January 2010 Archives

January 29, 2010

Chewbacca In Hair Curlers T-Shirt

New Hairstyle - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

Japanese Star Wars Posters

Found in the archives of the Official Star Wars site, here's some interesting Star Wars posters. 

Some are ridiculous:

Some are cool:

January 27, 2010

On Writing - Stephen King

On Writing by Stephen King is part autobiography and part writing manual.

I don't really like horror (films or books) and so consequently I haven't read any of King's books, although The Stand is on my shelf waiting, and I have of course seen Carrie, The Shining and Salem's Lot. And yes I realise that categorising Stephen King as horror may a rather simplistic thing to do.

Not being exposed to King's writing therefore meant that the autobiographical section was an unexpected wonder. It's told in a lovely way, like he's really talking to you, and covers sections of his life from a child, up to his success and including his battle with drugs. The tale of what happened when he sold the paperback rights to Carrie was particularly touching, and knowing the background, his "overnight success" feels very well earned. It's a shame that some people will be put off buying this book due to the writing element, and miss out on this wonderful, brief personal history.

The next section is about the writers' Toolbox, using a lovely story about his carpenter Uncle as an analogy. Starting from the basics such as grammar, through other writing tools that are available for your use. I found this section useful and thought provoking, going back to writing basics.

The On Writing section is King's take on how to be a better writer. He's quite opinionated and in some ways unrealistic for many people, but he's telling it how it works for him. I love the idea of having a special writing room and closing the door until I've written two thousand words each morning, but it's not really going to happen. However the opinionated stance does make the section entertaining, and plenty of it resonates with me: write the story first, then find the theme, for example.

Then, unexpectedly, in more ways than one, there is the section entitled On Living, which describes King's near fatal accident (he was hit by a van). The accident happened in the midst of writing this book and so is included to complete the tale of the book. Being squeamish I found the details of his injuries pretty yuck, it's amazing he's alive.

At the back of the book is also: an unedited section of the story 1408 followed by the same section with King's editing marks and notes, a list of books he liked in the last few years and the short story Jumper by Garett Addams which won the competition to appear in the book.

I'm sure I'll be dipping back into the Toolbox and On Writing sections again (and again), whilst I'll be offering the autobiography around to anyone who will read it.

January 26, 2010

Fembot by Carlos Hernandez

Fembot by Carlos Hernandez was published in Daybreak Magazine on Christmas Day. It's a story about a war in North Korea, following a squad of American troops. One of the soldiers has a computer embedded in his brain by the Army, and the plot explores what could happen after that.

The setting is pretty grim: war and death and starvation, dogs as IEDs, survival. However the core of the story is about friendship and love. It's an interesting story, with a nice ending, but the war setting irritated me a bit: too much Iraq and Afghanistan. And the optimism was a small jewel in a pile of slag. 

Good writing and an interesting story, but I didn't love it and the thought experiment part of the story didn't really resonate enough with me to make me think anything new.

January 22, 2010

A Selection Of Avatar Parodies

It doesn't take long for YouTube to fill up with parodies. I thought I'd see what people have been making about Avatar. Most of them are rubbish.

Here's the audio of the Avatar trailer cut to the Pocohontas trailer.

And finally, Hitler reviews Avatar, but falls into the trap that just because it looks pretty it makes it a good film:

January 21, 2010

The Eleventh Doctor Wallpaper

The Official BBC Doctor WHo site is slowly starting to fill up with Eleventh Doctor bits and bobs, for example wallpaper, a trailer and an interview.

Star Wars Adidas

I love the new Adidas Star Wars collection. Very funky.

StreetLevel has a preview. The official adidas site is all Flash and slow and unlinkable.

I like the Luke Skywalker ones best. Although the Millenium Falcon ones are nice too. Cool T-Shirts too.

January 20, 2010

Booklife - Jeff Vandermeer

Booklife by Jeff Vandermeer is not a book about writing, but rather a book about being a writer. It won't tell you about correct grammar, it will instead give you tips for how to survive as a modern writer.

These tips and ideas are divided into two portions, the public book life and the private booklife.

The public booklife is first and covers such things as goals, strategy, PR, marketing.

The private booklife covers how to keep happy, keep up inspiration, schedule.

The amount you get out of the public section of this book will depend heavily on what stage of your writing career you are at, what type of writer you are, how much you know about the use of the web and modern social networking. So for me I enjoyed the section on setting goals and having a vision and a plan, whereas the sections on PR isn't as important for me at the moment. Jeff also mentions that he prefers Facebook to Twitter, at the time of writing, but none of these ideas he proclaims with godlike authority, instead he explains why he believes these things and always suggest that you find your own path.

The private part of booklife however I imagine to be of interest to every writer. If you need inspiration to get started it's there, if you are settled into your own productive routines and practices it will be fascinating to read about how Jeff does it. If you're a writer then reading how another writer works is always fascinating, for one thing it provides company, you no longer need to linger in isolation with your insecurities.

I have over time devoured any advice by other writers and the ones which stick out most in my memory are Neil Gaiman and Jay Lake. I can now add Jeff Vandermeer to this list and I'm sure I'll be rereading Booklife many times.

January 18, 2010

Alien Invasion T-Shirt

It's like a videogame, old skool....

Alien Assault - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

Upcoming Stories In Daybreak Magazine (Including One Of My Own)

Jetse has posted the upcoming stories for DayBreak Magazine, they're in the right hand sidebar, under upcoming. Here's the list:

  • January 22, 2010: DalĂ­'s Clocks by Dave Hutchinson
  • February 5, 2010: Riding in Mexico by Brenda Cooper
  • February 19, 2010: A Thousand Trains Out of Here by Paul Evanby
  • March 5, 2010: The Notebook of my Favourite Skin-Trees by Alex Dally MacFarlane
  • March 19, 2010: The Rules of Utopia by James Bloomer
And yes, that's my own story The Rules Of Utopia in there.

Also there will be more excerpts from the Shine Anthology published in DayBreak Magazine. Check the sidebar for the full list.

January 15, 2010

Star Wars A-Team Mashup

Star Wars mashed up with The A-Team? Well, why not...?!

January 14, 2010

Outcasts, New SF By The BBC, From The Makers Of Spooks

The BBC are making a new series Outcasts, which sounds like it should be a show on BBC3 for teenagers but is in fact Science Fiction! Here's the blurb...

Following on from the innovative and era-defining hits Spooks, Hustle and Life On Mars, Kudos Film & TV is moving into another new world.BBC One has commissioned a new eight-part drama series, Outcasts.

Created by Ben Richards (Spooks, The Fixer, Party Animals), Outcasts is set on a recently-discovered planet and tells of the dilemmas, loves and lives of a group of people setting up a new world.

This life-sustaining planet is now home to the surviving population from Earth. Here there is a chance to start again, to bring the lessons learnt from Earth and to put them into action on a new planet.

Set in 2040, Outcasts begins on the day the last known transporter from Earth arrives, prompting great excitement on the new planet: Who is on board? Friends and loved ones? Important supplies and news from Earth? But also many questions: Will the new people bring the problems of Earth with them? Will the mistakes that destroyed Earth be repeated? Will the arrival of a new, would-be leader, rock the fragile and precarious equilibrium of our fresh, unified and courageous new world?

And, most importantly of all, how do you create a new and a better world?

How do you create a new and a better world! Hurrah.

It starts filming in April 2010 (in South Africa) and will be eight, sixty minute episodes.

Very promising. I've been saying for ages that I wished the Hustle/Spooks people would do SF, and now they are.

White Swan by Jason Stoddard

The first story of 2010 in Futurismic is White Swan by Jason Stoddard and I liked it a lot.

The story is near-future, a future that seems authoritarian in the quest to save the world, bad things for a good cause.

One of the joys of this story was the hook. From the start it's unclear what is exactly happening, and what has exactly happened, but it's something intriguing. So we follow Lili, trying to understand what she's doing. And the story heads off further than I'd expected after reading the first section, pleasingly taking the plot on and on. When everything is finally explained it's not a disappointment and it doesn't end with a quick reveal and a TADA! but instead carries on. Let's the protagonist try and win.

The writing is good all the way through, nicely poetic and evoking the near future in all it's hope and despair. Believable and cool.

Really enjoyable.

January 13, 2010

Defying Gravity

Defying Gravity is a TV series about a space exploration mission, and about the astronauts life to get on that mission. A lot of the talk about the show focussed on how it was cancelled, however the BBC has now shown all thirteen episodes and I think it's worth forgetting about what could of been and thinking about what was.

Each of the episodes has two time-frames: the training of the astronauts and the actual space mission itself. It's easy to compare it to Lost in this respect but in Defying Gravity the "backstory" feels like a more significant portion, on par with the "present story". Also Defying Gravity had less of the shock reveal aspect than Lost, with the training plot being substantial enough to stand alone. The focus of all of the stories is the characters, their actions, their life, their feelings. It's not a thriller, or an action series, or a mystery series. It's about life as an astronaut, albeit an astronaut on the greatest space mission man has ever undertaken.

Only one aspect of the programme felt unnecessary: the voice-over. Each episode the voice-over would spell out the moral of the story, just in case you weren't paying attention. It was pandering to the lowest common denominator, just in case. I don't know whether it was added by the TV companies request, but I wish they had the guts to let the story speak for itself.

Eventually it is revealed that the true mission of the spaceship is not just a grand tour of the Solar System, but to pick up alien artefacts, one of which had been found on Earth. The artefacts cause hallucinations with humans in close contact. The device of the hallucinations to reveal moments about the characters worked well, although the show seemed to function better before the reveal. I liked the aspect of the crew in space alone, dealing with it, going slightly crazy.

It's an enjoyable TV show, one which kept me watching and made me care about the characters. Forget about the cancellation because each episode is enough of a story to enjoy. Another thirteen episodes may have been nice, or it may have been its ruin. We'll never know, but if you haven't seen this series I enthusiastically recommend watching it.

January 12, 2010

Stories I Have Eligible For The BSFA Awards

Nominations for the BSFA Awards are closing this Saturday.

Get nominating. Use it or lose it.

I have a couple of stories eligible for the BSFA Awards: Reboot and The Kite.

Don't forget that you can nominate multiple items in each category.

Silversands By Gareth L Powell Available For Pre-Order

The debut novel from Gareth L Powell, Silversands will be launched at Eastercon this year, published by Pendragon Press and with a Vincent Chong, cover. Sounds like my kind of story:

Set 200 years in the future, Silversands tells the story of Avril Bradley, a reluctant astronaut thrown headlong into a world of political intrigue, espionage and subterfuge; a world where retired cops, digital ghosts and corporate assassins battle for possession of a hidden computer file that may just hold the key to humanity's future.

It will be available for pre-order from Amazon and Pendragon Press, but if you get it from Pendragon you get a couple of quid off the Amazon price. Eastecon, and therefore the launch, is in April as usual (Heathrow this year).

I first read some of Gareth L Powell's stories as part of the Friday Flash Fictioneers, his great story Ack-Ack Macaque won the Interzone Readers' Poll for best short story of 2007 and is available for podcast here, and he has a short story collection The Last Reef and Other Stories.

When Geekness Goes Retro, Cool T-Shirt

When Geek-ness Goes Retro... - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

Love it! So much funny detail.

Google Zeitgeist T-Shirt: I Feel...

Google zeitgeist collated the top ten searches in the UK for I feel... and I made a T-Shirt from it.

You can buy it in the UK or the US.

January 11, 2010

Being Human, Ivan And Daisy Prequel

Embedded below is the prequel video for Ivan and Daisy. Four and a bit minutes of vampires...


January 10, 2010

Being Human Series 2 Episode 1

I'd forgotten a few things about Being Human: firstly how funny it is, secondly how emotional it is and thirdly how scary it is. In other words, I'd forgotten how good it is.

The second series dives straight in after the events of the first series, no hand holding, no tedious exposition, and plenty of repercussions.

Nina, George's girlfriend is now living with George, Annie and Mitchell. George gets beaten up by vampires (again) and of course Mitchell knows the new scary vampires, Daisy and Ivan. Then Annie gets a job at a pub. And there are some baddies worse than vampires.

But that's all just mere plot, and Being Human is about the characters, about their lives and emotions. It's really well written, nothing ever feels forced or false. Even the Buffy reference was funny and that was a tricky one: how do you do a vampire programme without mentioning Buffy? You do it in a funny way that dismisses it forever more: "I stopped watching it when, you know, I started living it."

It all feels real and rounded and gripping enough to make the hour long episode fly by. Just like last series, when the episode ended it seemed to soon, and the hour too short. Can't wait until the next episode.

In the meantime the BBC site has lots of extras, including prequel videos for the characters.

January 8, 2010

Bruce Sterling - The Hypersurface of this Decade

Iconeye Magazine have posted a short story by Bruce Sterling online, called The Hypersurface Of This Decade. Well, it's more a vignette than a story but it's uber cool, summing up all the stuff that Sterling seems to have been into these last few years, including fabrication and renouncing possessions. Why own stuff when you can print it and throw it away? And to make it trendy there's a mention of Twitter and Facebook and Dopplr and Silicon Roundabout.

I love the writing but wish there was more story to it. But perhaps that story is Sterling's amazing Kiosk?

Books Which Arrived Via Father Christmas

Some very lovely books arrived at my house on Christmas Day via the magic of Father Christmas and his Flying Reindeer. The books relevant to this blog are:

January 6, 2010

Makers by Cory Doctorow

Makers by Cory Doctorow is about, amongst other things, people who make stuff. The story follows two makers Perry and Lester, a blogger/ journalist Suzanne, and a couple of "business guys" Kettlewell and Tjan. From almost now, to sometime in the future.

The first part of the book is the novella Themepunks which attacks the idea of a new economy, New Work as it is called. I say attacks, because it wades in with attitude describing a model in which small indie makers sell their wares and make a good living due to the support of large corporate companies. In the end it's boom and bust, but an intriguing idea, one I can't help thinking is not too far away.

I'd hoped that the Themepunks extrapolation would keep going and going, way out beyond now, but the rest of the book slows down in terms of it's time-frame and extrapolation and turns its attention to a ride that Lester and Perry make, and their conflict with Disney. It's a love letter to theme parks and Disney. And although Disney are portrayed as the evil corporation there's a lot of love for it too: loving descriptions of Disney World, explanations for the behaviour of large corporations, characters trying to do right from within. If you didn't know about Cory's obsession with Disney beforehand, you will after this.

The writing is clear and only really approaches poetic when describing some new piece of crazy technology or a portion of Disney World. At times I wished for something that wasn't so functional. But there are ideas, lots of ideas: distributed manufacturing, co-op lawsuits as an investment, Favela living in the US... and many, many more. Intriguing, funny, possible, ingenious...

The first half of the story has a lot of pace, towards the third quarter the impetus seemed to ebb away, lost in the intricacies of lawsuits and copyright. 

The epilogue is maybe the best part of the book, much in the same way that the epilogue to When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth surpasses what came before it. Returning to the characters, rather than the plot mechanics, it's touching and perhaps says more about the books intentions than the rest of the story. Of course it could be argued that this effect is only possible due to the rest of the story, but there's something more pure about the characters returning to their original aspirations.

Whilst there is a large element of optimism in the story the ending is a bit of a downer, because the story says that makers can't be happy within the corporate structures of capitalism, and the only answer is... well that's the real question isn't it. Can indie makers survive on their own? The novel doesn't definitively answer the question, it implies that people with some element of celebrity will be able to survive, like artists always have (/ haven't). But Perry and Lester gain their fame by making cool stuff whilst being supported by a corporate structure. It's as if the novel is saying that we can't escape capitalism no matter how hard we try.

Plenty to think about. Recommended.

January 5, 2010

Being Human Trailer

Being Human will return to BBC3 on Sunday 10th January at 9:30pm.
Embedded below is a new trailer which is playing on the BBC channels quite regularly.

The Doctor's TODO List T-Shirt

So the current series of Doctor Who has ended. New Doctor, new priorities? Time for a TODO list.

You can buy it from the UK or the US.

January 4, 2010

January's Ansible Is Online

Most Wanted : New Year Edition

The Science Fictional things that Big Dumb Object most wants in 2010:

  • The end of Lost. It's been six years coming, a lot of people thought they were making it up all along, not me. I have faith that the ending will be awesome, the journey already has been.
  • The Dervish House by Ian McDonald which according to Amazon isn't out until July. That's too long! McDonald's last two books were the awesome River Of Gods and Brasyl. India, Brasil and now Turkey. Can't wait.
  • The Restoration Game by Ken MacLeod. Third in the trilogy of books beginning with The (I think that's the official name.)
  • Mute, Duncan Jones' follow up film to the excellent Moon. A Bladerunner homage in Berlin? Yes please. Not sure if it will be ready for 2010 but I hope so.
  • New Nu Who! New Doctor Who with Steven Moffat as head writer.

January 1, 2010

New Trailer For Doctor Who, The Eleventh Doctor


Doctor Who - The End Of Time

The last ever episode with David Tennant as The Doctor, The End Of Time was, well.... The End.

It not only wraps up the entire Nu Who RTD epoch, but pretty much summarises it too:

  • Dodgy plot holes.
  • Running around.
  • Surprising moments of emotion.
  • Oodles of nostalgia.
  • Crazy character decisions.
  • Some good acting.
  • And bucket loads of fun.
I loved it, It was everything we've come to expect.

Best bits:
  • John Simm as The Master as a Superhero as Eminem.
  • Bernard Cribbins and David Tennant doing the talking, acting thing.
  • The self indulgent farewells.
  • James Bond.
There's no point in analysing the plot, you accept it or you don't.

I hope that the next epoch of Doctor Who, The Moffat Epoch, retains the core ideal that Doctor Who is a kids show, because I think that's what has made it special. David Tennant, many children's first Doctor.

Thanks everyone involved, because I enjoyed it.

Happy New Year!

Another trip around the sun. 
The start of another arbitrary collection of days.

I wish everyone a wonderful next 365.25 days, and that it's everything you hoped it would be.