December 2009 Archives
December 31, 2009
- OMG! Paris Hilton in Doctor Who!
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars + WiiMote == Destiny
- Watch Lost online in the UK
- Facehugger, a detailed picture
- A Pittsburgh Storm, Free Novel Online
- Red Dwarf episodes online
- Legal Doctor Who episodes to download in the US
- Pictures of Star Wars characters in urban backgrounds
- Dr. Horrible The Commentary The Musical On YouTube
- LOST Dharma Initiative Jumpsuit. Want one.
- Funky 50s Style Star Wars Poster
- Lost HD Episodes online
- My Perfect eBook Reader, A Nintendo DS
- The 10 Lamest Superheroes of all time
- Yet Another Babes Of Battlestar Galactica Photoshoot
- You Can Draw Star Wars The Clone Wars workshop
- Day Of The Triffids Remake Cast News
- Being Human - Episode 1
- The Star Wars Eddie Izzard Lego video
- Y: The Last Man first issue free online
December 30, 2009
December 29, 2009
December 28, 2009
December 27, 2009
December 26, 2009
December 25, 2009
December 24, 2009
Big Dumb Object is pleased to announced the fifth annual Big Dumb Object awards, known as The Dumbies.
The awards follow the now traditional format (thanks to cut and paste)...
Media are eligible for nomination if they have been seen or read by the judges panel in the year of 2009, no matter when they were released. Categories include Best Film, Best Book, Best Short Story, Best Television Series, Best Comic and Best Videogame. There are no worst awards in The Dumbies, life is too short to consume bad media and the judges therefore try to avoid such matters.
The nominations will be announced over a few days (for no other reason than to string it out a bit and provide content when the judges are in fact eating and drinking and playing with toys). After the nominations have been announced the judges will be open for bribes for an unspecified period of time. Once they are satisfied that the best offers have arrived and have cogitated on the nominations, the judges will then make their decision and announce the awards in a grand ceremony that involves a single, but important, blog post.
The judges are selected in a secret and mysterious process and their names are kept secret to protect their superhero identities. (In other words, it's just me, James.)
Please feel free to speculate on the nominations until they are announced.
December 23, 2009
December 22, 2009
In a recent comment thread over at Torque Control I said "There seems to be a common feeling with people coming into SF that you need to know real science to write good SF. Which is of course rubbish." The comment was in response to Catherynne M. Valente posting about writing Science Fiction.
Following that Athena Andreadis wrote a post titled Science Fiction Goes McDonald's: Less Taste, More Gristle on The Huffington Post and said she was surprised at the agreement with which my statement was greeted.
I think the key point here is that there are degrees of accuracy.
As an example Dr. Andreadis rephrases my statement to use historical fiction as an example:
Let me rewrite that statement for another genre: "There seems to be a common feeling with people coming into historical fiction that you need to know real history - or at least the history of the era you plan to portray - to write good historical fiction or alternative history. Which is of course rubbish."
Cell phones in a Renaissance novel? Tudor court ladies on mopeds? Why should anyone notice or care?
So first of all we'll make the assumption that the author of the historical novel is not attempting anything modern or funky or surreal and is going for an accurate historical novel. I agree that if I was expecting an accurate historical novel then phones and mopeds in a Tudor court would jar with me. However, I am not a scholar of history, or even very well versed in many periods of history. But then who is? Who is an expert in every slice of history? So when it comes to a historical novel such as The Baroque Cycle, guess what? I have no idea what Neal Stephenson made up and which bits were taken from primary sources. And I don't really care. The novel evoked the period to me, I loved the story and I could, if I wanted to, try and find more academic sources to read.
But even those academic sources have elements of doubt. Presumably much of history cannot be pieced together form primary sources? I don't know, I'm out of my depth talking about history already.
The same is true even when moving to science: this year I read A Quiet War by Paul McAuley, there's some interesting science in the novel: biology and ecology. To be honest I had no idea whether it was accurate or not. Like history, I know very little biology. It didn't really impact the story, McAuley sounded like he knew what he was talking about.
So let me switch to something I (used to!) know about, physics.
Say you want to write a Hard SF novel. You research the state of the art in string theory, or brane theory, or whatever. You stick to your exacting research. The number of people who will know whether you are accurate or not is tiny, a small group of physicists who have spent years buried in maths. And let us not forget that those theories are just that, theories! They could be disproved within a year if the LHC delivers some nice data.
Even with experimental physics, nothing is ever really proved to be the absolute truth. Physics is just a model of the universe that we can conveniently use. You can never discount that some experiment will come along and highlight a flaw in your glorious model. Yes, of course some models have gathered such impressive experimental proof that they can be taken as "correct", but my point is that it's not black and white.
So as a SF writer you have to decide how deep you want the facade to go. The deeper you go the narrower the audience that will be able to spot your flaws. If you want a shallow facade it does not mean you can't write Science Fiction, it is after all, fiction.
December 21, 2009
December 18, 2009
December 17, 2009
December 16, 2009
Where 6pm PT is of course Middle Of The Night GMT.
December 14, 2009
December 12, 2009
[Arggh run, killer plants!]
I have questioned the need to remake/readapt The Day Of The Triffids, however the BBC press release has done it's job and I'm now interested, a lot.
Dougray Scott, Joely Richardson, Brian Cox, Vanessa Redgrave,Eddie Izzard and Jason Priestley star in The Day Of The Triffids, onBBC One this Christmas, written by Patrick Harbinson (ER, Law & Order).
Go and look at the stills: people with cuts on their heads, it's the apocalypse! The visuals look pretty stylish and faithful to the images that the book produced in my head. Which is a good thing.
No broadcast date on that page yet but I'm sure I heard Eddie Izzard say it was Christmas time. Mr. Izzard also seemed pretty impressed with the production.
Andy says that the Radio Times has a broadcast date of 9.00pm on Monday 28th December.
December 11, 2009
December 10, 2009
December 9, 2009
Well, the Torque Control Short Story Club is over (for now) and I’ve found it an enjoyable journey into analysing my own short story tastes.
I’ve read stories that I never would have read (those Fantasy ones) and whilst I don’t think my tastes have changed, I think I now have a clearer idea of what I do like. And looking at that smallish chunk of taste makes me want to push the boundaries a bit and find something surprising.
There’s so much choice when it comes to reading a short story that it was quite nice to be told what to read, and when. Having Niall pick the stories was like skiing around a resort with a guide: less time looking at the piste map and worrying whether you’ll get lost, and more time looking at the wonderful scenery and enjoying the thrill.
The regularity has also been a pleasant surprise. Usually I read short stories in bursts: an anthology, or an award short list. Reading at least a story a week has been a very good habit to get into, and, as is the way with habits, has resulted in positive feedback. I’ve found myself reaching for a short story to read these past few weeks more than reaching for a novel.
And also one can’t underestimate the enjoyment of discussing the story with others (even if that discussion only involves reading others comments). It’s the sort of discussion that doesn’t really happen online with novels, because everyone reads them at different speeds and times. There’s no deadline like in real world book clubs. Which is why conversation seems to congeal around TV episodes rather than literature. It seems like it takes an award short list to galvanise a discussion of novels.
Anyway, a success!
I think I’ll stick to reading at least one short a week.
December 8, 2009
It feels like a story of two halves: part one in China which is high tech and futuristic, with combustion engines banned and vertical farms feeding the cities, part two in Mongolia which is more traditional but with a sprinkling of futurism. The first half, the setup, is the part I liked the most, although the ending makes sense and ties the story up nicely. I think I’d like more of that future China.
The writing has good sense of place, the description particularly vivid in rural Mongolia, the Chinese section less so, but that may be because it’s high tech sheen rather than landscapes.
Shu Mei Feng is clearest as a character in a flashback to before the start of the story, in other parts she becomes a little overwhelmed by the plot as it barrels along.
Overall it’s another story that I found enjoyable to read, left me feeling upbeat and also wanting more of the story’s world.
DayBreak is publishing exactly the sort of stories I want to read at the moment.
December 7, 2009
horrorhouse by David D. Levine is, as you would expect for a story published in DayBreak Magazine, near future optimistic Science Fiction.
The story follows Ethan, one of the main protagonists in the Twitter Revolution, as he investigates a local disturbance, known as the horrorhouse. I expected from the title for the story to be horror-ish, but not at all, I was pleasantly surprised by the actual horror, which I’ll let you find out for yourselves. Instead the story has the blanket of near future technology which I love, I’m tempted to call it cyberpunk but that’s really just because it’s where I discovered that kind of detail first. Rather than noirey and dystopic the story is bright and optimistic. If I had to say who it reminded me of it would be Cory Doctorow-ish or early Accelerando Charles Stross.
I liked the way that the story dealt with the kids and the age gap to the protagonist, inventing a coolness that felt different enough to be futuristic but not ridiculous. I also liked the problem-in-a-utopia style of the story, which is the hard bit of writing optimistic SF.
All in all, very enjoyable.
December 6, 2009
The last story in the Torque Control Short Story Club is The Radiant Car Thy Sparrows Drew by Catherynne M Valente, published in Clarkesworld Magazine. (I say last story but Niall teasingly says “(for now)” in a kind of end of season finale style.)
The story is about a movie star, who makes documentaries. I think. The story is dense both descriptively and in the semblance of a plot. It’s not really a straightforward plot but a selection of scenes from films and comments about scenes. There’s some lovely writing, big lengthy descriptive passages that take a while to digest (the sort of stuff I think I enjoy reading more with a paper book in my hand rather than on a screen.)
The feel is sort of steampunk, retro, Victorian-y, alternative universe; where Venus is a habitable planet and the digital age never seemed to arrive. I don’t like steampunk, I prefer the glossy sheen of high-tech to the Industrial Revolution technology, so I found the references to phonographs and diving bells a little distracting, but I tried to ignore them.
In the end the story felt like a glimpse into a world, in sharp cut scenes. And I think that was the point. A few beautiful vistas and a lingering feeling that there wasn’t enough there for me to decide whether I liked it. Which is kind of what the story is about. I think.
December 4, 2009
December 3, 2009
December 2, 2009
December 1, 2009
My first exposure to The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy was the BBC TV series. I liked it. I laughed. I watched it on VHS quite a few times. I was never a rabid fan, but it was clearly good. It was years later when I finally read the books and didn't find them as good as the TV series. So, I wasn't sure about a biography of Douglas Adams, could it really be that interesting?
Well, thanks to some very entertaining writing by one Neil Gaiman: yes. I should clarify, this book, like Hitchhiker's itself, has been revised a few times. The first edition was by Neil Gaiman published in 1998, it was revised by David K. Dickinson in 1993, by MJ Simpson in 2003, and the latest edition 2009 by Guy Adams. This latest edition is to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the publication of the first Hitchhiker's novel.
The early life of Douglas is fascinating, including the whole journey to getting Hitchhiker's onto radio. (I never even realised that it was on radio first.) Following that is the story of the many versions of Hitchhiker's and Douglas's seemingly erratic and surprising path to success. It's really interesting. I was particularly surprised by how Douglas reinvented and rewrote the story along the way, adding, removing, tweaking, adapting. He didn't seem precious of his initial idea.
The book becomes less interesting with the end of Neil Gaiman's section, due to a combination of the writing lacking something and the fact that the journey to success is more interesting than the success itself. The latter quarter of the book feels more like a tick list, counting off the achievements. I'm not sure who it's aimed at, die-hard fans will know it, other people may not care.
The appendices too seem one for fans rather than the casual reader: the original synopsis, a comparison of the variants in the texts, a who's who of H2G2, the definitive "how to leave the planet" and an excerpt from Doctor Who And The Krikkitmen.
Overall though I enjoyed the book and now feel even more appreciative of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy in its many forms. Makes me want to watch the TV series again.