January 2008 Archives

January 31, 2008

Should post Torchwood reviews...

I suppose I should post some more Torchwood reviews, but I really can't be bothered. What episode are we up to now? 3? There doesn't seem any point just criticising every episode. Maybe I'll post a review of any good episodes.

January 30, 2008

Primeval to get a third series

Primeval, the show that everyone loves a lot more than Torchwood, is getting a third series in 2009, according to SFX.
It seems that ITV loves it's "monster drama", their words.

They're also running a competition, in true Blue Peter / Doctor Who style, to design a monster. See your creation in real life CGI on the telly!

Starship Sofa, now with added fiction

Starship Sofa, the entertaining UK based podcast/site, now has narrated short stories, as well as the usual discussion (== banter).

Tony from Starship Sofa says:

"All the short stories go out on a Wednesday and the normal show, where we look at a writer and his works go out on a Saturday."

The last story narrated was 1985 Hugo Short Story winner The Crystal Spheres by David Brin. And the promised list of upcoming authors is pretty cool: Ian Watson, Pat Cadigan, Peter Watts, Harry Harrison, Joe Haldeman, Joan D Vinge, Norman Spinrad, Michael Moorcock, Ian MacDonald, J D Nordley, Bruce Sterling, Gweneth Jones, David Brin, Alastair Reynolds, Jerry Pournelle, Landon Jones, John Varley, Pat Murphy, John Kessel, Laurel Winter, Jeff Vanermeer, Kevin J Anderson, Jonathan Carroll, Bradley Denton, Matthew Hughes. !

Also, they've "just flown out to Paris to do a video documentary with Michael Moorcock which is at this moment in the editing stage." Oooh, that's quite rock'n'roll. 

January 29, 2008

Lost Series 4 Imminent, also in the UK!

Lost Series 4 starts in the USA on Thursday. Everyone knows that right? What I didn't know is that it starts in the UK this Sunday! Sky One are taking the unprecedented(?) action of showing an episode of a US show in the same week that it airs in the US. Which is quite nice really. The first episode is this Sunday at 9pm.

Sky are letting everyone know about it too, with adverts and trailers in every commercial break, including the highly amusing Oceanic Air safety announcements. "Please attend to your onw mask before assisting others". Ho Ho.

I have no idea what the first episode of the new series will be like. I wouldn't be surprised if it was set on the Moon.

January 26, 2008

Earth Abides - George R Stewart

Earth Abides, by George R Stewart, is the story of one man, Isherwood Williams, who survived a viral apocalypse that wiped out most of mankind. Except it's not just the story of Ish, it's the story of a tribe that forms around him.

It took me a while to get into the book. The character seemed cold and distant, scientific and analysing. I wanted to know why he didn't panic more, fear more. And yet the story ends with intense emotion, Ish being a character that I deeply cared about, and the journey that Ish takes to get there is wonderful.

In many ways it's a great complemetary novel to Alas, Babylon, which tells the story of a year after an nuclear war, as opposed to a lifetime after a disaster. It's interesting to see how the focus can shift when the time length of the novel is elongated. Also in Earth Abides, there are fewer survivors in a larger city, which affects the populations survival methods quite drastically. There's a single sentence that mentions how (in later years) everyone has a tin opener, which is a lovely restrained way of making the reader realise how the scavenging becomes a normal way of life.

The story left me with hope, but also feeling a strange flavour of depression: that questioning feeling, the wondering of what is this all for. Jobs, houses, money, cars. The world. Life. It's a book that has set me off thinking deeply, and feeling deeply.

There are so many questions dealt with in the novel, and maybe they are not original, or even mind blowing on their own, but they accumulate throughtout the story, build and build, until by the end I was left longing for a simpler life.

Truly brilliant. Stay with it through the detached start of the story, it's part of the masterplan, and you will be rewarded.

January 25, 2008

Doctor Who Series 4 guest list

According to the official BBC site, this is now the list of confirmed guest stars for series 4:

  • Alex Kingston
  • Colin Salmon
  • Sarah Lancashire
  • Felicity Kendal
  • Lesley Sharp
  • Georgia Moffett
  • Lindsey Coulson
  • Fenella Woolgar
  • Tim McInnerny
  • Peter Capaldi
  • Phil Davis
  • Tracey Childs
Of which the only interesting one, that I've heard of, is Felicty Kendal.

However, more important is the mention of a new Steven Moffat penned two-parter, River Song "[Alex Kingston is] a mysterious character who meets The Doctor on an expedition to uncover the secrets of an abandoned library".

Can't we just get Steven Moffat to write the whole series please? Maybe Paul Cornell could chip in if Mr. Moffat gets tired.

BSFA web forums now live

The website for the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) now has it's web forums live. There are forums that everyone can join in on, and also some write-only / read-only forums for BSFA members.

I like this, I think it gives the BSFA more of a sense of online community. There's always been a swathe of individual blogs, but now there's somewhere that everyone can go.

The only problem? Will I be able to keep up with it if the forums get busy?

Cloverfield ticket winners

The winners of tickets for the Cloverfield preview screening are:

  • ShaunCG
  • Brian Bass
An email is on the way to you with details.

Thanks to everyone for entering.
(Only a week to wait for everyone else! )

January 23, 2008

2007 BSFA Awards Shortlist

The final shortlist for the 2007 BSFA awards are up here.
There's discussion about them over a Torque Control and VCTB has a comment about the lack of a Non-Fiction award.

I didn't nominate anything at all, for the following reasons:

  1. I never got around to it
  2. One vote never makes any difference anyway (although in the Non-Fic category this may not be true).
  3. When I went to the website to try and remember how you nominated stuff I couldn't find anything so gave up.
  4. I didn't read enough stuff that qualified to be eligible.
  5. Brasyl should win the novel category and I assumed it would make the shortlist anyway.

Point 4 is the tricky one. And deciding whether things are eligible is even trickier. (To be honest, I find just remembering what I've read to be difficult.) The best books I read last year were Brasyl, Halting State, Glasshouse and Magic For Beginners. Halting State comes out tomorrow, so that doesn't count, and Magic For Begginers was published the year before, I think.

If the lack of Non-Fiction Award disturbs you, I recommend Brave New Words which is good fun and the sort of thing you can keep lying about and dipping into.

Another (Funny) Torchwood Review

Here's a review of the new Torchwood series by my mate Dave.

Summary : "Utterly Ridiculous"

But go and read the rest because it's very funny and made me laugh out loud.

Lightsaber voted top movie weapon

The Register has the Top 10 Movie Weapons (as voted in a random 20th Century Fox poll).

  1. Lightsaber (Star Wars)
  2. 44. Magnum (Dirty Harry)
  3. Bullwhip (Indiana Jones)
  4. Samurai sword (Kill Bill)
  5. Chainsaw (Texas Chainsaw Massacre)
  6. Golden Gun (The Man With The Golden Gun)
  7. Bow and arrow (Robin Hood)
  8. Machine gun (Scarface)
  9. The Death Star (Star Wars)
  10. Bowler hat (Goldfinger)

I would personally prefer a Death Star to a Bullwhip, but agree that a Lightsaber is even better.

Via Dave again (he's been busy)

Torchwood still going down well in the USA

Scroll down here a bit to see a collection of quotes from the US press praising Torchwood. Although a lot of them seem fixated on John Barrowman.

Via Dave

January 22, 2008

Doomsday trailer

28 Weeks Later + Mad Max 2/3 + Escape From New York == Doomsday

The trailer looks a bit rubbish, but the cast contains Bob Hoskins and Malcom McDowell and the writer director is Neil Marshall, who made the critically acclaimed Descent.

January 21, 2008

Cloverfield roundup

I'm not reading any of the following, because I haven't seen Cloverfield yet, but the reviews are flowing in:

Doctor Who Series 4 Rumours / Spoilers

Firstly here' s one that's got nothing to do with the plot of the show.

Kylie may be dating David Tennant! says the Aussie Herald Sun. Shock, horror. But wait for it, where did they get this rumour from?

"The pair were spotted making a secret visit to the Old Vic to watch Cinderella just before Christmas"

Out? In public? Together? Outrageous! They must be a couple.

Next, plot rumours for series 4 from the always correct Daily Star....

(Could be spoilers if it's true)

Continue reading Doctor Who Series 4 Rumours / Spoilers.

The Star Trek teaser trailer

I'm not really a Star Trek fan. I've watched it, of course, but it just doesn't capture my imagination, Unlike Star Wars (first love). Having said that, the original series is quite amusing to watch these days, Star Trek as comedy.

So what do I think about the new trailer? Well, it's a great teaser. There's one definite thing you can say about ol' JJ Abrams, he knows how to create hype / anticipation.

January 20, 2008

Star Wars Clone War trailer

The animated Star Wars, Clone Wars trailer is very cool. I really enjoyed the cartoon series: lots of crazy fighting that they couldn't do in the film, and this looks like more of the same, but hopefully longer.

January 19, 2008

Alas, Babylon - Pat Frank

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank was published in 1959, in the time of The Missile Gap where the US assumed that the USSR had far greater nuclear capabilities than itself. It's hard to imagine now: Russia were the only country to put something in orbit, America didn't have ICBM's. The Cold War was in full force.

Alas, Babylon is the story of that American fear, a pre-emptive nuclear strike by Russia. The novel follows Randy Bragg, who lives in a small town in Florida. It is the story of how people cope with a nuclear attack, and how they survive in a town that is cut of by contaminated zones.

Again, it's hard to imagine the affect that the novel had when it was published. Nowadays we know the post-nuclear stories, we know about radiation and fallout, we know that hiding under your table is useless, we can imagine losing power and food. Alas, Babylon spells out these facts from a late fifties point of view. Suprisingly it's not bleak, but infused with hope. The main characters change as they struggle to create a new life, and change for the better. Although they encounter some lawlessness civillisation attempts to reassert itself upon the situation.

I thought the bank manager failing to cope in a world without money was a telling jab by Frank at the US's obsession with capitalism. The bank manager realises that all he has is paper: bonds, money. Nothing worthwhile. In the buying frenzy that follows the attacks the shop owners make a fortune in dollars but are left with no supplies themselves. That realisation is handled very well.

The story focuses on what you would need to do to survive: finding food, keeping healthy, managing petrol, managing the battery for their radio. How you would live in isolation from the world.

Only one line jarred with me, right at the end, when someone asks "who won the war?". It didn't quite work for me.

Overall it's an intelligent, interesting novel, and one that believes in hope after the nuclear apocalypse. Highly recommended.

January 18, 2008

My story A Letter Of Complaint is online at Spacesuits And Sixguns

The new issue of Spacesuits and Sixguns Magazine is online and it includes my story A Letter Of Complaint.

If you've ever done your grocery shopping online (as is increasingly common in the UK) - and have been left baffled at the produce that actually turns up - then this one is for you.

To: CustomerService@EveryonesSupermarket.co.uk
Subject: Order query

        I am mailing you to query my recent order with reference number 1394691346193. This morning at breakfast I was disheartened to discover that the eggs delivered to my fridge were free range. I always refrain from buying free range eggs, as I believe them to be an obvious pricing scam. I've seen the documentaries - a barn sitting in a large field, doors wide open. In the field totter five brave chickens, whilst inside the barn the remaining three thousand sit squashed side by side thinking, "I'm not going out there. It's cold." So I would never allow you, the supermarket, to tempt me into paying disproportionate prices just to have those barn doors open. I would be grateful if you could please send me a carton of barn eggs and compensate me for the inconvenience caused.

Thank you,

Joe Bollingsworth.

...continue reading A Letter Of Complaint

The Road to be made into a film

Due to the success of No Country For Old Men, Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic book The Road is to be made into a film. Rumours for the casting are Charlize Theron for the mother and Guy Pearce or Viggo Mortensen for the father. Viggo would be brilliant. Although I can't see how they can pull this off. Please prove me wrong.

[Via io9]

The Road - Cormac McCarthy

The Road begins with brief sections, sometimes just a paragraph, highly descriptive, very evocative, like blinking: each time opening your eyes to see something new. The overall feel of the novel is cold, bleak, scary, harrowing. It is post-apocalyptic in a generally unspecified way: there is ash, and a burnt landscape and cold and dark. The plot follows a journey of a man and his son, to somewhere, anywhere.

It captures the hopelessness of an apocalypse better than anything I have ever read. Forget electricity, there is not even food. And fire is sometimes avoided so as to not attract unwanted attention. No one can be trusted. Everywhere is abandoned.

I read most of it with a knot in my stomach.

There is no hope. Just fear. Perhaps the ending is supposed to provide hope, to illuminate the good in some of mankind. It just left me depressed.

Undoubtedly great writing to make me feel so much. But not pleasant.

January 17, 2008

Guardian Unlimited Arts blog on SF

I finally got around to reading the article Why do critics still sneer at sci-fi? in the Guardian. It's interesting. For a start it's not a slamming of SF without any thought, the author of the post Sam Jordison actually read Alfred Bester's, The Demolished Man (I think The Stars My Destination is better, but it's still a good read).

This quote stuck with me:
" It's fun seeing how the future was imagined by someone writing before the age of the microchip..."
Yes, the F word! Fun!

Anyway, he liked it and is now picking other Hugo winners to read. His latest article is about Ray Bradbury's, Farenheit 451. Which I haven't read. After my Apocalypse Watch reading maybe I should work my way through some of the Hugo winners I haven't read (I've read 17  of the 50+).

Competition : Win tickets to see Cloverfield

Win tickets to see Cloverfield before it's UK release! I have two pairs of tickets to give away to a special screening of Cloverfield in London. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post (with a valid email address so I can contact you) and when the competition closes I'll randomly pick the winners (or rather the bespoke BDO C# randomiser that I have written will).

The showing is in London, at the Odeon in Covent Garden on Sunday 27th January 2008 at 6pm.

The competition closes at midday GMT on Friday 25th January.

If you don't know about Cloverfield you can't have been alive on the Science Fiction interweb this last year, but here's the synopsis:

"Five young New Yorkers throw their friend a going-away party the night that a monster the size of a skyscraper descends upon the city. Told from the point of view of their video camera. The film is a document of their attempt to survive the most surreal, horrifying event of their lives."

So basically, it's a monster movie, in New York, produced by JJ Abrams. Surely there's nothing else you need to know? But if there is, watch this. The official site is www.cloverfieldmovie.co.uk

Continue reading Competition : Win tickets to see Cloverfield.

5 Reasons I Should Hate Jericho, and 5 Reasons Why I Like it

Jericho is up to episode 15 on ITV4, and I'm really enjoying it. But somehow I feel like I shouldn't. In an attempt to explore those tensions as shall do what has become traditional on blogs, and make a list...

5 Reasons I Should Hate Jericho

  1. It's not original. Small town survival after a nuclear apocalypse has been done by Alas, Babylon (Pat Frank). Multiple nukes exploding throughout the USA has been done by The Wild Shore (Kim Stanley Robinson). And that's just the two that come to mind, there's probably lots more.
  2. Its too American. All that small-town stuff is so cheesey. Hokey is I believe the word. It's so foreign and false and UnBritish. Every small town I've been to in the USA was more like Twin Peaks.
  3. There are mistakes. Logical mistakes, probably deliberate and used to drive the plot e.g. Hawkins uses his computer inside, then for some reason opens a big dish outside, just so that Jake can see it.
  4. It reminds me of Dawson's Creek. Or maybe Echo Beach. One of those airbrushed soaps aimed at teenagers where relationships are off and on and off again.
  5. One of the main characters is / was "the mayor". It just doesn't translate. Have you seen an example of a British mayor?

5 Reasons I Like Jericho

  1. It's set today. Which means that there are modern twists on surviving the apocalypse. When they go to the library to find out about nuclear fallout they discover that all the books were written in the 50's.
  2. It concentrates in survival issues. Keeping warm, maintaining electricity production, getting food, all the basic apocalyptic things that need to be taken care of.
  3. It steals the good bits. Okay, it's not original, but it takes the cool bits from all the compost of previous apocalyptic fiction and pulls out some golden flowers. Sometimes they're just little references ( e.g. the mass migration to warmer climes), but I like them
  4. There's something bigger going on. It's all still a mystery. What actually happened?
  5. It's a nuclear apocalypse! And you just can't beat that.

January 16, 2008

Torchwood, Season 2, Episode 1

Torchwood is back. On BBC2 as well, that's a promotion from the digital only BBC3. And it inherits the slot that Heroes was in.

So what did I think?

(Some spoilers ahead...)

Continue reading Torchwood, Season 2, Episode 1.

BSFA 2008 London Meetings Programme

In case you haven't seen them, the BSFA have their list of monthly meetings up online.
I'm excited about:

    Wednesday 23rd July: Christopher Priest


The Fix Interviews John Joseph Adams

John Joseph Adams talks to The Fix about the inspiration for his Wastelands anthology and post-apocalyptic fiction in general:

"I think that one of the things that appeals to SF writers about writing in that sub-genre is that they can tear everything down and speculate about how human nature will react—exploring those scientific, psychological, sociological, and physiological ramifications...."

More Torchwood PR

The Torchwood PR machine has gone into overdrive on the BBC.

On BBC Breakfast this morning Eve Myles and Naoko Mori were interviewed. It was a bit rubbish to be honest. They said that all the raunchiness "served the narrative" (for which Bill Turnbull took the piss), said that they were pleased by the amazing reaction (where was that then?) and then said something along the lines of "it's not just SciFi it's drama too".

As Others See Us indeed.

However in the clips from tonights episode James Marsters was great.

January 15, 2008

Ask Jonathan Walker (from Flash Gordon) a question

Fancy asking Jonathan Walker, one of the stars of the new Flash Gordon, a question? If so leave it here, and I can pass it on to the UK SciFi Channel bods, who will pick the good ones and ask him when he arrives in the UK. I have to get the questions to the aforementioned bods by Friday morning.

I have one:

Can you sing the Queen song? Flash Ah Ahhhhhh!

Russell T Davies on 6 Music

Russell T Davies is obviously on a tour of the BBC promoting Torchwood, because as well as the aforementioned interview tomorrow he's on 6 Music with Nemone this afternoon. I shall listen again tomorrow. [Via Joe@FPI]

Russell T Davies interview on BBC4

Following the start of series 2 of Torchwood tomorrow night (or Season 2 Premiere! if you want to go all Hollywood) there is an interview with Russell T Davies on BBC4. The interviewer is the very serious Arts bloke, Mark Lawson. Should be interesting.

Mark Lawson talks to... Russell T Davies is on BBC Four at 11pm on Wednesday 16th January

January 14, 2008

Apocalypse Watch, a reading resolution

Whilst there seems to be a large crowd gathering to read The Baroque Cycle, I've done that, so I thought I needed a new year reading resolution.

The resolution is called Apocalypse Watch. Spurred on by how much I'm enjoying Jericho (even though I feel like I shouldn't be), I've decided to read some apocalyptic books.

Here's what I have so far:

  • Alas, Bablyon - Pat Frank
  • The Road - Cormac McCarthy
  • Earth Abides - George R Stewart
  • On The Beach - Neville Shute
  • Dr. Bloodmoney - Philip K Dick
  • The Postman - David Brin
  • Canticle for Leibowitz - Walter M., Jr. Miller
  • The Last Man - Mary Shelley
  • The Stand - Stephen King
  • Summer Of The Apocalypse - James Van Pelt
  • Oryx And Crake - Margaret Attwood
...and last but not least...

  • Wastelands : Stories of the Apocalypse, edited by John Joseph Adams. (I used its online associated reading list to give me some ideas).

The first three were Christmas presents, I don't own any of the others... yet.

There are some books I want to read but aren't available (except for £100 on ebay), notably Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow, John Christopher’s No Blade of Grass and Wilson Tucker’s The Long Loud Silence.

What have I missed? Or what shouldn't I bother with?

Sexy Bookshops

The Guardian lists it's top 10 sexy bookshops around the world. [Via When Gravity Fails]. I haven't been to any of them.

My favourite bookstore is Waterstones in Birmingham (used to be Dillons). I like going up the big sweeping staircase and looking down, like this....

Then going up as high as you can and getting lost.

January 12, 2008

Primeval, Series 2, Episode 1

Primeval returns for a second series. Some things have changed, some things stay the same...


Continue reading Primeval, Series 2, Episode 1.

January 10, 2008

Where to Get the Best Scifi T-Shirts in the UK?

io9 have a post on where to buy cool SF T-Shirts, which includes Threadless. I love Threadless T-shirts, they're cool and you know they won't be common. The downside is that they ship from the US, and despite there being about $420 dollars to the pound, that's still a pain. None of the T-Shirt shops that io9 talk about appear to be outside of the US.

So, tell me, which are the cool places to buy SF T-shirts in the UK?
The only one I can think of is Bang Bang T-Shirts.

Star Wars in Soul Calibur IV

According to 1UP, Darth Vader will be in the PS3 version of Soul Calibur IV and Yoda will be in the Xbox 360 version of Soul Calibur IV. No news of a Wii version :-(
[Via Dave]

The Jennifer Morgue - Charles Stross

The Attrocity Archives was Stross doing Len Deighton (via his crazy Cthulu obsessed imagination), The Jennifer Morgue is Stross doing James Bond, (via the same process). Except it's cleverer than that, in ways that I won't spoil, but it just is.

There's a prologue setup, a super villain, gadgets (of the occult type), monsters, zombies, a trip to the Carribean, a boat, a casino, and of course demonology via maths. All of the cleverness and wit you expect for a Laundry-verse story.

The problem is that James Bond films are predictable, and yes this is part of the fun that Stross plays with, and subverts, but I didn't have that "what on Earth (or not) will happen next?" feeling that I had with The Attrocity Archives. With the Bond films we watch it for the spectacle, which somehow doesn't translate to the written word.

The other downside is that the freshness of The Attrocity Archives has been lost. If you want more of the same then fine, and it's still fun and witty, but for me the original idea had lost its sparkle (as with most sequels).

Included in the book is a short story entitled PIMPF, which I enjoyed, and is sort of a proto-Halting State Laundry tale. It's funny, especially if you're a computer geek. Maybe the Laundry-verse is better suited to short stories now that the universe has been laid out?

The appendix includes a dissection of the James Bond myth, and an interview with Bloefeld. Of course.

So if you liked The Attrocity Archives and want more, The Jennifer Morgue is it. More of the same.

January 9, 2008

Primeval series 2 this Saturday

Hannah in Primeval

Primeval series 2 starts this Saturday on ITV1 at 7pm. The ITV site now has loads of new content including a video preview of episode 1 (velociraptor!) and the mysterious A.R.C. site which is a Flash search for clues type thing.

Cool, I'm looking forward to it, something to watch in the Doctor Who slot.

SFX also has an interview with Andrew-Lee Potts who plays Connor.

"He’s a geek with a gun."

January 8, 2008

The first Ansible of 2008 is online

Snow Crash special edition by Subterranean Press

Ooh. I wish I had $500 to spend on a book.

From the Subterranean Press site...

Subterranean Press is proud to announce the Limited Edition, printed in two colors throughout on 80# Finch paper, with a premium cloth binding, and a number of illustrations and design elements by Patrick Arrasmith.

Given Mr. Stephenson's popularity, and the importance of this book, we fully expect it to sell out prior to publication.

Limited: 500 numbered hardcover copies signed by the author

Lettered: 26 signed copies, handbound, in a custom traycase, with an original piece of art not in the Limited Edition

Fernandes Stormtrooper guitar

Via Guitar Noize here's a Stormtrooper Guitar (from 2002)

There's a Yoda and Boba Fett guitar too.


Barrowman and Marsters sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G

Captain Jack (John Barrowman) and Captain John (James Martsers) snogging!

"Torchwood's Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) faces a dilemma when rogue Time Agent Captain John Hart (James Marsters) wreaks havoc on Cardiff in the first episode of the new series - should he kiss him or kill him?"

Guess we know the answer then.

Also, details about the pre-watershed edition...

"The new series of Torchwood starts on BBC Two , on January 16 at 9pm. Due to popular demand there is now a specially edited pre-watershed repeat the following day, on BBC Two at 7pm."

January 7, 2008

Doctor Who game coming to Nintendo DS

PocketGamer has news that a Doctor Who game is coming to the Nintendo DS. Bizzarely it's a card game...

"the tactical card game will offer head-to-head card battles between two players or against the game's artificial intelligence with players using memory, luck and their knowledge of the deck to outwit each another."
Couldn't you just use real cards for that?


"the game will be visually based on the animated CBBC Doctor Who spin-off series The Infinite Quest, although the theme tune, sound effects and characters all come from the proper TV series"

Hmm. Doesn't sound inspiring.

Bradford gets excited about Eastercon 2009

Eastercon 2008 hasn't even happened yet, but the Bradford Telegraph and Argus is already getting excited about Eastercon 2009, in, yes, Bradford. Well, I say excited, they have an article entitled Scifi Fans Ready To Land In City because, you know, we all have spaceships, being SciFi fans. At least they didn't say "teleport" or "beam down". Despite that the article actually has some decent information, including rumours of discussions with the National Media Museum. (They have IMAX, mmm big explosions.) The article also has a picture of Jon Courtenay Grimwood, in shades and a suit, because apparently it is illegal for JCG to smile in photos.

Lost HD Episodes online

In preparation for the return of Lost at the end of the month, ABC are streaming all the episodes in HD. Well, apparently they are, because it doesn't work for me. Presumably there's some IP filtering going on. So, you could either find yourself a US proxy to route through, or just get the torrents. Probably. There are no Bluray box sets of Lost on Amazon UK yet, but they are on Amazon US.

It's like an expert guide on how to encourage people to download your TV show from alternative sources.

Via SFSignal

January 4, 2008

Irwin Allen Night, BBC4

I started watching The Fantasy Worlds Of Irwin Allen last night, which was part of BBC4's Irwin Allen Night. I was expecting a classy BBC documentary, instead it was of those American shows with links straight out of The Simpsons...

"You may know Irwin Allen from such hit films as Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, and Towering Inferno, but to his friends..."

I gave up after fifteen minutes so all I can say I learnt is that he used a lot of stock footage to shrink the budget, and hit an empty bucket with a stick to cue the "Star Trek side to side roll", one of his many "remarkable" special effects. Well, they probably were remarkable at the time. Also interesting was that for one of his early films he worked with Ray Harryhausen but in later films had to resort to lizards in wigs.

It's not on the BBC iPlayer, presumably because the BBC don't own it.

Doctor Who - Voyage Of The Damned

Voyage Of The Damned is the third Doctor Who Christmas special since the Nu-Who reboot, and it pretty much sums up what the average Doctor Who episode has become: lovely initial design and wow factor, intriguing setup, a monster arrives, some running around, detoriation into a rushed plot that finishes disappointingly.

(You can watch the episode as I type on the BBC iPlayer if you haven't seen it and you are in the UK).

It could have been lovely. The Titanic in space design was great, Kylie Minogue was in a waitress costume, it had an alien called The Host. And yet, far away from good. I imagine Russell T Davies saying something like "I wanted this to be an homage to disaster movies", well yes, it tries, and fails were the Poseiden Adventure fails, it gets dull rapidly. And the "monster" is terrible, talk about unimanginative. And the emotional aspect is completely lost because we never got to know the characters well enough. And Kylie was rubbish. And the cameo from The Queen made me moan. And... I could go on.

Can we have some more intelligent Doctor Who please? And don't give me the excuse that some episodes are for the kids, because Blink was amazing, and the kids liked that too. Get good writers, write good stories. We know you can make things look lovely now.

Considering about seven bazillion people watched this episode on Christmas Day I would have thought they'd give us better.

Disappointed. Again.

January 3, 2008

Matter - Iain M Banks

Matter (UK / US) is the first Culture novel for seven years, the last one was Look to Windward (and the last SF novel by Banks being The Algebraist). That's a lot of expectation, seven years. Too much for me perhaps.

The prologue to Matter is typically Culture, with a Special Circumstance agent and a drone meddling in some lower civilisation. The story then splits into a few plots. The core of the story is the Shell World Sursamen, it's a Big Dumb Object on a truly gigantic scale, Peta-Scale Engineering! A great setup then, with plenty of infodump detail on the Shell Worlds and their origins.

The first half of the story kept me entertained, although it was perhaps a little slow. The story focuses on the lower tech "worlds" of levels 8 and 9 of the shell world, and if you just read these strands you may think that you are reading a fantasy novel: there's a king, some princes, a quest and politics. (I'm being vague about plot details because I don't want to give away spoilers.)

What's new in this novel is a greater explanation of how The Culture fit into the galaxy, with descriptions of at least one other civilisation that is their equal. Before now I've always felt that The Culture were the dominant species (culture?) but Matter reveals that not to be the case. If you are after some alien civilisations, with their own weird ways and massive engineering eye-kick projects then you'll enjoy it. Personally I'd have preferred some more of the Culture and the Minds. There were a few tantalising glimpses of life in The Culture, especially a civillians reaction to a Special Circumstances agent, but a few scenes aren't enough for me. And of course it was witty, with some funny moments (usuallly involving drones and ships) that made me laugh out loud eg.

"she found their ships' names absurd, childish and ridiculous at first, then got used to them, then thought she kind of understood them, then realised there was no understanding the Mind of a ship, and went back to finding them annoying"

The second quarter of the book dragged for me. Nothing was pulling me through, the wow factor of the introduction had been lost and I was left with some seemingly random journeys and some medieval politics. It's also quite a long book at almost 600 pages (including the redundant, apart from the list of Culture ships, appendix).

The last few chapters of the book accelerate to break-neck pace and provide some of the action and Culture tech that I had been missing. However the ending left too many threads unresolved for me, the main plot seemed to slide out of the novel half way through with not a very satisfactory reason. At the BSFA meeting Banks made a comment about writing the first part of a trilogy with no follow up. There's been some discussion as to whether this referred to The Algebraist or Matter, but to me, that is what Matter feels like (I haven't read The Algebraist).

So in the end I was disappointed with Matter, it's too rooted in the lower tech worlds, too obsessed with how they deal with living as a "lower" culture, too vague about the political intentions of higher species, and there was not enough of the real Culture. I think that maybe I wanted it to be Excession. If you've never read any Culture novels, perhaps you shouldn't start with this, read The Player Of Games, Use of Weapons and Excession first.

George Lucas sums up Prequel hate

George Lucas sums up exactly how I feel about the hate for the Star Wars prequels.

"One of the key characters that helped us realize what was going on was Jar Jar Binks, because the kids that are under 10 years old, he’s one of their favorite characters. For people over 40, they cannot stand him—it’s a hate thing. You know, they’ve always been for 12-year-olds, and that’s never changed. People don’t want to think of it that way. They want to think those films are for grown-ups. Even though they were 10 years old when they saw it, it’s still very important to them, so, for them, it’s a grown-up movie, as opposed to a kids’ movie."
Personally I love all of the films. My only disappointment was that Revenge Of The Sith was a 12A, which meant that a lot of kids couldn't see it.

io9 gets visits and has content. Oh.

Well io9 has started well. Not only has it got a load of very cool posts (yeah, actual content), and William Gibson likes it, but it had 525k visits in one day. Gulp. I'm trying to look on it as an opportunity, however I'm too busy reading their posts to post here.

Torchwood series 2 air date

I saw an extended trailer for Torchwood on the BBC last night, and it said that it was due to be shown on 16th January on BBC2, which is a Wednesday so it's probably the Heroes 9pm slot. The official website hasn't caught up yet, no longtrailer or dates, although it has new wallpaper. Hmmm.

The extended trailer did not, unfortunately, offer me any hope that the new series would be better than the last. Looked like more of the same.

January 2, 2008

Gawker does Science Fiction

io9 is a new Science Fiction blog from Gawker Media, Nick Denton's nano-publishing empire which also contains such hit blogs as Gizmodo , Kotaku, LifeHacker etc.

With a team of about seven and getting paid for blogging (however little), they're probably going to make me feel unproductive, unoriginal and obsolete pretty rapidly....

Via Scalzi

Into The New Year

I'm back.

New(ish) things:

Things to do:
  • Write a review of Doctor Who Voyage Of The Damned
  • Write a review of Matter by Iain M Banks
  • Finish reading The Jennifer Morgue and write a review (I didn't quite finish it before Christmas).
  • Finish my thesis on the conservation of cool across SF film series.

January 1, 2008

The Website At The End Of The Universe's free calendar

The Website at the End of the Universe has their now traditional calendar available for free download. 12 pulp covers and a big list of famous SF birthdays.

Happy New Year!

I'd just like to wish a happy (Gregorian calendar) new year to everyone. A big thanks especially to all readers, commenters and people who have linked here.

I hope I can continue to provide something worth reading, whether it's trivial, silly, serious, ranting or just old skool weblogging.

Have a good year.