August 2007 Archives
August 31, 2007
Easier than posting everytime Boing Boing Gadgets finds a cool picture, Joel has set up a Flickr group called In The Year 2000 which has all the cool retro-future stuff he (and anyone else) has found. Nice.
Completely pointless Bionic Woman / Star Wars news.
Michelle Ryan likes Star Wars.
This morning BBC Breakfast had on Heroes stars Adrian Pasdar and Milo Ventimiglia, who play Nathan and Peter Petrelli respectively. Whilst Hayden Panettiere (the cheerleader) had to suffer Chris Moyles letching all over her on the radio, but was quite entertaining. They played "Shave The Cheerleader". Then later on, Jo Whiley has Milo on her show. Nothing major revealed, because the BBC is only mid way through the first series.
August 30, 2007
"absolute tish and tosh"
How about using Technorati to watch for blog posts, videos and photos?
Or following a random LiveJournal selection?
Or just subscribing to a gazillion blogs?
Or screw up your face really hard like Hiro and hope you can teleport?
I think it's time for a Simon Pegg / Edgar Wright set-in-space-SF film.
August 29, 2007
Lost and Night Stalker seem to be the only SFish shows. (I've never seen Night Stalker, is it any good? Supernatural crime thriller doesn't sound appealing to me.)
There's South Park, Greys Anatomy, Ugly Betty... Basically all the US stuff that Channel 4 buys. It does mean that you can watch the "Make Love, Not Warcraft" South Park episode, if you haven't already on YouTube.
It's better for kids: Dora The Explorer, Handy Manny, Avatar, American Dragon, Kim Possible, Spingebob Squarepants and Disney's Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
So they've signed up Disney then?
August 28, 2007
It's still rubbish.
"Variety is reporting that Keanu Reeves has agreed to star as Klaatu in Twentieth Century Fox's upcoming remake of the classic 1951 sf film The Day the Earth Stood Still."[Via SFScope]
"The producers say the story will be updated for the new film."
I love that film. I will not see the remake. Are you listening Hollywood? The Boycott starts here.
August 23, 2007
Talking about WarGames, Tony says that after he first saw it he was sitting in his bedroom with his VIC-20 wondering if he could hack into the US Government defence department, but instead all he had was magazines with code that you type in, that never worked. Oh how true. I wanted to get a modem and access to Prestel for my BBC Micro to do the same.
August 22, 2007
William Gibson says something to the effect that SciFi peaked in the 60s and that now seems so futuristic it would have seemed crazy 25 years ago, and implies that he can't think of anything more futuristic than now. I don't quite believe him.
August 21, 2007
"Star Wars couple Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen have been voted as having the least plausible on-screen chemistry by film fans."
It was a survey done by Pearl And Dean. Although only of 3000 people so it's statistically irrelevant.
Personally I really love Attack Of The Clones, and anyway how do those naysayers know how they would react if they were about to be put to death in an alien arena by large monsters, and the bloke was a slightly psychopathic genius level jedi, and the woman was a child genius queen and senator in the galactic republic? Do they know what real should be like?
Also in the top ten, Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom, because they were too English.
August 20, 2007
August 17, 2007
Ken the Elvis Trooper is celebrating 30 years since the death of the King Of Rock''n'Roll. (Which seems a strange anniversary to celebrate, but there you go.)
August 16, 2007
Movable Type 4.0 has been released. I'm going to upgrade soon(ish). Can't decide whether to do a new design then upgrade or just upgrade and design incremently as I feel like it (that's agile development!).
Due to the wonders of static html publishing everything should still be accessible. Probably. But just warning you if things go badly wrong.
The next season of Torchwood starts in "the new year". Suitably vague. I suppose I will have to watch it, which does not fill me with excitement.
August 15, 2007
"...expect to bump into some familiar alien enemies from Doctor Who.."Doing it on the cheap again? Or continued lack of imagination? Or playing it safe? In other news, Shaun The Sheep is back too.
August 13, 2007
The Edinburgh International Book Festival started on Saturday. If you know who you're looking for you might be able to navigate the website to find if they're speaking (no filter by genre!).
Iain Banks is on tomorrow night, but the event is sold out. If you're going, please ask lots of questions about The Culture to annoy the literary types.
August 10, 2007
Starts in September. Some detaills from the press release:
"Narrated by comedy writer Armando Iannucci (The Thick Of It), Comics Britannia will feature comics legends who wrote and drew the original strips, comics experts and a range of celebrity fans who re-live their favourite comic strip moments and characters."
"Bash Street Kids, Dennis the Menace, Roy of The Rovers, Fat Slags, Watchmen, V for Vendetta and many more are brought to life using a special graphics style that allows the audience literally to step inside the comics."
August 9, 2007
The story is near future Science Fiction, set mainly in an independent Scotland and on the surface nothing is too different, which is an observation that one of the characters makes in the novel itself; all the change is lurking beneath the surface. For example everyone uses virtual overlays to augment reality, kind of like Google Earth layers, but real-time on your Internet Glasses. And lower down the stack, society is even more dependent on the net and the utilities that it provides, which raises interesting security issues. You could take it as a warning, but that doesn't mean it's not inevitable. As you would expect for a Charlie Stross novel, there's loads of great speculative ideas inside, in fact some of them came true last week. Really. (The danger/joy of near future SF!)
One of the most enticing aspects of this novel was the use of second person point of view, which is rather unusual for modern science fiction. Using this point of view the reader becomes the character, and the narrative tells you what you are doing, what you are thinking. After a chapter this ceases to feel strange and is quite involving. It also allows a few nifty reveals throughout the story, because the narrative doesn't always tell you, the reader, everything, because well, as the character you already know it don't you?
Stross has also introduced a way of weaving fantasy into the science fiction, by using computer games that the characters play. So you get crazy fantasy World Of Warcraft style fights and battles, as the characters play inside a computer game. Clever, and fun. The theme of games runs throughout the story: LARPS, ARGS, MMORPGS, and also the games that people play in real life. I've never played WoW or wandered around Second Life, but I really enjoyed the gaming sections and descriptions.
The three main characters in the story are an interesting mix: a Scottish cop, a software developer and a forensic accountant. I particularly enjoyed descriptions of Jack working, there are some passages in the novel that are the most accurate descriptions I've read in fiction of what it is really like to be a developer: stuck deep in code, coding and debugging, time flying by, the narrow but deep domain specific knowledge. Perhaps there's hope for me as a hero yet!
The plot has a whole load of twists and reveals, which meant that about three quarters of the way through I was suffering slightly from twist fatigue, I thought I knew what was really going on but wasn't entirely confident. You drop through trap doors, one after the other, until you hit the floor at the end with a bang. It all gets cleared in a crime novel style retrospective infodump, which might have annoyed me if I hadn't needed it (just to be sure of course).
This is the third Charles Stross book that I've read in the last few months, and two more before that, and I reckon this is his best yet. It has everything I've come to expect from a Charles Stross novel: great SF ideas and an exciting plot that makes it hard to put down, but it's also better than previous novels, more realistic characters and some nicer language on top. A fantastic near-future SF novel that captures the current zeitgeist of computer technology in its extrapolations. Halting State is published by Orbit in the UK in January, one to spend your Christmas present book vouchers on.
August 8, 2007
CrunchGear talks about the rumours of a Doctor Who videogame, including what they would and would not like to see. They then go on to talk about other BBC TV series that they would like to see as games: Life On Mars? Red Dwarf.
The two for me that sprang to mind are Spooks and Hustle. Charles Stross has a game in Halting State called Spooks and pretty much covers the logical evolution of that game...
I don't really know anything about XFire, but they emailed me (and probably every other SF website in the universe) to say that they're having a Sci-Fi week, which is five days of Live Chats with a selection of authors, artists, and creators. I have no idea what a Live Chat is (their captilisation), I assume it's a text based browser thingy.
The guest list is: Charles Stross, Vernor Vinge, Peter Watts, Dan Abnett, Jim Butcher, Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, James Patrick Kelly, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, R. Stevens and Michael Whelan
Which is rather impressive.
Unfortunately you have to sign up for XFire to take part, so I won't be doing it, I'll wait for someone to scrape a transcript and blog it. The timings however quite sensible for us who live in The One Timezone To Rule Them All (GMT), starting at 9pm BST.
August 7, 2007
Paris Hilton has joined the cast of futuristic musical film “Repo! The Genetic Opera.” Which apparently requires her to pose naked bar for some boots and a microphone lead.
The film is about the survival of the human race after a mysterious epidemic develops:
"The movie will tell the tale of a time when human organs, ravaged by the future plague, could be replaced by expensive man-made counterparts. The new organs could be paid off in installments. Just don’t get behind on your payments, or the Repo Man (or woman) will pay a gruesome visit."
Musical. SF. Paris Hilton. Erm.
August 6, 2007
"if a few of the episodes were sub-par, three of them were absolutely tip-top"
"disLOCATIONS is having its very own official launch party, on Monday 13th August, 7.00 pm, at this lovely little amphitheatre attached to Peterborough Central library (Cambridgeshire); wine and nibbles courtesy of yours truly. In addition to myself, contributors Pat Cadigan, Ian Watson, Chaz Brenchley, Amanda Hemingway and Andy West will all be present, for a brief talk, some tantalising readings from the anthology, then general mingling, nattering and drinking."
August 3, 2007
And now for something completely different.
So, not content with far future Science Fiction, and Fantasy of the It's-Really-SF variety, Charles Stross has also produced a could-be-happening-now SF-Horror-Spy novel, The Atrocity Archives. You could even call it a supernatural thriller if you fancy categorisation by the latest publishing industry genre-de-jour. Or perhaps it's best just to give up on the categories completely.
The UK paperback edition of The Atrocity Archives, published by Orbit, contains a foreword by Ken McLeod, The Atrocity Archives novel, the Hugo winning novella The Concrete Jungle and a lengthy, fascinating, afterword by Mr. Stross discussing the book and it's influences.
From the start the story is fun. It's set in what has become known as The Laundryverse. The Laundry is a fictional secret British Intelligence service, which looks after the Occult side of things (as you do). The modern day setting and geek hero Bob seem to suit Stross, details of bureaucratic offices and downtrodden IT guys seem oh so real (especially if you have worked in/as either), and blackly funny. There's a wit running through the book that appealed to me: the fact that demons from other dimensions can be summoned by some hard maths; The Laundry with it's matrix management, dodgy IT infrastructure and occult weapons cache; the accurate descriptions of sharing a house with geeks. I chuckled quite a bit.
Both The Atrocity Archives and The Concrete Jungle have spy-thriller plots, with other stuff chucked in. The Atrocity Archives has a slower start, due to the setup, both of situation and character, but escalates to a wild climax. The Concrete Jungle dives in and gets straight up to speed immediately, thanks in part to the setup being dealt with previously. Interestingly this means that any other sequels should benefit from this too, like The Jennifer Morgue, which is the next book in the universe. Both stories have that "I'll just read a couple more pages" factor, just like Glasshouse, that meant I hardly put the book down. Although sometimes I long for a touch more poetic language in Stross's books he definitely seems to have cracked the art of crafting a cracking plot.
This is the book to attract the (now almost legendary) non-SF Slashdot geek crowd, the book that horror, thriller, spy fans should read. Forget the Ludlum knock-offs that aren't Ludlum anymore, read this. And for SF fans there's parallel universes, crazy maths and big scary monsters. Great fun.
The Atrocity Archives is a book I can envisage as a classy BBC TV series: take the budget from Spooks (never been the same since series two) and the team from Life On Mars, mix together and voila. In fact, commission Charlie to write new, original episodes! (Anyone from the Beeb reading?)
The post today included (well, okay, entirely consisted of) something that made me jump up and down with excitement. Courtesy of George at Orbit, a proof copy of Charles Stross's Halting State, the much anticipated (by me anyway) second person POV book. Coool.
So that's what I'm doing this weekend then.
August 2, 2007
Charles Stross has news that The Attrocity Archives is on sale as an ebook (with DRM) for Ã‚Â£3 from WH Smiths. Interesting. There's a comment thread too (Cory Doctorow responds).
I've just finished reading The Attrocity Archives (yesterday in fact) and the review may well be written tonight if I have a moment. (Here's the spoiler : I liked it).
So the question is do you want to pay Ã‚Â£3.99 for the paperback from Amazon or get the ebook for Ã‚Â£3. (I discount the postage on Amazon, I don't know about you but I always buy a few things at once to get the Super Saver delivery). Personally I'd always rather have the paperback. (Although surely someone's hacked the ebook DRM by now?)
The other problem I have is that I worked on the WHSmiths site's back end ordering system....but that's another story.
Yes, I know that the next series of Doctor Who has only just started filming, yes I know that David Tennant hasn't confirmed that he's leaving, yes I know it's The Sun but this story just arrived via the wonders of RSS Nesbitt tipped as new Dr Who. James Nesbitt as the next Doctor because he's worked with Steven Moffat, who is rumoured to replace Russell T Davies at the end of the next series when he is rumoured to step down as head writer.
That's a lot of what-if rumours. Speculative journalism. SJ on SF.
August 1, 2007
Well, yes. Brasyl is a book that could have been written for me to order. It's as if someone read my mind and put in everything that I want: Neal Stephenson Baroque Cycle 1700's adventure and mystery, William Gibson Pattern Recognition modern day post cyberpunk, near future state of the art Gibson McDonald cyberpunk, wonderful poetic writing and a load of quantum physics. Oh, and some of the best TV shows never to get made.
The plots are a perfect example of how to hook readers in and then escalate and escalate. Everything seems inevitable, yet unguessable. Each of the three stories starts with an small incident, then things get worse, bigger, more important. Until at the end everything collides in an excellently satisfying climax. The characters are interesting, never pandering to be likeable but instead real, with conflicts and faults, and yet you end up rooting for them.
There are hints and flavours of all sorts of modern and recent classic SF in there, what Ian McDonald does brilliantly is mix everything up, add his own flavourings and style and make it all fresh and new, he did it with River Of Gods and he's done it with Brasyl.
I really loved Brasyl. It's my perfect example of modern Science Fiction.