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

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

British Science Fiction Association Awards 2009

Sidenote: the April 2010 edition of Flash Fiction Online is now online with an unusual collection of stories by Jonathan vos Post, Tom Crosshill and John Wiswell.

The British Science Fiction Association (BSWA) has announced winners of the BSWA Awards for 2009. The honorees include the following for the best:

  • Novel: The City and the City by China Miéville
  • Short Fiction: "The Beloved Time of Their Lives" by Ian Watson and Roberto Quaglia
  • Best Non-Fiction: Mutant Popcorn, by Nick Lowe
  • Best Artwork: cover of "Desolation Road" by Stephen Martiniere

Bonus: the venerable industry publication, Publishers Weekly, has been sold. Its former owner, Reed Business Info, has been shedding its publishing properties.

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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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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Review of Flash Fiction Online

Sam Tomaino at SFRevu has a review of the Feb. 2010 edition of Flash Fiction Online. This month, he seemed to favor "Six Reasons Why My Sister Hates Me":

The narrator of Aimee C. Amodio's story details "Six Reasons Why My Sister Hates Me" and helps draw a picture of their relationship and the world they live in. It was quite good.

You can see this edition of FFO here.

Sam also reviews Abyss & Apex, Apex Magazine, Black Static, Jim Baen's Universe (penultimate issue), Outer Reaches, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Nebula, Stoker and Saturn Ballots/Awards

The writing awards season has begun with three prestigious ballots or awards:

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has named their short list for the 2009 Nebula Awards. Their categories include short story, novel, novelette, novella, the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, and the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. John Scalzi has two nominations, for the novella and young adult science fiction and fantasy categories.

The Horror Writers Association (HWA) has announced their ballot for the 2009 Stoker Award nominees. They include categories for superior achievement in a novel, first novel, long fiction, short fiction, anthology, collection, nonfiction and poetry.

The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films (Academy) has announced their finalists for the 35th annual Saturn Awards. Here are the Saturn Award nominations and the Saturn Award winners (link will eventually change). The Dark Knight won five awards. Iron Man won the best science fiction film. This award has numerous categories, including films, directors, writers, actors, music and others.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Another Death Knell To FTL Space Travel?

According to this The Register article, faster-than-light travel has another obstacle besides relativity: the lowly hydrogen atom. Since that article is quite brief, this post will be all the more brief. As a craft approaches light speed, it compresses what would ordinarily be the sparse hydrogen in space, resulting in incredibly high voltages...more than 1000 times the lethal dose of ionizing radiation. (That's bad.) As the author points out, they'll think of something. SF authors will, for sure.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Take a Black Hole Tour

Science fiction writers for various media like black holes. They solve many story issues (while creating some thorny theoretical ones). If you enjoy reading or writing such inventions, you might appreciate this post.

By way of SlashDot, New Scientist is reporting a simulation published in the American Journal of Physics of what the sky would look like if you entered a black hole. (Warning: do not try this at home; serious bodily injury may result from approaching or falling into a black hole.) The simulation uses actual star data (100,000+ stars). The authors of the American Journal of Physics article (and apparently of the simulation) are Thomas Müller and Daniel Weiskopf at the University of Stuttgart (Universität Stuttgart).

The short New Scientist article includes a video of a simulation run (and then gives options for other related videos). If you are more adventurous or interested, you can download the simulation and simulation data files and run/tweak it yourself. They have a Windows executable and Linux source files.

Here is the New Scientist article and video about a black hole simulator that uses star data. Here is the University of Stuttgart black hole simulator for Windows and Linux.

Ad: Injured falling into a black hole? Call 555-555-5555 to learn about your legal rights. Blackheart & Blackheart, Personal Injury Lawyers.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Review of Flash Fiction Online

Sam Tamiano at SFRevu has reviewed Flash Fiction Online's January 2010 edition. He liked "Caltrops" by Tim Pratt and "Hungry" by Tree Reisner. He seemed to especially like Ken Pisani's "Last Bites":

"Last Bites" by Ken Pisani takes place at a funeral parlor and begins with a boy biting off his dead uncle's nose and saying it tastes like chocolate. Soon, it becomes apparent that all the deceased are edible and tasty. This was an absolutely delicious story with a very amusing ending.

The staff at Flash Fiction Online had quite a lively discussion about that story. All three stories plus Bruce Holland Rogers' writing column can be seen here.

Sam has more reviews of speculative fiction magazines, including:

  • Analog Science Fiction and Fact
  • Apex Magazine
  • Asimov's Science Fiction
  • Black Static
  • Electric Velocipede
  • Encounters Magazine (first issue)
  • Interzone
  • Jupiter
  • Realms (first issue)



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Sunday, January 31, 2010

British Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards Short List

The British Science Fiction and Fantasy Association has announced their short list for the BSFA Award.

Novel

  • China Mieville - The City and the City, Macmillan

  • Stephen Baxter - Ark, Gollancz
  • 
Adam Roberts - Yellow Blue Tibia, Gollancz

  • Ursula Le Guin - Lavinia, Gollancz

Short Fiction

  • Ian Watson & Roberto Quaglia - "The Beloved Time of Their Lives" - The Beloved of My Beloved, Newcon Press

  • Eugie Foster - "Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast" - Interzone
  • 
Ian Whates - "The Assistant" - The Solaris Book of Science Fiction Volume 3
  • Ian McDonald - "Vishnu at the Cat Circus"

  • Kim Lakin-Smith - "Johnnie and Emmie-Lou Get Married" - Interzone
  • Dave Hutchinson - "The Push," Newcon Press

Go to the BSFA Award site for more, including the art and non-fiction awards and links to the authors' sites.

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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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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Orson Scott Card Interview by David Steffen

David Steffen is a Flash Fiction Online staffer. He managed to snag Orson Scott Card's attention for an interview. You can read the interview of Orson Scott Card on David Steffen's blog, Diabolical Plots.

Perhaps one of the more interesting topics of the interview was Mr. Card's description of a work in progress. Pathfinder is a world in which the first Earth time/space-jumping spacecraft divides into 19 copies, including the people. The civilizations are isolated and develop independently.

Says Mr. Card:

Technology is deliberately hidden so it has to be developed anew, and starting with the identical gene pool, every colony has eleven thousand years in which to develop their own civilizations – and their own genetic differences – before they catch up to the “present” of the ship’s original jump through spacetime.

Nice interview, David. Good luck with the blog.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Aurealis Awards and SAG Awards for 2009

SFWA reports the finalists of Australia's Aurealis Awards for 2009 for science fiction, fantasy and horror, including three SFWA members: Ian McHugh, best fantasy short story (tie), "Once a Month, On a Sunday," Andremeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine; Jonathan Strahan (editor), best anthology, Eclipse 3, Nightshade books; and Cat Sparks, best YA short story, "Seventeen," Masques.

Other winners include:

  • best science fiction novel, Andrew McGahan, Wonders of a Godless World
  • best fantasy novel, Trudi Canavan, Magician's Apprentice
  • best horror novel, Honey Brown, Red Queen
  • best science fiction short story, Peter M. Ball, "Clockwork, Patchwork and Ravens," Apex Magazine
  • best fantasy short story (tie), Christopher Green, "Father’s Kill," Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • best horror short story (tie) Paul Haines, "Wives," X6; and Paul Haines, "Slice of Life - A Spot of Liver," Slice of Life

For the complete list of the finalists, go to the SFWA article or to the Aurealis Awards site article.

The Screen Actors Guild announced their awards for 2009. As SF Scope noted, the only speculative fiction notables were for stunt ensembles, in motion picture Star Trek and television series 24. Here is the SAG article on the Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees and recipients.



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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Review of Flash Fiction Online

Sam Tomaino at SF Revu has a review of recent short fiction, including a review of the December 2009 issue of Flash Fiction Online. That FFO issue is here. Thanks, Sam.

Sam also has reviews of Apex Magazine, the Thoughtcrime Experiments anthology (in which Yours Truly has a story), Jim Baen's Universe (one of the final issues of that great magazine), Shimmer, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Avatar: Pico Review

If all you want is a fresh plot and deeply drawn characters, Avatar is not the movie for you. (Ha.) But if it is a three-hour fest of freshly conceived, stunning visuals that you seek, you can hardly do better.

Premise: a paraplegic ex-marine, Jack Sully (Sam Worthington) is mind-controlling a hybrid human/native (Avatar) of the planet Pandora to help influence the natives to relocate from their mineral-rich location...or else.

The natives of Pandora (the Na'vi) live in a world with an embarrassment of riches of flora and fauna. The Na'vi are the predominate species, giant and willowy by human standards, and live among floating mountains and phosphorescent forests, in harmony with all living things, including the planet Herself. This, of course, cannot go on with stock good and evil human characters wanting their minerals.

Looking at this movie as a visual, rather than a storytelling effort, my main criticism would be that the Na'vi are always shown in huge, adult gatherings (including the big battle in the finale) or in flying beast-taming, ritualistic quests. They are interesting folk, but their family life is absent. Na'vi children make a couple of passing appearances only. I think the film would have been far richer to have spent fifteen minutes out of the three hours on Na'vi family life. That aside, the money was worth the price of admission on the visuals alone.

Spoiler: don't worry; you'll have the story figured out within ten minutes of the start of the movie. You've already figured out the basic story from the premise, right? If you've seen films like Medicine Man, you won't experience any shocking turns and twists.

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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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Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Flash: Enigma

I'm not participating in #fridayflash, but when I found this old story I thought I should post it -- but not for the usual reasons.

Friday Flash is supposed to be an encouraging activity, and I think that's a great thing for the community; but maybe there's something to be learned from stuff that's unpublishable, too. I wrote Enigma almost ten years ago, before I was writing anything seriously, and it shows. Don't get me wrong, it's not terrible, but it's not something I would publish now if it were submitted to me, and I'm not going to submit it anywhere else, either.

So let's use it as a good example of bad flash: Eviscerate it. Tell me all the things that are wrong with it. I have my own thoughts, too, but I'll hold off on them until the Friday Flash community has had a shot at it first. Then, in the January issue of Flash Fiction Online, I'll collect all the comments up and publish the results in a “worst practices” article.

Thanks,
Jake
Enigma
by Jake Freivald

Please. “You can’t expect me to believe that.”

“I’m not kidding.” Colm didn't look up from his specimen. “Once we discovered that the objects contained complex but highly regular patterns, we had to entertain the possibility that they were artifacts, and that the patterns encoded some sort of language. And they do. Constructing the reader took longer than deciphering the code.”

Ariel wasn’t impressed. “Everybody knows that when computers are told to take a data set and match every possible pattern, they sometimes alias patterns that weren’t the intent of the set creator. People analyzed Shinglee’s so-called 'discoveries' for a decade before she let on that she derived the data from housing rubble.”

Colm scowled. “Shinglee deliberately selected a data set with a high incidence of regular patterns, and then she only published its most regular subset. She was intentionally and artificially trying to fool computers into finding things that weren’t there in order to prove the superiority of mind over machine. In short, she was a smart-ass. What she did wasn’t science. What I have done is science, and I’m telling you that these little artifacts incorporate such sophisticated information encoding techniques that they must have been built by an intelligent life form. There’s no way around it.”

“Okay, let’s say you’re right. What does your wonderfully scientific analysis say they encode?”

“It’s very, very clever. It uses a self-referential language that describes its own distributed computing system, the sensors that cover its chassis, its pervasive materials distribution system, everything – including, mind you, the description system.” He paused. “It’s a brilliant way of ensuring that an unknown but sufficiently advanced culture could recognize the artifacts as the craft of an advanced civilization. Much better than our attempts. They distributed a physical object that manifests an encoded language that describes both the object and its description. No-one can fail to interpret correctly.”

Colm at his worst. Overconfident, pedantic, boring. “Has the funding dried up yet?”
He took a collection container off of a shelf, inspected it, put it down. “There are quite a few very important people who are interested in our research,” he said. He took another container down, inspected it, put it next to the first. “But you’re right, it has been at enormous cost. The biggest fear is that we’ll use up all of the artifacts before learning enough about them. We’ve destroyed half of them during the decoding process, and some people are trying to get us to preserve a few until we invent a less consumptive analysis mechanism.”

“And you?”

“I think that no one will ever again study them as closely as we’re studying them now. Storing them away is tantamount to giving up on the investigation altogether. We have the public interest and we have the funding. We need results, or both of those will dry up. Can we possibly say that we have time to waste?”

He raised the front part of his body so that only half of his sixty short, metallic legs remained on the floor. He stretched for the gloves on his highest shelf, brought them down, and put one on each of his two gleaming metallic claws. "To avoid contaminating them, not to protect me," he said, and moved to the specimen jar.
The artifacts activated at his approach, making little warbles as he unscrewed the top and thrust his right claw deep inside. One of them moved rapidly between his claw and the other artifacts. Ariel, fascinated despite herself, stood up on her hind legs to get a better view, balancing against the wall with a few legs and her right claw.

“This one appears to be a decoy,” Colm said. “It always interferes with collection. Its noise patterns are loud and fairly regular, so I’m saving it in the hopes that a breakthrough on the physical code will help me get resources for a detailed sonic analysis.” He pushed the decoy aside and took one of the other specimens.

As he walked away, the rest of the artifacts collapsed back into a neutral state. The only exception was the decoy, which was shouting: “The people of Earth will come for us, and they will not stand for this!”
That's it. Tear it apart in the comments section.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. In other words, you can copy and paste it, post it, change it, make a two-hour long movie out of it, or anything else you'd like to do with it as long as you attribute the original story to me. Thanks.

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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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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hugo Awards SemiProzine Category Saved

Good news for small publishers: according to Internet Review of Science Fiction (IROSF), the SemiProzine category in the Hugo Awards has been saved from extinction. At issue was the odd situation in which Locus Magazine was the shoo-in winner for the award for so long that the award seemed pointless; attendees at the last WorldCon therefore suggested that the category be ended.

Various interested publishers formed SemiProzine.org and suggested reforms to better define and save the category and were successful in their bid for at least few years.

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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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Monday, November 9, 2009

Our Post-Biological Future, Maybe

Futurists, including science fiction and fantasy readers and writers may find this article by William Grassie of the Metanexus Institute useful. The article is a report about the Singularity Summit 2009, and its 26 technophile speakers, including Ray Kurzweil.

According to Ray Kurzweil, a tipping point will occur in three or four decades that will send evolution into hyper mode, resulting in a post-biological civilization with its "blending of super-machines, enhanced brains, and immortal bodies," the Singularity.

Or not.

Kurzweil relies on curing death
through "exponential developments in genomics, nanotechnology, and robotics," and the Law of Accelerating Returns which he reckons is woven into the fabric of the universe. Other technophiles are suspicious of exponential growth, citing natural limitatons, such as unsolvable math problems (which I take to mean computationally infinite problems), and an unwarranted expectation that Moore's Law (doubling of computation power every ten years) will continue and apply to technologies other than computing, such as nanotechnology. The most damning-sounding counter to Kurzweil's vision is software development, which technologists say, in so many words, sucks, perhaps even going in the wrong direction. As a software developer, I find that attitude totally, um, believable.

Here is the article on our theorized post-biological future: "Millennialism at the Singularity: Reflections on Metaphors, Meanings, and the Limits of Exponential Logic," with ample references and links.



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Monday, November 2, 2009

Asimov's I, Robot Sequels?

Here is a Keeping the Door article in two parts:

News: long after the death of Isaac Asimov, his estate has authorized I, Robot sequels, to be written by Mickey Zucker Reicher. The first will follow Dr. Susan Calvin, robopsychologist, in Robots and Chaos. The Guardian (UK) provides a bit more about the new series of I, Robot stories.

Commentary: the author of the Keeping the Door article, Australian technology journalist/editor Renai LeMay, provides an impassioned trilogy of rebuke of this move by Asimov's estate: he wonders if the relatively unknown author, Reicher, has the gravitas to stand in Asimov's substantial shoes; he believes the series of I, Robot books already stands on its own and needs no completion; and, he believes the estate is clueless about the genre, but not money-grubbing. (And then he got really mad.)

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Review of Flash Fiction Online, Aug. & Sept. 2009

Our friends at SFRevu had taken a month off for their review of short fiction. I missed that Sam Tomaino had juxtaposed two reviews of FFO. Sorry! He has a review of the Aug. 2009 Flash Fiction Online and a review of the Sept. 2009 Flash Fiction Online .

Those Flash Fiction Online issues are found here: Aug. 2009 and Sept. 2009.

Sam has also other reviews of short fiction:

  • Analog Science Fiction and Fact for December and November 2009
  • Asimov's Science Fiction for October/November 2009
  • Black Static Twelve for August/September 2009
  • Jim Baen's Universe for August 2009
  • Murky Depths #9 for 24 September 2009
  • The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction for October/November 2009

You'll also find book reviews of UK and US fiction at their SFRevu home page.

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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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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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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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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Behind The Scenes of Short Fiction Anthologies

SF Signal has an excellent three-part series of articles about the process of producing speculative short fiction anthologies. This should be of interest to readers and writers.

  • Part 1 Contributors: Jeff VanderMeer, Ellen Datlow, Mike Resnick, Nick Mamatas, Vera Nazarian, John Joseph Adams, Jonathan Strahan, and Allan Kaster
  • Part 2 Contributors: James Patrick Kelly, John Kessel, Mike Allen, Jetse de Vries, Julie E. Czerneda
  • Part 3 Contributors: Rich Horton, Nick Kyme, George Mann, Lou Anders, Ann VanderMeer, and Jack Dann

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Status of Science Fiction: 1951, Life Magazine

Various SF fandom bloggers, including Mike Glyer at File 770 have raved about an article, published in 1951 by Life Magazine, about the status of science fiction. The bloggers were especially impressed by the author's understanding of SF fandom.

The reason this article surfaced was Google's publishing of 1800 digital copies of Life Magazine, from 1936-1972. The photography is great. The advertisements are fun. (Tip: you wives or hopeful girls filling your hope chests will find the kitchen gadget ads quite helpful. And men: where else can you shop for a Desoto?)

(Cough.) Here is the article on science fiction publishing and fandom in 1951 from the May 21, 1951 issue of Life Magazine. Zoom in and be prepared for lots of article continuations. Added bonus: this is a summer beach fashion issue (whoo hoo), and includes photos of a B-36 crash.

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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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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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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ten Myths of Science

This post is not about myths of science results, like: The Earth is (Flat, Round). It is about the process of science. This post may be interesting to SF readers and writers who wish to get the terminology straight, and is based on an article by William McComas at Bluffton University.

For example, in Myth 1:Hypotheses Become Theories Which Become Laws, the term hypothesis, though used fairly casually, has three common meanings, and therefore the usefulness of the word is ruined, as explained in Myth 2: A Hypothesis is an educated guess. Three terms suggested by the article writer to replace hypothesis are: generalizing hypotheses (tentative or trial laws), explanatory hypotheses (provisional theories), and predictions. Or, alternatively: speculative law, speculative theory, and predictions. With regards to the terms law and theory:

With evidence, generalizing hypotheses may become laws and speculative theories become theories, but under no circumstances do theories become laws.

Here is a list of the ten myths of science processes:

  • Myth 1: Hypotheses Become Theories Which Become Laws
  • Myth 2: A Hypothesis is an Educated Guess
  • Myth 3: A General and Universal Scientific Method Exists
  • Myth 4: Evidence Accumulated Carefully Will Result in Sure Knowledge
  • Myth 5: Science and its Methods Provide Absolute Proof
  • Myth 6: Science Is Procedural More Than Creative
  • Myth 7: Science and its Methods Can Answer All Questions.
  • Myth 8. Scientists are Particularly Objective
  • Myth 9: Experiments are the Principle Route to Scientific Knowledge
  • Myth 10: All Work in Science is Reviewed to Keep the Process Honest.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Science: an Inexact Science

Here are a couple of articles that invite hard science fiction stories, both from PhysOrg.com:


Orbital mechanics
: we're used to quantum physics and other edgy sciences to play badly and make us rewrite the textbooks. But the basics of orbital mechanics go back centuries. PhysOrg reports a Jupiter-like planet (but tens-time larger) with a one-earth day orbital period around its star (i.e., its year is one earth day) . It is very unlikely that we would see such a planet since it most likely would have spiraled into its star. We may see evidence that this is happening to the planet within a decade. Here is the story.

Thermodynamics: in another PhysOrg article, the second law states that entropy can only increase or stay the same, which leads to a paradox concerning the reversal of time. A new theory proposes that entropy can decrease, but it erases any evidence of its existence:

Entropy can decrease, according to a new proposal - but the process would destroy any evidence of its existence, and erase any memory an observer might have of it. It sounds like the plot to a weird sci-fi movie, but the idea has recently been suggested by theoretical physicist Lorenzo Maccone.

This makes it more than difficult for physicist to study it.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Is Fantasy Insinuating Itself into Science Fiction?

FFO went all the way to the end of the universe for a link to this story. This National Post has an interesting article that questions whether fantasy is over-taking science fiction. (Of course it is because of Harry Potter.) More interesting are the examples of fantasy intruding into science fiction (which I assume makes it science fantasy). In the new Star Trek movie, which I enjoyed quite a bit, the characters invoked time travel via red matter, an unexplained substance. I remember uttering a WTH when that substance was introduced so casually. The National Post writer refers to this as a magic substance, and therefore fantasy, but at the same time undermines his argument a bit implying it was an instance of bad writing in the screenplay. I think it was more the latter and could have been replaced with a Time Travel button in the command module. It was annoying but didn't ruin the film. The article is enjoyable. Go there to see the writer's (Philip Marchand's) interesting comments about Carl Sagan's dance with the devil in Contact.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

The Secret History of Science Fiction

A post of yesterday, Is Science Fiction Dead?, spoke to the difficulty of defining science fiction in a changing market place. SF Scope has a related post today about an anthology edited to explore the edges of science fiction. The anthology is called, The Secret History of Science Fiction, edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel for Tachyon Publications. These stories are:

making the case for the convergence of mainstream fiction and literary sf.

SF Scope's article contains the complete table of contents for this anthology. The list of authors includes Ursula K. Le Guin, Gene Wolf, Don DeLillo, one by each of the editors, and others.



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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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SFWA Web Site Updated

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has vastly improved the appearance and usability of their website. The style and design is improved and more logically organized. They appear to be adding more industry news as well.

If you'd like to see the previous site for comparison, here is a link from archive.org's WayBack Machine, from March 2008.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

WSFA Small Press Award Finalists

SF Awards Watch, SF Site and others have announced the finalists for the WSFS Small Press Award. Here is the premise of this award, according to the WSFA (Washington Science Fiction Association) web site:

The award is open to works of imaginative literature (science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.) published in English for the first time in the previous calendar year. Furthermore, the Small Press Award is limited to works under 17,501 words in length that were published by a small press.

Here are the finalists:

  • “Drinking Problem,” by K.D. Wentworth, Seeds of Change
  • “Hard Rain at the Fortean Café,” by Lavie Tidhar, Aeon Speculative Fiction Magazine
  • “His Last Arrow,” by Christopher Sequeira, Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes
  • “Silent as Dust,” by James Maxey, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show
  • “Spider the Artist,” by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, Seeds of Change
  • “The Absence of Stars: Part 1,” by Greg Siewert, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show
  • “The Toy Car,” by Luisa Maria Garcia Velasco, (translated from Spanish by Ian Watson) Aberrant Dreams

Small gripe: why is it that--across the board--the official awards sites are the last sites on the planet to post their own results (or are so efficient at hiding them that they might as well not post them)?

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Quantum Flux Causes Everything! (The Onion)

I thought it was funny when The Onion was bought by the Chinese [that issue], but now they're making fun of science fiction. They've gone too far! Blast 'em with quantum flux. What is quantum flux? It does everything and explains everything in this typical science fiction novel:

In Fournier's novel, the idea that particles of energy can appear suddenly out of nowhere is used to explain events that might otherwise seem random, such as how a starship achieves light speed despite the total destruction of its engines in battle, why a loyal first officer suddenly decides to spy on behalf of the aliens who murdered his family, and what became of the security captain whose Southern accent was getting annoying to work with.

Listen here, The Onion, I've invented something for my new novel that will blast you so far into another time and place you'll never get back: quantum acid reflux. You don't want to be on the wrong end of that.

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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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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Neil Gaiman & Cory Doctorow: Giving Away Stuff Works

At SF/F publisher Tor's blog, Mur Lafferty briefly describes Neil Gaiman's and Cory Doctorow's WorldCon appearance where they share their experiences with giving away digital copies of their works as both a Nice Thing and a strategy for increasing sales. Neil Gaiman was the guest of honor at WorldCon. As noted previously on this blog, Doctorow is on the leading edge of digital rights philosophy and is well-known for sharing his work and seeing increased sales. Gaiman is now experimenting as well, and seeing positive results. (Being a Hugo/Nebula award winner might help, too.)

Here is the blog article on Gaiman and Doctorow at WorldCon.

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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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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

2009 Chesley Awards for SF/F Artists

The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA) has named the winners of the 2009 Chesley Awards. Here are a selection of the winners:

  • Best Cover Illustration - Hardcover: Donato Giancola for A Book of Wizards edited by Marvin Kaye (SFBC, April 2008)
  • Best Cover Illustration - Paperback: John Picacio for Fast Forward 2 edited by Lou Anders (Pyr, October 2008)
  • Best Cover Illustration - Magazine: Matts Minhagen for Clarkesworld (April 2008)
  • Best Interior Illustration: Donato Giancola for The Wraith by J. Robert Lennon (Playboy, 11/2008)
  • Best 3-D: Vincent Villafranca for Otherworldly Procession (Bronze)

You can see the winners in the other categories and all the nominees here. Unrelated to the award, is an artist gallery that seems to be in its fledgling stage, but has quite a few samples.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

2009 Hugo Award Winners

The 2009 Hugo Awards winners are in. Here is the official, complete list of Hugo Award winners. Here is a selection of the winners:

  • Best Novel: The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins; Bloomsbury UK)
  • Best Novella: “The Erdmann Nexus”, Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008)
  • Best Novelette: “Shoggoths in Bloom”, Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s Mar 2008)
  • Best Short Story: “Exhalation”, Ted Chiang (Eclipse Two)
  • Best Graphic Story: Girl Genius, Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones, Written by Kaja & Phil Foglio, art by Phil Foglio
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: WALL-E Andrew Stanton & Pete Docter, story; Andrew Stanton & Jim Reardon, screenplay; Andrew Stanton, director (Pixar/Walt Disney)
  • Best Professional Artist: Donato Giancola
  • Best Semiprozine: Weird Tales, edited by Ann VanderMeer & Stephen H. Segal

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: David Anthony Durham

Here, you can see the details of the voting and nominations (PDFs).

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

2009 Sidewise and Prix Aurora Award Winners

SF Scope reports the 2009 winners for the Sidewise Awards for alternate history and the Prix Aurora Awards for Canadian science fiction and fantasy.

Here are the Sidewise nominees. The official site as not posted the winners, yet, but SF Scope has posted them here.

Similarly, SF Scope has posted the winners of the Prix Aurora Awards, here.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Bumbling Future Archeologists

Here is an interesting article by Hugo-nominated Frank Westfahl at the Locus Online site about bumbling archeologists of the future in science fiction. Most of the stories about future archeologists, according to Westfahl, are humor pieces in which the archeologists misinterpret what they find. Interestingly, one of the first such stories is by Edgar Allan Poe. Westfahl reckoned Poe ended that short story abruptly because, as a master storyteller, he knew it was going nowhere. There were only about four long works about future archeology, all of them about gross misinterpretation of the past, and none of them very good. Westfahl examines each of them. Here is a quote from one of the reviews:

As one example of their faulty conclusions, the archaeologists assert that "The Weans were probably not at all a friendly or hospitable people" based solely on two pieces of evidence. First is New York City's Statue of Liberty, whose "one arm upraised" is interpreted as a sign of "a threatening attitude." Second is the discovery of an "inscription" reading "the dodgers were shut out."

For the rest of the article, go here.

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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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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Review of Recent Speculative Fiction Books

SFRevu.com has about 30 recent speculative fiction books concisely reviewed (and many more in their archives). The three most recent are:

  • A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn
  • Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi
  • Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie

These are from their U.S. book list of reviews. The also have UK books and graphic novel/Manga reviews.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Evolution of Cult TV

Here is part one and two of an Entertainment Weekly story about cult television. The linchpin of the article is Lost, the cult TV show. The article shows how the meaning of 'cult TV' has changed over time, from a failed experiment that caught a second wind (such as Star Trek), to a more calculated one:

Throughout the 1990s, cult TV began morphing into something more than just a category of brilliant-but-canceled-yet-fondly-recalled programs. "Cult" became a sensibility, made sexy by the rise of "alternative culture" and made marketable by a paradigm shift toward demo-targeted niche marketing. David Lynch’s Twin Peaks (1990-1991) quickly went from phenomenon to joke, yet nonetheless proved....(more)

Some of the shows mentioned in the article include the usual suspects, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and The Prisoner. Also mentioned are Doctor Who, The Stand, The Dark Tower, and others.

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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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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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Monday, June 29, 2009

Campbell and Sturgeon Award Winners 2009

According to the University of Kansas Center for the Study of Science Fiction:

The John W. Campbell Memorial Award for the best science-fiction novel of the year is one of the three major annual awards for science fiction.

Although this award is announced officially at a banquet later in July at the university, the result is out, according to Locus magazine, a tie:

  • Cory Doctorow's Little Brother (Tor), and
  • Ian R. MacLeod's Song of Time (PS Publishing)

Here is the long list of finalists.

Also reported by Locus magazine is the winner of the the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, for the year's best short fiction, presented at the same banquet: "The Ray Gun: A Love Story" by James Alan Gardner (Asimov's 2/08)

Here is the long list of finalists for the Sturgeon Award.

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Locus Award Winners 2009

The literary award season is about over. Today, there are two results to report. Following this report of the Locus Awards will be the Cambell and Sturgeon winners.

The Locus Award is a readers' poll award conducted by Locus Magazine, with the original intent to inform Hugo award voters. The Locus Award honors the publishers of the works. This year's winners include:

  • Science Fiction Novel: Anathem, Neal Stephenson (Atlantic UK, Morrow)
  • Fantasy Novel: Lavinia, Ursula K. Le Guin (Harcourt)
  • First Novel: Singularity's Ring, Paul Melko (Tor)
  • Young-Adult Book: The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins, Bloomsbury)
  • Novella: "Pretty Monsters", Kelly Link (Pretty Monsters)
  • Novelette: "Pump Six", Paolo Bacigalupi (Pump Six and Other Stories)
  • Short Story: "Exhalation", Ted Chiang (Eclipse Two)

The remaining categories are found here. Here is the 2009 Locus Award long list (finalists) .

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

How to Track Vampires, Space Aliens, Shoes and Wasps

How to Track Vampires, Space Aliens, Shoes and Wasps: if you're going to track all these with the same gadget, then you'll need something small. Here is the world's smallest RFID (radio frequency Identification) device. Not long ago, they were finger-sized. Now, they're mote-in-you-eye sized. The article explains the technology and shows photographs of some mote-in-your-eye RFID devices made by Hitachi.

Wal-Mart put the price pressure on RFID technology years ago by demanding that pallets of inventory arrive at stores with RFID tags, so that the pallets can be easily identified for content and location. Expensive inventory with legs (such as expensive shoes) can be easily tracked. A customer can be tracked as well, to learn his/her buying habits. There are many other uses, including the ones SF writers will imagine.

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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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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Most SF/Fantasy-Like Cities on Earth

You want to write a SF story but don't want to event a world. What to do? What until tomorrow; that always works. Or go to Shared Worlds' article by Jeff VanderMeer and see what some SF/F authors think are the most SF-fantastical cities here on Earth. I can imagine they'd good horror settings as well.

Elizabeth Hand votes for Reykjavik, Iceland. Ursala K. LeGuin likes Venice, Italy. Michael Moorcock thinks Marrakesh, Morocco is the best choice. And there are others. But why these cities? Go to the article to find out, but here a sample from Hand on Reykjavik:

It's more like an off-world colony than any place on Earth. Architecture that consists largely of corrugated metal and concrete (think Quonset huts), a dauntingly inhospitable landscape –lava flows, cliffs, glaciers, hot springs, immense waterfalls....

Shared Worlds is a two-week interdisciplinary workshop at Wofford College focused on creating shared worlds. Jeff VanderMeer is an assistant director and instructor there, and has done everything else, too.

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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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Tiny Microbes to Take over Box Offices?

From Science Daily: tiny microbes that have been frozen in glacial ice were warmed up very slowly (over nearly a year's time) and now have begun to replicate. The idea behind this is that these antique microbes that are up 1/50th the size of E. coli, may give clues to extraterrestrial life, since some space aliens are stuck with really crappy planets. That's why they're always coming here (in movies) to our verdant planet and trying to take over Washington, DC, even though Venice would provide more water habitats and hiding places.

For the writers, here are 224 titles of extraterrestrial-themed movies, if you want to mine this story and that list for a new story ideas.

I did mention E. coli. Here is a list of eco-horror films.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Flash Non-Fiction: Warpships

Do you have a guilty pleasure in reading or writing faster-than-light (FTL) SF stories? Here is something to take the edge off your guilt.

Dr. Richard Obousy, a physicist with M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in physics from Leicester and Baylor, has looked at some avenues for FTL travel and has made some buzz with a diversity of publications, such as Discovery Channel (online), EE Times (Electrical Engineering), Science Daily and, most importantly, FlashFictionOnline.com. Here is Obousy's warp drive summary from his web site, but I'll go with the Discovery Channel explanation because (this is a bit technical) they have pretty pictures.

In a nutshell, the idea is to harness the sizable dark energy in the universe to distort spacetime in the vicinity of your warp-drive ship.

...the extra dimensions as predicted by superstring theory could be shrunk and expanded by the warp drive through manipulation of local dark energy. At the front of the warpship spacetime would be compressed, and it would expand behind.

That's how I'd do it. Here is an interview that preceded the above-linked slide show article.

FFO Skeptic's Report: to be fair, I've found a completely unqualified skeptic (moi), to give balance to this article: dark matter and dark energy are the asterisks attending quantum mechanics that should scare the pants or skirt off theorists. Enough said.

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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

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dune-Like Water Harvesting

Slashdot made note of a Science Daily article that reports a new air-humidity water-harvesting technology that is especially useful in the desert. It is energy self-sufficient and harvests potable water.

In the Negev desert in Israel, for example, annual average relative air humidity is 64 percent – in every cubic meter of air there are 11.5 milliliters of water.

The technology is applicable to community as well as personal water-harvesting devices. The Science Daily article did not mention the science fiction connection to the idea, but the Slashdot article writer mentioned Frank Herbert's "Fremen collecting water from the air via moisture traps and dew collectors," in his Dune novel.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Australian Ditmar Awards Winners for SF/F/H

The Ditmar Awards

The winners for the 2009 Ditmar Awards for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror have been announced.

The Ditmar Awards have been awarded at the National Science Fiction conventions since 1969 in order to recognise achievements in Australian Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror.
The short story nominees and winners (tie) are:

  • “Pale Dark Soldier”, Deborah Biancotti (in Midnight Echo, #2)
  • This Is Not My Story”, Dirk Flinthart (in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, #37)
  • The Goosle”, Margo Lanagan (in The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Ellen Datlow (ed), Del Rey)
  • “Her Collection of Intimacy”, Paul Haines (in Black: Australian Dark Culture Magazine, #2)
  • “Moments of Dying”, Rob Hood (in Black: Australian Dark Culture Magazine, #1)
  • “Sammarynda Deep”, Cat Sparks (in Paper Cities, Ekaterina Sedia (ed), Senses Five Press)
  • “Ass-Hat Magic Spider”, Scott Westerfeld (in The Starry Rift, Jonathan Strahan (ed), Viking Juvenile)

The best novel nominees and winner are:

  • Fivefold, Nathan Burrage (Random House)
  • Hal Spacejock: No Free Lunch, Simon Haynes (Fremantle Press)
  • Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan (Allen & Unwin)
  • How to Ditch Your Fairy, Justine Larbaliester (Allen & Unwin)
  • The Daughters of Moab, Kim Westwood (HarperVoyager)
  • Earth Ascendant (Astropolis, book 2), Sean Wiliams (Orbit)

Other categories include: Best Novella, Best Collected Work, Best Artwork, Best Fan Writer, Best Fan Artist, Best Fan Publication, William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review, Best Achievement, and Best New Talent, all found here.

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Monday, June 8, 2009

SF/F TV Broadcast Shows for 2009/2010

SFF World has a list of science fiction and fantasy shows for the 2009/2010 season (U.S.), including new and returning shows. Some of the highlights of the new shows include:

  • ABC: Eastwick (based on the John Updike novel and movie "Witches of Eastwick")
  • ABC: Flash Forward (based on Robert J. Sawyer SF novel)
  • CBS: Merlin (BBC import)

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Review of Short Fiction, June 2009

Internet Review of Science Fiction has short fiction reviews now of some major print and online speculative magazines, including Asimov's, Analog, Interzone, Clarkesworld, Fantasy Magazine, Apex Magazine, Strange Horizons, Abyss & Apex, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Heliotrope.

Oh, and some newcomer to speculative fiction, The New Yorker.

Some of the issues are monthly and others quarterly. Disclosure: Yours Truly has a story reviewed in the Abyss and Apex section.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

History of UFOlogy

Oh, no, a UFO article right after yesterday's post on the release of British UFO records under their Freedom of Information Act? Yes, but this is coincidental and both articles are about the culture of UFOlogy. (I'll keep enough playdough around to model a mountain, just in case.)

This article by Robert Sheaffer, a columnist for the Sceptical Inquirer Magazine is about the history of UFOlogy, noting the trends of UFO sightings. One of the earliest sightings was quite telling. The sighting was of a boomerang-shaped object which was reported to skip across water like a saucer. Soon after, there were a rash of reports describing "flying saucers," which were amusingly inaccurate copycat sightings, but which had great impact on future sightings and fiction writing.

The author describes several phases or seasons of UFO events: In The Beginning (1947—1973), Abductions Gradually Replace Sightings (1966—1995), “New Age” vs. “Science Fiction” UFOlogy, UFO Crashes and Retrievals (1980—present). Interestingly, the author suggests that the New Age wing is inhabited mostly by women, while the Science Fiction wing is inhabited mostly by men. Other sections include "Conspiracies Abound," and "Promotion of UFO Belief Today." In the latter section, the author notes that UFO belief (or at least interest) is mostly a media activity to promote movies. There hasn't been a UFO best seller in 20 years.

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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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