January 2009 Archives

January 30, 2009

Love & Hate

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

Loved
  • Lost. I'm now obsessed again.
  • Reading The Penultimate Truth. PKD is amazing. And, have you seen how many books he wrote?
  • Being Human. Funny, sad, and surprising.

Hated
  • Story rejections. Especially ones that say "well written and we liked it, but we're not buying it". Oh.

January 28, 2009

SF Awards Not Rubbish (Again)

Adam Roberts has an article on Futurismic accusing Science Fiction book awards as being rubbish. He presents a rather rambling, well ranting, list of arguments, that as you can probably gather I disagree with.

For a start his initial assumption is that reader voted awards are trying to figure out the best book of the year. Adam's argument is that you can't tell what is best until a significant period of time has passed and you're looking back at the period. Whereas actually reader voted awards are figuring out the most popular book that year that the most people liked. It's a two dimensional equation:

Quality : readers will vote for the book that they enjoyed the most.
Exposure : A book needs to have been read by a large number of people. (Where "large" depends on the award.)

So clearly a great book that wasn't read that year, for whatever reason won't win. But that's the way it goes. I don't necessarily agree that it affects the voting the year after, well it wouldn't affect me anyway. So reader voted awards perfectly match their mission statement, it's just that most people simplify this statement so that it appears to not be working.

Jury judged awards have a different purpose, but again I'd argue that it's not really to find the best book. it's really to find five great books that the jury think deserve to be read. The Clarke Award never fails to do this, generating discussion and finding books worth reading. The short list is more important in a juried award than the winner.

I'd also query the idea that we can easily look back ten years ago and figure out which book is best. We can maybe figure out which books have been the most popular, but lesser good books presumably would be lost in the noise. It's the same problem, just moved back ten years.

Finally I think that the value of these awards and shortlists is vastly underrated by the Science Fictionarati, who seem to never stop moaning about them. To someone who is a casual fan of Science Fiction or even, shock horror, not even a fan, it provides a good starting point. A casual fan can look at the BSFA Award or the Clarke Award and see not only what fans but also what an exhaustive jury process suggest. It's surely the best recommendation process we have?


War Of The Worlds : What To Do When The Martians Invade

Last weekend I saw the Spielberg remake of War Of The Worlds for the first time. Yes, I know I'm three years late, but I didn't get to see it a the cinema for all the usual reasons and didn't get to watch it on DVD for all the usual reasons, so in the end I saw it because it was on TV and I had two hours to watch it.

I thought the film was a pretty decent attempt, capturing a lot of the book's essence. (I really enjoyed the book, pleasantly surprised in fact.) It has the surprise attack, following the every-man protaganist in his attempt to reunite with his wife, the mass migration from the city and of course the legendary tripods and their red weed. It's very Spielberg and very Cruise, but has some really scary moments, particularily the scene where the mob take their car.

It got me thinking though, in both the film and the book the hero tries to find his wife, at the expense of safety and common sense. Well, I say common sense, perhaps you can excuse H.G. Wells' character due to the lack of inctructional material, but Tom Cruise surely had all the knowledge he needed to make things a bit easier.

Here's what a survivor of a Martian attack should do:

  1. Turn off the emotions and start thinking about survival. Getting yourself killed means you'll never see your wife again. Yes it will be difficult, but you have to weigh up the risks and stay alive.
  2. Head away from the crowds. The Martians are trying to exterminate humanity, so presumable they'll start by following the 80/20 rule, wiping out the cities and the herds of fleeing humans. Only when that's done will they search the remote basements of houses. So head into the country, preferably with a tent, and camp in the woods. Maybe keep a Ray Mears book to hand.
  3. If you find a car that's still working pay special attention to rule #2.
  4. Don't trust anyone, even if they offer to help. They may turn out to be a crazy preacher or Tim Robbins. Best to keep yourself to yourself, rule #2 will help with this.
  5. Patience. Wait it out. The Martians will probably die of a cold anyway.

January 27, 2009

Dr. BDO's Problem Page : Weather



Dear Dr. BDO,

I'm getting slightly fed up with the temperate climate in which I live: rain, snow, drizzle, occaisional sunshine. Maybe I should move to somewhere else, but for various geopolitical reasons none of the alternatives appeal to me. Do you have any suggestions?

Wet In Winchester.


Ahh the weather. In the future we shall not fear the weather! In fact if you have enough money you needn't fear the weather now. Perhaps you could seed the clouds to ensure that rain falls on specific times of the month, although this method is not the most reliable, especially with a huge gulf stream throwing moisture towards you at 200mph. You could perhaps use plenty of fossil fuels and generate as much CO2 as possible, in an attempt to "change the climate", because let's face it any change will probably be better. (Just make sure you live on a hill).

Personally though I have a couple of favourites: firstly go an live in an "orbital" where the climate is man made as is the "world". The Culture have plenty of these knocking around the galaxy, all you have to do is find them.

Secondly, you could live in a dome. This is the approach that Dr. BDO has taken. Geodesic domes are so cool that they will never go out of style, find a plot of land and dome it. Or you could move into The Eden Project perhaps. Or Center Parcs. Either way the climate will be in your control. Good luck!

January 26, 2009

Dr. Horrible The Commentary The Musical On YouTube

Dr. Horrible is an awesome show by Joss Whedon that debuted online. Then you could buy it on iTunes. Then eventually the DVD was released and on the DVD the commentary itself was done in the form of a muscial. And now that commentary is online at YouTube. Full circle.

Most Wanted


Things most wanted by Big Dumb Object this week:

  • More Lost. Oh yes, more of the same please.
  • More Being Human. Surprisingly not too bad for a BBC3 show.
  • The ability to make time to read some short stories.
  • Space Buddies. It's puppies, in space!

January 25, 2009

Lost - S05E01 and S05E02



Lost is back, and full on Science Fiction. No more allusions or hiding, the story is now all about time travelling, as perhaps the entire series always has been.

On the island the characters, or perhaps the island, are skipping through time in an uncontrolled manner. Fortunately physicist Daniel is there to explain it all. Well, to everyone except Locke, who was looking decidely shaken. I loved the interaction between Sawyer and Daniel. I was chuckling at Sawyer's attempt to find a shirt.

In fact there was still a decent amount of humour in the two episodes, Hurley particularily made me laugh. Laughter and peril. Strangely Hurley seems the most together out of everyone who escpaed the island  to me, although that's not saying much seeing as Jack, Kate, Said and Sun have all completely lost it. (Cymbal crash.) And Desmond is special to allow an extra level of artistic licence.

There were plenty of scenes I loved in these two episode: the start of episode one which was an homage to season two and Desmond in the hatch, Hurley seeing dead people, Said in ninja assassin mode, Ben apparently being involved in some Dan Brown-esque world saving cult. 

Interesting how the writers have set up a golden rule nothing can be changed, which not only silences all the discussions about paradoxes, but also sets up what could be the essence of the entire plot. Is Ben trying to prevent changes to ensure the stability of the universe? Maybe. And maybe Jim from neighbours is just afte rthe island for corporate gain and ignoring the plight of actually saving the universe.

Lost is slowly transmogrifying from all-out bonkersness to a self-consistent time travelling Science Fiction masterpiece. I know I'm going to enjoy this season.

January 23, 2009

Love & Hate

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

Loved
  • Lost! Awesome, bonkers, addictive and SCIENCE FICTION!
  • The Chrysalids by John Wyndham.
  • Starting a PKD book I haven't read before.
  • The Clone Wars having a massive spaceship battle at the start of the episode.
  • The BSFA novel shortlist. I've even read 75%!
  • Writing every day.
Hated
  • The Clone Wars resorting to small creatures with big eyes.
  • BDO blowing its bandwidth limits by a lot.

Doctor Who Michelle Ryan Rumours True (Sort Of)



The BBC has confirmed that Michelle Ryan and Lee Evans will guest star in the forthcoming Doctor Who Easter Special which began filming this week in Wales.

So the Bionic Woman is going to be in Doctor Who as reported, but probably only for the Easter special. Lee Evans appears to be a natural choice for Doctor Who, bumbling assistant or bumbling enemy?





Neil Gaiman Story Online With Cool Illustrations

Neil Gaiman's short story The Day The Saucers Came is online here with cool illustrations by Jouni Koponen and all presented using Microsoft's Infinite Canvas. More of a poem than a story, but very cool, looks lovely.


SFSignal's "Match The Headline To The Blog" Game

John has an amusing game at SFSignal, can you match the blog post headline to the blog, featuring Big Dumb Object, io9, SciFi Chick, SciFi Scanner, SciFi Wire and SF Signal.

Interesting.

Can you spot the styles? They all seemed more or less the same to me! There's a lesson in that.

Notice that I have cunningly reworded John's original post to come up with a new headline for this post. That's pure creativity pouring out through the keyboard, right there.

January 22, 2009

Persuade Me To Watch Battlestar Galactica



I watched season 3 of Battlestar Galactica eventually, but got bored. I felt that it was repeating itself, struggling for an arc, reaching for ideas. I watched the first episode of season four and didn't like it at all.

I liked season one a lot. Very fresh, very cool. And season two was pretty good too.

But season four?

I'm not sure. Should I bother? Can anyone persuade me that it's worth my time?

Wired talks about spoilers and Lost (with no spoilers)

There's an article on Wired describing what a lot of us go through online to either avoid or gather spoilers.

The return of Lost on Wednesday marks the latest chapter in a continuing drama filled with outrage, double-crosses, subterfuge, betrayal and shocking reversals of fortune. We're not talking about the show itself. We're talking about the War of the Spoilers.
The return of lost also seems to have escalated another battle in the form of torrents, including, from what I can gather, fakes, malware, etc. etc.

Online combatants in a very strange war.

All because of a SF TV show.

BSFA Award Shortlist

The shortlist for this years BSFA awards have been announced. Below is the list, cut and pasted directly from Torque Control.

I haven't read Flood, but out of those four I'd go for The Gone-Away World which was my book of the year. I'm disappointed that The Broken World didn't get on because I think it deserves more acclaim. As usual I have no opinion any of the other categories....yet.

Best Novel
Flood by Stephen Baxter
The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway
The Night Sessions by Ken MacLeod
Anathem by Neal Stephenson



Best Short Fiction
"Exhalation" by Ted Chiang (Eclipse 2)
"Crystal Nights" by Greg Egan (Interzone 215)
"Little Lost Robot" by Paul McAuley (Interzone 217)
"Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment" by M. Rickert (F&SF, Oct/Nov 2008)

Best Non-Fiction
"Physics for Amnesia" by John Clute Superheroes!: Capes and Crusaders in Comics and Films by Roz Kaveney (I.B. Tauris)
What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction by Paul Kincaid (Beccon)
Rhetorics of Fantasy by Farah Mendlesohn (Wesleyan)

Best Artwork
Cover of Subterfuge, ed. Ian Whates, by Andy Bigwood
Cover of Flood by Stephen Baxter, by Blacksheep
Cover of Swiftly by Adam Roberts, by Blacksheep
Cover of Murky Depths 4 by Vincent Chong
Cover of Interzone 218 by Warwick Fraser Coombe

Amazon Author Stores Directory Launched

Amazon.com has begun grouping authors' books into something more sensible than search on name with Amazon Author Stores. Which is great if you're Neal Stephenson but what if you're a smaller author and your name isn't on there? Will it disadvantage you? Isn't it Anti-Long-Tail?

Don't know. And perhaps only Amazon will ever know the full effect.




January 21, 2009

The Chrysalids - John Wyndham

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham (UK, US), is part of my Apocalypse Watch reading. (I'd already read The Day Of The Triffids). And once again Wyndham has surprised me. I'm not sure why, it's becoming clear that I have a completely invalid view of what Wyndhams novels are like.

The Chrysalids is set a thousand or so years in the future, it's not precisely clear, after a nuclear apocalypse. The plot follows David Storm from when he is a young boy. He lives in a religious agricultural community where deviation from God's true forms is vigorously attacked. The true form is spelt out in complimentary book to the bible, that has been passed down through generations. So, mutated crops are burnt, mutated cattle are killed and mutated people are banished to the Fringes, where life is hard and feral.

The style threw me at first in a good way, it wasn't what I was expecting, but soon the story of David's life grabbed me in a nice low key way. The events which drive the story grow in impact slowly. It's one of the great strengths of the book, it starts at a very local, focussed point of view and slowly opens up and up until the events have a much larger impact.

The idealogical battle is not as subtle as a modern novel would handle it: take for example how Black Man deals with genetic variance, much less in your face, whereas The Chrysalids has pages of infodump monologue arguing. Still, it's such a big, interesting topic, that I wasn't put off by open arguments. In many ways it's a good old big idea book. What's the true form of man? The current form of man not being the pinnacle, just the current state, and evolution is continuing. What's the difference between mutation and evolution? And so on...

Another topic nicely handled is the idea that those who have exterior deviations, such as an extra finger, are the same inside as "pure" humans. The minor physical aberration is punished because it's visible despite it having negligible effect on how they behave. And yet the biggest deviation in the novel cannot be seen at all, so those who look the same are in fact, very different. Enduring themes, but still worth thinking about.
 
Oh, and being a book written in the fifties it's nice and succinct, less than a couple of hundred pages. Focussed, thought-provoking and still relevant. I like it a lot.

January 20, 2009

Awesome SFnal Digital Paintings

PSDTUTS has 54 mind blowing digital paintings...

50 legendary examples of digital painting in Photoshop. This hyper-modern medium blends traditional painting techniques with a digital canvas to produce stunning results. Featuring Cris de Lara, Alon Chou, Frederic St-Arnaud and others.

...many of which are very Science Fiction. This one is by Taeyoung Choi



Dr. BDO's Problem Page : I Need Satellite TV

Dear Dr. BDO,

All of my favourite Science Fiction television programmes are on Satellite but in these tough economic times I can't afford to pay every month for Sky. What can I do?

Cheers,

Cash-Strapped in Cardiff


Don't despair! First of all, not all great SF is on Sky in the UK. If you have a Freeview box you can watch The Sarah Connor Chronicles on Virgin1. Then there's Doctor Who on BBC of course. ITV4 showed Jericho. ITV1 had Primeval. BBC1 had Survivors. And so on. In fact Sky only has exclusive rights to a few shows, notably Lost and Battlestar Galactica. If you really want to see these shows you have a few choices: firstly wait until they come out on DVD or BluRay and watch them in a mammoth session, secondly point your very large homemade foil satellite dish into the American ether, thirdly ask a friendly American to tape it for you on VCR and post it to the UK, fourthly watch it online by circumventing any IP restriction using a collection of friendly proxies... or, you could turn off the television set and go and do something else. Like read a book. There's plenty of non-region locked science fiction novels out there.

January 19, 2009

Michelle Ryan a new assistant in Doctor Who?

A bit roundabout and tenuous this rumour, so stick with me, The Telegraph says that The Mirror says that BBC inside source said that "Michelle's been in secret talks with BBC bosses."

However they also say that "Lily Allen, 23, Kelly Brook, 29 have all recently been linked to the coveted assistant's role." Which sounds like complete nonsense.

Michelle Ryan is best known in the US for being The Bionic Woman, and best known in the UK for being Zoe Slater in Eastenders.

Most Wanted

Things most wanted by Big Dumb Object this week:

  • Lost
  • Lost
  • Lost
  • Lost
  • Lost
  • Lost
That'll be Lost then. Wednesday night in the US, Sunday night in the UK on Sky 1.
Woo hoo.

January 18, 2009

OMG! Paris Hilton in Doctor Who!

Please let the rumour that Paris Hilton is to appear in the Doctor Who special The Bride Of Davros be complete tabloid nonsense.

Please.



Behind On New Year Resolutions Already

I said I was going to read a short story every week this year. So far I have read none. I have however read two novels.

I shall try and rectify.


January 16, 2009

Love & Hate

Things that Big Dumb Object loved and hates this week:

Loved
  • Hustle. Mickey is back and it's as entertaining as ever. I wish the crew who did this and Spooks would make a SF series.
  • Spook Country. William Gibson at his best. Absolutely loved it. And it's not Science Fiction.
  • Started reading The Chrysalids by John Wyndham and it's taken me completely by surprise in a very good way.
  • More trailers for Lost. Woo hoo. Not long now.


Hated
  • Demons. It has Richard Wilson as a zombie in a church, Philip Glenister wit the worst American accent I have ever heard, the doctor from Survivors and a model pretty young lad as a descendent of Van Helsing. Sounds like it should be hilarious but it's crap. Urban fantasy modern nonsense by numbers. 
  • Slightly worried that at episode twelve The Clone Wars has used up all its story lines and we're now on for an endless set of Dooku, Kenobi, Skywalker meetings, banter, escape. More of the rest of the war please.

Peter Andrew Jones - The Zap Gun

Sci-Fi-O-Rama has a great piece of art by Peter Andrew Jones called The Zap Gun, which reminds me of a big SF Enclopedia style book I had when I was young (and can't quite remember the name of.)

Also it turns out that he did the cover for Steve Jackson's Fighting Fantasy book Starship Traveller, which I have.... somewhere.




BSFA Award Nominations 2008 Close Tonight

A reminder, (reminded to me by Torque Control), that the nominations for the 2008 BSFA Awards close tonight.

Send your nominations to Donna at awards@bsfa.co.uk. The current list is here. The shortlists are then calculate from the items which have the most nominations. So if there's something on the list that you haven't nominated, you should still nominate it.

I have three short stories eligible for the award (i.e. published in 2008):




Jericho the movie?



News of a Jericho movie being developed (via SciFiWire)

Jon Turteltaub, one of the executive producers of CBS' defunct Jericho, told iF Magazine that he and his partners are developing a feature-film version of the post-apocalyptic series. "We're developing a feature for Jericho," Turteltaub told the magazine. "It would not require you to have seen the TV show, but it get into life after an event like this on a national scale. It would be the bigger, full on American version of what's going on beyond the town in Jericho."

So basically, take all the good stuff about Jericho and get rid of it? So annoying. Why with SF films does everyone automatically think bigger is better? When it's clearly not true. The best thing about Jericho was the soap opera aspect to it, following a small town in a post-nuclear apocalypse, following the characters. Imagining what it would be like. The larger, nationwide conspiracy, which came to the fore in season two didn't work as well, because it moved the focus away from the characters and their lives.

If I was the production team I'd just package the whole show into some nice collectors edition, Blu-Ray maybe, add loads of extras, maybe sell it with a book with nice pictures of filiming and concept art. And then let go.
 

January 15, 2009

X-Men Origins Trailer

I don't really care too much about the X-Men films, but the trailer for the new Wolverine movie, or whatever it's called looks quite good.  

January 14, 2009

Spook Country - William Gibson

The Sprawl trilogy (Neuromancer, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive) by Wiliam Gibson were seminal books for me, changing the way that I thought about Science Fiction. They were fresh, intelligent, cool and gloriously cyberpunk.

The Bridge trilogy (Virtual Light, Idoru and All Tomorrow's Parties) were less impressive. Although I enjoyed reading them I felt that most of the what needed to be said had been done in the short story Skinner's Room. Well maybe, perhaps they deserve a reread.

Then Pattern Recognition was William Gibson writing Not Science Fiction, and instead a modern day thriller that somehow still felt like tomorrow. I loved it.

Spook Country (UK / US) feels like it is about today, not tomorrow, and yet from the opening it still felt as wonderful and foreign and fresh as the Sprawl books. The trick is that Gibson still writes about the fringes of society, about cool obscure movements and ex-rockstars and mysterious people, and writes about them with such intriguing simmering passion that I want to know more. So when he describes a virtual Locative art movement empowered by GPS I wanted to Google it and find some blogs and learn about it. The foreigness not only comes from the obscure sides of society but also the way he never writes down to the reader, he uses colloquial cultural references and expects you to know about them, or at least figure it out. The names of US hotel chains and corner shops and the geography of Hollywood were completely foreign to me, and added an extra level of suction at the start.

It also appears to be the most personal Gibson novel I've read, or maybe it's just that I'm more aware of how it could be more personal: I read (on Gibson's blog maybe?) that he needs to be writing a novel to collect his Magpie array of ideas and thoughts; and the descriptions of one of the characters on tranquilisers in a hotel room conjured up images of Gibson on a fatiguing book tour. And then of course, Vancouver, Gibson's home town, is also a location for the novel and is described in some great passages.

The language is wonderful. Really... well just brilliant, words fail me. It's the sort of book where I savoured sentences and paragraphs.

The plot and characters are in many ways secondary to the language, yet it's not a trivial story, it's a story which affects three characters lives significantly, and whose plot consists of clever and subtle manipulations. It is also a plot with a lovely sense of resolution, I felt satisfied at the end. In fact I just sat there and grinned and wondered about reading it again straight away because I enjoyed it so much.

A William Gibson story about now.

Lovely stuff.


January 13, 2009

Dr. BDO's Problem Page : Gambling

Dear Dr. BDO,

I just lost 325 quid on betting that the next Doctor in Doctor Who would be Alan Davies. Have you got any insider tips that I can bet on to claim the money back.

Gambler in Greenford

Oh dear. First of all I'd recommend not betting on such things, or perhaps seek help. In fact not sure what else you could bet on, would the bookies take bets on the Hugos or the BSFA Awards? Probably not. You could bet on the Oscars perhaps. But you're probably best just saving your money and paying your mortgage off. Or investing it in a Space Elevator.

January 12, 2009

Doctor Who Rumours - Make Them Your Own

I love how everyone finds their own take on Doctor Who rumours, Stuff New Zealand has a post entitled Dr Who sidekick may be a Kiwi which is factually correct due to the inclusion of the word maybe, but it's hardly news is it? Then again, I'm blogging it.

Five Doctor Who rumours that are factually accurate:

  1. The new companion may be from the Black Country
  2. The TADRIS may regain it's chameleon powers.
  3. The new Doctor may spend his time watching BBC3 and going clubbing.
  4. The new Doctor Who series may have a story arc featuring a renegade blogger.
  5. All rumours about Doctor Who are made up by bloggers,.



The Website at the End of the Universe's free downloadable calendar

I forgot to actually blog about the now traditional calendar from the Website at the End of the Universe. It's an essential for every SF fan: pulp magazine covers (mainly with damsels in intergalactic distress) and dates, combined in one handy package. 

Most Wanted

Things that Big Dumb Object most wants this week:

  • Picking which book to read next from my Christmas presents.
  • Being Human starting a new series.
  • More Lost trailers that I will struggle to avoid watching.
  • The start of the Hollywood award season and all the nonsense that goes with it. Wall-E and the Dark Night for a sack full?

January 9, 2009

Love & Hate

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

Loved
  • The amount of press that the announcement of a new Doctor can generate. Who'd have thought that a Science Fiction television show could generate so much interest?
  • Spook Country by William Gibson. Reading it. Loving it.
  • The promise of new Science Fiction in a new year.


Hated 
  • The amount of press that the announcement of a new Doctor can generate. It gets a bit tiresome after a while.
  • Holidays ending.

January 8, 2009

More On Matt Smith

The BBC has a full page dedicated to describing Matt Smith, the new Doctor in Doctor Who. The article has the cunning title Who On Earth Is Matt Smith and has some video from the Doctor Who Confidential episode (although not sure you can see it outside the UK?).

Writing And Distractions, Advice From Cory Doctorow

Cory has some excellent advice for writers in his Locus article Writing in the Age of Distraction

  • Short, regular work schedule
  • Leave yourself a rough edge
  • Don't research
  • Don't be ceremonious
  • Kill your word-processor 
  • Realtime communications tools are deadly
All of which I agree with, well, I often use Google Docs because I like the online backup, but his points are solid (although can you imagine writing a novel in vi. Arrrggggh. Writing a thesis in emacs was bad enough).

However the last few years most of my writing has been done longhand, with just a pen and a notebook you can turn off the computer completely and write anywhere at all, even standing up in a queue. The only pain with that process is typing it up, but that does act as another draft edit, which can be good.

Written every day this year and it feels very good.

January 7, 2009

Black Man - Richard Morgan

Black Man by Richard Morgan (or Thirteen as it is published in the US) is a book I like better now I've finished it than when I was reading it. Which is strange in a few ways. 

First of all the language is really good, much better than in the only other Morgan book I have read, Altered Carbon, (which was of course his first novel and Black Man is his fifth). There were passages that were worth lingering over, something that pleasantly surprised me given my assumption that Morgan wrote fast-paced violent thrillers. 

Also, the setting is a seriously thought out near future, with some good extrapolations and a believable and intriguing world. The use of genetic modifications and their consequences are well done, the start of the story is genuinely creepy, and Mars is depicted in the most interesting way that have come across in a long time.

The style is bang up to date, very cool, very now, built on the shoulders of all the noirish cyberpunky SF that's gone before it. The characters are good, slowly revealed and with no broad stroke simple black and white painting. I was genuinely confused about how I felt for the main character, Marsalis, the eponymous Black Man / Thirteen, and that confusion resolved itself neatly at the end collapsing into a single state.

And yet... I didn't love it. A lot of the book I was waiting for things to kick off, the slow burn tension leading me to that assumption that everything was going to explode at any moment. Yet the action arrives in quick bursts and the majority of the plot is a crime mystery thriller. Except really the book is about the characters, and the actual mystery plot is complicated and nigh-on impossible to guess. This only became to clear to me once I had finished, hence my statement that it was a book that I like better now I've finished it than when I was reading it.

Don't get me wrong, Black Man is good Science Fiction, and a good novel, and I can understand why it won the Clarke Award, but I can't help feeling I should have loved it instead of appreciated it. 

Terminator Salvation Rollercoaster

Okay, any actual connection to Terminator Salvation is tenuous, but it looks like a good rollercoaster.



January 6, 2009

xkcd - Converting to Metric

The xkcd guide to converting to metric is very handy: 16m 4cm = human tower of Serenity crew.
No doubt someone will verify that.


Hugo Nominations Open

The nominating period for the 2008 Hugo Awards has begun. I think. The press release has a confusion of dates.

So what would you nominate for 2008? See The Dumbies 2008 for my best of year.



Dr. BDO's Problem Page : New Year's Resolutions

Dear Dr. BDO,

I feel like I need to make some Science Fictional New Year resolutions to give me some direction and purpose, but I can't think of any. Can you suggest some?

Yours,

Aimless in Axminster

Happy New Year! Ahh, the time to set goals and challenge yourself. Okay, so how about setting some reading challenges, as reading is usually the activity to suffer in a modern lifestyle. You could maybe read a short story every day (as John and others have done)? You could maybe try and read a novel a week? You could try and read all the short list nominees for the major awards (Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C. Clarke, BSFA)?

And if you're a writer what about writing a short story every week? Or finally writing a novel this year?

That should keep you busy.

January 5, 2009

Most Wanted

Things that Big Dumb Object most wants this week:

  • New Doctor Who episodes. It's a little bit cruel to announce the new Doctor, hype him up and then say that his debut will be in Spring 2010. That's more than a year away!
  • Lost. Is it time for the new series yet? 
  • All the time that was available last week, this week: reading, writing, watching, thinking. Holidays are good.
  • The next big thing. Not sure what it is yet though.

January 3, 2009

And The Eleventh Doctor Is....

...Matt Smith





Stephen Moffat said that he will be called an unknown, slightly unfairly. I haven't seen him or heard of him (I missed The Ruby In The Smoke). He's certainly young. And he has six months before they start filming. We won't get to see him in action until Spring 2010!

Doctor Who - The 11th Doctor Revealed Tonight!



In a surprising move, the BBC have decided that there is no way they will keep the identity of the Eleventh Doctor a secret until the air-date and so are announcing it tonight in a special Doctor Who Confidential entitled The Ten Doctors.

It's on BBC1 tonight at 5.35pm.

Oooh!

My cousin, Marc, reckons it will be Chiwetal Ejiofor, I can't find any odds from the bookies (guess they've suspended betting?) and personally I have no concrete idea but reckon they will probably go for a good actor rather than a big celebrity name.

Anyone care to take a guess before tonight? Winner gets the BDO Biggest Doctor Who Geek Award.




My Stories Eligible For The 2008 BSFA Awards

If you are a BSFA member, or Eastercon attendee you can nominate for the BSFA Awards.

I have three short stories eligible for the award (i.e. published in 2008):


You can nominate as many stories as you like and the short list is created from those that have the most votes. So if you like the stories please feel free to nominate them!

January 2, 2009

New Year Reading List

Ah, a new year, a time to read even more.

Last year I decided to create an Apocalyptic reading list, which I mostly completed. Hopefully I'll get to read the remaining books this year, in fact a few of them were Christmas presents: Oryx And Crake, The Penultimate Truth, The Stand and The Chrysalids. Also the Wastelands anthology was ordered for me (from Amazon) but didn't turn up, which might mean it's out of print again?  

Other Christmas presents included Spook Country and The Yiddish Policeman's Union both of which I'm looking forward to.

Also on the pile to read are a few from Orbit: 

  

Although I haven't read the book before Chaos Space, which puts me off a bit and highlights the entire problem with series. Talking of series, I have the three Orphanage books to read as well, which have nice covers, but again, the whole series thing is off putting. Also not convinced about reading Gears of War: Aspho Fields seeing as it's based on a video game I know nothing about.


I also have a few old books bought from random Christmas fairs and found lying around including a collection of JG Ballard short stories, some old Heinlein and some old Vogt. None of which I know much about, but they were 10p or something and Science Fiction, and therefore I had to buy them. 

And, on top of that I want to read at least one short story every week. Because I should. Hopefully I'll read all the short lists for the BSFA awards. Nebulas and Hugos. 




January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone.

Yes I know it's an arbitrary human created marker for another trip around the Sun, but at least it gives us all a chance to say the things that we never normally do. Like: I hope you have a wonderful year, that you're happy and healthy, and life is good.