October 2008 Archives
October 31, 2008
Things that Big Dumb Object has loved and hated this week:
- 20 minutes of high octane Clone Wars action.
- Log fires.
- David Tennant leaving Doctor Who.
- Only 20 minutes of high octane Clone Wars action.
- Moving from BST to GMT. Darkness encroaches.
- Halloween. Bonfire Night is the real celebration around this time of year, FIRE! BURN!
October 30, 2008
Forget all those modern digital techniques for emptying a city, The Day The Earth Caught Fire managed to do it the old fashioned way. I love this film, it's a great combination of old-skool (well, 1950s) Englishness and an impending sense of doom. With a surprisingly downbeat ending.
Ideally watched on a hot summers afternoon with a cold beer.
October 29, 2008
David Tennant is to leave Doctor Who after next years (2009) specials.
The BBC site has more information
"When Doctor Who returns in 2010 it won't be with me," he said."
Now don't make me cry," he added. "I love this part, and I love this show so much that if I don't take a deep breath and move on now I never will, and you'll be wheeling me out of the Tardis in my bath chair.
"'I'll miss it'
It's up to Russell T Davies to write the regeneration story, and at the moment Tennant has no idea about it.
(Thanks to Dave for the tip, he saw it on the National TV Awards.)
Kirill is a Science Fiction show launching tomorrow on the web. Here's the main page which includes a rather cool teaser trailer. And here's the blog, which includes the best request to plug something ever in the form of their video to bloggers.
It's pretty easy to make a quick teaser trailer however, so how about something longer to show more of what it's made of? I have that too, below is another Kirill trailer:
I have no idea what Kirill is, but I like the look of it.
October 28, 2008
I Want To Save Science Fiction!
Dear Dr. BDO,
I'm really worried about the future of Science Fiction. I feel that I should be doing to save it, because it is clearly in trouble. Should I be wandering town centres on a weekend to recruit new Science Fiction fans?
Farseeing in Fife
Hello Farseeing. There is something you must know: you cannot construct a model of space and time and events, using string criss-crossing a room, to calculate a moment or an action that causes the salvation of your beloved genre. Asking how you can save Science Fiction is an invalid question. Instead you should enjoy Science Fiction now, read the books, watch the TV, watch the films. Sure, talk about it with your friends, on the internet or in the real world, but you are not obliged to try and save a somewhat arbitrary categorisation of media. You are instead a consumer, sitting in the stream of media consumption, grab what you like as it flows past. Or if you are a creator, then create, and let others consume it. Beyond that, everything is like whispering in the wind.
October 27, 2008
Sam Jordison in the Guardian looks at The Road and A Canticle For Leibowitz
Few who have read the winner of the 1961 Hugo award, A Canticle For Leibowitz, will have failed to recognise its influence on Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Yet when that latter book was garnering its ecstatic reviews back in 2006, the fact that it clearly fitted into a long science fiction tradition of post-apocalyptic speculation seemed to cause some discomfort. Rare and brave were the mainstream critics who recognised its SF antecedents without coughing and spluttering about how it somehow transcended the genre.
I still haven't read A Canticle For Leibowitz, it's on my Christmas list. The Road however was stomach knottingly brilliant.
Things that Big Dumb Object most wants this week:
- Classic Spooks. Forget the terrible Youth edition, Code 9, that tried to disguise awful plots as SF, the original series returns today. Let's hope it can reach the speculative highs that it has in the past.
- The Evil League Of Evil. If whatever it is, is as good as Dr. Horrible it will be awesome.
- To sell more stories!
- Christmas, a large list of books is being compiled to send to Father Christmas.
- A TV that can hang on my wall like a picture and retain its state when turned off. Can OLED TVs do that?
- An entirely different life that would allow me to endlessly play the Star Wars : The Old Republic.
October 25, 2008
- One story rejection email.
- A rather nice email from Digital Studios pointing to a gently witty video plugging their interesting sounding show Kirill.
October 24, 2008
The Lego Star Wars comics are very amusing. They're not really comics, but short films acted with Lego characters.
I particularly liked Giant Spiders Are Awesome... in which Clone Troopers meet the robot spider machine thingies, and are scared.
There's also some short films and commercials on the website including The Han Solo Affair which, again, made me laugh. Lego figures are somehow naturally funny.
Things that Big Dumb Object has loved and hated this week:
- Local Beef.
- The Sarah Connor Chronicles starting on Virgin 1.
- Sylar EXPLODING!
- Only being half way through Anathem.
- The need for Trilogies. Please just do one, and make it good.
- Heroes Unmasked. If you think Heroes is bad, watch this, they talk complete and utter bollocks.
October 23, 2008
Russell T Davies was interviewed on FiveLive yesterday afternoon, talking about his new book Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale with Benjamin Cook. You can listen to it on the iPlayer here.
No real Doctor Who rumours or spoilers, but it's always interesting to hear him talk about the writing process, he's very encouraging to writers. Also it's amazing to hear how far in advance they plan things, like Stephen Moffat's takeover and Christopher Eccleston leaving.
Primer is well known within the Science Fiction community as a classic, brilliant, film, although not everyone has seen it (you should). Yet outside of SF, in the civilian world, hardly anyone has ever heard of it. Which is criminal, because it's insanely amazing. It's like the film equivalent work out to your brain as the novel Permutation City by Greg Egan, or Back To The Future 2 to the power of 12, or a years worth of brain training on your DS.
October 22, 2008
There's a cool interview with Neal Stephenson at Barnes&Noble which I've only just read. I was putting off reading anything about Anathem until I'd finished it, but now I'm half way through I figured it would be okay.
It's taking me a long time to read Anathem, not just because it's big, but also because there a large passages that I keep wanting to read again. I was going to keep a note of them somehow, but then forgot.
I was reminded of this interview by JP at SFSignal who has a great post on time and where does it go and what we choose to do. All very relevant to themes within Anathem. And probably summing up what most of us feel. What he says!
The Next Race is an independent Science fiction film written and directed by Stewart St. John. It has a subtitle The Chronicles Of Hollow Earth, implying that there is more to come, but can a film with the word Chronicles in the title be any good?!
The film begins with an info-dump about the history of the world, not always the best sign, but the exposition is done reasonably stylishly and quickly. The story is set in a world where man created superior, genetically engineered humans, called the Ghen. They fought. The Ghen won, and then retreated to build a civilisation beneath the Earth. I wasn't entirely clear about why they did this, presumably it was some after effect of the war? But I missed it. Standard humans meanwhile are left on the surface of the planet in poverty.
The film looks good, with a cool visually stylish feel running through it. It's the sort of style that emerges from constraints, with the makers squeezing every last drop out of the (presumably) cheap sets, and consequently I liked the look of it a lot. It's sark and moody below the Earth and bright and blasted on the surface. My only irritation on the design front was that the Ghen have black eye make-up, probably as a device to show which people are Ghen, but it looked a bit cheap, and as if the Ghen were all goths (which has got to be unlikely!).
The acting throughout the film is fine, some of it good, and the music throughout is atmospheric and spooky.
The ingredient of the film that reveals the low budget nature is unfortunately the plot. It's a reasonable set-up, and the initial plot course of a powerfully political Ghen espouses annihilation of the humans has potential. It seems like the film is headed towards being a dark political thriller. However, from nowhere the humans are seen as a threat, which doesn't feel at all realistic, and that entire plot strand seems unnecessary. There's a reasonable twist too, although the logical mechanics of it seem a bit dodgy. The twist tries to be at the core of the film, but from that point on everything felt rushed. When the film ended it felt like it was just about to get going. In fact it felt like the dreaded part one of a trilogy, where surely it would be best to make the as single film as good as it could be?
In summary, a visually interesting film, let down by a story that doesn't fully realise the idea. But the team that made it obviously know how to make a film look good, so I'd be interested to see what they could do with a stronger plot.
October 21, 2008
Dear Dr. BDO,
I'd like to start reading Science Fiction but I'm afraid that I will find it baffling.
Fearful in Farnham.
Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.
Do not be afraid. Dive in.
The Independent has an article on the Terminator franchise today, marking The Sarah Connor Chronicles return to UK TV on Virgin 1 this Thursday at 9pm:
At this stage, a guilty secret: I've been obsessed with Terminator for years, and can barely contain my excitement at its return to cinemas. In the meantime, like all fans, I've been making do with the remarkably good Sarah Connor Chronicles, which has achieved extraordinary success on both sides of the Atlantic.
The paper version had this cool picture from Terminator Salvation:
...but the online version goes with the classic Arnie image.
Meanwhile Virgin 1 has a micro-site, well okay, a few pages and you can watch the first episode online from today.
October 20, 2008
Want to print out the comics made on the entertaining black hole of a time sink that is the Doctor Who comic maker? Well you'll be able to soon:
We're going to be making some changes to our hugely popular Doctor Who Comic Maker over the coming weeks, and want to keep you up-to-date with our plans. One of your most requested features is the ability to print out your comics, so we're going to make that possible soon.
Things most wanted by Big Dumb Object this week:
- An HD TV, just to watch the Sony 007 HDTV advert.Quarantine. Best zombie movie ever? Out in the UK on 18th November.
- The new Gollancz Space Opera reprints, with their rather groovy covers
October 17, 2008
Oooh, I like the look of The Clone Wars : Jedi Alliance on the Nintendo DS. For all those times when you're away from Clone Wars on your Wii.
I can't embed the video easily, so I won't bother. Also had to watch an advert for some American cleaning product, obviously relevant to kids browsing the Star Wars website.
Things that Big Dumb Object has loved and hated this week:
- Anathem, still reading it, still loving it.
- Local pork.
- Not being able to spend all day reading.
- Peter Pitrelli from Heroes. He is so stupid.
- Still not updating BDO's design.
October 16, 2008
Neal Stephenson's novel Anathem is being discussed on Simon Mayo's Five Live show in this hour. Which of course you can listen to on the iPlayer after it's been broadcast.
Not sure whether to listen, been avoiding reviews until I finish it.
It looks like I'm taking Jonathan's advice, driven by that fact that I have stuff to do and not enough of an urge to watch Science Fiction telly:
- Heroes. Still watching it on BBC2, it's getting increasingly rubbish and random. I think they generated the script by putting ideas into a hat and pulling them out.
- Fringe. Can't generate enough enthusiasm to watch another episode.
- The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Only watched the first episode of the second series, can't be bothered to watch the rest.
- Sanctuary. Saw the adverts on ITV, looked terrible.
- Merlin. Fantasy, not SF, therefore dodgy to start with. Not helped by Victor Meldrew in a bad wig. Desperate attempt to fill the Doctor Who slot.
The only thing I am watching is The Clone Wars cartoon series, which is full of Jedis fighting and is therefore awesome.
"I never really worried about tying his history together," explains Russell in an interview for the latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine.
Plus other quotes saying that basically he just made stuff up. Which is really as it should be.
Monsters Inc. is a genuine Pixar classic, and stating that it's a brilliant kids film would never raise an argument. However, it's also a brilliant Science Fiction film. There's a parallel universe, monsters, time space portals, politics and scheming corporations. It has action, emotion and a chase scene (on doors!). Oh, and it's also, very, very funny.
October 15, 2008
Earth Ascendant (UK / US) is the sequel to Saturn Returns, although it begins thousands of years after. The Astropolis series uses several clever techniques to tell a story that spans millenia: tempo, where humans can change the speed at which they experience time; multiple instances of the same person; hardcasting which is teleporting a mind into a new body (and across vast distances); and extended life via implied genetic engineering. This allows the story to cross thousands and thousands of years.
The problem I had with Earth Ascendant was the very purpose of the plot. It focuses on Imre Bergamasc's mission to reunite the galaxy in a Returned Continuum, following the demise of the super intelligent post-human Forts in the mysterious Slow Wave. The question I kept asking myself was, why? Why is there an assumption that the human race must join together and act as one? Why is there the need to transcend the way they live? Why can't they just live a good life and be happy? And even more importantly, what right does Imre have to thrust these changes onto entire civilisations?
Consequently I felt little sympathy for the main plot, in which Imre tries to discover a traitor and a treasonous plot, because I didn't agree with the main characters aim.
At the end of Saturn Returns I was left with many major questions, only one of which, what is Domgard?, gets answered. Meanwhile I was still left wondering who the two shadowy organisations are that seem to be fighting each other. In fact the general feeling was the dreaded, book two of a trilogy feeling; that book two was in fact unnecessary and is merely padding. Disappointing.
So, despite Saturn Returns being enjoyable, I'm afraid that Earth Ascendant failed to add anything extra to the story for me. I hope that the finale of the trilogy, The Grand Conjunction, answers the questions, and the answers are good.
Earth Ascendant is published by Orbit and is out in the UK on 6th November 2008.
October 14, 2008
How Should I Educate My Son In Science Fiction?
Dear Dr. BDO,
My son is now two years old and I am beginning to think about how I should educate him in the ways of Science Fiction. I want him to grow up liking SF so that we can go to the cinema together, and read books together and play video games together. The problem is that I don't know where to start.
Confused in Cheltenham
Hello, Confused. You're right to start thinking about this now, it's never to early to educate your children in Science Fiction! There's only on place to start, Star Wars. Sit your child on your knee and watch the original, and best, Star Wars film together. It's his first step into a larger world.
After that the Pixar films have a good mix of SF and keep the young ones entertained, and the adults entertained.
When it comes to books, resist the urge to read your offspring media tie-ins and instead go for the primary source. How about reading The Iron Giant? Or the absurdities of Dr. Seuss?
Whatever you do though, enjoy it!
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.
October 13, 2008
October 10, 2008
Things that Big Dumb Object has loved and hated this week:
- Reading Anathem
- Heroes still being predictable and rubbish
October 9, 2008
Dead Set is a new show starting soon on E4. It features Big Brother and Zombies! Cue jokes. Actually though it sounds and looks pretty cool:
Britain has a big problem. The dead are returning to life and attacking the living. The people they kill get up and kill - and it's spreading like wildfire. Curiously, there are a few people left in Britain who aren't worried about any of this - that's because they're the remaining contestants in Big Brother. Cocooned in the safety of the Big Brother house, they're blissfully unaware of the horrific events unfolding outside. Until an eviction night when all hell breaks loose.
Finally Dr. Horrible, the video, is available to download in the UK and AUS on iTunes. (The soundtrack has been available for a while.) The cost in the UK is £1.49 per episode, which is about 7 beans and a bucket of cow's milk in the new post capitalist financial regime. Or you can get all three episodes for £3.99, which is two peppers a carrot and a cabbage.
It sounds like it was a bit of pain to get the show onto iTunes in these countries. Why is that then?
Disney's The Black Hole is a surprsiningly interesting film. There's a mad genius scientist, talk of space time and an Einstein-Rosenberg bridge, some quite nice spaceships, some cute robots, some cyborgs and a very cool evil robot with a spinning killing arm, Maximillian. Bzzzzzzz!
October 8, 2008
Like the headline? The Sun's is Star Trek Hero To Play Time Lord which is not as good and probably untrue. Anyway, the story is that Patrick Stewart and David Tennant are now "firm" friends, which is what happens when you're in Hamlet together for an extended period of time (either that or you actually want to kill each other). Consequently Patrick is going to appear in Doctor Who "the plan is for him to play a renegade Time Lord called the Meddling Monk".
Via Darren, who is auditioning as BDO's Sun correspondent.
And yes, I completely failed to get tickets for Hamlet, due to clogged interwebs and phone lines.
They also have this amusing picture. Ermmm.
Star Wars : The Clone Wars, the movie received mixed reviews. Apparently it was never initially designed as a movie, but instead as several episodes. Watching the first two episodes of the series proper it's clear that the twenty minute short episodes are a much better format. For a start it means that the plots career along at top speed, with lots of action and fighting. In many ways this is similar to the original hand-drawn series, but just with CGI instead. The main difference appears to be the small amount extra time which allows something other than full on fighting. For example in both of the first episodes the Jedi Masters take pains to explain to their clone troopers that they are not expendable cannon fodder.
Presumably some kind of arc will materialise within the series, but the first two episodes could be watched in an order and are completely independent. One episode, Ambush, focuses on Yoda and his fighting abilities (he's very hard) and the other, Rising Malevolence, on a rescue mission by Anakin and Ahsoka.
What the CGI is extremely good at visualising are the spaceships. Greivous's massive flagship looks, well, massive and menacing. And the Republic gunships still roar past and look like fighting machines.
Adults may get annoyed at the Battle Droids, who talk to each other in (rather feeble) comedy sketches, but this is a programme for kids, and I wouldn't like generalise and guess what they think.
Overall, I enjoyed them: bitesize, action filled chunks of Star Wars.
October 7, 2008
From out of the mulch of PR emails within BDO's virtual mailbag grows a plea for help from a regular Big Dumb Object reader....
Quick Science Fiction Hits Needed
Dear Dr BDO,
I have two young, demanding kids and can rarely find the time to read a full SF novel. I usually read in 2 minute sessions in between being called away to wipe up sick, change a nappy or fight Buzz Lightyear. As a consequence reading something like Anathem would take eons. By the time I get to the end of a Chapter I would've forgotten how it began. However I still retain the craving for SF fiction.....
Can you recommend any good sources of quick SF hits? Books of good short stories or online forums for such material?
Sleepless in South Wales
Hello, Sleepless! Ah the joy of a young family. There certainly are plenty of places that you can get short Science Fiction stories online. In fact there are loads and loads, the real problem is picking which to read.
For a start I'd recommend Futurismic and Strange Horizons who have new fiction monthly and weekly, respectively. Both venues have published excellent fiction, Strange Horizon also has reviews and articles too.
If you want to read what people think of as the best fiction each year, it has become the tradition over the last few years to put the Hugo and Nebula nominees online, SFSignal has a complete list for the 2008 Hugos. Or you can buy one of the end of year anthologies which are big books full of great stories from the year. The two most well known are Years's Best SF and Year's Best Science Fiction.
Or, if you find yourself driving a lot you can get podcasts to listen to, at venues such as Escape Pod or Starship Sofa.
If you want an even shorter hit you need to check out some Flash Fiction. I like Every Day Fiction, although it's not all Science Fiction.
Finally if you're looking for a specific classic story, it's always worth Googling it, sometimes random people have typed them in!
I hope that's enough to keep you going. Good luck!
October 6, 2008
Things that Big Dumb Object wants the most this week:
- Quantum of Solace, even more than last week. Rumours of Science Fictional plot points, ramping publicity and awesome trailers with big explosions.
- Lost. Why do we have to wait so long? I'm missing some good SF TV.
- Survivors. A remake of the TV series based on the Terry Nation book, coming to BBC at the end of October.
October 3, 2008
Well, he was driving at the same time. Via BBC News...
A lorry driver who was caught watching a cult television show at the wheel of his cab on the M6 in Cumbria has been given 225 hours community work.
Benjamin Trotsman veered across the road while watching 1970s sci-fi show Battlestar Galactica on a laptop computer, Penrith magistrates heard.
Police stopped him after he was spotted driving erratically for 25 miles.
Things that Big Dumb Object has loved and hated this week:
- Starting a new book: holding it in your hands, the smell of the pages, the anticipation.
- Unexpected sunshine.
- Books in the post.
- Republicans moaning about socialism.
- Heroes, series three episode one.
- Not having strong enough arms to hold Anathem.
- Financial Apocalypse. Which SF novel saw that coming?
Apparently Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars is heading to TV on AMC. Well, it's being developed. Not much to go on yet, whether it's a film or a mini-series or whatever. Hmmm. Not sure how they'll really manage that.
KSR's Mars trilogy is brilliant, although a little dull a times (too much political constitution wrangling at the start of Blue Mars for a start). Part of that brilliance is the combination of intense detail and massive scope. Two things that sound difficult to achieve on TV.
[Via Dave, the BDO AICN correspondent]
October 2, 2008
First, to clear up the BBC's transmission policy. Wednesday nights on BBC2 at 9pm is the main broadcast time. That episode is one behind the US episode. However after that, on BBC3 and in HD, is the next episode i.e. the same one as the US in that week. Clear as mud. Check here because it will probably all change.
So, new series, sorry season, sorry volume, of Heroes.
It was crap.
So many why-oh-whys:
- The same, show a bad future try and avert it, plot.
- The same time travelling get out clauses
- Characters doing stupid things. Would you try and shoot an invincible man who can stop time?
- Non-stop boring nonsense.
The only cool bit was of course Hiro, and the very entertaining "DON'T DO THIS!" video message. For a moment I thought I was watching Lost, then a bit later wished I was.
When I first watched Heroes, series one, I watched three episodes and gave up because I thought it was predictable and not very good. Then everyone started talking about it so I felt I had to watch it, and it did have some good moments. But now it feels like it's run its course. Are there really any new interesting stories to tell with these characters? Or has it just become a soap opera recycling the same old clichés? I fear the later.
The BBC has lots of video clips online should you wish to peruse them.
In a time where everyone was pumping out dire Pixar clones like their survival depended upon it, Lilio and Stitch looked like a retrograde step back into hand drawn animation. Yet it looked cool and stylish, the spaceships were groovy, it still makes me laugh every time I watch it, and it has a crazy destructive alien doing Elvis impersonations. Cross generational Science Fiction at its best.
October 1, 2008
Saturn's Children (UK / US) is Charles Stross's continuation of Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov style novels. I haven't read much of either author, so this review is given on the proviso that I might have missed some in-jokes or references.
The novel is set in the future, when human's are extinct and the robots that they created populate the Solar System and beyond. As you would expect from Charles Stross the book is over-flowing with ideas; it's the most complete imagination of a robot future that I've ever read. The details and ideas make entering the book very enjoyable, learning about the Solar System and the society that exists. Also I think it's the best writing, as in style, that Stross has done yet. Often in his books I've longed for a bit more poetic description and in this novel he seems to have taken a step up in that regard.
My interest in the book however waned, directly in proportion to the plot. Initially I enjoyed the seemingly randomness of the plot and the events that occur. But eventually a twisty turny thriller plot emerges, and though there's nothing particularly wrong with it, I found myself starting to not care; about the characters or the plot. And that's the challenge, can we as humans care about characters who are robots. Well maybe, but I didn't feel emotionally engaged and by the end it all felt a bit sterile.
There's a lot of sex in this book, which I found slightly tedious. It's no surprise as the main character is from along line of sexbots, who are struggling to find a purpose since their main aim in life is to provide pleasure to an extinct species. But, it all felt a bit Barbarella at times. Maybe that was the point?
There are issues raised about multiple personalities, slavery, freedom and much fun poked at the tediousness of space travel. but none of them really forced me to think about the world today. They didn't engage me intellectually, they were more like abstract discussions of issues in the past or the future.
So all in all, Saturn's Children is a competent novel, full of ideas and with a complete vision of the future, but the plot and the characters failed to move me.