March 2009 Archives

March 31, 2009

Diamond Light Source

Not Science Fiction, but Science Fact!

I went for a tour of the Diamond Light Source last weekend which was pretty interesting. It’s a modern synchrotron, designed to produce light for use in experiments, where “light” usually means X-Rays.

Inside it’s the usual massive engineering effort that big physics projects like this end up as: endless wires, ventilation ducts, massive steel girders, chunks of concrete, racks of electronics, lots of shiny vacuum sealed chambers and the ubiquitous many monitored control room.

What’s more interesting to me is that the exterior of the facility has been designed to look very stylish, in fact it looks more like a modern football stadium from the outside. An obvious attempt to rake in some positive PR. The other different  aspect is that now the core facility is working, producing light, it is almost a commodity, experiments pay to use one of the beam lines, to take advantage of the light source. The range of experiments ranges from physics to biology: analysing proteins to superconductivity studies.

There’s plenty of videos online and the web site has lots of information too, but I’d recommend a tour if they have another open day.

March 30, 2009

Most Wanted

Things that Big Dumb Object wants the most this week:

  • I never thought I’d say it, but: Star Trek. Woah.

  • Wright and Pegg do ComiCon and aliens in Paul. Nick Frost dropped a few hints about it on a recent promo tour for another film, I have no doubt that it will be hilarious.

March 29, 2009

Lost S05E10

“He’s our you.”

Well, kind of, except he uses new fangled drugs and then doesn’t believe the results. Oldham is the Dharma interrogator and he lives in a TeePee. How very hippy!

An interesting episode examining the question “Is Sayid a natural born killer?” From before he left The Island I would have said no, he did what he did in the Iraqi army to protect himself, there was little escape. Until he actually did escape. But then he left The Island and began the killing spree conducted by Ben. To me it felt as if the Sayid was still in shock at that point, lost, looking for a direction, willing to be guided by Ben. And when he’d killed every one of Whidmore’s organisation that he could find, and he was finally cut adrift, he turned to charity work. It’s as though the real Sayid was fighting the killer that he’d been trained as.

I love the timeline shenanigans going on. Sayid recognises young Ben, old Ben knows what Sayid does in his past/future (depending on your point of view).  Sayid’s hatred of Ben in the episode implies that he was willing to kill for Ben for another reason than I first thought. That actually he was driven by the task of saving his friends, and maybe a touch of revenge. The bounty hunter asks why anyone would work for a man like Ben, Sayid replies "I did."

I suggest that despite Sayid thinking that killing a young Ben will stop the future/past he knows of, it in fact causes it. That’s if you believe Faraday that nothing can be changed. So The Island must bring young Ben back to life, unless old Ben is not young Ben.

Sawyer continues to be an object of tragedy, with his comfy home life with Juliette suddenly disintegrating. Juliette seems to miss it more than Sawyer, or perhaps Sawyer is just focused on saving his friends, coping moment to moment? I loved the quote from Sawyer about not one burning bus turning up until Jack did. (Can’t find the exact quote.) And then Juliette said something like “It’s over isn’t it? This. Us.”

Yep I think so.

March 28, 2009

Primeval versus Robin Hood

Tonight on UK television Primeval makes it’s return on ITV1, whilst on BBC1 it’s the return of Robin Hood. Of course the two programmes overlap in timing.

I’ll be watching Primeval.

Although Robin Hood was mildly entertaining last series, it’s never captured my imagination. It doesn’t really do anything different from what Kevin Costner did, or any of the other hundreds of Robin Hoods. The plots repeated, Keith Allen became irritating and I fell asleep. Besides, where were the time anomalies, monsters and ex-members of S-Club 7?

Whereas Primeval has time anomalies, monsters, dinosaurs and Hannah who used to be in S-Club 7. As well as fulfilling those essential needs Primeval is also awesome fun. It’s never taken itself too seriously and managed to turn the monster of the week formula into a strength whilst hinting at a longer arc. If you’ve never seen it, I recommend it.

The website is promoting the Twitter hashtag #primeval as the place to talk about the show as you watch it. (Who needs IRC anymore?!) The official Twitter user for Primeval appears to be @itvprimeval. There’s plenty of clips on the official Primeval site, but they need some more nice photos to link to, the cast photo is a bit teeny…

…although there are some behind the scenes photos so perhaps they will add photos of each episode after it airs.

March 27, 2009

Love & Hate

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

Loved

  • Lost. I'm still obsessed. It's still awesome.
  • Battlestar Galactica finishing. Finally. Thank goodness. Now remain dead.
  • Still enveloped in a Jewish Alaskan state thanks to Michael Chabon.
  • Awards. It's something to blog about I suppose.

 

Hated

  • The Clone Wars first season finishing. The twenty minute bursts of action in the Star Wars universe have become addictive, and got better over the season.
  • Battlestar Galactica finale. Oh dear.
  • Awards. After a while the comment becomes redundant and starts to make the event feel a bit hollow. Maybe announcing the shortlists and presenting the awards on the same day would help with the sense of occasion?

March 26, 2009

Paul Di Filippo Reviews Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

There’s some interesting reviews by Paul Di Filippo in the Barnes & Noble Review, all of them post-apocalyptic fiction.

Liberation: Being the Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collapse of the United States of America by Brian Francis Slattery.

Fool's Experiments by Edward M. Lerner’s

One Second After by William R. Forstchen

Enclave by Kit Reed

 

None of which I’ve read, but all of which I feel I should read instantly despite reading so much Apocalyptic fiction in the last year. It’s a bit like collecting the set of something, I’m so close, just a few more books, a few more then I shall have completed my apocalyptic fiction set. Except it’s never ending, which is the fun of it!

March 25, 2009

Battlestar Galactica - Love & Hate

Ah, the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica: starting in a cloud of SF Fan doubt, blazing its way into our lives as a gritty well made Science Fiction show, gathering far too much media attention for 'reinventing SF' and finally tailing off in a disappointing cloud of religious mumbo-jumbo and the discovery that there was really no plan at all, just a vague idea to rehash the most clichéd of all SF plots, along with the writers ambition to stretch the show out as long as possible because it paid the bills.

So much to love and so much to hate.

Bring on the Love & Hate list...

Continue reading Battlestar Galactica - Love & Hate.

March 24, 2009

Shoot The SF Baddies T-Shirt

Shoot the Baddies - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

And for bonus points can you name them?

March 23, 2009

Most Wanted

Things that Big Dumb Object most wants this week:

  • A Coen Brothers film version of The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. Even though I haven’t finished the novel yet, the prospect is enticing.
  • To get to the cinema. Maybe one day I will.
  • Star Wars - Frames Hand Signed by George Lucas. If only I had that kind of money to spend on cool Star Wars stuff.

March 22, 2009

Lost S05E09

Last series I thought that The Dharma Initiative was a mere footnote in The Islands history, that may still be true, but it’s certainly not a footnote in the story of our crash landing survivors. Because suddenly Jack, Hurley, Kate, Sawyer and Juliette are all living the Dharma life.

What was surprising is how aggressive the Dharma people were, they’ve obviously being having a hard time from the hostiles, all their hippy good will seems to vanish pretty rapidly at the sight of someone not in a Dharma jumpsuit. As evident when Said appears, who is not so much living the Dharma life as living the imprisoned hostile life.

Once again I spent most of the episode feeling sorry for Sawyer. He looked so happy and in control living with Juliette. Then Kate and Jack come back and suddenly he’s angry and confused and reverting to his old self.

Meanwhile Ben, Sun and Frank are not only in the wrong time, but also on the wrong island. I don’t trust Ben a single second. Especially having seen him as a young kid.

I now have no idea where the next few episodes are heading. What are they going to do now? Have they really saved everyone? Why did they have to come back? Who is pulling the strings?

Still highly entertaining.

March 20, 2009

Love & Hate

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

Loved

  • Started reading The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon. Instantly hooked.
  • Terminator Salvation trailers, which are all looking awesome.
  • Sunshine (the weather).
  • Birthday presents!


Hated

  • A week without Lost. What's that all about? I don't get US television scheduling, and now UK airing of US shows is intertwined we inherit the craziness.

Hugo Award Nominations 2009

This year’s Hugo nominations have been announced. Rather than repeat the entire list like everyone else has, I shall point you instead at the announcement and provide the novels in swirly widget style because it looks pretty.

 

I’ve read Anathem, which is of course quite good but I enjoyed The Confusion more and Saturn’s Children which I found disappointing. Keep meaning to read Little Brother and fancy The Graveyard Book. Not read any Scalzi.

The biggest observation however is that all the authors are big “internet” names. High profile. And bar Stephenson, online and actively marketing themselves. Is the 2009 Hugo novel shortlist more of a popularity contest than ever?

Another slightly shocking statistic is the number of votes cast in the categories. A mere 693 ballots for the novel, 337 for novella, 448 for short story. That doesn’t strike me as very many given the number of SF fans in the world. That’s a fraction of the traffic a site such as io9 gets on one post.

As usual I have little to say about the story categories due to being a bad SF fan and not reading enough. Again.

I can even only make a partially informed comment about the film category: Wall-E for the win, surely?! Joyous, touching, gorgeous, robots, spaceships and fun for all the family (except for that young girl who burst into tears behind me in the cinema).

The short  form aka TV category I’ve seen everything in. Which says something about me I think. Much as I love Lost obsessively I think the win should go to Dr. Horrible. I don’t think either of the Doctor Who episodes were that amazing and BSG is now rubbish. Lost would instead win my award for complete TV series story arc, which of course doesn’t exist: maybe a extreme-long form category?

Anyway, enough “commenting” it’s time to say a big congratulations to everyone on the list : CONGRATULATIONS!

March 19, 2009

M-Brane SF, New SF Magazine

M-Brane SF is a new Science Fiction magazine. It’s content is stated as “Science Fiction (hard, social, dark, whatever)”.

Issue one is online for free here. Issue two is available to buy in PDF format for $2. Both issues are available in print for $10.

Having the magazine in PDF format leads to a more traditional magazine layout, which I prefer. It feels more like you are buying some value than if it’s on one web page. Maybe that’s just the antiquated side of me coming out.

Anyway, another SF magazine charging for content, well done, and good luck.

BBC Asks Four Science Fiction Writers A Question

The BBC News site asks Ken MacLeod, Paul Cornell, Iain Banks and Ian Watson: Can science fiction keep up with modern science?

And then gives them plenty of space to elaborate. Which is nice. The discussion took place as part of National Science and Engineering Week.

Via SFSignal who are trying their best to make it mandatory to call this format a Mind Meld (TM).

New Day Of The Triffids Filming

It appears that the remake of The Day Of The Triffids is now being filmed:

Just finished killing Triffids in Kent. Think they won.

@eddieizzard

That’s the in-depth scoops you get from watching Twitter feeds.

March 18, 2009

Tactics For Writers

I’ve been writing fiction for a while now, and recently I was trying to get myself producing stories, wondering what tactics to use. I compiled this list as an aid to myself, but thought it might be useful to others. It’s pretty much my writing life for the past decade.

Things I have tried….

Continue reading Tactics For Writers.

Arthur C. Clarke Award 2009 Shortlist

The shortlist for the 2009 Arthur C. Clarke Award has been released, it is:

Song of Time: Ian R. MacLeod - PS Publishing
The Quiet War: Paul McAuley – Gollancz
House of Suns: Alastair Reynolds – Gollancz
Anathem: Neal Stephenson – Atlantic
The Margarets: Sheri S. Tepper – Gollancz
Martin Martin’s on the Other Side: Mark Wernham – Jonathan Cape

I’ve only read Anathem, The Quite War is on my shelf waiting and House Of Suns is one that I fancy but haven’t got around to yet. I have heard lots of good things about Ian R. MacLeod’s novels but haven’t read any, know of Sheri S. Tepper from Grass and have never heard of Mark Wernham.

As others have stated, it is predictably a fairly typical unpredictable Clarke Award list.

March 17, 2009

LOST Dharma Initiative Jumpsuit. Want one.


Oooh, want one! Dharma Initiative jumpsuit, with name, title and badge.

I'd like "James, Temporal Policeman" with The Tempest badge.

Via io9

Alternative Coordinates, Issue One Out

Issue one of new SF magazine Alternative Coordinates is online. The web site looks nice, which has got to be a priority for new webzines. You can read a preview of each story, but full access to the issue costs $2, which I think has to be applauded. The price is low enough to be trivial to many people, yet with volume it means the magazine could make money, probably more than advertising?

The magazine states its genres as Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Speculative Fiction and it’s philosophy is “one of positive human development”.

March 16, 2009

Most Wanted

Things most wanted by Big Dumb Object this week:

  • The Caryatids by Bruce Sterling
     
  • A log cabin and some books.
  • A private cinema.
  • New publishing, 21st century style, where writers make money and buyers love books. When Bruce Sterling says "I may have to do print on demand" it’s obvious that the industry is changing.

Yes, once again there is too much Science Fiction to consume and not enough time.

March 14, 2009

Bruce Sterling Interview On BBC Site

The BBC News site has a good interview with Bruce Sterling.

"I am a cult author; I don't write for the vast hamburger-eating, seething masses. I try to plant mind bombs - do the most damage"

March 13, 2009

Love & Hate

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

Loved

  • Watching Wall-E too  much.
  • Watching Wargames and then making my laptop speak lines from the film.

 

Hated

  • Not being able to get to the cinema to see films on their opening nights.

March 12, 2009

Dollhouse S01e03

Episode three of Dollhouse is a perfect example of why I think the entire concept is flawed. I don’t care about some made up rockstar, I don’t care about Echo saving her.

Poor.

The entire show seems to be a vehicle for Eliza Dushku to act in different roles. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise, because that is exactly what Joss Whedon created the show for.

I don’t know how they’re going to get out of it being rubbish. Even the dialogue isn’t any good.

March 11, 2009

This Is Not A Game - Walter Jon Williams

 


This Is Not A Game by Walter Jon Williams (UK / US) is a thriller set in and around the world of Alternate Reality Games, which are online games that bleed into the real world. I have, by the way, never played any ARGs, I get the feeling that you need some serious commitment (although was tempted by the Lost ARG).

On the surface this sounds very similar to Halting State by Charles Stross, and there are a few ideas that are similar between the two, but their feel differs completely. TINAG is still rooted in geekery: with games, online and RPG, and tech start-ups, but it feels more now and less near future, more Douglas Coupland without the angst, more current William Gibson with a tauter plot. (This the first book that I have read by Walter Jon Williams, so you'll excuse me if I explain the style in terms of other authors.)

A comment about the cover art, like Halting State, I don't like the direction that Orbit have gone with their "mainstream" covers. Considering that there are such lovely SF covers by Orbit I don't understand the need to dumb it down when trying to sell to a non-SF crowd. I much prefer the US cover art.

The story of TINAG follows a group of friends who met at college playing games, and later on in their lives have been, or are, successful, running their own businesses: a software company, an ARG company and a VC company. Then events, global and close to home, change things for them. The plot is fast, exciting and at times unexpected. I had trouble putting it down. From act one I couldn't guess where the plot was heading, and yet by the end it's all so inevitable. I'm not going to go into any more details, because the fun is not knowing and trying to work it out.

The novel isn't so much Science Fiction as current day speculation and extrapolation, edging just beyond what could happen today. But the tech game geek side of the story should appeal to a large subset of SF fans, there's probably a Venn diagram of that somewhere. It may be the much heralded proto-SF Slashdot crowd, that was the target market du jour last year. And as with all good SF the story has a strong (in fact uncanny) resonance to right now, which I'll put down to a remarkable moment of foresight and extrapolation by the author!

I enjoyed it an awful lot, devoured it. A highly entertaining, exciting and  prescient thriller.

March 10, 2009

condition : human New Trailer

The upcoming Science Fiction web series condition:human has a new trailer online. It’s looking awesomely stylish, there’s no point where I thought it was a no-budget indie film shot on a consumer camcorder. Have a look below:

There’s also another production video online, always interesting to see how small productions do their stuff.

March 9, 2009

Pyramids Of Mars, A Digital Graphic Novel

Pyramids Of Mars is called by its creators a Digital Graphic Novel. It’s an interesting mix, reminding me of those photo stories you used to get in Eagle, but with added CGI and video. The resulting style is very pulpy and a bit difficult to take too seriously, but it’s an interesting experiment. The full story is now online.

Most Wanted : Watchmen

Things that Big Dumb Object most wants this week:

Watchmen. Yes, after all my doubts and all the mixed reviews I now want to see it and make my own mind up. And then reread the graphic novel.

 

 

 

 

 

Also intriguing, Tales Of The Black Freighter. Any good or cash in?

March 8, 2009

Lost S05 E08

Not only do I like Sawyer as a character a lot, but I also feel sorry for him. He’s made the full journey from con-man to caring person. Surely now he deserves a break?

Of course it doesn’t work like that.

In this episode a few things are answered. The Island skipping through time does seem to have been caused by Ben leaving and screwing up the wheel. Locke leaving fixed the wheel. There doesn’t seem any reason to wait for Locke to get back, surely he’s saved them now? Juliette says as much to Sawyer.

Except that they’re saved, but in the past, living through the seventies with Dharma Initiative. Which was a pretty cool woah moment. I loved the “Three years later”, “Three years earlier” moments.  And I also loved Sawyer settling down with Juliette into happy families. Ahh.

But then Jack, Hurley and Kate arrive. So they made it back to The Island but in the past. Just when Sawyer had got over Kate. Bummer. Do they have something to do with DHARMA and the hostiles conflict? And where’s Ben?

A cool episode, which sets up further awesome questions whilst providing a lovely story about Sawyer.

March 6, 2009

Love & Hate

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

Loved

  • This Is Not A Game by Walter Jon Williams, review coming soon.
  • Cool trailers. The new Star Trek trailer and the new Terminator trailer!

 

 

Hated

  • Heroes. It's beyond bad, into arggh turn it off!
  • Being Human ending. Short and brilliant.

New Star Trek Trailer, Verdict Woah

I never thought I’d see the day when I’d actually be excited about seeing a Star Trek film. But the day has arrived.

Despite loving Lost I had doubts that JJ Abrams could do anything to make me like Star Trek. But, woah++

 

Interview With V Creator Kenny Johnson On ‘V’ Remake

Aaron at Unlikely Words has some words from V creator Kenny Johnson on the upcoming remake of V, and what else he’s up to.

You are correct that I am not involved with the new ABC/Warners TV pilot based on my original premise of V. I understand that their “reimagined” take is quite different. The guys involved are gentlemen and I wish them well.

Oh, oh, “reimagined”.

The original V was, of course, awesome.

Red Rocket Station

Via a IROSF email:

“Red Rocket Station is a conversation oriented site that
brings together top science fiction blogs, news channels,
and encourages conversation among fans, writers, and
editors.”

At first glance Red Rocket Station yet another SF portal site. Yeah I know that portal is such a web 1.0 word, but that’s essentially what all these sites are trying to be. If you want it in web 2.0 speak, it’s a social networking aggregator type site built with Ning.

There’s now too many of these sites for me to even read yet alone participate in, so you’ll pardon my weariness.

March 5, 2009

Science Fiction Guns T-Shirts

James mailed me to mention two T-Shirts he's created. Firstly:



...and then:


which is a bit like the Threadless T-Shirt I have:
 
Rayguns - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

March 4, 2009

Batman Hoodie. A Bit Too Far?

Gizmodo have a picture of the most over the top Batman hoodie you could imagine. Who would wear one of these? Isn't it asking for villains to attack you?



Being Human - Episode 6 And Series Review

Have you heard the one about a Werewolf, a Vampire and a Ghost who share a house in Bristol? It could have been an embarrassing cheesey mess but turned out to be superb. If you haven’t seen it order a copy right now.

The final episode of the series had been set up beautifully, the characters explored, the plot set in motion, a final conflict surely coming. It didn’t fail to deliver. Exciting and touching and funny.

The comedy has been well balanced from the start, always witty, never cringey and providing moments of light against the increasingly dark storyline. Favourite line of the episode: (Annie to a vampire) Well, congratulations on mastering the whole speaking like a twat thing.

The vampires have been suitably scary, but not in a Salem’s Lot kind of way, in the relentless, inevitable sense. Herrick was a great lead vampire, cold and arrogant and scary in his belief that vampires were a superior form of evolution.

The only downside in the whole series was that the fully transformed werewolf looked a bit fake (because of course we all know what a real werewolf looks like!). And yet the transformation itself was excellent. But the wolf was only shown in glimpses and shadows and this lessened the distraction.

The characters continued to make difficult choices right to the end. An end which rounded off the series in a beautifully satisfying way, whilst cunningly leaving somewhere else to go in the future.

Great television.

Being Human has been commissioned for another series. Hurrah!

March 3, 2009

BBC Radio Science Fiction Season

A reminder that the BBC Radio SF season is in full swing.

I haven't listened to any of them yet but I'm hoping to catch some on the iPlayer when I have a moment. For example here's episode one of The Drowned World which I suspect might be better on radio than the book.


March 2, 2009

Most Wanted

Things most wanted by Big Dumb Object this week:

Cyberabad Days by Ian McDonald. Published in the UK on 2nd April 2009 by Gollancz. Available in the US now, published by Pyr.

March 1, 2009

Lost S05E07

I’m no longer sure who to believe and trust. I think perhaps nobody.

John Locke us getting used by Ben and Whidmore. Is that because he is special or just because he’s gullible? Not sure. But he returned to the Locke that annoyed me, his unwavering self-belief that he is special. I loved the conversation with Jack about that.

I have to say I was surprised by Ben killing Locke. I assume that Ben didn’t actually know the name of Eloise Hawking, but I’m not entirely sure.

Is the whole plot just one big turf war between Ben and Whidmore?

And now there’s an entire other plane on The Island.

Uncertain.