Thursday, December 31, 2009

Orbus Stuff.

Thank you 'Walker of Worlds'!

Definitely the best space opera released this year and a superb finale to the Spatterjay series. Neal brings all his usual flair and unique aliens to the mix in what can only be described as one of his finest novels to date.


Also The Gabble is in the top ten on Next Read...

I’ve decided this is my ideal form of a short story collection. Like A Touch of Dead (but in a completely differently league) This collects together stories set in the Polity universe. I found it a wonderful introduction to both Neal Asher and the Polity. I am now a firm fan of Gabbleducks and think that you should be too.

Books books books

Just done a massive sort-out of my own books up in the loft. All sorts of things coming to light: trade paperback Night Shade editions of Cowl; Book Club (USA) editions of Brass Man, Gridlinked, The Skinner; plenty of 1st edition mass-market paperbacks of all my latest books, a quantity of 1st editionn hardbacks (USA) of Gridlinked & The Skinner... I've also noticed odd things, like I never received my copies of the mass-market paperback of The Gabble from Macmillan.

Very shortly I'll be putting a list of those books up here, so if anyone wants copies of them, signed, they can get in contact. It'll be cover price plus postage.

Don Hasmat Suit and Jump in!

I’ve been sampling around the Internet from articles, essays and rants on the subject of the ‘death of SF’ and ‘relevant issues’. Some interesting points raised but, good grief. Apparently SF must do something, it must re-invent itself, update itself and, wait for it, it must become more socially relevant. Apparently it is conservative, racist and sexist, runs away from present science and pitches itself into the far future to escape that (?), it’s behind the curve, only highlights present ‘issues’ by visualising dystopian crashes resulting from them … on and on.

Bollocks. Science fiction is updating itself continuously. Neuromancer is a case in point (as de Vries pointed out), bringing things up to date and thereafter incorporated. Nanotech is in the fold, so is biotechnology, quantum mechanics, brane theory … in fact point at any present day science or technology and an avid SF reader will be able to point at a book in which it is included or extrapolated. Science fiction isn’t running away from present day science (hard) but leaping to a future where that science isn’t the territory of a few experts, some learned journals or struggling from the laboratory, but out in the real (or unreal) world.

There’s also the danger here of chucking out the baby with the bathwater. To be more relevant should SF, as some seem to think, discard its own history? Why should old ideas become less relevant? Arthur C Clarke wrote a paper once about satellite communications, but that’s so old, let’s get rid of it and start polishing up the new shiny thing. We should dump the lasers too, and someone needs to tell Boeing to stop shooting UAVs out of the sky with them. Spaceships, they gotta go, are you listening Branson?

But the rest, outside of real science in my terms but in the territory of ‘soft’ science in others is that ‘social relevance’. Nothing new then. Just another New Wave slopping on the beach to deposit its flotsam of liberal guilt, its need to shove away real science and get deep into humanities man. Having an interest in hard science, a preference for sensawunda and a stonking good story is conservative, apparently. Telling a story without sufficient sexual or racial diversity is sexist or racist, except, if your main character is a black woman and you’re a white male writer, you’ll get pilloried for that too. (Oh, and apparently SF awards need more positive discrimination. Call me old fashioned, but I always thought awards should be given on the basis of the product, not the colour or sex of the producer. To positively discriminate is hugely patronising and is sexist and racist in itself.)

Damn, every single point in all these debates (just like the death of SF itself) has been bludgeoned into insensibility over forty or fifty years. Do they serve any purpose, do they help to inject new life? Usually each essay, article or rant is just the vehicle of the prejudices of the writer concerned (like here) but, applying Sturgeon’s Law, something of interest or use can be found, you just need to put on your hasmat suit to go and find it.  

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

An Evening with Ray Bradbury 2001

This is good stuff.

More on that Premature Autopsy on the Corpse of SF.

In the comments to a previous post in which I deride those who keep on telling us SF is dying, Jetse de Vries notes from the bestseller list of 2008:

…basically *one* SF novel in the top 100 (and it barely scraped in), and 5 in total in the top 150. Two of those by very well-established authors (Stephenson and Card), three of those media tie-ins. Fantasy? Already starting with Stephenie Meyer at number 3... Make no mistake: fantasy is selling better than SF, *much* better. Look at the 2010 catalogs of genre publishers, from Tor to Pyr: all predominantly fantasy titles.

I have one little problem with this and with others, like Mark Charan, who make a comparison between fantasy and science fiction sales, or cite science fiction’s proportion of the market, as proof that science fiction is in decline, dying, whatever. Why do they assume it’s a zero sum game? Why do they make the illogical leap that because fantasy is selling well science fiction must be doing badly? Do people assume that because sales of teen vampire books are on the increase, thriller sales are decreasing?

I guess what you really need to do is get data on year on year sales of SF back over six decades and plot trends. You’ll probably find all sorts of lulls and highs, so would have to be careful about making assumptions upon seeing a present upward or downward trend. Possibly science fiction sales have never been as good as they were in the Golden Age, but are they worse than they were 20 or 30 years ago? Maybe someone could put together a computer model to check all this out, in fact, I know just the guys who could do this, and give you whatever answer you wanted.

Nation -- Terry Pratchett

Another excellent book from Mr Pratchett. As most readers of Pratchett will be aware, this is not one of his Discworld books, but of course he couldn’t resist injecting a touch of the fantastic. It seems as if he started out with all good intentions then by chapter two just couldn’t resist sticking in one of his footnotes – this one about a tree-climbing octopus, then later on we get the sail-fin crocodile. The fantastical elements are quite sparse, however, on a parallel Earth where Moby Dick is a true story and where the weight of history, of the dead Grandfathers, has power to affect the present … or maybe not.

If you like Terry Pratchett’s stuff you’ve probably already bought this. If you don’t get it, then possibly not, though this one is perhaps the one in which you will ‘get it’. There’s wry humour here and, as always, wisdom. And if you haven’t heard of Pratchett I have to wonder what cave you’ve been living in for the last 30 years.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Day of the Triffids (again).

Yes, it’s yet another remake…

The triffids, apparently, are a source of fuel to supplant fossil fuels and have thus saved us from global warming. We get some thankfully understated lectures about how we fucked up the environment, with the implication that we’re getting what we deserve. This of course glosses over the fact that the disaster is due to a stellar event blinding most of the population. Maybe the ozone hole we created let the light in?

Next episode we can look forward to the hero of the hour uttering the immortal line, “Mother nature is reclaiming the planet”. Doubtless this will all end with homilies about how we should adopt a communal socialist agrarian lifestyle, sit around supping cabbage soup and farting out the tune of the Red Flag … but I’ll withhold full judgement until I’ve seen the second part.


Well, it didn’t end with the homilies but it was seriously bad. Yes, I said, this stranger appearing out of the night is going to turn out to be the hero’s dad. Why did that girl shoot at our hero, did he look like a triffid? Ah, reunion between hero and female lead, oh good grief, they’re dancing to an old gramophone record. Now the hero will have to go off on some silly mission to collect the head of a male triffid. Oops, that just got well telegraphed: the dad’s a gonner. Nope, they haven’t left that place yet because they’ve got to hang about waiting for a final confrontation with the bad guy. Ah, so pouring triffid poison into your eyes through an old African wooden mask makes triffids ignore you? That makes sense … not. And of course, the bad guy must get his just desserts from a triffid.

Lots of spoilers here, but then this – as Caroline described it – great pile of poo couldn’t really be spoiled. It was all over the place, disjointed rubbish that failed to suspend disbelief, and in which I felt absolutely nothing for the characters. Amazing how such a cast of very good actors simply couldn’t rescue it.

Translation Button

I do like this. Here's a bit about the Romanian translaton of Cowl, that bit translated...

Cowl is the fourth novel by British author of a scale that quickly builds an international reputation for master of SF literature. Neal Asher will be the next big name SF's.

Dominion Heliotan reigns in our solar system. Cowl, heliotanilor worst enemy, being created by forced progress Artificial escaped - while, in the past.Running to save lives, Polly gets up and dragged her in the past. Tack discovers that her cruel pursuers snippet tor, which he implanted in wrist wear is the only bonus in the eyes of mysterious heliotani. And his journey in the universe has just begun their destructive ...

Cowl's pet, beast-tor is growing and becoming more dangerous.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Hypochondriac Science Fiction.

If you have a preoccupying fear of having a serious illness you most likely suffer from hypochondria or hypochondriasis. A person with hypochondria continues thinking he is seriously ill despite appropriate medical evaluations and reassurances that his health is fine.

When I noted in my final point of the previous little rant, I'm betting there was some plonker declaring the death of SF the moment Sputnik beeped or just after Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon, I hadn’t checked, but it’s nice to be proven right.

First comes a link from Gary Farber:  

Who Killed Science Fiction? won the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine in 1961. The Fifties were rife with talk about the death of science fiction, and Earl Kemp's symposia of so many sf pros and prominent fans summed it all up.

And over at Asimov’s Dave Truesdale comes up with:

"Anthony Boucher (co-founder of F&SF, with J. Francis McComas), in his introduction to the classic A Treasury of Great Science Fiction , explains it this way (remember that the then USSR had successfully launched Sputnik into orbit on October 4, 1957, and the Space Race had just begun):

"When man entered the Space Age two years ago, the writers and editors of science fiction, who had so long been living in this new age, hoped for a fresh surge of reader interest, an expression of gratitude for accurate prophecy in the past and of interest in the possible accuracy of other, as yet unfulfilled prophecies.

"It seemed a logical enough expectation, but it was a fallacious one. The new readers did not arrive—to some extent, at least, because they were put off by the cry of the press (never happier than when it can claim a miracle and coin a cliché): 'Science has caught up with science fiction!'"

. . . "But facts are impotent against loud and frequent assertion. Readers believe that science has 'caught up'; and somehow the very fact of s.f.'s accurate prophecies turns into a weapon against it, as if a literature of prophecy should become outmoded the instant one of its predictions was fulfilled."

Note that in full context, Boucher was not claiming that SF was a literature of prediction, only that sometimes it turned out that way.

Why the hypochondria? Probably because there are those who love science fiction so much that the thought of it dying terrifies them, and they must continually prod and poke it to check its health. The mere fact that debates like this kick off and elicit so much of a response demonstrates that science fiction is in rude health.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Death of Science Fiction (Again).

Oh, good grief, there it is again. On Facebook I followed links posted by Jetse de Vries, to yet another essay about the terminal decline of SF. This on top of another article a while back by Mark Charan Newton about ‘why SF is dying and fantasy is the future’ (no vested interest then from this fantasy writer) and lots of articles related to that, and now, if you search with the words ‘science fiction is dying’ you get numerous hits.

I do get heartily sick of all this effort to stick head-up-own-backside to examine one’s navel from the inside. I started reading SFF over thirty years ago, but it wasn’t until I got involved with the small presses, started finding out about organisations like the BSFA and the BFS, and started reading various magazines, that I discovered that SF seems to have a parasite literature attached to it. Whole swathes of self-styled academics pontificate about the meaning of it all, they wank off into deep critical analysis of stories and books – my first close encounter with this was discovering a review of Mason’s Rats that was about twice the length of the story itself – have lengthy discussions about ‘issues’ in SF and speak with all seriousness about gender divides in genre, the lack of representation of homosexuals, the implicit racism in something like Starship Troopers. Really, if you can be bothered to read all through these highly ‘intelligent’ waffles, the only response upon finishing the last line is to point and giggle.

And an old favourite in this rarified atmosphere is ‘the death of SF’ (or fantasy, or the short story, whatever). It surfaces with the almost metronic regularity of a dead fish at the tide line (stirred up, no-doubt, by some ‘new wave'). SF isn't dying, it hasn’t been ill, and frequent terminal diagnoses often see the undertaker clutching a handful of nails and a hammer and scratching his head over an empty coffin. However, discussions about this demise have been resurrecting themselves in only slightly altered form since I first read 'about' SF rather than SF itself. I'm betting there was some plonker declaring the death of SF the moment Sputnik beeped or just after Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon. Really, the whole pointless staggering debate needs a nice fat stake driven through its heart.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Art Competition (ReConditioned??)

I going to start a new art competition very soon. Any suggestions on how to run it? Like where pictures can be uploaded to and the like? I don't want to publish my email (though anyone with a bit of common sense should be able to work it out) and I don't want to lose track of what is submitted. Ideas please!

Oh and


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Vaude Part II

Here's some more of Vaude's collection:

Vaude's Collection.

Now what do we have here ... some seriously antique Edgar Rice Burroughs certainly:

Buzz Aldrin

On Facebook I got a message from one Geoffrey Utley, Yorkshire man who moved to Texas in 1979 for 2 years and stayed there. I found it fascinating, and maybe you will too:

Do you have a scientific background? The the science in your books seems "plausible" by the way. I was on a flight from NYC to Dallas the other day and Buzz Aldrin was sitting across from me in First Class. That was a huge thrill. I was re-reading Gridlinked at the time, and I thought about the beginning of space travel to a possible future. (I was reading it on a Kindle!)

My reply to that was:

Hi Geoffrey,
No I don't have a scientific background. The nearest I've come to it in my career was a proper job in engineering. I was raised by a father who was a lecturer in applied mathematics and a schoolteacher mother, so grew up with microscopes, chemistry sets etc, and the best thing any parent can teach a child: how to think, be analytical, and a love of learning. Everything else comes from my heavy science fiction and science reading, and an undiminished interest in both.

I also asked him if I could copy his comments to here and was just going to leave it at the one. However, I like this next bit too:

"Returning from the NE Regional Meeting, flying from LaGuardia , NY, I found myself sitting across the aisle from Buzz Aldrin and his wife. There may be a couple of you who have to "google" his name. To me, it was the equivalent of being in proximity to Mickey Mantle, or Muhammmed Ali.

Buzz Aldrin was the second human being to step foot on the Moon. Along with many other honors, he and the other crewmen were given a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan and awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

I thought to myself, he was second, so is that like a silver medal in the Olympics, or only winning $100 million in the lottery instead of $250 million? Of course not, he and Neil Armstrong landed on the moon at the same time, but Armstrong as the commander was ordered by NASA to be the first.

I remembered going to my friend's house in the summer of 1969 in Yorkshire, England . I was not old enough to drive, so I was allowed by my parents to ride my 5 speed to my friend Phil's house to watch the lunar landing. This was unusual because when they landed, it was primetime in the USA , but about 4am in England. All the usual rules were suspended about riding my bike in the dark, and streets that were usually deserted had life and light.

We watched the fuzzy images on a black and white television, listening to England's equivalent to Walter Cronkite, Richard Dimbleby. We heard the "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," and were still not able to relax, because of course, they had to come home. "Home," being the Earth.

I keep stealing glances across the aisle, to watch an immaculately dressed man, looking like the retired CEO of a Fortune 100 company. I noticed he wore two very expensive looking wrist watches on his left and right wrists and wondered what time he kept them set-on. Eastern and Lunar maybe? The Captain and the First officer came out of the cockpit, (at separate times), to shake his hand, as discreetly as possible. I thought about the chances that 41 years after the fact, I was sitting close to the man I had seen step foot on our closest neighbour in the solar system. I thought about the fact that the device I'm typing this on had more computing power than a combination of all the computers on all the Moon missions' vehicles. I thought about the bravery of his wife, who had to watch and wait.

I thought about the challenges we have in front of us and how insignificant they are compared to what they achieved with slide rules and graph paper."

Damned right. And, really, how did we lose our way?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Green Man Review.

Cat Eldridge over at Green Man Review certainly seems to have enjoyed Orbus:

Now imagine fighting a Prador armed to, errr, its mandibles. Not a pleasant idea is it? It gets worse. Without giving away anything (or at least not too much), consider that there is something even worse than the strongest Prador. Much worse. And that being is manipulating the entire Prador race here in an attempt to make sure what that being wants to happen will happen. Throw in extremely deadly military hardware that can literally destroy planets if need be, thousand year-old post-humans who are perhaps more alien than the Prador are, and a well-armed military drone with its own agenda. This ain't state of the art space opera of thirty years ago, or even a decade ago -- it's perhaps the best space opera I've ever read, and that's saying a lot as I've read space opera for over thirty years now.

Thanks Cat!

Neal Asher Video Clip (2) 20/12/09

Here's the second half.

Neal Asher Video Clip (1) 20/12/09

Ah, I've managed to divide the video clip into two. Here's the first part.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Video Clip

Bugger, only after attempting to upload it to You Tube did I find out that clips are limited to 10 minutes on there. Now trying to find out how to edit it...

Czech Interview

Here's an old interview I did for a Czech magazine or website (can't remember which).

1. You started to write more than 20 years ago, but till 2001 you published only short stories in small press magazines or novellas in rather obscure publishing houses. Since 2001 – and Gridlinked – you have published a new novel every year and now you are in the process of writing the 7th novel. Can you explain the turning point? What has changed more: you and your style or the audience?

I reached my present position by climbing the writing ladder one rung at a time with people stepping on my fingers. I wasn’t published at all for many years, then I had a few short stories published, advanced to novellas and collections and finally to Macmillan. About twenty years ago I completed a fantasy novel and ever after I was sending synopses and sample chapters to large publishers (and writing more books). The turning point was a combination of luck and the skills I’ve learnt. By the time I sent a synopsis to Macmillan there had been a resurgence of interest in science fiction, I had attained a fairly high level of professionalism, and when I sent in my synopsis it was accompanied by excellent reviews of my small press work. The timing was just right, since Peter Lavery at Macmillan was looking for SF & fantasy writers to increase his list. Perhaps a review of The Engineer from the national magazine SFX, which I put on top of they synopsis and sample chapters (of Gridlinked) helped, as did the website I had created which put on display all my other work.

I reckon they continue offering me contracts is because I have learned how to produce and keep on producing, and because my stuff sells. Gridlinked was 65,000 words long when I first submitted it and I extended it to 135,000 in a couple of months (they were worried about this, but upon reading it decided the new version was better than the old); I did the same thing with The Skinner; and all my other books have been submitted early.

Why does my work sell? I suspect the readership has always been there, but that publishers go through fashions. In the 70s and 80s the fashion was for horror, big fantasy, and that the only SF available was dismal dystopian crap. Maybe it’s simply the case that new technologies have brought down the cost of smaller print runs and publishers can now afford to cater for niche markets.

2. You use quite a lot of violence in your books. Or perhaps I should say it better this way: You are able to make up amazing, hard-to-beat- villains and monsters. Where do you find the inspiration for them? Have you read – and enjoyed – Harry Harrison's Deathworld series?

I did read and enjoy Harry Harrison’s Deathworld series (in fact the man himself asked me that), but as I say in the acknowledgements in The Skinner: ‘Thanks to all those excellent people whose names stretch from Aldiss to Zelazny’. In my early teens I started off with Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tolkien, E C Tubb, C S Lewis and have been an SF and fantasy junky ever since, which is not to say that’s all I read. Maybe my characters are inspired by the many thousands of books I’ve read, the films I’ve watched – I could never say for certain. As for my monsters: I’ve always had a great fascination for biology (present and prehistoric) and for monsters in general (I was drawing them as a child at school while everyone else was drawing flowers in plantpots). I always try to make my monsters biologically plausible and create an ecology into which they fit – it’s all part of the enjoyable world-building aspect of SF.

3. Most of your novels take place in one universe, invented by you. The Czech readers have their first chance to disclose this universe in The Skinner, your second novel. What can they expect to find?

To the Line planet Spatterjay come three travellers: Janer brings the eyes of a Hive mind; Erlin comes to find Ambel – the ancient sea captain who can teach her to live; and Sable Keech is a man with a vendetta he will not give up, though he has been dead for seven hundred years.

The world is mostly ocean, where all but a few visitors from the Human Polity remain safely in the island Dome. Outside, the native quasi-immortal hoopers risk the voracious appetite of the planet’s fauna. Somewhere out there is Spatterjay Hoop himself, and monitor Keech will not rest until he can bring this legendary renegade to justice - for hideous crimes commited centuries ago during the Prador Wars.

Keech does not know is that while Hoop's body roams free on an island wilderness, his living head is confined in a box on board one of the old captain's ships. Janer, the eternal tourist, is bewildered by this place where sails speak and the people just will not die, but his bewilderment turns to anger when he learns the agenda of the Hive mind. Erlin thinks she has all the time she will ever need to find the answers she requires, and could not be more wrong. And so these three travel and search, not knowing that one of the brutal Prador is about to pay a surreptitious visit, intent on exterminating witnesses to wartime atrocities, nor do they know how terrible is the price of immortality on Spatterjay.

As the fortunes of the recent arrivals unwittingly converge, a major hell is about to erupt in this chaotic waterscape ... where minor hell is already a remorseless fact of everyday life – and death.

4. Your books from the Polity universe have two main characters, a monitor Sable Keech and an agent Ian Cormac. They are both the good guys, fighting for ESC. Is it possible for them to meet in some of your works? And on the same side?

I’ve recently been working out the chronology of my books and what you say is entirely possible. Sable Keech is killed then reified about seventy-five years before the events of Gridlinked. The events of The Skinner then take place seven hundred years after his death. This basically means that Keech, reified (a high-tech zombie), is about in the Polity universe while the events in Gridlinked and subsequent Cormac books take place. Also, if Cormac survives his present trials, he may meet up with Keech some time in the future. Remember, these people do not die of old age!

5. You are considered to be one of the writers of so called New Space Opera, which – in my opinion – succeeded in giving a new push, new blood, to the SF genre, at least in the 1st decade of the new millenium. Can you compare the original space opera and the new one?

Nothing gets out of date quite so fast as science fiction, simply because it has to keep up with, and look ahead of, current science and technology (how many of those old writers predicted the personal computer, the Internet?). I read stuff like E E Doc Smith’s Skylark of Space series and enjoyed it thoroughly at the time, but now, picking up books like that and reading about an astrogator working something out on a slide rule just kills that ‘suspension of disbelief’ on which all space opera (and all SF) depends. I also think many of the older space operas were written in a time of greater naivety too. The characters and storylines now possess a harder edge; a greater understanding on the part of the author of how human beings, political systems, ecologies and much else actually operate. I now only read the old stuff out of nostalgia, and admiration of the story-telling skills of the writer concerned.

6. One of the most influential NSO writers seems to be Alastair Reynolds, whose novels started to be published one year sooner than yours. You use some similar methods and properties, such as "melding plague" and "nanomycelium". Has it ever happen that some reviever used these similarities against you?

I briefly talked to Alastair Reynolds about this. I’d written my first three books before I even picked up one of his (which I thoroughly enjoyed). I think it comes down to the fact that some ideas have their time. All SF is built upon what went before and what is currently being explored by scientists. Ideas concerning nanotechnology have been knocking around for decades and many SF writers are picking them up and using them. It is unsurprising that, as a result, those writers will come up with scenarios similar to each other’s. Though I think I’m right in saying that, because of my biological interests (specifically in fungi) I was probably the first to come up with nanomycelia. No reviewers have yet accused me of plagiarism. I’m not too bothered if they do because I can always prove them wrong. Jain technology, for example, appeared in my short story collection The Engineer in 1998, and my first nanomycelium story appeared in a magazine called Premonitions in 1992.

7. In the Line of Polity, your third novel, the force of evil is theocracy. Other than that, you do not use religion in your books too much. Was there some other reason for it except the one that you just needed some bad guys?

I take the view that as individual knowledge and access to information increases, primitive belief systems will continue to collapse. I don’t see how our beliefs in parochial gods will survive us encountering, in the future, the vastness of space and the further revelations of science. The Theocracy was a one-off created by special circumstances. And yes: I needed some bad guys.

8. On your webpage you posted samples of your fantasy novels – unpublished yet – that you wrote some years ago. Have you some plans with them? Do you think they may be interesting for the Czech readers?

One day I intend to rewrite those fantasy novels and offer them for publication, but at present I’m heavily involved in the Polity universe and will keep on writing novels set in it while Macmillan continues offering me contracts. I like to think the fantasy novels would be of interest to many readers and did want to give myself a breathing space so I could turn my attention to them, to a contemporary novel I wrote some time ago, to my TV scripts, but that seems increasingly unlikely. One book a year for Macmillan may soon be changing to one book every nine months, I’ve got short stories and novellas I need to write because I already have a market for them ... so much to do and so little time.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Here's an interview with me over at The Book Depository.

Here's another one over at Next Read.

There was another one I did recently but I can't find it. These things tend to get a little samey anyway.

Monday, December 14, 2009

C is Cherryh and Clarke

And another one with a books missing. Where the hell is my copy of Wyrms by Orson Scott Card? I think that's probably the best book of his I've read.







































Friday, December 11, 2009

2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984) - 9/12

One of the best scenes in a science fiction film ever.


Now this looks like it has possibilities -- sent to me by Phil Edwards over at Live for Films. Check out Phil's interview with the writer Mike Sizemore.

Slingers is set in the year 2960 A.D., following mankind’s first interplanetary war. Humanity is now clustered into a finite, but still vast section of the universe known as Enclosed Space. Humanity won the war with an aggressive alien enemy, but at a cost. The way back to Earth is now cut off by an impassable barrier – a side effect of the blast that finally pushed the enemy back.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


With a growing feeling of disappointment I watched Sunshine last night. Certainly there were some superb effects, though with a distinctly Kubrik 2001 retro feel, but that was about all. I somewhat doubt that the crew would have been the best choice to save the entire human race, but was prepared to let that go. I couldn’t, however, sufficiently suspend disbelief to accept a fusion bomb the ‘size of Manhattan Island’ would boost the sun’s output. The sun is a massive fusion reaction and dropping such a bomb would be equivalent to boosting a fire the size of Jupiter by dropping a lit match into it.

Other problems too: a guy caught out on the shield protecting the ship from the sun is burnt up in a tsunami of fire … erm what exactly was burning? The crew also began to run out of oxygen, apparently, whilst occupying a ship whose interior seemed the equivalent to a number of Albert Halls. Then, rather than continue a story of humans vs the hostile reality of space – which really could have worked – the whole thing lapsed into an Alien aping cop-out.

Really, there was no need to have a nutter creeping around offing the crew – the groundwork had already be laid for some serious moral quandaries and killings threafter. And really, adding camera distortions on top of film taken by a cameraman apparently suffering from delirium tremens adds nothing, just makes the whole viewing process irritating.

Here was a film that couldn’t make up its mind whether it was 2001 or Alien, and ended up being neither them, nor what it could have been.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Spaceship Two

Here, some more of that contemptible sci-fi nonsense turning into reality:

On Monday 7th December Virgin Galactic unveiled SpaceShipTwo to the world at Mojave Spaceport, California. 800 press, future astronauts and VIP guests gathered in the desert for a press conference and to view the roll out of the world’s first commercial spaceline.


-->So, we have solar storms stirring up the sun and knocking out electrical equipment here on Earth; the MOD satellite set to watch this activity is downloading image files from the future, offering clues to future crimes or disasters; we have debates about predestination, about the consequences of tampering with the timeline; we have speculation about where this information is coming from, like via a black hole, or god, and all this is wrapped up in an exciting police procedural. But it’s not science fiction apparently, well, according to Tamzin Outhwaite:

"Initially I thought it was a sci-fi project. Then I read the script and realised it wasn't. It's about police officers trying to work out whether there is a worm hole between two time zones."

Ahem, a ‘worm-hole between two time zones’, need I go on? It’s always been fairly plain that many of the good people in the acting profession are a bit thick, but this one is right up there with a certain large comedienne’s statement, during a program about ‘the 100 best books’ that she doesn’t like science fiction, thereafter listing her favourites, like 1984. SFX notes that Tamzin Outhwaite ‘joins an esteemed list of actors in abject self-denial about appearing in sci-fi’ and doubtless David Langford will have something to say about this in his next Ansible (well-worth getting by email).

From my dictionary:

Paradox 1. a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement...

You gotta chuckle.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Science Fiction is Dying.

Interesting article here from Mark Charan Newton:

"There is no Schadenfreude; I take no pleasure in holding this viewpoint: the Science Fiction genre is dying.

Don’t spit your coffee at the computer screen just yet. I’m talking predominantly in terms of sales over time. I know all you belle-lettristic types don’t like to think about anything but Art, but units-shifted is a factor that matters. It is what shapes the literature industry."

I couldn't help but wonder how many similar articles came out at the time, some decades ago, when the shelves were seemingly wholly populated by horror books with generic black covers. So often I've heard the claim that science fiction is dying, or dead but, every time, an attempt to nail down the coffin lid fails.

Fantasy & Science Fiction

I'm currently reading The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction edited by Gordon Van Gelder and, thinking about this in connection with the books I've been sorting through in my loft, it's a bit of a nostalgia trip, because some of the stories are quite old. All Summer in a Day by Ray Bradbury is lyrical, enjoyable, but you can't help but titter a little at a depiction of Venus covered in jungle when we now know the reality. Later I read Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, which has to be somewhere up in the list of the best short stories I've ever read. It still chokes me up a little even after all this time.

But short stories. If anyone here wants to read some superb short SF stories, if there is one short story collection I would recommend way above any other, then that has to be Stories of your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. I've mentioned it before - brilliant collection.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Some Bits...

Nice little review of The Gabble over here at the Falcata Times.

"No one does monsters better than Neal Asher, so be prepared to revisit the lives and lifestyles of such favourites as the gabbleduck and the hooder, to savour alien poisons, the walking dead, the Sea of Death, and the putrefactor symbiont."

And a very strange choice of title for a article/essay over here.

Margaret Atwood Steals The Bread From Neal Asher’s Mouth

I noted in the comments that I need to lose weight anyway???

B is Blish, Banks & Butler.

Here’s the ‘B’ section from my SFF collection. I’m a little bit annoyed upon having gone through this lot. One of my very favourite books is missing: Half-Past Human by T J Bass. Doubtless I loaned it to someone and that someone hasn’t bothered to return it.