June 2009 Archives

June 30, 2009

Torchwood Children Of Earth Website

The official Torchwood Children Of Earth website is taking shape, with some locked galleries, some promo pics and a still empty episode guide.

I’m more hopeful of this being decent than I was a month ago because (1) The trailers look good (2) James Moran wrote three of the episodes and I liked his Primeval episode.

It starts next Monday and is on consecutive days until Friday.

A Comedy About Clive Sinclair

It was Science Fiction before the eighties, but for many of us growing up then a home computer was science fact, thanks to Clive Sinclair and his revolutionary ZX home computers. Although I quickly graduated to a BBC Microcomputer, enter Chris Curry.

The BBC are currently filming a comedy about that period, called Syntax Era and featuring Alexander Armstrong as Clive Sinclair, and Martin Freeman as Chris Curry. Freeman was of course in the excellent Office and Hot Fuzz and the reputedly (still not seen it) not so excellent film version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Armstrong is best known from the very funny Armstrong and Miller comedy show.

Written by Tony Saint, this 90-minute drama uses archive footage to help illustrate the buzz around Sinclair and Curry's inventions. Classic clips from programmes including John Craven's Newsround showcase the likes of Sinclair's ZX Spectrum, the infamous Sinclair C5 and Curry's triumphant BBC Micro computer demonstrating the influence these men had on Eighties' life.

Sounds geeky and perfect.

[Photo by Bowdie AttributionNoncommercialSome rights reserved]

Virtuality, The Critics Like It

It appears that Virtuality, the new TV movie from Battlestar Galactica writers Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor is a hit with the critics.

The story follows a 12-member spaceship crew on a decade-long journey across the galaxy to find a new home for the human race before the Earth grows uninhabitable. Trouble ensues when the ship’s virtual-reality system begins to malfunction.

There’s a chance it could be turned into a series if there’s a big enough response.

It sounds, well, not exactly original, but it would be unfair to judge without seeing it, perhaps it’s wonderfully executed? I haven’t found any mention of it coming to the UK.

June 29, 2009

Locus Award Winners

The winners of the 2009 Locus Awards have been announced. The full list is here. Anathem by Neal Stephenson won the best Science Fiction novel. For the short fiction "Pretty Monsters" by Kelly Link won best novella, "Pump Six" by Paolo Bacigalupi won best novella and "Exhalation" by Ted Chiang won best short story.

So that’s Pretty Monsters and Pump Six on the wish list….

June 26, 2009

BSFA AGM With Guests, Tomorrow

A reminder that the BSFA AGM is tomorrow, in London.  I shall be going. Say hello to me. As has become customary there will also be guests. Here’s the agenda:

The 2009 BSFA AGM will be held on 27th June 2009 at midday at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London.

The guests for the BSFA/SFF AGM will be Nick Harkaway for the BSFA, and Paul Kincaid for the SFF.

The programme will be:

10:00 Welcome by the SFF
10:05 BSFA Panel - Launch of the British Science Fiction Survey 2009
11:00 SFF Guest - Paul Kincaid
12:00-12:30 BSFA AGM
12:30-13:30 lunch break
13:30-14:00 SFF AGM
14:00 BSFA Guest - Nick Harkaway
15:00 SFF Closing Panel - tba
16:00 Closing remarks by the BSFA

Official Lightsabers And Blasters For The Wii



Coming soon, Lightsabers and Blasters for the Wii. You’ve been able to but fake Lightsabers to attach to your wiimote for a while, but these are officially sanctioned Lightsabers:

"The lightsaber is the ultimate symbol of a Jedi Knight, and the POWER A Lightsaber will represent the only licensed lightsaber for Wii on the market," said Eric Bensussen, president of BDA. "Players can feel like they are truly part of the action in the game like never before."

The blaster looks terrible:

I’m not sure why anyone would bother?

I’m more interested in a Star Wars game for the Wii that uses the MotionPlus and creates a real Lightsaber swinging game, rather than the gesture based gameplay of the Clone Wars Lightsaber Duels.

Star Trek Scene It? Trivia Game

I know that there are many of you out there who are itching to proved your Star Trek geek cred. Well leave your usenet/forum/Twitter flame wars behind, and play a game in which your skills will be tested.

Or rather, there’s a new Star Trek Scene It? Trivia Game out.

Play a demo here. Watch a trailer here. Visit the web site here. Visit the Facebook page here. Buy it in the UK or the US.

I know I’d be rubbish. A Star Wars trivia game though, that’s a different matter.

June 25, 2009

First Reactions To Footage From Cameron's Avatar

The first twenty four minutes of Avatar has been shown at the Cinema Expo in Amsterdam. ComingSoon has the details, including a detailed scene by scene description.

Summary? "The effects are in a league of their own." Lets hope the story is good too.

As usual these days the news broke first via Twitter by @ucsnord

June 23, 2009

Excuses For Not Writing Optimistic Science Fiction

UPDATE: Changed the title of the post to emphasise that the post was a list of excuses for NOT writing optimistic Science Fiction (as pointed out by Jetse in the comments; don't send him dystopian stories!)

Jetse De Vries is editing a new optimistic Science Fiction anthology called Shine. It's a great idea and it's stirred up all sorts of unrest and reactions in the SF writing community. In a recent post he lists the excuses for not writing an optimistic SF story, I urge to to go and read the full post but here's the summary:

  1. (Deliberately) misinterpreting the meaning of 'optimistic SF'.
  2. Optimism is not realistic.
  3. You cannot predict the near future exactly, so you might as well not try.
  4. There is no possibility for conflict in a full-on optimistic future.
  5. I can't do it because we live in dire times.
  6. My downbeat SF story is meant as a cautionary tale.
  7. I will not confirm to your positivist agenda: nobody tells me what to write.

And Jetse has great answers to all of these excuses.

My excuse is: I've been trying and it's really bloody hard! I'm now on my fourth attempt at something reasonable and interesting and a plausible(ish) extrapolation. I think this time I may be on to it. But the three months I've been trying to write optimistic stories are not enough, I have a feeling that it's a life times work. I'm not going to give up though.

And I can't wait to read the anthology.

Night is Day, An Indie SF Series About A Scottish Superhero

I blogged about a charity screening of Night Is Day a couple of weeks ago, now series 1 is for sale on DVD and the trailer for series 2 is online.

The series takes you to a normal city, filled with superheros, supervillains, demons, vampires, and gangsters, filled with action, drama and special effects. In Scotland.  Now in to its second series, the show continues to explore the world of Jason Mackenzie, Glasgow's superhero, who was once a down on-his-luck Glaswegian, left by his girlfriend, forcing him into depression which led him to being hospitalised by a horrific accident. From there Jason met Ames, a mysterious demon in human form, who gave Jason the power of a demon so he could fight to keep us safe.

There’s been a bit of Scottish based Science Fiction Literature recently, and some rather good SF writers based in Scotland, but I can’t think of anything in film.

Night Is Day an indie self-funded project, so check it out and cheer them on for making SF films.

June 22, 2009

Funky 50s Style Star Wars Poster

The Star Wars shop has some funky 50s style posters by Russell Walks.

They’re limited to 2000 and cost $29.99.

Alastair Reynolds Secures £1 Million Book Deal

File under woah.

Add to list of writing incentives.

Alastair Reynolds has signed a ten year, ten book, deal with Gollancz, coming in at a rather hot £1million. That figure should be said in a Doctor Evil voice. The Guardian has the news with quotes from Jo Fletcher, Jon Courtenay Grimwood and Alastair himself who says he is "amazed and thrilled".

A big congratulations to Alastair!

I think it's good news. A SF publisher willing to commit to an author means that fans get the Reynolds books they want. For upcoming writers hopefully it will mean that the publishing house can use the profits from its big selling name to sign up new talent. Everyone wins.

June 20, 2009

Tor.com Now Has A Book Store

An interesting move from Tor.com, opening an online bookstore at http://store.tor.com/. It’s a clean minimal look in keeping with the design of the main site, and seems fine, not exactly stunning.

Unfortunately it’s US based, and don’t ship to any other countries.

What they do have however is a cover for Iain Banks’ upcoming novel Transition.

Oooh, nice!

June 18, 2009

Cakes. Star Trek Cakes.

Neatorama has lots of pictures of cakes, but not just any cakes, Star Trek cakes.

Because if you’re obsessed about anything you should make a cake with it on.

I prefer the many cupcake style than the one big Enterprise cake. Eating five cakes feels better than eating a huge chunk of one big cake.

Via Jonathan

June 17, 2009

China Miéville Suggest 5 New Literary Movements

Omnivoracious, the Amazon book blog, has a post by China Miéville where he suggests five new literary movements that haven't happened yet. They're all of a genre leaning, as you may expect from China. He says:

...I thought we could save a bit of time by naming a few movements in advance, then writing books to fit. That way we could start arguing about them without having to wait through those tiresome publication schedules.

The post is very witty, probably prophetic (scarily) and contains words I had to look up.

I feel a Zombiefail '09-ism story coming on...

Via @garethlpowell

A Canticle For Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

A Canticle For Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. is one of the few remaining classics that I hadn't read from my Apocalypse Watch reading list. I heard it talked about so much that I approached it with a lot of anticipation.

There will be spoilers in this review! I can't hold back I'm afraid.

Continue reading A Canticle For Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr..

June 16, 2009

Torchwood: Children Of Earth Details

The BBC has released details of the new Torchwood series Children Of Earth.

In one epic story, told over five episodes, the new series promises to be Torchwood's greatest adrenalin-fuelled, high-octane adventure to date. As they battle against the odds, do they stand a chance of saving humankind?

Well, of course, because otherwise there would be no Doctor Who and no more Torchwood.

Some Torchwood spoilers ahead (if anyone cares)

Continue reading Torchwood: Children Of Earth Details.

Offline - Indie SF Film

The trailer for Offline an indie SF film is online here. At least I think it's the trailer, the site doesn't offer anything more. Whatever it is, it's grungy and full of stuttery effects, with what looks like a dash of Mad Max, a nod to Blade Runner, some apocalyptic landscapes, some kung-fu, a quad bike, a dash of Highlander and some lasers.

The effect is like a black tinged grainy Power Rangers, without the huge silly monsters.

Impressive effects, but I'd have liked the story to hook me, rather than to try and dazzle me.

The Plan - A Battlestar Galactica Film Of Excuses?

So you'd think the actual Battlestar Galactica series itself explained what the Cylons were up to, but no, they need a whole film to do it. It's called The Plan.

Ain't It Cool News found this clip on YouTube:

To be honest, I don't really care. They finished the series, it had a rubbish ending. Enough. If I want to see any BSG I'll re-watch the first two series, which were good. This trend of squeezing out extra stories from dead TV series is becoming annoying.

Dave found the AICN post.

June 15, 2009

Michio Kaku says that the science fiction of Star Trek is closer to reality than we might think

The Guardian has a podcast interview with Michio Kaku talks about the technology in Star Trek:

Some 80% of the technologies portrayed in science fiction like Star Trek and Star Wars – including force fields, teleportation, telekinesis, mind-reading and invisibility – will become possible within the next century. At least that's according to futurologist Michio Kaku.

Within centuries to millennia, even time travel, starships and "warp drive" may become possible, says Kaku.

Teleportation! Bring it on, better than jetpacks.

June 13, 2009

Revising Short Fiction. Should Writers Do It?

Jeremiah Tolbert has posted an article on his blog Revising Short Fiction Is For Suckers which discusses the subject of revising short stories. It’s a great post and also has a long and interesting discussion in the comments.

If you don’t know, Heinlein produced five rules for writing (which I first read on Robert J. Sawyer’s site), and rule 3 was You Must Refrain From Rewriting, Except to Editorial Order, which was controversial then, and remains so. I think he was trying to stop new writers from endlessly tinkering with stories, but it’s open to interpretation.

The post discusses the earnings for a short story, the time required and the comments start to dig into what is the purpose of writing short stories for writers.

If you’re a writer you should read it, lots to think about.

June 11, 2009

Space Hoppers Featuring Brian Cox Coming To BBC

Space Hoppers is a new television programme coming to CBBC (the older children’s BBC channel) in 2010, featuring Professor Brian “you know they based that guy in Sunshine on me” Cox, the guy who is giving the world unrealistic expectations about how cool physicists can be. (In terms of cool he’s like a Feynman protégé for the 21st century, without the controversy.)

In Space Hoppers, our intrepid travelers Dan and Steve team up with Brian to investigate worlds beyond our planet and try to find out exactly what you would need to do to take a holiday in outer space and do a bit of space hopping.

They will delve into the wonders of the Solar System, blending global adventures with explosive experiments; and quirky animation with state-of-the-art CGI.

In each episode, Dan, Steve and Brian will explore a holiday-related theme, from holidays in (or on) the sun to volcano-spotting. Their search will take in extreme environments, wild weather and the best places in the Solar System to "enjoy" a bit of snow and ice.

There’s going to be seven thirty minute episodes. Sounds cool.

June 10, 2009

The Quiet War - Paul McAuley

The Quiet War is Paul McAuley doing modern Space Opera. I haven't read any of McAuley's recent thriller marketed novels, or his older Space Opera novels but I love Fairyland and many of his short stories.

The start of the story is optimistic: Earth is being returned to vast tracks of wilderness by green eco efforts, and the off-world colonies around Jupiter and Saturn have created self-sustainable colonies in hostile locations. The political systems are different however with Earth being ruled by Mafiosa style families and the off-world colonies running a variety of liberal democratic models, including voting on everything all the time. The clash is intentional. On Earth Brazil is the major world power, and Greater Brazil has subsumed large chunks of America. The Moon is an Earth colony, but Mars was abandoned due to past troubles, causing the migration to the outer planets.

A lot of this detail is set-up in the first few chapters, and although I liked the setting and back-story it felt a bit too infodumpy, and the style not like I remember McAuley's writing. I presume this was conscious, to write in the style of Space Opera, whatever that is. The plot is split into three threads, but not delivered in an alternating chapter style, but instead a little loose, with chunks of one plot delivered in several chapters, then more of another, which I found irritating. I think the flow would have been easier to get into if it was a stricter format. Instead I found my mind wondering what the other characters were doing in these extended sequences.

The ideas and the science are Hard SF, with plenty of biology, most of which passed well over my head. Which I guess is a consequence of Hard SF, if you know any of the science it's great, if you don't it's technobable. The story doesn't shy away from the ideas and consequences however and the consistency of the story universe is convincing and clever.

The plots build, focussing on the tension between Earth and the outer colonies, becoming more exciting as they progress but you can see what's coming. It's inevitable, and that in many ways that is the point of the story. Whilst the start is optimistic and futuristic the ending is pessimistic and the story as a whole has little faith in man transcending base human reactions. Which I found disappointing. I found myself becoming increasingly depressed as I read it, I wanted the wonder of the Solar System to be unlocked by humanity, and instead ended up with a brawl.

If you're looking for an idea what this book is similar to, it reminded me of the off-Mars parts of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy, both in scope, style  and ideas, but not anywhere near as optimistic in tone.

I wanted to like The Quiet War more than I did, and although it's a competent Hard SF story it did it's best to alienate me with a pessimistic vision of the future. In the end my emotional reaction to the story overrode my cold scientific appreciation.

June 9, 2009

Win A Part In Glasgow Superhero TV Series At Exclusive Screening

Silly Wee Films has organised an exclusive screening of the show, Night is Day, in Glasgow’s Buff Club on Wednesday (June 10) (Tomorrow!) to promote the series and raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Those lucky enough to snap up tickets to the screening will be able to see three key episodes from the first series of the show. This will be followed with a sneak preview of the second series of the show, in which Taggart star Colin McCreadie plays a jewel thief.

And they’ll also get the chance to win a part as an extra in the show -  or in the feature film version of the series the film company are currently trying to get funding to make. The prize will be raffled on the night with all the money raised going to Macmillan Cancer Support.

Anyone can come along and everyone is welcome but there is limited space so to guarantee entry email whoisjasonmackenzie@hotmail.com. (Jason MacKenzie is the name of the superhero).

Apparently the show creators came up with the idea for a Glasgow superhero after being fed up that Scotland so far had only produced Supergran. Although Supergran was good.

Science Fiction Films That Haven't Dated

Can you think of any Science Fiction films that haven't dated as the years have passed since its release? This conversation came about as a spin-off from the James Cameron conversation and was sparked by the statement that Aliens hasn't dated at all.

So off the top of my head, here are a selection of timeless SF films:



The non-stop crazy scary action on an alien world is still futuristic and plausible. The setting is expertly timeless.


Back To The Future

Whilst definitely of it's time, Back To The Future never looks dated to me. Instead it looks like a wonderful comparison of two past eras.


The Matrix

Forget the terrible sequels, the original film still looks amazing, feels fresh and is stunningly cool


Star Wars

Episode 4? A New Hope? Or just Star Wars. The only thing looking slightly dated in the film are the haircuts. Otherwise the past in a galaxy far away still looks pretty good. Bizarrely the remixed Special Edition looks terribly dated due to horrible Jabba The Hutt CGI.


Planet Of The Apes

Still enjoyable and looking good. Circumvents the haircut issue by putting the astronauts on a ling trip. You'd expect the apes to look terrible, but they don't. And the ending is still cool.

June 4, 2009

James Cameron Cannot Make A Bad SF Film. True Or False?

Whilst talking about Avatar last night (over pizza , how geek), Dave posited the hypothesis that James Cameron cannot make a bad Science Fiction film, and all of his past SF films are brilliant.

Let’s take a look at them:

The Terminator – Great film. A bit dated now, especially the hair styles!

Aliens – Awesome film, as good now as when it was released.

The Abyss – Great film, although the ending was a bit rubbish. Still looks good.

Terminator 2 : Judgement Day – Good film. Awesome in its day but dated a lot.


I agree: James Cameron has not made a bad Science Fiction film. But I can’t help being sceptical about Avatar, all those years, all that 3D work. Can it really live up to the hype?

June 3, 2009

Outpost Gallifrey Is Closing

The humungous Doctor Who website Outpost Gallifrey is closing. It’s been the source of much Doctor Who news, often getting rumours and news way before I’ve seen it anywhere else.

Nice one Shaun, and good luck with whatever is next.

Ghostbusters is hiring

Ever wanted to be a Ghostbuster? Now’s your chance.

Cue the music… da da daa da da da, daa daa da…

June 2, 2009

Coming soon...

Time to break the blog routine and go a bit more adhoc old skool. Probably.

Things coming soon(ish):
  • A review of The Quiet War.
  • A review of A Canticle For Leibowitz.
  • A review of Wastelands.
  • A review of the BSFA Postscripts sample edition.
Yes, I have been reading. I particularily loved Wastelands and reading lots of short fiction, which I always mean to do but never get around to.

Some things I'm thinking about doing:
  • Some thoughts on Dollhouse.
  • Reviewing a short story every week.
  • Reading all the Hugo nominees.
  • Integrating the BDO twitter account into this page.
Although I may change my mind.