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Showing posts from June, 2009

The Weekend's Films 2

Last minute Hugo reading is keeping me both busy and quiet, though I hope to have some more Hugo-related stuff by the end of the week. In the meantime, here are a couple of films. Virtuality - Not a film per se but what was to have been the pilot for Ronald Moore and Michael "Unfinished Business" Taylor's follow-up to Battlestar Galactica , it aired this weekend as a standalone movie (which was quite unfair of Fox as the pilot by no means stands alone). Taking place aboard the spaceship Phaeton as it approaches the point of no return in its journey outside the solar system, Virtuality 's chief virtues are its looks--Phaeton's interiors and its CGI exteriors, some nicely done action scenes, and the judicious integration of surveillance footage into the show's traditionally shot scenes. Other than that--and the fact that space-set television has become an endangered species--I see no reason to lament Virtuality 's early demise. The pilot feels several dr

The 2009 Hugo Awards: The Best Dramatic Presentation Ballots

Since I'm a Hugo voter this year, I thought I'd write about more than just the short fiction nominees, and since there's a mere two weeks left until the voting deadline, I might as well get the least time-consuming categories out of the way first. The best dramatic presentation categories get more votes than just about any other category excepting best novel, and perhaps as a result of that they tend to fall in line with popular tastes, giving nods to effects-laden blockbusters and big ratings hits. This is tolerable in the long form category, since it's a rare year that has more than a few decent genre films to choose from anyway (though for a contrasting opinion, see Jonathan McCalmont's alternative best dramatic presentation ballot . I'm frankly a little surprised that Let the Right One In didn't get a nomination, but I found Blindness underwhelming ). But the short form category, which ought to act--as the best novel category does--as a counterpoin

Recent Reading Roundup 22

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The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia - Sedia's second novel centers around Mattie, a clockwork doll who has won a provisional freedom from her maker (he still keeps the only key that can wind her mechanism) and trained as an alchemist at a time when magic and mechanics are at odds. Mattie's commission from the gar goyles, her city's patron saints, to discover the reason they are turning into stone, is interrupted by civil unrest, as political struggles between the guilds of mechanics and alchemists boil over into riots, murders, and an uprising by the city's underclass. None of this is badly done, and there are some very nice notes such as Mattie's friendship with a foreign (and thus maligned and suspected) alchemist, or the character of the Soul-Smoker, who gathers up the lingering souls of the dead and is feared and reviled for performing a necessary act. But taken as a whole The Alchemy of Stone gives the definite impression of having been written to meet

The Weekend's Films

Isn't it just the way: months can go by without me seeing the inside of a movie theater, and then two films I want to see open on the same weekend. Here are my thoughts on both of them. Terminator Salvation : As everyone has said, this is better than Terminator 3 . It's not, however, so much better as to matter. Christian Bale is a plank of wood as John Connor, which allegedly shouldn't matter as he's not really the star of the film. That would be Sam Worthington (who is decent enough even if he can't seem to keep his Aussie accent in check) as Marcus, the secret Cylon, and of a secondary importance is Anton Yelchin (the best of the three, but also the one who's been given the worst lines) as Kyle Reese. The problem is that despite all the post-Judgement Day window dressing which suggests that Salvation is about the war with the machines, what the film actually does is regurgitate the previous two films' plots: a temporal threat to John Connor's ex

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean

Pamela Dean's Tam Lin is a novel that gives the lie to the belief that readers should approach a novel in a state of purity, giving as little thought as possible to publicity, advertising, and the expectations they arouse. A reader who comes to this novel innocent of the impression formed by its cover, plot description, and even its title would probably find it utterly confusing, because Tam Lin creates its effect by frustrating the expectations that these create, by deferring not merely the reader's gratification, but the acknowledgment of its own genre, until only a few dozen pages before its end. Part of a series of retold fairy tales edited by Terry Windling, Tam Lin is based on the Scottish folk ballad about a maiden who saves her enchanted lover from the queen of fairies (the ballad also formed the basis of an important subplot in Terry Pratchett's The Wee Free Men ). Dean moves the story's action to a fictional Minnesota liberal arts college in the early 70

Positive

Science Fiction and Fantasy Ethics is a new group blog founded by author Andy Remic with the aim, up until yesterday, of "celebrating all that is positive in genre fiction." If that sounds rather vague to you, you're not alone--the good folks at SF Signal invited Remic and his cohorts to a Mind Meld about their new venture, but were so unclear about its purpose that they mistakenly assumed that the blog had arisen as a response to "an imbalance towards a negative futuristic outlook" in the genre. Responses to the Mind Meld make it clear that even SFFE's contributors aren't entirely clear what the new blog stands for. Though Remic himself was on hand, his attempts to shed some light on the issue only succeeded in further muddying the waters: I believe there's a lot of people out there sick of the constant whining and moaning and tearing down - after all, it's much easier to destroy than create. That's why myself, and so many other brilli