December 2008 Archives

December 31, 2008

The Dumbies 2008 - The Winners!

And the winners are....

Continue reading The Dumbies 2008 - The Winners!.

December 30, 2008

The Dumbies 2008 - Comics

Unfortunately the judges didn't really read any comics at all this year. Well, unless you count xkcd, which we will have to.

Perhaps the award should become "Best xkcd strip of the year"?

xkcd - A Bunch Of Rocks
xkcd - Depth
xkcd - Fiction Rule Of Thumb

December 29, 2008

The Dumbies 2008 - Videogames

The judges only had access to a Nintendo Wii this year, so all of the hardcore first person shooter games on the XBox and Playstation 3 will not be included in the list.

However there was more than enough joyous gaming to be had. Admittedly not much of it was Science Fiction, but the SF that was there was quite astounding.

December 28, 2008

The Dumbies 2008 - TV

Science Fiction television in 2008. Wow, what happened? It seemed to explode. Not all of it good mind you, but some of it was great. And some of it was unexpectedly enjoyable. And that's just the shows that the judges watched, there was even more on TV and even more than that if you included Fantasy shows too. (Which of course we don't.)

Lots of quantity a little bit of quality.

Phoo Action
Being Human
Doctor Who
Terminator : The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog
Dead Set
Survivors (TBD)

December 27, 2008

The Dumbies 2008 - Films

Rather surprisingly the judges saw a handful of Science Fiction films this year, a magnificent feat seeing as how difficult it is for the judges to go to the cinema or watch a DVD.

The films were seen varied from great, to not-as-rubbish-as-anticipated, with Will Smith revelling in SFness. Notable the big Christmas SF film, The Day The Earth Stood Still has not been seen by the judges yet.

I Am Legend (review never got written!)
The Dark Knight
The Next Race

December 26, 2008

The Dumbies 2008 - Books

The judges had another good year for reading books, spurred on at the start of the year by an Apocalyptic reading resolution, and then reading most of the Clarke Award nominees. Twenty Five books in all, which is almost one every two weeks, slightly astonishing given the size of a few of them.

Interestingly not only the Apocalyptic reading list books were dark and gloomy, but so were much of the Clarke award books. Perhaps the new wave of optimistic SF, borne out of real-world hard times, has yet to break? There were of course exceptions, with a few books full of emotion and joy, and these were the books that stood out.

There were a lot of big SF names with new books this year: Ken MacLeod, Stephen Baxter, Charles Stross and Neal Stephenson being the notable authors whose new novels were read this year. Happily most of the old books needed for the reading resolution were still in print, with only a handful being hard to get hold of.

All in all a good years worth of Science Fiction literature.

It's difficult to choose the best book of the year when those read include bona-fide classics, but some of the new stuff lived up to the challenge. Results due in a few days.

2008 Book Reviews
Black Man (TBD)
Anathem by Neal Stephenson
Earth Ascendant by Sean Williams
Saturn's Children by Charles Stross
Seeds Of Change Edited by John Joseph Adams
Sly Mongoose by Tobias Buckell
Dr. Bloodmoney by Philip K. Dick
The Death Of Grass by John Christopher
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Visual Guide by Jason Fry
The Mirrored Heavens by David J. Williams
The Night Sessions by Ken MacLeod
The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway
The Broken World by Tim Etchells
Indiana Jones The Ultimate Guide by James Luceno
On The Beach by Nevil Shute
Saturn's Return by Sean Williams
Lost Boys by James Miller
The Postman by David Brin
The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall
The H-Bomb Girl by Stephen Baxter
The Execution Channel by Ken MacLeod
The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard
Earth Abides by George R. Stewart
Alas Babylon by Pat Frank
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

December 25, 2008

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas to everyone, wherever you are.

Whether you have a peaceful day eating and drinking or a hectic day paying with toys or a normal day because you don't celebrate Christmas, I hope it's a happy one.

December 24, 2008

The 4th Annual Dumbies

Big Dumb Object is pleased to announced the fourth annual Big Dumb Object awards, known as The Dumbies.

The awards follow the now traditional format (thanks to cut and paste)...

Media are eligible for nomination if they have been seen or read by the judges panel in the year of 2008, no matter when they were released. Categories include Best Film, Best Book, Best Television Series, Best Comic and Best Videogame. There are no worst awards in The Dumbies, life is too short to consume bad media and the judges therefore try to avoid such matters.

The nominations will be announced over a few days (for no other reason than to string it out a bit and provide content when the judges are in fact eating and drinking and playing with toys). After the nominations have been announced the judges will be open for bribes for an unspecified period of time. Once they are satisfied that the best offers have arrived and have cogitated on the nominations, the judges will then make their decision and announce the awards in a grand ceremony that involves a single, but important, blog post.

Please feel free to speculate on the nominations until they are announced.

December 23, 2008

The Doctor Who Prom To Be Shown On BBC1

Highlights from the first ever Doctor Who Prom, which took place at the Royal Albert Hall back in July will be shown on BBC1 on New Years Day at 13:50.

Described as the 'hottest ticket in town', the concert is presented by Freema Agyeman (aka Martha Jones), with a surprise guest appearance by Catherine Tate (aka Donna Noble), and features a specially filmed scene written by Russell T Davies, starring David Tennant and a mischeivous Graske.

Throughout the concert the music, is accompanied by sequences from the series and Christmas specials, as well as a host of monsters and aliens, including the Doctor's oldest enemies: the Daleks and Cybermen.

I heard that it was great fun, so glad they're showing it on TV.

Anathem - Neal Stephenson

It took me a long time to read Anathem but it's taken me even longer to write the review. Well, sort of, I haven't spent all of this time writing, just thinking about writing. But now, enough is enough, it's time to write and say what I think about Stephenson's latest, however incoherent the thoughts.

The first thing you notice about Anathem is its size and weight, a hefty book, and yet smaller than the combined Baroque Cycle. Nothing new then, given Stephenson's last few books. So let's forget about that.

Upon starting Anathem I was very worried that he'd gone clockpunk, with a long and intensely detailed passage about the workings of mechanical clock. But it isn't clockpunk, it's just the usual attention to detail. Often Stephenson has written books with wild tangents, so whilst the attention to detail is entertaining it is also off-topic (this was most noticeable in Cryptonomicon). Anathem feels more focused, there are pages of debate or explanation or description, but they are important to the plot. And, wonderfully, Anathem is full-on Science Fiction, no debate needed here as to whether it's eligible for a Hugo. 

The plot itself takes a while to get going, but it's a crucial amount of time that sets the scene, and lets you live in the world, before things start happening. The third quarter dragged a bit for me but the last quarter has an awesome set piece and some events that will probably be the spark for many debates. 

Combined with in-depth discussions of physics, meta-physics and philosophy are many wonderful observations and nuggets of wisdom; the sort of passages I read several times, and then thought about. Passages that felt relevant to me and my life. All of which I have of course now forgotten, but I still get the urges to leaf through the book and look them up.

Despite the science, Anathem also contains some nice characters and genuine emotion. Against all the odds there is even a wonderful, emotional ending. Yes, a proper ending!

All in all it feels a more conventional novel than anything Stephenson has written for a while.

Whist I really did enjoy it, and loved being lost in its many pages, it doesn't quite live up to the best of The Baroque Cycle, in particular The Confusion. But it's Neal Stephenson and it's Science Fiction, so you should read it.

December 22, 2008

Mark Kermode Reviews The Day The Earth Stood Still

Film critic Mark Kermode has much to say on Keanu Reeves' extraordinary acting in The Day The Earth Stood Still, the lovely video review is here. Not sure if anyone outside the UK can get that, if not try the video of the radio show review below...

Survivors recommissioned for second series on BBC One

The remake of Survivors has been recommissioned for a second series

Survivors, Adrian Hodges' (Ruby In The Smoke, Shadow In The North, Charles II and Primeval) post-apocalyptic character-based adventure series for BBC One produced by BBC Drama Production has been recommissioned for a second series it was announced today. The drama, with a series average of 5.9 million/ 23.1% has been given the green light for another six episodes to broadcast next year

Which is cool, because I've been enjoying Survivors and I think there's a lot more story to tell. The last episode of the series is on tonight tomorow on BBC1 at 9pm and I'll provide a full series review after that.

The Very Large Genre Book Blog List Thingy

There are now far too many Genre blogs reviewing books for me to read. But if you want more to read there's a large list over at Grasping For The Wind

And yes Big Dumb Object does still review books, it's just the progress has slowed since October.

New Judge Dredd Movie is Green Lit

Rebellion and 2000 AD are proud to announce that Judge Dredd is coming to a cinema near you soon! Together with DNA Films, the movie production company behind such great sci-fi movies such as Sunshine and 28 Weeks Later, Judge Dredd will go into production in 2009. 

Jason Kingsley, CEO and Creative Director said, 'We can't give away too many details at this point, but we're looking forward to working with DNA Films to bring Judge Dredd back to the big screen.

Via Cinematical

Let's hope they do a better job of it than the first Dredd movie, however with Rebellion involved it gives me a lot of hope.

Most Wanted

Things that Big Dumb Object most wants this week:

  • Mince pies.
  • Sherry.
  • Snow.
  • Jingling bells.
  • Books, lots of books.
  • Time to read lots of books.
  • To watch old Science Fiction films on TV in the afternoon, in front of a roaring fire, whilst outside it's freezing cold.
Yes, it's Christmas.

December 19, 2008

Love & Hate

Things that Big Dumb Object loved and hated this week:

  • The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Yes, again, AGAIN! It's the best thing on TV at the moment, and I will keep saying it until the whole world knows.
  • Someone emailing me to say they liked a story of mine.
  • Christmas coming soon.

  • No more Sarah Connor Chronicles on Virgin  1 until next February, whilst still four episodes behind the US. Booo.
  • Resurrecting an ancient laptop and it breaking in a week.

December 17, 2008

New Trailer For The 2008 Doctor Who Christmas Special

The new trailer for the 2008 Doctor Who Christmas Special - The Next Doctor, is all over the BBC, and online here. I have to say it's looking pretty awesome, proper Christmas stuff, and hopefully the Cybermen can actually be scary this time.

The trailer has been revealed online as part of the now traditional Doctor Who advent calendar. The full list of items in the advent calendar is here. It includes cards, wallpapers, games, video interviews and even a Doctor Who short story.

December 16, 2008

Plot And Zombies, Cool Threadless T-Shirts

One for the writers...

  Plot, it builds character. - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever 

One for the zombie/thriller fans....

  Eating Brains, Throwing Shapes - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

December 15, 2008

Most Wanted

Things most wanted by Big Dumb Object this week:

  • Someone to write all my Christmas cards.
  • Time to sit around and watch SF TV.
  • Time to sit around and finish reading Black Man.
  • A trip to the cinema.
  • The enthusiasm to finally write my Anathem review.
  • My cold to go away.

Star Wars The Stage Show, Sort of

There's going to be a Star Wars stage show. But don't get too excited. It's just a two hour edit of the Star Wars films, with a live orchestra...

Star Wars fans are to feel the force of the seminal sci-fi films and their iconic soundtracks on stage in a major new show, which will launch next year.

In Star Wars: A Musical Journey, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will play a live score as excerpts from the six films are shown on a cinema screen.

The show has been put together by director George Lucas' company Lucasfilm and composer John Williams.

It will premiere at the O2 arena in London in April before a European tour.

Via the BBC.

The show will open at the O2 on 10 April. Tickets, costing between £30 and £100, will go on sale on Monday. £100! That's a joke right? Why not just watch the films with the sound turned up?

December 13, 2008

American Surburbia In The Eighties, Science Fiction And Growing Up In The Black Country

When I was growing up, Middle America Suburbia seemed like the most exotic place in the world, a place of wonder and adventure, a place of futurism and hope, a place where geeky boys could get gorgeous girls and everyone had a chance of succeeding. It was, of course, a view coloured dramatically by ET, Wargames, Back To The Future, The Last Starfighter, Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure, Tron and other films of that ilk; films I had devoured and loved. Their appeal also clearly had something to do with the fact that I grew up in The Black Country, not that I didn't and don't love it there, but it is so far removed from the worlds those films portrayed it's hard to convey in mere words; don't let a common(ish) language fool you, America was as foreign as the moon.

Bizzarely, to me, most of the heroes of these films seemed to be desperate to escape the ultra wide roads, and effortless teenage cool lifestyles of American Surburbia. It was so dull to them, so boring, adventure was calling. Adventure wrapped up in brilliantly optimistic messages:

  • Wargames - if you're a computer geek you can teach the mighty US military that Nuclear War is futile, and you get the girl.
  • Back To The Future - The Power Of Love will save you if you made a mess of the space time continuum, plus you get to ride in a cool Time Machine, and you get the girl.
  • The Last Starfighter - If you're good at videgames you get to fly real spaceships, in real space. And you also can come back for the girl.
  • ET - You can make friends with an alien and save them from the evil government, plus you get to take part in an awesome BMX chase. Unfortunately you are too young to get a girl.
  • Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure - Even if you're stupid you can get to travel in a time machine, become the most important people in the world and (eventually) learn to play the guitar in an awesome fashion. And you get the girls / princesses.
  • Tron - If you're an awesome computer programmer you can go inside a computer and ride of super cool lightcycles, get a (virtual) girl, and become CEO.
None of these things seemed remotely possible in an English surburbia.

The closest I got to Science Fiction was travelling to Birmingham on a busy weekend, walking down to street level from out of the shopping centre that the train station is encased in, deep into a busy bottlenecked crowd that felt like something out of Bladerunner. The optimism of the region seemed to have died with the fading glamour of the Industrial Revolution; leaving a slightly startled concrete mess. Birmingham has since recovered, in a bout of 90's rejuvenation, although the result no longer seems futuristic, just glass and malls and the same, more or less, as every other UK city.

It was Star Wars that started me on the Science Fiction path, but that was unobtainable, too far away, in another galaxy. To see American kids, in America, saving the world and having Science Fiction adventures, that was something else. Something, that despite being the other side of the world, was clearly obtainable; you just had to live in California. (I've since been to California; I touched the Delorian and visited a Circle K but there were no Science Fictional adventures.) That's why I love those films.

The golden age of Science Fiction film is twelve, in surburbia, in America, in the eighties.

December 12, 2008

Love & Hate

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

  • Spooks
  • Survivors
  • Terminator : The Sarah Connor Chronicles
...yes, yes, it's the same old TV shows I've been watching for weeks, but YES! I'm loving them....

  • Christmas coming soon.

  • Darkness when it should be light. Who designed this Solar System? We need big orbital mirrors.
  • Getting a cold.
  • Not reading very much. I feel a new year's resolution involving short stories coming on.
  • Not writing at all. I really need to try and break my double shortlist-but-no-win run, but to do that I actually have to write something. I feel a new year's resolution involving short stories coming on.
  • Not redesigning this blog. Again. I at least want to try and get my Tweets integrated soon. Ish. 

December 11, 2008

My Perfect eBook Reader, A Nintendo DS

I have read ebooks on my little Nokia 6230i, it was okay, but it was not the greatest experience. The Kindle just looked stupid and I can't afford an iPhone. What does that leave? A Nintendo DS!

Nintendo, the Japanese video games company that brought us Donkey Kong and Mario the Plumber, is to announce a deal with the publisher HarperCollins today to make literary classics available to read on its DS portable games consoles. 

The 100 Classic Book Collection ranges from Shakespeare and Dickens to Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters. It will cost about £20 and will be available initially only in Britain. Readers will turn the pages by brushing a finger across the screen. If the collection is a success, Nintendo may expand the range of books available.

The perfect combination, books and Mario Kart. The down side however is that presumably all the classic books are old and freely available anyway. How about providing them on a memory card to slide into the upcoming DSi? That would be cool.

I wonder if any other publishing groups are going to join in the experiment?

Spooks Series 7

The latest series of Spooks has just finished and it was an excellent return to form. The focus was on espionage and old skool cold-war spying rather than the rather lazy target of much fiction of this type, terrorists.

I also found myself wondering if Spooks was speculative fiction. Spooks Code 9 was supposed to be the Science Fiction version, but all they really did was set it in the future so that they could excuse the many deviations from reality. Nothing was really said or done in Code 9 that made me think it was SF. Yet, even though Spooks uses no outlandish SF tropes it does pose some very near future questions and then decides what happens (admittedly this usually involves the good guys winning whilst one of them dies, but at least they play it out). Some examples of recent Spooks plots:

  • A virulent virus gets loose in London.
  • A tactical nuke is loose in London. (It's normally London that gets it.)
  • A Russian sub launches a DOD attack on the UK interweb.
Maybe these are just techno-thriller plots? I'm not sure. I've never been good with defining genre boundaries. My temptation is to dislike anything that sounds like "Fantasy", classify anything rubbish as a "uninformed SF wannabe" (or "Fantasy") and group anything I like into "Science Fiction"! Well, kind of. Perhaps I can learn to be a bit more objective.

Whatever I classify it as, Spooks was entertaining Television, with some great present day fictional plots, and it resonated with my years of reading Spy novels when I was younger.

Terminator Salvation Trailer 2

The new Terminator Salvation trailer is very cool. Lots more Mad Max style crossed with original Terminator blue future gloom. I hope the story lives up to expectations because the visuals look great. I like the idea that a different future arrives, plenty of scope for John Connor to show what he's made of.

December 9, 2008

Dr. BDO's Problem Page : Can You Name This Book?

Dear Dr. BDO,

Some years ago late 70s early 80s my brotherinlaw lent me a book about people riding the highways to keep them open it was i seem to recall part of a trilogy and contained mutants and a character called catback well i never finished it nor returned it either could you help me to do both with a title or author?

Uncle Plumey

Hello there. Well that's tricky. I've looked and searched and shuffled around the interweb but couldn't find the answer. So let's try the best resource there is, people. Anyone out there know the answer? Big SF kudos to the first person who knows.

December 8, 2008

Most Wanted

Things that Big Dumb Object most wants this week:

  • Nano-Assemblers.
  • FTL drives.
  • To live in The Culture, on a quiet Orbital.
  • Snow.
  • A sustainable society that doesn't depend upon economics.
  • Chocoloate.

December 5, 2008

Love & Hate

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

  • Black Man by Richard Morgan, which is starting to get good. (Slow reading doesn't help.)
  • Kirill whose tenth (and final?) web episode has been released online. It's stylish and intriguing, but unfortunately all enigma and no resolution. Maybe the accompanying blogs gave more info, but I can't be bothered with media cross over nonsense, I just want to watch or read a story.
  • Merlin Mann back on top form.
  • Excellent TV every night of the week: Spooks, Survivors, Heroes, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, The IT Crowd, Outnumbered. Oh, sorry, excellent every night except Wednesday which is when Heroes is on.

  • Temperatures dropping to just above freezing.

December 4, 2008

Why the love affair with man-eating plants?

The BBC has a long article on apocalyptic fiction:

A new BBC adaptation is being made of The Day of the Triffids, but why are we still prepared to believe in a post-apocalyptic world roamed by flesh-eating semi-sentient plants? And do we have a love affair with fictionalised destruction?

Including quotes from Dr Barry Langford, senior lecturer in film and television at Royal Holloway, University of London and Andy Sawyer, librarian at the Science Fiction Foundation Collection at the University of Liverpool.

There's room for comments at the bottom of that article if you feel like joining in!

Bryan Fuller To Rejoin Heroes

AICN has news about Heroes:

It looks like "Pushing Daisies" mastermind Bryan Fuller is about to sign a two-year deal with NBC Universal, and his first job will be working on the final three episodes of "Heroes'" current season.

That says it all really doesn't it? Let's try and rescue the entire show in the last three episodes! How can they possibly do that without it all being a dream?

Star Wars : Compare And Contrast

Original Star Wars versus Special Editions, despite all the fanboy vitriol a lot of stuff actually got better.

December 3, 2008

Caprica Series Is Go

Wired has news that the Battlestar Galactica spinoff Caprica has got the go ahead:

It's official: Sci Fi Channel gave the go-ahead Tuesday to Caprica, a Battlestar Galactica prequel set 50 years before the events of the Cylons-versus-humans series. The new show, which stars Esai Morales and Eric Stoltz (pictured), begins production next summer and premieres in 2010. "It's definitely not as dark as Battlestar, but like that show, this series has smart, dimensional characters who grapple with issues of love, sex and politics from a world in transition," says Sci Fi programming exec Mark Stern.

Via Ben Hammersley.

Writer's Interviewed on Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe

Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe had a writer's special last night. Charlie Brooker wrote the zombietastic Dead Set. On the show he interviewed Tony Jordan (Hustle, Life On Mars), Graham Linehan (The IT Crowd, Big Train (series 1)), Russell T. Davies (Doctor Who), Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain (Peep Show), Paul Abbott (Shameless) and I might have missed somebody.

It was incredibly interesting, if you're a writer you really have to go and watch it, if you're not it was still entertaining. The writers often had vastly different techniques, far too much advice to summarise succinctly. However my favourite analogy was from Graham Linehan who said:

Writing is a bit like having a poo.


BBC to remake The Day of The Triffids

Once again the BBC are going to remake The Day Of The Triffids. Personally I think the last version was pretty good despite the doddery Triffids. Although I can see how some 21st century SFX could make it a lot slicker.

It will be written by ER screenwriter Patrick Harbinson and go into production later this year, which doesn't leave long.

In the meantime read the book, it was much, much better than I expected it to be.

Simon Pegg's Scotty Accent

The new Star Trek trailer looks pretty good, let's hope they have a good story. Best of all is that we get to hear Simon Pegg's accent, which he has resolutely refused to do elsewhere up till now, presumably under pain of death.

December 2, 2008

Dr. BDO's Problem Page : Christmas

Dear Dr. BDO,

I need to get a Christmas present for the Science Fiction geek in my life, but I know nothing about Science Fiction. What should I get?

Giving In Gloucester

Ahh, tis almost the season to be jolly. Here's a selection of gifts that should go down well.

And you can never go far wrong with classic SF films. Try Blade Runner: The Final Cut in HD

And my personal favourite, books. Lots of books. Finding a book that your SF geek has not read may well be a challenge, but if he is a real geek he'll have a large list somewhere online of what he has read, or a wishlist somewhere of what he wants. So search it out and buy him some Science Fiction Literature.

December 1, 2008

Most Wanted

Things that Big Dumb Object most wants this week:

  • A Science Fiction themed advent calendar with chocolate behind each door. I'd prefer a "best of all SF" theme, but there's probably only Star Wars or Doctor Who. Maybe Woolworths will be flogging them off cheap now they've gone bust?
  • A Christmas Tree Machine.
  • A trip to the cinema to see some spaceships on the big screen. You can't beat humungo sized spaceships.

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