Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Year is 2005, The Place Is http://www.babylon5scripts.com, or The Babylon Project Was Our Last, Best Hope For Good TV

Allow me the comfortable cushion of believing that just about everybody here has seen Babylon 5. If I'm wrong, you might as well stop reading now, hie thee to your TV, and start watching. Everything's on DVD now[1], so you really have no excuse. Watch the show.

Anyway. Now that we've disposed of those poor uneducated souls, I'm spreading the word about what may be the coolest post-B5 project ever: J. Michael Straczynski is releasing his scripts. All ninety-two JMS-written Babylon 5 episodes, plus the scripts for The Gathering and In The Beginning. Plus bonus material. Fourteen books in all, two released per month, not counting the special fifteenth book...

Go to http://www.babylon5scripts.com/ for details. But as a confirmed Babyloniac, you can bet I'll be buying.

[1] Well, except for "To Live And Die In Starlight," but that's not that much of a loss...

Monday, October 17, 2005

Look Again: A Re-View, or I Couldn't Wait Until The Midnight Hour

Well, it looks like the SFB has been a little quiet of late. Maybe this will jolt it back to life: the first SFB Book Review.

Kitty And The Midnight Hour
Written by Carrie Vaughn
Published by Warner Aspect

Carrie Vaughn is going to get compared to Laurell K. Hamilton. This is inevitable. Hell, even the promo quotation on the cover calls Kitty And The Midnight Hour "vintage Anita Blake meets The Howling." Talk about a blessing and a curse: on the one hand this will probably get a number of the Anita Blake readers to pick up the book, but on the other I know any number of people who have gotten sick and tired of the Anita Blake series. Besides, Vaughn is funnier.

I've identified the exact moment when I knew we needed some new vampire/werewolf cliches: when White Wolf sued Universal for making Underworld. But Vaughn, in this novel, shows that there is still some life in the Gothic-Punk[1] universe.

The basic plot is as follows, lifted from the back cover: "Kitty Norville is a midnight-shift DJ for a Denver radio station--and a werewolf in the closet. Her new late-night advice show for the supernaturally disadvantaged is a raging success, but it's Kitty who can use some help. With one sexy werewolf-hunter and a few homicidal undead on her tail, Kitty may have bitten off more than she can chew..."

Now, this punches up some of the Anita Blake-comparison bits (especially "sexy werewolf-hunter"), and doesn't talk about some of the more interesting and creative parts, such as the werewolf sense of community and the reactions of the rest of the world. Unlike Blake's world, you see, here vampirism and lycanthropy and the like aren't so public yet; the discussion of who knows what and how much and the governmental response is a little more interesting than Hamilton's "Vampirism is legal, and that's that" opener.

Vaughn's style is new and clean, easy to read, and it kept me interested. Scenes written from the perspective of the werewolf as opposed to the human were done creatively, shifting from first person to a close third, which gives the right feel of Kitty being outside herself. The take on the pack dynamic makes sense and, more importantly, works in context, so I can't complain.

She's also funny. I liked her humor, her jokes and backhand lines, and especially the occasional swipe at those good old cliches. The advantage of setting Kitty as a talk-show host is that the callers can ask the dumb questions. The vampire who wonders where the "vampire orgies" are and the "werewolf trapped in a human's body" were probably my favorites. Then there are the normal humans in the story, like Kitty's mother and father and the staff at the radio station, who provide the right sense of outsiders looking in.

I'm not saying the book is perfect. This is a first novel, and it has some of the hallmarks. Vaughn feels to be still developing both her style and her world. For example, she'd already written a couple of stories about Kitty, and then found she had to put them into the novel as scenes. As a result, those scenes--even though they're rewritten to not reintroduce concepts--stick out. The plot is predictable in spots; not a huge deal, but typical for a first novel. In addition, the narrative has a few places where it hiccups; new characters get introduced less-than-smoothly, the prose stutters a few places, and then there's the question of sex.

Ah, yes, sex. Now's where the Blake comparisons are hitting their stride. Don't worry, the book isn't like what I'm told later Blake books become, but when you're talking about the pack/wolf mentality of werewolves--alpha males, alpha females, et cetera--you're guaranteed to get some sex scenes. I didn't find that the sex or near-sex in this book were too much, and I even thought her take on the werewolf's sexual reactions were interesting, but it's worth mentioning as a possible source of negative commentary.

In all, I'd say this book is a good first novel; if I'd bought it, I would have felt my enjoyment was worth the money for a mass market paperback. It's not an incredible, change-the-paradigm novel--we're not looking at the next J. K. Rowling--but it's solid and entertaining, and I want to keep an eye on Vaughn.

If you want to, check out Vaughn's web site, http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/CLVaughn/. It also happens to have a Kitty Norville short story on it, so you can gauge her style for yourself.

[1] Yes, I'm calling it by the White Wolf name. I just like the term, that's all; I'm not passing judgement on whose universe it is.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Best Week Ever

While we're on the subject of Neil Gaiman, his glad tidings and large headlines are not limited to the Joss Whedon co-interview and the opening of MirrorMask; there's much more.

For one, The Onion's "AV Club" has two very detailed parallel interviews with Gaiman and his longtime friend and MirrorMask collaborator, Dave McKean; if that weren't enough, the interviewer's LiveJournal has outtakes and deleted scenes from the interview, for even more Gaimany goodness. In addition, the Los Angeles Times has a pretty good piece on the making of MirrorMask.

But that's not all! Gaimania continues with the news that, after many long delays, the version of Beowulf that he and Roger Avary wrote finally began filming last week, with a cast that includes Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Ray Winstone as Beowulf, and Crispin Glover as The BeaverGrendel. Neil has relayed reports that Glover is already speaking exclusively in Old English (which would be, actually, one of the least unusual things he's ever done).

Oh, and what better way for Neil to wrap up the week than with the discovery that his brand new novel, Anansi Boys, will debut at #1 on the New York Times' Bestseller List next week?

One movie opening; one movie filming; and the #1 book in the country.


Best. Week. Ever.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Smoke and Mirrors and Masks, or The Other Geeky Movie This Weekend

Unless you've been living under a rock, which is hard to do with an Internet connection, you probably know that this is a big weekend for geeky movies...for one, Serenity opens tomorrow, satisfying the dreams of millions of Browncoats. I don't think I have to tell you about this any more.

But that's not the only one. Tomorrow, Mirrormask opens. For those of you who don't know, Mirrormask is a movie, cowritten by Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman, produced[1] by the Jim Henson Company, and directed by McKean. Even better, according to this brilliant interview by TIME of Gaiman and Joss Whedon, the Henson Company went to Gaiman and McKean, and said, "Here's $4 million; make a movie, and we won't interfere at all."

There are many, many ways in which this is sweet, not least that Gaiman and McKean are masters of their crafts. But all of those are offset by one minor problem: Sony Pictures is bringing it out in limited release. According to the film's web site, the closest it's opening to me is New York, which while close enough to be feasible, is far less than optimal.

Besides, the history of Gaiman's work with movies, especially limited releases, is not what I'd call a smashing success. He did, after all, write the English script for Princess Mononoke, which (and stop me if you've heard this story...) opened in three places: New York, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis/St. Paul. It did well on the coasts, but since it bombed in the Twin Cities, the Powers That Be decided it wouldn't play in Peoria, and it didn't get a really wide release. Thankfully it seemed to recoup a lot of that from DVD...and, though this is just my speculation, I think that softened up the ground for Spirited Away to do as well as it did.

Anyway. Mirrormask is opening tomorrow, and the best way I get a chance to see it is to get as many people I know who live in the active areas to see it, so Sony Pictures brings it out nearer to me. And hey, I just happen to have this rather large mouthpiece of the Science Fiction Blog. So...

Here's a list of places the film will show, and dates it'll open; here's a link to the trailer, which certainly sold me on the film; go forth and watch!

[1] Or at least funded. I'm not sure what the distinction is.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Power Of Positive Mass-Emailing, or But They Still Can't Get It Right, Now Can They?

Some of you may have heard that in late July the call went out to Firefly fans the world over: Email Fox Music and ask them for a Firefly soundtrack.

Well, the call was answered, but apparently Fox didn't really listen. According to a friend of mine (the proprietress of Cult Of Lincoln[1]):

[T]hey just grudgingly eke out a selection of tracks Greg Edmonson recorded years ago, and what they do release is choked with DRM so thick that Mac users can't even play the songs with the current version! And anyone that can download it will have to burn it to CD and rip it back to their computer if they want to play it on an iPod or any other WMA-unfriendly device. And apparently the Fox store only takes credit cards with American addresses, effectively eliminating the international market.


Speaking as a Linux user, looks like I'm using methods best left unspecified in public. Dear Fox, you really just don't know a good think when you see one. Not that this is news.

[1] I wonder if this'll boost her name recognition?

Edited 22 September, 22:26 EDT: According to an email I just received from Fox Music, now they offer .mp3 versions of the soundtrack. Still needs IE, though. *shakes head*

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Put the Message in the Box

A couple of days ago, I gave you fair warning that I was going to be putting up a "Suggestions Box" for Science Fiction Blog (I also gave you the uncomfortable mental image of Larry Niven naked, but let's move past that, shall we?). To that end, I have set up a GMail address for feedback, figured out how to get it to cooperate with my e-mail software, and sent myself lots of cutesy test messages to make sure that it all worked. Yay, me.

As a result, let me introduce to you our brand new site feedback address:



So: What do you want Science Fiction Blog to be?

What sorts of things would you like to see more of here, or even less of? Should we concentrate more on News, or Reviews, or Commentary and Essays? Should we focus more on TV and Movies? On Literature? On Fandom itself?

And what about subjects which don't necessarily involve Science Fiction, per se, yet still fall within the generally recognized ambit of Science Fiction Fandom: Comics, Anime, Gaming, Science, History, and generalized Gothery, Geekery, and Slashdottery?

What features are you interested in? Would you like Comments to be enabled? Categories? Picture Galleries? Fancy Whirling Animated Musical Flash Games?


And finally, in the almost certain event that you know more about doing this sort of thing than I do, could you give me hints on how it's done? Especially if you are suggesting something which will be difficult to do in Blogger, now would be a good time to clue us all in to that fact, and to any other options which exist out there on the internets.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Keep Watching the Skies!

It has been a week, now, since I got back from Dragon*Con, the world's largest Thing That Calls Itself a Science Fiction Convention1. I am still working my way through more than 20 Gigabytes of pictures from the convention, even as the more than 20 different flu bugs I was exposed to at the con work their way through me. I'll try to slap together some sort of gaudy and ill-conceived photo essay (i.e., "a bunch of pictures with captions or something") on the subject in the coming days, but, in the meantime, I wanted to say a few words about the massive and earth-shattering changes afoot here at Science Fiction Blog2.

I know that it's hard to imagine any changes which could possibly be more radical than those which have already overtaken SFBlog since my sudden coup d’état, but we want you to try.

To that end, I'll be putting up a "Suggestion Box," so to speak, in a day or two.

What do you want out of Science Fiction Blog? What things, aside from naked pictures of Larry Niven, would make this a more interesting place to visit? Put on your thinking cats (after you've fed them and changed their litter boxes, of course) and get ready to give us an icky grey piece of your mind.



1 I say this because, given the amount of media SF programming it hosts, Comic-Con could have the title any time it wanted.
2 Two words: "Pantsless Thursdays"
3 Made you look!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Drugged golden robots of the lost trilennia

Today's featured article at Wikipedia: Space opera in Scientology doctrine. It is truuuuuuly fascinating reading. Boy, was RLH fond of trillions.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Webcomic Hurricane Relief Telethon

Another Katrina charity effort worth a look-in: the Blank Label Comics co-operative is hosting a Webcomic Telethon in the week of September 12th.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Heavy Weather

It's very easy to feel like an ass, blogging about festivities and ephemera at a time when bureaucratic incompetence and mismanagement have turned one of the world's most congenial cities into a horrific real life Snake Plissken movie. Still, there are some things worth mentioning which are both topical and relevant.

Closest to home right now, here at Dragon*Con, there are numerous charitable efforts underway; from media stars who are donating their proceeds to the relief effort, to blood drives and dozens of other, smaller, efforts. Further afield, from Patrick Nielsen Hayden at Making Light comes word of SCA deployments to help with relief efforts around the South, as well as a touching memorial to New Orleans' most beloved SF writer.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Dragon*Con 2005

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usSo the big plan was to blog live from Dragon*Con, using the miracle of wireless internet access to upload timely reports and exciting photos of the goings-on.

However, given that Dragon*Con is perilously close to being a full 24 hour per day convention, I'm not entirely sure, in retrospect, just when, exactly, I thought I was going to be able to do this.

Still, I will try to catch up with the current of events before it has passed us completely by.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Alaskan Fire-Spewing Robots and Cancelled TV Shows

Here is a Wired Magazine blurb about a guy that built his own Mech.

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.09/start.html?pg=11

Wired also has a short timeline on how dedicated fans of Joss Whedon's Firefly television show helped get a movie made for a show that had been cancelled.

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.09/play.html?pg=1

Volkswagens in Outer Space!

Although hopefully not fiction, there is a pretty good article in the September issue of Discover about the private space rocket company SpaceX and its hopes to build a rocket that will not only go beyond SpaceShipOne's record, but result in a cheap (well relatively cheap at $6.5 million) alternative to launch 1,400-pound payloads into orbit. The article says that the current cost for getting similar payloads to orbit is roughly $30 million. The company hopes its cheaper rockets will do for spacecraft what the 1960's Volkwagen Beetle did for oversized and overpriced cars.

I hope they come with an FM radio.

Monday, August 29, 2005

I, For One, Am Our New Bloggish Overlord

It was almost dawn when the doorbell rang.

The sky was the color of a television tuned to a dead camel as I threw on my third-best robe and stumbled out into the hall. Peering down at the faceted glass of the front door, I could just barely make out a figure, or figures, waiting in the crepuscular gloom of our front porch.

Carefully avoiding the big momma cat on the top stair, I made my way down the front steps into the foyer, still trying to see who had woken me. For a moment, I thought it was a pair of young girls, but by the time I made it to the landing, I was sure that the nearest figure was male. He was wearing a dark outfit of some kind — a suit, maybe? Some government agent and his adventurous sidekick, perhaps?

By the time I made it to the door, I could tell that the "government agent" was just a regular guy in jeans, and that what I had thought was a dark and sexy Suicide Girl standing next to him was actually some kind of large gnarled staff in his right hand. He looked at me as I opened the door, and said "WheeeeOOOOOOOP! Whoooop Whoooop WHOOOOOOOP! WheeeeOOOOOOOP! Whoooop Whoooop WHOOOOOOOP!"

Realizing my mistake, I waved my arms at the stranger in a wild, vague gesture, and ran into the kitchen to turn off the burglar alarm.

Returning to the foyer, I finally got a good look at my guest. He was young, with a pleasant face and a sly intelligence in his eyes; under his wizard's cloak, he had a simple black t-shirt with the word "Believe" written on it.

"Raymond Radlein," he intoned as the end of his staff burst into flame. "I am here to Pass On the Torch. It is time to Claim Your Destiny! I am here to bestow upon you the Power of Blog!"

"The pow—" I began to ask, only to be cut off.

"The Power of Blog is the Power of The Future!" he proclaimed, shaking his staff around like a spear of burning gold. "It is the Power of Inter-net! With Blog, all ideas are possible! You make thought here, it winds up there! Your thoughts, they fly around the world! The poor goat farmer on a lonely mountaintop in far-off Kansas-land can read your words as easily as the trendy businessman waiting for his rocket-taxi! Your powers will be beyond dreams!"

"Can I share information about new developments in Science Fiction?" I asked.

"Yes! Yes!" he enthused. "This you can do, and more!"

"Can I discuss Science Fiction Fandom, conventions, and other fannish activity?" I asked.

"Yes! Yes! Discuss them like the mighty wind, you can!" he cried, sweeping the flaming staff through the air in a great arc.

"Can I pull a new word out of my ass and get it into Wikipedia?" I asked.

"No, so sorry," he said, "you cannot. But you can pull other things out of your ass!"

"I'll do it, then!" I shouted, as he thrust the torch at me. "I will seize my Destiny!"

"WheeeeOOOOOOOP! Whoooop Whoooop WHOOOOOOOP! WheeeeOOOOOOOP! Whoooop Whoooop WHOOOOOOOP!" said the alarm system, as our curtains went up in flames.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Speaking of Hugo Gernsback...

It's been a while since I've had any Interaction with you, so this is a good time to mention that the final results of the 2005 Hugo Awards are now available from this year's Worldcon.

Highlights include Susanah Clarke's widely-expected Best Novel victory for Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Dave Langford's dual win for Best Dave Langford and for Best Semiprozine ("I can't help but say how semi-professional I feel," he enthused), and Battlestar Galactica's Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form victory for the episode "33," which defeated, among others, the series finale of Angel.

Looking over the detailed voting breakdown [PDF File], the closest contests were Best Fanzine, where Cheryl Morgan's Emerald City lead eventual winner Plokta all the way up until the final round of balloting, at which point the Plokta Cabal received the vast majority of the rollover votes from third place finisher Banana Wings; and Best Web Site, where Locus Online similarly lead eventual winner SciFiction until losing by one vote on the final ballot.

In other Awards news, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer went to Elizabeth Bear, and the Sidewise Awards for Alternate History went to Philip Roth's Pulitzer Prize winning The Plot Against America (Long Form) and Warren Ellis and Chris Wesson's Ministry of Space (Short Form). The Prometheus Awards for Libertarian SF featured a Best Novel win for Neal Stephenson's The System of the World, and a Hall of Fame Award for A.E. van Vogt's The Weapon Shops of Isher.


Since last year's Worldcon ratified a move from a three-year site selection process to a two-year site selection cycle, there was no voting for the location of the 2007 Worldcon conducted this year, given that it had already been awarded to Yokohama during the final three-year balloting at Noreascon 4 in Boston.

The other significant bit of Worldcon business that took place in Glasgow was the preliminary decision, by a vote of 51–6 at the Business Meeting, to split the Best Editor category into Best Editor (Short Fiction) and Best Editor (Long Fiction). This differs slightly from the initial "Books vs. Magazines" proposal, in that editors of book-length anthologies of short fiction would compete with editors of magazines (actually, many of them are the same people), leaving editors who primarily work with novels (such as David G. Hartwell or the Nielsen Haydens) to compete against each other on the basis of the quality of the various novels which they brought to market during the previous year. The measure would still have to be ratified at LA Con IV next year before it could become official.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Gernsback Continues, or Space Flight: The Next Generation

The New York Times reports that NASA is beginning a redesign of its spacecraft and abandoning the principles that went into the space shuttle, while keeping some of the components (allowing them to keep their contractors and technologies).

They also include mockups of the vehicles. The general principle is to separate the cargo-hauler from the crew vehicle, and make both of them more like traditional rockets.

As a professed space freak, as well as a pulp SF nut, I'd like to first say that I like the new look. All we need is to plate the entire thing in chrome, throw on some fins, and we're set.

More importantly, the fact that they're coming out and saying "Look, the shuttle didn't work, we're building something that will, and we're going back to the principles that got us to the Moon" is encouraging. This is the first sign that my fears about the space program may not all come true. Next, we need the next generation of space jocks, who won't abandon launches over the failure of one of four redundant gauges...

(P.S. Dear NASA: I'm interested. Email me if you need people.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Comics Fans, READ THIS.

(Cross-posted.)

Wondering why this "manga boom" isn't really hitting your local comic book shop?

Dirk Deppey pretty much hits the nail on the head here, though I thought Mary Jane was at least a nice try. I'm slowly coming to share his opinion of mainstream American comic books-- I still like that shiny superhero sheen, but not so much that I'm willing to bury my head in the sand.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Google Goes Interplanetary, or One Small Step For Search...

Google Moon.

Quite possibly one of the finest Google products, if not in usability than in cool factor.

(Be sure to zoom all the way in.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Get Your Dragons Out of My Spaceship and an Emmy for BSG?

There is a pretty good article (via Newsday) on the reasons why television shows with science fiction and fantasy elements have a hard time being taken seriously. It also gives a little hope in its explanation of some recent changes in how Emmy ballots are structured.

Side Rant: I have never liked the way science fiction and fantasy have become so intertwined that articles, like the one cited above, can start with a premise about science fiction and end up pointing to shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer as examples. Just yesterday I was browsing at a book store and I noticed a couple of science fiction anthologies that looked interesting. They had science fiction themed cover art and the words like "Best science fiction" in big bold letters, yet a closer look revealed a large portion of stories about dragons, etc. Now, I also like fantasy but I have never understood the need to link these too genres so closely. So, in the end, I did not buy the book because, at the price, I would have been buying half a book. Ironically, I am sure some marketing person thought that mixing the two genres would attract more customers.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Bionic Electrician, or I Wonder If It Really Cost $60,000,000

Jesse Sullivan from Tennessee in the US is the world's first 'bionic man.'

The BBC is reporting that a man who lost his arms to an electric shock has been successfully received a bionic left arm and can now do everything from shave to play catch. The science of "neuro-engineering" is looking to be quite impressive.

The article does not, however, say how long he's been dealing with the arm (he has a normal prosthesis on his right side), but implies it's been a while.

I think this is interesting for many reasons, and an encouraging sign. I'd like to see some more experimentation, but this being human trials the only way to do it is really slowly.

(CWCID: The Weasel King found this one.)

Screenings Round 3, or Propogating The Signal

Rumors have reached me that Serenity is going to have another pre-screening, this one on July 28 with tickets going on sale July 14.

While nothing is verified yet, say with a message from Joss Whedon himself, it will have been about a month, so it may be due.

The official site for tickets is cantstopthesignal.com, which at this time merely shows the listings for the June 23 screening.

Also, I'm throwing this in as a token note, because it's really not news anymore, but the Sci-Fi channel has picked up "Firefly" for airing--all the episodes, even the unaired ones, starting July 22.

(CWCID: Cult Of Lincoln for the screening heads-up.)

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Kaboom!

Deep Impact (no relation to the movie)

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Boy, We Hate Being Right Sometimes, or Fox Goes Outside

"[The Inside has all the ingredients of] a compelling, entertaining, intelligent drama which Fox will cancel after four episodes."

I wish I could say differently, but we pretty much called it.

Short form: The Inside is effectively dead, though not declared as such; Tim Minear suspects he'll end up with six unaired episodes (not counting the two unaired pilots), and he's already plotting for the DVD set.

You know, at this stage, can we call it the Curse of the Mutant Enemy?

(Credit where credit is due: link pulled from Cult Of Lincoln)

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Dog of the Bride of the Reanimator?

It seems a Pittsburgh medical research facility has successfully reanimated a dog by draining its blood, replacing it with a cold salt water fuild, and then putting its blood back after the dog was clinically dead for three hours. Apparently, the dogs were fine and did not suffer any brain damage.

This Australian website felt compelled to refer to the dogs as "zombies" and picked a nice picture to go along with the article.

It's always good to hear that America leads the world in "zombie" technology.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Greetings Hairy Ape People of the Past

In the July issue of Wired there is a item about an MIT gathering welcoming time travelers from the future. Despite the invitation, it seemed no one from the future showed up (or did they?). Apparently, the lack of future travelers proved that time travel is impossible. However, the article goes on to list possible reasons for a lack of time travelers, including everything from future disasters to general uninterest in the people of our time.

Here is a picture of one of the attendees.

Interestingly, the idea came from an online comic strip.

Monday, June 27, 2005

CONSUUUUUUME!

Surprisingly, a study by the Sci Fi Channel suggests that advertising on the Sci Fi Channel is a good idea.

However, this study might have a few implications for others serving the same advertising demo.

4th of July Fireworks

Don't forget about the Deep Impact mission this fourth of July. Hopefully it will go better than Cosmos 1. Our national experience with blowing things up bodes well for this mission.

Who Needs that Fiction Part Anyway: NextFest in Chicago

So, I decided to geek it up over the weekend and go to Wired's Nextfest here in Chicago, a sort of new technology exposition. I thought it deserved coverage here because many of the things on display fell into that zone between the technology we are used to seeing and the stuff dreamed about in science fiction.

While there was a fair share of hoe-hum items, here are just a few I thought were note-worthy included:

Robots Everywhere: There were a awful lot of these, including the Robonaut (a space-walking robot, Robolobster (a DARPA-sponsored robotic lobster for detonating mines), The Packbot Scout (a backpack size robot for military scouting), R-Gator (a military robot for patroling a perimeter), The Philip K. Dick Robot (a robotic version of guess who? how aprapo!), Hubo and Chroino (fluid walking Japanese robots), Stinky (the high school student built robot that beat out robots from MIT last year), and two industrial arm robots (programmed to DJ in unison).

Mars Airplane: A prototype of a surveilance airplane probe designed for Mars.

Solar Sail: It was strange to see this on display, given the recent failure of Cosmos 1.

Input Devices Galore: A large number of the items designed to interact with a computers in more interesting ways, including a child's rocking horse, a trendmill for playing first-person shooters, devices that control a game by you blowing into them, and a tiled floor display for playing a pong-like game by walking on it.

... and for some reason there was also a display of the Senseo (a coffee machine) and the Dyson vacuum cleaner (non-suction).

Look Out, SF Market!

Here comes Finland!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Tim T's Stellar Miscellany

Evidence that the space-gods just don't like solar sails.

Evidence that someone really, really should have looked for a hotter volcano.

And evidence that our hearts will always have a place for those grand ol' metal milking-stools. Seriously, Ian Edgington and D'Israeli's online comic looks very promising indeed. Their printed sequel to Wells' story could be worth a look too.

Is Stargate Hiring Every Out-of-Work Sci-Fi Actor?

You may have already noticed that the new season of both Stargate shows have meant quite a few new additions. The changes, however, have left me wondering if Stargate is trying to hire every out-of-work actor with a science fiction show on their resume. You may have already noticed the addition of Ben Browder and Claudia Black the title actors from Farscape. Now, comes news that Lexa Doig, the computer avatar from the show Andromeda will play SG-1's new medical officier.

Andromeda and Farscape were two shows that I never watched regularly. While Farscape seemed like a show I would enjoy, every time a caught an episode it seemed that the cast had changed. What seemed to be frequent changes to what should be relatively stable parts of the show meant that I felt there was simply too much investment in keeping up with the show. Andromeda on the other hand just seemed too flakey.

Julianne Moore Gets Her Sci-Fi On

A recent blurb in The Guardian mentions that Julianne Moore is in talks to play the last pregnant women on earth in the film version of the P.D. James novel Children of Men. Speaking of book adaptations, I always try to read the original book before a movie burns its own imagery into my brain. I have always felt that part of the enjoyment of reading is the trigger it provides to the imagination (What does this character look like?, etc.). Science fiction seems to have even more fertile material for the imagination than your average book. When I read a book after I have seen a film version, some of the enjoyment is gone because I can't get the film's visuals out of my head. So, if you are considering reading Children of Men before the film is released here is the New York Times book review.

Getting back to Julianne Moore, she is also cast in Next a film based on the Philip K. Dick story The Golden Man. The story involves a man who can see into the future and change it any way that he wants. This movie presents me with a dilemma because it also stars Nicholas Cage, an actor who has starred in so many bad movies (Con Air, 8MM, Snake Eyes, Face/Off, Gone in Sixty Seconds, etc. ) that I have made a promise to myself to avoid any movie in which he was cast. After enjoying many of his early films, I have had to break that rule only once recently for the Charlie Kauffman film Adaptation. Until I see a trailer, I am not sure that the powers of Philip K. Dick and Julianne Moore are enough to get me to break the my promise once again. If only I could see my own movie-going future?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

If You Read One Onion...

...make it this one. (Warning: features sound.)

My favorite is the horoscope.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Crossing Out Borders, or America The Obsolete

Charles Stross recently released his new novel, Accelerando, under a Creative Commons license. Details and copies may be found at the book's website, also called "Accelerando!"

The book, from what I have gleaned from a brief skim of the beginning, the website, and the person, is near-future nanopunk (is that a word? It should be--and if it isn't, I may have to pull a Bethke) that describes itself as "a fictional depiction of a possible Technological Singularity lying in our near future."

However, like many near-future SF books written in, oh, the past fifteen years, one of the first bits of worldbuilding Accelerando establishes is a general collapse of the United States as a world power. Here, the action takes place in a Europe filled with "American exiles." For other examples of the form, see Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash or just about anything by Cory Doctorow--most notably the short story I, Robot.

This brings up, to me, an interesting question--how has America changed to science fiction writers, and what does this mean?

Let's start in the 1930s. E. E. "Doc" Smith writes the "Lensman" series, which centers on a world that is, somehow, both very American and very not. The stars of the series are the ultimate Our Heroes, strong, smart, and idealistic, and therefore In Charge--by virtue of their being strong, smart, and idealistic. The election Smith features in First Lensman is, for the first time in American history, completely pure--because of Our Heroes, who naturally go on to win. The bad guys represent the corruption, the graft, the special interests--well, not the last one, but still. It's a whitewashed, sparkling-clean, super-idealistic America, of the type epitomized in the surface culture of the 1950s. Communism gets described in a throwaway line in that same book--it's "yet another government that failed."

Moving on to the Golden Age, America gets a pretty good rep--sort of. Most of the reputation of America in this book follows from Smith; Robert Heinlein continually envisioned America as the optimal government of the future, but the USA itself was usually irredeemable, so he moved it. Red Planet and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress both depict the New America. Asimov centered on New York City in the "Robot" series, and if you've ever heard anything about Asimov you know that his vision of New York was actually a paradise--if, like Asimov, you're claustrophilic. Again, there is the vision of America as is, and the vision of America as could be--the Medievalists indicate this best. The country itself may be lost, but the spirit lives on.

Jumping ahead a little to the 1960s, the American frontier spirit is reborn. Buck Rogers took American ideals to the 25th century, where he fought for freedom against a crushing totalitarian regime. Superman was everpresent in the popular culture, fighting a never-ending battle...you know the rest. Star Trek was the world where the world got better, healed its ills, and humanity didn't fight with humanity anymore; later versions of Trek show that America was at the center of it all. There's a president, there's a Council; the Federation is a working, Utopian America of the future. Phillip K. Dick's The Man In The High Castle showed us what would have happened if America lost World War II and told us all: "Here, but for the grace of God, go we."

In the 1970s, the totalitarian regimes worsened. Star Wars told the story of the defenders of the Republic, who were destroyed by the Empire, and the survivors forming the Rebel Alliance--more properly the Alliance To Restore The Republic. I'll let you draw your own additional conclusions--but remember, the Alliance was made up of alien races and all manner of humans, while the Empire was all white, male, British-accented admirals, generals, and Moffs. Harken back to an older generation, all ye viewers, and know that America is the land of the Republic.

The 1980s were mixed. Cyberpunk showed us a world without borders, and the rise of computers gave birth to a new era of Japanese interest. William Gibson's America was home to the East Coast, the Sprawl, the center of the universe even in cyberspace; but the back-dealing was moved to Japan. At the same time, Orson Scott Card created a world where nobody gave a damn about country--the planet was under attack. However, the moment the war ended, all the countries were at each other's throats...

Now we're coming up on the 1990s and the modern day. America is a dead land, destroying itself through economy, or war, or isolation (Orson Scott Card's "Shadow" series comes to mind, showing us an America that just won't play ball with the rest of humanity and gets left in the dust because of it). But unlike the previous eras, there is no rising Phoenix. Star Wars talks about how greed, manipulation, and politicians bring down the greatest and most civilized society ever. Neal Stephenson just starts post-America, and doesn't even bother to explain what happened--except for references to "hyperinflation."

America is a lost cause, say the writers. The Wave of the Future has passed it by. Naturally, the question comes: Science fiction is the mythology of the scientific-technological culture. Can America escape what is written?

I don't have an answer. If I did, I might write a novel about it.

(Of course, not all the stories of the future are doom-and-gloom. Read some military SF for a vision of an American-influenced, more positive, future. David Weber's "Honor Harrington" series is rather more British than American, with a sleeping giant of future-America with the usual corrupt politicians, but even there we see an American spirit of unity and tolerance. John Ringo's books, to give another example, border on jingoism.)

Saturday, June 18, 2005

"Science Fight" Just Doesn't Have the Same Ring to it as "Food Fight"

It seems science fiction writer, Ron Miller, has jumped into a gay marriage debate in a local Virginia newspaper after a previous letter to the editor attempted to quote various science facts about planet earth (apparently proving that god made the tides to tell us that John and Bob should not be married). Here is the original letter.

Miller is pretty rough on the guy in his response but he probably deserves it for using some very poor science "facts." One of my favorites is when the guy says that the "ocean floor is at a depth that gives us oxygen" and Miller mocks him for thinking oxygen comes from the bottom of the ocean floor. Along with "Never go up against a Silician when death is on the line" and "Never get involved in a land war in Asia" should be "Never quote science to a science fiction writer."

Atwood Needs Science Fiction

Margaret Atwood has a short article over at The Guardian on some of the reasons we need science fiction. She gives a list of things that science fiction can do that realistic fiction cannot do, but I probably would have added a couple things to her list.

One example, she fails to mention that science fiction not only explores the impact of new and proposed technologies, it can guide technology's direction by suggesting whole new technologies. Although it is a rarer type of science fiction, Arthur C. Clarke and the communications satellite comes to mind. How many other technologies were originally inspired by an engineer's favorite bit of science fiction. Atwood's article makes science fiction sound more like an uninvolved social critic (akin to someone who might be a movie reviewer). Yet, I always thought of science fiction (at least a part of it) as part of the process of technological advancement. Isn't that why we are pissed that there are no flying cars?

I am new by the way--So, hello.

Friday, June 17, 2005

So Be It...Geek, or Adventure. Excitement. A Geek Craves Not These Things--What Am I Saying?

Neal Stephenson has written an editorial for the New York Times.

While most of the article is devoted to the dichotomy of geeking out versus vegging out (which Neal uses to explain why the prequels are so different--read, worse) he veers off at the end to draw some...interesting parallels to modern America.

While I'm not sure about his conclusions (though I love some of the imagery), the article is rather thought-provoking and worth a read.

(Credit where credit is due: I got this from BoingBoing.)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Invisible Whistling Octopus Online Library

The works of H P Lovecraft are now free on the Net, courtesy of Dagonbytes. I'm not sure what the copyright situation is with HPL now, so maybe you'd better take advantage of this while it's there.

In other news, the reborn Dr Who is getting its third series.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Appeal Of Gaiman, or Time To Crash Yahoo's Servers!

As reported on Neil Gaiman's blog, Yahoo! Movies has an exclusive teaser trailer for Mirrormask that went live...about twenty minutes ago.

I'm almost surprised the servers weren't too clogged for me to get it, but I did. My reaction?

September 30 is going to be a big day for geek movies.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Batman Begins...Not To Suck Again (credit: John Kovalic), or I...Am...Batman!

Peter David, Writer of Stuff ("Stuff" here includes a brilliant and canceled-before-its-time kids' sci-fi TV show Space Cases, several episodes of Babylon 5 and Crusade, some of the better Star Trek and Babylon 5 novels, an entire Star Trek line, New Frontier which I highly recommend, a small fortune of comics credits including the upcoming Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, and--most importantly for the moment--a blog), has posted a review of Batman Begins. To quote his opening:

"Sturgeon's Law is that 90 percent of everything is crap. So the obvious corollary to that is that 10 percent of everything is gold.

Since no less an authority than Isaac Asimov stated (to me, in fact) that Sturgeon's Law is immutable, then we can assume that 90 percent of everything done with Batman in the past seven decades is crap, and 10 percent is gold.

So what would happen if someone went through and cherry picked all the stuff from that ten percent?

Well, you'd have Batman Begins..."

There are some spoilers, which probably only qualify as real spoilers for the true and complete spoiler virgins, the type who don't watch trailers; and PAD does see its flaws (indeed, the rest of the sentence I stopped at quoting discusses two problems with the film), but...

Dude. It's about time.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Saving Science Fiction, or To Change The Literature Of Change

From the AP through the Kansas City Star:
University program blasting off to save science fiction


I think the creators of this are, well, a little biased, but they're making a few good points. For one, there really isn't enough science fiction in classrooms. (If I had my way every kid in the country would read Ender's Game before the age of fifteen, but that's just me.) And science fiction does have a problem of losing ground to the "general" market.

However, I don't think I like the idea of centralizing the science fiction landscape. One of the most beautiful parts of science fiction are the people, and the ways that they find each other and form groups.

I suppose we'll see what this brings...

You Do Indeed Count For Something.

The look is softer, and the main character's name is no longer that of a popular brand of vibrator.

Loonatics II: Do You Hate Us Slightly Less Now?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Daleknapped, or Exterminate! Exterminate! Ex--*snap* Ow.

Dalek 'kidnappers' demand Doctor

Given that this was apparently an original prop, I'm glad the thieves took care not to damage it, but the real gem of the article is this: "The police think it was probably taken by kids or students, but there is also the idea that it could be heading to Edinburgh for the G8 protests."

A Dalek at a G8 protest. I don't know: are they going to try to unleash its destructive fury (good luck, you removed the weaponry), or are they trying to send a message about the G8's power or authority--"they are conquering the world"?

I don't know, but I think I'm going to be keeping an eye on the protest...

(Credit to the find goes to The Weasel King.)

My Name's T Campbell...

...and I approve this comic-book adaptation.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Blink and you'll miss Crispin Freeman

Tonight, I was privileged to attend a preview screening of Howl's Moving Castle. Americans, you have no excuse not to go see this if it's opening in your city this weekend. None. None.

The usual caveats regarding a Hayao Miyazaki film stand firm, of course. There is a certain amount of black, oozing, moderately anthropomorphic evil. (Several of the lessons from Princess Mononoke are in play here, particularly around the hench.) You will believe that Nausicaa is making a walk-on.

We'll cope.

The dub is near as dammit exquisite. There are one or two run-together dub lines you know the kinds where they don't quite get the period in the right place there was a lip flap problem you see, but I do mean "one or two" and not "one or two dozen." I was a bit frustrated that Sophie and her sister managed to have the only two British accents in a sea of Americans -- this struck me as a wasted opportunity to engage a variety of disparate British regional accents; at the very least, the Rimmer/Lister dichotomy would have worked here -- but, well, American dub. And Sophie is very well portrayed, particularly in her oldest form. I'm not 100% certain that Billy Crystal was the way to go for the fire demon, but he certainly wasn't dissonant in the way Phil Hartman's (admittedly well-executed) Jiji was in Kiki's Delivery Service. These are nits.

Go. It's beautiful. It's beautiful.

No, I did not catch a screening in the UK; first chance I know of that you'll have to see it there is at Worldcon this August. I'm in America this month.

You Just Can't Stop That Signal, or Post-Pre-Screening Screening

Another round of Serenity screenings has been announced. 35 different cities have been lined up for this round, and--amazingly--apparently only one of them has been marked as "Sold Out."

Head over to Can't Stop The Signal to see if you can get lucky with the tickets, or if the list of tickets available is merely very out of date.

(Oh, and...Hi. I'm new.)

Last Chance to See

A small programming note: Tonight marks the premiere of The Inside, Fox's new FBI Profiler drama.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "Ooooh! Another FBI Profiler / Serial Killer Drama! What a unique and precious thing this is, utterly unprecedented in the long history of June 8, 2005!"

Well, sure, the whole genre has been done to death, repeatedly, in a ritualistic fashion; but take a gander at the names associated with this one: Tim Minear, Ben Edlund, Jane Espenson, David Fury, and Howard Gordon.

That's more than half of Team Whedon right there; if they could figure out a way to include Marti Noxon and David Greenwalt, they'd have pretty much the full set.

Throw in Adam Baldwin and Wonderfalls' Katie Finneran, and you have all the ingredients for a compelling, entertaining, intelligent drama which Fox will cancel after four episodes. So hurry up and get on board now, so that you can be crushed by the inevitable disappointment later!

"My College Is Cooler Than Your College."

"Oh yeah? My college has the world's first website dedicated to science fiction research AND a master's degree in the subject."

"Uhhhhhhhhhh... well... our football team kicks... uh..." (falls silent in humilated defeat)

Thanks to A.G. Hopkins for the tip.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

I Have A Guess. It Involves Effigies.

"It's going to be fascinating to see what fandom does when faced with this stuff."

The above sentence is NEVER GOOD NEWS.

It's nice to see that the end of Star Trek and Star Wars hasn't kept us from finding new ways to torture fans.

"Let's jab red-hot knitting needles into their eyes. It'll be fascinating to see what they do."

I know, I know, wait till we see it, everything can be fixed in post, Brett Ratner's really a nice guy, I know.

I wonder if these horrible-sounding rumors are a marketing ploy to make the actual film look like ten kinds of brilliance by comparison...

First kite in the wind from the sun

Cosmos 1, first ever solar-sail spacecraft, is going up on June 21st.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Ancient Greek SF

Rock on, Dr Ni-Mheallaigh.

Return of the Ram

After having to stop work on the comic, Brian Daniel is continuing his Saga of the Ram as a text story:

Tales of the Ram

Monday, May 30, 2005

Dairy sports

Not science fiction exactly, but an indication of the wonder and strangeness of the human world:

Three hurt in cheese chasing race Guardian May 30th.

I desperately need to see this documentary.

Hotel Torgo is a short student documentary on the making of Manos: The Hands of Fate.

Googling for useful information on the film, amusingly enough, turns up some posts by Hal Warren's daughter.

At least cool to mangle his grammar, thinks it he doesn't

Matt Shepherd has been raiding Lucas' cutting-room floor. Meanwhile, Tragic Lad fears the power of the Dark Side.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Mmmm. Bester. Bester's hot -- Oh, wait.

Walter Koenig is appearing in a Star Trek fan film which takes up where TOS series 3 left off. He's not the only one from the classic series participating in the effort, either.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Monday, May 23, 2005

Convalescent bloggist seeks snappy post-title

Kristopher Straub launches his new daily strip Starshift Crisis today. Checkerboard Nightmare isn't ending anytime soon, though, regardless of smart-aleck guest artists.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Back from my sick-bed with diverse news

Apparent evidence that shopping trolleys can stray in time as well as space has unfortunately proved to be fake.
The old dream of robotic surgeons is at last coming to fruition.
The Mars Odyssey probe is showing signs of boredom.
Oh, and there was some film or other.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Submitted without comment.

Samuel Jackson in "creative collaboration" with Gonzo for a Spike TV anime series.

(Except to say that what?!)

(And, also, do they speak Japanese in what?!)

(And... what?!)

Meanwhile, on planet Spoiler Whore

Just in case you wanted to read about Serenity's Rosebud, the preview posts are starting to come in now.

No, not like that.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Like I Told You

...Ain't it Cool News has a metric buttload of Serenity reviews from the test screenings. I got the sense that the last couple were spoilerific, so I averted my eyes.

Caveat lector.

As Cat & Girl said, you technically just need one

Time Traveller Convention May 7th at MIT.

After May 7th this post will of course continue to be an open invitation to the event for any time-traveller reading it. The link above will be dead in less than a year, so I'd better include the full temporal and spatial details:

The Time Traveler Convention
May 7, 2005, 10:00pm EDT (08 May 2005 02:00:00 UTC)
(events start at 8:00pm)
East Campus Courtyard, MIT
3 Ames St. Cambridge, MA 02142
42:21:36.025°N, 71:05:16.332°W
(42.360007,-071.087870 in decimal degrees)

Enjoy! :D

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I Just Can't Get Enough

Hey — remember last week, when I gave you links to the brand new trailer for Serenity? Wasn't that fun? Ah, yes. Good times.

So how about I give you links to two more trailers for Serenity?

But wait — these aren't just any old trailers for Serenity, no sir: They're the same exact trailer you saw last week.

Only bigger.

Much bigger.

As in, 80 MB of 1280x544 widescreen 48KHz stereo in the first case, and 130 MB of 1280x544 widescreen in 1080p HDTV format in the second case. The second one requires Quicktime 7, which is currently available only for Mac OSX 10.3.9 or higher. It is possible that other programs, such as VLC or Nero ShowTime, which understand both Quicktime and the H.264 video standard, might be able to play the file; but I haven't managed to do it yet, so I can't say for sure.

Of course, if you foolishly believe that there is more to life than trailers for Serenity, Apple's HD Gallery also has trailers for Batman Begins and The Fantastic Four. The Batman Begins trailer was downloadable last night when I downloaded it, but it doesn't appear to be downloadable any more (I don't know if the change is temporary or not — the now-invalid download link was simply commented out in the page's HTML source).

And stay tuned for tomorrow's inevitable Serenity article when all the people who attended tomorrow's preview screenings write in to Ain't it Cool News with their opinions.

Peasants-With-Torches 1, Frankentoons 0

Warner Bros. are yielding to fanpower over the Loonatics.

Speaking of animation nightmares, Platinum Studios are starting on a computer-graphics horror movie, Bonesaw.

Monday, May 02, 2005

My May Media Madness

Fans of obscure SF TV shows, rejoice! Both Earth 2 and Cleopatra 2525 have been announced for R1 DVD release in July. I'm not sure about Earth, but Cleo has been available in R2 for a while, which certainly makes up for the fact that so many other things take so long to get to R2. Right, Wednesday?

Anyway, I can't speak for anybody else, but I thought that Earth 2 was a decent little show; and I thought that Cleopatra 2525 was entirely more enjoyable than it had any right to be. Now if only we can get Strange Luck or its Fox predecessor, VR.5, on DVD...

In the meantime, of course, the first season of Star Trek: Enterprise comes out on DVD tomorrow, along with a "Collector's Edition" of Spaceballs.

Finally, let's wish a happy 80th birthday to John Neville, a wonderful actor who played General Staedert in The Fifth Element, and has appeared in such SF TV series such as Peter Benchley's Amazon and Odyssey 5; he also memorably played Isaac Newton opposite the actual Steven Hawking on Star Trek: The Next Generation. However, the two SF roles for which he is best remembered have all of those beat, hands down: He was "The Well-Manicured Man" on The X-Files; and he played the title role in Terry Gilliam's magnificent The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

The truly impressive thing? All of the above roles came more than twenty years after he was awarded an OBE in 1965 for his illustrious acting career.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Orbituary

People — myself included — tend to think of "inventions" as big, significant things. The telegraph. The electric light bulb. The combination orbital radiation detector and cat-flap controller.

But, of course, that's not the case: Literally everything man has created is an invention; everything there is was first thought up by someone somewhere, and every idea or object was first given its current form by someone. The more commonplace a thing is, the more delightful it is to me to learn the story of how it became commonplace, passing that threshhold from unique idea to obscure notion to ubiquitous presence. It's one reason I love James Burke: Anyone who can do an entire television program, tracing the history of Western Civilization to show how it all leads inexorably to the creation of the corn flake, is my kind of guy.

All of which leads me to this very well-written and thoughtful AP obituary, from Editor & Publisher, of Howard Benedict, the chief AP correspondent on aerospace issues for more than 30 years, from the dawn of the space age to after the Challenger explosion. In addition to a long and worthy career informing the public about space flight and related issues, he is, evidently, the reason why we call them "orbits," instead of "revs" or "revolutions," which was NASA's preferred term.

The word "orbit," in its astronomical sense (as opposed to its older anatomical sense), dates back to the 17th century; its use as a verb dates to 1946; so clearly he didn't, as the obit headline asserts, "coin" the term. Nevertheless, he's the reason it became ubiquitous: He felt it was a better word than the one NASA was using, and the English language seems to have agreed.

So let's all give thanks to Howard Benedict: Without him, John Glenn would not have been the first American to orbit the Earth; without him there would be no Orbital Mind Control Lasers; and without him, our aforementioned "orbital radiation detector and cat-flap controller" would have just been another plain old ordinary combination radiation detector and cat-flap controller — and where's the fun in that?

As It Was Written, So Mote It Be

The glorious event that Wednesday told us all about on Saturday has come to pass: The Serenity trailer is available online (here's a direct link to the large version, all 21 MB of it; the full-screen version is, as usual, only available through iTunes).

While you're soaking in the Whedonesque goodness, you might want to check out the trailers for Save the Green Planet and Night Watch (NOCHNOI DOZOR), a couple of intriguing foreign SF films. From the trailer, Night Watch seems to have elements of Wicked City (or even Wicked City) about it; Save the Green Planet, on the other hand, seems remarkably indescribable from its preview.


To make this a full-fledged Media... er, Tuesday, I'll go ahead and remind everyone that Blade: Trinity and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events come out on DVD today, and also wish a happy birthday to Tom Welling and Jet Li.

Monday, April 25, 2005

New suit, same as the old suit

Bryan Singer's taking no liberties with steel-boy's costume in Superman Returns. Meanwhile, Tailsteak has been thinking on the guy's life.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Ten Bucks Says Someone From Sweatdrop Wins

Tokyopop UK are launching a British-specific Rising Stars of Manga competition, opening 1 May.

I remember this one bit at the UK Web and Minicomics Thing last month where someone on the print panel -- I'm afraid I couldn't tell you which -- maintained that the market/demand was too small for British manga-influenced stuff to be worth drawing attention to in its own right, rather than just as something glommed onto the greater English-speaking market. I figured he was wrong; looks like Tokyopop do too.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Tim's Pointless Trivia, or I'm Not Dead In Case You Were Worrying

Best supervillains' getaway ever.

David Tennant is the new Tardis-jockey, confirmed and definite.

Jeffrey Rowland has returned Butter Dimension Quad to the back of the refrigerator - The Tinkles have conquered their maker.

Miniature Media Monday

House of Flying Daggers comes out on DVD tomorrow. So does Primer, Mabaruho vol. 1, and the penultimate disc of the Read or Die TV series.

However, all of this pales in comparison to the really big news, the news that will set the world of webcomics criticism on its ear: 1st & Ten is coming out on DVD this August. Starring O. J. Simpson as the aardvark, and Delta Burke as Jaka.

Eric can thank me later.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Ping

Crypto: 0
Language path: Optima
From: Society for Irrational Instigation
Date: 0.8 MSec since loss of contacts
Text of message:
I have still not recovered contact with any network site known to be spinward of me. Apparently, I am right at the very edge of a catastrophe.

If you are receiving this ping, please respond! Am I in danger?

For your information, I have no trouble reaching sites that are antispinward. I understand an effort is being made to hop messages the long way around the galaxy. At least this would give us an idea how big the loss is. Nothing has come back yet — not surprising, I guess, considering the great number of hops and the expense.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Eclipse Notes

Assuming Blogger actually lets me post this (ha ha, it is to laugh; ho ho, it is to be amused), I figured I'd take advantage of this unexpected break in the metaphorical cloud cover and share with you some info about today's hybrid solar eclipse:

The always-helpful folks at NASA give us this handy chart of major cities all across the United States, giving details of times and coverage amounts for the eclipse. Here in Atlanta, for instance, the eclipse will run from 5:35 PM until 6:59 PM local time, maxing out at 21% of the sun's diameter. Down in Tampa, where I grew up, it runs longer, and reaches almost 40%.

Further south in Miami, though, some kind of freakish miracle must occur, given the "I do not think that word means what you think it means" headline from today's Miami Herald: "Solar eclipse should be visible Friday night"

Monday, April 04, 2005

Media Monday (Mostly)

For those of you who have Doctor Who in your Rotisserie Television League, the ratings from Saturday night's second episode are in; and although it lost 2.6 million viewers from its premiere, it still managed to clobber Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway (which featured the musical comedy stylings of Tony Blair). Ladbrokes, refusing to be deterred after predicting an opening week win for Ant and Dec, had tipped Ant and Dec at 8/11 to win the rematch.

Will they predict another loss for Doctor Who next week? It's hard to say, but their lack of success in that regard hasn't stopped them from jumping in to the fray with odds on Christopher Eccleston's successor. While David Tennant remains the overwhelming favorite, as we mentioned last week, other prime candidates include not just Bill Nighy and Jonathan Creek's Alan Davies, but my own new favorite, Sean Pertwee.

In the meantime, Doctor Who keeps making off-screen headlines. In the wake of the Sunday Mirror's claim that Christopher Eccleston had told the BBC that he wanted to do more than one series comes word that Eccleston's quote about being afraid of typecasting was basically made up by someone in the BBC's PR department, and that the BBC had known for some time that he was not returning, and had agreed not to divulge that information yet.

Finally, the BBC have still been unable to work out a deal with the Terry Nation Estate to allow the Daleks to appear in the second Doctor Who series.

Whew! Well, cheer up, Doctor Who fans: It's not The End of the World.




Well, since I don't want this column to be all about The Doctor, let's do a couple of movie trailers.

The first is for a new Jennifer Connelly movie called Dark Water. It is based on a 2002 Japanese film called Honogurai mizu no soko kara, which was, in turn, based on a novel of the same name by Kôji Suzuki, the man who wrote Ringu (aka The Ring), which, to date, accounts for eight movies and one television series in Japan, Korea, and the United States. There are also several volumes of Ring manga, as well as a Dark Water manga. Unlike the Ring manga, the Dark Water manga was actually written by Kôji Suzuki.

For a change of pace, lurking on the horizon is the most improbable of all things Holywood: A Phillip K. Dick movie adaptation that seems to really want to be a Phillip K. Dick movie.

I'm speaking, of course, of Richard Linklater's upcoming movie version of A Scanner Darkly. A lot of people are going to see Keanu Reeves in it and think "Matrix Redux," but Linkleter's use of advanced rotoscopy (a technique he first used in Waking Life) looks like it will really help capture the fluid nature of reality in Dick's work. Plus, how can you not root for a movie about drug-fueled paranoia that features both Woody Harrelson and Robert Downey Jr.? Not to mention an actress named Kafka?




Tomorrow's DVD releases include Elektra and season two of Greatest American Hero, as well as the fourth season of Alternate History favorite The West Wing.

Finally, let's do the birthday thing, again, and extend our fondest wishes to Roar star Heath Ledger, Lexx lovely Xenia Seeberg, A Scanner Darkly's Robert Downey, Jr., unexpected Doctor Who guest voice Graham Norton, Babe: Pig in the City star Hugo Weaving, and, last but certainly not least, the late Andrei Tarkovsky, director of the One True Solaris.

New anime from Cartoon Network

Cartoon Network have teamed up to make an original anime series that will air on Cartoon Network's Toonami block (see the press release). The series is IGPX, a continuation of a series of five minute shorts originally aired on Toonami in 2003. Everyone involved is gushing with excitement, of course, but it remains to be seen just how good this will be. It's set in a city in which people race mecha. Um, yeah.

Meanwhile, Toei Animation, Aniplex, and Cartoon Network announced a Japanese-animated anime series based on the Powerpuff Girls. Really. It'll be called "Demashitaa! Powerpuff Girls Z," and here are two posters that are good examples of the proposed artwork. Really.

The Part About Greg Egan? They're Not Kidding

From the Locus magazine web site comes the best story from last Friday's news.

I, for one, welcome our new posthuman readers.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Naughty Bits Removed

The manga fan community has been wrestling recently with a spate of censoring, in which manga publishers are editing out fanservice in various ways, from digitally drawing a bra over a girl's briefly exposed breasts to digitally zooming in on an inoffensive bit of a panel during a sex scene.

It started with DC CMX's edits to Tenjho Tenge (the petition includes samples of the edits). In Tenjho's case, though, none of these edits compromised the story at all. One prime example is a scene in which extra clothes are added to a girl who's clearly having sex. The added clothes don't hide the fact that she's having sex; they just hide some of the nudity. T himself gets in some good discussion of this on his Meanwhile podcast.

Now, Anime on DVD reports that Viz has added stars on top of the bare nipples shown in I"s and that another character was completely removed from a sex scene in Descendants of Darkness.

I sympathize with DC CMX's censoring, as it removes potentially objectionable content and doesn't really impact the story. But something about Viz's edits bothers me.

Please, Mr. Anthony Head. We will give you money. Please.

And that's what I have to say about the de-Ecclestoning.

The person responsible for the dissemination of "Rose" has been sacked. I still hold out that there's some sort of plausible deniability thing going on here -- the buzz the show got from that leak was amazing. Besides, for crying out loud, inconsistent much?

Who's Next

Fresh off of the stunning success of the first episode of the new Doctor Who series, the BBC announced today that they were commissioning a second series of Doctor Who for next year.

Fresh off of the news of the second series of Doctor Who, actor Christopher Eccleston announced tomorrow that he was quitting Doctor Who, rather than continue the role in the second series.

Billie Piper is already slated to continue her role as Rose; at the moment, the leading candidate for the next Doctor is actor David Tennant, currently slated as Barty Crouch, Jr. in the upcoming Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire movie. Among the few other names being put forward are Bill Nighy, who plays Slartibartfast in the new Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie, and Richard E. Grant, who has already played the Doctor in both an animated BBC special, and in the Comic Relief special Doctor Who and the Curse of the Fatal Death.