Showing posts with label SF Signal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SF Signal. Show all posts

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Answering SF Signal's Questions/Meme Regarding Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading/Buying Habits

A Small Glimpse at the Bookshelf

I'm a regular reader of the SF Signal blog. I think it and Blackgate blog are two of the best fandom based blogs on the internet. I am also not usually one for answering book memes, but since this one is directed at science fiction and fantasy - my two favorite genre - and since it offers plenty of room to avoid pretentious answers I'm all in. I also think that this is a list of questions that can spur on some discussion.

The questions come from John DeNardo's post earlier today.

Here’s a book meme that focuses on reading habits and buying habits.
You know the drill: Copy the questions below and paste them into the comments with your answers. Answer as many or as few as you’d like.
  • What was the last sf/f/h book you finished reading? David Gemmell's DARK MOON
  • What was the last sf/f/h book you did not finish reading and why? This does not happen. As a "completist," I feel a need to always finish a book. This is maybe especially true when I dislike it.
  • What was the last sf/f/h book you read that you liked but most people didn’t? This is kind of a tough question, but since it is supposedly the worst writing ever done I'll say the EYE OF ARGON. It was nowhere near as bad as I feared, and doesn't compare in syntax/creativity/spelling errors to "The Quest for the Holey Grail" that Luke Y Thompson has been reading on Topless Robot.
  • What was the last sf/f/h book you read that you disliked but most people did? The Wheel of Time series prior to Brandon Sanderson joining the team. While I may love my D&D campaigns to be a patchwork quilt of all the fiction I love - like Mystara - I'm not sure I like my fantasy epics to be.
  • How long do your 1-sitting reading sessions usually last? Depends upon the book. A short book is 2 hours a long one might be eight, but I rarely do longer than an 8 hour 1-sitting read.
  • Do you like it so far? Yes. It's the third book in the series, but it covers a good deal of Bosch's background. I was surprised to see how they integrated the plot from this book into the BOSCH pilot.
  • How long ago did you buy the book you are currently reading (or the last book you read)? About a year ago/just a couple of weeks ago.
  • What was the last physical sf/f/h book you bought? ROGUES and PROMISE OF BLOOD
  • What is the sf/f/h sub-genre you like the most and why? Sword & Sorcery. Have you read Michael Moorcock, Fritz Leiber, Garth Nix, David Gemmell, Elizabeth Moon, C.L. Moore, and James Enge? If so, you understand.
  • What is the sf/f/h sub-genre you dislike the most and why? Steampunk. It's not that I don't like the genre, it's that I don't like the classification. Too little Steampunk has any punk element at all. They all seem oddly conservative in their nostalgia and focus. There are exceptions, but as a rule I think if you are going to call yourself "punk" you ought to have punk elements. So I call it Steampulp.
  • What is your favorite electronic reading device? Kindle.
  • Do you read books exclusively in 1 format (physical/electronic)? No. I like both tablets and books for reading. 
  • Do you read eBooks exclusively on a single device (eBook reader/ smartphone / tablet)? No. I tend to avoid using the iPhone because it can cause eye strain and I don't like reading books on a laptop screen. Tablets and Kindles both work well though.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sporadic Geek Update 11-17: Jess Hartley, Matt Forbeck, and Assault Girls

Here are a couple of items that caught my eye as I wandered the internet today:

  • Jess Hartley has a good "One Geek to Another" column up today discussing "Networking and Cross-Promotion." Her site, and columns, are on my regular must read list. She is an inciteful veteran of the gaming industry who regularly shares tips for the aspiring game designer and reviewer.

  • Tulkinghorn over at "The Hungry Ghost" pointed me toward what looks to be a combination of geek awesomeness -- ASSAULT GIRLS. A live action film with Big Guns, Kick Ass Women -- some with angel wings, Giant Sand Worms, all blended together through the Anime Transmogrifier.

  • Reactor 88 has released a conceptual trailer for a film based on Matt Forbeck's excellent BRAVE NEW WORLD roleplaying game.

  • Thanks to SF Signal, I discovered who have public domain books which they have kindly translated into a number of formats...including Kindle.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Time Travel Clichés: Funny or Dull?

Thanks to John DeNardo of the ever informative SF Signal website for pointing us to the latest video by the folks over at

As DeNardo noted in his pithy post title, "Every Time Travel Cliché in 3 Minutes," the "Built a Time Machine to Kill Hitler" video by the aspiring internet comedy crew at Funkanomics is not treading much new ground when it comes to the metaphysics of time travel. To be fair, dissecting the various connotations of time paradoxes in great detail isn't the point of the video. Funkanomics are trying to give us a few laughs and build a comedic reputation online.

Do they succeed?

Is "Built a Time Machine to Kill Hitler" funny?

Watch the video for yourself before you read my thoughts. It won't be the worst 3 minutes you have experienced.

"Built a Time Machine to Kill Hitler" is certainly passable as a 3 minute sketch, and I was impressed with how natural the insertion of additional time travelers looked in the film, but it's stuck on "amusing" and doesn't quite leap into "funny." I think that the greatest flaw of the skit is its lack of depth when it comes to its subject matter. We all get the BACK TO THE FUTURE and TERMINATOR references, but I'd have liked to see some A SOUND OF THUNDER, A GUN FOR DINOSAUR, MIMZY WERE THE BOROGROVES, or TIME COP (with regard to the existence of time police) thrown in for good measure. If you're going to go for the cliché gold, you have to have at least one reference to a dinosaur and one to time police. Otherwise, you're just not doing it right.

The basic comic beats are on cue in the piece, but the writers forgot one key point -- comedy is irony. I would have loved for the last time traveler to walk on the screen to be one who says, "you were right, I didn't set my clock forward for Daylight Savings. I guess it didn't work." Then have that character look down, bewildered, as he has to help his roommate clean up the mess left by the other travelers.

All that aside, I do think the film was entertaining and I will definitely be going back to

What are your favorite Time Travel stories and clichés?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Has Science Fiction Leaving the Ghetto Meant the Beginning of a Post Sci-Fi Age? Stupid Question #3182

I have always been a Sci-Fi fan, a scifi fan, and a skiffy fan. While there is much to admire in the philosophically or politically sophisticated science fiction story, or the well-written literary SF tale, I have always liked literature that knew what its purpose was and fulfilled that purpose. The purpose of a Sci-Fi story is to entertain an audience with visions of the possible, and impossible, in an exciting and enthusiastic manner.

The Sci-Fi story doesn't spend pages upon pages describing sophisticated political systems, though there is nothing wrong in doing so in other sub-genre of Science Fiction. Instead, the Sci-Fi story uses readily recognizable archetypes as shortcuts for the audience to follow. Sci-Fi is Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Luke Skywalker, Northwest Smith, and Vic Corsaire.

One could probably get into long arguments regarding what is or isn't Sci Fi versus what is or isn't SF (literary Science Fiction), and those are fun discussions to have, but that is not the intention of this post today. Today, I am here to once again lament those who insult and deprecate Sci Fi in favor of a literary sub-genre they believe to be a far more noble pursuit. For these individuals, the ideal Science Fiction tale ought to be literary and "important." The SF story should touch on topical issues and present intelligent arguments about these issues. Such works include, but are by no means limited to, works like Asimov's Foundation, the works of H.G. Wells, Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, Huxley's Brave New World, and Iain Bank's "Culture" novels. All of which are works to be admired, and are great literature and great Science Fiction, but none of which are the be all and end all of Science Fiction. In fact, many might not stumble into these wonderful stories if they weren't first enticed by the "fluff" contained in "skiffy."

As you can tell, I am an unabashed fan of the "skiffy." My fandom was carved deeper into my soul after I attended a Forrest J. Ackerman panel at the 2005 San Diego Comic Con. There's something about sitting in a room where the audience is fewer than 20 people in the audience of like-minded fans that solidifies one's fandom. It doesn't hurt when one of them is John Landis (sitting right next to you) and he keeps elbowing you just before Forrest Ackerman's punchlines and is mouthing the words to each of Forry's stories. It was obvious that Landis had talked with Forry numerous times and that each time was magical. That kind of excitement is contagious.

All of which brings me to an article by Damien Walter at the Guardian book blog. I first got word of the book blog entry thanks to the excellent folks over at SF Signal, where they asked if the "Sci Fi" label still applied. Their answer is identical to mine, "Yes, the Sci Fi label is still important." But after reading their post, and the piece in the Guardian, I realized that a short rebuttal of Mr. Walter's blog post was insufficient as a response to Mr. Walter's post.

In the Guardian piece, Damien Walter begs the question of whether we as a popular culture are now "post sci-fi." His central thesis seems to be that "with sci-fi filling up every corner of cinema and TV and mainstream literature borrowing its ideas freely" there is no further place for the literary tradition to advance now that it has become a cultural phenomenon. His post is an articulation which might as well be renamed "The End of Sci-Fi and the Last Man."

One of Walter's key arguments is that "the walls of speculative fiction [that dread phrase -- C.L.] as a genre are quickly tumbling down. They are being demolished from within by writers such as China Miéville and Jon Courtney Grimwood, and scaled from the outside by the likes of Michael Chabon and Lev Grossman. And they are being ignored altogether by a growing number of writers with the ambition to create great fiction, and the vision to draw equally on genre and literary tradition to achieve that goal."

This is all well and good. It is even true as far as it goes, but it demonstrates (as Walter does elsewhere in the piece) a complete lack of understanding regarding the literary history of Fantastic Literature and Fantasy. What were the Iliad and the Odyssey, if not works of Fantasy or "Speculative Fiction?" What was A Midsummer-Night's Dream and The Tempest, if not Fantasy? The Faerie Queene? The Rime of the Ancient Mariner? Beowulf? The Oresteia? The Eddas? What is Mary Shelley's Frankenstein or Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward if not Science Fiction?

All of the above a great literary works, written to be great fiction, and yet all of them fit neatly within any imagined definition of Fantasy or Fantastic Fiction. True, few of them are Science Fiction qua Science Fiction, but SF is the sub-genre not the genre -- a simple fact that Walter gets horribly wrong in his piece. To quote, "yet the literary tradition that has its roots in HG Wells and Jules Verne, Edgar Allan Poe and George MacDonald, that grew through the writing of Tolkien, Lieber, Howard, Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov, and branched into the modern genres of fantasy, horror and science fiction, may have reached its fruition."

HG Wells and Jules Verne are the "roots" of the tradition? One might think of them as the branches closest to the trunk of the tree, but the roots? Is Walter serious? All the writers Walter mentioned are influenced by those works of Fantasy that predate them. One might argue that the 20th century was one where the literary world felt compelled to carve unnecessary categories into the literary landscape, categories designed to serve market interests, but one oughtn't think of 19th century writers as the root of a tradition. Don't even get me going on how one would attempt to draw a direct literary line from Wells to Howard.

It is not baffling that Walter piled Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction together, as they are both sub-genres of the Fantastic Tradition. That is true, but so is the work of Michael Chabon. Anyone who thinks Gentlemen of the Road is an attempt to scale the walls of Fantasy genre fiction from the "outside" is woefully mistaken. Gentlemen of the Road is a wonderful story in the direct tradition of Fritz Lieber, with no pretenses to being something else. It should be noted that much of the fiction of Avram Davidson is as worthy of literary consideration as that of Michael Chabon, and was as genre breaking for its day.

Just because Michael Chabon can draw from literary traditions other than the Fantastic Tradition when writing a story isn't a sign that we are in a "post sci-fi" era. It is merely a sign that Fantastic Fiction is ending a period of incestuousness where it fed off of itself for as long as it could. The fact that people are talking about the science fiction, or fantastic, elements of "literary fiction" is a sign that speculative fiction [that dread term again] is overcoming a certain stigma given it by literary critics and by "fans" who deride the fiction within their sub-genre which seeks to appeal to a wider audience.

*3182 is the number of lines in the epic poem Beowulf and his used here because of the muddled way Damien Walter articulates the lineage of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Upcoming Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Comic Book Films.

SF Signal has a post discussing upcoming SF and Fantasy films (they borrowed the list from SFFWorld) that I found interesting. I am a fan of genre films, have been since I first saw Ralph Bakshi's Lord of the Rings as a young tyke.

I liked the format that they used over at SF Signal, so I'll imitate it here and insert my own opinions. Here are my thoughts:

Aliens vs. Predator - A sequel to Alien vs. Predator by video game adaptation king Paul W.S. Anderson. The new film is directed by Greg and Colin Strause, both of whom have extensive visual effects experience.
PROS: James Cameron's Aliens turned an excellent horror film into an excellent action film. I liked Predator 2 more than Predator, though I liked the Governator's film just fine. AVP was fun; it had an Aztec style pyramid buried in Antarctica which is very high concept Lovecraftian (think Mountains of Madness).
CONS: While Paul W.S. Anderson's film can be hit or miss, the films in the franchises he works on that he doesn't direct tend to be awful. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation battles with Street Fighter for worst video game film ever, in my opinion. And as much as I like the 2nd Unit work of Alexander Witt, his Resident Evil: Apocalypse...not so much.
BOTTOM LINE: I'll pass.

30 Days of Night - SF Signal described this as, "A vampire movie based on the graphic novel." I hate it when people describe things based on COMIC BOOKS, in this case a 3 issue mini-series, as based on "a graphic novel." Yes, 30 Days of Night has been collected into TRADE PAPERBACK, but that does not a graphic novel make. To quote scribe Steve Niles description: " In a sleepy, secluded Alaska town called Barrow, the sun sets and doesn't rise for over thirty consecutive days and nights. From the darkness, across the frozen wasteland, an evil will come that will bring the residents of Barrow to their kness. The only hope for the town is the Sheriff and Deputy, a husband and wife who are torn between their own survival and saving the town they love."
PROS: I loved the comic and have liked the movies that Sam Raimi has produced. Yes, I even like Boogeyman...a lot.
CONS: Josh Hartnett.
BOTTOM LINE: A great comic based on a very good high concept premise, which has the requisite "Steven King-ish" small town Sheriff, should be a good romp.

Bubba Nosferatu: Curse of the She Vampires
- Bruce Campbell reprises his role as an elderly Elvis Presley in this sequel to Bubba Ho-Tep.
PROS: Funny high concept premise and Bruce Cambell.
CONS: While I liked the premise of Bubba Ho-Tep, and did laugh at times, watching a Joe Lansdale tale told at Jim Jarmusch speed by the director of Beastmaster didn't work for me. Any of those three elements alone usually is enough for me. Joe Lansdale? Like him, check. Jim Jarmusch? Quirky...good...check. Beastmaster? I used to watch this so often my parents called HBO "Hey Beastmaster's On."
BOTTOM LINE: Like John at SF Signal, I will watch anything with Bruce Campbell. It has often paid off to base my viewing on that criteria alone.

The Dark is Rising - A classic Newberry Award winning Fantasy story by Susan Cooper.
PROS: The film is based on a strong property and the current trend of Fantasy films performing in the Box Office means this will likely get an appropriate budget. IAN MCSHANE.
CONS: Are they really going to give this the budget/attention it deserves or is it going to be one of those films that begins the downfall of the current positive trend in fantasy films.
BOTTOM LINE: I am so there.

The Dark Knight - The sequel to Batman Begins.
PROS: Everything.
CONS: Nothing.
BOTTOM LINE: I watched the Schumacher Batman movies. I watched the Justice League Pilot Episode. Does it feature DC Comics characters? I'll watch it if it does.

Enchanted - A classic Disney fairy tale collides with modern-day New York City.
PROS: Live action version of a post-modern look at the traditional fairy tale, starring Amy "Ricky Bobby is not a thinker" Adams.
CONS: Live action version of a post-modern look at the traditional fairy tale, starring James "Cyclops" Marsden.
BOTTOM LINE: Could be great, could stink.

G.I. Joe - Live action version of the 80s cartoon.
PROS: Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Scarlett, and Baroness.
CONS: Written by the screenwriter of Swordfish and currently undergoing rewrites.
BOTTOM LINE: This is slated for 2010! Why am I talking about this?

I Am Legend - Last man on Earth fights humans infected with a disease that makes them into vampires.
PROS: Great book, and I liked both Omega Man and Last Man on Earth.
CONS: Screenplay by the scribe of Batman and Robin. "Ice to see you."
BOTTOM LINE: Will Smith + Vampires = my seat in the theater.

Incredible Hulk II - A complete re-envisioning of the Hulk franchise which will purposefully forget the Ang Lee version.
PROS: Edward Norton, Hulk Smashing, Tim Roth, Abomination Smashing, Liv Tyler and William Hurt as the Ross's.
CONS: Avi "the problem with the first Hulk was that we made the character 15 feet tall" Arad is still producing, not enough Hulk smashing in the first movie and this one will likely retell the origin.
BOTTOM LINE: Hulk vs. well does the collision of two "personifications" of cold war superpowers work in a post-cold war world? I want to know.

Indiana Jones IV
- The return of the adventuring Archaeologist who is now almost as old as his subject matter.
PROS: A continuation of an enjoyable series. Shia LaBeouf.
CONS: It's been a long time since the last film. Will this have momentum or humor? Is Ford believable as "action star?"
BOTTOM LINE: Two-Fisted Action keeps me coming back.

Iron Man - Iron Man is another one of Marvel's Cold War Heroes who is being given a film.
PROS: Iron Man is one of my absolute favorite superheroes. It's between him, Alan Scott (the blond Green Lantern with the cape), Union Jack, and Black Panther. Jon Favreau as director and Mark Fergus on Screenplay.
CONS: Gwyneth Paltrow? Stan Lee Cameo. Avi Arad producing.
BOTTOM LINE: I think that Jon Favreau is a talented director who has a big geek streak, so I'll be there day one. I just hope he goes slick and funny and not camp.

Jurassic Park IV - Dinosaurs, dinosaurs, dinosaurs.
PROS: Dinosaurs eating people.
CONS: The, probable, lack of Ninjas, Pirates, Cowboys, Gypsies, Gladiators, and Giant Robots. Can't you see it? Jurassic Park IV as a remake of The Valley of Gwangi turned to 11 with the addition of Pirates, Ninjas, and Giant Robots.
BOTTOM LINE: Haven't missed one yet. I don't expect much, but it's dinosaurs and the 9 year old in me can't resist.

The Mummy III - In the Far East, trouble-seeking father-and-son duo Rick (Brendan Fraser) and pal unearth the mummy of the first Emperor of Qin (Jet Li) -- a shape-shifting entity who was cursed by a wizard centuries ago.
PROS: I really liked the first Mummy film. I thought Brendan Frazer would be an awesome Doc Savage.
CONS: The second film made me rethink Frazer as Savage and had midget mummies.
BOTTOM LINE: The addition of Jet Li makes this a must see. Like Bruce Campbell, I'll watch anything with Jet Li. I LOVED Kung Fu Cult Master.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian - The Pevensie siblings return to Narnia, where they are enlisted to once again help ward off an evil king and restore the rightful heir to the land's throne, Prince Caspian.
PROS: I liked the first film and it's based on a strong property.
CONS: Will they be cheap, or will they invest in it?
BOTTOM LINE: I read all the Lewis books, I'll watch all the movies. least until they release one that absolutely sucks.

Puss in Boots - A Shrek spinoff starring Antonio Banderas as the eponymous character.
PROS: Puss in Boots got me to watch, and enjoy, Shrek 2 when I would have abandoned the franchise.
CONS: The Shrek franchise wanders into lameness when it spends too much time sniping at Disney. This film needs to avoid that pratfall.
BOTTOM LINE: Antonio Banderas is enough for me.

Speed Racer - A live action version of the cartoon.
PROS: The Mach 5 and a badass title song and Richard Roundtree.
CONS: The Wachowski brothers combined with Susan Sarandon and Christina Ricci make me wonder what direction this film is headed.
BOTTOM LINE: I'll see it, but I expect camp. I would have preferred the Vince Vaughn version, I think.

The Spiderwick Chronicles - Upon moving into the run-down Spiderwick Estate with their mother, twin brothers Jared and Simon Grace, along with their sister Mallory, find themselves pulled into an alternate world full of faeries and other creatures.
PROS: Based on the book series by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi. DiTerlizzi is an imaginative and fun artist who set the tone for the Planescape setting for the Second Edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. His quirky and fun style should make for great character design.
CONS: Some people might make Pan's Labyrinth comparisons on the fairy designs. Are they going to spend the money on the series?
BOTTOM LINE: The books are fun and DiTerlizzi's designs should make for a great visual experience.

Temeraire - Based on the entertaining novel His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik. There is no better description of the setting than that given on the website, "A reimagining of the epic events of the Napoleonic Wars with an air force—an air force of dragons, manned by crews of aviators."
PROS: Peter Jackson, Horatio Hornblower meets Smaug.
CONS: Might get stuck in development hell.
BOTTOM LINE: Not slated to come out until 2009.

Where the Wild Things Are - A live action movie based on the famous children's picture book.
PROS: I always thought the monsters were adorable.
CONS: Translating a short story to film can be difficult to say the least. What exactly is the 90 minute narrative.
BOTTOM LINE: Could be as good as Zathura, which is only disliked by those who lack souls.