Showing posts from May, 2008


In 2001, I attended a performance of David Auburn's Pulitzer- and Tony-winning play Proof in New York. The play follows Catherine, a young Chicago woman, in the days immediately following the death of her father Robert, a renowned mathematician whom she has nursed for years through a mental illness. She is joined by her older sister Claire, who wants to take the nerve-wracked Catherine away and take care of her, and by Robert's former student Hal, who discovers a major mathematical proof among Robert's papers. When Catherine claims the proof as her own, Claire and Hal have to decide how to validate that claim, and whether such validation is even possible. Proof is a smart and well-written play, but what struck me most powerfully about it was that, as I wrote after watching the well-made film version , "[it] acknowledges the fact that for those inclined to it, mathematics (and other sciences) can hold the same beauty and emotional significance as art or religion,

Many, Many Doctor Who Fans Just Punched the Air

The BBC press office reports : Steven Moffat will succeed Russell T Davies as Lead Writer and Executive Producer of the fifth series of Doctor Who, which will broadcast on BBC One in 2010. While this is obviously good news, I think it's a good idea not to let expectations run too high.  Though the plotting of all of Moffat's episodes thus far has been strong, I still haven't forgotten the spectacular implosion of Jekyll in its second half, in which Moffat's strong characters stood around spouting his incredibly clever and funny dialogue while nonsense of  Torchwood levels happened to and around them.  It's also worth remembering that it's one thing to write a standout episode in a season, and quite another to oversee the entire season.  Though I'm sure that this is a step in the right direction for Who , we shouldn't expect the result to be thirteen weeks of "Blink." And at any rate, there's the latter half of season four (in which I have

The 2008 Hugo Award: The Novella Shortlist

So, we've had a not-so-great short story ballot , and an excellent novelette ballot --both as expected. The novella ballot, as I've already said, is the wild card. Though I've never read an excellent one, some years offer an impressive crop. This year, sadly, is not one of them. There's only a single story on this ballot that I'd like to see win the award, and it almost certainly won't. Of the remaining four, I found two completely unengaging and two actively bad, and it's in the latter camp that we find the story that is, I'll be any amount of money, going to walk away with the statue. At the beginning of this year's Hugo roundup I wrote that I couldn't imagine feeling the same level of aggravation and rage towards a shortlist that I once felt towards the 2005 short story ballot, but this year's novella shortlist came close to proving me wrong. I suppose that's something to be pleased about. "All Seated on the Ground" i

Recent Movie Roundup 7

A catch-all post encompassing films watched months ago and just this weekend, at theaters and at home. Charlie Wilson's War (2007) - Forget about director Mike Nichols or star Tom Hanks, this for me was an Aaron Sorkin movie, his first chance since the abysmal failure of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip to demonstrate that the man who created The West Wing was still in there. Charlie Wilson's War has all the stylistic hallmarks of a Sorkin work--breakneck dialogue, wry humor, and, most refreshingly, the sense that here, for once, is a film that expects a certain level of intelligence from its audience--and certainly the subject matter--the true story of a senator who orchestrates a covert war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan by arming the mujahadeen--seems to play to Sorkin's strengths. It gives him the opportunity to return to one of his most beloved themes--the belief that with power in their hands, smart, well-informed, driven people can make the world a better

On the Other Hand, Can This Be Any Worse Than Southland Tales?

UK-based sales company Velvet Octopus will be launching sales in Cannes for S. Darko, billed as the sequel to the 2001 cult hit Donnie Darko. Fox has already taken North American rights. Daviegh Chase reprises her role as Donnie's younger sister. The cast for S. Darko also includes Ed Westwick (Son Of Rambow, Gossip Girl), Briana Evigan (Step Up 2) and Justin Chatwin (Dragon Ball). ... Producers have spoken to Richard Kelly about the project but he is not involved in any official capacity at this stage. Empahsis mine. Full release here . Link via Yair Raveh.  Oh dear.

The 2008 Hugo Award: The Novelette Shortlist

As I said in the short story review post , the novelette ballot tends to be strong, often the strongest of the three short fiction categories. Short stories, though in my opinion a format with great potential, seem to encourage glibness--a resort to clever 'gotcha!' moments, or overbearing sentimentality. Novellas are hard to get right--when they work, they're fantastic, but often they're simply flabby and overlong. The novelette length, it seems, is Just Right--enough room to tell a proper story, and not enough to screw it up. Even allowing for the general high quality of this category, however, the 2008 novelette shortlist is impressive. There isn't a single bad story on it, and though my choice of winner is very clear, every nominated author has persuasively made their case for the award. The closest this year's novelette shortlist comes to a bad story is Greg Egan's "Dark Integers," and even in this case the story is not so much bad as no

The 2008 Hugo Award: The Short Story Shortlist

If you make your way through the short fiction Hugo nominees for long enough (which is not very long at all--I've been doing it for maybe five years), you'll start to learn what to expect. The short story ballot will be a mixed bag. The novelettes, generally strong. At least one nominated story (usually a short) from either Mike Resnick or Michael A. Burstein, for our sins. Connie Willis, if she published that year. Ted Chiang, if he published that year, though this is, sadly, less likely. Not a lot of women, and usually the same names (Willis, of course, and Nancy Kress is also a frequent nominee). The overall quality fluctuates, of course--we've yet to see another dip to the depths of 2005, happily--but in broad strokes there are rarely any surprises. Though I have yet to read this year's nominated novellas, the one shortlist whose overall quality can go either way, the short story and novelette ballots have lived up, and down, to my expectations. This is not

Further Thoughts on Black Man

I've written already about Richard Morgan's Black Man ( Thirteen in the US), which on Wednesday was the highly deserving winner of this year's Arthur C. Clarke award, in my review of the Clarke shortlist for Strange Horizons . I left some of my thoughts on the book out of that review, partly because I wanted it to be roughly the same length as my write-ups of the other nominees, but mostly because Strange Horizons didn't feel like an appropriate venue for discussions that include massive spoilers. This piece, therefore, isn't precisely a review of Black Man , but more a continuation from and expansion of the one from Strange Horizons . This means that I'm not going to repeat the points I made in that review, and that in order for this post to make sense you should probably read the Strange Horizons piece first (and, as I am going to be revealing major twists and plot details left, right, and center, that you should have already read Black Man --which ind