October 2006 Archives

October 31, 2006

Astounding/Analog covers artwork

All the Astounding/Analog covers from 1930 - 2005. Great stuff.
[Via BoingBoing]

Zombies, UFO's, dinosaurs and Dracula. On a T-Shirt.

Another great Threadless T-Shirt...

THIS Is How The World Ends - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

October 30, 2006

Torchwood - S1E03 - Ghost Machine

The Torchwood crew find a mysterious alien device, and begin to see ghosts.

More details and SPOILERS...

Continue reading Torchwood - S1E03 - Ghost Machine.

October 27, 2006

Building a Robotic Dalek Pumpkin

Via SFSignal, Building a Robotic Dalek Pumpkin

"It's a radio-controlled robotic Dalek that can move around and turn its head. Oh, and did I mention that it's a pumpkin?"

Ermm.

Google Books' Scary Stories

Google Books has a selection of Scary Stories online, some of which you can download for free.

October 26, 2006

Norwegian SF blog

Just found a cool SF blog, sf.kjempekjekt.com . My knowledge of Scandinavian languages isn't that hot but I think it's Norwegian, and it looks good.

Any other non-English SF blogs I should know about? (Probably!)

The Children Of Men

★★★★☆

The Children Of Men is a SF film, based on a novel by PD James, set about twenty years in the future. It's a future where no babies have been born for 18 years, due to mysterious worldwide infertility. The world is also very unpleasant.

The story is set in Britain, and shows an island overwhelmed by refugees. This is very close to current concerns, the expansion of the EU and free travel across borders has caused a major debate in the UK about immigrants. In the future Britain it's all gone a bit fascist, with massive refugee camps, nasty police and a trigger happy army. Meanwhile the privileged elite live a luxury lifestyle in inner London.

That's the setting. The story follows Theo as he becomes embroiled in a plot with an organisation that fights for refugees rights.

I'm pleased that it's serious SF, set in the UK. It has an awesome cast; Clive Owen is brilliant, as is Julianne Moore, Michael Caine and Chiwetel Ejiofor. And the direction by Alfonso Cuarón is top class.

However, the film is very bleak and very violent. Dystopia? Yes, indeed. It's also very scary, it doesn't seem such a large leap from today to get to that world. In the end it offered no hope, and surely the best SF always offers hope, no matter how bad the dystopia?

Do I recommend seeing it? Yes, as long as you know that it's not going to be fun.

I left the cinema depressed, but thinking.

October 25, 2006

A mediocre Torchwood review

Genre-commentary.com reviews Torchwood and doesn't like the swearing, sex or comedy.

I predict that there will be more of this from US reviewers. But then everyone thought that Doctor Who would be too rooted in UK culture to appeal, and that hasn't quite been true.

Personally I thought that the sex and comedy (I prefer to use the word wit) were both funny. I didn't even notice the swearing to be honest, it never occurred to me that US stations would bleep language like that. (But it did strike me that they might add subtitles for the Welsh accents!)

October 24, 2006

Torchwood gets record viewing figures

BBC news says...

"The opening episodes of Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood drew the largest digital channel audience for a non-sport programme,"

2.4 million to be precise. Not bad considering not everyone in the country can get BBC3.

The prestige reviewed in Locus

Locus has a highly entertaining review of The Prestige.

"The Prestige is a great film."

Whilst Gary Westfahl says:


"The Prestige remains much more original and thought-provoking than the typical Hollywood offerings at this level."

The Prestige is released in the UK on Friday 10th November 2006.

Serialised story by Audrey Niffenegger

Via Deep Genre, the Chicago Tribune is serialising a ghost story by Audrey Niffenegger, entitled At Home, With Cats.

Sky to put Lost up against Torchwood

Not only have Sky stolen Lost from "free" Uk tv, but also, according to Torchwood.TV, they're going to put it on in the same time slot as Torchwood.

Shake your fists at Sky.

October 22, 2006

Torchwood - S1E02 - Day One

The second episode of Torchwood has a meteorite, an alien, lots of sex and some women snogging. Ah, that'll be more of sexy, urban stuff then.

More details and SPOILERS...

Continue reading Torchwood - S1E02 - Day One.

Torchwood - S1E01 - Everything Changes

The first Torchwood episode throws us into the way things are going to be, with rain and murder and aliens. And Captain Jack!

More details and SPOILERS......

Continue reading Torchwood - S1E01 - Everything Changes.

October 21, 2006

Yet more on the death of SF

The debate keeps rumbling on, with some great, thought provoking stuff being said.

Paul McAuley says:

"So if you’re a writer, write from the heart as well as from the mind. Aim for an audience if you like, but know this: at best you’re going to hit nothing more than a temporary, here-and-gone demographic. Wouldn’t it be better to try to write the book that means more to you than any other book? You’ll probably fail. But you can always try again, and fail better."

Mark Chadbourn says:

"If you have a fantastic idea, surely you want to communicate it to as wide an audience as possible. That means developing forms of communication - in this case, story, plot, and, most importantly, recognisably human characters with human concerns - that will piggy-back the idea into the minds of readers."

Charlie Stross replies with an entire essay, saying that SF needs to capture the new geek crowd typified by BoingBoing:


"...if your market share is collapsing, it seems to me that the thing to do is to stop doing whatever it is that didn't work, and pioneer a new field. Going back to the 1930s doesn't work because the pulp era relied on certain underlying cultural and political assumptions that are at odds with the modern zeitgeist. Going back to the 1950s will work only insofar as it clutches on to the conservative and change-phobic old farts who are nearing retirement age. What we need to do is to go forward to the era of dot-com 3.1415926535 ... (an infinitely receding string of irrational optimism in the procedurally generated but chaotic future) and grab hold of a new audience by the short-and-curlies."

And the comments on the blog post are worth reading too.

And then Niall at the Vector blog commented on Charlie's post, which caused Charlie to reply. (I'm using first names like I know them, but I don't)

All very interesting. And as a writer, enough matter to send me into a trance for days just thinking about it.

October 20, 2006

John Barrowman and Russell T Davies interviews

Ooooh, can you feel the coming Torchwood hype crescendo?

Here's the link to the John Barrowman and Russell T Davies interviews shown on BBC Breakfast this morning.

Apparently it's a new genre "Sexy, urban science fiction". Because SF has never been sexy and urban at the same time before.

Michael Caine talks about The Prestige

<impression>My name, is Michael Caine. You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off</impression>

Doesn't work so well in text does it? Anway Sir Michael Caine has been
talking about The Prestige. He obviously loves Christopher Nolan...

"The biggest magician of the lot is Christopher Nolan,"

...which is fine, because he's a great director. But. BUT! No mention of Christopher Priest!!??! Surely CP is the magician, it all came from his head/hand.

<impression>Hold on lads, I've got an idea</impression>

Upcoming Pyr books

Lou Anders has done a good job wit Pyr, not only picking great stuff to publish, but also the way that he's advertising/marketing it. As an example he's created an Amazon Listmania list of Pyr's Fourth Season of Science Fiction & Fantasy

It includes UK authors Adam Roberts, Justina Robson, John Meaney and Ian McDonald. Brasyl being the upcoming Ian McDonald book, which I am seriously looking forward to.

Torchwood Declassified online

The first episode of Torchwood Declassified is online at the official Torchwood site.

Torchwood.TV also has a comprehensive round up of the press coverage.

Sky buy rights to show Lost

This is going to annoy lots of people, Channel 4 loses Lost to Sky One.

So the channel with lots of money but not many viewers once again robs the nation of television that deserves to be seen by the masses. (You have to pay to get Sky One and it still has adverts, how crazy is that?).

October 19, 2006

William Gibson's new book is called Spook Country

William Gibson has finished his new book and it's called Spook Country.
[Via Notes From Coode Street]

Battlestar Galactica vs Doctor Who vs Torchwood

Google trends gives this interesting graph of the search traffic for Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who and Torchwood.

Groovy. The Doctor Who traffic, whilst the series was on air, completely swamps everything else.

More reviews of the first Torchwood episode

Here's a couple more reviews of the first Torchwood episode:

Torchwood.TV - Oh. My. God
The Guardian : Farewell Doctor Who, hello Captain Jack [Via Ian McDonald]
Google News : Torchwood

Torchwood premiere makes main BBC news site

Torchwood premiere in host city, has much talk about how Torchwood is an adult drama, and not like Doctor Who, the child friendly series that youngsters all over the UK have become obsessed with.

October 18, 2006

My next book review may be some time...

I've finally started reading The Confusion by Neal Stephenson. I loved Quicksilver, and in fact all of Mr. Stephenson's other books, so the reluctance was purely due to its 800+ pages. I'm about 150 pages in and loving it. I should finish by Christmas!

SFX's Torchwood character guide

It may seem a little bit redundant, given there's an official site for this, but SFX hasTorchwood character guide, with notes from the producer of the show.

Torchwood novels

Looks like the BBC are doing the whole merchandising thing for Torchwood as well as Doctor Who (there's Doctor Who stuff everywhere). http://www.forbiddenplanet.co.uk/affiliate/idevaffiliate.php?id=152">Forbidden Planet has news of the first Torchwood novels.

SFX has opinions on the first Torchwood episode

Via Torchwood.TV, the SFX team give their spoiler free first impressions of the first Torchwood episode. (Shown first on TV this coming Sunday.)

Christopher Nolan talks some more about The Prestige

SCI FI Wire has some quotes from Christopher Nolan about The prestige. Here's one that makes me happy...

"It took a lot of time. We really spent years working on the script."

And hopefully doing justice to the book.

Zombie survival guide T-Shirt

This threadless T-Shirt made me laugh. A handy manual to keep at hand in case of zombie attack (it has a legend to describe each numbered tactic.). As Simon Pegg says, you should always make plans for these things.

In Case Of Zombies - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

October 16, 2006

Paul McAuley joins in the SF/entertainment argument

This is great, Paul McAuley has joined in the argument about SF and entertainment, Don't Fence Me In. I spent ages trying to select a quote, because I wanted to quote the whole post, really you should just read the whole thing. But for those that don't follow links without a quote...


"SF should be a big, roomy mansion that welcomes all kinds of fantastic fiction"

I agree whole-heartedly.

October 13, 2006

John Barrowman interview

The BBC Press Office has an interview with John Barrowman online. It also says "Torchwood starts with a double bill on Sunday 22 October on BBC THREE".

Cool.

Yes I'm covering Torchwood a lot, but it's not very often we get new, British made SF appearing on our screens (you can count the shows on one hand in the last 20 years). And I'm excited.

Official Torchwood site live

The BBC's official Torchwood site is live and looking very slick.

October 12, 2006

SF, entertainment, Star Wars and the meaning of life

I'm enjoying immensley the current debate raging in the SF blogosphere about SF and entertainment and Star Wars and on.... There has been opinions from lots of people, and any links will probably be out of date by tomorrow, but Lou Anders kind of started it and Ian McDonald replied and John Scalzi joined in (of course). John is doing a good job of collecting the links at SFSignal, so I'll just point there.

The latest person to join in is Jose at MemeTherapy,
Where’s Our Casablanca?, who adds an interesting personal perspective on how pencil and paper RPG has been killed off by video games.

"We may just have to resign ourselves to the fact that Science Fiction is now primarily about visual media and that such popularity won’t necessarily translate and possibly work against its popularity in dead tree media. That doesn’t mean that Science Fiction books are on the way out or even in trouble but it’s a mistake to think that the hot market in oranges is a good thing for the sale of apples."

So here's my take on that. I spend most of my time here blogging about SF television and to a lesser extent SF films and even less SF books. Is that because I think SF TV is more valuable than SF literature? Nope, in fact I'd put SF literature at the top of my list. I could do without the films and the TV if I had the books.

However I watch far more SF TV than read SF books, because, like Jose said,

"We all have a limited amount of time and money to spend on entertainment"
TV is free and quick. It takes me 45 minutes to watch an episode of Doctor Who. It takes me at best a couple of weeks to read a book. (And I'm reading The Confusion at the moment which will probably take me months). I really wish I had time to read more, but I don't and that is that.

It's something I've thought about a lot with relation to this blog, but in the end I just blog about whatever I feel like, and if there's more TV, so be it, it's just a blog after all.

Oh and as for Star Wars. I love it. It was the first film that I ever saw at the cinema. If it wasn't for Star Wars I probably wouldn't be into SF, I probably would never have read any William Gibson, let alone any PKD etc etc. Anyone who slags off Star Wars is probably evil.

Ian McDonald said,

"As I said, entertainment is where we all begin, not where we end up. Call me fussy, but I'm not after your beer money. Beer is always good, but keep it for the beer: I'm after the money you spend on beautiful, precious things. The ornaments, the treasures. The things that really matter to you. The money you spend on lovers, I want that money. The money you spend on plastic surgery, drugs, hopes, faith and fetishes --the things that change your life, that make and remake you: that's the money I want. Keep your beer money, you've worked for it, I want your triple-distlled whiskey money.

Because it's more than just entertaining. "

And for me, Star Wars is one of my precious things, alongside books like River Of Gods.

October 11, 2006

To Hold Infinity - John Meaney

To Hold Infinity, by John Meaney, begins in a way I love, thrown into the world, trying to figure out what is happening, there's even "Skein code" thrown into the text. It all makes an intriguing start.

Unfortunately the plot's pace began to drag for me after about a third of the way through. Yes it's a good adventure story, but I felt it was a little bit predictable in the macro scale of things, although some of the little, micro, twists were nice. I think I'd have prefered the novel at half the size.

There are however some great ideas. The Skein code, while maybe not an entirely original idea, is executed (literally) in a very novel sense, with the code embedded in the text. I loved that. I also liked the universe, the world building was great. And most of all I loved the Pilots. You don't get to see too much of the Pilots in this book, making them ever more intriguing. I guess Meaney's other books delve deeper?

All in all, a fun adventure SF novel, with some great ideas, but a bit too long for me.

★★★☆☆

Torchwood trailers on YouTube

So the other day I had trouble finding any Torchwood videos on GoogleTube, and now there's 93! (Most of them the same thing, but volume == popularity)

Peter F Hamilton has a web page

Via SFSignal, Peter F Hamilton's website says that he has a blog. But actually it's just a web page. Which is a shame, because no feed means that I'll never read it, and it has some nice info - a new trilogy on the way!

October 10, 2006

Outpost Gallifrey regenerates

The amazing Doctor Who site Outpost Gallifrey is regenerating into retirement. The news section is closing, but the forum is staying open. It was a truly comprehensive Doctor Who news site. Well done. And enjoy your new free time!

Photos from a Torchwood set

Discovered on Flickr, some photos of an office that was used as a Torchwood set. Nothing very spectacular, unless you're an uber Torchwood geek.

Torchwood airdate confirmed.

I have confirmed the date that Torchwood starts with my very own eyes, because this morning I saw the Torchwood bus poster. In London. On a bus.

Torchwood.TV has a nice picture of it.

Doctor Who charity spectacular

Via the BBC Press Office

Doctor Who – A Celebration

"The star-studded concert – which will take place at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff – will feature the BBC National Orchestra of Wales performing selections of Murray Gold's celebrated incidental score, accompanied by a host of stunning visuals from the most recent series of Doctor Who."

...featuring the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the BBC National Chorus of Wales.

Here's the details if you fancy a night out in Cardiff:
Time and date, 6.30pm on Sunday 19 November 2006. Tickets are priced at £20, £16, £14, and £10. Tickets for children under the age of 16 will be half price. They can be bought and booked directly from the Wales Millennium Centre from 20 October 2006.

October 9, 2006

New issues of Matrix and Vector

The new issues the BSFA magazines Matrix and Vector arrived by mail today. Vector celebrates the Arthur C Clarke award, with lots of authors thoughts and opinions, along with the usual excellent book reviews. Meanwhile Matrix has the usual selection of news, columns and media reviews, including lots of very entertaining movie reviews by Martin McGrath.

There's also an interview with Jon Courtenay Grimwood online at the Matrix site.

You get these magazines as part of the BSFA subscription price, which is a great reason to join.

Lost, Season 3, first impressions

Lost.
Now Lost is a TV show.
I really enjoy Lost, it's fun, bonkers, clever, intriguing, poignant and unpredictable.

The first episode of season 3? Whoah. It's all gone a bit The Prisoner.
Cool.

Heroes

I've now watched the first two episode of Heroes. I was quite excited about this show. Sadly it didn't live up to my expectations. It just didn't offer anything new, in fact it was full of cliches:

The mysterious bad agent who is chasing the "heroes".
The indestructible girl (very Captain Scarlet).
The murdered professor.
The woman running from the gansters.
The dysfunctional brotherly relationship.
The oncoming nuclear threat.

In fact the only character I liked was the Japanese guy who could teleport. But I still wonder if they have read The Stars My Destination. I wouldn't mind if I thought that the writers knew the tropes and cliches and were trying to do something new, but I don't think they are. I mean, didn't the X-men comic do all this thirty years ago?

So, I won't be watching anymore.

Torchwood IS getting the premiere treatment

Well, you know how I mentioned Lost's season 3 premiere? Well Torchwood is getting the cinema premiere treatment too. Torchwood.TV has the details of how you could win a competition to see the first episode in HD at a cinema in London, Cardiff, Glasgow or Manchester.

I'm just off to enter...

October's Ansible is online

October 8, 2006

The first Torchwood trailer

The Torchwood Official Site is online but blaring ACCESS DENIED. Ho ho. However I did see the first Torchwood trailer on tv, right after Robin Hood (so I was right!). Of course it's on You Tube, and of course I've embedded it here. It's looking good.

October 6, 2006

Torchwood details from the BBC

The BBC Press Office has some Torchwood details.

The date is 21-27 October 2006 (exact time not released), the detail is here. And it's described as a "high-octane sci-fi thriller".

And, "*Cast interviews will appear in Programme Information from Week 44 onwards."

Nice. I'm really excited about Torchwood, I think it has the potential to be a classy adult SF show.

I Am Legend, the film, gets worse

Cinematical says...

"Will Smith's six-year-old daughter Willow (a name I wholeheartedly approve of) will join her father in the cast of his upcoming vampire film I am Legend. She'll be playing the role she was born to play -- the daughter of Will Smith's character. Smith will play a vampire hunter with plenty of prey, as his character is set to be the last non-vampire in an apocalyptically plagued earth."

Firstly, daughter?!
Secondly, I hope those aren't the film companies words.

I have all but given up hope for this film.

Firefly finished, really

Cinematical says, that Joss Whedon says, that the Firefly universe is well and truly finished. Passed on. No more. Ceased to be. It's an ex universe.

So, don't cry, just go and watch Firefly on DVD and rejoice at how wonderful it is.

October 5, 2006

Lucas interview in Variety

There's an interesting interview with George Lucas in Variety, where he says

"I think the secret to the future is quantity,"

Talking about making TV instead of big blockbuster films. Hopefully he also thinks that quality is he future.

SFSignal reviews the Darth Bane Star Wars novel

Well, Tim really liked Darth Bane, Path of Destruction by Drew Kapryshyn, and it sounds like a book that might tempt me back into the Star Wars expanded universe. I haven't read a Star Wars novel for ages.

A Lifesize Spiderman bust

Need a lifesize spiderman bust in your house? Thought so. Forbidden Planet has them. Via The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log.

For some reason I have an image of Stan Lee's grandiose mansion, with a line of Superhero busts (in gold) that line the entrance hall. Well, if I was Stan Lee that's what I'd have.

October 4, 2006

Neal Asher signing in London

Via his blog, Neal Asher is signing copies of his new book Polity Agent at Forbidden Planet in London this Saturday (1-2pm). And he seems to have invited the entire interweb to the pub after...

The Best (SF) movies in the public domain

Via Lifehacker , Wired has The Best: Movies in the Public Domain. The SF ones are...

  • 3) Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  • 4) Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
  • 5) Superman cartoons (early 1940s)
  • 8) The Lost World (1925)

The Torchwood Teaser

So, despite rumours that the Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood is coming this month, things have been very quiet at the BBC about promoting it. My personal theory is that they are waiting until their new Robin Hood show airs this Saturday as they're going all out on that at the moment (and it looks good!). However there is a two second teaser being shown now and again, Torchwood.TVs has the YouTube link.

October 3, 2006

War Of The Worlds - H G Wells

One of the first ever SF novels is still a great read, despite being almost a hundred years old
photo of 'War Of The Worlds'

★★★★☆

The difference between War Of The Worlds and The Time Machine is quite striking, despite the few years between when they were written. Whereas The Time Machine felt like an intellectual exercise, War Of The Worlds has a plot that pulls you through and a protagantist that you care about. I was quite surprised, it's a very good adventure story. I particularily liked the depication of a Victorian apocalypse, horse and carts and all.

Even the well known ending was dealt with well, the derived conclusion being that only we can live on planet earth, because no one else can adapt to the diseases.

I also loved the reserved Victorian resolution of the protaganist missing his wife. Very understated!

My main criticism is that you need to read it with a map of London by the side of you, as much of the description involves landmarks and towns, and I got a bit lost as the desciptions are a bit thin.

All in all, a good fun read.

Lost Season 3 premiere attracts crowds

Via SCI FI Wire


"Thousands of fans swamped Waikiki in Honolulu to get a glimpse of the stars of ABC's Lost at the show's red-carpet third-season premiere"

That's a bit bonkers, the first episode of a new season of a TV series gets the blockbuster treatment. Can we have one of those events for the new Doctor Who series please BBC?

October 2, 2006

The UK SF Book News Network

The Alien Online has transformed into The UK SF Book News Network .

Which looks very nice and has a load of stuff to read.

October 1, 2006

Battlestar Galactica : Resistance, webisode 6,7,8

The Battlestar Galactica webisodes are far too short, nothing happens in 6 and 7. Fortunately something does happen in Webisode 8, which is nice and interesting and back to being like Battlestar Galactica.

Unfortunately all these webisodes keep getting taken down from YouTube, so get them whilst you can. Hopefully someone will stitch them all together at the end.