Thursday, 24 November 2011

Terra Noooooooo! (va)...

At some point before I shuffle of this mortal coil to join the choir invisible someone will surely have to produce a decent sci-fi series. Along comes Terra Nova and I think "ok Stu, now don't be a 'glass-half-empty' kinda guy. Give it a chance - have an open mind."

Unfortunately into my open mind poured this drivel. I can see the Star Trek hallmark very slightly from Brannon Braga's and Rene Echevarria's involvement. But it just feels like the very worst Star Trek episodes (and I mean the worst minute of the worst episode)...

Rod Hallett & Stephen lang contemplate their career choice.

Is it just me or were those opening minutes full of promise? Anyone who has read Julian May's 'Saga of the Exiles' perhaps went slightly wobbly as they wondered if that Pleistocene plot was going to inveigle it's way in... But no, things soon got back to the current status quo of dreary, trite, rehashed, brain-numbing, adolescent crapola we're used to (apologies for that slight to adolescents.)

Are people really walking around making money from writing this stuff? All the effort that goes into the production of a series and it can't be fitted around a script worth staying awake for? Sad really.

Meanwhile, where is Firefly, Sarah Connor Chronicles, Stargate Universe, V (2010) etc? Cancelled. Do you know anyone who would choose Terra Nova over any of the foregoing and probably a load of others I've forgotten?

Bring back any of those cancelled shows - bring back Battlestar Galactica - just don't bring me back in time and bore the living brain out of me. Nuff said.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Neal Asher...the parasite...

Oh wait....I mean 'The Parasite', his old novella now self-published for Kindle.

Currently at #9 in Amazon's 'Science Fiction - High Tech' list and #15 in Space Opera.

 Here's the blurb...

The Parasite, a science fiction novella (40,000 words) by Neal Asher
After mining complex ices deep in the Solar System, Jack Smith is concerned about his profit margin, but is it him who doesn’t want to face quarantine or something squirming inside him? The Cryon Corporation Director, Geoffry Haven, is also concerned about the bottom line and might consider Jack an expense he can no longer afford, though perhaps suitable for a starring role in a snuff movie. Meanwhile, the human and unhuman agents of World Health must investigate. Perhaps it’s time to deploy vat-grown killers and an anti-photon weapon, because the parasite is coming to Earth, and it’s hungry.
The Parasite was first published by Tanjen Ltd as an illustrated novella back in 1996. Tanjen closed down a number of years later and since then the novella has been difficult if not impossible to obtain. There are copies out there, but checking recently I haven’t seen one for below $50.00, which is a hell of a lot for something only 130 pages long and perhaps only for completists. I’ve edited it again, thought I haven’t been too heavy-handed since I didn’t want to deliver something that had completely ceased to be the original. This is my first attempt at self-publishing through Amazon Kindle. I hope you all enjoy it!
– Neal Asher

“Once again, Neal Asher gives his reader a meal of such exquisite taste that you're left like Oliver, desiring more.” – Authortrek 

How about that for a nice easy way to publish your own novel or short story/novella?

Strikes me as well, that it's a great way for authors to republish those earlier works that may be available to new fans only at a premium price. Amazon has a few hard copies as I write for between £48 and £52! And what will the author get for these changing hands?

So its a win/win! Fans get the rare stuff and Neal gets a pint for each sold.


Sunday, 6 March 2011

Hail the Yeast Lords!

Scanning the film channels the other night I was just in time to see 'Gentlemen Broncos' starting. 

Boy, I didn't see the next 90 minutes playing out like they did.

Here's the blurb...

Benjamin, home-schooled by his eccentric mother, is a loner whose passion for writing leads him on an journey as his story first gets ripped off by the legendary fantasy novelist, Ronald Chevalier, and then is adapted into a disastrous movie by the small town's most prolific homespun filmmaker.

Doesn't sound too thrilling right? But what you get is THIS...

Yes, it really is Sam Rockwell flying a fully grown stag with shoulder mounted rocket pods. And guess what, he's fighting to get his gonads back.

He's lucky to be on the stag because he was here before...

Which actually gave them excellent access to his gonads. 'Damn' I hear you say, 'A man's gonads should be his own! I hope he took fitting revenge!'

Well yes he did, and in part his revenge was aided by...

Yep, a telescopic cannon emerging from said stags poo-chute.
This has got to be one of the craziest films I've seen. The pictures above are from a kind of enactment sequence that runs through the film - they're from the story that young Benjamin writes and which is subsequently ripped off by this cracking parody of a self absorbed scifi writer ("to inspire myself I turn to myself"), Ronald Chevalier. Seen here taking himself very usual...

The official website is here and is well worth a look to give you a flavour of the film

It struck me afterwards that it did to scifi what Zoolander did to modelling. 

If you love films so bad they're good give this a watch - I haven't even mentioned the popcorn balls...the mythical yeast...
And as for what's on the blow dart tips...

Oh boy.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

The Work of Neal Asher on the Culture show

It will come as no surprise to devotees of Neal Asher's superb series of post-cyberpunk novels that he should feature on BBC2's Culture Show during World Book Night.

Perhaps it is with a sigh of relief that a maligned genre such as science fiction should finally be welcomed and recognized for the fine literature it is.

Lets take a moment to savour this event - one which we will be able to tell our children and grandchilren we witnessed. 

Below is a still of this momentous occasion.

Some old duffer next to a really good book.

Yes, admitedly, it was on the shelf of a mobile library travelling the backstreets of Torquay.

Yes, is was over the shoulder of a man in questionable headgear interested only in booking out some James Patterson.

No, it wasn't mentioned at all during the entire programme.

But grand change like this will surely be gradual.

Always was in our lifetime.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Moon - under-hyped... under praised?

Some films get a massive build up and I feel it can be a curse - how can it live up to weeks or even months of statements of its earth-shattering originality and spectacle? In fact I find life can also be like that. Ever had some event or item in your life given the big-up and then been somewhat underwhelmed?

This, for me, was true of Avatar. I mean its a spectacular film to look at. I wouldn't have missed going to the cinema to behold all its 3D, eye-popping CGI'ness. But it just didn't deliver for me the big 'WOW' I would have liked. It didn't get under my skin with either scripting or those well poised, memorable moments than remain with us from the really great films.

Moon on the other hand I knew nothing about till I happened upon the BAFTA winners for 2010 - and there, receiving the award for 'Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer' was Duncan Jones for Moon. The title of course made my 'scifi sense' tingle. And then they showed a brief clip. At THAT moment the fundamental part of my brain that says "GIVE ME SCIFI" was awakened from slumber. So aided by a new bluray player that needed feeding I grabbed a copy.

Now this was the WOW I'd been looking for! A bit of digging revealed that it was released soon after Christmas (not good for marketing apparently) AND along with whatever the latest Harry Potter was - so was shoved aside and - dare I say it - eclipsed?

I'm not going to talk much about the plot because if you've not seen it I'll just spoil it.  Its a real thinker - I mean there's a story with pauses and everything! A real scifi story!!! Also some excellent homages to other scifi milestones. Sam Rockwell gives a stunning performance - performances in fact (I'll say no more!).

For me its a future classic and I rate it alongside all my other faves - Alien, Dark Star, Bladerunner etc.

So watch this film! It's a breath of life into the genre that often suffers from slap-dash scripting and pile-em-high special effects.

No hype - just a recommendation.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Help This Poor Author.

As science fiction fans go about their daily business, little do realize the plight of some authors.

Take for example Neal Asher, seen here on the 17th of February. Happily answering fans questions on his video blog you might imagine? 

                A Science fiction author?

Well guess again...

Here's another video blog moment....later the same day perhaps?

                A poor overworked old man. Enslaved and oppressed.

Only notice the date! 10 days have elapsed and this author still wears the same nondescipt t-shirt - no doubt not even being allowed to leave the room! His bleary eyes watery and aching from constant work. His legs wasting away and back deformed as he hunches interminably over his desk of confinement.
So now we see the truth of publishing! 10 days later and what was ostensibly a video blog can be seen for what it really is - a cry for help!

So what can we do? We must come to the aid of this graying old gent! We must buy the new book he has toiled so hard upon - hoping maybe...just maybe, the funds will enable him to break free from this treadmill of literary pain.
It will no doubt take time for him to reassimilate into society - into a world where he can once more move about freely and choose his own clean fresh clothes every day.

One day he may even get some street cred back...but we mustn't reach too far too soon.

So help Neal Asher - if not you then who? If not now then when?

Preorder his new novel, 'The Departure' and give Neal a chance at life.

Remember, science fiction authors are people like you and me.

God bless Neal.

Monday, 28 February 2011

My Top 5 "Desert Island Reads"

Over on Neal Asher's blog he asked for fans to tell him their top 5 reads and send a picture. 

This got me thinking and necessarily meant a good hard bookshelf peruse. The results take me right from those early important teenage books that stay with you, through to more up to date faves. Here's the pic...

Revelation Space - One of my "fed up with fantasy" first buys a few years ago. A real slow burner. Reynolds draws the story together in a way that just drew me in. Its a pleasure to read and I savor his breadth of vision. I've found it splits opinion like marmite - people either love it or hate it.

Downbelow Station - I think my first space opera type read as a teenager. Devoured it. Picked up secondhand from a market in Nottingham. Never met anyone else that has read it - if you haven't I highly recommend BUT, not read it since then so remembered through teen eyes. On my 'to read' pile now.

Forever War - (book pictured is the omnibus) - First military scifi that I read. LOVE the time travel nature of it. Remember being anxious (at about 13 years of age) whether Mandela would actually meet up again with his bint. (Watched 'Somewhere in Time' about then so I was exploring unrequited time travel romance it seems...8)...)

Nightwinds - A novel I obsessed about through my teen years! I was a big role-player (D&D, Runequest, Tunnels and Trolls, MERP etc, etc) and here was a novel that brought to life perfectly that kind of world. Wagner can be klunky in some of his work but I think this is the best of it for me. 'Undertow' STILL gives me goosebumps. Ah...happy days.

The Skinner - This book along with Revelation Space changed my reading direction. After them, I must have bored people silly by my repeated plea for them to 'start reading some of these UK authors publishing NOW- and stop telling me you once read 'I, Robot' or the Foundation series years-ago whenever I talk about scifi!!!'.....ok, I'm calm.
This book made me keep saying 'wow!' every few pages. Good money spent at Ottakars in my opinion.

These books are my five 'Desert Island Reads'.

Wonder if they are in anyone else's top 5?

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Orbus - by Neal Asher

Now in charge of an cargo spaceship, the Old Captain Orbus, flees a violent and sadistic past, but he doesn’t know that the lethal war drone, Sniper, is a stowaway, and that past is rapidly catching up with him. His old enemy, the Prador Vrell, mutated by the Spatterjay virus into something powerful and dangerous, has seized control of a Prador dreadnought, slaughtering its entire crew, and now seeks to exact vengeance on those who tried to have him killed.
 Their courses inexorably converge in the Graveyard, the border realm lying between the Polity and the Prador Kingdom, a place filled with the ruins left by past genocides and interplanetary war. Secure in that same place the Golgoloth, a monster to a race of monsters, is recruited by the terrifying King of the Prador into the long cold war between his kind and the humans. It is imperative that Vrell be hunted down and killed, for what he knows and what he might become.
Meanwhile, something that has annihilated civilizations is stirring from a slumber of five million years, and the cold war is heating up, fast.

This was a novel I was keenly awaiting - and not without trepidation. Could the third in Neal Ashers Spatterjay series deliver the same raw punch and imagination of The Skinner and The Voyage of the Sable Keech?

I shouldn't have worried. Orbus is a real page turner and fantastic development of the series - and indeed the Polity universe as a whole.

For a start we have the war-drone Sniper stowed away with his companion,Thirteen - a relatively small, ex-planetary submind drone in the shape of  "iron seahorse with topaz eyes". Sniper (a heavily armoured, be-tentacled nautiloid) has to be the cheekiest and most irreverent artificial lifeform in science fiction - certainly that I know of. Not to mention the most well armed and least likely to suggest we all just calm down a minute and talk through our issues. So from Sniper's appearance on page one you know some serious action is just round the corner.

Orbus himself is a Spatterjay 'Old Captain' - that is to say centuries old and with a body bolstered by the Spatterjay virus itself. While this makes him phenomenally physically strong and resilient, mentally its another matter. After spending a long while as a sadistic captain to a masochistic crew  he wants now to put his aberrant past behind him. But old habits die hard and a former crew mate - Iannus Drooble - continues with him. Its sometimes difficult to say which of the two would most like to fall into their old way of life.

The relationship between Orbus and Drooble is a fascinating thread running through the book. The characters are complex and tortured, and this is all well realized by Asher.

Finally the Prador, Vrell. He too is virally infected and making his own voyage of discovery - about himself certainly but also the terrifying Prador King, Oberon and not forgetting the Golgoloth, a creature that turns out to be more than just a racial memory. And when you realize the Jain are once again rearing their deadly eye from the past...well, fresh underwear please.

The plot draws together and explores these elements in a marvelous fashion where the pages just seem to turn themselves. The writing style is smooth and inviting while the plot has teeth that grab you repeatedly. What more could you want from what seems to me to be the very best science fiction available.

So if you're thinking of reading Orbus, I recommend starting from the series beginning, as both The Skinner and The Voyage of the Sable Keech are similar thumping good reads and set the stage for this volume.

Hold on tight though, its going to be one hell of a wild ride.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Alien...what a film.

There are a few films that grab you by the eyes and refuse to let go. Perhaps this is even more true with stuff we watch when we're young.
Alien was one of those films for me. It was the realism, the poise, the progressive building of tension and danger. Is there another science fiction film like it?

I'm working my way through the Alien Quadrilogy Boxset - taking some time as I'm also viewing the special features discs. The extras on films tend to be a bit hit-and-miss in my experience but these are just fantastic.

I love it when you can get under the skin of a favourite film (my wife hates the demystifying - each to his own).
Dan O'Bannon describes the films inception - how it was nearly made by Roger Corman (what would THAT have been like)- how he knew the only way out from having to sleep on fellow writer and producer Ronald Shusetts couch was to produce a damn good script, and much, much more. I found him interesting and easy to listen to.

I must say though that I still find the original theatrical release the most enjoyable. Ridley Scott appears briefly to begin with and says the directors cut is his preferred one. Fair enough, but those few scenes which were previously only in special features on previous DVD releases just slightly detract from the pacing for me.

But whichever version you prefer I would say the Quadrilogy boxset is an essential purchase for scifi fans. 

So settle back of an evening, turn out the lights and enjoy.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

So Here We Are...

My first blog - or indeed webpage of any kind! Why? Because I love scifi and I'd like in some small way to share that love. Its going to be a slow process but I want to put my own reviews and thoughts of literature I read, films I see and anything scifi that I enjoy.

For me science fiction is a welcome distraction from the ordinary. A break from reality - and reality isn't all its cracked up to be in my opinion. 

I'll use this blog to pay tribute to authors and directors that I feel help me in that distraction.

Now...where to begin...