Friday, July 17, 2015

Episode #2: Annihilation and the Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer

Southern Reach Novel

Rumors and Reports:

Awards Watch:

Sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society, the Prometheus Awards, honor outstanding science fiction/fantasy that “explores the possibilities of a free future, champions human rights (including personal and economic liberty), dramatizes the perennial conflict between individuals and coercive governments, or critiques the tragic consequences of abuse of power – especially by the State.”
Influx, depicts a government so concerned about political destabilization and potentially dangerous innovations that inventors who don’t follow the edicts the Bureau of Technology Control are sentenced to a high-tech prison. The prisoners band together to avert a new technologically dark age.
This was Suarez’s second Prometheus award nomination. Kill Decision, was a Prometheus Award finalist in 2013.
Other Best Novel finalists were The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett, and A Better World by Marcus Sakey.
Locus Magazine, the magazine for Science Fiction and Fantasy Fandom, had its bigawards night in May. Ann Leckie took Best in Science Fiction for Ancillary Sword, (Orbit US; Orbit UK). The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Tor) was awarded Best Fantasy Novel. Best Young Adult Novel went to Half a King by Joe Abercrombie (Del Rey; Voyager UK) and the Best First Novel was awarded to The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert (Sourcebooks Landmark).

Author News:

Several big authors in the genre put out new books last month. Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter published book #4 of The Long Earth SeriesThe Long UtopiaStephen King produced a sequel to Mr. Mercedes calledFinders KeepersTerry Brooks published The Darkling Child: The Defenders of Shannara. Finally, Jim Butcher put out Working for Bigfoot.
On a sad note, Tanith Lee, the author of more than 90  novels and 300 short stories in speculative fiction, died at age 67.
Tanith Lee … ‘as playful off the page as she was on it’
Lee published her first novel in 1975 and was a prominent writer in the 80s. In 1980, Lee was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award for her novel Death’s Master. In 1983 she won the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story. She was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from both the World Fantasy Convention AND the Horror Writers Association in 1984.
She was know for pushing the envelope in the genre, and is credited for innovations that lead to modern YA speculative fiction.

In the News:

The big news this week is Pluto. On its way to deep space, the New Horizons space probe gave us sharp, full color pictures of the secretive Lord of the Underworld. The demoted planet apparently doesn’t hold a grudge and sent back a postcard bearing a picture of a heart. Scientists have named the heart-shaped region Tombaugh Regio, after the astronomer discovered Pluto in 1930.
So far the photos have shown us that Pluto is red like Mars and geologically active, probably from volcano’s, like Earth. The surface has icy 11,000 ft mountain peaks. Filtering out the red color, scientists could see the heart is distinctly broken in two, a peachy western lobe, and a mottled blue eastern lobe, showing more geological difference than anyone anticipated.
Pluto is in a binary dwarf-planet relationship with its largest moon Charon.
Pictures of Charon held their own surprise—a dark northern pole, which may harbor hydrocarbons, the building blocks of life.
The New Horizons team invited the public to help name the new features discovered on Pluto. The features are being named for popular dark lords and inhabitants of the underworld in mythology and literature.
Some names already used:
  • Meng-p’o: Buddhist goddess of forgetfulness and amnesia, tasked in the underworld with ensuring reincarnated souls will not remember their previous lives.
  • Cthulhu: an elder god from HP Lovecraft mixing features of man, octopus, and dragon.
  • Krun: one of five Mandaean lords of the underworld, nicknamed “Mountain-of-Flesh”
  • Ala: Odianai goddess of earth, morality, fertility, and creativity.
  • Balrog: monster able to shroud itself in fire, darkness, and shadow, and the apparent killer of Galdalf the Grey in the Lord of the Rings.
  • Vucub-Came and Hun-Came: Mayan hero-twins and death gods.
Meanwhile, the features on the mini-moons each have their own themes. Styx, ferryman for the dead, will be collecting river gods. Nix, personification of the night itself, will take on all the other night deities. Kerbeos, the hellhound of Hades, will be collecting canines from literature, mythology, and history. Finally, the many-headed Hydra will take on legendary serpents and dragons for its naming scheme.
As for making these names official, that’s up to Pluto’s nemesis, the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

TV and Film:

Last episode, I talked about John Scalzi and forgot to mention Scalzi and FX are currently developing Redshirtsfor a TV series. If you’ve never heard of Redshirts here is what the back cover says:
Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.
Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

Redshirts is the winner of the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel.
As a life-long Trekkie, I can’t wait.
Finally, Scalzi just published the end of the Old Man’s War with The End of All Things. So that should be the end of John Scalzi for a while.

We last saw Damien, the Antichrist, when he was a murderous child.
Now, he is an adult and apparently remembers almost nothing about his childhood. Struggling with his self-identity and presumed fate, he acquires more power while defending himself from those who discover his destiny.  Damien stars Bradley James in the title role and currently has no date set for its premiere.

In 1984 the much beloved film The Last Starfighter was so far ahead of it’s time, the film industry just could not do it justice. Now technology has had a chance to catch up.

The Last Starfighter Could Be Remade For TV Using Virtual Reality
The film’s original writer, Jonathan Betuel, is currently developing a Starfighter-themed show called The Starfighter Chronicles with Not a sequel or remake, the new show is described as “a serialized story about alien law enforcement” with a focus on “instilling a moral code.”
Still in the early stages, the producers plan scenes inside a cockpit or flying through space to be enhanced with virtual reality technology. co-founders Rick Rey and Andy Vick are hoping the show will launch virtual reality entertainment in a way so many other projects have failed to do.

Bryan Fuller's American Gods TV Series Has Finally Been Greenlit

Starz finally Accepted Neil Gaiman’s American Gods for a TV series.
“I am thrilled, ‎scared, delighted, nervous and a ball of glorious anticipation. The team that is going to bring the world of American Gods to the screen has been assembled like the master criminals in a caper movie: I’m relieved and confident that my baby is in good hands.”–Neil Gaiman
SyFy picked up Incorporated, a series from Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. “Set in a future where companies have unlimited power, Incorporated tells the story of executive Ben Larson, forced to change his identity in order to infiltrate a cut-throat corporate world, to save the woman he loves. In the process, he will take on the entire system – with deadly consequences.”

IM Global TV will adapt Kurt Vonnegut’s satire Cat’s Cradle. “The story involves the children of a Nobel laureate physicist who helped develop the atomic bomb and a substance called ice-nine, an alternative structure of water that is solid at room temperature.”
Marc Guggenheim (Arrow) and Bryan Singer (X-men) are working on a movie version of Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress for 20th Century Fox. Unfortunately they are retitling the movie version Uprising. Really? One of the best titles in SciFi history changed to one of the most generic? My expectations for the movie are already low.
iO9 has come out with a guide to Doctor Who for those of us who are not officienotos and came late to the franchise.

Showcase Novel: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Did you tune in to the hit TV show Lost each week because the smoke monster had your imagination in it’s murderous grip? Good news, the Lost island has landed on the Southern Reach and joined forces with The X Files.
Jeff VanderMeer’s Area X Trilogy reads just like an early episode of Lost.
Jeff VandermeerDecades ago, a portion of the southern coast of the U.S. was mysteriously cut off from the world by a force field. Just as mysteriously, a doorway in the field recently opened, allowing entry into the zone now called Area X. The first expedition into Area X goes well, but reports none of the previous inhabitants survived. The second and third expeditions end in disaster with all the members dead save one. The sole survivor reports Area X has become as malevolent and mad as any serial killer.
The first book in the series, Annihilation, covers the twelfth expedition. Unable to use their names within Area X, four women known only by their job titles struggle to survive the treacherous and alien terrain within the estranged coast.
The second book, Authority, covers the government bureaucracy in charge of protecting the world from Area X–in part by keeping the events within its boundaries secret.
The third book, Acceptance, continues the twisted tale of the effects of Area X on the wider world.
Eerie and enigmatic, Area X becomes it’s own character within the novel, leading the pack of flawed and possibly insane characters. You get the feeling while reading that things, evil things, are happening just outside your peripheral vision. Always the quest to know “why” drives the expeditions, and the reader, deeper into the convoluted ecology of the coast and the secretive bureaucracy of the Southern Reach.
Like the last decade’s TV series, each mile along the trails within Area X asks more questions than they answer. Unfortunately, just like the TV series, don’t expect to get all, or perhaps any, of your questions answered by the end of the series. I definitely felt like the whole series left me–arrrgh . . .
oof . . .
. . . bang . . .
. . . crunch. . .

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