Science Fiction

All things science fiction, from movies to books to bad science.

A new hope for science fiction on television?

Syzygy NetworkThose of you who know me are probably aware of how I frequently rant about SyFy (previously known as the SciFi Channel). This once promising science fiction cable network has devolved over the last several years into a dumping ground of cheaply made monster-of-the-week movies,1  paranormal scam-of-the-week reality shows2  and wrestlemania smackdowns.3

The good news is that a new science fiction cable network is in the works — Syzygy Network. The network has been quietly in development for two years and has just begun to go public. And based on what the network’s founders are saying, it sounds like a welcome alternative to SyFy, especially for viewers seeking something a little more intelligent. For more information, check our their website4  and their Facebook page (where they already have over 7,500 fans).

  1. Mega Python vs. Gatoroid, Sharktopus, Bats: Human Harvest []
  2. Ghost Hunters ad nauseum, Destination Truth []
  3. Yes, I know that on occasion SyFy will have a show like Battlestar Galactica or Stargate, but that is the rare exception. []
  4. Okay, is it just me, or does Syzygy’s website need a serious design update so it looks a little more science fiction and a little less ... um, 1998? []

Tron ARG keeps kicking it up a notch

This article originally appeared on TomorrowSage.com

Last evening (April 2, 2010), the ARG1 for the upcoming film Tron Legacy conducted an in-game “Encom press conference” in San Francisco’s Justin Herman Plaza. This particular ARG has been going for about a year2 and — watching from the sidelines — I continue to be impressed with the game designers’ creativity and efforts to expand traditional ARG limits.3

Yesterday’s Encom press conference event involved actors from the film playing out complex scenes in character, while allowing the fans in attendance to literally become part of the story — several hundred of the fans playing the ARG were “coached” to conduct a protest at the press conference. Live events typically have been among the most effective ways for ARGs to fully immerse players in a game, and in this case Bruce Boxleitner’s in-character involvement further heightened the “reality” of the Encom press conference.4 And the press conference event and other elements of the Tron Legacy ARG continue to provide more layers to the upcoming film’s story.5

Kudos to the folks behind this particular experience. It will be fun to see what the next six months of the Tron Legacy ARG have in store for players and fans.

  1. Alternate Reality Game []
  2. Tron Legacy doesn’t open until December 2010, meaning this ARG is designed to promote the film and build excitement for 18 months or more before the film’s actual release. []
  3. Based on all available evidence, the Tron Legacy ARG is from 42 Entertainment. []
  4. It’s unfortunate — based on what little we know of the film’s plot — that Jeff Bridges’ character from Tron Legacy can’t make an appearance before the film’s release, given Bridges recent Oscar win for Best Actor. []
  5. While it’s unlikely that this Encom press conference will in any way end up as part of the actual film, it would be nice to see the event video, as well other elements of this ARG, included as extras on the Tron Legacy DVD when it eventually is released. []

Review: “The Art of the Dragon” by Sean McMullen

This article originally appeared on TomorrowSage.com

Dragon FountainOne of the more challenging areas of writing today is cross-genre speculative fiction, where (as one example) elements drawn from both fantasy and science fiction come together in a single story with a contemporary setting. Not only must an author create internally consistent fantasy elements (such as a dragon), those elements also must mesh seamlessly with the science and society of our modern world. Thus when an author succeeds at making everything work together in such a cross-genre piece, the payoff can be great.

Sean McMullen’s1 newest story, “The Art of the Dragon”, is one such successful genre-melding work. The story appears in the Aug/Sept 2009 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (F&SF). From the very first sentence, the reader is likely to be hooked: “I was there when the dragon first appeared — and ate the Eiffel Tower.” …

  1. Australian Sean McMullen has written both science fiction and fantasy. His debut novels — Voices In The Light (1994) and Mirrorsun Rising (1995) — were rewritten and combined for a publication in the US as Souls In The Great Machine (1999). More recently, McMullen has written a number of fantasy/cross-genre novels in his Moonworld Saga, including The Time Engine which was published in August 2008. McMullen also appeared in the April/May 2009 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction with the story “The Spiral Briar”. McMullen’s official web site can be found at: http://www.seanmcmullen.net.au/ []

Review: The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction

This article originally appeared on TomorrowSage.com

Cover of August-September 2009 issueThe Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (F&SF), currently in its 60th year of publication, is one of just a few remaining US-based magazines/digests in the genre.1 A look at the upcoming Aug/Sept 2009 issue shows that even after six decades, F&SF is still a solid publication for science fiction and fantasy readers.

It’s probably been 15 years since I read an issue of F&SF from cover to cover,2 so the launch of TomorrowSage.com seemed a great excuse to reacquaint myself with the magazine.3 Overall the magazine matched my fond memories from years past, with over 200 pages of well written, thought provoking stories. Reading this issue of F&SF reminded me why I fell in love with science fiction and fantasy in the first place.

What Works
One of the things I most enjoyed about F&SF when I was growing up was the balance the magazine struck between columns and fiction pieces. That balance still feels right in this new issue — there are roughly 225 pages of fiction and 28 pages of nonfiction “Departments” as the magazine calls them. The bottom line is that if I’m buying a magazine of science fiction and fantasy, I want the vast majority of that magazine to consist of fiction. …

  1. Asimov’s Science Fiction and Analog Science Fiction and Fact are the other long surviving digests that immediately come to mind. Realms of Fantasy, which previously announced it was ceasing publication after the April 2009 issue, was recently purchased by Tir Na Nog Press and is scheduled to resume publication in July. []
  2. This is a scary admission from someone who claims to be both a reader and writer in this genre. []
  3. Disclosure: The F&SF circulation manager provided a complimentary copy of the Aug/Sept 2009 issue for review. []

Is Dylan god (at least in the Battlestar Galactica universe)?

In the late ’70s while I was in high school, it wasn’t that unusual to see “Clapton is God” scrawled on a wall. Less frequently seen1 was the message “Dylan is God.” As my musical horizons expanded after high school, my respect for Bob Dylan grew and I began to think of him as a sort of Ur-Creative, pulling songs out of the collective unconsciousness. So from that perspective, the Battlestar Galactica producers’ choice to use Dylan’s song “All Along the Watchtower” as a critical plot element seems perfect2. …

  1. But more plausible for my specific musical/religious tastes []
  2. The specific details of how the song was used in Battlestar Galactica have been detailed extensively on at least a couple hundred other websites, so I won’t repeat those here. []