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Showing posts from July, 2009

Journalism: Are You Doing It At All?

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If you've visited io9 any time in the last week, you'll have noticed banners, sidebar ads, and the revamped title bar all bearing the by-now familiar images of an alien spaceship and an alien-shaped gun range target, which are only part of the gargantuan promotional effort for Neill Blomkamp's upcoming film District 9. The advertising blitz was directly tied to io9's coverage of Comic Con, with most of its con-related articles accompanied by an individual banner reading 'San Diego Comic Con - Presented by District 9' (you can still see the individual banners if you go back a page or two on io9's history, and though the main site's title bar has returned to normal, it's still in its District 9 version on the individual pages of several of the Comic Con-related articles).


If you've visited io9 any time in the last week, you may also have noticed that on July 24th, site editor Annalee Newitz gave District 9, which she saw in an advance press screen…

Fetch My Smelling Salts

The Booker longlist is out, and to my great surprise it contains one novel I've read and liked (The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, review here), one novel I own and am eager to read (The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt), one novel which I'm very curious about due to high praise from trustworthy reviewers (Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel), and one novel by an author whose previous novel I liked very much (How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall, returning to respectable literary fiction after a walk on the SF side with The Carhullan Army). This is very nearly unprecedented. The last time I actually cared about the Booker nominees was in 2004 when David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas was nominated, and a heavy favorite to win. Of course, it lost to Brideshead Revisited 2: Revenge of the Tories, and both that upset and subsequent longlists and shortlists have repeatedly reinforced my feeling that the Booker is awarded in some alternate universe of readers who are looking for complete…

Alpha and Omega

Hey, you know what show could really use a bit more online discussion? Dollhouse! "Echo," the original, unaired pilot for Joss Whedon's by no means triumphant return to television, and "Epitaph One," the shelved thirteenth episode of its first season, are now viewable through various and sundry means. Taken together, they paint a very different picture of the show from the one arising from the first season. Not simply because they are both well-written, engaging hours of television--hardly stellar on either count, but certainly head and shoulders above most of the season's conventionally aired episodes--but because they illustrate how wide the gap is between the show Whedon envisioned and tried to create and the show he was allowed to make.

"Echo," which hews closely, but is not identical, to the script leaked soon after the show's television premiere, confirms the suspicion that Fox executives who demanded that Whedon retool it created ano…

The 2009 Hugo Awards: The Best Novel Shortlist, Part 2

[part 1 here]

By the time I got around to reading Cory Doctorow's Little Brother I'd developed something of a complex about the book. That'll happen when every single thing you read about a novel that is, by any yardstick of critical exposure and fannish attention, the genre novel of 2008 only deepens your conviction that you're going to loathe it. Little Brother's positivereviews stress everything that I hate most in fiction--its preachiness, its naked, political didacticism, and the sublimation of plot, character, and all other literary attributes to this end. Its negativereviews question whether Little Brother, whose action is frequently halted so that it can transform into an instruction manual for fomenting revolution, ought even to be called a novel. Having conquered my fear, I'm pleased to report that Little Brother is, in fact, a novel. It has a story, and a rather engaging one at that--following a terrorist attack on San Francisco, teenager Marcus Yallo…

The 2009 Hugo Awards: The Best Novel Shortlist, Part 1

I have a shocking confession to make: I did not read all of the best novel Hugo nominees before the July 3rd voting deadline. I have an even more shocking confession to make: this was not because I didn't have the time to read these novels, but because of a lack of inclination. I'd read the two nominated novels I was actually interested in--Neal Stephenson's Anathem and Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book--long before the nominations were announced, but whether because of previous experiences with their author, or because of reactions from people whose opinion I trust, or because of the impression I'd formed of their topic and tone, none of the remaining three nominees--Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi, Saturn's Children by Charles Stross, and Little Brother by Cory Doctorow--appealed to me. I'm used to grumbling through Hugo reading when it comes to the short fiction categories, but committing myself to three novels I had not the least expectation of enjoying…

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters and I have had our ups and downs, mostly due to the fact that I read her first three novels in reverse order of their publication--from the twisty, superb Fingersmith, through the intense but punishing Affinity, to the borderline unreadable Tipping the Velvet. However unfairly--since, after all, Waters had been improving as a writer--I found myself reluctant to go any further with her, and gave her fourth novel, The Night Watch, a pass. Positive responses to it, as well as the slow healing of the wounds left by Tipping the Velvet, persuaded me to make a stab at her latest effort, The Little Stranger, and I'm glad I did. Fingersmith remains my favorite of Waters's novels, and I have serious problems with Stranger, but there's no denying that it is both absorbing and intense--shockingly so, given the ordinariness of its setting and the matter-of-fact way in which its events are reported. Even more importantly, it demonstrates--as the first three novels would…

Thunderer by Felix Gilman

Here's a conundrum for you to chew on: is a derivative work worthwhile if it's successful in its derivation? Felix Gilman's debut novel, Thunderer, gives the unmistakable (but, it must be noted, perhaps mistaken) impression of having been written as a result of its author reading China MiĆ©ville's Perdido Street Station, turning the last page and saying 'I can do that.' And the thing is, he can, and has. Thunderer recalls Perdido Street Station (and to a lesser extent The Scar) in its plot, characters, setting, and most of all its tone, but it also recalls its quality. Like Perdido, it is a sprawling, multithreaded narrative which coalesces into a rip-roaring adventure. Like Perdido, it is the story of a place--a city--which is illuminated through its inhabitants, both natives and newcomers, and the story of how those people are changed--elevated, broken, or simply made different--by that city. Like Perdido, it describes a society in a moment of flux, whos…