Posts Tagged ‘scifi’

MIRRORED HEAVENS tops bestseller list!

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Well, okay . . . the bestseller list at Borderlands Bookstore in San Francisco. But still: the book was first (!) on the July trade paperback list, and then came in fourth for the month of August, tying with Warren Ellis’ CROOKED LITTLE VEIN! (A tie with Warren #$# Ellis! Can life get any stranger than this? Hopefully the answer’s yes, and I’ll *steamroller* him next time around.)

At any rate, here’s a link, but I’m posting the entire July list as well, as it’s pretty interesting. Very cool to see that Richard Morgan’s ALTERED CARBON just keeps on selling. And I’ve heard a lot of good things about WJW’s IMPLIED SPACES. Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

(And thanks to Alan and Jude and all at Borderlands for being such incredible advocates for what I’ve written.)

Top Sellers At Borderlands

1. Toll the Hounds by Steven Erikson
2. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
3. Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik
4. Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross
5. Implied Spaces by Walter John Williams
6. Escapement by Jay Lake
7. Jhegaala by Steven Brust
8. The Man With the Iron Heart by Harry Turtledove
9. The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong
10. Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

Mass Market:
1. The City, Not Long After by Pat Murphy
2. The Devil You Know by Mike Carey
3. The Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar
4. Ha’Penny by Jo Walton
5. Snake Agent by Liz Williams
6. Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan
7. Mainspring by Jay Lake
8. Shadows Return by Lynn Flewelling
9. Valiant: The Lost Fleet by Jack Campbell
10. Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder tie with
The Margarets by Sheri S. Tepper

Trade Paperback:
1. Mirrored Heavens by David J. Williams
2. Thirteen by Richard K. Morgan
3. Spook Country by William Gibson
4. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
5. The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie tie with
The Word of God by Thomas Disch

Governor Palin’s debut

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Sarah Palin’s speech last night was pretty much made to order: she scrupulously avoided all (well, most) of the really controversial stuff, and instead beat the drumbeat of family values and small town Americana. The questions that swirl around her will only intensify across the next few days, though, with the really big wild-card being whether there any other surprises in her past that the McCain campaign failed to discover.

And there may well be. But nothing that’s surfaced so far is likely to be damaging, despite the growing speculation. In fact, a lot of those “issues” in Palin’s past are likely to redound to the GOP’s favor. The “Troopergate” question, for example: Palin may have crossed the line, but the cop she was targeting was clearly completely out of control, and the details of the incident are unlikely to win her anything but electoral sympathy, regardless of what the law says. And as to the speculation on her/her daughter’s baby: do the Democrats really believe there’s serious upside to pursuing this? Based on what we know now, nothing that’s occurred in the Palin household is likely to disturb the voters of Red State America. If anything, they’ll rally around her more fervently.

And that’s likely to be the crux of the matter. Palin has virtually no chance of pulling any but the most diehard/confused of Hilary Clinton’s followers into her orbit. But she has energized the Republican base in a way that I suspect the mainstream media (and certainly the left) has yet to fully understand. There are many reasons why we’ve had only two Democratic presidents since Richard Nixon took over. One of them is the Dems’ perennial tendency to underestimate their opponents. In focusing on the Alaska governor’s experience, they run the risk of falling into the same trap.  McCain is betting that Palin will ignite the NASCAR circuits this fall, ensuring that the GOP base is mobilized and in the voting booths this November. From what I’ve seen so far, he’s probably right.  Whether this can be done without diminishing McCain’s chances of clawing enough centrist votes to win:  that’s the big question.

Alas Babylon

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

With Babylon A.D., Vin Diesel’s career careens precariously toward what we call the Rutger Hauer Event Horizon: that point of no return beyond which a star only makes straight-to-DVD guilty pleasures. There’s a lucrative career there, to be sure, and hey, it beats auditions while you hold down the day job. But Diesel has fallen a long way since his Pitch Black glory days, and that’s a real shame.

Particularly because Babylon could have amounted to a damn sight more than it did. Someone clearly sank some money into the thing, and the world it depicts has a cool dystopian feel to it (there’s some truly gorgeous scenery at times). It opens well, too: in a hellhole that looks it might be round twelve of some Chechnyan war.  And they probably should have kept the whole thing there, rather than turning the movie into the Children of Men-meets-Cyborg roadtrip that it rapidly becomes.  By the time the narrative reaches America, the plot has descended into near-total incoherence, and by the time the movie ends, the audience’s reaction was one of near-total derision.  (They were vocal about it too.)

Leaving us to wrestle with the question of Just Went Wrong.  The script feels like it was done by a committee, so that’s one thing.  And the movie ran over-budget, which seems to have gotten the studio involved perhaps earlier than it should have.  Director Mathieu Kassowitz has claimed that the studio bosses cut 20 minutes of his vision, and maybe that was the problem, but I didn’t see anything on the screen to convince me that there were uncut gems lying around in the vault.  I’m also not inclined to give the guy who unleashed Gothika upon us the benefit of the doubt.

And I have to wonder why Vin Diesel’s agent did.

Riddick, Diesel, and Babylon A.D.

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

The blogosphere (or, rather, specialized segments of it) is abuzz with Vin Diesel’s statements about not one, but two forthcoming Riddick movies. Apparently director David Twohy is even now writing the scripts, which he and Diesel are about to start shopping around. Intriguingly, they’re also conferring on whether they’ll end up shooting both movies separately, or together, a la Lord of the Rings. And the LOTR reference is instructive, as it underscores what I was saying last month about just how ambitious the original Riddick plans were. And apparently still are. Just one problem.


Folks, nothing’s been signed. Twohy can write all he wants and Diesel can talk to whomever he damn well pleases and fans can work themselves up into a Furyan frenzy, but the fact of the matter remains that Chronicles underperformed at the box office. Which is going to make any sequels a VERY tough sell.  I’m not saying it can’t be done. But ultimately the pitch meetings that Twohy/Diesel have with Hollywood execs may not be about Riddick anyway.

They’ll be about Babylon A.D.

Which opens in the States this weekend, and is Diesel’s first SF movie since Riddick. Making it a great way for Hollywood to tell if Diesel still has box-office draw as a SF star. Which, bluntly put, means that if Babylon tanks, you can forget about seeing anything involving Riddick, ever again. And it doesn’t look like we’re off to a good start, either: the movie opened in France, and has been panned by critics so far. Sure, Babylon might just suck in its own right. Doesn’t matter to Hollywood. Hey, it’s their money. When I invest mine, I like to see proof that it’s going to get me a return too.

So I leave you with this: if you really really REALLY want to see more Riddick movies, and you DON’T go see Babylon A.D. THIS WEEKEND, then your commitment to the cause has been weighed in the balance and found wanting. Convert now or fall forever.

IMAX Batman

Monday, August 25th, 2008

So I admit it: I am a junkie, and I have no will of my own. I’d already seen the goddamn movie twice, but a friend dragged me to Saturday night’s IMAX show at the Museum of Natural History. She claimed that if you haven’t seen Dark Knight on IMAX you haven’t seen Dark Knight. I found the logic persuasive, and considered it my duty to put the claim to the test.

And now I can report the results. To be clear, Dark Knight is flat-out fantastic on any screen. But it’s all a matter of increment. See it in your living room on a DVD a year from now, and yeah, you’re missing something. Most of which you get by seeing it in a normal theater. But if you want a five-story tall Joker, there’s only one medium that delivers.  Not to mention that insane underground road chase….and that death-defying plunge through the Hong Kong skyline… jesus christ. Apparently only 25 minutes of the film are actually shot in IMAX, but the sheer scale of the screen makes those other two hours pretty insane as well. It’s a great way to wrap up the summer.

Next on my to-see list: Death Race. I suspect it’ll be a cold day in Lucifer’s domain the day THAT makes it to an IMAX, but in the words of someone I trust, I feel sure it will (a) suck and (b) be fucking awesome.

An albino emperor and a giant soul-sucking sword

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

I’m late to the party: the graphic novel Elric: The Making of a Sorceror came out in 2007, but I’m only just now getting around to reading it. Which is a shame, because it’s quite well-done. The art is gorgeous (apart from Yyrkoon being #$@# BALD), and the storyline is an interesting prequel to the events that start off the first Elric novel, centering around a ritual dream-battle between Elric and Yyrkoon over who is more worthy of being the next emperor of Melnibone. Best of all is that Moorcock himself wrote the damn thing; it’s nice to see that he’s not yet in the business of farming off pieces of the core franchise to hack writers.

Which doesn’t mean that this graphic novel doesn’t fall into some of the same traps the novels did. Every time Elric gets into some impossible situation, that ol’ chaos lord Arioch’s bailing him out, and carting off all the blood and souls in sight by way of recompense. But whatever. The Elric novels broke so much new ground—they were so alive and wonderful and WEIRD—that a little bit of deus ex machina never really bothered me.  Especially because it was part of Elric’s larger fate and ultimate damnation.

And of course now I’m back and rereading the rest of the series. Some of the prose from the Elric books feels a little stilted/dated now, but I can’t decide if that’s because I first read them in junior high or because Moorcock was the one who was inventing so many of the cliches that have since passed into modern fantasy. And I challenge anyone to come up with a better action/drama sequence than the sacking of the Dreaming City that opens Book Three.  (Though why the fuck the Melnibonean fleet waited till AFTER the reavers had sacked Immyr before burning them to the waterline is beyond me; it made for great drama but shit logic. But maybe I just answered my own question.)

And most intriguing of all, the rumors of an Elric movie continue to persist.  As, regrettably, do the rumors that the same team that brought us the Nutty Professor 2 and American Pie is involved. Meaning that (like Elric) we just can’t win:  either (a) there’ll be no movie or (b) we’ll have to watch Cymoril tell us all about band practice and that damn flute of hers. You have been warned.

Putting Russia in perspective

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

A second cold war? Russia regains its great power status? There’s a lot of SF fans who said my geopolitical ideas were crazy. But turn on the TV, and Russian tanks are steamrolling over Georgia. And now I’m getting emails from *other* SF fans who are asking me whether I’m going to use this to claim vindication.

Well, no, I’m not.

For one thing, gloating ain’t attractive. But more importantly, despite the media’s hysterical claims of a new cold war, this isn’t the one I had in mind. What’s presented in THE MIRRORED HEAVENS is a Russia capable of projecting force on a global basis. But the Russian Federation of today is a long way still from anything that approaches the all-encompassing global reach of the Soviet Union.

And that’s something the U.S. ought to bear in mind as it weighs its options in the aftermath of the Georgia fait accompli.  A lot of people who should know better are calling for Bush II to get tough on the Evil Russian Bear.  But what they’re forgetting (or ignoring) is that we already HAVE been getting tough.  We promised that NATO would never expand into the former Soviet Union, but then NATO did.  Not only that, but we withdrew unilaterally from the ABM pact and started building missile defense infrastructure in the Czech Republic and Poland.  And while we were at it we intervened in Ukrainian politics.

But although the Russia we’re dealing with now may not be anywhere near as powerful as the Soviets, it’s still a damn sight stronger than the broken reed we trampled over in the 1990s.  And although American domestic politics has reached such a lamentable state of affairs that both candidates feel they have to immediately jump on the anti-Russia bandwagon (any rhetoric besides the mindless assertion of American power being deemed unpatriotic these days), hopefully something at either the State Department or the Pentagon is weighing the facts:

Item #1:  the bulk of our military forces will be engulfed in the Mideast quagmire for some time to come
Item #2:  the question of whether America intervenes in the former Soviet Union means a lot more to the Russians than it does to the Americans
Item #3:  we need Russia’s help with Iran whether we like it or not.
Item #4:  Putin ain’t Hitler. (This doesn’t mean that Putin’s a saint.  It just means that he isn’t the leader of a state hell-bent on conquering all of Eurasia and killing entire ethnic groups while he does so.)
Item #5:  While Putin may not be Hitler, he really has the potential to fuck with the price of oil.

Bottom line, regardless of what Russia does next, we’re idiots if we go to the mat with them right now over territory inside what was once the Soviet Union. And we’d be unwise to forget that for-too-long discredited concept in international relations called spheres of influence.  And I’m more than a little concerned that over the next few years (regardless of who wins the election) we’re going to start to see just how flimsy some of the assumptions that guide American foreign policy have become.

NASA, Georgia, and those evil Russians

Friday, August 15th, 2008

So the plan seemed simple enough: retire the Shuttle in 2010 and bring the new spaceship online in 2015 (at the absolute earliest). And in the meantime, pay the Russians to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station via the Soyuz. After all, they’re dirt poor and need hard currency, right? And since the Berlin Wall collapsed they’ve been more than happy to help out whenever we need it, right?

But now there’s Georgia. And the realization that if our diplomatic relations with Russia turn to shit, it’s going to difficult to persuade Moscow to continue to provide the world’s most expensive taxi service. All the more so as allowing NASA to contract with Russia will require Congress to pass a special waiver, as the Washington Post reports this morning. Which is highly unlikely to happen in an election year.  And even less likely to happen in a year in which Russian tanks are busy plowing Georgia.

Of course, the real question is What the Hell Did We Expect?  Defense Secretary Gates was quoted this morning as saying that Russia’s Georgian incursion has “called into question the entire premise” of U.S.-Russian relations.  That premise being, I suppose, that we can do whatever we want on Russia’s borders and if they say anything about it, then they hate freedom almost as much as, well, everybody else.  And when it turns out we can’t hitch a ride on the Soyuz, you can be sure the prez (whoever that might be) will decry Russia’s attempt to dominate the entire solar system.  Georgia today, tomorrow Mars:  it’s certainly a better gameplan than anything NASA has managed to come up with.

Cyberwar, Russian-style

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

With the invasion of Georgia, Russia has signaled that reports of her demise are greatly exaggerated, and more than a little premature. Thanks in part to the U.S. being mired in an endless Middle Eastern war, Russia is in a position to define a sphere of influence, and operate within it with impunity. Many are focusing on the legalisms involved: in particularly, how the secession of Kosovo from Serbia opened up the door for Russia to play the same game in South Ossetia/Georgia. But the truth of the matter is that U.S. moves in eastern Europe (in particular the prospect of U.S. missile defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic) meant that Russia has been backed into a corner. Now we see her response.

And we’re also getting a glimpse of the new face of warfare. Even as the tanks started to roll, it became evident that Georgia was under massive cyberattack; now the New York Times has reported that this online incursion (or rehearsals for it) commenced last month. The NYT calls this the “first time that a known cyberattack has coincided with a shooting war”, which I find strange, as there’s more than a little evidence that the U.S. did the same thing in its assault on Iraq in 2003 (and if they didn’t, then they were fools not to).  At any rate, it won’t be the last.

But the exact contours of this new type of war will take some while to play out.  As with space warfare, the topography of cyberwarfare remains relatively undefined.  A fascinating article in Wired pointed out how some countries are cyberlocked:  just as a landlocked country has no access to the sea, cyberlocked countries rely to too great an extent on nearby countries for their access to the net.  (In this case, Georgia is dependent to an alarming degree on Russia infrastructure.)  The road from here to THE MIRRORED HEAVENS (in which the World Wide Net actually sunders along geopolitical lines) remains a long one, but I think we’re starting to see the first signs of it.

And meanwhile Georgia had better pray the cease-fire holds.  Vladimir Putin may not use computers, but he’s pretty good at employing people who do.

What Really Happened to the Quack-Quacks

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

During my WorldCon roundup yesterday, I mentioned that my agent Jenny Rappaport first embarked upon her literary career during junior high. And now, in a stunning move, she has published on her blog the long-lost story “The Tragic Demise of the Quack-Quacks.” Written by Jenny when she was in the seventh grade, this legendary tale is packed full of surprise twists and teaches us a valuable lesson on the capriciousness of life. I particularly like the fact that we first meet two of the lovable duck characters when they’re dead.

Moments after they’ve killed each other.

By drowning.

And now you know you have no choice but to read on.