March 2011 Archives

March 27, 2011

Doctor Who Prequel Video

That new Doctor Who teaser video that I keep missing the start off is online, so I can see the whole thing. And I can also embed it right here, check it out below.


But even better than that there’s a Prequel online (and embedded below) to the first episode in the new series The Impossible Astronaut, which appears to be a typical Moffat setup: spooky kid, “the spaceman”, a telephone, the mention of monsters and a real (but blurred) alien. Looks good.


“Coming Soon” / “Easter 2011” can’t come quick enough…

March 21, 2011

Blogs I Read

The SFX Blog Awards has got me thinking about what blogs Science Fiction blogs I actually read.

I could just export my OPML and let you read it yourself, but that’s a bit dull isn’t it? Instead I’ll give you a bit more information…

Firstly I don’t read io9. Occasionally I pop over there and have a peek. I’m sure there’s some good stuff on there somewhere but it’s buried beneath an awkward layout and endless speculation about upcoming superhero films. It’s mostly the sort of SF news I don’t really care about: why speculate about upcoming films so much? Why not just watch them then review them? And the volume is far too high to subscribe to the feed and filter out the interesting stuff, so I don’t bother.

SF Signal is another high volume blog, but this one I do subscribe to. Team SF Signal do a much better job than io9, although once again, there’s far too much volume for me to read everything. Instead I scan the daily links and check for interesting articles and read the odd review. Their Mind Meld posts have become famous and are usually very interesting. I much prefer the personal tone you get there, a real blog, instead of a corporate advert machine.

I also read Futurismic. Which, depending on your definition, may or may not be Science Fiction. Whatever you decide it’s definitely SF brain food and Paul does a great job finding stuff that is just tomorrow, science, politics, whatever.

I read Ansible. Once a month, SF fan gossip. Right frequency, right content.

I read xkcd. Because you have to. It makes me laugh. Out loud. A lot.

I read Bruce Sterling’s Twitter feed @bruces. Which makes me feel slow and stupid and antique and out of the loop. I also follow a crazy selection of people on Twitter that I dip in and out of.

I read Torque Control the blog of the BSFA’s Vector Magazine Editor. Which has been mainly Niall until very recently. Now he’s moved to Strange Horizons so I’m reading that too (although lack of full content feeds is annoying) .

I don’t read Boing Boing, too high a volume. I don’t read Slashdot, similarly. I do read The Register, but that’s really for the day job.

I subscribe to the BBC press office feed, but that’s only really been useful for finding out information about Outcasts and Being Human.

I read other stuff too, but those are the ones  that stand out.

I’m trying to cut down. Instead of reading more blogs and more Tweets, I want to spend my time reading more books. It’s all too easy to get sucked in to trying to read the entire internet, to little gain. I want to read a book, watch a film, watch a TV show, then blog a review and talk about it a little. Then repeat.

I used to read loads of authors blogs but now I read hardly any. An author’s blog is now more likely to put me off reading a book than encourage me. Thinking of some authors I really love at the moment, they blog very little or not at all: Neal Stephenson, Ian McDonald… I don’t care about their blogs, I care about their books. Meanwhile I haven’t read anything by John Scalzi, but his blog persona puts me off the idea of doing that. Do you have to cultivate a fan base via a blog these days? Or is blogging dead as Bruce Sterling predicted? I don’t know. What I do know is that I prefer to read books to blog posts. Still reading this? Go and read a book.

March 20, 2011

The SFX Blog Awards

SFX magazine are hosting The SFX Blog Awards, and this blog has been nominated under Best SF News Blog. Which is really quite surprising. You can vote me there if you want to.

Here’s the front page for the awards.

I actually only read two of all the nominated sites: Ansible and SF Signal, both of which do a far superior job to collecting SF news than I do.

March 18, 2011

Comic Relief Doctor Who Special

As is now traditional for the bi-annual Comic Relief charity-athon, there will be a Doctor Who special. Don’t get too excited as it usually only lasts a few minutes and just makes you long for the new series. But it’s on, and it’s Matt Smith as Doctor Who. In the TARDIS. With a TARDIS inside the TARDIS.

It’ll be on BBC1 some time between now and midnight….


Before  hit post the first part came on (1920 GMT). The second part will be on later. Presumably it’s on the iPlayer? And presumably all over YouTube imminently.



All done, and much better than previous attempts. It was like a Flash Doctor Who episode, a quick, fun, complete story.

March 14, 2011

Zombies And Robots, Ahh, More T-Shirts

There seems to be a load of Zombie T-Shirts on Threadless, but this one is good:

…and there’s loads of robot T-Shirts too, but this one is also really good:

Robots and Zombies == Cool T-Shirts

March 7, 2011

Tron Uprising Trailer

Lot’s of Light Cycles but will there be an actual plot?

March 4, 2011

The 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award Shortlist

The shortlist for The Clarke Award is:

  • Zoo City - Lauren Beukes (Angry Robot)
  • The Dervish House - Ian McDonald (Gollancz)
  • Monsters of Men - Patrick Ness (Walker Books)
  • Generosity - Richard Powers (Atlantic Books)
  • Declare - Tim Powers (Corvus)
  • Lightborn - Tricia Sullivan (Orbit)

I guessed four out of the six, and despite only having read only one of them it sounds like a great list.

This year is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Arthur C. Clarke Award. That's an awful lot of SF books the judges have read. Just reading the winners is a task, let alone the short lists. But look back over the shortlists and there are some wonderful novels there.

The judging panel for this year are:

  • Jon Courtenay Grimwood, British Science Fiction Association
  • Martin Lewis, British Science Fiction Association
  • Phil Nanson, Science Fiction Foundation
  • Liz Williams, Science Fiction Foundation
  • Paul Skevington, SF

Paul Billinger represented the Arthur C. Clarke Award as the Chair of Judges.

The winner will be announced on Wednesday 27th April 2011 at an award ceremony
held in partnership SCI-FI-LONDON Film Festival. The winner wins a cheque for
£2011.00 and the award itself, a commemorative engraved bookend. And of course immortal recognition as having written one of the best Science Fiction books of 2011.

In true press release style, award Director Tom Hunter (@ClarkeAward) said:

"The twenty-fifth anniversary of the Arthur C. Clarke Award was always going to be a landmark year, and we couldn't have asked for a more fascinating and exciting shortlist to get the celebrations started.

"Fifty-four eligible books is one of the highest submission years we've ever had, and when you look at all of the reviews, debate and online commentary that's surrounded many of these titles you can see just how hard the judges' deliberations were this year.

"For me this list is a great indication of just how deep, rich and complex the literature of science fiction can be. I think this list is a definite keeper, as they say, and my hope is that twenty-five years from now people will still be coming back to it as a representation of everything that's best about the diversity and strength of our genre."

March 2, 2011

Never Let Me Go

I haven’t read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (despite my goal of trying to read all the Clarke Award shortlists, I can dream), so I had a vague notion of the concept but tried to avoid spoilers about the plot. I shouldn’t have worried so much as the core idea is revealed early on, and the reveal is part of the story’s power. And I’m going to talk about it now, so if you don’t know the  story there’s spoilers coming.

From the very start of the film, set in a slightly strange boarding school, the mixture of the plot is interesting: on one hand the kids are involved, with worries about myths and legends and school work, and teasing and blossoming love; on the other hand the children are in what seems like a strange detached environment, strict and ominous. Even when the children are told that they are mere bags of spare parts, that they will live a short life and then their organs will be donated, it is the teacher that feels the emotion not the children. Instead main characters are worrying about love.

The love is brought to the fore when they leave school as young adults. The story focuses on what happens when two donors fall in love, when they know that their time is short. Can they get a deferral and delay their death to spend time together? I loved the feel of the outsiders, living on a farm, avoided by the normal population. At times it reminded me of The Carhullan Army and The Handmaid’s Tale, that strange coldness. Even the use of language is chilling, the phrase “Completion” is used for when the donors die. It’s desperately sad. Increasingly sad as I came to love Tommy and Kathy, and hate Ruth.

And the complication doesn’t stop there. It’s not so black and white. Kiera Knightly is great as Ruth, horrible and then feeling guilty, I felt sorry for her looking half dead, desperately trying to redeem for keeping Tommy and Kathy apart. And my swirling emotions didn’t stop there: I felt heartbreakingly sad for the characters and yet they were in love, there was joy in there, they were grasping the moment and living whilst they had the chance. Which is the entire point of the story: do any of us really have long enough? Do we make enough of our lives? A final note that really moved me.

My words here can’t really do the film justice. I loved it. Brilliant cinematography, brilliant acting, obviously fantastic source material and a fine job of a screenplay by Alex Garland.

Thought provoking and emotional. Science Fiction at its best.

March 1, 2011

Zero History - William Gibson

Zero History is the first book by William Gibson that doesn't feel futuristic. Pattern Recognition and Spook Country felt one minute in the future, only just there, but still Science Fiction, still foreign. Zero History feels like it's several months in the past, and, being set in London, not foreign at all.

Maybe it's the fact that I don't really like London and so instead of revelling in Gibson's joy of the oddities of the city to an American I was instead imagining the dull, grey reality, the grubby Victorian buildings and the dreary endless urban sprawl. Not at all filled with the wonder of The Sprawl in Neuromancer.

Maybe it's the fact that it feels like I've read all of the ideas on the internet six months ago: the flying penguin drones, the dazzle paint, the endless cool-hunting. There doesn't seem to be anything new, no imagination just a magpie collections of Boing Boing oddities wrapped up in a thin plot.

Without the cool future feel, that has seemed to be ever present in Gibson's books so far, the plot is more exposed and revealed to be limp and lifeless. Essentially the entire plot revolves around one business man trying to win a contract to manufacture military clothes, and the search for a mystery designer to help in that quest. The perilous world of fashion. Really? It left me cold. The last section of the novel picks up with some action but only with the injection of a character who literally turns up from nowhere, "Hello, I am the action, pleased to meet you." I just didn't care about the plot, didn't feel the peril. I'm sad to say that it left me cold and bored.

In Gibson's books with a less than zippy plot (for example Pattern Recognition and Spook Country) the futuristic feel and the great writing has more than made up for it. Zero History let me down with the plot and SF-ness and probably consequently I also felt let down by the writing. Instead of revelling in the descriptions and the language I was irritated by the repetition of locations and the lingering glances at London.

This time William Gibson really hasn't written Science Fiction, and the novel is all the worse for it. I feel quite sad.