Flash Fiction: a complete story
in one thousand or fewer words.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Locus Awards Finalists for 2010

The 2010 Locus Awards finalists have been named, not surprisingly, at Locus Magazine. Here are the finalists in a partial list of the categories:


Short Story

  • "The Pelican Bar", Karen Joy Fowler (Eclipse Three)
  • "An Invocation of Incuriosity", Neil Gaiman (Songs of the Dying Earth)
  • "Spar", Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld 10/09)
  • "Going Deep", James Patrick Kelly (Asimov's 6/09)
  • "Useless Things", Maureen F. McHugh (Eclipse Three)

Science Fiction Novel

  • The Empress of Mars, Kage Baker (Subterranean; Tor)
  • Steal Across the Sky, Nancy Kress (Tor)
  • Boneshaker, Cherie Priest (Tor)
  • Galileo's Dream, Kim Stanley Robinson (HarperVoyager; Ballantine Spectra)
  • Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America, Robert Charles Wilson (Tor)

Fantasy Novel

  • The City & The City, China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan UK)
  • Unseen Academicals, Terry Pratchett (Harper; Doubleday UK)
  • Drood, Dan Simmons (Little, Brown)
  • Palimpsest, Catherynne M. Valente (Bantam Spectra)
  • Finch, Jeff VanderMeer (Underland)

Other categories, including first novel, young-adult novel, novella, novelette, magazine, publisher, anthology, collection, editor, artist, non-fiction/art book, can be found here.

Neil Gaiman continues his string of awards, here with a short story. I've noticed that Nancy Kress is making many awards lists lately, too, here with a SF novel.

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Physicist: Watch Your Quantum Step, Writers

By way of The End of the Universe: a physicist, Sidney ­Perkowitz, a professor of physics at Emory University, prayerfully suggests that writers, especially screenwriters, violate physics no more than once per script. Dude, are we supposed to FTL ourselves to a distant galaxy and then use picks, shovels and Winchesters to kick out the space aliens there? Oh...we are. Okay, noted.

Especially egregious and offensive was Angels and Demons, according to this related Guardian (UK) article:

"The amount of antimatter they had [to blow the Vatican to Kingdom Come] was more than we will make in a million years of running a high-energy particle collider," said Perkowitz. "You can't contain it using an iPod battery."

That offends even me. They could've used flashlight batteries or a car battery. Sheesh. (And I like Tom Hanks, but isn't there someone else to play professorial adventurers (who is not Sean Connery)?)

Seriously, folks, I like mundane SF (another term badly needed), which doesn't violate any present laws of physics. Those stories are closer to home and have more realistic protags and bad guys, rather than the Gothic figures we're grown accustomed to. But I liked Angels and Demons and Avatar, too, even though my BS meter pegged the red zone several times in each.

A humble suggestion to Professor Perkowitz: watch a few adventure movies. It is not uncommon to see someone leap from a roof down a couple of stories and manage to grab onto a ledge, or leap from speeding car roof to speeding car roof...etc. Don't get me started on video games....

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Trekkie-Zombie Mashup

We interrupt this post for an important announcement: The March 2010 issue of Flash Fiction Online is, well, online. It has three new, excellent stories by Daniel José Older, Caroline M. Yoachim and Andrew Gudgel, plus a classic story, and Bruce Holland Rogers' Short-Short Sighted monthly column.

Now back to our regular posting:

Yikes. Kevin David Anderson has contracted to write a Trekkie/Zombie apocalypse mashup, called Night of the Living Trekkies. Will Mr. Anderson be able to safely attend a Trekkie convention after this? He has published widely in magazines, anthologies and podcasts. My apologies for my earlier misreporting of the actual author of this work. Good luck with this project.

Die hard and prosper, dead Trekkies!

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Radium Age Fiction

I stumbled upon this flash fiction contest for stories of 250 words or less, with the theme, troubled or troubling supermen, conducted by Hilobrow.com. Their contest is interesting, but I found their explanation of the theme, pre-golden-age supermen, or "Radium Age" fiction, as author Joshua Glenn called it, quite entertaining. Here is the contest theme:

Long before Alan Moore asked “Who will watch the Watchmen?” Radium-Age (1904-33) science fiction writers worried whether supermen would rescue us ordinary mortals — or try to dominate us.

The link in the quote above is to an earlier io9 article, which was the source of some of the Hilobrow article on pre-golden-age science fiction. The author provides ten SF novels published in the 1904-1933 period as examples, including some nicely retro book covers, including Poul Anderson's Brain Wave.

The Radium Age superman was superior in body and intellect, along several evolution-inspired lines of reasoning, including "greater capacity for action and freedom."

Aye, there’s the rub: for, as Nietzsche has Zarathustra predict, “Just as the ape to man is a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment, man shall be just that to [superman].”

Included in the article is a summary of the ten most influential novels of the Radium Age, with a synopsis of each, and the cover art. There is also a bibliography of related fiction from the period 1804 to 1937, under several sub-genre categories.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Science Fiction: Needed For Survival

Here is a thought-provoking article about thought-provoking science fiction: Science Fiction as a Tool for Human Survival. The generically named author, admin, of blog.netflowdevelopments.com postulates that the world is changing so rapidly now that science fiction is needed to help the populace understand the issues of change.

Interestingly, while the author lauds the classical science fiction of the 60s, 70s and 80s for its profundity, he does not see the present blockbuster "eye candy" movies like Avatar (FFO review) and Star Trek the enemy. They are our friends because they legitimize and popularize speculative fiction. In fact, the author claims that because of those blockbusters, we now have more frequent profound movies, like District 9, than in the classical age.

Go here for more on this well-visited topic, including the author's take on a new engineered human, homo evolutis.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

SF YouTube Video Nets $30M Movie Contract

According to a BBC News report, a Uruguayan producer spent about $30 (excluding sweat equity, no doubt) on a conceptual SF video about an alien attack on Montevideo. His work received no little attention from Hollywood and he's been offered a six-orders-of-magnitude increase over his investment ($30M) to produce a feature film. The film will be produced in Uruguay and Argentina.

You have to see Fede Alvarez's short film, "Ataque de Panico!" (YouTube link. The BBC link is a slightly shortened Adobe Flash version.)

¡Buenos suerte, Sr. Alvarez! (I'm available as co-producer.)

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Joe Haldeman an SFWA Grandmaster.

No, no, not the Joe Haldeman/CBS producer associated with David Letterman's alleged blackmail incident. Venerable speculative fiction writer, Joe Haldeman, whose writing awards include five Hugos, five Nebulas, and one each Campbell, Tiptree and World Fantasy award, will receive SFWA's Grandmaster award next year, according to SF Scope.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Space Travel Weasel-Physics in Movies & TV

Satellite Internet has a nice, concise piece with good movie pics about 'Ten Ways Space Travel Isn’t Like Television or the Movies.' Some movie weasel-physics and sociological mistakes are obvious (but still abused in the movies). One was particularly interesting, the affect on the human body of unprotected exposure to space. Do not try this at home:

...Thanks to Henry’s Law the drastic change in pressure would cause all the liquid in your body to evaporate at once, from your saliva to your blood to your urine. Because of this, your body expands to about twice its size, while you slip into unconsciousness (don’t worry, the whole process takes about fifteen seconds). Within a few minutes all the liquids and vapors remaining in your body will be sucked out into the void, leaving a dried husk of a corpse behind....

And we all know this, but it bears repeating since it is so ignored in movies, as it's quite an inconvenience for movie making: aliens don't speak any Earth language or any language that would be easily understood.

Go to the article for the rest of the movie trespasses and the nice pictures.

Here are a few that were not included in that article:

11. Space aliens probably don't go ga-ga over Earthling blonde women. They might even be repulsed by them...except Marilyn Monroe, of course.

12. If you have a replicator, why can't you make anything vital, including dilithium crystals for your warp engines when you're stranded?

13. And speaking of replicators: if you can make Saurian brandy and practically anything out of a Betty Crocker's Cookbook, wouldn't operation of the machine be a little more complicated than a microwave oven? They're way smarter than the ship's battle and navigation computers.

14. Space aliens probably wouldn't side with children over their parents.

15. They probably wouldn't come all the way to Earth just to snag a whale. They'd want some booty.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hugo Award Changes

The SFWA's article on the Hugo Award's new eligibility rules summarizes the changes for semiprozine and fanzine categories:

The answer to the general question about whether genre websites, including blogs, are eligible in principle is clearly yes, since the rules now explicitly permit works published in other media in several categories.

For more on what web sites and blogs may be eligible, SFWA defers to Vincent Docherty, Administrator for the Hugo Awards, via File 770's article on Hugo's Award's online publication eligibility. There, Mr. Docherty gives his approach to handling the knotty process of interpreting the new rules while giving due consideration to past rules and past administrators' practices. He says:

Under the revised rules, a web-only publication of an individual work, or series of issues of a work, would certainly be eligible as a Fanzine, Semiprozine or Related Work, depending on whether it satisfies the specific category rules. There are hard boundaries between Fanzine and Semiprozine: a work either meets two of the five tests, and is therefore a Semiprozine, or it doesn’t, and so is a Fanzine.

Go to the File 770 article for a glimpse of this rather interesting process.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

List of SF Movie Lists

The End of the Universe is famous for collecting lists of SF movies and movie scenes. Presently, they have seven lists, some with video links:

  • 17 of the most seminal moments in science fiction movie history?
  • Best overlooked movies
  • Best 1990s science fiction movies
  • 22 bleak science fiction futures
  • related: real-world locations used for science fiction films
  • 10 bleak futures where slavery is commonplace
  • 10 cool science fiction worlds

Go to the site for their compilation of movie lists and to read their background and comments about the list items.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Harlequin Delisted from RWA and MWA

Background: these two FFO posts [1 2] gave the story of romance publisher Harlequin's dance with a self-publishing imprint, and the near-immediate threats from Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America and Horror Writers of America to delist Harlequin from their approved publishers list. The consequence of those actions would be that writers could not then use Harlequin publishing credits for membership into the those writers' professional organizations or participate in their awards programs. (There are speculative fiction subcategories in romance.)

Recently, Mystery Writers of America has delisted romance publisher Harlequin from its qualified publishers list, even though Harlequin removed its direct connection to the self-publishing arm by renaming it from Harlequin Horizons to DellArte Press. That link includes MWA's statement about their decision and Harlequin's reply. Earlier, Romance Writers of America delisted Harlequin, too, according to various sources. (The RWA requires a membership to read its breaking news section, so a link is not provided here.)

In a side note, here is an SFWA article (by way of Writers Beware) about the blurring of the distinction between self-publishing and vanity publishing.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Has Science Fiction Run Out of Steam?

Technology writer Stuart Andrews writes for PC Pro about the relationship of science, technology and science fiction, posing the rhetorical question, has science fiction run out of steam? In other words, has science and technology now ahead of the headlights of science fiction writers?

While the rhetorical question is quite interesting, the article focuses principally on equally interesting examples of scientists and technologists who were influenced by science fiction, and the SF writers and stories that influenced them.

Bruce Hillsberg, director of storage systems at IBM Research said:

“...I don’t think most researchers try to invent what they read about or see in movies. Rather, they try to move science or technology forward, and sci-fi can consciously or unconsciously help them think outside the box.”

Examples of these technologists include: Apple’s Steve Wozniak, Netscape’s Marc Andreessen, Tim Berners-Lee, Google’s Sergey Brin and the GNU Project creator Richard Stallman, and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

Some of the authors and works cited by Stuart Andrews:

  • Arthur C Clarke (2001: A Space Odyssey): computing (with guidance from MIT).
  • John Brunner’s: The Shockwave Rider: "large-scale networks, phreaking, hacking and genetic engineering...."
  • Vernor Vinge’s True Names: immersive worlds and Internet culture
  • Cyberpunk authors William Gibson (Neuromancer), Ridley Scott (Blade Runner) and others; and virtual reality author NealStephenson (Snow Crash): information technology (IT)

See Stuart Andrews' The sci-fi legends who shaped today's tech for more, including some of the innovations influenced by these and other authors. (Note: the article has four pages.)

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Monday, November 16, 2009

3D Mandelbrot Sets (and Cyberpunk)

This article is about the mathematical/software algorithmic breakthrough to produce 3D Mandelbrot sets. We've all seen the 2D computer-generated, swirling, never-ending graphical patterns that have visual and scientific appeal. They are fractals that produce rich detail in both dimensions regardless of the level of zooming into the picture.

(What's this got to do with flash fiction, you're wondering? Well, this article has turned into sort of a Mandelbrot set of its own.)

This article on 3D Mandelbrot sets ('Mandelbulbs') gives a very accessible background of 3D Mandelbrot sets and provides many stunning graphics including some videos showing a 'zoom-in' of a 3D image. In the Opening Pandora's Box for the Second Time section, you'll see that Rudy Rucker gave some of the earliest thought about the production of 3D Mandelbrot sets. He is an American mathematician and computer scientist, now on faculty at San Jose State University. Readers of Flash Fiction Online may also recognize him as a founder of the cyberpunk science-fiction movement and an author.

Traveling along this path...Flash Fiction Online readers and writers may also be interested in Rudy Rucker's A Writer's Toolkit (PDF) which is his "working notes for teaching writing workshops, newly revised on September 3, 2009." In the writing section of Rudy Rucker's personal web site, you'll also find his essays and speeches on writing (including 'what is cyberpunk,' a sometimes elusive term), web pages for his books, extensive notes on his "almost book-length" notes on his novels and non-fiction books, his online writings, and much more.

Okay, I'm lost. I can't find my way back to the thread of this article. My algorithm must be defective. Sorry. If you happen to see the rest of my article, please send me a URL.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Jim Hines' SF/F Humor Roundup: 2009

SF/Fantasy/Humor author Jim Hines started a list of humorous SF/F fiction published in 2009, including short fiction and novels. How can I explain why he did this? Um, I don't need to; Jim explained just fine:

Humor tends not to be taken seriously, and rarely makes the award ballots. It’s a shame, because humor can be as powerful, popular, and flat-out good as any other story.

Jim Hines' humor list includes a story first published at Flash Fiction Online by Rod M. Santos, "I Foretold You So." You'll recognize many other names on the list, including Mike Resnick, Nancy Fulda, Cory Doctorow, Terry Pratchett, and Jim Hines.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

SF Without Human Main Characters?

There are recent examples of stories and movies with non-human main characters, such as WALL-E and Monster. The author of Monster, A. Lee Martinez, pleads for more stories that are from a non-human perspective. This was covered by IO9 in shorter form, but with a nice Martinez book cover.

Martinez gets why visual media has pretty faces, but doesn't see why this is carried over into print media. (Maybe it is because many movies are based on books?). Says Martinez:

I’ve enjoyed sub-standard entertainment far more than I should because of a pretty face.

And:

A big reason I don’t read much fantasy / sci fi is because I want the weirdness, the monsters, the inhuman, and for the most part, that stuff is shuffled to the side. Almost all fantasy / sci fi is from the human perspective because almost all of it is aimed at a human audience.

I suppose Terminator is the philosophical dividing line, because the robot and humans had about equal interest in the story.

Bonus: the top 85 robot movies. WARNING: some movies may contain humans. Ew.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New SF Magazine: Lightspeed

According to Locus Online and others, John Joseph Adams will leave Fantasy Magazine to edit Lightspeed, a sister publication that will publish science fiction. At the time of posting this article, the Lightspeed web site just has some slick graphics. Writers' guidelines will appear in early December. The first publication date is set for June 2010.

Here is what John Joseph Adams' personal website had to say about the content of Lightspeed Magazine:

Lightspeed will focus exclusively on science fiction. It will feature all types of sf, from near-future, sociological soft sf, to far-future, star-spanning hard sf, and anything and everything in between....New content will be posted twice a week, including one piece of fiction, and one piece of non-fiction. The fiction selections each month will consist of two original stories and two reprints, except for the debut issue, which will feature four original pieces of fiction. All of the non-fiction will be original.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

WSFA Small Press Award Winner

In August, we announced the finalists of the WSFA Small Press Award. The WSFA (Washington Science Fiction Association) award is open to works of short speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.) published by a short press in English.

Science Fiction Awards Watch has announced the WSFA Small Press Award winner for 2009:"The Absence of Stars: Part 1," by Greg Siewert, published in Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Three More Frankensteins from Koontz

If you liked his trilogy of best-selling Frankenstein novels, you'll be happy to know that Publishers Weekly is reporting that Bantam has signed up Dean Koontz for three more Frankenstein novels.

Koontz's Frankenstein website doesn't have any new information, yet, but it probably will, in time.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Odyssey Writing Workshop Online

SFscope reports that Odyssey Writing Workshop, a respected classroom-based writing program, now has some online writing workshop offerings. Individual online courses are not equivalent to the residential courses, but may be useful to many speculative fiction writers. The class size is limited to 14 students. The next course is Showing versus Telling in Fantastic Fiction, beginning January 6, 2010 with applications accepted from October 10 to December 10, 2009.

This course will be taught by Jeanne Cavelos, an author and editor, and winner of the World Fantasy Award for launching the Abyss psychological horror imprint at Bantam Doubleday Dell. She is the director and primary instructor at Odyssey.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Technovelgy: Tracking Science Innovation in Fiction

Technovelgy has an interesting site that chronicles invention in literature. The home page is in blog format, showing the latest inventions or innovations. They usually give an explanation of the technology and links or information about literary references to similar innovations. For example, the latest innovation (at the time of posting) is a concept for SkyTran, an overhead monorail-like transportation system in which the personal cars (pods) magnetically levitate for a smooth ride (or to use recent marketing blather, an improved customer experience). They give reference to bubble cars, from Larry Niven's 1976 novel A World Out of Time.

Technovelgy provides sorting of innovation by time, going back to weightlessness, described by Johannes Kepler and mentioned by an unknown author in 1634. They also sort by category, and of course have a search facility.

This seems like a handy research tool for SF and fantasy writers or readers who want to know how innovative an innovation really is.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Posthumous Interview with Philip K. Dick

Bloggist Capt. Xerox at IROSF has a short article about the continued interest in Philip K. Dick's writings. Philip K. Dick had SF cult status even after his death in 1982. IROSF's article includes a link to a posthumous interview with the author, published at Media Post. It is based on a surgery job on a 1978 essay by Dick, re-written as an interview. Here are two snippets from the short "interview":

The two basic topics which fascinate me are "What is reality?" and "What constitutes the authentic human being?"

The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.




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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Quantum Mechanics in Football

Here is some astounding science news that may rock the way naive science fiction writers approach quantum mechanics in their mundane SF stories. The Onion has reported how NFL physicists proved that quantum mechanics affects (American) football:

Citing the extremely low level of entropy present before a normal set of football downs, scientists from the NFL's quantum mechanics and cosmology laboratories spoke Monday of a theoretical proto-down before the first. "Ultimately, we believe there are an infinite number of proto-downs played before the first visible snap,...."

Here is the rest of The Onion's quantum mechanical football story.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Robert A. Heinlein Award Winners

The Robert A. Heinlein Award winners have been announced. They are Joe Haldeman and John Varely, both Hugo and Nebula award winners. According to the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, which administers the award process for The Heinlein Society, this award is:

for outstanding published works in science fiction and technical writings to inspire the human exploration of space.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Pining for a Discworld Movie?

Are you pining for a Discworld movie? Would you settle for a fake trailer for a non-existent film. By way of SF Crowsnest, here is a fake Discworld trailer for the non-existent Guards! Guards! film, based on the actual, same-named Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Review of Short Fiction--September 2009

Internet Review of Science Fiction has their review of short fiction up now for September, which, depending on the periodicals' publication schedules, ranges from August to November. This month, they've reviewed a mixture of print and online magazines:

  • F&SF, October-November 2009
  • Asimov's, September 2009
  • Analog, November 2009
  • Jim Baen's Universe, August 2009 (online)
  • Clarkesworld, August 2009 (online)
  • Strange Horizons, August 2009 (online)
  • Fantasy Magazine, August 2009 (online)
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, August 2009 (online)
  • Apex Magazine, August 2009 (online)
  • Abyss & Apex, Third Quarter 2009 (online)

Our friends at SFRevu are taking the month off for short fiction review.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Heinlein Short Story Contest Winners

By way of SF Scope: the winners of the Robert A. Heinlein Centennial Story Short Contest have been announced. The Heinlein Society promotes all things Heinlein, including this contest:

Three prizes will be given for the best original short stories
reflecting the spirit, ideas, and philosophies of Robert Anson
Heinlein.

The winners include two Americans and a Brit who collectively have a JD, almost a PhD, a BSc in marine biology, and one is a software engineer (no degree mentioned but may well have one):

  • 1st Place, "Under the Shouting Sky," by Karl Bunker.
  • 2nd Place, "In the Shadows," by (Ms.) Charlie Allery
  • 3rd Place, "Salvage Sputnik," by Sam S. Kepfield

If you're considering entering this contest in the future, here is a hint from THS president David Silver:


"Bunker's story perfectly captures the quintessential Heinlein story of quiet heroism and duty fulfilled whatever the personal price."

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Is Science Fiction Dead?

Here is a thoughtful article about science fiction by Hugo Awards winner Kristine Kathryn Rusch, entitled, The Marketing Category is Dead! Long Live the Genre! The title tells it all. People are running away from the tainted genre of science fiction and buying or viewing something else entirely: science fiction dressed up in another wrapper. One of her examples was Time Traveler's Wife, a bestseller and now a movie. Rusch pointed out that critics of the book had to see a chiropractor after explaining why TTW was not a science fiction story. She gives other examples of books that defy simple classification in a tradition genre, since they are mashups of some combination of SF, romance, mystery, thriller or horror.

For the rest of the commentary, go The Internet Review of Science Fiction web site.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Do SF and Romance Mix? (The Time Traveler's Wife)

The best-selling first novel by Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler's Wife, is now a movie. The screenplay was written by the writer of Ghost, which the reviewer uses to prove that romance and SF can be compatible. (I'd quibble that Ghost, an excellent movie, was clearly a fantasy rather than a SF story.) The reviewer also argues that TTTW is not SF since the time travel mechanism is given short shrift. I think this is true, but was a strength of the novel. The new author wisely did not get wrapped around the axle with physics; the story was self-sustaining without it. Nevertheless, the reviewer finds the screen adaptation worthy, but not perfect. Here is the review of The Time Traveler's Wife via Sci Fi Wire.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

District 9 the Next Great SF Film?

What are the great science fiction movies of all times? Surely no two people who cared would completely agree, but the National Post (online) borrowed two opinions, the top 10 from one source and the top 100 from another. National Post feels that District 9 may belong in or near the top ten of all time, and bolster that opinion with other previewers. The top ten includes films such as Blade Runner, The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Here is the National Post's article on District 9, due out this week. Here is more on the movie, courtesy of Wikipedia.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Vonda MacIntyre's Pitfalls of Writing SF and Fantasy

Most writers have run across these pitfalls of writing science fiction and fantasy, but it's good to get a reminder now and then. Vonda MacIntyre's descriptions of these (currently) seven pitfalls are short and to the point. They include neologisms (Garfff brought a carrytab of steaming hot javening with boosem and sweetum on the side), Extreme Capital Abuse, sort of using an almost approximate spoken thing rather than a sensible word, etc.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Sunburst Award for Canadian Writers--Short List

By way of SFawardsWatch.com. The Sunburst Award is a juried Canadian award for Canadian authors of speculative fiction in two categories: adult and young adult. The authors may be living in Canada or abroad.

Here is the short list:

Adult list:

  • Night Child, by Jes Battis, Ace
  • The Gargoyle, by Andrew Davidson, Random House Canada
  • The Alchemist's Code, by Dave Duncan, Ace
  • Things Go Flying, by Shari Lapeña, Brindle & Glass
  • Half a Crown, by Jo Walton, Tor

Young adult list

  • The Summoning, by Kelley Armstrong, Doubleday Canada
  • Dingo, by Charles de Lint, Viking
  • Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow, Tor
  • Wild Talent: A Novel of the Supernatural, by Eileen Kernaghan, Thistledown Press
  • Night Runner, by Max Turner, HarperTrophy

The jurors provided a suggested reading list, as well (honorable mentions). The right column of the award home page includes an announcement area with a log of international award winners by Canadian writers. From that you can see that Cory Doctorow and been on nearly every short list on the planet with Little Brother. He's in this list in the Young Adult Category and is a good bet.

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Speculative Fiction Publishing Trends

Strange Horizons magazine has an interesting online article on the recent trends of speculative book publishing. It was written by Mr. Valentin D. Ivanov, a Bulgarian professional astronomer, folklorist and speculative fiction writer.

Mr. Ivanov's method was to survey the Notable Books received for review since about 1998 by Locus Online magazine, since they are highly regarded publication and have a broad view of what is speculative fiction. He tabulated and graphed the data for your viewing. He divided the books into 18 categories, including genres of speculative fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

In general, all categories are in a pleasing rise, with the exception of anthologies and collections, which are flat or slightly negative. The article also gives figures for the proportion of sequels published.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Arthur C Clark Award--Chair of Judges' Speech

SF Crowsnest has the text of the speech given by the chair of the judges, Paul Billinger, at the award ceremonies prior to announcing the winner. We thought that FFO readers and contributors would find the judge's brief comments about the short list of contenders interesting. Flash Fiction Online announced the short list and winner, Ian R MacLeod, for Song of Time (PS Publishing), previously.

A bit of crowing for SF Crowsnest: one of the judges for the award was from their staff. Mr. Billinger is from the Serendip Foundation, the organization administering the award.

Since the speech is short, we'll give just one snippet, from Mr. Billinger's comments about the winner's novel:

Infused throughout is the love of music with some of the most evocative writing on the subject for many years. Coupled with rich, all too human characters, this subtle discourse on memory and identity is a novel to savour.

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Classic SF "Lensman" Coming to a Theater Near You?

Movie deals are long in the making and quick in the unmaking. According to this SFF Chronicles article, one possible deal in the works is EE Doc Smith's SF classic "Lensman" series, which perhaps defined "space opera." This would be a Good Thing, especially since Ron Howard may be involved.

There was speculation about this as far back as January '08 in this Sci Fi Wire article about Ron Howard's Imagine Entertainment's and Universal Pictures' negotiation with the Smith estate. Here is some background on the Lensman series from the arbiter of Internet knowledge, Wikipedia.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Review of Flash Fiction Online at SF Revu

Sam Tomaino at SF Revu has a review of the June 2009 issue of FFO, which should have this link after the June issue is published, otherwise, it is the current issue.

Sam was complimentary of all of the June stories, especially this one:

"Branwen’s Revenge" by Sarah Adams is a retelling of the old collection of Welsh myths called The Mabinogion. Branwen had been married off to a king who did not appreciate her. He made her a scullery maid and abuses her. Every day she sings to the mockingbird "Alas for Branwen the White, who suffers every day!" Will her brother hear her call? This was a beautifully written piece.

Sam also reviews the most recent editions of Analog Science Fiction and Fact (Sept.), Asimov's Science Fiction (August), Black Static Eleven (June/July), Greatest Uncommon Denominator Magazine (Spring), Jim Baen’s Universe (June), Sybil's Garage (#6, May), and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (August/September) .

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fahrenheit 452, Don't Burn the Libraries

The legendary Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451 and much more, wouldn't burn books, but he might burn the Internet, according to this NYT article:

“The Internet is a big distraction,” Mr. Bradbury barked from his perch in his house in Los Angeles....“It’s distracting,” he continued. “It’s meaningless; it’s not real. It’s in the air somewhere.”

Mr. Bradbury had other thoughts about Yahoo's request to publish one of his books on the Internet. (Hint: he was not an advocate.) See the NYT article for the rest.

But Mr. Bradbury is wholly in favor of public libraries, where he got a substantial education for free, since he received no advances for his future books as a young man during the Great Depression. He's putting in his time as an octogenarian raising money for some Ventura County (California) libraries that are facing closure due to reduced property tax income which supports libraries, among other things.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Science Fiction/Fantasy Book Reviews

The SF Site has the following SF/F book reviews for June 2009:

  • The Women of Nell Gwynne's by Kage Baker
  • Shambling Towards Hiroshima by James Morrow
  • Xenopath by Eric Brown
  • Star Wars: Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor by Matthew Stover
  • Blood and Ice by Robert Masello
  • Cyberabad Days by Ian McDonald
  • The Pretender's Crown by C.E. Murphy
  • Fast Forward 2 edited by Lou Anders
  • The Caryatids by Bruce Sterling

If you look after the July 2009 issue is published, look here for the June and other issues.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

John W. Campbell Award Finalists

The finalists for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for the best science fiction novel have been announced.

The Award was created to honor the late editor of Astounding Science Fiction magazine, now named Analog. Campbell, who edited the magazine from 1937 until his death in 1971, is called by many writers and scholars the father of modern science fiction. Writers and critics Harry Harrison and Brian W. Aldiss established the award in Campbell's name as a way of continuing his efforts to encourage writers to produce their best possible work.

The finalists are:

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

SF Author Interviews and Essays

Monday, June 1, 2009

Future of Science: Where's My Jetpack?

In March, we covered Gary Westphal's thoughtful piece about why science fiction writers have failed to predict the future. He gave 7 fallacies that plague SF writers. We also did a piece on Bruce Sterling's thoughtful look at the future of science fiction.

CNN has a piece that is more "where's my jetpack?" The article writer looks more at how the future failed the technologies than what has gone wrong with SF writers. The jetpack is one example. We've actually made some, but they haven't found a practical civilian or military application. In the military, a warrior in a jetpack is an obvious and easy target, and the jetpack lasts an embarrassingly short period of time.

Other technologies visited in the article include Rosey the Robot (robot housekeeper) and teleportation.

More interestingly perhaps, and more in line with current SF, is the turn from the pulp fiction view that technology is always a Good Thing that will make life easier, to a more dystopian view that technology is the enemy of survival. The author uses Battlestar Galactica as an example:

It depicts a world where human beings have created amazing technology that has brought them to the precipice of extinction. There's no Buck Rogers zooming blissfully through the sky.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Audies Winners for 2009

The 2009 Audies Award for audiobooks have been announced which, according to TheAudies.com website, are:

Awards recognizing distinction in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association (APA).

Unless you are an out-of-touch Martian, you'll have heard of some of the winners:

  • Audiobook of the year: THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, Neil Gaiman, Read by Neil Gaiman, Harper Audio/ Recorded Books
  • Fiction: Tie:
  1. DUMA KEY, Stephen King, Read by John Slattery, Simon & Schuster Audio/ Recorded Books
  2. THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY, Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows, Read by Paul Boehmer, Susan Duerden, Rosalyn Landor, John Lee, Juliet Mills, Random House Audio/ Books on Tape
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy: CALCULATING GOD, Robert J. Sawyer, Read by Jonathan Davis, Audible, Inc.
  • Short Stories/Collections: ARMAGEDDON IN RETROSPECT, Kurt Vonnegut, Read by Rip Torn, Mark Vonnegut, Penguin Audio/ Blackstone Audiobooks

Note that the award web site also lists the finalists and winners.

Other categories include: Distinguished Achievement in Production, Non-Fiction, Solo Narration - Female, Solo Narration - Male, Audio Drama, Audiobook Adapation, Biography/Memoir, Business/Educational, Children's for Ages 8-12, Children's for Ages Up to 8, Classic, History, Humor, Inspirational/Faith-Based Fiction, Inspirational/Faith-Based Non-Fiction, Literary Fiction, Multi-Voiced Performance, Mystery, Narration by the Author or Authors, Original Work, Package Design, Personal Development, Politics - Judges Award, Romance, Spanish Language, Teens, Thriller/Suspense.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Doctor Who Comes to the U.S.

According to this report, BBC America will bring the 2009 Doctor Who specials and other features to the U.S. Says the article:

“The outstanding quality of the Doctor Who scripts from Russell T Davies and the on-screen dynamic that David Tennant brings to the role are a magic combination for our viewers.

Wikipedia: The programme depicts the adventures of a mysterious alien time-traveller known as "the Doctor" who travels in his space and time-ship, the TARDIS, which normally appears from the exterior to be a blue 1950s police box. With his companions, he explores time and space, solving problems, facing monsters and righting wrongs.

BBC America will also air some episodes of the related Torchwood series. According to Wikipedia, Torchwood:

...deals with the machinations and activities of the Cardiff branch of the fictional Torchwood Institute, who deal mainly with incidents involving extraterrestrials.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Can Robots Go Berserk?

"If man sticks his hand where it wasn't meant to go, it will get cut off!"

Why would a supposedly intelligent network mind waste so much energy and resources indulging in cinematically grandiose personal combat in grim wastelands with loud music?

If a robot runs a task-specific program, its capabilities are very limited. It is not able to deal with any of the complex scenes in Terminator. However, robots that are capable of autonomous mental development are totally different.

The above snippets are from experts commenting on the plausibility of a Terminator movie-scenario. The main issues were the robots gone amok, time travel, and a pesky Skynet computer network taking over the world. This article is from H+ Magazine, found by way of Slashdot.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

SF Writers at Dept. of Homeland Security Conference

Cell phones that detect virus infections, networking the information so that a spread can be mapped. A five-minute DNA tester. Science fiction writers, including Greg Bear and Catherine Asaro (who holds a PhD in physics) attended a U.S. Department of Homeland Security conference. The H. S. folks weren't necessarily looking for gadget ideas, but wanted to think out of their box. Says Harry McDavid, chief information officer for Homeland Security's Office of Operations Coordination & Planning:

"We're stuck in a paradigm of databases...How do we jump out of our infrastructure and start conceptualizing those threats?

Here is the article from the Washington Post.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tolkien and Pratchett Sales

An interesting couple of notes at Locus Online. FFO noted in January that a new J.R.R. Tolkien story, edited by a relative, Christopher Tolkien, would be out in May. It is called The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun and is published by Houghton Mifflin.

Locus is reporting moderate sales on Amazon.com of the book. On the other hand, the next Discworld volume by Terry Pratchett, The Unseen Academicals, is doing briskly on Amazon.com a full five months before publication and is expected to reach best-seller levels soon. It is published by Doubleday UK. FFO also noted that Terry Pratchett now may be addressed as Sir Terence David John Pratchett, OBE.

BONUS! Here is a gadget that will let you write and surf anywhere, Novatel's 2200 "MiFi." It's a credit card-sized (but thicker) gadget that is cellular data card and personal WiFi hotspot. It's similar to the cellular data cards that you can plug into a laptop with a USB or PCMCIA port for Internet access over the cellular network. This one is self-contained. Your access is via its integrated WiFi hotspot, which you can share anywhere (or not; it has encryption). It's battery powered.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

IRoSF Interview with Jay Lake

Jay Lake is a prolific writer of a couple hundred short stories (not to mention the one here at Flash Fiction Online) and five novels. He's had several honors, including the John C. Campbell Award (best new writer) and a Hugo nomination. Learn more about Jay at his personal web page and his Wikipedia page).

The Internet Review of Science Fiction has an interview with Jay. Here is a snippet:

I probably shouldn't admit this, but the outline for Endurance, Green's sequel, does in fact include mechanical men. Well, mechanical apes, actually, but what's a good fantasy without some punchtape-driven clockwork apes?

For the rest of the interview, go here.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Star Trek Movie (2009)

A survey of review snippets provided by Rotten Tomatoes, a film review site, indicates that "Star Trek" (2009) has exceeded expectations. The snippets have links to the full reviews. My feel from these reviews and others is that the reviewers have not worried if trekkies will by offended by a new or missing this-or-that. The reviewers are not saying it is just an adequate me-too sequel. Some are calling it "great" or "moving," even.

Fast-moving, funny, exciting warp-speed entertainment and, heaven help me, even quite moving - the kind of film that shows that, like it or not, commercial cinema can still deliver a sledgehammer punch. It sure didn't feel like a trek to me. --Peter Bradshaw, Guardian (UK)

What is clear from many reviews is that the filmmakers, though they had the familiar characters, were not shackled to the past TV series or movies. The characters, due to a time shift, have different past histories and so can behave unexpectedly. They also are resigned to cope with the time change rather than somehow reversing it.

Here is a full review, as a reality check, from the curmudgeonly NYT.

Note bene: I haven't seen the film yet....

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Best/Worst Science in Film/TV

SF Signal Mind Meld has a collection of opinions about the best and worst science in film and television. You can add your own comments if you wish. There is presently an eclectic collection of opinion, with fans, a Technology Review editor, a woman who has rejected several of my stories (okay, if you must know, Cat Rambo), SF great Ben Bova (but he doesn't watch TV), a former CERN physicist...eclectic.

Bonus: a grotesque chair made from grizzly bears (note the six legs), presented to US President Johnson in 1865. Keep reading...bonuses are always possible.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Our Perception of Space Aliens in SF

Here is a fun critical piece, "Real Aliens Don't Ask Directions," from Internet Review of Science Fiction, written by Daniel M. Kimmel. Kimmel divides typical space-alien movies into those with friendly visitors who want to "guide us towards peace," such as The Day the Earth Stood Still, and the ones with unfriendly visitors, such as War of the Worlds.

However, there are exceptions, ones in which the aliens have little interest in humans at all, such as It Came from Outer Space, where Earth was an unplanned stopping point for ship repairs. This was the focus of the criticism, so go to the article, now, Earthling. There you will see that We, um, them space aliens out yonder mean us no harm. And go watch ET again, now, before it's too late!

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Future of Science Fiction--Bruce Sterling

Bruce Sterling is a science fiction writer of note who helped define cyberpunk. If you visit the Wikipedia article about him you'll see the broad range of his interests. So he is a good choice to look at science fiction past, present and future, both outside and inside the box. Two themes at least emerge from this introspection: the limitations of the media conveying the fiction and the limitations--often self imposed--of the providers and consumers of science fiction.

What science fiction’s user base truly desired was not possible in the 1930s. Believing their own rhetoric, science fiction users supposed that they wanted a jet-propelled, atomic futurity. Whenever offered the chance at such goods and services, they never left science fiction to go get them. They didn’t genuinely want such things-not in real life....What the user base genuinely wanted was immersive fantasies.

Bruce goes further back than that...perhaps to the first known work of fiction, a collection of writings written in a Japanese womens' script for Japanese womens' consumption. From there, he goes to Worlds of Warcraft where consumers of this scripted game spend far more hours than any reader of books would.

In essence, the article is a challenge to writers to push past the limits of the present media. To write out of the box while thinking introspectively about the box. Here is the article, which interestingly appears in a newsletter associated with a renowned professional organization, the ACM (Association of Computing Machinery).

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Arthur C. Clarke Award Winner

FFO reported the short list for the Arthur C. Clarke Award nominees. Science Fiction Awards Watch has made an unconfirmed report (received by Twitter) that the winner is Ian R MacLeod for Song of Time (PS Publishing). Here is the website for the award. At the time of this posting they had not posted the official result. By their reckoning they have "...the most prestigious award for science fiction in Britain."

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Locus Awards Finalists

Here are novel and short story Locus Awards finalists. The rest may be found at the Locus S&F News site. The other categories include first novel, young adult novel, novela, novelette, magazine, publisher, anthology, collection, editor, artist, non-fiction/art book. The fantasy novelists seem wordier in their titles. I'm just sayin'....

Science Fiction Novel

  • Matter, Iain M. Banks (Orbit UK)
  • City at the End of Time, Greg Bear (Gollancz, Del Rey)
  • Marsbound, Joe Haldeman (Ace)
  • Anathem, Neal Stephenson (Atlantic UK, Morrow)
  • Saturn's Children, Charles Stross (Orbit, Ace)


Fantasy Novel

  • The Shadow Year, Jeffrey Ford (Morrow)
  • Lavinia, Ursula K. Le Guin (Harcourt)
  • The Bell at Sealey Head, Patricia A. McKillip (Ace)
  • The Dragons of Babel, Michael Swanwick (Tor)
  • An Evil Guest, Gene Wolfe (Tor)


Short Story

  • "King Pelles the Sure", Peter S. Beagle (Strange Roads)
  • "Boojum", Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette (Fast Ships, Black Sails)
  • "Exhalation", Ted Chiang (Eclipse Two)
  • "The Kindness of Strangers", Nancy Kress (Fast Forward 2)
  • "After the Coup", John Scalzi (Tor.com 7/08)

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Nebula Awards® 2008 Final Ballot

The SFWA's final ballot for the 2008 Nebula Awards® is in. The nominees for best novel are:

Note: this post updated 4 Mar 09 to reflect the SFWA's balloting error.

  • Little Brother - Doctorow, Cory (Tor, Apr08)
  • Powers - Le Guin, Ursula K. (Harcourt, Sep07)
  • Cauldron - McDevitt, Jack (Ace, Nov07)
  • Brasyl - McDonald, Ian (Pyr, May07)
  • Making Money - Pratchett, Terry (Harper, Sep07)
  • Superpowers - Schwartz, David J. (Three Rivers Press, Jun08)
See the article for the nominees for the shorter works.

I was curious about what short fiction publications ruled. The combined totals for short stories, novellas and novelettes, the publishers having the most nominees are:

  • Fantasy & Science Fiction: 6
  • Asimov's: 4
  • Norilana: 2
  • Analog: 1

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