaller novels on my PDA to be a reasonable experience. I was so enamored of it that at one time I seriously considered buying one of those dedicated eBook readers. But, I’m not reading them now (despite that I still carry my PDA with me nearly every day) and I’ve found that it pretty much had a niche use for me. If I knew I was going to be in a position to want to read a book or two and didn’t want to have to physically carry them (like while I was on jury duty) it was great – otherwise I didn’t find it to be that much better than the good old paperback.

But now here comes a story that in Japan, people are really getting into reading eBooks on their cell phones. Yes, the article admits the displays are small and the resolution wasn’t always that great – but those things are changing. It also mentions that some US companies (notably Random House) are positioning themselves to take advantage of American interest in ‘books on phone’ should they take off the way ringtones and games have.

Perhaps the most interesting element in the story is the notion that companies are creating special content just for the cell phone. It sounds like the serial could return – they could publish just a chapter of a story per week and you can read the ones you haven’t read if you find the story compelling, or start another if it doesn’t hold your attention.

If you’re interested and happen to have one of those cool new Microsoft Smartphones you can try it out now. If you can, check out this software from Golden Crater and let us know how it works!

Filed under: Science and Technology

SF Books Get Movie Optioned

Reader Z Axl (or zaxl, I’m not sure) sends us word that the top 5 books on The Book Standard/Nielsen BookScan Sci-Fi Bestsellers Chart are in various stages of adaptation to movie screenplays. This is good news, as SF seems to be most acceptable in movie form. Two of these books are SF, The Time Traveller’s Wife and Shadow of the Giant, while the rest are fantasy, although Kevin might be interested in The Good, The Bad, And The Undead, which is now on my Amazon wishlist.

On a special note, and to make another SF reference for this post, Z Axl (zaxl) is a reader from Guatemala. What’s cool about Guatemala? Well, the anicent Mayan ruins of Tikal for one. You may remember Tikal from its role as the Rebel base in Star Wars Episode IV. My wife and I went there for part of our honeymoon and let me tell you, if you can get there, go. It’s incredibly interesting. Thanks Zaxl!

Filed under: Movies

When Promotions Go Too Far

You get this mess of merchandising tie-ins to Star Wars. This is just insane. It makes me not want to buy anything from these companies. And I know Walmart is doing something on April 2nd, because you can’t walk into their stores without being assulted by the larger-than-life-size Yoda cut-out sign, but I don’t know what. Maybe they’re promoting the promotions listed here? It could happen. Fox has already done the ‘trailer for the trailer’ thing earlier….

Filed under: Star Wars

Ham and Jam and Spam a Lot

Monty Python and the Holy Grail is now a Broadway musical, Spamalot.

Filed under: Music

REVIEW SUMMARY: I liked this book a whole bunch.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Popular variety show host Jason Taverner wakes up in a world where he never existed.


PROS: Engrossing story; memorable characters; enjoyable writing style; layered theme of “What is real?”; interesting police-state backdrop.

CONS: Some dialogue between characters did not flow logically at times.

BOTTOM LINE: A very satisfying and engrossing read.

Read the rest of this entry

Filed under: Book Review

The Side Effects of Reviewing Books

For some time now, I’ve been meaning to write a guide about how I review books – one that covers the how (criteria used, what works for me, what doesn’t, etc.) and the why. I think something like that is necessary to put reviewer’s opinion in perspective for the reader. It helps them figure out how much weight they should attach to that reviewer.

This post is not that guide. I will get to it eventually. I even have the post title picked out: “On Reviewing”. Watch for it at a marvelous blog near you ;-).

This post is about the side effects of reviewing.

Recently, The Alien Online published a bad review of Stel Pavlou’s Gene, a review written by sf author James Lovegrove. The editor of TAO, Ariel, received some backlash about the review. His blog tells the tale:

March 07 – Ariel questions his own reasons for reviewing and ponders eliminating TAO’s reviews altogether.

March 08 – Ariel’s desire to review wavers.

March 09 – Feedback rolls in from various sources, mostly supporting the review and its publishing. Also references a lively debate on the topic by a fellow TAO contributor.

March 10 – Ariel does a U-turn and removes the review from the website. Also announces he will no longer accept books for review. He re-examines the reasons for reviewing.

March 15 – Ariel stresses the importance of book reviewing (getting the word out) but sticks to his decision to retire that feature of TAO. He feels that he lacks the time, effort and inclination to stand up for the opinions of his reviewers.

It’s too bad he decided to call it quits on reviewing. While I understand his reasons and respect his desires to do so, I really enjoyed those reviews. Particularly that they were not always the glowing kind. Like the reviews of a certain reviewer I know…

I really must find the time to write my own guide…

Filed under: Books

New Scientist enumerates the 13 scientific things that make no sense.

And what does make sense? How about the physics used in Larry Niven’s novels?

Filed under: Science and Technology

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