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Showing posts from October, 2015

Third Trailer

Because I've said something about the other Star Wars trailers, I think I'll put down a few quick impressions of the most recent one.


In short, I'm still really impressed. The mood here is what really strikes me. The cinematography is straightforward and yet different somehow from other science fiction epics. I think part of this has to do with the avoidance of simple orange/blue color palettes (although I could be mistaken on that). There's a bit more going on in the X-Wing and Tie-Fighter battle than what we saw in the previous trailers but this is still not the gobs of unnecessary FX of the prequels. As many observers noted, there also seems to be a real focus on emotional impact. In particular, the confrontation between Kylo Ren (he of the radioactive cross guard lightsaber) and Finn registers as very dangerous. The short scene gives us Ren dominating the frame, Finn backed into one corner of the shot. If that is the direction J.J. Abrams goes with the lightsaber f…

Tips for Describing Extraterrestrials

We are long past the point in speculative fiction where seeing a bipedal cat works convincingly as an alien. Knowing how strange and multitudinous life is on our own planet gives speculative writers a special responsibility to envision alien life as least as weird and unpredictable as that we find around us.


Way back in the 60s, during the New Age of science fiction authors were already beginning to chafe at the existing models of aliens - the bug-eyed octopuses and sentient cows. A reprint of Mutation Planet by Barrington J. Bayley shows  how potent previous generations of writers were at conjuring the truly alien. Aside from the baroque biological oddities described in this story, Barrington focuses on one of the most important aspects of xenogensis, quickly illustrating how different biologies fuel different imperatives. While the story bears some defects of its time, sexism and clunky dialogue, it nevertheless captured my imagination with its ruthless and grim depiction of the univ…

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson's latest novel "Aurora," overwhelmed me - mostly in a good way. Through a clever use of an artificial intelligence as a narrator, Robinson was able to tell one of his farthest ranging story on a canvas both vast and intimate. The multi-generational Ship of the story experiences the complexities of human hopes and conflicts while sweeping up the observations of centuries of travel and peril in interstellar space. While relatively compact for a Robinson novel, plenty here, taken separately, would serve as an entire novel in lesser hands. 




Okay, so what is this book about? Devi, Badim, and young Freya are a family living on the Ship. Devi is a prickly, brilliant, and frequently outraged ecosystem engineer aboard the ship. Devi is a person cursed with that particular mentality able to perceive inconvenient truths about a situation, and knows how tenuous their survival is. Their home, the Ship, is flying through space on a 170 year journey towards Tau Ceti…

The Martian

I was late to The Martian party, having only read it earlier this year. I enjoyed it then and had a good feeling about the movie directed by Ridley Scott, starring Matt Damon. Something about the trailers suggested the film-makers got the essential point of Andy Weir's novel and wouldn't go out of their way to ruin it.




There is a distinct pleasure in having favorable first impressions backed up by the actual product.

I very much enjoyed The Martian which marks the third hard sci-fi space thriller in as many years that I thought really worked. With $55 million taken in over the weekend, it also looks like the kind of financial success that could bring in another round of such projects. As a big fan of space exploration I tend to think that as a very good thing.

So where does this movie lie in the big scheme of things?

The challenge is that while The Martian fulfills the promise of the book and certainly ranks high in science fiction movies, it's not a great movie. Not in my hum…

What I Read in September

September was a busy month for me. Back to school. Two collections including my stories. A great number of stories to pore through in under thirty days.




I am including my favorite stories out of the Bundoran Anthology, Second Contacts, that includes my story “This Beautiful Creature.” I’ll probably do something similar next month with the Game Fiction Volume 1. I think both collections contained some killer stories and it’s my pleasure to talk up them and their authors.

Okay, on to the picks for September 2015:
The Oiran’s Song by Isabel Yap (Uncanny Magazine) A beautiful and terrible meditation on war and the thirst for violence and death. An oni daughter infiltrates an Imperial Japanese army unit and begins to feed upon them. Her tent mate is a boy neutered by his anguish and loss, slowly sliding into being an accomplice.The Peace of Worlds by Jaime Babb (Second contacts) So everyone knows what happened when the Martians invaded before. For all of their overwhelming fire-power and tech…