August 2008 Archives

August 31, 2008

More Dr. Horrible, Without Dr. Horrible



The awesome Dr. Horrible universe may have some new stories told soon, although they may involve the other members of the Evil League Of Evil. I vote for Dead Bowie.

Oh, and when can anyone in the UK actually legally download it? We want to give you money, Joss.

Michael Chabon Interview Excerpt

Locus have posted an excerpt of their interview with Hugo and Nebula winning Michael Chabon. The more I read of his interviews, the more I like him, even though I haven't read a word of his books yet (this will change soon!).

eg.

"I remember reading things which blended genres that way. Isaac Asimov's Lucky Starr novels -- those are detective stories. (I liked them at the time.) And Larry Niven did 'Gil the Arm'. Blade Runner was noir and SF at the same time. So it was far from the case that I thought, 'Oh nobody's ever done this.' There was a tradition and I was fully aware I was drawing on it. I guess for me the new wrinkle (if there was one) was going to be the Jewish subject matter, bringing that in as a kind of key third element.

August 29, 2008

Nick Harkaway On The First Chapter Of The Gone Away World

It's very interesting to see Nick Harkaway's analysis of the first chapter of The Gone Away World.

What I wanted my first pages to tell you was: this is going to be a wild ride! Fasten your seat belt, put on your life jacket, and put your earplugs in. Stick with me, I'm going to show you some great stuff. So starting with Gonzo Lubitsch as a five year old... that just seemed like an awfully big ask. I think that opening says: this here is a serious generational novel, and it's going to take you a while, but you'll be a better person for reading it.

I'm on the - start with chapter two side of the fence.

Groovy Spacey T-Shirt


Failed Launch - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

Groovy.

The Chronicles Of Hollow Earth : The Next Race, Trailer


The Chronicles Of Hollow Earth : The Next Race is a new indie SF film, out on DVD and with a slick Flash web site. It's made by Stewart St. John, who apparently wrote episodes of Power Rangers(!). The trailer shows an interesting look, in a world where humans are ruled by a superior race, the Ghen,  which they created. The human's world is bleak and sparse, the Ghen's world is slick and corporate. Plus there's a a few SFX shots of underground cities.

That's all I know, but I'm always happy to mention indie SF films as they intrigue me: it's a challenge: can they produce a good enough story, and overcome the expectation of trillion dollar special effects, on such a limited budget? It's possible, and can result in absolute classics like Primer, but can also result in dire abominations. 


August 28, 2008

No Heroics, New Comedy Superhero Sitcom On ITV2

No Heroics is a new sitcom to be shown on ITV2 about superheroes. Sounds like a disaster? Watch the trailer, it made me laugh a lot. Plus it has loads of comedy actors that I recognise (but can't remember the names of). 

The official ITV2 site is here and it looks like it starts on 10th September, although I can't find it in the ITV schedules..

The PR blurb says:

No Heroics is a six-part series that sees a group of British off-duty superheroes living their day-to-day life - which for supposed saviours of the world is actually rather normal, as they just can't be arsed. Instead, this group of B-listers would rather get drunk and commiserate their lack of superiority in their local superheroes-only pub, The Fortress, reading New Power Express and bitching about everyone who's more successful than them.

August 27, 2008

Spielberg To Direct, Moffat To Write

That sounds awesome doesn't it? Steven Spielberg to direct the film, Steven Moffat to write the film.

The only problem is that the film is Tin Tin.

Does anyone not in Belgium care?

Via Dave

Sly Mongoose - Tobias Buckell

Sly Mongoose (UK / US) is Tobias Buckell's third novel and is set in the same universe as Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin. Pepper is back as one of the main characters, jumping out of an orbiting spaceship, into the atmosphere and into the action. It's a great opening set-piece and sets the tone for the rest of the novel: plenty of action.

The novel also contains an awesome enemy, zombies! Yes, an alien virus that infects humans and is spread by biting, called The Swarm. Pepper meet zombies, meet carnage. The interaction between The Swarm and Pepper is highly entertaining. Unfortunately the other parts of the novel didn't excite me as much.

The novel is focussed on the world Chilo, in which the population lives in floating cities, above the high pressure and hostile air. Some of the cities are second class Aztec descendants, the others are higher tech Aeolian who have mass consensus voting to decide what to do. There's some nice ideas here, but I don't feel that enough is made of them. The voting in particular feels under-developed, I wanted to explore more of that society. I think the problem is that I'm much more inclined to be interested in the high tech stuff, rather than the steampunky surface suits or clockwork flying monsters. If you like steampunk, akin to Crystal Rain, then you'll probably like all this.

The plot continues at quite a pace, there's plenty of action and a couple of twists. It's adventure Science Fiction. And I think that's my problem. I'm beggining to realise that the SF I really love is either the more questioning type, asking deeper searching questions or the emotionally resonant stories. And I've read quite a few of these this year (it's been a good year!). Sly Mongoose is neither of these, and is not supposed to be. So, it's a fine book, and if you liked Tobias's other novels then you will no doubt like this too, but for me it was missing that extra special kick.

August 26, 2008

X-Files : I Want To Believe

It's easy to forget the impact that the X-Files made when it first appeared on TV: it was fresh, slick, intriguing, had an amazing on-screen chemistry between Mulder and Scully, had the promise of a long term arc and it was genre! Unfortunately the long term arc didn't deliver and the series trailed off into mediocrity. Still, the first three series were excellent.

So, a new X-Files film. First of all I'm surprised that the film was made after such a long break since the last film, but someone obviously thought there was a market. What does it deliver? Well, just a long, not exactly brilliant, X-Files episode. With Billy Connolly. Whilst it has an interesting bleakness it all felt a bit down and mundane. We get to see Mulder and Scully in bed together! We get to see Mulder's hermit like post X-Files existence! We get to see Scully trying to do something worthwhile as a doctor! We get to see Billy Connolly being scary! We get to see a severed head!

All a bit, hrm, okay. Not much to say really.

Perhaps it should have been a TV special?

August 25, 2008

Star Wars - The Clone Wars

I'm a big Star Wars fan, from A New Hope (the first film I saw at a cinema) all the way up to Revenge Of The Sith. Yes, I like the prequel films too, I enjoy them for what they are, and I try and view them the same way as when I was a kid. So the prospect of a new Star Wars film at the cinema is just awesome. Of course, it was never intended to be a film, just a TV series, but I'm glad they packaged up the first few episodes to see on the big screen, with big sound, to make Star Wars, The Clone Wars

Continue reading Star Wars - The Clone Wars.

August 22, 2008

Dr. Bloodmoney - Philip K. Dick

I haven't read everything PKD has written (I'm working on it), but everything I have read I've thoroughly enjoyed. Somehow he has the knack of making his stories feel futuristic even though that future has so obviously been passed by and never happened. It's near future Science Fiction that never dates.

And it's normally always quite weird, in a crazy loopy hallucinogenic kind of way.

Dr. Bloodmoney (UK / US) does not disappoint on all counts. It starts before the apocalypse, and continues after it, with one stray chapter that leapt forward with no warning and completely confused me. But that's why I read PKD. The apocalypse is nuclear, the rebuilding after is successful in the countryside, but life in the city is hard. The man responsible for the apocalypse, or rather assumed to be responsible, is hidden away. Some people are exhibiting mutations...

It's a wonderful journey. At the end I was left guessing as to what really happened in parts, doubt and confusion evident as always. Also interesting to me is how it's the self contained sustainable communities that are happy and succeeding, something that feels pressingly relevant to today.

If you like PKD then read it, if you don't you won't like it, if you have never read PKD it's a good place to start.

August 20, 2008

Homemade BatMobile

If you have too much time on your hands....

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Bob Dullam made his own Batman tumbler vehicle

Via MAKE: Blog: DIY Batman Tumbler

August 18, 2008

The Death Of Grass - John Christopher

The Death Of Grass by John Christopher (UK / US) is often talked about as one of the classic post-apocalyptic books. It's funny then that it's not in print. And consequently the second hand copies are going online for a decent amount of money. Fortunately Niall lent me his copy, thanks!

The apocalypse in the story is triggered by a virus which wipes out all types of grass, which includes rice and wheat and of course, plain old grass. The story follows a band of people as they try to escape London and make it to a safe valley in the North of England.

Initially it felt pretty much like a John Wyndham novel. Slowly though differences began to emerge, the main one being that it was a lot nastier. People kill other people for survival, the government tries to nuke London and there is no collective survival instinct beyond immediate small tribes. Also surprising was that the story was just about the journey to escape, whereas I expected it to be a longer examination of the situation.

I particularly enjoyed the slow build up to the apocalypse, which felt real, no sudden cataclysm. And I enjoyed the idea that potatoes could be our saviour :-)

An interesting book, it's easy to see why it's been remembered as a classic, but it doesn't quite reach that status for me.

August 15, 2008

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Visual Guide

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Visual Guide (UK / US) is slightly different from the recent DK Star Wars and Indiana Jones books. For a start it is a slightly different shape, wider and less tall, it is also clearly aimed at a younger audience. What isn't different is the feel of quality, the nice hefty hardback feel and the big full page pictures.

Often these guide books, although nice to hold and look at, offer little new information. With The Clone Wars its all new as the film hasn't even been released yet. There are pages on all the main characters, including Clones and Droids, and new planets and battles. I assume that this book covers just the film and not the following TV series, but we'll only know that once the TV series starts. The fonts are big and colourful, lots of diagrams and pictures, and not too many big chunks of text, all of which makes it ideal for kids.

My only complaint is that the full page images don't seem very crisp, presumably because they are blown up from the digital film stock? It's slightly dissapointing.

But that doesn't stop this being a great book for younger readers, who are presumably going to love the new Clone Wars series with it's cartoon colour and action.


August 14, 2008

Hugo Awards 2008 - Reaction

It's no longer fresh news who won the Hugo's in 2008, but I think I should at least put down my reaction.

Best Novel : The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon (HarperCollins; Fourth Estate)

I'd hoped that Brasyl would win, because I love it, but I'd only read that and Halting State so that isn't a very objective decision. However, many people have said good things about The Yiddish Policemen's Union and it's the sort of winner which gets press and opens eyes and makes people realise what Science Fiction can be. So that's good. To be added to my reading list.


Best Novelette: "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" by Ted Chiang (Subterranean Press; F&SF Sept. 2007)

I thought the Chiang story was okay, but not spectacular. Everyone else seems to like it more than me. I don't think it's close to his best stories. Again, I didn't read any of the other nominees.


Best Related Book: Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction by Jeff Prucher (Oxford University Press)

Yes, like that book, still one I dip into now again. Although it's the only one I've read.


Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Doctor Who "Blink" Written by Steven Moffat Directed by Hettie Macdonald (BBC)

Hurrah! Best Nu Who so far, more of the same please (but different).


Everything else I don't really have an opinion on:

Best Novella: "All Seated on the Ground" by Connie Willis (Asimov's Dec. 2007; Subterranean Press)
Best Short Story: "Tideline" by Elizabeth Bear (Asimov's June 2007)

...didn't get around to reading any of them. Again.


Best Fan Writer: John Scalzi

Blogging tops monthly static web pages for the first time (I think?).


So, you know, it's the Hugos. I can't help feeling that they should be more spectacular and exciting, somehow. Perhaps they are if you're there? 

August 11, 2008

The Mirrored Heavens - David J. Williams


Normally prologues tease, throwing action and intrigue but in a short dollop. The first part of The Mirrored Heavens (UK / US) begins at flat out pace, like a prologue, and then keeps going and going, in a highly enjoyable, multi-plotted action sequence. Unfortunately the rest of the book doesn't live up to the openeing.

It's a future world, still Earth, but with balkanised world regions in a Cold War V2. The characters include Razors who are hackers and Mechs who are on-the-ground companion soldiers to Razors. The feel is kind of cyberpunk crossed with military SF. The plot is twisty and turny, but often I found at the expense of clarity. By the end I didn't really care who was responsible because I'd lost track of who could have been behind everything. Some of the conversations between characters go so far out of their way to avoid expositional dumps and provide teasing clues that they end up saying nothing at all.

The characters seemed far removed from the real power and manipulations, despite being explicitly involved in the action. This sort of "characters as pawns" story works if you care about the characters (for example in The Execution Channel), but unfortunately I didn't. The characters felt too shallow, without anything for me to hook onto and empathise with. 

There are some well handled action scenes and some eye-kick set pieces, but the story left me feeling like I had just seen a generic Hollywood action film. 

One for the action fans.

August 8, 2008

Wall-E

Wall-E (UK / US)

Pixar does SPACE!

Let's face it, that would have been enough for me: gorgeous spaceships, stunning panoramas of galaxies and lots and lots of robots.

Yet they give us more: an abandoned Earth, a city full of rubbish that is wonderfully apocalyptic and dead.

The textures and animation are quite stunning. The Earth looks real. Really real.

But it's Pixar, so of course they give us even more: a fantastic story and amazing characters. Wall-E is so expressive, and so lovely and funny. And then there are the Science Fiction nods: the 2001 music, the crazy ship's computer, the robot and spaceship design.

Genius.

I loved it.

What might be more interesting however is whether the kids loved it. I saw Wall-E in a cinema full of kids. For the first half an hour; when there's not much talking, just lovely visuals and witty slapstick and (shock!) character development; the kids were noisy, talking about sweets mainly. When the action picked up they quietened down a bit. It mainly seemed to be the adults that were laughing. (I laughed an awful lot.) Behind me some annoying kids kept asking what was happening, perhaps they were stupid? Perhaps parents don't teach their kids how to watch films these days? Then near the end, at a sad bit, a kid behind burst into tears, sobbing that Wall-E was hurt. As adults we know that a Pixar film will have a happy ending, but this child didn't know the rules and was very upset. Meanwhile, the adults just laughed.

So, my unscientific analysis suggests that Wall-E is more fun for adults than kids. But all that will change once they've watched it for the hundredth time on DVD.

George Lucas and Dave Filoni Talk About The Clone Wars

Star Wars creator George Lucas and Clone Wars director Dave Filoni discuss the new CGI Clone Wars film on the official Star Wars site:

How would you describe the look of The Clone Wars?

GL: In The Clone Wars, all of the characters and the environments look almost like they're painted, which gives the movie a very distinctive look. We also drew some influences from manga and anime in our filmmaking style, which have very dramatic lighting and very aggressive framing.


Meanwhile io9 tells us Ten Reasons Why the Clone Wars TV Series is Going to Rule (of course it had to be a top ten list) and Simon Pegg is hoping that his publicly aired views on The Phantom Menace won't stop him being able to get a job writing for the new live action Star Wars TV series, in this interview.

August 7, 2008

You Can Draw Star Wars The Clone Wars workshop

Illustrator Tom Hodges will be hosting his You Can Draw Star Wars The Clone Wars workshop for children at the Bath Festival of Children's Literature on 27th September. Where children will learn how to draw their favourite Star Wars characters from the film Star Wars The Clone Wars.

Cost £6. ages 6+, booking details on the website.

Wow, what I would have given at six years old to do a workshop like that!

Star Wars Legacy Collection Millennium Falcon

Uncrate has details of the first new Millennium Falcon toy since the original debuted in 1979.




...this updated rebel spacecraft measures over two-and-a-half feet long (30% percent larger than the old one) and features a light-up cockpit, headlights, hyperdrive engine, and Dejarik table (!), as well as a ton of authentic movie phrases and sounds.

Via Jonathan

August 6, 2008

Worldcon from the other side of the world = dull

First there were the endless posts about Comic-Con and all the cool stuff that hasn't happened yet. It was terribly tedious. And now it's Worldcon.

Experiencing Worldcon from the other side of the world, via the medium of blogs, is deadly dull. It goes like this:

  • Worldcon -7 days: all the authors post that they will definitely be going (or not).
  • W -6 days: the authors that said they weren't going change their minds.
  • W -5 days: all the authors post their tentative schedules.
  • W -4 days: the schedules changes.
  • W -3 days: lots of posts about packing.
  • W -2 days: posts about how boring long distance flights are.
  • W -1 day: "I'm at the airport using the free wifi".
  • W 0 day: "I'm at Worldcon!"
  • Worldcon itself: complete silence from everyone there, not even a Tweet. Somehow the Hugo results get out but no one is really sure how.
  • W +1 day: Everyone not at Worldcon discuss how it's rubbish that Robert J. Sawyer won again, and why didn't Brasyl win?
  • W +3 days: People who were at Worldcon post "Had a great time, too much happened to post all about it."
  • W +4 days: A million pictures turn up on Flickr, mainly of random people smiling, no one has any idea who they are because the photos have titles like 000125631.jpg
  • W +5 days: The stragglers finally post about Worldcon, they expect us to feel sorry that they are tired.
  • W +6 days: Everyone posts on how they are reflecting on their Worldcon experience.
  • W +7 days: MARK ALL AS READ


Tor.com Reviews Hugo Nominees Book Covers

Pablo Defendini is reviewing the covers of the 2008 Hugo nominees on Tor.com, and comparing the UK and US cover versions, a subject I find fascinating (I usually always prefer the UK versions).

Part one is here, and part two is here. Part three is looking at the covers for Brasyl by Ian McDonald, including using my pictures of the shiny, shiny UK cover.

Shiny.

August's IROSF is online

The August edition of IROSF is online now with the following table of contents

Editorial:
* Shiny New Stuff! by Stacey Janssen

Feature:
* Future Tense by Daniel M. Kimmel
* Life After Power: The Brief But Pantiwadulous Life Of A Public Rejection

Letter
     by Nick Mamatas

Essay:
* Childhood's End Revisited by Ryder W. Miller

Criticism:
* A New Springtime: Robert Silverberg's Post-Retirement Career by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
* "Two Dooms" and the Memory of World War II in Alternate History by Nader Elhefnawy

Review:
* DIY Tinkerers, the Steampunk Subculture, and a New Anthology by Robert Bee
* Nested Horror: Demon Theory by Stephen Graham Jones by J. G. Stinson
* Satoshi Kon's Paprika by Michael Andre-Driussi
* July 2008 Short Fiction by Lois Tilton

The Night Sessions - Ken MacLeod

The blurb on the back cover of The Night Sessions (UK / US) says that Ken MacLeod has had half of his ten published books nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke award. I did a double take, surely not, but yes it's true and that's a pretty amazing hit rate for a juried award. His last book The Execution Channel was up for the Clarke last year and I loved it, a lot, as did pretty much everyone I've talked to who has read it. So how does Ken follow up a near future espionage thriller? With a near(ish) future crime thriller of course.

I imagine that the skeleton of The Night Sessions is like those crime books which I have never read, especially given that the novel is set in Scotland and has a main character who is a Scottish Police Detective, like all those crime books seem to have. Except The night Sessions has robots, oh and Armageddon. It's really only the form which is a crime thriller, because The Night Sessions is stuffed with thought provoking Science Fiction. And it's not just dense with little SF ideas, used as a back drop, (although of course there are those), it's also stuffed with big ideas and tackles BIG subjects head on.

The two main subjects that the book provokes thought about are Religion and Artificial Intelligence. Quite big then. The novel is set after The Faith Wars in a time when religion is officially ignored in Scotland, ignored in the way that they refuse to accept it exists. The novel examines how the minority of religious people have to live in a society that scorns religion, and yes that may have you rolling your eyes, but I really liked the way in which it was handled. The world felt highly plausible, and not that far away.

The other element in the mix is robots: from the police officers assistant "leki's", to space construction robots, to renegade human shaped robots. The characters that are robots are intelligently handled, and feel like real characters. It's a sign of the novel's ambitions when, the discussion of whether a backup of a robot is a new conscious entity and the dilemmas that entails, is thrown into a climactic set of scenes and then thrown away (as it were). Lesser novels would make it their only idea.

The plot unfurls in an enjoyable crime thriller style, accelerating and twisting, and it kept me guessing until the end. And although the ending didn't amaze me, it, more importantly, kept me thinking after.

Serious, intelligent and highly enjoyable Science Fiction.

August 5, 2008

SF Diplomat's Alternative Hugo shortlist for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Jonathan has an alternative Hugo shortlist for films:

Sunshine (Boyle/Garland) 
Beowulf (Zemeckis/Gaiman and Avary) 
The Host (Joon-ho/Chul-hyun and Joon-ho)
30 Days of Night (Slade/Niles, Beattie and Nelson) 
[Rec]  (Balaguero and Plaza/Balaguero, Pedejo and Plaza)

I don't see enough films to have an opinion on the complete list, but I thought Beowulf was not great and really liked Sunshine.

Transmissions From Beyond, the TTA Press podcast

TTA Press has launched a new podcast, Transmissions From Beyond  here's what their site says:
 
Welcome to Transmissions From Beyond, the brand new podcast from TTA Press. We feature stories selected from the pages of the TTA Press magazines Interzone (science fiction & fantasy), Black Static (horror), and Crimewave (crime & mystery). New stories appear every other Monday. The premiere of our podcast on Monday, 4 August 2008, offers three Transmissions. There's one from each of our magazines. We lead off with a story from Interzone.  


They also have some cool artwork on the blog for each story.



Via Gareth L. Powell, who mentions that The Last Reef and Ack-Ack Macaque will be on the podcast eventually.

August 4, 2008

August's Ansible is online

August 1, 2008

Star Wars Blueprints

The DK site has some cool artwork from their new Star Wars books, including Top secret, technological plans of R2-D2 and C-3PO, which are very groovy.

Blueprint

I have a review of The Clone Wars Visual Guide coming soon.

New Terminator : The Sarah Connor Chronicles Blog

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the blog.

Bit of a mouthful, but it has posts, shock!

The Guardian On The British Comic-Con Invasion

Well, invasion might be too string a word for Simon Pegg and Steven Moffat, but you get what I mean.

Interesting that Doctor Who panels at Comic-Con has increased it's UK coverage.

Who's looking good: news from the Con