September 2009 Archives
September 30, 2009
The BFI are running a Terminator All-Nighter on their IMAX screen in London. That’s Terminator 1, 2, 3 and Salvation.
The older Terminator films won’t fill the whole screen, but Salvation is digital and so will be HUGE.
You can find all the details here.
From a press release:
AMC will premiere its six-part mini-series “The Prisoner” on Sunday, November 15 from 8 - 10pm ET/PT, featuring the series’ first two episodes back-to-back. A reinterpretation of the 1960s cult classic, “The Prisoner” will air over three consecutive nights, with two episodes each evening, from 8-10pm ET/PT.
I’m not at all excited by this. Either they try and stick to the original series, and fail because it was genius (but bonkers), or completely “re-imagine” it, in which case why not make an original series?
I haven’t heard when it will be shown in the UK, although it’s co-produced with ITV so presumably it will be.
“The new Village is located in a desert tropical area instead of Wales.” Not the same.
Tom Strong Deluxe Edition Volume One, by Wildstorm comics is a hardback collection of the first twelve issues of Tom Strong, written by Alan Moore with regular artist Chris Sprouse and a host of guest artists. It’s a lovely physical book, large and glossy, showing off the art to maximum effect. Not the sort of format to read on the train or bus, more to open whilst sitting in a large armchair.
Tom Strong is a Science Hero, in other words he obtained his powers through the application of science rather than a freak accident or mutant powers. In Tom’s case his was raised by his parents on the island of Attabar Teru, inside a high-gravity chamber to create his strength, eating a root grown on the island to provide long-life, and taught by his parents to enhance his intellect.
The stories initially show Tom’s upbringing and past in a self referential, almost recursive manner, for example: a boy is reading a comic about the origins of Tom Strong whilst oblivious to Tom Strong apprehending some criminals around him. All the clever modern style you’d expect from Moore. After the first few issues the stories are about Tom encountering enemies from his past, with the past referred to as an existing world that the reader should know about, but of course doesn’t exist. It’s like being dropped into a long running comic mythos without knowing anything about it. I particularly liked the episode where Tom Strong visits an alternate parallel world with it’s hat-tip to the kind of major reboots that many comic heroes have had over the years.
Later issues in the collection offer a more varied style, with flashbacks, or entire episodes, drawn by guest artists. Some of the styles are not to different from Sprouse’s style whilst others vary drastically, such as the Victorian-esque Tom Strong and his Phantom Autogyro and the Roger Rabbit style Funnyland!
I preferred the initial set of stories, which offered more of an arc than the later stand alone stories. Once I had learnt about Tom and Millennium City and seen him fight some of his “classic” enemies I wanted more plot. But that’s not really the point of Tom Strong, it’s intended to deliver a homage to classic pulp-y comics and heroes of the past, and it does that with style and class and some modern knowing touches.
Comic newbies or lapsed/part-time comic readers will enjoy Tom Strong, but I think that it’s true comic fans who will probably enjoy it the most, being able to appreciate the level of love that this series exhibits towards the genre.
September 29, 2009
StarShipSofa has made it from podcast to print with StarShipSofa Stories Volume 1, including stories by Peter Watts, Ken MacLeod and Alastair Reynolds. The full contents is on their site. You can download the ebook for free, buy it in standard or deluxe print editions, buy it for mobile readers or donate.
September 28, 2009
Bill is a bit mad, he has a blog that is…
Chronicling the efforts of a lapsed Star Trek fan to watch all 700-plus TV episodes and 11 films and to boldly consume assorted and sundry other Star Trek stuff, all in the course of one year.
Not being a Star Trek fan it’s something I couldn’t even contemplate.
Season two of Dollhouse will be shown on Sci-Fi UK on Tuesdays at 10pm, starting on 20th October. That’s unfortunately a month after being shown in the US, where the first episode was shown last Friday. (Oh, and Sci-Fi UK is not available on Freeview.)
Surely the way forward is showing programmes (almost) simultaneously like Lost or FastForward?
[Image from the Sci-Fi UK site]
Hard times have fallen on Roka Nostaco and the smuggling crew of the Khoruysa Brimia. Tired of scraping by on small-time runs for petty criminals, they take on a big job to get back into the top tier of mob-level work. But high pay comes with high risk, and if the freezing climate of Planet Ciceron doesn't kill them, the hostile native population might. Assuming they don't all kill each other first! Success could put them back on track, but are they in the driver's seat or just pawns in a much bigger double-cross?
September 27, 2009
A bit of catch up before I talk about The Slows.
A story of raising an AI.
I enjoyed reading this story, not blown away, but there was enough to hook me in. I liked the characterisation of the AI, child-like yet intelligent, and I liked the set-up and situation. By the end however I was wishing that there was more exploration of the world, there were tantalising mentions of the bigger picture but nothing else. And the ending left me a bit flat.
When I came to write this review, I couldn’t remember what the story was about and had to go back and check: I’m not sure if that’s a comment on the story or my memory. I also can’t help thinking that this idea has been done a lot better elsewhere, although I can’t name a story off the top of my head.
Torque Control discussion here.
A homage/sequel/variation of H.G. Wells’ classic The Island of Dr. Moreau.
I haven’t read The Island of Dr. Moreau, so this story was lost on me. I read a quarter of it and gave up. I don’t give up on stories very often but I just couldn’t get into it. Wells doing that Victorian style writing is one thing, but someone else doing Wells just doesn’t appeal to me.
Torque Control discussion here.
And now this weeks story:
A story of post-humans keeping humans on reserves. The post-humans accelerate their young to adulthood.
It’s an intriguing start to the story. The Slow-ness refers to bringing up their children, with the human’s taking years to grow into adults. Initially I thought slow was something else, and was slightly disappointed as my guess was more interesting.
The revulsion of the post-humans to small children is a good idea and shown nicely to begin with, tediously by the end. There’s some emotion in there, but it stays on one note – don’t take my child away - and never moves beyond that, consequently leaving me feeling a bit flat by the end, rather than moved.
Overall The Slows felt like a great SF idea needing a story, instead of just a conversation investigating that idea.
September 23, 2009
Following a link from Matt Jones' discussion of future cities here's an awesome post on the design of Mega City One over the years, including detail of it's birth and evolution and a discussion of different artists styles. It's by the artist Matt Brooker aka D'Israeli who is working on a current story Low Life.
September 21, 2009
io9 atones in part for its tendency to post about babes and dodgy films by publishing an article by Matt Jones entitled The City Is A Battlesuit For Surviving The Future. The article discusses cities of the future and cities in Science Fiction, referencing Bladerunner, The Matrix, Mega City One and Warren Ellis.
It's a good read, and that's the best title for an article I've read all year.
Google have been adding UFOs into their logo for the last couple of weeks, including clues and links a codes.
They've now admitted, as many people guessed, that it's all to celebrate the birth of HG Wells, 143 years ago.
ABC have put the the first 17 minutes of FlashForward online apparently. I say apparently because it just tells me that I don’t live in the United States. If you can be bothered you can probably find it elsewhere or use a proxy or something. Too much hassle for me for too little gain. Fortunately Five are going to show FlashForward in the UK, starting on Monday 28th September at 9pm, that’s pleasingly just 4 days after it’s shown on ABC. Yes, that’s how you get people in the UK to watch US shows. They have the trailer online.
FlashForward is of course based on the novel by Robert J. Sawyer. Which I haven’t read. But wish I had before watching the TV series, which is now too late.
September 16, 2009
It’s entertaining to read reviews and interviews of Margaret Atwood’s Science Fiction novels, so here’s a selection that I found about her new novel The Year Of The Flood:
In practice, most fantasy and sci-fi is woefully derivative. Margaret Atwood, however, is a writer of metaphysical wit, who can always twist our preconceptions, and a sharp observer of the female psyche. She has already given us The Handmaid’s Tale, one of the most perfectly conceived and powerfully focused dystopian visions of the future ever written.
Above all, Margaret Atwood is genuinely inventive, rather than merely clever; and her quirky and satirical wit does not limit or define her. The threats and horrors are real and gripping because they are rooted in human characters. The proper study of science fiction is Man – and women, the victims and survivors.
(No mention of Science Fiction!)
Modern publishers are quick to hail a masterpiece, particularly when the work is produced by an established literary writer such as Margaret Atwood. However, it is a label better administered in retrospect than in haste. George Orwell’s 1984is a masterpiece, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is a classic and The Year of the Flood is heavily indebted to both these novels.
Although it deals with important environmental issues, The Year of the Flood seems old-fashioned and simplistic in its treatise: a communal, hippy way of life versus the sinister corporations
(No mention of Science Fiction!)
The novel’s length is, in fact, its weakness. Atwood’s future is immensely detailed; perhaps too detailed. It is lush with stories, jokes, asides, anecdotes and acronyms. Everything is lavishly described, even the violence, often to the point of morbid silliness. The predominant tone is Grand Guignol feathered with camp.
The obvious comparison here is with Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006), the great post-apocalypse novel of recent years. McCarthy’s novel was pared to the bone, at the level of the sentence and of plot. It even used only a handful of colours. Atwood’s is, by contrast, a ribboning, tendrilly, harlequin thing. If McCarthy’s book res-embles a Beckett monologue scored by John Cage, Atwood’s is Priscilla, Queen of the Desert adapted for harpsichord by Freddie Mercury.
To my mind, The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake and now The Year of the Flood all exemplify one of the things science fiction does, which is to extrapolate imaginatively from current trends and events to a near-future that's half prediction, half satire. But Margaret Atwood doesn't want any of her books to be called science fiction. In her recent, brilliant essay collection, Moving Targets, she says that everything that happens in her novels is possible and may even have already happened, so they can't be science fiction, which is "fiction in which things happen that are not possible today". This arbitrarily restrictive definition seems designed to protect her novels from being relegated to a genre still shunned by hidebound readers, reviewers and prize-awarders. She doesn't want the literary bigots to shove her into the literary ghetto.
Who can blame her? I feel obliged to respect her wish, although it forces me, too, into a false position. I could talk about her new book more freely, more truly, if I could talk about it as what it is, using the lively vocabulary of modern science-fiction criticism, giving it the praise it deserves as a work of unusual cautionary imagination and satirical invention. As it is, I must restrict myself to the vocabulary and expectations suitable to a realistic novel, even if forced by those limitations into a less favourable stance.
You must read this extraordinary novel and decide for yourself.
September 15, 2009
I went on the original Star Tours ride in Florida, many years ago now (in fact when it was only a year or two old). I loved it, what’s not to love? It’s a motion simulator ride with Star Wars visuals. You even get to fly down the Death Star trench!
But now it’s closing:
"I'm sorry to tell you that as of October 2010, Star Tours will be closing," said Rasulo, a statement immediately followed by the marching of stormtroopers on-stage accompanied by the ominous "Imperial March." Darth Vader appeared via video to question Rasulo about his plans, and bring the Disney crew "back on schedule."
"You didn't let me finish! We're closing Star Tours in order to create a spectacular new adventure. We're going to do things with Star Tours that have never been done in any theme park attraction, at any theme park anywhere," added Rasulo.
It will be in 3D and by the looks of it include the the Pod Race. The bad news is that it’s only going to be in California and Florida, not Paris, Tokyo or Hong Kong.
September 14, 2009
The Clone Wars : Decide Your Destiny books are interesting, on one hand they're Star Wars books in which you can choose the path of the plot, like the old Fighting Fantasy series, but also they contain codes which unlock extra content online. The official press blurb says...
With dozens of destinies to choose from, these innovative books contain multiple stories that continue via URLs which allow you to jump in and out of cyberspace, accessing integrated online content such as games and Flash-animated sequences.
The trailer for the books is embedded below. I like the idea of integrating online content, especially for something like Star Wars which is clearly cross platform anyway. (Is book a platform?!)
September 12, 2009
September 11, 2009
Here’s the short film that District 9 was expanded from. I like the short better: atmospheric, cool ideas and no disintegrating plot. Interesting to note that the cool idea of the cables from the ships didn’t make it to the feature film.
Thanks to Republibot 3.0 for the link.
District 9 has been the subject of a lot of hype: all the Comic-Con stuff, all the Twitter hype, the blog hype. Lots of people saying it's the best SF film of the year, if not decade. Surely too much hype to be that good?
The setting and style is good from the start, a gritty South African setting, the huge spaceship hanging over Johannesburg, the slick documentary style and a decent set up. However, despite the visual flair I was a bit concerned at the massive infodump at the start, just a big chunk of regurgitated exposition. I would have preferred discovering the backstory rather than having it handed to me on a plate.
After that there was more to make me feel hopeful, an entertaining introduction to the main character Wikus Van De Merwe, a civil servant of sorts who delights in his job of evicting the aliens from District 9. He isn't a particularly nice guy, which makes a change for a protagonist, a bit of a wimp and quite unpleasant in his bigotry. There are plenty of jokes at the expense of the aliens, some of which were funny, but left me squirming slightly, which is good, I presume it was the point. I hope the dismissive nature of the humans to aliens wasn't lost on audiences, but suspect it might have been.
It's all set up to make a statement about the alien and human relationships and the treatment of a minority. If only. Instead it turns into The Fly, and then Starship Troopers with a bit of Transformers thrown in. The journey of Wikus and his transformation I found completely unbelievable. I could almost hear the cogs turning in the storyline as he raced through all the stages of the plot.
And the plot. It didn't make any sense to me. Maybe I missed something, but the entire setup seems to be negated at the end. It left me going "Huh? Why did he do that when he could of done that?" But I think by the end we're supposed to be wowed by the action and SFX to forget about the plot.
Such a shame, because it was a great idea, in a great setting, with plenty of visual flare, but all the good work was squandered. Immensely disappointed.
September 10, 2009
Matt Jones has posted an essay about what it might take to transform the world’s energy production, and whether China will become a new green superpower. In the midst of the essay is a link to The Golden Institute :
Another friend, Sascha Pohflepp, just graduated from the Royal College of Art with a fascinating project illustrating a counter-factual history where Jimmy Carter won against Ronald Reagan, and gave us a 1980s where the arms race was transmuted into an energy race; where a fictional government agency –“The Golden Institute” (2), turns Nevada into a weather lab and Vegas into an array of gaudy lightning catchers that supply the USA with power; where the kiloton energies of thunderstorms are engineered with silver-iodide balloons, and giant gyroscopes near the North Pole harness the world’s rotation to keep the lights on in the West, while slowing down the Earth just enough to make the days longer in the USA than Russia…
The page for the project has pictures of architectural mock-ups and an alternative history video.
Great optimistic Science Fiction, told in a non-traditional manner.
September 9, 2009
The BBC has the news that Richard Curtis of Blackadder fame (well that and all those films and stuff) is going to write a Doctor Who episode:
"These days the things you can watch together as a family are much fewer," he explained of his decision to step on board the Tardis, "so when you get something like Doctor Who or the X Factor, it is such a pleasure to sit down as a family".
And maybe he has a SF film in the works:
Curtis also revealed he was fascinated by time travel and was currently working on a low budget film about the subject.
This book ends on a cliff-hanger. I think it’s important to say that first, because I hate books that are cliff-hangers. I want complete stories. Finished. Not a trilogy, not a second book that’s just filler. I’m struggling to think of a single story trilogy of books that is better than a single book would have been. So it was intensely disappointing to race through a fantastic book, only to find that the story was not finished and I need to get book two.
I should have been more wary of those dreaded words on the cover: book one.
But, up until the end, the book is great. Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown. Everybody can hear each others thoughts, including animals. It’s called the Noise. In many ways it’s the well worn coming of age story, of a boy becoming a man, but it’s very well done: fast, emotional and with a great core SF idea. I’m not going to talk more about the plot, because much of the enjoyment of the novel is derived from the unknown.
I couldn’t put the book down.
However, there’s another negative apart from the ending. I felt manipulated. Every chapter had a cliff-hanger ending, I was squeezed through an emotional wringer in obvious ways and the mystery was withheld for too long. For a while I could deal with it, but about half way through the novel I was exhausted and then there was no relief.
So, mixed feelings: I loved reading it, couldn’t put it down, thought it was clever and interesting and emotional but ultimately I was left unsatisfied.
September 8, 2009
The story is of a small American town and county called Conover County, it’s midwest nowhereville. And then two people find a forbidden book and open a portal which turns the population into a varied selection of monsters and ghouls, sprinkling a random selection of powers and curses. And no one can leave the county.
There’s one Sheriff who seems to be in control. Everyone else struggles instantly to cope (well, bar a few college kids who go to a party).
It’s a bit too horror for me, quite gory, lots of death, but there are moments of black humour and also hints at a deeper story underneath: who is the Sheriff? What ties does the county have to the incoming evil? It’s the bigger story that would interest me, rather than the gore.
The artwork is a softer, painted style, very effective for zombies and blood and monsters.
The story follows Maggie MacGuffin an aide of a Congressman in Washington, who suddenly finds her life threatened by entanglement in a large conspiracy.
Not that she knows much about what's going on.
The conspiracy revolves around aliens, Roswell and beyond. Is it all a fake? Is it real? What's The Capricorn Group? Who knows what?
It's that X-Files plot thread again, but it doesn't feel tired: the story is fast paced with an entertaining eponymous hero and plenty of intrigue that made me wonder who to trust and what was really going on.
The artwork is what I think of as standard US comic art, clean and clear with enough detail to warrant a few good looks.
September 7, 2009
He’s trying to collect answers to the following questions:
where do you pay to read fiction, if anywhere? What does it take to get you to pay, and what amount seems reasonable to you for what you’re getting – if anything?
Do you object to advertising on the sites where you read fiction, or are they acceptable so long as you’re not paying for the privilege of seeing them? Would you pay a small premium for an ad-free version of a webzine, or are the mechanics of a paywall off-putting enough to keep you away from a publication you might otherwise click through to regularly?
So head over there and let him know, and perhaps we can piece together a picture of what the future might be like…
Den Of Geek has an article about corridors in Science Fiction. Yeah, corridors, the bits that run between rooms, the bits people run along and die in. It’s quite a long article with plenty of example and images, and it’s made me realise that I love corridors in SF too.
Niall has been running a short story reading club over on Torque Control. I’m a bit behind, but here’s my thoughts so far, provided in my usual brief gush of thoughts (cue comments about the state of online reviewing).
Hmm. As has been said on many a rejection letter “this story didn’t grab me”. The core idea was, well, just, yeah. The cool secret stuff never got cool. And I didn’t really feel any empathy for any of the characters I’m afraid.
Yeah I know that’s not a very insightful review, but I read it, went “oh” and then forgot it.
TC Discussion here.
Oh no, Faeries. I hate faeries, so any story with them in it has to be amazing for me to like it. Unfortunately this wasn’t amazing, it’s a manipulative story where faeries steal a child who then gets cancer. It uses all that annoying faerie phrasing. It’s probably supposed to be some deep allegory for how you grow to love a child or something, but I just wanted the faeries to die and the child to live and the story to have never been possible. I hated it.
TC discussion here.
Ahhh, that’s more like it. The Time Travellers Wife, but different and set in the legendary year of 1984 . I loved the gentle rhythm of the story: a chatty narrative, a mystery that seems easy to guess, a mundane life meeting an extraordinary one. No explosive set pieces or world ending action, or life and death emotion, but some love and some emotion. All through the first half of the story I was hoping that the resolution would be more than another time travelling love story rehash, and fortunately it was, a pleasant enjoyable twist. I liked it a lot.
TC discussion here.
September 4, 2009
September 3, 2009
Tom Baker, the definitive Doctor for many people, has returned to Doctor Who for a five part audio series.
Wired has an article about it with a few words from Tom Baker about returning to Who.
Baker made it clear he'd consider returning once again to audio adventures in the near future.
"If the fans like them, then there will be more," he said.
Two astronauts awaken in a hyper-sleep chamber aboard a spacecraft. It's pitch black, they are disoriented, and the only sound is a low rumble and creak from the belly of the spacecraft. They can't remember anything - who are they, what is their mission?
September 2, 2009
io9 has an interesting graph of the number of SF themed TV shows over time, from 1970 to present day.
The peak is around 2000.
That’s the sort of graph I could stare at for ages.
Just got around to watching the interview with David Tennant and Russell T. Davies which was on Boing Boing last week. It’s embedded below, or you can watch it over at Boing Boing (the post explains more about the interviewer Richard Metzger).
What a great interview, not compressed and shortened and full of soundbites, but a real, lengthy, interesting conversation about Doctor Who, which also touches on Torchwood. And David Tennant is so cool.
If you love Doctor Who you should watch this.
September 1, 2009
The teaser trailer for the new Christopher Nolan film, Inception, is online and embedded below. Looks interesting, weird gravity wire antics going on. It’s written by Nolan, which is good news if it’s anything as close to brilliant as Memento, and it stars Leonardo DiCaprio. And it’s not out until next year! Early hype.