June 2008 Archives

June 30, 2008

This Is How I Imagined The Drowned World

 

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More at Dezeen

Doctor Who - The Stolen Earth

Doctor Who and the WHAT?! REALLY?!

I though I had this series all figured out, there was only one big villain yet to make an appearance in Nu Who. It was so obvious. The pre-series hype was about The Sontarens, sort of leaked, made a big deal of, and clearly a smokescreen for Davros (and this was purely from the inevitable logic of who was next). Then Rose appeared, which was a big secret, so The Sontarens were actually a diversion from Rose, who was a diversion from Davros. Then it was leaked that all the companions would be returning, so Rose was a smokescreen for all of them or something, I'm getting lost now.

And then....

Big Spoiler. Don't read it if you haven't seen it.

 

Continue reading Doctor Who - The Stolen Earth.

June 26, 2008

Post 1991 SciFi Classics?

John Scalzi is asking What Are the New SciFi Classics? over at SciFi Scanner. ie. post 1991 SF films, that are classics. His suggestions are:

  • The Matrix
  • Ghost in the Shell
  • The Incredibles
  • 12 Monkeys
  • Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

Which sounds like a good list, although I still haven't seen Ghost In The Shell or 12 Monkeys.

The only obvious film I can think of that is missing and should be in there at the expense of another is Primer, which is, as you may know, mind-blowingly awesome.

The Definition Of Science fiction

Jonathan McCalmont's latest Futurismic column (Blasphemous Geometries) is online and entitled How to define a genre … and why not to bother...

Scientists have proved that 86.4% of all arguments in genre boil down to disagreements over what does and does not fit within a particular genre or subgenre.

Excellent stuff. Personally I definitely prefer saying "this is what I call Science Fiction" rather than the tick-list definition approach.

June 25, 2008

Fancy Participating At Worldcon 2009?

The 67th World Science Fiction Convention, known as Anticipation, will
take place in Montréal, Québec, Canada from Thursday, August 6th
to Monday, August 10th, 2009.

Their programme participant application is now online, so fill it in if you fancy taking part in a panel etc.

Ask Banksie A Question

Fancy asking Iain Banks a question?

In a few weeks’ time, the one and only Iain [M] Banks will be participating in an email QandA session, which will be conducted via the official Iain Banks website at www.iain-banks.net.

All the details are on www.orbitbooks.net

Send your best question (just one per correspondent, please), by email, to orbit@littlebrown.co.uk, with the subject line ‘Iain [M] Banks QandA Suggestion’. The deadline for submissions for this first session is July 9th.

At Alt.Fiction last year I saw him speak and asked him what advice he had for new writers. Apart from the usual "write lots" he also said that there's no such thing as a perfect novel. In other words, finish it, edit it, but eventually let it go, and write something else.

June 24, 2008

Clone Wars Wii Trailer

Woah. I want it now.

On The Beach - Nevil Shute

On the Beach by Nevil Shute (UK / US) is one of the strangest and most depressing books that I have ever read. To understand why I make that statement I will have to talk not only about the plot but also the very end of the book. Take that as a spoiler warning.

The first thing that struck me is that the language in the book seems very old fashioned, and a bit stilted in places, having not read any other books by Nevil Shute I can't ascertain whether this is a deliberate attempt to invoke the age of the story, or the author's style. (The book was first published in 1957).

The story follows a handful of characters living in Melbourne , Australia, after a nuclear war. The Northern hemisphere has been decimated, and the Southern hemisphere tries to survive. However it is gradually revealed that the fallout has crossed the equator and is moving south in a final cloud of destruction.

It's not only the language which is stilted at times but also the characters actions. This, I'm fairly certain is deliberate, and conjures up images of "stiff-upper-lip" and extreme naivety. The characters carry on their every-day lives, either ignoring the impending doom by not believing it, or casually dismissing their inevitable demise by saying things like "we've only got a few months".

I thought the plot was going to take off at one point when a submarine is sent on a mission, up the coast of the USA. But no, because there is no escape, no hope, nowhere to run. Instead the plot just plods relentlessly towards the apocalypse.

What I found unbelievable was the apparent lack of chaos in the remaining cities. There are mentions of drunk people in the streets, but it's all glossed over, as if the worst that people would do is drink themselves towards the oblivion. It's a very optimistic view of humanity. Maybe it's correct? Even when the end is ever nearer people take their own lives in a dignified manner, choosing it almost matter-of-factly as the best choice. A farmer worries what will happen to his cows when he dies. A submarine commander feels he should go down with his ship. A sailor jumps ship to spend his days fishing, despite dangerous radiation. People go Salmon fishing in the mountains. Someone restores an old racing car. And so on.

The only horror is very near the end when the family we have been following become ill, baby included. And then there is disbelief, and grief and worry. And agonising over whether to take the baby's life. By this time I had become used to the language and the flow, and the horror cut through the disaffectedness very acutely.

And then everyone dies. Everyone.

It's a depressing sermon on the horror of nuclear weapons. It's the exact opposite of Alas Babylon. There's no hope, and because of this I didn't really enjoy the book. But I can appreciate it. I can't even imagine the impact it would have had if read on the year of it's publication, in the early years of the cold war, when destruction loomed at the press of a button.

Worth reading, but do it on a sunny day with your favourite things to hand.

June 23, 2008

2008 Locus Awards winners

The 2008 Locus Awards winners have been announced, with Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union taking best SF Novel.

Postscripts #15 table of contents

Issue 15 of Postscripts (by PS Publishing) has a rather amazing line-up. Here's the full list and a here's a quick, personal list of authors with stories in the issue that make me go "oooh":

Keith Brooke, Ray Bradbury, Brian Stableford, Eric Brown, James Lovegrove, Stephen Baxter, Paul Di Filippo, Jay Lake, Ian Mcdonald, Justina Robson  and loads of Paul McAuley.

Plus a guest editorial by some bloke called Sir Arthur C. Clarke.

As someone who has tended to see Postscripts as more Fantasy than SF, this issue seems like the perfect rebuttal.

Doctor Who - Turn Left

Cunning. I was wondering where the "double banker" episode was this series, and it turns out that Midnight and Turn Left are the combined "double banker", with The Doctor and Donna absent in each one, in turn.

The episode was one of those enjoyable whilst it lasted affairs, but at the end left me thinking, "oh".

It's quite clever, in a fanboyish way, but it tried a bit too hard. There were strong echoes of Martha walking the Earth under the control of The Master. It's like RTD really wants to do a serious apocalyptic episode (or two) but is conscious that he has to hit the reset button at the end. Which is a shame. The work-camp mention seemed particularly strained, a weak shorthand to illustrate the state of the country, a bit "don't kill the dog" in writing terms.

It was nice to see Rose back too, although she seems to be speaking all weird. Maybe it's a parallel universe thing.

Donna was good. As was Bernard Cribbins in a jolly, Wombley sort of way.

Temporary fun. Left wanting more.

BUT. And yes it's a capital BUT.

Are they really going to squeeze Davros into one two episodes? Seems like a waste. Please continue into the 2009 specials.

June 20, 2008

Bille Piper Interview

In the build up to the first part of the Doctor Who finale tomorrow, the BBC have part one of a video interview with Billie Piper, which is only available in the UK.

No spoilers (bar the obvious one), and no rumours.

A Top 30 List Of Lost Moments That Captures Why I Love It So Much

 

Apropos Of Something has The Top 30 “WTF?!” Moments in LOST History

Which quite neatly captures the essence of Lost that I love so much. My favourite?

#21: The Losties open the Hatch…and find a Scottish guy living inside

Lost in a word? Bonkers.

[Via io9 ]

The 10 Best Lightsaber Mash Ups

Talking of lightsabers, here's The 10 Best Lightsaber Mash Ups.

Via Gareth

Star Wars: The Clone Wars + WiiMote == Destiny

Star Wars: The Clone Wars sounds like my ideal game, a Star Wars, lightsaber fighting game, designed from the ground up for the Wii. Ooooh. It's based on the upcoming CGI series, Clone Wars.

IGN has some accessible screenshots, Lucasarts seem intent on making theirs difficult to link to.

 

Star Wars: The Clone Wars -- Lightsaber Duels Screenshot

June 19, 2008

Top 10 SF Are Actually Good SHOCK!

Via SF Signal here's the American Film Institute's Top 10 Science-Fiction Films

  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  2. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)
  3. E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
  4. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  5. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
  6. Blade Runner (1982)
  7. Alien (1979)
  8. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
  10. Back to the Future (1985)

Not really a lot to complain about there. A top ten list with no controversy, how very controversial.

June 18, 2008

Fruitless Recursion, A New SF Journal

Jonathan McCalmont has launched a new website called Fruitless Recursion:

Fruitless Recursion is an online journal devoted to discussing works of criticism and non-fiction relating to the SF, Fantasy and Horror genres. It will cover biographies, substantial works of critical theory, collections of reviews as well as any interviews, profiles or examinations of any other works that are deemed to be fitting.

Issue 0 is online now, with a review of Paul Kincaid's collection What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction, and a review of Joanna Russ's collection The Country You Have Never Seen.

If you write reviews you should also note that it's a paying market:

Fruitless Recursion is first and foremost interested in reviews and critical reactions to works of criticism and non-fiction relating to the SF, Fantasy and Horror genres.  These can include biographies, works of critical theory, collections of interviews or overviews of other critical journals.

The Broken World - Tim Etchells

The Broken World by Tim Etchells (UK / US), is written as a video-game "walkthrough", which is someone describing how you can find you way through a game, past the challenges, how to complete the levels etc. It's written first person, and blog-style, the novel is a blog, the scenes are short and blog-post like, the language slang and sweary, the typography flicking to CAPITALS randomly because of a sticky CAPSLOCK key.

At first I wondered, why I should care about a videogame I'll never play? Why should I follow the path through First Town and want to know how to beat the zombies? But the writing is easy to read and swallowed me in, the narrator is likeable, if not a little stupid and obsessed, but I was willing to go easy on him and see where it went. Slowly more personal details are slipped into the blog. Until suddenly and quite unexpectedly you care about the narrator. It's similar in some ways to Microserfs in which an accumulation of what initially appear minor details builds up and up and suddenly they are more than the sum of their parts and you care about the characters. In fact the writing in general reminded me a lot of Douglas Coupland, and The Broken World is the book that I wanted JPod to be.

The narrator is undoubtedly a slacker, and quite stupid at times. I knew that his girlfriend was getting fed up, even when he didn't. But his (the narrator's) focus is on the game, The Broken World, which is an all encompassing marvel of a world. And this is where the book stands out as different to others of the genre, because not only do we have a story of the the narrator, but we have the in-game story, the story of our heroes Ray and Rachel. And The Broken World itself, an entire creation, with it's wonderful crazy, varied levels and impossible interaction. Except maybe it's not impossible, because at times I wasn't sure if the game allowed you to do seemingly impossible things or whether the player was imagining them, projecting their actions and emotions.

The journey through the game also mirrors the narrator's journey. There are times when he makes comments about the game, that are clearly representitive of the real world too, although he doesn't see it, for example that the game is cruel and unfair, or random. There's an ongoing analogy, or mirror, between reality and the game, obvious to the reader, but not the narrator.

There are levels on the game that sounded so wonderful I want to play them, particularily The Empty Level. The descriptions and passions are infectious. There's Science Fiction and Fantasy and Horror and a cinematic story that reminds me of the first time I played a game with a cut-scene, and the astonishing realisation that I was playing a story. The Broken World is a story about someone playing a story.

I devoured the book rapidly, one of those I carried around with me, just in case I got five minutes, and by the end I cared about the characters a lot, both the real ones and the game's ones.

Wonderful stuff.

If you're looking for full-on SF, this isn't it, but if you want a character driven story entwined with a crazy SF/Fantasy videogame, then you're in luck! I highly recommend it.


Firefox 3 And Robots

Firefox 3 has, included, out of the box, everything you need to know about Robots.

Follow the link:

Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!

This only works with Firefox 3. So you might need to get it.

Get Firefox with Google Toolbar

June 17, 2008

Massive Doctor Who Spoiler For The End Of Season 4

If you don't want to see a huge spoiler for Doctor Who, close your eyes!

 

 

Spoilers ahead....

 

 

Continue reading Massive Doctor Who Spoiler For The End Of Season 4.

Tobias Buckell To Write Next Halo Novel

Bungie.net has the news that Tobias Buckell is to write the next Halo novel:

Halo: The Cole Protocol will be the sixth novel set in the Halo Universe. Tobias S. Buckell, author of Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin will pen the novel, which reveals the location of the Spartan Gray Team and "takes readers into an unexplored conflict of the Human-Covenant War where unlikely alliances are formed and shattered..."

Via Twitter, and expanded upon in his blog.

June 16, 2008

Crazy Jericho Fans Pay For TV Ad

I don't quite see the point, but a group of Jericho fans are running a Save Jericho Again campaign.

The group paid for the advertising time through a fund-raising campaign which generated more than $6,000 in three weeks.

Personally I loved the first series and thought the second series was interesting but flawed. But if it's finished, it's finished. Surely?

Strange Horizons Reviews Torchwood Season Two

Strange Horizons reviews Torchwood, season two, and made me laugh:

So imagine that you're a TV show. You're having a nice evening with your other half, you've enjoyed a good meal and some fine wine, and now things are getting a little more... intimate. When the phone rings at some crucial moment, what do you do? You do nothing, because you've got no friends and there's no woman stupid enough to be left alone with you—everyone's worked out that all you do is talk about your pain like it's big and impressive. So you sit there, hope for renewal, and wonder where it all went so wrong. Because you're Torchwood.

Doctor Who - Midnight

(Above: shouty woman and David Brent look-a-like)

 

If you'd ask me to guess who wrote this episode, Midnight,  I would never have guessed that it was Russell T Davies. But RTD, shiny new medal (almost) in hand, clearly has eyes on life after Nu Who and so has written an episode that could have been an afternoon play on Radio 4 (not that I'd know).

And to confirm my radio play chain of thought this weeks behind the scenes Doctor Who Confidential episode concentrated on the sound engineers.

It was an interesting episode, but highly annoying. Lots of people angrily shouting at each other in a Crucible style witch-hunt is not really my idea of fun.

Yeah the Doctor was scared, yeah the monster was unseen, yeah a million school kids are going to be irritating each other immensely today by copying each other repeatedly, but... it's just one of those episodes I won't want to watch again.

I was at least expecting some lead in to next week, Instead the might of Davros is going to be squeezed into just two episodes.

And of course, there was just not enough running along corridors.

June 13, 2008

BSFA AGM: Mundane Is Just A Game

Geoff Ryman at the BSFA AGM

Geoff Ryman read from an upcoming novelette and interspersed it with comments about the technology he used and the choices made. The story is due to be published in an upcoming issue of F&SF, he wrote it for the Interzone Mundane issue but it was too long.

The things he said about Mundane Science Fiction make all the arguments about it seem a bit silly. He said that Mundane SF is a game that you choose to play, and you may only choose to play it once. Also that magic wands are a necessary impurity in stories, but that we should try and avoid habitual magic wands and habitual (communal) futures. And that Science Fiction is difficult to write and Mundaneity makes it even harder.

He also talked about dreams, as in, a writer's dream or a reader's dream, the ideas that drive SF eg. utopia etc. Dreams give the story structure. And that other people's dreams can be embarrassing. (I can't quite sum-up concisely the essence of this!)

It was an interesting insight into the writing process, and provided some ideas to mull.

Talking to Geoff after, in the pub, he suggested that a Creative Writing MA would help my writing a lot. Which I don't doubt, but is probably unlikely...

Page 123, Fifth Sentence

Paul tagged me with a meme, and it's fun, so I'm doing it.

The instructions:

“To participate, you grab any book, go to page 123, find the fifth sentence, and blog it. Then tag five people.”

Here's the non-fiction entry:

If |ψ> and |ψ'> are normalized. then an arbitrary linear combination, α|ψ> + β|ψ'>, is not.

It's from Principles Of Quantum Mechanics by Ramamurti Shankar. Which is big and has a red cover and contains stuff I have forgotten and has an author I cannot stop calling Ravi Shankar.

It's not quite as good as this though:

Unfortunately, most do not.

A quote from The C++ Programming Language (Third Edition) by Bjarne Stroustrup. A classic.

Fictionwise I'd have reached for Snow Crash, if Paul had not already done that. So instead I reached for Neuromancer, but guess what? Page 123 is a title page:

PART THREE

Midnight in the Rue Jules Verne

Not a sentence in sight. Hmm. So how about:

I was the only adult there, an unusual situation that neither Doris nor I would have wanted, I'm sure.

Which really doesn't make Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson sound very appealing does it? (It is in fact, wonderful.) I have a feeling that this game is better with non-fiction books.

I tag everyone at SFSignal (if they haven't already done it).

June 12, 2008

Star Wars: The Clone Wars New Trailer

Oooh, I like the new Clone Wars trailer:

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

UPDATE

Well, the trailer I embedded didn't stay on Vimeo long and anyway it had French subtitles!

Best just to go to the Star Wars site and watch it.

BSFA AGM Summary

I'm only just getting around to posting about the BSFA AGM because it actually gave me quite a bit to think about.

Had a great day. Good to see lots of people I only normally converse with electronically. Nice discussions.

And CAKE! (Niall's photo)

I'm going to go into detail in further posts as I think keeping the focus might be worthwhile.

Sean Williams on Saturn Returns

Orbit are running a series of posts where author's describe their own books, including Sean Williams on Saturn Returns:

Saturn Returns is a complicated psychological piece (with lots of explosions)

...and...

(The third book is, naturally, a car-chase.)

Ha.

Neil Gaiman To Write Doctor Who Episode Rumour

Via Comic Book Resources

I understand that Neil Gaiman has been approached to write for the popular TV series "Doctor Who," for broadcast in 2010.

And that's it!

Watch Neil's blog for any comment.

June 11, 2008

Heroes Season 3 Simultaneously Broadcast In US And UK

Well, using an elastic definition of simultaneously probably, but that's still very nice.

According to a speech given at the Banff World Television Festival by Jana Bennett, director of BBC Vision, the BBC will be airing the third season of Heroes simultaneously with it broadcast on NBC in the States.

Is that the first time the BBC have done that? What other shows have been shown the same time in the UK and the US on the BBC?

Via SFX

Strange Horizons 2008 Fund Drive

Every year Strange Horizons has a fund drive. Why? Direct from the site...

...we depend on your help to keep our magazine going. All of our staff members contribute their time and energy for free, but our authors and artists do get paid. We are committed to paying professional rates for high-quality fiction, poetry, art, and nonfiction. In this fund drive, we're hoping to raise $6000, which is about one-third of our annual budget. We are hoping that you, Dear Reader, will help us reach that goal.

Go to their Strange Horizons 2008 Fund Drive page to donate some cash.

Official Doctor Who FAQ Updated

The Official Doctor Who site has updated it's FAQ which has loads of categories (including jobs!) and has answers to such questions as:

Is Russell T Davies leaving the show?

Yes, Russell will be overseeing the Doctor Who specials in 2009 and will be replaced by series writer Steven Moffat for Series Five.

Will Freema Agyman return?

Yes, she is set to appear again later in Series Four.

Will Billie Piper Return?

Yes, she is set to appear later in Series Four.

Which you probably knew anyway.

And answers to such questions as this:

Are the Time Lords really dead?

The Doctor is the last of the Time Lords. We've no details of any other survivors, including Susan, The Rani, Romana or Chancellor Flavia. Please don't email us about this.

STOP EMAILING THEM! OKAY?

June 9, 2008

David Tennant Dodges Will He Stay Question

Joe @ The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log has the details of David Tennant's appearance on Andrew Marr's very serious political Sunday monring show. I'm going to just paste the conversation (with minor edits) as Joe typed it (thanks!) because it made me laugh a lot...

Andrew Marr : “Everybody who’s heard that you’re coming on has asked me to ask you the same question.”

David Tennant : “What’s that?”

AM : “Are you going to do another series?”

DT : “Yes, well… I’ve not really been asked yet…,”

AM : “I think it’s a reasonable guess that you will be asked,”

DT: “Well then, if and when I’m asked I’ll consider the question…”

Ho, ho. Watch the video here.

Charles Stross Interview In The Guardian

Today's Guardian has a decent length interview with Charles Stross:

"Many science fiction writers are literary autodidacts who focus on the genre primarily as a literature of ideas, rather than as a pure art form or a tool for the introspective examination of the human condition," he says. "I'm not entirely at ease with that self-description."

With a smiling Jobsian picture too.

Doctor Who - Silence In The Library & Forest Of The Dead

I've been trying to figure out what makes Steven Moffat's Doctor Who episodes better than the average, because yet again these were much better than the usual Nu Who episodes. Maybe not as brilliant as Blink, but still highly enjoyable with some great moments. It's tempting to say that Moffat is just a "better writer", but what does that actually mean? Why did I like these episodes more than others this series?

I think it's because he uses lots of ideas, not just the usual (high) core concept and a monster, but lots of others thrown in. To list them:

  • The library world. This is the core concept.
  • The shadow monsters (no, I'm not going to try and spell their name. This is the monster concept, and a good one, scary flesh eating shadows!

- for a standard episode, this is where it would stop, but these episodes also have -

  • The "ghosting idea" of souls getting trapped in the technology. This would be an episode on its own for other episodes. It's not exactly believable but provides the tongue-in-cheek repeated phrase scariness, and a touching moment when someone realises they are dead.
  • The virtual world idea, complete with Matrix hat-tip.
  • The Time Travellers Wife person from the future. Moffat, appears to be the only writer happy to play with time travel, which is weird considering it's what the show is about!
  • The faces of the dead as help files idea.

The extra ideas add an extra believable dense-ness to the episode which is very satisfying.

The Time Traveller's Wife, River Song, has already spawned a million forum threads and blog posts guessing her identity. Personally I hope she is just what she appears to be, a companion from the future. In Doctor Who Confidential, Steven Moffat said the idea was to be nostalgiac about the future, and that usually people say "it's not as good as it used to be", whereas he wanted to say "the best is yet to come" (paraphrase), he even said "as a person with an investment in the future of Doctor Who" or words to that effect.

Also seemingly unusual is that Moffat did something different with the second episode in the story. In most two parters so far the second episode is often no more than an extended ending / chase scene. In Forest Of The Dead a whole new story spins off, of Donna as Neo, living life in a virtual world. Obviously not a new idea, but nicely executed.

Plus (as if we needed any thing else!) there were a few moments of David Tennant doing full-on serious acting, and letting the quirky Doctor's mask slip. I particularly like the "I'm The Doctor, look me up" line and scene, and his decision about whether to read about his future.

I can even forgive my questions as to how all the people saved by the computer were turned instantly back into real human matter. Instant, quick grow clones? I don't care. I can forgive the fan-taunting repetition of the word "spoilers". I can even forgive the virtually happy ever after ending. Because I liked the whole thing. A lot.

One of the few episodes this season that is not just a thrill ride at the time, but is also a thrill ride thinking about after the event.

You can, as I type, still watch the second episode on the iPlayer.

A Floppy Drive Plays The Star Wars Imperial March

Via Hackszine.com

Because it can be done.

Allan Steele's New Coyote Website

Allan Steele emailed to say that he has a new website for his Coyote series of novels, www.coyoteseries.com. The site includes video, a podcast, a short story, background material to the novels, a forum, artwork and more.

I've never read anything by Allan Steele (I seem to say that endlessly and the list gets longer instead of shorter...), which is clearly wrong because he is a Hugo winner (1996 for Best Novella) and I'm trying to read every Hugo winner...ever. Eventually. Anyway, I can't comment on how intriguing the material is for a fan, but there are some summaries for new readers to try and tempt you.

I also want to comment on the covers of the books (seen at the bottom of the front page). Here are two examples:

 

Immediately I guessed that the top row (left above) were the US covers and the bottom row (right above) were the UK versions. And I was right, the versions I'm not keen on are the Ace editions, the versions I think are quite groovy are the Orbit editions. Which proves that at least one side of the marketing machine is doing a good job.

June 6, 2008

Michael Chabon On Literary Distinctions

The TLS and Michael Chabon sum it up better than me...

Munificent artists can’t be contained within the arbitrary distinctions between literature and genre, the “serious” and the “entertaining”. Chabon doesn’t need to reach for his gun to dispatch such distinctions. He simply redefines them: “All literature, highbrow or low, from the Aeneid onward, is fan fiction”.

Science Fiction And Literature (Yet Again)

If you are not bored of the never ending SF vs Literature debate Jake Seliger has an essay on the subject. He begins:

Why does so little science fiction rise to the standards of literary fiction?

...and continues...

...the more science fiction I read, the more I realize so much of it just doesn’t have the skill in narrative, detail, character, sympathy and complexity, language, and dialog that readers of literary fiction demand. I still like a lot of science fiction, but most of it now causes me to roll my eyes and skip pages: characters have no life, the books have no lifeness, clichés abound, and strong setups devolve into variations on cowboys and indians.

He uses Day Of The Triffids as an example of not great literature. Well, yes. That's not exactly a surprise though is it?! But there's as many crap "Literary Novels" as there are SF novels. And there are plenty of SF novels that can be considered "literary". If you're short of ideas may I suggest reading all of the Clarke Award shortlists as a start.

Something I tend to agree with more is the discussion about SF novels and length and series. Jake says:

...one came from an agent who said he found the idea intriguing but that science fiction novels must be at least 100,000 words long and have sequels already started.

Most modern SF is around that length (or much longer), yet there's loads of great classic SF that's plenty shorter. But as usual I can find exceptions both The Road and The Carhullan Army are (excellent) modern SF novels which are surely shorter than 100,000 words (just looking at their thickness on my shelf).

As regards sequels, they generally annoy me unless the whole story is envisaged as a finite multi-book arc - in other words one story published as many books ala The Baroque Cycle. Yet there are exceptions to that too, The Culture, and The Sprawl series to name just two.

And in the end, it's a business, and the publishers decide what they want, going on what they think sells.

It's easier just to give up on generalisations, because a good novel is a good novel, no matter how many words, or what genre, or how much it sells .

The Mirrored Heavens Site


David J. Williams' The Mirrored Heavens has a great web site to accompany the novel. I guess that a decent web site is somewhat expected these days (and this is the second site I've blogged about today), but I'd like to mention The Mirrored Heavens particularly for it's great artwork and submersive qualities (want to see a picture of a Mark VII particle beam cannon/standard mounting-sat?!). I can't find a mention of who the artist(s) are on the site, but I like it.

I haven't read the book yet, but it's now on my reading list.

David also has a blog on the site.

The Gone Away World Site Live

The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway (which I'm currently reading) has a new website. It's one of those flash sites where you spend ages clicking on things to see what happens. You'll either love it or hate it, depending on whether you are a hardened veteran of the html+css wars.

Personally I think it's quite funky, especially the recipe for Flapjacks.

BSFA/SFF Joint AGM

Just reiterating this in case anyone here doesn't read Torque Control, tomorrow is the BSFA/SFF joint AGM in London. Here's the schedule:

1000 Doors Open
1030 Opening, then Guest - Geoff Ryman
1130 Panel: The BSFA - Historical Footnote or Force for the Future?
1230 SFF AGM
1300 Lunch break
1400 BSFA AGM
1430 Guest - Peter Weston
1530 Break
1545 Panel: Fan Media in the Dock - the legal status of fan art and fiction.
1645 Close
1700 Pub

The venue is Conway Hall.

And the cool thing? It's free. The other cool thing? Apart from the AGMs it's open to all.

I'm going, come and say hello.

Atomic Tarantula, Amazing SF T-Shirts

Harry Redlich emailed me to mention their new T-Shirt site, Atomic Tarantula.

I know what you're thinking, yeah, yeah, another T-Shirt site, I have Threadless why do I need anything else. Go and check it out. Trust me. They have very, very cool Science Fiction T-Shirts. Plus the site itself is a groovy, dead simple Flash thingy. And, oh yeah, cool name!

If you want to buy me a present, I'll have any of those except the Star Trek ones (admittedly the Star Trek ones are still cool, but my upbringing leaves me fundamentally opposed to The Trek).

June 5, 2008

Torchwood Back In 2009, Fortunately Just For A Week

Bad news: Torchwood will be back in 2009

Good news: You only have to suffer it for a week.

Torchwood: Less Torchwood, More Often in 2009

June 4, 2008

Captain Britain Everywhere

Yesterday I was reading the Metro (briefly, I was bored) and was slightly amazed to see a paragraph or two about the new Captain Britain comic, written by Paul Cornell and art by Leonard Kirk. Along with Paul Cornell saying something about how he felt sorry for Gordon Brown. What?! I forgot the exact quote because I left the Metro on the bus, like you're supposed to. But fortunately The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log has a nice summary, including a panel and the exact quote. So now I don't have to worry about finding it.

Astropolis Book1 : Saturn Returns - Sean Williams

The full title of this novel is Astropolis Book 1 : Saturn Returns (UK / US). Normally the words Book 1 are enough to make me run away from reading a novel. So the fact that the word Astropolis (the name for the series) is bigger than the words Saturn Returns on the front of the Orbit paperback edition was not necessarily a good omen. But the first few pages seemed interesting, and Sean Williams is one of those writers I've heard of but never read, and I was on holiday, so I dived in.

The story starts with someone waking up with no memory and not knowing where they are. It's not the most original idea, but it's handled nicely, as that person, Imre Bergamasc, is on a crazily remote spaceship run by a hive mind, and the way he got there is pretty unique.

Immediately the mix is apparent - space opera with cool (far)future tech. Just up my street. The main plot follows Imre Bergamasc as he tracks down his old crack team of soldiers, along with trying to figure out what in the galaxy is going on.

What enables the story to cover vast swathes of space and time is a clever and cool idea called Tempo. Enhanced humans can change the Tempo at which they experience time, meaning that they can slow down so that years pass like hours, or speed up - overclocking - so that seconds seem like minutes. It's used to great effect, from fight sequences, to explaining how humans travel vast distances, to explaining how huge overseeing intelligences think, to explaining the survival of Old-Timers. I think Large Canvas is the expression!

The other major idea used is that of multiple copies of a person being possible. These copies may be in separate parts of the galaxy, they may meet up and be absorbed, they may not. It leads to a lot of lovely twisty plot shenanigans, and also touches on the question of what makes a person - experience or DNA? Nature or nurture?

The plot has a good pace, chunks of action, plenty of enigmas and time for the characters to think. There are also some great sensawunda set-pieces. The writing style is pretty good, with the focus on the plot rather than flowery passages that I wanted to reread, in other words it does its job and stays out of the way. I read it quickly and enjoyed it a lot.

Except for one thing. You could have guessed this was coming. The ending. In an interview at the back of the book (which by the way, I'm loving that Orbit paperbacks now include interviews with authors at the back), Sean Williams says that he envisaged Astropolis as "three more or less independent books". For a while I thought that was going to hold up, but at the very end there were several threads that were not resolved to my satisfaction, and presumably will be in Book 2. What's even worse is that I really want to know what happens! Which means I'll have to read it. And then have to read Book 3.

Damn you, series! God damn you all to hell!!

June 3, 2008

Survivors Remake News

The original starred Ian McCulloch, Lucy Fleming and Carolyn Seymour  in SurvivorsSolar Flare has more news of the Survivors Remake From BBC

Survivors is currently filming in Manchester with an intended broadcast in the UK of Autumn 2008 on BBC One.

Sounds like it could be cool. An Apocalyptic TV show is just what I need to compliment my current Apocalyptic reading.

June 2, 2008

Lost, Season 4, Episode 13 + 14

The Lost season 4 finale, parts 2 and 3 of No Place Like Home. Surprisingly it was mostly unsurprising.

Spoilers ahead...


Continue reading Lost, Season 4, Episode 13 + 14.

New Fiction On Futurismic

Futurismic has a new story online VERITAS NOS LIBERABIT by Kristin Janz

June 1, 2008

A Week Is A Long Time In SF - What Happened?

Been on holiday for a week.

I hope the canned reviews and flame-bait list post kept everyone entertained (it appears so from the comments).

Whilst lounging around this week I read Dr. Bloodmoney by Philip K Dick and Saturn's Return by Sean Williams, so reviews of those coming, along with an overdue one of On The Beach by Nevil Shute.

Now, just about to hit "mark all as read" on my feed reader, so anything important happen this week that I should know about?