May 2010 Archives

May 24, 2010

Lost: Seen It, Loved It, Got The T-Shirt

108 Objects from Flight 815 - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

May 23, 2010

5 Lost Spin-offs I'd Love To See

Normally I hate spin-offs. And remakes. Channel your energy into something new please. However here's the exception: Lost spinoffs! Unsurprisingly, due to the quality of Lost, I could imagine most of the main characters in their own show. This is what I'd like to see.

The Sawyer And Miles Cop Show
It's the most obvious and has been talked about in many other places, mainly because it's a great idea. Sawyer: became a cop to seek revenge for his parents death. Miles: hears dead people. Together they are: Sawyer and Miles. The story arc could be weak but ongoing, the main  enjoyment of the show being Sawyer's wise-cracking and pretence that he's bad and cares for no one. Could run forever and ever.

Kate On The Run
Like the Hulk without the Hulk bit. Or perhaps more accurately The Fugitive. She's a woman on the run for a crime she did commit, but for which we're happy to forgive her for. She's tough and hard and beautiful. The men fall in love with her. The cops are forever frustrated. The ongoing story arc is Kate running from the obsessed Federal Marshall. We watch every week, knowing Kate will find a cunning way to escape and hoping she'll get to finally settle down with the man of her dreams. Again, endless possibilities to run and run.

Drive Shaft
Charlie and the Drive Shaft band in a story of Rock'n'Roll and life. A serious (with black humour moments) study of life on the road, of surviving the Rock music business. Drugs, sex, loud music. Following Drive Shaft from before their success, to after and beyond. Can they write another hit album? Will they self destruct? Shot with a hand-held camera, artistic, in your face and intense. Just one season: better to burn out than to fade away.

Not Desmond's but Desmond. The story of a man who fixes destiny. How does he know what's supposed to happen? What is he getting out of it? Sometimes he's good, sometimes he runs over people in wheelchairs. We can never quite pin him down. The story arc is long and mysterious with more questions than answers. Desmond flits from place to place. There are clues everywhere. Flashbacks galore. Close to Lost in style. Runs for a seven year arc, with everything answered at the end.

Daniel: Mad Physicist
Daniel Faraday is the genius physicist working on a time machine. Evil forces are ranged against him. Is it the Government? The Military? Or worse. Filmed in Oxford with excursions to other scenic parts of the UK. Brian Cox has a cameo. Would somehow have to overcome the complications of the Lost time line, maybe by setting it in a small window before the show? Treading the difficult line between intrigue and science. Runs for three years, whereupon at the end he travels to The Island.

Not quite good enough...
Ones that aren't quite good enough to make it past a pilot episode:

Jack the doctor. Troubled but nice. Man of science. Becomes to similar to every other hospital drama and trails off into obscurity (but with a large fan base of middle-aged women).

Jin the gangster. He's a nice man trapped in a bad job, doing gangster work for his wife's evil father. Suffers from comparisons to The Sopranos and gets cancelled after thirteen episodes.

Doctor Linus. Like an LA version of Grange Hill, with the quirky Linus being pushed to his limits with school politics and not really very naughty kids. He's so nice. But sometimes, occasionally, he flips. What's his problem? Runs out of ideas after ten episodes.

May 20, 2010

The T-Shirt That Shows You How To Defeat The Smoke Monster

Smokebuster - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

WordPunk Radio Podcast

If you follow me on Twitter (@bigdumbobject) you'll have read me talking about the WordPunk Radio podcast that I take part in. It's a podcast in which we talk about technology, science fiction and media, including TV, films and games. Current regular features include a section about cars, about Doctor Who, about what films we've seen, funky science stories and also Pictures On The Radio.

You can find all the details on our website or you can subscribe to our RSS feed or you can subscribe on iTunes. And as always, you can follow us on Twitter @wordpunkradio.

Have a listen.

My Article 'Writing Flash Fiction: Why It's Good For You' Is Online

I've written an article for Every Day Fiction entitled Writing Flash Fiction: Why It's Good For You. It's posted on their Flash Fiction Chronicles blog which has posts on a whole range of writing topics, and advice for writers.

I start with the following question and try to answer it...

Flash Fiction can often be an overlooked form by writers, the all consuming lure of a best-selling novel overwhelms all else in its path. Why would a writer even consider Flash Fiction?

May 17, 2010

Behind The Scenes Of Darth Vader Recording For TomTom

Lost: It's About The Journey, Not The Answers

Lost is finally, sadly, coming to the end. I have loved almost every minute of it.

However I'm a little bit worried about other viewer's obsession with answers. S06E15 was unfortunately some kind of response to this, and consequently one of the weakest of any episode of Lost. Instead of leaving the Smoke Monster and Jacob as unexplained mysteries, puppet masters pulling the strings of our heroes, the episode tried to explain everything. Even though the episode itself knew that it couldn't explain everything, a character said (something like) "the more answers I give you the more questions you will ask." Exactly. Sometimes there are no answers.

When I studied physics it seemed that the answer was always just around the corner: you'll cover that in your A levels, you'll do that in your degree. When I finally reached my PhD I realised that there weren't really any answers, there were models that could be used to make predictions, but no definitive truth.

Lost is like that and shouldn't pretend otherwise. The joy of Lost has been following the journey of our heroes, of seeing the changes in Sawyer and Kate and Jack, of seeing them fall in love and self destruct and fight to live, of seeing what could have been in the alternative universe. The joy has been loving those characters and everything they've been through. I don't care about answers, I don't want answers, The Island is a plot device to tell the real story, the human story.

So whilst I enjoyed the story of why The Man In Black so desperately wants to leave The Island, I didn't like the rest of the episode. For the first time it felt like Lost was talking down to us and it was completely necessary.

Hopefully the final two episodes will not wimp out and try and explain everything. But even if they do, the final three episodes don't affect the joy I've had from the other 118. It's about the journey.

May 16, 2010

Nebula Award Winners 2010

This year's Nebula Award winners are as follows:

The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade Books, Sept. 2009) 

The Women of Nell Gwynne's - Kage Baker (Subterranean Press, June 2009) 

"Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast," Eugie Foster (Interzone, Feb. 2009) 

Short Story 
"Spar," Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, Oct. 2009) 

Ray Bradbury Award 
District 9, Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell (Tri-Star, Aug. 2009) 

Andre Norton Award 
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente (Catherynne M. Valente, June 2009

I've only read the Eugie Foster story, which I didn't like at all: all that Fantasy mask trapping was tedious. The Windup Girl is on my shelf to read and I imagine is a popular winner. I've seen District 9, and thought it was pretty good but not as good as Moon.

May 12, 2010

Generation A - Douglas Coupland

Generation A by Douglas Coupland begins in what I think of as classic Coupland: a selection of twenty-somethings search for meaning in their lives. Five people, spread throughout the world, seemingly unconnected, struggling to come to terms with modern life. 

Then they all get stung by a bee. Which wouldn't be so unusual except that this book is set in a future where the bees have disappeared. 

The set-up is real Science Fiction: no bees, no pollination. Fruit is in short supply, flowers are rare. The world is confused and annoyed by the bees going.

From the initial premise the story moves into a conspiracy plot, which promises much more than it delivers. The five stingees are prodded and poked and scientifically analysed. And then let go.

Up until half way I was enjoying the story, guessing what was going to happen, liking Coupland's witty, zippy language. Then, half way through things, change.

I'm now going to talk about the ending of the book, so SPOILERS. I don't normally give away so much, but in this case I feel it's essential. If you want a summary without spoilers: disappointing. If you want more, carry on...

Continue reading Generation A - Douglas Coupland.

May 10, 2010

Doctor Who - The Vampires Of Venice

This weeks Doctor Who episode started with a stag party and The Doctor jumping out of a cake instead of a stripper. Sounds a bit rubbish, but it made me chuckle and I really like the new snappy dialogue. The idea is that The Doctor needs to pick up Rory, Amy's fiancée and take them on a date, to take her mind of him and put it back with her bloke.

Hence, Venice. Some of the shots looked a bit CGI, but generally the episode was quite stylish, with palazza's and bridges and canals. They even managed to keep away from the clichés, with minor use of a gondola.

It would probably have been more interesting if the Vampires turned out to be real Vampires, rather than fish from space, but at least the build up was handled okay. The execution of the aliens was, as in general, a bit rubbish. Much better were the aliens in human or vampire form. I particularly enjoyed the conversation between The Doctor and the head alien (Rosanna?), with her knowledge of Time Lords and The Doctor's past. It seems that The Doctor can never escape what he did in the Time War.

Also very enjoyable was the dialogue in this episode, as in all the other episodes. Fast, snappy, witty and never feeling forced. There were many moments that made me laugh, self referential nods and winks, and ANGRY DOCTOR. He shouts, he's angry, he's The Doctor. He never even gives you a warning, he just flips. I liked him telling Amy what to do, and letting her understand in no uncertain terms that she was there for the ride and he was the boss.

The plot resolved itself in a rather mechanical way, but I can live with that (for the moment) due the shinyness of everything else.

Still great fun.

May 5, 2010

Star Sabers - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

May 4, 2010

Shared Space - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

May 3, 2010

Doctor Who - Flesh And Stone

Flesh And Stone is the concluding episode to The Time Of Angels, and rounds off a satisfying two-parter.

In the first part The Weeping Angels are the terrifying enemy, and whilst in the second part they are still a menace, suddenly there's something worse, a crack in time.

Once again Moffat showed his ability to not base an episode on a single idea, and that density makes for a much more satisfying watch. These two episodes had The Weeping Angels, an army from The Church, River Song and some more illumination of her mysterious background, a crack in time, the revelation that Amy is more than just another companion and some snogging. 

The River Song plot is pleasing, what could have been a throw away character is now being weaved into the series with a mixed up timeline. In Doctor Who Confidential, Moffat said that the original idea for River Song was not so wide ranging, but that he thought it would be great to promise something intriguing and actually deliver it. More and more I'm believing that he is in-tune with all of us older Doctor Who fans. (And yet in tune with the kids too: he also described how his sons classify monsters as Cool or Scary, and how he got the idea for the crack form his son's bedroom wall.) So when River Song says they'll meet again, and when we find out she's in a prison somewhere, it's exciting to know that we'll get to see that, at some point.

Moving from the caves through the spaceship into a forest was a lovely idea, it gave a change of location and atmosphere, allowed some creepy Angels in woods scenes and brought a glowing spookiness to the episode. The scenes with Angels attacking were also great: "Incoming Angels!", suddenly they appear, a blink and they're nearer. Particularly good was the scene where only gunshots illuminated The Angels: very stylish.

Making Amy walk through The Angels with her eyes closed was achieved in a mildly clunky way, but resulted in some nice tension. Which pretty much sums up how I see the difference between Moffat and RTD: RTD's clunkiness was more central to the story, whereas Moffat throws so many things at us, many of which have great pay-offs, that I can ignore the clunking. Other clunking I can forgive: the anti-gravity escape, The Angels killing rather than relocating in time, The Angel in Amy's head disappearing, the just-in-time transporter.

There were some moments of anger from The Doctor too, apparently real frustration, and the suggestion that he didn't really know what he was doing, winging it moment by moment. I wonder if Moffat's Doctor is going to be more fallible? Perhaps it's a set-up for something going drastically wrong?

Another characteristic of the new series so far seems to be that each episode has a calm(ish) denouement that rises to a teaser for the next episode, meaning that each episode is a great teaser for the next episode. This time: Amy tries to get it on with The Doctor. And why not? I enjoyed The Doctor's awkwardness, and Amy's persistence, and it all lead nicely onto next weeks episode, which has Vampires in Venice...

Good stuff.