My Best (And Favorite) Books of the Decade

I told myself that I wouldn't jump in on this best of the decade that everyone else has been doing on just about every online printed source, but after seeing a couple of very good and a couple more very confusing ones, I went through my bookshelves and pulled out several books that were my favorite, and in my opinion, best genre books of the past ten years.

The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi This book was released earlier this year, and while I was unfamiliar with Mr. Bacgalupi's shorter fiction, I was singularly impressed with his first novel, The Windup Girl. I've already reviewed the book in length here, but in retrospect, this will likely stand up as one of the best genre books in the past ten years. The Windup Girl is not only well written, it's well conceived, which is just as important, I think, for a future world. Bacigalupi puts together a compelling, terrifying and ultimately believable near future, with relevance and everything that good science fiction should be.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Suzanna Clarke Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell was one of the books that took me a long time to get into and to finish - I stopped and started it several times since I got it, but was never able to really get into it before I actually made the time to read. It's a challenging book, with an older style of writing. Once I had gotten into the proper mindset, I was pulled right into Suzanne Clarke's alternative world of Wizards, Napoleonic War and fate, and loved every minute from that point on. Clarke dispels with the very common notion of sword and sorcery fantasy novel by setting it in a far more relatable London, and approaches the subject matter in a far different manner than other books of the genre.

American Gods, Neil Gaiman American Gods is another novel that I had to take my time to read, stopping and starting a couple times before really getting into the proper mindset that was required for Gaiman's world. This sort of mythological story is an interesting concept, where belief begets creation, and there is a conflict brewing between the old and the new, with the protagonist, Shadow, caught in the middle. The story is a profound one, and one that I'll likely return to someday.

Soon, I Will Be Invincible, Austin Grossman Where a couple of the novels on this list have been akin to great feasts of old, Soon, I Will Be Invincible is a modern day family dinner, a bit rushed, fairly complete but really good. Author Austin Grossman creates an entire superhero mythology, split between a hero and villain, in a modern day setting. Where a number of comic books have stagnated, with the same characters recycled year after year, we are party to a mythology that is put together with the benefits of a realistic society. Grossman's superheroes are just as messed up as the rest of us, and this is where the book is an incredible amount of fun, because it's like the Marvel Universe, but all grown up.

The Magicians, Lev Grossman Lev Grossman is the brother of Austin Grossman, and like his twin brother, he takes what was a well tread-upon world and tweaks it to become more relatable in The Magicians. Here, rather than superheroes, we are treated to wizards, and a magical academy. The style here is very different, and while there are similarities to Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia, they act more as references and influences than they do style and feel. Grossman's Brakebills College is realistic where Rowling's Hogwarts is not, and imagines the fantasy world as one akin to ours.

The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch I learned of Scott Lynch through a friend of mine, and when I picked up his debut fantasy novel The Lies of Locke Lamora, I was already pretty excited, and was impressed with Lynch's style of storytelling - his fantasy world is different from the typical sword and sorcery take that a lot of fantasy novels seem to have taken on. Like other authors on this list, he has put together an incredibly well conceived world, one that was vibrant, dangerous and interesting all at the same time. Lynch's follow-up novel, Red Seas Under Red Skies was just as good, and I'm eagerly awaiting the third installment of his series, The Republic of Thieves.

Altered Carbon, Richard K. Morgan Altered Carbon debuted with quite a bit of buzz, when it was released. Richard K. Morgan's first book about a noir mystery in a conscious/body swapping sounds like something out of the worst dregs of B-movie Science Fiction, but the result is a dark, exciting and intelligent SciFi thriller that I think of as Blade Runner, but more violent. The first of the Takeshi Kovacs trilogy, Morgan weaves together a complicated and twisting futuristic tale, one that had me guessing throughout the book.

The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman Where Harry Potter was the real fantasy show stopper of the decade (and for good reason), I've always thought that Philip Pullman's Golden Compass trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and the Amber Spyglass) was a bit marginalized. Pullman's fantasy tale is more than that - it pulls in elements of science fiction and alternate worlds to put together an epic story that goes from a childhood fantasy adventure to discovering the nature of existence itself, while a war between two sides of that sort of question rages on across multiple universes. The Amber Spyglass, the conclusion to the series, is heavy with meaning, questions and utter brilliance, and is far above and beyond most genre books to begin with.

Coyote, Allen M Steele Allen M. Steele's Coyote was first serialized in Asimov's Science Fiction magazine, and is still a joy to read after several sit-down sessions. Grounded in quite a lot of hard science fiction, Coyote tells the story of a near future colony of humans who steal a massive space ship from their fascist American government and find themselves on Coyote, the moon of a distant planet that was deemed a good candidate for colonization. The story follows several characters as they learn to exist on this hostile new world, in a story that is very reminiscent of the origins of America. The follow-up books in the series are good, but this is easily the best. While the story isn't groundbreaking, it is a great deal of fun, covering a number of popular themes, chief of which is exploration and discovery, which helps to remind me why I love this genre so much.

Halting State, Charles Stross Charles Stross is one of the preeminent science fiction writers of our time, and his novel Halting State demonstrates that he's really clued in to what might happen in the next couple of years. Halting State is a book that I've talked about before, but what makes this stand out for me for the past decade is Stross's understanding of how the future might work, from technology to politics to economics, all of which are brought in for this story, expertly woven into the actions of the protagonist, and really make this a stellar read.

City of Pearl, Karen Traviss Karen Traviss has been making a name for herself with the tie-in world with Star Wars, Gears of War and Halo, but this first book in her own universe outshines them all. City of Pearl is a wonderfully realized book, the first in a six book series that puts together first contact, interstellar politics and warfare, environmentalism and bioethics. Spanning the course of several hundred years and across a couple of planets, this book puts all of that in with a number of intriguing characters and well conceived plot lines. The bonus is Traviss's cynical attitude towards humanity, which makes this book a bit of a break from most of the human-centric stories that I've read.

Think about this, I think that this is a good list to have put together. In a very big way, the past decade has been the most formative when it comes to my tastes in books, music and movies, and where my interests in Science Fiction, Fantasy and related genres really came from. This decade marked my high school years, where I not only transitioned from a Star Wars only diet of reading material to the larger classics: Dune, Ringworld and Foundation, to name a few.

While I got most of my base from these classics, most of the books that I've picked for this list are far from the classics - at points, they take a lot of the best themes and turns them on their heads, realizes a number of well conceived notions in new light and makes the genre something new and interesting to read. While reading these books, I've come to realize that the field of science fiction is not one to be left mired in the b-movie territory that long characterizes it; it is a dynamic and interesting field, one that will continue to thrill fans in the future.

Review: The Windup Girl

Paolo Bacigalupi‘s debut novel The Windup Girl is a frightening, realistic and brilliant look at the near future of the world. Taking place in Thailand at some point in the future, Bacigalupi paints a picture of a world that is caught between several major problems: climate change has affected the lives of many people around the world. At the same time, a rise in global agricultural corporations has devastated the global ecosystem while global energy resources have been depleted, forcing major changes in the way people live their lives. In a post-oil world, people have adapted, and trade is once again bringing things to people around the world. Corporations have run amok with trying to maintain their profit margins, and released a number of plagues upon the world that devastated the planet’s ecology upon which we all depend. Because of their actions, civilization remains just a single step ahead of the latest mutation of blister rust and other diseases. Amongst all of this, Thailand has thus far weathered the storm – the royal government has maintained a fierce isolationist policy to keep the country from succumbing. As a result, the country has a precious resource that western companies desperately want: a genebank, containing thousands of new strains of crops that could be utilized to combat the ongoing struggle against plagues and hunger world-wide.

The story follows several interlocking storylines and characters, each with their own motivations and demons. Anderson is a ‘calorie man’, a westerner who ostensibly manages a factory that manufactures kink-springs, a renewable power source. Jaidee is a member of the Environmental Ministry, tasked with maintaining a barrier between Thailand and the rest of the world and the dangers that it poses. Emiko is a windup, a genetically engineered woman, designed by the Japanese for servitude and for sex, who was abandoned in Thailand and fears that she will be found by the Environmental Ministry's White Shirts and disposed of. In addition to these main characters, there are a number of other background characters who are just as complex as their counterparts. Anderson has come to Thailand on the behalf of a major agricorporation that is hoping to gain a foothold in the country in order to obtain rights to the country’s gene banks. While he is ostensibly looking for ways to combat the plagues, Thailand officials believe that the corporations have far more sinister and selfish motivations for the gene banks. While in the country, he has to walk a narrow line to stay in the country, as the Environmental Ministry intends to keep Thailand free.

Captain Jaidee is a leading member of the Environmental Ministry, and throughout the book, it is clear that the country is not necessarily unified in its position to remain away from the rest of the world. Limited trade and imports occur through the actions of the Trade Ministry, which is at frightening odds with the Environmental Ministry, to the point where open bloodshed and crimes are committed on both sides to try and force their position upon the rest of the country, which eventually interrupts into violence, which helps to push forward some of the plans that Anderson and others have laid to gain more traction into the country.

Emiko’s titular character is somewhere between the various storylines. As an artificial biological construct, she is a representation of what is wrong with the outside world in the eyes of a secular nation that believes heavily in the value of one’s soul and rebirth. To the Thai people, she is a soulless being, one who is against nature, and essentially lumped in with the problems of the world. Thus, Emiko, who is unsuited for Thailand’s climate with reduced pores (she overheats easily) and a body structure that makes her stutter while moving, which makes her a literal odd woman out, and thus a target to the Environmental Ministry who see her as a threat to the country’s independence.

Futuristic worlds are a common element in Science Fiction, but it is very rare to have one that is so deeply realized as Bacugalupi’s Thailand, one that takes the current state of existence for the country and extrapolates into the future with hypothetical events. The portrait that he paints of the world is very scary indeed, and the constructed world has reacted accordingly though a number of levels. What makes this novel so interesting is just how everything fits together. There are economic elements that make sense, social, biological and political, all of which are not mere exposition in a prologue in the novel, but where they are an active part of the storyline. This, in a way is one of the best examples of show, don’t tell, a writing exercise that I remember from creative writing courses. What is even better (or sobering, depending on how you look at it), this world makes sense. I can see major corporations putting profit ahead of common sense, and I can see the world going to hell in much more vivid detail now. Furthermore, Bacugalupi posits the power struggle between various departments of government, each with their own agendas and motives, both at odds with one another, which trails up through to the very end of the book.

There’s a strong look at morality and ethics when it comes to bioengineering and the eventual fate of the species, and how our role fits within a society such as what we see in the future. Emiko, a Windup, is shunned, hated, in reaction to what she was, and what she represented: something highly unnatural. By the same token, there are holes in that sort of feeling, as one character confronts towards the end of the novel. One thing that particularly stuck in my mind was how much of evolution is an unnatural, random occurrence, verses how much of it is conscious decisions that any sort of creature makes that better enhances their chances of survival? In this world, survival is predicated on the work of gene rippers and scientists who remain just a couple of steps against plagues – it is noted that the windups are built for a purpose, and that they are immune to most problems in the world because of their unique design. Like the clashes in the Thailand government, there is a larger struggle at stake, survival, with both sides making valid arguments for their continued existence. In a sense, this story is a look at how the human race might choose to survive, and enter a new stage of development. To me, this is a very profound element to the story.

When all is said and done, there is one big theme that goes through and through with this book: survival. Each element of the book deals with this very issue, from the ultimate survival of the human race in a hostile world, to the immediate survival of several characters who are neck deep in political and economic conspiracy to the various branches of government who want to see their vision of the future for their country to survive the coming turmoil.

What truly stands out for this book is the rich detail and fantastic prose. I’ve purposely taken my time with this book so that I could absorb as much as I could. What Bacugalupi puts together is a superior story, one of the best science fiction novels that I have read in a long time, one that takes the best from well thought out characters, plausible economics and science and a complicated story.

Stargate Universe

On Friday, the SyFy channel unveiled its latest addition from the Stargate franchise, Stargate: Universe to high ratings, showing that the third series has a good potential at life for the newly relaunched channel. This new version is an enormous leap forward for the series, evolving characters, storylines and the entire universe in which the show is set to bring about what looks to be a very promising addition to both the franchise and the genre.

Stargate: Universe opens quietly, with several location shots of space and the Destiny, the ship on which the show will be taking place, with an eventual cut to the familiar image of an active Stargate. A single soldier flies through the opening (Lt. Matthew Scott), falling and quickly checking his surroundings. What happens next is a mad rush of people and equipment. There is no explanation, no introduction of characters or their situation. It proves to be one of the most compelling moments in the franchise to date, and is so out of character for the Stargate Universe that this could very well be a different show, unrelated to the Stargate franchise, one that utilizes only one of the elements of the original show to any large degree, the titular Stargate.

The rest of the episode is shown through alternating scenes, the frantic scenes onboard the Ancient ship and the moments leading up to their predicament. Notable characters, such as Daniel Jackson, Jack O'Neill and Samantha Carter all make short cameos, which helps transition this universe from the familiar world of SG-1. I was happy to see that the characters got their moments, (they did the same for Atlantis), but I was equally happy that these appearances were just placeholders, showing that the franchise and storylines moved on after SG-1, and that there were other things to explore. The episode storyline is also very different from what longtime viewers of SG-1 or Atlantis might expect, both in story and execution. With the unconventional start to the episode, we go back to see Eli Wallace, a typical geek-type, solves a puzzle on an MMORPG and is visited by O'Neill and Dr. Rush, who tell him that the puzzle was to help solve a problem that the SGC was having off world. Eli is brought to a spaceship (where we see Daniel Jackson at his best, explaining things in long form) and brought to Icarus Base, where Rush is working out an equation to uncover the meaning behind the 9th chevron of the Stargate. Because of the planet's unique properties, this is the ideal place to study, for power reasons. Shortly after the delegation's arrival, the planet is attacked and the team, with Eli's help, is able to dial the new address with the 9th Chevron, bringing the storyline to The Destiny, an Ancient ship designed to explore, but that is also falling apart.

Thus, the series begins, not with the very typical elements that defined the earlier shows, but with even more basic ones - air supply (the first three episodes are called Air, Parts 1, 2 and 3, with 3 airing next Friday) food and water, with the very survival of the people, all unprepared for this unexpected journey. This is a huge change from the two prior series - the characters were laid out, the story generally involved a new planet or technology, and everyone was home by supper. This changed over the evolution of the shows, but by and large, this formula didn't change all that much. This, on the other hand, takes the formula and throws it through the Stargate. While this isn't BattlestarGate like a lot of people had thought, it's clear that SyFy has realized that the method of storytelling that Battlestar Galactica utilized would work well for this show, and from all appearances, it's been utilized very well.

What I liked most of all was that this isn't a rehash of SG-1 like Stargate Atlantis was. SG-1 was a very fun show, one that really grew with time, but a show that really held to many of the same conventions throughout. Thus, it was consistent, but as viewers tastes in shows matures, the show did not. Atlantis was essentially a rehash of SG-1, just with different characters in a different galaxy, but with many of the same stories and even situations carrying over. This show, on the other hand, seems to seek out a very different path with the overall intent of the storyline, going over some new territory and retreading some very basic older ground.

What the show does to the franchise is that it removes many of the assumptions that the earlier shows held. Travelling to another planet, after a while, became very routine and as such, much of that energy and enthusiasm vanished in the first couple seasons, and were aptly replaced by the major storylines that developed. This is in no way a bad thing, but it was a noticeable thing. With Universe, that sense is back, but with it is much of the danger and feeling of the unknown. Where SG-1 sprinted through stories, Universe is taking the slower and more deliberate route, which should be more realistic, but more interesting to the modern viewer.

Like in SG-1, the core of the story is exploration; really capturing what I believe is the central essence of Science Fiction, exploration. This is demonstrated after the refugees from the base find themselves on the ship, and it is explained that they can fulfill something important while onboard, exploring the universe around them, essentially making the best of what is a really terrible situation. This is where the show delves into new territory, with a race for survival for basics - security and air. This was explored a bit in Atlantis, but not nearly with as much urgency as here. SGC members tread around the ship, almost getting killed when they open the wrong doors, and they race to repair the atmospheric conditions on board by plugging a couple of leaks that they find and fixing the air scrubbers. This is something that never seemed to happen in the original shows, and to some extent, it feels a little more like the original film upon which the shows are based. This is something that will most likely continue with the rest of the series, as the characters begin to inventory what they have - tape, paper, but not much when it comes to necessities. Hugo Award winning author John Scalzi has been brought in as a consultant, and noted that the crew has a finite number of resources, such as bullets and food, and that this figures into the style of the show.

What is also very promising for the rest of the series is the characters. While initially reading over the early plots and character descriptions, I wasn't very hopeful for how the show looked. Fortunately, SyFy has assembled a very promising cast of characters, each with their own moments in the limelight as the story progressed in the first episode. There is enough background hinted at for each character for a whole multitude of upcoming stories, somewhat along the lines of what was done in LOST, which is good. We have a number of characters that really aren't the cut and dry, good and bad sort of characters. Rather, we're treated to numerous shades of gray, and I'm not sure where these characters will end up by the end of Season 1. Of the entire cast, however, Dr. Nicholas Rush, played by Robert Carlyle is the most intriguing, with a hinted tragic past and unclear motivations, and will clearly be a person to watch during future episodes. A number of the other characters are also quite interesting, and I am eager to see what they do with a couple of them.

Universe, when it was first announced, was not a show that I was looking forward to. Early news reports did not look good, and even with the first trailers, I wasn't won over by the premise. It was not until I began to hear that this show would be different, not only in how it was shot, but how it was structured, that I began to take more of an interest, and watching the results, I was amazed at how the franchise had grown up to what I saw before me. This is a good move for SyFy and the Stargate franchise, because it shows that the story can move onto different story models and styles, rather than essentially rehashing much of the same, as Atlantis did with SG-1. Atlantis failed after only five seasons, compared to SG-1's massive run of ten seasons. Indeed, the eventual failure of SG-1 is most likely the same as Atlantis's - the show simply did not change enough from the original model, even with a fairly new cast and set of storylines that would have carried it into future seasons. Universe seems to be that change that the franchise has so desperately needed, one that retains the familiar aspects of the shows that we know and love, but with newer elements that have been shown to work very well in a number of newer shows.

Air, Parts 1 and 2, are a fantastic start to the new show, and if they are any indication of how this season will fare, it will be very interesting indeed. Already, it is amongst the best two hours in the entire franchise, and I have a feeling that the rest of the show will put Universe as one of the better shows in the franchise, if not the best of the three. I am now eagerly awaiting the rest of the season.

Currently Reading

It's been a little while since I've done one of these updates...

Reading Now: Consider Phlebas, Iain M Banks - This is Bank's first book in his Culture Series. It's fast-paced, engaging, and interesting, but it's not making any favorites list for me. The plot's a bit scattered, but it's incredibly rich in the culture (snark) that's inhabited the galaxy. There's epic space warfare, orbital ringworlds, politics on a vast level and a cast of interesting characters. Honestly, this is a very cinematic and fun read. I'm blowing right through it - 200 pages in 2 hours!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Mark Haddon - I started this book a while ago, about an autistic man trying to solve the reasons for a dog's death. How Starbucks Saved My Life, Michael Gates Gills - Old, White guy gets job with black boss in retail after a high powered job, learns about self. Meh, it's nothing that I'd buy full price, but it's interesting. Blood and Thunder, Hampton Sides - I've had this book on the reading list for over a year now. It's fantastic, but I'm so burned out on history that I'm not sure when I'll get around to finishing it.

To Read:

The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi - This is the next book that I'll pick up after I finish Phlebas. It's gotten a bit of buzz around the SF blog world. It takes place in a future Thailand, involving GMOs, Genetic engineering and Politics. I'll probably begin it tonight. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman - This has been a long recommended read for me, and I've been on a bit of a military SF kick lately, so this is one that I'm really looking forward to tackling. Shadowbridge, Gregory Frost - Gregory Frost came to my attention about a year ago when Borders dropped his books. I complained about it here. This looks like a really fun book, part of a duology. I've got both books, Shadowbridge and Lord Tophet, and I'll likely get to them sometime this fall. They look to be quick reads. Traffic, Tom Vanderbilt - This book has long facinated me - I love driving, and this book porports to talk about why we drive the way we do. It's something that I've given quite a bit of thought to, especially while in traffic. The Power Makers, Maury Klein - This book looks really interesting, about the struggle between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison, looking at their work and how they helped to bring about a modern United States with electricity and steam power. Tesla has been a figure in American history that has long facinated me, and this type of history is really interesting, something that I love to read about. The Next 100 Years, George Friedman - This book's popped up on a couple of SF blogs as well - I got it along with The Windup Girl. It's a look at the next 100 years and how the economics, politics and wars of the future will play out. I wonder how much of it will come to pass. The People's Tycoon, Steven Watts - This is another personality/history book that I'm really looking forward to - Henry Ford. I'm going to be ramping up a project that has to do with automotive history, and this is going to be the first step towards that project in background research. Theodore Rex - Edmund Morris - This is a biography of Theodore Roosevelt, one that's been highly acclaimed, and a person that I'd like to learn more about. This has been on the list for a while. Time to actually read it when I can get to history again. The Ghost Brigades, John Scalzi - This is the sequel to Scalzi's Old Man War, which I reviewed here. I really enjoyed the first book, it was a fast-paced, entertaining read, and it really set up for this second book. Tales from a Perilous Realm, JRR Tolkien - A collection of Tolkien's short stories, 5 of them. It looks like a fantastic read.

To Read, Tier 2 - These are books that are on the to-read list, but not a huge priority... yet.

Andvari's Ring, Arthur Peterson A Game of Thrones, George RR Martin The Echo of Battle, Brian Linn Kindred, Octavia Butler The Warded Man, Peter Brett Woken Furies, Richard K Morgan Anathem, Neal Stephenson

SciFi Channel Tries to Become Anything But

The Sci-Fi channel announced on Monday that they were to be undergoing a major rebranding effort, changing the name of the channel and its related projects to the SyFy Channel.

It's a terrible idea.

The impedus behind this move is a logical one for the company, I'll be honest. The channel, according to all reports, has really been growing over the past couple of years. I frequently hear about how various miniseries events, television premieres and films that are aired on the channel break prior records for viewers, which is a positive step for the genre, and the network has gained a number of viewers outside of the normal fan routes for shows such as Battlestar Galactica, which have gained considerable attention over the past five years.

Still, this move, and others that the channel has made in the past couple of years, are worrisome. In 2002, the channel cancelled Farscape, citing expenses, although there was a considerable fanbase for the show, although that was later brought back. Part of the decision has widely been reported to have been taken because the channel was attempting to transition away from the image of space ships and aliens, and towards more grounded and accessible shows and movies. As a result, shows such as Stargate and Battlestar Galactica are being transitioned out, to be replaced with shows such as Eureka and Warehouse 13.

The main problem that I see here is that the network is essentially alienating and marginalizing its core target audience, which is both insulting and unfair to the demographic that is largely watching Sci-Fi's shows. The impression here is that the 'geek'/'nerd' demo is not only enough for the channel's expansion, but it is unwanted, because the nerds are the unwashed, unsocial and unwanted people in general, and, what they like, of course, must be something that the rest of mainstream audiences won't like. Hense, space ships and aliens are on their way out, to be replaced with a number of reality shows and uninteresting shows, not to mention WWE Wrestling.

The channel as it stands right now isn't making things easier for itself. A frequent topic of conversation amongst some of my friends is the programming that they already have, that never seems to change - the Saturday night movies, designed to immitate the bad b-films of years past, even worse shows such as Sanctuary, Moonlight, Primeval and Painkiller Jane, all of which have been panned critically. This is opposed to shows such as Battlestar, which has garnered much media attention and awards, Stargate SG-1, which ran for ten seasons and won numerous awards, and Farscape, which likewise was a critical and fan favorite.

What bothers me more is this rejection of the core demographic. Geeks and nerds, as I've written about before, don't generally fall within the sterotype that we're typically branded with. They're intelligent, obsessive, interested and, as Farscape and Firefly have proven, are willing to do a bit of legwork with TV shows - they'll promote, talk about it, and spread it around. While I'm sure that most SF fans will continue to watch the show's content and this will still be the case, the notion that the programming will be broadened to encompass a larger audience is worrisome. Battlestar Galactica and Farscape were not the most accessible shows, yet they were still successful because of their complexity and work with moral grey areas. They still prove to be facinating when you go back to re-watch them. This move indicates that something like this might be stripped away to something far more mainstream, less interesting and less likely to be as critically successful.

Essentially, the network is trying to distance itself from Science Fiction, and in a way, away from the fans that make it up, while still counting on their support, if that makes sense. The move looks to new areas, such as fantasy and other paranormal, which is what they have been moving to over the past couple of years. The name change is essentially the final cap on this whole sorry tale. I honestly can't say how replacing the I's with Y's is going to really make any sort of difference when it comes to the broader perception of the public. The SciFi channel can do far better than what they have been doing, and we've seen evidence of that. I honestly don't care what they call the channel, but so long as they reject what has really worked in the past and continue with some of the really bad programming, they're still going to have perception problems, while continuing to alienate their core audience.

Flight 19

60 years ago today, (1945), a group of US Army Avenger Torpedo Bombers set out from the US Naval Air Station in Fort Lauderdale Florida on a navigational flight. All the pilots were highly qualified and experienced, with hundreds of flight hours. There was nothing too abnormal about the weather.
At 4pm later that date, a message between the flight leader and another member of his flight indicated that they were both lost and that they had lost their navigational equipment. All contact was then lost, and the pilots were never heard from again. SAR ops were unsucessful as well, although a report was recieved from a civilan vessel that they had sighted an explosion and oil slick.
This is yet another story associated with the so called Bremuda Triangle, a territory in which has been named as the cause of hundreds of disapearences of aircraft and ships over the years. Indeed, Christopher Columbus himself recorded in his logs at some sort of encounter while passing through the region.

Is this a paranormal thing that's going on? Probably not. From what I've been able to gather, the area doesn't have any more disapearances or sinkings than any other region, and it's got some harsher weather at times. But, it's a fun tale on it's own.

It's appropriate then, that the SciFi channel is releasing it's newest miniseries, The Triangle, tonight at 9 and will continue through Wednsday night, totalling six hours. In the series, a wealthy shipping magnate hires an odd group of people to solve what's going on once and for all after he loses a couple of ships in the area. Looks to be a very fun ride, and I'm getting it taped, in case I can't see it as it happens. It's got a really good creative team behind it, as well as some good actors. SciFi does a great job on their miniseries events, and this one looks to be another good one. A ten minute preview is up at as wellas a twenty minute SciFi Inside documentary.

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween everyone.
Hope that people are having fun and all that, I haven’t had the occasion yet… I’ve got some back homework that I’m trying to plow through, plus writing up a presentation on Drumlins for tomorrow that’s loads of fun, let me tell you…
And, I was distracted by my sister watching SG-1. I’ve gotten her hooked on the show, so when it’s playing the next room over, there’s no way that I’m going to sit around doing homework…
As I was sitting, watching the last episode of Season 8 and the first episode of Season 9, I realized that Halloween is the premier geek/fanboy/fanatic holiday. 1- It gives us an excuse to dress up as an alien, monster, hero, you name it, without having people question it. Granted, we have things like conventions, where no one will look twice (in dumbfound curiosity) at a group of storm troopers walking down a hallway or some such thing. 2- Free candy. This is the best holiday for geeks, on just those two alone. Now, I’m a little annoyed, because I’m sitting at home working on homework (and, incidentally, this), instead of running around in my storm trooper armor. Usually, I’m hesitant to have it on in public, mainly because I feel extremely out of place, but for something like this, I’m actually in the mood to wear it.
So, I’m stuck at home, but doing things to make doing homework easier. I’ve got the Battlestar Galactica Miniseries, Season 1, Children of Dune, Firefly, Halo, Halo 2, Hitchhiker’s Guide, Jurassic Park, Republic Commando, Serenity, Star Wars (Selections from all), Stargate, Atlantis, Taken, The Island and War of the Worlds soundtracks, as well as a couple other random songs thrown in, to listen to, shuffling. Great music selection. Coupled with a cup of tea and a blanket, I’m comfortable for now.

Also, the SciFi channel printed one of my recent letters in their weekly newsletter:

The Book Isn't Broken
I'd like to respond to a couple of the letters regarding the future of publishing, about the material and the
medium. First, I believe that there is no need for the medium to change—why fix something that's
not broken? Books have been around for hundreds of years, and best of all, don't require batteries or anything but a good pair of eyes. E-books require a reader, electricity and that they don't get erased by mistake somehow.
Material-wise: There are a number of good books coming out that seem to have a fairly "updated" view of the world. Specifically, I'm a big fan of Karen Traviss' Wess'Har series, which has really taken a very different view
of first contact and humanity, and which employ some extremely complicated plotlines before you get to the second book. (Book three being released this week.)
The other is Karin Lowachee's War Child trilogy, which have employed some more adult themes and views that differ from anything that I've read from Asimov's era of writing. I've found both trilogies to be extremely well written, with outstanding storylines and very complicated and mature concepts that wouldn't have been written a long time ago.
Times are changing, and what needs to be changed has been, and will continue.
Andrew Liptak

Now, back to homework. Enjoy the candy!