April 2009 Archives

April 30, 2009

Lost Writers Talk About Writing Lost

It sounds like one of the best jobs in the world: writing Lost.

But surely there is a downside? It must be hard right? Well, after reading the description of what they go through to write each episode, no. It is the best job in the world right now.

Via io9

April 29, 2009

Arthur C. Clarke Award 2009 Winner

And the winner is…

 

Song of Time: Ian R. MacLeod - PS Publishing

Congratulations to Ian and to PS Publishing!

 

Via The Twitter

Paul DiFilippo Reviews New Comics

Paul DiFilippo review column “The Speculator” in the Barnes & Noble Review is rather good. This week he reviews a clutch of comics:

  • Freakangels, Volume 1 – Warren Ellis
  • Waltz with Bashir – Ari Folman
  • Tales from Outer Suburbia – Shaun Tan
  • American Splendor (Another Dollar) and The Beats- Harvey Pekar
  • Nocturnal Conspiracies – David B.

All of which sound so great I want to search them out and read them now. I haven’t read many comics recently, reading a page of FreakAngels reminds me why I should.

April 28, 2009

State Of Play director Kevin Macdonald to make Asimov's The End Of Eternity

State Of Play director Kevin Macdonald has signed up to develop and direct an adaptation of Isaac Asimov's novel The End Of Eternity, says Digital Spy

Macdonald, who previously helmed documentary Touching The Void and The Last King Of Scotland, will direct Jamie Bell and Channing Tatum in Roman military drama The Eagle Of The Ninth this summer.

I am embarrassingly light on Asimov's catalogue of books, having only read the robot stories. What's End Of Enternity like? Should I read it now so I can pretend to be informed to film buffs?

Via Dave.


Free Lecture About The LHC At The IET

The Institution of Engineering and Technology, in association with The Institute Of Physics is hosting a free lecture on the Large Hadron Collider.

Tara Shears will describe some of the outstanding mysteries and open questions in particle physics, which the LHC has been designed to help investigate.

Lyn Evans will describe some of the technical innovation and challenges in the LHC design and construction.

Should be interesting if you ever wanted to find out some more about particle physics and what goes on at CERN.

The lecture is taking place on 19th May at The IET, Savoy Place, London.

2009 Locus Award Finalists

The nominees for the 2009 Locus Awards have been announced. The full list is here.

Here’s a few highlights:

SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL

  • Matter, Iain M. Banks (Orbit UK)
  • City at the End of Time, Greg Bear (Gollancz, Del Rey)
  • Marsbound, Joe Haldeman (Ace)
  • Anathem, Neal Stephenson (Atlantic UK, Morrow)
  • Saturn's Children, Charles Stross (Orbit, Ace)

 

Of which I have read three and was generally disappointed with Matter and Saturn’s Children, so Anathem is my winner out of those three.

The first novel nominees contains The Gone-Away World, which I loved and four others I haven’t read.

I also noticed that a large proportion of the short stories, novellas and novellettes are from anthologies or collections, which seems like a change? Two were published on Tor.com and three were published in Asimov’s. As usual it’s hard to tell how much is due to exposure. Out of the nominees the only stories I’ve read are Exhalation by Ted Chiang and The Things that Make Me Weak and Strange Get Engineered Away by Cory Doctorow. Both of which I quite liked.

The Locus Awards will be presented during the Science Fiction Awards Weekend in Seattle WA, June 26-27, 2009

Sci-Fi UK Signing More Shows . The Problem With US Shows In The UK.

First of all shouldn’t that be SyFy UK? Well, not according to the press release.

Sci-Fi UK have bought several programmes to show first in the UK: Knight Rider, Dollhouse and My Own Worst Enemy. Apparently:

“We’ve been investing in a range of compelling, highly-publicised and long-anticipated content to engage, captivate and re-ignite excitement amongst British television viewers,”

There are, however, problems with Sci-Fi UK.

First of all it’s only available via paid satellite or cable i.e. Sky or Virgin. Which knocks out a huge chunk of the UK population. Virgin negated this effect by making Virgin1 available for free on Freeview, presumably assuming that people will pay for other content and their broadband service?

Secondly the UK premieres of these shows are so far behind the US premieres that any real fan will know all about the show and probably have watched it via import DVD or other means. You can’t get away with such delayed release schedules anymore, fans want to talk about it online with everyone else in the world. They want to Twitter about it. Both the BBC and Sky have realised this with Heroes and Lost showing (usually) the same week as the US, albeit a couple of days later. The Sarah Connor Chronicles is a frustrating month behind on Virgin1. In fact, didn’t Sci-Fi UK do something similar with BSG and show it within the week?

Are the fans who would seek out a US show before it’s UK airing the minority? Not sure, but I would hazard a guess that they are the show’s core audience and therefore the most important.

April 27, 2009

Most Wanted

Things that Big Dumb Object most wants this week:

  • It would have been nice to have read more of the Arthur C. Clarke Award list seeing as the winner is announced on Wednesday, but I’ve only completed Anathem and are currently reading The Quiet War. So, most wanted is more reading time, whether scavenged or forced.
  • The hype for both Wolverine and Star Trek is still winning me over, want to see both.

2008 Nebula Award Winners

The winners of the 2009 2008 Nebula Awards are:

Novel : Powers - Ursula K. Le Guin (Harcourt, Sep07)

Novella : "The Spacetime Pool" - Catherine Asaro (Analog, Mar08)

Novelette : "Pride and Prometheus" - John Kessel (F&SF, Jan08)

Short Story : "Trophy Wives" - Nina Kiriki Hoffman (Fellowship Fantastic, ed. Greenberg and Hughes, Daw Jan08)

Script : "WALL-E" Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter (Walt Disney June 2008)

Andre Norton Award : Flora's Dare: How a Girl of Spirit Gambles All to Expand Her Vocabulary, Confront a Bouncing Boy Terror, and Try to Save Califa from a Shaky Doom (Despite Being Confined to Her Room) - Ysabeau S. Wilce (Harcourt, Sep08)

 

With WALL-E being the only one I can comment on.

Via SFSignal, via SFAwardsWatch


UPDATE

As Dave points out below, these are actually the 2008 Nebulas, but the ceremony is in 2009. Which never fails to confuse me.


April 26, 2009

Robert Rodriguez To Make Predators, An Interview

Ain’t It Cool News has an interview with Robert Rodriguez about the new Predators movie that he is making. Sounds promising. I love the original Predator film, but Predator 2 was a let-down, especially when compared to how Aliens showed that it was possible to make awesome sequels.

So fingers crossed. Although to be honest, Rodriguez isn’t exactly the same class of director as, say, Cameron. All that early talent seems to have been lost in a mush of self hype in much the same way as Tarantino. Although I’m hoping I get to eat my words and Predators is awesome.

Via BDO’s AICN correspondent, Dave.

April 25, 2009

condition:human Episode 2

condition:human episode 2 is online and embedded below. I’m really enjoying this web series, it’s extremely stylish and I love how Sean is searching for something else. The sparseness in the sound and the conversational pace really adds to the sense of something missing from Sean’s life. Surely a companion bot can’t be the answer though? Looking forward to the next episode.


condition:human Episode 2 from condition:human on Vimeo.

April 24, 2009

Love And Hate

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

Loved

  • Star Trek hype. Whilst it’s hype anything is still possible, and every film is brilliant! Lots of mentions of Science Fiction in the press and on radio.
  • Lost. I know I’m not the only one who is completely addicted in an insane way, because I had a conversation this week with someone else who was too, someone who was not your typical SF fan as well.
  • The Sarah Connor Chronicles. The season finale is on Virgin1 next week. Quality stuff.
  • Started reading The Quiet War by Paul McAuley. Two chapters of exposition and back-story so far, yet it’s remarkably gripping.

 

 

Hated

  • J G Ballard dying. Mortality is rubbish. At least he left behind an amazing legacy.

April 23, 2009

Great Interview With Lost Showrunners



Variety has an awesome interview with Lost showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, who answer some questions from viewers. It's tremendously encouraging how much they are emphasising the planning and the outcome, but most of all I love this quote from Damon Lindelof:

I think our hope is that looking back on the entire run of the show, that people remember the EXPERIENCE of watching it -- what it actually felt like to be mystified and frustrated and surprised -- as opposed to just where it landed storywise. When all is said and done, we'll have consumed six years of our fans' lives and our greatest wish is that they look back on that time and feel that it was all worth it.

Via Dave.

How The Sarah Connor Chronicles Passes The Complete Newbie Test

Last night I watched episode 20 of season 2 of Terminator : The Sarah Chronicles.

Yes, I haven’t seen the finale yet, I’m watching it in the UK on Virgin1.

Yes, it is awesome.

I watched this particular episode with someone who not only had not seen a single episode of the show, but knew nothing at all about The Terminator films and mythos (or had completely forgotten). In Tweet style speak it sounds ridiculous:

  • He’s the saviour of mankind in the future.
  • She’s a robot.
  • He’s from the future.
  • They’re trying to kill him.

Which was exactly as I said it, trying to squeeze the words into the odd dead second. And yet, TV executives please take note, the newbie viewer was not alienated. Not because the episode was obvious and full of exposition, but because the characters were real. Because anyone watching that episode is immediately drawn in to the human struggles that the odd fractured Connor family is experiencing. The pain in Sarah Connor’s eyes tells more than a minute of techno-babble infodump. And by the end, the newbie viewer not only enjoyed watching the episode, but wants to watch more.

It’s great writing and great acting. Often understated. Lacking histrionics and hype. Everyone making new SF shows please take note.

April 22, 2009

Lost S05E13

The episode is entitled Some Like It Hoth, which is funny in itself, but also hints at Star Wars references, of which there are plenty.

Once again it’s an old skool season one style episode, revealing the back-story of Miles, the only difference being that our heroes are stuck in 1977. The year they were in never struck me as anything other than “the seventies” before this episode, but now I’ve realised that it is all planned, of course, 1977 was the year that Star Wars was released. So amidst finding out where Miles came from, and that his dad is the mad scientist, we get Hurley writing The Empire Strikes Back “with some minor improvements”. I’d love to know what those improvements were. The dialogue between Hurley and Miles was very entertaining.

On top of the witty dialogue it was an episode of small cool moments, like seeing the hatch being stamped, like realising the guy was killed by his own filling, like realising who Miles’ father was and finally seeing Daniel Faraday again. I’m also finding it increasingly amusing that the Dharma guys travel The Island in their dinky blue camper vans, every time I see one now I chuckle.

Jack is a different person now, he looks tired and broken, accepting but I’m not sure of what. Meanwhile Kate is being a bit dim, Juliette is waiting for her good life to end and Sawyer is trying to contain the increasing mess.

Not much major arc movement in this episode, but instead one that reminds us of why we got hooked in the first place with some lovely character story.

April 21, 2009

The Guardian Has Extensive Coverage Of JG Ballard's Death



The Guardian has eschewed pictures of second rate celebrities on the Star Trek blue carpet and instead produced loads of great articles about JG Ballard and gathered them in a convenient manner. Great work, lots to read.

Elaborate Star Trek Widget

It's like a whole site, in a widget. Apologies if your slow machine starts to crawl...

Photos From The UK Star Trek Premiere

The film premieres in London are all big and crazy these days. Star Trek last night was no exception. Here’s a pick of some photos from various news outlets:

 

BBC

 

The Sun

 

The Daily Mail

 

The Peggster dominates!

The Sofanauts, A New Show By StarShipSofa

The Sofanauts is a new podcast show from StarShipSofa. It’s a chat show, with Tony interviewing various people. The first show is out now and has interviews with Matthew Sanborn Smith , Jeremy Tolbert and Damien G Walter.

You can subscribe from iTunes or use the rss and your own method of downloading http://sofanauts.com/feed/podcast.

April 20, 2009

JG Ballard Dies

The Science Fiction author JG Ballard has died at the age of 78.

I’ve read a couple of his books: Cocaine Nights and recently The Drowned World. Both of which I can best describe as atmospheric and odd.

He was a primary figure in the New Wave movement which dared to take Science Fiction in both a literary and experimental direction.

Via Boing Boing

Most Wanted

Things that Big Dumb Object most wants this week:

Star Trek, yet again. An interview with JJ Abrams in The Sunday Times has given me even more hope that I’ll like the new Star Trek film. In it he says:

The thing about Star Trek is, I was never really a big fan of it . . . it always felt like someone else’s show,” declares the director JJ Abrams. “The characters you’re always expected to care about in the series, I never found a way into.”

“Part of the fun of it was taking something that never really appealed to me,” says Abrams, “and making a version that would.”

Which sounds good to me, because Star Trek has never been my thing either. I am firmly from the Star Wars generation, missing the Original Star Trek and then being put off the The Next Generation by the incessant techno-babble and annoying characters. But everything I’ve seen of the new film sounds good.

April 17, 2009

Love and Hate

Things that Big Dumb Object loved and hated this week:

Loved

  • A new Doctor Who episode.
  • New Red Dwarf episodes.
  • The Sarah Connor Chronicles. The Freeview EPG calls the show “action packed”, but it’s not, it’s slow burning tension, and it’s excellent.
  • Chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

 

Hated

  • The new Doctor Who episode. Sigh.
  • The new Red Dwarf episodes. Well, they weren’t awful, just… redundant.

Is that conflict you sense in me? Yes.

April 16, 2009

Runners, SF Comic Being Published Online

Runners is a SF comic created by writer/artist Sean Wang, which:

…chronicles the misadventures of reluctant smuggler Roka Nostaco and his ragtag alien crew as they struggle to complete hazardous runs through outlaw space and against all odds.

Sean has worked on comics such as The Tick and is publishing Runners online, a page a day at runnersuniverse.com. You can start at the beginning here.

April 15, 2009

Monsters vs Aliens

Easter weekend? It must mean a load of kids films at the cinema. Fortunately there’s also one for the SF fans in Monsters vs. Aliens.

First off, this is the first film that I’ve seen of the new 3D wave, and apparently it is the first one to be directly produced as 3D rather than converting after. And it shows.  Forget the cheesy coming out of the screen effects, the true worth of the 3D is depth. The depth is truly amazing. Whether it’s peering at a planet in an asteroid belt or watching a car pull up in an orchard. It really does add an entire new dimension. If you can make films like this then there’s no reason not to, there’s no down side, just cool up sides.

As for the story, it’s entertaining, if not spectacular. The visuals overwhelm the story. There’s some bits that made me chuckle and I loved the SF in-jokes and the Spielberg in-jokes. The Golden Gate Bridge scene and the first contact scene are both standouts for SF fans. The detail was great too, from the synthesiser that the president plays being a DX7 to the intricate workings of the alien spaceship. You can’t beat huge intricate spaceships on a cinema screen, except with huge intricate 3D spaceships on a cinema screen.

There’s a lull in the story about two thirds through, when the action stops and the plot tries to worry about the characters. Pixar can pull this off but somehow DreamWorks never succeed. I could hear the kids in the cinema getting restless. Never mind the action starts again soon.

It’s a film that will stay in your mind after you’ve seen it, not for the story or the characters or the jokes, but for the stunning visuals. I recommend seeing it in the cinema. Don’t wait for the DVD.

Battle For Terra

Battle For Terra is a computer animated Science Fiction film, released in the US on 1st May, in the now obligatory 3D format as well as 2D. I can’t find a UK release date but it was shown at the Sci-Fi London film festival last year.

The trailer looks interesting, in that it feels like it’s trying to be a serious SF film about Humans invading an alien planet for survival. However that feeling is somewhat at odds with the cutesy aliens. To make up for it the spaceships and battles look very cool. I wonder if it can transcend mere distraction for kids into a great film? A tough challenge and one that only Pixar seem to achieve with any regularity in CG animated films.

A tip for the PR people though, if you’re making a SF film you better be very wary about using the phrase “Unique Storyline”.

April 14, 2009

condition:human – Episode 1

Episode 1 of condition:human has been released online and is embedded below.

I like it a lot. It’s stylish, looking great, better than a long list of TV SF series I could mention. I  loved how it was brave enough to leave space, not fill it with unnecessary dialogue, instead letting the wonderful visuals and moody Bladerunner-esque soundtrack do the talking. Or at times just silence and visuals. It’s the type of bare realism that only indie films seem to manage. There’s also no talking down to the audience, the initial set-up is handled nicely and there’s no mindless infodumps, instead the exposition is shown and the main character is revealed in natural scenes.

It’s an episode that sets up the story nicely, and I’m looking forward to see where it heads next.

The next episode is online on 15th April.


condition:human Episode 1 from condition:human on Vimeo.

Most Wanted

(The Easter delayed edition)

Things that Big Dumb Object most wants this week:

  • Moon, the film. Cool retro futurism.
  • Steven Moffat to finally take control of Doctor Who and inject some originality.
  • To be able to avoid Sarah Connor Chronicles spoilers, I'm watching it in the UK on Virgin1 and there's three episodes to go.
  • A bank holiday that lasts a month so that I can consume the deluge of SF media: so much stuff online, at the cinema, on tv, and of course so many books. SF is alive and kicking and a monster.

April 13, 2009

Moon, the film, looks awesome

Poster for the SF movie Moon

Via BDO’s AICN correspondent (Dave) comes news of a film called Moon staring Sam Rockwell, directed and written by Duncan Jones and with Kevin Spacey as the voice of the ‘robot’. Here’s the IMDB entry. The trailer (embedded below) looks awesome: it’s the shininess of 2001 mixed with the griminess of Alien.

The film was shown at the Sundance Festival and also SXSW, and every mention I’ve seen of it online has been glowing. No date set for a UK release yet, please release it in the UK. Pretty please.

April 12, 2009

Lost S05E12

If “dead is dead” then how come all those dead people keep coming back to life?

Ah, questions, there’s always more questions. But also this episode and whole barrow full of answers. We find out:

  • How Widmore first met Ben.
  • How Ben stole Alex from Danielle.
  • How Widmore and Ben became enemies.
  • How Widmore left The Island.
  • Where the Smoke Monster lives.

Cool. So is the entire story arc dominated by a personal argument between Ben and Widmore? Is it all about normal people trying to control The Island? What’s clear is that Ben is nasty, really nasty. Trying to kill Penny for revenge perfectly sums up his character. I loved Locke’s smugness and Ben’s irritation, Locke deliberately winding up Ben was funny.

In the end we didn’t find anything else out about the Smoke Monster, only that it lives in an Indiana Jones style temple beneath a load of hieroglyphs. See Lostpedia for an attempt at translating them. Who knows what it really is, maybe it doesn’t matter.

A couple of great woah moments this episode:

  • Ben shooting Caesar. Out of the blue, just like that. Another character bites the dust.
  • The ending. What?! So it appears that some of the people on the new crashed plane are not what they seem. Or were they pretending to be on the plane? Are they returning to reclaim The Island? Or are they Widmore’s people? Arggh, can’t wait to find out.

Layers are being piled on whilst the foundations are being slowly explained. There’s a pay-off in this show now, more than ever every moment is loaded with revelation and explanation and mystery. It’s addictive and exciting and extremely entertaining.

April 11, 2009

BSFA Awards Winners

Hot off the Eastercon grapevine (via SMS, how quaint), Science Fiction Awards Watch has the full list of winners:

  • Best Novel: The Night Sessions, Ken MacLeod
  • Best Short Fiction: “Exhalation”, Ted Chiang (Eclipse Two)
  • Best Non-Fiction: Rhetorics of Fantasy, Farah Mendlesohn
  • Best Artwork: Cover of Subterfuge (ed. Ian Whates), Andy Bigwood

So, none of the ones I voted for won. However the proportional voting system used often seems to mean that everyone’s second favourite wins.

My votes went to The Gone-Away World, Little Lost Robot and the cover of Flood. I haven’t read any of the non-fiction books, but would refuse to read the winner due to it having the word Fantasy in the title.

So am I completely out of touch with the rest of the BSFA members? Only the full breakdown of voting statistics will tell.

Doctor Who - Planet Of The Dead

Instead of a full Doctor Who series this year, we get this, Planet Of The Dead (with another few specials near to Christmas). The trailer made it look like a cheap Pitch Black. Was it?

Well, kind of but as good.

Considering Russell T. Davies is supposedly a Science Fiction fan he is either ignorant of SF clichés or incapable of taking a trope and making something new. And not just SF clichés, this episode also had a posh Lady who was a jewel thief, staring Michelle "YOU'RE NOT MY MUVVA!" Ryan, using her real posh voice. Haven't I seen that film a million times? The there's a wormhole consuming London and a load of aliens that eat everything and a flying bus. Where's the originality? Watching Doctor Who Confidential after shows that it's clear that the production team have lost the plot. They are more amazed that they managed to get a double-decker bus to Dubai for their jolly. And RTD seems to truly believe that it's a rollocking adventure rather than the same story he's told how many times now?

On the positive side, David Tennant was excellent as usual, as was Lee Evans as the dotty scientist, and well, it was Doctor Who. But I need more than just a new episode now, I want quality.

I can't wait for Stephen Moffat to take control of Doctor Who, it will be a shame to see David Tennant go, but the stories need freshness and some imagination. Something new please.

April 10, 2009

The Top Ten Science Fiction Stories With Easter Eggs In Them

Proper Easter Eggs, of the chocolate variety, not the co-opted Easter Eggs of the hidden geek pleaser variety.

Continue reading The Top Ten Science Fiction Stories With Easter Eggs In Them.

April 9, 2009

Love And Hate

It’s an early Love & Hate this week due to Easter i.e.. consuming vast amounts of chocolate.

Loved

  • The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon. Finished it, loved it.
  • Lost has not disappointed for a single episode this season.
  • Little Lost Robot by Paul McAuley.

 

Hated

  • Heroes. Well not so much hate as given up on. Completely.
  • The feeling of being behind: books, stories, films.

Federations Anthology Samples Online

Federations is the new anthology edited by John Joseph Adams:

From Star Trek to Star Wars, and from Dune to Foundation, science fiction has a rich history of exploring the idea of vast interstellar societies, and the challenges facing those living in or trying to manage such societies.

The stories in Federations continue that tradition, and herein you would find a mix of all-new, original fiction, alongside selected reprints from authors whose work exemplifies what interstellar SF is capable of

The website has free fiction online and interviews with the authors.

The US paperback edition is available for pre-order but the Kindle version is out now. It's also available to pre-order in the UK on Amazon, presumably that's an import of the US edition.

[Via SFSignal]

April 8, 2009

Advice For Writers From Michael Chabon

In the extras at the back of my paperback edition of The Yiddish Policeman’s Union are some great nuggets from Michael Chabon to inspire the writers out there:

  • Michael Chabon wrote a 600 page first draft of the novel which he ended up throwing away.
  • He says that success comes from three elements “talent, luck and discipline”. “Discipline,” he says, “is the one element of those three things that you can control, and so that is the one that you have to focus on controlling, and you just have to hope and trust in the other two.”
  • He spent five years working on his second novel then threw it away. He then completed a draft of The Wonder Boys in less than seven months.

The Yiddish Policeman's Union - Michael Chabon

I'll start by (as usual) proclaiming my ignorance in a whole raft of things related to this novel: this is the first book by Michael Chabon that I have read, I know nothing about Judaism and Yiddish, and the only things I know about Alaska I learned from watching Northern Exposure. And yet surprisingly, The Yiddish Policeman's Union was at no point hard work, never confusing, never made me feel like an outsider, but instead led me into the world and made it feel real.

The SF aspect of the novel stems from the world building: the story is set in an alternate history in which a Jewish state was created in Alaska after the second world war. Sitka is the region of Alaska handed over to the Jews in a temporary loan. I had to look on a map where Sitka is, I never knew that Alaska extended south in a weird little handle like that. The descriptions and build up of atmosphere of the Jewish Sitka is so utterly convincing that I can't quite imagine what the reality of that part of the world is.

There is another aspect of the story that is SF, it's on one hand fleeting, a dalliance, and on the other hand central to the plot. More, I won't say.

The wonder of this book is it's ability to marry beautiful witty addictive prose, characters who grow in realism with each page, an intriguing plot and a huge dollop of style.

The plot is surprising. I haven't read any hardboiled detective novels, nor any Raymond Chandler (yet another book sitting on the shelf), so I can't comment whether the plot outline is typical, but it certainly works. It starts with a murder, and then the plot unfolds. As the story opens up and begins to diverge somehow the focus becomes sharper and more personal. Until at the end it's a story about Detective Landsman trying to piece his life back together and recover some happiness.

The paperback edition which I have (published by Harper Perennial) not only has a cool cover but also a selection of extras at the rear, including an extended author biography, Michael Chabon's top ten genre authors, a piece republished from the New York Times following Chabon on a trip back to Alaska and Chabon's essay Guidebook To A Land Of Ghosts which sparked the whole Yiddish idea.

Somehow the book manages to be much, much more than the sum of its parts. It's a book in which you can reread sections of prose just for fun, it's a book in which I was eager to unravel the plot and surprised at the outcome, it's a book which portrayed a thoroughly complete and believable world and it's a book that left me thinking about it's main character long after the last page. Spellbinding stuff.

SF Signal Mind Meld, Forgotten Books

I took part in the latest SF Signal Mind Meld: What are the "Forgotten Books" of science fiction/fantasy/horror? where lots of people with better memories than me construct a massive list of books which are no longer in print and you should read, and I realise that the ‘out of print’ label applies to a couple of my favourite books sitting on my shelf.

April 6, 2009

Ask Cory Doctorow A Question

Do you have a question for Cory Doctorow? Here's your chance to ask it and get an answer.

To help celebrate the launch of the brand new www.voyagerbooks.co.uk website, Harper Collins have teamed up with six SF, Fantasy and book blogs to run a series of exclusive interviews with a selection of Voyager's top authors: Kim Stanley Robinson, Cory Doctorow, D. B. Shan, Raymond Feist, Robin Hobb and Stephen Hunt. The sites taking part are the equally great  Futurismic, SFF Chronicles, SFF World, Speculative Horizons and Book Geeks.

Big Dumb Object, rather excitingly, has the opportunity to question the interweb legend that is Cory Doctorow.  And that means you! If you've got a question you'd like to ask Cory then leave a comment below. As a reminder, Cory is not only a Science Fiction novelist,  but also a blogger (on some little blog called Boing Boing) and a technology activist; I'm sure you can think of interesting things to ask him on those subjects. If there's a gazillion questions I'll have to pick the ones I like best.

The deadline for the questions is 6.30 am (GMT+1) Thursday 9th April.

The interviews will go live on during the week-commencing 20th April.

Ask away....

BSFA Awards : Vote Now

If you are eligible to vote in the BSFA Awards, in other words a member of the BSFA, and you’re not going to Eastercon, you need to vote now.

Niall has the details on Torque Control but basically send an email to awards at bsfa.co.uk with your choices. That way the sentient singularity of the awards administrator (aka Donna) can gather your thoughts (aka put lots of emails into a spreadsheet).

Most Wanted

Things that Big Dumb Object most wants this week:

  • Yes, yes, I know I’m cynical about it, I know I’m sounding contradictory, but I still really want to see the new Doctor Who special. 6:45pm Saturday, April 11 on BBC One and the BBC HD channel.
  • It would be quite nice to be going to Eastercon, but alas I am  not. I’ll watching via the medium of Twitter, so please update frequently if you’re there. And post photos. None of which of course compensates for being there in person, because how do you recreate a large pub (well, hotel with bars) full of SF fans on the interwebs?

April 5, 2009

Lost S05E011

 

So you think you know what’s happening in Lost? Or do you think that they’ve made a mistake in their time twisting craziness? Well Hurley’s there asking the questions too. Which means that we’re all probably wrong and the writers have it covered. The Hurley and Miles conversation was classic witty Lost and had me chuckling, with Hurley referencing Back To The Future! So cool.

In many ways this was a classic (as in season one) style episode, returning to a missing chunk of the story and filling in the mosaic, revealing some aspect of the character: this time focussing on Kate and Aaron. I felt for Kate and her guilty emotional turmoil as she tried to come to terms with adopting Aaron. And also in classic style, the plot on The Island kept moving as Kate and Sawyer gave Ben to The Others in an attempt to save his life. And Richard Alpert takes Ben to the temple at the end of the episode, presumably to do his Other magic. Does the smoke monster help with that?

A very enjoyable episode, one that doesn’t leave too much to talk about, but has left me waiting for someone to transcribe the Miles Hurley scene. Hurry up internets.

April 4, 2009

Torque Control Rounds Up Discussions Of BSFA Short Story Nominees

Niall has been collating reactions to the BSFA short story nominees and also hosting a discussion in the comments over at Torque Control. Here’s what I thought and here’s the round-up at Torque Control:

Little Lost Robot by Paul McAuley

Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment: One Daughter’s Personal Account by M.Rickert

Crystal Nights by Greg Egan

Exhalation by Ted Chiang

April 3, 2009

Love & Hate

Things that Big Dumb Object loved and hated this week:

Loved

  • A bumper mailing from the BSFA, including Vector Magazine (reviews and criticism), Focus Magazine (special short story competition issue), a chapbook of the this years BSFA short story nominees and a special BSFA sample from Postscripts.
  • Genius, hosted by Dave Gorman. Take any of the ideas and write a Science Fiction story about it. Very funny too.

 

Hated

  • Still not having a jetpack or teleporter. Cars, buses, trains; they're all so primitive.
  • April Fool's Day. Yawn.

April 2, 2009

Wired UK

Magazines are divided into three categories:

  1. Those you never even want to read.
  2. Those you buy.
  3. Those you don’t buy but read in WHSmiths.

These days the only magazines that get bought by me are the occasional guitar magazine, when I get inspiration to get a bit better or there is a very cool guitar on the front cover. Science Fiction magazines slipped from buy, to read at WHSmiths to never want to read at about issue 20 of SFX.

However, I have a feeling that there may be a new magazine that I want to buy: Wired UK, which launches today. Looking at the sampler makes me go “oooh”. I feel the need for a good print magazine, I think print may be the new online. Plus Ben Hammersley is the associate editor: he had one of the first blogs I ever read, wrote a book about RSS when no one knew what it was and seems to have a rather interesting life. Ben says We’re making something great specifically for the Wired audience which I think may well include me.

Doctor Who - Planet Of The Dead Trailer

The Doctor Who special, Planet Of The Dead, is to be shown on BBC1 on 11th April, and the trailer was shown for the first time last night.

You can see it online here (a direct iPlayer link seems to be missing).

Hmm. It looks like they went to Dubai to film with a double-decker bus and Michele 'cor blimey guvnor' Ryan. Not overly impressed. It looks like a cheap Pitch Black.

No doubt I will have my now usual reaction to Doctor Who, enjoy it immensely whilst watching and then think it wasn't very good looking back on it.

April 1, 2009

A Review Of The BSFA Short Story Nominees 2009

Part of the recent BSFA mailing included a chapbook containing all of the nominated short stories. An excellent idea, now every BSFA member can read the stories and make their mind up, rather than trying to seek out copies elsewhere. It's now easier to vote on the stories with some opinion (that's either removing the barriers or providing a nudge depending on which business speak bullshit you want to use). The chapbook also contains all the artwork nominees on the back cover, the full list of nominees in the novel and non-fiction categories and details of how to vote (either by email or the included ballot form). Nice job. And consequently I've now read all the stories. Here's my review.

 

Exhalation by Ted Chiang

There's been maybe one or two Chiang stories that I loved. The others tend to leave me feeling impressed by technical ability, or ideas, but otherwise a bit cold. Exhalation is one of those stories. Whilst it's undoubtedly a novel, interesting idea, that's just not enough for me. The Victorian style first person account detracts from any suspense, leaving me to enjoy the vaguely described robot world and the mystery at the heart of the story, but not care about the main character. Good but didn't love it.

 

Crystal Night by Greg Egan

In contrast to Exhalation, Crystal Night had a plot that hooked me in and kept me reading, giving me a genuine want to find out what happens. As you'd expect from Egan there's some hard-ish Science at the core of the plot, although the extrapolation is perhaps a little more extrapolated than I was expecting. Still, it's an entertaining tale of trying to create Artificial Intelligence and the ending is amusing. It reminded a bit of a Lite variant of Permutation City, which you really should read if you haven't. 

 

Little Lost Robot by Paul McAuley

Paul McAuley has written novels and stories that I love, Fairyland and Gene Wars are both stories that I often think about. And I really enjoyed this story too. Little Lost Robot starts with fun big robot prose. Boy's toys stuff perhaps. I loved it. A quick quote from the opening:

"Sooner or later it'll be coming to the star next door to you, and it will rock your world."

Nice. The story is fast, fun and entertaining and yet ends on a thoughtful note, suddenly casting the story in a different light. With a chunk of hard science thrown in too. Great stuff. My favourite of the nominees.

 

Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment: One Daughter's Personal Account by M. Rickert

This story is a harrowing extrapolation what might happen if fundamentalist anti-abortion laws are pursued. It reminded me of The Handmaiden's Tale or The Carhullan Army. It's undoubtedly designed as a warning to US citizens and the right wing religious tendencies. The extrapolation is taken to a horrible future conclusion. It's emotional and well written, but it's hard to love a story that makes me feel like that. You should read it, but it isn't fun.

Cliched Superheroes T-Shirt

The Hall of Cliche Super Heroes - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

 

Fear me I am Rich Avenger!

These remind me of the early Star Wars comics, when Luke Skywalker looked like Lone Gunslinger.