Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Biggest SF Blockbuster of the Moment...

Locus on video gaming.

Faraway Places

General Chang famously referred to the future as "the undiscovered country."

Actually, in Hamlet, that phrase refers to death, rather than the future (which explains why The Undiscovered Country was actually the original working title of Star Trek II), but that's another story: Presumably either Shakespeare wasn't quite as fluent in Klingon as he thought he was (like Utada Hikaru, perhaps he should have gotten some help from more experienced translators), or General Chang majored in something other than Literary Criticism at the Klingon Warrior Academy.

L. P. Hartley similarly observed that "The past is a foreign country."

Doubt it? Read Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael novels; or read either Master and Commander, or Patrick O'Brian's other Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin novels. See if they don't feel like Science Fiction to you. Kirk and crew may have cruised around the galaxy finding planets that looked strangely like historical Earth with the serial numbers filed off, but look backwards in our actual history a few centuries, and you will find societies and modes of thinking at least as strange and alien as anything portrayed by actors with putty on their noses on a Hollywood sound stage.

Sometimes, you don't even have to go back all that far.

When my sister was born, polio was a ubiquitous spectre haunting everyone's childhood (indeed, just after my sister was born, my mother contracted, and was partially paralyzed by, the disease); by the time I was a child, a few short years later, polio was a funny little sugar cube and some pink liquid I had to drink on vaccination day. It was no more relevant to my life than was the Black Death.

When I was born, before Loving v. Virginia, anti-miscegenation statutes had overwhelming support — as high as ninety percent in some polls — among white Americans. Today, the very idea seems so obviously wrongheaded that it is used as the ad absurdum end point of a slippery slope analogy by proponents of same-sex marriage who want to sway opinions to their side.

A while back, I had a sudden disorienting shock while perusing an ancient black and white skin flick. It was shot without sound, and didn't even have dialog looped in after the fact; instead, the entire thing was narrated, with an ambivalent female MC setting each scene, describing each character's thoughts and motivations, and providing a modicum of play-by-play. The overall effect was quite peculiar, to say the least, but my moment of complete disconnection came when the narrator explained that the protagonist was going to visit a prostitute because prosititutes knew where to get illegal drugs, like marijuana!, or... contraceptives.


And then it hit me: Never mind Roe v. Wade; this was before Griswold v. Connecticut! When I was born, even talking about contraceptives was against the law in parts of America.

Let's say that again: When I was born, even talking about contraceptives was against the law in parts of America.

Still think that The Handmaid's Tale is as exaggerated and improbable as Waterworld or Damnation Alley? More to the point, now you know why, despite the fact that humans have obviously been having sex for a long, long time, the constellation of effects which followed in the wake of Griswold, Kinsey, Hite, and The Pill, deserved to be called a "Revolution."

The world has ended many times, in many places. Look across the world, and you can see back into the distant past, and perhaps, here and there, into the future. Look into the past, and you can see alien worlds populated by completely alien people who are just like us anyway.

There are almost five million Americans who were born in a time when women could not vote for President (almost half of you out there were born before Switzerland, of all places, followed suit). There are nearly one hundred and ten million Americans who were born in a time when hurricanes could sneak up on America with as little warning as the tsunami gave to people in the Indian Ocean. My sister was one of them. A couple of decades later — only a few years after Swiss women were finally allowed to vote in Federal elections — she was flying into hurricanes for a living.

"History," as Ken MacLeod observed, "is the trade secret of science fiction."

We are standing here, on the cusp, in the border lands. At our back are foreign countries of the past; in front of us lies the undiscovered country of the future. It's just up ahead — if you look right over there, you can see it. And even if we have to wait until dark and swim across the river when the border guards aren't looking, by God, we're going to get there.


Last Day of The Past, Part II

Making up for lost time due to unavoidable technical difficulties...

The Falsies Awards. This is really the best and only link I have for you today. I'm inclined to call it "must reading." And if you wonder how it relates to fantasy and science fiction, you're not thinking about it hard enough.

Today is the Last Day of the Past

What better way to ease into things and to note the dying of the days of 2004 than to fill in some gaps around previous entries?

First, having noted Gollum's vitamin deficiency, it would be remiss of us not to mention that the gentle magic of repeated blows to the head seems to have kept Tintin youthful and spry. Furthermore, heavy metal poisoning gave him his lustrous red hair, and gastroenterocolitis is responsible for his fox terrier, Milou.

Maintaining an incredibly tenuous link to an earlier mention of the Japanese SF spectacular Casshern, Japanese pop superstar Utada Hikaru (whose husband, Kazuaki Kiriya, wrote and directed Casshern), put her native command of the English language to work by translating the perkygoth quasi-comic Emily the Strange into Japanese. The book became a bestseller, despite grumbled complaints from professional translators about the quality of her effort.

Finally, speaking of Akira Toriyama, I felt compelled by a power beyond understanding to mention that Iron Chef's ubiquitous and harried floor reporter, Shinichirô Ôta, was a regular in the anime TV series versions of both Dragonball GT and Doctor Slump. Of course, Chairman Kaga starred as the villain, Jiraldan, in Pokemon the Movie 2000: The Power of One, and, as we all know, Doc Hattori narrowly missed getting the part of Michiru Kaioh, Sailor Neptune, in Bishôjo senshi Sailor Moon S: The Movie. Cheer up, Doc! You've still got your Nutrition College.

Monday, December 27, 2004

You Gotta Find First Geeeear... In Your Auto-Flamethrowing Caaaaar...

South African inventors come up with the craaaaaaaziest things. Among them, a "smart gun" not entirely unlike the one featured in an old Fans story.

Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist and science writer with a new book out whose title is of some relevance to SF: Parallel Worlds.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Got Some Holiday Spirit Left Over?

I just got word that Will Eisner is recovering from quadruple-bypass heart surgery. This man, one of the most important living figures in comics, deserves your recognition and support. Send any messages to:

Will Eisner Studios, Inc
8333 W. McNab Road
Tamarac, FL 33321

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas To All...

This looks good. Time travel with a mild seasoning of Christianity that doesn't use belief as a substitute for thinking. At least, that's how it sounds.

We approach the surface of Titan.

Sometimes an SF comic, sometimes a Latino slice-of-life comic. Always fascinating. And you'll probably never get a better price per page.

Oh, and don't panic. There's still a better than 98% chance the asteroid won't hit us and destroy all life on Earth. Happy Holidays!

Not A Creature Is Stirring.

You know the news of the day is pretty quiet when the best SF thing I can find on short notice is this L. Ron Hubbard contest. You guys know my feelings on Hubbard. However, if there's one Hubbard book actually worth the time, it's probably this one, which made his reputation years before Dianetics.

Taking a bit of a break from the project I told you about yesterday to whip up a guest strip for an old friend, and rework some of (it's long, loooong overdue).

And what are you still here for? Go! Do last-minute shopping, spend time with family and friends! Time disappears out from under you before you know it...

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Quick Note...

Rylen D. suggests SCI FI repair some of the damage to its cred by airing Ursula le Guin's other movie, the one she likes, The Lathe of Heaven.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Don't Mind the Steam Coming Out My Ears...

Hard at work (and I mean *hard* at work) on another guest script, this one for one of the BIG boys of online comics. Definitely one of the more challenging stories I've done this year. More on this as I can tell it.

Today's Narbonic has a letter-perfect Fans guest appearance.

Stargate SG-1 spoilerama.

Although SCI FI doesn't provide great links to it any more, you can still find "Michael Swanwick's Periodic Table of Science Fiction" on Google. Correction: You can get the full periodic table here. Free association and short-short SF at its best (Krypton's got a one-of-a-kind take on Superman)...

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Not Quite The Uterus

Crocheted chaos.

LordLucan noticed it before I did, I know that much: Gamer buys virtual land for what, admittedly, would be a pretty killer price for the real thing.

Don't worry; followups to popular anime do tend to get picked up these days. Ghost In The Shell: 2nd GIG hits Cartoon Network US in Fall of 2005.

Roger Ebert as a young fan.

Be of good cheer, Snoopy! Less of me and more of another these next two weeks; I'm off to be confused by America, its unusual holiday customs, and its strange, gigantic "malls."

Monday, December 20, 2004

Small Miracles

Slacktivist is back on the Left Behind ball with a look at book one, page 68, and a most interestingly drawn parallel.

With the Joss-Whedon-and-Wonder-Woman rumour firmly ensconsed as, er, rumour, casting suggestions are being bandied about.

University course on Star Trek will likely attract dozens of students to Decatur, IL.

When Asked For Comment, Arale Norimaki Said "N'cha"

The future of Google.

Another article on the BBC Cult vanishing. Soon, all it'll talk about is stuff that's new. Read those Dark Horse Buffy reprints while you can, folks. (On the other hand, hey, new Dr. Who.)

My Life Is A Croc.

For those who missed the announcement elsewhere, I'm writing the next thirteen episodes of Life's A Croc, a lovely little story called "Shitheap."

Huh. Apparently, Biff was right in Back to the Future Part II when he said he had nothing to worry about from ballistics fingerprinting.

A nice coffee table book for the fan who has everything.

And say goodbye to the BBC's science-fiction webpages, except those for Doctor Who.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

If You Name At Least One Character "Violet," Your Movie Will Be Good

I'm starting to think that the best movie ever would consist entirely of characters named Violet. I am also starting to think that this "web logging" phenomenon is going a little overboard.

News flash: Gollum nuts, probably deficient in vitamin B-12.

Another book of essays about a Whedon show! Finding Serenity benefits by, so far, not having been made the basis of any curricula. I give it ten more minutes.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

What Ho, Facehugger

It's a short but sweet Photoshop Phriday this week as Something Awful takes on low-fi sci-fi. (The feature itself is work-safe, but Something Awful frequently isn't.)

More authors react to adaptation issues: Phillip Pullman's situation doesn't entirely match up to earlier reports. "There will be no betrayal of any kind. I would not have sold the rights to New Line if I thought they were incapable of making an honest film from the story I wrote. Every conversation I have had with them, every draft of every screenplay I have seen, reinforces my belief in the integrity and the good faith of the film-makers."

Friday, December 17, 2004


The Baltimore Science Fiction Society has won a property tax exemption. Curiously, I now live only 90 minutes from their headquarters, so I may stop by and check them out at some point.

And Anarchy Online is playing with videogame economics.

Oh, and incidentally, Penny and Aggie is coming into comic book stores, May 2005.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

NERV Special Edition

The Evangelion iPod. Because, you know, those strip poker games just weren't enough, and your Rei Ayanami cheesecake Christmas ornament is getting a little long in the tooth.

By Way Of Contrast

Beatrice's Ron Hogan compares Ursula LeGuin's situation with Daniel "Lemony Snicket" Handler's, to interesting effect.

Which reminds me: the trailer running in the UK for A Series of Unfortunate Events is making liberal use of incidental music from the Addams Family films. (I haven't seen the US trailer; I'd be shocked if they weren't the same.) Nice. Much more hope-inspiring than Armageddon's trailer deploying Graeme Revell's love theme from The Crow back in the day.

more on the earthsea debacle

Earthsea in Clorox.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

But Can It Bleach Henna Out Of The Tub

The next-generation ASIMO robot is under development at Honda. More realistic movement ahoy. Also, Wish points out Toyota's scary personal mobility robots. These and more on Gizmodo's robot category page. What's that blue thing doing here?

(When asked for comment, talking Haro replied, "It's 11:54 PM.")

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Qui t'a dit que tu devais combattre le mal?!

N'cha! Time.Comix tips us off most of the way down the page: Viz will release the Dr. Slump manga in 2005. This is the other big Akira Toriyama series, and it's the fun one. If you've read Understanding Comics, you've seen a few panels before.

The "perfect" android girl is a hyperactive, myopic little kid. In a tide of dizzy, bland shoujo heroines and asskicker uberboobies, Arale Norimaki stands out. She's curious to the point of being annoying, powerful without copping attitude, matter-of-fact without being rude, and innocent without being prissy. And she doesn't look like her compatriots; in true Toriyama form, she's plump.

Dr. Slump has been popular pretty much everywhere else for years; it's about time the series made it into English. (I'd been collecting the French editions, which are actually quite nice.) Now, all we need is Rose of Versailles.

Expensive Things

Things that cost $25,000: diamond necklaces...Land Rovers...Yu-Gi-Oh! cards....

Meanwhile, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of Japan have given their award for Best Japanese SF Creation of the year to Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.

The Best Week for Webcomics Reportage, Ever.

Yours truly participates in a roundtable discussion of the future of webcomics, just one of the many offerings from the Webcomics Examiner's December smorgasbord. Best comics of 2004, reviews and more.

Comixpedia's year-end volume is also fantastic, with a "25 Most Powerful People" article, a "Year in Review" piece co-authored by our own Wednesday White (who also has a review in the Examiner), a couple of wonderful interviews, a farewell column and one of its better reviews. Was it really only a year ago that I fretted the flap over negative reviews would kill the 'Pedia before its time? That time is now.

all is not well with earthsea

"I wonder if the people who made the film of The Lord of the Rings had ended it with Frodo putting on the Ring and ruling happily ever after, and then claimed that that was what Tolkien 'intended...' would people think they'd been 'very, very honest to the books'?" -- Ursula LeGuin (link via trufen)

Monday, December 13, 2004

Push The Button, Frank

Another piece of KTMA-era Mystery Science Theater 3000 has been found! Check out the lost host segment from episode K15 (Superdome), which shows off some of the very first MST3K fanart.

Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett are back in circulation as The Film Crew. Along with the pilot sketch on the site, they've also performed Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (Abridged), and given a quick lesson on film scores in everyday life.

Help your fellow fan this season. Project Misty distributes SF and cult TV shows to American troops, Coast Guard, and Peace Corps serving abroad. The next volley of tapes and DVDs goes over in early January. (DVDs are better; sand plays havoc with VHS decks.)

Sunday, December 12, 2004

It's Cold. Hide.

Just in time for the Christmas shopping rush, there's a cold going around. Between this and the bad weather patterns skipping around North America, it might make sense to lock yourself indoors for a few days. Since even the Return of the King extended edition set finishes sometime, you'll need other things to do. Turning pixel art into cross-stitch patterns is a good way to multitask: hide from crowds, turn game sprites or super-deformed anime characters into textile crafts, generate geeky holiday presents. If you're stuck for ideas, inspiration abounds.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Insert May-December Relationship Joke Here

Depending on which of several origin points you believe in, today might be the birthday of SF fandom. (Well, yes, fandom has more birthdays than a bear in the Paddingtonverse, but... okay. It's a birthday of SF fandom.)

Friday, December 10, 2004

Another Questionable Copyright Infringement Suit

Pretty sure this one's a joke, but you never know.

Hey, T, Is That A Challenge?

Modern day chimeras being researched. (Realaudio; scroll down.)

Ten Words or Less...

Stormtrooper helmet up for auction.

And Kong is coming!

Zeta Gundam R1 Lacks OP/ED Music

Anime on DVD reports (scroll to 9 December entry) that the Zeta Gundam boxed set just released in R1 is missing the original opening and ending music. For whatever reason, Sunrise didn't score the US distribution rights to music composed by Neil Sedaka. The songs have been replaced by instrumental pieces. But, hey, at least it's got the Japanese audio track on, unlike the R1 Gundam 0079 TV series release.

Anyhow, if you've preordered Zeta and it hasn't shipped yet, you should decide if this matters to you pretty quick. So far as anyone knows, nothing else is obviously wrong with the release.

When asked for an opinion on the situation, the talking Haro on my desk made a squawky beeping sort of noise.

Science Fiction Fiction

Appropriate, considering Fans! current storyline, Popular Mechanics is now reporting on the 1954 Popular Mechanics "Computer in 2004" hoax (originally a Fark Photoshop contest entry). Though to be fair, a lot of predictions were like this.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

From The World of Webcomics...

Jamie Robertson has gotten a success he richly deserves-- his 200-subscriber goal has been achieved, meaning we will get to see more COTC in the coming year.

And Maritza Campos is preggers!

Feed the baby.

Slow Day

Think the official LotR board games are tacky? So did Seian, so she made her own. Mouse over the picture for placenames. (EDIT: Gwalla reminds us that there's several LotR games. Oopsie.)

The Hubble is dying, and only humans can fix it. CBC article, NPR audio report. Elsewhere in space, Quaoar may once have exhibited volcanic activity.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Salt Lake City Globe Posts Matrix Correction

Why, yes, that article was misleading. Sophia Silver's not won her case against the Wachowski sibs just yet. My apologies for falling onto this bandwagon; the "doh" sound is audible about as far out as the Isle of Man.

In retrospect, it's fascinating just how many people (myself, I concede reluctantly, included) wanted this to be over and done with in Silver's favour. I don't know how much of that is "victory for the common person over evil corp," just plain not liking the films, or what. The case is still going to be worth watching, but all of this does rather throw an odd shadow on Silver's side.

So, who has the film rights to Shadowmancer?

Oh, boy! References to God and the Church are being removed from the film version of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. "[New Line Cinema] have expressed worry about the possibility of perceived anti-religiosity," says director Chris Weitz.

Do they do this sort of thing to films because it feels so good when they stop?

Sandcrawlers and Space Shuttles

The space shuttle may go into space without a repair kit for broken tiles. The program manager says, with admirable if questionable confidence, "we would fly with whatever capability we have."

Meanwhile, New Jersey resident Mike Degirolamo wants to build a 20-foot-tall Jawa sandcrawler in a historic redevelopment area near Philadelphia. Local government is somewhat taken aback, and has notified those Imperial stormtroopers that are looking for some droids.

Miss Skullaneous

Via The Revealer: Roald Dahl's photography goes a long way towards explaining his idea-germination process. Earthworm brains. Yay. Didn't need that breakfast. Did not. Need. That breakfast.

From nausea to seasickness: BethL points us at revenge for the Zoomquilt. (Flash animation, no sound. Imagine the sound of the Hypnotoad, if you're keen.)

If you're in any way involved with fanfic (reading or writing), there's a human/computer interactions student in Southampton who could really use your input on this survey.

Another blow for translated live-action versions of things which also have anime versions: Boogiepop and Others comes out in North America next March. I have no idea who, if anyone, holds the UK or Australian distribution rights; sorry.

I do know that the UK gets House of Flying Daggers on 26 December, though, so I think we'll be skipping Blade: Trinity, yes?

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Actually, I'm Hiding T In My Backpack

The guy who's going to the Webtoonist meeting this evening? Y'all be careful. He's really a robot.

Regarding yesterday's Matrix story: Neil Gaiman popped into blogging mode long enough today to suggest that this story may be a bit overblown: "[...W]hat I got out of that article was that the Salt Lake City Globe are extremely lazy people who print press releases, and that all that has happened is that a judge has said yes, the plaintiff's case can go to trial."

And, sure enough, the SLC Globe article features the very carefully worded text:
"Stewart's allegations, involving copyright infringement and racketeering, were received and acknowledged by the Central District of California, Judge Margaret Morrow residing."

Goodness. Now I'm starting to wonder, myself.

What I'm Up To...

If you're wondering why this blog hasn't heard from me much, it's because:

a) Yesterday, I had nuthin' that could top Wednesday's Matrix news and I wanted everyone to see it. You should scroll down if you haven't seen it yet. I'll wait.

b) Comixpedia is running Part 7 (revised) and Part 8 of "The History of Webcomics."

c) Tonight's the big meeting for WASHINGTON WEBTOONISTS. If you're in the area, stop on by at 11054 Lee Highway, Fairfax, VA at 7 PM. It's the big ol' BORDERS. I'll be in the cafe and a red jacket will be on my chair. We'll be deciding activities for the coming year, and if you're a webcartoonist looking to improve your hits and profits, you don't wanna miss this.

Late tomorrow: perhaps some links about things other than me.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Another Case of Iago Parrot Syndrome

Sophia Stewart has won a six-year-old intellectual property dispute against the Wachowski sibs, Warner Brothers, and Joel Silver. The Matrix was apparently based on The 3rd Eye, a manuscript she wrote. Links: Salt Lake City Globe article (registration required), summary at Suicide Girls (adult website, no desperately work-unsafe visuals; via boingboing), earlier case summary at Da Ghetto Tymz.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

I Will Never Be Normal (After This)

Via Megatokyo's Dom-rant: Mecha Musume melds WWII fighting machines with... dating-sim cute girls. While many of us thought the "too dang far" point had been reached by the glasses-blort fetishism of G-On Riders, I think it's safe to say that Mecha Musume takes the proverbial cake and blows it to smithereens.

Cat girl cyborg maid fighter jets? What was wrong with Rose of Versailles? That's okay. It's not bothering me.

Anyhow. John Scalzi's Ten Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time may help you to scrub your brains out. It's true that the Cronenberg, Muppet and Trek specials would all have been preferable to bloody Life Day, but remember, boys and girls: none of them are real. Believing in an Ayn Rand Christmas special makes the Wookie cry.

More brainscrubbing: Distressingly, as with the LaHaye-branded Babylon Rising series, Jerry Jenkins' Soon trilogy has a UK publisher -- and it's the same one as LaHaye's for BR. It's not like Left Behind had any real UK presence, though, which makes the strategy seem a bit odd. Perhaps they'll pick up The Rising or something.

Saturday, December 04, 2004


So I've been kind of distracted, what with a major announcement about Penny and Aggie's future plans, a change in work situation that wouldn't interest anyone, and a move. But let's just take a few minutes here...

Article discusses how e-books may yet be the future of publishing after all.

Closer is the kind of movie that makes singles glad to be single. It's also a bit of a mind-blower for people who've only seen Natalie Portman as Amidala and a) think of her as Princess Perfection and/or b) didn't realize she could act.

Oh, and for those who haven't seen it already, the Zoomquilt!

Friday, December 03, 2004

Behind the Scenes of SF Media...

Future Publishing has an aggressive new marketing manager. And you care because... Future publishes a wide array of geek-friendly magazines, including SFX, Britain's #1 magazine, which is to hold a major film festival next year. Which is... a marketing activity. And the more aggressive the marketing, the better the festival. I'm sure you can connect the dots from here.

Thanks to Locus Magazine for finding this poem about the end of Edgar Allan Poe.

Thanks to Ravenswood. I didn't even know about the "Casey and Andy Mad Science Award" (scroll down).

And thanks to Muttley for recommending Space Odyssey, one of those shows that makes you glad TV does nonfiction.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

When Do I Get My Real Live Arcee

It's a link-pinch morning.

Verb found stuff in Wired about robots! Robots which transform and find stuff, as well as robots which dispose of bombs and take people to medics.

One of those transforming robots is going to get sent off to Mars, no less. Which sounds really cool until you realize the robot might well take all the energon.

The Ahhht Just Hasn't Been The Same Since The iMac.

News roundup:

The latest misunderstood and underappreciated creative medium is the case mod. One man's account of his SF-themed venture into high, invisible art.

Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle's Mote in God's Eye featured ground-based lasers that propel spacecraft. NASA is toying with this idea now, yet Niven and Pournelle didn't invent the idea. Who did?

I don't link too many "who's playing who" rumors, but Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor?

Jeopardy-watchers may find this amusing. Kneel before the Zerg!

Speaking of naming synchronicities, didjaknow tasers were actually named after an SF children's book character?

Nice piece on the irony of ultra-conservative Heinlein becoming a 1960s hipster icon.

J.G. Ballard: Quotes sounds like an interesting experiment, as so many Ballard things do. Although you can get a free sample here.

And finally, it's that time of year again for aspiring manga-ka...