July 3, 2017: Dark Matter-like book recommendations!

If you enjoy Dark Matter and are looking for a book that is similar in spirit, might I suggest the following ten scifi novels.

Whether it’s kickass characters, a shipboard setting, an anti-villain premise, or a sense of humor, Dark Matter shares a little something with each of these amazing titles…

July 3, 2017: Dark Matter-like Book Recommendations!

The Darwin Elevator (Dire Earth Cycle, #1) by Jason M. Hough

In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet’s refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator—created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders—emits a plague-suppressing aura.

Skyler Luiken has a rare immunity to the plague. Backed by an international crew of fellow “immunes,” he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura’s edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse. But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped—along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma—to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity.

July 3, 2017: Dark Matter-like Book Recommendations!

Fortune’s Pawn (Paradox, #1) by Rachel Bach

Devi Morris isn’t your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It’s a combination that’s going to get her killed one day – but not just yet.

That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn’t misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she’s found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn’t give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle.

July 3, 2017: Dark Matter-like Book Recommendations!

Ninefox Gambit (The Machineries of Empire, #1) by Yoon Ha Lee

The first installment of the trilogy, Ninefox Gambit, centers on disgraced captain Kel Cheris, who must recapture the formidable Fortress of Scattered Needles in order to redeem herself in front of the Hexarchate.

To win an impossible war Captain Kel Cheris must awaken an ancient weapon and a despised traitor general.

Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for using unconventional methods in a battle against heretics. Kel Command gives her the opportunity to redeem herself by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a star fortress that has recently been captured by heretics. Cheris’s career isn’t the only thing at stake. If the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.

Cheris’s best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress.

The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own. As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao–because she might be his next victim.

July 3, 2017: Dark Matter-like Book Recommendations!

Dark Run (Keiko, #1) by Mike Brooks

The Keiko is a ship of smugglers, soldiers of fortune and adventurers, travelling Earth’s colony planets searching for the next job. And nobody talks about their past.

But when a face from Captain Ichabod Drift’s former life send them on a run to Old Earth, all the rules change.

Trust will be broken, and blood will be spilled.

July 3, 2017: Dark Matter-like Book Recommendations!

Old Man’s War (Old Man’s War, #1) by John Scalzi

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.

The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce– and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity’s resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You’ll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You’ll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you’ll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.

John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine–and what he will become is far stranger.

July 3, 2017: Dark Matter-like Book Recommendations!

Revenger (Revenger, #1) by Alastair Reynolds

The galaxy has seen great empires rise and fall. Planets have shattered and been remade. Amongst the ruins of alien civilizations, building our own from the rubble, humanity still thrives.

And there are vast fortunes to be made, if you know where to find them.

Captain Rackamore and his crew do. It’s their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded by layers of protection–and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous.

Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest members of Rackamore’s crew, signed on to save their family from bankruptcy. Only Rackamore has enemies, and there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune: the fabled and feared Bosa Sennen in particular.

Revenger is a science fiction adventure story set in the rubble of our solar system in the dark, distant future–a tale of space pirates, buried treasure, and phantom weapons, of unspeakable hazards and single-minded heroism and of vengeance…

July 3, 2017: Dark Matter-like Book Recommendations!

Diving into the Wreck (Diving Universe, #1) by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Boss loves to dive historical ships, derelict spacecraft found adrift in the blackness between the stars. Sometimes she salvages for money, but mostly she s an active historian. She wants to know about the past to experience it firsthand. Once she s dived the ship, she ll either leave it for others to find or file a claim so that she can bring tourists to dive it as well. It s a good life for a tough loner, with more interest in artifacts than people.

Then one day, Boss finds the claim of a lifetime: an enormous spacecraft, incredibly old, and apparently Earth-made. It s impossible for something so old, built in the days before Faster Than Light travel, to have journeyed this far from Earth. It shouldn t be here. It can t be here. And yet, it is. Boss s curiosity is up, and she s determined to investigate. She hires a group of divers to explore the wreck with her, the best team she can assemble. But some secrets are best kept hidden, and the past won t give up its treasures without exacting a price in blood.”

July 3, 2017: Dark Matter-like Book Recommendations!

The Wreck of the River of Stars by Michael Flynn

This is a story of the glory that was. In the days of the great sailing ships in the mid-21st century, when magnetic sails drew cargo and passengers alike to every corner of the Solar System, sailors had the highest status of all spacemen, and the crew of the luxury liner The River of Stars, the highest among all sailors.

But development of the Farnsworth fusion drive doomed the sailing ships and now The River of Stars is the last of its kind, retrofitted with engines, her mast vestigial, her sails unraised for years. An ungainly hybrid, she operates in the late years of the century as a mere tramp freighter among the outer planets, and her crew is a motley group of misfits. Stepan Gorgas is the escapist executive officer who becomes captain. Ramakrishnan Bhatterji is the chief engineer who disdains him. Eugenie Satterwaithe, once a captain herself, is third officer and, for form’s sake, sailing master.

When an unlikely and catastrophic engine failure strikes The River, Bhatterji is confident he can effect repairs with heroic engineering, but Satterwaithe and the other sailors among the crew plot to save her with a glorious last gasp for the old ways, mesmerized by a vision of arriving at Jupiter proudly under sail. The story of their doom has the power, the poetry, and the inevitability of a Greek tragedy.

July 3, 2017: Dark Matter-like Book Recommendations!

The Dark Beyond the Stars by Frank M. Robinson

For two thousand years, the starship Astron has searched the galaxy for alien life–without success. Now, just as the ship is falling apart, the only direction left to explore is across the Dark, a one-hundred-generation journey through empty space.

The ship’s captain–immortal, obsessed–refuses to abandon the quest. He will cross the Dark, or destroy the ship trying.

Only Sparrow, a young crewman uncertain of his own past, can stand against the captain, and against the lure and challenge of the dark beyond the stars…

July 3, 2017: Dark Matter-like Book Recommendations!

Legion of the Damned by William C. Dietz

There is one final choice for the hopeless the terminally ill, the condemned criminals, the victims who cannot be saved: becoming cyborg soldiers in the Legion. Their human bodies are destroyed and they are reborn as living weapons. But when aliens attack the Empire, the Legion must choose sides.”


March 27, 2016: My Top 13 Genre Short Stories of 2015!

With the deadline for the 2016 Hugo Awards nominations fast approaching (Thursday, March 31st), I thought I’d help out prospective voters by generating a list of recommended reads to guide them through the myriad titles released in 2015.

In the past, I could have put together a rundown of potential Best Novels but, alas, the past year kept me very busy, much too busy for extensive reading, and I realized that the list I’d offer up would be woefully incomplete.

Being a voracious and fairly quick reader, I thought of tackling the Best Novella or Best Novelette categories but, again, my show running duties on Dark Matter made that impossible.  And so, after careful consideration, I decided instead to take on the Best Short Story category reasoning there was plenty of opportunity in the downtime between set-ups, scripts, and sleep.  As it turned out, I was right and, in the preceding month, I’ve read A LOT of shorts stories – more than I’ve read in any given month.

Yes, even though I read a lot, I’m well aware that I covered but a tiny fraction of all of the eligible short stories out there.  I tried to be as sweeping as possible, selecting titles from varied publications, drawing on suggestions from all over, choosing writers irrespective of politics or personality.

What follows is a list of MY Favorite Genre Short Stories of 2015.  If any of these make the short list for the Hugos, I’ll be giving them a re-read and ranking.  I’ll do the same for any other nominees I may have missed.  And then, I’ll vote for what I consider the Best Short Story of 2015.  If the best short story I read is among the five nominees, then I’ll vote for that.  If what I consider the Best Short story doesn’t make the list, I’ll be voting No Award.  Fair?  I think so.

Well, here you go, for those interested.  My Top 13 Short Stories of 2015:


“A Murmuration” by Alastair Reynolds (Interzone)

An isolated scientist’s research into the flocking behavior of birds yields surprising results.


“Calved” by Sam J. Miller (Asimov’s)

Amidst the backdrop of a world altered by ecological disaster, a father makes a desperate bid to reconnect with his son.

Read it here: http://samjmiller.com/publications/calved/


“Dialed-Up” by Tom Maughan (Terraform)

In the near, performance-enhancing drugs give office workers the edge they need to compete.

Read it here: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/dialed-up


“Re-Homing” by Debbie Urbanski (Terraform)

A couple looking to adopt find the perfect match in a remaindered child.

Read it here: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/re-homing


“Re: re: Microwave in the break room doing weird things to fabric of spacetime” by Charles Yu (Terraform)

An unattended burrito instigates a cosmological crisis.

Read it here: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/re-re-microwave-in-the-break-room-doing-weird-things-to-fabric-of-spacetime


“Some Gods of El-Paso” by Maria Dahvana Headley (Tor)

In future Texas, two outlaws deal in the currencies of sex and emotions.

Read it here: http://www.tor.com/2015/10/28/some-gods-of-el-paso-maria-dahvana-headley/


“The Ninth Seduction” by Sean Mcmullen (Lightspeed)

A goblin crafts weapons and other technological marvels in advance of a coming battle.

Read it here: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/the-ninth-seduction/


“The Sixth Day” by Sylvia Anna Hivén (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

A young girl, gifted with the ability to grow corn, receives a dire prediction from her older sister, gifted with the ability of prophecy.

Read it here: http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/stories/the-sixth-day/


“So Much Cooking” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld)

The bird flu apocalypse as related through perky Natalie’s food blog.

Read it here: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/kritzer_11_15/


“The Ticket Taker of Cenote Zaci” by Benjamin Parzybok (Strange Horizons)

Eduardo, a ticket taker at a popular tourist attraction, begins to suspect that the Cenote Zaci may be claiming some of its visitors.

Read it here: http://www.strangehorizons.com/2015/20150202/cenote-f.shtml


“The Way Home” by Linda Nagata (Lightspeed)

A squad of U.S. Soldiers must fight their way out of Hell.

Read it here: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/the-way-home/


“Things You Can Buy For A Penny” by Will Kaufman (Lightspeed Magazine)

According to legend, the wet gentleman that resides at the bottom of a mysterious well will grant you a wish for a penny…

Read it here: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/things-can-buy-penny/


“Today I Am Paul” by Martin L. Shoemaker (Clarkesworld)

An android caregiver to an Alzheimer’s patient mimics the personalities of her prospective visiting relatives.

Read it here: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/shoemaker_08_15/

If you have time, give them a read – and then report back.  Would love to hear your thoughts.

July 7, 2015: Recommended reads! Dark Matter happenings! Ruby Rose! UK Ratings! Dark Horse Comics!

One more day to San Diego Comic Con!  I’m packing light so I can come back heavy.

If you’re in the SDCC neighborhood, come see us: Jodelle Ferland, Melissa O’Neil, Roger Cross, Anthony Lemke, and Executive Producer’s Jay Firestone and Vanessa Piazza for autograph signings at the Dark Horse Comics booth (2615) on Thursday at 5 p.m. and again on Friday at 3 p.m., and our Dark Matter panel on Thursday night (7:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m., Room 6BCF.  Secret will be spilled; no prisoners will be taken!

July 7, 2015: Recommended Reads!  Dark Matter Happenings!  Ruby Rose!  Uk Ratings!  Dark Horse Comics!

If you’re a fan of science fiction and aren’t reading Alastair Reynolds – WHY THE HECK NOT?!!  He is one of a handful of contemporary SF authors who should be required reading.  His books are narratively rich, wondrously engaging hard scifi epics possessed of astounding scope and creative depth.  Sound familiar?  Yes, if you love the works of Iain M. Banks (his Culture books in particular), then you’ll love Alastair Reyolds – and vice versa.

Slow Bullets, his latest release, tells the tale of Scur, a conscripted soldier who, left for dead following a vicious post-armistice ambush, awakens on a prisoner transport vessel.  Something has happened to ship, an accident that has claimed the lives of many in their stasis chambers, but released many more, allies and enemies, who must broker an uneasy truce if they are to survive and find out exactly what happened to them.

At a modest 192 pages, Slow Bullets is a great introduction to Reynolds’ masterful storytelling, and the perfect gateway book for those looking to discover their new favorite SF author.

July 7, 2015: Recommended Reads!  Dark Matter Happenings!  Ruby Rose!  Uk Ratings!  Dark Horse Comics!

Speaking of gateway books, I described Frostborn, the first instalment in author Lou Anders’ Throne & Bones series, as a terrific introduction to the fantasy genre for young readers – or older readers looking to raise future Tokien enthusiasts. The second book, Nightborn, does a great job of building on what has come before, expanding the world and its characters in a bold, dynamic adventure. Familiar faces, Karn the gamer and Thianna the giantess, are joined by (or “run afoul of” to be more precise) two new additions to the series, dark elves Tanthal and Deestra (aspiring elite agent of the Underhand!).  A deeper world, increasingly more complex characters, and a twisty-turny quest for the Horn of Osius make for a highly enjoyable, fast-paced read.

Speaking of books, my very favorite children’s book series is about to be getting the small screen treatment compliments of Netflix.  A Series of Unfortunate Events is a devilishly dark and wickedly humorous series focusing on the treks and travails of the Baudelaire children, three hard-luck but incredibly resourceful orphans.

Here’s hoping this version will allow us to forget the hugely disappointing big screen adaptation hated by fans of the book series and considered non-objectionable by those who didn’t know any better.

No word on a release date.

While you’re here, may I direct your attention to a few Dark Matter-related links:

A first look at Ruby Rose as the android, Wendy, in Dark Matter Episode 7:

July 7, 2015: Recommended Reads!  Dark Matter Happenings!  Ruby Rose!  Uk Ratings!  Dark Horse Comics!

Pretty badass looking, no?


U.K. scifi fans love us!


“Pulling off a rare feat, the space opera series actually grew its audience in its second week, drawing a consolidated audience of 393K viewers. All told, Dark Matter posted gains of around 17K viewers or just under 5% on the series premiere’s 376K viewers.

The (albeit marginal) ratings growth is significant, as it makes Dark Matter the first new series launch on Syfy UK in the past year to actually grow its audience from the premiere.”

Big things happening on the Dark Horse Comics front, publishers of the Dark Matter comic:


“In a deal a year in the making, comic book powerhouse Dark Horse (The Mask, Hellboy) is getting into the television business with Universal Cable Productions.”

Today’s entry is dedicated to blog regular Das.  Happy Birthday, Birthday Gal!

July 21, 2013: A 17 (actually, 21) Question Science Fiction Book Meme!

The gang at http://www.sfsignal.com/ have launched another one of those irresistible SF-themed memes, what they’re calling a ” 17-question science fiction book meme for a lazy Sunday”.  I wrestled over a few of my responses, struggling with the relative worthiness of some of the titles, and finally decided to solve the problem by adding four extra questions to the meme (17 to 20) to round it out to an even twenty.  Er, plus one.

What follows are my responses.  Answer as many of the following as you can, in the comments section of this blog and over here: http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2013/07/a-17-question-science-fiction-book-meme/#more-79721.  They’d love to read your feeback!

1. My favorite alien invasion book or series is…?


The Ophiuchi Hotline by John Varley

It’s not an alien invasion story in the traditional sense of the term but an alien invasion does precipitate the events leading up to another (indirect) alien invasion in this thoroughly engaging novel about cloning, restored memories, and a mysterious radio signal from distant space.

2. My favorite alternate history book or series is…?


Watchmen by Alan Moore.

To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of Alt. History scifi and yet, Alan Moore’s non-linear, iconoclastic take on the superhero genre stands out as one of my favorite works crossing several genres.

3. My favorite cyberpunk book or series is…?


Glasshouse by Charles Stross

Okay, it includes enough cyberpunk elements for me to make it my selection in this category.  A twisty, turny, scifi thriller with plenty of humor and suspense.

4. My favorite Dystopian book or series is…?


Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower.

Unrelentingly grim yet possessed of a spirit and hope embodied by its determined protagonist.  I’d recommend it over the similar-themed, better-known The Road.

5. My favorite Golden-Age sf book or series is…?


Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

When I was a kid, my mother encouraged me to read by buying me a bunch of classic SF – Asimov, Ellison, Niven – but my favorite was Arthur C. Clarke,  and Childhood’s End is my favorite Arthur C. Clarke book.  A race of mysterious extraterrestrials visit Earth.  They bring an end to war, poverty, disease, and help usher in a golden age of peace and prosperity.  But what future plans do these alien, dubbed The Overlords, have for humanity?

6. My favorite hard sf book or series is…?


House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds

I could have just as easily placed this novel in the space opera category and Iain M. Banks’s Culture series here as the works of both authors share common elements: breathtaking narratives spanning the universe peopled with colorful characters, fantastic alien races,  and mind-bending technologies. Big, brilliant ideas.

7. My favorite military sf book or series is…?


Old Man’s War by John Scalzi.

Not only my favorite military SF book or one of my favorite SF books in general but one of my very favorite books.  Period.  Every person I’ve recommended this novel to has become a John Scalzi fan.

8. My favorite near-future book or series is…?


The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon.

Maybe a bit of a cheat in that it may not have enough scifi elements to please the average SF enthusiast, but it’s got enough – the near future setting and medical breakthroughs – for me to include this poignant, inspiring, beautifully written novel here.

9. My favorite post-apocalyptic book or series is…?


The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

A “far down the road” post-apocalyptic science fiction novel in the guise of a fantasy novel chock full of allegory, literary allusions, and elusive subtext.  A challenging read, but well worth the time and effort.

10. My favorite robot/android book or series is…?


In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker.

Not robot or androids per se but immortal cyborgs, employees of The Company, charged with the task of traveling back in time in order to locate and safeguard (read: hide) artifacts and valuable items for sale in the 24th century (when/where they will be discovered). Complications arise when our heroine, Mendoza, falls in love with a 16th century Englishman.  And mortal no less!

11. My favorite space opera book or series is…


Iain M Banks’ Culture series.

Grand, brilliant, staggeringly inventive and, yes, operatic, the Culture Series stands out as a marvelous literary accomplishment.

12. My favorite steampunk book or series is…?

1The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes

A washed-up illusionist and his imposing assistant battle to save London from dark forces in Jonathan Barnes’ witty, macabre, and all-out-bizarre novel.  There are surprises a plenty in a book in which no one can be trusted, least of all our narrator.

13. My favorite superhero book or series is…?

1The Superior Foes of Spiderman by Nick Spencer

Hmmm.  Though.  This changes week to week but, right now, coming off a highly entertaining first issue, this is the series I’m most excited about.

14. My favorite time travel book or series is…?


The Forever War by Joe Haldeman.

An exceptional treatment of time dilation makes this one the runaway winner in this category.

15. My favorite young adult sf book or series is…?


Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

A seminal work of science fiction whose appeal extends well beyond young adult readers, this coming-of-age tale is set at a Battle School where, amid the training, the games, and the youthful interrelations, not all is as it seems…

16. My favorite zombie book or series is…?


Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead.

Before The Walking Dead television series became a breakout hit, there was the comic book series – smarter, grimmer and far more character-driven than the show.

17. My favorite ship-based sf book or series is…?


The Dark Beyond the Stars by Frank M. Robinson

Having grown up on ship-based science fiction (and worked on a ship-based SF series for two years), I couldn’t help but include this category – and this delightfully engaging novel centered on a shocking shipboard mystery.

18. My favorite New Wave sf book or series is…?


Camp Concentration by Thomas M. Disch

If we’re going to have a Golden Age category, I only think it fair we include a New Wave category as well and, as much as I loved Flowers for Algernon, Camp Concentration gets the nod here.  His refusal to enlist in military service lands our protagonist, a poet and pacifist, in a prison whose inmates are subjected to bizarre, brain-altering experiments.

19. My favorite Future Tech sf book or series is…?


Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover

Science fiction AND fantasy.  Heroes Die offers the best of both worlds in a rip-roaring adventure that explores the effects of developed entertainment technology on eager consumers – and, in turn, the media conglomerates calling the shots.

20. My favorite Otherworldly sf book or series is…?


Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

By “otherworldly”, I mean a story that takes place on a planet other than Earth – like, for instance, the colony world setting of this novel that gets taken over by the power mad former crew of a spaceship who use technological and physical enhancements to transform themselves into gods.  Fans of Stargate, take note!

21. The 3 books at the top of my sf/f/h to-be-read pile are…?

Okay.  One of each…


The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang

One of my favorite SF writers.  He’s not all that prolific but his work is consistently great.

1Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

If you like your fantasy dark, darkly humorous, and action-packed, then look no further than the works of Joe Abercrombie.

1A Terror by Jeffrey Ford.

A new release by one of the most wildly imaginative authors writing today.

Okay, those were my answers.  Let’s see yours!

January 5, 2011: My Top 10 2010 Reads!

What follows is a list of My Top 10 Reads of 2010.  These were books not necessarily published in 2010, but books I actually sat down and read between January 1st and December 31st of last year (excluding Book of the Month Club picks).   My faves…

The Heroes, by Joe Abercrombie

I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of Joe Abercrombie’s latest foray into nihilistic fantasy and, damn is it great. Set in the same world as his First Law Trilogy, The Heroes charts the progress of several campaigns in the war between the North and the Union.  Epic in scope yet delightfully detailed in its tracking of the various players involved, it delivers what we’ve come to expect from Abercrombie: dark humor, multi-faceted characters, blood and battle. The dizzying cast requires careful attention be paid, but patience is rewarded in the form of some beautifully drawn personalities and relationships on both sides of the conflict.

The Somnambulist, by Jonathan Barnes

A washed-up illusionist and his imposing assistant battle to save London from dark forces in Jonathan Barnes’ witty, macabre, and all-out-bizarre novel.  There are surprises a plenty in a book in which no one can be trusted, least of all our narrator.

The Death of Grass, by John Christopher

This dystopian classic chronicles the disintegration of order in the wake of a global blight as seen through the eyes of a handful of desperate individuals.  Harrowing and shockingly brutal in its depiction of life after the fall and the lengths some people will go to in order to survive.

The Forest of Time and Other Stories, by Michael Flynn

I consider Michael Flynn one of the most underappreciated SF authors writing today.  I read and loved two of his novels, The Wreck of the River of Stars and Eifelheim, so took a chance on this collection of short stories and was rewarded with some terrific, thought-provoking tales. One of my favorites involves a doctor who believes he may have found the key to saving his ailing daughter (stricken with accelerated aging) in the form of an elderly woman who may – or may not – be 200 years old.  Each entry is followed by a short, insightful afterword that not only sheds light on his writing process, but offers up some great recommendations for further informative, non-fiction reading.

Misery, by Stephen King

My favorite Stephen King book. Taut, suspenseful, and thoroughly engaging, one of those novels it actually pains you to set aside.  It’s no surprise that this one speaks to me.  Having dealt with Stargate fandom over the course of my many years with the franchise, I’ve come across my fair share of cockadoodie Annie Wilkes types.  Scary as hell.  And one of those rare instances where the movie adaptation rocked as well.

Fool, by Christopher Moore.

In 2010, I finally discovered Christopher Moore.  What took me so long?!  Well, Fool was the perfect book to get me started.  It’s a ribald retelling of King Lear from the point of view of the court jester, an incorrigible rogue who proves endearing to some and positively infuriating to others as he navigates the salty, stormy seas of palace intrigue.  The funniest book I read last year.

Fear and Trembling, by Amelie Nothomb

This one came recommended to me by my old Tokyo travel buddy, Stefan, and I can see why it would have appealed to him.  The daughter of former ambassadors to Japan, Amelie returns to the country of her childhood to take a job at the prestigious Yumimoto company.  Unfortunately for Amelie, those fond childhood memories are in sharp contrast to her awkward, amusing, occasionally nightmarish lesson in Japanese corporate culture.  The fact that it’s an autobiographic experience makes it all the more effective.

Revelation Space, by Alastair Reynolds

Reynolds packs this novel with so many big, mind-boggling, uber-cool ideas that you almost feel the need to come up for air every thirty pages or so.  I never understood the attraction of space opera until I read this novel.  Brilliant.

Maus, by Art Spiegelman

Spiegelman interviewed his father, Vladek, a Holocaust survivor, then told his story in graphic novel form.  It’s a harrowing, heart-rending tale possessed of warmth and occasional humor that conveys so much in so many surprising ways.

The Third Bear, by Jeff Vandermeer

Vandermeer, one of the pioneers of New Weird fiction, doesn’t pull any narrative punches here.  The Third Bear delivers a selection of short stories sure to enthrall, entertain, and engender all sorts of nightmares long after these outrageously inventive tales have been read.

Hmmmm.  Someone I know may be looking for a good home for their french bulldog.  I know, I know.  I’ve got my hands full.  Still, I do have the room and I hate the thought of that poor little guy ending up who-knows-where.  I know at least one pug who’d love the company…

For about an hour anyway.

Well, can’t say I’m feeling better today.  Just – different.  My stomach issues have subsided, I’ve more or less conquered my insomnia, and while those seemed allergy symptoms haven’t disappeared, they have lessened somewhat.  Now, I’ve moved on to my next mystery ailment = slight dizziness.  Yes, doctor’s appointment tomorrow!

September 21, 2010: A plethora of pics!

Well fine.

Apologies.  The trailer won’t be coming out until first thing tomorrow morning.  9:00 a.m. to be exact.  So set your watches.

Hopefully these pics will tide you over.

Addendum: Nope, sorry.  9:00 a.m. PDT.  Again, apologies.  The gang at post, led by the lovely Kerry McDowall, did an excellent job getting the trailer finished and ready to go by early afternoon – but we’ve been delayed by circumstances beyond our control.  Hopefully, it’ll be worth the wait.  There were ooh’s and aaah’s aplenty late this afternoon as it was being screened by various cast and crew.

I’ll be out on location tomorrow shooting Day #2 of The Hunt, so blogging time will be minimal.  I’m uploading the trailer vid tonight with the intention of bringing my wordpress blog up on my iphone and hitting “publish” tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.  The trailer will be up here, over on Gateworld, and various other sites including Show Patrol, SFSignal, TVOvermind, Pop Culture Zoo, and John Scalzi’s insanely entertaining Whatever blog.  Check it out at any or all of the aforementioned sites, then head back here an drop me a comment.  I’ll be checking them throughout the day and tomorrow night, time permitting, I’ll hop on and add a little write-up to accompany the trailer.

Today, Ivon informed me that he had bought me a book after listening to a radio interview with its author, John Vailliant.  Titled The Tiger: A True Story of Survival and Vengeance, it’s the true account of one poacher’s bad luck in messing with the wrong gigantic Amur tiger.  From a review by Christopher McDougall: “In 1997, deep in the remote Russian backcountry, a gigantic Amur tiger begins acting like the only thing more savage than a wild animal–us. It doesn’t just attack villagers; it hunts them, picking its targets like a hitman with a contract, at one point even dragging a mattress out of a shack so it can lie comfortably in wait until the woodsman returns home. A few days later, the woodsman’s horrified friends discover remains “so small and so few they could have fit in a shirt pocket.”  That’s what my second grade teacher, Mrs. Vowels, would’ve referred to as “an ouchie”.  Anyway, looking forward to reading this one.

As soon as I finish the one I’m reading now, Fool: A Novel by Christopher Moore, a hilarious retelling of the bard’s King Lear told from the point of the view of Pocket, the king’s fool.  I’m about a hundred pages in and enjoying immensely.  Other recent reads very much worth mentioning: Jeffrey Ford’s The Beyond (the third and final installment of his wildly inventive Well-Built City Trilogy), Jeff VanderMeer’s The Third Bear (a weird and wonderful collection of his short fiction), Daryl Gregory’s first novel Pandemonium (inscrutable, outlandish, and incredibly engaging), the Lou Anders and Jonathan Strahan-edited Swords and Dark Magic (one helluva a fun collection showcasing the likes of such fantasy heavy hitters as Steven Erikson, Glen Cook, Gene Wolfe, James Enge, Michael Moorcock, and Baron Destructo’s good buddy Joe Abercrombie), Stephen King’s Misery (a re-re-re-read of my favorite King novel – Stargate has its fair share of Annie Wilkes’s),  and a mind-bending double-shot of Alastair Reynolds – Zima Blue and Diamond Dog, Turquoise Days.

So what’re YOU reading?

July 29, 2010: Author Alastair Reynolds Fields Your Questions!

One of the nice things about my jobs is discovering fans of the show.  And one of the even nicer things about my job is discovering I happen to be a fan of someone who happens to be a fan of the show.  Such is the case with author Alastair Reynolds, a heavy hitter in the field of literary SF who, I recently learned, had some very positive things to say about Stargate: Universe over on his blog (http://approachingpavonis.blogspot.com/).  I was, of course, thrilled to hear it, not least because I consider his novel, Revelation Space, one of the greatest works of space opera in recent memory.  He’s one of those rare writers, like John Scalzi and Jeffrey Ford, who has never disappointed.  And, like the two aforementioned writers, Alastair has kindly taken the time to drop by this blog and answer some reader questions – in his case, in support of his novel, and our July Book of the Month Club selection, House of Suns.

Incidentally, between the time I wrote up my thoughts on House of Suns and now, I’ve read two more of Alastair’s books: Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days and Zima Blue.  Engaging, frightening, funny, thought-provoking and very, very clever – I can’t recommend them enough.

Over to Alastair…

Hi all! First of all, thanks to Joseph for this very generous write-up of HOS –  it’s really appreciated, and I’m delighted to have had the chance to connect with some SG fans who might not have tried my work before.

Penny writes:  “My Questions for Alastair Reynolds: 1) you use BIG white boards to help organize your thoughts when writing a book but do you use similar items in your everyday life to help stay organized?

2) what are you currently listening too?

3) not a question but just wanted to say that I have enjoyed your books and own almost all of them thanks for being such an AWESOME writer.”

AR: No, I am pretty much the most disorganised, shambolic person you will ever meet. The whiteboard is my way of controlling some of the chaos associated with the writing process but I don’t use anything like that in real life. I probably should, but you need a certain threshold of “organised-ness” before you even get to the step of using things like diaries, calendars, etc, and I’m hopeless at that.

What am I currently listening to? The new Teenage Fanclub album, some older Foo Fighters stuff, Vampire Weekend, Fiona Apple, Florence and the Machine … lots of stuff, really.

Thanks the kind words, too!

Bytehead writes: “It was a wild ride, that’s for sure. I figured it was going to be some kind of mystery, but that certainly wasn’t the climax, so I really wouldn’t say the novel is a sci-fi mystery. As I was reading up to the climax (it is hard to actually claim what the climax is, but I think it would be opening up the star dam), I really didn’t understand where this book was going. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but I usually like to have an idea of at least the direction we’re going.  The ending was indeed, rather abrupt. It fits, it was probably a bit tidier than I’d like, but I’ve read worse, much worse.

My question for the author would be:  The Absence is interesting, and bringing up star dams, I figured that somebody or something had managed to just put Dyson spheres around all the stars, on their way to being a Kardashev type III after having perfected type II. The fact that opening a wormhole could do that… Well, quantum mechanics being what it is, possibly. My only complaint when I first thought about it was, what about the gravity waves? Yes, I know, it’s science fiction Bryan!  Of course, on second reflection, I guess the Absence will go away once our two galaxies merge 4.5 billion years in the future.”

AR: Thanks – glad the ending worked for you. I don’t think it’s any great confession to say that I struggle with endings, especially at novel length. They’re very hard to judge; by the time I’m done with book I’m so invested in it that I have zero objectivity at that point, and the same goes for anyone else involved in the editing/production. I’ve taken stuff out of endings because I felt they were too drawn out, and then got stick for being too abrupt. And I’m constantly tinkering with the degree of closure. Personally I don’t like things too neat and tidy; I’m always happy to accept a degree of ambiguity as a reader.

But horse for courses.

As for the Absence, I’d come up with a similar idea in an old short story, Byrd Land Six (it’s in the Deep Navigation collection, from NESFA press). In HOS, I just scoped it up to galactic proportions. I wasn’t worrying too much about the detailed physics at this point, just the causal implications. It’s about as close to magic as you can get. I think I do mention that gravity waves pass through the Absence, don’t I? The idea was that satellite galaxies would still keep orbiting Andromeda as they were before the Absence was activated.

Shiny writes: “What I liked most about the ending was the sacrifice of Hesperus, although I hope that there is a way to resurrect him (yet again!) in future books. I love that the Machine People were all so hard to trust/rely on/believe. And it was mostly that human fear of anything without a soul that we see so much in movies and TV (cyborgs, replicants, cylons, clone wars soldiers, terminators in general.) I found it interesting that I kept having this nagging prejudice against the machine people throughout the book; but it’s not often that we ever in our real lives have to think hard about how we would feel putting our trust in machine intelligence.

I found myself preferring Campion’s daredevil ways and his loyalty to Purslane; the POV on him was always wry.”

AR: I liked Hesperus a lot as well. I don’t think he would necessarily be able to come back in any sequel, but I’d love to continue the story of the Machine People and Gentian Line at some point – it’s still very much my intention. And yes, I was playing with ideas of prejudice in my handling of the MPs although obviously I stack the cards somewhat with Cadence and Cascade.

Jim of WVa writes: “All of my questions about RS-series and House of Suns were answered by going to the FAQ sections on Dr. Reynolds’ website. However, three questions remain:

1. One of the Gentian shatterlings was the original Abigail Gentian. Was the original Abigail in latter day portions of the HOS under a different name (i.e. Purslane)?

2. Would non-FTL space opera work on television?

3. How would one make a clone that was of different sex than the original?”

AR: I ducked the issue of which, if any, of the surviving Gentians is “really” Abigail. They don’t know, and I’m not sure there’s any means for them to discover it even if they wanted: the trail is cold by now. Purslane is a pretty good candidate, of course – but that’s not definitive, it’s just me looking back at the book.

Would non-FTL space opera work on television? Hell, yes – give me the money, I’ll make one! Good question, though – I’m honestly not sure. Firefly was kind of non-FTL, wasn’t it? Even though they had this improbably complex solar system with hundreds of planets in it. The Beeb tried a realistic space series in the 1980s, called Star Cops – it wasn’t space opera, but it was a police investigation type show with a different high-tech crime each week, and the science/tech was very much grounded in current ideas about rockets and Mars bases as so on. It wasn’t all that good though! Personally, I don’t mind a bit of ‘ole FTL myself, just as long as it’s handled consistently from episode to episode.

Re: cloning, I got some stick for having male and female “clones” of the same woman, but my point would be, this is the year 3000, people. They’re as far beyond “cloning” as we are beyond the invention of gunpowder. I never tell the reader what the Gentians are like on the chromosomal level – indeed, in the original story “Thousandth Night” it was pretty much implied that they were able to change shape/gender at will, only conforming to human morphology for the purposes of the reunion. I should probably have made that more explicit in HOS, and taken pains to explain that “cloning” is just a shorthand for making male and female avatars of a living person.

Line Noise writes: “Questions for Alastair Reynolds: 1. You’re quite a prolific writer. How much time do you spend writing each day, do you have a daily word target and what proportion of your time is spent writing new stuff, revising old stuff and researching cool ideas?”

AR: I don’t know how many hours I spend per day, but I tend to aim for around 3000 words of new stuff. This varies a bit, though – at the start of a project, when I haven’t really got the momentum going, I’ll be happy with 1000 words of good stuff. Near the end, I might be hitting 4-5000 words a day. That’s not a rate I can sustain for very long, though. I tend not to do a lot of revising until I have something approaching a draft – I find it’s a real trap to keep reworking and polishing when you don’t have the basic framework of the story nailed down. As for researching cool ideas, I don’t do a lot of that – I just keep my eyes and ears open, read a lot of science stuff (New Scientist, Sci Am and so on) and allow my subconscious to filter it through.

“2. How long did it take you to get your first novel published? Did you get many rejections?”

AR: This is one of those “it depends what you mean by…” questions. I submitted Revelation Space to a publisher in 1997, and two years later (after they’d been swallowed by another company) they bought it. So you could say it took two years and no rejections, but I’d also spent the last ten years establishing a minor name for myself in the short fiction market, and part of that was a deliberate strategy to eventually break into novel sales.

“3. The artwork on the covers of your books are fantastic. Do you have any input on the artwork?”

AR: A little – I’m asked to provide input for possible cover ideas, but the ultimate selection and design process is out of my hands. There’s generally time for me to see a rough of the cover and suggest some tweaks, though.

“4. You’ve steadfastly shied away from Faster Than Light travel for most of your stories. Is that because you try to keep the physics of your fictional universes
closely tied to our own universe?”

AR: Sort of, but it’s also as much to do with the idea that it might be interesting to do it that way from a fictional perspective, in terms of the new story ideas that a slower than light universe might generate. I’m actually fairly open minded on the whole FTL/STL thing.

“5. An astrophysics question unrelated to your writing that you may or may not be able to answer: If the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation is supposed to be remnant radiation left over from the Big Bang, how can we see it? Shouldn’t it have been shooting away from us at the speed of light for billions of years?”

AR: That’s a damn good question, and exactly the kind of thing I get headaches thinking about. My understanding (I’m not a cosmologist!) is that the answer lies in the fact that theBig Bang created both space and time, and every point in the visible universe was squeezed into the same tiny volume at the time the CMB was created. The radiation corresponding to “our bit” has indeed been rushing away from us for billions of years, so in effect someone else – on the other side of the universe – could be looking at our contribution to the CMB right now, just as we’re looking at the photons originating in their part. Does that make sense?

Lspacediva3 writes: “I’ve been reading and following Alastair Reynolds for many years now, and House of Suns was both familiar and refreshing when put alongside his other work. I thought the comment from a Goodreads member summed up House of Suns very well — comparing it to the Revelation Space novels, it was something to the effect that this book was like looking through candy-colored rather than slime-covered glasses  One of the many little pleasures I got, as a reader “d’un certain age”, was discovering the references to King Crimson — the characters “Cadence and Cascade” and the ship the “Yellow Jester” made me smile.”

AR: I like the candy/slime analogy; that’s exactly how it felt to write HOS. And I’m glad the KC references provided amusement – there are plenty more elsewhere in my books, too. Purslane’s ship, Silver Wings of Morning, is from a Neil Young lyric – don’t think anyone’s picked up on that one yet.

RebeccaH writes: “…it was interesting that all the civilizations and races in the galaxy were descended from humans, even the Machine People who would have had their origins in human technology. I wonder if Mr. Reynolds believes that humans are alone in the universe (which I fervently hope is not the case).

AR: I think we *could* be, but I’m open to the idea that we might not be. I think it boils down to numbers/probability, and right now we’re in the dark about a lot of the background science. For instance, we know there are a lot of stars out there, and we suspect a lot of those stars have planets. But how many of those planets are suitable for life – even life as we don’t know it? So far a lot of the planets we’ve detected are in weird orbits, but I’m hopeful that we’ll find an Earthlike world in an Earthlike orbit eventually.

The other side of the coin is evolutionary biology – what are the odds of another intelligent species arising on one of those planets, given the age of the galaxy?  Life on Earth got going pretty quickly once the planet had settled down but it’s only relatively recently – in astronomical terms – that we’ve seen complex animals, let alone mammals, primates etc. So right now I’d be wary of anyone who claimed dogmatic certainty about the subject of life in the universe.

“The one thing I didn’t understand in the story was Palatial. What was its significance to the story? Were the Ghost Soldiers supposed to be precursors of the Machine People? Who was the little boy, and what happened to him? Even though he supposedly became a drooling idiot when extracted from the game, did he actually become Valmik, the Spirit of the Air, and eventually Valmik/Hesperus? Those are the things I wish had been just a little bit clearer.  Also, did Mr. Reynolds get the idea for the Gentian house from the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California?”

AR: I’ve been wary of talking about the Palatial subplot in public, for fear of sounding as if I’m “explaining” my own book. But since you asked – and major spoiler coming up – the shatterlings carry repressed memories of what they did to the First Machines.  The Palatial episodes reflect a real-life incident from the childhood of Abigail Gentian, but in the intervening time, the subsequent crime of the wiping out of the First Machines has been embroidered into that story. So: there *was* a little boy, who was a real friend of Abigail (and nothing to do with Valmik). The little boy as remembered in the Palatial subplots, though, is a conflation of the actual little boy, and the representative of the First Machines who had direct dealings with the Lines. The subsequent story that takes place in Palatial – the stuff about the Ghost Soldiers and so on – is a parable about the genocide of the First Machines.

At one point near the end of HOS I have one of the characters (Purslane I think) say something to the effect that even if you suppressed a memory, it would force its way to the surface under other means. That’s the big clue to unlocking the Palatial subplot. Needless to say, having sweated blood to hack HOS down to size, I was tickled pink by suggestions that the Palatial subplot had been inserted as “padding”.

Oh yeah, and the Winchester Mystery House – indeed! I don’t know how well it is known in the States, but I’d only vaguely heard of it before I got a chance to look around it after World SF Convention in San Jose. I thought it was amazing.

Bytehead writes: “@RebeccaH: Palatial was a subplot that went with Abigail. It showed just how close Abigail had herself been to madness. And I think that it’s Purslane who is actually Abigail. Or at least the Wings of the Swan was the original ship for Abigail. Now why it was still the fastest ship (and rather old at that), that’s another good question, evidently there was a drive to keep the ship at the best (and being a collector…). But I think it points to Purslane being Abigail.”

AR: It’s a valid theory…

“Valmik was a machine person before the Golden Hour, so I think that excludes the little boy from being Valmik. And when was the editing down that took the boy’s name from Abigail?”

AR: She didn’t want to remember the name – it would have unlocked the rest of those suppressed memories.

“The Ghost Soldiers was just a part of Palatial. If anything, I would say that it was the boy’s family line that turned into the machine people. But that’s just
conjecture on my part.  If/when there is another book, I suspect that we’ll get some of those answers. What kind of a response that will happen once they go back through the rabbit-hole, one can only guess. Especially since it will be a matter of a bit of time, even traveling through a wormhole.”

AR: Yes, any sequel to HOS will skip forward quite a few years.

KellyK writes: “Questions for Mr. Reynolds: 1. Given your background in the field of science, is it safe to assume you were a fan of science fiction prior to embarking on your career in the genre? If so, do you have any favorite SF authors (or non-genre writers) who either inspired you? Did you have any favorites growing up?”

AR: I’ve been fascinated with both science and science fiction for as long as I can remember, so much so that I can’t really say which one led to the other. As a kid – a really small kid – I was fascinated by films like the George Pal version of The Time Machine, Fantastic Voyage, and so on. I was captivated by Star Trek (and The Virginian, strangely enough – now I like horses and westerns – go figure).

In terms of written SF, I hit on Asimov and Clarke very early on, and it took me a long time to look beyond them to other kinds of SF – let alone the wider world of literature. For formative influences, though, I think Asimov and Clarke got in there really early. Later on I liked a lot of hard SF, cyberpunk and so on.

“2. Given the obvious thought and care that went into House of Suns, I imagine you’re a fairly discerning viewer when it comes to science fiction on the big
screen. Are there any movies that came out in the past twenty years or so that you feel got it right?”

AR: Plenty of movies I’ve enjoyed, but for the most part it helps to switch off the SF critical faculties, I think. Favorite SF films of the last twenty years or so?  Robocop (massive fan), Terminator 2, more recently Avatar. Dark City is one of my favorites, but it’s not really hard SF. I loved Moon – fantastic. And I’ll also admit to really enjoying Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers.

“3. At what point did you decide to give up your day job of the day and night job of a full-time writer? Ever regret the decision?”

AR: I decided to quit in 2003, but stayed on for another year. I’ve never regretted it. As great as may day job was when it was going well, I hadn’t been particularly enjoying it for the last year or so, and the writing was becoming a bigger and bigger part of my life.

psychochicken writes: “Question for Mr. Reynolds: I remember reading somewhere that you were a firm believer that we are alone in
the universe. Given your scientific background what lead you to this belief? How do you respond to people who think there are so many stars and planets that there surely must be life out there somewhere? Thanks!”

AR: I think I’ve covered that one earlier on – good question, though.

Shiny writes: “Question for Alastair Reynolds: The Gentians chronicled the rise of fall of different civilizations who precipitated their own through conflicts
driven by greed, imperialism and fascist ideology while remaining above the fray.  Will the Shatterlings now escalate the war among the different Lines in future books because they’ve succumbed to the behavior of lesser cultures who perished through infighting?  And is there are warning in your book for our own civilization about causing our own demise through wars, greed and rigid ideologies?”

AR: I don’t know where I’d go with the story if I ever continued it, although my suspicion is that the remaining Gentians would forge some kind of alliance with the peaceful elements of the Machine People. House of Machines is a working title for one possible direction. As for warnings – well, I think we could wise up a little as a species, and I’m hopeful that we will. In fact, as naive as it may make me sound, I do genuinely think we’re slowly getting better at living together on the same planet.

Airelle writes: “Joe I really liked reading House of Suns, it was hard to put it down. Thanks to Mr Reynolds for writing it. Are we sure for certain that
Hesperus is gone? I enjoyed his character. The time dialation torture, very effective, I could feel it slicing and dicing..ouch.. worse than fingernails on
a blackboard. Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading Mr Reynolds book and will certainly be looking for some more of his books, thank you.”

AR: Thanks, Airelle! Yes, I think Hesperus is really gone I’m afraid. My wife says I need to stop bringing characters back from the dead, anyway!

Apk51 writes: “If it’s not too late, I have a few questions for Dr. Reynolds… 1) Do all of your books take place in the same “universe”? Depending on which
way you do it, do you like doing it that way? If they are separate, do you find it confusing jumping between universes, from book to book?

AR: Five of my books (not HOS) take place in the same universe, the others are all standalones. It works for me – I can’t tell every kind of story in one universe, so I need to chop and change and it helps keep it fresh anyway.  It doesn’t get too confusing, since I’m typically living with a given book for anything up to a year or more. Once I’m a few weeks into a project, it becomes the “default” setting.

“2) While reading, I was a little confused between the distinction of a House and Line; can you clarify?”

AR: I don’t think there is a clear distinction, to be honest. I called it House of Suns because I’d had the title lying around in my files since the eighties! I even submitted a story to Interzone with that title once. It had nothing to do with the novel but it was set very far in the future, and did have robots and wormholes in it.

“3) Are there any particular sci-fi books/movies/TV shows that served as inspiration for House of Suns (or any of your other works)?”

AR: Lots of paperback cover illustrations, especially those from the 70s, by the likes of Chris Moore and Chris Foss (British illustrators, mainly). Bits of Asimov and Clarke, especially the very far future stuff. Doctor Who.

“4) I don’t know whether or not you’re familiar with the debate between Strong and Weak AI (the distinction between a machine giving the illusion of sentience [weak], and actually being sentient [strong]). Based on the depiction of the Machine People, it seems you are a supporter of the eventuality of Strong AI, where machines will indeed able able to be considered alive, as opposed to just giving the illusion of being alive. Is that how you predict the future of robotics to develop in the real world?”

AR: It’s an assumption I was happy to take on board for the purposes of the novel, but it’s not a central belief. I’ll often buy into an idea for the duration of the book, purely to see where it takes me – eg, aliens or no aliens. The new trilogy I’m working on now, has weak AI and actual aliens (eventually).

“Thanks for answering our questions!”

AR: You’re very welcome!

AvidReader writes: “As Joe pointed out, what you do is a rarity: write entertaining hard SF with well-defined characters.  Now I was wondering how you came to decide on your present career.  When did you start writing?  Was it always science fiction? What kind of a background (educational and work experience) have you drawn from in your work? And, given the opportunity, would you lend your prodigious talent to any other genre?”

AR: I’m delighted if people find the books entertaining, and respond to the characters as well. As I said earlier, I’ve always been fascinated by SF and science. I started writing little stories almost from the moment I could write, period – I would even illustrate my own little books, and staple them together. And yes, I’ve always been driven to science fiction or at least technological-based stories. One of my formative influences is seeing James Bond for the first time – I was immediately obsessed with lasers and gadgets. My background has been science based, obviously, but perhaps less well known to people who don’t know me is that for a long time I aspired to be an artist or illustrator by profession. That ambition died away in my late teens but I still think I see the world through a filter that’s as least as much artistic as scientific, and I draw a huge amount of private inspiration from art. There are at least as many art books in my study as there are science texts.

Would I like to work in another genre? In my dreams, I’d love it, but there are only so many hours in the day and I’m first and foremost a prose writer by inclination. However one day I’d love to do some kind of text/illustration hybrid – not necessarily a comic, but maybe
an illustrated novella or something.

Hope this covers all the questions!

July 13, 2010: This blog goes to the dogs! Again! Some House of Suns discussion! And the mailbag!

Well, today was the day Jelly finally went in for that stem cell procedure I’m hoping will help her deteriorated hips and arthritic elbows.  At eleven, the poor gal can barely get around anymore, limping to and from her food bowl every morning and night, requiring my assistance to negotiate stairs, couches, and that lofty perch atop by bedroom pillow from where she surveys all the action.  For several years now she’s been taking glucosamine and chondroitin for her joints and metacam for the pain, and, on the advice of a fellow animal lover (thanks, Annie), I’ve special-ordered some Glyco-Flex chewables.  Still, despite the meds, she continues to stagger around stiffly like me the morning after I do lunges – so I’ve decided to try something called a “Vet-Stem regeneration cell procedure” that goes something like this:

Day 1: My vet collects a 10-50 ram sample of fat from the pet, usually from the belly area.  Fortunately for Jelly, she’s got more than enough to spare.  The fat tissue is then shipped overnight to the Vet-Stem lab in San Diego.

Day 2: The techs at Vet-Stem process the fat, extracting and concentrating the stem and regenerative cells, generally work their magic, then ship the treated cells back overnight.

Day 3: The stem and regenerative cells are injected into the problem areas – in Jelly’s case, her hips, shoulders, and elbows.

From what I’ve read, many dogs who have undergone the treatment see results within two days.  Some don’t and even if that turns out to be the case for Jelly, at least I’ll know I tried.  I’m not looking for a miraculous turn-around and certainly don’t expect to see her bounding up and down the stairs in a couple of weeks, but I am hoping she’ll be a lot more comfortable.

Jelly being comfortable.

Bubba getting into the laundry.

Bubba and Maximus (above), all smiles after a day at the spa.

Jelly, also all smiles as opposed to crabby Lulu...


Maximus's "WTF's your problem?" look.

Bubba settles in all nice and comfy and then, when he hears the clatter of is dog dish, charges out to the kitchen, unplugging the laptops and bringing the router crashing to the floor.

Jelly this morning, enroute. She suspects something's up!

Yep, it's confirmed. Something IS up. She wasn't very happy when we got to the animal hospital.

Five minutes into my discussion with one of the techs, Jelly

casually ambles over the entrance as if to say “Okay, I’m ready

to go now.”

Definitely having trouble getting around.  Note the drag in her right hind paw…

Anyway, the harvesting of fat cells was done under general anesthesia this morning and it apparently went well.  They’ll keep her their overnight and then I’ll pick her up tomorrow afternoon.  She’ll spend the night at home and then, Thursday, she’s back (Oh, she’ll be thrilled to recognize that entranceway!) for the injections.

It will be interesting to chart her progress, if any.

Alastair Reynolds has already started on your questions.  If you go ’em, post ’em!  You have until Thursday after which you’ll have to live life resigned to not knowing the answer to that burning question!

And some House of Suns discussion:

bytehead writes: “I figured it was going to be some kind of mystery, but that certainly wasn’t the climax, so I really wouldn’t say the novel is a sci-fi mystery.”

Answer: I don’t know if I would call it a sci-fi mystery either, but the mystery element certainly drives the story as Campion and Purslane try to figure out who wants them dead and why.  In fact, the answer to both is a huge revelation, one that left me conflicted.  I could sympathize with the House of Suns, regardless of the extreme measures they deemed necessary to guard their secret.  And, believe it or not, I could also understand Cadence and Cascade’s desire for vengeance.

bytehead also writes: “As I was reading up to the climax (it is hard to actually claim what the climax is, but I think it would be opening up the star dam), I really didn’t understand where this book was going. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but I usually like to have an idea of at least the direction we’re going.”

Answer: The climax was certainly the opening of the star dam and subsequent encounter with the First Machines.  It was like two young siblings arguing, then trying to outrun each other to be the first one’s to tell dad their version of the story – only it turns out dad isn’t interested in their squabble and sends them on their way.  As for not understanding where the book was going, I thought it was pretty clear.  Campion and Purslane were able work out where the robots were headed and, eventually, why.

RebbbecaH writes: “I have to point out that it’s “Gentian”, not “Gentean”. Gentian is a flower, which explains why the Gentian Line is called the House of Flowers, and every cloned member has a plant name. That was the second thing that struck me. The first was that, at the beginning of the book, I thought it was going to be an Iain M. Banks Culture knockoff. Of course it wasn’t, though the universes are similar in some respects. Also, I believe the Line met every two hundredthousand years for the Thousand Nights of exchanging information.”

Answer: I stand corrected.

RebeccaH also writes: “It was more realistic to me that Reynolds didn’t bother to give the minor robots, ships, etc., personalities. They were merely smart robots, not sentient beings.”

Answer: And yet Hesperus had his own unique personality, one I really grew to like as the story progressed.


Susan the Tartan Turtle writes: “So – Jamil has an outrageous wardrobe ? Are there any piccies available?”

Answer: How ’bout this one –

ytimynona writes: “I’ve been trying to find the Very Keller Mailbag you did (the whole post about how Jewel is frakking awesome)… it was so snarky and amazing and I was telling my friend about it today and now I can’t find it to link her to it… can anyone else find it?”

Answer: Elminster was kind enough to point you in this direction:


Dodoalda writes: “Where’s the next part of “pineapple diaries”?”

Answer: I’ll hold back on a couple because they contain spoilers for season two.  A few more are on the way and I’ll continue the interview format with Louis once he’s back from vacation.  We’ve got a lot of questions to cover…

Kymm writes: “I saw on CNN today that Paul (yes the octopus), is getting all kinds of offers for endorsements etc.”

Answer: I know.  I just saw him do a spot for the new Arby’s Jr. Deluxe.

susiekew writes: “best of luck to jelly! are you going to get her a little pug walker whilst she rehabs?”

Answer: Fondy picked her up a stroller a couple of years back.  It’s still sitting in the garage.  Hopefully it won’t come to that (ie. me turning into “the crazy dog guy” – although my writing partner, Paul, thinks I’m already there.).

Quade writes: “Joe, I don’t really want to get involved in the SG-movies debate, but you always reference the poor DVD sales. Has there been any discussion about theatrical releases for either?”

Answer: I don’t believe that’s an option.

Joseph writes: “Joe, I know you’re leaving after SGU, but are there any of the current writers who are interested or likely to stay on for a fourth Stargate series, if that happens?”

Answer: Believe it or not, the topic of a fourth Stargate series has never come up – and I don’t see it coming up anytime in the foreseeable future.

imadaman writes: “Joe, apparently Todd’s name in the upcoming Stargate Atlantis: Legacy book series from Fandemonium is “Guide”.
Can I ask your opinion on this: Do you like the name?”

Answer: I prefer “Todd”.

chevron7 writes: “@Kymm – I get that you were trying to be funny but I didn’t find that amusing at all.”

Answer: ???  I don’t see what was offensive about her comment.

July 12, 2010: House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds

In the year 3000, the wealthy Abigail Gentean, inspired by dreams of exploration and discovery, creates nine hundred and ninety-nine clones of herself.  These “shatterlings” and her original self (indistinguishable from her duplicates) are subsequently dispersed to the far reaches of space – to colonize, investigate, learn and, eventually, meet up every two thousand years to share the memories they have gathered over the course of their travels.  Some six million years after the Gentean line first left the Milky Way on their galaxy-spawning odysseys, two clone siblings, Campion and Purslane, enroute to one of these reunions, receive a troubling message.  The gathering was ambushed by unknown forces and most of their numbers killed.  Only the fact that Campion and Purslane were running late saved them from a similar fate.

Campion and Purslane must place their trust in an enigmatic ally, the amnesiac Hesperus, a robot of the machine people, if they have any hope of finding out  why the Gentean Line has been marked for extermination.  As it turns out, the shocking answer may lie with the mysterious House of Suns…

Alastair Reynolds is an author with an impressive academic background firmly rooted in science.  To be honest, when I heard that he was a former research astronomer with the European Space Agency, I approached my first Alastair Reynolds novel with a certain amount of trepidation.  Let me be frank.  Most of the SF authors I’ve read who straddle the worlds of science and science fiction tend to come up short in certain key areas of story-telling – namely character, plotting, and a prose style that doesn’t have you skipping whole pages to get back on the narrative track.  Still, having heard good things about Reynolds, I was cautiously optimistic when I started reading Revelation Space.  Eventually, that cautious optimism turned to relief, then surprise, and, ultimately, utter delight.  Revelation Space became a fast favorite because it delivered on so many of the levels I’d found wanting in other hard SF writers.  As for House of Suns?  Well, in my opinion, it’s even better.

One of the things I love about Reynolds’ books – and it’s a characteristic of the works of Iain M. Banks as well – is their ability to serve up BIG ideas: multi-century spanning narratives, inventive technologies, and unique takes on future/alien cultures.  Lesser writers would be content with introducing one, maybe two such cool concepts and making them the center-point of the story.  Reynolds throws about a dozen at you, each one helping to build the narrative in its own unique way, from the surrealistic game play of palatial to the Andromeda-dwelling First Machines and so much in between: the information-gathering beings known as The Vigilance, cloning and communal memory-sharing as a means to advancement, ever-evolving machine intelligence possessed of god-like abilities, vast solar system-containing devices known as stardams, the miraculous all-purpose aspic of machine, and, my personal favorite, the time dilated interrogation of prisoners.

Reynolds peoples his novel with interesting characters.  I felt for both Campion and Purslane and was wholly invested in their stories although I had a particular affinity for Hesperus who was undergoing his own parallel journey of self-discovery.  The one nitpick I had was with some of the supporting players, those surviving shatterlings, who, with a few exceptions (notably Mezereon and Betony), didn’t really distinguish themselves from one another.  As a result, the reveal of the mole-in-their-midst wasn’t quite as powerful as it could have been.

Overall, the story was very well-paced, striking a perfect balance between the establishment of some fairly lofty concepts and timely plot advancement.  The shifting point of view between Campion and Purslane in alternating chapters was admittedly damn confusing at first, but easy enough to follow once I’d caught on.  And I found the Abigail storyline equally engaging.

I’ve heard some complain that they found the ending abrupt or anti-climactic.  I disagree with the latter.  I loved the fact that despite the building suspense, race against Cascade and Cadence, and looming spectre of vengeance for the mass genocide, the First Machines have developed to a point where they are beyond it.  Their decision offers hope for all sentient beings, something that is reinforced in the book’s final moments.  Yes, the ending is abrupt – but perfectly so.  Campion is told that his lover has survived, housed within the protective gold sarcophagus created by Hesperus in a final act of sacrifice, and as he prepares to free her with the help of a descendant of the race his people almost wiped out, one can’t help but feel that sense of hope and anticipation, of looking forward to something long sought-after finally within reach, a sense of wonder that pervades House of Suns, perfectly distilled and crystallized in its closing paragraph:

“’Then I’ll help you,’the glass man said as my fingers du their useless nails into the fused seams of that golden mask.  ‘After which, with regret, I shall have to be on my way.’”


Well, those were my initial thoughts.  What did everyone else think?  Weigh in with your thoughts and questions for author Alastair Reynolds!


Randomness writes: “Joe wouldn’t you say those aliens from Daedalus variations could just be a random alien race from another Galaxy that just so happened to come into conflict with Atlantis?”

Answer: Yes, that was the original conceit.

Chevron7 writes: “Joe, are we sure that the Joe Flanigan space suit incident was an accident? I suspect foul play.”

Answer: At the time, a straight-faced N. John Smith defending the crew member, insisting “It wasn’t malicious.”

sgugeek writes: “I know the cast is on holiday now, but if I mail my fan mail for Ashleigh today, will she get it?”

Answer: Not unless you post it on this blog and she happens to read it.

Michael writes: “1) I’ve read that SGU is moving to Tuesday but has the timeslot been announced?

2) I didn’t recognize Louis Ferreira in that robe and floppy hat, how the heck did he get past security?!

3) Why haven’t you done any commentary, the world needs to hear your genius!!”

Answers: 1) Not that I know of.

2) That was just one Friday.  You should see what Jamil Walker Smith wears on a daily basis.

3) I’ll limit my genius to this blog, but thanks for asking.

afg1 writes: “So, then, as regards the SGA movie, there’s no point in you pushing for it until MGM gets better and the SG-1 movie gets made? Is that the idea?”

Answer: Partly.

J. Chris Tucker writes: “Why are you and Paul credited as co-writers on scripts if you don’t actually co-write them?”

Answer: When we first started working on Stargate, we would write a script together, bouncing dialogue back and forth in the room.  One of us paced while the other typed.  Eventually, as we grew busier, we started working on the script separately, bouncing it back and forth between us.  He would write a scene and send it my way.  I would rewrite it and write the next scene.  He would rewrite what I’d written and write the next scene and so on.  Eventually, as we grew even more busy, we started writing scripts separately and merely doing final passes on each other’s drafts.  Eventually, we just started writing our scripts separately.  The reason we’re credited as co-writers is because while I’ve done mostly originals, Paul has done a fair amount of uncredited rewrites. And so, out of fairness (given that Paul is never credited or receives an extra script fee for what occasionally amounts to page one rewrites), we share the writing credits on the original scripts.

for the love of Beckett writes: “How long will Jelly be at the vet’s?”

Answer: She’s in all day tomorrow.  I pick her up Wednesday, then bring her back in on Thursday for the stem cell injection.

otros ojos writes: “Hey, people better not mess with the octopus. (Just saying, based on what Jeffrey Ford’s psychic octopus did in The Drowned Life.)”

Answer: True!

Angelus writes: “Judging from the Pineapple Diaries, Louis doesn’t seem very camera shy, Are there any cast members or have there been cast members who don’t like to be photographed and put in your blog?”

Answer: No, so far so good.  I tend to head down to set and snap pics on the quieter shooting days and always get the okay from the actors before proceeding, getting them to sign off any pics before posting.

Angelus also writes: “My guess is Bobby doesn’t like to be photographed considering I can’t remember a single time he appeared in your blog?”

Answer: Oh, he’ll eventually make an appearance.

Angelus also writes: “How about guest stars?, Robert Knepper perhaps?”

Answer: No, I missed out on Robert but I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded.  Very nice guy.  As for guest stars – the same rule applies.  I always tell them what it’s for, get their permission, and have them sign off on any potential public pics.

Angelus also writes: “And, Did anyone ever freak out about you posting a picture of them in your blog?”

Answer: No one ever freaked out, but Jason Momoa once suggested I ask him before posting any pics.  I thought that was very cool of him and gave him a break – which resulted in him tracking me down to take his photos for the blog, like these ones –


E writes: “What SGA episode are you talking about? Only similar title is “Submersion”.”

Answer: Right.  Submersion.

Gabriele writes: “1. Will we see Colonel Samantha Carter again in season two of “Stargate Universe”?

2. Will we see any of the Earth ships in season two of “Stargate Universe” and in the movies?”

Answer: Maybe to both questions.

andrew writes: “Anyone on the cast or crew have an ‘out there’ favorite food?”

Answer: Carl is a big fan of Chili’s.  Does that count?

Kymm writes: “What hockey team does Ivon cheer for?”

Answer: The hated-everyone-in-Canda-except-Toronto Maple Leafs.

Luis writes: “Speaking of you and Paul’s Comic Book Series..Hows that going for you guys???”

Answer: Great.  Next step: the comic book company is assigning an editor to the project.

Michelle writes: “I offer the following translations for your Atlantis movie diplomacy:

a. MGM is in so much debt, even the SG-1 movie has a .001% chance of getting financed, the SGA movie even less. Why should I waste my time?
b. Flanigan has said negative things about SGU’s ratings and prospects; no way am I fighting to get him a gig.
c. You fans are so naive. The sets are gone. SGA is over. Get a clue!
d. Have you not noticed I’m branching out to fiction and comics? I won’t be around long enough to make an SGA movie.
e. MGM never paid me for the script. I don’t work for free.

Care to comment if any of those are accurate?”d

Answer: MGM certainly did pay for the script and I’m sure it’ll only be a matter of time before it’s business as usual with the lion, at least with regard to features and television.  The direct-to-dvd market, however, will probably continue to be a big question mark.  As for the sets – it’s much cheaper to put them in storage and put them up when needed rather than leave them standing and pay the cost of the stage rental.

July 3, 2010: Q4 with Nia! Cheaters prosper, especially in soccer! Anime round-up! Book of the month club reminders!

Last night, I finally went for dinner with fellow foodie (and, more importantly, fellow sweet tooth) Nia.  I say “finally” because we’ve been meaning to get together for a while now but the girl is: a) busy, b) very popular, c) trying to avoid me, or d) all of the above.  Anyway, we were originally scheduled to hit that really popular Italian restaurant with the great desserts, but I ended up going the other week and was underwhelmed so we ended up going to the ever-excellent and always dependable Q4 (aka Quattro).  Great timing too as the kitchen had just acquired a new pizza oven.  Our meal –

A pasta platter made up of – damn, I should’ve written this down…um, I’m thinking linguine in pesto sauce, garganelli in a white truffle cream sauce, penne arrabiata, and fettuccine with minced chicken. All great, but the garganelli was the big winner.

A very simple but very good margherita pizza.

And a dessert trio: tiramisu, brownie a la mode, and the cherries with mascarpone cream in phyllo. Despite Nia's protests that she was stuffed and would only be able to eat one bite, she managed more than one. A few more.

Nia loved the brownie so I asked her if she wanted seconds. She looked at me like I was nuts.

Anyway, a great night. I’m confident that next time we can work our way up to four desserts.

Hey, I don’t know about the rest of you, but if this World Cup has taught me anything, it’s that cheating pays off.  Whether it’s faking an injury so that a player from the opposing team gets sent off, or blocking an opponent’s winning goal with your hand to stave off elimination, it’s A-Okay because more often than not you’ll be richly rewarded with anything from an unfair advantage to an undeserved win.

Finally finished another anime series.  Claymore was, in my humble opinion, a giant waste of time.  We chart Clare’s progress as she strives to exact her revenge for Theresa’s death, going from one extended battle sequence to the next in which our heroine, time and again, is seemngly mortally wounded only to make a miraculous recovery and best her opponent.  When she finally faces off with the dreaded Priscilla, she defeats her and…decides to let her go.  Hell, even the other claymores who spend the last two episodes trying to kill Priscilla suddenly change their minds at series’ end.  A few peripheral characters die, ultimately nothing is accomplished, and everyone goes their separate ways no doubt to reconvene for season two and go through the motions again.

I HAD planned to check out Baccano next but because Funimation, in their infinite wisdom, ensured I was unable to fastforward through or skip the Baccano trailer at the beginning of my Claymore disc 1, I’m already sick of the series and want nothing to do with it.  Guess I’ll just be going with Akemi’s choice then.  Lucky Star it is!

I’ve finally booked a hotel for my Tokyo trip.  As much as I love staying at The Peninsula, I wasn’t able to get any sort of preferred customer rate, so I’ve decided to go with The Imperial instead.  I stayed there once, many years ago when I was traveling with Fondy.  The service was impeccable.  I recall one afternoon we came back to our room to find an enormous fruit basket awaiting us and a note that read: “The maid was cleaning your mini-bar fridge when your apple fell to the floor.  Please accept this fruit basket as an apology.”  Seriously.  It’s older than The Peninsula, but quite majestic and, more importantly, located in the heart of Ginza.  Also, my fellow traveler Ivon Bartok will be staying there as well which should make it easier for me to ensure he gets in okay after a night of heavy drinking.

A reminder that we have two weeks before discussion begins on July’s Book of the Month club pick: Alastair Reynold’s House of Suns.  I’m about two hundred pages in and loving it.  If you’re a fan of science fiction (and something tells me most of you are), then do yourself a favor and pick it up.  You’ll also be supporting a fellow fan of the Stargate franchise: http://approachingpavonis.blogspot.com/2010/05/stargate-atlantis.html.  Also, for all of you in the U.K., here’s how to claim your free copy of House of Suns: http://approachingpavonis.blogspot.com/2010/06/give-it-away-now.html.  But be quick!

And while am it, let me again remind everyone that we’ll be doing August against this year and, as a result, will also be doing an August Book of the Month Club discussion.  We’ll be chatting about Daryl Gregory’s The Devil’s Alphabet.  Check out his book (http://www.darylgregory.com/devil/Default.aspx), his blog (http://darylgregory.wordpress.com/), and his awesome entry in the upcoming superhero-themed anthology Masked (http://www.amazon.com/Masked-Lou-Anders/dp/1439168822/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1278209463&sr=8-1) along with my modest contribution to the kick-ass collection.  Which reminds me – we’re doing September as well this year so I need to select September Book of the Month Club candidate.  What’ll it be… What’ll it be…

BTW – Some great natsukashii moments, gang.  Keep ’em coming!

May 25, 2010: My most popular entry is… Really? Yet another guest blogger announcement!

One of the many great things about having a blog on wordpress is the Blog Stats section that allows you to track everything from daily views and incoming links to search engine terms and referrers.  And, I just discovered this weekend, if you click on the Top Posts & Pages header, you’ll be directed to a list of every one of your posts ranked according to the traffic it has received to date.

So what, according to wordpress, has been my most popular entry of all time?  The breakdown of the Atlantis season that might-have-been in my An AU Season 6! entry?  The Amanda Tapping Q&A?  That Long Overdue Rant?

Guess again.  Here are my top ten most popular posts to date:

10. September 21, 2008: The Wrap Party!: After five fabulous years, the cast and crew closed the book on Stargate: Atlantis with a final wrap party that featured blackjack, fantastic fashion, and a chocolate replica of Atlantis itself.

9. August 21, 2008: All Good Things…: Seeing about 20% more traffic than entry #10 was my farewell to Atlantis, a bittersweet entry written on the heels of the official announcement that the show would not be returning for a sixth season.

8. April 26, 2009: The Best Chocolate Party: Last year’s chocolate party – and, perhaps not so coincidentally, the first group sneak peek at the new Stargate: Universe cast – comes in at #8.

7. August 23, 2008: Questions, Answers, Guests, and Pics!: Actress Dawn Olivieri does a guest spot on the show and, more importantly this blog – scrapping with Jason Momoa and even using his guitar as a weapon.  The entry is dedicated to more post-Atlantis-cancellation fall-out, and thank-you’s.

6. September 30, 2008: An AU Season 6!: So IF Atlantis had received that sixth season pick-up, what kind of stories could we have looked forward to?  Well, something like the notions listed in this flash-sideways entry…

5. May 3, 2009: Transforming Stage 5 From Stargate Command to Icarus Base: Occupying the fifth spot is our stroll through the corridors of what was once Stargate Command.  The SG-1 gate room, control room, and briefing room are no more, the spaces they once occupied in the midst of a transformation that will see them become the SGU premiere’s Icarus Base.

4. January 2, 2009: Brad Wright Answers Your Questions:  The man who co-created Stargate: SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis, Stargate: Universe, and was showrunner for much of the franchise’s amazing 11+ year run fields some fan queries.

3. October 31, 2009: That Long Overdue Rant: Given the online buzz and the ensuing furor it received, I figured this entry would have occupied the #1 spot – but, surprisingly, it only received roughly half the traffic of the #2 entry…

2. September 5, 2009: Dinner with Ivon and Brian!  Julia Benson!  Braving the Tokyo subway system!:  At first glance, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what made this post so popular.  Was it the snaps of our dinner at Quattro?  A sneak peek at SGU’s Lieutenant Vanessa James played by Julia Benson?  Or was it all those Ivon Bartok fanatics checking out their favorite guy?  Well, the entry that came in at #1 gave me the answer…

1. October 22, 2009: Julia Benson! Jennifer Spence!  Birthday Swag!  The Weird Food Purchase of the Day!: Granted, this entry had a bit of everything – Carl, pretty actresses, a video of me sampling one of the hottest hot sauces out there, a picture of the bacon-chocolate chip cookies sent in by a fan – but what the hell made it so damn popular?  Well, if you compare and contrast the entries occupying the top two slots, you’ll notice one like variable: Julia Benson.  Cross-reference that with the top three Search Engine Terms used to reach my blog –

3. “joe mallozzi”: Makes sense.

2. “joseph mallozzi”: Makes even more sense given that that’s how I’m credited onscreen.

1. “julia benson”: Garnering about twice as many searches as “joseph mallozzi”.

Photo courtesy and copyright MGM Television

What does this tell us?  Well, it tells us that there are a lot of fans of strong, military women out there.  What else would it tell us?

It also tells us that it’s high time I invited actress Julia Benson to guest here and answer some fan question in her very own Q&A.

Photo courtesy and copyright MGM Television.

So if you’ve got questions for the Julia, start posting!

And between coming up with questions for Julia and dissecting the last episode of SGU, I urge you to find the time to read two of our upcoming book of the month club selections:

Swordspoint, by Ellen Kushner Discussion the week of June 14th with author Ellen Kushner

House of Suns, by Alastair Reynolds Discussion the week of July 12th with author Alastair Reynolds. It comes out in paperback today!

Finally, Special Features Producer Ivon Bartok passed this one along.  If you failed to check out SGU’s season premiere, Air I, here’s what you missed:


Today’s entry is dedicated to birthday gals Chevron7, Lis and Sarah Lee!

May 18, 2010: Sundry pics and a side of mailbag!

Sure, I could give you a production update, tell you that Brad and Rob are in New Mexico for Day #2 of Malice, that Carl was on set for Day #1 of The Greater Good, that Remi delivered his revised writer’s draft of Visitation, Linda delivered her first draft of Alliances, Paul delivered his outline of Resurgence : Electric Boogaloo, and that I’ve almost completed my rewrite of Resurgence – but, instead, I think I’ll let the pics do the talking today…

Ashleigh's friend Emanuelle sent me a piece of her home-baked banana bread (with chocolate chips!). It's the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me - including raising me and saving my life that time I almost drowned in the YWCA swimming pool. The least I can do is take her out for dinner.

Ashleigh reprimands the homeless man who wandered into the production offices.

Peter Kelamis (SGU's Adam Brody) shows of his new hairstyle. This one is preferable to the ponytail which he feels makes him look too effeminate.

Fellow thespian Patrick Gilmore (SGU's Dale Volker) admires the do.

Writer-producer Remi Aubuchon demands to have his picture taken for the blog.

Also received some pics from Producer John G. Lenic who is in New Mexico with the gang shooting episode #8, Malice…

Director of Photography Jim Menard and Writer-Director-Executive Producer Robert Cooper enjoy some New Mexico style fine dining.

They call him "The Cleaner".

Since July’s Book of the Month Club pick, Alastair Reynolds’ House of Suns, won’t make its paperback debut until May 25th, I’m tiding myself over my re-reading the brilliant Revelation Space.  It’s my day time read.  My night time read is the delightfully disquieting Finch by Jeff Vadermeer.  And I am loving both!


vvv0472 writes: “Do you frequent Gateworld a lot? If so, I hope you have noticed the ‘SAVE BALDING ASIAN GUY’ thread. Any word on him?”

Answer: This is the most persuasive fan campaign since SaveCarsonBeckett.  Tough to ignore.

Majorsal writes: “the writers have made huge and (wonderfully to me) in-your-face ships for SGU, but with sam/jack, we still don’t know if they’re together… will this change in the future?”

Answer: Ideally, yes.

vvv0472 writes: “So Joe, what is the story behind getting your name on a book called ‘Latin for the Novice’ by Joseph Mallozzi Ph.D in Window of Opportunity?”

Answer: I was sitting in the props meeting with Director Peter DeLuise presiding.  When someone asked what the name of the book should be, Peter suggested “Latin For Beginners”.  And then when that same person asked for the name of the author, Peter suggested “Joseph Mallozzi.”  And then as an afterthought: “PhD.”

Ryan writes: “Will we see anymore brief cameos from random stargate people in the future?”

Answer: Daniel Jackson and Jack O’Neill will be making appearances in the next few episodes.

Karen writes: “Just letting you know in case you care. I was almost ready to give up on SGU because I didn’t actually like any of the characters but then Amanda Perry was introduced in the episode Sabotage. She’s the first character on SGU that I`ve really really liked and I loved her interactions with Rush. I really hope you find a way to bring her back as a recurring character because I think she would make a great addition to the cast.”

Answer: Coincidentally, guess who’s on set today.

Montana Marie writes: “Tearing down all the Atlantis sets to make room for more Universe sets has created a pretty big hold-up as well.”

Answer: Untrue – unless we were told to start shooting the Atlantis movie NOW, which is a wholly unrealistic scenario.  When we get the green light to move ahead with production, we would a)  need a couple of weeks to prep the movie and b) shoot the movie during the hiatus.

Montana Marie also writes: “After all, what’s going to happen when you do finally get around to making the Atlantis movie? Tear down the new Universe sets and throw away the money that went into building them, and then spend even more money to rebuild the Atlantis sets, just to tear them down again for Universe or another movie?”

Answer: First of all, Stage 6 presently serves as a swing stage, so the sets that go up there come down after the episode airs.  Secondly, it is a lot cheaper to strike and store a set and then put it back up for production than it would be to pay rent on stage space indefinitely.

Montana Marie also writes: “I find it curious that you’ve been very quick to defend Jewel Staite and various members of the Universe cast, but you never gave the same consideration to Torri Higginson when she was being attacked by a segment of the fandom that viewed Weir as a threat to their character relationship of choice.”

Answer: If I had known about it, I would have defended her as well.  The fact that I didn’t suggests that the attacks on Jewel were much more present.

Sean D. writes: “Did Elyse already do her Q&A?”

Answer: Not yet.

Greg writes: “As for other finales, I’d recommend Spartacus Blood & Sand if you haven’t watched that one. Starts out seemingly like soft core porn with gore but the storyline actually gets pretty good while maintaining a healthy dose of T&A.”

Answer: Agreed.  Thought the first episode was okay, but then was quickly sucked in by the story and characters.  Fantastic finale.

TF writes: “I am just watching the new kino webisode… Are they just improvised by the actors or do written scripts exist?”

Answer: Like all the episodes, it’s all scripted.  Well, all the episodes except Space.  In that one, I just told the actors and aliens to “fight each other” and they did.  For about 45 minutes.

Balial writes: “I have one question about SGA. Carson was cloned by Michael, who obtained sample of his DNA during season 3 episode Misbegotten. Yes, cloning a person is easy. But this Carsons clone has all the memories and experiences of the original Carson. How is it possible?”

Answer: Michael would have had to duplicate Beckett’s neural network or engrams in order to imbue his clone with the original Beckett’s personality.  Yes. Or, more to the point (which was the way we were going to be before being derailed by the cancellation), the wraith possessed these engrams, stored aboard a hive shop, that Michael accessed and stole at some point.  As a matter of fact, Beckett’s weren’t the only duplicate personalities the wraith had stored away. As for when they had the opportunity to acquire Beckett’s in particular – sometime late in Atlantis’s second season.  It was part of a potential story and reveal I’d filed away for future use, and never got the opportunity to explore.

myhelix writes: “Apropos other´s, what do you think of the final LOST season?”

Answer: That’s a question for Carl.  I don’t watch Lost.

Bloomgate writes: “What is the goo the actors eat on set in the ship canteen?”

Answer: Protein powder and water.  Yum!

Shadow Step writes: “If think soandso is a talentless actor (or whatever the job might be) , then I think that person is talentless – the person – not the character. And I don’t see a problem commenting on that.”

Answer: I’m sure you don’t, but there’s a difference between personal attacks (which you won’t be too hard-pressed to find on the other site) and couching acceptable criticism in prickish terms (which you accurately demonstrated in the example above).  I’m taking exception to the former, not the latter.

Kymm writes: “Since you found it a tad sweet what about just plain walnuts and not the honeyed ones? Do you toast your nuts first, to bring out the flavour, or do you just use them raw?”

Answer: The walnuts were roasted.  And next time, I’ll halve the sugar and forget the condensed milk.

Quade writes: “Joe I have been rating the episodes of Stargate to make an all-time favorite Stargate writers list. Anyways more on that later this week, but can you ask around and see what happened to Katharyn Powers? Maybe bring her back for an SGU episode? She did some great SG-1 episodes.”

Answer: Favorite Writers Lists are all well and good but don’t into account the meaningful input provided by other writers who help break the story and offer up suggestions for everything from plot twists to dialogue.  It also doesn’t take into account the significant uncredited rewrites Brad and Rob have done over the years, sometimes wholesale passes that go unrecognized.

Shawn Cassidy writes: “The ancients built Destiny, then set her off on her way……. Then they what? Forgot about it? Even given the many many generations after the Destiny launched and the race ascended, nobody got curious? Even after they ascended they poked their noses in SG1′s business, nobody ever thought to say “Oh yeah, we sent a ship out some time ago, wonder what ever happened to it? DOH!!””

Answer: We’ll be exploring the Ancients and their mission in future episodes, providing a few answers (and more questions) along the way.

KellyH writes: “I haven’t posted in a looooong time (REALLY busy with working on my PhD and new university job), but I’m cooped up after being in the hospital with a nasty reaction to an antibiotic, so I’ve had time to catch up on your blog.”

Answer: Welcome back!

May 15, 2010: July’s Book of the Month Club Selection! An Anime Recommendation! Mailbag!

I’m pretty damn excited about July’s Book of the Month Club selection.  The author is a supremely talented heavy hitter in the SF literary community, wrote one of my favorite scifi novels (Reveleation Space), and, oh yeah, also happens to enjoy Stargate (http://approachingpavonis.blogspot.com/2010/05/stargate-atlantis.html).  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…

House of Suns, by Alastair Reynolds

From Publisher’s Weekly: “It is 6.4 million years in the future and humanity has spread throughout the Milky Way. Some cultures have established transient empires across space; others, the Lines, have used relativistic travel to colonize deep time. Clone-siblings Campion and Purslane are delayed on their way to a Gentian Line reunion, a coincidence that saves them from a massacre. Allied with potentially hostile Machine People and an enigmatic post-human god called the Spirit, armed only with fragmentary records and hints that Campion’s research provoked the mysterious House of Suns, the Gentian survivors struggle to find and stop their enemies before the genocide can be completed. “

From The Guardian: “‘Reynolds injects a good old fashioned sense of wonder into his science fiction by combining a story of epic scale with a series of awe-inspiring revelations, each more breathtaking than the last. The finale is thrilling, moving and humane. This is Reynolds’ best novel to date.”

From Interzone: “”Reynolds has written a hugely entertaining extrapolation of contemporary mores: a far-flung comedy of manners, with fascinating precedents. This is warm hearted science fiction with big ideas that are easy to follow. House of Suns might well be the author’s most human novel to date.”

From The Times: “”Reynolds understands and uses hard science, giving an aura of plausibility to his wildest flights of fancy. As well as visionary brilliance, Reynolds also supplies a knock-your-socks-off ending. A thrilling, mind-boggling adventure.”

Intrigued?  Then circle May 25th on your calendar because that’s when the paperback hits bookstores.

Discussion the week of July 12th with author Alastair Reynolds.

Anybody out there watching anime?  I watch a couple of episodes of the odd series every morning during my workout, just to brush up on my Japanese.  Some shows I’ve loved, some I’ve hated, while most have fallen somewhere in between.  The series I’m watching now, Black Lagoon, is hovering near Love It territory!  What’s it about?  Mercenaries, mobsters, and mayhem.  Highly recommended – unless you’re easily offended.  Or, well, moderately offended.

Check out the series Funimation home page here: http://www.funimation.com/blacklagoon/


DasNdanger writes: “Okay. I’m gonna be blunt. That’s Hollywood sex. And, I hate to tell ya…Hollywood sex is NOT REAL! It never happens that way! If you want me to believe that these people are really having sex, then I DEMAND THE FOLLOWING:”

Answer: In our desire to be as accurate as possible, we did include all of the various elements your mentioned. Unfortunately, they were cut for time and an abbreviated scene was aired.  Wait for the director’s cut!

Kevin writes: “(1) The Senator’s death is known about on Earth. Did they just explain it away as a private plane crash or something to that effect? And if so, what was Chloe’s disposition? She obviously is missing as well.

(2) Which then brings a bigger question. Over the run of SG1, SGA, and now SGU, there have been ‘alot’ of deaths of Earth people. When you start adding them up, it easily adds up to the thousands. There are also ‘alot’ of people involved or who have knowledge of the Stargate program. Is there any plans for a big reveal of the program?”

1) I’m not sure what the official cover story was but, yes, something along those lines – possibly a heart attack followed by a closed casket funeral.  As for Chloe – she’s probably attending a school out of state.

2) Depends who’s doing the planning.

Rex Carter writes: “Hi Joe this may sound like a stupid question but do you know if Stargate Universe will be picked up for syndication this fall on local tv stations to replace Stargate Atlantis?”

Answer: Sorry, Rex.  No idea.

Ludo writes: “Do you look for new actors for the SGU season to come?”

Answer: We do cast locally.  Each audition is script-dependent of course.

lkk222 writes: “@joe please kill someone important, pretty please?”

Answer: Hmmmmmm.

Robert writes: “Trought all the time I’ve been reading your articles, Fuel Restaurant as become an obsession. So for my first time in BC, I have to go there. Is it far from Howe Street ?”

Answer: You might want to cab it over to 1944 West 4th Avenue.

Major D. Davis writes: “Ive really been enjoying the Kino scenes, especially the most recent ones, will you guys be producing more kino scenes for season 2?”

Answer: Doesn’t look like it. 🙁

Erin Elizabeth writes: “The fact that the fans actually went through the trouble to make a site dedicated to allowing fans to speak their minds on this topic speaks volumes.”

Answer: Yeah, I think it speaks volumes about the people who spend the greater part of their existence endlessly wringing their hands and stomping their feet over a show they claim to hate and don’t watch anymore.  When I first heard about it, I simply shrugged and thought “Hey, kids will be kids.”  And then I learned that the organizers WEREN’T kids but (presumably functioning) adults.  Holy crap!  That’s both scary, sad, AND a little funny.  I would think said “adults” could direct their effort to more constructive pursuits like getting cereal pitchman Sugar Bear his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame or organizing a nationwide boycott of tomatillos just for the hell of it.  Oh, and I’ll respectfully call bullshit on your “site dedicated to allowing fans to speak their minds”.  I’d add “so long as their opinion parrot that of the site’s organizers.” Hoowee!  A Japanese word comes to mind. Hikikomori. Look it up.  🙂