September 2008 Archives

September 30, 2008

Dr. BDO's Problem Page : Where To Begin?

Neal Stephenson's Books Are Too Large

Dear Dr. BDO,

I've heard great things about Neal Stephenson's book, but I found his latest in a bookshop and had a problem picking it up because it was so massive. This also seems to be true of The Baroque Cycle and Cryptonomicon. Should I really commit all my precious time to reading such meaty tomes?

Time Squeezed On The Tyne

Hello, Time Squeezed. First of all you did not mention whether you had read Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson? You have read haven't you? If not drop anything and go and read it, then imagine that you had read it in 1992. Go on, I'll wait for you.... Back? Good. Now, personally I'd suggest reading Stephenson's books in order of published date. Then you will build up to the size. The good news is that they are all worth it. Even the vastness of The Baroque Cycle with it's meandering concoction of plots and ideas. So persevere and you shall be rewarded.




Lost My Senses Now I Want To Watch Lost

Dear BDO,

For some reason I never watched Lost, I think maybe the hype put me off. But now I've heard great things about it, that it's real SF. Should I dive into the new series when it starts next year or do I need to catch up?

Eager in Egham


Hello, Eager. I think that much of the joy of Lost is the journey, and how it builds on the main story arc (like many good modern TV shows). So I would recommend starting at the start and ending at the end. Be patient. Don't expect immediate answers. Just enjoy the ride.

And, for anyone else, that's good general advice: start at the start, end at the end.

Jason Stoddard's Positive Science Fiction Manifesto

Jason Stoddard's Positive Science Fiction Manifesto has got me longing to read some uplifting Science Fiction. 

Positive science fiction inspires people to act and influence positive change.I don't know about you, but I don't want to live in a world of slackers who can do nothing more than complain about "the man" and "the system." I want people to be inspired to get the education and do the work necessary to get us off the planet. To fix the environment. To figure out systems that don't need to go through destructive boom and bust cycles. To extend our lifespans. To discover wholly new frontiers. To create new life. To develop true artificial intelligence. To make workable nanotechnology. To create space elevators. We will not do this by wallowing in sorrow; we will not do this by bemoaning our fate; we will not do this by laying about on the couch.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Time to reread Pacific Edge maybe?

September 29, 2008

Fruitless Recursion: Issue 2

The second issue of Fruitless Recursion, A Journal Devoted To Discussing Works of SF Criticism, is online and contains:

  • Paul Kincaid's review of Mike Ashley's Gateways to Forever: The Story of Science Fiction Magazines from 1970 to 1980. 
  • Alvaro Zinos-Amaro's review of Gabriel McKee's The Gospel According to Science Fiction: From the Twilight Zone to the Final Frontier. 
  • Niall Harrison's review of Michael Chabon's Maps and Legends. 
  • Jonathan McCalmont's review of Studies in Modern Horror, edited by NGChristakos.

Height by xkcd

The genius comic that is xkcd has a wonderful height chart, starting from small, to galactic distances. Very witty. And you can buy it as a poster, it's 28 double apostrophes tall. Cooool.

The Sarah Jane Adventures ,Series Two Starts Today

The second series of the Doctor Who spinoff, The Sarah Jane Adventures starts today on BBC1 at 4.35pm. Despite the first series being less than inspirational, and reusing Doctor Who villains rather than inventing anything original, the kids seem to watch it whilst waiting for a new series of Doctor Who.

Most Wanted 29/09/08


Things that Big Dumb Object wants the most this week:

  • Despite reports that the first episode of the new series of Heroes was not great, Heroes starts on BBC on Wednesday and is still most wanted.
  • James Bond, Quantum Of Solace. It's not SF, but it has the word Quantum in the title and it looks awesome.
  • The Clone Wars on the Wii. Lightsabers + WiiMote = Heaven.

September 26, 2008

Love & Hate 26/09/08

Things that Big Dumb Object has loved and hated this week:

Loved
  • Anathem finally arriving.
  • Sunny Autumn days.
  • More cool BBC2 Heroes trailers.
  • Chris Moyles talking to a Dalek.

Hated
  • Fringe not being amazing.
  • Spikey trees.
  • The blogosphere. It's getting dull.
  • Not having done a redesign.

Full Details Of The Children In Need Doctor Who Competition

The BBC site has full details of the Children In Need Doctor Who competition.

This autumn BBC Children in Need is offering you a fantastic prize. The BBC will take you and up to three friends or members of your family backstage at the BBC Wales studios near Cardiff on November 8th or 9th.

It's the home of Doctor Who, Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures. You'll see what goes on behind the scenes and how the BBC brings all those other worlds to life, meeting set designers, costumiers, make-up artists and monster makers Millennium FX.

All you have to do is make a phone call to answer an easy question.



Haiku Movie Reviews

Here's a site of Haiku film reviews, plenty of which are SF e.g.

JUMPER :)
Does teleporting
cause limbs to atrophy? No!
It makes you quite buff.

SF Diplomat Closes (Again?)

Jonathan McCalmont is closing his SF Diplomat blog if you haven't been reading it, well, you're too late now. Although didn't he close the blog before and come back? ;-)

BYE!

Anyway, instead of his blog check out instead Fruitless Recursion (A Journal Devoted To Discussing Works of SF Criticism).

September 24, 2008

Fringe, S01E02

It's still the X-Files isn't it? But not as good.

It's like JJ Abrams by numbers:
  • Single episode crime plot, with gratuitous gruesomeness to suit this weeks audience
  • A big enigmatic company
  • A terribly vague big arc, The Pattern
The trouble is that I don't care about he individual episodes. It's missing all the style and class and good writing of Lost. Plus, Lost went beyond the credible through to highly enjoyable Bonkers! whereas Fringe leaves me saying "that wouldn't work".

Not very good. I'll give it a few more episodes before I give up.

September 23, 2008

Chris Moyles Doctor Who Special

Radio 1 DJ, Chris Moyles announced this morning that on Friday he'll be doing his breakfast show from the TARDIS. Yes, actually inside the TARDIS. It's a stunt to publicise the launch of this year's Children In Need, but he'll also be talking to Russell T. Davies, David Tennant and Billie Piper. And you never know, RTD might drop a few spoilers for the Christmas special.

UPDATE

The show will also have details of a competition, run as part of Children In Need, and the prize is to win a trip around the strictly guarded Doctor Who set in Cardiff, including the TARDIS. Sounds like it's worth a go, more details on Friday.

Dr. BDO's Problem Page : Partners

My Wife Controls The TV!

Dear Dr. BDO, 

My wife won't let me watch any Science Fiction on TV, she says she hates it, and instead I have to watch endless episodes of Gok Wan. What can I do?

Desperate in Dundee


Hello, Desperate. First of all, do not despair. This is a common situation but it is easily rectified. The trick is to hook your spouse into watching a show that she doesn't realise is Science Fiction, but actually is. Once she loves that show you can do the big reveal and suggest another Science Fiction show. For example, watch Lost, but the time you are into the fourth season she will care too much about the characters to worry about the time travelling space warp. It's a delicate balance but eminently possible. Good luck.




My Girlfriend Hates Cons

Dear Dr. BDO,

My girlfriend doesn't want to go to Science Fiction Conventions because she says they are full of geeks and weirdos. What should I do?

Alone in Aylesbury


Hello, Alone. It seems to me like there is no problem! Why don't you let your wife go to a Spa with her friends whilst your go to the convention? Then when you get home she can regale you with stories of pampered luxury and you can explain how you got into an argument at the bar about whether slipstream has a place in modern Science Fiction, oh and whether a Star Destroyer really would beat the Enterprise in a fight. Quid pro quo!


If you would like Dr. BDO to help with your problems then email Big Dumb Object with the subject "Problem Page", he'll do his best to help.


September 22, 2008

Most Wanted 22/09/08



Things that Big Dumb Object wants the most this week:

  • Terminator Salvation now that The Sarah Connor Chronicles is back on air again it makes the promise of a new Terminator film all the more exciting. Watch the teaser trailer again, imagine how good it could be and roll-on May 2009.
  • Anathem by Neal Stephenson. Amazon say they've dispatched it. Hurrah!
  • Heroes. The cool BBC trailers have got me excited, hopefully it will live up to it's unfulfilled potential. It starts in the US tonight and in the UK, on BBC Two, on Wednesday 1st October at 9pm.

September 21, 2008

The Ted Chiang Of Toontown

This made me laugh, Danny O'Brien on SF in SF

The stories they read were great: during his tale, Mamatas shifted slowly in my mind into the very slightly new category of that guy who wrote the Cthulhu mythos story in the style of Raymond Carver. And after [David] Levine's reading, I have him mentally categorised now as "The Ted Chiang of Toontown".

Danny is one of the founders of the legendary NTK, and also accidentally invented the entire Lifehack industry, but bizarrely I remember him as the guy who wrote that cool Sunday Times column.

September 19, 2008

Love & Hate 19/09/08

Things that Big Dumb Object has loved and hated this week:

Loved
  • Merlin Mann and the refocused 43 Folders
  • Sunshine
  • The BBC's Heroes trailers
  • LEDs on laptops
  • The seaside

Hated
  • The UK Anathem release date slipping to 1st October
  • Trains
  • Capitalism
  • Not having the time to read every book I ever wanted to read.

September 17, 2008

Eoin Colfer to write sixth hitchiker's novel

Via a press release, Eoin Colfer is to write the sixth book in the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy trilogy.

September 16, 2008

Gareth L Powell's Shiny New Website

Gareth L Powell has a new website www.garethlpowell.com that is rather shiny and groovy, with a great banner of artwork from The Last Reef. 

The site was built by Paul, wearing his web design head.


The Force Unleashed Concept Art

I'm loving the concept art from The Force Unleashed videogame.

Darth Vader slaughtering Wookies?  Check.


Fringe, S01E01

I'm slightly baffled about Fringe, it's the X-Files isn't it? Is the only reason it got made that it's JJ Abrams? Or am I being too judgemental? After all, can you judge lost by it's first episode? Definitely not.

The first episode  (the pilot) was well executed, slick, and reasonably entertaining, if not a little silly. But silly can be good, Lost takes silly and promotes it to bonkers very successfully. What I loved the most was the scene change words being a 3D part of the scene (it's very hard to describe). The acting was all okay, and there was the mention of a big arc style device, The Pattern.

But, really it's just the X-Files. Isn't it?

September 15, 2008

Anathem UK Release Date Slipped to October

File under the heading of GRRRRR!

After getting annoyed with my copy of Anathem not arriving from Amazon, Gav said that it was probably because the release date has slipped! 

So I emailed Atlantic books to see what had happened, the answer was:

Yes - it has been [slipped]  - to the 1st of October - there was a glitch with the ISBN number and some bookstores do have it already, but very few.  All will be on course for the 1st though,

Hmm, how disappointing. I'll probably finish Saturn's Children and read Earth Ascendant next then. 

The Sarah Connor Chronicles, S02E01

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles ended the first series on a cliffhanger. Well, kind, of. Is it much of a cliffhanger when a Terminator is inside a car that explodes? Considering they're indestructible? Not really.

The opening scene could have been brilliant were it not for the slow motion. I loved the wordless action, and the cinematic build up, but the slow-mo looked cheap.

The main problem I had with the first series is that it felt a bit slow, I liked the characters but everything seemed a bit ponderous. They've obviously tried to crank things up a bit for this series, with the introduction of the singer from Garbage as a big villain, but generally the episode felt like an exercise in getting back to the end of series one. The big surprise twist being more of a 'that can't work moment' where the number of reasons flew into my head and spoilt the story.

I'll keep watching, but I'm now less hopeful that the programme will begin to show some class.

September 14, 2008

Neal Stephenson Videos, Talking About Anathem

In an effort to prevent me going mental because my copy of Anathem hasn't arrived yet, here's some videos of Neal Stephenson talking about the book. He talks about the origins of the novel, it's themes and also the definition of the word Bulshytt.

I'd also like to comment that he looks very smart in his jacket and tie!

September 12, 2008

Love & Hate 12/09/08

Things that Big Dumb Object has loved and hated this week:

Loved
  • SF TV starting again.
  • Doing a SF Signal Mind Meld that included Charles Stross.
  • Talking to a class of school kids about CERN.
  • The Movable Type upgrade almost working perfectly.
  • A monster new work laptop, with blue LEDs.
  • Physics on TV.

Hated
  • Rain.
  • Torchwood on radio.
  • Still no copy of Anathem.
  • Apocalyptic media hype about the LHC.
  • The Movable Type upgrade not quite working perfectly.
  • Feeling the urge for a redesign.
  • Not writing enough.

September 11, 2008

Comments Back On

Okay, I think comments are back on and working. Although if you have trouble dropping me a mail to explain what happened would be very nice of you.

Torchwood - Lost Souls

The Torchwood episode, Lost Souls, was a radio only special to celebrate the turning on of the LHC.

Martha was at CERN, because UNIT were doing security, something strange happens. Jack hotfoots it to the border of La Suisse. It turns out that aliens came through into our dimension when they tested the LHC beam. But the aliens are pretending to be the dead (again). Martha and Ianto go down the main LHC tunnel (which sounds like a dank cave) and confront the alien. Jack has to stop them turning on the beam, because they don't know someone is down there. They can't do it. So jack tells them to reverse the polarity. And somehow they see the Higgs Boson with a quote "it's beautiful".

Is this a joke?!

Someone is having a laugh right?

Yesterday I went to talk to a class of school kids about the LHC. Even though I only worked at CERN on the LEP, I could at least answer most of their questions. They know more correct facts than this Torchwood episode! And they were all primary school kids.

Please, Torchwood, give up and die. You're completely crap.

Latest SF Signal Mind Meld Includes Me

The latest Mind Meld from SF Signal, SF with an Opposing Viewpoint includes a contribution from me. Oh and a few other people you may have heard of, like: Charles Stross and Lou Anders. Woah, that's cool. 


September 10, 2008

Special Radio Version Of Torchwood, At CERN




Torchwood comes to Radio 4 in a specially-commissioned drama. Martha Jones, ex-time traveller and now working as a doctor for a UN task force, has been called to CERN. Wednesday 10th September, 2.15pm. That's today, soon. But it will be availble for download after.

How to make physicists groan. First Dan Brown, and now Torchwood. Argggh.

And as for the Big Bang day at the LHC, they're not even crossing the beams yet! That's when the world will end. The TV coverage of turning on the beam was hilarious, look how exciting physics is!

Thanks to Dave for mentioning it.

September 9, 2008

US Autumn SF TV

SFSignal has a good post summarising all the SF TV programmes starting in the US this Autumn.

I'm interested in seeing Heroes, The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Fringe.

Heroes is going to be shown on the BBC shortly. I thought they were aiming for the same week as the US but this seems to have slipped as the date now appears to be 25th September.

The Sarah Connor Chronicle will be shown on Virgin 1, although I can't find any mention of when it starts. (The Virgin 1 site is really rubbish).

Fringe will be shown on Sky One this Autumn.

Also worth mentioning is that ITV2 had the first series of Pushing Daisies and so will presumably get the second.

Shows not mentioned that I want to see are The Clone Wars and Dollhouse. Presumably The Clone Wars will be on the UK Cartoon Network? And I've no idea about Dollhouse yet.

Sky is a satellite, subscription channel. Virgin 1 and ITV2 are free digital channels. And of course the BBC is paid for by the mighty licence fee.

September 8, 2008

Upgrade In Progress

I'm doing an upgrade, some things may be wonky, particularly tags and comments.

UPDATE

I think everything is working now except my Action Stream.

September 6, 2008

Pan MacMillan SF&F Offers

The standard Pan MacMillan email newsletter that I get is usually a bit dull, with very little mention of any Science Fiction. The most recent one however has a couple relevant offers.

Firstly 20% of a selection of books which includes: Prador Moon by Neal Asher, The Last Colony by John Scalzi and The Temporal Void by Peter F. Hamilton. P&P costs £1 to the UK and £2 elsewhere.

Secondly 3 for 2 on a selection of SF&F ebooks, including The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi, Ink by Hal Duncan and a selection of China Mievilee books.

I've no idea if this works out cheaper than the usual channels but I thought I'd pass it on. In fact the ebooks are the same price as the paperback which seems insane!

September 5, 2008

Love & Hate 05/09/08

Things that Big Dumb Object has loved and hated this week:

Loved
  • Neal Stephenson's new book Anathem being released.
  • The Dr. Horrible soundtrack being released on iTunes, and in the UK.
  • Google Chrome.
  • Local eggs.
  • Rampant speculation about the LHC causing the end of the world.
  • Reading less blogs.

Hated
  • The BDO Amazon order of Anathem being delayed (where was my review copy?!)
  • Still no version of Dr. Horrible (video) on iTunes UK.
  • Rain.
  • Having to test BDO on another web browser, just in case.
  • Still not being able to find a decent, free, OSX, blogging client.
  • Feeling like I was missing something because I was reading less blogs.

September 4, 2008

Jetse de Vries Resigning from Interzone

I'm not exactly sure what Jetse's official title at Interzone was, but to me he is their Slush Master, rejecting my stories with nice notes and apologies :-)

Anyway, he's resigning:

After four-and-a-half years, I am resigning as an Interzone co-editor. I do not take this decision lightly, but it is what I feel I must do. The reason is simple: like a rock band where one musician quits because she/he doesn't like the musical direction the band is taking (the well-known 'musical differences'), I am unhappy with the direction and tone the fiction in Interzone will be taking.

Hmm, I wonder what that direction is? Anyone know? Is it subtle or huge?

UPDATED
The Andy Cox and the Interzone team respond:

We are, however, a little perplexed at the idea that Jetse's departure has been caused by a change in Interzone's "direction and tone". No such change was identified or discussed at any time within the team. The three remaining fiction editors do not feel there has been any shift in our editorial process, quality standards, ethics or strategy.

Via SFSignal

Seeds Of Change - Edited By John Joseph Adams

Seeds Of Change (UK / US) is a short story anthology edited by John Joseph Adams. The theme of the anthology is explained by in the introduction:
 
"I asked the contributors to this anthology to write about paradigm shifts--technological, scientific, political, or cultural--and how individuals and societies deal with such changes."
And then Adams goes on to state his wishes for the stories:

"It is my hope that reading these stories inspires some to plant their own seeds of change--that when we see something wrong, we'll do something about it"
A laudable goal, and one which Science Fiction us uniquely place to achieve. It's nice to see an attempt to gather some optimistic stories, or at least stories that inspire towards optimism, when there seems to be so much doom and gloom around.

Each story has an short introduction, many with brief thoughts from the author.

So, onto the stories themselves:


Continue reading Seeds Of Change - Edited By John Joseph Adams.

September 2, 2008

Dr. Horrible Soundtrack On iTunes

The Dr. Horrible soundtrack is available for purchase on iTunes, and not just the US, but in the UK too! Rejoice!

Very tempted to buy it right now.

Also available on the website are the liner notes and lyrics so now you can check the words and copy and paste your favourite bits:

Laundry day 
See you there 
Under things 
Tumbling 
Wanna say 
Love your hair 
Here I go 
Mumbling 
With my freeze ray I will stop the world 
With my freeze ray I will find the time to find the words to 
Tell you how 
How you make 
Make me feel

September's Ansible Is Online

Glowing Things T-Shirt

Things That Glow... - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

Glowing things! Including Space and Rockets.

September 1, 2008

Alastair Reynolds - Get Over The Sci-Fi Thing

Alastair Reynolds sums up my attitude to the term "Sci-Fi" exactly:

So here's a suggestion. We get over the sci-fi thing. We can still keep talking about SF and science fiction, but we should give up the knee-jerk sense of insult whenever the sci-fi label is applied to what we do. To the outside world, we're like music bores getting upset with the term "hi-fi". It should be "high-fidelity", doncha know. If we still need a term to isolate the tacky end of the genre, I've got one right here. We can call it "crap sci-fi", like the rest of the world does.

Yes, yes and yes!

Geek Dad's 10 Geeky Movies To Raise Your Kids On

Geek Dad, at Wired, has 10 Geeky Movies To Raise Your Kids On and my general reaction is YES!

  1. Star Wars - YES!
  2. Harry Potter And The Philospher's Stone - Hmmm
  3. The Last Starfighter - YES! (I so wanted to play that game)
  4. My Neighbor Totoro - Never heard of it, but it's Miyazaki
  5. Time Bandits - YES!
  6. The Dark Crystal - maybe, it's muppets
  7. WarGames - YES! YES!
  8. Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang - YES! The scary child catcher will be good for them.
  9. Goonies - YES!
  10. Back To The Future - YES! YES! 

It seems that Geek Dad has the same taste as me.