March 2008 Archives
March 30, 2008
- More Daleks
- A couple of awesome episodes
- Some rubbish episodes
- The rumoured multi companion finale being underwhelming
- The Sontarans being a misdirection and Davros making an appearance
March 28, 2008
March 27, 2008
At Picocon last year I asked Ken MacLeod if The Execution Channel (UK / US ) was his attempt at a mainstream cross-over. At that time I hadn't read it (of course). He just laughed and made a joke. Now, I know why. The Execution Channel is Science Fiction, just like any of his other books. Don't let the mainstreamy cover put you off (the UK Orbit edition anyway), don't let the "near future thriller" label put you off. Because this book is great.
There are not many books that make me say "whoah!" out loud. This book made me say it three times. And the last time was repeated ad-infinitum. I'm not going to tell you what those moments are, but in order of appearance they were:
- Initially amazing, but retrospectively maybe a cop-out
- Really amazing
The novel is set (mainly) in a near future England and Scotland, where The War On Terror has escalated to a new level of Big Brother style surveillance. It's particularly terrifying because the leaps to get to that point don't seem so far away, with the current fractures in society along religious lines and impending ID cards. There are a varied selection of protagonists, a motley crew you might say, and their actions intertwine in a way that feels real: not destined to interact, but more casually bouncing off each others existence. The whole style is grim and realistic, and at times confusing. There are moments that this felt like a Cold War Spy story ala Le CarrÃƒÂ© or Frederick Forsyth, transplanted into a near future, and full of ideas.
Three quarters of the way through I Twittered " Racing through The Execution Channel. It better have a good ending though." Little did I know. The ending was called at Eastercon "the Marmite ending", you either love it or hate. (That might have been Grahame Sleight on the Not The Clarke Award panel, it was definitely one of them.) Personally I loved it. It is an ending of hope and wonder and fun and brilliance and audacity.
BBC 3 has commissioned a new comedy called Clone:
Clone opens with a brilliant scientist unveiling the result of his life's work: the first human clone. Intended to be a prototype super soldier who will eventually replace Britain's volunteer army, the Doctor quickly realizes his super weapon is more likely to hug someone than shoot them.
Clone is a classic 'fish out of water' comedy revolving around the education of an innocent being who is seeing and experiencing our world for the first time. It could also be described as a 'buddy comedy' about a modern Dr Frankenstein and his monster.
Clone's creator is Adam Chase who had writing and executive producing roles on Friends. There's hope there as long as it isn't one continual anti-SF gag.
The series of six episodes will transmit later this year on BBC Three.
The best part of the press-release is this:
Danny Cohen [BBC Three Controller] says: "I'm thrilled that Adam Chase has come over from Hollywood to work with BBC Three..."
Farewell Hollywood! Viva BBC Three!
March 25, 2008
CBS has cancelled Jericho. The seven part second series obviously didn't bring in the crowds. Personally I liked Jericho best when it was a drama about a small town coping with post-nuclear isolation. Although the second series has been entertaining, I think it just felt like a below standard 24. The last episode is aired tonight in the US.
There are of course rumours of shopping the show around to other channels.
Most impressive thing about the cancellation? The BBC mention it.
As expected, one day at Eastercon was not enough, but one day is better than zero days. A quick summary:
- Charles Stross talked almost non-stop for an hour on tech stuff and near future extrapolations and general Stross type stuff. I have the feeling he has read a lot of obscure things about aeroplanes. Entertaining, but more or less the same as the last time I saw him speak (bar the emergence of robots as the future).
- The Not The Clarke Awards panel weakened my resolution on trying to read all the shortlist, especially as I've now read the two they liked best. There was, of course, dismay at Brasyl not being short-listed.
- Neil Gaiman read (out loud). I liked his short story Orange. Funny. He's good at reading (and writing). The bit where he talked about Eastercon was a bit rambling and blokey though (I got pissed with John Jarrold! etc).
- Writing The Near Future was not a great panel, because it turned into a discussion of what was actually going to happen (futurology?), and since when have SF writers actually predicted the future?! The best moment was when I realised that the moderator was Paul McAuley, it all seemed better from then on. Much talk of robots.
- Everyone's A Critic was an interesting conversation about reviewing and blogging and editors. I think I'll do a whole post on that.
- Bought the BSFA 50th Birthday Celebration Anthology and the Friday Flash Fiction Anthology. Resisted other purchases.
- Met some people and talked to them, met some people and only said hello, saw some other people, didn't meet some other people.
- Had the mandatory conversation about how rubbish Torchwood is, with someone whose name I never found out.
- Came home suitably inspired to write more and write better.
March 22, 2008
- The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon (HarperCollins, Fourth Estate)Ã‚Â
- Brasyl by Ian McDonald (Gollancz; Pyr)Ã‚Â
- Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer (Tor; Analog Oct. 2006-Jan/Feb. 2007)Ã‚Â
- The Last Colony by John Scalzi (Tor)Ã‚Â
- Halting State by Charles Stross (Ace)
- Battlestar GalacticaÃ‚Â "Razor" Written by Michael Taylor Directed by FÃƒÂ©lix EnrÃƒÂquez AlcalÃƒÂ¡ and Wayne Rose (Sci Fi Channel) (televised version, not DVD)Ã‚Â
- Doctor WhoÃ‚Â "Blink" Written by Stephen Moffat Directed by Hettie Macdonald (BBC)Ã‚Â
- Doctor WhoÃ‚Â "Human Nature' / "Family of Blood" Written by Paul Cornell Directed by Charles Palmer (BBC)Ã‚Â
- Star Trek New VoyagesÃ‚Â "World Enough and Time" Written by Michael Reaves & Marc Scott Zicree Directed by Marc Scott Zicree (Cawley Entertainment Co. and The Magic Time Co.)
- TorchwoodÃ‚Â "Captain Jack Harkness" Written by Catherine Tregenna Directed by Ashley Way (BBC Wales)
March 21, 2008
March 20, 2008
Matrix has now evolved into Matrix Online: the news and media magazine of the British Science Fiction Association. You need to be a member of the BSFA to read the full content.
Arthur C. Clarke has died at the age of 90.
Arthur C. Clarke at his home office in Colombo,
I've read very few of his SF novels, so I can't really comment on his output, but you can't deny his role as an ambassador for SF.
March 19, 2008
My first disappointment was the style of The Guardian's fighting. It has a power which is portrayed on screen as a fast forward blur, consequently you never actually get to see much of the actual sword-fighting, which is surely one of the big cool things about Highalnder? This problem occurs again and again, culminaing in "the big fight" which is nothing short of a fast forward blur. I want to see sword fighting, choreographed fights like in Star Wars or the original Highlander film, not a blur. Maybe this was a cost-cutting exercise? Whatever, it detracted any enjoyment from all but one of the fight scenes (the other fight scene being one in which The Guardian didn't partake).
Onto the plot. I couldn't really figure out why things were happening. There was something about planets, something about The Source, a journey to find The Source, some big fat bloke in a cave and an island full of Mad Max refugees. I don't mind a plot with a MacGuffin if it's done skillfully. The original Highlander had The Prize at it's core, equivalent to The Source, but the journey towards The Prize was handled in a more interesting and rounded way. The journey to The Source feels like a by-the-numbers quest, where one member is killed every X minutes.
Finally the ending didn't really make any sense at all. I'm not sure I can begin to describe it. Once again the comparison to the original Highlander is relevant. It's not necessarily whether everything is explained in detail, but how it is handled. The Source's ending felt rushed, like they'd run out of money or time, or they'd already moved their attention to the sequel.
The DVD comes with the usual array of trailers and behind the scenes type features. But the extras are just that, extras.
In summary Highlander : The Source is one for Highlander completists only.
March 18, 2008
March 17, 2008
They're trailing the trailer...
After an exclusive cinema-only run, we're delighted to announce that the new Doctor Who Series Four trailer will make its official TV and web debut on Saturday 29 March 2008.
They're just playing with us now.
Yes, we are all playing the "guess the Oceanic 6" game. That's no need to be so nasty about it. Although I did laugh. The entire Jin flashback was nothing more than a little misdirection, and to set up the reveal that he died getting off The Island (or is perhaps still on The Island, or dead on The Island).
Another build-it-up don't-reveal-it plot line was "The Captain". I thought he was going to be either: someone they knew, someone we knew or an alien. In the end he was just some bloke. What he did confirm however is that the crash of the flight has been faked and covered up, and it was nothing to do with Jim-from-Neighbours, who appears to be behind the whole boat and not-a-rescue.
The boat is pretty cool all round. Everyone is going crazy. Some woman jumped off with chains around her. The doctor is creepy. And Michael is there. As a janitor?! (Very Hong Kong Phooey.) I should have guessed Michael as the spy. But didn't.
I still loved every minute of it, even when they are teasing me.
My number one question from this episode is whether Aaron counts as 1 or not. Because the Oceanic Six are:
And the two dead are:
I'm also wondering if the Hanso Foundation is involved with Jim-from-Neighbours, or not, I'd assumed the fight was The Dharma Initiative (aka Hanso) versus Ben and The Island. Now I'm not so sure.
March 14, 2008
There can't be too many options left open for the start date of the fourth "new" Doctor Who series. It's probably around Easter is what I'd been assuming.
Den of Geek has information that April 12th is the most likely date.
Anyone from the BBC like to confirm that? (I take tips anonymously!)
David V. Barrett has reviewed Halting State for Strange Horizons. (I don't know David, but he is a former editor of the BSFA journal Vector and a former chair of the Arthur C. Clarke Award, which means he's read a lot of SF.)
Unlike me, he wasn't impressed:
"About half way through the novel I realised that I wasn't all that bothered about the resolution of the ever-increasing complexities of the plot. Why? Because I didn't actually care much what happened to any of the characters."
Which is fine, but I really disagree with the problem of British references:
The problem is one of reference. Halting State is littered with cultural references to the Britain of the last two or three years that few non-Brits will recognise.
The proof copy I read was the US edition—at least, in spelling and punctuation. Yet on just one page we have, with no clue whatsoever to their meaning, HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs), TfL (Transport for London), PPPs (Public-Private Partnerships, a politically popular but controversial financing system in Britain in the 1990s and early 2000s), ECB (European Central Bank), Chelsea tractor (slang for what Britain calls a 4x4 and America calls an SUV), the Tube (the London Underground), and DLR (Docklands Light Railway, a particular line linked to the Underground system).
All of this is careless, even lazy writing.
The Attrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue have glossaries in the back for this purpose. But I hate glossaries. If you want to know what it means, then just Google it! There must be plenty of books full of US references? You can't explain every little detail. What Charles Stross does well is throw the reader into a sometimes overwhelmingly strange world. For example Accelerando is so dense with ideas it can make your head hurt thinking about it, but I love that.
I also love the fact that it's a SF novel set in Scotland, and presumably there will be a fair few Americans who love that too. Scotland is so exotic ;-)
Paul has news of a new Flash Fiction anthology. I'll copy his press release spiel:
ILLUMINATIONS is a new anthology from small press Odd Two Out Publishing showcasing original, cutting edge short fiction from eight up-and-coming young British writers.
When British author Gareth L Powell started adding short weekly pieces of flash fiction to his website back in July 2007, he didn’t expect anyone else to take much notice.
But soon there were seven other writers doing likewise - Paul Graham Raven, Gareth D Jones, Martin McGrath, Dan Pawley, Justin Pickard, Neil Beynon, and Shaun C Green. Together, they have become known as the Friday Flash Fictioneers.
Congratulations to everyone involved! Something else to add to the reading list.
March 13, 2008
Want to know what SF related stuff I'm doing on other sites? Well I've been trying out Movable Type's new Activity Streams plugin, and it's working well enough to tell everyone about.
The last weeks activity is here and there's also a feed of my activity stream. It includes (so far): Science Fiction related twittering, Science Fiction related delicious bookmarks, favourite videos on YouTube, shared Science Fiction related stuff from Google Reader and random quotes and pictures from a Tumblr site I use.
Overall it adds a more micro-blogging feel to things, with items too small to be blogged about, but too good to be forgotten.
The Bionic Woman went down well on ITV2:
The first episode of US TV drama The Bionic Woman has given ITV2 its largest ever audience, initial figures suggest.
The show, starring former EastEnders actress Michelle Ryan, was watched by an average of 2.2 million viewers, according to overnight figures.
The digital channel's previous best was 1.9 million viewers for Footballers' Wives: Extra Time in 2005.
See the quality of their previous best rated show? Maybe it was everyone tuning in to see if Michelle Ryan could really go from Cockney to American Superhero?
However to put things in perspective:
The show's UK debut at 2100 GMT on ITV2 beat Channel 4's The Woman Who Stops Traffic, which attracted 736,000 viewers.
BBC One's Hotel Babylon was the most watched programme at that time, with five million viewers.
The Woman Who Stops Traffic, what an inspiring title for a TV show.
March 11, 2008
March 10, 2008
The Guardian comments on the Arthur C Clarke Award shortlist in Clarke prize moves beyond sci-fi:
The Arthur C Clarke award for science fiction casts a strikingly wide net this year, with literary fiction and a novel for young adults joining the usual run of stories of androids and genetic engineering all on the shortlist
It's "the usual run of " which sounds condescending. Couldn't they have written the article without that tone? Slightly annoying. Meanwhile Sarah Hall has commented on her inclusion:
"Any collapsing of imposed literary boundaries heartens me, and the possibility that writers might be freer to exercise imaginative versatility is tremendously exciting."
Russell T Davies thinks that Doctor Who is around to stay, beyond even 2010:
"It's no good looking at that American pattern of making seven years if you're lucky - that's just not going to work. Who wants it to die after seven years? It's much bigger than that.
"It needs looking after, in the sense that it needs pauses, it needs its legend revamping every so often. If you build these pauses in now and say this will always happen, that's part of the plan now - it's literally a twenty year plan, which can't be guaranteed, because different people will be in charge in years to come - but if you present them with something rock solid, that is working, and has a unique transmission pattern that shouldn't be interfered with, then it will stay."
Yeah, all these seven year American shows, pah, come back when you're 45 years old, then we'll talk.
The shortlist for the Arthur C Clarke Award has been announced
The Red Men: Matthew de Abaitua - Snow Books
The H-Bomb Girl: Stephen Baxter - Faber & Faber
The Carhullan Army: Sarah Hall - Faber & Faber
The Raw Shark Texts: Steven Hall - Canongate
The Execution Channel: Ken MacLeod - Orbit
Black Man: Richard Morgan - Gollancz
As a reminder, the Clarke award is a juried award (whereas the BSFA award is voted for), consequently it often turns up some interesting books. This year they are all UK authors.
As is depressingly usual, I've read none of them. However The Execution Channel is on my shelf waiting for me (thanks to Orbit). Three of them I know very little about, which is why I like the Clarke.
I should have mentioned this before (an email prod from Tony has reminded me):
StarShipSofa will bring you, in conjunction with the British Science Fiction Association all five of the short stories that have been shortlisted for the BSFA Award for Best Short Story 2007 in audio narrated format for FREE. Starting Monday 10th March (tomorrow) StarShipSofa will upload one of the narrated stories each day. First off, to give you a heads up will be Chaz Brenchley narrating his own story Terminal.
So that's today, all week, BSFA short story nominees, read out for your pleasure.
March 7, 2008
The Star Wars Homing Beacon newsletter has some interesting (and funny) answers to questions about Star Wars, and how those answers have changed between 1982 and now.
Q: What made Vader's TIE fighter different from other fighters?
A (1982): It had (curved) or angular wings
A (2008): Vader's x1 prototype had a more robust spaceframe, particulary at the pylon points where the solar gather panels connect. The panels themselves are longer, and angled. Unlike the standard TIE of the line, the TIE x1 featured deflector shields and a limited class 4 hyperdrive. Its increased range gave the x1 five consumable days of non-combat flight time, as opposed to a TIE fighter's two-day yield. A standard TIE featured a pair of Sienar Fleet Systems L-s1 laser cannons, while the x1 had L-s9.3 cannons. Powering the standard TIE was an SFS I-a2b solar ionization reactor and SFS P-s4 twin ion engines, while the x1 featured the SFS 1-S3a and SFS P-s5.6 counterparts, respectively.
See Finding the Quizbook Master for an interview with Rusty Miller, the "11-year-old fan prodigy who compiled a list of 425 Star Wars trivia questions for The Jedi Master's Quizbook back in 1982"
March 6, 2008
Yesterday's news so probably everyone has seen this now, but its worth mentioning. Firstly, Wired has an interview with Jeff VanderMeer, secondly you can download for free a PDF copy of VanderMeer’s upcoming book The Situation, courtesy of PS Publishing.
This will no doubt further ignite the "giving free books away" debate. Personally I think it's a great move by PS. They're a small press and the book is limited edition, so they have everything to gain. Plus, giving a sample to the large Wired audience has got to be good publicity.
PS have also just offered PDF editions of books for reviewers, which I'm planning to take advantage of. So watch this space for some PS Publishing reviews.
There's a great article in The Guardian today about the work that the BBC are doing in restoring colour copies of some of their old TV shows:
Many television programmes made by the BBC and ITV in the late 1960s and early 70s, although some of the first to be made in colour, only exist in black and white today. Among them are 13 episodes of Doctor Who starring Jon Pertwee, another 13 episodes of Steptoe and Son and the whole of Nigel Kneale's seminal 60s drama, The Year of the Sex Olympics.
The original master tapes of many shows were erased during archive purges. However, before wiping, many were copied on to black and white 16mm film for broadcast in countries where colour television was not yet available. Today, it is these black and white films that survive as the only visual records of some of these programmes.
"Archive purges"! What were they thinking?! Couldn't they have just extended the warehouse or something? The mind boggles.
March 4, 2008
The Jim Henson Company has announced that The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth will be available for purchase (download) on the iTunes Store (www.itunes.com), starting from today. (Well actually, yesterday USA time).
Of course, this means the US iTunes store, not the UK one, and presumably not the German one. Never mind, you say, The Dark Crystal was interesting and I saw it years ago and Labyrinth is weird and has David Bowie, but never mind.
Wait. Disappointment coming.
Because more titles from the Jim Henson library will be available on iTunes including the entire Fraggle Rock and Farscape television series.
Doozers and psychopathic half-Sebacean, half-Scarran Peacekeepers. Get them on iTunes UK now please.
March 3, 2008
Lost, you are Science Fiction, and I love you.
So, now is the time that JJ thinks we are hooked and he can reveal Lost in all its SF glory. Daniel's rocket capsule time experiment was just a little clue, now we see the Island's properties in full effect, affecting a character.
There was so much cool stuff in this episode, I'll babble and it will all come out.
The central plot of a time travelling Desmond was great. Time travelling in mind alone. And travelling because The Island is cloaked in some time shift cloaky EM thing. And, of course, Desmond is effected badly because he was completely fried when he nuked The Hatch. Now the visions of Charlie dying make more sense, he was time travelling then too. The whole solution to Desmond's situation is of course love, and Penny. Nice. And the future can be changed? Can't it?
Daniel Faraday working as a crazed scientist in Oxford made me laugh too, he was a bit Doc from Back To The Future -like. With experiments on mice! (As all good scientists should do.) And his name is a nice tip to the awesome physicist Michael Faraday. What does Daniel really know? (In the present.)
We also found out some excellent answers in the little scene with Jim from Neighbours which was at an auction for the diary/log from The Black Rock. The Black Rock disappeared in the 10th century, and we know it ended up on The Island (full of wonky dynamite), but somehow the diary got off The Island and it belonged to Tovard Hanso. Woah. The Hanso Foundation is behind The Dharma Initiative. Presumably one of the Hanso's decided to investigate The Island after reading the diary. But why are they selling it now? And what does Jim From Neighbours want with it? And, what has he done with it, seeing as the auction was about 8 years before the "present" on The Island.
Why are the crew of the ship so nasty? Are they working for Hanso.
It's even clearer now that the whole show is about a power struggle for The Island. Were The Black Rock's crew the first Others? Or have there always been Others? Do each new set of arrivals eventually get assimilated into The Others?