April 2008 Archives
April 30, 2008
Today is the BBC's flagship radio news programme, and Ian Whates has emailed to say that he will be on this morning talking about Science Fiction! Ian is the editor of the BSFA's news and media magazine Matrix, and also editor of several Newcon Press anthologies.
The Today web site says:
0810 Gordon Brown (that's the Prime Minister)
0849 Has science fact overtaken science fiction?
Don't let that ("tough and tenacious interviewer") John Humphry's give you a hard time, Ian!
April 29, 2008
April 17th is Big Dumb Objects' Official Birthday, however like the Queen it gets two, the official one, and the one when I actually remember, which is today.
The first post on BDO was April 17th 2004 at 22:36:46. 4 years! Where did that go? (Although bizarrely Alexa says it's been online since 06-Apr-2004)
- 2,533 entries
- 931 comments
- Quite a few visits (not sure if my old webstat logs are archived or deleted).
Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting.
Of course BDO is young in comparison to my first blog (now dormant) who's first post was on May 29th 2002 when blogging was still young and fresh and RSS was wildly exciting.
I'm getting all nostalgic.
April 28, 2008
The Shape Of Things To Come is the title of the episode. If it is, then I'm happy, because I reckon this is the start of a huge timeline unravelling saga. Surely it has to be? When Ben teleports (cool!) to the desert and then asks what the date is, the actions of a time traveller, surely?
The confrontation with Jim From Neighbours is another clue. It was not honour that stopped Ben killing Widmore, it was something more, time paradoxes maybe? And the certainty that his daughter would not be killed, a man who has seen it all before?
Meanwhile our faithful castways are caught in the middle and apparently clueless, trying to survive the ensuing violence: crash survivors shot before we knew who they were, Claire almost blown up, Alex shockingly executed, the ships Doctor washed up on the beach with a slit throat and the smoke monster running rampant through the mercs. Nice.
Definitely not hiding it's SF heart anymore. Continually exciting, intriguing, bonkers and fun. It's still my favourite TV programme.
Doctor Who and The Villains Which Haven't Been Done Yet.
Yes, it's the return of the Sontarans.
Adam Roberts' now traditional Clarke Award review is online at Futurismic, and very entertaining it is too.
The Arthur C. Clarke Award ceremony is on Wednesday. Bets on the winner? Erm, no idea.
As you've probably read elsewhere by now the Nebula winners were as follows:
- NOVEL : The Yiddish Policemen's Union , Michael Chabon (HarperCollins)
- NOVELLA : "Fountain of Age", Nancy Kress (Asimov's Jul 2007)
- NOVELETTE : "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate", Ted Chiang (F&SF Sep 2007; Subterranean Press)
- SHORT STORY : "Always", Karen Joy Fowler (Asimov's Apr/May 2007)
- SCRIPT : Pan's Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro
- ANDRE NORTON AWARD : Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling (Scholastic)
I thought the Ted Chiang story was pretty good, but missing something, not quite up to the standard of some of his other stuff I've read. I really enjoyed "Always", very almost-weird-but-probably-not, but couldn't quite decide if it was SF, which I gather is the sort of thing that Karen Joy Fowler excels at. Pan's Labyrinth was good too, and of course the last Harry Potter book was not very good, but made kids read thousands of pages, so must be applauded.
Now have to put The Yiddish Policemen's Union on my to-read list.
April 25, 2008
Series two of Heroes started last night on BBC2. It's filling the now vacant Torchwood slot, and the BBC have been hyping it up a lot, with cast interviews and the custom BBC2 Heroes logo.
Everyone has been avoiding mentioning the issue that it's not very good.
There is no point resisting, Twitter shall consume you all. John from SF Signal is going to be Twittering from the Nebula Weekend.
As a reminder, my BDO Twitter account is bigdumbobject, for all the things that are too trivial to write full blog posts about.
April 24, 2008
Hmm, shall we use some imagination or perhaps just remake old stuff?
Let's REMAKE OLD STUFF!
"Sky One has is developing a remake of ’70s classic BBC SF series Blake Seven. Although the broadcaster hasn’t committed yet to making the series it has given the greenlight to the development of scripts for two 60-minute pilots. " Via SFX
Being Human which was one of BBC3's pilot season has been commissioned for a six part series. Apparently lots of people liked it, including me, I said "It left me wanting a series". Tada!
It was also a big hit on iPlayer. The most interesting thing about that is that the BBC are checking the iPlayer stats for viewing figures.
The following is part one of a discussion about Iain M Banks's latest Science Fiction (and Culture) novel, Matter, featuring myself, Niall Harrison (Vector), Paul Raven (Velcro City Tourist Board, Futurismic, Interzone and PS Publishing) and Jonathan McCalmont (SF Diplomat).
Niall: Why were you excited to see the proof of Matter; or, what does Banks mean to you, as a reader?
April 23, 2008
928 pages! Still writing the long books then. Not sure about the artwork, a bit Da Vinci Code, but maybe that's the point?
(Thanks to Bascule the Teller for the tip.)
The List Universe has a list of 10 Obscure But Superb Science Fiction Novels, which are:
- Bloodworld - Laurence M. Janifer
- Skinner - Richard S. McEnroe
- The Greks Bring Gifts - Murray Leinster
- House Of Stairs - William Sleator (new)
- Iceworld - Hal Clement
- Ballroom Of The Skies - John D. McDonald
- Midworld - Alan Dean Foster
- Agent Of Chaos - Norman Spinrad
- Of Men And Monsters - William Tenn
- Wasp - Eric Frank Russell
None of which I have heard of let alone read, and all of which are available on Amazon UK is some form (new or used). Time for a gratuitous whizzy carousel (for those that have artwork on Amazon).
April 21, 2008
Empire have a quiz to test whether you're a SF TV Geek. It's old school, no polls, you have to add up stuff in your head.
I got 37.
"you're still OK, walking that fine line between having a social life and keeping up with the best TV around."
Although that's mainly because I don't remember stuff like Lost's numbers anymore, I just Google them.
Eoghann is blogging SF again, welcome back!
He has some great posts over the last week, including Seven Things Sci-Fi Fans Should Stop Doing and Do You Have To Finish Reading A Book You Don’t Like?
The seven things are of course completely correct. It continually surprises me how personally fans (especially SF fans) react to what are essentially business decisions. Watch and read the good stuff, enjoy that it existed at all, be happy.
April 19, 2008
April 18, 2008
I have to say that I really like the job Darren did on the PS site, it definitely feels alive. Also PS are doing PDF review copies is also another great idea (and I will get round to reviewing some soon!).
Via the PS Publishing News Room
The April issue of The Internet Review Of Science fiction is online with the usual interesting selection of articles, interviews and reviews. (I particularly love Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold's articles).
Also IRoSF now has a news page, unfortunately there's no feed so you'll have to go there to read it (or just forget which is what I'll probably do).
April 16, 2008
The following is an analysis of the overlap between the BSFA Award shortlists (for novels) and the Arthur C Clarke Award shortlists. The data was obtained from the online Locus awards database, although the data does not exist for the 1989 and 1988 BSFA shortlists. Any errors are probably my own, feel free to point them out in the comments.
April 14, 2008
Another Clarke nominee, yet another Science Fiction novel packaged like a mainstream novel. It's all there, the mainstream cover, the non-genre publisher, the slim 207 pages. Yet The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall (UK/US) is Science Fiction and it is a mainstream novel. At the same time. This is the sort of book I can imagine making Richard And Judy's list.
The setting is a grim near-future England, after some kind of social collapse. There is mention of floods and aid packages and a Restoration Plan. At first I was wary of the historical infodumps, but that settles down into wonderfully evocative writing, from the descriptions of the claustrophobic town to the wild lands of the Lake District.
The plot follows a woman's escape from a town, out into the wilds, and to a legendary commune known as Carhullan. Then it focuses on character, analysing the lives of those Carhullan, and examining what people would do to protect a way of life. It's an intriguing question, and the notion of hiding away on a remote farm seemed initially appealing to me, until it's revealed how hard the life is, and what compromises they have to make.
It is also the story of a charismatic leader, and the ordeals that followers
will go through. Brainwashing or pragmatism or compromise? Plenty of food for thought.
When I finished the book I thought the ending was rushed, but looking back it now seems just right. A different book would have spun another hundred pages of action off the end, but that isn't the story, and I actually think Hall should be applauded for the ending and the focus of the story. I wonder whether there would have been greater pressure for a different ending if the book had been published by one of the usual SF imprints?
Another sign of a good book, I've kept thinking about the story and the issues it raises. A nice novel. Thought provoking and nicely written, with a refreshing non-SF feel to it.
April 11, 2008
April 10, 2008
That's a bit of a third-hand rumour!
I'm not sure the continuing story of Jericho is much interest to me, it will, presumably, be all about reuniting the United States? It could work, if the focus remained on the post nuclear apocalypse aspects, but I have a feeling that the temptation to do more high-octane thriller plots like season two would be irresistable.
April 9, 2008
Amazon are running a buy two get one free offer on Blu-ray discs.
SF films in the offer include:
- Blade Runner
- Pan's Labyrinth
- The Fifth Element
- Hollow Man
- Dawn Of The Dead
- Day Of The Dead
- Resident Evil: Apocalypse
I'll get a Blu-ray player one day, after HD TV's produce CRT equivalent quality for broadcast TV.
Might be a while.
Disney and Pixar have announced their film line-up for the next four years.
WALL*E - June 2008
Bolt - November 2008
Up - May 2009
The Princess and the Frog - Christmas 2009
Toy Story (3D) - October 2009
Toy Story 2 (3D) - February 2010
Toy Story 3 - June 2010
Rapunzel - Christmas 2010
Newt - summer 2011
The Bear and the Bow - Christmas 2011
Cars 2 - summer 2012
King of Elves - Christmas 2012
All of the films except WALL*E and The Princess and the Frog will be available in 3D. Don your glasses and be prepared to scream and shout at stuff coming out of the screen at you. The first two (great) Toy Story films should be particularly cool in 3D.
SF Signal have an excellent interview with Dr. Michio Kaku. He's the guy who speculates about the future, recently seen on the BBC4 series Visions Of The Future. I've read his book Visions which does a nice job of explaining some tricky science.
I like the fact that the SF Signal crew got in a question about Mundane SF, made me smile, and I liked Kaku's answer:
MK: Science fiction based on just believable technology is fine, since it forces us to conjure up strange and unusual circumstances involving mundane forms of technology. In this sense, it is more realistic than science fiction based on fantastic technologies.
However, personally, I like to dream, especially of technologies which stretch the imagination and probe the boundaries of what is possible.
His optimism is infectious,
I have to disagree somewhat with his comments about Einstein's theories however:
Thus, his theory is full of pictures, such as rockets, trains, elevators, even merry-go-rounds, that children can understand.
When I was learning Special Relativity my tutor gave me some great advice, "Don't think about it, just learn the maths, otherwise it will fry your brain." :-)
April 8, 2008
I'm not exactly sure what to make of this:
Despite trying to sell Battlestar Galactica as grim, gritty drama for everybody, and at every chance denying it is Science Fiction in an attempt to gain more audience, the women in the show seem to do scantily clad photo shoots at the drop of a hat.
I personally don't mind, but isn't that a mixed message?
Via io9, of course.
Pete from The Builder's Studio has some cool SF stuff on his Etsy shop
"...lately I have been specializing in retro tech, scifi stuff, robots, ray guns, flying saucers and the like, mostly made from wood!"
Loads of other nice bits there too, very groovy.
April 7, 2008
Bizzarely The Times has copied io9's style and done a Battlestar Galactica versus Doctor Who article:
It's back! The best science-fiction TV series ever created is at last returning for its long awaited fourth series. And so, by a curious coincidence, is Doctor Who.
I think bringing Battlestar Galactica to the attention of the masses is a good thing (if a little late), I think comparing it to Doctor Who in any sensible way is completely pointless.
Doctor Who is designed as a family show, for kids and their dads to watch together. It is fun, it is sometimes silly, it now and then has wonderful SF espisodes. BSG is a gritty, adult drama, with great acting, which is at times tiresome and never really lived up to its potential (although please prove me wrong with season4).
The UK SF Book News Network has had a redesign, which of course doesn't affect me because I read the feed, but I had a peek to be polite. It looks nice.
Darren (née Ariel) is now of course working for Orbit, who seem to be the most progressive of all the UK SFF imprints. Small request to Orbit, can the Orbit Tweeter feed do something else other than summarise the blog? Extra content required please.
There seems to be a bout of redesigns recently, seemingly inspired by everyone upgrading to Wordpress 2.5 (with varying amounts of success). Paul has also redesigned Velcro City Tourist Board recently too. I'm getting itchy css fingers...must resist, must resist.
There's something very easy to forget about the new Doctor Who once the series has ended, and you cast a critical eye back over all thirteen episodes: it's tremendous fun.
The first episode of a new series always seems to bring that back home in full force, reminding us what we've been missing and reinvigorating our faith. Partners In Crime was that perfect series opener.
April 4, 2008
The H-Bomb Girl by Stephen Baxter (UK / US) is probably a Young Adult (YA) novel. I say probably, because the YA label is vague and subject to change, just like any genre label. However the marketing clues are there, it's published by Faber and Faber rather than one of the usual suspect genre imprints (although of course The Carhullan Army, another Clarke short listed novel is published by Faber and Faber too), and the artwork is bright, pink and quite groovy, but definitely not a stereotypical SF cover (although it does have a quote on the front by Paul Cornell saying that if you like Doctor Who, you'll like this). Inside, and the novel itself provide more pointers towards being YA, with the main protagonist being a teenage girl. However, this novel is most definitely SF. (This is the second Clarke 2008 shortlisted book where I have felt the need to say that, which says either a lot about the Clarke, or a lot about the current SF scene.)
The story follows a young girl, Laura, who has moved to Liverpool from the south of England in 1962, around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Laura is stuck amidst a turbulent household, her parents are separating, her father is in the RAF, her mother longs for the good old days of the war and has an American military man, an old flame, as a lodger.
Baxter grew up not far from Liverpool and obviously has a lot of passion for the place. I can't personally attest to the accuracy of the period details, it being before my time, but it feels like all those stories your hear about the early swinging sixties. The book also captures the dread of living under the threat of nuclear extinction, something which is said to have seemed perilously close during that crisis.
The pace of the novel is fairly slow at the outset, much of the story dealing with Laura coping with being a newcomer in Liverpool, but it's a nice read. There are mysteries dotted around slowly, and eventually the plot builds to quite a head with intrigue and twists. Personally the plot twists didn't come as too much of a surprise, given the generous signposts, but for readers unused to SF they may come as a shock. It's an entertaining plot, and there's nothing really wrong with it, but at the same time I can't say it's brilliant, it's just good. That is, all bar one short section of the book, which deals with a Threads-esque aftermath of a nuclear war. Those few pages are brilliant. And I have to agree with what Roz Kaveney said at Eastercon, nothing else in the book lives up to that section.
So if you ignore the YA aspect, which I guess will win some readers hearts (and maybe those will be new SF readers), it is a decent SF tale with a spectacular splash of post-apocalyptic horror. I'm slightly surprised it made the Clarke shortlist, but it's worth reading.
April 3, 2008
Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright have confirmed that they will make a film called The World's End.
Asked by the Guardian if it suggested a sci-fi/doomsday theme, Wright said: "It's kind of going in that direction."
Which could mean anything. But please, please, make it SF, and cool, and funny (proper funny, not just taking the piss).
The Hyperion Cantos includes four individual books in total: Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, The Rise of Endymion (published from 1989 to 1997). The first book, Hyperion, won the Hugo Award for best novel in 1990 and the second, The Fall of Hyperion, was nominated for a Nebula Award for best novel.
I haven't read any Dan Simmons, but Hyperion is of course on my to-read list, being a Hugo winner.
Thanks to Sam for the link.
I'd just always assumed that was the case. Urban metal knowledge. Would four Brummie lads in 1970 have easy access to Marvel comics? Maybe it's just me, but I've never really heard much about Iron Man, isn't he just some minor Marvel character? Is it a UK / US thing? Or is it because I'm ignorant of Marvel comics? I think the upcoming movie will probably pass me by.
April 2, 2008
Via SFSignal I found out about the new Amazon Science Fiction store, Cosmotopia, which is, well, interesting. There's very little mention of books anywhere, and seems to be mainly an exercise in marketing SF DVD's. Oh well.
Also a talking point, the Sci-Fi Spectograph. I like the idea of a continuum between "crowd pleasers" and "geeky classics" but I think their classification is a bit off (or maybe it's just impossible?). Surely Tron is a geeky classic and Red Dwarf is a crowd pleaser? Something to argue about if you have nothing better to do.
As predicted the Doctor Who PR juggernaut is in full effect on the BBC, with Russell T Davies on Breakfast and David Tennant and Catherine Tate on Radio 1.
The most interesting piece of information was that Tennant has not had to decide whether he will be in the 2010 series, although he will be in the three specials to be shown in 2009. He didn't give any hint of which way he is thinking at the moment, just that he "mercifully" didn't have to decide yet.
Also, episodes 8, 9 and 10 are, according to Tennant, the scariest. And RTD is not impressed with the 6.20pm timeslot. PR disguised as news here.
Oh, and I made the Ben Kingsley thing up. April Fool! etc etc Although the BBC News site suggests he is a rumoured candidate to be The Doctor, along with erm... David Bowie.
April 1, 2008
Oh wait, he said books. I'm okay.
This seems like a good time to talk about the "Everyone's A Critic" panel at Eastercon, seeing as a rash of "what's a review?" posts have broken out over a few blogs. I hear it's contagious and reoccurring. Cheryl has a sensible post about it and there are comments aplenty on Torque Control.
I enjoyed the panel, it at times felt like bloggers vs. the establishment, in a fun way, and strayed onto a conversation about authors and reviewers and the shenanigans resulting from the collision of the two.
The assumption made by some of the panel was that a review on a blog tries to aspire to being a "proper" review, that there is some serious intention behind it. I don't think this is necessarily true. Someone from the audience said that their blog was just a substitute for talking down the pub, and I like that idea. I'm just chatting away to the interweb, and some people read. I probably wouldn't expect or want this style from a "proper" magazine. It's all about trust I think, or maybe brand. Some places are trusted for serious, impartial reviews, other blogs are read because the blogger spouts torrents of rage, other blogs are read because they feel like reading a friends diary. Fortunately we have the choice these days.
The question also arose as to why bloggers would rather blog than write reviews for other publications. Andrew Drucker summed it up for me, (paraphrase) "that would be work". Made me laugh, but it's also true, blogging is something I do for fun, in between the other stuff I have to do. I have no doubt that working with an editor such as Paul or Niall would help me write better reviews, but for the moment at least, I'm not worried about that. I'm concentrating on trying to write better fiction, not better reviews.
Having said all that, it's my blog and I'll change my mind if I want to. I have control, as I said at the panel. If I feel like taking a few hours to write a serious review I could (or could try), if I want to write a one word review, I can. (Argue the definition of review elsewhere...) But I'll probably just write a few paragraphs about what I liked and didn't like about the book, in a more or less, stream of consciousness, talking down the pub style. Then post a Doctor Who rumour.
Variety have more or less confirmed that Ben Kingsley will appear in the 2008 series of Doctor Who as Davros, creator of the Daleks. The articles is behind a paywall, but it says that Kingsley has "confirmed that he will play an evil genius" in the new series.
How many evil genius Doctor Who villains are left? The Master is gone. Surely that leaves just Davros! Russel T Davies has avoided the questions so far, but said that he had a gameplan for the show.