Thursday, September 28, 2006
New Power Suit
Driven by portable batteries, micro air pumps and small body sensors that pick up even the slightest muscle twitch, the Stand-Alone Wearable Power Assist Suit is designed to help nursing home workers lift patients of up to 180 pounds while cutting the amount of strength required in half, project researcher Hirokazu Noborisaka told LiveScience today.That's all well and good, but does it shoot repulsor rays?
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Weasel Stomping Day
First, Sean Williams, who despite his proclivity for emasculine drinks is a hell of a writer and a great guy to boot, has posted a ten point list of Tips for Writers:
1. Read a lot.There's an interesting discussion following Sean's post about whether an eleventh point should be added, about the need to find and join some sort of writing community. I used to think that wasn't an important component of the writing life, but then I started attending conventions and meeting other professional writers, and I realized I was wrong. If for no other reason than drinking alone in hotel bars is a sad and lonely thing, but drinking with a big group of writers is the most fun you can ever have.
2. Write a lot.
3. Write what you love but be aware of the market.
4. Define your version of success and take concrete steps towards achieving it.
5. Be professional at all stages of your career.
6. Listen to everyone.
7. Be visible.
8. Challenge yourself, always.
9. Never believe you've figured it out, because everything changes.
10. Work hard.
Speaking of communities, in her brief reminiscence about the late John M. Ford, Elizabeth Bear said something truly profound on the subject. I've never thought about the community of writers in these terms before, but now I'm not sure if I'll ever think of it in any other terms again.
"One of the things they don't tell you about writing and selling a science fiction or fantasy novel (or even a couple of short stories) is that in so doing you are, after a fashion, marrying into a family. And that with that family will come delights, loved ones, crazy uncles you can't stand, and unpleasant duties. One of those unpleasant duties is passing the word when someone leaves us. One of the pleasant, if bittersweet, ones is recalling why they were loved."These are added to my long list of clever things about writing that I wish I'd heard when I was a young aspiring hopeful, and which I'll be repeating to any young aspiring hopefuls I encounter.
"The channel has commissioned 10 episodes of 'Muppets TV,' a new French-language show featuring the original Muppet characters, licensed from Disney, with new storylines and guest stars from the world of French showbiz."How about that? I have to imagine that this will be an entirely Gallic production, sharing no connection with any earlier Muppets incarnation beyond the characters' names and images (and possibly the physical puppets themselves, though TF1 could just as likely have commissioned their own puppets to be built).
I'll admit that I'm not familiar with the work of any French puppeteers that I know of, but I'd be curious to see an episode and see how they pull it off. Hopefully someone in France is willing to do a bit of piracy and get these things available as torrents, once they're broadcast.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Locus Reviews Paragaea and The Man from the Diogenes Club
Chris Roberson is another new generation writer with a keen grasp of the essentials of grand adventure narrative. His second novel from Pyr, Paragaea, proclaims itself a planetary romance, and this it resoundingly is, in the old-fashioned swashbuckling sense of Burroughs and Bracket and Farmer, landing a mismatched heroic trio on a strange world and requiring that they fight their way through its jungles, prisons, wildernesses, labyrinths, and lost cities. Leena Chirikov is an early-'60s Soviet cosmonaut who passes through an interdimensional gate while orbiting the Earth; from this Stephen Baxterish beginning, she crashlands on Paragaea, a habitable planet with enigmatic connections to our own. She is rescued from a hunting party of jaguar men (Paragaea abounds with hybrid species) by a fellow Terrestrial, Captain Hieronymus Bonaventure, an 18th-century British naval veteran related to the protagonist of Roberson's previous book, Here, There & Everywhere, and by his comrade, the exiled jaguar man prince, Balam. The trio of course need a quest, and Leena's ambition, to find another gate and return to the blessed old USSR, leads them from city to city, sage to sage, temple to temple, a progress interspersed with breathless combat sequences against sky pirates, religious zealots, crocodile men, and many others. Further companions, including a remarkable Romanesque amazon warrior, join and then leave the party again; a wise android provides a stream of well-intended if ultimately frustrating counsel; and the citadel of Atla, where all secrets are revealed, is penetrated at long last. It's a pleasurable journey, its very unlikelihood a teasing game by the author, a faithful replication of the cliff-hanging defiance of probability in classic pulp serials.One minor note. "The Man who got off the Ghost Train" is in fact original to The Man from the Diogenes Club. For those who haven't read it, it serves as a sort of "secret origin" of Richard Jeperson.
Still, although Roberson plays such games skillfully, embedding countless pop-lit and televisual allusions in his text and if anything outdoing the narrative energy of his models, I can't help feeling that more substance, more depth, is required. Roberson consciously emulates Michael Moorcock, but Moorcock at his lightest and most throwaway; he needs - as he already does in his excellent series of alternate history stories about a spacefaring Imperial China - to invest the Bonaventure tales with symbolic weight and moral gravity. Paragaea is enormously readable, but no more than that.
Kim Newman has always traded very profitably on his encyclopedic knowledge of popular culture; most of his stories are amusingly intertextual, so that Baron Von Richtofen shoots Snoopy dead in The Bloody Red Baron, and Kipling's Sergeant Daniel Dravot guards foreign invaders of England in Anno Dracula.
This commonality of interest and method with Chris Roberson is reflected in the publication of Newman's latest collection, The Man from the Diogenes Club, by Chris Roberson's MonkeyBrain Books; possessing some of the profundity that Paragaea lacks, The Man from the Diogenes Club is a paean to the fresh Swinging '70s Britain now irretrievably lost under successive waves of Thatcherism and Blairism, and its experimentation with naive TV scripting formulas is laden with sorrow, regret for the very garish innocence it lampoons. Newman writes postmodernism with feeling.
The eight stories in The Man from the Diogenes Club, several novella-length, first appeared on Sci Fiction or in sundry horror anthologies. All deal with the investigations of a team of supernatural sleuths employed by the same Diogenes Club founded by Mycroft Holmes; the two sensitives, the outlandishly attired Richard Jeperson and the "model-beautiful" Vanessa, are backed up by Fred Regent, a capable cop seconded from the London Metropolitan Police. Obviously echoing such period TV heroes as The Avengers and similar characters from paperback horror novels of the time, the three perform complex exorcisms, dispatching persistent ghosts and ectoplasmic infestations in seaside resorts, brainwashing parlors, futurist settlements, Victorian Orientalist cemeteries, Soho sex shops, a studio filming (very knowing, this) TV soap operas, a Scottish luxury train (though only a much younger Jeperson takes part there), and a remote North Sea island where a madman's power fantasies assume literal flesh. Knowledgeably detailed and textured, tautly plotted, abundantly witty, these tales celebrate an age both hopeful and lurid, castigating old Tory dreams of a return to a less permissive era while satirizing the coming new Tory managerial paradise of Margaret Thatcher, which will dissolve the Diogenes Club and all romantic optimism with it. All the fun, the Swinging London exuberance and excess Newman captures so perfectly, has a dying fall. This is a resonant, affecting book.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Happy Birthday Jim (and Steve)
Saturday, September 23, 2006
All the Simpsons
31 Century Citizens
From right to left, that's a couple of Xudarians, a pair of natives of Barrio III, what I'd swear is Doctor Zoidberg from Futurama (complete with sandals!), a pair of whatever Galius Zed is, and what appears to be male and female "probes" from the "v4" or "Five Years Later" era. All of them, with the notable except of the good doctor, are long established background fodder in DC comics set in space and/or the future, and certainly aren't out of place in stories set in 31C New Metropolis. Pretty nifty, I say.
Legion of Super-Heroes
I thought it was splendid. I grew up reading LSH, simultaneously taking in the Levitz-Giffen era and scads of silver age stories in reprints and back issues. What was nice about this show was that it felt like the Legion to me, much like Glen Murakami's Teen Titans had the feel of Wolfman-Perez's early eighties comics, even if the idiom was something aimed at an anime-friendly eight year old audience.
I'd actually forgotten that this was Tucker's show, whose work I've really come to admire after watching all of the supplemental stuff on the DVDs of the JLU and later Batman seasons. It was interesting to contrast Tucker's take on the Legion here with Bruce Timm's in the last season of JLU, which if I'm readin between the lines correctly was done after Tucker had left to start working on the new series. And, for that matter, the LSH appearance in the Superman animated series a few years before that. I wonder how much of that is the influence of Alan Heinberg, who Tucker mentions in this interview had already written the series bible before Tucker came onboard.
There are a few changes to the characters and concept that I'm sure LSH purists will find objectionable, but I really didn't mind any of them all that much. And I actually like Brainiac Five as a robotic "descendant" of the original Brainiac, rather than as a purely organic descendant of a Coluan "adopted' by Brainiac, or any of the other kludgey explanations cooked up over the years to cover for the fact that the character's original creator had forgotten that Brainiac was an android to begin with.
There are a few lines that fall a bit flat, since they clearly had originally included the name "Superboy," the rights to which DC and TimeWarner since lost to the heirs of Jerry Siegel in a much publicized lawsuit. (Similarly, in this last week's issue of Superman, a young Clark Kent in flashback makes a dismissive statement about stories of a Smallville based "Super-Boy" being nothing but urban legends, handily employing a hyphen to modify what would otherwise be an actionable reference.) But I imagine those will be fewer as the series goes along.
Oh, and how much of a geek does it make me that I dug the fact that they used the old Interlac alphabet in at least a few scenes? I mean, the biggest use was the word "tons" written in the futurisitic character set, but that at least suggets that the showrunners have done their homework.
So if there's an eight year old in your household, or you're as infantilized as I am, you might want to check it out. Saturday mornings on the Kids' WB (which, confusingly enough, is now aired on the CW network).
Friday, September 22, 2006
That was yesterday. This morning it was George Orwells' Animal Farm, and this afternoon I reread all of Jean de Brunhoff's Babar stories and the issues of John Broome's Flash which featured Gorilla Grodd, Solovar, and Gorilla City. (Yes, this is one of those kinds of stories...)
Anyway, in addition to discovering that "God" from Tarzan and the Lion Men was unquestionably H.G. Wells's Doctor Moreau (who'd clearly faked his own death at the end of The Island of Doctor Moreau, though suffering near-fatal injuries in the process, which he was only able to heal by using a sort of gene therapy, injecting himself with the genetic material of healthy young gorillas), it took looking at my globe just now to discover that Noble's Island, where Doctor Moreau is based, the coordinates of which are given in the preface of Wells's book as being near latitude 5' S. and longitude 105' E., puts it in the vicinity of the Galapagos Islands. I find it amusing that Moreau, used in party by Wells as a commentary on Charles Darwin and his theories, should be situated so close to the spot where Darwin collected much of the evidence used to formulate his theory of evolution.
I'm also obsessed at the moment with the character of Balza the jungle girl (a mutant who's human on the outside, gorilla on the inside, and through-and-through a match for Lord Greystoke) from Tarzan and the Lion Men, but that's another matter entirely.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
White & Nerdy
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Monday, September 18, 2006
Cry Me a River
But last week I finished all of my Publishing To Do in June list, which means I've only got writing to do for the rest of the month. Which further means that for the next two weeks I'll be faced with the following daunting list of tasks: write a Doctor Who story, write new Shadowmen story about talking gorilla spies in Africa, read a big stack of books about King Arthur, and revise a Celestial Empire short story at an editor's request.
Which leads to today, in which I actually thought, "Oh, man, I've got to stop reading this analysis of Nennius's history of ancient Britain so I can go watch the first part of Douglas Adams's 'City of Death' to make sure I've got the interaction between the Doctor and Romana down. Damn."
There were a lot of years of suck to get to this point, folks, but I have to remind myself to stop and enjoy it, every now and again.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Friday, September 15, 2006
Solaris Press Release
SOLARIS CONFIRM DEAL WITH CHRIS ROBERSON
BL Publishing is very excited to announce the purchase of two novels by rising genre star Chris Roberson for its new SOLARIS imprint, which launches in February 2007.
SET THE SEAS ON FIRE
In 1808, while Europe burns and the Napoleonic Wars set the world aflame, the HMS Fortitude patrols the sea lanes of the South Pacific, harrying enemies of the British Crown. The Fortitude’s captain sets his sights on a Spanish galleon weighted down with a fortune in gold and spices, but Lieutenant Hieronymus Bonaventure thinks the prize not worth the risk. The ship is smashed by storms and driven far into unknown seas, the galleon and her treasure lost in the tempest.
Bonaventure and the rest of the Fortitude's crew find themselves aground on an island in uncharted waters. The island is a place of magic and mystery, promising the crew rest and contentment. But beneath the beauty lurks a darker secret: an ancient evil buried at the living heart of a volcano.
Set the Seas on Fire is a historical fantasy, a nautical adventure set during the Napoleonic wars, brimming with all manner of ship-to-ship combat, grapeshot, muskets and sabers. But at its heart it’s really a love story. With zombies.
Set the Seas on Fire is set in the Bonaventure-Carmody sequence of Roberson’s recently acclaimed Paragaea: A Planetary Romance, and will be published simultaneously in both the US and UK by Solaris, in trade paperback, Summer 2007. Ahoy matey!
THE DRAGON’S NINE SONS
The Dragon’s Nine Sons is an epic story of war in space and of the people caught in-between when empires clash.
A disgraced naval captain and a commando who knows secrets he should never have learned are picked to lead a suicide mission, piloting a salvaged Mexica spacecraft to Xolotl, the asteroid stronghold of their enemies, armed with enough explosives to reduce the Mexica base to dust. But when they arrive to find dozens of Chinese prisoners destined to be used as human sacrifices, their suicide mission suddenly becomes a terrifying rescue operation.
The Dragon’s Nine Sons is the first novel in The Celestial Empire sequence, an epic, sprawling alternate history sequence in which China rises to world domination in the early days of the 15th century and goes on to conquer the stars.
The Dragon’s Nine Sons will be published by Solaris in 2008.
Consultant Editor George Mann said of the deal “I’m thrilled to be working with Chris; I’ve admired his work for some time now and I truly believe he’s going to be a star. Plus he’s a great guy to hang out with when he’s drunk at conventions.”
Chris Roberson’s novels include Here, There & Everywhere, The Voyage of Night Shining White, Paragaea: A Planetary Romance, and the forthcoming Set the Seas on Fire, End of the Century, Iron Jaw & Hummingbird, and The Dragon’s Nine Sons. His short stories have appeared in such magazines as Asimov’s Science Fiction, Postscripts, and Subterranean, and in anthologies such as Live Without a Net, The Many Faces of Van Helsing, FutureShocks, and Forbidden Planets. Along with his business partner and spouse Allison Baker, he is the publisher of MonkeyBrain Books, an independent publishing house specializing in genre fiction and nonfiction genre studies, and he is the editor of the Adventure anthology series. He has been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award three times - once each for writing, publishing, and editing - twice a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and twice for the Sidewise Award for Best Alternate History Short Form (winning in 2004 with his story “O One”). Chris and Allison live in Austin, Texas with their daughter Georgia. Visit him online at www.chrisroberson.net.
Praise for Chris Roberson
“Chris Roberson is one of that bold band of young writers who are taking the stuff of genre fiction and turning it into a whole new literary form - a form for the 21st century. A talented storyteller, he has a unique ear, a clever eye, an eloquence all too rare in modern fiction.”
- Michael Moorcock
“Roberson is another author to watch.”
- Charles De Lint
“Chris Roberson is obviously an author to watch.”
- John Grant
“With all of these recommendations that people should watch me, I get the feeling I can’t be trusted...”
- Chris Roberson
For more information please contact BL Publishing on: email@example.com
or call George Mann on ++44 (0)115 - 900 4172
Well, naturally, what she'll want to do now is find a Eurasian female samurai and open up a private detective agency.
Keeping up with the Joneses
"Although it is illegal to own Barbary apes as pets, authorities believe that many of the animals are illegally smuggled into France from Morocco and Algeria and are seen as the ultimate furry status symbol in the tough Paris suburbs."Apes? As suburban status symbols? Wow. I'm clearly living in the wrong suburb.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Spot the reference: Scarlet Traces
I won't go into the details of the plot, except to say that photographer Charlotte Hemming has gone undercover to Mars, in the middle of the war with the Martians (familiar to most readers as the invaders from H.G. Wells's War of the Worlds). Check out Dark Horse Comics' website for a preview of the first few pages, if you're curious about the context. The important moment, though, comes halfway through the issue, as Charlotte investigates the strange structure in which she finds herself. She's told, at one point, that it isn't a building, but a city.
"Runs the entire length of Valles Marineris, two and a half thousand miles from end to end. It supposedly predates the Martian hives by over a million years. We only use a fraction of it. The rest's derelict. A ghost town."As Charlotte rambles through the empty city, abandoned now even by the British occupying forces, she comes upon a top secret chamber. Inside, she finds a domed ceiling, covered by a map of the solar system.
Except, it isn't quite the solar system she recognizes.
Clearly, this depicts the condition of the system and the planets during the time of the city's original occupancy. We have no way of knowing how long the Martians have resided on the planet, but as the city predates their hives by a million years, suffice it to say that this map is more than a little dated. The Pangaean continent on Earth, for example, is a dead giveaway. Oh, and the fact that there's a terrestrial planet between Mars and Jupiter, where the asteroid belt is nowadays.
But what about those figures depicted around the planets themselves, hmm? Don't some of them look a bit familiar?
To the right of the Pangaean Earth, unless I'm seriously mistaken, is a Silurian from Doctor Who. And to the left of Luna? Well, that looks to me an awful lot like a Watcher. And the little bug fellow on the other side looks more than a bit like one of the Selenites from Wells's First Men in the Moon. The green, toga-wearing dude on the left side of the Earth looks tantalizingly familiar, but I just can't place him. The same for the figures around Mercury and Venus.
Then we come to Mars.
Well, the four-armed guy is undeniably a green-skinned Barsoomian from Edgar Rice Burroughs's Mars series. That's a gimme. And the long-legged silverskin opposite him may be a Martian from Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, but I'm not sure. As for the other two, I haven't a clue. (That this suggests that ERB's Barsoom lies in the distant past of Wells's Mars is an intriguing idea, one similar to a number of fan notions I've come across over the years
So how about it, internets? Anybody got an ID on the unidentified aliens?
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
"Former Texas Governor Ann Richards -- the witty and flamboyant Democrat who went from homemaker to national political celebrity -- has died at her Austin home. She was 73."
She should have been president. We're the poorer for the loss.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
The Major Arcana
New Paragaea Review
You like sense of wonder? This book's got sense of wonder. By the bucketful. There might not be any Great Toonoolian Marshes on Paragaea, but there might as well be; Paragaea is this generation's A Princess of Mars. Read it with your mind's eye wide open, so you can take it all in.Awesome.
Star Trek Remastered
Ultimately, it's a lot of time, money, and effort poured into a completely unnecessary venture, but hey, it's not my money, so what the hell?
Monday, September 11, 2006
Whedon takes over Runaways
Two great tastes that taste great together.
This is about the only news that could possibly take the sting out of the announcement that Brian K. Vaughn is leaving the book.
The bets include things like Mitchell Kapor and Ray Kurzweil wagering whether a computer will pass the Turing Test in the next 27 years, and John Hogan and Michio Kaku taking sides over whether a work on superstring theory, membrane theory, or some other unified theory will will a Nobel Prize by 2020.
Some of the predictions have already been proven one way or the other, like the one Brian Eno unfortunately won, about a Democrat being President of the US by August 2005. The one that'll probably take the longest to determine one way or the other is likely the wager over whether the universe will eventually stop expanding, though the bet over whether a human alive in 2000 will still be alive 150 years later is going to remain undecided for a while, as well.
There's some fascinating stuff here. Well worth checking out, if only to contemplate for a moment the notion that there's still be someone standing around when the universe either does or doesn't stop expanding--whether human or human-derived intelligence--who could then turn to the intelligence next to them and say, "See, I told you so. Now pay up!"
Saturday, September 09, 2006
New Paragaea Review
Friday, September 08, 2006
Sesame Street Old School
New Review: The Man from the Diogenes Club
"However, they are a series of stories that have to be read, rather than just described. Kim’s skill at throwing in cult details as part of the plot without detracting from the narrative make this book a cut above a simple sixties pastiche....
"Overall, a deceptively lighter read, which works on a number of levels. Monkeybrain Books should be applauded for this unusual collection. Recommended."
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Another Blog Review
Miniature Big Bangs and Tiny Black Holes
If the theories are correct, the machine will create tiny Black Holes that evaporate and possibly even find particles that offer evidence that the three dimensions known to mankind are just a fraction of those that actually exist.Anyone who's followed my previous science posts (or read one of my novels, or heard me rant about comic books) knows I'm a sucker for the multiverse, so anything that could serve to prove the existence of higher dimensions is aces in my book.
That would be an even bigger headline than the Black Holes. It could be that there is a whole new universe a millimeter away from our heads but at right-angles to the three dimensions that are here,' Cox said.
Luckily for us, these new experiments aren't likely to doom us all:
Cox dismissed worries that by adventuring into the unknown and creating tiny Black Holes, the machine could even threaten to destroy the planet.We should note, though, that he doesn't say that it's impossible...
"The probability is at the level of 10 to the minus 40," he said.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Wisdom (for the UK only, sadly)
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Sunday, September 03, 2006
LOTR: How It Should Have Ended
Nightcrawler, Loan Shark
Saturday, September 02, 2006
An Award for Deanna Hoak
Friday, September 01, 2006
Comic Tales with Alan Moore
BTW, so far as I know the "JLRoberson" responsible for creating the YouTube playlist is no relation. Well, I'm sure they're related to someone, but just not me...